"Coming upstairs I found the old lady a bit perturbed. I had told her my name; she had recognised me as well.
"'Come with me,' she said.
"With that she opened a door. She was very old and very uncertain; yet she was scarcely afraid.
"'In there," she said, and pointed through the door.
"I entered an ordinary room, furnished as a parlour. There was a sofa, a table, a few chairs; little else.
"'What do you mean?' I asked.
"'The man! What man?"
"'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'he came here one night when the moon was shining. He sat down on the doorstep. He was just the kind of a lad that's in need of a mother. So I asked him to lie on the sofa. He was tired, you see, and—I once had a son of my own.'
"She stopped, and it was a moment before she continued. I could feel the pressure of her hand on my arm, pitiful, beseeching.
"'So I took him in there. In there; see? On that sofa. I saw it! They took him! Oh, sir; it was terrible!'
"She was weird, uncanny, strangely interesting.
"'He just lay down there. I was standing by the door when—they took him! I couldn't understand, sir. I saw the blue light; and the moon—it was gone. And then—' She looked up at me again and whispered: 'And then I heard a bell—a very beautiful bell—a church bell, sir? But you know, don't you? You are the great Dr. Holcomb. That's why you went into the cellar, wasn't it? Because you know!'
"Her manner as much as her story, impressed me. I said:
"'I must give this room a careful examination. Would you be good enough to leave me to myself?'
"She closed the door after her. I had the green stone in my hand; it was very heavy, and I placed it on one of the chairs. The blue stone I still held. At the moment I hadn't the least notion of what was about to happen; it was all accident, from beginning to end.
"All of a sudden the room disappeared! That is, the side wall; I was not looking at the dingy old wallpaper, but out through and into an immense building, dim, vast and immeasurable.
"Directly in front of me was a white substance like a stone of snow. Upon this substance was seated a man, about my own age, as nearly as I could make out. He looked up just as I noted him.
"Our recognition was mutual. Immediately he made a sign with one hand. And at once I took a step forward; I thought he had motioned. It was all so real and natural. Though his features were dim he could not have been more than ten feet distant. But, at that very instant, when I made that one step, the whole thing vanished.
"I was still in the room at Chatterton Place!
"That's what started it all. Had this occurred to any one else in the world I should have labelled it an unaccountable illusion. But it had happened to me.
"I had my theory; between the spiritual and the material there must be a point of contact. And—I had found it! I had discovered the road to the Indies, to the Occult, to all that other men call unknowable. And I called it—
"The Blind Spot."
Thus had the professor got into actual touch with the occult—by sheer accident. Up to that time it had been only a hypothesis; now it was a fact. Next step was to open up direct communication.
"That was difficult. To begin with, I worked to repeat the phenomena I had seen, getting some haphazard results from the start. My purpose throughout was to exchange intelligent comment with the individual I had beheld on that snow-stone within the Spot; and in the end I succeeded.
"He gave me fairly explicit warning as to when the Blind Spot should open, not only to the eye, but in its entirety, as it had done for the young man of whom the old lady had told me. We agreed through signs that he would come through first.
"Understand, up to the instant of his actual arrival, I didn't know just what he was like. I had to be content with his sign- talk, by which he assured me he was a real man, material, of life and the living.
"I made my announcement. You know most of what followed. The Rhamda came to Berkeley; together we returned to Chatterton Place, for it was imperative that we hold the Spot open or at least maintain the phenomenon at such a point that we could reopen it at will. Both of us were guessing.
"Neither of us knew, at the time, just how long the Rhamda could endure our atmosphere. He had risked his life to come through; it was no more than fair that I should accede to his caution and insure him a safe return to his own world.
"But things went wrong. It was ignorance as much as accident. At Chatterton Place I was caught in the Blind Spot, and without a particle of preparation was tossed into the Thomahlia.
"When I came through, the Nervina went out. Thus I found myself in this strange place with no one to guide me. And unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, I fell into the hands of the Bar Senestro.
"Now, for all that he is a sceptic, the Senestro is a brave man; and like many another unbeliever, he has a sense of humour. My coming had been promised by Avec; so he knew that somehow I was a part of the Prophecy—the prophecy which, for reasons of his own, he did not want fulfilled.
"So he isolated me here in the house of the Jarados. A bold sort of humor, I call it—to defy the Prophecy in the very spot where it was written!
"But it was fortunate. I was in the house of the old prophet, with its stores of wisdom, secrets, raw elements and means for applying the laws of nature. All that I hitherto had only guessed at, I now had at my disposal: libraries, laboratories, everything. I was a recluse with no interruptions and perfect facility for study.
"First of all I went into their philosophy. Then into their science, and afterwards into their history. Whereupon I made a rather startling discovery.
"Apparently I AM THE JARADOS.
"For my coming had been foretold almost to the hour. As I went on with the research I found many other points that seemed familiar. Plainly there was something that had led me into the Spot; and most certainly it was not mere chance. I became convinced that not merely my own destiny, but a higher, a transcendental fate was at stake.
"In the course of time I became certain of this. Meanwhile I mastered most of the secrets of this palace—the wisdom of the ancient Jarados. Though a prisoner, I was the happiest of men— which I still remain. The Bars kept close watch over me, constantly changing their guard. And it was on one of those occasions that I found MacPherson.
"Well, after MacPherson's coming I was pretty much my own master. I induced the Senestro to allow MacPherson to remain as a constant bodyguard. But I never told Pat what was what, except that some day we should extricate ourselves.
"You may wonder why I did not open the Spot.
"There were several reasons: First, in the nature of the phenomenon it must be opened only on the earth side, except on rare occasions when certain conditions are peculiarly favourable. That's why the Rhamda Avec could not do it alone; I know now that I should have imparted to him certain technicalities. I possessed two of the keys then; now, I know there are three.
"And I have learned that each of these is a sinister thing.
"The blue stone, for instance, is life, and it is male. Rather a sweeping and ambiguous statement; but you will comprehend it in the end. Were a man to wear it it would kill him, in time; but a woman can wear it with impunity.
"Perhaps you will appreciate that statement better if you note what I have just done through the medium of that crystal. The blue gem is an inductor of the ether; in a sense, it is one of the anchors of the Spot of Life, or the Blind Spot—whatever we want to call it—the Spot of Contact.
"The other two particles—the red and the green one—are respectively the Soul and the Material. Or, let us say, the etheric embryos of these essentials.
"The three stones constitute an eternal trinity.
"As for the substance of the Spot itself, that I cannot tell, just yet. But I do know that the whole truth will come out clear in the fulfilment of the Prophecy. I am convinced that it has translated Watson, and now Harry Wendel and the Nervina."
"Can you control it?" asked Chick.
"To a limited extent. I have been able to watch you ever since your coming. You did not know about Harry, but I saw him come—in the arms of the Nervina."
The Nervina nodded.
"It is so. I knew the Senestro. I was afraid that Harry would fall into his hands. I had previously endeavoured to have him give the jewel to Charlotte Fenton. I didn't trust the great Bar—"
Harry interrupted, "Only because of her distrust of the Senestro did she decide to come through the Blind Spot with me. She knew what to do. As soon as we got here, she bundled me off, privately nursed me back to health if not strength, and when the time came rushed me up here at the last second to be in at the finish."
Watson thought of the dog, Queen. She also had come through just in time to save his life. Did Harry know anything about her? When Wendel had related what he knew, Chick commented:
"It's almighty strange, Harry. Everything works out to fit in exactly with that confounded Prophecy. Perhaps that accounts for your affinity for the Nervina; it is something beyond your control, or hers. We'll have to wait and see."
There was not long to wait. The days passed. The palace was full of Rhamdas, summoned by Dr. Holcomb, who, as the Jarados himself, was now issuing orders concerning the great day, the last of the sixteen days, now very close at hand; the day which the Rhamdas constantly alluded to as "the Day of Judgment."
The Senestro went unmolested. Returning to the Mahovisal, he worked now to further the truths of the Prophecy.
Still the millions continued to descend upon the Mahovisal. Coming from the furthermost parts of the Thomahlia, the pilgrims' aircraft kept the air above the city constantly alive. There were days such as no man had ever known. Even the Rhamdas, trained to composure, gave evidence of the strain. The atmosphere was tense, charged with expectancy and hope. A whole world was coming to what it conceived as its judgment, and its end. And—the Spot of Life was the Blind Spot!
At last the doctor summoned the two young men. It was night, and the June Bug was waiting. This time the Geos himself was at the controls.
"We are going to the Mahovisal," spoke the doctor—"to the Temple of the Bell and Leaf. There is still something I must know before the Judgment." He was speaking English. "If we can bring the Prophecy to pass just so far, and no farther, we shall be able to extricate ourselves nicely. Anyway, I think we shall not return to the Palace of Light."
He held a black leather case in his hand. He touched it with a finger.
"If this little case and its contents get through the Blind Spot it will advance civilisation—our civilisation—about a thousand- fold. So remember: Whatever happens to me, be sure and remember this case! It must go through the Spot!"
He said no more, but took his seat beside the Geos. The young men took the rear seats. In a short time they had crossed the great range of mountains and were hovering over the Mahovisal.
There was no sound. Though the city was packed with untold millions, the tension was such that scarcely a murmur came out of the metropolis. The air was magnetic, charged, strained close to the breaking point; above all, the reverence for the Last Day, and the hope, rising, accumulating, to the final supreme moment.
For the Sixteenth Day was now only forty-eight hours removed.
Both Chick and Harry realised that their lives were at stake; the doctor had made that clear. In the last minute, in the final crisis, they must crowd their way through the Blind Spot. Only the professor knew how it was to be done.
At the temple they found the Nervina and the Aradna waiting. The Jan Lucar was with them. The Geos had secured entrance by a side door. From it they could look out, themselves unobserved, over the entire building and upon the Spot of Life. The place was packed— thousands upon thousands of people, standing in silent awe and worship, one and all gazing toward the all-important Spot. There was no sound save the whisper of multitudinous breathing.
Said Harry to Chick:
"I see Queen up there!"
Harry circled the group, and bounded up the great stairs. In a moment he was patting his dog's head. She looked up and wagged her tail to show her pleasure. But she was not effusive. Somehow she wasn't just like his old shepherd. She glanced at him, and then out at the concourse below, and lolled her tongue expectantly. Then she settled back into her place and resumed watch—exactly as any of her kind would have held guard over a band of sheep.
The dog was serious. Afterward, Wendel said he had a dim notion that she was no longer a dog at all, but a mere instrument in the hand of Fate.
"What's the matter, old girl?" he asked. "Don't you like 'em?"
For answer she gave a low whine. She looked up again, and out into the throng; she repeated the whine, with a little whimper at the end.
Harry returned to the others. Nothing was said of what he had done. At once the Geos led the group through a small, half-hidden door, beyond which was a narrow, winding stairway of chocolate- coloured stone. The Geos halted.
"Dost wish the building emptied, O Jarados?"
"I do. When we come back from under the Spot of Life, we should have the place to ourselves."
Accompanied by the two queens the Rhamda returned to the main body of the temple. Dr. Holcomb, Harry and Chick were left to themselves.
The professor took out a notebook. In it was traced a map, or chart, together with several notations.
"The three of us," said he, "are going to take a look at the under side of the Blind Spot. This stairway leads into a secret chamber inside the foundations of the great stair; and according to this data I found in the palace, together with some calculations of my own, we ought to find some of the secrets of the Spot."
He led the way up the steps. At the top of the flight they came to a blank, blue wall. There was no sign of a door, but in the front of the wall stood a low platform, in the centre of which was set a strange, red stone. The professor consulted his chart, then opened his black case. From it he took another stone, red like the other, but not so intense. This he touched to the first, and waited.
Inside a minute a light sprang up from the contact. Immediately Harry and Chick beheld something they had not seen on the wall—a knob, or button. The doctor pulled sharply on it. Instantly a door opened in the wall.
They passed into another room. It was not a large place—about thirty feet across, perhaps, stone-walled and with a low ceiling. From all sides a soft, intrinsic glow was given off. There were no furnishings.
But in the centre of the ceiling, occupying almost all the space overhead, a snow-white substance hung as if suspended. Were it not for its colour and its size, it might have been likened to an immense, horizontal grindstone hung in mid-air, with apparently nothing to hold it there. Around its side they could make out a narrow gap between it and the ceiling. And directly along its lower edge was a series of small, fiery jewels inset, and of the order and colour of the sign of the Jarados—red, blue and green, alternating.
The professor produced an electric torch and held it up to show that the gap between the stone and the ceiling was unbroken at any point. Then he counted the jewels on the lower edge. Chick made out twenty-four. Three were missing from their sockets—all told, then, there should have been twenty-seven.
The doctor noted the positions of the three empty sockets and, drawing a tapeline from his pocket, proceeded to measure the distances from each of the three—they were widely separated round the circle—from each other. Then he turned to Chick and Harry.
"Do you know where we are?"
"Under the Spot of Life," it was easy to answer.
"You are in San Francisco!"
"Not in—in—" Chick hesitated.
"Yes. Exactly. This is 288 Chatterton Place—the house of the Blind Spot." He paused for them to digest this. Then, "Harry—did you say Hobart Fenton was with you on that last night?"
"Hobart and his sister, Charlotte. I remember their coming at the last minute. They were too late, sir."
The professor nodded.
"Well, Harry, the chances are that Hobart is not more than twenty feet away at the present moment. Charlotte may be sitting right there"—pointing to a spot at Harry's side—"this very instant. And there may be many others.
"No doubt they are working hard to solve the mystery. Unfortunately the best they can do is to guess. We hold the key. That is—I should correct that statement—we hold the knowledge, and they hold the keys."
"The keys?" Harry wanted to know more.
The professor pointed to the three empty sockets in the great white stone above their heads. "These three missing stones are the keys. Until they are reset we cannot control the Spot. I had found two of them before I came through. I take it that both of you remember the blue one?"
"I think," agreed Chick, "that neither of us is ever likely to forget it! Eh, Harry?"
The professor smiled. He was holding the light up to the snow- stone, at a spot that would have been the point of intersection had lines been drawn from the three missing gems, and the resulting triangle centred. He held his hand up to the substance. It was slightly rough at that point, as though it had been frozen.
Then he ran his fingers across the surrounding surface.
"Ah!" he exclaimed. "I thought so! That helps considerably. Chick—put your hand up here. What do you feel?"
"Rough," said Chick, feeling the intersection point. "Slightly so, but cold and—and magnetic."
"Now feel here."
"Cool and magnetic, doctor; but smooth. What does it prove?"
"Let's see; do you understand the term 'electrolysis'? Good. Well, there should be another clue—not similar, but supplementary, or rather, complementary—on the earth side. Perhaps one of you found it while you lived in that house." The professor eyed both men anxiously. "Did either of you find a stain, or anything of that sort, on the walls, ceiling, or floor of any room there?"
Both shook their heads.
"Well, there ought to be," frowned the doctor. "I am positive that, should we return now, we could locate some such phenomenon. From this side it is very easy to account for; it's simply the disintegrating effect of the current, constantly impinging at the point of contact or the intersection. Having acted on this side, it must have left some mark on the other."
Watson was still running his hand over the snow-stone. Once before, when he had stood barefooted in the contest with the Senestro, he had noted its cold magnetism.
"What is this substance, professor?"
"That, I have not been able to discover. I would call it neutral element, for want of a more exact term; something that touches both aspects of the spectrum."
"Both aspects of the spectrum?"
"Yes; as nearly as the limitations of my vocabulary will permit. If you recall, I showed you a simple experiment the other day in the palace. By means of an inductor I drew out the iron principle from the ether and built up the metal. Only it was not precisely iron but its Thomahlian equivalent. Had you been on the earth side you would have seen nothing at all, not even myself. I was on the wrong aspect of the spectrum.
"Also, you see here the Jaradic colours—the crimson, green and blue—the shades between, the iridescence and the shadows. Had you been on the other side you wouldn't have seen one of them; they are not precisely our own colours, but their equivalents on this side of the Spot.
"In the final analysis, as I said before, it gets down to ether, to speed and vibration—and still at last to the perceptive limitations of our own earthly five senses. Just stop and consider how limited we are! Only five senses—why, even insects have six. Then consider that all matter, when we get to the bottom of it, is differentiated and condensed ether, focused into various mathematical arrangements, as numberless as the particles of the universe. Of these our five senses pick out a very small proportion indeed.
"This is one way to account for the Blind Spot. It may be merely another phase of the spectrum—not simply the unexplored regions of the infra-red or the ultra-violet, but a region co-existent with what we normally apprehend, and making itself manifest through apertures in what we, with our extremely limited sense- grasp, think to be a continuous spectrum. I throw out the idea mainly as a suggestion. It is not necessarily the true explanation.
"Let us go a bit farther. Remember, we are still upon the earth. And that we are still in San Francisco, although all the while we are also in the Mahovisal. This is 288 Chatterton Place, and at the same time it is the Temple of the Bell. It might be a hundred or a thousand other places just as well, too, if my hypothesis is correct; which we shall see.
"Now, what does this mean? Simply this, gentlemen, that we five- sensed people have failed to grasp the true meaning of the word 'Infinity.' We look out toward the stars, fancying that only in unlimited space can we find the infinite. We little suspect we ourselves are infinity! It is only our five senses that make us finite.
"As soon as we grasp this the so-called spiritual realm becomes a very substantial fact. We begin to apprehend the occult. Our five- sensed world is merely a highly specialized phase of infinity. Material or spiritual—it is all the same. That's why we look on the Thomahlians as occult, and why they consider us in the same light.
"It is strictly a question of sense perception and limitations, which can be covered by the word, 'viewpoint.' Viewpoint—that is all it amounts to.
"There is no such thing as unreality; but there is most certainly such a thing as relativity, and all life is real.
"Of course I knew nothing of this until the discovery of the Blind Spot. It will, I think, prove to be one of the greatest events in history. It will silence the sceptics, and form a bulwark for all religion. And it will make us all appreciate our Creator the more."
The professor stopped. For some moments there was silence.
"What are we to do now?" asked Harry.
But the professor chose not to answer. With his tape he began taking a fresh series of measurements, with reference to the empty sockets and one particularly brilliant red gem, which seemed to be "number one" in the circle. From time to time the doctor jotted down the results and made short calculations. Presently he said: "That ought to be enough. Now suppose we—"
At that instant something happened. Harry Wendel caught him by the shoulder. He pointed to the suspended stone.
It was moving!
It was revolving, almost imperceptibly, like some vast wheel turning on its axis. So slowly did it rotate, the motion would have escaped attention were it not for the gems and their brilliance.
Suddenly it came to a stop, short and quick, as though it had dropped into a notch. And from above they heard the deep, solemn clang of the temple bell.
"What is that?" asked Harry, startled. "Who moved the stone?"
"Can it be," flashed Chick, "that Hobart Fenton has found the keys?"
"That remains to be seen!" from the doctor. "Come—we must find out what has happened!"
Within a minute they knew. As they came out of the private door on the now emptied floor of the great temple, they saw the senior queen, the Nervina, coming down the great stairway from the Spot of Life.
"What is it?" called Harry, apprehensively.
"The Aradna!" she replied. Her voice was curiously strained. "Something happened, and—she has fallen through the Spot!"
OUT OF THE OCCULT
"HOW DID IT HAPPEN?"
"I scarcely know. We went up to play with the dog. It was unwilling to leave the place, and Aradna teasingly tried to push her off on to the steps. She succeeded, but—well, it was all over that quick. The Aradna was gone!"
But the Spot had by this time lost a good deal of its terror. Knowing what was on the other side, and who, made a great difference. As the doctor said later in a private consultation with Chick and Harry:
"It's not so bad. That is, if Hobart Fenton is at work there. I think he is. Really, I only regret that we didn't know of this beforehand; we could have sent a message through to him."
And the professor went on to explain what he meant. At the time he spoke, it was twenty-four hours after the Aradna's going; another twenty-four hours would see the evening of the Last Day—the sixteenth of the sacred Days of Life—what the Rhamdas alluded to as "the Day of Judgment." And the Mahovisal was a seething mass of humanity, all bent upon seeing the fulfillment of their highest hopes.
"Bear in mind that if the Spot should not open at the last moment, you and I are done for. We will be self-condemned 'False Ones'; our lives will not last one minute after midnight tomorrow night if we fail to get through!
"That Prophecy means EVERYTHING to the Thomahlians. There was a time when they accepted it on faith; now it is an intellectual conviction with every last one of them. And one and all look forward to a new and glorious life beyond the Spot—in the occult world—our world!
"Now, the ticklish part of the job will be to open the Spot just long enough to permit us to get through, yet prevent the whole Prophecy from coming to pass. We've got to get through, together with that black case of mine, and then shut the door in the face of all Thomahlia!"
Nothing more was said on the subject until late the following afternoon, as the doctor, Harry, and Chick sat down to a light meal. They ate much as if nothing whatever was in the wind. From where they sat, in one part of a wing of the temple, they could look out into the crowded streets, in which were packed untold numbers of pilgrims, all pressing towards the great square plaza in front of the temple. No guards were to be seen; the solemnity of the occasion was sufficient to keep order. But the terrific potentiality of that semi-fanatical host did not cause the doctor's voice to change one iota.
"There is no telling what may happen," he said. "For my own part I shall not venture near the Spot of Life until just at the end. I shall remain in the chamber underneath.
"But you two ought to show yourselves immediately after sundown. Certain ancient writings indicate it. You, and the Nervina, will have to mount the stair to the Spot, and remain in sight until midnight—until the end.
"So we must be prepared for accidents." He took some papers from his pocket, and selected two, and gave one to each of his pupils. "Here are the details of what must be done. In case only one of us gets through, it will be enough."
"But—how can these be of any use, on such short notice?" Harry asked.
"Cudgel your brains a bit, gentlemen," he chided good-humouredly. "You will soon see my drift. This is one of those occasions when the psychic elements involved are such that, without doubt, it were best if you reacted naturally to whatever may happen.
"Now you will note that I have made a drawing of the Blind Spot region; also certain calculations which will explain themselves.
"Moreover, I have written out the combination to my laboratory safe in my house in Berkeley. The green stone is there. Bertha will help, as soon as she understands that it is my wish; no explanation will be needed.
"You may leave the rest to me, young gentlemen. Act as through you had no notion that I was down below the Spot. I shall be merely experimenting a bit with that circle of jewels, to see if the phenomena which affected the Aradna cannot be repeated. I fancy it was not mere accident, but rather the working of a 'period.'"
He said no more about this, except to comment that he hoped to get into direct communication with Hobart Fenton before midnight should arrive. However, he did say, in an irrelevant sort of manner:
"Oh, by the way—do either of you happen to recall which direction the house at Chatterton Place faces?"
"North," replied Harry and Chick, almost in the same breath.
"Ah yes. Well, the temple faces south. Can you remember that?"
They thought they could. The rest of the meal was eaten without any discussion. Just as they arose, however, the doctor observed:
"It may be that Hobart Fenton has got to come through. I wish I knew more about his mentality; it's largely a question of psychic influence—the combined, resultant force of the three material gems, and the three degrees of psychic vibration as put forth by him and you two. We shall see.
"Something happened today—the Geos told me about it—which may link up Hobart very definitely. It was about one o'clock when one of the temple pheasants began to behave very queerly up on the great stair. It had been walking around on the snow-stone, and flying a bit; then it started to hop down the steps.
"About sixteen steps down, Geos says the pheasant stopped and began to flutter frantically, as though some unseen person were holding it. Suddenly it vanished, and as suddenly reappeared again. It flew off, unharmed. I can't quite account for it, but— well, we'll see!"
He spoke no more, but led the way out into the entrance to the wing. There they waited only a moment or two, before the Nervina and her retinue arrived. Without delay a start was made for the great black stairway.
The doctor alone remained behind.
There was a guard-lined lane through the crowd, allowing the Nervina and the rest access to the foot of the steps. Reaching that point she paused for a look around.
The sun had just gone down; the artificial lights of the temple had not yet been turned on. Overhead, the great storm-cloud hung portentously, even more ominous than in the brighter light. The huge waterspout columns, the terrific size of the auditorium, were none the less impressive for the incalculable horde that filled every bit of floor space. At the front of the building the archway gave a glimpse of the vastly greater throng waiting outside.
But all was quiet, with the silence of reverence and supreme expectation.
The long flight of stairs was lined on either side, from bottom to top, with the Rhamdas. On the landing there stood only two of the three chairs that Chick had seen on the previous occasion. The green one had been brought down and placed in the centre of an open spot just at the foot of the stairs.
In this chair sat the Bar Senestro. Deployed about him, at a respectful distance, was a semi-circle of the Bars, many hundreds in number. Behind the Bars, separating them from the crowds at their backs, were grouped the crimson and blue guardsmen. Among them, no doubt, were the Jan Lucar and the MacPherson, but Chick could locate neither.
The Nervina, taking Harry's arm, ascended the steps. Chick followed, with the Rhamda Geos at his side. At the top of the flight the Nervina was escorted to one of the chairs, while Chick placed the Geos in the other.
It left the two Californians on their feet, to move around to whatever extent seemed commensurate with dignity. Chick drew Harry aside.
"What do you suppose," said Chick, indicating the handsome, confident figure in the chair at the base of the stairs—"what do you suppose friend Senestro is thinking about?"
Harry frowned. "You know him better than I do. You don't think he has reformed?"
"Not on your life; not the Bar. He's merely adjusted his plans to the new situation. He sees that the Prophecy is likely to be fulfilled; so, he counts on being the first to get through, after the Nervina. Then, whether the rest of the Thomahlia follows or not—he calls himself the divinely appointed leader now, I understand—he will get through and marry the two Queens anyhow!"
Perhaps it was because the crowd was so terrifically large. Or, there may have been something in the destiny of things that would not permit the chief actors to feel nervous. Certain it is that neither of the two men experienced the least stage fright. Had they been on display before a crowd one-tenth the size, anywhere else, both would have been ill at ease. This was different— enormously so.
No longer was there any circulation in the crowd. People remained in their places now, just as they expected the end to find them. Chick and Harry marvelled at their composure, strangely in contrast with the ceaseless activities of the temple pheasants darting everywhere overhead.
Suddenly Harry remarked:
"I've got an idea, Chick! It's this: How does the professor expect to send a message to Hobart?" Chick could not guess.
But already Harry had taken his sheet of instructions from his pocket, and was rolling it into a compact pellet. Then he went to Queen, and with a ribbon borrowed from the Nervina, tied the message tightly to the dog's collar.
"Hobart will be certain to see it," said he. "I wonder if the doctor's figured it out yet?"
"He's playing with a tremendous force," observed Chick, thoughtfully. He reached out and touched the snow-stone with his foot, just as he had done before, and fancied that he could feel that electric thrill even through the leather of his shoes. "Still, it's worth any risk he may be taking down in that chamber. If only he could send Queen through! Hobart—"
He never finished the sentence. He staggered, thrown off his balance by reason of the fact that he had been resting the weight of one foot on the stone and—it moved!
Moved—shifted about its axis, just as it had done forty-eight hours previously, when the Aradna had dropped through.
And Chick had only a flash of a second for a glimpse of the startled faces of Harry, the Nervina and the Geos, the huge multitude below the stair, Queen on the other side, and the fateful Prophecy on the walls above him, before—
A figure came into existence at his side. It was that of a powerfully built man, on whose wrists were curious red circles. And Chick shouted in a great voice:
And then came blackness.
THE LAST LEAF
Watson's story was now completed. During the entire recital his auditors had spoken scarcely a word. It had been marvellous— almost a revelation. With the possible exception of Sir Henry Hodges, not one had expected that it would measure up to this. For the whole thing backed up Holcomb's original proposition:
"The Occult is concrete."
Certainly, if what Watson had told them was true, then Infinity had been squared by itself. Not only was there an infinity that we might look up to through the stars, but there was another just as great, co-existent, here upon the earth. The occult became not only possible, but unlimited.
The next few minutes would prove whether or not he had told the truth.
It was now close to midnight.
Jerome and General Hume had returned from Berkeley. Their quest had been successful; Watson now had the missing green stone. A number of soldiers were stationed about the house. Watson noted these men when he had finished his account, and said:
"Good. We may need them, although I hope not. Fortunately the Spot is small, and a few of us can hold it against a good many. What we must do is to extricate our friends and close it. Afterward we may have time for more leisurely investigation. But we must remember, above all things, that black case of Professor Holcomb's! It holds the secrets.
"Now I must ask you all to step out of this room. This library, you know, is the Blind Spot."
He directed them to take positions along the balustrade of the stairway, out in the hall—through the wide archway, where they could have a clear view, yet be safe.
It was a curious test. With nothing but his mathematics and his drawing to go by, Watson was about to set the three stones in their invisible sockets. He spread the map out carefully, likewise his calculations; they gave him, on this floor, the precise positions that he charted on the earth of the cellar. A glance toward the front of the house—north—then a little measuring, three chalk-marks on the carpet, and he was ready for the final move.
He took the fateful ring and with a penknife pried up the prongs that held the stone. As it popped out he caught it with one hand. Then he looked at the row of wondering faces along the stair.
"I think it will work," he said. "But, remember—don't come near! I shall get out as best I can myself; don't try to save me."
With that he held the jewel on the first of the three chalk-marks on the circumference of the great circle. He held it tight against the carpet and then let go. Up it flashed about one foot—and disappeared.
There was no sound. Next Watson took the red stone. With it, the process was inverted. Instead of holding it to the floor he raised it as high as he could reach, directly above the second mark. Then he let it drop.
It did not reach the floor. It fell a little more than halfway, and vanished.
The third stone, the green one, was still remaining. Watson took it to the third and final mark on the circle, taking care to keep outside the circumference that marked the Spot. This mark was directly in front of the archway. He turned to them.
"Watch carefully," he spoke. "I do not know what has transpired in the temple during the past few hours. Be ready for ANYTHING. All of you!"
He dropped the stone.
With the same motion he dodged out into the hall.
Though there was no sound there was something that every one felt—a sibilant undertone and cold vibration—a tense flash of magnetism. Then the dot of blue—a string of incandescence; just as had been spoken.
The Blind Spot was opening.
Watson silently warned the others to remain where they were and himself crowded back against the stair. And as he did so, someone came noiselessly down the steps from the floor above, passed unnoticed behind the watchers and thence across into the hall.
It was a slender, frail figure in white—the Aradna, walking like one in the grip of a higher will. Before they could make a move she had stepped into the Blind Spot, under the dot of blue, and into a string of light. And then—she was gone.
It was as swift as a guess. It was inexorable and unseen; and being unseen, close akin to terror. The group watched and waited, scarcely breathing. What would happen next?
There came a sudden, jarring click—like the tapping of iron. And next instant—
The Spot opened to human sight.
The library at 288 Chatterton Place was gone. Instead, the people on the stairs were gazing down from the Spot of Life, straight into the colossal Temple of the Jarados.
It was as Chick had described it—immense—beyond conception. Through the great doors and out into the plaza beyond was gathered all Thomahlia, reverent, like those waiting for the crack of doom.
Above the horde, high on the opposite wall, stood out the monster Clover Leaf of the Jarados; three-coloured—blazing like liquid fire; it was ominous with real life.
At that moment the whole concourse rippled with commotion. Arms were uplifted; one and all pointed towards the dais. They, too were looking through the Spot. Then the multitude began to move.
It heaved and surged and rolled toward the centre. The guards were pressed in upon the Bars, the Bars upon the Rhamda-lined stair. There was no resisting that flood of humanity. On and up it came, sweeping everything before it.
Directly in the foreground lay the snow-stone. On its centre stood the dog Queen, crouching, waiting, bristling. By her side Harry Wendel crouched on one knee, as if awaiting the signal. Behind him, the Nervina, supporting the awakening Aradna. And in front of all, the powerful bulk of Hobart Fenton, standing squarely at the head of the stair, ready to grapple the first to reach the landing.
But most important of all, there stood the doctor himself. He was at the Nervina's side; in his hand, the case of priceless data. He was gazing through the Spot and making a signal of some kind to Watson, whereupon the latter leaped to the edge of the unseen circle.
Something had gone wrong. The Spot was not fully open. Nothing but sight could get through.
Yet there was no time for anything. Up the stairs came the Bars, leading and being pressed forward by the horde. At their head dashed the Bar Senestro, handsome as Alexander. Hobart stepped forward to meet him, but the doctor stopped him with a word.
Only a few seconds elapsed between death and salvation. Again Dr. Holcomb signed to Watson; not a sound came through. Watson hesitated.
The dog Queen shot to her feet. Then the Senestro, out-distancing all the rest and dodging Hobart, had leaped upon the dais.
Upon the wall across the temple the great Leaf of the Jarados stood out like sinister fire. It pulsed and vibrated—alive. The top petal—the blue one—suddenly broke into a seething wave of flame.
Still Watson held back. He could not understand what Holcomb meant.
Queen waited only until the Senestro set foot on the dais. She crouched, then leaped.
It was done.
With a lightning shift of his nimble feet, the high-tempered Bar kicked the shepherd in the side. Caught at full leap, she was knocked completely over and fell upon the snow-stone.
It was the Sacrilege!
Even the Bars beyond the Senestro stopped in horror. The Four- Footed One—sacred to the Jarados—it was she who had been touched! Had the Senestro undone all on the Spot of Judgment, What would be the end?
Fenton acted. He caught the Senestro before he could get his balance and with a mighty heave hurled him over the side of the stair. A second, and it was over.
Another second was the last. For the great Leaf of the Jarados had opened.
The green and red stood still; but out of the blue came a dazzling light, a powerful beam; so brilliant, it seemed solid. It shot across the whole sweep of the temple and touched the Prophecy. Over the golden scrolls it traced its marvellous colour, until it came to the lines:
Beware ye of sacrilege! Lest I take from ye all that I have given ye, and the day be postponed—beware ye of sacrilege!
For a moment the strange light stood still, so that the checked millions might read. Then it turned upon the dais.
There it spread, and hovered over the group, until it seemed to work them together—the Nervina to Harry, the Aradna to Hobart. Not one of them knew what it was; they obeyed by impulse—it was their destiny; the Chosen, and the queens.
The light stopped at the foot of Dr. Holcomb. Then the strangest thing happened.
Out of the light—or rather, from where it bathed the snowstone— came a man; a man much like Holcomb, bearded and short and kindly.
He was the real Jarados!
Unhesitatingly the professor stepped up beside him. Then followed Hobart and the Aradna, Harry and the Nervina, and lastly, from the crowd of Bars, MacPherson. The whole concourse in the temple stopped in awe and terror.
Only for a second. Then the Jarados and all at his side—were gone.
And upon the snow-stone there stood a sword of living flame.
It stood there for just a breath, exactly where the group had been.
And it was gone.
That was all.
No; not quite all. For when the Blind Spot closed that night at 288 Chatterton Place, there came once more the deep, solemn peal of the Bell of the Jarados.
Were this account merely a work of fiction, it would harmonise things so as to have no unaccountables in it. As it is, the present writers will have to make this quite clear:
It is not known why the Rhamda Avec failed to show himself at the crucial moment. Perhaps he could have changed everything. We can only surmise; he has not been seen or heard from since.
Which also is true of Mr. Chick Watson. He disappeared immediately after the closing of the Spot, saying that he was going to Bertha Holcomb's home. No trace has been found of either to date. Doubtless the reader has noted advertisement in the papers, appealing to the authorities to report any one of Watson's description applying for a marriage licence.
As for his two friends, Wendel and Fenton, together with the Aradna and the Nervina, they and MacPherson and the doctor absolutely vanished from all the knowledge, either of the Thomahlia or the earth. The Jarados alone can tell of them.
Mme. Le Fabre, however, feels that she can explain the matter satisfactorily. Abridged, her theory runs:
"There is but one way to explore the Occult. That way is to die.
"For all that we were so strongly impressed with the reality of Mr. Watson, I am firmly convinced that he was simply a spirit; that everything we saw was spirit manifestation.
"Dr. Holcomb and all the rest have simply gone on to another plane. We shall never see them again. They are dead; no other explanation will hold. They are spirits."
Giving this version to the public strictly for what it is worth, the present writers feel it only right to submit the conclusions reached by Dr. Malloy and concurred in by Drs. Higgins and Hansen, also, with reservations, by Professor Herold and by Miss Clarke.
"To a certain extent, and up to a certain point, it is possible to account for the astonishing case of the Blind Spot by means of well-known psychological principles. Hallucinations will cover a great deal of ground.
"But we feel that our personal experiences, in witnessing the interior of the Thomahlia cannot be thus explained away. Our accounts tally too exactly; and we are not subject to group hypnosis.
"To explain this we believe a new hypothesis is called for. We submit that what we saw was not unreal. Assuming that a thing is real or unreal, and can never be in a third state which is neither one nor the other, then we should have to insist that what we saw was REAL.
"We stand ready and prepared to accept any theory which will fit all facts, not merely a portion."
Again refraining from any comment we pass on to the more exhaustive opinion of Sir Henry Hodges. Inasmuch as this seems to coincide very closely with the hypothesis of Professor Holcomb, and as the reputation of Sir Henry is a thing of weight, we are quoting him almost verbatim:
"There is a well-known experiment in chemistry, wherein equal quantities of water and alcohol are mixed. Let us say, a pint of each. Now, the resulting mixture ought to be a quart; but it is not. It is somewhat less than a quart.
"Strange, indeed, to the novice, but a commonplace to every student of the subject. It is strange only that, except for Dr. Holcomb and this man Avec, science has overlooked the stupendous significance and suggestion of this particular fact.
"Now, consider another well-known fact: No matter how you try you cannot prevent gravity from acting. It will pull every object down, regardless of how you try to screen it from the earth.
"Why? Because gravity penetrates all things. Again, why? Why should gravity penetrate all things?
"The answer is, because gravity is a function of the ether. And the ether is an imponderable substance, so impalpable that it passes right through all solids as though they were not there.
"These are two highly suggestive points. They show us, first, that two substances can exist within the space formerly thought to be completely filled by one. Second, they show that ALL substances are porous to the ether.
"Very well. Bear in mind that we know nothing whatever directly about the ether; our knowledge is all indirect. Therefore—
"It may be that there is more than one ether!
"Conceive what this means. If there were another ether, how could we become aware of it? Only through the medium of some such phenomenon as the Blind Spot; not through ordinary channels. For the ordinary channels are microscopes and test-tubes, every one of which, when traced to the ultimate, is simply a concrete expression of THE ONE ETHER WE KNOW!
"In the nature of the case our five senses could never apprehend a second ether.
"Yet, knowing what we do about the structure of the atom, of electronic activity, of quantels, we must admit that there is a huge, unoccupied space—that is, we can't see that it is occupied— in and between the interstices of the atom.
"It is in the region, mingled and intertwined with the electrons which make up the world we know so well, that—in my opinion—the Thomahlian world exists. It is actually coexistent with our own. It is here, and so are we. At this very instant, at any given spot, there can be, and almost certainly is, more than one solid object—two systems of materiality, two systems of life, two systems of death. And if two, why, then, perhaps there are even more!
"Holcomb is right. We are Infinity. Only our five senses make us finite."
Charlotte Fenton does not indulge in speculation. She seems to bear up wonderfully well in the face of Harry Wendel's affinity for the Nervina, and also in the face of her brother's disappearance. And she philosophically states:
"When Columbus returned from his search for the East Indies, he triumphantly announced that he had found what he sought.
"He was mistaken. He had found something else—America.
"It may be that we are all mistaken. It may be that something entirely different from what any one has suspected has been found. Time will tell. I am willing to wait."
To make it complete, it is felt that the following statement of General Hume is not only essential, but convincing to the last degree.
"My view regarding this mystery is simply this: I have eyes, and I have seen. I don't know whether the actors were living or dead. I am no scientist; I have no theory. I only know. And I will swear to what I saw.
"I am a soldier. The two men who are bringing this to press have shown me their copy.
"It is correct."