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By Victor Lauriston

FLORA, hesitant, whispered:

"It is—impossible."

"You need say nothing more." returned Folke, grimly; "You do not care—had I any right to hope you would?"

She half raised appealing hands to him. The mute gesture halted even his bitterness.

"I cannot help it." slip pleaded. "I know you for the soul of honor, but—I cannot help it. If—"

"If I were Philip Kingswell?"

The man's brows knit into a stern, ugly frown. Flora's gaze was unseeingly intent on the grass. Vague and indistinct though her face was in the shadows, Folke knew that it flushed in hesitant assent. He fancied even more. Leaning forward, one tense hand gripping the back of her chair, he almost screamed a question:

"Do you—do you love Kingswell?"

No answer came. The cripple's grip tightened till it seemed that the wood must fairly splinter.

"Do you?"

"Yes." Almost inaudible her whisper.

"My God! Flora!"

"I know." She did not look up.

He stared moodily at her, as one who sees his world engulfed in pitiless destruction.

"I'd rather have died a thousand deaths—"

"Oh, I know." Her lips quivered. "I—I know it all. I cannot help it. You—surely you will spare me—"

Her voice broke into a sob. Instantly; dropping to his knees, he humbly kissed her hand. She snatched it from him in sudden horror, as from a thing contaminate.

"Forgive me, he muttered, chokingly.

It was all a blur on bis memory when he reached the street: he saw nothing clearly save her pale face with its downcast eyes; felt nothing, save the choking heartbreak that came when she snatched away her hand. The arc lights far behind threw his shadow on the pavement, ludicrously long: his fancy accentuated the distorted shoulder and filled in the cruel, scarred lines of the face.

He had come involuntarily to Sandry's door before he recollected their appointment. The friendship of old times unconsciously drew him to Sandry: Sandry, with his quaint love of the bizarre and the hideous that led him to pet toads and lizards and to open his heart to the ugly youth at college. The soothing, sympathetic touch of the Orient spoke to him of Sundry as Alkazim, the Egyptian servant, with a silence that was part of the strange place, ushered Folke into the Egyptologist's study.

About the visitor all things breathed the sensuous beauty of the East. The rugs under foot were soft, the hanging of exquisite silks, and on all sides magnificent mirrors tossed back to one another the glitter of a myriad of lights. A subtle perfume soothed him. And then, crossing the threshold, he came face to face with Philip Kingswell.

In an instant the scarred countenance was livid, as there rose before the cripple's mind the scene in Flora's garden. Yet, mingling with Folke's hate, was admiration. This was a man whom women could not help but love; even those keen-visioned women who, beneath his handsome outer showing, gazed into the repellent depths of the soul.

"Hello, Jack, old boy!" cried Kingswell, cheerily, stretching forth his hand. "Didn't expect to see me in Pharaoh's cage, did you?"

His laugh was like music. Folke took the hand clammily. His soul burned with envy of the man who could greet even a discarded rival as a friend.

"Hurry up, Pharaoh," added Kingswell, turning toward an inner door. "I've an appointment for 10 o'clock."

"Very well, Phil," responded a soft voice, from the adjoining room; and a moment later the orientalist crossed the rug toward them. There was the hint of another world in his quiet step, his soft tones, the unchanging fixity of his dark eyes.

"Alas, I am still Pharaoh to you, Phil," he murmured, sinking into a chair. "When will you learn respect for wisdom?"

"When I wed," laughed Kingswell.

"Which is never—eh?"

"Nay—very soon."

Folke's hand, viselike in its grip, closed on the edge of the table. The eyes that stared into the mirror opposite saw only the scarred face and the distorted shoulder.

"I may, therefore, congratulate you, Phil," murmured the scholar, gently, "but—not the woman."

Kingswell's laugh was even more cheery.

"Let's postpone the sermon," he urged, "and dig right down to business, my Lord of the Pyramids."

San dry smiled inscrutably.

"When I invited you here, my friends," he said, "I spoke of an important experiment. You arc to be the subjects. Be not alarmed—I offer you an honor, not a peril."

His soft, cooing tone had grown and surged into zealous enthusiasm.

"My experiment concerns the soul," he pursued. "What is the soul? Whence comes it? Whither does it go? Or is there, as skeptics tell us, no such thing? If we answer these questions, we answer all questions. You both know," he added hesitantly, as though apologizing for such discussion with men of intelligence, "that old fable of Pythagoras, concerning the transmigration of souls. I met that belief often among the Eastern races, particularly among the Hindoos. Certain archeologists; to the contrary, the ancient Egyptians, at least in some degree, shared the Hindoo belief—possibly originated it. I have studied many ancient writings. These ancient writings convince me of the existence of a soul, that it can depart from man for a time and later return to him, and that this, befalling in sleep, causes those strange soul journeys which we call dreams."

All the while he spoke, the strange, tense gaze of his dark eyes,, aglow with enthusiasm, never left the faces of the two spellbound auditors.

"So, my friends," concluded Sandry, solemnly, "we shall now prove or disprove for all time the existence of a soul."

Kingswell's careless laugh rang out. Folke involuntarily shivered. Sandry, noticing, the tremor, smiled reassuringly.

"You have nothing to fear, my friends," he urged. "You will sleep—that is all. While sleeping, you may visit strange scenes. When you wake, I may not be here: if so. write what you have seen and heard while sleeping, and leave the writing with Alkazim. You must tell no one—no, not one—what has befallen you, till I give the word. Are you willing?"

Folke nodded. He scarcely seemed to understand: oppressing his mind was the memory of that evening in Flora's garden. Kingswell's careless laugh jarred upon his soul.

Sandry still spoke, but to Folke the words came indistinctly. The voice faded into a whisper, as though, still discoursing but in tones that every moment grew softer and softer, the orientalist were gradually vanishing into unutterable distance.

LONG hours afterward, John Folke, rousing himself, sat sharply up in his chair. The lights were turned low. Sandry was gone. Alkazim, the silent servitor, stood immobile at the sleeper's elbow, as though he had been long waiting.

"Where am I?" demanded Folke, the sensation still fresh upon him of a long yet unwearying journey. "Where is Sandry—and where is—?"

"Gone," returned the servant, with an expressive shake of the head.

"Here," he commanded. "Write." He motioned toward a little table close by, and silently placed a chair. In mute, unquestioning obedience Folke sat before the table, and, taking up a pen, wrote unceasingly for more than half an hour. With each added word the story of his soul journey unfolded itself more and more clearly. At length he laid down the pen.

Alkazim, without a word, brought his hat and coat, and helped him put them on; then, still in the same strange, unmoved silence, followed to the door, closing it softly after him.

The street was deserted. Folke knew that the hour must be late. II is mind still surged with the memory of his strange experience. The talk with Flora, the cruelly significant snatching away of her hand, seemed to have befallen dim centuries ago. But as he hurried homeward, weariness came. The clear outlines which rose before his mind while he wrote at Sandry's table gradually faded. All in a maze at last, Folke entered his rooms, and, too tired even to turn on the lights, tumbled sleepily upon the bed.

He woke next morning with a raging headache. He could not think. He knew only that a hideous nightmare of some kind had left him stifling. Gasping, lie staggered toward the stair, where he clung to the balustrade as he descended.

The woman of the house gazed queerly at him.

"What do you want here?" she demanded, sharply.

But Folke did not answer. A moment later he staggered into the street.

The fresh morning air revived him. By degrees, as he hurried blindly along, his head grew clearer. A vague consciousness of utter dishevelment haunted him. His mind was too dulled to reason. The fresh air must first finish its beneficent work.

He had traversed four blocks when he came upon a little group of people. In the center was an excited, almost frantic man, talking incoherently. Folke looked thrice before he recognized Sandry—Sandry, usually so calm, now strangely agitated, with horror written on every line of his face. At sight of Folke his eyes grew staring.

"That queer, ugly little humpback?" muttered a man in the group. "Who'd have thought it?"

Folke shrank away, but Sandry ran to him. In his hand he gripped a morning paper.

"Kingswell!" he gasped.

"What's the matter?" demanded Folke. His very voice startled him, ho strangely resonant was it.

"Haven't you heard?" cried Sandry. "I'm on my way now to the poor fellow's rooms. I can't believe it. There must be a mistake—a horrible mistake. And only last night—oh, this is awful!"

"What—what is awful?" fairly yelled Folke, his whole frame filled with sickening suspense. "What is it, man?" "Here," answered Sandry.

He spread the paper before the other's eyes, as he did so pointing to an item on the front page; a brief item, but under flaring headlines. Folke caught the paper from Sandry's trembling fingers. His eyes widened with terror and anger as he read:

Shot Down by Opponent in Poker
Game, Victim Is Identified As
John Folke—Assailant Makes
Escape—Startling Devel-
opments Promised.

The item itself was little more than a repetition of the headlines. At an early hour that morning a man had been shot down in a gambling den on Brush Street during a quarrel over a poker game. His slayer had escaped, but the police had the murderer's description and were hot upon the trail. Through papers found in his pockets the victim had been identified as John M. Folke, a graduate of the state university and a well known scholar, residing in rooms at 279 Forest Avenue. Though a trifle eccentric, Folke had hitherto borne an excellent reputation. A disappointment in love was thought to have started him on his downward course. Startling developments—

Sharply checking his reading, the man with a sudden, violent movement tore the paper in twain, and cast the fragments from him.

"You are right, Sandry," he cried, fiercely. "There is a mistake—a mistake for which some one will pay dearly."

In sudden alarm, Sandry gripped his sleeve.

"Don't do anything rash, Kingswell," he urged.


The name leapt involuntarily from Folke's lips.

"Kingswell," he muttered, thickly. Why—?"

The words he was about to utter died on his lips. Swinging half round as he spoke, the terrified questioner saw, mirrored in the bright window of the corner drug store, the handsome face and debonair figure of Philip Kingswell.

The street seemed whirling. Tottering, the man felt the supporting strength of Sandry's arm.

"Why, man," cried the orientalist, sympathetically, "you're ill."

"No," came the answer, in a shaky voice. "But, in God's name, tell me—who am I?"

Sandry stared as one amazed; then his amazement merged in a compassion that was tenderly silent. But the oriental scholar did not need to speak. Intuitively, in the same moment that he voiced the frantic question, the truth forced itself compellingly upon the questioner. Without an answering word from Sandry, he knew that when, the night before, Philip Kingswell's soul returned from its journey, it had, through some terrible mischance, found refuge in the earthly body of John Folke. He knew that he who had hitherto been John Folke must henceforth dwell in the body of Philip Kingswell. The body that had been his, responsive to the mastery of Kingswell's soul, had, after leaving Sandry's rooms, gone to the Brush Street den in pursuance of a previous appointment, to play out its low game to the sudden, tragic end. Had that body lived, the two might, with Sandry 's aid. have once more exchanged: dead, there could lie no changing.

THE man's face was deathly white as he gazed at his new image mirrored in the window.

Sandry still watched him compassionately.

"Come, Kingswell," he urged, "don't take it so to heart. Maybe it's all a mistake. It must be a mistake. Folke would never have gone to a place like that."

He smiled, grimly.

"He was not your kind, Phil. It's all a mistake—a mistake."

The man's soul seethed with mad, impotent revolt as he listened to Sandry's attempted consolation. To die, to have the name of dying in such ways as that—he was disgraced, unutterably and forever. And Flora—what wrould Flora think? Individuality still straggled, keenly resenting the bitter shame of it.

"Come, come," urged Sandry, consolingly, "I'm sure it isn't true."

Then, suddenly, light burst upon the man; he knew that all he longed for in the world was his. Henceforth, if he must be Philip Kingswell, the new Philip Kingswell would be worthy. And what the soul of John Folke, the distorted cripple, in the old days must have hopelessly longed for, that blessing the same soul, new clothed, could have for the asking.

Heedless of Sandry's astonished stare and wild questionings, the new Philip Kingswell caught a passing car, bound for the West End—bound for Flora.