The Silent Scourge can be found in Magazine Entry

EVERY once in a while a sudden onslaught of animal or bacterial life reminds us that we go about our lives in the blithe feeling that the human race is supreme, and has no enemies worthy of itself.

The plague of influenza in 1918, the onslaughts of the corn-borer, the periodic ravages of the locust should all be evidence to us that powerful foes of man exist, and they need only a favorable circumstance to make us sadly aware of them. Each such plague or catastrophe finds us defenseless and totally unprepared. Perhaps our insect and animal foes realize it by this time; and they know that it needs only conditions more favorable than those of the past to entirely sweep men from the earth.

Mr. Colladay deals in an intensely realistic fashion with such a menace. He does not exaggerate it, yet he-gives us the feeling that at any time the menace may widen its field and become a national calamity. A first rate story!

THE chief of police was having an unpleasant time. His face was flushed and he was frowning under the questioning of the Citizens' Committee. Benson, the chairman, was his most insistent tormenter.

"What do you expect us to do, Mr. Benson? We even borrowed men from the New' York Department. If they can't find out anything, it proves that it ain't our fault, don't it?"

Benson shook his head. "We're tired of alibis, Hennessy. Ten or twelve men disappeared again last week. If you can't find out what': back of it all, we'll have to get someone who can."

While the chief paused to think up the most effective reply there was a knock at the door. "Come in," he growled.

A plainclothes man thrust his head into the room. "Say, Chief, there's a guy outside claims he just seen a man carried off by a big bug or something. I guess he's nuts, but I thought mebbe you'd want to see him. Says his name's Henry Todd."

"Lock him up," ordered Hennessy impatiently. "I got no time for nuts or drunks tonight."

"Wait a minute, Chief," interrupted Benson. "I know Todd. Better bring him in and let's bear what he has to say."

Hennessy looked his disgust. "Saw a man carried off by a big bug, did he?, That's the craziest story yet. All right, Mr. Benson, anything to oblige. Bring the guy in, Dugan."

A minute later a white-faced little man evidently badly frightened, entered the room followed by a group of reporters.

"You can't come in here," growled the chief to the reporters. "We'll let you know later what We got to give out."

"Better let us stay, Chief," said one of them. "We've got this guy's story already and it's a wow!"

"I don't see any objection to the reporters being here," said Benson.

People are always disappearing and never being heard of again. Sometimes one of these disappearances gets in the newspapers, but usually not. A man grows tired of the monotony of life and wanders off to start a new and more exciting life elsewhere. Women disappear for much the same reason. Most of these cases are reported to the police who as a rule pay little attention to them. They are pigeonholed for reference in case a body is discovered floating in the river.

However, ten persons disappearing from a small town in one week was a different matter. South Orange is a fairly aristocratic suburb of New York and many of the inhabitants are well-known people. It is true that three of the missing were servants, but the other seven were the kind of persons who are regarded as important. One wan a bank president, two were manufacturers and one a Wall Street broker. The remaining three were men who had retired from business with comfortable incomes.

It seemed unlikely that these ten persons should drop out of sight voluntarily. Sinister rumors began to circulate. At first an effort was made to keep the matter from the newspapers. A private detective agency was called in and its operatives could be turn. The three servants had been sent on errands. The detectives who disappeared had been on night duty. One difficulty about the kidnapping theory was that so far as was known, there had been no outcry or struggle in connection with any of the disappearances. It seen day and night gumshoeing through the Oranges. Then at the end of another week it was found that five of the private detectives had disappeared as well as several more of the residents of the town.

That Sunday the New York Mirror published a sensational account of the disappearances. It suggested that an organized blackmail and murder gang was at work in the vicinity of New York, and gave a list of the men who had dropped out of sight.

This first article blew off the lid. The other newspapers followed with sensational write-ups. Most of them dwelt on the blackmail—murder gang theory. The Times was the first to suggest that there might be something even more serious at the bottom of the mystery.

ALL the men had disappeared at night. Some of them had started from the railroad station to their homes and never arrived. One had left his house about nine o'clock to go a few blocks to a drug store. He never reached the store. Two had stepped out of their houses for a moment into the surrounding grounds. They did not return. The three servants has been sent on errands. The detectives had been on night duty.

One difficulty about the kidnapping theory was that so far as was known, there had been no outcry or struggle in connection with any of the disappearances. It seemed hardly possible that a considerable number of men had been carried off against their wills without at least one of them putting up enough of a fight to attract attention.

Two or three servant girls were badly frightened by things they claimed to have seen. However, their stories were so fantastic that no attention was paid to them until Henry Todd told his experience.

Todd was bookkeeper for a New York commission house and had no more imagination than a cigar store Indian. He was married and had never taken a drink in his life. It happened that Benson was the only man at the police station that night who knew him personally. When he could not tell a coherent story because of fear and excitement, Benson took him in hand and quietly questioning him, brought out the facts.

Todd had been on the way from the railway station to his home in company with a neighbor Jamm Lewis who commuted on the same train with him from New York. The streets of South Orange are bordered by estates of considerable size with the houses set well back from the road. There are many places deeply shadowed by trees. Todd stopped for a moment to light his pipe and Lewis got a few feet ahead. Todd was sure there was no unusual sound, but something caused him to look up. He saw Lewis in the grasp of a monster which he had difficulty describing.

"It was dark there under the trees," he explained, "but it looked like a big worm with a hundred legs, like a caterpillar."

"What was it doing to Lewis?" asked Benson.

"It seemed to be holding him with its front legs. It was sort of standing up the way a caterpillar does, ii you know what I mean."

"How big was it?"

Todd frowned in perplexity. "I know it couldn't have been as big as it looked there in the dark, Mr. Benson. I don't know what to say."

"Well, how big did it look to you?"

Todd considered the question for a moment. "It held Lewis up pretty near as high as the lower branches of the trees and there was a lot of it on the ground. I long. Its body was at least three feet thick through, he-sides the legs on each side."

"Did it see you?"

"I don't know. I was so surprised and everything happened so quick——"

"What happened? Did it start after you?"

Todd shook his head as he tried to remember. "I guess it didn't pay any attention to me. It went through the hedge of the Albertson place and I came running here."

"What about Lewis? Did he make any effort to get away?"

"He looked dead to me. He never moved or made a sound."

Hennessey had been regarding Todd with increasing disfavor. "Say, Mr. Benson, this guy's either drunk or crazy. You ain't going to swallow any fairy story like that, are you?"

Todd was still too frightened to he indignant. He looked helplessly from the chief to Benson. "I never took a drink in my life and I'm not crazy," he asserted with quiet dignity. "You know that, don't you Benson?"

"Yes, I know it," said Benson, "and I believe your story."

Benson was an important man in that meeting and represented even more important men. Hennessey became less truculent.

"If you know him personally, Mr. Benson, of course that's different."

"One of the Things!"

FIFTEEN minutes later a group of men started from police headquarters with Todd leading the way. All were armed with revolvers or automatics and two of them carried Thompson machine guns.

Presently Todd paused at a dark, tree-shadowed stretch of road. "This is where it happened."

Flashlights revealed nothing suspicious. "Where were you standing when you saw the worm?" asked Ben-son.

Todd walked over to a tree. "I stood right here so I could light my pipe. It's died down now, but there was quite a wind blowing."

"Now show us where the worm was." Todd advanced gingerly to a spot near a hedge about twenty feet ahead. "It was right about here. Its head was waving around in the air when I saw it and it was holding Lewis with its front legs."

"Where did it g...

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