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Creep, Shadow!

by A. Merritt

Chapter 1 FOUR SUICIDES

I unpacked my bags at the Explorers' Club gloomily enough. The singularly unpleasant depression with which I had awakened in my berth the night before had refused to be shaken off. It was like the echo of some nightmare whose details I had forgotten but which still lurked just over the threshold of consciousness.

Joined to it was another irritation.

Of course I had not expected any Mayor's Committee to welcome me home. But that neither Bennett nor Ralston had met me began to assume the aspect of a major tragedy of neglect. I had written to both before sailing, and I had looked for one of them, at least, to be on the dock to meet me.

They were the closest friends I had, and the queer current of hostility between them had often amused me. They thoroughly liked, yet as thoroughly disapproved of, each other. I had the idea that away down under they were closer each to the other than to me; that they might have been Damon and Pythias if each hadn't so disliked the other's attitude toward life; and maybe were Damon and Pythias despite it.

Old Aesop formulated their discordance centuries ago in his fable of the Ant and the Cricket. Bill Bennett was the Ant. The serious-minded, hard-working son of Dr. Lionel Bennett, until recently one of the modern, civilized world's five outstanding experts upon brain pathology. I make the distinction of modern and civilized because I have had proof that what we are pleased to call the uncivilized world has many more such experts, and I have good reason to believe that the ancient world had others much further advanced than those of the modern world, civilized or uncivilized.

Bennett, the elder, had been one of the few specialists whose mind turned upon his work rather than his bank account. Distinguished but poor. Bennett, the younger, was about thirty-five, my own age. I knew that his father had rested heavily upon him. I suspected that along some lines, and especially in the realm of the subconscious, the son had outstripped the sire; his mind more flexible, more open. Bill had written me a year ago that his father had died, and that he had associated himself with Dr. Austin Lowell, taking the place of Dr. David Braile who had been killed by a falling chandelier in Dr. Lowell's private hospital. (See Burn, Witch, Burn.)

Dick Ralston was the Cricket. He was heir to a fortune so solid that even the teeth of the depression could only scratch it. Very much the traditional rich man's son of the better sort, but seeing no honor, use, nor any joy or other virtue in labor. Happy-go-lucky, clever, generous—but decidedly a first-class idler.

I was the compromise—the bridge on which they could meet. I had my medical degree, but also I had enough money to save me from the grind of practice. Enough to allow me to do as I pleased—which was drifting around the world on ethnological research. Especially in those fields which my medical and allied scientific brethren call superstition—native sorceries, witchcraft, voodoo, and the like. In that research I was as earnest as Bill in his. And he knew it.

Dick, on the other hand, attributed my wanderings to an itching foot inherited from one of my old Breton forebears, a pirate who had sailed out of St. Malo and carved himself a gory reputation in the New World. And ultimately was hanged for it. The peculiar bent of my mind he likewise attributed to the fact that two of my ancestors had been burned as witches in Brittany.

I was perfectly understandable to him.

Bill's industry was not so understandable.

I reflected, morosely, that even if I had been away for three years it was too short a time to be forgotten. And then I managed to shake off my gloom and to laugh at myself. After all, they might not have gotten my letters; or they might have had engagements they couldn't break; and each might have thought the other would be on hand.

There was an afternoon newspaper on the bed. I noticed that it was of the day before. My eye fell upon some headlines. I stopped laughing. The headlines ran:

$5,000,000 COPPER HEIR KILLS HIMSELF

RICHARD J. RALSTON, JR. PUTS BULLET THROUGH HEAD

"No Reason Known for Act—Fourth New York Man of Wealth to Take His Life Without Apparent Cause in Last Three Months—Police Hint Suicide Club."

I read the story:

"Richard J. Ralston, Jr., who inherited some $5,000,000 when his father, rich mine owner, died two years ago, was found dead in his bed this morning in a bedroom of his house on 78th Street. He had shot himself through the head, dying instantly. The pistol with which he had killed himself was lying on the floor where it had fallen from his hand. The Detective Bureau identified the finger marks on it as his own.

"Discovery was made by his butler, John Simpson, who said that he had gone into the room about 8 o'clock, following his usual custom. From the condition of the body Dr. Peabody, of the coroner's office, estimated that Ralston must have shot himself about three o'clock, or approximately five hours before Simpson found him."

Three o'clock? I felt a little prickling along my spine. Allowing for the difference between ship time and New York time, that was precisely when I had awakened with that strange depression. I read on:

"If Simpson's story is true, and the police see no reason to doubt it, the suicide could not have been premeditated and must have been the result of some sudden overmastering impulse. This seems to be further indicated by the discovery of a letter Ralston had started to write, and torn up without finishing. The scraps of it were found under a desk in the bedroom where he had tossed them. The letter read:

"'DEAR BILL.

"'Sorry I couldn't stay any longer. I wish you would think of the matter as objective and not subjective, no matter how incredible such a thing may seem. If Alan were only here. He knows more—'

"At this point Ralston had evidently changed his mind and torn up the letter. The police would like to know who 'Alan' is and have him explain what it is that he 'knows more' about. They also hope that the 'Bill' to whom it was to have been sent will identify himself. There is not the slightest doubt as to the case being one of suicide, but it is possible that whatever it was that was 'objective and not subjective, no matter how incredible' may throw some light on the motive.

"At present absolutely no reason appears to exist to explain why Mr. Ralston should have taken his life. His attorneys, the well-known firm of Winston, Smith & White, have assured the police that his estate is in perfect order, and that there were no 'complications' in their client's life. It is a fact that unlike so many sons of rich men, no scandal has ever been attached to Ralston's name.

"This is the fourth suicide within three months of men of wealth of approximately Ralston's age, and of comparatively the same habits of life. Indeed, in each of the four cases the circumstances are so similar that the police are seriously contemplating the possibility of a suicide pact.

"The first of the four deaths occurred on July 15, when John Marston, internationally known polo player, shot himself through the head in his bedroom in his country house at Locust Valley, Long Island. No cause for his suicide has ever come to light. Like Ralston, he was unmarried. On August 6, the body of Walter St. Clair Calhoun was found in his roadster near Riverhead, Long Island. Calhoun had driven his car off the main road, here heavily shaded by trees, into the middle of an open field. There he had put a bullet through his brains. No one ever discovered why. He had been divorced for three years. On August 21, Richard Stanton, millionaire yachtsman and globe-trotter, shot himself through the head while on the deck of his ocean-going yacht Trinculo. This happened the night before he was about to set out on a cruise to South America."

I read on and on... the speculations as to the suicide pact, supposedly entered into because of boredom and morbid thrill-hunger... the histories of Marston, Calhoun, and Stanton... Dick's obituary...

I read, only half understanding what it was I read. I kept thinking that it couldn't be true.

There was no reason why Dick should kill himself. In all the world there was no man less likely to kill himself. The theory of the suicide pact was absurdly fantastic, at least so far as he was concerned. I was the 'Alan' of the letter, of course. And Bennett was the 'Bill.' But what was it I knew that had made Dick wish for me?

The telephone buzzed, and the operator said: "Dr. Bennett to see you."

I said: "Send him up." And to myself: "Thank God!"

Bill came in. He was white and drawn, and more like a man still in the midst of a stiff ordeal than one who has passed through it. His eyes held a puzzled horror, as though he were looking less at me than within his mind at whatever was the source of that horror. He held a hand out, absently, and all he said was: "I'm glad you're back, Alan."

I had the newspaper in my other hand. He took it and looked at the date. He said: "Yesterday's. Well, it's all there. All that the police know, anyway."

He had said that rather oddly; I asked: "Do you mean you know something that the police don't?"

He answered, evasively I thought: "Oh, they've got their facts all straight. Dick put the bullet through his brain. They're right in linking up those other three deaths—"

I repeated: "What do you know that the police don't know, Bill?"

He said: "That Dick was murdered!"

I looked at him, bewildered. "But if he put the bullet through his own brain—"

He said: "I don't blame you for being puzzled. Nevertheless—I know Dick Ralston killed himself, and yet I know just as certainly that he was murdered."

He sat down upon the bed; he said: "I need a drink."

I brought out the bottle of Scotch the club steward had thoughtfully placed in my room for homecoming welcome. He poured himself a stiff one. He repeated:

"I'm glad you're back! We've got a tough job ahead of us, Alan."

I poured myself a drink; I asked: "What is it? To find Dick's murderer?"

He answered: "That, yes. But more than that. To stop more murders."

I poured him and myself another drink; I said: "Quit beating about the bush and tell me what it's all about."

He looked at me, thoughtfully; he answered, quietly: "No, Alan. Not yet." He put down his glass. "Suppose you had discovered a new bug, an unknown germ—or thought you had. And had studied it and noted its peculiarities. And suppose you wanted someone to check up. What would you do—give him all your supposed observations first, and then ask him to look into the microscope to verify them? Or simply give him an outline and ask him to look into the microscope and find out for himself?"

"Outline and find out for himself, of course."

"Exactly. Well, I think I have such a new bug—or a very old one, although it has nothing whatever to do with germs. But I'm not going to tell you any more about it until I put your eye to the microscope. I want your opinion uncolored by mine. Send out for a paper, will you?"

I called the office and told them to get me one of the latest editions. When it came, Bill took it. He glanced over the first page, then turned the sheets until he came to what he was looking for. He read it, and nodded, and passed the paper to me.

"Dick's reduced from page one to page five," he said. "But I've gotten it over. Read the first few paragraphs—all the rest is rehash and idle conjecture. Very idle."

I read:

"Dr. William Bennett, the eminent brain specialist and associate of Dr. Austin Lowell, the distinguished psychiatrist, visited Police Headquarters this morning and identified himself as the 'Bill' of the unfinished letter found in the bedroom of Richard J. Ralston, Jr., after the latter's suicide yesterday morning.

"Dr. Bennett said that undoubtedly the letter had been meant for him, that Mr. Ralston had been one of his oldest friends and had recently consulted him for what he might describe roughly as insomnia and bad dreams. Mr. Ralston had, in fact, been his guest at dinner the night before. He had wanted Mr. Ralston to spend the night with him, but after consenting, he had changed his mind and gone home to sleep. That was what he had referred to in the opening sentence of his letter. Professional confidence prevented Dr. Bennett from going into further description of Mr. Ralston's symptoms. Asked whether the mental condition of Mr. Ralston might explain why he had killed himself, Dr. Bennett guardedly replied that suicide was always the result of some mental condition."

In spite of my perplexity and sorrow, I couldn't help smiling at that.

"The 'Alan' referred to in the letter, Dr. Bennett said, is Dr. Alan Caranac, who was also an old friend of Mr. Ralston, and who is due in New York today on the Augustus after three years in Northern Africa. Dr. Caranac is well-known in scientific circles for his ethnological researches. Dr. Bennett said that Mr. Ralston had thought that some of his symptoms might be explained by Dr. Caranac because of the latter's study of certain obscure mental aberrations among primitive peoples."

"Now for the kicker," said Bill, and pointed to the next paragraph:

"Dr. Bennett talked freely with the reporters after his statement to the police, but could add no essential facts beyond those he had given them. He did say that Mr. Ralston had withdrawn large sums in cash from his accounts during the two weeks before his death, and that there was no evidence of what had become of them. He seemed immediately to regret that he had given this information, saying that the circumstance could have no bearing upon Mr. Ralston's suicide. He reluctantly admitted, however, that the sum might be well over $100,000, and that the police were investigating."

I said: "That looks like blackmail—if it's true."

He said: "I haven't the slightest proof that it is true. But it's what I told the police and the reporters."

He read the paragraph over again and arose.

"The reporters will soon be here, Alan," he said. "And the police. I'm going. You haven't seen me. You haven't the slightest idea of what it's all about. You haven't heard from Ralston for a year. Tell them that when you get in touch with me, you may have something more to say. But now—you don't know anything. And that's true—you don't. That's your story, and you stick to it."

He walked to the door. I said:

"Wait a minute, Bill. What's the idea behind that bunch of words I've just read?"

He said: "It's a nicely baited hook."

I said: "What do you expect to hook?"

He said: "Dick's murderer."

He turned at the door: "And something else that's right down your alley. A witch."

He shut the door behind him.

Chapter 2 THE DEMOISELLE DAHUT

Not long after Bill had gone, a man from the Detective Bureau visited me. It was evident that he regarded the call as waste motion; just a part of the routine. His questions were perfunctory, nor did he ask me if I had seen Bennett. I produced the Scotch and he mellowed. He said:

"Hell, if it ain't one thing it's another. If you ain't got money you wear yourself out tryin' to get it. If you got it, then somebody's tryin' all the time to rob you. Or else you go nuts like this poor guy and then what good is your money? This Ralston wasn't a bad guy at that, I hear."

I agreed. He took another drink and left.

Three reporters came; one from the City News and the others from afternoon papers. They asked few questions about Dick, but showed flattering interest in my travels. I was so relieved that I sent for a second bottle of Scotch and told them a few stories about the mirror-magic of the Riff women, who believe that at certain times and under certain conditions they can catch the reflections of those they love or hate in their mirrors, and so have power thereafter over their souls.

The City News man said that if he could get the Riff women to teach him that trick, he could lift all the mirror-makers in America out of the depression and get rich doing it. The other two morosely agreed that they knew some editors whose reflections they'd like to catch. I laughed and said it would be easier to bring over a good old-fashioned Bulgarian mason or two. Then all they need do was to get the mason a job, decoy the editor to the place and have the mason measure his shadow with a string. After that, the mason would put the string in a box and build the box in the wall. In forty days the editor would be dead and his soul be sitting in the box beside the string.

One of the afternoon men glumly said that forty days would be too long to wait for the ones he had in mind. But the other asked, with disarming naivete, whether I believed such a thing possible. I answered that if a man were strongly enough convinced he would die on a certain day, he would die on that day. Not because his shadow had been measured and the string buried, but because he believed that this was going to kill him. It was purely a matter of suggestion—of auto-hypnosis. Like the praying to death practiced by the kahunas, the warlocks of the South Seas, of the results of which there was no doubt whatever. Always providing, of course, that the victim knew the kahuna was praying his death—and the exact time his death was to occur.

I ought to have known better. The morning papers carried only a few lines to the effect that I had talked to the police and had been unable to throw any light on the Ralston suicide. But the early editions of the naive reporter's paper featured a special article.

WANT TO GET RID OF YOUR ENEMIES?

GET A RIFF GAL'S MAGIC MIRROR—OR BRING IN A BULGARIAN MASON.

Dr. Alan Caranac, Noted Explorer, Tells How to Separate Yourself Safely from Those You Don't Want Around—But the Catch Is That First You Have to Make 'Em Believe You Can Do It.

It was a good story, even if it did make me swear in spots. I read it over again and laughed. After all, I'd brought it on myself. The 'phone rang, and Bill was on the line. He asked abruptly:

"What put it in your head to talk to that reporter about shadows?"

He sounded jumpy. I said, surprised:

"Nothing. Why shouldn't I have talked to him about shadows?"

He didn't answer for a moment. Then he asked:

"Nothing happened to direct your mind to that subject? Nobody suggested it?"

"You're getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice puts it. But no, Bill, I brought the matter up all by myself. And no shadow fell upon me whispering in my ear—"

He interrupted, harshly: "Don't talk like that!"

And now I was truly surprised, for there was panic in Bill's voice, and that wasn't like him at all.

"There really wasn't any reason. It just happened," I repeated. "What's it all about, Bill?"

"Never mind now." I wondered even more at the relief in his voice. He swiftly changed the subject: "Dick's funeral is tomorrow. I'll see you there."

Now the one thing I won't be coerced or persuaded into doing is to go to the funeral of a friend. Unless there are interesting and unfamiliar rites connected with it, it's senseless. There lies a piece of cold meat for the worms, grotesquely embellished by the undertaker's cosmetic arts. Sunken eyes that never more will dwell upon the beauty of the clouds, the sea, the forest. Ears shut forever, and all the memories of life rotting away within the decaying brain. Painted and powdered symbol of life's futility. I want to remember friends as they were alive, alert, capable, eager. The coffin picture superimposes itself, and I lose my friends. The animals order things much better, to my way of thinking. They hide themselves and die. Bill knew how I felt, so I said:

"You'll not see me there." To shut off any discussion, I asked:

"Had any nibble at your witch bait?"

"Yes and no. Not the real strike I'm hoping for, but attention from unexpected quarters. Dick's lawyers called me up after I'd left you and asked what he had told me about those cash withdrawals. They said they'd been trying to find out what he had done with the money, but couldn't. They wouldn't believe me, of course, when I said I knew absolutely nothing; that I had only vague suspicions and had tried a shot in the dark. I don't blame them. Stanton's executor called me up this morning to ask the same thing. Said Stanton had drawn substantial amounts of cash just before he died, and they hadn't been able to trace it."

I whistled:

"That's queer. How about Calhoun and Marston? If they did the same, it'll begin to smell damned fishy."

"I'm trying to find out," he said. "Good-by—"

"Wait a minute, Bill," I said. "I'm a good waiter, and all of that. But I'm getting mighty curious. When do I see you, and what do you want me to do in the meantime?"

When he answered his voice was as grave as I'd ever heard it.

"Alan, sit tight until I can lay the cards before you. I don't want to say more now, but trust me, there's a good reason. I'll tell you one thing, though. That interview of yours is another hook—and I'm not sure it isn't baited even better than mine."

That was on Tuesday. Obviously, I was puzzled and curious to a degree. So much so that if it had been anybody but Bill who had sat me down in my little corner chair and told me to be quiet, I would have been exceedingly angry. But Bill knew what he was about—I was sure of that. So I stayed put.

On Wednesday, Dick was buried. I went over my notes and started the first chapter of my book on Moroccan sorceries. Thursday night, Bill called up.

"There's a small dinner party at Dr. Lowell's tomorrow night," he said. "A Dr. de Keradel and his daughter. I want you to come. I'll promise you'll be interested."

De Keradel? The name had a familiar sound. "Who is he?" I asked.

"Rene de Keradel, the French psychiatrist. You must have read some of his—"

"Yes, of course," I interrupted. "He took up some of Charcot's hypnotic experiments at the Salpetriere, didn't he? Carried them on from the point where Charcot had stopped. Left the Salpetriere under a cloud some years ago. Subjects died, or he was too unorthodox in his conclusions, or something?"

"That's the chap."

I said: "I'll be there. I'd like to meet him."

"Good," said Bill. "Dinner's at 7:30. Wear your dinner jacket. And come an hour ahead of time. There's a girl who wants to talk to you before the company comes, as we used to say."

"A girl?" I asked, astonished.

"Helen," said Bill with a chuckle. "And don't you disappoint her. You're her hero." He hung up.

Helen was Bill's sister. About ten years younger than I. I hadn't seen her for fifteen years. An impish sort of kid, I recalled. Eyes sort of slanting and yellow brown. Hair a red torch. Gawky when I saw her last and inclined to be fat. Used to follow me around when I was visiting Bill during college vacations, and sit and stare at me without speaking until it made me so nervous I stuttered. Never could tell whether it was silent adoration or sheer deviltry. That was when she was about twelve. Nor could I forget how she had led me, apparently innocently, to sit on a subterranean nest of hornets; nor the time when, going to bed, I had found it shared by a family of garter snakes. The first might have been an accident, although I had my doubts, but the second wasn't. I had dumped the snakes out the window and never by word, look, or gesture referred to it, having my reward in the child's bafflement at my reticence and her avid but necessarily mute curiosity. I knew she had gone through Smith and had been studying art in Florence. I wondered what she had grown to be.

I read over some of de Keradel's papers at the Academy of Medicine Library next day. He was a queer bird without doubt, with some extraordinarily arresting theories. I didn't wonder that the Salpetriere had eased him out. Stripped of their scientific verbiage, the framework of his main idea was startlingly like that expounded to me by the Many-Times-Born Abbot of the Lamasery at Gyang-tse, in Tibet. A holy man and an accomplished wonder-worker, a seeker of knowledge along strange paths, what would be loosely called by the superstitious—a sorcerer. Also by a Greek priest near Delphi whose Christian cloak covered a pure case of pagan atavism. He offered to demonstrate his hypothesis, and did. He nearly convinced me. Indeed, visualizing again what he had made me see, I was not sure that he hadn't convinced me.

I began to feel a strong interest in this Dr. de Keradel. The name was Breton, like my own, and as unusual. Another recollection flitted through my mind. There was a reference to the de Keradels in the chronicles of the de Carnacs, as we were once named. I looked it up. There had been no love lost between the two families, to put it mildly. Altogether, what I read blew my desire to meet Dr. de Keradel up to fever point.

I was half an hour late getting to Dr. Lowell's. The butler showed me into the library. A girl got up from a big chair and came toward me with hand outstretched.

"Hello, Alan," she said.

I blinked at her. She wasn't so tall, but her body had all the lovely contours the sculptors of Athens' Golden Age gave their dancing girls. The provocative dress of filmy black she wore hid none of them. Her hair was burnished copper and helmeted her small head. The heavy chignon at the nape of her neck showed she had resisted the bob. Her eyes were golden amber, and tilted delicately. Her nose was small and straight and her chin rounded. Her skin was not the creamy white that so often goes with red heads, but a delicate golden. It was a head and face that might have served as the model for one of Alexander's finest golden coins. Faintly archaic, touched with the antique beauty. I blinked again. I blurted:

"You're never—Helen!"

Her eyes sparkled, the impishness that my experience with the hornets had set indelibly in my memory danced over her face. She took my hands, and swayed close to me; she sighed:

"The same, Alan! The same! And you—oh, let me look at you! Yes, still the hero of my girlhood! The same keen, dark face—like—like—I used to call you Lancelot of the Lake, Alan—to myself of course. The same lithe, tall, and slender body—I used to call you the Black Panther, too, Alan. And do you remember how like a panther you leaped when the hornets stung you?" She bent her head, her rounded shoulders shaking. I said: "You little devil! I always knew you did that deliberately."

She said, muffled:

"I'm not laughing, Alan. I'm sobbing."

She looked up at me, and her eyes were indeed wet, but I was sure not with any tears of regret. She said:

"Alan, for long, long years I've waited to know something. Waited to hear you tell me something. Not to tell me that you love me, darling—No, No! I always knew that you were going to do that, sooner or later. This is something else!"

I was laughing, but I had a queer mixed feeling, too.

I said:

"I'll tell you anything. Even that I love you—and maybe mean it."

She said:

"Did you find those snakes in your bed? Or did they crawl out before you got in?"

I said again: "You little devil!"

She said:

"But were they there?"

"Yes, they were."

She sighed contentedly:

"Well, there's one complex gone forever. Now I know. You were so damned superior at times I just couldn't help it."

She held her face up to me:

"Since you're going to love me, Alan, you might as well kiss me."

I kissed her, properly. She might have been fooling with me about having been her girlhood hero, but there was no fooling about my kiss—nor the way she responded to it. She shivered and laid her head on my shoulder. She said, dreamily: "And there's another complex gone. Where am I going to stop?"

Somebody coughed at the doorway. Somebody else murmured, apologetically: "Ah, but we intrude."

Helen dropped her arms from around my neck, and we turned. In a way, I realized that the butler and another man were standing at the door. But all I could focus my eyes upon was the girl—or woman.

You know how it is when you're riding in the subway, or at the theater, or at a race track and suddenly one face, for some reason or no reason, thrusts itself out from the crowd, and it's as though your mental spotlight were turned on it and every other face gets misty and recedes into the background. That often happens to me. Something in the face that stirs some old forgotten memory, no doubt. Or stirs the memory of our ancestors whose ghosts are always peering through our eyes. Seeing this girl was like that, only far more so. I couldn't see anything else—not even Helen.

She had the bluest eyes I've ever seen, or rather eyes of a curious deep violet. They were big and unusually wide apart, with long curling black lashes and slimly penciled black eyebrows that almost met above her high-arched but delicately modeled nose. You felt, rather than saw, their color. Her forehead was broad, but whether it was low I could not tell, for it was coifed with braids of palest gold, and there were little ends of hair that curled up all over her head, and they were so fine and silken that the light in the hall shining through them made a queer silver-gilt aureole around her head. Her mouth was a bit large, but beautifully formed and daintily sensuous. Her skin was a miracle, white, but vital—as though moon fires shone behind it.

She was tall almost as I, exquisitely curved, deep bosomed. Her breasts echoed the betrayal of her lips. Her head and face and shoulders came like a lily out of the calyx of a shimmering sea-green gown.

She was exquisite—but I had swift understanding that there was nothing heavenly about the blue of her eyes. And nothing saintly about the aureole about her head.

She was perfection—and I felt a swift hatred against her, understanding, as the pulse of it passed, how one could slash a painting that was a masterpiece of beauty, or take a hammer and destroy a statue that was another such masterpiece if it evoked such hatred as that which I, for that fleeting moment, felt.

Then I thought:

Do I hate you—or do I fear you?

It was all, mind you, in a breath.

Helen was moving by me, hand outstretched. There was no confusion about Helen. Our embrace that had been interrupted might have been a simple handshake. She said, smiling and gracious:

"I am Helen Bennett. Dr. Lowell asked me to receive you. You are Dr. de Keradel, aren't you?"

I looked at the man who was bending over her hand, kissing it. He straightened, and I felt a queer shock of bewilderment. Bill had said I was to meet Dr. de Keradel and his daughter. But this man looked no I older than the girl—if she was his daughter. True, the silver in the gold of his hair was a little paler; true, the blue of his eyes had not the violet-purple of hers...

I thought: But neither of them has any age! And on top of that I thought, rather savagely: What the hell's the matter with me anyway?

The man said:

"I am Dr. de Keradel. And this is my daughter."

The girl—or woman—seemed now to be regarding both Helen and me with faint amusement. Dr. de Keradel said with, I thought, curious precision:

"The, Demoiselle Dahut d'Ys," he hesitated, then finished—"de Keradel."

Helen said:

"And this is Dr. Alan Caranac."

I was looking at the girl—or woman. The name of Dahut d'Ys fingered half-forgotten chords of memory. And as Helen named me, I saw the violet eyes dilate, become enormous, the straight brows contract until they met above the nose in a slender bar. I felt the glance of her eyes strike and encompass me. She seemed to be seeing me for the first time. And in her eyes was something threatening—possessive. Her body tensed. She said, as though to herself: "Alain de Carnac... ?"

She glanced from me to Helen. There was calculation in that glance, appraisal. Contemptuous indifference, too—if I read it aright. A queen might so have looked upon some serving wench who had dared to lift eyes to her lover.

Whether I read the glance aright or not, Helen evidently got something of the same thought. She turned to me and said sweetly:

"Darling, I'm ashamed of you. Wake up!"

With the side of her little high-heeled slipper she gave me a surreptitious and vigorous kick on the shin.

Just then Bill came in, and with him a dignified, white-haired gentleman I knew must be Dr. Lowell.

I don't know when I had ever been so glad to see Bill.

Chapter 3 THEORIES OF DR. DE KERADEL

I gave Bill the old fraternity high-sign of distress, and after introductions he bore me away, leaving the Demoiselle Dahut to Helen and Dr. de Keradel with Dr. Lowell. I felt an urgent need for a drink, and said so. Bill passed me the brandy and soda without comment. I drank a stiff brandy neat.

Helen had bowled me off my feet, but that had been a pleasant upset, nothing that called for any alcoholic lever to right me. The Demoiselle Dahut had been an entirely different matter. She was damned disconcerting. It occurred to me that if you compared yourself to a ship bowling along under full sail, with your mind as a capable navigator and through charted seas, Helen was a squall that fitted normally into the picture—but the Demoiselle was a blow from a new quarter entirely, heading the ship into totally strange waters. What you knew of navigation wouldn't help you a bit.

I said:

"Helen could blow you into Port o' Paradise but the other could blow you into Port o' Hell."

Bill didn't say anything, only watched me. I poured a second brandy. Bill said, mildly:

"There'll be cocktails and wine at dinner."

I said: "Fine," and drank the brandy.

I thought:

It's not her infernal beauty that's got me going. But why the hell did I hate her so when I first saw her?

I didn't hate her now. All I felt was a burning curiosity. But why did I have that vague sense of having long known her? And that not so vague idea that she knew me better than I did her? I muttered:

"She makes you think of the sea, at that."

Bill said: "Who?"

I said: "The Demoiselle d'Ys."

He stepped back; he said, as though something was strangling him:

"Who's the Demoiselle d'Ys?"

I looked at him, suspiciously; I said: "Don't you know the names of your guests? That girl down there—the Demoiselle Dahut d'Ys de Keradel."

Bill said, rather dumbly:

"No, I didn't know that. All Lowell introduced her by was the de Keradel part of it."

After a minute, he said: "Probably another drink won't hurt you. I'll join you."

We drank; he said, casually:

"Never met them till tonight. De Keradel called on Lowell yesterday morning—as one eminent psychiatrist upon another. Lowell was interested, and invited him and his daughter to dinner. The old boy is fond of Helen, and ever since she came back to town she's been hostess at his parties. She's very fond of him, too."

He drank his brandy and set down the glass. He said, still casually:

"I understand de Keradel has been here for a year or more. Apparently, though, he never got around to visiting us until those interviews of mine and yours appeared."

I jumped up as the implication of that struck me. I said:

"You mean—"

"I don't mean anything. I simply point out the coincidence."

"But if they had anything to do with Dick's death, why would they risk coming here?"

"To find out how much we know—if anything." He hesitated. "It may mean nothing. But—it's precisely the sort of thing I thought might happen when I baited my hook. And de Keradel and his daughter don't exactly disqualify as the sort of fish I expected to catch—and especially now I know about the d'Ys part. Yes—especially."

He came round the table and put his hands on my shoulders:

"Alan, what I'm thinking wouldn't seem as insane to you, maybe, as it does to me. It's not Alice in Wonderland, but Alice in Devil-land. I want you tonight to say anything that comes into your head. Just that. Don't be held back by politeness, or courtesy, or conventions or anything else. If what you want to say is insulting—let it be so. Don't bother about what Helen may think. Forget Lowell. Say whatever comes into your mind. If de Keradel makes any assertions with which you don't agree, don't listen politely—challenge him. If it makes him lose his temper, all the better. Be just alcoholic enough to slip out of any inhibitions of courtesy. You talk, I listen. Do you get it?"

I laughed and said:

"In vino veritas. But your idea is to make my vino bring out the veritas in the other party. Sound psychology. All right, Bill, I'll take another small one."

He said: "You know your limit. But watch your step."

We went down to dinner. I was feeling interested, amused, and devil-may-care. The image I had of the Demoiselle was simplified to a mist of silver-gold hair over two splotches of purple-blue in a white face. On the other hand, Helen's was still the sharp-cut antique coin. We sat down at table. Dr. Lowell was at the head, at his left de Keradel, and at his right the Demoiselle Dahut. Helen sat beside de Keradel and I beside the Demoiselle. Bill sat between me and Helen. It was a nicely arranged table, with tall candles instead of electrics. The butler brought cocktails and they were excellent. I lifted mine to Helen and said:

"You are a lovely antique coin, Helen. Alexander the Great minted you. Someday I will put you in my pocket."

Dr. Lowell looked a bit startled. But Helen clinked glasses and murmured:

"You will never lose me, will you, darling?"

I said:

"No, sweetheart, nor will I give you away, nor let anybody steal you, my lovely antique coin."

There was the pressure of a soft shoulder against me. I looked away from Helen and straight into the eyes of the Demoiselle. They weren't just purple-blue splotches now. They were the damnedest eyes—big, and clear as a tropic shoal and little orchid sparks darted through them like the play of the sun through a tropic shoal when you turn over and look up through the clear water.

I said:

"Demoiselle Dahut—why do you make me think of the sea? I have seen the Mediterranean the exact color of your eyes. And the crests of the waves were as white as your skin. And there was sea-weed like your hair. Your fragrance is the fragrance of the sea, and you walk like a wave—"

Helen drawled:

"How poetic you are, darling. Perhaps you'd better eat your soup before you take another cocktail."

I said:

"Sweetheart, you are my antique coin. But you are not yet in my pocket. Nor am I in yours. I will have another cocktail before I eat my soup."

She flushed at that. I felt bad about saying it. But I caught a glance from Bill that heartened me. And the Demoiselle's eyes would have repaid me for any remorse—if I hadn't just then felt stir that inexplicable hot hatred, and knew quite definitely now that fear did lurk within it. She laid her hand lightly on mine. It had a curious tingling warmth. At the touch, the strange repulsion vanished. I realized her beauty with an almost painful acuteness. She said:

"You love the old things. It is because you are of the ancient blood—the blood of Armorica. Do you remember—"

My cocktail went splashing to the floor. Bill said:

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Alan. That was awkward of me. Briggs, bring Dr. Caranac another."

I said:

"That's all right, Bill."

I hoped I said it easily, because deep in me was anger, wondering how long it had been between that "remember" of the Demoiselle's and the overturning of my glass. When she had said it, the tingling warmth of her had seemed to concentrate itself into a point of fire, a spark that shot up my arm into my brain. And instead of the pleasant candle-lighted room, I saw a vast plain covered with huge stones arranged in ordered aisles all marching to a central circle of monoliths within which was a gigantic cairn. I knew it to be Carnac, that place of mystery of the Druids and before them of a forgotten people, from which my family had derived its name, changed only by the addition of a syllable during the centuries. But it was not the Carnac I had known when in Brittany. This place was younger; its standing stones upright, in place; not yet gnawed by the teeth of untold centuries. There were people, hundreds of them, marching along the avenues to the monolithed circle. And although I knew that it was daylight, a blackness seemed to hover over the crypt that was the circle's heart. Nor could I see the ocean. Where it should have been, and far away, were tall towers of gray and red stone, misty outlines of walls as of a great city. And as I stood there, long and long it seemed to me, slowly the fear crept up my heart like a rising tide. With it crept, side by side, cold, implacable hatred and rage.

I had heard Bill speaking—and was back in the room. The fear was gone. The wrath had remained.

I looked into the face of the Demoiselle Dahut. I thought I read triumph there, and a subtle amusement. I was quite sure of what had happened, and that there was no need of answering her interrupted question—if it had been interrupted. She knew. It was hypnotism of sorts, suggestion raised to the nth degree. I thought that if Bill were right in his suspicions, the Demoiselle Dahut had not been very wise to play a card like this so soon—either that, or damned sure of herself. I closed my mind quickly to that thought.

Bill, Lowell, and de Keradel were talking, Helen listening and watching me out of the corner of her eye. I whispered to the Demoiselle:

"I knew a witch-doctor down in Zululand who could do that same thing, Demoiselle de Keradel. He called the trick 'sending out the soul.' He was not so beautiful as you are; perhaps that is why he had to take so much more time to do it."

I was about to add that she had been as swift as the striking of a deadly snake, but held that back.

She did not trouble to deny. She asked:

"Is that all you think—Alain de Carnac?"

I laughed:

"No, I think that your voice is also of the sea."

And so it was; the softest, sweetest contralto I'd ever heard—low and murmurous and lulling, like the whisper of waves on a long smooth beach.

She said:

"But is that a compliment then? Many times you have compared me to the sea tonight. Is not the sea treacherous?"

"Yes," I said, and let her make what she would of that answer. She did not seem offended.

The dinner went on with talk of this and that. It was a good dinner, and so was the wine. The butler kept my glass filled so faithfully that I wondered whether Bill had given him orders. The Demoiselle was cosmopolitan in her points of view, witty, undeniably charming—to use that much misused word. She had the gift of being able to be what her conversation implied she was. There was nothing exotic, nothing mysterious about her now. She was only a modern, well-informed, cultivated young woman of extraordinary beauty. Helen was delightful. There wasn't a single thing for me to grow unpleasantly argumentative about, nor discourteous, nor insulting. I thought Bill was looking a bit puzzled; disconcerted—like a prophet who has foretold some happening which shows not the slightest sign of materializing. If de Keradel was interested in Dick's death, there was nothing to show it. For some time Lowell and he had been absorbed in low-toned discussion to the exclusion of the rest of us. Suddenly I heard Lowell say:

"But surely you do not believe in the objective reality of such beings?"

The question brought me sharply to attention. I remembered Dick's torn note—he had wanted Bill to consider something as objective instead of subjective; I saw that Bill was listening intently. The Demoiselle's eyes were upon Lowell, faint amusement in them.

De Keradel answered:

"I know they are objective."

Dr. Lowell asked, incredulously:

"You believe that these creatures, these demons—actually existed?"

"And still exist," said de Keradel. "Reproduce the exact conditions under which those who had the ancient wisdom evoked these beings—forces, presences, powers, call them what you will—and the doors shall open and They come through. That Bright One the Egyptians named Isis will stand before us as of old, challenging us to lift Her veil. And that Dark Power stronger than She, whom the Egyptians named Set and Typhon, but who had another name in the shrines of an older and wiser race—It will make Itself manifest. Yes, Dr. Lowell, and still others will come through the opened doors to teach us, to counsel us, to aid and obey us—"

"Or to command us, my father," said the Demoiselle, almost tenderly.

"Or to command us," echoed de Keradel, mechanically; some of the color had drained from his face, and I thought there was fear in the glance he gave his daughter.

I touched Bill's foot with mine, and felt an encouraging pressure. I raised my wine and squinted through it at de Keradel. I said, irritatingly explanatory:

"Dr. de Keradel is a true showman. If one provides the right theater, the right scenery, the right supporting cast, the right music and script and cues—the right demons or whatnot bounce out from the wings as the stars of the show. Well, I have seen some rather creditable illusions produced under such conditions. Real enough to deceive most amateurs—"

De Keradel's eyes dilated; he half rose from his chair; he whispered:

"Amateur! Do you imply that I am an amateur?"

I said, urbanely, still looking at my glass:

"Not at all. I said you were a showman."

He mastered his anger with difficulty; he said to Lowell:

"They are not illusions, Dr. Lowell. There is a pattern, a formula, to be observed. Is there anything more rigid than that formula by which the Catholic Church establishes communion with its God? The chanting, the prayers, the gestures—even the intonation of the prayers—all are fixed. Is not every ritual—Mohammedan, Buddhist, Shintoist, every act of worship throughout the world, in all religions—as rigidly prescribed? The mind of man recognizes that only by exact formula can it touch the minds that are not human. It is memory of an ancient wisdom, Dr. Caranac—but of that no more now. I tell you again that what comes upon my stage is not illusion."

I asked: "How do you know?"

He answered, quietly: "I do know."

Dr. Lowell said, placatingly: "Extremely strange, extremely realistic visions can be induced by combinations of sounds, odors, movements, and colors. There even seem to be combinations which can create in different subjects approximately the same visions—establish similar emotional rhythms. But I have never had evidence that these visions were anything but subjective."

He paused, and I saw his hands clench, the knuckles whiten; he said, slowly:

"Except—once."

De Keradel was watching him, the clenched hands could not have escaped his notice. He asked: "And that once?"

Lowell answered, with a curious harshness: "I have no evidence."

De Keradel went on: "But there is another element in this evocation which is not of the stage—nor of the showman, Dr. Caranac. It is, to use a chemical term, a catalyst. The necessary element to bring about a required result—itself remaining untouched and unchanged. It is a human element—a woman or man or child—who is en rapport with the Being evoked. Of such was the Pythoness at Delphi, who upon her tripod threw herself open to the God and spoke with his voice. Of such were the Priestesses of Isis of the Egyptians, and of Ishtar of the Babylonians—themselves the one and the same. Of such was the Priestess of Hecate, Goddess of Hell, whose secret rites were lost until I rediscovered them. Of such was the warrior-king who was Priest of tentacled Khalk-ru, the Kraken God of the Uighurs, and of such was that strange priest at whose summoning came the Black God of the Scyths, in the form of a monstrous frog—"

Bill broke in:

"But these worships are of the far-distant past. Surely, none has believed in them for many a century. Therefore this peculiar line of priests and priestesses must long ago have died out. How today could one be found?"

I thought the Demoiselle shot de Keradel a warning look, and was about to speak. He ignored her, swept away by this idea that ruled him, forced to expound, to justify, it. He said:

"But you are wrong. They do live. They live in the brains of those who sprang from them. They sleep in the brains of their descendants. They sleep until one comes who knows how to awaken them. And to that awakener—what reward! Not the golden and glittering trash in the tomb of some Tut-ankh-Amen, not the sterile loot of some Genghis Khan, or of Attila... shining pebbles and worthless metal... playthings. But storehouses of memories, hives of knowledge—knowledge that sets its possessor so high above all other men that he is as a god."

I said, politely:

"I'd like to be a god for a time. Where can I find such storehouse? Or open such hive? It would be worth a few stings to become a god."

The veins throbbed in his temples; he said:

"You mock! Nevertheless, I will give you a hint. Once Dr. Charcot hypnotized a girl who had long been a subject of his experiments. He sent her deeper into the hypnotic sleep than ever he had dared before with any subject. Suddenly he heard another voice than hers coming from her throat. It was a man's voice, the rough voice of a French peasant. He questioned that voice. It told him many things—things the girl could not possiibly have known. The voice spoke of incidents of the Jacquerie. And the Jacquerie was six hundred years before. Dr. Charcot took down what that voice told him. Later, he investigated, minutely. He verified. He traced the girl's parentage. She had come straight down from a leader of that peasant uprising. He tried again. He pushed past that voice to another. And this voice, a woman's, told him of things that had happened a thousand years ago. Told them in intimate detail, as one who had been a spectator of these happenings. And again he investigated. And again he found that what the voice had told him was true."

I asked, even more politely:

"And have we now arrived at transmigration of souls?"

He answered, violently:

"You dare to mock! What Charcot did was to pierce through veil upon veil of memory for a thousand years. I have gone further than that. I have gone back through the veils of memory not one thousand years. I have gone back ten thousand. I, de Keradel, tell you so."

Lowell said:

"But Dr. de Keradel—memory is not carried by the germ plasm. Physical characteristics, weaknesses, predilections, coloration, shape, and so on—yes. The son of a violinist can inherit his father's hands, his talent, his ear—but not the memory of the notes that his father played. Not his father's memories."

De Keradel said:

"You are wrong. Those memories can be carried. In the brain. Or rather, in that which uses the brain as its instrument. I do not say that every one inherits these memories of their ancestors. Brains are not standardized. Nature is not a uniform workman. In some, the cells that carry these memories seem to be lacking. In others they are incomplete, blurred, having many hiatuses. But in others, a few, they are complete, the records clear, to be read like a printed book if the needle of consciousness, the eye of consciousness, can be turned upon them."

He ignored me; to Dr. Lowell he said with intense earnestness:

"I tell you, Dr. Lowell, that this is so—in spite of all that has been written of the germ plasm, the chromosomes, the genes—the little carriers of heredity. I tell you that I have proved it to be so. And I tell you that there are minds in which are memories that go back and back to a time when man was not yet man. Back to the memories of his ape-like forefathers. Back further even than that—to the first amphibians who crawled out of the sea and began the long climb up the ladder of evolution to become what we are today."

I had no desire now to interrupt, no desire to anger—the man's intensity of belief was too strong. He said:

"Dr. Caranac has spoken, contemptuously, of the transmigration of souls. I say that man can imagine nothing that cannot be, and that he who speaks contemptuously of any belief is therefore an ignorant man. I say that it is this inheritance of memories which is at the bottom of the belief in reincarnation—perhaps the belief in immortality. Let me take an illustration from one of your modern toys—the phonograph. What we call consciousness is a needle that, running along the dimension of time, records upon certain cells its experiences. Quite as the recording needle of a phonograph does upon the master disks. It can run this needle back over these cells after they have been stored away, turning the graphs upon them into-memories. Hearing again, seeing again, living again, the experiences recorded on them. Not always can the consciousness find one of these disks it seeks. Then we say that we have forgotten. Sometimes the graphs are not deep cut enough, the disks blurred—and then we say memory is hazy, incomplete.

"The ancestral memories, the ancient disks, are stored in another part of the brain, away from those that carry the memories of this life. Obviously this must be so, else there would be confusion, and the human animal would be hampered by intrusion of memories having no relation to his present environment. In the ancient days, when life was simpler and the environment not so complex, the two sets of memories were closer. That is why we say that ancient man relied more upon his 'intuitions' and less upon reason. That is why primitive men today do the same. But as time went on, and life grew more complex, those who depended less upon the ancestral memories than those which dealt with the problems of their own time—those were the ones with the better chance to survive. Once the cleavage had begun, it must perforce have continued rapidly—like all such evolutionary processes.

"Nature does not like to lose entirely anything it has once created. Therefore it is that at a certain stage of its development the human embryo has the gills of the fish, and at a later stage the hair of the ape. And, therefore, it is that in certain men and women today, these storehouses of ancient memories are fully stocked—to be opened, Dr. Caranac, and having been opened, to be read."

I smiled and drank another glass of wine.

Lowell said:

"That is all strongly suggestive, Dr. de Keradel. If your theory is correct, then these inherited memories would without doubt appear as former lives to those who could recall them. They could be a basis of the doctrine of transmigration of souls, of reincarnation. How else could the primitive mind account for them?"

De Keradel said:

"They explain many things—the thought of the Chinese that unless a man has a son, he dies indeed. The folk saying—'A man lives in his children-'"

Lowell said:

"The new born bee knows precisely the law and duties of the hive. It does not have to be taught to fan, to clean, to mix the pollen and the nectar into the jellies that produce the queen and the drone, the different jelly that is placed in the cell of the worker. None teaches it the complex duties of the hive. The knowledge, the memory, is in the egg, the wriggler, the nymph. It is true, too, of the ants, and of many insects. But it is not true of man, nor of any other mammal."

De Keradel said:

"It is true also of man."

Chapter 4 THE LOST CITY OF YS

There was a devil of a lot of truth in what de Keradel had said. I had come across manifestations of that same ancestral memory in odd corners of the earth. I had been burning to corroborate him, despite that excusable dig of his at my ignorance. I would have liked to talk to him as one investigator to another.

Instead I drained my glass and said severely: "Briggs—I have not had a drink for five minutes," and then to the table in general: "Just a moment. Let us be logical. Anything so important as the soul and its travels deserves the fullest consideration. Dr. de Keradel began this discussion by asserting the objective existence of what the showman produced. That is correct, Dr. de Keradel?"

He answered, stiffly: "Yes."

I said: "Dr. de Keradel then adduced certain experiments of Dr. Charcot in hypnotism. Those cases are not convincing to me. In the South Seas, in Africa, in Kamchatka, I have heard the most arrant fakirs speak not in two or three but in half a dozen voices. It is a well-known fact that a hypnotized subject will sometimes speak in different voices. It is quite as well known that a schizoid, a case of multiple personality, will speak in voices ranging from high soprano to bass. And all this without ancestral memories being involved.

"It is a symptom of their condition. Nothing more. Am I right, Dr. Lowell?"

Lowell said: "You are."

I said: "As for what Charcot's subjects told him—who knows what they had heard their grandmothers say? Stories passed down by the family—heard when children, treasured by the sub-consciousness. Built up, improvements suggested, by Charcot himself. Charcot finds two or three points true, naturally. There is none so credulous as he who seeks evidence to support his idie fixe, his pet theory. So these few points become all. Well, I am not so credulous as Charcot, Dr. de Keradel."

He said: "I read your interviews in the newspaper. I seemed to detect a certain amount of credulity there, Dr. Caranac."

So he had read the interviews. I felt Bill press my foot again. I said:

"I tried to make plain to the reporters that belief in the hokum was necessary to make the hokum effective. I admit that to the victim of his belief it doesn't make much difference whether it was hokum or reality. But that doesn't mean that the hokum is real or can affect anybody else. And I tried to make plain that the defense against the hokum is very simple. It is—don't believe it."

The veins on his forehead began to twitch again. He said: "By hokum you mean, I assume, nonsense."

"More than that," I said, cheerfully. "Bunk!"

Dr. Lowell looked pained. I drank my wine, and grinned at the Demoiselle.

Helen said: "Your manners aren't so good tonight, darling."

I said: "Manners—hell! What're manners in a discussion of goblins, incarnation, ancestral memories and Isis, Set and the Black God of the Scyths who looked like a frog? Now I'm going to tell you something, Dr. de Keradel. I've been in a lot of out of the way corners of this globe. I went there hunting for goblins and demons. And in all my travels I've never seen one thing that couldn't be explained on the basis of hypnotism, mass suggestion, or trickery. Get that. Not one thing. And I've seen a lot."

That was a lie—but I wanted to see the effect on him. I saw it. The veins in his temples were twitching more than ever, his lips were white. I said:

"Years ago I had a brilliant idea which puts the whole problem in its simplest form. The brilliant idea was based on the fact that the hearing is probably the last sense to die; that after the heart stops the brain continues to function as long as it has enough oxygen; and that while the brain does function, although every sense is dead—it can have experiences that seem to last for days and weeks, although the actual dream lasts but a fraction of a second.

"'Heaven and Hell, Inc.' That was my idea. 'Insure yourself an immortality of joy!' 'Give your enemy an immortality of torment!' To be done by expert hypnotists, masters of suggestion, sitting at the bedside of the dying and whispering into his ear that which the brain was to dramatize, after hearing and every other sense was dead—"

The Demoiselle drew a sharp breath. De Keradel was staring at me with a strange intentness.

"Well, there it was," I went on. "For a sufficient sum you could promise, and actually give, your client the immortality he desired. Any kind he wanted—from the houri-haunted Paradise of Mahomet to the angel choirs of Paradise. And if the sum were sufficient, and you could gain access, you could whisper into the ear of your employer's enemy the Hell he was going into for aeon after aeon. And I'll bet he'd go into it. That was my 'Heaven and Hell, Inc.'"

"A sweet idea, darling," murmured Helen.

"A sweet idea, yes," I said, bitterly. "Let me tell you what it did for me. It happens that it's entirely feasible. Very well—consider me, the inventor. If there is a delectable life after death, will I enjoy it? Not at all. I'll be thinking—this is just a vision in the dying cells of my brain. It has no objective reality. Nothing that could happen to me in that future existence, assuming it to be real, could be real to me. I would think—Oh, yes, very ingenious of me to create such ideas, but after all, they're only in the dying cells of my brain. Of course," I said, grimly, "there is a compensation. If I happened to land in one of the traditional hells, I wouldn't take it any more seriously. And all the miracles of magic, or sorcery, I've ever beheld were no more real than those dying visions would be."

The Demoiselle whispered, so faintly that none but I could hear: "I could make them real to you, Alan de Caranac—either Heaven or Hell."

I said: "In life or in death, your theories cannot be proven, Dr. de Keradel. At least, not to me."

He did not answer, staring at me, fingers tapping the table.

I went on: "Suppose, for example, you desired to know what it was that they worshiped among the stones of Carnac. You might reproduce every rite. Might have your descendant of priestess with the ancient ghost wide-awake in her brain. But how could you know that what came to the great cairn within the circle of monoliths—the Gatherer within the Cairn, the Visitor to the Alkar-Az—was real?"

De Keradel asked, incredulously, in a curiously still voice, as though exercising some strong restraint: "What can you know of the Alkar-Az—or of the Gatherer within the Cairn?"

I was wondering about that, too. I couldn't remember ever having heard those names. Yet they had sprung to my lips as though long known. I looked at the Demoiselle. She dropped her eyes, but not before I had seen in them that same half-amused triumph as when, under the touch of her hand, I had beheld ancient Carnac. I answered de Keradel:

"Ask your daughter."

His eyes were no longer blue, they had no color at all. They were like little spheres of pale fire. He did not speak—but his eyes demanded answer from her. The Demoiselle met them indifferently. She shrugged a white shoulder. She said: "I did not tell him." She added, with a distinct touch of malice: "Perhaps, my father—he remembered."

I leaned to her, and touched her glass with mi...

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