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Title: The Pool of the Stone God
Author: Abraham Merritt
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0602031.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
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Date first posted: June 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2007

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Title: The Pool of the Stone God
Author: Abraham Merritt
(written under the pseudonym W. Fenimore)



This is Professor James Marston's story. A score of learned bodies
have courteously heard him tell it, and then among themselves have
lamented that so brilliant a man should have such an obsession.
Professor Marston told it to me in San Francisco, just before he
started to find the island that holds his pool of the stone god and--
the wings that guard it. He seemed to me very sane. It is true that
the equipment of his expedition was unusual, and not the least curious
part of it are the suits of fine chain mail and masks and gauntlets
with which each man of the party is provided.

The five of us, said Professor Marston, sat side by side on the beach.
There was Wilkinson the first officer, Bates and Cassidy the two
seamen, Waters the pearler and myself. We had all been on our way to
New Guinea, I to study the fossils for the Smithsonian. The Moranus
had struck the hidden reef the night before and had sunk swiftly. We
were then, roughly, about five hundred miles northeast of the Guinea
coast. The five of us had managed to drop a lifeboat and get away. The
boat was well stocked with water and provisions. Whether the rest of
the crew had escaped we did not know. We had sighted the island at
dawn and had made for her. The lifeboat was drawn safely up on the
sands.

"We'd better explore a bit, anyway," said Waters. "This may be a
perfect place for us to wait rescue. At least until the typhoon season
is over. We've our pistols. Let's start by following this brook to its
source, look over the place and then decide what we'll do."

The trees began to thin out. We saw ahead an open space. We reached it
and stopped in sheer amazement. The clearing was perfectly square and
about five hundred feet wide. The trees stopped abruptly at its edges
as though held back by something unseen.

But it was not this singular impression that held us. At the far end
of the square were a dozen stone huts clustered about one slightly
larger. They reminded me powerfully of those prehistoric structures
you see in parts of England and France. I approach now the most
singular thing about this whole singular and sinister place. In the
center of the space was a pool walled about with huge blocks of cut
stone. At the side of the pool rose a great stone figure, carved in
the semblance of a man with outstretched hands. It was at least twenty
feet high and was extremely well executed. At the distance the statue
seemed nude and yet it had a peculiar effect of drapery about it. As
we drew nearer we saw that it was covered from ankles to neck with the
most extraordinary carved wings. They looked exactly like bat wings
when they were folded.

There was something extremely disquieting about this figure. The face
was inexpressibly ugly and malignant. The eyes, Mongol-shaped, slanted
evil. It was not from the face, though, that this feeling seemed to
emanate. It was from the body covered with wings--and especially from
the wings. They were part of the idol and yet they gave one the idea
that they were clinging to it.

Cassidy, a big brute of a man, swaggered up to the idol and laid his
hand on it. He drew it away quickly, his face white, his mouth
twitching. I followed him and conquering my unscientific repugnance,
examined the stone. It, like the huts and in fact the whole place, was
clearly the work of that forgotten race whose monuments are scattered
over the Southern Pacific. The carving of the wings was wonderful.
They were batlike, as I have said, folded and each ended in a little
ring of conventionalized feathers. They ranged in size from four to
ten inches. I ran my fingers over one. Never have I felt the equal of
the nausea that sent me to my knees before the idol. The wing had felt
like smooth, cold stone, but I had the sensation of having touched
back of the stone some monstrous obscene creature of a lower world.
The sensation came of course, I reasoned, only from the temperature
and texture of the stone--and yet this did not really satisfy me.

Dusk was soon due. We decided to return to the beach and examine the
clearing further on the morrow. I desired greatly to explore the stone
huts.

We started back through the forest. We walked some distance and then
night fell. We lost the brook. After a half hour's wandering we heard
it again. We started for it. The trees began to thin out and we
thought we were approaching the beach. Then Waters clutched my arm. I
stopped. Directly in front of us was the open space with the stone god
leering under the moon and the green water shining at his feet!

We had made a circle. Bates and Wilkinson were exhausted. Cassidy
swore that devils or no devils he was going to camp that night beside
the pool!

The moon was very bright. And it was so very quiet. My scientific
curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would examine the huts.
I left Bates on guard and walked over to the largest. There was only
one room and the moonlight shining through the chinks in the wall
illuminated it clearly. At the back were two small basins set in the
stone. I looked in one and saw a faint reddish gleam reflected from a
number of globular objects. I drew a half dozen of them out. They were
pearls, very wonderful pearls of a peculiarly rosy hue. I ran toward
the door to call Bates--and stopped!

My eyes had been drawn to the stone idol. Was it an effect of the
moonlight or did it move? No, it was the wings! They stood out from
the stone and waved--they waved, I say, from the ankles to the neck of
that monstrous statue.

Bates had seen them, too. He was standing with his pistol raised. Then
there was a shot. And after that the air was filled with a rushing
sound like that of a thousand fans. I saw the wings loose themselves
from the stone god and sweep down in a cloud upon the four men.
Another cloud raced up from the pool and joined them. I could not
move. The wings circled swiftly around and about the four. All were
now on their feet and I never saw such horror as was in their faces.

Then the wings closed in. They clung to my companions as they had
clung to the stone.

I fell back into the hut. I lay there through the night insane with
terror. Many times I heard the fan-like rushing about the enclosure,
but nothing entered my hut. Dawn came, and silence, and I dragged
myself to the door. There stood the stone god with the wings carved
upon him as we had seen him ten hours before!

I ran over to the four lying on the grass. I thought that perhaps I
had had a nightmare. But they were dead. That was not the worst of it.
Each man was shrunken to his bones! They looked like collapsed white
balloons. There was not a drop of blood in them. They were nothing but
bones wrapped around in thin skin!

Mastering myself, I went close to the idol. There was something
different about it. It seemed larger--as though, the thought went
through my mind, as though it had eaten. Then I saw that it was
covered with tiny drops of blood that had dropped from the ends of the
wings that clothed it!

I do not remember what happened afterward. I awoke on the pearling
schooner Luana which had picked me up, crazed with thirst as they
supposed in the boat of the Moranus.



THE END



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