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Title: Unseen - Unfeared
Author: Francis Stevens
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Edition: 1
Language: English
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Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

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Francis Stevens


I had been dining with my ever-interesting friend, Mark Jenkins, at a
little Italian restaurant near South Street. It was a chance meeting.
Jenkins is too busy, usually, to make dinner engagements. Over our
highly seasoned food and sour, thin, red wine, he spoke of little odd
incidents and adventures of his profession. Nothing very vital or
important, of course. Jenkins is not the sort of detective who first
detects and then pours the egotistical and revealing details of
achievement in the ears of every acquaintance, however appreciative.

But when I spoke of something I had seen in the morning papers, he
laughed. "Poor old 'Doc' Holt! Fascinating old codger, to anyone who
really knows him. I've had his friendship for years--since I was first
on the city force and saved a young assistant of his from jail on a
false charge. And they had to drag him into the poisoning of this
young sport, Ralph Peeler!"

"Why are you so sure he couldn't have been implicated?" I asked.

But Jenkins only shook his head, with a quiet smile. "I have reasons
for believing otherwise," was all I could get out of him on that
score, "But," he added, "the only reason he was suspected at all is
the superstitious dread of these ignorant people around him. Can't see
why he lives in such a place. I know for a fact he doesn't have to.
Doc's got money of his own. He's an amateur chemist and dabbler in
different sorts of research work, and I suspect he's been guilty of
'showing off.' Result, they all swear he has the evil eye and holds
forbidden communion with invisible powers. Smoke?"

Jenkins offered me one of his invariably good cigars, which I
accepted, saying thoughtfully: "A man has no right to trifle with the
superstitions of ignorant people. Sooner or later, it spells trouble."

"Did in his case. They swore up and down that he sold love charms
openly and poisons secretly, and that, together with his living so
near to--somebody else--got him temporarily suspected. But my tongue's
running away with me, as usual!"

"As usual," I retorted impatiently, "you open up with all the
frankness of a Chinese diplomat."

He beamed upon me engagingly and rose from the table, with a glance at
his watch. "Sorry to leave you, Blaisdell, but I have to meet Jimmy
Brennan in ten minutes."

He so clearly did not invite my further company that I remained seated
for a little while after his departure; then took my own way homeward.
Those streets always held for me a certain fascination, particularly
at night. They are so unlike the rest of the city, so foreign in
appearance, with their little shabby stores, always open until late
evening, their unbelievably cheap goods, displayed as much outside the
shops as in them, hung on the fronts and laid out on tables by the
curb and in the street itself. Tonight, however, neither people nor
stores in any sense appealed to me. The mixture of Italians, Jews and
a few Negroes, mostly bareheaded, unkempt and generally unhygienic in
appearance, struck me as merely revolting. They were all humans, and
I, too, was human. Some way I did not like the idea.

Puzzled a trifle, for I am more inclined to sympathize with poverty
than accuse it, I watched the faces that I passed. Never before had I
observed how bestial, how brutal were the countenances of the dwellers
in this region. I actually shuddered when an old-clothes man, a gray-
bearded Hebrew, brushed me as he toiled past with his barrow.

There was a sense of evil in the air, a warning of things which it is
wise for a clean man to shun and keep clear of. The impression became
so strong that before I had walked two squares I began to feel
physically ill. Then it occurred to me that the one glass of cheap
Chianti I had drunk might have something to do with the feeling. Who
knew how that stuff had been manufactured, or whether the juice of the
grape entered at all into its ill-flavored composition? Yet I doubted
if that were the real cause of my discomfort.

By nature I am rather a sensitive, impressionable sort of chap. In
some way tonight this neighborhood, with its sordid sights and smells,
had struck me wrong.

My sense of impending evil was merging into actual fear. This would
never do. There is only one way to deal with an imaginative
temperament like mine--conquer its vagaries. If I left South Street
with this nameless dread upon me, I could never pass down it again
without a recurrence of the feeling. I should simply have to stay here
until I got the better of it--that was all.

I paused on a corner before a shabby but brightly lighted little drug
store. Its gleaming windows and the luminous green of its conventional
glass show jars made the brightest spot on the block. I realized that
I was tired, but hardly wanted to go in there and rest. I knew what
the company would be like at its shabby, sticky soda fountain. As I
stood there, my eyes fell on a long white canvas sign across from me,
and its black-and-red lettering caught my attention.


Come in! This Means You!


A museum of fakes, I thought, but also reflected that if it were a
show of some kind I could sit down for a while, rest, and fight off
this increasing obsession of nonexistent evil. That side of the street
was almost deserted, and the place itself might well be nearly empty.


I walked over, but with every step my sense of dread increased. Dread
of I knew not what. Bodiless, inexplicable horror had me as in a net,
whose strands, being intangible, without reason for existence, I could
by no means throw off. It was not the people now. None of them were
about me. There, in the open, lighted street, with no sight nor sound
of terror to assail me, I was the shivering victim of such fear as I
had never known was possible. Yet still I would not yield.

Setting my teeth, and fighting with myself as with some pet animal
gone mad, I forced my steps to slowness and walked along the sidewalk,
seeking entrance. Just here there were no shops, but several doors
reached in each case by means of a few iron-railed stone steps. I
chose the one in the middle beneath the sign. In that neighborhood
there are museums, shops and other commercial enterprises conducted in
many shabby old residences, such as were these. Behind the glazing of
the door I had chosen I could see a dim, pinkish light, but on either
side the windows were quite dark.

Trying the door, I found it unlocked. As I opened it a party of
Italians passed on the pavement below and I looked back at them over
my shoulder. They were gayly dressed, men, women and children,
laughing and chattering to one another; probably on their way to some
wedding or other festivity.

In passing, one of the men glanced up at me and involuntarily I
shuddered back against the door. He was a young man, handsome after
the swarthy manner of his race, but never in my life had I see a face
so expressive of pure, malicious cruelty, naked and unashamed. Our
eyes met and his seemed to light up with a vile gleaming, as if all
the wickedness of his nature had come to a focus in the look of
concentrated hate he gave me.

They went by, but for some distance I could see him watching me, chin
on shoulder, till he and his party were swallowed up in the crowd of
marketers farther down the street.

Sick and trembling from that encounter, merely of eyes though it had
been, I threw aside my partly smoked cigar and entered. Within there
was a small vestibule, whose ancient tesselated floor was grimy with
the passing of many feet. I could feel the grit of dirt under my
shoes, and it rasped on my rawly quivering nerves. The inner door
stood partly open, and going on I found myself in a bare, dirty
hallway, and was greeted by the sour, musty, poverty-stricken smell
common to dwellings of the very ill-to-do. Beyond there was a
stairway, carpeted with ragged grass matting. A gas jet, turned low
inside a very dusty pink globe, was the light I had seen from without.

Listening, the house seemed entirely silent. Surely, this was no place
of public amusement of any kind whatever. More likely it was a rooming
house, and I had, after all, mistaken the entrance.

To my intense relief, since coming inside, the worst agony of my
unreasonable terror had passed away. If I could only get in some place
where I could sit down and be quiet, probably I should be rid of it
for good. Determining to try another entrance, I was about to leave
the bare hallway when one of several doors along the side of it
suddenly opened and a man stepped out into the hall.

"Well?" he said, looking at me keenly, but with not the least show of
surprise at my presence.

"I beg your pardon," I replied. "The door was unlocked and I came in
here, thinking it was the entrance to the exhibit--what do they call
it? the 'Great Unseen.' The one that is mentioned on that long white
sign. Can you tell me which door is the right one?"

"I can."

With that brief answer he stopped and stared at me again. He was a
tall, lean man, somewhat stooped, but possessing considerable dignity
of bearing. For that neighborhood, he appeared uncommonly well
dressed, and his long, smooth-shaven face was noticeable because,
while his complexion was dark and his eyes coal-black, above them the
heavy brows and his hair were almost silvery-white. His age might have
been anything over the threescore mark.

I grew tired of being stared at. "If you can and--won't, then never
mind," I observed a trifle irritably, and turned to go. But his sharp
exclamation halted me.

"No!" he said. "No--no! Forgive me for pausing--it was not hesitation,
I assure you. To think that one--one, even, has come! All day they
pass my sign up there--pass and fear to enter. But you are different.
You are not of these timorous, ignorant foreign peasants. You ask me
to tell you the right door? Here it is! Here!"

And he struck the panel of the door, which he had closed behind him,
so that the sharp yet hollow sound of it echoed up through the silent

Now it may be thought that after all my senseless terror in the open
street, so strange a welcome from so odd a showman would have brought
the feeling back, full force. But there is an emotion stronger, to a
certain point, than fear. This queer old fellow aroused my curiosity.
What kind of museum could it be that he accused the passing public of
fearing to enter? Nothing really terrible, surely, or it would have
been closed by the police. And normally I am not an unduly timorous
person. "So it's in there, is it?" I asked, coming toward him. "And
I'm to be sole audience? Come, that will be an interesting
experience." I was half laughing now.

"The most interesting in the world," said the old man, with a
solemnity which rebuked my lightness.

With that he opened the door, passed inward and closed it again--in my
very face. I stood staring at it blankly. The panels, I remember, had
been originally painted white, but now the paint was flaked and
blistered, gray with dirt and dirty finger marks. Suddenly it occurred
to me that I had no wish to enter there. Whatever was behind it could
be scarcely worth seeing, or he would not choose such a place for its
exhibition. With the old man's vanishing my curiosity had cooled, but
just as I again turned to leave, the door opened and this singular
showman stuck his white-eyebrowed face through the aperture. He was
frowning impatiently. "Come in--come in!" he snapped, and promptly
withdrawing his head, once more closed the door.

"He has something there he doesn't want should get out," was the very
natural conclusion which I drew. "Well, since it can hardly be
anything dangerous, and he's so anxious I should see it--here goes!"

With that I turned the soiled white porcelain handle, and entered.

The room I came into was neither very large nor very brightly lighted.
In no way did it resemble a museum or lecture room. On the contrary,
it seemed to have been fitted up as a quite well-appointed laboratory.
The floor was linoleum-covered, there were glass cases along the walls
whose shelves were filled with bottles, specimen jars, graduates, and
the like. A large table in one corner bore what looked like some odd
sort of camera, and a larger one in the middle of the room was fitted
with a long rack filled with bottles and test tubes, and was besides
littered with papers, glass slides, and various paraphernalia which my
ignorance failed to identify. There were several cases of books, a few
plain wooden chairs, and in the corner a large iron sink with running

My host of the white hair and black eyes was awaiting me, standing
near the larger table. He indicated one of the wooden chairs with a
thin forefinger that shook a little, either from age or eagerness.
"Sit down--sit down! Have no fear but that you will be interested, my
friend. Have no fear at all--of anything!"

As he said it he fixed his dark eyes upon me and stared harder than
ever. But the effect of his words was the opposite of their meaning. I
did sit down, because my knees gave under me, but if in the outer hall
I had lost my terror, it now returned twofold upon me. Out there the
light had been faint, dingily roseate, indefinite. By it I had not
perceived how this old man's face was a mask of living malice--of
cruelty, hate and a certain masterful contempt. Now I knew the meaning
of my fear, whose warning I would not heed. Now I knew that I had
walked into the very trap from which my abnormal sensitiveness had
striven in vain to save me.


Again I struggled within me, bit at my lip till I tasted blood, and
presently the blind paroxysm passed. It must have been longer in going
than I thought, and the old man must have all that time been speaking,
for when I could once more control my attention, hear and see him, he
had taken up a position near the sink, about ten feet away, and was
addressing me with a sort of "platform" manner, as if I had been the
large audience whose absence he had deplored.

"And so," he was saying, "I was forced to make these plates very
carefully, to truly represent the characteristic hues of each separate
organism. Now, in color work of every kind the film is necessarily
extremely sensitive. Doubtless you are familiar in a general way with
the exquisite transparencies produced by color photography of the
single-plate type."

He paused, and trying to act like a normal human being, I observed: "I
saw some nice landscapes done in that way--last week at an illustrated
lecture in Franklin Hall."

He scowled, and made an impatient gesture at me with his hand. "I can
proceed better without interruptions," he said. "My pause was purely

I meekly subsided, and he went on in his original loud, clear voice.
He would have made an excellent lecturer before a much larger
audience--if only his voice could have lost that eerie, ringing note.
Thinking of that I must have missed some more, and when I caught it
again he was saying:

"As I have indicated, the original plate is the final picture. Now,
many of these organisms are extremely hard to photograph, and
microphotography in color is particularly difficult. In consequence,
to spoil a plate tries the patience of the photographer. They are so
sensitive that the ordinary darkroom ruby lamp would instantly ruin
them, and they must therefore be developed either in darkness or by a
special light produced by interposing thin sheets of tissue of a
particular shade of green and of yellow between lamp and plate, and
even that will often cause ruinous fog. Now I, finding it hard to
handle them so, made numerous experiments with a view of discovering
some glass or fabric of a color which should add to the safety of the
green, without robbing it of all efficiency. All proved equally
useless, but intermittently I persevered--until last week."

His voice dropped to an almost confidential tone, and he leaned
slightly toward me. I was cold from my neck to my feet, though my head
was burning, but I tried to force an appreciative smile.

"Last week," he continued impressively, "I had a prescription filled
at the corner drug store. The bottle was sent home to me wrapped in a
piece of what I first took to be whitish, slightly opalescent paper.
Later I decided that it was some kind of membrane. When I questioned
the druggist, seeking its source, he said it was a sheet of 'paper'
that was around a bundle of herbs from South America. That he had no
more, and doubted if I could trace it. He had wrapped my bottle so,
because he was in haste and the sheet was handy.

"I can hardly tell you what first inspired me to try that membrane in
my photographic work. It was merely dull white with a faint hint of
opalescence, except when held against the light. Then it became quite
translucent and quite brightly prismatic. For some reason it occurred
to me that this refractive effect might help in breaking up the
actinic rays--the rays which affect the sensitive emulsion. So that
night I inserted it behind the sheets of green and yellow tissue, next
the lamp prepared my trays and chemicals laid my plate holders to
hand, turned off the white light and--turned on the green!"

There was nothing in his words to inspire fear. It was a wearisomely
detailed account of his struggles with photography. Yet, as he again
paused impressively, I wished that he might never speak again. I was
desperately, contemptibly in dread of the thing he might say next.

Suddenly, he drew himself erect, the stoop went out of his shoulders,
he threw back his head and laughed. It was a hollow sound, as if he
laughed into a trumpet. "I won't tell you what I saw! Why should I?
Your own eyes shall bear witness. But this much I'll say, so that you
may better understand--later. When our poor, faultily sensitive vision
can perceive a thing, we say that it is visible. When the nerves of
touch can feel it, we say that it is tangible. Yet I tell you there
are beings intangible to our physical sense, yet whose presence is
felt by the spirit, and invisible to our eyes merely because those
organs are not attuned to the light as reflected from their bodies.
But light passed through the screen, which we are about to use has a
wave length novel to the scientific world, and by it you shall see
with the eyes of the flesh that which has been invisible since life
began. Have no fear!"

He stopped to laugh again, and his mirth was yellow-toothed--menacing.

"Have no fear!" he reiterated, and with that stretched his hand toward
the wall, there came a click and we were in black, impenetrable
darkness. I wanted to spring up, to seek the door by which I had
entered and rush out of it, but the paralysis of unreasoning terror
held me fast.

I could hear him moving about in the darkness, and a moment later a
faint green glimmer sprang up in the room. Its source was over the
large sink, where I suppose he developed his precious "color plates."

Every instant, as my eyes became accustomed to the dimness, I could
see more clearly. Green light is peculiar. It may be far fainter than
red, and at the same time far more illuminating. The old man was
standing beneath it, and his face by that ghastly radiance had the
exact look of a dead man's. Besides this, however, I could observe
nothing appalling.

"That," continued the man, "is the simple developing light of which I
have spoken--now watch, for what you are about to behold no mortal man
but myself has ever seen before."

For a moment he fussed with the green lamp over the sink. It was so
constructed that all the direct rays struck downward. He opened a flap
at the side, for a moment there was a streak of comforting white
luminance from within, then he inserted something, slid it slowly in--
and closed the flap.

The thing he put in--that South American "membrane" it must have
been--instead of decreasing the light increased it--amazingly. The hue
was changed from green to greenish-gray, and the whole room sprang
into view, a livid, ghastly chamber, filled with--overcrawled by--

My eyes fixed themselves, fascinated, on something that moved by the
old man's feet. It writhed there on the floor like a huge, repulsive
starfish, an immense, armed, legged thing, that twisted convulsively.
It was smooth, as if made of rubber, was whitish-green in color; and
presently raised its great round blob of a body on tottering
tentacles, crept toward my host and writhed upward--yes, climbed up
his legs, his body. And he stood there, erect, arms folded, and stared
sternly down at the thing which climbed.

But the room--the whole room was alive with other creatures than that.
Everywhere I looked they were--centipedish things, with yard-long
bodies, detestable, furry spiders that lurked in shadows, and sausage-
shaped translucent horrors that moved--and floated through the air.
They dived--here and there between me and the light, and I could see
its bright greenness through their greenish bodies.

Worse, though; far worse than these were the things with human faces.
Mask-like, monstrous, huge gaping mouths and slitlike eyes--I find I
cannot write of them. There was that about them which makes their
memory even now intolerable.

The old man was speaking again, and every word echoed in my brain like
the ringing of a gong. "Fear nothing! Among such as these do you move
every hour of the day and night. Only you and I have seen, for God is
merciful and has spared our race from sight. But I am not merciful! I
loathe the race which gave these creatures birth--the race which might
be so surrounded by invisible, unguessed but blessed beings--and
chooses these for its companions! All the world shall see and know.
One by one shall they come here, learn the truth, and perish. For who
can survive the ultimate of terror? Then I, too, shall find peace, and
leave the earth to its heritage of man-created horrors. Do you know
what these are--whence they come?"

This voice boomed now like a cathedral bell. I could not answer, him,
but he waited for no reply. "Out of the ether--out of the omnipresent
ether from whose intangible substance the mind of God made the
planets, all living things, and man--man has made these! By his evil
thoughts, by his selfish panics, by his lusts and his interminable,
never-ending hate he has made them, and they are everywhere! Fear
nothing--but see where there comes to you, its creator, the shape and
the body of your FEAR!"

And as he said it I perceived a great Thing coming toward me--a
Thing--but consciousness could endure no more. The ringing,
threatening voice merged in a roar within my ears, there came a
merciful dimming of the terrible, lurid vision, and blank nothingness
succeeded upon horror too great for bearing.


There was a dull, heavy pain above my eyes. I knew that they were
closed, that I was dreaming, and that the rack full of colored bottles
which I seemed to see so clearly was no more than a part of the dream.
There was some vague but imperative reason why I should rouse myself.
I wanted to awaken, and thought that by staring very hard indeed I
could dissolve this foolish vision of blue and yellow-brown bottles.
But instead of dissolving they grew clearer, more solid and
substantial of appearance, until suddenly the rest of my senses rushed
to the support of sight, and I became aware that my eyes were open,
the bottles were quite real, and that I was sitting in a chair, fallen
sideways so that my cheek rested most uncomfortably on the table which
held the rack.

I straightened up slowly and with difficulty, groping in my dulled
brain for some clue to my presence in this unfamiliar place, this
laboratory that was lighted only by the rays of an arc light in the
street outside its three large windows. Here I sat, alone, and if the
aching of cramped limbs meant anything, here I had sat for more than a
little time.

Then, with the painful shock which accompanies awakening to the
knowledge of some great catastrophe, came memory. It was this very
room, shown by the street lamp's rays to be empty of life, which I had
seen thronged with creatures too loathsome for description. I
staggered to my feet, staring fearfully about. There were the glass-
floored cases, the bookshelves, the two tables with their burdens, and
the long iron sink above which, now only a dark blotch of shadow, hung
the lamp from which had emanated that livid, terrifically revealing
illumination. Then the experience had been no dream, but a frightful
reality. I was alone here now. With callous indifference my strange
host had allowed me to remain for hours unconscious, with not the
least effort to aid or revive me. Perhaps, hating me so, he had hoped
that I would die there.

At first I made no effort to leave the place. Its appearance filled me
with reminiscent loathing. I longed to go, but as yet felt too weak
and ill for the effort. Both mentally and physically my condition was
deplorable, and for the first time I realized that a shock to the mind
may react upon the body as vilely as any debauch of self-indulgence.

Quivering in every nerve and muscle, dizzy with headache and nausea, I
dropped back into the chair, hoping that before the old man returned I
might recover sufficient self-control to escape him. I knew that he
hated me, and why. As I waited, sick, miserable, I understood the man.
Shuddering, I recalled the loathsome horrors he had shown me. If the
mere desires and emotions of mankind were daily carnified in such
forms as those, no wonder that he viewed his fellow beings with
detestation and longed only to destroy them.

I thought, too, of the cruel, sensuous faces I had seen in the streets
outside--seen for the first time, as if a veil had been withdrawn from
eyes hitherto blinded by self-delusion. Fatuously trustful as a month-
old puppy, I had lived in a grim, evil world, where goodness is a word
and crude selfishness the only actuality. Drearily my thoughts drifted
back through my own life, its futile purposes, mistakes and
activities. All of evil that I knew returned to overwhelm me. Our
gropings toward divinity were a sham, a writhing sunward of slime---
covered beasts who claimed sunlight as their heritage, but in their
hearts preferred the foul and easy depths.

Even now, though I could neither see nor feel them, this room, the
entire world, was acrawl with the beings created by our real natures.
I recalled the cringing, contemptible fear to which my spirit had so
readily yielded, and the faceless Thing to which the emotion had given

Then abruptly, shockingly, I remembered that every moment I was adding
to the horde. Since my mind could conceive only repulsive incubi, and
since while I lived I must think, feel, and so continue to shape them,
was there no way to check so abominable a succession? My eyes fell on
the long shelves with their many-colored bottles. In the chemistry of
photography there are deadly poisons--I knew that. Now was the time to
end it--now! Let him return and find his desire accomplished. One good
thing I could do, if one only. I could abolish my monster-creating


My friend Mark Jenkins is an intelligent and usually a very careful
man. When he took from "Smiler" Callahan a cigar which had every
appearance of being excellent, innocent Havana, the act denoted both
intelligence and caution. By very clever work he had traced the
poisoning of young Ralph Peeler to Mr. Callahan's door, and he
believed this particular cigar to be the mate of one smoked by Peeler
just previous to his demise. And if, upon arresting Callahan, he had
not confiscated this bit of evidence, it would have doubtless been
destroyed by its regrettably unconscientious owner.

But when Jenkins shortly afterward gave me that cigar, as one of his
own, he committed one of those almost inconceivable blunders which, I
think, are occasionally forced upon clever men to keep them from
overweening vanity. Discovering his slight mistake, my detective
friend spent the night searching for his unintended victim, myself;
and that his search was successful was due to Pietro Marini, a young
Italian of Jenkins' acquaintance, whom he met about the hour of 2:00
A.M. returning from a dance.

Now, Marini had seen me standing on the steps of the house where
Doctor Frederick Holt had his laboratory and living rooms, and he had
stared at me, not with any ill intent, but because he thought I was
the sickest-looking, most ghastly specimen of humanity that he had
ever beheld. And, sharing the superstition of his South Street
neighbors, he wondered if the worthy doctor had poisoned me as well as
Peeler. This suspicion he imparted to Jenkins, who, however, had the
best of reasons for believing otherwise. Moreover, as he informed
Marini, Holt was dead, having drowned himself late the previous
afternoon. An hour or so after our talk in the restaurant, news of his
suicide reached Jenkins.

It seemed wise to search any place where a very sick-looking young man
had been seen to enter, so Jenkins came straight to the laboratory.
Across the fronts of those houses was the long sign with its
mysterious inscription, "See the Great Unseen," not at all mysterious
to the detective. He knew that next door to Doctor Holt's the second
floor had been thrown together into a lecture room, where at certain
hours a young man employed by settlement workers displayed upon a
screen stereopticon views of various deadly bacilli, the germs of
diseases appropriate to dirt and indifference. He knew, too, that
Doctor Holt himself had helped the educational effort along by
providing some really wonderful lantern slides, done by micro-color

On the pavement outside, Jenkins found the two-thirds remnant of a
cigar, which he gathered in and came up the steps, a very miserable
and self-reproachful detective. Neither outer nor inner door was
locked, and in the laboratory he found me, alive, but on the verge of
death by another means that he had feared.

In the extreme physical depression following my awakening from drugged
sleep, and knowing nothing of its cause, I believed my adventure fact
in its entirety. My mentality was at too low an ebb to resist its
dreadful suggestion. I was searching among Holt's various bottles when
Jenkins burst in. At first I was merely annoyed at the interruption of
my purpose, but before the anticlimax of his explanation the mists of
obsession drifted away and left me still sick in body, but in spirit
happy as any man may well be who has suffered a delusion that the
world is wholly bad--and learned that its badness springs from his own
poisoned brain.

The malice which I had observed in every face, including young
Marini's, existed only in my drug-affected vision. Last week's
"popular-science" lecture had been recalled to my subconscious mind--
the mind that rules dreams and delirium--by the photographic apparatus
in Holt's workroom. "See the Great Unseen" assisted materially, and
even the corner drug store before which I had paused, with its green-
lit show vases, had doubtless played a part. But presently, following
something Jenkins told me, I was driven to one protest. "If Holt was
not here," I demanded, "if Holt is dead, as you say, how do you
account for the fact that I, who have never seen the man, was able to
give you an accurate description which you admit to be that of Doctor
Frederick Holt?"

He pointed across the room. "See that?" It was a life-size bust
portrait, in crayons, the picture of a white-haired man with bushy
eyebrows and the most piercing black eyes I had ever seen--until the
previous evening. It hung facing the door and near the windows, and
the features stood out with a strangely lifelike appearance in the
white rays of the arc lamp just outside. "Upon entering," continued
Jenkins, "the first thing you saw was that portrait, and from it your
delirium built a living, speaking man. So, there are your white-haired
showman, your unnatural fear, your color photography and your pretty
green golliwogs all nicely explained for you, Blaisdell, and thank God
you're alive to hear the explanation. If you had smoked the whole of
that cigar--well, never mind. You didn't. And now, my very dear
friend, I think it's high time that you interviewed a real, flesh-and-
blood doctor. I'll phone for a taxi."

"Don't," I said. "A walk in the fresh air will do me more good than
fifty doctors."

"Fresh air! There's no fresh air on South Street in July," complained
Jenkins, but reluctantly yielded.

I had a reason for my preference. I wished to see people, to meet face
to face even such stray prowlers as might be about at this hour,
nearer sunrise than midnight, and rejoice in the goodness and
kindliness of the human countenance--particularly as found in the
lower classes.

But even as we were leaving there occurred to me a curious

"Jenkins," I said, "you claim that the reason Holt, when I first met
him in the hall, appeared to twice close the door in my face, was
because the door never opened until I myself unlatched it."

"Yes," confirmed Jenkins, but he frowned, foreseeing my next question.

"Then why, if it was from that picture that I built so solid, so
convincing a vision of the man, did I see Holt in the hall before the
door was open?"

"You confuse your memories," retorted Jenkins rather shortly.

"Do I? Holt was dead at that hour, but--I tell you I saw Holt outside
the door! And what was his reason for committing suicide?"

Before my friend could reply I was across the room, fumbling in the
dusk there at the electric lamp above the sink. I got the tin flap
open and pulled out the sliding screen, which consisted of two sheets
of glass with fabric between, dark on one side, yellow on the other.
With it came the very thing I dreaded--a sheet of whitish,
parchmentlike, slightly opalescent stuff.

Jenkins was beside me as I held it at arm's length toward the windows.
Through it the light of the arc lamp fell--divided into the most
astonishingly brilliant rainbow hues. And instead of diminishing the
light, it was perceptibly increased in the oddest way. Almost one
thought that the sheet itself was luminous, and yet when held in
shadow it gave off no light at all.

"Shall we--put it in the lamp again--and try it?" asked Jenkins
slowly, and in his voice there was no hint of mockery.

I looked him straight in the eyes. "No," I said, "we won't. I was
drugged. Perhaps in that condition I received a merciless revelation
of the discovery that caused Holt's suicide, but I don't believe it.
Ghost or no ghost, I refuse to ever again believe in the depravity of
the human race. If the air and the earth are teeming with invisible
horrors, they are not of our making, and--the study of demonology is
better let alone. Shall we burn this thing, or tear it up?"

"We have no right to do either," returned Jenkins thoughtfully, "but
you know, Blaisdell, there's a little too darn much realism about some
parts of your 'dream.' I haven't been smoking any doped cigars; but
when you held that up to the light, I'll swear I saw--well, never
mind. Burn it--send it back to the place it came from."

"South America?" said I.

"A hotter place than that. Burn it."

So he struck a match and we did. It was gone in one great white flash.

A large place was given by morning papers to the suicide of Doctor
Frederick Holt, caused, it was surmised, by mental derangement brought
about by his unjust implication in the Peeler murder. It seemed an
inadequate reason, since he had never been arrested, but no other was
ever discovered.

Of course, our action in destroying that "membrane" was illegal and
rather precipitate, but, though he won't talk about it, I know that
Jenkins agrees with me--doubt is sometimes better than certainty, and
there are marvels better left unproved. Those, for instance, which
concern the Powers of Evil.


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