The Destroyer by William Merriam Rouse
he pencil in the hand of Allen Parker refused to obey his will. A
strange unseen force pushed his will aside and took possession of the
pencil point so that what he drew was not his own. It was the same
when he turned from drawing board to typewriter. The sentences were
not of his framing; the ideas were utterly foreign to him. This was
the first hint he received of the fate that was drawing in like night
upon him and his beautiful wife.
Slowly, insidiously, there stole over Allen Parker
something uncanny. He could no longer control his hands—even his
Parker, a young writer of growing reputation who illustrated his own
work, was making a series of pencil sketches for a romance partly
finished. The story was as joyous and elusive as sunlight, and until
to-day his sketches had held the same quality. Now he could not tap
the reservoir from which he had taken the wind-blown hair and smiling
eyes of Madelon, his heroine.
When he drew or wrote he seemed to be submerged in the dark waters of
a measureless evil pit. The face that mocked him from the paper was
stamped with a world-old knowledge of forbidden things.
Parker dropped his pencil and leaned back, tortured. He and his wife,
Betty, had taken this house in Pine Hills, a small and extremely
quiet suburban village, solely for the purpose of concentration on the
book which was to be the most important work he had done. He went to
the door of the room that he used for a studio and called:
"Betty! Can you come here a moment, please?"
here was a patter of running feet on the stairs and then a girl of
twenty, or thereabout, came into the room. Any man would have said she
was a blessing. Her hair "was yellow like ripe corn," and her vivid
blue eyes held depth and character and charm.
"Look!" exclaimed Parker. "What do you think of this stuff?"
For a moment there was silence. Then Allen Parker saw something he had
never before seen in his wife's face for him or his work—a look of
"I wouldn't have believed you capable of doing anything so ... so
horrid!" she said coldly. "How could you?"
"I don't know!" His arms, which had been ready to take her to him for
comfort, dropped. "The work has been ... difficult, lately. As though
something were pulling at my mind. But not like this! It isn't me!"
"It must be you, since it came out of you!" She turned away and moved
restlessly to one of the windows.
"Through me!" muttered Parker. "Ideas come!"
"You'll have to do something!"
"But what? I don't know what to do!"
"Why not go to see that new doctor?" asked Betty, over her shoulder.
"Dr. Friedrich von Stein?"
"Von Stein?" repeated Parker, vaguely. "Don't know him. Anyhow, I
don't need a doctor. What in the world made you think of that?"
othing, except that I can see his house from here. He's taken what
they call 'the old Reynolds place.' You know—opposite the church. We
looked at it and thought it was too large for us. He's made a lot of
"Oh, yes!" Parker had placed the newcomer, more recent than himself.
"I had an idea that he was a doctor of philosophy, not medicine."
"He has half a dozen degrees, they say. Certainly he's a stunning
looking man. I saw him on the street."
"Maybe he doesn't practice." The artist was gazing, baffled and sick
at heart, upon what he had wrought. "And what could he do, unless it's
"He might be a psycho-analyst, or something like that," she replied,
"But why the wild interest in this particular doctor?" Parker roused
himself and looked at her. He felt irritable, and was ashamed of it.
"Only for your work," said Betty. A faint pink touched her cheeks.
Allen Parker had a sudden feeling of certainty that his wife was lying
to him. To one who knew the Parkers it would have been equally
impossible to think of Betty as lying, or of her husband as believing
such a thing. Parker was outraged by his own suspicion. He sprang up
and began to pace the floor.
"All right, then!" he exploded. "My work is going to the dogs! Why,
there's an appointment with Cartwright to-morrow to show him these
sketches, and the last few chapters I've done! We'll go now! If this
man can't do anything for me I'll try somebody else!"
n ten minutes they were walking up the quiet street toward the
present home of Dr. Friedrich von Stein. Despite his self-absorption
Parker could not help noticing that his wife had never looked more
attractive than she did at this moment. Her color had deepened, little
wisps of hair curled against her cheeks, and there was a sparkle in
her eyes which he knew came only on very particular occasions.
Even from the outside it was apparent that many strange things had
been done to the staid and dignified house of Reynolds. A mass of
aerials hung above the roof. Some new windows had been cut at the
second floor and filled with glass of a peculiar reddish-purple tinge.
A residence had been turned into a laboratory, in sharp contrast to
the charming houses up and down the street and the church of gray
stone that stood opposite.
Beside the door, at the main entrance, a modest plate bore the legend:
"Dr. Friedrich von Stein." Parker pressed the bell. Then he squared
his broad shoulders and waited: a very miserable, very likeable young
man, with a finely shaped head and a good set of muscles under his
well cut clothes. He had brought his sketches, but he was
uncomfortable with the portfolio under his arm. It seemed to
he door opened to reveal a blocky figure of a man in a workman's
blouse and overalls. The fellow was pale of eye, towheaded; he
appeared to be good natured but of little intelligence. The only
remarkable thing about him was a livid welt that ran across one cheek,
from nose to ear. Beside him a glossy-coated dachshund wagged
furiously, after having barked once as a matter of duty.
"May we see Dr. von Stein?" asked Parker. "If he is in?"
"I will ask the Herr Doktor if he iss in," replied the man, stiffly.
"Dummkopf!" roared a voice from inside the house. An instant later
man and dog shrank back along the hall and there appeared in their
place one of the most striking personalities Allen Parker had ever
Dr. Friedrich von Stein was inches more than six feet tall and he
stood perfectly erect, with the unmistakable carriage of a well
drilled soldier. He was big boned, but lean, and every movement was
made with military precision. More than any other feature his eyes
impressed Parker: they were steady, penetrating, and absolutely black.
But for a thread of gray here and there his well-kept beard and hair
were black. He might have been any age from forty to sixty, so
deceptive was his appearance.
"Come in, if you please," he said, before Parker could speak. Von
Stein's voice was rich and deep, but with a metallic quality which
somehow corresponded with his mechanical smile. Except for the
guttural r's there was hardly a hint of the foreigner in his speech.
"It is Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I believe? I am Dr. von Stein."
e stood aside for them to pass into the hallway, and while they
murmured their thanks he shot a volley of German at the man, whom he
called Heinrich. The frightened servant vanished; and the Parkers were
taken into a living room furnished carelessly, but in good enough
taste. Betty took her place on a couch, to which the doctor led her
with a bow. Parker sank into an overstuffed chair not far from a
"I learned your names because of the beauty of madame," said Von
Stein, as he stood looming above the mantel. Again he bowed. "One
could not see her without wishing to know how such a charming woman
was called. You are my neighbors from down the street, I believe."
"Yes," replied Allen. He wanted to be agreeable, but found it
difficult. "And I think Mrs. Parker has developed a great admiration
for you. She persuaded me to come here to-day. Are you, by chance, a
psycho-analyst? I don't even know that you are a doctor of medicine,
"I know a very great deal about the human mind," interrupted Dr. von
Stein calmly. "I know a great deal about many things. I am not going
to practice medicine here in Pine Hills because I have research work
to do, but I will help you if I can. What is your trouble?"
he question brought back to Parker the mood of half an hour ago.
Almost savagely he snapped the portfolio open and spread out a few of
his recent drawings, with some of the earlier ones for comparison.
"Look!" he cried. "These vicious things are what I am doing now! I
can't help myself! The pencil does not obey me! Apparently I have no
emotional control. It's as though my normal ideas were shouldered
aside, like people in a crowd. And my writing to-day was as bad as
these illustrations. I'm doing a book. Consider these things
carefully, Doctor. They are not obscene, except by inference. They
can't be censored. The book would go through the mails. Yet they are
deadly! Look at my heroine in these two pictures. In one she is
like—like violets! In the other she looks capable of any crime! What
is she? A vampire, if there is such a thing? A witch? I can almost
believe in demonology since I made these last drawings!"
Parker, in spite of his excitement, tried to read the face of Dr.
Friedrich von Stein. He found nothing but the automatic smile upon
that mask. Yet it seemed to the artist that this time there was a hint
of real pleasure in the curve of the lips. Was it possible that anyone
could like those drawings? Parker began to think that he was going
"This is most unfortunate for you," rumbled the doctor. "I understand.
But I trust that the condition can be remedied, if it persists. You,
Mr. Parker, and you, Madame, do you understand something of physics,
of psychology, of metaphysics?"
"I fear that I'm rather ignorant," answered Betty. "Certainly I am in
comparison with a man of your attainments."
r. von Stein bowed. He turned his black eyes upon Parker.
"And you, sir? I must adjust my explanation to—what shall I say? To
your knowledge of the higher reaches of scientific thought?"
"Why, I majored in philosophy in college," said Parker, hesitatingly.
"But that's quite a time ago, Herr Doktor. Of course I've tried to
keep up with the conclusions of science. But a writer or a painter
doesn't have any too much opportunity. He has his own problems to
"Yes, indeed!" Dr. von Stein was thoughtful. "So, and especially for
the benefit of madame, I shall speak in terms of the concrete."
"Please consider me stupid!" begged Betty. "But I want to understand!"
"Certainly, except that you are not stupid, Madame. I will proceed.
Both of you, I assume, know something of the radio? Very good! You
know that an etheric wave transmits the message, and that it is
received and amplified so that it is within the range of the human
ear. These waves were there when paleolithic man hunted his meat with
a stone-tipped club. To use them it was necessary to invent the
microphone, and a receiving instrument.
"What I have said you already know. But here is what may startle you.
Human thought is an etheric wave of the same essential nature as the
radio wave. They are both electrical currents external to man.
Thoughts sweep across the human mind as sound currents sweep across
the aerials of a radio—"
"I told you!" Allen Parker turned a triumphant face to his wife.
"Pardon me, Herr Doktor! I have tried to convince Mrs. Parker that my
idea came from outside!"
xactly!" Dr. von Stein took no offense. "And a difference between
the mind and the radio set is that with the radio you tune in upon
whatever you choose, and when you choose. The mind is not under such
control, although it should be. It receives that to which it happens
to be open. Or that thought which has been intensified and
strengthened by having been received and entertained by other minds.
In India they say: 'Five thousand died of the plague and fifty
thousand died of fear.' Do you both follow me?"
It was unnecessary to ask. Betty sat on the edge of the couch, intent
upon every word. Parker, although more restrained, was equally
interested. Moreover he was delighted to have what he had felt
instinctively confirmed, in a way, by a man of science.
"Herbert Spencer said," continued the doctor, "that no thought, no
feeling, is ever manifested save as the result of a physical force.
This principle will before long be a scientific commonplace. And
Huxley predicted that we would arrive at a mechanical equivalent of
consciousness. But I will not attempt to bolster my position with
authorities. I know, and I can prove what I know.
"You, Mr. Parker, have been receiving some particularly annoying
thoughts which have been intensified, it may be, by others, or
another. Human will power can alter the rate of vibration of the line
of force, or etheric wave. So-called good thoughts have a high rate of
vibration, and those which are called bad ordinarily have a low rate.
Have you, perhaps, an enemy?"
"Not that I know of," replied Parker, in a low voice.
"Then it would follow that this is accidental."
ood heavens! Do you mean to say that someone could do this to me
"So far my experiments leave something to be desired," said Dr. von
Stein, without answering directly. "No doubt you are peculiarly
susceptible to thoughts which bear in any way on your work."
"But isn't there any help for it?" asked Betty. She was regarding her
husband with the eyes of a stranger.
"I believe I can do something for Mr. Parker."
There was a knock at the door. The doctor boomed an order to come in.
Heinrich, with the dachshund at his heels, entered bearing a tray with
a bottle of wine and some slices of heavy fruit cake. He drew out a
table and placed the tray.
"Do not bring that dog in when I have guests," said Von Stein. He
spoke with a gleam of white teeth. "You know what will happen,
"Ja, Herr Doktor! I take Hans oudt!" The man was terrified. He
gathered the dog into his arms and fairly fled from the room. Dr. von
Stein turned with a smile.
"I have to discipline him," he explained. "He's a stupid fellow, but
faithful. I can't have ordinary servants about. There are scientific
men who would be willing to bribe them for a look at my laboratory."
"I did not know such things were done among scholars," said Betty,
"What I have accomplished means power, Madame!" exclaimed the doctor.
"There are jackals in every walk of life. If an unscrupulous man of
science got into my laboratory, a physicist for instance, he might ...
find out things!"
r. von Stein turned to his duties as host. He filled their glasses,
and watched with satisfaction Betty's obvious enjoyment of the cake. A
box of mellow Havanas appeared from a cabinet: imported cigarettes
from a smoking stand. But Parker, in spite of a liking for good wine
and tobacco, was far too much concerned about his work to forget the
errand that had brought him there.
"So you think," he said, when there was opportunity, "that you can
help me, Dr. von Stein?"
"I can," replied von Stein, firmly; "but before attempting anything
I'd like to wait a day or two. The attacking thoughts may become less
violent, or your resistance greater, in either of which cases the
condition will fade out. You will either get better or much worse. If
you are worse come to see me again, and I promise you that I will do
"I'll come, and thank you!" Parker felt better, and more cheerful than
he had since the beginning of the disturbance. "Few things could make
me suffer so much as trouble with my work."
"That is what I thought," agreed Dr. von Stein.
etty rose. Her husband caught the look in her eyes as they met the
bright, black gaze of Dr. von Stein, and he went cold. That look had
always been for him alone. Her feet seemed to linger on the way to the
"He's wonderful!" she breathed, as they started down the uneventful
street. "Scientific things never interested me before. But he makes
them vital, living!"
"And yet," said Parker, thoughtfully, "there's something uncanny about
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Betty. "It's because he's a genius! Don't be
Parker gasped, and remained silent. He could not remember that his
wife had ever spoken to him in quite that way. They finished the
little journey home without speaking again and Parker went directly to
studio. He sat down, with drooping shoulders, and considered the mess
he had made of his book. Well, there was nothing to do but see
Cartwright to-morrow and face the music!
Dinner that night was a mournful affair. The soft footsteps of the
servant going in and out of the dining room, the ticking of the clock,
were almost the only sounds. Betty was deep in her own thoughts;
Parker was too miserable to talk. He went to bed early and lay staring
into the darkness for what seemed like an eternity of slow moving
The tall, deep voiced clock in the hall downstairs had just struck
one when suddenly Parker's room was flooded with light. He sat up,
blinking, and saw Betty standing near his bed. Her fingers twisted
against each other; her face was drawn and white.
"Allen!" she whispered. "I'm afraid!"
Instantly he was on his feet; his arms went around her and the yellow
head dropped wearily against his shoulder.
"Afraid of what?" he cried. "What is it, sweetheart?"
"I don't know!" All at once her body stiffened and she pulled away
from him. Then she laughed—"What nonsense! I must have been having a
bad dream ... it's nothing. Sorry I bothered you, Allen!"
She was gone before his could stop her. Bewildered, he did not know
whether to follow. Better not, he thought. She would sleep now, and
perhaps he would. But he was worried. Betty was becoming less and less
t last Parker did sleep, to awake shortly after daylight. He got a
hasty breakfast and took an early train to New York. When John
Cartwright, a shrewd and kindly man well advanced in years, arrived at
his office Allen Parker was right there waiting for him.
Cartwright had shown a real affection for the younger man, a paternal
interest. He beamed, as usual, until he sat down with the new
drawings. Slowly the smile faded from his face. He went over them
twice, three times, and then he looked up.
"My boy," he said, "did you do these?"
"Do you know that you are turning a delicate and beautiful romance
into a lascivious libel on the human race?"
"It is being done," replied Parker, in a low voice. "And I—I can't
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that when I start to draw Madelon my hand produces that woman
of Babylon! The writing is just as bad. It's full of sneering hints,
double meanings ... I shall destroy the stuff. I've been to see a
"Ah!" thoughtfully. "Perhaps you're tired, Allen. Why not take Betty
for a sea trip? There'll still be time for fall publication."
"I'm going to try everything possible. I'd rather be dead than do work
hen Parker left his friend he was somewhat encouraged. After the
first shock Cartwright had been inclined to make light of the
difficulty, and by the time Allen Parker reached Pine Hills his stride
had the usual swing and snap.
He ran up the steps of his house and burst into the living room with a
smile. Betty was sitting by one of the windows, her hands lying
relaxed in her lap. She turned a somber face toward her husband, and
spoke before he had time to say a word of greeting.
"You knew that Cordelia Lyman died a short time ago, didn't you?"
"What's that?" exclaimed Parker, bewildered. "Lyman? Oh, the old lady
down the street who left her money to found a home for aged spinsters?
What about it?"
"But she didn't leave her money to found a home for aged spinsters,
Allen. She had said she was going to, and everybody thought so. Her
will was admitted to probate, or whatever they call it, yesterday. She
left half a million, all she had, to Dr. Friedrich von Stein, to be
used as he thinks best for the advancement of science!"
"Good heavens!" Parker stared. "Why, I didn't know she knew him. He'd
only been here a week or so when she died."
"There isn't a flaw in the will, they say. You can imagine that Pine
Hills is talking!"
"Well," said Parker philosophically, "he's lucky. I hope he does
something with it."
"He will," replied Betty, with conviction. "He'll do a great many
arker told her of his interview with Cartwright, but she seemed
little interested. He did not try to work that day but, after he had
put the offending drawings and manuscript out of sight, he wandered,
read, smoked, and in the evening persuaded Betty to take a moonlight
walk with him.
They passed the house of Dr. von Stein, from which came a faint
humming that sounded like a dynamo. Across the street the church was
alight for some service. Triumphant music drifted to them. The moon
hung above the spire, with its cross outlined darkly against the
brilliant sky. The windows were great jewels. Betty drew a deep
"Sometimes, Allen," she said, "I feel like praying!"
"You are a beautiful prayer," whispered Parker.
She walked close to him, holding his arm, and repeated softly:
"Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
And shall I feel afraid?"
But that was the end of that mood. By the time they arrived home Betty
was again the strange, aloof, cold, slightly hard woman of the past
few days. Again depression settled upon Allen Parker.
he next morning he breakfasted alone and went directly to the studio,
without seeing Betty. Sun streamed into the room; the pencil moved
swiftly. For a brief time Parker thought that he was himself again, as
Madelon grew upon the block of paper. But the end was terrible. The
last few strokes made her grotesque. This time the woman he had drawn
was not merely evil; she was a mocking parody of his heroine. He threw
drawing and pencil across the room.
But no real artist can be discouraged short of death. He went to work
again and labored until luncheon time. The results were no better,
although they varied. Now it seemed that some malevolent power was
playing with him, torturing him to the accompaniment of devilish
laughter. He was haggard and actually stooped of body when he bathed
his face and went down to the dining room. From across the table Betty
regarded him curiously.
"Fleming Proctor shot himself last night," she announced, calmly.
"This morning they found him dead in his office."
"Proctor? You don't mean the president of the Pine Hills National
"Yes." The expression of Betty's face did not change. "There was a
note saying that he was sorry. It seems he'd made a large loan without
security to an unknown person, and the bank examiner was coming
to-day. Proctor said he couldn't help what he did. The note was
confused as though he were trying to tell something and couldn't. They
think his mind must have given way, particularly as they can't trace
the loan, although the money is undoubtedly gone."
hat kind of thing doesn't happen!" Parker was stunned. He had known
Fleming Proctor, and liked him. They met often at the country club.
"Proctor was honest, and a fine business man!"
"It did happen, Allen!"
"I'd like to know more about it. That would have been a case for Dr.
von Stein to take in hand."
"Perhaps," said Betty, in a voice like ice. "But I'm more interested
in finding out how soon you are going to return to normal. Frankly,
I'm beginning to get bored."
Without a word Parker rose and left the room. Never before had his
wife hurt him like this. Doubly sensitive just now, he was suffering
alone in the studio when the telephone rang.
"Dr. von Stein speaking. Are you better, Mr. Parker?"
"Worse! Much worse!"
"Then come to my house this evening at nine. May I expect you? And
"Yes." There was much Parker wanted to say, but he choked the words
back. "I'll be there, and alone."
"I shall be ready for you. Good-by."
Allen Parker hung up the receiver. He did not leave the studio again
s Parker approached the house of Dr. Friedrich von Stein he saw that
the church was lighted as it had been the night before. In a clear sky
the moon rode above the spire. He paused to let his glance sweep up
along the beautiful line that ran from earth to the slender cross.
That was how he felt. He wanted to rise, as that line rose, from
cumbering earth to clarity and beauty.
He mounted the steps and rang. Dr. von Stein met him, with eyes and
teeth agleam in the hall light. Wearily Parker stepped inside. His
mood of the moment before was fading.
"Go upstairs to my laboratory, if you please," said the doctor. "It is
best that I see you there, for it may be that you will need
"I need something," replied Parker as he went up a long flight of
stairs. "I'm in a bad way."
Without answer von Stein led him down a short corridor and held open a
door. Allen Parker stepped into a room that bewildered him with its
At a glance he saw that nearly the whole upper floor of the building
had been converted into one gigantic room. Near a big stone fireplace,
where burning driftwood sent up its many tinted flames, Heinrich stood
rigidly at attention. Hans, the dachshund, crouched at his feet. When
the dog started to meet Parker a guttural command stopped him.
Here there were bearskins on the floor, huge stuffed chairs,
footrests, little tables, humidors, pipe racks, all that one could
desire for comfort. Two German duelling swords were crossed above the
ut beyond this corner everything was different. Parker saw the massed
windows of reddish-purple glass; he saw apparatus for which he had no
name, as well as some of the ordinary paraphernalia of the chemical
laboratory. There was wiring everywhere, and a multitude of lighting
fixtures. Utilitarian tables, desks and chairs were placed about with
mathematical precision. There were plates and strips of metal set into
the glass smooth flooring, which was broken by depressions and
elevations of unusual form.
The most striking thing in the room was a huge copper bowl that hung
inverted from the ceiling. In it, and extending down below the rim,
was what seemed to be a thick and stationary mist. It looked as though
the bowl had been filled with a silver gray mist and then turned
bottom side up. But the cloud did not fall or float away.
"I can think and speak best from my desk," Von Stein was saying.
"Please sit down facing me in the chair which Heinrich will place for
you. Then we will talk."
Heinrich rolled one of the overstuffed chairs noiselessly to a
position about six feet from the desk. Parker noticed a long metal
strip in the floor between him and the doctor.
Just then Hans wriggled forward and the artist scratched his ears, to
be rewarded by a grateful tongue. Again a command from Heinrich
brought the dog to heel, but the voice was not so gruff this time.
Together they returned to the fireplace.
Von Stein let his hands rest upon the desk top—a surface covered with
levers, electric switches, push buttons, and contrivances the nature
of which Parker could not guess. The doctor leaned forward. He threw
over a switch. The lights in the room became less bright. He pressed a
button. The Danse Macabre of Saint-Saens floated weirdly upon the
air, as though the music came from afar off.
"Is that part of the treatment?" asked Parker, with a faint smile.
"It's not cheering, exactly."
"Merely an idiosyncrasy of mine," answered Von Stein, showing his
teeth. "Before anything is done I must, in order to aid the
receptivity of your mind, go a little further with the explanation of
certain things which I mentioned the other day. I promise not to bore
you. More than that, Mr. Parker, I promise that you will be more
interested than you have ever been in anything!"
t seemed to Parker that there was something sinister in the manner
and speech of Dr. von Stein. The Dance of Death! Did that music have a
meaning? Impossible! It was only his own sick mind that was allowing
such thoughts to come to him.
"Anything that will help," he murmured.
"You have noticed that copper bowl?" Von Stein did not wait for a
reply. "The misty appearance inside and underneath it is given by
thousands upon thousands of minute platinum wires. When it is in use a
slight electrical current is passed through it, varying in power
according to the rate of vibration needed. That instrument, my dear
sir, is a transmitter of thought. I may call it the microphone of the
mind. I can tune in on any mind in the world, by experimenting up and
down the vibration range to determine the susceptibility of the
particular person. The human mind does not need an amplifier, as the
radio receiving set does. Rather, it acts as its own amplifier, once
having received the thought. I invented one, however, to prove that it
could be done. I equipped Heinrich with it and in half an hour by
suggestion reduced him to his present state of docile stupidity. I
have, Mr. Parker, the means of moving people to do my bidding!"
on Stein stopped abruptly, as though for emphasis and to allow his
astounding statements to take effect. Parker sat stunned, struggling
to grasp all the implications of what he had just heard. Suddenly they
became clear. He saw events in order, and in relation to each other.
"So that's how it was with Cordelia Lyman!" he cried hoarsely, leaning
forward. "And it was you who had that money from Fleming Proctor!"
"You are not unintelligent," remarked Dr. von Stein. "Better that
science should have the Lyman money than a few old women of no
particular use. As for Proctor, he was a fool. I would have protected
"And my pictures ... my book...."
"I can cure you, Mr. Parker. If I will!"
"And anyone is at the mercy of this man!" groaned Parker.
"Not absolutely, I'm sorry to say," said the doctor. "The action of
thought on the human consciousness is exactly like that of sound on
the tuning fork. When the mind is tuned right, we'll say for
illustration, the lower vibrations are not picked out of the ether.
But as few minds are tuned right, and as all vary from time to time,
I'm practically omnipotent."
"You have changed the nature of my wife!" Parker was getting hold of
himself and he could speak with a degree of calmness. "That is a worse
crime than the one you've committed against me directly!"
"Mr. Parker," said the doctor, impressively, "you are in a web. I am
the spider. You are the fly. I don't particularly desire to hurt you,
but I want your wife. This is the crux of the matter. She is the woman
to share my triumphs. Already I have aroused her interest. Give her up
and you will continue your work as before. Refuse, and you will lose
her just as certainly as though you give her to me. For, my dear sir,
you will be insane in less than a month from now. I promise you
llen Parker was not one to indulge in melodrama. For a long moment he
sat looking into the black eyes of Von Stein. Then he spoke carefully.
"If my wife of her own will loved you, and wanted freedom, I'd let her
go. But this is a kind of hypnosis. It's diabolical!"
"Who but the devil was the father of magic?" asked the doctor,
cheerfully. "Hypnosis is unconsciously based on a scientific principle
which I have mastered. Repeated advertising of a tooth brush or a box
of crackers is mild mental suggestion—hypnosis, if you will. My dear
fellow, be sensible!"
"Sophistry!" growled Parker.
Von Stein laughed. He moved a lever upon a dial and a sheet of blue
flame quivered between them. With another movement of the lever it
"I could destroy you instantly," he said, "and completely, and no one
could prove a crime! I shall not do it. I have no time to be bothered
with investigations. Think of the fate I have promised you. Think, and
you will give her up!"
"I shall not!" Parker wiped cold drops from his forehead. The doctor
"I'll intensify her desire to come here to-night," he said. "She
herself will persuade you."
arker set his fingers into the arms of his chair as Von Stein rose
and walked to the copper bowl. He stood directly under it, and put on
goggles with shields fitting close to his feet. At the pressure of his
foot a tablelike affair rose from the floor in front of him. This,
like the desk, was equipped with numerous dials, buttons and levers.
Von Stein manipulated them. The great cap of copper descended until
his head was enveloped by the mist of platinum wires. A faint humming
grew in the room. A tiny bell tinkled.
"The connection is made," murmured Von Stein. He lifted a hand for
silence: then his fingers leaped among the gadgets on the table. After
that came a brief period, measured by seconds, of immobility. Then the
table sank from view, the copper bowl lifted, and Dr. von Stein went
back to his chair.
"She will be here shortly," he said. "If that does not change your
He shrugged. Parker knew what that shrug meant. He searched his mind
for a plan and found none. Better die fighting than yield, or risk the
vengeance of Friedrich von Stein. If he could get the doctor away from
the desk where he controlled the blue-white flame there might be a
chance to do something. Von Stein was by far the larger man, but
Parker had been an athlete all his life. If....
"That mass of copper and platinum," he said, tentatively, "will make
you master of the world!"
"My brain, my intelligence, has made me master of the world!"
corrected Von Stein, proudly. He was touched in the right spot now.
"You have not seen all!"
e sprang up and went to one of the tables. From his pocket he took a
piece of paper and crumpled it into a ball while, with the other hand,
he made some electrical connections to a plate of metal set into the
surface of the table. Next he placed the wad of paper on the plate.
Then, standing at arm's length from the apparatus, he pressed a
button. Instantly the paper disappeared behind a screen of the colors
of the spectrum, from red to violet. The banded colors were there for
a minute fraction of a second. Then there was nothing where the paper
had been on the plate. Von Stein smiled as he stepped away from the
"The electron is formed by the crossing of two lines of force," he
said, "and the interaction of positive and negative polarity. The
electron is a stress in the ether, nothing more, but it is the stuff
of which all matter is made. Thought is vibration in one dimension;
matter in two. You have just seen me untie the knot, dissociate the
electrons, or what you will. In plain language I have caused matter to
vanish utterly. That paper is not burned up. It no longer exists in
any form. The earth upon which we stand, Parker, can be dissolved like
mist before the sun!"
Appalled as he was at this man who boasted and made good his terrible
boasts Allen Parker had not forgotten the purpose that was in him. Now
was his chance, while Von Stein stood smiling triumphantly between
table and desk.
Parker shot from his chair with the speed of utter desperation. He
feinted, and drove a vicious uppercut to the jaw of Dr. Friedrich von
Stein. The doctor reeled but he did not go down. His fists swung.
Parker found him no boxer, and beat a tattoo upon his middle. Von
Stein began to slump.
Then two thick muscled arms closed around the artist from behind and
he was lifted clear of the floor. He kicked, and tried to turn, but it
was useless. The doctor recovered himself. His eyes blazed fury.
"Put him in the chair, Heinrich!" he roared. "For this I will show you
what I can do, Herr Parker!"
t that instant little Hans, who had been yelping on the edge of the
battle, dashed in. He leaped for the throat of Von Stein. The doctor
kicked him brutally.
The shriek of agony from Hans loosened the arms of Heinrich. Parker
got his footing again. He saw the clumsy serving man spring forward
and gather his dog up to his breast. Again Parker rushed for his
It was clear now that Von Stein was cut off from the controls he
wanted, and without Heinrich he could not master Parker in a fight.
For an instant he stood baffled. Then he retreated the length of the
room, taking what blows he could not beat off. He staggered upon a
plate of metal set into the floor, righted himself, and failed in an
attempt to catch hold of Parker. Suddenly he bowed in the direction of
the distant doorway.
Allen half turned. Betty was coming down the room, staring and
"Leben sie wohl!" cried Von Stein. "Farewell, Madame! I should like
to take you with me!"
A great flash of the colors of the spectrum sent Parker reeling back.
Dr. Friedrich von Stein had gone the way of the crumpled ball of
There was a long moment of silence. Then Allen Parker found his wife
in his arms, clinging to him.
"'Are not two prayers a perfect strength?'" she murmured, sobbing
against his heart.
A HUNDRED MILES UNDERGROUND
cientists bidding their families good-by in the morning to drop fifty
or a hundred miles underground in high speed elevators, there to
undertake researches not possible nearer to the earth's surface, may
be realities of the next decade or two if some wealthy individual or
institution accepts the recommendation of Dr. Harlow Shapley,
distinguished astronomer of Harvard, in a talk recently before the
American Geographical Society.
The earth's interior, Dr. Shapley said, is the "third dimension" of
geography. Exploration of the planet's surface soon must cease from
lack of places to explore. Even the upper air is coming to be
reasonably well known scientifically, thanks to instruments sent up
with balloons and to the radio and other investigators who have been
uncovering secrets of upper-air electricity. But the interior of the
earth is still one of the great mysteries. It is a paradox of
astronomy that much more is known about the center of the sun or a
star like Sirius than about the center of the earth.
Deep shafts of bore holes into the earth have been suggested often as
sources of heat for human use. It is doubtful, however, whether such
heat supplies could be obtained. For one thing, the supposed internal
heat of the earth is still nothing but a guess. It may be that the
relatively slight increases of heat found as one goes deeper in
existing mines are due to radioactivity in the rocks instead of to
outward seepage from the internal fires. Another difficulty about
utilizing earth heat is that heat moves so slowly through substances
like rock, as any housewife can prove by trying to fry an egg on a
brick placed over a gas flame. As soon as the rock heat immediately at
the bottom of a bore hole had been exhausted heat supply would stop
until more could diffuse in from the sides.
Dr. Shapley's suggestion, in any event, is not to search for heat but
for facts. Even in existing, relatively shallow mines, he believes,
scientific laboratories at different depths under the surface might
yield valuable data not now obtainable. Most scientific men will
agree. Revolutionary as the idea may seem to those familiar only with
the standardized laboratories of physics or chemistry, there are sound
reasons why a half-dozen or so of the sciences should do precisely
what Dr. Shapley suggests.
At least one underground laboratory has already been installed, for
Prof. E. B. Babcock of the University of California has such a
workroom in the Twin Peaks Tunnel, underneath the mountain that rises
above the city of San Francisco. Natural radioactivity in the rocks
thereabouts is greater than normal and Prof. Babcock finds that this
apparently increases new species among fruit flies.
To dig out laboratory rooms a mile or so down in existing deep mines
probably would cost far less than many enterprises already financed by
philanthropists. Even to deepen these shafts for several miles would
be much less difficult than most people imagine.
Increasing heat, if it is found that heat does increase, would not be
difficult to overcome had the engineers sufficient money. Ventilation
and transportation to and from the surface, while too costly for the
business enterprise of winning metals from very deep mines, probably
would present no serious difficulty were facts the chief object
instead of profit. The only question to be decided before intending
benefactors of science are urged to consider some such project is
whether or not the facts likely to be won promise enough value to
An excellent case can be made out for answering yes. Dr. Shapley
mentioned four chief lines of investigation suitable for such
deep-mine laboratories: studies of gravity and of the variable length
of the day, researches on the various kinds of earthquake waves,
experiments on ether drift and tests of the biological effects of
cosmic rays and of the rays from radium.
Astronomical theories indicate that the day ought to be growing
slightly longer as the earth's rotation decreases a trifle from
century to century because of friction from the tides. The actual
length of the days seems, however, sometimes to be decreasing a tiny
fraction of a second from year to year, as theory says that it should;
sometimes to be increasing in a way for which no present theory
provides. Observations underneath the earth, with a portion of the
planet's crust and gravity overhead, might yield important clues to
the cause of this mysterious wrong time kept by the terrestrial