WHEN old Lionel Harwood sent a letter imploring me to come to that isolated, old-fashioned home which he had built on the outskirts of Dalesboro, and suggesting that if I answered his summons, he might make me his heir, I reluctantly decided to obey him. This uncle had become estranged from my father before my birth (some silly belief that my father had married beneath his station caused the estrangement, I understand), and I had never so much as seen this uncle before. For the first twenty years of my life, I heard of him only vaguely as one who spent his time in traveling about the odd corners of the world, and, indeed, he was more of a myth to me than a real flesh and blood being. Some ten years ago, however, he had returned to Dalesboro, and had built a huge, old-fashioned dwelling, living there since attended only by an old housekeeper and a couple of Japanese servants. But at that time, I had already left Dalesboro and was living in Cincinnati.
He must have been well over seventy years old when I received this letter, and that he had decided that he had not long to live was obvious. But why had he picked my from among the various relatives he had to choose, I could not say.
Frankly, if the letter had come a few years before, I would have sent an answer back, telling my uncle, in a few words, just where he could go, but we are living in a period when beggars can’t be choosers and, for the past two or three years, since I lost my last job, I had been one of that class of unemployed which almost ranks with beggars. So, as I have already said, I reluctantly decided to go to Dalesboro at my uncle’s bidding.
I arrived at the little town late in the afternoon and dusk found me knocking at the door of my uncle’s home. The knock was answered by a gaunt, stoop-shouldered woman who at once led me upstairs, and in a moment I stood before my uncle. He was sitting in a wheel chair, a tall, bony, old man with a big white moustache and hard eyes; and when he saw me approach he motioned for me to sit down on the bed by the window. He looked me over appraisingly, but said nothing, and so I broke the silence, myself.
“I’m Burton Harwood,” I began, uselessly enough, for the housekeeper had, of course, announced me. “I got your letter, you know. Came as soon as I could.”
Uncle Lionel grunted, adjusted his spectacles and went on with his inspection. I was just beginning to fidget under his scrutiny when he spoke.
“Eh! You’re a lot like Ben! You’re a Harwood, through and through, fur as looks goes. Wonder if you’re Harwood inside?”
I laughed. “Why not ask some of the people down in the village? They’ll tell you soon enough how much of a Harwood I am, those that remember me.”
“Asked ‘em already,” came back Uncle Lionel, “Think I’m buyin’ a pig in a poke? I know jist about all there is to know about you. Now you listen here, Burton. I’m goin’ to die ‘fore long. Ain’t no doubt about it at all. I’ve had the best of doctors— better’n you dream—but they all said this old body of mine can’t go on forever.” He stopped to chuckle weakly at some obscure joke, and then went on: “So that’s why I called for you. I want some one to take charge of my things after I’m gone that kin mind their own business and do as they’re told. I got a lot of orders I want carried out and I want to be sure they’re tended to.
“That’s why I picked you, Burton. If you’re Harwood at all, you kin mind your own business and you kin carry out orders. Well, you carry out mine and you’ll profit by it. Yeh, you’ll profit by it.”
He hesitated as though spent with talking, and coughed weakly. Presently he spoke again.
“Queer orders I’ll give you. Queer orders. Things to do that’ll make you think I’m crazy. But you carry out them orders!”
I assured him that if he left any orders with me, they would be carried out to the letter. He spent the next ten minutes talking of inconsequential, as though he were still uncertain of whether to tell me what these important orders were. At last he made up his mind, apparently, for he leaned over toward me confidentially.
“Now, looky here, Burton. I’m goin’ to tell you what I want you to do after I’m gone. You listen to me! First off, I want you to get here, quick as ever you kin. Mrs. Layton, the housekeeper, will be here and I expect she’ll sorta take charge of things. But you gotta be here to make it legal and all. Well, here’s what I want you do. Y’see, I been converted to another religion. Wonderful truths in it, Burton, wonderful hope. Y’see, it teaches eternal life such as your religion never dreamed of. Eternal life, Burton, think of that!
“But our rites are queer. Yeh, damned queer to you! And damned queer they’d be to those folks down Dalesboro way. So I want you here to see to it that I’m buried in the way I should be. First off, I don’t want no undertaker foolin’ with me. No emba’min’. No layin’ out, see? Jist let me lie on that couch in the livin’ room, until Dr. Polzek comes.
“He’ll come sometime in a day or so after I die. Him and another one. Mighty fine people they are, and I hope you like ‘em. But you listen to me!” His voice grew suddenly harsh. “Whether you like ‘em or whether you don’t, you treat ‘em like r’yalty! Give ‘em the run of the estate, let ‘em do anything they want to, and after they seen to it that the proper rites is said over me, they’ll go away again. Then you bury me. I got a vault down in the corner of the estate, I’ll have it shown to you, and that’s where you bury me. None of our Christian burying’ grounds for me. And jist because the vault hasn’t any lock on the door is no reason for your havin’ one put on. You leave that vault jist as it is! Remember my beliefs about eternal life.
“Now that’s what you gotta do, Burton. You carry out them orders and the whole business is yours. Can you do that, Burton?” His voice dropped suddenly to a whine. “Will you do that for your old uncle?”
Queer instructions, truly. I wondered what strange religion my uncle had acquired, that he should make suck elaborate preparations for dying. None that I had ever heard of, certainly, and I had once made a hobby of reading up on various religions. Well, it was nothing to me, my question was whether I would want to carry out Lionel Harwood’s wishes or not. I did not answer my uncle at once, but when I did, it was to assure him that I would do as he wished.
My assent to his wishes seemed to cheer the old man wonderfully. He chuckled and rubbed his hands together, insisted on shaking hands with me several times, and at last invited me to have supper with him in his room. During the meal he presented me with an envelope, which, he said, contained in detail all the instructions he had already given me.
“Carry ‘em out to the last detail, Burton,” he instructed me. “You be mighty careful o’ that, now. Fer if you don’t, so help me Hannah, I’ll come back and haunt you. I mean it.”
With a smile at this threat, I promised the old man solemnly that his instructions would be carried out to the last letter. I assured him again, several times during the evening, and when at last I was ready to return to the cit, I found it necessary to assure him again.
Once back in Cincinnati, I continued the occupation that had taken up my time before journeying to see my uncle—that is, looking for work. There was a certain friend of mine named Harry Brandon, a queer, imaginative sot of a fellow, and to him, as well as to several others, I told the tale of my good fortune. I think anyone would have done the same, and of course, I fully expected Harry to shower me with effusive congratulations. Instead, he betrayed an intense interest in the details of my uncles’ strange orders.
“No undertaker,” he muttered, as I repeated the instructions I had been given. “Eternal life! Open vault!” He looked at me with a strange horror in his eyes and I knew that he had found something that appealed to that queer, mystic mind of his.
“Harwood,” he ejaculated, “don’t it seem horribly queer to you that your uncle should make these strange requests?”
I shook my head and asked him why he thought it should. He made no answer at the time, but later he met me on the street and handed me two books, begging me to read them. One of them was “Dracula” that famous horror tale by Bram Stoker, the other was a volume entitled “Vampirism, Old and New”, by a Dr. Elliott Pope. I took the volumes, more to ease Brandon’s mind than anything else, but that night, having nothing else to do, I sat up and read them both. Brandon’s inference was at once clear. He believed that my uncle expected to become a vampire after death, one of those strange undead creatures that are believed to leave their tombs during the night and prey upon the living.
Now I am no ignorant believer in every sort of superstition, but then, neither am I a crass materialist who believes only in what he sees. So I was not exactly prepared to laugh off the idea that Brandon had suggested to me. Nevertheless, I could not see just why I should attempt to bury this uncle of mine with a stake in his heart. I didn’t take the belief in vampires that seriously.
I did decide, however, to have an interview with that Dr. Pope who had written the second of Brandon’s books. He was a resident of Cincinnati, and lived not so very far from me, and I certainly would have sought him out, had not a telegram arrived, informing me of my uncle’s death and requesting my immediate presence in the house at Dalesboro.
HARRY Brandon actually trembled when he heard that I was going to Dalesboro. He insisted that I come to his house, and spent the best part of an evening trying to persuade me to give up the idea. When he found that I was determined to carry out my uncle’s wishes, he left the room and soon returned with a small package.
“You take this with you, Burton,” he begged. “There’s no telling what you’ll run up against. There’s a cross in here, and some rosemary and garlic. Take it, Burton! It can’t do you any harm, and it may save your very should.”
Well, I promised at last to take it, more to ease Brandon’s mind than anything else, and, afterward, when I packed my bag, I really did put it in, for after all, as he had said, it couldn’t do any harm.
The only persons that met me at my uncle Lionel’s were the grim old housekeeper and a strange old man that introduced himself as my uncle’s lawyer. This worth was much relieved at my arrival, and it took but little discernment to see that he was quite glad to be able to turn matters over tome. This he proceeded to do with great dispatch, and an hour after my arrival saw him rattling down the road in his old car, leaving me alone with Mrs. Layton and the body of my uncle.
And, truth to tell, I cannot say which was the better company. Whether it was due to sorrow at the old man’s death, to a strange bashfulness or to a dislike for me, I cannot say, but immediately after serving supper, the old housekeeper disappeared upstairs and I saw no more of her. This gave me little cause for worry, however; if she could get along without my company, I was sure I could get along without hers. I filled a pipe, sauntered into the living room, and, undeterred by the presence of my uncle’s corpse, composed myself to read.
I had been reading for some two hours, I imagine; night had come on and I had hardly noticed it, when suddenly I was aroused by a loud rapping on the old knocker at the front door. I started, for the last thing in the world that I was expecting tonight was visitors, but suddenly there flashed into my mind the strange party foretold by my uncle. I laid aside my book and hurried to the door, just as Mrs. Layton appeared on the stairs, herself bustling down to answer the knock. We reached the door at the same time and I stepped back to allow her to open the door, wondering, as I did so, just what strange people would appear when the door was opened. You see, the seeds that Harry Brandon had sown had not fallen on entirely sterile ground, and my mind was still full of “Dracula” and the tales of Dr. Pope.
If I had been expecting something ghastly, I would have been doomed to disappointment. However, my mind, filled with the stories I had read, was picturing a cultured, suave, cold-eyed creature, probably in evening clothes and with a deep look of mystery in his eyes.
Neither of the men who stood before me answered very well to this description. The foremost was tall, it is true, and cultured-looking, too, but he was clad in a dark business suit, not too well pressed, his dark eyes glistened with good humor and already he was extending a gloved hand toward me. His companion, shorter and heavier than he, might have answered the description of a creature of the night better, for there was a sort of sadistic humor in his grin that I at once disliked. But that was all that I could find to dislike about him.
“Mr. Burton Harwood isn’t it?” the foremost man was asking. “Your uncle informed me, before his regrettable death, that I should meet you here. You have been expecting us, eh?”
I acknowledged that I had been expecting them and, throng, led the way into the library. As we came into the lighted room I noticed that the smaller of the two men was engaged in a low-toned conversation wit Mrs. Layton. The other man noticed it, too, and I saw a slight frown pass over his countenance.
“Well, Mrs. Layton,” he said, and the frown disappeared at once. “I expect you’ll be looking for a new place now, won’t you? Perhaps I’ll be able to find something for you.” He turned to me and went on, apologetically: “Mrs. Layton is an old friend of ours, you know. I was instrumental in getting her this place with Mr. Harwood.”
He had removed his hat and gloves by this time and now suddenly remarked: “But, I say! I haven’t even introduced myself yet. Allow me. I am the Dr. Andrey Polzek, and my friend here is Mr. Nicolas Marius.”
I bowed and pointed to a chair. Dr. Polzek seated himself, and after Marius and I were also seated, he at once began to explain the reason for his being here.
“Though I may not look it,” he announced with a deprecating smile, “I am the high-priest of a very old but little know religion. Your uncle came to that part of the world in which we live, some twenty five years ago, and was, after a time, converted to our beliefs. The sincerity with which he accepted our religion is evidenced by the fact that he made these arrangements to be buried according to our rites. I suppose he left you instructions to allow us to hold the proper ceremonies?”
I nodded affirmatively.
“Yes, indeed. He gave me instructions to allow you to come and go as you please until the ceremonies of the burial are completed. The entire place is yours.”
Dr. Polzek gave a pleased smile.
“I am sure we will bother you very little,” he remarked. “Indeed, you would find us very grateful if you would interrupt us as little as possible. And if you should hear any strange sounds during the night, please do not investigate. Some of our most sacred and secret rites are performed after midnight.”
“Well, that was one way of telling me that I was not wanted at whatever queer ceremonies they intended to perform. I assured the doctor and his silent companion that I would not interfere in their ceremonies. Indeed, there was till enough distrust lingering in my mind to cause me to have little desire to attend their ceremonies; in fact, I felt that the less I had to do with them, the better.
We sat talking for some time after this, and I found these two excellent conversationalists, at least. The doctor revealed himself as one who had traveled widely, and I found him a mine of information on subjects which I had long wanted to know about. Even Marius opened up after a while and regaled us with several funny stories which, in spite of the fact that they were decidedly out of place in this house and too, betrayed a certain viciousness, nevertheless, made me roar with laughter. I offered to get them some supper, but they both assured me they had eaten. Some strange idea in my head made me insist that they at least partake of tea and sandwiches, but as I had rather expected, they refused even this. At last the doctor hesitantly informed me that the ceremonies over my uncle must soon begin, so I took the hint and suggested that I retire. I first showed the others the rooms that were reserved for guests, and leaving them with Mrs. Layton, retired to the room next to the one which had formerly been occupied by my uncle. This room was on the second floor, and my uncle’s body lay on the first floor, so I felt that there would be little chance of me disturbing these strange men in their ceremonies.
It was not easy for me to go to sleep. It would not have been easy for you, under similar circumstances. Long after I had turned out the light, I lay staring at the ceiling and wondering at the strange wishes of my uncle. A thousand questions flocked into my mind and departed, unanswered and it must have been nearly two o’clock before I finally began to doze. And then a droning sing-song voice began to arise from the floor below. I was awake again in a moment, and in spite of myself I listened, but I was unable to hear anything that I could understand.
Now I believe that I have already stated that I once made a hobby of studying strange religions. So the reader will probably understand if I say that I gradually grew more and more curious as to the nationality of the language that was being droned on so interminably downstairs. At last, I decided that, inasmuch as the strangers had no consideration for me, I would at least make an attempt to learn a little more of them. I arose, determined to step out in the hallway and listen to a part of the ceremony. I did open the door, but I had no sooner stepped through than I was almost frightened out of my wits by a sudden voice at my elbow.
“Please, Mr. Harwood,” it said, and to my surprise I recognized it as the voice of Mrs. Layton. “Please remember your promise. Surely you would not disturb the gentlemen now, during this most sacred of moments, would you? Please return to your room. I’m sure your uncle would wish it.”
Rather sheepishly I turned, and, muttering an apology, re-entered my room. Once within it, though, I had time to wax indignant and, indeed, a little frightened. Evidently Mrs. Layton was one of these people. And also, it seemed that they intended to make sure that I did not interfere with whatever strange rites were carried on. Mrs. Layton had, quite obviously, been placed outside of my room to see that I remained in it.
Of course, after that, sleep was impossible. And, of course, my curiosity was, if anything, greater than ever. I could still hear the interminable chanting voice from below, and now it began to take on a triumphant note, and I began to be able to detect one word, an oft-repeated one, that occurred again and again during the ceremony and that seemed, from the intonation used, to be a proper name, perhaps the name of the god invoked. This was the word, “Pseton”. Of course this told me nothing, unless it was some queer form of “Satan”. Was it possible that my uncle had become a devil-worshipper? Finally I made up my mind that I simply must hear this ritual from a more favorable location.
To leave the room and again go out in the hallway was, of course, out the question, but it suddenly came to me that a balcony ran along the front of the house and that it would be possible for me to reach the room formerly occupied by my uncle, by using this balcony. The door to this room of my uncle’s was right at the head of the stairs, and by listening at this door, I could probably hear a good deal without going out into the hall and risking another reproof from the grim, gaunt, old housekeeper.
So taking up a flashlight, I cautiously opened the French window and stepped out on the balcony and over to my uncle’s room. The window here was opened, and so, without lighting my flashlight, I stole quietly in, and was suddenly aware that the chanting had ceased. Oh, well, I thought, it would soon begin again. I stepped toward the door, and then was suddenly aware of a dark form that bent over an old trunk of my uncle’s. My heart flew into my mouth, and, stricken with sudden panic, without once thinking, I turned the flashlight upon it. It rose and turned toward me—and then a wave of horripilation swept over me, and I shrieked with terror, flung my hands before my face to shut out the sight before me, and sped back to my room in all the agonies of a waking nightmare. I swung the window shut, and spying Harry Brandon’s package lying on the table where it had lain since my arrival, I tore it open and wit fingers that trembled so that I could hardly hold it, I seized the cross and crammed it through the latch to lock the window.
Then, like a little child frightened at the dark, I dived into the bed, covered myself, head and all, with the covers and lay trembling—trembling—in the darkness. For the thing that had turned and faced me had been the corpse-white figure of my Uncle Lionel!
THE remainder of the night was the longest period of time I ever lived through. As I lay, trying to convince myself that it had only been a horrent nightmare that I had experienced, the droning voice of the creature that called himself Dr. Polzek again began to ascend from below. After a while, I began to hear responses chanted by Marius, and the—it still chills me to tell of it—by another voice, too; the cracked old voice of Lionel Harwood. At last the voices ceased, and the litany was succeeded by a silence that was more terrible than the ritual that preceded it. I lay in terror, momentarily expecting to hear footsteps without my door and to see again the form of my uncle or, what would have been just as terrible, the dread creature that was his master. For long hours I lay, and at last the first faint streaks of dawn appeared in the sky, and light began to filter in at the window. Yet it was long after daylight when I dared to leave my bed and venture out into the hallway. And when I did, I wore a sprig of dried rosemary in my buttonhole, and in my hand I carried the cross that had barred the window during the night.
The hallway was deserted, downstairs there were no signs of my dread guests, and it was with a peculiar feeling of disgust and horror that I approached the room where Lionel Harwood had lain. Sure enough, the bier was empty—the body was gone! I turned and fled out into the garden behind the house, with a vague hope that the sunlight and fresh air would restore me somehow to the sanity of that materialistic world in which I had hitherto lived in such security. I had no doubt left in my mind at all, now, that my uncle and those other creatures were other than normal. The fact that they had disappeared with the coming of day was alone enough to convince me of that.
And then—as though to challenge my thoughts—there was my Uncle Lionel, in broad daylight, with the sun shining full upon that abnormally pale face of his, pottering among his flowers as he had often done, doubtless, before he died!
For a moment I stared at him as though I expected him to vanish like a figment of the imagination, then I raised the cross against him and began backing away toward the house. His voice suddenly stopped me.
“Put that thing down, you droned fool. Don’t be afeard o’ me. Think I’m a haunt or somethin’? Control yourself. Ain’t no use getting’ all het up over this thing. Wait a minute and let me explain. Shucks, lad, I’m almost as alive as you are. Don’t run away, Burton.”
His voice was so normal, so like the Lionel Harwood that I had met before, that my fears began to die. I turned and faced him, but I do not doubt that some fear still showed in my face. He chuckled.
“Don’t be afeared, lad,” he repeated. “What’s the matter? I don’t look like a ghost, do I?’ Pretty solid lookin’ ghost,” and he looked down at his gangling form.
“You were dead, Uncle Lionel,” I answered, still a trifle fearfully. “And the dead aren’t supposed to return. And—well, I’ve been reading a lot about vampires lately.”
“Vampires!” The old man literally spat the word out. Then he went on, a trifle more calmly: “Vampires be durned! Who ever heard of a vampire walkin’ around in broad day light? Looky here, Burton. Here’s what’s doin’ fer me.”
With a deft movement, he flung off his coat and turned his back to me. I had thought that m uncle seemed more stoop-shouldered than ever, and now I saw the reason for it. Fastened to his back was a queer flat object that, covered by his coat had given him that stooped appearance. And out of that bundle came several wires and two thick tubes that entered his neck, just below the hair!
“There you are, Burton. That’s the ting that’s keepin’ me alive, the thing that enabled Dr. Polzek to restore me. Vitalizer, it’s called, and it’s the greatest invention ever conceived by man. “Course, ‘tain’t perfected yet, and I ‘spect you’ll find a lot o’ queer things about your old uncle. But shucks! ‘tain’t superstition and old wives’ tales that’s keepin’ me alive. It’s science, pure and simple!”
Well, I felt a little foolish. Here I had been closely connected with the development of one of the greatest scientific wonders of an age of wonders, and, frightened by the raving of a superstitious friend, I had chosen to look upon the work of a scientist as something supernatural and horrible. But I was interest, now, and when Uncle Lionel returned to the room where, only yesterday, he had lain, a corpse, I went with him. And there, obviously having just arisen, were Dr. Polzek and Marius. They seemed surprised to see me with my uncle, but quickly concealing it, they asked me what I thought of my uncle’s recovery.
I congratulated the doctor on his wonderful work and asked him if he and his friend would join me at breakfast. They demurred, saying that they had all eaten just before I arose, and so I was forced to eat alone. Mrs. Layton served me in the kitchen, excusing herself by pointing out that nothing was as usual in the house, and as if to illustrate, mentioned the depleted state of the larder. This gave me a chance to suggest that I go to the village for food, for I was anxious to get away for a while to think over the many things that had happened in the last twenty hours. The housekeeper agreed gladly, and so, later in the morning, I excused myself to Uncle Lionel and his friends and, taking one of the cars from the garage, I drove off.
Arriving at the village, I was about to enter the grocery store when a shrill, cheery voice suddenly halted me.
“Hello, there, Burty Harwood! Guess you don’t know your old friends anymore since you inherited your uncle’s property, eh?”
The owner of the voice had come up behind me, and as she fell in beside me and entered the grocery, I saw that it was a Mrs. Hawks, an old dweller in the village and long known as a gossip. And it did not take a minute in her presence to show me that she was still laboring to preserve her reputation.
“Has your uncle been buried yet?” she started off, and then, not waiting for a reply, rambled on: “Too bad, him bein’ taken off the way he was. But the, we all got to die, sooner or later, and he’d ‘bout lived out his three score and ten, hadn’t he? How you been feelin’ lately, Burty? And how’s all the folks down to Cincinnati?” She hesitated long enough for me to assure her that such of my relatives as lived in the city were quite well, and then she began again:
“Well, I wish I could say as much for myself. I been feelin’ pretty poor, here lately. Just come from the doctor, I did, and I must say it seems he ought to know his business a little better than he does. Y’see, I been feelin’ so weak and washed out, last few days, it just seemed I couldn’t drag around, and when I had him examine me, he says he’s sure I’ve lost a lot of blood lately. Why, shucks, I ain’t lost a mite o’ blood for a coon’s age. “Cept for a little scratch I got on my neck, day before yesterday. Funny thing about that there—I don’t know how I got that scratch. I woke up, day before yesterday morning and there it was on my neck, with a little trickle o’ blood where it had bled durin’ the night. Somethin’ bit me, I guess, but land o’ livin’, I couldn’ta lost enough blood to make me feel run down like this.”
A sort of chill ran through me as I listened to her rambling talk. For the first time, it came to me that all the fine talk of Uncle Lionel’s might have been a blind to lull my suspicions. Was it possible that after all– My thoughts were interrupted by the grocer, who had, along with me been listening to Mrs. Hawks’s conversation and who now interrupted her.
“Well now, that’s funny, Mrs. Hawks. Same think has happened to me. I been feelin’ all run down, too, last day or two, and I couldn’t account for it, neither. And look at here!” He raised his head and pointed to his neck, and there, just over his jugular vein, were two tiny scabs where apparently, some small animal had bitten him.
“Just exactly like mine,” ejaculated Mrs. Hawks. “Looks like somethin’s been bitin’ us. Wonder what it is.”
I made no answer. Mumbling some kind of excuse I turned and left the store in a daze. I had seen marks much like that once before—on my own arm, once, when I had allowed a pint of blood to be taken from me in a vain effort to save a certain friend’s life. My last lingering doubt was gone—in spite of the suave explanation offered me by my uncle, I was convinced that the entire party at my uncle’s house was vampires. Yet, what could I do about it? I could not attempt to cope with them all, especially as they seemed to have, for some strange reason, the power of living by day as well as by night. I determined that I must have some help, and I racked my brain to think of someone who would help me. None of the villagers, certainly—my mind flew to Harry Brandon, but the memory of his fear made me realize that in attempting to cope with these creatures, he would be worse than useless.
And then, suddenly I remembered that there was living in Cincinnati that Dr. Pope whose book had entertained me before I had come here to Dalesboro. I determined to return at once to the city, to seek him out and to lay the entire case before him. I entered the machine and at once started on a wild drive to Cincinnati.
After about two hours of driving, I reached the city and, looking up Dr. Pope’s residence in the directory, I was soon ringing the doorbell at his home. A round little man with a florid face and pale muttonchop whiskers answered the ring and at once bade me welcome. He listened intently as I told my story, and I must confess that I was surprised that he showed no signs of surprise or disbelief at all. Instead, he grew more and more excited as my story progressed, and when I mentioned the name of “Pseton”, that word I had heard invoked during the ceremony over my uncle’s body, his excitement burst all bounds. He did not wait for me to finish my story; he rushed from the room and returned at once with his hat and a large suitcase.
“Can you take me there? Will you take me there, at once?”
I assured him that that was the sole reason I had come to Cincinnati, and his delight knew no bounds.
“A lucky break at last,” he mumbled, as we rushed out to the car. “Oh, if only we’re in time. If only we’re in time.”
Puzzled, I asked him to explain himself, but it was not until we were comfortably seated in the car and once more on the way to Dalesboro that he attempted to speak again. Then he cleared his throat as though making ready for an extended lecture.
“In the first place,” he stated, “there really are a class of creatures that have long been known as vampires. I take it that you already believe this, don’t you?”
I hesitatingly acknowledged that I did, although, I told him, I rather disliked to admit a belief in the supernatural.
“Nothing supernatural about it al all,” he exclaimed, surprisingly. “Wait until you hear the entire story and you’ll agree with me. Your uncle told you the truth, as much as he told you. But wait until you have heard the entire thing.”
And then, as we traveled along on the road to that old village, Dr. Pope told me the story of the minions of Huanapur.
I don’t want you to get the idea (said Dr. Pope) that this is just a theory. It is fact, fact that has taken many years of investigation to prove, and the constant labor of many men. I belong to a society that originated in Germany some twenty-five years ago. It was founded by a man who had had an experience that seemed to transcend science, an experience that seemed to be proof that some of the tales of folk-lore and superstition had a basis in fact. The man of whom I speak was a scientist of the highest grade, and the idea of supernatural phenomenon was utterly incredible. Yet, after a while, this scientist came to believe that there really were a class of beings that came close to being the vampires of legend—immortal, undead things that lived by bleeding the living! He organized a few of his colleagues, and with their help, he set about to discover all that he could of these creatures, and if necessary, to drive them from the earth. That organization has grown in the ensuing years, and you would be surprised if I told you of the men that belong to it. Some of them are world-famous. I, fortunately, am one of the prominent members. We have found out much, but as our founder realized long ago, if we wish to fight these creatures, we much keep our organization a secret. That is why you have never heard of us. But now that you have learned so much of these creatures, I do not hesitate to tell you the truth. Years of geological and anthropological research have gone into proving these facts.
Thousands of years before the dawn of written history, the great valley where the Mediterranean Sea now lies was largely land. The great glacier which had covered the northern lands for so long was gradually retreating, but it still held so much of the water of the oceans in its frozen grip that the level of the sea was much lower than it is today; so much lower, in fact, that the straits of Gibraltar were an isthmus, and it was not possible for the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to flow in and inundate that great valley. So, instead of a great sea, there were only two small lakes, one to the east of what is now Italy, and one to the west. And about the eastern of these lakes arose the first civilization that the world had known.
Tlan-Ti, these people called their land, and I leave to your own imagination whether it could be considered the original Atlantis or not. At any rate, there was the land and there was the people, and there, too, was Pseton, the god whom they worshipped.
(I started. This was the first intimation of a connection between Dr. Pope’s story and my own adventures.)
The government of this land was a hierocracy, the priests were all-powerful, and, among these priests, the high priest was an absolute autocrat. The priests were also the doctors, and as human sacrifices were offered up continually, they soon managed to attain a considerable knowledge of the human anatomy. They early discovered the circulation of the blood, and later learned much of its composition. Indeed, after some thousands of years of study, they had reached a point where they knew far more concerning it than we do today. Would you believe me if I told you that that experiment of keeping a dog’s head alive after it had been cut off (which our scientists considered such a wonder, a few years ago), was performed in Tlan-Ti ten thousand years ago? Yet so it was, and even here those old priests did not stop!
There came a time when the country was ruled over by a hierophant who surpassed all the others in his wisdom. Huanapur, his name was, and it was he who, ascending to the highest rank while still a young man, managed to keep the head of his predecessor alive for a period of many months. This experiment gave him a wonderful idea; he spent the remainder of his life seeking for a method whereby he might keep the whole body alive indefinitely.
He was an old man when he gave up this idea. For some reason or other, it was impossible to keep the ordinary parts of the body alive over periods much longer than a century or two. But the brain, a healthy brain, that is, really seemed to possess the ability to live indefinitely. Huanapur was forced at last, as he grew older, to seek about for some way to preserve his body after death, in order that his brain might continue to live. In this he was successful, he discovered marvelous preservatives, he discovered electric means of vitalizing his nerves and when at last his body died, his brain lived on, and by the mechanical means that he had discovered, still controlled his dead body. Of course the brain, being a living thing required food and the food of the brain is blood, but this was something over which Huanapur worried very little. The daily human sacrifices supplied him with plenty of that necessity and as long as he remained priest of Pseton, there was no danger of his brain lacking plenty of blood. Weekly, he allowed the old blood to pass out of the tank which he carried on his back, while fresh blood, drained from the veins of the latest victim of the sacrifices was drawn into the tube that passed into his neck. Then the tank would be sealed again, and the high priest would be safely alive for another week. At first the motor that pumped the blood through his veins must have been crude in the extreme, but as time went on, he improved it again and again, until at last it was hardly noticeable, a mere flat bundle on his back.
Years passed, hundreds of years, and the time came when Huanapur was looked upon by the people of Tlan-Ti as almost the equal of Pseton. He was obviously immortal, and just as obviously, he had all the attributes of a relentless deity. The world was slowly progressing spiritually, already the majority of the people objected secretly to the daily human sacrifices, but Huanapur, if anything was more bloodthirsty than ever.
And good reason he had, too, for he now had companions as immortal as he. It was evident that he could not live through dozens of generations without forming friendships for some of his priests, and occasionally he chose some one of them to share his immortality. And so his company grew, and as it grew, it became necessary to have more and more blood to feed them. And then came the day when, to the people of Tlan-Ti, it seemed as if Nature itself turned to punish Huanapur and the people that had tolerated him.
The northern ice-pack had been melting for centuries, the water in the outer sea had risen slowly, and at last it rose above the level of the isthmus that held it from the great valley. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster, the waters of first the western and then the eastern lakes began to rise. First the cities by the sea shore were inundated and then the villages farther up in the hills. The orderly retreat that, at first, was little more than an emigration became at last a rout, a wild, disordered flight that ended for many by the water’s catching up with them and drowning them. But many escaped into Greece and Egypt and Asia Minor, there to leave legends of a great flood that persist to this day. Perhaps you remember the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon? Of course, he was a memory of Pseton. But this was not the only land where Pseton was to reappear in a new guise. For among the thousands that managed to escape the flood were Huanapur and his blood-hungry minions. They had fled the country early, leaving their countrymen to get out as best they could, and had settled in the highlands of Asia Minor. There they found a race living, a crude uncivilized race, of Mongoloid descent, and these people welcomed them and worshipped them as gods. Some little civilization they brought to these fold, and soon they were once more the priesthood of a thriving religion. These people were the Kheta of the Egyptians, the Hittites of the Bible and to their thick tongues the name of Pseton was unpronounceable, and so to them, the name became Shai-Tong. The sacrificing of humans was begun again on a large scale (who can say how Huanapur and his creatures had been living since the debacle at Tlan-Ti?), and once more the high-priest took up his ancient form of living.
By the dawn of history, we find the Hittites already a mighty nation, yet, strangely enough to one who does not know these facts, all the people around them execrate them and are constantly at war with them. And their foul god, Pseton that still reveled in human sacrifice had become the god of evil of many people. Shaitan, the Arabs of the desert called him, Satan he was to the Hebrews, and even the Egyptians execrated him as Set. And his three pointed spear, which persisted in Greece as the trident—even today we picture Satan as armed with a pitchfork, do we not?
All during the period of Egyptian and Assyrian greatness, we find those early nations at war with the Hittites, but it was the influx of Aryans from the north that at last drove Huanapur and his crew out of Asia Minor. They were forced farther east, and at last found themselves in what is now Khorossan. The lived here for centuries, no longer the lords of a great nation but still able to persuade the people with whom they lived to yield to them their terrible sacrifices. I rather suspect, although I have no proof, that it was Huanapur who, under the name of Mokanna, became known to history as the “Veiled Prophet of Khorossan”. Undoubtedly, too, it was he or some one of his creatures that was the basis for the legends of the “Wandering Jew” and such tales. Be that as it may, when the Turks at last invaded Europe, Huanapur and his minions, probably a hundred strong by this time, invaded Europe with them. They had affiliated themselves with that group that eventually became known as the Magyars, and so it is from that people that we learn of the thousand and one superstitions that have sprung up about them in the many centuries of their existence. Of course, you will readily see that all that business about the crosses, the hold water, rosemary and garlic are just so much nonsense, as well as the belief that they must retire to the grave at dawn. But there is one odd thing that I must tell here, and that is how they got their present name. You see, the name Huanapur long ago came to be applied to all his band, and though it was been corrupted by the many languages it has passed through, it has not been changed beyond all recognition. “Wampur”, the early Magyars called them, – “wampyr”, they call them today, and this word, coming to us through the French, has given us our word “vampire”!
It has been a thousand years, at least, since Pseton-worship at last disappeared from the earth. Since then the vampires have had to scatter, they have lived by murder, by haunting the battlefields of wars and by actually sucking the blood from sleeping people in the manner of the true vampire bat. Many of them have not succeeded in getting the blood that they needed—these, of course, died—died of starvation just as any other mortal would. But Huanapur has continued to live and to add to the number of his servants, until today there are, perhaps, over two hundred vampires scattered over the face of the earth. But of all these, Huanapur is the only one who possesses the secret of how to perform the delicate operation that keeps the brain alive. He has persisted through all the many centuries and still today his accursed work goes on. Who can say how many thousand innocents have perished to satisfy his terrible lust for life? Who can say how many more may yet perish, if we are not prompt in our duty today? For the fact that your uncle was revived in the way you say proves that your Dr. Polzek is Huanapur, without a doubt.
(Dr. Pope was silent for a moment. Then he went on.)
When the founder of our association organized us to fight these creatures, he knew little of the facts that I have told you. They have all been discovered in the intervening years. And in that time, more than one vampire has been cornered and slain. But of Huanapur, we have never had a trace. It almost seemed as if the demon was cognizant of our plans, and was avoiding us. But now you come, telling me of the presence of one who could be non other than he.
It only remains to see if I am a match for him. . .
Dr. Pope’s history had taken some time to relate and by the time that he finished, we were on the outskirts of Dalesboro. Her I stopped the car and asked him if he had devised any plan of action to be taken in our movements against these creatures. He answered hesitantly.
“I don’t know just what Huanapur is capable of,” he said. “Other vampires have been captured, as I told you, and some of them seemed to possess a remarkable control over the forces of nature. Huanapur, no doubt, has means of protection of which we are entirely ignorant. If I could get him to betray some of his methods, I might better tell whether I could cope with him or not.”
“Why not go up to the house as my guest?” I suggested. “Meet the doctor and see if you can draw him out?”
“Perhaps that’s the best idea,” Pope admitted, doubtfully. “At least, it’s the only plan I can think of, on such short notice.”
So, a few minutes later we swung into the drive that led to my uncle’s house and drew up at the door. My uncle opened it, and frowned as he saw that I had brought another with me.
“Great Scott, Burton, this here’s no time to be havin’ visitors. What do you mean by trottin’ some stranger in here to interrupt Dr. Polzek’s experiments? Who in time is this feller, anyhow?”
He was interrupted by the suave Dr. Polzek, who stepped up behind him and laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“Please!” he said softly. “Don’t get excited, Mr. Harwood. Never get excited—it’s not good for you in your present delicate state. I know the gentleman Burton has brought. How do you do, Dr. Pope?”
Pope frowned. “You know me, eh? Well, I’ve never had the good fortune to meet you before; Dr. Polzek, but I know you by reputation. Yes, I know you by reputation.”
Dr. Polzek smiled genially. “I trust, then, that my reputation among your friends is a good one,” he said, and turning, led the way into the house. That he knew Pope, and knew that hew was here to do battle with him was obvious from the intonation, if not the words, and the only explanation that I could think of for his continued good nature was the fact that he apparently believed Dr. Pope to be a foeman unworthy of his notice.
I began an explanation of Dr. Pope’s presence (I had trumped up some story about his being a medical friend of mine who was worried about the state of my health), but Polzek waved me to silence.
“We need no explanation of Dr. Pope’s presence here, my dear Harwood,” he said, and for the first time I noted a contemptuous note in his voice. “He is welcome to us all, I am sure.” He turned to the others, who by now had joined us, and they all agreed with him, even Uncle Lionel grudgingly bidding him make himself at home. We seated ourselves in the living room and in a few minutes the others had fallen into the liveliest kind of a conversation. In spite o the tension under which I labored, there was noting in the conversation that I could see that was more than any other talk that a group of friendly well-educated men might hold.
It began with the usually inconsequential nothings, turned to a discussion of the practice of medicine in Cincinnati, and drifted to an argument between Dr. Pope and Polzek on those strange borderland cases which might be either pathological or psychological in their development. From here on my tension, if possible, increased for I could see that there was a definite trend in the talk an that both men were endeavoring to bring it to a head.
Dr. Pope, rather to my surprise, took a decidedly materialistic stand in his argument, and at first I was at a loss to understand why. At last it dawned on me that he was using this method to attempt to draw out the vampire, to get him to divulge those secrets that he suspected him of possessing. But his method, it seemed to me, was a rather crude one, and that Dr. Polzek realized his motive, too, was plain, for his smile grew supercilious and his talk grew more arrogant than ever.
“Your narrow stand, my dear Pope,” he almost sneered, “can only be attributed to ignorance. Had you seen, as I have seen, the mysteries in the temples of Llasa, the Forbidden City, you would hardly speak as you have. Could you even realize the advances in science that have been achieved by those of my own little known religion, it would astonish you. I could tell you of—”
Dr. Pope interrupted him.
“I have never seen any of these remarkable phenomenons, doctor. And until I do, frankly, I will not believe in them.”
Polzek arose from the arm-chair he had been occupying and: “It is quite evident, Dr. Pope,” he said, “that you are one of those gentlemen that must be shown. I have seen those wonders that I spoke of, I have learned much of them, and—well, here is a little demonstration that even you must admit is not in the usual vein.”
He stood, raising his arms above his head, with that look of supercilious superiority still upon his face. From somewhere about him a dull humming began to be manifest, a humming that, never rising in volume, nevertheless rose in pitch until it was as shrill as that sound heard sometimes from an old-fashioned peanut roaster. Then—suddenly—he rose straight above us, straight into the air, hung over our heads for a moment, and sank to the floor behind us. I heard Marius give vent to a huge sigh, as though his breath ha been held until it could be held no longer; and then Polzek returned to his place at the arm-chair and, without remark, motioned us to silence.
Again he raised his arms, and this time the humming sound rose until it passed entirely beyond the range of human perception. Nothing happened immediately after that, one could imagine that vibration rising higher and higher—and the creature that called himself Dr. Polzek was gone! There was not the slightest sign that he had ever existed. For a moment, I stared, open-mouthed, at the place where he had been, and then I heard a stumbling sound and a soft laugh behind me.
“Perhaps you can explain these phenomena, eh, Dr. Pope?”
I looked at Pope and he was pale as a sheet. Yet he answered, bravely and so convincingly that even I believed him: “Hypnotism,” he exclaimed, lightly. “It’s a common thing in the Orient. I’ve run a cross it a dozen times in my investigations. I’m afraid, doctor, that you’ll have to put on a more convincing show than that, if you wish me to believe in extra-normal phenomena.”
Dr. Polzek bowed.
“Perhaps I shall, before you leave, Dr. Pope,” he said casually. “Perhaps I shall.”
The conversation seemed to lag after that, apparently each of the doctors had accomplished his intent and so, shortly afterward, I suggested that Dr. Pope come with me to my room, which I had offered to share with him during the night. He took his bag, and together we went upstairs. Once in the privacy of our room, Dr. Pope hesitated no longer in showing his anxiety.
“There was no hypnotism to that business,” he informed me, tensely. “Every bit of that was real! Remember, Huanapur has lived for nearly ten thousand years; remember, he was a scientist of no mean ability before even the dawn of history—who knows what natural wonders he has discovered in that time? Levitation has been known to the Orient for centuries, and the trick of invisibility can hardly be denied as impossible by the most conservative of scientist. Lord only knows what other tricks he has up his sleeve. I tried to draw him out all I could, and—well, I’ve learned something of his methods. We’ll have to watch ourselves tonight, Harwood. He knows who I am, and what I represent, that’s certain. And the fact that he has shown no fear that, in fact, he is so confident, convinces me that he intends to account for me if he can. He’s out to get us, I’m afraid, Harwood.”
He was. We found it out sooner than we expected, for when we tried to leave our room, some time later, we were greeted in the hall by the creature who called himself Mr. Marius.
“Your pardon, gentlemen,” he said, with that evil, sadistic grin of his. “Dr. Polzek requests that you do not leave your room for a while. He is engaged in an important experiment and is afraid that you might interrupt it. Would you return to your room please? I assure you that you will have ample evidence of Dr. Polzek’s powers later on.”
This last was said in such an offensive tone that I was about to answer hotly when I noticed that he was holding his hand in his coat pocket, and the bulge showed plainly that he was holding a revolver. He glanced down to where I was looking and grinned again.
“Please,” he said again, and, unable to think of a fitting answer to that threat in his pocket, I turned and followed Dr. Pope, who had already started back into the room
“It seems we’re prisoners,” I said bitterly, “What do they expect to do with us, do you suppose?”
Dr. Pope was opening his bag as he answered.
“Give them their way and we’ll be food for them, just as thousands of others have been,” he answered grimly. “Any other way out of this room?”
I nodded silently and pointed to the window. Pope finished opening his bag, drew out two pistols and a long knife, and, handing one of the pistols to me, hurried over to the window and peered out.
“Nobody out there yet,” he muttered, “Can we get downstairs any way, out there.”
“I’m afraid not. The balcony just leads to my uncle’s room and the door to that room leads to this same hallway. That’s why they haven’t bothered to guard the balcony.”
Dr. Pope opened the window and stepped out upon the balcony. After a second: “We may be able to do it after all,” he said, “Don’t worry, Harwood. If Dr. Polzek’s experiment is what I think it is, we may have a better advantage than I had hoped for.”
We stepped to the end of the balcony. Here a huge Virginia creeper crawled up the side of the wall and, climbing out on this, Dr. Pope began a hazardous descent to the ground. I followed, and in a few minutes we were once more on the ground. A few minutes later and Dr. Pope had stolen around to the back of the house and was entering the kitchen door, with me stepping softly at his heels.
We moved softly through the house, and approached the living room on tip-toe.
“Don’t hesitate to use your gun,” the doctor breathed in my ear. “Remember the creatures you’re dealing with, and don’t hesitate to use it, even on your uncle.”
The next moment we were at the door to the room in which the vampires were. Fortunately, the door was covered with heavy portieres and we were able to peer into the room without being seen.
“Thought so,” I heard Pope’s low whisper, and looking past him, I beheld a queer and horrifying sight. On the bier where my uncle had lain, but a short day before, was the unconscious form of a stranger. That he was some unfortunate wanderer who had, probably, come to the house during the day was evident from the clothes that he wore. He had probably been concealed during all the time that we had been conversing, and the use to which he was being put was quite clear. For Huanapur (or Dr. Polzek, as I have been calling him) was lying beside him, in what appeared to be a semi-conscious state, while from a machine on the vampire’s back, which was identical with that which I had seen on Uncle Lionel’s, ran a long thin hose to the neck of the stranger. It was held there by Mrs. Layton, who stooped eagerly over the form of her master, and gently, even tenderly, watched as the blood was being transferred. And leaning over her shoulder was Uncle Lionel, carefully studying the manner of the transfer.
Just what Pope’s plans were, and how he intended to bring matters to a climax, I cannot tell, for my Uncle Lionel suddenly looked up, and his sharp old eyes spied us. The next instant he gave a terrible cry of rage and, rushing to the door, flung the draperies aside and revealed us standing there. Even as his gnarled old hands flung aside the curtains, Dr. Pope leaped upon him.
“Get the woman!” I heard him cry. “Get her, Harwood. Remember what she is!”
I rushed over to the bier, and seizing the creature that stood over Huanapur and his unfortunate victim, tore her away from her work. She turned on me like a fury, and in a moment, I felt her hands on my face—cold hands! The hands of a creature long, long dead! I reached up and tore them away from my face, seized her in a grip of iron and slowly bent her back. As I did I looked into her eyes, and a thrill of horror swept over me at what I read there. They were expressive eyes, I realized suddenly—Oh, such expressive eyes!—the eyes of one who has lived for ages, who has seen everything that could be seen and known all there was to know. My head swam as I looked, time seemed to stop, to speed forward, to stop again– Dimly I heard a shot ring out, I heard Pope’s voice at a great distance, but still I looked into the eyes of Mrs. Layton. I have since talked with many men who are authorities on hypnotism, and one and all, they tell me that if a person does not wish it, he cannot be hypnotized. There is no way, they say, – eh, well! Mrs. Layton knew a way, as I can testify.
I think I had almost lapsed into unconsciousness when I was jolted to my senses by a terrific blow on the back. I tumbled to the floor and felt someone step over me—it was Dr. Pope, who, having dispatched my uncle, had hurried to assist me.
I sat up and dazedly looked around. By the door lay Uncle Lionel in a perfect welter of blood; his back was toward me and I could see that the tubes that entered his head had been severed. I sickened at the sight, yet there was a certain comfort in knowing that one of these cursed creatures was out of the way. I turned my attention to Dr. Pope and saw for the first time that he was engaged in a battle with the woman. He had tossed his revolver away, why, I do not know,– it must have been almost useless in fighting these creatures who had but a single vital spot—but he now had that wicked-looking knife of his in his hand, and with it he was attempting to engage the housekeeper. But she had adroitly placed herself beyond the bier, and for the moment at least, was safe.
I was about to rise to my feet when the drapes at the door were suddenly swept aside and Marius rushed into the room. In his left hand he was brandishing a pistol, the one, probably, with which he had threatened us, while in his right he was swinging a huge sword, some relic of my uncle’s, no doubt, but withal a might dangerous weapon.
Almost like a flash of genius was the sudden plan that smote me—I remained lying motionless on the floor, and as he rushed past my apparently unconscious form, I snatched at his leg and dragged him down. The sword flew from his grasp, but I managed to get hold of his other arm as he fell and force the revolver from his grip. He fought like a madman to regain possession of it, but, it need hardly be said, I fought equally hard to prevent him. Slowly I got the better of him, nearer and nearer my hand came to the weapon, and then, suddenly, it was mine! I jerked away from the foul creature’s cold grip, and—I was never more deliberate in my life—I sent a bullet crashing into his head. He crumpled and fell to the floor as naturally as would a living man.
Then I turned to see how my companion was making out. Somehow or other, Mrs. Layton had managed to reach that sword which Marius had dropped, and she and Dr. Pope were engaged in a duel to the death. Pope was probably the better swordsman of the two, but the housekeeper was armed with the longer and heavier weapon, and so they seemed about equally matched. For a moment I watched the battle and then it occurred to me that there was another of these creatures to be accounted for. I turned to the bier—and there was Huanapur, slowly raising himself from the floor and looking around in amazement.
Had the battle between Dr. Pope and the woman lasted for another minute, I cannot say what would have been the outcome of our adventure. Fortunately, the doctor had managed to drive her closer and closer to the door, and just at the moment when I called out in terror to Pope, she stumbled over the body of Lionel Harwood and swayed uncertainly for a second. That second was enough for Pope—he let loose a terrific swing that literally severed her head from her shoulders.
And then Huanapur had leaped from the couch where he had lain and was rushing toward Pope. I dashed at him, intent only on stopping his rush, and in that at least I was successful. I seized him and flung him around—and then it seeped as though a bettering ram had struck me in the chest. Impelled by some unknown force, I was flung across the room, to lie huddled in a corner, unable for a moment to so much as breathe. I saw Pope snatch at the sword that Mrs. Layton had wielded, swing it aloft and bring it down at the approaching vampire. Huanapur stopped his head-long flight suddenly, rose up—up into the air—and then fell, his full weight restored, straight upon the doctor!
I saw his heels strike Pope’s shoulders—but the little man was not there when he landed. Never have I seen a stout man move more quickly. He was half-way across the room, it seemed, when Huanapur crashed to the floor, and he was back again before the demon missed him. The doctor swung his great sword, I saw Huanapur duck wildly, but the blow caught him full on the arm. It would have been a fearful blow to a living man, but this creature did not seem even to mind it. Again he rose into the air, again he swung over the doctor and his heels dug viciously at Pope’s face as he descended. The result was much the same as the first attempt had been; Dr. Pope was still on his feet and still swinging his sword when he alighted.
And now it seemed that I had gained sufficient control of my shocked nerves to again attempt to take part in the fight. I rushed toward the strange duelists, but Dr. Pope saw me coming and motioned me away.
“Don’t attempt to touch him,” he cried. “He’ll just shock you again. Get something to insulate your hands.”
I looked around and, seizing a tablecloth, tore it in two and was wrapping it about my hands when Huanapur decided to devote his attention to me again. I saw him rise into the air, saw his heavily shod feet above my head, and ducked wildly. I was fortunate, again Huanapur missed, and evidently the continued failure of these tactics made him decide to abandon them, for when he came down, he rushed toward the window and the, suddenly, vanished! Vanished again into thin air, even as he had the night before.
I looked at Pope in dismay. It seemed to me that there was nothing that we could do now. How could we hope to fight this creature if we couldn’t even see him? Pope, apparently, had not decided to give up, but his actions for the next two minutes were mysterious in the extreme. Finger to his lips, he was tip-toeing rapidly to the window, and once there, he threw himself across the opening as though to bar the egress of Huanapur if he tried to leave. Still silently, he motioned me to the door, and anxious to obey him, I tiptoed to the door and flung my arms across it. Hardly had I done so when I felt the invisible one collide with me. I cried out, and instantly Dr. Pope was tramping across the room toward me. “I’ll help you, Harwood,” he cried out, uselessly, I thought, as I remembered his elaborate silence of a moment before. And then suddenly he was tiptoeing back to the window again. His sword raised and came down viciously, – and suddenly there was Huanapur, lying on the floor and bleeding profusely from the neck! . . .
Sometime later, the doctor and I were making preparations to leave the house in which we had seen so much terror.
“What I can’t understand, doctor,” I was saying, “is just how you managed to find out where Huanapur was while he was invisible. And why you were so emphatic about preserving silence in your actions. I still can’t see how you managed to accomplish what you did.”
Pope smiled. “Once I managed to force Huanapur to resort to his invisibility tactics,” he answered, “I was pretty sure I had him. You see, a man that is invisible must also be blind. I think I can make you see that in a moment. Suppose he uses a system whereby the light rays are bent around him so that none of them strike him and therefore the one looking at him sees only the objects behind him. Well and good, he’s invisible, all right, but in that case, no light rays ever reach his eyes and he is unable to see.
“Now take the other method by which invisibility might be accomplished—by making the body transparent and of the same refractive index as the surrounding air. In that case, the visual sense would be destroyed by allowing the light to pas undistorted through the cornea. You see, whichever way Huanapur used, I knew that as long as he remained invisible, he must remain blind. But he did not credit me with being able to realize this; he counted on me believing that he could still see. Well, I worked on that theory. I took my stand at the window, Huanapur figured I would do that, and so he attempted to leave by the door. There he met you and struggled with you for a second, hoping that you would cry to me for help. You did and as I called out that I would help you, he turned to escape by the window. But this was where I had anticipated him, so making a noise to make him think I was running to your help, I returned instead to the window, in time to meet him. And that was the end of as foul a creature as ever the earth was forced to harbor.”
I looked around the room, and my stomach almost turned, at what I saw there.
“But what do we do now?” I asked. “How are we going to explain this shambles to the authorities?”
“Need we?” asked Dr. Pope, and went on to tell me what he thought we ought to do.
So it was that when we left the house of Lionel Harwood, it was a mass of flames, and though I was quizzed rather seriously afterward, about the fire, the idea that there had been anything other than a fire never came out in the investigation.
Trust Dr. Pope for that.