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- The Blind Spot - 30/71 -


than physical means. Moreover, I gave him credit for an exceptional amount of insight. Call it super-instinct, or what you will, the fellow's intellect was transcendental.

Once having decided that it must be a battle of wits I took a step which may seem, at first, a little peculiar.

I called upon a certain lady to whom I shall give the name of Clarke, since that is not the correct one. I took her fully and frankly into my confidence. It is the only way, when dealing with a practitioner. And since, like most of my fellow citizens, she had heard something of the come and go, elusive habits of our men, together with the Holcomb affair, it was easy for her to understand just what I wanted.

"I see," she mused. "You wish to be surrounded by an influence that will not so much protect you, as vitalise and strengthen you whenever you come in contact with Avec. It will be a simple matter. How far do you wish to go?" And thus it was arranged, the plan calling for the co-operation of some twenty of her colleagues.

My fellow engineers may sneer, if they like. I know the usual notion: that the "power of mind over matter" is all in the brain of the patient. That the efforts of the practitioner are merely inductive, and so on.

But I think that the most sceptical will agree that I did quite right in seeking whatever support I could get before crossing swords with a man as keen as Avec.

Nevertheless, before an opportunity arrived to make use of the intellectual machinery which my money had started into operation, something occurred which almost threw the whole thing out of gear.

It was the evening after I had returned from Miss Clarke's office. Both Charlotte and I had a premonition, after supper, that things were going to happen. We all went into the parlour, sat down, and waited.

Presently we started the gramophone. Jerome sat nearest the instrument, where he could without rising, lean over and change the records. And all three of us recall that the selection being played at the moment was "I Am Climbing Mountains," a sentimental little melody sung by a popular tenor. Certainly the piece was far from being melancholy, mysterious, or otherwise likely to attract the occult.

I remember that we played it twice, and it was just as the singer reached the beginning of the final chorus that Charlotte, who sat nearest the door, made a quick move and shivered, as though with cold.

From where I sat, near the dining-room door, I could see through into the hall. Charlotte's action made me think that the door might have become unlatched, allowing a draught to come through. Afterwards she said that she had felt something rather like a breeze pass her chair.

In the middle of the room stood a long, massive table, of conventional library type. Overhead was a heavy, burnished copper fixture, from which a cluster of electric bulbs threw their brilliance upward, so that the room was evenly lighted with the diffused rays as reflected from the ceiling. Thus, there were no shadows to confuse the problem.

The chorus of the song was almost through when I heard from the direction of the table a faint sound, as though someone had drawn fingers lightly across the polished oak. I listened; the sound was not repeated, at least not loud enough for me to catch it above the music. Next moment, however, the record came to an end; Jerome leaned forward to put on another, and Charlotte opened her mouth as though to suggest what the new selection might be. But she never said the words.

It began with a scintillating iridescence, up on the ceiling, not eight feet from where I sat. As I looked the spot grew, and spread, and flared out. It was blue like the elusive blue of the gem; only, it was more like flame--the flame of electrical apparatus.

Then, down from that blinding radiance there crept, rather than dropped a single thread of incandescence, vivid, with a tinge of the colour from which it had surged. Down it crept to the floor; it was like an irregular streak of lightning, hanging motionless between ceiling and floor, just for the fraction of a second. All in total silence.

And then the radiance vanished, disappeared, snuffed out as one might snuff out a candle. And in its stead--

There appeared a fourth person in the room.

XXII

THE ROUSING OF A MIND

It was a girl. Not the Nervina. No; this girl was quite another person.

Even now I find it curiously hard to describe her. For me to say that she was the picture of innocence, of purity, and of youth, is still to leave unsaid the secret of her loveliness.

For this stranger, coming out of the thin air into our midst, held me with a glorious fascination. From the first I felt no misgivings, such as Harry confesses he experienced when he fell under the Nervina's charm. I knew as I watched the stranger's wondering, puzzled features, that I had never before seen anyone so lovely, so attractive, and so utterly beyond suspicion.

It was only later that I noted her amazingly delicate complexion, fair as her hair was golden; her deep blue eyes, round face, and the girlish supple figure; or her robe-like garments of very soft, white material. For she commenced almost instantly to talk.

But we understood only with the greatest of difficulty. She spoke as might one who, after living in perfect solitude for a score of years, is suddenly called upon to use language. And I remembered that Rhamda Avec had told Jerome that he had only BEGUN the use of language.

"Who are you?" was her first remark, in the sweetest voice conceivable. But there was both fear and anxiety in her manner. "How--did I--get--here?"

"You came out of the Blind Spot!" I spoke, jerking out the words nervously and, as I saw, too rapidly. I repeated them more slowly. But she did not comprehend.

"The--Blind--Spot," she pondered. "What--is that?"

Next instant, before I could think to warn her, the room trembled with the terrific clang of the Blind Spot bell. Just one overwhelming peal; no more. At the same time there came a revival of the luminous spot in the ceiling. But, with the last tones of the bell, the spot faded to nothing.

The girl was pitifully frightened. I sprang to my feet and steadied her with one hand--something that I had not dared to do as long as the Spot remained open. The touch of my fingers, as she swayed, had the effect of bringing her to herself. She listened intelligently to what I said.

"The Blind Spot"--speaking with the utmost care--"is the name we have given to a certain mystery. It is always marked by the sound you have just heard; that bell always rings when the phenomenon is at an end."

"And--the--phenomenon," uttering the word with difficulty, "what is that?"

"You," I returned. "Up till now three human beings have disappeared into what we call the Blind Spot. You are the first to be seen coming out of it."

"Hobart," interrupted Charlotte, coming to my side. "Let me."

I stepped back, and Charlotte quietly passed an arm round the girl's waist. Together they stepped over to Charlotte's chair.

I noted the odd way in which the newcomer walked, unsteadily, uncertainly, like a child taking its first steps. I glanced at Jerome, wondering if this tallied with what he recalled of the Rhamda; and he gave a short nod.

"Don't be frightened," said Charlotte softly, "we are your friends. In a way we have been expecting you, and we shall see to it that no harm comes to you.

"Which would you prefer--to ask questions, or to answer them?"

"I"--the girl hesitated--"I--hardly--know. Perhaps--you had-- better--ask something first."

"Good. Do you remember where you came from? Can you recall the events just prior to your arrival here?"

The girl looked helplessly from the one to the other of us. She seemed to be searching for some clue. Finally she shook her head in a hopeless, despairing fashion.

"I can't remember," speaking with a shade less difficulty. "The last thing--I recall is--seeing--you three--staring--at me."

This was a poser. To think, a person who, before our very eyes, had materialised out of the Blind Spot, was unable to tell us anything about it!

Still this lack of memory might be only a temporary condition, brought on by the special conditions under which she had emerged; an after-effect, as it were, of the semi-electrical phenomena. And it turned out that I was right.

"Then," suggested Charlotte, "suppose you ask us something."


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