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- The Blind Spot - 4/71 -
concrete where we can understand it. Can we pierce the nebulous screen that shuts us out of the occult? We have doubted, laughed at ourselves and been laughed at; but the fact remains that always we have persisted in the believing.
"I have said that we shall never, never understand infinity while within the limitations of our five senses. I repeat it. But that does not imply that we shall never solve some of the mystery of life. The occult is not only a supposition, but a fact. We have peopled it with terror, because, like our forebears before Columbus, we have peopled it with imagination.
"And now to my statement.
"I have called myself the Material Idealist. I have adopted an entirely new trend of philosophy. During the past years, unknown to you and unknown to my friends, I have allied myself with practical science. I desired something concrete. While my colleagues and others were pounding out tomes of wonderful sophistry I have been pounding away at the screen of the occult. This is a proud moment. I have succeeded. Tomorrow I shall bring to you the fact and the substance. I have lifted up the curtain and flooded it with the light of day. You shall have the fact for your senses. Tomorrow I shall explain it all. I shall deliver my greatest lecture; in which my whole Me has come to a focus. It is not spiritualism nor sophistry. It is concrete fact and common sense. The subject of my lecture tomorrow will be: 'The Blind Spot.'"
Here begins the second part of the mystery.
We know now that the great lecture was never delivered. Immediately the news was scattered out of the class-room. It became common property. It was spread over the country and was featured in all the great metropolitan dailies. In the lecture- room next morning seats were at a premium; students, professors, instructors and all the prominent people who could gain admission crowded into the hall; even the irrepressible reporters had stolen in to take down the greatest scoop of the century. The place was jammed until even standing room was unthought of. The crowd, dense and packed and physically uncomfortable, waited.
The minutes dragged by. It was a long, long wait. But at last the bell rang that ticked the hour. Every one was expectant. And then fifteen minutes passed by, twenty--the crowd settled down to waiting. At length one of the colleagues stepped into the doctor's office and telephoned to his home. His daughter answered.
"Father? Why he left over two hours ago."
"About what time?"
"Why, it was about seven-thirty. You know he was to deliver his lecture today on the Blind Spot. I wanted to hear it, but he told me I could have it at home. He said he was to have a wonderful guest and I must make ready to receive him. Isn't father there?" "Not yet. Who was this guest? Did he say?"
"Oh yes! In a way. A most wonderful man. And he gave him a wonderful name, Rhamda Avec. I remember because it is so funny. I asked father if he was Sanskrit; and he said he was much older than that. Just imagine!"
"Did your father have his lecture with him?"
"Oh, yes. He glanced over it at breakfast. He told me he was going to startle the world as it had never been since the day of Columbus."
"Yes. And he was terribly impatient. He said he had to be at the college before eight to receive the great man. He was to deliver his lecture at ten. And afterward he would have lunch at noon and he would give me the whole story. I'm all impatience."
Then he came back and made the announcement that there was a little delay; but that Dr. Holcomb would be there shortly. But he was not. At twelve o'clock there were still some people waiting. At one o'clock the last man had slipped out of the room--and wondered. In all the country there was but one person who knew. That one was an obscure man who had yielded to a detective's intuition and had fallen inadvertently upon one of the greatest mysteries of modern times.
"NOW THERE ARE TWO"
The rest of the story is unfortunately all too easily told. We go back to Jerome and his strange companion.
At Centre Street station they alighted and walked up to the university. Under the Le Conte oaks they met the professor. He was trim and happy, his short, well-built figure clothed in black, his snow-white whiskers trimmed to the usual square crop and his pink skin glowing with splendid health. The fog had by this time lifted and the sun was just beginning to overcome the chilliness of the air. There was no necessity for an introduction.
The two men apparently recognised each other at once. So we have it from the detective. There was sincerity in the delight of their hand-clasp. A strange pair, both of them with the distinction and poise that come from refinement and intellectual training; though in physique they were almost opposite, there was still a strange, almost mutual, bond between them. Dr. Holcomb was beaming.
"At last!" he greeted. "At last! I was sure we could not fail. This, my dear Dr. Avec, is the greatest day since Columbus."
The other took the hand.
"So this is the great Dr. Holcomb. Yes, indeed, it is a great day; though I know nothing about your Columbus. So far it has been simply wonderful. I can scarcely credit my senses. So near and yet so far. How can it be? A dream? Are you sure, Dr. Holcomb?"
"My dear Rhamda, I am sure that I am the happiest man that ever lived. It is the culmination. I was certain we could not fail; though, of course, to me also it is an almost impossible climax of fact. I should never have succeeded without your assistance."
The other smiled.
"That was of small account, my dear doctor. To yourself must go the credit; to me the pleasure. Take your sun, for instance, I-- but I have not the language to tell you."
But the doctor had gone in to abstraction.
"A great day," he was beaming. "A great day! What will the world say? It is proved." Then suddenly: "You have eaten?"
"Not yet. You must allow me a bit of time. I thought of it; but I had not quite the courage to venture."
"Then we shall eat," said the other man. "Afterward we shall go up to the lecture-room. Today I shall deliver my lecture on the Blind Spot. And when I am through you shall deliver the words that will astonish the world."
But here it seems there was a hitch. The other shook his head kindly. It was evident that while the doctor was the leader, the other was a co-worker who must be considered.
"I am afraid, professor, that you have promised a bit too much. I am not entirely free yet, you know. Two hours is the most that I can give you; and not entirely that. There are some details that may not be neglected. It is a far venture and now that we have succeeded this far there is surely no reason why we cannot go on. However, it is necessary that I return to the house on Chatterton Place. I have but slightly over an hour left."
The doctor was plainly disappointed.
"But the lecture?"
"It means my life, professor, and the subsequent success of our experiment. A few details, a few minutes. Perhaps if we hurry we can get back in time."
The doctor glanced at his watch. "Twenty minutes for the train, twenty minutes for the boat, ten minutes; that's an hour, two hours. These details? Have you any idea how long, Rhamda?"
"Perhaps not more than fifteen minutes."
"We have still two hours. Fifteen minutes; perhaps a little bit late. Tell you what. I shall go with you. You can get on the boat."
We have said that the detective had intuition. He had it still. Yet he had no rational reason for suspecting either the professor or his strange companion. Furthermore he had never heard of the Blind Spot in any way whatsoever; nor did he know a single thing of philosophy or anything else in Holcomb's teaching. He knew the doctor as a man of eminent standing and respectability. It was hardly natural that he should suspect anything sinister to grow out of this meeting of two refined scholars. He attached no great importance to the trend of their conversation. It was strange, to be sure; but he felt, no doubt, that living in their own world they had a way and a language of their own. He was no scholar.
Still, he could think. The man Rhamda had made an assertion that he could not quite uncover. It puzzled him. Something told him that for the safety of his old friend it might be well for him to shadow the strange pair to the city.
When the next train pulled out for the pier the two scholars were seated in the forward part of the car. In the last seat was a man deeply immersed in a morning paper.
It is rather unfortunate. In the natural delicacy of the situation Jerome could not crowd too closely. He had no certainty of
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