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- The Blind Spot - 50/71 -


"Now let this stranger describe the Jarados. He says that he had seen him; that he is the Prophet's prospective son-in-law. Good! Let him describe the Jarados to us!

"Then open the Leaf! If he speaks true, we shall know him to be from the Jarados. If he fail, then I shall claim him for purposes of my own."

Whatever the motives of the Senestro, he surely had the genius of quick decision. Watson knew that the moment had come to test his luck to the uttermost. There was but one thing to do; he did it. He said to the Rhamda Geos, in a tone of the utmost indifference:

"I am willing."

Geos was distinctively relieved, "It is good, my lord. Tell us in simple words. Describe the Jarados just as you have seen him, just as you would have us see him. Afterwards we shall open the Leaf." And in a lower tone: "If you speak accurately I shall be vindicated, my lord. I doubt not that you are a better man than the prince; but place your reliance in the Truth; it will be one more proof of the occult, and of the Day approaching."

Which is all that Watson told. But first he breathed a prayer to One who is above all things occult or physical. He did not understand where he was nor how he had got there; he only knew that his fate was hanging on a toss of chance.

He faced the Rhamdas without flinching; and half closing his eyes and speaking very clearly, he searched his memory for what he recalled of the old professor. He tried to describe him just as he had appeared that day in the ethics class, when he made the great announcement; the trim, stubby figure of Professor Holcomb, the pink, healthy skin, the wise, grey, kindly eyes, and the close- cropped, pure white beard: all, just as Chick had known him. One chance in millions; he took it.

"That is the Jarados as I have seen him; a short, elderly, wise, BEARDED man."

There was not a breath or a murmur in comment. All hung upon his words; there was not a sound in the room as he ceased speaking, only the throb of his own heart and the subtle pounding of caution in his veins. He had spoken. If only there might be a resemblance!

The Geos stepped forward a pace. "It is well said. If the truth has been spoken, there shall be room for no dispute. It shall be known throughout all Thomahlia that the Chosen of the Jarados has spoken. Let the Leaf be opened!"

Chick never knew just what happened, much less how it was accomplished. He knew only that a black, opaque wave ran up the long windows, shutting off the light, so that instantly the darkness of night enveloped everything, blotting out all that maze of colour; it was the blackness of the void. Then came a tiny light, a mere dot of flame, over on the opposite wall; a pin-point of light it was, seemingly coming out of a vast distance like an approaching star, growing gradually larger, spreading out into a screen of radiance that presently was flashing with intrinsic life. The corruscation grew brighter; little tufts of brilliance shot out with all the stabbing suddenness of shooting stars. To Chick it was exactly as though some god were pushing his way through and out of fire. In the end the flame burst asunder, diminished into a receding circle and sputtered out.

And in the place of the strange light there appeared the illuminated figure of a man. Leaning forward, Chick rubbed his eyes and looked again.

It was the bust of Professor Holcomb.

XXXV

THE PERFECT IMPOSTOR

Chick gasped. Of all that assemblage--Rhamdas, guards, the occupants of the two thrones--he himself was the most astounded. Was the great professor in actual fact the true Jarados? If not, how explain this miracle? But if he were, how to explain the duality, the identity? Surely, it could not be sheer chance!

Fortunately for Chick, it was dark. All eyes were fixed on the trim figure which occupied the space of the clover-leaf on the rear wall. Except for Chick's strangled gasp, there was only the hushed silence of reverence, deep and impressive.

Then another dot appeared. From its position, Watson took it to come from another leaf of the clover; another light approaching out of the void and cutting through the blackness exactly as the first had come. It grew and spread until it had filled the whole leaf; then, again the bursting of the flare, the diminishing of the light, and its disappearance in a thin rim at the edge. And this time there was revealed--

A handsome brown-haired DOG.

Watson of course, could not understand. The silence held; he could feel the Rhamda Geos at his side, and hear him murmur something which, in itself, was quite unintelligible:

"The four-footed one! The call to humility, sacrifice, and unselfishness! The four-footed one!"

That was all. It was a shaggy shepherd dog, with a pointed nose and one ear cocked up and the other down, very wisely inquisitive. Chick had seen similar dogs many times, but he could not account for this one; certainly not in such a place. What had it to do with the Jarados?

Still the darkness. It gave him a chance to think. He wondered, rapidly, how he could link up such a creature with his description of the Jarados. What could be the purpose of a canine in occult philosophy? Or, was the whole thing, after all, mere blundering chance?

This is what bothered Chick. He did not know how to adjust himself; life, place, sequence, were all out of order. Until he could gather exact data, he must trust to intuition as before.

The two pictures vanished simultaneously. Down came the black waves from the windows, gradually, and in a moment the room was once more flooded with that mellow radiance. The Rhamda Geos stepped forward as a murmur of awed approval arose from the assembly. There was no applause. One does not applaud the miraculous. The Geos took his hand.

"It is proven!" he declared. Then, to the Rhamdas: "Is there any question, my brothers?"

But no word came from the floor. Seemingly superstition had triumphed over all else. The men of learning turned none but reverent faces toward Watson.

He forebore to glance at the Bar Senestro. Despite the triumph he was apprehensive of the princes's keen genius. An agnostic is seldom converted by what could be explained away as mere coincidence. Moreover, as it ultimately appeared, the Bar now had more than one reason for antagonising the man who claimed to be the professor's prospective son-in-law.

"Is there any question?" repeated Rhamda Geos.

But to the surprise of Chick, it came from the queen. She was standing before her throne now. Around her waist a girdle of satin revealed the tender frailty of her figure. She gave Watson a close scrutiny, and then addressed the Geos:

"I want to put one question, Rhamda. The stranger seems to be a goodly young man. He has come from the Jarados. Tell me, is he truly of the chosen?"

But a clear, derisive laugh from the opposite throne interrupted the answer. The Bar stood up, his black eyes dancing with mocking laughter.

"The chosen, O Aradna? The chosen? Do not allow yourself to be tricked by a little thing! I myself have been chosen by the inherited law of the Thomahlia!" Then to Chick: "I see, Sir Phantom, that our futures are to be intertwined with interest!"

"I don't know what you mean."

"No? Very good; if you are really come out of superstition, then I shall teach you the value of materiality. You are well made and handsome, likewise courageous. May the time soon come when you can put your mettle to the test in a fair conflict!"

"It is your own saying, O Senestro!" warned Geos. "You must abide by my Lord's reply."

"True; and I shall abide. I know nothing of black magic, or any other. But I care not. I know only that I cannot accept this stranger as a spirit. I have felt his muscles, and I know his strength; they are a man's, and a Thomahlian's."

"Then you do not abide?"

"Yes, I do. That is, I do not claim him. He has won his freedom. But as for endorsing him--no, not until he has given further proof. Let him come to the Spot of Life. Let him take the ordeal. Let him qualify on the Day of the Prophet."

"My lord, do you accept?"

Watson had no idea what the "ordeal" might be, nor what might be the significance of the day. But he could not very well refuse. He spoke as lightly as he could.

"Of course. I accept anything." Then, addressing the prince: "One word, O Senestro."

"Speak up, Sir Phantom!"

"Bar Senestro--what have you done with the Jarados?"


The Blind Spot - 50/71

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