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Title: The Chamber of Life
Author: Peyton, Green, 1907-1968
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Chamber of Life" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



+-------------------------------------------------------+
|This etext was produced from Amazing Stories July 1962,|
|a reprint from Amazing Stories October 1929. Extensive |
|research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.    |
|copyright on this publication was renewed.             |
+-------------------------------------------------------+



  A Classic Reprint from AMAZING STORIES, October, 1929

  Illustrated by BRIGGS

  [Illustration]



  The CHAMBER of LIFE

  By G. PEYTON WERTENBAKER

  _Copyright 1929 by E. P. Inc._



A Strange Awakening


My first sensation was one of sudden and intense cold--a chill that shot
through my body and engulfed it like a charge of electricity. For a
moment I was conscious of nothing else. Then I knew that I was sinking
in cold water, and that I was fighting instinctively against the need to
gasp and breathe fresh air. I kicked weakly and convulsively. I opened
my eyes, and squeezed them as the bright green water stung them. Then I
hung for an instant as if suspended over the depths, and began to rise.
It seemed hours before I shot up into the open air again, and was
drinking it deeply and thankfully into my tortured lungs. The sun
touched my head warmly like the hand of a benign god.

Floating gently, I lay there for a long while before I even looked about
me. There was a vague confusion in my head, as if I had just awakened
from a long sleep. Some memory seemed to be fading away, something I
could still feel but couldn't understand. Then it was gone, and I was
alone and empty, riding on the water.

I glanced about, puzzled. Only a few yards away rose the gray stone side
of the embankment, with its low parapet, and behind that the Drive.
There was no one in sight--not even a car--and the open windows of the
apartment houses across the Drive seemed very quiet. People slept behind
them.

It was only a little after dawn. The sun, blazing and tinted with pink,
had hardly risen from the horizon. The lake was still lined with dark
shadows behind glittering ridges of morning sunlight, and a cool breeze
played across my face, coming in from the east. Over the city, the sound
of a street car rumbling into motion, rising and dying away, was like
the crowing of a rooster in the country.

I shivered, and began to swim. A few strokes brought me to the
embankment, and I clambered up, almost freezing as I left the water. I
was fully clothed, but without a hat. Perhaps I had lost it in the lake.
I stood there, dripping and chill, and suddenly I realized that I had
just waked up in the water. I had no recollection of falling in, nor
even of being there. I could remember nothing of the previous night.

A glance along the Drive told me where I was, at the corner of
Fifty-third street. My apartment was only a few blocks away. Had I been
walking in my sleep? My mind was a blank, with turbulent, dim
impressions moving confusedly under the surface.

       *       *       *       *       *

Trembling in the chill air, I started up the Drive. I must go home and
change at once. Something came back to me--a memory of talking to some
friends at the Club. But was that last night? Or months ago? It was as
though I had slept for months. We had had a few drinks--could I have
been drunk, and fallen into the lake on my way home? But I never took
more than two or three drinks. Something had happened.

Then I remembered the stranger. We had all been sitting about the
lounge, talking of something. What had we been discussing? Franklin had
mentioned Einstein's new theory--we had played with that for a while,
none of us with the least idea what it was about. Then the conversation
had shifted slowly from one topic to another, all having to do with
scientific discoveries.

Somewhere in the midst of it, Barclay had come in. He brought with him a
guest--a straight, fine-looking man with a military carriage, about
fifty years old. Barclay had introduced him as Mr. Melbourne. He spoke
with a slight southern accent.

In some way Melbourne and I gravitated into a corner. We went on with
the conversation while the others left it. They drifted into politics,
drawing together about the table where the whisky stood, leaving us
alone.

Melbourne had been a fascinating man to talk to. He discussed topics
ranging from theories of matter to the early Cretan culture, and related
them all to one dominant scientific thread. He spoke like a man of wide
knowledge and experience.... As I walked up the Drive, bits of his
conversation came disjointedly back to me with the clarity and
significance of sentences from Spengler.

An early-morning taxi went by slowly as I crossed the Drive to my
apartment. The driver stopped a moment, and looked at me in
astonishment.

"What's the matter, buddy," he said, "you look all wet. Fall in the
lake?" I smiled, embarrassed.

"Looks that way, doesn't it?" I answered.

"Can I take you anywhere?"

"No," I said, "I live here." He grinned, and started off again.

"Wish I'd been in on that party!" he called back, as he drove away.

I frowned, once more with that puzzled feeling, and went in.



Melbourne's Story


Glimpses of last night came back to me and pieced themselves together
slowly while I undressed and drew the water for my bath.

Melbourne had been interested to know that I worked for Bausch, the
motion picture producer.

"Perhaps you could be of aid to me some time," he said thoughtfully.

"In what way, Mr. Melbourne?" I asked him.

"I can talk to you about that later," he replied cryptically. "Tell me
about your work."

So I told him the conception I had of the motion pictures to be made in
the future. He listened with keen interest.

"I visualize a production going beyond anything done today," I said,
"and yet one that would be possible now, if there were someone capable
of creating it. A picture with sound and color, reproducing faithfully
the ordinary life about us, its tints and voices, even the noises of the
city--or traffic passing in the street and newsboys crying the scores of
the afternoon games--vividly and naturally. My picture would be so
carefully constructed that the projector could be stopped at any moment
and the screen would show a scene as harmonious in design and
composition and coloring, and as powerful in feeling, as a painting by
Rockwell Kent." After a pause I added, "And I'd give almost anything if
I could do it myself."

Melbourne looked at me sympathetically, reflectively.

"It might be possible," he said after a time.

"What do you mean, Mr. Melbourne?" He puffed at a cigar, and considered.

"It's not something I could explain to you off-hand," he said. "It's
strange and it's new. It needs preparation."

"I'm ready to listen," I said with eager interest. He smiled.

"Perhaps I had better tell you a little of my life."

"Go on," I answered briefly.

"I had ideas much like yours when I was a boy," he began his story. "In
high school and college I had believed myself an artist. I was a good
musician, and I dabbled with painting and literature. I wanted to come
back for post-graduate work, though, and something attracted me to
science. I had put off studying mathematics until my graduating year,
only to find that it fascinated me. And I was curious about physics.

       *       *       *       *       *

"While I was studying for my Master's degree and my Doctorate, I felt
the need of some interest to merge all the divergent sides of my nature.
Something that would give me a chance to be both the artist and the man
of science. That was a quarter of a century ago. The motion picture and
the phonograph were just coming into the public eye. They seemed to
supply just the field for which I felt a need.

"I had much the same idea as yourself, except that there were no
discoveries to back it--no color photography, no method for harmonizing
sound and sight. Indeed, neither the screen nor the phonograph had come
to be regarded yet as essentially more than a toy. But, like yourself,
I had vision. And enthusiasm. And an intense desire to create.

"After I had taken my degrees, I went to work with almost abnormal
intensity. With sufficient income to live as I desired, I fitted up my
laboratory and concentrated on the thing I wanted to do. I spent years
at it. I gave my youth--or, at least, the best of my youth--to that
labor. Long before sound and color pictures were perfected commercially,
I had developed similar processes for myself. But they were not what I
wanted. The real thing was beyond my grasp, and I couldn't see how to
attain it.

"I worked feverishly. I think I must have worked myself into a sort of
frenzy, a sort of madness. I never mingled with people, and I became
bitter and despondent. One day my nerves broke down. I smashed
everything in my laboratory, all my models, all my apparatus, and I
burned the plans and papers I had labored over for years.

"My physician told me that I must rest and recuperate. He told me I must
interest myself again in daily life, in people and inanimate things. So
I went away. For the next few years I traveled. I tore myself away from
everything scientific and plunged into the business of living. Almost
overnight I became an adventurer, tasting sensations with the same
ardor I had once given to my work. I went back to art, to painting and
literature and music. I was a connoisseur of wines and of foods and of
women. I was an experimenter with life.

"Little by little, though, the zest of that passed away. I grew tired of
my dilettantism. And eventually I found that, even while I had been
moving about the world and experiencing its curious values, my mind had
been grappling quietly, subconsciously, with my old problem. The change
in my life had given me the wider outlook, the keener understanding
necessary to the accomplishment of my task. In the end, I went back to
it again with renewed vigor. With greater power, too, and greater
sanity."

       *       *       *       *       *

Melbourne paused here. Sensing his need, I brought him a highball, and
one for myself. He tasted it with a quizzical expression.

"They call this whisky nowadays!" he observed absently, with quiet
irony. I wanted to hear the rest of his account.

"Go on with your story, sir," I begged him.

"The rest is simple enough--but it's the meat of the narrative. You see,
I had to revise the way I was going about my work, and I went at it at a
new angle. By this time wireless telegraphy was being widely developed,
and there were many features of it that appealed to me. With the
knowledge I had gained during my first feverish years of experiment,
however, I was able to go far beyond what has been done in recent times
with radio.

"I used a system differing in many respects from that of the commercial
radio. We haven't time now to go into all that--I can tell you later,
and it involves much that is highly technical and still secret. It is
sufficient if I explain that my object was to evolve and fuse methods
for doing with each of the senses what radio does with sound.
Telephotography was the simplest problem--the others required an almost
superhuman amount of labor.

"But my biggest job was to combine them. And, to do that, I had to use
knowledge I had gained not only in the laboratory but in my wanderings
about the earth--not only in the colleges and salons of Europe and
America, but in the bazaars and temples of India, Egypt, China. I had to
unite the lore of ancient and modern civilizations, and I created a new
factor in electrical science. I suppose the simplest and most
intelligible name for it would be mental telepathy. But it is more than
that, and basically it is as simple and material as your own motion
pictures."

I think Melbourne would have gone on and told me more about his
discoveries. At that moment, however, he paused to reflect, and we
looked up to find the others leaving. The bottle of Scotch was empty.

"Ready, Melbourne?" Barclay called. We rose.

"I didn't realize it was so late," Melbourne answered. "Mr. Barrett and
I have found each other most interesting."

We all found our hats and went out. Melbourne and Barclay, each
apologizing for having neglected the other, said good-bye. Barclay was
tired and wanted to go to bed. He went off with the others, but
Melbourne turned my way.

"If you're not too weary of my company," he said, "I'll go with you a
little way."

"You know I'm not," I answered. "I've never been so interested in
anything before. It sounds like a chapter from Wells, or Jules Verne."

He smiled, with a little shake of his head, and we walked on for awhile
in silence toward the lake....

       *       *       *       *       *

All this came back to me swiftly and with an effect of incoherence, much
as a dream moves, during the few moments when I was getting ready for my
bath. I laid out my shaving things, and put a record on the Victrola. I
have never quite conquered my need for music while I bathe and dress. I
think the record was a Grieg nocturne--something cool and quiet, with a
touch of acutely sweet pain and melancholy.

Then I happened to glance at a mirror for the first time. I stood amazed
and transfixed. Overnight I had grown a beard such as wanderers bring
back with them from the wilderness. Under the beard, my face seemed to
have altered somehow, to have changed in some peculiar way. Physically
it appeared younger, with an expression of calm and repose such as I had
never before seen on a man's face. But the eyes were wise and old, as
if--overnight!--the mind behind them had learned the knowledge of all
time.

Or was it overnight? I could not lose that feeling that time had passed
by since my last contact with ordinary life. It was as though, somewhere
and somehow, I had lived for weeks or months in some new plane, and
forgotten it. I felt richer and older than I had once felt, and the
things I had been remembering seemed remote.

At that moment, a chance strain from the machine in my living room
brought back a whole new group of vivid impressions, strange and yet in
a sense more familiar than my memories of Melbourne. They opened up to
me a different life in which I seemed to have participated by chance,
and a life which had, at first sight, no point of contact with the
reality to which I had returned....



A Chance Strain from Grieg


I recalled waking up in another place, on a long slope of green hill
that overlooked a valley. It was dawn again. The sun was just rising
over the crest of the hill behind me, and it threw long shadows across
the grass from the tall, slender trees along the summit. Down in the
valley a broad, clean river of clear water followed the curve of the
hill until it disappeared from sight. There were other hills beyond the
river, all with the same long, simple slope of grass; and, beyond the
hills, there were the tops of blue mountains, swathed in white morning
mist.

It was a strange place. Its strangeness consisted in a subtle appearance
of order and care, as though a gardener or an army of gardeners had
arranged and tended the whole vast sweep of landscape for years. It was
uncultivated and deserted as waste land, but as well trimmed, in spite
of its spaciousness, as a lawn.

The morning was very warm. I was not conscious of any chill in the air.
I was clothed only in short trousers, such as athletes wear, and a short
belted tunic without sleeves and loose--both of them indescribably soft
and comfortable.

I was aware of the strangeness of my awakening, but I seemed to have no
definite recollection of falling asleep. I felt that I had come there
during my sleep under unusual circumstances and from a very different
life, but the thought didn't disturb me or trouble my mind in any way.
My chief emotion was a curious feeling of expectancy. I knew that I was
about to have some new and curious experience, something not trivial,
and I was eager to meet it.

I lay there for awhile, drinking in the beauty of the morning, and
breathing an air of miraculous purity and freshness. Finally I stood up,
light and conscious of a sudden grace, aware for the first time, in its
departure, of the awkwardness and weight which ordinarily attend our
movements on earth. It was as if some of the earth's gravity had been
lost.

For a while I examined the valley, but I saw no sign of life there. Then
I turned and went slowly up the hill, the sunlight falling warmly on my
body, and my feet sinking sensuously in the deep grass.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I came to the crest and looked over, I saw another valley before
me, deeper than the first. The hill rolled away, down and down for
miles, to a long, wide plain. More hills rose from the plain on every
side, as simply as if they had been built there by the hand of some
gigantic child playing in a wilderness of sand. And the river, coming
around the base of the hill on which I was standing, but several miles
away, swept out upon a great aqueduct of stone, hundreds of feet high,
which crossed the plain through its very center, a straight line of
breath-taking beauty, and disappeared far away into the pass between two
mountains. The whole scene was too perfect to be wholly natural.

At the center of the plain stood a tall, white building. Even in the
distance from which I viewed it, it looked massive--larger than any
skyscraper I had ever seen. But it was delicately and intricately
designed, terraced much as most modern office buildings in New York are
terraced, but more elaborately. Its base stood about the aqueduct, which
passed through it, and it swept up magnificently to a slender peak
almost level with the crest of the hill where I was standing. It was the
only building in sight.

I don't know how long I stood there, admiring the clean sweep and
vastness of the scene, before I saw something rise sharply, with a
flashing of bright wings, from some hidden courtyard or terrace of the
building. It was followed closely by another and then another, like a
flight of birds. They shot up swiftly, circled once or twice, and moved
away in different directions, straight and purposeful. One of them came
toward my hill.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was only a few moments before the thing sped up to me and swooped
down as I waved my arms. It was, of course, a machine, slender and long,
with wide arching wings. It seemed almost light enough to float. It had
a deck, shielded from the wind by a shimmering transparent thing like a
thin wire screen, and under the deck a cabin made, it seemed, of glass.
A man and a woman stood on the deck, the woman handling the controls.
They were both dressed much like myself.

The machine came to rest on the hill near me. I stepped forward, and the
man leaped down to meet me. His first greeting was curious.

"So you _are_ here," he said. His voice was small but cool, penetrating
and metallic. I thought of fine steel wires. And, when I replied, my own
voice had something of the same quality.

"Were you expecting me?" I said. He nodded, shaking my hand briefly and
quietly.

"We know all about you," he answered. I was pleased--it made things
simpler--but I wanted to ask him who I was. I didn't remember anything
up to the moment of my awakening on the other side of the hill. Instead,
I asked him:

"Shall I go aboard?" He nodded again, and waved his hand toward the
ladder. I went aboard lithely, and he followed. The girl and I glanced
at each other; I was surprised and rather disturbed by her beauty and
cleanness of body. I turned to the man, a little embarrassed, as she
manipulated some controls and set the ship in motion again.

"You'll have to forgive me," I said. "Something has happened, and I
don't know things. I've completely lost my memory."

They understood at once.

"Your name is Baret." He pronounced it oddly. "I am Edvar, and this girl
is Selda." We all looked at each other intently, and I went on
hesitantly.

"I don't know where I am. Can you tell me something about myself?" Edvar
shook his head.

"Only this," he said, "that we were notified of your presence and your
name. This city is Richmond." I glanced about quickly.

"Richmond!" I exclaimed. "Virginia?" But he shook his head.

"I don't understand you," he replied.

I went on, with a puzzled frown. "It has changed...." Both of them
looked at me curiously.

"How has it changed, Baret?" the girl, Selda, asked me. I glanced at her
absently and closed my eyes.

"Why ... I don't know," I stammered, "I don't remember." For a few
moments there was silence, except for the shouting of the wind past our
ship. Then Selda asked me another question.

"Where are you from?" I shook my head helplessly, and answered again, "I
don't know--I don't remember."

       *       *       *       *       *

A moment later we dipped into the shadow of the building, which they
called Richmond. We slipped by a succession of vast and intricate
façades until we came to a court-like terrace, hundreds of feet above
the ground and sheltered on three sides by walls that leaped up toward
the sky for hundreds of feet more. The effect of height was dizzying and
magnificent.

Selda brought the ship to a quick and graceful landing. I found that we
were in a large paved court like a public square, facing the east and
the sun, which bathed it in cool bright light. It was still early in the
morning. Innumerable windows looked down upon us, and a number of
doorways led into the building on all sides. From one of these a girl
stepped forward. Edvar spoke to her, evidently reporting himself and
Selda. The girl pushed several buttons on a small cabinet which hung
from her shoulder. It rang, low and silvery, twice. Then she pointed to
me.

"Who is that?" she asked.

"His name is Baret," Edvar told her. "I was sent to meet him."

"But where is he from? He is not registered."

"We don't know. It's an unusual circumstance," he explained, while the
girl examined us all carefully. "Very well," she said finally, "you must
attend him until he is registered. I'll notify Odom." Edvar nodded, and
we turned away.

Glancing back as we crossed the court, I saw the ship descending
noiselessly, on the square of pavement where it had landed, into the
depths of the building, while the girl made other gestures with her
little cabinet. Then we passed through a doorway into the subdued glow
of artificial lighting.

"Why was she so worried?" I asked Edvar. "I don't understand anything,
you know."

"You were not registered," he said. "We are all registered, of course,
in our own cities. The authorities know where to find us at any moment
of the day during our routine. If we leave the city, or depart from our
usual program, naturally we note down where we are going, registering
ourselves upon our departure and upon our return. If we visit another
city, our arrival there is expected and reported here, as well as our
departure."

"Is all that necessary?" I asked him. "Is there a war, perhaps?"

"No," he said, "it's customary. It prevents confusion. Everything we do
is recorded. This conversation, for instance, is being recorded in the
telepathic laboratory at this moment--each of us has a record there.
They are open to the public at any time. It makes dishonor impossible."

We paused at a doorway, and Edvar spoke a word. It opened noiselessly
and we went into his apartment.

"We are assigned to you this morning," Edvar said. "We are at your
service."

       *       *       *       *       *

The apartment was hardly very different from what I had unconsciously
expected. It seemed to have two rooms and a bath. The room we entered
was a sort of study. It was hung with drapes closely woven from some
light metal, with cold designs that were suggestive of mechanical,
mathematic conceptions, but inspiring in much the way that the lines of
the building were inspiring. There were no pictures and no mirrors. All
the furniture was made in straight lines, of metal, and somewhat
futuristic in design. The chairs, however, were deep and comfortable,
although the yielding upholstery appeared at first sight hard and
brittle as metal sheets. The room was perfectly bare, and the color
scheme a dull silver and black. To me it seemed extremely somber, but it
pleased Edvar and his companion.

The first thing I noted when we sat down was the absence of any small
articles--books or papers or lamps--and I remarked on this, somewhat
rudely perhaps, to Edvar.

"Whatever you wish is accessible," he explained with a smile. He rose
and went to the draped wall. Drawing back the folds of the curtains in
several places, he showed the metal wall covered with dials and
apparatus. I noted especially a small screen, like a motion picture
screen. Later I was to find that it served not only for amusement,
showing sound-pictures projected automatically from a central office,
but also for news and for communication, like a telephone.

"Would you care for breakfast?" Edvar asked me. I accepted eagerly, and
he manipulated some dials on the wall. A moment or two later a small
section of the wall opened, and a tray appeared. Edvar placed it on the
table by my chair.

"We have had our breakfast," he explained, and I began to eat with a
keener appetite than I thought I had. It was a simple meal with a
slightly exotic flavor, but without any strange dishes. During the
course of it, I asked Edvar questions.

"Your life is amazingly centralized," I said. "Apparently all the things
you need are supplied at your rooms on a moment's notice."

"Yes," he smiled, "it makes life simpler. We have very few needs. Many
of them are satisfied while we sleep, such as cleansing and, if we like,
nourishment. We can study while we sleep, acquiring facts that we may
want to use later from an instrument which acts upon the subconscious
mind. These dials you see are mainly to give us pleasure. If we care to
have our meals served in the old-fashioned way, as you are having yours,
we can do so, but we reserve those meals for the occasions when we feel
the need of eating as a pure sensation. We can have music at any time--"
He paused. "Would you care for some music?"

"There's nothing I'd like better," I told him. He went to the wall and
turned the dials again. In a moment the room was filled with the subdued
sound of a cool, melancholy music--Grieg, or some other composer, with
whom I was unfamiliar, exotic and reminiscent in mood, cool, and quiet
with a touch of acutely sweet pain. I listened to it in silence for a
while. It was so subtle and pervasive, however, that it seemed to play
directly upon the subconscious mind, so that the listener could go on
thinking and talking uninterruptedly without losing any of the feeling
of the melody.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Have you no private possessions?" I asked. "Things that you share with
no one? Your own books, your own music, your own jewelry, perhaps?"

"We have no need of them," he replied. After a moment's thought, he
added, "We have our own emotions, and our own work--that's all. We do
not care for jewels, or for decoration for its own sake. The things we
use and see daily are beautiful in themselves, through their perfect
utility and their outward symbolism of utility and creation. Our tools
and our furniture are beautiful according to our own conceptions of
beauty--as you can see." He made a gesture about the room.

"And who serves you with those meals, and the music, and the knowledge
you learn in your sleep? Who does the work?"

"We all do the work. Each of us has his own work. Each of us is a
craftsman and a creative artist. The real work is done by machine--our
machines are the basic structure of our life. But we have men, highly
trained and fitted temperamentally for their professions, who watch and
direct the machines. It is a matter of a few hours a day, devoted to
fine problems in mechanics or building or invention. The rest of our
time is our own, and the machines go on moving automatically as we have
directed them to move. If every man on earth should die this morning, it
would be perhaps fifty years or a century before the last machine
stopped turning."

"And the rest of the time?"

It was Selda who answered this time. "We live. We devote ourselves to
learning and creative thought. We study human relations, or we wander
through the forests and the mountains, increasing the breadth and
significance of our minds and emotions." Selda's voice, rising suddenly
after her long silence, startled me, and I looked at her, disturbed
again by some subtle attraction exercised over me by her body. We were
silent a while, then I relapsed into my inner questionings, and turned
to Edvar.

"You must live under a sort of socialistic system," I said thoughtfully.
"Even a sort of communism?"

"In a sense. Rather it is an automatic life. The soul of the machine
pervades us all, and the machines are beautiful. Our lives are logically
and inevitably directed by environment and heredity just as the
machines are inevitably directed by their functions and capabilities.
When a child is born, we know already what he will do throughout his
life, how long he will live, what sort of children he will have, the
woman he will marry. The Bureau could tell you at this moment when my
great-grandson will be born, when he will die, and what his life will do
for the State. There are never any accidents in our lives."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But how did you develop so highly technical a civilization?" I asked.

"We came to it gradually from the last government system. It was called
the _phrenarchic system_--the rule of the mind. It was neither democracy
nor monarchy nor dictatorship. We found that we could tell the
temperament and characteristics of a child from his early years, and we
trained certain children for government. They were given power according
to the qualities of their minds and according to the tasks for which
they were fitted. We even bred them for governing. Later, when the
machine began to usurp the place of labor all over the world and gave
men freedom and peace and beauty, the task of government dwindled away
little by little, and the phrenarchs turned gradually to other
occupations."

       *       *       *       *       *

I learned innumerable details of that life from Edvar, and occasionally
Selda would add some fact. They are not important now. It is the
narrative which I must tell, not the details of a social system which,
as I would discover later, was purely hypothetical.

The three of us spent the morning in conversation there, until the
entrance of another man I had not seen before. He came in without
knocking, but Edvar and Selda did not seem to be surprised. He was the
representative of the Bureau.

"You are Baret?" he said, looking at me keenly.

"Yes," I replied.

"I have been directed to tell you that your visit here is temporary, and
that you will be returned to your previous life at the end of a certain
period of time which we have not yet calculated precisely. You have been
registered with the Bureau, and you are free to come and go as you see
fit, but you are not to interfere with anything you see. You are an
observer. You will be expected to comply with our methods of living as
Edvar or Selda will explain them to you."

With a slight bow, he turned to go. But I detained him.

"Wait," I said. "Can you tell me who I am, and where I've come from?"

"We are not yet certain. Our knowledge of you has come to us in an
unusual manner, through a series of new experiments now being conducted
at the Bureau. If possible, we will explain them to you later. In any
case you may be assured that your absence from your usual life will not
cause you any harm, and that you will return after a definite time. Rest
here, and keep your mind at peace. You will be safe."

Then he turned and left. I was puzzled for a while, but I forgot that
shortly in the strangeness and wonder of the life I was living in a
strange world....

       *       *       *       *       *

And the lake? Melbourne?

The Grieg nocturne came to an end. I frowned as I set down my razor, and
went into the living room to change the record. Conflicting memories ...
where did they meet? On the one hand was the awakening in the cold
waters of the lake--only an hour or less than an hour ago. And there was
Melbourne, and the strange conversation at the Club. Finally there was
this amazing and isolated recollection, like a passage from a dream.

Suddenly, as I went back to my bath and plunged into the cool water, my
mind returned to Melbourne. I had been walking home with him that night
from the Club--perhaps last night. We had gone on a while in silence,
both of us thinking. Then we had come to the Drive. At that moment
Melbourne had said something--what was it?

He had said, "Tell me, Mr. Barrett, would you care to see that dream of
yours come true?"



The Chamber of Life


I didn't know what Melbourne meant, and I looked at him inquiringly.

He explained: "I have in my home a model--or rather a complete
test-apparatus. It was finished only a few days ago. I have been
postponing my trial of it from day to day, afraid that it might be a
failure--although, of course, it can't be. I have verified my work
dozens of times, step by step.

"If you care to see it, I should be glad to have you come with me. Now
that I have reached the end of my search, I need someone to share my
triumph with me." I glanced at him eagerly, but hardly understanding
that his offer was serious.

"But, Mr. Melbourne," I said, "why have you chosen me--a man you've only
met this evening?" He smiled.

"I am a lonely man, almost a recluse, Mr. Barrett," he answered. "I have
many friends in many countries--but no intimates. It is the penalty of a
man's devotion to one single and absorbing task. And, too, I think you
share a little of my interest in this particular task."

"I do, sir! It has fascinated me," I said.

"Then come along. I shall soon be an old man, and I will need someone to
carry on this work as I should carry it on. Perhaps you will be that
man."

A taxi was coming up the Drive at that moment. Melbourne hailed it, and
held the door for me to enter. Then he gave the driver an address which
I didn't hear, and climbed in after me.

"This will be quicker," he said. "After all, I am more excited about it
myself than I should care to admit."

As we turned and went on up the Drive, he told me more about his
invention.

"I call it the Chamber of Life," he said. "It's a fantastic name, but it
designates precisely what my instrument is.

"You see, it's like living another life to experience an hour or two in
the Chamber. You cannot possibly realize yet just what it's like. I have
created a means of reproducing all the sensations that a man would have
in actual living; all the sounds, the odors, the little feelings that
are half-realized in daily life--everything. The Chamber takes
possession of you and lives for you. You forget your name, your very
existence in this world, and you are taken bodily into a fictitious
land. It is like actually living the books you would read today, or the
motion pictures and plays you would watch and hear.

"It is as real as life, but it moves swiftly as a dream. You seem to
pass through certain things slowly and completely, in the _tempo_ of
life. Then, when the transitional moment comes, between the scenes, your
sensations pass with unbelievable rapidity. The Chamber has possession
of your mind. It tells you that you are doing such and such a thing, it
gives you all the feeling of doing that thing, and you actually believe
you are doing it. And when it snatches you away from one day and takes
you into the next, it has only to make you feel that a day has passed,
and it is as though you had lived through that day. You could live a
lifetime in this way, in the Chamber, without spending actually more
than a few hours."

       *       *       *       *       *

The taxi turned a corner, leaving the Drive, and plunged into a maze of
side streets. I didn't notice particularly where we were going, because
I was utterly absorbed in everything Melbourne said. The city, along the
upper part of the Drive, is filled with streets that twist and turn
crookedly, like New York's Greenwich Village. It has always puzzled me
to know how the residents ever find their way home at night--especially
when they are returning from parties. I suppose they manage it
somehow--perhaps by signs cut in the trees, like primitive Indians.

"Even after I had worked out the machine," Melbourne continued, "it was
a year's job to put together a record for a thorough trial. That was a
matter of synchronization like your talking pictures, except that
everything had to be synchronized--taste touch as well as sound and
vision. And thought-processes had to be included. I had this advantage,
however--that I could record everything by a process of pure
imagination, as I shall explain later, just as everything is received
directly through the mind. And I worked out a way of going back and
cutting out the extraneous impressions. Even so, it was all amazingly
complicated.

"I've gotten around the difficulties of this, my first record, by
avoiding a story of ordinary life. Indeed, what I have made is hardly a
story at all. You can readily see how hard it would have been to use the
medley of noises in traffic, or the infinite variety of subtle
country-sounds. Instead, I made a story of an ideal life as I have
visioned it--the future, if you like, or the life on another planet."

At this moment we turned into a dark driveway and skirted a large lawn
for several hundred yards, up to Melbourne's home. It was a large
house, dark at the moment, like the colonial houses you see in
Virginia--the real ones, not the recent imitations that consist of
little except the spotless white columns, which Jefferson adopted from
the Greeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

We went up some steps to a wide porch as the taxi drove away, and
Melbourne unlocked the door. The hall inside was a hint of quiet, fine
furnishings, with the note of simplicity that marks real taste.
Melbourne himself took my hat, and put it away meticulously with his own
in a cloak-room at the end of the hall. Then he led me up the stairs,
deeply carpeted, to his study. I glanced around the study with interest,
but I saw nothing that could, conceivably, have been what he called the
Chamber of Life.

"It's not here, Mr. Barrett," he said, noticing my eagerness with a
smile, "we'll go to it in a moment. I thought you might care for a
highball first." From a closet he selected a bottle of Scotch, some
soda, and glasses. Before he poured the whisky, he removed a small box
from a cabinet, opened it, and extracted two small capsules. He dropped
one of them into each glass.

"This is a harmless drug," he explained. "It will paralyze some of the
nerves of your body so that you won't feel the chair you'll be sitting
in nor any extraneous sensation that might interfere with the
impressions you must get from the instrument. It's a sort of local
anesthetic." He handed me my glass.

We drank the highballs rather hastily, and rose. Melbourne went to a
door at one end of the room and opened it, switching on a light.
Following him, I looked past the doorway into a small room something
like the conception I had of the control-room in a submarine. It was a
small chamber with metal walls. It had no windows, and only the one door
through which we entered.

Around the walls were a series of cabinets with innumerable dials,
switches, wires, and tiny radio tubes. It was like a glorified radio,
but there were no loud speakers and no ear-phones. Two very deep and
comfortable chairs stood side by side in the center of the room.

"The experience will be very simple," Melbourne said softly. "I'm not
going into any detail about this instrument until we see how it works. I
may as well explain, though, that the room is absolutely sound-proof, so
that no trace of noises outside can enter it. Furthermore, I maintain it
at an even body temperature. These precautions are to prevent
interference with the sound impressions and the heat and cold stimuli
of the instrument. That is the only reason we have to be confined here
in this room, because it is especially adapted to the reception of these
impressions.

"The instrument, you see, like a radio, is operative at a distance. I am
going to test you in a moment for your wavelength. When I have that, and
set the instrument, you could receive the story, so far as I know,
anywhere in the world. No receiving set is necessary, for it acts
directly upon the brain. But you must have these ideal conditions for
pure reception."

       *       *       *       *       *

I seated myself in one of the chairs, yawning a little. Melbourne,
working at the dials, noticed my yawn and observed approvingly.

"That's good. The more deadened your body is to real sensations--the
nearer it is to sleep--the better and more vivid will be your
impressions." He pressed several buttons, and twisted a dial with
sensitive fingers.

"Now, concentrate for a moment on the word _Venus_," he directed. I did
so, and shortly I heard a faint humming which rose within the
instrument. Then Melbourne turned a switch with a nod of satisfaction,
and the humming ceased.

"That gave me your wavelength," he explained. "I have set it for my own
as well--I can broadcast at one time two or more different lengths. I
can broadcast more than one part in the drama, too. Whereas you, for
instance, will be the man waking up in a strange world in the record we
are going to receive, I have connected my wavelength to receive the
emotions and the sensations of the girl, Selda."

He came forward to the other chair, and sat down.

"Everything is in readiness now," he said. "When I press this button on
the arm of my chair, the lights will go out. A moment later we shall be
under the stimulus of the machine. I don't think anything can happen."
He smiled. "If anything does, and you are conscious enough to know it,
you can call my butler by means of an electrical device I have perfected
simply by speaking his name, Peter, in an ordinary conversational voice.
But I don't see how anything can go wrong."

We reached for each other's hands, and shook them quietly.

"Good luck," I said. "The outcome of this means almost as much to me as
it does to you." With another smile, Melbourne answered:

"Good luck to you, then, too."

At that moment the lights went off, and we sat there a few moments in
total darkness....

Remembering this scene, as I bathed that morning when I came out of the
lake, I began to understand more clearly what had happened to me.
Evidently, then, it _had_ been last night that I saw Melbourne, and the
strange other-life I had been recalling earlier had been the experience
in the Chamber of Life.

But there was more yet. My mind raced back to the awakening on the hill,
and to the landing in the city of Richmond. I remembered the
conversation with Edvar in his apartment, the place where I had left off
and gone back to my recollections of Melbourne.

Now, as I stepped out of the tub and dried myself and dressed, I
returned mentally to the curious, mythical adventure in the mythical
city. It was still impossible for me to feel that it was unreal, it had
been so vivid, so clear.



Baret and Selda


I remember that I lived nearly two months--or so it seemed--in that
other world. I was assigned an apartment near to Edvar's--Selda was
between us. Edvar instructed me in the details of the life I was to
lead. But he was a rather cold sort: his interests were ancient history
and archeology, and he would spend his mornings at work in the Library
of History or in his study, the rest of his time flying about the world
on curious expeditions of discovery--examining the soil, I suppose, and
investigating the customs and records of other cities.

Selda devoted most of her time to me. It was she who took me from place
to place, showing me the natural beauties of that world. There were, you
see, not only gentle slopes and hill-tops. There were mountainous crags
as high and as wild as the Alps, forests as impenetrably deep and still
as the jungles of the Amazon, and rivers that rushed and tumbled over
rocks, or fell for thousands of feet from mountain cliffs.

The first time I went with her, she took me to a gigantic peak that
overlooked the sea. There was, of course, a small level place for the
airship to land. We left it there, and climbed on foot the last hundred
yards or so. Our way lay through the heavy snow, but it was not too cold
to be more than gloriously bracing, exhilarating. We wore our usual
costume of trunks and tunic.

We stood at the top and looked out over the grandest horizon I had ever
seen. To the east there lay the sea, deep and very blue in the sunlight.
The shore was just a dark line far away and below us. There was a long
strip of grass and field bordering the sea for miles, and behind that
the forest. Toward the north, the mountains crept out from under the
forest and moved down to the sea, rising until they became a vast
wilderness of cliffs and rocks, and hid the sea, with peak after peak
rising as far as the eye could reach into the snow and the mist. Then
the hills sloped down westward into a series of wooded valleys, through
which ran the wide river I had seen at my awakening, coming down from
the mountains and through the valleys until it flattened broadly out
into the low plains in the south and moved eastward to the sea.
Everywhere in the valleys and over the plains, I knew that cities were
scattered, lonely and tall like the one they called Richmond. But we
were so high in the mountains that they were invisible to us--perhaps a
keen eye could have found them, tiny white dots crouching upon the
earth.

I turned to Selda--and caught my breath. The wind, swooping up from the
sea, whipped her thin covering against her body and fluttered it like
the swift wings of a butterfly behind her. Her short, dark hair, too,
was lifted and blown back from her forehead, revealing the clean, soft
profile of her face. I had never seen a girl who stood so clean, so
straight. I watched her until she turned, too, and met my eyes. In them
I thought I detected something startled and unfathomable.

"My God!" I cried across the wind, "you are beautiful!" She frowned a
little, but her eyes still looked searchingly into mine. I stepped
forward, facing her. But I didn't touch her. I was afraid to touch
anything so clean.

"You belong here, Selda," I added. "The wind is a part of you, and the
mountains, and the sea. You shouldn't have to live in the midst of all
those people in the city. You belong here." She smiled faintly, looking
up at me.

"You belong here more than I do, Baret," she said. "You came to us, not
from the city, but from the hills."

       *       *       *       *       *

We stood there, examining each other's eyes, for a long while. I wanted
to take her in my arms, but I didn't. I looked away at last, back at the
sea, puzzled and disturbed. I had never been aware of anything so fine
as this before, nor of anything so painful. Suddenly I found myself
wanting to be something, to do something--not for myself, but for her.
It was strange.

"Come," she said at last, "we had better go back."

"I'd like to stay here forever," I answered moodily, glancing around a
last time at the versatile horizon.

"So would I," she admitted. Then, in a low voice, she added, "But one
can't. One has to follow one's program."

We returned to the airship, raid rose into the cool, thin air. I stood
behind her on the way back, watching her slender body as she guided the
plane. Once in a while she would turn her head and look up at me over
her shoulder, then quickly look away again.

"Why is it," I asked her as we passed over the valleys and the river on
our way home, "why is it that these hills have such a cultivated
look--as though they had been laid out?" She glanced back, and smiled.

"They _have_ been laid out," she said. "The hills, and the rivers, and
the tallest mountains have all been constructed by our landscape artists
in order to achieve their various effects. Even the line of the sea has
been determined and arranged by the artists."

"But why?" I said. "Wasn't it a frightful waste of energy?"

"It didn't seem so to us," she answered. "We had no further need to
cultivate the land except in small patches, when we learned the secret
of artificial food. And we wanted to have perfect beauty about us. So we
remodeled the outlines of the earth, and eliminated the insects and the
harmful animals and the weeds. We made the land clean and fine as it had
never been before."

"It must have been a terrific labor."

"It pleased us. Our instinct is to arrange and remodel things, to order
our life so that we know what it is and what it will always be." She
paused for a moment, and added in a low voice, "One is necessarily a
determinist here."

We said no more until our arrival in Richmond.

It is not my purpose to detail here all that happened during the time I
spent on that world. Most of it had to do with Selda, and our daily
expeditions about the world. This is not, after all, a love story, but
the account of a very strange experience; and, too, none of it was real.

During my last week, a series of strange moods and happenings
complicated my life. One day, after a visit to the sea with Selda, we
were walking back to our plane across the sand. Without any warning,
surrounded by the brilliant morning sunlight and the miles of sea and
beach, I struck my knee against something hard and immovable, and,
flinging out my hand to catch myself from falling, I clung to a hard
surface like an iron railing. For a moment I was stunned and confused.
The sunlight seemed to fade, and there was a vague hint of darkness all
about me, with black walls looming up on all sides. It was as though I
stood in two worlds at once, transfixed between night and day. Then the
darkness went away, the sunlight brightened. I looked around, and found
Selda watching me curiously, a little alarmed.

"What happened, Baret?" she asked, puzzled. I shook my head in
bewilderment.

"I seemed to stumble--" I said. There was nothing underfoot but the soft
sand, and where I had flung my hand against a sort of railing, there was
nothing either. We went back to the airship in silence, both of us
confused.

       *       *       *       *       *

After that, with increasing frequency, there would come interruptions,
like iron bars striking dark, jagged holes in the tissue of life. From
time to time I heard inexplicable noises--the whirring of motors, the
skid-skid of tires on invisible streets, the rumble of carts around
corners of a world where there were no carts. Again and again those
moments of confusion would come over me, when I seemed to be looking
into two worlds at once, one superimposed upon the other, one bright,
the other dark with faint points of light in the distance. Once, walking
along the corridor beyond my room in Richmond, I collided with a man.
For a moment the corridor faded completely. I stood on a street with
dark houses about me. Overhead was the glow of a street-lamp, and a
milk-cart was just rattling away around a corner. A man with a
frightened face stood before me, his hat on the pavement, his eyes
staring. We looked at each other in astonishment. I started to speak.
Then he reached for his hat quickly, and brushed by me, muttering close
to my ear.

"For God's sake, look where you're going...."

I stood in the corridor again, staring. Down the corridor, coming toward
me, was a single figure--Selda. Behind me there was nobody. I went to
meet Selda, dazed and uneasy. I could still hear, close to my ear, an
echo of that muffled, hoarse voice that I had never heard before.

That was two days before the end. We were leaving the city on that final
bright morning, when a representative of the Bureau stopped us. I looked
at him inquiringly.

"I have come to tell you, Baret," he said, "that your departure is
scheduled for this evening." I drew back, startled, and looked at Selda.

"My departure?" I repeated in a low voice, hardly understanding. "So
soon?" I had forgotten that one day I should have to leave.

"It has been arranged," he said impersonally.

We bowed slightly to each other, and he went away. Selda and I stepped
aboard our ship in silence.

That time we flew up the river until we came to the foothills of the
mountains in the north. We landed in a little clearing by the river at
the foot of a waterfall hundreds of feet high, towering over us. The
forest stood about us on all sides, coming down to the river's brim on
the opposite bank and meeting it not far from us on the near bank. The
precipice, covered with moss and small bushes, stood above us.

       *       *       *       *       *

We sat a long while in silence, before I said bitterly:

"So I must go."

She didn't look at me, but answered quietly, "Yes, you must go."

"I don't want to go," I cried, "I want to stay here!"

"Why?" she asked me, averting her face.

"Don't you know?" I said swiftly. "Haven't you understood long ago that
I love you?" She shook her head.

"Love is something that we don't know here--not until we have been
married and lived with our men. Sometimes not then." But she looked at
me, and I thought there were tears in her eyes. Suddenly the impulse I
had been resisting ever since the morning on the mountain became
insupportable, and I caught her in my arms almost roughly. Her face was
close to mine, and she closed her eyes. I kissed her, forgetting
everything but the knowledge that I had stumbled upon the sort of love
that doesn't pass away, no matter how long a man lives.

After a while, though, she drew away as if she resisted not my desire,
but her own.

"No--" she said in a low voice, "no...."

"But Selda!" I stammered, "I love you--I want to marry you." She shook
her head.

"No," she said again, "didn't you understand? I am scheduled to marry
Edvar."

At first I didn't know what she meant.

"Scheduled?" I repeated dully. "I don't understand."

"It has been arranged for years. Don't you remember what Edvar told you
about our marriages here, the very first day you came? I was destined to
marry Edvar long before any of us were born, before our parents, even,
were born. It's the way they order our lives."

"But I love you," I cried in amazement. "And you love me, too. I know
you love me."

"That means nothing here," she said. "It happens sometimes. One has to
accept it. Nothing can be done. We live according to the machinery of
the world. Everything is known and predetermined."

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly, in the midst of what she was saying, close behind me there
sounded even above the roaring of the waterfall a raucous noise like the
hooting of a taxi horn. It was followed by a shrieking of brakes, and a
hoarse voice near by shouted something angry and profane. A rush of air
swept by me, and I heard faintly the sound of a motor moving away, with
a grinding of gears. I looked at Selda.

"Did you hear that?"

She nodded, with wide, frightened eyes. "Yes. It's not the first time."
Suddenly she rose, frowning, as if with pain. "Come," she added, "now we
must go back."

There was nothing else to do. We went back silently to the airship, and
turned its nose toward the city.

But when I left her at her apartment, promising to see her later, I had
one last hope in my mind. I went to the Bureau.

The Bureau was a vast system of halls and offices, occupying two floors
of the great building. I was sent from one automatic device to
another--there were no human clerks--in search of the representative who
had spoken to me before. Finally I found him in his apartment, down the
corridor only a hundred feet or so from my own. He was pouring over a
metal sheet on his table, where innumerable shifting figures were thrown
by some hidden machine, and he was calculating with a set of hundreds of
buttons along its edges. He spoke to me without pausing or looking up,
and throughout my interview he continued with his figuring as if it had
been entirely automatic--as perhaps it was.

"What is it, Baret?" he said I felt like a small child before the
principal of the school.

"I have come to ask you whether it is necessary for me to go," I
answered. He nodded slightly, never looking up.

"It is necessary," he said. "Your visit was pre-arranged and definite."
I made a gesture of remonstrance.

"But I don't want to go," I insisted. "I like this place, and I am
willing to fall into its life if I can remain under any conditions."

"It is impossible," he objected angrily.

"I have never been told why or how I came here. You said you would tell
me that."

"I have never been told myself. It is a matter known to the men who
handled it."

"If I went to them, surely they could find some way to let me stay?"

"No," he said coldly, "the thing was as definite as every event that
takes place here. We do not let things happen haphazardly. We do not
alter what has been arranged. And even if it were possible to let you
stay--which I am inclined to doubt--they would not permit it."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why not?" I asked dully.

"Because there is no place for you. Our social system has been planned
for hundreds of years ahead. Every individual of today and every
individual of the next six generations has his definite place, his
program, his work to do. There is no place for you. It is impossible to
fit you in, for you have no work, no training, no need that you can
fill. You have no woman, and there are no women for your children or
your children's children. You are unnecessary. To fit you in, one would
have to disrupt the whole system for generations ahead. It is
impossible."

I thought a moment, hopelessly.

"If I made a place?" I suggested. "Suppose I took someone else's place?"
He smiled, a faint, cold smile.

"Murder? It is impossible. You are always under the control of the
Bureau in some way, whether you are aware of it or not."

       *       *       *       *       *

I turned away, a little dazed. The whole thing was inevitable and clear
as he put it. I knew there was nothing to be done.

I left his apartment, and went down the corridor to the landing stage.
No one interfered with my movements, and my commands were not
questioned. I ordered a plane, and gave my name to the girl in charge.

"Your destination?" she asked.

I said, "I am only going for pleasure."

"Your return?"

"Expect me in an hour."

I had watched Selda pilot the planes for so many weeks that I was
familiar with the controls. I rose swiftly, circled the building, and
headed north toward the mountains. I hadn't the courage to see Selda
again. It was only a little while before I came to the place by the
river where we had spent the morning. I slowed down, and flew over it,
just above the waterfall.

There was a landing-spot by the river just beyond the top of the fall. I
came to rest there, and left the machine.

I stood looking at the river for a moment. I don't remember that any
thoughts or emotions came to my mind. I simply stood there, a little
dazed, and very quiet, with a vague picture of Selda before my eyes. It
was a dream-like moment.

Then I slipped over the river's bank, into the water, and the swift
current, catching me up and whirling me around dizzily, carried me
toward the edge of the waterfall.



And So to Work


I glanced at the clock on the mantel. It was five minutes to eight: time
to leave, if I was to get a decent breakfast before I went to the
office. I found an old hat in the closet and put it on. It would do
until I had time to buy another.

Last night--and this morning. Last night, after supper, I had dropped by
the Club for a drink. And met Melbourne. This morning I woke in the
water of the lake, and came home, and dressed. And went to work. Twelve
hours--and in that time I had lived two months. I had fallen in love,
and died. Now I must go to work.

As I left the apartment, and turned west away from the Drive, toward the
street cars, I was whistling over and over a brief snatch of music. Was
it Grieg? Or some composer never heard on earth?

There were people on the street now. They went by with frowning, intent
faces--on their way to work. And cars rolling by, pausing at the cross
streets with little squealings of brakes.

Everything was so simple now. I went over it all as I waited for the
street car, and as I rode down town. It was strange that Melbourne had
never foreseen that one possibility among so many.

We had sat down in our chairs, and then the adventure had begun. I
had felt the sensation of moving about, of going from place to place.
When I was a child I used to have dreams of walking about the
house and about the streets. I would wake up on the stairs, or at the
door--sleep-walking. Reflexes did it. I had left the chair, under the
influence of the story in the Chamber of Life, and gone out of the room.
I remembered now all those brief moments, when I had seemed poised on
the brink of the real world--the stumbling against some hard object, the
face under the street-lamp, the taxi, the voices. I had been going
through the dark streets, with closed eyes, going toward the
Drive--sleep-walking. And when I slipped over the bank of the river, in
the dream, and down into the water--in reality I had gone over the side
of the Drive, and down into the cold lake.

It had been dawn.

       *       *       *       *       *

I left the car, and walked down the street, lost in the midst of the
crowds hurrying about me. It was all over, gone like one of those old
dreams of my childhood. I could never forget it--never forget Selda--but
it was gone. It had never existed. It had been cruel of Melbourne, cruel
and ironic, to put Selda in the dream. But perhaps he had never realized
that it would last over into reality.

I had no hope of seeing her again, even in the Chamber. I knew I could
never find Melbourne's home: I had paid no attention to the way the
taxi-driver took. And I wasn't very much interested now. It was only a
dream. I had lost the only girl I had ever loved, in a dream.

I pushed open the door of the Norfolk Lunch. It was late--I had only a
little while for breakfast. I sat down at one of the tables, and spoke
to the waiter in much the usual manner.

"Hello, Joe. I'm in a hurry--bring me bacon and eggs, as usual."

"Coffee, Mr. Barrett?"

"Yes, coffee too. And hurry it up."

It wouldn't do to be late at the office, where I, too, was a maker of
sometimes cruel dreams.


THE END





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