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´╗┐Title: Palos of the Dog Star Pack
Author: Giesy, J. U.
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 "Palos of the Dog Star Pack" ***

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



                           All-Story Weekly

                      _July 13-August 10, 1918_


                           PALOS OF THE DOG

                              STAR PACK


                            by J. U. Giesy

       *       *       *       *       *



1. OUT OF THE STORM


It was a miserable night which brought me first in touch with Jason
Croft. There was a rain and enough wind to send it in gusty dashes
against the windows. It was the sort of a night when I always felt
glad to cast off coat and shoes, don a robe and slippers, and sit down
with the curtains drawn, a lighted pipe, and the soft glow of a lamp
falling across the pages of my book. I am, I admit, always strangely
susceptible to the shut-in sense of comfort afforded by a pipe, the
steady yellow of a light, and the magic of printed lines at a time of
elemental turmoil and stress.

It was with a feeling little short of positive annoyance that I heard
the door-bell ring. Indeed, I confess, I was tempted to ignore it
altogether at first. But as it rang again, and was followed by a rapid
tattoo of rapping, as of fists pounded against the door itself, I
rose, laid aside my book, and stepped into the hall.

First switching on a porch-light, I opened the outer door, to reveal
the figure of an old woman, somewhat stooping, her head covered by a
shawl, which sloped wetly from her head to either shoulder, and was
caught and held beneath her chin by one bony hand.

"Doctor," she began in a tone of almost frantic excitement. "Dr.
Murray--come quick!"

Perhaps I may as well introduce myself here as anywhere else. I am Dr.
George Murray, still, as at the time of which I write, in charge of
the State Mental Hospital in a Western State. The institution was not
then very large, and since taking my position at the head of its staff
I had found myself with considerable time for my study along the lines
of human psychology and the various powers and aberrations of the
mind.

Also, I may as well confess, as a first step toward a better
understanding of my part in what followed, that for years before
coming to the asylum I had delved more or less deeply into such
studies, seeking to learn what I might concerning both the normal and
the abnormal manifestations of mental force.

There is good reading and highly entertaining, I assure you, in the
various philosophies dealing with life, religion, and the several
beliefs regarding the soul of man. I was therefore fairly conversant
not only with the Occidental creeds, but with those of the Oriental
races as well. And I knew that certain of the Eastern sects had
advanced in their knowledge far beyond our Western world. I had even
endeavored to make their knowledge mine, so far as I could, in certain
lines at least, and had from time to time applied some of that
knowledge to the treatment of cases in the institution of which I was
the head.

But I was not thinking of anything like that as I looked at the
shawl-wrapped face of the little bent woman, wrinkled and wry enough
to have been a very part of the storm which beat about her and blew
back the skirts of my lounging-robe and chilled my ankles. I lived in
a residence detached from the asylum buildings proper, but none the
less a part of the institution; and, as a matter of fact, my sole
thought was a feeling of surprise that any one should have come here
to find me, and despite the woman's manifest state of anxiety and
haste, a decided reluctance to go with her quickly or otherwise on
such a night.

I rather temporized: "But, my dear woman, surely there are other
doctors for you to call. I am really not in general practice. I am
connected with the asylum--" "And that is the very reason I always
said I would come for you if anything happened to Mr. Jason," she cut
in.

"Whom?" I inquired, interested in spite of myself at this plainly
premeditated demand for my service.

"Mr. Jason Croft, sir," she returned. "He's dead maybe--I dunno. But
he's been that way for a week."

"Dead?" I exclaimed in almost an involuntary fashion, startled by her
words.

"Dead, or asleep. I don't know which."

Clearly there was something here I wasn't getting into fully, and my
interest aroused. The whole affair seemed to be taking on an
atmosphere of the peculiar, and it was equally clear that the gusty
doorway was no place to talk. "Come in," I said. "What is your name?"

"Goss," said she, without making any move to enter. "I'm house-keeper
for Mr. Jason, but I'll not be comin' in unless you say you'll go."

"Then come in without any more delay," I replied, making up my mind. I
knew Croft in a way--by sight at least. He was a big fellow with light
hair and a splendid physique, who had been pointed out to me shortly
after my arrival. Once I had even got close enough to the man to look
into his eyes. They were gray, and held a peculiar something in their
gaze which had arrested my attention at once. Jason Croft had the eyes
of a mystic--of a student of those very things I myself had studied
more or less.

They were the eyes of one who saw deeper than the mere objective
surface of life, and the old woman's words at the last had waked up my
interest in no uncertain degree. I had decided I would go with her to
Croft's house, which was not very far down the street, and see, if I
might, for myself just what had occurred to send her rushing to me
through the night.

I gave her a seat, said I would get on my shoes and coat, and went
back into the room I had left some moments before. There I dressed
quickly for my venture into the storm, adding a raincoat to my other
attire, and was back in the hall inside five minutes at most.

       *       *       *       *       *

We set out at once, emerging into the wind-driven rain, my long
raincoat flapping about my legs and the little old woman tottering
along at my side. And what with the rain, the wind, and the unexpected
summons, I found myself in a rather strange frame of mind. The whole
thing seemed more like some story I had read than a happening of real
life, particularly so as my companion kept pace with me and uttered no
sound save at times a rather rasping sort of breath. The whole thing
became an almost eery experience as we hastened down the storm-swept
street.

Then we turned in at a gate and went up toward the large house I knew
to be Croft's, and the little old woman unlocked a heavy front door
and led me into a hall. It was a most unusual hall, too, its walls
draped with rare tapestries and rugs, its floor covered with other
rugs such as I had never seen outside private collections, lighted by
a hammered brass lantern through the pierced sides of which the rays
of an electric light shone forth.

Across the hall she scuttered, still in evident haste, and flung open
a door to permit me to enter a room which was plainly a study. It was
lined with cases of books, furnished richly yet plainly with chairs, a
heavy desk, and a broad couch, on which I saw in one swift glance the
stretched-out body of Croft himself.

He lay wholly relaxed, like one sunk in heavy sleep, his eyelids
closed, his arms and hands dropped limply at his sides, but no visible
sign of respiration animating his deep full chest.

Toward him the little woman gestured with a hand, and stood watching,
still with her wet shawl about her head and shoulders, while I
approached and bent over the man.

I touched his face and found it cold. My fingers sought his pulse and
failed to find it at all. But his body was limp as I lifted an arm and
dropped it. There was no rigor, yet there was no evidence of decay,
such as must follow once rigor has passed away. I had brought
instruments with me as a matter of course. I took them from my pocket
and listened for some sound from the heart. I thought I found the
barest flutter, but I wasn't sure. I tested the tension of the eyeball
under the closed lids and found it firm. I straightened and turned to
face the little old woman.

"Dead, sir?" she asked in a sibilant whisper. Her eyes were wide in
their sockets. They stared into mine.

I shook my head. "He doesn't appear to be dead," I replied. "See here,
Mrs. Goss, what did you mean by saying he ought to have been back
three days ago? What do you mean by back?"

She fingered at her lips with one bony hand. "Why--awake, sir," she
said at last.

"Then why didn't you say so?" I snapped. "Why use the word back?"

"Because, sir," she faltered, "that's what he says when he wakes up.
'Well, Mary, I'm back.' I--I guess I just said it because he does,
doctor. I--was worrit when he didn't come back--when he didn't wake
up, to-night, an' it took to rainin'. I reckon maybe it was th' storm
scared me, sir."

Her words had, however, given me a clue. "He's been like this before,
then?"

"Yes, sir. But never more than four days without telling me he would.
Th' first time was months ago--but it's been gettin' oftener and
oftener, till now all his sleeps are like this. He told me not to be
scared--an' to--to never bother about him--to--to just let him alone;
but--I guess I was scared to-night, when it begun to storm an' him
layin' there like that. It was like havin' a corpse in the house."

I began to gain a fuller appreciation of the situation. I myself had
seen people in a cataleptic condition, had even induced the state in
subjects myself, and it appeared to me that Jason Croft was in a
similar state, no matter how induced.

"What does your employer do?" I asked.

"He studies, sir--just studies things like that." Mrs. Goss gestured
at the cases of books. "He don't have to work, you know. His uncle
left him rich."

I followed her arm as she swept it about the glass-fronted cases. I
brought my glances back to the desk in the center of the room, between
the woman and myself as we stood. Upon it I spied another volume lying
open. It was unlike any book I had ever seen, yellowed with age; in
fact not a book at all, but a series of parchment pages tied together
with bits of silken cord.

I took the thing up and found the open pages covered with marginal
notes in English, although the original was plainly in Sanskrit, an
ancient language I had seen before, but was wholly unable to read. The
notations, however, threw some light into my mind, and as I read them
I forgot the storm, the little old woman--everything save what I read
and the bearing it held on the man behind me on the couch. I felt sure
they had been written by his own hand, and they bore on the subject of
astral projection--the ability of the soul to separate itself, or be
separated, from the physical body and return to its fleshy husk again
at will.

I finished the open pages and turned to others. The notations were
still present wherever I looked. At last I turned to the very front
and found that the manuscript was by Ahmid, an occult adept of
Hindustan, who lived somewhere in the second or third century of the
Christian era.

With a strange sensation I laid down the silk-bound pages. They were
very, very old. Over a thousand years had come and passed since they
were written by the dead Ahmid's hand. Yet I had held them to-night,
and I felt sure Jason Croft had held them often--read them and
understood them, and that the condition in which I found him this
night was in some way subtly connected with their store of ancient
lore. And suddenly I sensed the storm and the little old woman and the
silent body of the man at my back again, with a feeling of something
uncanny in the whole affair.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You can do nothing for him?" the woman broke my introspection.

I looked up and into her eyes, dark and bright and questioning as she
stood still clutching her damp shawl.

"I'm not so sure of that," I said. "But--Mr. Croft's condition is
rather--peculiar. Whatever I do will require quiet--that I am alone
with him for some time. I think if I can be left here with him for
possibly an hour, I can bring him back."

I paused abruptly. I had used the woman's former words almost. And I
saw she noticed the fact, for a slight smile gathered on her faded
lips. She nodded. "You'll bring him back," she said. "Mind you,
doctor, th' trouble is with Mr. Jason's head, I've been thinking.
'Twas for that I've been telling myself I would come for you, if he
forgot to come back some time, like I've been afraid he would."

"You did quite right," I agreed. "But--the trouble is not with Mr.
Croft's mind. In fact, Mrs. Goss, I believe he is a very learned man.
How long have you known him, may I ask?"

"Ever since he was a boy, except when he was travelin'," she returned.

"He has traveled?" I took her up.

"Yes, sir, a lot. Me an' my husband kept up th' place while he was
gone."

"I see," I said. "And now if you will let me try what I can do."

"Yes, sir. I'll set out in th' hall," she agreed, and turned in her
rapid putter from the room.

Left alone, I took a chair, dragged it to the side of the couch, and
studied my man.

So far as I could judge, he was at least six feet tall, and
correspondingly built. His hair was heavy, almost tawny, and, as I
knew, his eyes were gray. The whole contour of his head and features
showed what appeared to me remarkable intelligence and strength, the
nose finely chiseled, the mouth well formed and firm, the chin
unmistakably strong. That Croft was an unusual character I felt more
and more as I sat there. His very condition, which, from what I had
learned from the little old woman and his own notation on the margins
of Ahmid's writings, I believed self-induced, would certainly indicate
that.

But my own years of study had taught me no little of hypnosis,
suggestion, and the various phases of the subconscious mind. I had
developed no little power with various patients, or "subjects," as a
hypnotist calls them, who from time to time had submitted themselves
to my control. Wherefore I felt that I knew about what to do to waken
the sleeping objective mind of the man on the couch. I had asked for
an hour, and the time had been granted. It behooved me to get to work.

I began. I concentrated my mind to the exclusion of all else upon my
task, sending a mental call to the soul of Jason Croft, wherever it
might be, commanding it to return to the body it had temporarily
quitted of its own volition, and once more animate it to a conscious
life. I forgot the strangeness of the situation, the rattle of the
rain against the glass panes of the room. And after a time I began
speaking to the form beside which I sat, as to a conscious person,
firmly repeating over and over my demand for the presence of Jason
Croft--demanding it, nor letting myself doubt for a single instant
that the demand would be given heed in time.

It was a nerve-racking task. In the end it came to seem that I sat
there and struggled against some intangible, invisible force which
resisted all my efforts. I look back now on the time spent there that
night as an ordeal such as I never desire to again attempt. But I did
not desist. I had asked for an hour, because when I asked I never
dreamed the thing I had attempted, the thing which is yet to be
related, concerning the weird, yet true narrative, as I fully believe,
of Jason Croft.

I had then no conception of how far his venturesome spirit had plumbed
the universe. If I thought of him at all, it was merely as some
experimenter who might have need of help, rather than as an adept of
adepts, who had transcended all human accomplishments in his line of
research and thought.

In my own blindness I had fancied that his overlong period in his
cataleptic trance might even be due to some inability on his part to
reanimate his own body, after leaving it where it lay. I thought of
myself as possibly aiding him in the task by what I would do in the
time for which I had asked.

But the hour ran away, and another, and still the body over which I
worked lay as it had lain at first, nor gave any sign of any effect of
my concentrated will. It had been close to ten when I came to the
house. It was three in the morning when I gained my first reward.

And when it came, it was so sudden that I actually started back in my
chair and sat clutching its carved arms, and staring in something
almost like horror, I think, at first at the body which had lifted
itself to a sitting posture on the couch.

And I know that when the man said, "So you are the one who called me
back?" I actually gasped before I answered:

"Yes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Croft fastened his eyes upon me in a steady regard. "You are Dr.
Murray, from the Mental Hospital, are you not?" he went on.

"Ye-es," I stammered again. Mrs. Goss had said his sleep was like
having a corpse about the house. I found myself thinking this was
nearly a though a corpse should rise up and speak.

But he nodded, with the barest smile on his lips. "Only one acquainted
with the nature of my condition could have roused me," he said.
"However, you were engaging in a dangerous undertaking, friend."

"Dangerous for you, you mean," I rejoined. "Do you know you have lain
cataleptic for something like a week?"

"Yes." He nodded again. "But I was occupied on a most important
mission."

"Occupied!" I exclaimed. "You mean you were engaged in some
undertaking while you lay there?" I pointed to the couch where he
sat.

"Yes." Once more he smiled.

Well, the man was sane. In fact, it seemed to me in those first few
moments that he was far saner than I, far less excited, far less
affected by the whole business from the first to last. In fact, he
seemed quite calm and a trifle amused, while I was admittedly upset.
And my very knowledge gained by years of study told me he was sane,
that his was a perfectly balanced brain. There was nothing about him
to even hint at anything else, save his extraordinary words. In the
end I continued with a question:

"Where?"

"On the planet Palos, one of the Dog Star pack--a star in the system
of the sun Sirius," he replied.

"And you mean you have just returned from--there?" I faltered over the
last word badly. My brain seemed slightly dazed at the astounding
statement he had made--that I--I had called him from a planet beyond
the ken of the naked eye, known only to those who studied the heavens
with powerful glasses--farther away than any star of our own earthly
system of planets. The thing made my senses reel.

And he seemed to sense my emotions, because he went on in a softly
modulated tone: "Do not think me in any way similar to those
unfortunates under your charge. As an alienist you must know the truth
of that, just as you knew that my trancelike sleep was wholly
self-induced."

"I gathered that from the volume on your desk," I explained.

He glanced toward Ahmid's work. "You read the Sanskrit?" he inquired.

I shook my head. "No, I read the marginal notes."

"I see. Who called you here?"

I explained.

Croft frowned. "I cannot blame her; she is a faithful soul," he
remarked. "I can comprehend her worry. I have explained to her as
fully as I dared, but--she does not understand, and I remained away
longer than I really intended, to tell the truth. However, now that
you can reassure her, I must ask you to excuse me, doctor, for a
while. Come to me in about twelve hours and I will be here to meet you
and explain in part at least." He stretched himself out once more on
the couch.

"Wait!" I cried. "What are you going to do?"

"I am going back to Palos," he told me with a smile.

"But--will your body stand the strain?" I questioned, beginning to
doubt his sanity after all.

He met my objection with another smile. "I have studied that well
before I began these little excursions of mine. Meet me at, say, four
o'clock this afternoon." He appeared to relax, sighed softly, and sank
again into his trance.

I sprang up and stood looking down upon him. I hardly knew what to do.
I began pacing the floor. Finally I gave my attention to the books in
the cases which lined the room. They comprised the most wonderful
collection of works on the occult ever gathered within four walls.
They helped me to make up my mind in the end. I decided to take Jason
Croft at his word and keep the engagement for the coming afternoon.

I went to the study door and set it open. The little old woman sat
huddled on a chair. At first I thought she slept, but almost at once I
found her bright eyes upon me, and she started to her feet.

"He came back--I--I heard him speaking," she began in a husky whisper.
"He--is he all right?"

"All right," I replied. "But he is asleep again now and has promised
to see me this afternoon at four. In the meantime do not attempt to
disturb him in any way, Mrs. Goss."

She nodded. Suddenly she seemed wholly satisfied. "I won't, sir," she
gave her promise. "I was worrit--worrit--that was all."

"You need not worry any more," I sought to reassure her. "I fancy Mr.
Croft is able to take care of himself."

And, oddly enough, I found myself believing my own words as I went
down the steps and turned toward my own home to get what sleep I
could--since, to tell the truth, I felt utterly exhausted after my
efforts to call Jason Croft back from--the planet of a distant sun.



2. A COUNTRY IN THE CLOUDS


And yet when I woke in the morning and went about my duties at the
asylum, I confess the events of the night before seemed rather unreal.
I began to half fancy myself the victim of some sort of hoax. I did
not doubt that Croft had been up to some psychic experiment when his
old servant, Mrs. Goss, had become alarmed and brought me into the
situation. But--I felt inclined to believe that after I had waked him
from his self-induced trance he had deliberately turned the
conversation into a channel which would give me a mental jolt before
he had calmly gone back to sleep.

I knew something of the occult, of course, but I was hardly ready to
credit the rather lurid statement he had made. Before noon I was
smiling at myself, and determining to keep my appointment with him for
the afternoon, and show him from the start that I was not so complete
a fool as I had seemed.

Hence it was with a resolve not to be swept off my feet by any unusual
fabrication of his devising that I approached his house at about three
o'clock and turned in from the street to his porch.

He sat there, in a wicker chair, smoking an excellent cigar. No doubt
but he had recovered completely from the state in which I had beheld
him first. He rose as I mounted the steps and put out a hand. "Ah, Dr.
Murray," he greeted me with a smile. "I have been waiting your coming.
Let me offer you a chair and a smoke while we talk."

We shook hands, and then I sat down and lighted the mate of the cigar
Croft held between his strong, even teeth. Then, as I threw away the
match, I looked straight into his eyes. And, believe me or not, it was
as though the man read my thoughts.

He shook his head. "I really told you the truth, Murray, you know," he
said.

"About--Palos?" I smiled.

He nodded. "Yes, I was really there, and--I went back after we had our
talk."

"Rather quick work," I remarked, and puffed out some smoke. "Have you
figured out how long it takes even light to reach the earth from that
distant star, Mr. Croft?"

"Light?" He half-knit his brows, then suddenly laughed without sound.
"Oh, I see--you refer to the equation of time?"

"Well, yes. The distance is considerable, as you must admit."

He shook his head. "How long does it take you to think of Palos--of
Sirius?" he asked.

"Not long," I replied.

He leaned back in his seat. "Murray," he went on, staring straight
before him, "time is but the measure of consciousness. Outside the
atmospheric envelopes of the planets--outside the limit of,
well--say--human thought--time ceases to exist. And--if between the
planets there is no time beyond the depths of their surrounding
atmosphere--how long will it take to go from here to there?"

I stared. His statement was startling, at least.

"You mean that time is a mental conception?" I managed at last.

"Time is a mental measure of a span of eternity," he said slowly.
"Past planetary atmospheres, eternity alone exists. In eternity there
is no time. Hence, I cannot use what _is not_, either in going to or
returning from that planet I have named. You admit you can think
instantly of Palos. I allege that I can _think_ myself, carry my
astral consciousness instantly to Palos. Do you see?"

I saw what he meant, of course, and I indicated as much by a nod.
"But," I objected, "you told me you had to return to Palos. Now you
tell me you had projected your astral body to that star. What could
you do there in the astral state?"

He smiled. "Very little. I know. I have passed through that stage. As
a matter of fact, I have a body there now."

"You have what--" As I remember, I came half out of my chair, and then
sank back. The thing hit me as nothing else in my whole life had done
before. His calm avowal was unbelievable on its face--impossible--a man
with a double corporeal existence on two separate planets at one and the
same time.

"A body--a living, breathing body," he repeated his declaration. "Oh,
man, I know it overthrows all human conceptions of life, but--last
night you asked me a question concerning _this_ body of mine--and I
told you I knew what I was doing. And I know you must have studied
some of the teachings of the higher cult--the esoteric philosophies,
if you will. And therefore you must have read of the ability of a
spirit to dispossess a body of its original spiritual tenant and
occupy its place--"

"Obsession," I interrupted. "You are practicing that--up there?"

"No. I've gone farther than that. I took this body when its original
occupant was done with it," he said. "Murray--wait--let me explain.
I'm a physician like yourself."

"You?" I exclaimed, none too politely, I fear, in the face of this
additional surprise.

Croft's lips twitched. He seemed to understand and yet be slightly
amused. "Yes. That's why I was able to assure you I knew how long the
body I occupy now could endure a cataleptic condition last night. I am
a graduate of Rush, and I fancy, fully qualified to speak concerning
the body's needs. And--" he paused a moment, then resumed:

"Frankly, Murray, I find myself confronted by what I think I may call
the strangest position a man was ever called upon to face. Last night
I recognized in you one who had probably far from a minor
understanding of mental and spiritual forces. Your ability to force my
return at a time when I was otherwise engaged showed me your
understanding. For that very reason I asked you to return to me here
to-day. I would like to talk to you--a brother physician; to tell you
a story--my story, provided you would care to hear it. Most men would
call me insane. Something tells me you, who devote your time to the
care of the insane, will not."

He paused and sat once more staring across the sunlit landscape which,
after the storm of the night before, was glowing and fresh. After a
time he turned his eyes and looked into mine with something almost an
appeal, in his glance. In response, I nodded and settled myself in my
chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'm not going to deny a natural curiosity, Dr. Croft," I said, since,
to tell the absolute truth, I was anxious to get at the inward facts
under-lying the entire peculiar affair.

"Then," he said in an almost eager fashion, "I shall tell you--the
whole thing, I think. Murray, when Shakespeare wrote into one of his
characters' mouth the statement that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamt of, he told the truth. Mankind in the main
is like a crowd storming the doors of a showhouse sold out to capacity
and unable to accommodate any one else. Mankind is the crowd in the
lobby, shut out from the real sights back of the veiling doors which
bar their perception of what goes on within. Mankind stands only on
the fringe of life, does not dream of the truth. Only here and there
is there one who _knows_. It was one such who first directed my mind
toward the truth."

"Murray"--he paused and once more fastened me with his gaze--"I am
going to tell that truth to you.... But first--in order that you may
understand, and believe if you can, I shall tell you something of
myself."

That telling took a long time; hours, the rest of the afternoon, and
most of the following night. It was a strange tale, an unbelievably
strange story. And yet, in view of what happened inside that same
week, I am not sure, after all, but it was the truth, just as Croft
alleged. What, when all is said, do any of us know beyond the round of
our own human life? What do we know of those things which may lie
outside the scope of our mental vision? There must be things in heaven
and earth not dreamt of in the philosophy of _Horatio_. Here is the
tale.

Jason Croft was born in New Jersey, but brought West at an early age
by his parents, who had become converts to a certain faith. Right
there, it seems to me, may have been laid the foundation of Croft's
interest in the occult in later life, since that faith contains
possibly a greater number of parallels to occult teachings than any of
the Occidental creeds. Of course, in all religions there is the germ
of truth. Were it not, they would be dead dogmas rather than living
sects. But in this church, which has grown strong in the Western
States, I think there is a closer approach to the Eastern theory of
soul and spiritual life.

Be that as it may, Croft grew to manhood in the very state and town
where I was now employed, and in the home on the porch of which we
sat. He elected medicine as a career. He went to Chicago and put in
his first three years. The second year his mother died, and a year
later his father. He returned on each occasion, and went back to his
studies after the obsequies were done. In his fourth year he met a man
named Gatua Kahaun, destined, as it seems, to change the entire course
of his life.

Gatua Kahaun was a Hindu, a member of an Eastern brotherhood, come to
the United States to study the religions of the West. One can see how
naturally he took up with Croft, who had been raised in one of those
religions.

The two became friends. From what Croft told me, the Hindu was a man
of marked attainments, well versed in the Oriental creeds. When Croft
came West after his graduation, Gatua Kahaun was his companion and
stopped at his home, which had been kept up by Mrs. Goss and her
husband, then still alive. The two lived there together for some
weeks, and the Hindu taught Croft the rudiments at least of the occult
philosophy of life.

Then, with little warning, Croft was assigned on a mission to
Australia by his church. He got a letter from "Box B," as he told me,
smiling, knowing I would understand. The church of which he was a
member has a custom of sending their members about the world as
missionaries of their faith, to spread its doctrines and win converts
to their ranks. Croft went, though even then he had begun to see the
similarity between his own lifelong creed and the scheme of things
held before him by Gatua Kahaun.

For over two years he did not see the Hindu, though he kept up his
studies of the occult, to which he seemed inclined by a natural bent.
Then, just as he was nearly finished with his "mission," what should
happen but that, walking the streets of Melbourne, he bumped into
Gatua Kahaun.

The two men renewed their acquaintance at once. Gatua Kahaun taught
Croft Hindustani and the mysteries of the Sanskrit tongue. When
Croft's mission was finished he prevailed upon him to visit India
before returning home.

Croft went. Through Gatua's influence he was admitted to the man's own
brotherhood. He forgot his former objects and aims in life in the new
world of thought which opened up before his mental eyes. He studied
and thought. He learned the secrets of the magnetic or enveloping body
of the soul, and after a time he became convinced that by constant
application to the major purpose the spirit could break the bonds of
the material body without going through the change which men call
death. He came to believe that beyond the phenomenon of astral
projection--the sending of the conscious ego about the earthly
sphere--projections might be made beyond the planet, with only the
universe to limit the scope of the flight.

       *       *       *       *       *

At times he lay staring at the starry vault of the heavens with a
vague longing within him to put the thing to the test. And always
there was one star which seemed to call him, to beckon to him, to draw
his spirit toward it as a magnet may draw a fleck of iron. That was
the Dog Star, Sirius, known to astronomers as the sun of another
planetary system like our own.

Meantime his studies went on. He learned that matter is the reflex of
spirit; that no blade of grass, no chemical atom exists save as the
envelope of an essence which cannot and does not die. He came to see
that nature is no more than a realm of force, comprising light, heat,
magnetism, chemical affinity, aura, essence, and all the
imponderables which go to produce the various forms of motion as
expressions of the ocean of force, so that motion comes to be no more
than force refracted through the various forms of existence, from the
lowest to the highest, as a ray of light is split into the seven
primary colors by a prism, each being different in itself, yet each
but an integral part of the original ray.

He came to comprehend that all stages of existence are but stages and
nothing more, and that mind, spirit, is the highest form of life
force--the true essence--manifesting through material means, yet
independent of them in itself. So only, he argued, was life after
death a possible thing. And so, he reasoned further, could the mystery
be solved, there was no real reason why the spirit could not be set
free to roam and return to the body at will. If that were true, it
seemed to him that the spirit could return from such excursions,
bringing with it a conscious recollection of the place where it had
been.

Then once more he was called home by a thing which seems like no more
than a further step in the course of what mortals call fate. His
father's brother died. He was a bachelor. He left Croft sufficient
wealth to provide for his every need. Croft decided to pursue his
studies at home. He had gained all India could give him. Indeed, he
had rather startled even Gatua Kahaun by some of the theories he had
deduced.

He began work at once. He stocked the library where I had found him
the night before, with everything on the subject he could find. And
the more he studied, the more firmly did he become convinced that
ordinary astral projection was but the first step in developing the
spirit's power--that it was akin to the first step of an infant
learning to walk, and that, if confidence were forthcoming, if the
will to dare the experiment were sufficiently strong--then he could
accomplish the thing of which he dreamed.

He began to experiment, sending his astral consciousness here and
there. He centered on that one phase of his knowledge alone. He roamed
the earth at will. He perfected his ability to bring back from such
excursions a vivid recollection of all he had seen. So at last he was
ready for the great experiment. Yet in the end he made it on impulse
rather than at any pre-selected time.

He sat one evening on his porch. Over the eastern mountains which hem
in the valley the full moon was rising in a blaze of mellow glory. Its
rays caught the sleeping surface of a lake which lies near our little
city, touching each rippling wavelet until they seemed made of molten
silver. The lights of the town itself were like fireflies twinkling
amid the trees. The mountains hazed somewhat in a silvery mist,
compounded of the moonrays and distance, seemed to him no more than
the figments of a fairy tale or a dream.

Everything was quiet. Mrs. Goss, now a widow, had gone to bed, and
Croft had simply been enjoying the soft air and a cigar. Suddenly, as
the moon appeared to leap free of the mountains, it suggested a
thought of a spirit set free and rising above the material shell of
existence to his mind.

He sat watching the golden wheel radiant with reflected light, and
after a time he asked himself why he should not try the great
adventure without a longer delay. He was the last of his race. No one
depended upon him. Should he fail, they would merely find his body in
the chair. Should he succeed, he would have won his ambition and
placed himself in a position to learn of things which had heretofore
baffled man.

He decided to try it there and then. Knocking the ash from his cigar,
he took one last, long, possibly farewell whiff, and laid it down on
the broad arm of his chair. Then summoning all the potent power of his
will, he fixed his whole mind upon his purpose and sank into
cataleptic sleep.

The moon is dead. In so much science is right. It is lifeless, without
moisture, without an atmosphere. Croft won his great experiment, or
its first step at least. His body sank to sleep, but his ego leaped
into a fuller, wider life.

There was a sensation of airy lightness, as though his sublimated
consciousness had dropped material weight. His body sat beneath him in
the chair. He could see it. He could see the city and the lake and the
mountains and the yellow disk of the moon. He knew he was rising
toward the latter swiftly. Then--space was annihilated in an instant,
and he seemed to himself to be standing on the topmost edge of a
mighty crater in the full, unobstructed glare of a blinding light.

He sensed that was the sun, which hung like a ball of fire halfway up
from the horizon, flinging its rays in a dazzling brilliance against
the dead satellite's surface, unprotected by an atmospheric screen.
His first sensation was an amazing realization of his own success.
Then he gazed about.

       *       *       *       *       *

To one side was the vast ring of the crater itself, a well of
unutterable darkness and unplumbed depth, as yet not opened up to the
burning light of the sun. To the other was the downward sweep of the
crater's flank, dun, dead, wrinkled, seamed and seared by the stabbing
rays which bathed it in pitiless light. And beyond the foot of the
crater was a vast irregular plain, lower in the center as though eons
past it might have been the bed of some vanished sea. About the plain
were the crests of barren mountains, crags, pinnacles, misshapen and
weird beyond thought.

Yes, the moon is dead--now. But--there was life upon it once. Croft
willed himself down from the lip of the crater to the plain. He moved
about it. Indeed it had been a sea. There in the airless blaze, still
etched in the lifeless formations, he found an ancient water-line, the
mark of the fingers of vanished waters--like a mockery of what had
been. And skirting the outline of that long-lost sea, he came to the
ruin of a city which had stood upon the shores a myriad years ago. It
stood there still--a thing of paved streets, and dead walls, safe in
that moistureless world from decay.

Through those dead streets and houses, some of them thrown down by
terrific earthquakes which he judged had accompanied the final cooling
stages and death of the moon, Croft took his way, pausing now and then
to examine some ancient inscriptions cut into the blocks of stone from
which the buildings had been reared. In a way they impressed him as
similar in many respects to the Asiatic structures of to-day, most of
them being windowless on the first story, but built about an inner
court, gardens of beauty in the time when the moon supported life.

So far as he could judge from the buildings themselves and frescoes on
the walls, done in pigments which still prevailed, the lunarians had
been a tiny people, probably not above an average of four feet in
height, but extremely intelligent past any doubt, as shown by the
remains of their homes. They had possessed rather large heads in
proportion to their slender bodies, as the paintings done on the
inside walls led Croft to believe.

From the same source he became convinced that their social life had
been highly developed, and that they had been well versed in the arts
of manufacture and commerce, and had at the time when lunar seas
persisted maintained a merchant marine.

Through the hours of the lunar day he explored. Not, in fact, until
the sun was dropping swiftly below the rim of the mountains beyond the
old sea-bed, did he desist. Then lifting his eyes he beheld a luminous
crescent, many times larger than the moon appears to us, emitting a
soft, green light. He stood and gazed upon it for some moments before
he realized fully that he looked upon a sunrise on the earth--that the
monster crescent was the earth indeed as seen from her satellite.

Then as realization came upon him he remembered his body--left on the
porch of his home in the chair. Suddenly he felt a longing to return,
to forsake the forsaken relics of a life which had passed and go back
to the full, pulsing tide of life which still flowed on.

Here, then, he was faced by the second step of his experiment. He had
consciously reached the moon. Could he return again to the earth? If
so, he had proved his theory beyond any further doubt. Fastening his
full power upon the endeavor, he willed himself back, and--

He opened his eyes--his physical eyes--and gazed into the early sun
of a new day rising over the mountains and turning the world to
emerald and gold.

The sound of a caught-in breath fell on his ears. He turned his
glance. Mrs. Goss stood beside him.

"Laws, sir, but you was sound asleep!" she exclaimed. "I come to call
you to breakfast an' you wasn't in your room, an' when I found you you
was sleepin' like th' dead. You must have got up awful early, Mr.
Jason."

"I was here before you were moving," Croft said as he rose. He smiled
as he spoke. Indeed, he wanted to laugh, to shout. He had done what no
mortal had ever accomplished before. The wonders of the universe were
his to explore at will. Yet even so he did not dream of what the
future held.



3. BEYOND THE MOON


And now the Dog Star called. Croft had proved his ability to project
his conscious self beyond earth's attraction and return. And, having
proved that, the old lure of the star he had watched when a student in
the Indian mountains came back with a double strength. No longer was
it an occasional prompting. Rather it was a never-ceasing urge which
nagged him night and day.

He yielded at last. But remembering his return from his first
experiment, he arranged for the next with due care. In order that Mrs.
Goss might not become alarmed by seeing his body entranced, he
arranged for her to take a holiday with a married daughter in another
part of the state, telling her simply that he himself expected to be
absent from his home for an indefinite time and would summon her upon
his return.

He knew the woman well enough to be sure she would spread the word of
his coming absence, and so felt assured that his body would remain
undisturbed during the period of his venture into universal space.

Having seen the old woman depart, he entered the library, drew down
all the blinds, and stretched himself on the couch. Fixing his mind on
Sirius to the exclusion of everything else, he threw off the bonds of
the flesh.

Yet here, as it chanced, even Croft made a well-nigh fatal mistake. It
was toward Sirius he had willed himself in his thoughts, and Sirius is
a sun. As a result, he realized none too soon that he was floating in
the actual nebula surrounding the flaming orb itself.

Directly beneath him, as it appeared, the Dog Star rolled, a mass of
electric fire. Mountains of flame ran darting off into space in all
directions. Between them the whole surface of the sun boiled and
bubbled and seethed like a world-wide cauldron. Not for a moment was
there any rest upon that surface toward which he was sinking with
incredible speed. Every atom of the monster sun was in motion, ever
shifting, ever changing yet always the same. It quivered and billowed
and shook. Flames of every conceivable color radiated from it in waves
of awful heat. Vast explosions recurred again and again on the ever
heaving surface. What seemed unthinkable hurricanes rushed into the
voids created by the exploding gases.

In this maelstrom of titanic forces Croft found himself caught. Not
even the wonderful force his spirit had attained could overcome the
sun's power of repulsion. His progress stayed, he hung above the
molten globe beneath him, imprisoned, unable to extricate himself from
his position, buffeted, swirled about and swayed by the irresistible
forces which warred around him in a never-ceasing tumult such as he
had never conceived.

Something like a vague question as to his fate rather than any fear
assailed him, something like a blind wonder. The force which held him
was one beyond his experience or knowledge. He knew that a true
spirit, a pure ego, could not wholly perish, yet now he asked himself
what would be the effect of close proximity to such an enormous center
of elemental activity upon an ego not wholly sublimated, such as his.

His will power actually faltered, staggered. For the time being he
lost his ability to choose his course. He had willed himself here, and
here he was, but he found himself unable to will himself back or
anywhere else, in fact. The sensation crept through his soul that he
was a plaything of fate, a mad ego which had ventured too far, dared
too much, sought to learn those things possibly forbidden, hence
caught in a net of universal law, woven about him by his own mad
thirst for knowledge--a spirit doomed by its own daring to an eternity
of something closely approaching the orthodox hell.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through eons of time, as it seemed to him, he hung above that blazing
orb, surrounded by seething gases which dimmed but did not wholly
obscure his vision. Then a change began taking place. A great spot of
darkness appeared on the pulsing body of the sun. It widened swiftly.
About it the fiery elements of molten mass seemed to center their main
endeavor. Vast streamers of flaming gas leaped and darted about its
spreading center. It stretched and spread.

To Croft's fascinated vision it showed a mighty, funnel-like chasm,
reaching down for thousands of miles into the very heart of their
solar mass. And suddenly he knew that once more he was sinking, was
being drawn down, down, to be engulfed in that terrible throat of the
terrifying funnel, swept and sucked down like a bit of driftwood into
the maw of a whirlpool, powerless to resist.

Down he sank, down, between walls of living fire which swirled about
him with an inconceivable velocity of revolution. The vapors which
closed about him seemed to stifle even his spirit senses. Down, down,
how far he had no conception. He had lost all control, all conscious
power to judge of time or distance. Yet he was able still to see. And
so at last he sensed that the fiery walls were coming swiftly
together.

For a wild instant he conceived himself engulfed. Then he knew that he
was being thrown out and upward again with terrific force, literally
crowded forth with the out-rushing gases between the collapsing walls,
and hurled again into space.

Darkness came down, a darkness so deep it seemed a thousand suns might
not pierce it through with their rays. Sirius, the great sun, seemed
blotted out. He was seized by a sense of falling through that Stygian
shroud. In which direction he knew not, or why or how. He knew only
that his ego over which he had lost control was swirling in vast
spirals down and down through an endless void to an endless fate--that
he who had come so confidently forth to explore the universal secrets
had become a waif in the uncharted immensity of the eternal universe.

The sensation went on and on. So much he knew. Still he was conscious.
The thought came to him that this was his punishment for daring to
know. Still conscious, he must be still bound by natural law. Had he
broken that law and been cast into utter darkness, to remain forever
conscious of his fate? Yet if so, where was he falling, where was he
to wander, and for how long? His senses reeled.

By degrees, however, he fought back to some measure of control. His
very necessity prompted the attempt. And by degrees there came to him
a sense of not being any longer alone. In the almost palpable darkness
it seemed that other shapes and forms, whose warp and woof was
darkness also, floated and writhed about him as he fell.

They thrust against him; they gibbered soundlessly at him. They
taunted him as he passed. And yet their very presence helped him in
the end. He called his own knowledge to his assistance. He recognized
these shapes of terror as those elementals of which occult teaching
spoke, things which roamed in the darkness, which had as yet never
been able to reach out and gain a soul for themselves.

With understanding came again the power of independent action.
Unknowing whither, Croft willed himself out of their midst to some
spot unnamed, where he might gain a spiritual moment of rest--to the
nearest bit of matter afloat in the universal void. Abruptly he became
aware of the near presence of some solid substance, the sense of
falling ended, and he knew that his will had found expression in fact.

Yet wherever it was he had landed, the region was dead. Like the moon,
it was wholly devoid of moisture or atmosphere. The presence of solid
matter, however, gave him back a still further sense of control.
Though he was still enveloped in darkness, he reasoned that if this
was a planet and possessed of a sun in its system, its farther side
must be bathed in light. Reason also told him that in all probability
he was still within the system of Sirius despite the seemingly endless
distance he had come.

Exerting his will, he passed over the darkened face and emerged on the
other side in the midst of a ghostly light. At once he became
conscious of his surroundings, of a valley and encircling lofty
mountains. From the sides of the latter came the peculiar light.
Examination showed Croft that it was given off by some substance which
glowed with a phosphorescence sufficient to cast faint shadows of the
rocks which strewed the dead and silent waste.

Not knowing where he was, loath to dare again the void, hardly knowing
whether to will himself back to earth or remain and abide the issue of
his own adventure, Croft waited, debating the question, until at
length the top of a mountain lighted as if from a rising sun. Inside a
few moments the valley was bathed in light; he saw the great sun
Sirius wheel up the morning sky.

Peace came into his soul. He was still a conscious ego, still a
creature in the universe of light. He gazed about. Close to the line
of the horizon, and shining with what was plainly reflected light, he
saw the vast outlines of another planet he had failed to note until
now.

He understood. This was the major planet, surely one of the Dog Star's
pack; and he had alighted on one of its moons. All desire to remain
there left him. He was tired of dead worlds, of bottomless voids.

As before on the moon itself, he felt a resurgent desire to bathe in
an atmosphere of life. By now, fairly himself again, the wish was
father to the fact. Summoning his will, he made the final step of his
journey, as it was to prove, and found himself standing on a world not
so vastly different from his own.

       *       *       *       *       *

He stood on the side of a mountain in the midst of an almost tropic
vegetation. Giant trees were about him, giant ferns sprouted from the
soil. But here, as on earth, the color of the leaves was green.
Through a break in the forest he gazed across a vast, wide-flung plain
through which a mighty river made its way. Its waters glinted in the
rays of the rising sun. Its banks were lined with patches of what he
knew from their appearance were cultivated fields. Beyond them was a
dun track, reminding him of the arid stretches of a desert, reaching
out as far as his vision could plumb the distance.

He turned his eyes and followed the course of the river. By stages of
swift interest he traced it to a point where it disappeared beneath
what seemed the dull red walls of a mighty city. They were huge walls,
high and broad, bastioned and towered, flung across the course of the
river, which ran on through the city itself, passed beyond a farther
wall, and--beyond that again there was the glint of silver and blue in
Croft's eyes--the shimmer of a vast body of water--whether lake or
ocean he did not know then.

The call of a bird brought his attention back. Life was waking in the
mountain forest where he stood. Gay-plumaged creatures, not unlike
earthly parrots, were fluttering from tree to tree. The sound of a
grunting came toward him. He swung about. His eyes encountered those
of other life. A creature such as he had never seen was coming out of
a quivering mass of sturdy fern. It had small, beady eyes and a snout
like a pig. Two tusks sprouted from its jaws like the tusks of a boar.
But the rest of the body, although something like that of a hog, was
covered with a long wool-like hair, fine and seemingly almost silken
soft.

This, as he was to learn later, was the tabur, an animal still wild on
Palos, though domesticated and raised both for its hair, which was
woven into fabrics, and for its flesh, which was valued as food. While
Croft watched, it began rooting about the foot of a tree on one side
of the small glade where he stood. Plainly it was hunting for
something to eat.

Once more he turned to the plain and stood lost in something new.
Across the dun reaches of the desert, beyond the green region of the
river, was moving a long dark string of figures, headed toward the
city he had seen. It was like a caravan, Croft thought, in its
arrangement, save that the moving objects which he deemed animals of
some sort, belonged in no picture of a caravan such as he had ever
seen.

Swiftly he willed himself toward them and moved along by their side.
Something like amazement filled his being. These beasts were such
creatures as might have peopled the earth in the Silurian age. They
were huge, twice the size of an earthly elephant. They moved in a
majestic fashion, yet with a surprising speed. Their bodies were
covered with a hairless skin, reddish pink in color, wrinkled and
warted and plainly extremely thick. It slipped and slid over the
muscles beneath it as they swung forward on their four massive legs,
each one of which ended in a five-toed foot armed with short heavy
claws.

But it was the head and neck and tail of the things which gave Croft
pause. The head was more that of a sea-serpent or a monster lizard
than anything else. The neck was long and flexible and curved like
that of a camel. The tail was heavy where it joined the main spine,
but thinned rapidly to a point. And the crest of head and neck, the
back of each creature, so far as he could see, was covered with a sort
of heavy scale, an armor devised by nature for the thing's protection,
as it appeared. Yet he could not see very well, since each Sarpelca,
as he was to learn their Palosian name, was loaded heavily with
bundles and bales of what might be valuable merchandise.

And on each sat a man. Croft hesitated not at all to give them that
title, since they were strikingly like the men of earth in so far as
he could see. They had heads and arms and legs and a body, and their
faces were white. Their features departed in no particular, so far as
he could see, from the faces of earth, save that all were smooth, with
no evidence of hair on upper lip or cheek or chin.

They were clad in loose cloak-like garments and a hooded cap or cowl.
They sat the Sarpelcas just back of the juncture of the body and neck,
and guided the strange-appearing monsters by means of slender reins
affixed to two of the fleshy tentacles which sprouted about the
beasts' almost snakelike mouths.

That this strange cortege was a caravan Croft was now assured. He
decided to follow it to the city and inspect that as well. Wherefore
he kept on beside it down the valley, along what he now saw was a
well-defined and carefully constructed road, built of stone, cut to a
nice approximation, along which the unwieldy procession made good
time. The road showed no small knowledge of engineering. It was like
the roads of Ancient Rome, Croft thought with quickened interest. It
was in a perfect state of preservation and showed signs of recent
mending here and there. While he was feeling a quickened interest in
this the caravan entered the cultivated region along the river, and
Croft gave his attention to the fields.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first thing he noted here was the fact that all growth was due to
irrigation, carried out by means of ditches and laterals very much as
on earth at the present time. Here and there as the caravan passed
down the splendid road he found a farmer's hut set in a bower of
trees. For the most part they were built of a tan-colored brick, and
roofed with a thatching of rushes from the river's bank. He saw the
natives working in the fields, strong-bodied men, clad in what seemed
a single short-skirted tunic reaching to the knees, with the arms and
lower limbs left bare.

One or two stopped work and stood to watch the caravan pass, and Croft
noticed that their faces were intelligent, well featured, and their
hair for the most part a sort of rich, almost chestnut brown, worn
rather long and wholly uncovered or else caught about the brows by a
cincture which held a bit of woven fabric draped over the head and
down the neck.

Travel began to thicken along the road. The natives seemed heading to
the city, to sell the produce of their fields. Croft found himself
drawing aside in the press as the caravan overtook the others and
crowded past. So real had it become to him that for the time he forgot
he was no more than an impalpable, invisible thing these people could
not contact or see. Then he remembered and gave his attention to what
he might behold once more.

They had just passed a heavy cart drawn by two odd creatures,
resembling deer save that they were larger and possessed of hoofs like
those of earth-born horses, and instead of antlers sported two little
horns not over six inches long. They were in color almost a creamy
white, and he fancied them among the most beautiful forms of animal
life he had ever beheld. On the cart itself were high-piled crates of
some unknown fowl, as he supposed--some edible bird, with the head of
a goose, the plumage of a pheasant so far as its brilliant coloring
went, long necks and bluish, webbed feet. Past the cart they came upon
a band of native women carrying baskets and other burdens, strapped to
their shoulders. Croft gave them particular attention, since as yet he
had seen only men.

The Palosian females were fit mates, he decided, after he had given
them a comprehensive glance. They were strong limbed and deep
breasted. These peasant folks at least were simply clad. Like the men,
they wore but a single garment, falling just over the bend of the
knees and caught together over one shoulder with an embossed metal
button, so far as he could tell. The other arm and shoulder were left
wholly bare, as were their feet and legs, save that they wore coarse
sandals of wood, strapped by leather thongs about ankle and calf.
Their baskets were piled with vegetables and fruit, and they chattered
and laughed among themselves as they walked.

And now as the Sarpelcas shuffled past, the highway grew actually
packed. Also it drew nearer to the river and the city itself. The
caravan thrust its way through a drove of the taburs--the wooly hogs
such as Croft had seen on the side of the mountain. The hogsherds,
rough, powerful, bronzed fellows, clad in hide aprons belted about
their waists and nothing else, stalked beside their charges and
exchanged heavy banter with the riders of the Sarpelcas as the caravan
passed.

From behind a sound of shouting reached Croft's ears. He glanced
around. Down the highway, splitting the throng of early market people,
came some sort of conveyance, drawn by four of the beautiful creamy
deer-like creatures he had seen before. They were harnessed abreast
and had nodding plumes fixed to the head bands of their bridles in
front of their horns. These plumes were all of a purple color, and
from the way the crowds gave way before the advance of the equipage,
Croft deemed that it bore some one of note. Even the captain of the
Sarpelca train, noting the advance of the gorgeous team, drew his huge
beasts to the side of the road and stood up in his seat-like saddle to
face inward as it passed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vehicle came on. Croft watched intently as it approached. So
nearly as he could tell, it was a four-wheeled conveyance something
like an old-time chariot in front, where stood the driver of the
cream-white steeds, and behind that protected from the sun by an
arched cover draped on each side with a substance not unlike heavy
silk. These draperies, too, were purple in shade, and the body and
wheels of the carriage seemed fashioned from something like burnished
copper, as it glistened brightly in advance.

Then it was upon them, and Croft could look squarely into the shaded
depths beneath the cover he now saw to be supported by upright metal
rods, save at the back where the body continued straight up in a curve
to form the top.

The curtains were drawn back since the morning air was still fresh,
and Jason gained a view of those who rode. He gave them one glance and
mentally caught his breath. There were two passengers in the coach--a
woman and a man. The latter was plainly past middle age, well built,
with a strongly set face and hair somewhat sprinkled with gray. He was
clad in a tunic the like of which Croft had never seen, since it
seemed woven of gold, etched and embroidered in what appeared stones
or jewels of purple, red, and green. This covered his entire body and
ended in half sleeves below which his forearms were bare.

He wore a jeweled cap supporting a single spray of purple feathers.
From an inch below his knees his legs were encased in what seemed an
open-meshed casing of metal, in color not unlike his tunic, jointed at
the ankles to allow of motion when he walked. There were no seats
proper in the carriage, but rather a broad padded couch upon which
both passengers lay.

So much Croft saw, and then, forsaking the caravan, let himself drift
along beside the strange conveyance to inspect the girl. In fact,
after the first swift glance at the man, he had no eyes save for his
companion in the coach.

She was younger than the man, yet strangely like him in a feminine
way--more slender, more graceful as she lay at her ease. Her face was
a perfect oval, framed in a wealth of golden hair, which, save for a
jeweled cincture, fell unrestrained about her shoulders in a silken
flood. Her eyes were blue--the purple blue of the pansy--her skin,
seen on face and throat and bared left shoulder and arm, a soft, firm
white. For she was dressed like the peasant women, save in a richer
fashion. Her single robe was white, lustrous in its sheen. It was
broidered with a simple jeweled margin at throat and hem and over the
breasts with stones of blue and green.

Her girdle was of gold in color, catching her just above the hips with
long ends and fringe which fell down the left side of the knee-length
skirt. Sandals of the finest imaginable skin were on the soles of her
slender pink-nailed feet, bare save for a jewel-studded toe and instep
band, and the lacing cords which were twined about each limb as high
as the top of the calf. On her left arm she wore a bracelet, just
above the wrist, as a single ornament.

Croft gave her one glance which took in every detail of her presence
and attire. He quivered as with a chill. Some change as cataclysmic as
his experience of the night before above the Dog Star itself took
place in his spiritual being. He felt drawn toward this beautiful girl
of Palos as he had never in all his life on earth been drawn toward a
woman before.

It was as though suddenly he had found something he had lost--as
though he had met one known and forgotten and now once more
recognized. Without giving the act the slightest thought of
consideration, he willed himself into the coach between the fluttering
curtains of purple silk, and crouched down on the padded platform at
her feet.

       *       *       *       *       *





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