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Title: The Door into Infinity
Author: Hamilton, Edmond, 1904-1977
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 Door into Infinity" ***

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                       The Door Into Infinity

                         By EDMOND HAMILTON

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Weird Tales
August-September 1936. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: _An amazing weird mystery story, packed with thrills, danger
and startling events._]



_1. The Brotherhood of the Door_


"Where leads the Door?"

"_It leads outside our world._"

"Who taught our forefathers to open the Door?"

"_They Beyond the Door taught them._"

"To whom do we bring these sacrifices?"

"_We bring them to Those Beyond the Door._"

"Shall the Door be opened that They may take them?"

"_Let the Door be opened!_"

Paul Ennis had listened thus far, his haggard face uncomprehending in
expression, but now he interrupted the speaker.

"But what does it all mean, inspector? Why are you repeating this to
me?"

"Did you ever hear anyone speak words like that?" asked Inspector Pierce
Campbell, leaning tautly forward for the answer.

"Of course not--it just sounds like gibberish to me," Ennis exclaimed.
"What connection can it have with my wife?"

He had risen to his feet, a tall, blond young American whose
good-looking face was drawn and worn by inward agony, whose crisp yellow
hair was brushed back from his forehead in disorder, and whose blue eyes
were haunted with an anguished dread.

He kicked back his chair and strode across the gloomy little office,
whose single window looked out on the thickening, foggy twilight of
London. He bent across the dingy desk, gripping its edges with his hands
as he spoke tensely to the man sitting behind it.

"Why are we wasting time talking here?" Ennis cried. "Sitting here
talking, when anything may be happening to Ruth!

"It's been hours since she was kidnapped. They may have taken her
anywhere, even outside of London by now. And instead of searching for
her, you sit here and talk gibberish about Doors!"

Inspector Campbell seemed unmoved by Ennis' passion. A bulky, almost
bald man, he looked up with his colorless, sagging face, in which his
eyes gleamed like two crumbs of bright brown glass.

"You're not helping me much by giving way to your emotions, Mr. Ennis,"
he said in his flat voice.

"Give way? Who wouldn't give way?" cried Ennis. "Don't you understand,
man, it's Ruth that's gone--my wife! Why, we were married only last week
in New York. And on our second day here in London, I see her whisked
into a limousine and carried away before my eyes! I thought you men at
Scotland Yard here would surely act, do something. Instead you talk
crazy gibberish to me!"

"Those words are _not_ gibberish," said Pierce Campbell quietly. "And I
think they're related to the abduction of your wife."

"What do you mean? How could they be related?"

The inspector's bright little brown eyes held Ennis'. "Did you ever hear
of an organization called the Brotherhood of the Door?"

Ennis shook his head, and Campbell continued, "Well, I am certain your
wife was kidnapped by members of the Brotherhood."

"What kind of an organization is it?" the young American demanded. "A
band of criminals?"

"No, it is no ordinary criminal organization," the detective said. His
sagging face set strangely. "Unless I am mistaken, the Brotherhood of
the Door is the most unholy and blackly evil organization that has ever
existed on this earth. Almost nothing is known of it outside its circle.
I myself in twenty years have learned little except its existence and
name. That ritual I just repeated to you, I heard from the lips of a
dying member of the Brotherhood, who repeated the words in his
delirium."

Campbell leaned forward. "But I know that every year about this time the
Brotherhood come from all over the world and gather at some secret
center here in England. And every year, before that gathering, scores of
people are kidnapped and never heard of again. I believe that all those
people are kidnapped by this mysterious Brotherhood."

"But what becomes of the people they kidnap?" cried the pale young
American. "What do they do with them?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Inspector Campbell's bright brown eyes showed a hint of hooded horror,
yet he shook his head. "I know no more than you. But whatever they do to
the victims, they are never heard of again."

"But you must know something more!" Ennis protested. "What is this
Door?"

Campbell again shook his head. "That too I don't know, but whatever it
is, the Door is utterly sacred to the members of the Brotherhood, and
whomever they mean by They Beyond the Door, they dread and venerate to
the utmost."

"Where leads the Door? _It leads outside our world_," repeated Ennis.
"What can that mean?"

"It might have a symbolic meaning, referring to some secluded fastness
of the order which is away from the rest of the world," the inspector
said. "Or it might----"

He stopped. "Or it might what?" pressed Ennis, his pale face thrust
forward.

"It might mean, literally, that the Door leads outside our world and
universe," finished the inspector.

Ennis' haunted eyes stared. "You mean that this Door might somehow lead
into another universe? But that's impossible!"

"Perhaps unlikely," Campbell said quietly, "but not impossible. Modern
science has taught us that there are other universes than the one we
live in, universes congruent and coincident with our own in space and
time, yet separated from our own by the impassable barrier of totally
different dimensions. It is not entirely impossible that a greater
science than ours might find a way to pierce that barrier between our
universe and one of those outside ones, that a Door should be opened
from ours into one of those others in the infinite outside."

"A door into the infinite outside," repeated Ennis broodingly, looking
past the inspector. Then he made a sudden movement of wild impatience,
the dread leaping back strong in his eyes again.

"Oh, what good is all this talk about Doors and infinite universes doing
in finding Ruth? I want to _do_ something! If you think this mysterious
Brotherhood has taken her, you must surely have some idea of how we can
get her back from them? You must know something more about them than
you've told."

"I don't know anything more certainly, but I've certain suspicions that
amount to convictions," Inspector Campbell said. "I've been working on
this Brotherhood for many years, and block after block I've narrowed
down to the place I think the order's local center, the London
headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Door."

"Where is the place?" asked Ennis tensely.

"It is the waterfront café of one Chandra Dass, a Hindoo, down by East
India Docks," said the detective officer. "I've been there in disguise
more than once, watching the place. This Chandra Dass I've found to be
immensely feared by everyone in the quarter, which strengthens my belief
that he's one of the high officers of the Brotherhood. He's too
exceptional a man to be really running such a place."

"Then if the Brotherhood took Ruth, she may be at that place now!" cried
the young American, electrified.

Campbell nodded his bald head. "She may very likely be. Tonight I'm
going there again in disguise, and have men ready to raid the place. If
Chandra Dass has your wife there, we'll get her before he can get her
away. Whatever way it turns out, we'll let you know at once."

"Like hell you will!" exploded the pale young Ennis. "Do you think I'm
going to twiddle my thumbs while you're down there? I'm going with you.
And if you refuse to let me, by heaven I'll go there myself!"

Inspector Pierce Campbell gave the haggard, fiercely determined face of
the young man a long look, and then his own colorless countenance seemed
to soften a little.

"All right," he said quietly. "I can disguise you so you'll not be
recognized. But you'll have to follow my orders exactly, or death will
result for both of us."

That strange, hooded dread flickered again in his eyes, as though he saw
through shrouding mists the outline of dim horror.

"It may be," he added slowly, "that something worse even than death
awaits those who try to oppose the Brotherhood of the Door--something
that would explain the unearthly, superhuman dread that enwraps the
secret mysteries of the order. We're taking more than our lives in our
hands, I think, in trying to unveil those mysteries, to regain your
wife. But we've got to act quickly, at all costs. We've got to find her
before the great gathering of the Brotherhood takes place, or we'll
never find her."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours before midnight found Campbell and Ennis passing along a
cobble-paved waterfront street north of the great East India Docks. Big
warehouses towered black and silent in the darkness on one side, and on
the other were old, rotting docks beyond which Ennis glimpsed the black
water and gliding lights of the river.

As they straggled beneath the infrequent lights of the ill-lit street,
they were utterly changed in appearance. Inspector Campbell, dressed in
a shabby suit and rusty bowler, his dirty white shirt innocent of tie,
had acquired a new face, a bright red, oily, eager one, and a high,
squeaky voice. Ennis wore a rough blue seaman's jacket and a vizored cap
pulled down over his head. His unshaven-looking face and subtly altered
features made him seem a half-intoxicated seaman off his ship, as he
stumbled unsteadily along. Campbell clung to him in true land-shark
fashion, plucking his arm and talking wheedlingly to him.

They came into a more populous section of the evil old waterfront
street, and passed fried-fish shops giving off the strong smell of hot
fat, and the dirty, lighted windows of a half-dozen waterfront saloons,
loud with sordid argument or merriment.

Campbell led past them until they reached one built upon an abandoned,
moldering pier, a ramshackle frame structure extending some distance
back out on the pier. Its window was curtained, but dull red light
glowed through the glass window of the door.

A few shabby men were lounging in front of the place but Campbell paid
them no attention, tugging Ennis inside by the arm.

"Carm on in!" he wheedled shrilly. "The night ain't 'alf over yet--we'll
'ave just one more."

"Don't want any more," muttered Ennis drunkenly, swaying on his feet
inside. "Get away, you damned old shark."

Yet he suffered himself to be led by Campbell to a table, where he
slumped heavily into a chair. His stare swung vacantly.

The café of Chandra Dass was a red-lit, smoke-filled cave with cheap
black curtains on the walls and windows, and other curtains cutting off
the back part of the building from view. The dim room was jammed with
tables crowded with patrons whose babel of tongues made an unceasing
din, to which a three-string guitar somewhere added a wailing undertone.
The waiters were dark-skinned and tiger-footed Malays, while the patrons
seemed drawn from every nation east and west.

Ennis' glazed eyes saw dandified Chinese from Limehouse and Pennyfields,
dark little Levantins from Soho, rough-looking Cockneys in shabby caps,
a few crazily laughing blacks. From sly white faces, taut brown ones and
impassive yellow ones came a dozen different languages. The air was
thick with queer food-smells and the acrid smoke.

Campbell had selected a table near the back curtain, and now stridently
ordered one of the Malay waiters to bring gin. He leaned forward with an
oily smile to the drunken-looking Ennis, and spoke to him in a wheedling
undertone.

"Don't look for a minute, but that's Chandra Dass over in the corner,
and he's watching us," he said.

Ennis shook his clutching hand away. "Damned old shark!" he muttered
again.

He turned his swaying head slowly, letting his eyes rest a moment on the
man in the corner. That man was looking straight at him.

Chandra Dass was tall, dressed in spotless white from his shoes to the
turban on his head. The white made his dark, impassive, aquiline face
stand out in chiseled relief. His eyes were coal-black, large, coldly
searching, as they met Ennis' bleared gaze.

Ennis felt a strange chill as he met those eyes. There was something
alien and unhuman, something uncannily disturbing, behind the Hindoo's
stare. He turned his gaze vacantly from Chandra Dass to the black
curtains at the rear, and then back to his companion.

The silent Malay waiter had brought the liquor, and Campbell pressed a
glass toward his companion. "'Ere, matey, take this."

"Don't want it," muttered Ennis, pushing it away. Still in the same
mutter, he added, "If Ruth's here, she's somewhere in the back there.
I'm going back and find out."

"Don't try it that way, for God's sake!" said Campbell in the wheedling
undertone. "Chandra Dass is still watching, and those Malays would be on
you in a minute. Wait until I give the word.

"All right, then," Campbell added in a louder, injured tone. "If you
don't want it, I'll drink it myself."

He tossed off the glass of gin and set the glass down on the table,
looking at his drunken companion with righteous indignation.

"Think I'm tryin' to bilk yer, eh?" he added. "That's a fine way to
treat a pal!"

He added in the coaxing lower tone, "All right, I'm going to try it. Be
ready to move when I light my cigarette."

He fished a soiled package of Gold Flakes from his pocket and put one in
his mouth. Ennis waited, every muscle taut.

The inspector, his red, oily face still injured in expression, struck a
match to his cigarette. Almost at once there was a loud oath from one of
the shabby loungers outside the front of the building, and the sound of
angry voices and blows.

The patrons of Chandra Dass looked toward the door, and one of the Malay
waiters went hastily out to quiet the fight. But it grew swiftly,
sounded in a moment like a small riot. _Crash_--someone was pushed
through the front window. The excited patrons pressed toward the front.
Chandra Dass pushed through them, issuing quick orders to his servants.

For the time being the back of the café was deserted and unnoticed.
Campbell sprang to his feet, and with Ennis close behind him, darted
through the black curtains. They found themselves in a black corridor at
the end of which a red bulb burned dimly. They could still hear the
uproar.

Campbell's gun was in his hand, and the American's in his.

"We dare only stay here a few moments," the inspector cried. "Look in
those rooms along the corridor here."

Ennis frantically tore open a door and peered into a dark room smelling
of drugs. "Ruth!" he cried softly. "Ruth!"



_2. Death Trap_


There was no answer. The light in the corridor behind him suddenly went
out, plunging him into pitch-black darkness. He jumped back into the
dark corridor, and as he did so, heard a sudden scuffle further along
it.

"Campbell!" he exclaimed, lunging forward in the black passageway. There
was no answer.

He pitched forward through stygian obscurity, his hands searching ahead
of him for the inspector. In the dark something whipped smoothly around
his throat, tightened there like a slender, contracting tentacle.

Ennis tore frenziedly at the thing, which he felt to be a slender silken
cord, but he could not loosen it. It was choking him. He tried to cry
out again to Campbell, but his throat could not emit the sounds. He
thrashed, twisted helplessly, hearing a loud roaring in his ears,
consciousness receding. Then, dimly as though in a dream, Ennis was
aware of being lowered to the floor, of being half carried and half
dragged along. The constriction around his throat was gone and rapidly
his brain began to clear. He opened his eyes.

He found himself lying on the floor of a room illuminated by a great
hanging brass lamp of ornate design. The walls of the room were hung
with rich, grotesquely worked red silk Indian draperies. His hands and
feet were bound behind him, and beside him, tied in the same manner, lay
Inspector Campbell. Over them stood Chandra Dass and two of the Malay
servants. The faces of the servants were tigerish in their menace, but
Chandra Dass' face was one of dark, impassive scorn.

"So you misguided fools thought you could deceive me so easily as that?"
he said in a strong, vibrant voice. "Why, we knew hours ago that you,
Inspector Campbell, and you, Mr. Ennis, were coming here tonight. We let
you get this far only because it was evident that somehow you had
learned too much about us, and that it would be best to let you come
here and meet your deaths."

"Chandra Dass, I've men outside," rasped Campbell. "If we don't come
out, they'll come in after us."

The Hindoo's proud, dark face did not change its scorn. "They will not
come in for a little while, inspector. By that time you two will be dead
and we shall be gone with our captives. Yes, Mr. Ennis, your wife is one
of those captives," he added to the prostrate young American. "It is too
bad we cannot take you and the inspector to share her glorious destiny,
but then our accommodations of transport are limited."

"Ruth here?" Ennis' face flamed at the words, and he raised himself a
little from the floor on his elbows.

"Then you'll let her go if I pay you? I'll raise any amount, I'll do
anything you ask, if you'll set her free."

"No amount of money in the world could buy her from the Brotherhood of
the Door," answered Chandra Dass steadily. "For she belongs now, not to
us, but to They Beyond the Door. Within a few hours she and many others
shall stand before the Door, and They Beyond the Door shall take them."

"What are you going to do to her?" cried Ennis. "What is this damned
Door and who are They Beyond it?"

"I do not think that even if I told you, your little mind would be able
to accept the mighty truth," Chandra Dass said calmly. His coal-black
eyes suddenly flashed with fanatic, frenetic light. "How could your
poor, earth-bound little intelligences conceive the true nature of the
Door and of those who dwell beyond it? Your puny brains would be
stricken senseless by mere apprehension of them, They who are mighty and
crafty and dreadful beyond anything on earth."

A cold wind from the alien unknown seemed to sweep the lamplit room with
the Hindoo's passionate words. Then that rapt, fanatic exaltation
dropped from him as suddenly as it had come, and he spoke in his
ordinary vibrant tones.

"But enough of this parley with blind worms of the dust. Bring the
weights!"

The last words were addressed to the Malay servants, who sprang to a
closet in the corner of the room.

Inspector Campbell said steadily, "If my men find us dead when they come
in here, they'll leave none of you living."

       *       *       *       *       *

Chandra Dass did not even listen to him, but ordered the dark servants
sharply, "Attach the weights!"

The Malays had brought from the closet two fifty-pound lead balls, and
now they proceeded quickly to tie these to the feet of the two men. Then
one of them rolled back the brilliant red Indian rug from the rough pine
floor. A square trap-door was disclosed, and at Chandra Dass' order, it
was swung upward and open.

Up through the open square came the sound of waves slap-slapping against
the piles of the old pier, and the heavy odors of salt water and of
rotting wood invaded the room.

"The water under this pier is twenty feet deep," Chandra Dass told the
two prisoners. "I regret to give you so easy a death, but there is no
opportunity to take you to the fate you deserve."

Ennis, his skin crawling on his flesh, nevertheless spoke rapidly and as
steadily as possible to the Hindoo.

"Listen, I don't ask you to let me go, but I'll do anything you want,
let you kill me any way you want, if you'll let Ruth----"

Sheer horror cut short his words. The Malay servants had dragged
Campbell's bound body to the door in the floor. They shoved him over the
edge. Ennis had one glimpse of the inspector's taut, strange face
falling out of sight. Then a dull splash sounded instantly below, and
then silence.

He felt hands upon himself, dragging him across the floor. He fought,
crazily, hopelessly, twisting his body in its bonds, thrashing his bound
limbs wildly.

[Illustration: "A shove sent his body scraping over the edge, and he
plunged downward through dank darkness."]

He saw the dark, unmoved face of Chandra Dass, the brass lamp over his
head, the red hangings. Then his head dangled over the opening, a shove
sent his body scraping over the edge, and he plunged downward through
dank darkness. With a splash he hit the icy water and went under. The
heavy weight at his ankles dragged him irresistibly downward.
Instinctively he held his breath as the water rushed upward around him.

His feet struck oozy bottom. His body swayed there, chained by the lead
weight to the bottom. His lungs already were bursting to draw in air,
slow fires seeming to creep through his breast as he held his breath.

Ennis knew that in a moment or two more he would inhale the strangling
waters and die. The thought-picture of Ruth flashed across his
despairing mind, wild with hopeless regret. He could no longer hold his
breath, felt his muscles relaxing against his will, tasted the stinging
salt water at the back of his nose.

Then it was a bursting confusion of swift sensations, the choking water
in his nose and throat, the roaring in his ears. A scroll of flame
unrolled slowly in his brain and a voice shouted there, "You're dying!"
He felt dimly a plucking at his ankles.

Abruptly Ennis' dimming mind was aware that he now was shooting upward
through the water. His head burst into open air and he choked, strangled
and gasped, his tortured lungs gulping the damp, heavy air. He opened
his eyes, and shook the water from them.

He was floating in the darkness at the surface of the water. Someone was
floating beside him, supporting him. Ennis' chin bumped the other's
shoulder, and he heard a familiar voice.

"Easy, now," said Inspector Campbell. "Wait till I cut your hands
loose."

"Campbell!" Ennis choked. "How did you get loose?"

"Never mind that now," the inspector answered. "Don't make any noise, or
they may hear us up there."

Ennis felt a knife-blade slashing the bonds at his wrists. Then, the
inspector's arm helping him, he and his companion paddled weakly through
the darkness under the rotting pier. They bumped against the slimy,
moldering piles, threaded through them toward the side of the pier. The
waves of the flooding tide washed them up and down as Campbell led the
way.

They passed out from under the old pier into the comparative
illumination of the stars. Looking back up, Ennis saw the long, black
mass of the house of Chandra Dass, resting on the black pier, ruddy
light glowing from window-cracks. He collided with something and found
that Campbell had led toward a little floating dock where some skiffs
were moored. They scrambled up onto it from the water, and lay panting
for a few moments.

Campbell had something in his hand, a thin, razor-edged steel blade
several inches long. Its hilt was an ordinary leather shoe-heel.

The inspector turned up one of his feet and Ennis saw that the heel was
missing from that shoe. Carefully Campbell slid the steel blade beneath
the shoe-sole, the heel-hilt sliding into place and seeming merely the
innocent heel of the shoe.

"So that's how you got loose down in the water!" Ennis exclaimed, and
the inspector nodded briefly.

"That trick's done me good service before--even with your hands tied
behind your back you can get out that knife and use it. It was touch and
go, though, whether I could get it out and cut myself loose in the water
in time enough to free you."

Ennis gripped the inspector's shoulder. "Campbell, Ruth is in there! By
heaven, we've found her and now we can get her out!"

"Right!" said the officer grimly. "We'll go around to the front and in
two minutes we'll be in there with my men."

       *       *       *       *       *

They climbed dripping to their feet, and hastened from the little
floating dock up onto the shore, through the darkness to the cobbled
street.

The shabbily disguised men of Inspector Campbell were not now in front
of Chandra Dass' café, but lurking in the shadows across the street.
They came running toward Campbell and Ennis.

"All right, we're going in there," Campbell exclaimed in steely tones.
"Get Chandra Dass, whatever you do, but see that his prisoners are not
harmed."

He snapped a word and one of the men handed pistols to him and to Ennis.
Then they leaped toward the door of the Hindoo's café, from which still
streamed ruddy light and the babel of many voices.

A kick from Inspector Campbell sent the door flying inward, and they
burst in with guns gleaming wickedly in the ruddy light. Ennis' face was
a quivering mask of desperate resolve.

The motley patrons jumped up with yells of alarm at their entrance. The
hand of a Malay waiter jerked and a thrown knife thudded into the wall
beside them. Ennis yelled as he saw Chandra Dass, his dark face
startled, leaping back with his servants through the black curtains.

He and Campbell drove through the squealing patrons toward the back. The
Malay who had thrown the knife rushed to bar the way, another dagger
uplifted. Campbell's gun coughed and the Malay reeled and stumbled. The
inspector and Ennis threw themselves at the black curtains--and were
dashed back.

They tore aside the black folds. A dull steel door had been lowered
behind them, barring the way to the back rooms. Ennis beat crazily upon
it with his pistol-butt, but it remained immovable.

"No use--we can't break that down!" yelled Campbell, over the uproar.
"Outside, and around to the other end of the building!"

They burst back out through that mad-house, into the dark of the street.
They started along the side of the pier toward the river-end, edging
forward on a narrow ledge but inches wide. As they reached the back of
the building, Ennis shouted and pointed to dark figures at the end of
the pier. There were two of them, lowering shapeless, wrapped forms over
the end of the pier.

"There they are!" he cried. "They've got their prisoners out there with
them."

Campbell's pistol leveled, but Ennis swiftly struck it up. "No, you
might hit Ruth."

He and the inspector bounded forward along the pier. Fire streaked from
the dark ahead and bullets thumped the rotting boards around them.

Suddenly the loud roar of an accelerated motor drowned out all other
sounds. It came from the river at the pier's end.

Campbell and Ennis reached the end in time to see a long, powerful, gray
motor-boat dash out into the black obscurity of the river, and roar
eastward with gathering speed.

"There they go--they're getting away!" cried the agonized young
American.

Inspector Campbell cupped his hands and shouted out into the darkness,
"River police, ahoy! Ahoy there!"

He rasped to Ennis. "The river police were to have a cutter here
tonight. We can still catch them."

With swiftly rising roar of speeded motors, a big cutter drove in from
the darkness. Its searchlight snapped on, bathing the two men on the
pier in a blinding glare.

"Ahoy, there!" called a stentorian voice over the roar of the motors.
"Is that Inspector Campbell?"

"Yes. Come alongside," yelled the inspector, and as the big cutter shot
close to the end of the pier, its reversing propellers churning the dark
water to foam, Ennis and Campbell leaped.

They landed amid unseen men in the cockpit, and as he scrambled to his
feet the inspector cried, "Follow that boat that just went down-river.
But no shooting!"

       *       *       *       *       *

With thunderous drumfire from its exhausts, the cutter jerked forward so
rapidly that it almost threw them from their feet again. It shot out
onto the bosom of the dark river that flowed like a black sea between
the banks of scattered lights that were London.

The moving lights of yachts and barges coming up-river could be seen
gliding in that darkness. The captain of the cutter barked an order and
one of his three men, the one crouched at the searchlight, switched its
powerful beam out over the waters ahead.

In a moment it picked up a distant gray spot racing eastward on the
black river, leaving a white trail of foam.

"There she is!" bawled the man at the searchlight. "She's running
without lights!"

"Keep her in the searchlight," ordered the captain. "Sound our siren,
and give the cutter her head."

Swaying, rocking, the cutter roared on through the darkness on the trail
of that distant fleeing speck. As they raced down Blackwall Reach, the
distance between the two craft had already begun to lessen.

"We're overtaking him!" cried Campbell, clutching a stanchion and
peering ahead against the rush of wind and spray. "He must be making for
whatever spot it is in England that is the center of the Brotherhood of
the Door--but he'll never reach it."

"He said that within a few hours Ruth would go with the others through
the Door!" cried Ennis, clinging beside him. "Campbell, we mustn't let
them get away now!"

Pursuers and pursued flashed on down the dark, broadening river, through
mazes of shipping, the cutter hanging doggedly to the motor-boat's
trail. The lights of London had dropped behind and those of Tilbury now
gleamed away on their left.

Bigger, stronger waves now tossed and pounded the cutter as it raced out
of the river mouth toward the heaving black expanse of the sea. The Kent
coast was a black blur on their right; the gray motor-boat followed it
closely, grazing almost beneath the Sheerness lights.

"He's heading to round North Foreland and follow the coast south to
Ramsgate or Dover," the cutter captain cried to Campbell. "But we'll
catch him before he passes Margate."

The quarry was now but a quarter-mile ahead. Steadily as they roared
onward the gap narrowed, until in the glare of the searchlight they
could make out every detail of the powerful gray motor-boat plunging
through the tossing black waves.

They saw Chandra Dass' dark face turn and look back at them, and the
cutter captain raised his speaking-trumpet to his lips and shouted over
the roar of motors and dash of waves.

"Stand by or we'll fire at you!"

"He won't obey," muttered Campbell between his teeth. "He knows we
daren't fire with the girl in the boat."

"Yes, blast him!" exclaimed the captain. "But we'll have him in a few
minutes, anyway."

The thundering chase had brought them into sight of the lights of
Margate on the dark coast to their right. Now only a few hundred feet of
black water separated them from the fleeing craft.

Ennis and the inspector, gripping the stanchions of the rushing cutter,
saw a white figure suddenly stand erect in the boat ahead and wave its
arms to them. The gray motor-boat slowed.

"It's Chandra Dass and he's signaling that he's giving up!" Ennis cried.
"He's stopping!"

"By heavens, he is!" Campbell explained. "Drive alongside him, and we'll
soon have the irons on him."

The cutter, its own motors hastily throttled down, shot through the
water toward the slowing gray craft. Ennis saw Chandra Dass standing
erect, awaiting their coming, he and the two Malays beside him holding
their hands in the air. He saw a half-dozen or more white-wrapped forms
in the bottom of the boat, lying motionless.

"There are their prisoners!" he cried. "Bring the boat closer so we can
jump in!"

He and Campbell, their pistols out, hunched to jump as the cutter drove
closer to the gray motor-boat. The sides of the two craft bumped, the
motors of both idling noisily. Then before Ennis and Campbell could jump
into the motor-boat, things happened with cinema-like rapidity. Two of
the still white forms at the bottom of the motor-boat leaped up and like
suddenly uncoiled springs shot through the air into the cutter. They
were two other Malays, their dark faces flaming with fanatic light, keen
daggers glinting in their upraised hands.

"'Ware a trick!" yelled Campbell. His gun barked, but the bullet missed
and a dagger slit his sleeve.

The Malays, with wild, screeching yells, were laying about them with
their daggers in the cutter, insanely.

"God in heaven, they're running amok!" choked the cutter captain.

His slashed neck spurting blood and his face livid, he fell. One of his
men slumped coughing beside him, another victim of the crazy daggers.



_3. Up the Water-Tunnel_


The man at the searchlight sprang for the maddened Malays, tugging at
his pistol as he jumped. Before he got the weapon out, a dagger slashed
his jugular and he went down gurgling in death. One of the Malays
meanwhile had knocked Inspector Campbell from his feet, his knife-hand
swooping down, his eyes blazing.

Ennis' gun roared and the bullet hit the Malay between the eyes. But as
he slumped limply, the other fanatic was upon Ennis from the side.
Before Ennis could whirl to meet him, the attacker's knife grazed down
past his cheek like a brand of living fire. He was borne backward by the
rush, felt the hot breath of the crazed Malay in his face, the
dagger-point at his throat.

Shots roared quickly, one after another, and with each shot the Malay
pressing Ennis back jerked convulsively. With the light of murderous
madness fading from his eyes, he still strove to drive the dagger home
into the American's throat. But a hand jerked him back and he lay
prostrate and still.

Ennis scrambled up to find Inspector Campbell, pale and determined, over
him. The detective had shot the attacker from behind.

The captain of the cutter and two of his men lay dead in the cockpit
beside the two Malays. The remaining seaman, the helmsman, held his
shoulder and groaned.

Ennis whirled. The motor-boat of Chandra Dass was no longer beside the
cutter, and there was no sight of it anywhere on the black sea ahead.
The Hindoo had taken advantage of the fight to make good his escape with
his two other servants and their prisoners.

"Campbell, he's gone!" cried the young American frantically. "He's got
away!"

The inspector's eyes were bright with cold flame of anger. "Yes, Chandra
Dass sacrificed these two Malays to hold us up long enough for him to
escape."

Campbell whirled to the helmsman. "You're not badly hurt?"

"Only a scratch, but I nearly broke my shoulder when I fell," answered
the man.

"Then head on around North Foreland!" Campbell cried. "We may still be
able to catch up to them."

"But Captain Wilson and the others are killed," protested the helmsman.
"I've got to report----"

"You can report later," rasped the inspector. "Do as I say--I'll be
responsible."

"Very well, sir," said the helmsman, and jumped back to the wheel.

In a minute the big cutter was roaring ahead over the heaving black
waves, its searchlight clawing the darkness ahead. There was no sign now
of the craft of Chandra Dass ahead. They raced abreast of the lights of
Margate, started rounding the North Foreland, pounded by bigger seas.

Inspector Campbell had dragged the bodies of the dead policemen and
their two slayers down into the cabin of the cutter. He came up and
crouched down with Ennis beside Sturt, the helmsman.

"I found these on the two Malays," Campbell shouted to the American,
holding out two little objects in his spray-wet hand.

Each was a flat star of gray metal in which was set a large oval,
cabochon-cut jewel. The jewels flashed and dazzled with deep color, but
it was a color wholly unfamiliar and alien to their eyes.

"They're not any color we know on earth," Campbell shouted. "I believe
these jewels came from somewhere beyond the Door, and that these are
badges of the Brotherhood of the Door."

Sturt, the helmsman, leaned toward the inspector. "We've rounded North
Foreland, sir," he cried. "Head straight south along the coast,"
Campbell ordered. "Chandra Dass must have gone this way. No doubt he
thinks he's shaken us off, and is making for the gathering-place of the
Brotherhood, wherever that may be."

"The cutter isn't built for seas like this," Sturt said, shaking his
head. "But I'll do it."

They were now following the coast southward, the lights of Ramsgate
dropping back on their right. The waters out here in the Channel were
wilder, great black waves tossing the cutter to the sky one moment, and
then dropping it sickeningly the next. Frequently its screws raced
loudly as they encountered no resistance but air.

Ennis, clinging precariously on the foredeck, turned the searchlight's
stabbing white beam back and forth on the heaving dark sea ahead, but
without any sign of their quarry disclosed.

White foam of breaking waves began to show around them like bared teeth,
and there was a humming in the air.

"Storm coming up the Channel," Sturt exclaimed. "It'll do for us if it
catches us out here."

"We've got to keep on," Ennis told him desperately. "We must come up
with them soon!"

The coast on their right was now one of black, rocky cliffs, towering
all along the shore in a jagged, frowning wall against which the waves
dashed foamy white. The cutter crept southward over the wild waters,
tossed like a chip upon the great waves. Sturt was having a hard time
holding the craft out from the rocks, and had its prow pointed obliquely
away from them.

The humming in the air changed to a shrill whistling as the outrider
winds of the storm came upon them. The cutter tossed still more wildly
and black masses of water smashed in upon them from the darkness, dazing
and drenching them.

Suddenly Ennis yelled, "There's the lights of a boat ahead! There,
moving in toward the cliffs!"

He pointed ahead, and Campbell and the helmsman peered through the
blinding spray and darkness. A pair of low lights were moving at high
speed on the waters there, straight toward the towering black cliffs.
Then they vanished suddenly from sight.

"There must be a hidden opening or harbor of some kind in the cliffs!"
Inspector Campbell exclaimed. "But that can't be Chandra Dass' boat, for
it carried no lights."

"It might be others of the Brotherhood going to the meeting-place!"
Ennis exclaimed. "We can follow and see."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sturt thrust his head through the flying spray and shouted, "There are
openings and water-caverns in plenty along these cliffs, but there's
nothing in any of them."

"We'll find out," Campbell said. "Head straight toward the cliffs in
there where that boat vanished."

"If we can't find the opening we'll be smashed to flinders on those
cliffs," Sturt warned.

"I'm gambling that we'll find the opening," Campbell told him. "Go
ahead."

Sturt's face set stolidly and he said, "Yes, sir."

He turned the prow of the cutter toward the cliffs. Instantly they
dashed forward toward the rock walls with greatly increased speed, wild
waves bearing them onward like charging stallions of the sea.

Hunched beside the helmsman, the searchlight stabbing the dark wildly as
the cutter was flung forward by the waves, Ennis and the inspector
watched as the cliffs loomed closer ahead. The brilliant white beam
struck across the rushing, mountainous waves and showed only the
towering barriers of rock, battered and smitten by the raving waters
that frothed white. They could hear the booming thunder of the raging
ocean striking the rock.

Like a projectile hurled by a giant hand, the cutter fairly flew now
toward the cliffs. They now could see even the little streams that ran
off the rough rock wall as each giant wave broke against it. They were
almost upon it.

Sturt's face was deathly. "I don't see any opening!" he yelled. "And
we're going to hit in a moment!"

"To your left!" screamed Inspector Campbell over the booming thunder.
"There's an arched opening there."

Now Ennis saw it also, a huge arch-like opening in the cliff that had
been concealed by an angle of the wall. Sturt tried frantically to head
the cutter toward it, but the wheel was useless as the great waves bore
the craft along. Ennis saw they would strike a little to the side of the
opening. The cliff loomed ahead, and he closed his eyes to the impact.

There was no impact. And as he heard a hoarse cry from Inspector
Campbell, he opened his eyes.

The cutter was flying in through the mighty opening, snatched into it by
powerful currents. They were whirled irresistibly forward under the huge
rock arch, which loomed forty feet over their heads. Before them
stretched a winding water-tunnel inside the cliff.

And now they were out of the wild uproar of the storming waters outside,
and in an almost stupefying silence. Smoothly, resistlessly, the current
bore them on in the tunnel, whose winding turns ahead were lit up by
their searchlight.

"God, that was close!" exclaimed Inspector Campbell.

His eyes flashed. "Ennis, I believe that we have found the
gathering-place of the Brotherhood. That boat we sighted is somewhere
ahead in here, and so must be Chandra Dass, and your wife."

Ennis' hand tightened on his gun-butt. "If that's so--if we can just
find them----"

"Blind action won't help if we do," said the inspector swiftly. "There
must be all the number of the Brotherhood's members assembled here, and
we can't fight them all."

His eyes suddenly lit and he took the blazing jeweled stars from his
pocket. "These badges! With them we can pose as members of the
Brotherhood, perhaps long enough to find your wife."

"But Chandra Dass will be there, and if he sees us----"

Campbell shrugged. "We'll have to take that chance. It's the only course
open to us."

The current of the inflowing tide was still bearing them smoothly onward
through the winding water-tunnel, around bends and angles where they
scraped the rock, down long straight stretches. Sturt used the motors to
guide them around the turns. Meanwhile, Inspector Campbell and Ennis
quickly ripped from the cutter its police-insignia and covered all
evidences of its being a police craft.

Sturt suddenly snicked off the searchlight. "Light ahead there!" he
exclaimed.

Around the next turn of the water-tunnel showed a gleam of strange, soft
light.

"Careful, now!" cautioned the inspector. "Sturt, whatever we do, you
stay in the cutter. And try to have it ready for a quick getaway, if we
leave it."

Sturt nodded silently. The helmsman's stolid face had become a little
pale, but he showed no sign of losing his courage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The cutter sped around the next turn of the tunnel and emerged into a
huge, softly lit cavern. Sturt's eyes bulged and Campbell uttered an
exclamation of amazement. For in this mighty water-cavern there floated
in a great mass, scores of sea-going craft, large and small.

All of them were capable of breasting storm and wind, and some were so
large they could barely have entered. There were small yachts, big
motor-cruisers, sea-going launches, cutters larger than their own, and
among them the gray motor-launch of Chandra Dass.

They were massed together here, those with masts having lowered them to
enter, floating and rubbing sides, quite unoccupied. Around the edges of
the water-cavern ran a wide rock ledge. But no living person was visible
and there was no visible source for the soft, strange white light that
filled the astounding place.

"These craft must have come here from all over earth!" Campbell
muttered. "The Brotherhood of the Door has assembled here--we've found
their gathering-place all right."

"But where are they?" exclaimed Ennis. "I don't see anyone."

"We'll soon find out," the inspector said. "Sturt, run close to the
ledge there and we'll get out on it."

Sturt obeyed, and as the cutter bumped the ledge, Campbell and Ennis
leaped out onto it. They looked this way and that along it, but no one
was in sight. The weirdness of it was unnerving, the strangely lit,
mighty cavern, the assembled boats, the utter silence.

"Follow me," Campbell said in a low voice. "They must all be somewhere
near."

He and Ennis walked a few steps along the ledge, when the American
stopped. "Campbell, listen!" he whispered.

Dimly there whispered to them, as though from a distance and through
great walls, a swelling sound of chanting. As they listened, hearts
beating rapidly, a square of the rock wall of the cavern abruptly flew
open beside them, as though hinged like a door. Inside it was the mouth
of a soft-lit, man-high tunnel, and in its opening stood two men. They
wore over their clothing shroud-like, loose-hanging robes of gray,
asbestos-like material. They wore hoods of the same gray stuff over
their heads, pierced with slits at the eyes and mouth. And each wore on
his breast the blazing star-badge.

Through the eye-slits the eyes of the two surveyed Campbell and Ennis as
they halted, transfixed by the sudden apparition. Then one of the hooded
men spoke measuredly in a hissing, Mongolian voice.

"Are you who come here of the Brotherhood of the Door?" he asked,
apparently repeating a customary challenge.

Campbell answered, his flat voice tremorless. "We are of the
Brotherhood."

"Why do you not wear the badge of the Brotherhood, then?"

For answer, the inspector reached in his pocket for the strange emblem
and fastened it to his lapel. Ennis did the same.

"Enter, brothers," said the hissing, hooded shape, standing aside to let
them pass.

As they stepped into the tunnel, the hooded guard added in slightly more
natural tones, "Brothers, you two are late. You must hurry to get your
protective robes, for the ceremony soon begins."

Campbell inclined his head without speaking, and he and Ennis started
along the tunnel. Its light, as sourceless as that of the great
water-cavern, revealed that it was chiseled from solid rock and that it
wound downward.

When they were out of sight of the two hooded guards, Ennis clutched the
detective's arm convulsively.

"Campbell," he said, "the ceremony begins soon! We've got to find Ruth
first!"

"We'll try," the inspector answered swiftly. "Those hooded robes are
apparently issued to all the members to be worn during the ceremony as
protection, for some reason, and once we get robes and get them on,
Chandra Dass won't be able to spot us.

"Look out!" he added an instant later. "Here's the place where the robes
are issued!"

The tunnel had debouched suddenly into a wider space in which were a
group of men. Several were wearing the concealing hoods and robes, and
one of these hooded figures was handing out, from a large rack of the
robes, three of the garments to three dark Easterners who had apparently
entered in the boat just ahead of the cutter.

The three dark Orientals, their faces gleaming with strange fanaticism,
quickly donned the robes and hoods and passed hurriedly on down the
tunnel. At once Campbell and Ennis stepped calmly up to the hooded
custodians of the robes, and extended their hands.

One of the hooded figures took down two robes and handed them to them.
But suddenly one of the other hooded men spoke sharply.

Instantly all the hooded men but the one who had spoken, with loud
cries, threw themselves forward on Campbell and Paul Ennis.

Taken utterly by surprize, the two had no chance to draw their guns.
They were smothered by gray-robed men, held helpless before they could
move, a half-dozen pistols jammed into their bodies.

Stupefied by the sudden dashing of their hopes, the detective and the
young American saw the hooded man who had spoken slowly lift the
concealing gray cowl from his face. It was the dark, coldly contemptuous
face of Chandra Dass.



_4. The Cavern of the Door_


Chandra Dass spoke, and his strong, vibrant voice held a scorn that was
almost pitying.

"It occurred to me that your enterprise might enable you to escape the
daggers of my followers, and that you might trail us here," he said.
"That is why I waited here to see if you came.

"Search them," he told the other hooded figures. "Take anything that
looks like a weapon from them."

Ennis stared, stupefied, as the gray-hooded men obeyed. He was unable to
believe entirely in the abrupt reversal of all their hopes, of their
desperate attempt.

The hooded men took their pistols from Ennis and Campbell, and even the
small gold knife attached to the chain of the inspector's big,
old-fashioned gold watch. Then they stepped back, the pistols of two of
them leveled at the hearts of the captives.

Chandra Dass had watched impassively. Ennis, staring dazedly, noted that
the Hindoo wore on his breast a different jewel-emblem from the others,
a double star instead of a single one.

Ennis' dazed eyes lifted from the blazing badge to the Hindoo's dark
face. "Where's Ruth?" he asked a little shrilly, and then his voice
cracked and he cried, "You damned fiend, where's my wife?"

"Be comforted, Mr. Ennis," came Chandra Dass' chill voice. "You are
going now to join your wife, and to share her fate. You two are going
with her and the other sacrifices through the Door when it opens. It is
not usual," he added in cold mockery, "for our sacrificial victims to
walk directly into our hands. We ordinarily have a more difficult time
securing them."

He made a gesture to the two hooded men with pistols, and they ranged
themselves close behind Campbell and Ennis.

"We are going to the Cavern of the Door," said the Hindoo. "Inspector
Campbell, I know and respect your resourcefulness. Be warned that your
slightest attempt to escape means a bullet in your back. You two will
march ahead of us," he said, and added mockingly, "Remember, while you
live you can cling to the shadow of hope, but if these guns speak, it
ends even that shadow."

Ennis and Inspector Campbell, keeping their hands elevated, started at
the Hindoo's command down the softly lit rock tunnel. Chandra Dass and
the two hooded men with pistols followed.

Ennis saw that the inspector's sagging face was expressionless, and knew
that behind that colorless mask, Campbell's brain was racing in an
attempt to find a method of escape. For himself, the young American had
almost forgotten all else in his eagerness to reach his wife. Whatever
happened to Ruth, whatever mysterious horror lay in wait for her and the
other victims, he would be there beside her, sharing it!

The tunnel wound a little further downward, then straightened out and
ran straight for a considerable length. In this straight section of the
rock passage, Ennis and Campbell for the first time perceived that the
walls of the tunnel bore crowding, deeply chiseled inscriptions. They
had not time to read them in passing, but Ennis saw that they were in
many different languages, and that some of the characters were wholly
unfamiliar.

"God, some of those inscriptions are in Egyptian hieroglyphics!"
muttered Inspector Campbell.

The cool voice of Chandra Dass said, behind them, "There are
pre-Egyptian inscriptions on these walls, inspector, could you but
recognize them, carven in languages that perished from the face of earth
before Egypt was born. Yes, back through time, back through mediæval and
Roman and Egyptian and pre-Egyptian ages, the Brotherhood of the Door
has existed and has each year gathered in this place to open the Door
and worship with sacrifices They Beyond it."

The fanatic note of unearthly devotion was in his voice now, and Ennis
shuddered with a cold not of the tunnel.

As they proceeded, they heard a muffled, hoarse booming somewhere over
their heads, a dull, rhythmic thunder that echoed along the long
passageway. The walls of the tunnel now were damp and glistening in the
sourceless soft light, tiny trickles running down them.

"You hear the ocean over us," came Chandra Dass' voice. "The Cavern of
the Door lies several hundred yards out from shore, beneath the rock
floor of the sea."

They passed the dark mouths of unlit tunnels branching ahead from this
illuminated one. Then over the booming of the raging sea above them,
there came to Ennis' ears the distant, swelling chant they had heard in
the water-cavern above. But now it was louder, nearer. At the sound of
it, Chandra Dass quickened their pace.

Suddenly Inspector Campbell stumbled on the slippery rock floor and went
down in a heap. Instantly Chandra Dass and his two followers recoiled
from them, the two pistols trained on the detective as he scrambled up.

"Do not do that again, inspector," warned the Hindoo in a deadly voice.
"All tricks are useless now."

"I couldn't help slipping on this wet floor," complained Inspector
Campbell.

"The next time you make a wrong step of any kind, a bullet will smash
your spine," Chandra Dass told him. "Quick--march!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The tunnel turned sharply, turned again. As they rounded the turns,
Ennis saw with a sudden electric thrill of hope that Campbell held
clutched in his hand, concealed by his sleeve, the heel-hilted knife
from his shoe. He had drawn it when he stumbled.

Campbell edged a little closer to the young American as they were
hastening onward, and whispered to him, a word at a time.

"Be--ready--to jump--them----"

"But they'll shoot, your first move----" whispered Ennis agonizedly.

Campbell did not answer. But Ennis sensed the detective's body
tautening.

They came to another turn, the strong, swelling chant coming loud from
ahead. They started around that turn.

Then Inspector Campbell acted. He whirled as though on a pivot, the
heel-knife flashing toward the men behind them.

Shots coughed from the pistols that were pressed almost against his
stomach. His body jerked as the bullets struck it, yet he remained
erect, his knife stabbing with lightning rapidity.

One of the hooded men slumped down with a pierced throat, and as
Campbell sprang at the other, Ennis desperately launched himself at
Chandra Dass. He bore the Hindoo from his feet, but it was as though he
was fighting a demon. Inside his gray robe, Chandra Dass writhed with
fiendish strength.

Ennis could not hold him, the Hindoo's body seeming of spring-steel. He
rolled over, dashed the young American to the floor, and leaped up, his
dark face and great black eyes blazing.

Then, half-way erect, he suddenly crumpled, the fire in his eyes
dulling, a call for help smothered on his lips. He fell on his face, and
Ennis saw that the heel-knife was stuck in his back. Inspector Campbell
jerked it out, and put it back into his shoe. And now Ennis, staggering
up, saw that Campbell had knifed the two hooded guards and that they lay
in a dead heap.

"Campbell!" cried the American, gripping the detective's arm. "They've
wounded you--I saw them shoot you."

Campbell's bruised face grinned briefly. "Nothing of the kind," he said,
and tapped the soiled gray vest he wore beneath his coat. "Chandra Dass
didn't know this vest is bullet-proof."

He darted an alert glance up and down the lighted tunnel. "We can't stay
here or let these bodies lie here. They may be discovered at any
moment."

"Listen!" said Ennis, turning.

The chanting from ahead swelled down the tunnel, louder than at any time
yet, waxing and waxing, reaching a triumphant crescendo, then again
dying away.

"Campbell, they're going on with the ceremony now!" Ennis cried. "Ruth!"

The detective's desperate glance fastened on the dark mouth of one of
the branching tunnels, a little ahead.

"That side tunnel--we'll pull the bodies in there!" he exclaimed.

Taking the pistols of the dead men for themselves, they rapidly dragged
the three bodies into the darkness of the unlit branching tunnel.

"Quick, on with two of these robes," rasped Inspector Campbell. "They'll
give us a little better chance."

Hastily Ennis jerked the gray robe and hood from Chandra Dass' dead body
and donned it, while Campbell struggled into one of the others. In the
robes and concealing hoods, they could not be told from any other two
members of the Brotherhood, except that the badge on Ennis' breast was
the double star instead of the single one.

Ennis then spun toward the main, lighted tunnel, Campbell close behind
him. They recoiled suddenly into the darkness of the branching way, as
they heard hurrying steps out in the lighted passage. Flattened in the
darkness against the wall, they saw several of the gray-hooded members
of the Brotherhood hasten past them from above, hurrying toward the
gathering-place.

"The guards and robe-issuers we saw above!" Campbell said quickly when
they were passed. "Come on, now."

He and Ennis slipped out into the lighted tunnel and hastened along it
after the others.

Boom of thundering ocean over their heads and rising and falling of the
tremendous chanting ahead filled their ears as they hurried around the
last turns of the tunnel. The passage widened, and ahead they saw a
massive rock portal through whose opening they glimpsed an immense,
lighted space.

Campbell and Ennis, two comparatively tiny gray-hooded figures, hastened
through the mighty portal. Then they stopped. Ennis felt frozen with the
dazing shock of it. He heard the detective whisper fiercely beside him.

"It's the Cavern, all right--the Cavern of the Door!"

       *       *       *       *       *

They looked across a colossal rock chamber hollowed out beneath the
floor of ocean. It was elliptical in shape, three hundred feet by its
longer axis. Its black basalt sides, towering, rough-hewn walls, rose
sheer and supported the rock ceiling which was the ocean floor, a
hundred feet over their heads.

This mighty cathedral hewn from inside the rock of earth was lit by a
soft, white, sourceless light like that in the main tunnel. Upon the
floor of the cavern, in regular rows across it, stood hundreds on
hundreds of human figures, all gray-robed and gray-hooded, all with
their backs to Campbell and Ennis, looking across the cavern to its
farther end. At that farther end was a flat dais of black basalt upon
which stood five hooded men, four wearing the blazing double-star on
their breasts, the fifth, a triple-star. Two of them stood beside a
cubical, weird-looking gray metal mechanism from which upreared a
spherical web of countless fine wires, unthinkably intricate in their
network, many of them pulsing with glowing force. The sourceless light
of the cavern and the tunnel seemed to pulse from that weird mechanism.

Up from that machine, if machine it was, soared the black basalt wall of
that end of the cavern. But there above the gray mechanism the rough
wall had been carved with a great, smooth facet, a giant, gleaming black
oval face as smooth as though planed and polished. Only, at the middle
of the glistening black oval face, were carven deeply four large and
wholly unfamiliar characters. As Ennis and Campbell stared frozenly
across the awe-inspiring place, sound swelled from the hundreds of
throats. A slow, rising chant, it climbed and climbed until the basalt
roof above seemed to quiver to it, crashing out with stupendous effect,
a weird litany in an unknown tongue. Then it began to fall.

Ennis clutched the inspector's gray-robed arm. "Where's Ruth?" he
whispered frantically. "I don't see any prisoners."

"They must be somewhere here," Campbell said swiftly. "Listen----"

As the chant died to silence, on the dais at the farther end of the
cavern the hooded man who wore the triple-jeweled star stepped forward
and spoke. His deep, heavy voice rolled out and echoed across the
cavern, flung back and forth from wall to rocky wall.

"Brothers of the Door," he said, "we meet again here in the Cavern of
the Door this year, as for ten thousand years past our forefathers have
met here to worship They Beyond the Door, and bring them the sacrifices
They love.

"A hundred centuries have gone by since first They Beyond the Door sent
their wisdom through the barrier between their universe and ours, a
barrier which even They could not open from their side, but which their
wisdom taught our fathers how to open.

"Each year since then have we opened the Door which They taught us how
to build. Each year we have brought them sacrifices. And in return They
have given us of their wisdom and power. They have taught us things that
lie hidden from other men, and They have given us powers that other men
have not.

"Now again comes the time appointed for the opening of the Door. In
their universe on the other side of it, They are waiting now to take the
sacrifices which we have procured for them. The hour strikes, so let the
sacrifices be brought."

As though at a signal, from a small opening at one side of the cavern a
triple file of marchers entered. A file of hooded gray members of the
Brotherhood flanked on either side a line of men and women who did not
wear the hoods or robes. They were thirty or forty in number. These men
and women were of almost all races and classes, but all of them walked
stiffly, mechanically, staring ahead with unseeing, distended eyes, like
living corpses.

"Drugged!" came Campbell's shaken voice. "They're all drugged, and don't
know what is going on."

Ennis' eyes fastened on a small, slender girl with chestnut hair who
walked at the end of the line, a girl in a straight tan dress, whose
face was white, stiff, like those of the others.

"There's Ruth!" he exclaimed frantically, his cry muffled by his hood.

He plunged in that direction, but Campbell held him back.

"No!" rasped the inspector. "You can't help her by simply getting
yourself captured!"

"I can at least go with her!" Ennis exclaimed. "Let me go!"

Inspector Campbell's iron grip held him. "Wait, Ennis!" said the
detective. "You've no chance that way. That robe of Chandra Dass' you're
wearing has a double-star badge like those of the men up there on the
dais. That means that as Chandra Dass you're entitled to be up there
with them. Go up there and take your place as though you were Chandra
Dass--with the hood on, they can't tell the difference. I'll slip around
to that side door out of which they brought the prisoners. It must
connect with the tunnels, and it's not far from the dais. When I fire my
pistol from there, you grab your wife and try to get to that door with
her. If you can do it, we'll have a chance to get up through the tunnels
and escape."

Ennis wrung the inspector's hand. Then, without further reply, he walked
boldly with measured steps up the main aisle of the cavern, through the
gray ranks to the dais. He stepped up onto it, his heart racing. The
chief priest, he of the triple-star, gave him only a glance, as of
annoyance at his lateness. Ennis saw Campbell's gray figure slipping
round to the side door.

The gray-hooded hundreds before him had paid no attention to either of
them. Their attention was utterly, eagerly, fixed upon the stiff-moving
prisoners now being marched up onto the dais. Ennis saw Ruth pass him,
her white face an unfamiliar, staring mask.

The prisoners were ranged at the back of the dais, just beneath the
great, gleaming black oval facet. The guards stepped back from them, and
they remained standing stiffly there. Ennis edged a little toward Ruth,
who stood at the end of that line of stiff figures. As he moved
imperceptibly closer to her, he saw the two priests beside the gray
mechanism reaching toward knurled knobs of ebonite affixed to its side,
beneath the spherical web of pulsing wires.

The chief priest, at the front of the dais, raised his hands. His voice
rolled out, heavy, commanding, reverberating again through all the
cavern.



_5. The Door Opens_


"Where leads the Door?" rolled the chief priest's voice.

Back up to him came the reply of hundreds of voices, muffled by the
hoods but loud, echoing to the roof of the cavern in a thunderous
response.

"_It leads outside our world!_"

The chief priest waited until the echoes died before his deep voice
rolled on in the ritual.

"Who taught our forefathers to open the Door?"

Ennis, edging desperately closer and closer to the line of victims, felt
the mighty response reverberate about him.

"_They Beyond the Door taught them!_"

Now Ennis was apart from the other priests on the dais, within a few
yards of the captives, of the small figure of Ruth.

"To whom do we bring these sacrifices?"

As the high priest uttered the words, and before the booming answer
came, a hand grasped Ennis and pulled him back from the line of victims.
He spun round to find that it was one of the other priests who had
jerked him back.

"_We bring them to Those Beyond the Door!_"

As the colossal response thundered, the priest who had jerked Ennis back
whispered urgently to him. "You go too close to the victims, Chandra
Dass! Do you wish to be taken with them?"

The fellow had a tight grip on Ennis' arm. Desperate, tensed, Ennis
heard the chief priest roll forth the last of the ritual.

"Shall the Door be opened that They may take the sacrifices?"

Stunning, mighty, a tremendous shout that mingled in it worshipping awe
and superhuman dread, the answer crashed back.

_"Let the Door be opened!"_

The chief priest turned and his up-flung arms whirled in a signal.
Ennis, tensing to spring toward Ruth, saw the two priests at the gray
mechanism swiftly turn the knurled black knobs. Then Ennis, like all
else in the vast cavern, was held frozen and spellbound by what
followed.

The spherical web of wires pulsed up madly with shining force. And up at
the center of the gleaming black oval facet on the wall, there appeared
a spark of unearthly green light. It blossomed outward, expanded, an
awful viridescent flower blooming quickly outward farther and farther.
And as it expanded, Ennis saw that he could look _through_ that green
light! He looked through into another universe, a universe lying
infinitely far across alien dimensions from our own, yet one that could
be reached through this door between dimensions. It was a green
universe, flooded with an awful green light that was somehow more akin
to darkness than to light, a throbbing, baleful luminescence.

Ennis saw dimly through green-lit spaces a city in the near distance, an
unholy city of emerald hue whose unsymmetrical, twisted towers and
minarets aspired into heavens of hellish viridity. The towers of that
city swayed to and fro and writhed in the air. And Ennis saw that here
and there in the soft green substance of that restless city were circles
of lurid light that were like yellow eyes.

In ghastly, soul-shaking apprehension of the utterly alien, Ennis knew
that the yellow circles were _eyes_--that that hell-spawned city of
another universe was _living_--that its unfamiliar life was single yet
multiple, that its lurid eyes looked now through the Door!

Out from the insane living metropolis glided pseudopods of its green
substance, glided toward the Door. Ennis saw that in the end of each
pseudopod was one of the lurid eyes. He saw those eyed pseudopods come
questing through the Door, onto the dais.

The yellow eyes of light seemed fixed on the row of stiff victims, and
the pseudopods glided toward them. Through the open door was beating
wave on wave of unfamiliar, tingling forces that Ennis felt even through
the protective robe.

The hooded multitude bent in awe as the green pseudopods glided toward
the victims faster, with avid eagerness. Ennis saw them reaching for the
prisoners, for Ruth, and he made a tremendous mental effort to break the
spell that froze him. In that moment pistol-shots crashed across the
cavern and a stream of bullets smashed the pulsing web of wires!

The Door began instantly to close. Darkness crept back around the edges
of the mighty oval. As though alarmed, the lurid-eyed pseudopods of that
hell-city recoiled from the victims, back through the dwindling Door.
And as the Door dwindled, the light in the cavern was failing.

"Ruth!" yelled Ennis madly, and sprang forward and grasped her, his
pistol leaping into his other hand.

"Ennis--quick!" shouted Campbell's voice across the cavern.

The Door dwindled away altogether; the great oval facet was completely
black. The light was fast dying too.

The chief priest sprang madly toward Ennis, and as he did so, the hooded
hordes of the Brotherhood recovered from their paralysis of horror and
surged madly toward the dais.

"The Door is closed! Death to the blasphemers!" cried the chief priest
as he plunged forward.

"Death to the blasphemers!" shrieked the crazed horde below.

Ennis' pistol roared and the chief priest went down. The light in the
cavern died completely at that moment.

In the dark a torrent of bodies catapulted against Ennis, screaming
vengeance. He struck out with his pistol-barrel in the mad mêlée,
holding Ruth's stiff form close with his other hand. He heard the other
drugged, helpless victims crushed down and trampled under foot by the
surging horde of vengeance-mad members.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clinging to the girl, Ennis fought like a madman through a darkness in
which none could distinguish friend or foe, toward the door at the side
from which Campbell had fired. He smashed down the pistol-barrel on all
before him, as hands sought to grab him in the dark. He knew sickeningly
that he was lost in the combat, with no sense of the direction of the
door.

Then a voice roared loud across the wild din, "Ennis, this way! This
way, Ennis!" yelled Inspector Campbell, again and again.

Ennis plunged through the whirl of unseen bodies in the direction of the
detective's shouting voice. He smashed through, half dragging and half
carrying the girl, until Campbell's voice was close ahead in the dark.
He fumbled at the rock wall, found the door opening, and then Campbell's
hands grasped him to pull him inside.

Hands grabbed him from behind, striving to tear Ruth from him, to jerk
him back. Voices shrieked for help.

Campbell's pistol blazed in the dark and the hands released their grip.
Ennis stumbled with the girl through the door into a dark tunnel. He
heard Campbell slam a door shut, and heard a bar fall with a clang.

"Quick, for God's sake!" panted Campbell in the dark. "They'll follow
us--we've got to get up through the tunnels to the water-cavern!"

They raced along the pitch-dark tunnel, Campbell now carrying the girl,
Ennis reeling drunkenly along.

They heard a mounting roar behind them, and as they burst into the main
tunnel, no longer lighted but dark like the others, they looked back and
saw a flickering of light coming up the passage.

"They're after us and they've got lights!" Campbell cried. "Hurry!"

It was nightmare, this mad flight on stumbling feet up through the dark
tunnels where they could hear the sea booming close overhead, and could
hear the wild pursuit behind.

Their feet slipped on the damp floor and they crashed into the walls of
the tunnel at the turns. The pursuit was closer behind--as they started
climbing the last passages to the water-cavern, the torchlight behind
showed them to their pursuers and wild yells came to their ears.

They had before them only the last ascent to the water-cavern when Ennis
stumbled and went down. He swayed up a little, yelled to Campbell. "Go
on--get Ruth out! I'll try to hold them back a moment!"

"No!" rasped Campbell. "There's another way--one that may mean the end
for us too, but our only chance!"

The inspector thrust his hand into his pocket, snatched out his big,
old-fashioned gold watch.

He tore it from its chain, turned the stem of it twice around. Then he
hurled it back down the tunnel with all his force.

"Quick--out of the tunnels now or we'll die right here!" he yelled.

They lunged forward, Campbell dragging both the girl and the exhausted
Ennis, and emerged a moment later into the great water-cavern. It was
now lit only by the searchlight of their waiting cutter.

As they emerged into the cavern, they were thrown flat on the rock ledge
by a violent movement of it under them. An awful detonation and
thunderous crashing of falling rock smote their ears.

Following that first tremendous crash, giant rumbling of collapsing rock
shook the water-cavern.

"To the cutter!" Campbell cried. "That watch of mine was filled with the
most concentrated high-explosive known, and it's blown up the tunnels.
Now it's touched off more collapses and all these caverns and passages
will fall in on us at any moment!"

The awful rumbling and crashing of collapsing rock masses was deafening
in their ears as they lurched toward the cutter. Great chunks of rock
were falling from the cavern roof into the water.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sturt, white-faced but asking no questions, had the motor of the cutter
running, and helped them pull the unconscious girl aboard.

"Out of the tunnel at once!" Campbell ordered. "Full speed!"

They roared down the water-tunnel at crazy velocity, the searchlight
beam stabbing ahead. The tide had reached flood and turned, increasing
the speed with which they dashed through the tunnel.

Masses of rock fell with loud splashes behind them, and all around them
was still the ominous grinding of mighty weights of rock. The walls of
the tunnel quivered repeatedly.

Sturt suddenly reversed the propellers, but in spite of his action the
cutter smashed a moment later into a solid rock wall. It was a mass of
rock forming an unbroken barrier across the water-tunnel, extending
beneath the surface of the water.

"We're trapped!" cried Sturt. "A mass of the rock has settled here and
blocked the tunnel."

"It can't be completely blocked!" Campbell exclaimed. "See, the tide
still runs out beneath it. Our one chance is to swim out under the
blocking mass of rock, before the whole cliff gives way!"

"But there's no telling how far the block may extend----" Sturt cried.

Then as Campbell and Ennis stripped off their coats and shoes, he
followed their example. The rumble of grinding rock around them was now
continuous and nerve-shattering.

Campbell helped Ennis lower Ruth's unconscious form into the water.

"Keep your hand over her nose and mouth!" cried the inspector. "Come on,
now!"

Sturt went first, his face pale in the searchlight beam as he dived
under the rock mass. The tidal current carried him out of sight in a
moment.

Then, holding the girl between them, and with Ennis' hand covering her
mouth and nostrils, the other two dived. Down through the cold waters
they shot, and then the swift current was carrying them forward like a
mill-race, their bodies bumping and scraping against the rock mass
overhead.

Ennis' lungs began to burn, his brain to reel, as they rushed on in the
waters, still holding the girl tightly. They struck solid rock, a wall
across their way. The current sucked them downward, to a small opening
at the bottom. They wedged in it, struggled fiercely, then tore through
it. They rose on the other side of it into pure air. They were in the
darkness, floating in the tunnel beyond the block, the current carrying
them swiftly onward.

The walls were shaking and roaring frightfully about them as they were
borne round the turns of the tunnel. Then they saw ahead of them a
circle of dim light, pricked with white stars.

The current bore them out into that starlight, into the open sea. Before
them in the water floated Sturt, and they swam with him out from the
shaking, grinding cliffs.

The girl stirred a little in Ennis' grasp, and he saw in the starlight
that her face was no longer dazed.

"Paul----" she muttered, clinging close to Ennis in the water.

"She's coming back to consciousness--the water must have revived her
from that drug!" he cried.

But he was cut short by Campbell's cry. "Look! Look!" cried the
inspector, pointing back at the black cliffs.

In the starlight the whole cliff was collapsing, with a prolonged,
terrible roar as of grinding planets, its face breaking and buckling.
The waters around them boiled furiously, whirling them this way and
that.

Then the waters quieted. They found they had been flung near a sandy
spit beyond the shattered cliffs, and they swam toward it.

"The whole underground honeycomb of caverns and tunnels gave way and the
sea poured in!" Campbell cried. "The Door, and the Brotherhood of the
Door, are ended for ever!"





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