The Nth Power
THE NTH POWER
By Arthur Train
ILLUSTRATED BY ALONZO KIMBALL
[ Illustration: Almost Instantly Saki Entered ]
NONE of the ﬁrm—least of all the junior partner, myself—knew just how Doctor Migraine had become one of our customers. He came to us just as thousands of other stock-brokers' clients come to them: passed along by some chance word or owing to some trifling dissatisfaction with some one else; just as, in fact, of his own patients—if he had any probably came to him. He was a large, full-chested, deep-voiced, black-bearded man, such as usually takes the part of the Russian Grand Duke in the melodramas, yet he lacked markedly any of the assertiveness of a Romanoff, and indeed, at times,was almost provokingly retiring and unassuming. For he was a ﬁne ﬁgure of a man, and his mere presence in our customers' room, on those rare occasions when he visited our offices, was enough to send rumors flying of a possible advance in Russian 6s or a probable slump in Japanese 4s.
But he was only an occasional customer. Often his massive, carefully—tailored form would not darken our door for months. Then, usually when the market was as dull as a millpond and nothing was doing—except traders playing for "eighths," like minnows skipping in the shallows—he would enter unannounced and pass silently into the senior partner's private office. There he would give his orders, always in some single stock and always for thousand and ﬁve thousand share lots, and invariably the market would advance or react to suit his purposes. Then he would sell or cover, as the case might be, and take his proﬁts away with him in the shape of a certified check, which inevitably came back with the indorsement of a world-powerful banking house upon its reverse. He always stayed and saw the deal through, and, as I distinctly recall, always sat in the same posture upon the same corner of the sofa until it was all over—chin in hand.
And he always guessed right. Charlie Buck used to say he must be either Harriman's chef or J. P. Morgan's valet in disguise. Everything he touched moved one way or the other. He was like a sudden squall striking down from off the mountains upon a summer sea. The market might have shown every sign of stagnation; but, once let the good Migraine superimpose himself upon Buck's sofa and order a few thousand Reading or Colorado Fuel, and it would begin positively to boil with activity. I have seen Migraine come into our oﬁice when the ticker had been still for minutes—you know what that means—just rapping out a hundred shares or so of Union every little while, simply from a sense of decency, as it were, and in less than no time the whole market would be jumping. It was curious if the word is sufficiently expressive; Buck called it "uncanny." For a short haul the doctor seemed infallible. He never left an open order on our books—the deal had to be ﬁnished and the money in his pocket before he left the office. That was another thing that struck us as singular. Almost anybody will get a copper—fastened tip once in a while that will absolutely compel him, if he has any sort of a soul, to buy or sell the market as a matter of conscience with the certainty of a big proﬁt some time in the course of a week, two weeks or a month. Migraine never did that sort of thing. He never carried a stock over night, but, whatever he went into, he guessed right the very ﬁrst time. And the money I have seen him pocket without a quiver! Singularly emotionless he was— and still is—as if money were nothing to him; and I verily believe it is not, save as a means to a certain end. Buck and I could not imagine where he got his information, but in the end we decided that he was a sort of agent for some one of the big fellows, and simply thanked our good luck for getting the commissions and at ﬁrst let it go at that. But in the end we followed Migraine every time until—but that can wait. Yet, in point of fact, there was nothing uncanny about the doctor himself, even if he did appear to have supernatural powers of divination.
He was an immaculate, seemingly matter-of-fact sort of person, blue-eyed, white-toothed and scented with heliotrope. The Russian Grand Duke business was instinctive with him, and the sight of his huge, whiskered frame wrapped in a black frock coat and surmounted by a gleaming silk hat was enough to make an office boy draw his heels together with a click and give a royal salute. That was another thing we never could understand—why he should come at all. Our biggest customers stay uptown and use the telephone. But he never telephoned.
Time and again we tried to ﬁnd out something about him, but without result. The city directory gave only his name and house address, the telephone book contained nothing, and the Social Register simply the ambiguous information that he belonged to various learned and professional organizations. Who's Who did a little better, for it stated that he had taken degrees at Bonn, Vienna and St. Petersburg, had "written extensively upon psychiatry and psychology," and devoted himself to research. Altogether a queer bird to be dabbling in stocks. A queer bird, perhaps, altogether; and yet he was the most valuable customer on our books.
When at length, after some ﬁve years, the good doctor at the end of a frantic day upon the market—during which he had sat imperturbably in the inner office and kept me hustling to execute his orders—invited me to dine with him upon the following evening, neither inclination nor good business dictated a refusal.
We had been making money ourselves for the last three or four years by trailing after Migraine in his operations, but when you are making hay you can never tell how long the sun is going to shine, or how soon the goose will die who happens to be laying the golden egg. We had Migraine now, to be sure, but we might lose him at any time. We prayed for his health and prosperity as a Chinaman prays for the salubrity of his grandparents. We became depressed in his absence, and fell on his neck when he rediscovered himself. And an invitation to dinner! Why, it might mean anything from a job to corner Union to the disclosure of an infallible system for beating the market! I did not hesitate; I went, and stood not upon the order of my going.
I found that Dr. Migraine lived in a small house upon one of the streets in the upper eighties, running off from Central Park West, and I had no sooner been relieved of my hat and coat by the Japanese servant than our worthy customer himself appeared at the head of the stairs and, grasping my hand warmly, welcomed me to his abode. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shabby sort of a place for a big trader to live in. There was no sign of wealth or even of luxury. The house was narrow—not over seventeen feet, I should say—and ﬁnished in some cheap sort of imitation hard wood. A good deal of dust came off the railing of the banisters, and even the Jap looked dusty. I confess to being disappointed, and this feeling increased when the doctor led me into his library, or rather study, and I found that his principal room—for there was no parlor or drawing-room—was furnished only with a worn and very cheap rug, a horrible onyx clock, a few very comfortable but exceedingly seedy armchairs. It was lined to the ceiling with rows of tipsy, shoddy-looking books. I tell you, I began to wonder if I hadn't made a mistake. Imagine! Here was our best customer, a man who had cleaned up to my certain knowledge some two hundred thousand during the past year, living like a second-class dentist! If it had not been for his immaculate appearance and the faint scent of heliotrope that always hung around him I should have doubted his identity.
"Sit down, sit down," said Doctor Migraine, waving me into a low chair as he poked up the dying embers in the grate. "Saki will have the cocktails here in a moment. What I lack in elegance I must try to make up in hospitality."
"You have a very—er—cozy little place here, I'm sure," I returned, trying to put some enthusiasm into my tone.
"Rather shabby, I'm afraid," remarked Migraine. "Have a cigarette?"
He took a box from behind the clock and held them out to me.
"You were thinking," he continued with a quizzical smile, "that it was strange that so successful a customer of yours was content to live in such a dingy hole. Don't deny it. I saw you thinking it. I don't blame you. But, you see, I don't care for the things most people are engrossed in striving for. The purely creature comforts count for little, so far as I am concerned. We live in different worlds—if you will pardon my saying so—you and I." He paused and lit his cigarette with a newspaper spill which he thrust between the bars of the grate.
"I'm not up on science," I answered, feeling rather ill at ease. "But I dare say it is very interesting. Now. if I had a million or so I'd get a yacht and travel—see the world—that's what I'd like to do."
"Ah," he shot back, blowing out a volume of tiny rings. "See the world! How long would it take you—what there is of it? My dear fellow, I had seen the world—at the trifling expense of a million or so—myself, at the age of nineteen—that is, the world of ocean, cities and sky. It's the other world——"
At this moment the Jap entered, bearing the cocktails. In the hall the light had been too dim for me to catch more than a glimpse of him, but now I saw that he was a man of advanced years, with a weazened countenance and patchy gray hair. In places there were spots of black showing through this, which gave him a queer, motheaten appearance. Migraine addressed him in what I took for Japanese, and Saki placed the tray upon a tabouret and shuffled away.
"Well, here's to your seeing the world!" said Migraine grimly.
I made some commonplace return compliment and we drained our glasses. I have never tasted such a drink before or since, so sweetly sour, so aromatically ﬂavored, as if there had been distilled into it all the spices of the East.
Dinner was announced soon after that, and we crossed the hall into a plainly-furnished dining-room in the rear, the only original feature of which consisted in its being illuminated by a huge crystal ball hanging above the table, which diffused a soft yet powerful light throughout the room. My host indicated a chair opposite him, and we were soon giving our best attention to a dinner served by Saki with incredible dexterity, and equal in quality to that of the best Parisian restaurants. I began to feel an increased respect for the doctor. While he might throw his money away upon scientific dawdlings, he at least appreciated the value of a good cook. As Saki ﬁlled my glass with rare and costly vintages my awkwardness vanished, and in its place came a gratified sense of my own importance and of extreme good nature toward the worthy doctor who was taking so much trouble upon my account.
Here, in the rear room, beneath the subdued radiance of the crystal ball, one could hear no sound from the outside world. It was as if we were immured in some palace dungeon far below the surface of the earth. I remember that at the time I dimly recalled some story I had read, The Legend of the Arabian Astrologer, about a fellow who dwelt in the interior of a pyramid—it was like that. You could not hear even the distant roar of an elevated train—or a cat in the back yards.
At length we lighted our cigars—wonderful weeds bearing some strange, cabalistic symbol upon their bands —such as I had never smoked-—and Saki placed the liqueurs upon the table and withdrew.
Migraine was eying me in a friendly manner over his cigar. Good nature radiated from him. His Grand Dukedness, so to speak, had dropped off, and he seemed simply a jolly sort of a chap with a distinct taste for wines and cigars. I made up my mind that this was my chance to ﬁnd out how he managed to pull oﬁ his tricks upon the stock market, when suddenly he interrupted my unasked question by saying quite naturally:
"I'll tell you."
"Eh?" I exclaimed. "I will tell you with pleasure!" he continued, smiling through the gray smoke. For the moment I was not sure whether I had asked him anything or not.
"It is simply by applying to the world of sight and sense some of the laws of the other world that most people are unacquainted with."
"Eh?" I stammered. "Clairvoyance—or something like that?" You see, I thought he was joking with me; but the seriousness of his expression when next he spoke convinced me that I was in error.
"Yes," he said simply. "Something like that—if you choose."
"'There are things in heaven and earth undreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio,'" I quoted somewhat inaccurately, trying to be jocose, although I felt distinctly nonplused. But the doctor evidently did not understand my allusion; in fact, he seemed singularly unread in general literature.
"Not exactly," he answered, taking me literally. "Dreamed of—yes; more than that, dimly felt and understood."
"Like wireless telegraphy,"said I with a ﬂash of comprehension.
"Yes—and like life and death. "We do not know what they are, but we know that they are. There is no reason for death of which we know, no explanation of the transition from inanimation to life."
He took a puff at his cigar.
"But that does not mean that we shall not know all about them—soon. I have taken an old dog and planted in its neck a thyroid gland taken from a puppy, reversed the order of circulation, and that dog is getting young again. The old hair is falling out and new hair is coming in. He used to be almost blind. Now he can see quite well. And you should see him try to chase cats!"
"Come!" I exclaimed. "That won't go!" And then suddenly I recalled the patchy headpiece of the ancient Saki, and a queer sort of feeling came over me.
"Well," he replied, smiling, "don't let's argue about it. Just between you and me, I'm in a devil of a mess to know how to stop that dog getting too young. You see, I don't know exactly what is going to happen——"
I burst out laughing. The idea of an old dog gradually turning into a toothless puppy seemed ludicrous.
"After all," said Migraine, reading my thoughts, "as you say, age and youth have surprisingly similar symptoms."
"Ah!" I exclaimed, now fully alive to the situation, "but I didn't say it!"
"The same thing—you thought it."
"By George!" I gasped, the full force of the thing coming over me. "You don't mean to tell me that there is really anything in—in—what do you call it?"
"Telepathy? Do you doubt that one's mind can read the thoughts of another?"
"Why," I stammered, "I always thought that was all buncombe."
"Buncombe!" Migraine threw back his head and laughed. "Do you believe in the telephone?"
"Of course!" I stammered.
"And the telegraph?"
"Sure!" I said.
[ Illustration: "Now You Cannot Move!"]
"Then, if you can communicate with one of your friends a thousand miles away by means of an electrical current, why doubt the possibility of doing so by means of some other current-—passing from mind to mind?"
I was stumped for a moment; you see, I had never looked into such things they had all seemed like balderdash. Then I had a ﬂash of inspiration.
"Ah!" I cried. "But there is the wire!"
Migraine grunted scornfully.
"Is there any wire in wireless telegraphy?"
"By George!" I cried. "You're right. 'C. Q. D.'!"
"You are like so many others!" sighed Migraine.
"Don't you see it is all a question of the receiving apparatus! So long as you have a receiving station tuned to receive the necessary waves that is all you want. Now, the retina of the eye with its optic nerve running to the brain is like the old form of telegraphy; the message runs along the wire to the receiver. That particular sort of current needs a wire. But the electric waves used in wireless telegraphy need no wire at all; they go direct to the station. In the same way, perhaps, can be explained the so-called telepathic powers of those gifted beings who can see what is happening in other places- perhaps on the other side of the world—clairvoyants, or what you will. Their brains are tuned to receive sight waves that need no optic nerves—waves that make no primary impression upon the retina of the eye at all, but are received direct by the brain itself. Do you understand?"
"I think so," I answered doubtfully. "You mean, if I see something in a dream, maybe it is my mind really seeing something that is actually going on somewhere else."
I scratched my head in perplexity. You see, it sounded like tommyrot, and yet I had to admit the possibility of the thing.
"The explanation of all these things is, of course, that it isn't the eye that sees, but the brain. The eye merely receives the light in sight waves which are thrown off by all physical objects within the range of its vision, and transmits them to the brain. Light waves are motion waves, heat and light being merely forms of motion, as, of course, you know. The retina is so constructed that it can absorb these light waves and communicate the vibrations thus received to the brain. The brain does the seeing. Now, imagine a different sort of light wave, and there is no reason for supposing that the brain could not absorb it directly without the assistance of the retina."
"But you were talking about mental telepathy," I said. "This does not explain how you can read another's thoughts, even if it shows the theoretical possibility of seeing things with your eyes shut."
"For mind to communicate with mind, all you have to presuppose are mind waves," answered Migraine. "But the thing is perfectly well understood in science. It is a recognized fact. Do you want another cigar? Very good—wait."
Almost instantly the door opened and Saki entered bearing a tray of large, evenly-rolled Havanas, which he smilingly tendered to me. I must have made a botch of picking them off the tray, for Migraine began to laugh heartily, and I found myself holding half a dozen cigars in my ﬁst and staring ﬁxedly at Saki's scalp as he moved noiselessly away. The fellow did have patches of nice, black, shining hair mingled with the gray!
"Tell the gentleman your age, Saki!" directed Migraine. The Jap turned on his heel.
"One hunner an' ten," he said simply.
"Jumping Jehoshaphat!" I exclaimed to Migraine. "Do you expect me to believe him?"
The doctor shrugged his shoulders.
"It's nothing to me whether you believe him or not." he replied.
But I was piqued that a sensible, hard-headed man of business like myself could not put the kibosh on all this nonsense more readily. Down at the ofﬁce they always come to me when they want, some one to spot the fallacy in any new theory of how to corner Union Pacific. So I thought hard for a moment. Then it came to me.
"Very well," I replied conﬁdently. "If it's not the eye, but the brain, that sees, it must be the brain, and not the tongue. that tastes; not the ﬁngers, but the brain, that feels; not the nose——"
"Precisely," said Migraine.
"Eh?" I shouted. "Then I suppose you will be telling me next that there is nothing to prevent my smelling an Indian bazar over in Calcutta somewhere, or feeling some fellow chopping wood over in Central Park, or——"
"You've got it!" he replied. "You've caught the idea!"
"Rats!" I remarked rather impolitely.
"Speaking of rats," he retorted. "have you never known a woman who could feel a cat in some other part of the house?"
I stared at him helplessly.
I dropped my head upon my shirt bosom. Why, of course I had!
"All that is pretty well understood—the 'projection of sensation.' The French—they have done a lot of it—call it the 'Exteriorization of Sensation.' We don't know much about it or what causes it, but we know that it is a scientific fact. I am going to take it up myself when I get the time. It's entirely different, of course, from telepathy, properly speaking, where one mind acts directly upon another."
I had been drinking a good deal, or I should have dropped to the doctor's little Wall Street game long before this; but now I saw it all in a ﬂash. Telepathy! Of course. The good doctor merely waited until some ﬁnancier was about to make a coup, and then, entirely unknown to the other, entered into the game as a silent partner with him. I cursed myself for never having thought. of the thing before and learning to do it myself.
"So, ho," I cried, winking at him. "That's how you do the trick, is it?"
"That's how I do the trick," he repeated without a smile.
"And it always works?"
"Always when it works with the other fellow. You see, if some other chap, whose mind I am not in contact with, comes along and puts a new element into the situation, why, I may get left along with the others. But, I play a safe game. I know one or two men with sympathetic minds"—he mentioned a couple of market leaders—"and when I see that one or the other of them is about to create a movement in a stock, and there seems likely to be no outside interference, I follow along."
I looked at him in amazement; he said it so simply. I was aghast at the possibilities of the thing.
"I don't see what is to prevent your getting hold of all the money in the world!" I exclaimed.
Migraine looked at me queerly, with an odd look in his blue eyes.
"What good would it do me? Would it teach me the mysteries of life and death? Would it help me to conquer age and disease? These things are not so much a question of money as of mind. We must have, to be sure, institutions like the Rockefeller Institute devoted to scientific research! And that requires money. But more than that we need Newtons, Darwins, Galileos! What avails a man if he gain the whole world and then miserably die? What pleasure does one have who knows that joy is inevitably followed by pain? I am constantly astounded at the stupidity of mankind. They strain and struggle and suffer to get a few more ounces of gold out of an exhausted mine—to make an overburdened soil continue to yield a livelihood. They distract their minds with business problems to earn a few more dollars. And all the while they scoff at science as pedantry!"
Somehow, he impressed me immensely, and I began to feel that I had made a mistake in spending all the best years of my life in buying and selling stocks for other people, when I might have been controlling human destiny and ﬁnding the hidden wealth of Monte Cristo by means of my own private mental divining rod. This mind-reading trick seemed easy enough. I wondered if Migraine would put me on to it. If he only would! My mind gloated over the thoughts of the untold riches which lay so easily within my grasp if I could only learn Migraine's secret.
"For example," and the doctor's voice interrupted my vision of gold, "think of the enormous attention devoted by mankind to inventing machinery, making telescopes, breeding race—horses, and that sort of thing, when an equal amount of effort might have made engines and telescopes and horses entirely useless. I mean exactly what I say. Look at the pains men have been to to breed fox terriers and bulldogs and bloodhounds. Have they ever once tried to breed a man? With all their optical science have they ever tried to develop the powers of the human eye? We have had Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven, and all the rest; but while composers have tortured themselves and the public by trying to invent some new combination of sound, has any one ever tried to increase the range of human hearing? Why, man, how much do you really see and hear and taste and feel? Only so much as our eyes, ears, tongue and ﬁngers can perceive? And how much do they perceive? Only what is in their limited range of vision. One might as well say that, because you cannot perceive by the sense the electric wave that summons the trans-Atlantic liner to its sinking sister ship, it does not exist. There are sounds too ﬁne for the ear to hear—the chirp of the minute insect—too low, like the throb of the organ. The ear is not tuned to receive the rapid vibrations of the insect voice or the slow vibrations of the organ's lowest notes. Sound is motion and comes to us in waves, like light and heat. The capacity of the eye and ear to respond to the vibrations of these waves determines our capacity to see and hear. A violinist can break a gas globe with a certain note, because the glass responds to the vibrations of the note, which it cannot do to a lower tone. So with color. The retinas of our eyes can absorb the visible colors of the spectrum—violet, blue, green, orange, yellow, red—but there are shades on either end of the color scale that our eyes cannot see, but could be made to see—yes, easily! The new man will hear sweeter notes than mortal ear has ever heard before, see fairer visions than have been vouchsafed to poets and dreamers, experience sensations beyond the imagination of Mohammed's paradise!"
Thrilled in spite of myself by his enthusiasm I leaned forward and broke in upon him.
"How will you do this?" I cried. "How will you break into this new world of sight. and sense? How do you know that such things are?"
"How!" he echoed rhapsodically. "Science has already demonstrated them. The X ray, the radium ray—these are accomplished facts of science. All we need is the eye to which they are visible. Increase in some way the power, the intensity, the range, capacity—what you will—of the senses, and a new world surrounds us. Intensify the power of the eye to receive and respond to increased vibrations of light, and man will see a myriad new forms and colors I've given you quite a scientific lecture," he concluded in a relaxed tone. "Shall we go back to the study?"
I began to fear that in his enthusiasm he had wandered so far from the subject. which I had most at heart that he would not return to it.
"What interests me," I remarked as we rose from the table, "is this telepathy business. Can anybody read another's thoughts, or is it a peculiar gift?"
"Generally speaking, it is something which is given to only a few," he replied. Then, noticing the disappointed expression on my face, he added with a laugh: "But if you intensified all a man's perceptive faculties no doubt you would, at the same time, give him a telepathic capacity of some sort—perhaps to an extraordinary degree. Patients in a hypnotic state readily see the infra-red and the ultra-violet——"
"Eh?" said I. "What is that? Infra-red——"
"Yes," he answered as we threw ourselves into the stuffed easy chairs by the ﬁre in his library. "The infrared is the red just outside the visible red of the spectrum. It is the red given off by rays whose vibrations are not taken in by the retina, just as at the other or upper end of the spectrum there is the ultra-violet, a violet imperceptible to the ordinary eye. Some few people can see it. But no one in the normal state can see the infra-red."
"Well," I remarked with an excited laugh, "the ﬁrst fellow who gets keyed up to that sort of thing will have a rum time of it."
"He will be as a god," answered Migraine, "knowing not only good and evil, but all the secrets of a now invisible world." He looked at me steadfastly.
My heart took to beating in a queer, jumping way, and just at that moment a dog howled, a strange, unearthly howl, in the room just above my head. There was something so absolutely unearthly in it that I paled and the perspiration broke out upon my forehead.
"That infernal beast!" growled Migraine. "I have to lock him up indoors because the neighbors make such a fuss if he barks in the night."
It occurred to me that I was a fool to have a thing like that throw me into a blue funk, and I took a fresh cigar and began to wonder how I could induce Migraine to give me a few points on mind-reading. I resolved to lead the conversation gently back to our original topic, the one which so vitally interested me as a matter of business. If only I could know just what Harriman was going to——
"Look here," said I, "if you can tell just what these big fellows in Wall street are going to do, why do you ever come downtown at all? Why not sit here comfortably and do the whole trick on the telephone?"
"The reason is simple enough." replied Migraine. "You see, the range—or trajectory, so to speak—of my telepathic power is limited. Your ofﬁce happens to be situated very near to those of the two men whom I have mentioned. At any greater distance my mental sight might be so dim as to be ineffective. That. is why I selected your own admirable banking-house instead of that of some other—if you will pardon me—equally distinguished ﬁrm."
Instantly it came over me what a ripping thing it would be—so convenient, as it were—just to sit on that same lounge in Buck's office and play the market just as the doctor did, for a dead-sure thing. Why, it was exasperating that a fellow who knew nothing about the values of stock or the various inﬂuences that affect the market should be able to wander in there and do as he chose. It maddened me to be put at such a disadvantage by this medicine man, particularly as he was one who didn't really care beans about making money at all.
"Look here," I exclaimed, sitting bolt upright, "why don't you try this intensifying business on me?"
"How do you mean?" he asked.
"Why, tune up my eyes and ears and all that—make me see things—infra-red and what not?"
"Oh, nonsense!" he retorted.
"Seriously," I protested.
"Do you mean that you are willing to offer yourself as a subject for scientific experiment?" he inquired with a superior air.
"Why not?" I replied, but my breath came a little fast. I remember the onyx clock began striking ten just at that moment.
Doctor Migraine did not instantly reply, but puffed his cigar with exasperating deliberation for a moment.
"The consequences—-might be disagreeable," he said slowly.
"I'll chance that," I urged him conﬁdently. "How would you do it?"
"I'll bet you couldn't hypnotize me!" I taunted him in my eagerness to have the thing tried. "I don't believe you could hypnotize a stockbroker."
"I've seen such things done," he muttered. "Now, see here, Bilson," he added, changing his tone, "if you are willing to absolve me from any responsibility in the matter and give me your signature to that effect I'm willing to try. But, mind you, it's entirely against my advice! Such things are infernally dangerous and, at best, are apt to be deucedly unpleasant."
"That's all right, old man," I replied, seeing visions of myself cornering the market in United States Steel Common. "Don't you worry. Your Uncle Silas is quite able to take care of himself."
Doctor Migraine went over to a little desk and scribbled something on a sheet of notepaper.
"Sign this ﬁrst," said he, handing it to me.
This is to certify that the treatment received by me at the hands of Doctor Adrian Migraine is entirely at my urgent request and against his express advice. I regard the same as necessary for my health and entirely absolve him of any responsibility in the premises, legal or moral.
"Certainly I'll sign this," said I, and shakily affixed my John Hancock to the bottom of the paper.
Migraine folded it carefully and put it in his pocket. Then he took a bit of candle-end which was sticking in a brass holder on the mantel, placed it on the table between us and lit it.
"Are you all ready?" he inquired sympathetically.
"Yes," I whispered.
"Relax," said he gently. "Let go the arms of your chair. Uncross your legs. Look at the candle!"
He raised it in his left hand and moved it forward and back in front of my forehead. Then he thrust the ﬁrst and second ﬁngers of his right hand toward my face, gradually drawing them together.
"Let your eyes follow my ﬁngers," he directed.
I did so, and he gently brought. the focus of my eyes to a narrow point. near the top of my nose and held it there. "Now you cannot move!" he abruptly cried in a bullying tone. "You are as helpless as if you were bound in iron!"
Something in his voice ﬁlled me with deadly fear—a sneering note that had not been there before—a mocking derision as if he had been fooling me all along. Suddenly it came to me that I had been duped, tricked to putting myself into his power for some unholy purpose. I thought of the old-young dog with the thyroid gland, of the patchy-haired Jap. Why did he, with all his money, all his power, want to invite me to dinner? The horrible conviction that I was at his mercy stole over me; I struggled to free myself from my imaginary gyves. I shouted in my terror, but uttered no sound. I writhed and twisted, as it seemed to me, but could not move. The sweat burst from my temples. I was ﬁrmly and relentlessly held by invisible shackles that rendered me powerless.
Migraine threw himself back in his chair and watched me for a moment. Then he tossed a box of safety matches in my lap.
"Light my cigar!" he commanded.
Utterly against my will I obeyed.
"Now, Mr. Stockbroker," he remarked with a chuckle that chilled me to the marrow, "since you desire it I will try to make a man of you."
At that moment the silence of the night was rent by the doleful howl of the dog in the room above.
"Yes," repeated Doctor Migraine, peering down into my motionless face with a leer, "at your earnest request."
He gave a grim laugh and made a curious gesture with his right hand in the air. Up above our heads the dog howled again. The doctor shrugged his shoulders impatiently. Then he strode to the door. I heard no whistle, but bounding down the stairs and into the room came a huge mastiff which capered stiffly around me, knocking over the tabouret and bumping into Doctor Migraine like a half-grown puppy. Here and there on the dog's back, like the patches on Saki's head, grew clumps of soft, velvety hair; but as a whole its coat was thin and old and its eyes were red and dim. It slobbered and jumped over Migraine with a pitiful sort of canine ineffectiveness.
"Hang you!" he exclaimed. "I wish I'd left you upstairs. Here! Up! Jump!"
After a few vain attempts the mastiff struggled up to the top of the table, where it stood, eying me curiously. Migraine took the candle, passed it rapidly before the dog's eyes. made a few passes, and the animal became rigid, the saliva slowly dripping from its mouth, its ears and tail erect, its legs outspread, for all the world like a stuffed dog in a toy shop.
"Now you'll keep still!" remarked Migraine. Then, turning to me, he took two small horseshoe magnets from his desk and laid them on his knee.
"What do you see?" he asked.
"I see a sort of shadow of red around one," I answered or tried to answer, "and about the other a kind of blue haze."
"The infra-red and the ultra-violet!" he exclaimed exultantly. "Look at me! Do you see anything unusual?"
I turned my eyes upon him. To my astonishment, all around his body and limbs was a faint penumbra of cloudy red—a sort of sanguinary phosphorescence that was most pronounced around his armpits, neck and face. When he spoke there would be a rush of this redness from his mouth, although his entire body exuded a sort of a visible warmth. I glanced at the dog. The same phenomenon was visible although in a much greater degree, for the mastiff stood in a haze of redness, so to speak, which poured like steam from his mouth and nostrils at each breath. Around the ﬁreplace there was a cloud of red which streamed out into the room and eddied round it, and a mist of red held over and around the lamp.
Migraine eyed me curiously.
"You do see it, don't you?" he inquired.
"See it? Of course I see it!" I cried, working my jaws to make sure they were really free at last. "But what is the confounded thing?"
"The infra-red, I told you!" he replied.
"By George!" I exclaimed. "I wish you'd let me out of this. I've had enough, I tell you! I don't like it!"
Migraine shook his head.
"Be still!" he growled.
Just then Saki entered, wearing a huge pair of broad-rimmed spectacles and an embroidered black skullcap. Somehow, he didn't seem to have as much heat about him as the others, but his weazened face bore a peculiarly malevolent expression. He had a pair of silver calipers in his hand like the claws of a crab, and he grinned and chattered at Migraine like a crazy ape. I was beginning to feel frightened.
"By the way," said Migraine, "in order that you may understand the experiment let me explain to you that you don't really see these colors now; you only think you see them." He made a swift pass at me. "Now you don't see them!"
Sure enough, I didn't.
"But," he continued, "the moment your senses are really intensified you'll really see, hear, smell. taste and feel the whole business. Saki, ﬁnd the place!"
I shuddered as the Jap came toward me and felt along my skull with his ﬁngers. Just over my left ear he stopped and began measuring with the calipers. Then he placed his foreﬁnger on a certain point and nodded to Migraine. The doctor took a small round ball of glass from a drawer in the table, polished it upon his sleeve and then passed round and behind me.
Suddenly, I saw a blinding ﬂash of light and coincidently felt a sharp and rather painful blow upon the side of my head. For an instant I was dazed. Through it all came a pounding almost deafening and a shrill roar at regular intervals. The ﬁre and lamps blazed with light. I heard some one striking rhythmically upon a piece of hollow wood with a hammer. A disgusting stench ﬁlled my nostrils. My clothes weighed upon me like chain armor and scratched my body as if lined with bristles. Clouds of red poured from the ﬁreplace and circled toward the ceiling, and the mastiff reeked with it. I felt sick and sensitive, as if I had just had a fever. I tried to collect myself. Migraine and the Jap had disappeared. Only the dog remained, rigidly glaring at me—a sort of red devil of a dog. I looked at my hands and found that they were surrounded by the same red haze. I tried to screen my eyes from the light with my hand. To my astonishment, I could see the bones through the flesh, glowing white and distinct. I glanced quickly again at the dog; I saw his skeleton. It was true, then! I could see even as Migraine had prophesied—as with the X-ray.
The pounding in my ears continued, and it suddenly came to me that it was the beating of my heart; that the whistling roar was my breath; the striking with the hammer the ticking of the clock. But the light of the lamp beating down upon my eyes blinded and pained me, and the smell of the mastiff was odious. I staggered to my feet and felt for the door. The weight of my clothes caused the sweat to pour from my body; the rumbling in my ears was indescribably confusing, like the crash of heavy drays upon cobbled streets. Panting, my brain awhirl, I fumbled my way dizzily down the dusty stairs—I remember the dust on the banisters felt like the clinkers of burned-out range coal—and scuttled out into the soft, warm night.
Did I say night? I clung to the brownstone balustrade, trying to adjust myself to the scene about me. It was quite bright, with a soft light as of early morning, and the stars blazed in a burning roof across the sky. like a ceiling studded with a myriad electric lights. The heavens were a seething mass of constellations in which the moon rode like a huge, slightly-dimmed sun. An unearthly uproar ﬁlled the air—a bellowing and shrieking as of a thousand contending monsters. a reverberating roar as of oncoming trains. the piercing whistles of factories, a pandemonium of hideous sound. I pressed my hands to my ears and felt them huge and callous like ﬁsts of mail or the horned hoofs of a beast. An indescribably-strange combination of odors pierced my nostrils. The stench of offal, the harsh reek of tobacco, wild and delirious perfumes mingled with the smell of smoke and of cooking, half suffocated and sickened me. But what horrifiﬁed me beyond measure was the fact that the air was ﬁlled with great clouds of variously-colored swarms of motes and insects, that settled here and there like mist, only to swirl away in streams and currents like dust storms sweeping across a desert. They poured down upon me like sand. striking against my face and eyeballs; I breathed them in and felt them in my nose and lungs. And all around me I saw red—red eddying from doors and windows, rising like smoke from the pavement and gathering in clouds around the manholes in the street. I saw a policeman slowly pacing along the opposite sidewalk, enveloped in a blur of red and peering at me through the slowly-descending blanket of motes. I felt that I must inevitably choke, but I continued to breathe with surprising ease. A terrible fear came upon me that I was going mad or that I was overborne by some rapid form of death and that my dissolution was taking place. To this horror was added a dread that Migraine might ﬁnd and play some other dreadful trick upon me. I started stealthily to run and found that I could do so in spite of the apparent weight of my clothes.
Presently I reached the avenue that bounds Central Park upon the west. The theaters were just out and the street was ﬁlled with motors and carriages wheeling northward. The din here was beyond words, like the roar of an iron foundry. I paused, still holding my hands to my ears. And now I noticed a curious thing. The wheels of the automobiles seemed hardly to be moving, and yet the vehicles passed with all their usual velocity. I could see each separate spoke go slowly round and round. The legs of fast-galloping horses moved with similar deliberation and the pedestrians seemed only sauntering, although their attitudes betokened haste and energy. As I stood for a moment wondering what this could mean I became conscious of a continuous rattling, like that of a million castanets, which rose and fell in an overwhelming volume of sound. It came from the park. Could it be the rustling of the leaves? The demon wail of an automobile horn drove thought from my mind, piercing my head with an agony of pain. The lights, also, along the park wall burned with so ﬁerce a glare that I had to close my eyes. I longed for darkness, for quiet; I would have given my immortal soul for only ﬁve minutes of entire peace—for an instant's cessation of this overwhelming din. I staggered across the street, shielding my eyes as best I could from the electric lights, and sheltered myself in the shadow of the trees. I had always rather fancied the idea that many apparently inanimate objects possessed life, and now, as I leaned against an elm by the park wall and felt its tremors, the giant stretching of its huge arms and the metallic clash of its foliage, I knew it to be endowed with superhuman power. There was something overwhelmingly terrifying in the constant groaning that went on inside the trunk and the vibrating crashes among its branches. I crept back to the street again. Oh, for an instant's peace in a world of diabolic noise and overpowering confusion! I knew that I was acting like a maniac, and every instant expected to ﬁnd myself in the custody of some minion of the law, yet the mere thought of being touched by a human hand in my supersensitive condition was enough to ﬁll me with horror.
Across the way a motor slowly approached and stopped in front of a handsome private house. Even at the distance of a hundred yards the fumes of its gases sickened me. Yet the hurlyburly of the city night was such that my one idea was escape—escape from the uproar about me, the blaze of the light, the constant sifting upon me of the particles that ﬁlled the air, the stenches that almost dazed me, so overpowering were they. A man jumped down from the driver's seat and, leaving the machine still throbbing at the curb, darted into the house. An instant resolve came to me—here was my chance.
I ran to the machine. leaped in and threw on the levers. The car jumped forward into the night-or rather the day, as it seemed to me. Its force was such as almost to hurl me from my seat. The missiles in the air rained like bullets upon my face. The lamps of the city blurred in one long, sideways streak of lightning. But the uproar of the night was drowned in the noise of the car. Quickly I put the machine at its top speed and darted like a demon through the night. I shall never forget that ride—roaring through the town at sixty miles an hour, yet seeming hardly to move. A policeman on a motor bicycle tried to stop me, but I raced him three miles and left him far behind. Out through the country I sped, tearing through quiet villages whose lights seemed like the halo around a lantern on a misty night, across bridges whose rumbling under the onslaught of the car sounded like the crash of artillery, through woodlands, over wide plains, around the shores of lakes sleeping in the blaze of the stars I whirled, until my jaded senses ceased to feel and weariness like a heavy hand descended upon me. My brain was numb. The desire to sleep overpowered all else.
I ran the car into a ﬁeld, staggered through the grass to a clump of trees and, ﬁnding a moss-grown hollow between some high rocks, threw myself upon my face and found oblivion.
A piercing cry awoke me, shivering with terror. Day had come—the real day; for the burning rays of the rising sun broke incandescent through the trees and beat pitilessly upon my eyes. The cry was repeated. I started to my feet, and a crow, which had been sitting upon a bough above my head, flapped its wings and ﬂew lazily away. Covering my eyes with my hands to exclude the light. I threw myself upon the earth again. The air was ﬁlled with the chorus of millions of insects, deep tones like the bassoons of an orchestra mingling with the sound of a thousand violins, in which were interspersed strange shrieks and cries of an unearthly character. For the ﬁrst time, mortal ear recorded the pandemonium of insect life. To this nerve—varying accompaniment were added the bellowing of cattle and the organ-like notes of the birds which circled through the wood. The confusion of sound produced violent pain in my ears and, tearing my handkerchief in pieces, I plugged them as best I could.
Soon, curiosity led me to remove my hands from my eyes and half closing them to keep out the light, I peered about me. To my astonishment, I saw that every inch of the atmosphere was crowded with ﬂying insectivora of the most extraordinary shapes, like the "troubles" from Pandora's box; ﬂies, beetles, insects of every conceivable variety that I had never seen before hovered and darted above me. The air was ﬁlled so thickly with them that there seemed hardly room for the other myriad atoms that ﬂoated beside them and swirled in the eddying haze. Out of this confusion of life came shrieks and cries as the insectivora preyed upon one another.
Throwing my coat over my head to keep out as much as I could of light and sound I stumbled through the grove and out upon a hillside. A motor—going, I knew, at sixty miles an hour—moved along a distant highway. I could see every spoke of the lazily-turning wheels. I found that my eyesight had been so intensified that I could read the number of the car and distinguish a patch upon its tire.
In place of the noisome stenches of the night before, however, I breathed the pungent odors of the ﬁelds and herbs, and this afforded me the only relief that I experienced throughout this awful period of time, for my clothes still seemed heavy as chain mail and my shirt chafed me as if made of horsehair.
At last, after I had staggered around the hill for what seemed to me to be two or three days at least, I found, about noon, a little pool of water, and, kneeling beside it, I drank like one bereft, as indeed I was, of ordinary senses. As I raised my head I beheld in its placid surface the face of a man—my own, yet utterly changed. My hair was streaked with gray, my brow was seared with wrinkles, my cheeks sunken and marked by age. I was an old man! The sight drove me frantic. If death was coming, why should it not come without delay?
In an utter abandonment of despair I cast aside my coat and, half blinded and dazed with pain, ran across the ﬁelds to where the motor still stood by the roadside. Resolved to die and to die quickly I cranked it and sprang in. A moment more and I was tearing down the road at ﬁfty miles an hour. I threw on all the power. Ahead loomed a turn in the road and a huge boulder. At this I steered with a wild prayer in my teeth. There was a crash, an explosion, I felt myself whirling through the air and——
"It's all right. Everything is all right!" I heard Migraine say reassuringly. Then voices chattered in Japanese.
Out of the air or out of somewhere I tumbled sideways and found myself sitting in the old shabby chair in the doctor's study. I felt dizzy and a blur over my eyes prevented me at first from seeing clearly. A faint odor of heliotrope floated toward me and Migraine's big form loomed near by, a brandy and soda in his outstretched hand. But I brushed it aside and staggered to my feet. The doctor watched me curiously—could it be that in his eye lurked the sinister expression that I had seen, or thought that I had seen, there so short a time before? I shuddered and shakily felt my way to the mantel, over which hung a mirror. The face that greeted me was the face I had seen in the pool! With a sinking heart I gazed at the hollow cheeks—at the hair unmistakably streaked with gray.
"I didn't bargain for this!" I thought hysterically.
"No," came in quiet tones from behind me, more startling to my agitated spirit than anything that as yet had happened to me. "That is simply the price of your little excursion into the unknown." Then he added quite naturally: "How do you like the Nth power?"
I gulped and pulled myself together as best I could, trying to be game to the end.
"Not for mine!" I answered. "My little old brain will do me for a while yet. Do you mind calling me a cab?"