Some of the most useful dyes and the least known are to be found among the Lichens. They seem to have been used among peasant dyers from remote ages, but apparently none of the great French dyers used them, nor are they mentioned in any of th... Read more of The Lichen Dyes at Dyeing.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Other Chapters or Short Stories

A Scientist Rises



A Scientist Rises







From: A Scientist Rises

"The face of the giant was indeed that of a god...."


On that summer day the sky over New York was unflecked by clouds, and
the air hung motionless, the waves of heat undisturbed. The city was a
vast oven where even the sounds of the coiling traffic in its streets
seemed heavy and weary under the press of heat that poured down from
above. In Washington Square, the urchins of the neighborhood splashed in
the fountain, and the usual midday assortment of mothers, tramps and
out-of-works lounged listlessly on the hot park benches.

As a bowl, the Square was filled by the torrid sun, and the trees and
grass drooped like the people on its walks. In the surrounding city, men
worked in sweltering offices and the streets rumbled with the
never-ceasing tide of business--but Washington Square rested.

And then a man walked out of one of the houses lining the square, and
all this was changed.

He came with a calm, steady stride down the steps of a house on the
north side, and those who happened to see him gazed with surprised
interest. For he was a giant in size. He measured at least eleven feet
in height, and his body was well-formed and in perfect proportion. He
crossed the street and stepped over the railing into the nearest patch
of grass, and there stood with arms folded and legs a little apart. The
expression on his face was preoccupied and strangely apart, nor did it
change when, almost immediately from the park bench nearest him, a
woman's excited voice cried:

"Look! Look! Oh, look!"

The people around her craned their necks and stared, and from them grew
a startled murmur. Others from farther away came to see who had cried
out, and remained to gaze fascinated at the man on the grass. Quickly
the murmur spread across the Square, and from its every part men and
women and children streamed towards the center of interest--and then,
when they saw, backed away slowly and fearfully, with staring eyes, from
where the lone figure stood.

* * * * *

There was about that figure something uncanny and terrible. There, in
the hot midday hush, something was happening to it which men would say
could not happen; and men, seeing it, backed away in alarm. Quickly they
dispersed. Soon there were only white, frightened faces peering from
behind buildings and trees.

Before their very eyes the giant was growing.

When he had first emerged, he had been around eleven feet tall, and now,
within three minutes, he had risen close to sixteen feet.

His great body maintained its perfect proportions. It was that of an
elderly man clad simply in a gray business suit. The face was kind, its
clear-chiselled features indicating fine spiritual strength; on the
white forehead beneath the sparse gray hair were deep-sunken lines which
spoke of years of concentrated work.

No thought of malevolence could come from that head with its gentle blue
eyes that showed the peace within, but fear struck ever stronger into
those who watched him, and in one place a woman fainted; for the great
body continued to grow, and grow ever faster, until it was twenty feet
high, then swiftly twenty-five, and the feet, still separated, were as
long as the body of a normal boy. Clothes and body grew effortlessly,
the latter apparently without pain, as if the terrifying process were
wholly natural.

The cars coming into Washington Square had stopped as their drivers
sighted what was rising there, and by now the bordering streets were
tangled with traffic. A distant crowd of milling people heightened the
turmoil. The northern edge was deserted, but in a large semicircle was
spread a fear-struck, panicky mob. A single policeman, his face white
and his eyes wide, tried to straighten out the tangle of vehicles, but
it was infinitely beyond him and he sent in a riot call; and as the
giant with the kind, dignified face loomed silently higher than the
trees in the Square, and ever higher, a dozen blue-coated figures
appeared, and saw, and knew fear too, and hung back awe-stricken, at a
loss what to do. For by now the rapidly mounting body had risen to the
height of forty feet.

* * * * *

An excited voice raised itself above the general hubbub.

"Why, I know him! I know him! It's Edgar Wesley! Doctor Edgar Wesley!"

A police sergeant turned to the man who had spoken.

"And it--he knows you? Then go closer to him, and--and--ask him what it
means."

But the man looked fearfully at the giant and hung back. Even as they
talked, his gigantic body had grown as high as the four-storied
buildings lining the Square, and his feet were becoming too large for
the place where they had first been put. And now a faint smile could be
seen on the giant's face, an enigmatic smile, with something ironic and
bitter in it.

"Then shout to him from here," pressed the sergeant nervously. "We've
got to find out something! This is crazy--impossible! My God! Higher
yet--and faster!"

Summoning his courage, the other man cupped his hands about his mouth
and shouted:

"Dr. Wesley! Can you speak and tell us? Can we help you stop it?"

The ring of people looked up breathless at the towering figure, and a
wave of fear passed over them and several hysterical shrieks rose up as,
very slowly, the huge head shook from side to side. But the smile on its
lips became stronger, and kinder, and the bitterness seemed to leave it.

There was fear at that motion of the enormous head, but a roar of panic
sounded from the watchers when, with marked caution, the growing giant
moved one foot from the grass into the street behind and the other into
the nearby base of Fifth Avenue, just above the Arch. Fearing harm,
they were gripped by terror, and they fought back while the trembling
policemen tried vainly to control them; but the panic soon ended when
they saw that the leviathan's arms remained crossed and his smile kinder
yet. By now he dwarfed the houses, his body looming a hundred and fifty
feet into the sky. At this moment a woman back of the semicircle slumped
to her knees and prayed hysterically.

"Someone's coming out of his house!" shouted one of the closest
onlookers.

* * * * *

The door of the house from which the giant had first appeared had
opened, and the figure of a middle-aged, normal-sized man emerged. For a
second he crouched on the steps, gaping up at the monstrous shape in the
sky, and then he scurried down and made at a desperate run for the
nearest group of policemen.

He gripped the sergeant and cried frantically:

"That's Dr. Wesley! Why don't you do something? Why don't--"

"Who are you?" the officer asked, with some return of an authoritative
manner.

"I work for him. I'm his janitor. But--can't you do anything? Look at
him! Look!"

The crowd pressed closer. "What do you know about this?" went on the
sergeant.

The man gulped and stared around wildly. "He's been working on
something--many years--I don't know what, for he kept it a close secret.
All I knew is that an hour ago I was in my room upstairs, when I heard
some disturbance in his laboratory, on the ground floor. I came down and
knocked on the door, and he answered from inside and said that
everything was all right--"

"You didn't go in?"

"No. I went back up, and everything was quiet for a long time. Then I
heard a lot of noise down below--a smashing--as if things were being
broken. But I thought he was just destroying something he didn't need,
and I didn't investigate: he hated to be disturbed. And then, a little
later, I heard them shouting out here in the Square, and I looked out
and saw. I saw him--just as I knew him--but a giant! Look at his face!
Why, he has the face of--of a god! He's--as if he were looking down on
us--and--pitying us...."

For a moment all were silent as they gazed, transfixed, at the vast form
that towered two hundred feet above them. Almost as awe-inspiring as the
astounding growth was the fine, dignified calmness of the face. The
sergeant broke in:

"The explanation of this must be in his laboratory. We've got to have a
look. You lead us there."

* * * * *

The other man nodded; but just then the giant moved again, and they
waited and watched.

With the utmost caution the titanic shape changed position. Gradually,
one great foot, over thirty feet in length, soared up from the street
and lowered farther away, and then the other distant foot changed its
position; and the leviathan came gently to rest against the tallest
building bordering the Square, and once more folded his arms and stood
quiet. The enormous body appeared to waver slightly as a breath of wind
washed against it: obviously it was not gaining weight as it grew.
Almost, now, it appeared to float in the air. Swiftly it grew another
twenty-five feet, and the gray expanse of its clothes shimmered
strangely as a ripple ran over its colossal bulk.

A change of feeling came gradually over the watching multitude. The
face of the giant was indeed that of a god in the noble, irony-tinged
serenity of his calm features. It was if a further world had opened, and
one of divinity had stepped down; a further world of kindness and
fellow-love, where were none of the discords that bring conflicts and
slaughterings to the weary people of Earth. Spiritual peace radiated
from the enormous face under the silvery hair, peace with an undertone
of sadness, as if the giant knew of the sorrows of the swarm of dwarfs
beneath him, and pitied them.

From all the roofs and the towers of the city, for miles and miles
around, men saw the mammoth shape and the kindly smile grow more and
more tenuous against the clear blue sky. The figure remained quietly in
the same position, his feet filling two empty streets, and under the
spell of his smile all fear seemed to leave the nearer watchers, and
they became more quiet and controlled.

* * * * *

The group of policemen and the janitor made a dash for the house from
which the giant had come. They ascended the steps, went in, and found
the door of the laboratory locked. They broke the door down. The
sergeant looked in.

"Anyone in here?" he cried. Nothing disturbed the silence, and he
entered, the others following.

A long, wide, dimly-lit room met their eyes, and in its middle the
remains of a great mass of apparatus that had dominated it.

The apparatus was now completely destroyed. Its dozen rows of tubes were
shattered, its intricate coils of wire and machinery hopelessly smashed.
Fragments lay scattered all over the floor. No longer was there the
least shape of meaning to anything in the room; there remained merely a
litter of glass and stone and scrap metal.

Conspicuous on the floor was a large hammer. The sergeant walked over to
pick it up, but, instead, paused and stared at what lay beyond it.

"A body!" he said.

A sprawled out dead man lay on the floor, his dark face twisted up, his
sightless eyes staring at the ceiling, his temple crushed as with a
hammer. Clutched tight in one stiff hand was an automatic. On his chest
was a sheet of paper.

The captain reached down and grasped the paper. He read what was written
on it, and then he read it to the others:

* * * * *

There was a fool who dreamed the high dream of the pure scientist,
and who lived only to ferret out the secrets of nature, and harness
them for his fellow men. He studied and worked and thought, and in
time came to concentrate on the manipulation of the atom, especially
the possibility of contracting and expanding it--a thing of greatest
potential value. For nine years he worked along this line, hoping to
succeed and give new power, new happiness, a new horizon to mankind.
Hermetically sealed in his laboratory, self-exiled from human
contacts, he labored hard.

There came a day when the device into which the fool had poured his
life stood completed and a success. And on that very day an agent
for a certain government entered his laboratory to steal the device.
And in that moment the fool realized what he had done: that, from
the apparatus he had invented, not happiness and new freedom would
come to his fellow men, but instead slaughter and carnage and
drunken power increased a hundredfold. He realized, suddenly, that
men had not yet learned to use fruitfully the precious, powerful
things given to them, but as yet could only play with them like
greedy children--and kill as they played. Already his invention had
brought death. And he realized--even on this day of his
triumph--that it and its secret must be destroyed, and with them he
who had fashioned so blindly.

For the scientist was old, his whole life was the invention, and
with its going there would be nothing more.

And so he used the device's great powers on his own body; and then,
with those powers working on him, he destroyed the device and all
the papers that held its secrets.

Was the fool also mad? Perhaps. But I do not think so. Into his
lonely laboratory, with this marauder, had come the wisdom that men
must wait, that the time is not yet for such power as he was about
to offer. A gesture, his strange death, which you who read this have
seen? Yes, but a useful one, for with it he and his invention and
its hurtful secrets go from you; and a fitting one, for he dies
through his achievement, through his very life.

But, in a better sense, he will not die, for the power of his
achievement will dissolve his very body among you infinitely; you
will breathe him in your air; and in you he will live incarnate
until that later time when another will give you the knowledge he
now destroys, and he will see it used as he wished it used.--E. W.

* * * * *

The sergeant's voice ceased, and wordlessly the men in the laboratory
looked at each other. No comment was needed. They went out.

They watched from the steps of Edgar Wesley's house. At first sight of
the figure in the sky, a new awe struck them, for now the shape of the
giant towered a full five hundred feet into the sun, and it seemed
almost a mirage, for definite outline was gone from it. It shimmered and
wavered against the bright blue like a mist, and the blue shone through
it, for it was quite transparent. And yet still they imagined they could
discern the slight ironic smile on the face, and the peaceful,
understanding light in the serene eyes; and their hearts swelled at the
knowledge of the spirit, of the courage, of the fine, far-seeing mind
of that outflung titanic martyr to the happiness of men.

The end came quickly. The great misty body rose; it floated over the
city like a wraith, and then it swiftly dispersed, even as steam
dissolves in the air. They felt a silence over the thousands of watching
people in the Square, a hush broken at last by a deep, low murmur of awe
and wonderment as the final misty fragments of the vast sky-held figure
wavered and melted imperceptibly--melted and were gone from sight in the
air that was breathed by the men whom Edgar Wesley loved.





Next: The Stars My Brothers

Previous: Bastin Discovers A Resemblance



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 457