My memory does not serve me well in
the scenes which immediately preceded the closing
of the drama in which Brande was chief actor.
It is doubtless the transcendental interest of the
final situation which blunts my recollection of what
occurred shortly before it. I did not abate one
jot of my determination to fight my venture out unflinching,
but my actions were probably more automatic than reasoned,
as the time of our last encounter approached.
On the whole, the fight had been a fair one.
Brande had used his advantage over me for his own purpose
as long as it remained with him. I used the advantage
as soon as it passed to me for mine. The conditions
had thus been equalised when, for the third and last
time, I was to hear him address his Society.
This time the man was weak in health.
His vitality was ebbing fast, but his marvellous inspiration
was strong within him, and, supported by it, he battled
manfully with the disease which I had manufactured
for him. His lecture-room was the fairy glen;
his canopy the heavens.
I cannot give the substance of this
address, or any portion of it, verbatim as on former
occasions, for I have not the manuscript. I doubt
if Brande wrote out his last speech. Methodical
as were his habits it is probable that his final words
were not premeditated. They burst from him in
a delirium that could hardly have been studied.
His fine frenzy could not well have originated from
considered sentences, although his language, regarded
as mere oratory, was magnificent. It was appalling
in the light through which I read it.
He stood alone upon the rock which
overtopped the dell. We arranged ourselves in
such groups as suited our inclinations, upon some rising
ground below. The great trees waved overhead,
low murmuring. The waterfall splashed drearily.
Below, not a whisper was exchanged. Above, the
man poured out his triumphant death-song in sonorous
periods. Below, great fear was upon all.
Above, the madman exulted wildly.
At first his voice was weak.
As he went on it gained strength and depth. He
alluded to his first address, in which he had hinted
that the material Universe was not quite a success;
to his second, in which he had boldly declared it
was an absolute failure. This, his third declaration,
was to tell us that the remedy as far as he, a mortal
man, could apply it, was ready. The end was at
hand. That night should see the consummation
of his life-work. To-morrow’s sun would
rise if it rose at all on the
earth restored to space.
A shiver passed perceptibly over the
people, prepared as they were for this long foreseen
announcement. Edith Metford, who stood by me on
my left, slipped her hand into mine and pressed my
fingers hard. Natalie Brande, on my right, did
not move. Her eyes were dilated and fixed on
the speaker. The old clairvoyante look
was on her face. Her dark pupils were blinded
save to their inward light. She was either unconscious
or only partly conscious. Now that the hour had
come, they who had believed their courage secure felt
it wither. They, the people with us, begged for
a little longer time to brace themselves for the great
crisis the plunge into an eternity from
which there would be no resurrection, neither of matter
nor of mind.
Brande heeded them not.
“This night,” said he,
with culminating enthusiasm, “the cloud-capped
towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, shall
dissolve. To this great globe itself this
paltry speck of less account in space than a dew-drop
in an ocean and all its sorrow and pain,
its trials and temptations, all the pathos and bathos
of our tragic human farce, the end is near. The
way has been hard, and the journey overlong, and the
burden often beyond man’s strength. But
that long-drawn sorrow now shall cease. The tears
will be wiped away. The burden will fall from
weary shoulders. For the fulness of time has
come. This earth shall die! And death is
“I stand,” he cried out
in a strident voice, raising his arm aloft, “I
may say, with one foot on sea and one on land, for
I hold the elemental secret of them both. And
I swear by the living god Science incarnate that
the suffering of the centuries is over, that for this
earth and all that it contains, from this night and
for ever, Time will be no more!”
A great cry rose from the people.
“Give us another day only another
But Brande made answer: “It is now too
“Too late!” the people wailed.
“Yes, too late. I warned
you long ago. Are you not yet ready? In two
hours the disintegrating agent will enter on its work.
No human power could stop it now. Not if every
particle of the material I have compounded were separated
and scattered to the winds. Before I set my foot
upon this rock I applied the key which will release
its inherent energy. I myself am powerless.”
“Powerless,” sobbed the auditors.
“Powerless! And if I had
ten thousand times the power which I have called forth
from the universal element, I would use it towards
the issue I have forecast.”
Thereupon he turned away. Doom
sounded in his words. The hand of Death laid
clammy fingers on us. Edith Metford’s strength
failed at last. It had been sorely tested.
She sank into my arms.
“Courage, true heart, our time
has come,” I whispered. “We start
for the steamer at once. The horses are ready.”
My arrangements had been already made. My plan
had been as carefully matured as any ever made by Brande
“How many horses?”
“Three. One for you; another
for Natalie; the third for myself. The rest must
accept the fate they have selected.”
The girl shuddered as she said, “But
your interference with the formula? You are sure
it will destroy the effect?”
“I am certain that the particular
result on which Brande calculates will not take place.
But short of that, he has still enough explosive matter
stored to cause an earthquake. We are not safe
within a radius of fifty miles. It will be a
race against time.”
“Natalie will not come.”
“Not voluntarily. You must
think of some plan. Your brain is quick.
We have not a moment to lose. Ah, there she is!
Speak to her.”
Natalie was crossing the open ground
which led from the glen to Brande’s laboratory.
She did not observe us till Edith called to her.
Then she approached hastily and embraced her friend
with visible emotion. Even to me she offered
her cheek without reserve.
“Natalie,” I said quickly,
“there are three horses saddled and waiting
in the palm grove. The Esmeralda is still
lying in the harbour where we landed. You will
come with us. Indeed, you have no choice.
You must come if I have to carry you to your horse
and tie you to the saddle. You will not force
me to put that indignity upon you. To the horses,
For answer she called her brother
loudly by his name. Brande immediately appeared
at the door of his laboratory, and when he perceived
from whom the call had come he joined us.
“Herbert,” said Natalie,
“our friend is deserting us. He must still
cling to the thought that your purpose may fail, and
he expects to escape on horseback from the fate of
the earth. Reason with him yet a little further.”
“There is no time to reason,”
I interrupted. “The horses are ready.
This girl (pointing as I spoke to Edith Metford) takes
one, I another, and you the third whether
your brother agrees or not.”
“Surely you have not lost your
reason? Have you forgotten the drop of water
in the English Channel?” Brande said quietly.
“Brande,” I answered,
“the sooner you induce your sister to come with
me the better; and the sooner you induce these maniac
friends of yours to clear out the better, for your
enterprise will fail.”
“It is as certain as the law
of gravitation. With my own hand I mixed the
ingredients according to the formula.”
“And,” said I, “with my own hand
I altered your formula.”
Had Brande’s heart stopped beating,
his face could not have become more distorted and
livid. He moved close to me, and, glaring into
my eyes, hissed out:
“You altered my formula?”
“I did,” I answered recklessly.
“I multiplied your figures by ten where they
struck me as insufficient.”
I strode closer still to him and looked
him straight in the eyes while I spoke.
“That night in the Red Sea,
when Edith Metford, by accident, mixed morphia in
your medicine. The night I injected a subtle poison,
which I picked up in India once, into your blood while
you slept, thereby baffling some of the functions
of your extraordinary brain. The night when in
your sleep you stirred once, and had you stirred twice,
I would have killed you, then and there, as ruthlessly
as you would kill mankind now. The night I did
kill your lieutenant, Rockingham, and throw his body
overboard to the sharks.”
Brande did not speak for a moment.
Then he said in a gentle, uncomplaining voice:
“So it now devolves on Grey.
The end will be the same. The Labrador expedition
will succeed where I have failed.” To Natalie:
“You had better go. There will only be
an explosion. The island will probably disappear.
That will be all.”
“Do you remain?” she asked.
“Yes. I perish with my failure.”
“Then I perish with you. And you, Marcel,
save yourself you coward!”
I started as if struck in the face.
Then I said to Edith: “Be careful to keep
to the track. Take the bay horse. I saddled
him for myself, but you can ride him safely.
Lose no time, and ride hard for the coast.”
“Arthur Marcel,” she answered,
so softly that the others did not hear, “your
work in the world is not yet over. There is the
Labrador expedition. Just now, when my strength
failed, you whispered ‘courage.’
Be true to yourself! Half an hour is gone.”
At length some glimmer of human feeling
awoke in Brande. He said in a low, abstracted
voice: “My life fittingly ends now.
To keep you, Natalie, would only be a vulgar murder.”
The old will power seemed to come back to him.
He looked into the girl’s eyes, and said slowly
and sternly: “Go! I command it.”
Without another word he turned away
from us. When he had disappeared into the laboratory,
Natalie sighed, and said dreamily:
“I am ready. Let us go.”