On a certain foggy morning in September, 1905, a tall man
wearing a black overcoat and bearing in one hand a small satchel of
dark- reddish leather descended from a Geary Street tram at the
foot of Market Street, San Francisco. It was a damp morning; a mist
was brooding over the city blurring all distinctness.
The man glanced about him; a tall man of trim lines and
distinctness and a quick, decided step and bearing. In the shuffle
of descending passengers he was outstanding, with a certain inborn
grace that without the blood will never come from training. Men
noticed and women out of instinct cast curious furtive glances and
then turned away; which was natural, inasmuch as the man was
plainly old. But for all that many ventured a second glance—and
An old man with the poise of twenty, a strange face of
remarkable features, swarthy, of an Eastern cast, perhaps Indian;
whatever the certainty of the man's age there was still a lingering
suggestion of splendid youth. If one persisted in a third or fourth
look this suggestion took an almost certain tone, the man's age
dwindled, years dropped from him, and the quizzical smile that
played on the lips seemed a foreboding of boyish laughter.
We say foreboding because in this case it is not mistaken
diction. Foreboding suggests coming evil; the laughter of boys is
wholehearted. It was merely that things were not exactly as they
should be; it was not natural that age should be so youthful. The
fates were playing, and in this case for once in the world's
history their play was crosswise.
It is a remarkable case from the beginning and we are starting
from facts. The man crossed to the window of the Key Route ferry
and purchased a ticket for Berkeley, after which, with the throng,
he passed the turnstile and on to the boat that was waiting. He
took the lower deck, not from choice, apparently, but more because
the majority of his fellow passengers, being men, were bound in
this direction. The same chance brought him to the cigar-stand. The
men about him purchased cigars and cigarettes, and as is the habit
of all smokers, strolled off with delighted relish. The man watched
them. Had anyone noticed his eyes he would have noted a peculiar
colour and a light of surprise. With the prim step that made him so
distinctive he advanced to the news-stand.
"Pardon me; but I would like to purchase one of those." Though
he spoke perfect English it was in a strange manner, after the
fashion of one who has found something that he has just learned how
to use. At the same time he made a suggestion with his tapered
fingers indicating the tobacco in the case. The clerk looked
"A cigar, sir? Yes, sir. What will it be?"
"A cigar?" Again the strange articulation. "Ah, yes, that is it.
Now I remember. And it has a little sister, the cigarette. I think
I shall take a cigarette, if—if—if you will show me how to use
It was a strange request. The clerk was accustomed to all manner
of men and their brands of humour; he was about to answer in kind
when he looked up and into the man's eyes. He started.
"You mean," he asked, "that you have never seen a cigar or
cigarette; that you do not know how to use them? A man as old as
The stranger laughed. It was rather resentful, but for all that
of a hearty taint of humour.
"So old? Would you say that I am as old as that; if you will
The young man did and what he beheld is something that he could
not quite account for: the strange conviction of this remarkable
man; of age melting into youth, of an uncertain freshness, the
smile, not of sixty, but of twenty. The young man was not one to
argue, whatever his wonder; he was first of all a lad of business;
he could merely acquiesce.
"The first time! This is the first time you have ever seen a
cigar or cigarette?"
The stranger nodded.
"The first time. I have never beheld one of them before this
morning. If you will allow me?" He indicated a package. "I think I
shall take one of these."
The clerk took up the package, opened the end, and shook out a
single cigarette. The man lit it and, as the smoke poured out of
his mouth, held the cigarette tentatively in his fingers.
"Like it?" It was the clerk who asked.
The other did not answer, his whole face was the expression of
having just discovered one of the senses. He was a splendid man
and, if the word may be employed of the sterner sex, one of beauty.
His features were even; that is to be noted, his nose chiselled
straight and to perfection, the eyes of a peculiar sombreness and
lustre almost burning, of a black of such intensity as to verge
into red and to be devoid of pupils, and yet, for all of that, of a
glow and softness. After a moment he turned to the clerk.
"You are young, my lad."
"You are fortunate. You live in a wonderful age. It is as
wonderful as your tobacco. And you still have many great things
The man walked on to the forward part of the boat; leaving the
youth, who had been in a sort of daze, watching. But it was not for
long. The whole thing had been strange and to the lad almost
inexplicable. The man was not insane, he was certain; and he was
just as sure that he had not been joking. From the start he had
been taken by the man's refinement, intellect and education. He was
positive that he had been sincere. Yet—
The ferry detective happened at that moment to be passing. The
clerk made an indication with his thumb.
"That man yonder," he spoke, "the one in black. Watch him." Then
he told his story. The detective laughed and walked forward.
It was a most fortunate incident. It was a strange case. That
mere act of the cigar clerk placed the police on the track and gave
to the world the only clue that it holds of the Blind Spot.
The detective had laughed at the lad's recital—almost any one
had a patent for being queer—and if this gentleman had a whim for a
certain brand of humour that was his business. Nevertheless, he
would stroll forward.
The man was not hard to distinguish; he was standing on the
forward deck facing the wind and peering through the mist at the
grey, heavy heave of the water. Alongside of them the dim shadow of
a sister ferry screamed its way through the fogbank. That he was a
landsman was evidenced by his way of standing; he was uncertain; at
every heave of the boat he would shift sidewise. An unusually heavy
roll caught him slightly off-balance and jostled him against the
detective. The latter held up his hand and caught him by the
"A bad morning," spoke the officer. "B-r-r-r! Did you notice the
Yerbe Buena yonder? She just grazed us. A bad morning."
The stranger turned. As the detective caught the splendid face,
the glowing eyes and the youthful smile, he started much as had
done the cigar clerk. The same effect of the age melting into youth
and—the officer being much more accustomed to reading men— a queer
sense of latent and potent vision. The eyes were soft and receptive
but for all that of the delicate strength and colour that comes
from abnormal intellect. He noted the pupils, black, glowing, of
great size, almost filling the iris and the whole melting into
intensity that verged into red. Either the man had been long
without sleep or he was one of unusual intelligence and
"A nasty morning," repeated the officer.
"Ah! Er, yes—did you say it was a nasty morning? Indeed, I do
not know, sir. However, it is very interesting."
"Stranger in San Francisco?"
"Well, yes. At least, I have never seen it."
"H-m!" The detective was a bit nonplussed by the man's evident
evasion. "Well, if you are a stranger I suppose it is up to me to
come to the defence of my city. This is one of Frisco's fogs. We
have them occasionally. Sometimes they last for days. This one is a
low one. It will lift presently. Then you will see the sun. Have
you ever seen Frisco's sun?"
"My dear sir"—this same slow articulation—"I have never seen
your sun nor any other."
It was an answer altogether unexpected. Again the officer found
himself gazing into the strange, refined face and wonderful eyes.
The man was not blind, of that he was certain. Neither was his
voice harsh or testy. Rather was it soft and polite, of one merely
stating a fact. Yet how could it be? He remembered the cigar clerk.
Neither cigar nor sun! From what manner of land could the man come?
A detective has a certain gift of intuition. Though on the face of
it, outside of the man's personality, there could be nothing to it
but a joke, he chose to act upon the impulse. He pulled back the
door which had been closed behind them and re- entered the boat.
When he returned the boat had arrived at the pier.
"You are going to Oakland?"
It was a chance question.
"No, to Berkeley. I take a train here, I understand. Do all the
trains go to Berkeley?"
"By no means. I am going to Berkeley myself. We can ride
together. My name is Jerome. Albert Jerome."
"Thanks. Mine is Avec. Rhamda Avec. I am much obliged. Your
company may be instructive."
He did not say more, but watched with unrestrained interest
their manoeuvre into the slip. A moment later they were marching
with the others down the gangways to the trains waiting. Just as
they were seated and the electric train was pulling out of the pier
the sun breaking through the mist blazed with splendid light
through the cloud rifts. The stranger was next to the window where
he could look out over the water and beyond at the citied
shoreline, whose sea of housetops extended and rose to the peaks of
the first foothills. The sun was just coming over the
The detective watched. There was sincerity in the man's actions.
It was not acting. When the light first broke he turned his eyes
full into the radiance. It was the act of a child and, so it struck
the officer, of the same trust and simplicity—and likewise the same
effect. He drew away quickly: for the moment blinded.
"Ah!" he said. "It is so. This is the sun. Your sun is
"Indeed it is," returned the other. "But rather common. We see
it every day. It's the whole works, but we get used to it. For
myself I cannot see anything strange in the 'sun's still shining.'
You have been blind, Mr. Avec? Pardon the question. But I must
naturally infer. You say you have never seen the sun. I
He stopped because of the other's smile; somehow it seemed a
very superior one, as if predicting a wealth of wisdom.
"My dear Mr. Jerome," he spoke, "I have never been blind in my
life. I say it is wonderful! It is glorious and past describing. So
is it all, your water, your boats, your ocean. But I see there is
one thing even stranger still. It is yourselves. With all your
greatness you are only part of your surroundings. Do you know what
is your sun?"
"Search me," returned the officer. "I'm no astronomer. I
understand they don't know themselves. Fire, I suppose, and a hell
of a hot one! But there is one thing that I can tell."
"Is the truth."
If he meant it for insinuation it was ineffective. The other
smiled kindly. In the fine effect of the delicate features, and
most of all in the eyes was sincerity. In that face was the mark of
genius—he felt it—and of a potent superior intelligence. Most of
all did he note the beauty and the soft, silky superlustre of the
We have the whole thing from Jerome, at least this part of it;
and our interest being retrospect is multiplied far above that of
the detective. The stranger had a certain call of character and of
appearance, not to say magnetism. The officer felt himself almost
believing and yet restraining himself into caution of unbelief. It
was a remark preposterous on the face of it. What puzzled Jerome
was the purpose; he could think of nothing that would necessitate
such statements and acting. He was certain that the man was
In the light of what came after great stress has been laid by a
certain class upon this incident. We may say that we lean neither
way. We have merely given it in some detail because of that
importance. We have yet no proof of the mystic and until it is
proved, we must lean, like Jerome, upon the cold material. We have
the mystery, but, even at that, we have not the certainty of
Understand, it was intuition that led Jerome into that memorable
trip to Berkeley; he happened to be going off duty and was drawn to
the man by a chance incident and the fact of his personality. At
this minute, however, he thought no more of him than as an
eccentric, as some refined, strange wonderful gentleman with a whim
for his own brand of humour. Only that could explain it. The man
had an evident curiosity for everything about him, the buildings,
the street, the cars, and the people. Frequently he would mutter:
"Wonderful, wonderful, and all the time we have never known it.
As they drew into Lorin the officer ventured a question.
"You have friends in Berkeley? I see you are a stranger. If I
may presume, perhaps I may be of assistance?"
"Well, yes, if—if—do you know of a Dr. Holcomb?"
"You mean the professor. He lives on Dwight Way. At this time of
the day you would be more apt to find him at the university. Is he
It was a blunt question and of course none of his business. Yet,
just what another does not want him to know is ever the pursuit of
a detective. At the same time the subconscious flashing and
wondering at the name Rhamda Avec—surely neither Teutonic nor
Sanskrit nor anything between.
"Expecting me? Ah, yes. Pardon me if I speak slowly. I am not
quite used to speech—yet. I see you are interested. After I see Dr.
Holcomb I may tell you. However, it is very urgent that I see the
doctor. He—well, I may say that we have known each other a long
"Then you know him?"
"Yes, in a way; though we have never met. He must be a great
man. We have much in common, your doctor and I; and we have a great
deal to give to your world. However, I would not recognise him
should I see him. Would you by any chance—"
"You mean would I be your guide? With pleasure. It just happens
that I am on friendly terms with your friend Dr. Holcomb."