Only when the Nan-yang Maru sailed from Yuen-San did her
terrible sense of foreboding begin to subside.
For four years, waking and sleeping, the awful subconsciousness
of supreme evil had never left her.
But now, as the Korean shore, receding into darkness, grew
dimmer and dimmer, fear subsided and grew vague as the
half-forgotten memory of horror in a dream.
She stood near the steamer's stern apart from other passengers,
a slender, lonely figure in her silver-fox furs, her ulster and
smart little hat, watching the lights of Yuen-San grow paler and
smaller along the horizon until they looked like a level row of
Under her haunted eyes Asia was slowly dissolving to a streak of
vapour in the misty lustre of the moon.
Suddenly the ancient continent disappeared, washed out by a wave
against the sky; and with it vanished the last shreds of that
accursed nightmare which had possessed her for four endless years.
But whether during those unreal years her soul had only been held
in bondage, or whether, as she had been taught, it had been
irrevocably destroyed, she still remained uncertain, knowing
nothing about the death of souls or how it was accomplished.
As she stood there, her sad eyes fixed on the misty East, a
passenger passing—an Englishwoman—paused to say something kind to
the young American; and added, "if there is anything my husband and
I can do it would give us much pleasure." The girl had turned her
head as though not comprehending. The other woman hesitated.
"This is Doctor Norne's daughter, is it not?" she inquired in a
"Yes, I am Tressa Norne… I ask your pardon… Thank you, madam:—I
am—I seem to be—a trifle dazed—"
"What wonder, you poor child! Come to us if you feel need of
"You are very kind… I seem to wish to be alone, somehow."
"I understand… Good-night, my dear."
Late the next morning Tressa Norne awoke, conscious for the
first time in four years that it was at last her own familiar self
stretched out there on the pillows where sunshine streamed through
All that day she lay in her bamboo steamer chair on deck. Sun
and wind conspired to dry every tear that wet her closed lashes.
Her dark, glossy hair blew about her face; scarlet tinted her full
lips again; the tense hands relaxed. Peace came at sundown.
That evening she took her Yu-kin from her cabin and found a
chair on the deserted hurricane deck.
And here, in the brilliant moonlight of the China Sea, she
curled up cross-legged on the deck, all alone, and sounded the four
futile strings of her moon-lute, and hummed to herself, in a still
voice, old songs she had sung in Yian before the tragedy. She sang
the tent-song called Tchinguiz. She sang Camel Bells and The Blue
Bazaar,—children's songs of the Yiort. She sang the ancient
Khiounnou song called "The Saghalien":
And songs like these—the one called "Keuke Mongol," and an
ancient air of the Tchortchas called "The Thirty Thousand
Calamities," and some Chinese boatmen's songs which she had heard
in Yian before the tragedy; these she hummed to herself there in
the moonlight playing on her round-faced, short-necked lute of four
Terror indeed seemed ended for her, and in her heart a great
overwhelming joy was welling up which seemed to overflow across the
entire moonlit world.
She had no longer any fear; no premonition of further evil.
Among the few Americans and English aboard, something of her story
was already known. People were kind; and they were also considerate
enough to subdue their sympathetic curiosity when they discovered
that this young American girl shrank from any mention of what had
happened to her during the last four years of the Great World
It was evident, also, that she preferred to remain aloof; and
this inclination, when finally understood, was respected by her
fellow passengers. The clever, efficient and polite Japanese
officers and crew of the Nan-yang Maru were invariably considerate
and courteous to her, and they remained nicely reticent, although
they also knew the main outline of her story and very much desired
to know more. And so, surrounded now by the friendly security of
civilised humanity, Tressa Norne, reborn to light out of hell's own
shadows, awoke from four years of nightmare which, after all,
perhaps, never had seemed entirely actual.
And now God's real sun warmed her by day; His real moon bathed
her in creamy coolness by night; sky and wind and wave thrilled her
with their blessed assurance that this was once more the real world
which stretched illimitably on every side from horizon to horizon;
and the fair faces and pleasant voices of her own countrymen made
the past seem only a ghastly dream that never again could enmesh
her soul with its web or sorcery.
And now the days at sea fled very swiftly; and when at last the
Golden Gate was not far away she had finally managed to persuade
herself that nothing really can harm the human soul; that the
monstrous devil-years were ended, never again to return; that in
this vast, clean Western Continent there could be no occult threat
to dread, no gigantic menace to destroy her body, no secret power
that could consign her soul to the dreadful abysm of spiritual
Very early that morning she came on deck. The November day was
delightfully warm, the air clear save for a belt of mist low on the
water to the southward.
She had been told that land would not be sighted for twenty-four
hours, but she went forward and stood beside the starboard rail,
searching the horizon with the enchanted eyes of hope.
As she stood there a Japanese ship's officer crossing the deck,
forward, halted abruptly and stood staring at something to the
At the same moment, above the belt of mist on the water, and
perfectly clear against the blue sky above, the girl saw a fountain
of gold fire rise from the fog, drift upward in the daylight,
slowly assume the incandescent outline of a serpentine creature
which leisurely uncoiled and hung there floating, its lizard-tail
undulating, its feet with their five stumpy claws closing,
relaxing, like those of a living reptile. For a full minute this
amazing shape of fire floated there in the sky, brilliant in the
morning light, then the reptilian form faded, died out, and the
last spark vanished in the sunshine.
When the Japanese officer at last turned to resume his
promenade, he noticed a white-faced girl gripping a stanchion
behind him as though she were on the point of swooning. He crossed
the deck quickly. Tressa Norne's eyes opened.
"Are you ill, Miss Norne?" he asked.
"The—the Dragon," she whispered.
The officer laughed. "Why, that was nothing but Chinese
day-fireworks," he explained. "The crew of some fishing boat yonder
in the fog is amusing itself." He looked at her narrowly, then with
a nice little bow and smile he offered his arm: "If you are
indisposed, perhaps you might wish to go below to your stateroom,
She thanked him, managed to pull herself together and force a
ghost of a smile.
He lingered a moment, said something cheerful about being nearly
home, then made her a punctilious salute and went his way.
Tressa Norne leaned back against the stanchion and closed her
eyes. Her pallor became deathly. She bent over and laid her white
face in her folded arms.
After a while she lifted her head, and, turning very slowly,
stared at the fog-belt out of frightened eyes.
And saw, rising out of the fog, a pearl-tinted sphere which
gradually mounted into the clear daylight above like the full
moon's phantom in the sky.
Higher, higher rose the spectral moon until at last it swam in
the very zenith. Then it slowly evaporated in the blue vault
A great wave of despair swept her; she clung to the stanchion,
staring with half-blinded eyes at the flat fog-bank in the
But no more "Chinese day-fireworks" rose out of it. And at
length she summoned sufficient strength to go below to her cabin
and lie there, half senseless, huddled on her bed.
When land was sighted, the following morning, Tressa Norne had
lived a century in twenty-four hours. And in that space of time her
agonised soul had touched all depths.
But now as the Golden Gate loomed up in the morning light, rage,
terror, despair had burned themselves out. From their ashes within
her mind arose the cool wrath of desperation armed for anything,
wary, alert, passionately determined to survive at whatever cost,
recklessly ready to fight for bodily existence.
That was her sole instinct now, to go on living, to survive, no
matter at what price. And if were indeed true that her soul had
been slain, she defied its murderers to slay her body also.
That night, at her hotel in San Francisco, she double-locked her
door and lay down without undressing, leaving all lights burning
and an automatic pistol underneath her pillow.
Toward morning she fell asleep, slept for an hour, started up in
awful fear. And saw the double-locked door opposite the foot of her
bed slowly opening of its own accord.
Into the brightly illuminated room stepped a graceful young man
in full evening dress carrying over his left arm an overcoat, and
in his other hand a top hat and silver tipped walking-stick.
With one bound the girl swung herself from the bed to the carpet
and clutched at the pistol under her pillow.
"Sanang!" she cried in a terrible voice.
"Keuke Mongol!" he said, smilingly.
For a moment they confronted each other in the brightly lighted
bedroom, then, partly turning, he cast a calm glance at the open
door behind him; and, as though moved by a wind, the door slowly
closed. And she heard the key turn of itself in the lock, and saw
the bolt slide smoothly into place again.
Her power of speech came back to her presently—only a broken
whisper at first: "Do you think I am afraid of your accursed
magic?" she managed to gasp. "Do you think I am afraid of you,
"You are afraid," he said serenely.
"No, I do not lie. To one another the Yezidees never lie!"
"You lie again, assassin! I am no Yezidee!"
He smiled gently. His features were pleasing, smooth, and
regular; his cheek-bones high, his skin fine and of a pale and
delicate ivory colour. Once his black, beautifully shaped eyes
wandered to the levelled pistol which she now held clutched
desperately close to her right hip, and a slightly ironical
expression veiled his gaze for an instant.
"Bullets?" he murmured. "But you and I are of the Hassanis."
"The third lie, Sanang!" Her voice had regained its strength.
Tense, alert, blue eyes ablaze, every faculty concentrated on the
terrible business before her, the girl now seemed like some supple
leopardess poised on the swift verge of murder.
"Tokhta!"* She spat the word. "Any movement toward a hidden
weapon, any gesture suggesting recourse to magic—and I kill you,
Sanang, exactly where you stand!"
[[*note: "look out!" Nomad-Mongol dialect]]
"With a pistol?" He laughed. Then his smooth features altered
subtly. He said: "Keuke Mongol, who call yourself Tressa
Norne,—Keuke—heavenly azure-blue,—named so in the temple because of
the colour of your eyes—listen attentively, for this is the Yarlig
which I bring to you by word of mouth from Yian, as from Yezidee to
"Here, in this land called the United States of America, the
Temple girl, Keuke Mongol, who has witnessed the mysteries of Erlik
and who understands the magic of the Sheiks-el-Djebel, and who has
seen Mount Alamout and the eight castles and the fifty thousand
Hassanis in white turbans and in robes of white;—you—Azure-blue
eyes—heed the Yarlig!—or may thirty thousand calamities overtake
There was a dead silence; then he went on seriously: "It is
decreed: You shall cease to remember that you are a Yezidee, that
you are of the Hassanis, that you ever have laid eyes on Yian the
Beautiful, that you ever set naked foot upon Mount Alamout. It is
decreed that you remember nothing of what you have seen and heard,
of what has been told and taught during the last four years
reckoned as the Christians reckon from our Year of the Bull.
Otherwise—my Master sends you this for
Leisurely, from under his folded overcoat, the young man
produced a roll of white cloth and dropped it at her feet and the
girl shrank aside, shuddering, knowing that the roll of white cloth
was meant for her winding-sheet.
Then the colour came back to lip and cheek; and, glancing up
from the soft white shroud, she smiled at the young man: "Have you
ended your Oriental mummery?" she asked calmly. "Listen very
seriously in your turn, Sanang, Sheik-el-Djebel, Prince of the
Hassanis who, God knows when and how, have come out into the
sunshine of this clean and decent country, out of a filthy darkness
where devils and sorcerers make earth a hell.
"If you, or yours, threaten me, annoy me, interfere with me, I
shall go to our civilised police and tell all I know concerning the
Yezidees. I mean to live. Do you understand? You know what you have
done to me and mine. I come back to my own country alone, without
any living kin, poor, homeless, friendless,—and, perhaps, damned. I
intend, nevertheless, to survive. I shall not relax my clutch on
bodily existence whatever the Yezidees may pretend to have done
with my soul. I am determined to live in the body, anyway."
He nodded gravely.
She said: "Out at sea, over the fog, I saw the sign of Yu-lao in
fire floating in the day-sky. I saw his spectral moon rise and
vanish in mid-heaven. I understood. But—" And here she suddenly
showed an edge of teeth under the full scarlet upper lip: "Keep
your signs and your shrouds to yourself, dog of a
Yezidee!—toad!—tortoise-egg!—he-goat with three legs! Keep your
threats and your messages to yourself! Keep you accursed magic to
yourself! Do you think to frighten me with your sorcery by showing
me the Moons of Yu-lao—by opening a bolted door? I know more of
such magic than do you, Sanang—Death Adder of Alamout!"
Suddenly she laughed aloud at him—laughed insultingly in his
"I saw you and Gutchlug Khan and your cowardly Tchortchas in
red-lacquered jackets slink out of the Temple of Erlik where the
bronze gong thundered and a cloud settled down raining little
yellow snakes all over the marble steps—all over you, Prince
Sanang! You were afraid, my Tougtchi!—you and Gutchlug and your red
Tchortchas with their halberds all dripping with human entrails!
And I saw you mount and gallop off into the woods while in the
depths of the magic cloud which rained little yellow snakes all
around you, we temple girls laughed and mocked at you—at you and
your cowardly Tchortcha horsemen."
A slight tinge of pink came into the young man's pale face.
Tressa Norne stepped nearer, her levelled pistol resting on her
"Why did you not complain of us to your Master, the Old Man of
the Mountain?" she asked jeeringly. "And where, also, was you
Yezidee magic when it rained little snakes—What frightened you
away—who had boldly come to seize a temple girl—you who had screwed
up your courage sufficiently to defy Erlik in his very shrine and
snatch from his temple a young thing whose naked body wrapped in
gold was worth the chance of death to you?"
The young man's top-hat dropped to the floor. He bent over to
pick it up. His face was quite expressionless, quite colourless,
"I went on no such errand," he said with an effort. "I went with
a thousand prayers on scarlet paper made in—"
"A lie, Yezidee! You came to seizeme !"
He turned still paler. "By Abu, Omar, Otman, and Ali, it is not
"You lie!—by the Lion of God, Hassani!"
She stepped closer. "And I'll tell you another thing you
fear—you Yezidee of Alamout—you robber of Yian—you sorcerer of
Sabbah Khan, and chief of his sect of Assassins! You fear this
native land of mine, America; and its laws and customs, and its
clear, clean sunshine; and its cities and people; and its police!
Take that message back. We Americans fear nobody save the true
God!—nobody—neither Yezidee nor Hassani nor Russ nor German nor
that sexless monster born in hell and called the Bolshevik!"
"Tokhta!" he cried sharply.
"Damn you!" retorted the girl; "get out of my room! Get out of
my sight! Get out of my path! Get out of my life! Take that to your
Master of Mount Alamout! I do what I please; I go where I please; I
live as I please. And if I please, I turn against him!"
"In that event," he said hoarsely, "there lies your
winding-sheet on the floor at your feet! Take up your shroud; and
make Erlik seize you!"
"Sanang," she said very seriously.
"I hear you, Keuke-Mongol."
"Listen attentively. I wish to live. I have had enough of death
in life. I desire to remain a living, breathing thing—even if it be
true—as you Yezidees tell me, that you have caught my soul in a net
and that your sorcerers really control its destiny.
"But damned or not, I passionately desire to live. And I am
coward enough to hold my peace for the sake of living. So—I remain
silent. I have no stomach to defy the Yezidees; because, if I do,
sooner or later I shall be killed. I know it. I have no desire to
die for others—to perish for the sake of the common good. I am
young. I have suffered too much; I am determined to live—and let my
soul take its chances between God and Erlik."
She came close to him, looked curiously into his pale face.
"I laughed at you out of the temple cloud," she said. "I know
how to open bolted doors as well as you do. And I know other
things. And if you ever come to me in this life I shall first
torture you, then slay you. Then I shall tell all! … and
unroll my shroud."
"I keep your word of promise until you break it," he interrupted
hastily. "Yarlig! It is decreed!" And then he slowly turned as
though to glance over his shoulder at the locked and bolted
"Permit me to open it for you, Prince Sanang," said the girl
scornfully. And she gazed steadily at the door.
Presently, all by itself, the key turned in the lock, the bolt
slid back, the door gently opened.
Toward it, white as a corpse, his overcoat on his left arm, his
stick and top-hat in the other hand, crept the young man in his
faultless evening garb.
Then, as he reached the threshold, he suddenly sprang aside. A
small yellow snake lay coiled there on the door sill. For a full
throbbing minute the young man stared at the yellow reptile in
unfeigned horror. Then, very cautiously, he moved his fascinated
eyes sideways and gazed at Tressa Norne.
The girl laughed.
"Sorceress!' he burst out hoarsely. "Take that accursed thing
from my path!"
"What thing, Sanang?" At that his dark, frightened eyes stole
toward the threshold again, seeking the little snake. But there was
no snake there. And when he was certain of this he went, twitching
and trembling all over.
Behind him the door closed softly, locking and bolting
And behind the bolted door in the brightly lighted bedroom
Tressa Norne fell on both knees, her pistol still clutched in her
right hand, calling passionately upon Christ to forgive her for the
dreadful ability she had dared to use, and begged Him to save her
body from death and her soul from the snare of the Yezidee.