The Third Eye

by Robert W. Chambers

The next day Evelyn Grey awoke with a headache and kept her tent.  I had all I could do to prevent Kemper from prescribing for her.  I did that myself, sitting beside her and testing her pulse for hours at a time, while Kemper took one of Grue’s grains and went off into the mangroves and speared grunt and eels for a chowder which he said he knew how to concoct. 
      Toward afternoon the pretty waitress felt much better, and I warned Kemper and Grue that we should sail for Black Bayou after dinner. 
      Dinner was a mess, as usual, consisting of fried mullet and rice, and a sort of chowder in which the only ingredients I recognised were sections of crayfish. 
      After we had finished and had withdrawn from the fire, Grue scraped every remaining shred of food into a kettle and went for it.  To see him feed made me sick, so I rejoined Miss Grey and Kemper, who had found a green cocoanut and were alternately deriving nourishment from the milk inside it. 
      Somehow or other there seemed to me a certain levity about that performance, and it made me uncomfortable; but I managed to smile a rather sickly smile when they offered me a draught, and I took a pull at the milk—I don’t exactly know why, because I don’t like it.  But the moon was up over the sea, now, and the dusk was languorously balmy, and I didn’t care to leave those two drinking milk out of the same cocoanut under a tropic moon. 
      Not that my interest in Evelyn Grey was other than scientific.  But after all it was I who had discovered her. 
      We sailed as soon as Grue, gobbling and snuffling, had cleaned up the last crumb of food.  Kemper blandly offered to take Miss Grey into his boat, saying that he feared my boat was overcrowded, what with the paraphernalia, the folding cages, Grue, Miss Grey, and myself. 
      I sat on that suggestion, but offered to take my own tiller and lend him Grue.  He couldn’t wriggle out of it, seeing that his alleged motive had been the overcrowding of my boat, but he looked rather sick when Grue went aboard his boat. 
      As for me, I hoisted sail with something so near a chuckle that it surprised me; and I looked at Evelyn Grey to see whether she had noticed the unseemly symptom.
      Apparently she had not.  She sat forward, her eyes fixed soulfully upon the moon.  Had I been dedicated to any profession except a scientific one—but let that pass. 
      Grue in Kemper’s sail-boat led, and my boat followed out into the silvery and purple dusk, now all sparkling under the high lustre of the moon. 
      Dimly I saw vast rafts of wild duck part and swim leisurely away to port and starboard, leaving a glittering lane of water for us to sail through; into the scintillant night from the sea sprang mullet, silvery, quivering, falling back into the wash with a splash. 
      Here and there in the moonlight steered ominous black triangles, circling us, leading us, sheering across bow and flashing wake, all phosphorescent with lambent sea-fire—the fins of great sharks. 
      “You need have no fear,” said I to the pretty waitress. 
      She said nothing. 
      “Of course if you are afraid,” I added, “perhaps you might care to change your seat.” 
      There was room in the stern where I sat. 
      “Do you think there is any danger?” she asked. 
      “From sharks?” 
      “Reaching up and biting you?” 
      “Oh, I don’t really suppose there is,” I said, managing to convey the idea, I am ashamed to say, that the catastrophe was a possibility. 
      She came over and seated herself beside me.  I was very much ashamed of myself, but I could not repress a triumphant glance ahead at the other boat, where Kemper sat huddled forward, evidently bored to extinction. 
      Every now and then I could see him turn and crane his neck as though in an effort to distinguish what was going on in our boat. 
      There was nothing going on, absolutely nothing.  The moon was magnificent; and I think the pretty waitress must have been a little tired, for her head drooped and nodded at moments, even while I was talking to her about a specimen of Euplectilla speciosa on which I had written a monograph.  So she must have been really tired, for the subject was interesting. 
      “You won’t incommode my operations with sheet and tiller,” I said to her kindly, “if you care to rest your head against my shoulder.” 
      Evidently she was very tired, for she did so, and closed her eyes. 
      After a while, fearing that she might fall over backward into the sea—but let that pass....  I don’t know whether or not Kemper could distinguish anything aboard our boat.  He craned his head enough to twist it off his neck. 
      To be so utterly, so blindly devoted to science is a great safeguard for a man.  Single-mindedness, however, need not induce atrophy of every humane impulse.  I drew the pretty waitress closer—not that the night was cold, but it might become so.  Changes in the tropics come swiftly.  It is well to be prepared. 
      Her cheek felt very soft against my shoulder.  There seemed to be a faint perfume about her hair.  It really was odd how subtly fragrant she seemed to be—almost, perhaps, a matter of scientific interest. 
      Her hands did not seem to be chilled; they did seem unusually smooth and soft. 
      I said to her: “When at home, I suppose your mother tucks you in; doesn’t she?” 
      “Yes,” she nodded sleepily. 
      “And what does she do then?” said I, with something of that ponderous playfulness with which I make scientific jokes at a meeting of the Bronx Anthropological Association, when I preside. 
      “She kisses me and turns out the light,” said Evelyn Grey, innocently. 
      I don’t know how much Kemper could distinguish.  He kept dodging about and twisting his head until I really thought it would come off, unless it had been screwed on like the top of a piano stool. 
      A few minutes later he fired his pistol twice; and Evelyn sat up.  I never knew why he fired; he never offered any explanation. 
      Toward midnight I could hear the roar of breakers on our starboard bow.  Evelyn heard them, too, and sat up inquiringly. 
      “Grue has found the inlet to Black Bayou, I suppose,” said I. 
      And it proved to be the case, for, with the surf thundering on either hand, we sailed into a smoothly flowing inlet through which the flood tide was running between high dunes all sparkling in the moonlight and crowned with shadowy palms.
      Occasionally I heard noises ahead of us from the other boat, as though Kemper was trying to converse with us, but as his apropos was as unintelligible as it was inopportune, I pretended not to hear him.  Besides, I had all I could do to manoeuvre the tiller and prevent Evelyn Grey from falling off backward into the bayou.  Besides, it is not customary to converse with the man at the helm. 
      After a while—during which I seemed to distinguish in Kemper’s voice a quality that rhymes with his name—his tones varied through phases all the way from irony to exasperation.  After a while he gave it up and took to singing. 
      There was a moon, and I suppose he thought he had a voice.  It didn’t strike me so.  After several somewhat melancholy songs, he let off his pistol two or three times and then subsided into silence. 
      I didn’t care; neither his songs nor his shots interrupted—but let that pass, also.
      We were now sailing into the forest through pool after pool of interminable lagoons, startling into unseen and clattering flight hundreds of waterfowl.  I could feel the wind from their whistling wings in the darkness, as they drove by us out to sea.  It seemed to startle the pretty waitress.  It is a solemn thing to be responsible for a pretty girl’s peace of mind.  I reassured her continually, perhaps a trifle nervously.  But there were no more pistol shots.  Perhaps Kemper had used up his cartridges. 
      We were still drifting along under drooping sails, borne inland almost entirely by the tide, when the first pale, watery, gray light streaked the east.  When it grew a little lighter, Evelyn sat up; all danger of sharks being over.  Also, I could begin to see what was going on in the other boat.  Which was nothing remarkable; Kemper slumped against the mast, his head turned in our direction; Grue sat at the helm, motionless, his tattered straw hat sagging on his neck. 
      When the sun rose, I called out cheerily to Kemper, asking him how he had passed the night.  Evelyn also raised her head, pausing while bringing her disordered hair under discipline, to listen to his reply. 
      But he merely mumbled something.  Perhaps he was still sleepy. 
      As for me, I felt exceedingly well; and when Grue turned his craft in shore, I did so, too; and when, under the overhanging foliage of the forest, the nose of my boat grated on the sand, I rose and crossed the deck with a step distinctly frolicsome. 
      Kemper seemed distant and glum; Evelyn Grey spoke to him shyly now and then, and I noticed she looked at him only when he was gazing elsewhere than at her.  She had a funny, conciliatory air with him, half ashamed, partly humorous and amused, as though something about Kemper’s sulky ill-humour was continually making tiny inroads on her gravity. 
      Some mullet had jumped into the two boats—half a dozen during our moonlight voyage—and these were now being fried with rice for us by Grue.  Lord!  How I hated to eat them!
      After we had finished breakfast, Grue, as usual, did everything to the remainder except to get into the fry-pan with both feet; and as usual he sickened me. 
      When he’d cleaned up everything, I sent him off into the forest to find a dry shell-mound for camping purposes; then I made fast both boats, and Kemper and I carried ashore our paraphernalia, spare batterie-de-cuisine, firearms, fishing tackle, spears, harpoons, grains, oars, sails, spars, folding cage—everything with which a strictly scientific expedition is usually burdened.  Evelyn was washing her face in the crystal waters of a branch that flowed into the lagoon from under the live-oaks.  She looked very pretty doing it, like a naiad or dryad scrubbing away at her forest toilet. 
      It was, in fact, such a pretty spectacle that I was going over to sit beside her while she did it, but Kemper started just when I was going to, and I turned away.  Some men invariably do the wrong thing.  But a handsome man doesn’t last long with a pretty girl. 
      I was thinking of this as I stood contemplating an alligator slide, when Grue came back saying that the shore on which we had landed was the termination of a shell-mound, and that it was the only dry place be had found. 
      So I bade him pitch our tents a few feet back from the shore; and stood watching him while he did so, one eye reverting occasionally to Evelyn Grey and Kemper.  They both were seated crosslegged beside the branch, and they seemed to be talking a great deal and rather earnestly.  I couldn’t quite understand what they found to talk about so earnestly and volubly all of a sudden, inasmuch as they had heretofore exchanged very few observations during a most brief and formal acquaintance, dating only from sundown the day before. 
      Grue set up our three tents, carried the luggage inland, and then hung about for a while until the vast shadow of a vulture swept across the trees. 
      I never saw such an indescribable expression on a human face as I saw on Grue’s as he looked up at the huge, unclean bird.  His vitreous eyes fairly glittered; the corners of his mouth quivered and grew wet; and to my astonishment he seemed to emit a low, mewing noise. 
      “What the devil are you doing?” I said impulsively, in my amazement and disgust. 
      He looked at me, his eyes still glittering, the corners of his mouth still wet; but the curious sounds had ceased. 
      “What?” he asked. 
      “Nothing.  I thought you spoke.” I didn’t know what else to say. 
      He made no reply.  Once, when I had partly turned my head, I was aware that he was warily turning his to look at the vulture, which had alighted heavily on the ground near the entrails and heads of the mullet, where he had cast them on the dead leaves. 
      I walked over to where Evelyn Grey and Kemper sat so busily conversing; and their volubility ceased as they glanced up and saw me approaching.  Which phenomenon both perplexed and displeased me. 
      I said: 
      “This is the Black Bayou forest, and we have the most serious business of our lives before us.  Suppose you and I start out, Kemper, and see if there are any traces of what we are after in the neighborhood of our camp.” 
      “Do you think it safe to leave Miss Grey alone in camp?” he asked gravely. 
      I hadn’t thought of that: 
      “No, of course not,” I said.  “Grue can stay.” 
      “I don’t need anybody,” she said quickly.  “Anyway, I’m rather afraid of Grue.” 
      “Afraid of Grue?” I repeated. 
      “Not exactly afraid.  But he’s—unpleasant.” 
      “I’ll remain with Miss Grey,” said Kemper politely. 
      “Oh,” she exclaimed, “I couldn’t ask that.  It is true that I feel a little tired and nervous, but I can go with you and Mr.  Smith and Grue—” 
      I surveyed Kemper in cold perplexity.  As chief of the expedition, I couldn’t very well offer to remain with Evelyn Grey, but I didn’t propose that Kemper should, either. 
      “Take Grue,” he suggested, “and look about the woods for a while.  Perhaps after dinner Miss Grey may feel sufficiently rested to join us.” 
      “I am sure,” she said, “that a few hours’ rest in camp will set me on my feet.  All I need is rest.  I didn’t sleep very soundly last night.” 
      I felt myself growing red, and I looked away from them both. 
      “Oh,” said Kemper, in apparent surprise, “I thought you had slept soundly all night long.” 
      “Nobody,” said I, “could have slept very pleasantly during that musical performance of yours.” 
      “Were you singing?” she asked innocently of Kemper. 
      “He was singing when he wasn’t firing off his pistol,” I remarked.  “No wonder you couldn’t sleep with any satisfaction to yourself.” 
      Grue had disappeared into the forest; I stood watching for him to come out again.  After a few minutes I heard a furious but distant noise of flapping; the others also heard it; and we listened in silence, wondering what it was. 
      “It’s Grue killing something,” faltered Evelyn Grey, turning a trifle pale.
      “Confound it!” I exclaimed.  “I’m going to stop that right now.” 
      Kemper rose and followed me as I started for the woods; but as we passed the beached boats Grue appeared from among the trees. 
      “Where have you been?” I demanded. 
      “In the woods.” 
      “Doing what?” 
      There was a bit of down here and there clinging to his cotton shirt and trousers, and one had caught and stuck at the corner of his mouth. 
      “See here, Grue,” I said, “I don’t want you to kill any birds except for camp purposes.  Why do you try to catch and kill birds?” 
      “I don’t.” 
      I stared at the man and he stared back at me out of his glassy eyes. 
      “You mean to say that you don’t, somehow or other, manage to catch and kill birds?” 
      “No, I don’t.” 
      There was nothing further for me to say unless I gave him the lie.  I didn’t care to do that, needing his services. 
      Evelyn Grey had come up to join us; there was a brief silence; we all stood looking at Grue; and he looked back at us out of his pale, washed-out, and unblinking eyes. 
      “Grue,” I said, “I haven’t yet explained to you the object of this expedition to Black Bayou.  Now, I’ll tell you what I want.  But first let me ask you a question or two.  You know the Black Bayou forests, don’t you?” 
      “Did you ever see anything unusual in these forests?” 
      “Are you sure?” 
      The man stared at us, one after another.  Then he said: 
      “What are you looking for in Black Bayou?” 
      “Something very curious, very strange, very unusual.  So strange and unusual, in fact, that the great Zoölogical Society of the Bronx in New York has sent me down here at the head of this expedition to search the forests of Black Bayou.” 
      “For what?” he demanded, in a dull, accentless voice. 
      “For a totally new species of human being, Grue.  I wish to catch one and take it back to New York in that folding cage.” 
      His green eyes had grown narrow as though sun-dazzled.  Kemper had stepped behind us into the woods and was now busy setting up the folding cage.  Grue remained motionless. 
      “I am going to offer you,” I said, “the sum of one thousand dollars in gold if you can guide us to a spot where we may see this hitherto unknown species— a creature which is apparently a man but which has, in the back of his head, a third eye—” 
      I paused in amazement: Grue’s cheeks had suddenly puffed out and were quivering; and from the corners of his slitted mouth he was emitting a whimpering sound like the noise made by a low-circling pigeon. 
      “Grue!” I cried.  “What’s the matter with you?” 
      “What is he doing?” screamed Grue, quivering from head to foot, but not turning around. 
      “Who?” I cried. 
      “The man behind me!” 
      “Professor Kemper?  He’s setting up the folding cage—” 
      With a screech that raised my hair, Grue whipped out his murderous knife and hurled himself backward at Kemper, but the latter shrank aside behind the partly erected cage, and Grue whirled around, snarling, hacking, and even biting at the wood frame and steel bars. 
      And then occurred a thing so horrid that it sickened me to the pit of my stomach; for the man’s sagging straw hat had fallen off, and there, in the back of his head, through the coarse, black, ratty hair, I saw a glassy eye glaring at me. 
      “Kemper!” I shouted.  “He’s got a third eye!  He’s one of them!  Knock him flat with your rifle-stock!” And I seized a shot-gun from the top of the baggage bundle on the ground beside me, and leaped at Grue, aiming a terrific blow at him. 
      But the glassy eye in the back of his head was watching me between the clotted strands of hair, and he dodged both Kemper and me, swinging his heavy knife in circles and glaring at us both out of the front and back of his head. 
      Kemper seized him by his arm, but Grue’s shirt came off, and I saw his entire body was as furry as an ape’s.  And all the while he was snapping at us and leaping hither and thither to avoid our blows; and from the corners of his puffed cheeks he whined and whimpered and mewed through the saliva foam. 
      “Keep him from the water!” I panted, following him with clubbed shot-gun; and as I advanced I almost stepped on a soiled heap of foulness—the dead buzzard which he had caught and worried to death with his teeth. 
      Suddenly he threw his knife at my head, hurling it backward; dodged, screeched, and bounded by me toward the shore of the lagoon, where the pretty waitress was standing, petrified. 
      For one moment I thought he had her, but she picked up her skirts, ran for the nearest boat, and seized a harpoon; and in his fierce eagerness to catch her he leaped clear over the boat and fell with a splash into the lagoon. 
      As Kemper and I sprang aboard and looked over into the water, we could see him going down out of reach of a harpoon; and his body seemed to be silver-plated, flashing and glittering like a burnished eel, so completely did the skin of air envelope him, held there by the fur that covered him. 
      And, as he rested for a moment on the bottom, deep down through the clear waters of the lagoon where he lay prone, I could see, as the current stirred his long, black hair, the third eye looking up at us, glassy, unwinking, horrible. 
      A bubble or two, like globules of quicksilver, were detached from the burnished skin of air that clothed him, and came glittering upward. 
      Suddenly there was a flash; a flurrying cloud of blue mud; and Grue was gone. 
      After a long while I turned around in the muteness of my despair.  And slowly froze. 
      For the pretty waitress, becomingly pale, was gathered in Kemper’s arms, her cheek against his shoulder.  Neither seemed to be aware of me. 
      “Darling,” he said, in the imbecile voice of a man in love, “why do you tremble so when I am here to protect you?  Don’t you love and trust me?” 
      “Oo—h—yes,” she sighed, pressing her cheek closer to his shoulder. 
      I shoved my hands into my pockets, passed them without noticing them, and stepped ashore. 
      And there I sat down under a tree, with my back toward them, all alone and face to face with the greatest grief of my life. 
      But which it was—the loss of her or the loss of Grue, I had not yet made up my mind. 


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