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   Chapter 22 THE FIRST MURDERS

The Blue Germ By Maurice Nicoll Characters: 9851

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The effect of Jason's newspapers on public opinion was remarkable. Humanity ever contains within it the need for mystery, and the strange and incredible, if voiced by authority, stir it to its depths. The facts about the healing of sickness and the cure of disease in Birmingham were printed in heavy type and read by millions. Nothing was said about immortality save what Sarakoff and I had stated at the Queen's Hall meeting. But instinctively the multitude leaped to the conclusion that if the end of disease was at hand, then the end of death-at least, the postponement of death-was to be expected.

Jason, pale and masterful, visited us in the afternoon, and told us of the spread of the tidings in England. "They've swallowed it," he exclaimed; "it's stirred them as nothing else has done in the last hundred years. I visited the East End to-day. The streets are full of people. Crowds everywhere. It might lead to anything."

"Is the infection spreading swiftly?"

"It's spreading. But there are plenty of people, like myself, who haven't got it yet. I should say that a quarter of London is blue." He looked at me with a sudden anxiety. "You're sure I'll get it?"

"Quite sure. Everyone is bound to get it. There's no possible immunity."

He sat heavily in the chair, staring at the carpet.

"Harden, I didn't quite like the look of those crowds in the East End. Anything big like this stirs up the people. It excites them and then the incalculable may happen. I've been thinking about the effect upon the uneducated mind. I've spread over the country the vision of humanity free from disease, and that's roused something in them-something dangerous-that I didn't foresee. Disease, Harden, whatever you doctors think of it, puts the fear of God into humanity. It's these sudden releases-releases from ancient fears-that are so dangerous. Are you sure you can't stop the germ, or direct it along certain channels?"

"I have already told you that's impossible."

"You might as well try and stop the light of day," said Sarakoff from a sofa, where he was lying apparently asleep. "Let the people think what they like now. Wait till they get it themselves. There are rules in the game, Jason, that you have no conception of, and that I have only realized since I became immortal. Yes-rules in the game, whether you play it in the cellar or the attic, or in the valley, or on the mountain top."

"Your friend is very Russian," said Jason equably. "I have always heard they are dreamers and visionaries. Personally, I am a practical man, and as such I foresee trouble. If the masses of the people have no illness, and enjoy perfect health, we shall be faced by a difficult problem. They'll get out of hand. Depressed states of health are valuable assets in keeping the social organization together. All this demands careful thought. I am visiting the Prime Minister this evening and shall give him my views."

At that moment a newspaper boy passed the window with an afternoon edition and Jason went out to get a copy. He returned with a smile of satisfaction, carrying the paper open before him.

"Three murders in London," he announced. "One in Plaistow, one in East Ham and one in Pimlico. I told you there was unrest abroad." He laid the paper on the table and studied it "In every case it was an aged person-two old women, and one old man. Now what does that mean?"

"A gang at work."

He shook his head.

"No. In one case the murderer has been caught. It was a case of patricide-a hideous crime. Curiously enough the victim had the Blue Disease. The end must have been ghastly, as it states here that the expression on the old man's face was terrible."

He sat beside the table, drumming his fingers on it and staring at the wall before him. I was not particularly interested in the news, but I was interested in Jason. Character had formerly appealed little to me, but now I found an absorbing problem in it.

"Harden, do you think that son killed his father because he had the Blue Disease?"

I was struck by the remark. For some reason the picture of Alice's father came into my mind. Jason sprang to his feet.

"Yes, that's it," he exclaimed. "That's what lay behind those restless crowds. I knew there was something-a riddle to read, and now I've got the answer. The crowd doesn't know what's rousing them. But I do. It's fear and resentment, Harden. It's fear and resentment against the old." He brought his fist down on the table. "The germ's going to lead to war! It's going to lead to the worst war humanity has ever experienced-the war of the young against the old. Not the ancient strife or struggle between young and old, but open bloodshed, my friends. That's what your germ is going to do."

I smiled and shook my head.

"Wait," said Sarakoff from the sofa; "wait a little. Why are you in such a hurry to jump to conclusions?"

"Because it's my business to jump

to conclusions just six hours before anyone else does," said Jason. "I calculate that my mind, for the last twenty years, has been six hours ahead of time. I live in a state of chronic anticipation, Dr. Sarakoff. Just let me use your telephone for a moment."

He returned a quarter of an hour later. His expression was calm, but his eyes were hard. "I was right," he said. "Those two old women had the Blue Disease, and a girl, a daughter, is suspect in one case. Can't you imagine the situation? Girl lives with her aged mother-can't get free-mother has what money there is-not allowed to marry-girl unconsciously counts on mother's death-probably got a secret love-affair-is expecting the moment of release-and then, along comes the Blue Disease and one of my newspapers telling her what it means. The old lady recovers her health-the future shuts down like a rat trap and what does the poor girl do? Kills her mother-and probably goes mad. That, gentlemen, is my theory of the case."

He strode up and down the room.

"You may think I'm taking a low view," he cried. "But there are hundreds of thousands of similar cases in England. God help the old if the young forget their religion!"

For some reason I was unmoved by the outcry. It was no doubt owing to the peculiar emotionless state that the germ induced in people. Jason was roused. He paced to and fro in silence, with his brows contracted. At length he stopped before me.

"Do you see any way out?"

"There will be no war between the young and the old," I replied. "In another week everyone will get the germ and that will be the end of war in every form."

He drew a chair and sat down before me.

"You don't understand," he said earnestly. "Perhaps you had a happy childhood. I didn't. I know how some sons and daughters feel because I suffered in that way. People are strangely blind to suffering unless they have suffered themselves. When I was a young man, my father put me in his office and gave me a clerk's wages. He kept me there for six years at eighteen shillings a week. Whenever I made a suggestion concerning the business he was careful to ridicule it. Whenever I tried to break away and start on my own, he prevented it. There were a thousand other things-ways in which he fettered me. My only sister he kept at home to do the housework. He forbade her to marry. She and I never had enough money to do anything, to go anywhere, or to buy anything. Now, to be quite frank, I longed for him to die so that I could get free. To me he was an ogre, a great merciless tyrant, a giant with a club. Well, he died. When he was dead I felt what a man dying of thirst in the desert must feel when he suddenly comes to a spring of water. I recovered, and became what I am. My sister never recovered. She had been suppressed beyond all the limits of elasticity. As far as her body is concerned, it is alive. Her soul is dead."

He paused and looked at me meditatively.

"If your blue germ had come along then, Harden, I might-- Who knows? I have often wondered why our pulpit religion ignores the crimes of parents to their children. I'm not conventionally religious, but I seem to remember that Christ indirectly said something pretty strong on the subject. But the pulpit folk show a wonderful facility for ignoring the awkward things Christ said. In about three years' time I'm going to turn my guns on the Church. They've sneered at me too much."

"There will be a new Church by that time," murmured Sarakoff. "And no guns."

Jason eyed the prostrate figure of the Russian.

"I refer to my newspapers. That's going to be my final triumph. Why do you smile?"

"Because you said a moment ago that it was your business to be six hours ahead of everyone else. You're countless centuries behind Harden and me. We have taken a leap into the future. If you want to know what humanity will be, look at us closely. You'll get some hints that should be valuable. I admit that our bodies are old-fashioned in their size and shape, but not our emotions."

The telephone bell rang in the hall and Jason jumped up.

"I think that's for me."

He went out. I remained sitting calmly in my chair. An absolute serenity surrounded me. All that Jason did or said was like looking at an interesting play. I was perfectly content to sit and think-think of Jason, of what his motives were, of the reason why a man is blind where his desires are at work, of the new life, of the new organizations that would be necessary. I was like a glutton before a table piled high with delicacies and with plenty of time to spare. Sarakoff seemed to be in the same condition for he lay with his eyes half shut, motionless and absorbed.

Jason entered the room suddenly. He carried his hat and stick.

"Two more murders reported from Greenwich, and ten from Birmingham. It's becoming serious, Harden! I'm off to Downing Street. Watch the morning editions!"

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