By D. W. Hall
"The face of the giant was indeed
that of a god...."
All gazed, transfixed, at the vast form that
towered above them.
On that summer day the sky
over New York was unflecked
by clouds, and the
air hung motionless, the
waves of heat undisturbed. The
city was a vast oven where even
the sounds of the coiling traffic in
its streets seemed heavy and weary
under the press of heat that poured
down from above. In Washington
Square, the urchins of the neighborhood
splashed in the fountain,
and the usual midday assortment of
mothers, tramps and out-of-works
lounged listlessly on the hot park
As a bowl, the Square was filled
by the torrid sun, and the trees and
grass drooped like the people on
its walks. In the surrounding city,
men worked in sweltering offices
and the streets rumbled with the
never-ceasing tide of business—but
Washington Square rested.
And then a man walked out of
one of the houses lining the square,
and all this was changed.
He came with a calm, steady
stride down the steps of a house on
the north side, and those who
happened to see him gazed with
surprised interest. For he was a
giant in size. He measured at least
eleven feet in height, and his body
was well-formed and in perfect
proportion. He crossed the street
and stepped over the railing into
the nearest patch of grass, and
there stood with arms folded and
legs a little apart. The expression
on his face was preoccupied and
strangely apart, nor did it change
when, almost immediately from the
park bench nearest him, a woman's
excited voice cried:
"Look! Look! Oh, look!"
The people around her craned
their necks and stared, and from
them grew a startled murmur.
Others from farther away came to
see who had cried out, and remained
to gaze fascinated at the
man on the grass. Quickly the murmur
spread across the Square, and
from its every part men and women
and children streamed towards the
center of interest—and then, when
they saw, backed away slowly and
fearfully, with staring eyes, from
where the lone figure stood.
There was about that figure
something uncanny and terrible.
There, in the hot midday
hush, something was happening to
it which men would say could not
happen; and men, seeing it, backed
away in alarm. Quickly they dispersed.
Soon there were only white,
frightened faces peering from behind
buildings and trees.
Before their very eyes the giant
When he had first emerged, he
had been around eleven feet tall,
and now, within three minutes, he
had risen close to sixteen feet.
His great body maintained its
perfect proportions. It was that of
an elderly man clad simply in a
gray business suit. The face was
kind, its clear-chiselled features indicating
fine spiritual strength; on
the white forehead beneath the
sparse gray hair were deep-sunken
lines which spoke of years of concentrated
No thought of malevolence could
come from that head with its gentle
blue eyes that showed the peace
within, but fear struck ever
stronger into those who watched
him, and in one place a woman
fainted; for the great body continued
to grow, and grow ever
faster, until it was twenty feet
high, then swiftly twenty-five, and
the feet, still separated, were as
long as the body of a normal boy.
Clothes and body grew effortlessly,
the latter apparently without pain,
as if the terrifying process were
The cars coming into Washington
Square had stopped as their
drivers sighted what was rising
there, and by now the bordering
streets were tangled with traffic.
A distant crowd of milling people
heightened the turmoil. The northern
edge was deserted, but in a
large semicircle was spread a fear-struck,
panicky mob. A single policeman,
his face white and his eyes
wide, tried to straighten out the
tangle of vehicles, but it was infinitely
beyond him and he sent in
a riot call; and as the giant with
the kind, dignified face loomed silently
higher than the trees in the
Square, and ever higher, a dozen
blue-coated figures appeared, and
saw, and knew fear too, and hung
back awe-stricken, at a loss what
to do. For by now the rapidly
mounting body had risen to the
height of forty feet.
An excited voice raised itself
above the general hubbub.
"Why, I know him! I know him!
It's Edgar Wesley! Doctor Edgar
A police sergeant turned to the
man who had spoken.
"And it—he knows you? Then go
closer to him, and—and—ask him
what it means."
But the man looked fearfully at
the giant and hung back. Even as
they talked, his gigantic body had
grown as high as the four-storied
buildings lining the Square, and
his feet were becoming too large
for the place where they had first
been put. And now a faint smile
could be seen on the giant's face,
an enigmatic smile, with something
ironic and bitter in it.
"Then shout to him from here,"
pressed the sergeant nervously.
"We've got to find out something!
This is crazy—impossible! My God!
Higher yet—and faster!"
Summoning his courage, the other
man cupped his hands about his
mouth and shouted:
"Dr. Wesley! Can you speak and
tell us? Can we help you stop it?"
The ring of people looked up
breathless at the towering figure,
and a wave of fear passed over
them and several hysterical shrieks
rose up as, very slowly, the huge
head shook from side to side. But
the smile on its lips became
stronger, and kinder, and the bitterness
seemed to leave it.
There was fear at that motion of
the enormous head, but a roar of
panic sounded from the watchers
when, with marked caution, the
growing giant moved one foot from
the grass into the street behind
and the other into the nearby base
of Fifth Avenue, just above the
Arch. Fearing harm, they were
gripped by terror, and they fought
back while the trembling policemen
tried vainly to control them;
but the panic soon ended when they
saw that the leviathan's arms remained
crossed and his smile kinder
yet. By now he dwarfed the houses,
his body looming a hundred and
fifty feet into the sky. At this moment
a woman back of the semicircle
slumped to her knees and
"Someone's coming out of his
house!" shouted one of the closest
The door of the house from
which the giant had first appeared
had opened, and the figure
of a middle-aged, normal-sized man
emerged. For a second he crouched
on the steps, gaping up at the monstrous
shape in the sky, and then
he scurried down and made at a
desperate run for the nearest group
He gripped the sergeant and
"That's Dr. Wesley! Why don't
you do something? Why don't—"
"Who are you?" the officer asked,
with some return of an authoritative
"I work for him. I'm his janitor.
But—can't you do anything? Look
at him! Look!"
The crowd pressed closer. "What
do you know about this?" went on
The man gulped and stared
around wildly. "He's been working
on something—many years—I don't
know what, for he kept it a close
secret. All I knew is that an hour
ago I was in my room upstairs,
when I heard some disturbance in
his laboratory, on the ground floor.
I came down and knocked on the
door, and he answered from inside
and said that everything was
"You didn't go in?"
"No. I went back up, and everything
was quiet for a long time.
Then I heard a lot of noise down
below—a smashing—as if things
were being broken. But I thought
he was just destroying something
he didn't need, and I didn't investigate:
he hated to be disturbed. And
then, a little later, I heard them
shouting out here in the Square,
and I looked out and saw. I saw
him—just as I knew him—but a
giant! Look at his face! Why, he
has the face of—of a god! He's—as
if he were looking down on us—and—pitying
For a moment all were silent as
they gazed, transfixed, at the vast
form that towered two hundred feet
above them. Almost as awe-inspiring
as the astounding growth was
the fine, dignified calmness of the
face. The sergeant broke in:
"The explanation of this must
be in his laboratory. We've got to
have a look. You lead us there."
The other man nodded; but just
then the giant moved again,
and they waited and watched.
With the utmost caution the
titanic shape changed position.
Gradually, one great foot, over
thirty feet in length, soared up
from the street and lowered farther
away, and then the other distant
foot changed its position; and the
leviathan came gently to rest
against the tallest building bordering
the Square, and once more folded
his arms and stood quiet. The enormous
body appeared to waver
slightly as a breath of wind washed
against it: obviously it was not
gaining weight as it grew. Almost,
now, it appeared to float in the air.
Swiftly it grew another twenty-five
feet, and the gray expanse of
its clothes shimmered strangely as
a ripple ran over its colossal bulk.
A change of feeling came gradually
over the watching multitude.
The face of the giant was indeed
that of a god in the noble, irony-tinged
serenity of his calm features.
It was if a further world had
opened, and one of divinity had
stepped down; a further world of
kindness and fellow-love, where
were none of the discords that
bring conflicts and slaughterings to
the weary people of Earth. Spiritual
peace radiated from the enormous
face under the silvery hair,
peace with an undertone of sadness,
as if the giant knew of the sorrows
of the swarm of dwarfs beneath
him, and pitied them.
From all the roofs and the towers
of the city, for miles and miles
around, men saw the mammoth
shape and the kindly smile grow
more and more tenuous against the
clear blue sky. The figure remained
quietly in the same position, his
feet filling two empty streets, and
under the spell of his smile all
fear seemed to leave the nearer
watchers, and they became more
quiet and controlled.
The group of policemen and
the janitor made a dash for
the house from which the giant had
come. They ascended the steps,
went in, and found the door of the
laboratory locked. They broke the
door down. The sergeant looked in.
"Anyone in here?" he cried.
Nothing disturbed the silence, and
he entered, the others following.
A long, wide, dimly-lit room met
their eyes, and in its middle the
remains of a great mass of apparatus
that had dominated it.
The apparatus was now completely
destroyed. Its dozen rows
of tubes were shattered, its intricate
coils of wire and machinery
hopelessly smashed. Fragments lay
scattered all over the floor. No
longer was there the least shape of
meaning to anything in the room;
there remained merely a litter of
glass and stone and scrap metal.
Conspicuous on the floor was a
large hammer. The sergeant walked
over to pick it up, but, instead,
paused and stared at what lay beyond
"A body!" he said.
A sprawled out dead man lay on
the floor, his dark face twisted up,
his sightless eyes staring at the
ceiling, his temple crushed as with
a hammer. Clutched tight in one
stiff hand was an automatic. On
his chest was a sheet of paper.
The captain reached down and
grasped the paper. He read what
was written on it, and then he read
it to the others:
There was a fool who
dreamed the high dream of
the pure scientist, and who
lived only to ferret out the
secrets of nature, and harness
them for his fellow men. He
studied and worked and thought,
and in time came to concentrate
on the manipulation of
the atom, especially the possibility
of contracting and expanding
it—a thing of greatest
potential value. For nine years
he worked along this line,
hoping to succeed and give new
power, new happiness, a new
horizon to mankind. Hermetically
sealed in his laboratory,
self-exiled from human contacts,
he labored hard.
There came a day when the
device into which the fool had
poured his life stood completed
and a success. And on that very
day an agent for a certain
government entered his laboratory
to steal the device. And
in that moment the fool realized
what he had done: that,
from the apparatus he had invented,
not happiness and new
freedom would come to his fellow
men, but instead slaughter
and carnage and drunken
power increased a hundredfold.
He realized, suddenly, that
men had not yet learned to use
fruitfully the precious, powerful
things given to them, but
as yet could only play with
them like greedy children—and
kill as they played. Already his
invention had brought death.
And he realized—even on this
day of his triumph—that it and
its secret must be destroyed,
and with them he who had
fashioned so blindly.
For the scientist was old, his
whole life was the invention,
and with its going there would
be nothing more.
And so he used the device's
great powers on his own body;
and then, with those powers
working on him, he destroyed
the device and all the papers
that held its secrets.
Was the fool also mad? Perhaps.
But I do not think so.
Into his lonely laboratory, with
this marauder, had come the
wisdom that men must wait,
that the time is not yet for
such power as he was about to
offer. A gesture, his strange
death, which you who read this
have seen? Yes, but a useful
one, for with it he and his invention
and its hurtful secrets
go from you; and a fitting one,
for he dies through his achievement,
through his very life.
But, in a better sense, he will
not die, for the power of his
achievement will dissolve his
very body among you infinitely;
you will breathe him in
your air; and in you he will
live incarnate until that later
time when another will give
you the knowledge he now destroys,
and he will see it used
as he wished it used.—E. W.
The sergeant's voice ceased, and
wordlessly the men in the laboratory
looked at each other. No
comment was needed. They went
They watched from the steps of
Edgar Wesley's house. At first
sight of the figure in the sky, a
new awe struck them, for now the
shape of the giant towered a full
five hundred feet into the sun, and
it seemed almost a mirage, for definite
outline was gone from it. It
shimmered and wavered against the
bright blue like a mist, and the blue
shone through it, for it was quite
transparent. And yet still they imagined
they could discern the
slight ironic smile on the face, and
the peaceful, understanding light
in the serene eyes; and their hearts
swelled at the knowledge of the
spirit, of the courage, of the fine,
far-seeing mind of that outflung
titanic martyr to the happiness of
The end came quickly. The great
misty body rose; it floated over the
city like a wraith, and then it
swiftly dispersed, even as steam
dissolves in the air. They felt a
silence over the thousands of
watching people in the Square, a
hush broken at last by a deep, low
murmur of awe and wonderment as
the final misty fragments of the
vast sky-held figure wavered and
melted imperceptibly—melted and
were gone from sight in the air
that was breathed by the men whom
Edgar Wesley loved.
This etext was produced from Astounding Stories November 1932. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.