Charles B. (Charles Barney) Cory.

Montezuma's castle and other weird tales online

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a peculiar-looking man: his clothes seemed
to be all run in together. You could make
out the outlines of the man, but the figure
was not clear ; sort of foggy, you know.
What surprised me most was that I could


look right through him and see that back of
the lounge.

I said to myself, " Is this a dream or the
effect of the powder I have taken?" and I
pinched my leg, and rubbed my eyes, but
although I seemed to be perfectly wide
awake, the shape did not disappear.

" What did you say?" I asked.

" I remarked that the subject of high
explosives was decidedly interesting," an-
swered the shape. " I was a chemist when
alive, but it makes me sad to think how very
little I really knew. Chemistry, as well as
other branches of science, has made great
strides during the past generation, since my
day, but even now they really know very

" But," I answered, " it seems to me the
high explosives which we now have are
sufficiently powerful if we knew how to
use them with safety."

"That's it," answered the shape.


" Now, I have a couple of hours to spare,
and, if it would interest you, and you care
to come over to my laboratory, I will be
happy to give you one or two points which
may prove of value to you I say to my
laboratory, but it really is not mine ; I use
any laboratory that is handiest, and I know
most of the good ones in the city. You
see, I do not need to have a key to enter a
room ; that is one of the great advantages
we have, as you will discover one of these
days. Just now I can get you in very well
because the owner of the laboratory to
which we will go is out of town. I will go
in first and unlock the door for you."

I told him that I should be most happy
to accept his invitation 5 it seemed the most
natural thing in the world to be conversing
with a ghost and to have him invite me
to go to somebody's laboratory and use up
his chemicals. It never occurred to me
that it might not be considered quite good


form. We went out of my rooms and
downstairs, the shadow floating alongside
of me in the most friendly manner possible.
I could see by the position of his body that
he had hold of my arm, but his fingers did
not show on my coat-sleeve.

We went up town for perhaps half a mile,
and entered a large brick building in which
I noted were various studios. It was dark,
but going up three flights of stairs my guide
opened a door and ushered me into a large
and extensively furnished laboratory, evi-
dently belonging to some scientific man of
means and experience. The ghost turned
the button of the electric light, and then
motioned me to a seat.

" My time," he said, " is somewhat lim-
ited, because I have an appointment with a
lady at twelve, but I will show you what a
high explosive really is, and then if we have
time we will talk of something else. The
difficulty about high explosives is not in



making them, but in using them after they
are made; you create a gigantic power
which you do not know how to handle.

" The rather modern discovery of how to
make liquid air has simplified matters a
good deal. When you can make liquid
hydrogen in quantities you will have a still
better agent for many purposes. Now, let
us take a little of this liquid air. You see
it pours like water. As I happen to know,
our absent host has nearly two gallons of
it, or had this afternoon; some of it has
evaporated, but, as you see, there is still
more than a gallon left, and we will not
steal much, as all we want for our experi-
ment to illustrate to you the greatest explo-
sive which can be manufactured is about
as much liquid air as you can hold in a

"Do you propose to try your explosive
here, Mr." I hesitated. " By the way,
what is your name ? "


" Oh, call me any old name; it does not

" Mr. Spook, shall we say? "

"Ahem! a little personal, perhaps, but it
will do as well as another. Now, as I was
saying, I will show you how to make the
most powerful explosive that was ever in-

It is possible that I did not show as much
interest and enthusiasm as he expected, and
to tell the truth I was a little nervous.
Spooks do not have the same interest in
being careful in their experiments an
accident or two is of little consequence to
them, but might be decidedly disagreeable
to me. I may have shown something of
what I was thinking in my manner, for
Spook looked at me keenly.

"What is the matter? You do not ap-
pear interested."

" On the contrary," I answered, " I am
deeply so, but do we not run considerable


risk in trying such experiments in a labora-
tory without the consent of its owner? "

" Not at all, not at all. I will use a very
small amount of the explosive, and there
will be no damage done."

" Have you attempted to make it before,
Mr. Spook?" I ventured.

" Oh, yes, last week; that was a mistake
you see now I know all about it, I didn't
then ; the explosion was something awful
it blew the building pretty much all to
pieces. If I had been alive I don't believe
you could have found a piece of me as large
as your finger they called it spontaneous
combustion; however, we won't have any-
thing of that kind to-night."

"Please don't," I answered.

" No, I promise you. Now we will take
a little of this red phosphorus ordinary
phosphorus will not answer and pour a
little liquid air on it, stirring it gently, as you
see. Now, if I should let that dry it would



explode at the slightest touch; but we do not
want that, and we wish to increase its power,
so we add a little chloride of potassium ;
now watch it dry see the color change to
a light red-brown. There, if you should
strike that or put fire to it, it would wreck
this building as completely as if you had
exploded fifty pounds of dynamite in it."

I drew away from the table instinctively.

" Have no fear, I will not explode it.
Now watch me closely. I will ignite a
minute quantity, about as much as would
make the head of a small black pin or a
No. 4 bird-shot. See, the rest we will
put in this pail of water. There now
all is ready here goes!"

He lit a match and touched the little
brown dot a tremendous explosion fol-
lowed and the wooden table was split into
pieces. The sound was so terrific and the
shock so unexpected that I was dizzy and


" Great heavens ! " I exclaimed, " you
have broken everything in the laboratory ! "

" No," replied the ghost rather shame-
facedly, " not so bad as that, but Tm afraid
that I have ruined the table and cracked a
few things ; however, I will be more careful
next time: it is even more powerful than I
thought. What do you suppose would be
the effect on a warship if struck with a'
shell containing one hundred pounds of that
stuff ? "

I answered that she would be destroyed.

"Destroyed? I should say she would;
the largest battleship would be blown to

The spook glanced at an old-fashioned
Dutch clock in the corner of the labora-

" Fine clock that ; glad I didn't break it
with our little racket just now. I see I
have nearly an hour to spare. Is there any
experiment you would like to try ? "


I said anything would interest me, but
that I didn't care for any more explosives.

" I suppose you know how to make dia-
monds, don't you ? "

I answered that for years men had tried
to manufacture diamonds, but practically
without success; that as far as I was aware
they had only succeeded in making them so
small as to be practically of no use commer-
cially, and the expense of the manufacture
was far in excess of their value.

"That's all right," answered the spook ;
" but really it is a very simple matter.
Here ; I will make a diamond for you." He
walked across the room to the fireplace, and
taking from the grate a lump of coal about
the size of a billiard ball, he laid it upon the

" This," he said, " is nearly pure carbon,
and as you are well aware it is practically
what a diamond is. Now, I will illustrate
to you how you may make a diamond from


this piece of coal, which will be as good as
any diamond ever found in the mines. AVe
will manufacture it instead of letting nature
do it.

" We will first place it in this glass bowl,
and pour over it sufficient liquid air to
cover it completely. We will let it remain
until it is thoroughly cold, say, at least 200
below zero; there now all we have to do
is to heat it and then subject it to a pow-
erful Great Gee Hosiphat! Five min-
utes to twelve ! I must go appointment
with a lady at twelve. But I say, old
fellow, just hold it under the blowpipe and
get it hot just as hot as you can; I will
be back soon ta-ta." His last words
came to me faintly through the window
he had already floated out.

I took the queer-colored piece of coal,
and began heating it under the blowpipe.
It did not burn, as I thought it would, but
turned red and then white; gradually it


seemed to grow larger and larger and
brighter and brighter until I opened my
eyes and found myself in bed with the sun
shining full upon me through the open



IT is with the greatest difficulty, (said
Dr. Watson), that I force myself to
believe that what I am about to relate to
you did not actually happen. It seemed to
me that I was as wide-awake as I am at this
present moment, and impossible that the
strange series of incidents could be due en-
tirely to mental disturbances. I went home
and went to bed, after first taking the pow-
der, and I think I went to sleep. How long
I slept I do not know, but I was startled at
finding myself floating about the room with
much the same feeling as one has when
floating in water, only it was without effort.
My motion seemed to be governed entirely


by my will, if I glanced at anything in
the room I would float towards it. Imagine
my astonishment at seeing my body lying in
the bed apparently sound asleep; you will ad-
mit the sensation was novel, to say the least.

After floating around the room two or
three times enjoying the peculiar sensation,
I began to wonder what they had been
doing at the hospital during my absence.
Immediately I found myself in the hospi-
tal ward. Dr. Ford and two nurses were
standing by a cot at the north end, and
glancing at the chart on the table I saw the
patient was seriously ill.

" Moribund," said a voice.

" I'm afraid so," I answered. I turned
and saw an elderly gentleman, dressed in
the costume of the last century, floating
beside me.

"Sad, is it not? People still die, I see,
in spite of the wonderful advance in the
science of medicine since my day."

io 4


" Were you a doctor when alive," I

" Well, I was called one, and received
the regular license to kill or cure. I regret
to say that I have since learned that I killed
a great many more than I cured. The
trouble is, after you are dead your patients
know this as well as you do and say unkind
things; even to-night I received word from
a former patient of mine, and a ghost who
ought to know better, to the effect that he
intended to hunt me up and punch my
head. I treated him for renal colic and
he died of appendicitis."

" What sort of a death certificate did you
give ? " I asked.

" Heart disease, and let me tell you that
was a great deal nearer to it than some of
you chaps get nowadays."

" You are not complimentary," I said

"Perhaps not; but if you think my criti-



cisms harsh and uncalled for, let us get down
to cold facts. Did it ever occur to you
how very few people live to be even one
hundred and twenty-five years old? You
surely will admit that there is no reason
why a man should not live to that age,
barring accidents. We know that in Bible
times there were lots of old fellows who
passed their three hundredth birthday, and
a chap named Methuselah claimed to be
nine hundred and ninety-nine years old."

" Nine hundred and sixty-nine, was it
not ? " I asked.

" Perhaps you are right, but sixty-nine
or ninety-nine. I am inclined to be a
little sceptical about that record myself;
there is one thing in its favor, however,
and that is, that he made it an even nine
hundred and ninety-nine, and not one thou-
sand. Of course, you know there are plenty
of people living to-day who are over one
hundred years old, and some who have


reached the very satisfactory age of one
hundred and twenty-five; most of them,
however, live in Bulgaria, Mexico, or some
out-of-the-way place, and are so poor that
they have to live abstemiously."

" Then you consider the secret of lon-
gevity to be a matter of diet ? " said I.

"Partly that, and partly proper care of
the nervous system ; but come downstairs,
and let us have a cigarette ; I am dying
for a smoke."

We floated down to the office, which
happened to be unoccupied at the time.
The medical ghost helped himself to a cig-
arette from a trayful on the mantel-piece,
and lighting it, he seated himself in an arm-
chair, and puffed away with evident enjoy-
ment. I noticed the smoke, which he
inhaled continually, oozed from all parts of
his body.

" My dear fellow," he said impressively,
" you must understand that all diseases are



caused by germs microscopic bugs and
plants, you know, many of them so small
that they are invisible to an ordinary micro-
scope, or, if seen at all, are not recognized.
There are thousands and thousands of them,
and each and every one has its mission in
life, and preys upon and destroys other
germs. Now, the human body is constantly
getting a lot of germs inside of it which do
not belong there. Some are taken in by the
lungs, while floating in the air; some by the
stomach, by the food and drink; some by
the skin, etc.

" These germs are met by their natural
enemies which live in man's blood his
body-guard, as it were and are destroyed.
But if the attacking army is very large, or
from some reason the home army has been
weakened and decimated, then the invad-
ers flourish, establish themselves and wax
powerful and strong, and the man becomes
what is called ' sick.'


"Come," he said, rising abruptly, and
throwing the unconsumed end of his ciga-
rette into the fireplace. " Come with me
to the laboratory, and I will show you in
about two minutes more than I could ex-
plain if I talked for years, and a great deal
more satisfactorily."

We floated down to the laboratory, and
the ghost took from the shelf a wide-
mouthed bottle and held it up to the light.

" Here," he said, " we have a culture.
You, of course, understand how the germs
of disease are cultivated for experimental
use. It is needless for me to explain to
you that certain media are used for these
cultures, such as milk, beef-broth, etc.

" Here we have the germ of diphtheria,
here of tuberculosis, here of typhoid fever,
etc. That little short jar over yonder con-
tains some cholera bacilli, which have been
lately sent here. Now look at this typhoid
germ. If we took a drop of healthy blood


and put some of these typhoid germs in it,
how they would wiggle! but if the drop of
blood was from a typhoid patient, they won't
wiggle very long, as you know. See this
blunt-headed chap which we have to stain
to see properly, even with this wonderful
microscope; that is our old friend the ba-
cillus of tuberculosis; but unless you see the
patient first I do not believe you could dis-
tinguish him from the leprosy bug.

" These are known germs, but look
through the glass at this drop, and you will
see some bugs worth seeing, although the
medical fraternity have not as yet discovered
their value. Perhaps you know that most
bacteriologists consider these germs to be
plants, not bugs, although they admit some
of them move a little. How astonished
they would be if they could look through
this glass! See that chap with green hind
legs: he preys on the typhoid germ, and
when they discover this physicians will


simply inoculate the patient with a lot of
these little chaps with the green legs, and
they will do the rest.

" Here is a germ with yellow stripes
which looks a little like a diminutive potato
bug. He is the deadly enemy of the bug of
consumption, and will attack and kill him on
every possible occasion. They are about
evenly matched, but I think the little striped
chap is a bit the better. Another ghost and
myself made a match the other night,
seven battles, the result to decide the cham-
pionship, a sort of a bugging main, as it
were. I won. The first six matches were
even. We won three each, but in the
seventh my striped bug got the tubercular
germ down and shook him as a terrier does
a rat. The other ghost and myself nearly
had a fight to get our eyes to the microscope.
I tell you it was exciting. There is my
champion bug now, see him? the one
with the fourth hind leg gone."


" But how," I asked, " are you going to
prevent people from dying of old age ? "

"Of course they will die of old age;
but there is no such thing as old age under
one hundred and fifty years ; what you call
old age is not old age at all. There are
two kinds of old age or senility. Old age,
properly speaking, results from a distinct
modification of the nervous tissues and a
hardening of the arteries the former
caused by unnatural conditions, nervous
strain and dissipation, and the latter from
over-feeding and drinking. The trouble
with the ordinary man is that he absorbs
great quantities of nitrogenous foods instead
of making his diet one of nuts, fruit, milk,
etc. In comparatively young men of the
present age there is often a decided modifi-
cation of the nervous tissues with symptoms
resembling those in neurasthenia. In such
cases galvanic treatment will restore the
centres to their normal condition. You


will, therefore, I think, admit that with
proper diet and possibly the aid of a gal-
vanic battery a man may live, barring
possible death by violence, say, two hun-
dred years."

" You mean," I said, " when we have
learned to combat the various disease germs
by pitting against them their natural ene-

" Exactly, of course," answered the shade;
"but it seems to me that we have talked
long enough ; I am becoming very dry, so
let us repair to the Waldorf and have a

" How is it possible," I asked, "that you
can take a cocktail, there being nothing
tangible about you ? "

" Of course," answered the ghost, " it is
impossible for me to actually drink a cock-
tail. I can, however, float over the bar and
inhale the pleasing odors arising from the
various concoctions served to the guests,


and in my ethereal condition I enjoy the
odors and am affected by them as much as
if I were really drinking the liquid."

We floated from the house and down
town, until we reached the brilliantly
lighted Waldorf Hotel. There were many
people in the bar-room, and the medical
shade and myself, floating about over the dif-
ferent tables, inhaled with decided enjoy-
ment the delicate aroma of the various
mixed drinks so dear to the present genera-

To my annoyance my shade companion
soon began to sing he was evidently
affected by the odors which had passed
through him. His manner became familiar,
and I had great difficulty in keeping him
from kicking the glasses off the tables. At
last I succeeded in getting him out of the
room, and it was time, for as we floated
into the street he began shouting in a most
uproarious manner, and I was afraid that


we should be arrested for disturbing the

"Be quiet, I beg of you," I pleaded; " see
that policeman on the opposite side of the
street? We shall surely get into trouble if
you make such a noise."

" Policeman ? " hiccoughed the shade,
u What the devil do I care for a police-
man ? W^atch me go over and punch him
in the stomach."

In spite of all I could do to prevent him
he started straight for the officer, who was
standing all unconscious on the corner,
watching a pretty girl who was looking
into one of the brilliantly lighted store
windows. Now was my time to rid my-
self of this most undesirable companion,
and I wished myself in my own room.

Instantly I found myself floating about
over my bed, and there was my body sleep-
ing as peacefully as ever. I was somewhat
tired, but I remembered our contract to


write down the result of our experiences,
and immediately sat down to do it. After
I had written it I read it over carefully to
see if I had overlooked anything, and then
wished myself in bed and asleep. The
next thing I knew it was broad daylight.
There, on my writing-table, were the pages
of manuscript which I had written. They
were real enough, whether the rest was a
dream or not.


" T OUGHT to know something about it,"

A said the Drummer, " for I went with
the Prospector and the Eastern man to see

" I remember when we started out to-
gether the Eastern man asked the Prospector
if he thought Judson was really crazy.

" ' Yes,' said the Prospector, ' he is as
crazy as a loon, as you will see when you
get there.'

" ' Tell me the story over again,' said the
Eastern man.

" ' Well, you see,' said the Prospector,
' they found him lying in the hot sand away
off on the desert, with his head propped




up against a rock, nearly dead for want
of water. When they tried to rouse him
he stared at them vacantly. They gave
him a little water, and as soon as he had
swallowed it he fought like a wild animal
for more. It took three or four of them to
hold him. He cursed and swore at them
because they would not give him all he
wanted, and his cries were pitiful. He al-
ternately cursed and screamed for water,
sometimes as loud as he could shout and
then again in faint whispers.

" ( Later on, when they dared to give him
more at a time, he became tranquil, and
towards night, after he had drunk a bowl
full of thin oatmeal gruel, he went to sleep.
When he awoke they questioned him.

" ' He said that he had been prospecting
with his partner, and had found a gulch
with precipitous cliffs all around it where
there was very rich placer digging. Di-
rectly in front was a high mound covered


with big cacti, and they made their camp
on the top of this. There was a little water
in the canon held in rock basins, and
with this they washed out the gold and got
a lot of it Judson says three or four
thousand dollars' worth. Then bad luck
came, and the burro died. Three days
afterwards Judson's partner was poisoned in
some way, and died a few hours later, curs-
ing Judson and saying he had poisoned him.
" 'Judson buried him and also the gold; it
was too heavy for him to pack, especially as
he had no way to carry water. Then taking
a small bag of gold dust in his pocket he
started across the desert. He had a hobby
for taking photographs and carried a small
camera with him, and before leaving he
photographed the place, which he called
" The Mound of Eternal Silence," so that in
case anything happened to him it could be
found without trouble. They developed
the negatives later, and he has them pasted



t! 9

all around his room. He called the place
" The Mound of Eternal Silence " because
during the two months he was there he
never saw or heard a single living thing
except jack-rabbits and a bird or two.'

" ' What was that about his killing the
dog ?' asked the Eastern man.

" < Well, you see when Judson started off
alone the dog would not leave his dead
master, and sat upon the hill howling.
Judson was afraid he would attract some-
body's attention if they happened along that
way, and after trying to get him to follow
him without success, he went back and shot
him. The first thing that Judson saw when
he awoke the next morning after they had
found him was the dog sitting on his
haunches looking at him. Judson looked at

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Online LibraryCharles B. (Charles Barney) CoryMontezuma's castle and other weird tales → online text (page 4 of 9)