Charles B. (Charles Barney) Cory.

Montezuma's castle and other weird tales online

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we drove back to Dr. Marsh's house, and
arriving there we all turned to and did what
we could to restore Herrick to conscious-
ness. Now that he was in a warm room
the drawn expression and the blue look left
his face, but otherwise he appeared to sleep
as soundly as ever. The heart was now act-
ing very well, and aside from the coma the
condition of the patient gave us no cause
for anxiety. As time went on, however,
and we absolutely failed to waken him, and
the heart again showed signs of weakness,
we began to feel somewhat uneasy.

"You see," said Watson, "we did not
know what suggestion was given the
patient; these post-hypnotic suggestions are
peculiar in their action upon some sensi-
tives. If, as it is fair to suppose, this man
was ordered to sleep, he should in the
natural course of events sleep for a number
of hours and then awake, after passing from


the hypnotic sleep to the normal sleep ; but
we know very little of the effect on some
nervous systems of post-hypnotic sugges-
tions. Another thing, in many cases the
patient will not waken or cannot be
wakened except by the person who put him
to sleep. The reason for this is plain enough.
Part of the effect on the mind of hypnotic
suggestion is due entirely to sleep. The
skilled hypnotist commands one of his sen-
sitives to sleep under certain conditions.
The sensitive expects to be awakened by
the same voice and in the same way, and
habit and association have fixed in his mind
certain conditions which he associates with
the order to awake. There is no doubt
whatever that Mr. Herrick heard what we
were saying when we spoke to him in a loud
voice, but he heard it without understanding,
much as a person in a sleepy condition hears
noises about him without trying to compre-
hend them. It is undoubtedly true that the


man who put Herrick to sleep could have
wakened him in a moment, while we, with
all our knowledge and experience, were
unable to make his brain regain its normal
condition. We decided to let him sleep ;
and if, at the end of a few hours, he did not
regain consciousness, we would try again
what we could do to assist him, of course
watching the heart in the meanwhile and
using nitro-glycerin or strychnia if indi-

" At that moment Herrick suddenly spoke,
at first huskily and then in a loud, clear
voice, shouting, ' Yes, yes, I hear you ; I
am awake.' Then he sat up, asking in a
dazed way, ' Where am I ? What does this

" As he did so the old-fashioned clock in
the hall struck the hour of seven."

The queerest part of this story is sug-
gested by a letter received from Dr. Morse
the next day, which read as follows :


DEAR WATSON : You asked me to write you about the
injured man, and I do so now to tell you he is dead.
He died a minute or two before seven o'clock last eve-
ning ; I know the hour exactly, because I was watching
him at the time, and for some moments he had been
whispering and muttering to himself, but all I could
catch was something about, " I withdraw my command ; "
when, suddenly raising himself, he shouted, " Wake up,
wake up ! " and fell back dead just as the clock in the
church-yard struck seven.

I should be much interested to hear whether his story
was true or not. Drop me a line about it when you
have time.

Very sincerely yours,



" 'T^HAT pocket-piece of yours," said the
-1- doctor, " reminds me that I have an
interesting one of my own ; perhaps you
can tell me what it is." He took from his
pocket a silver coin and handed it to Jen-
nings, as he spoke. One edge had been
flattened, and a hole pierced in it.

"Ah! an old Spanish piece," said Jen-
nings, " evidently of the time of Pope Leo
Fourth, sometime in the sixteenth century.
A very interesting piece. Where did you
get it ?"

" There is a curious story connected with
that coin," meditatively remarked Dr. Wat-
son j "perhaps you would like to hear it."

We had been dining with Watson and




were now comfortably seated in the library
before an old-fashioned open fire. It was
snowing outside, making the warm, bright
study all the more cheerful by contrast.

" Perhaps you remember," said Watson,
" that during the winter of 1886 I devoted
much more of my time than usual to the In-
sane Asylum. I was very much interested
in testing the value of hypnotism for insane
patients, especially mild cases and those
having illusions and insistent ideas. I had
been quite successful in one case a woman
who had tried to starve herself to death
under the impression that the devil com-
manded her not to eat was greatly benefited
by post-hypnotic suggestion. Suggesting
that the devil would not come any more in-
duced pronounced hysteria, but when hyp-
notized, and told that the devil commanded
her to eat, instead of to abstain from food,
she took nourishment readily, and soon de-
veloped an extraordinary appetite.


" An immediate improvement in her con-
dition was noticeable, and as her general
bodily health improved, the illusions became
less and less frequent, and she was dis-
charged from the asylum as cured in less
than three months."

Watson paused and gazed meditatively at
the end of his cigar. " Ever tried to hyp-
notize an insane person, Jennings ? "

" Not that I remember."

" You, Morris ? "

"Can't say that I have."

" Hm ! Well, sometimes you succeed,
and sometimes you don't ; more often you
don't. There was one patient, a man by
the name of Allen, who had been a sailor.
He was subject to fits of extreme melan-
cholia, and at times was positively danger-
ous, as he imagined some one was trying to
poison him.

" I never succeeded in hypnotizing him,
although I tried repeatedly. However, I



saw him every day, and as his general
health improved, his attacks of melancholia
became less frequent. He seemed grateful
to me for taking an interest in him, and
often talked with me about his early life
and the out-of-the-way countries he had
visited. Shortly after I was called away
and did not return to the asylum for two
weeks, and when I did go back I found
that Allen was dead. He had cut his
throat one afternoon with a large pocket-
knife and made a mighty clean job of it,

"Well," continued the doctor, "among
his effects they found a package addressed
to me, which contained a letter and a silver
coin. The coin you now hold in your hand,
the letter I have here in my desk."

He opened a drawer and took out a large
yellow envelope containing a number of
pages of closely written manuscript.

"This letter," said Watson, as he


slowly turned over the pages, " contains a
story so strange that I did not for a moment
believe it had any foundation in fact; but
during the past year or two I have learned
certain things which have caused me to
change my opinion. Whether the story is
true or not we will, of course, never know,
but I now believe that it is a true record
of events which actually happened. I have
made some inquiries and rind that the places
mentioned do exist, or did at the time this
story was written, and but never mind;
I will read you the letter and you can form
your own conclusions:


" ' DEAR SIR : I have made up my mind
to kill myself, but before I die I wish to
make a confession of my wrong doings, as
he insists that I shall and I dare not disobey
him. I therefore write this confession, to
be read by you after I am dead.



" i You tell me I imagine I hear the voice
and see the man. I tell you, doctor, you
who think me crazy are the one who is
deceived. You do not believe in telepathy
and thought-transference, and yet I could
tell many times when you looked at me of
what you were thinking. I tell you that I
hear Jim's voice as plainly as I ever heard
yours, and he talks to me and tells me that
he will never leave me while I live, and
then he laughs. Oh, that laugh ! He
comes often at night and wakes me out of
a sound sleep with that awful laugh, and
then he whispers to me to go to sleep again.
Of course you do not believe in spirits or
ghosts, and you believe I am crazy, and that
the half-invisible form of my dead partner
which comes to me and talks to me, and
whose voice I hear as plainly as I ever
heard yours, exists wholly in my imagina-
tion. Well, doctor, you have been kind to
me, and I hope and pray you will never


suffer the way I have suffered during the
past three years.

" 'Just three years ago to-day I was on
board the " Ada Gray," a small schooner off
the coast of Florida, bound for the Isthmus.
There were seven of us in all, including the
captain and mate, the latter an old pal of
mine who had arranged to get me in as one
of the crew. In some way he had learned
that the captain was to take with him some
two thousand in gold, and although we had
no plans, we intended to get the gold in
some way. On our way down we had
talked over many schemes, but none of
them seemed satisfactory. The gold was
kept in a small fireproof safe in the cap-
tain's cabin, but it was an old-fashioned
key-lock affair, and we did not anticipate
much trouble from that quarter, even if we
could not find the key. The great point
was, how we were to get the money and
get away. At last we decided to drug the


men's coffee, and when they were sleeping
from its effects, we would take the money
and leave in the schooner's yawl, in which, as
the weather was very calm and the Florida
coast could be seen in the distance, we should
have no difficulty in making the shore.

" 'Jim had overhauled the medicine chest
and had found a vial containing a lot of
morphine pills marked one-eighth grain,
and as neither he nor I knew how much
morphine it took to drug a man, he watched
his opportunity and emptied the contents
of the vial into the coffee.

" ' After supper we kept on deck for some
time waiting results. At last Jim went for-
ward and reported everything quiet and the
men apparently all asleep. We found the
captain in his cabin lying on his bunk
breathing heavily. The key to the safe was
in the captain's pocket, and we opened it
without difficulty. There were six rolls of
twenty-dollar pieces marked two hundred


dollars each, eight rolls of ten-dollar pieces,
and a bag of silver.

" ' We took the money and some other
things we found in the cabin, including a
pair of revolvers, a double-barrelled shot-
gun, and a rifle, and put them in the boat,
together with a small keg of water, tinned
meat, and a bag of ship biscuit. After
these were carefully stowed away in the
yawl, Jim went back to the cabin, while I
busied myself arranging things in the boat.
He soon came on deck again bringing sev-
eral bottles of brandy, and coming to the
side of the schooner reached them one by
one to me over the side. As he handed me
the last bottle I saw the burly form of our
negro cook rise slowly out of the hatchway,
rubbing his eyes as if half asleep. Jim
saw my stare of surprise, and, turning
quickly, faced the negro, who was looking
at us with a dazed expression. He could
not have drunk of the coffee, for I have


since learned the amount of morphine Jim
put in the pot was more than enough to kill
the entire crew.

" 'Jim turned, and, walking slowly up to
the man, said hoarsely : " Go down," at the
same time pointing to the hatchway.

" l " What for ? " asked the negro, moving
a step backward.

"'"None of your business what for; go
down, I tell you."

" < " I don't take no orders from you,
nohow," answered the man. " Where's the
captain ? "

" ' Without a word Jim struck him full in
the face with all his strength. The blow
was an awful one, and the negro staggered
back, and would have fallen had not he
brought up against the foremast. He
roared with rage, and came at Jim with a
rush like a mad bull. Jim bent sideways,
and something flashed in his hand, as he
struck upwards under the man's arm.


" ' Instantly the negro stumbled forward,
and fell on the deck, and then sat up and
began to cough. He coughed incessantly,
like a man who has swallowed something
which choked him. Jim looked at him a
moment, and then, without a word, cast off
the painter and jumped into the boat.
There was not a breath of wind, so we
each took an oar and pulled towards the
faint line of land just visible in the west-
ern horizon.

" ' The schooner lay almost motionless,
with the silence of death about her. The
negro had stopped coughing, and all was
still, save the faint creaking of the masts
and spars and the sounds of our oars in the

" ' In the west the sun-painted clouds lay
in great masses of gold and purple, tinting
the sea with ever-changing colors.

" ' " Damn pretty sunset ! " remarked Jim,
as he drew in his oar, and bent over to light


his pipe, and then, musingly: "I wish I
hadn't had to kill that nigger."

" ' Shortly after dark a gentle breeze
sprung up from the southeast, and we put
up a little sail we had brought with us.

" ' Fowley Rocks light was in plain sight,
and about midnight we rounded Cape
Florida, and entered Biscayne Bay, and by
daylight we made the mouth of the Miami
River, where we tied up to a small pier,
owned by a man named Brickie. On the
other side of the river stood a long, low
stone building, which, they told us, was
once used as a government building, and
was called Fort Dallas.

" ' We told the people we had come from
Key West, following the coast along inside
the keys, and were on a hunting and fishing
trip. Upon inquiry we learned that there
was very little game about the bay except
crocodiles, but that we could get splendid
sport by going up the river into the ever-


glades and following the shore line norlh
to New River. They advised us to get an
Indian to go with us. This plan suited us
exactly, as once having disappeared in the
wilderness we could come out at some
other point, and having assumed new
names could go forth into the world in
perfect safety.

" i Before starting we bought a light flat-
bottomed boat for use in shallow water, and
after rowing up the river a few miles we
made camp and burned the yawl, first
breaking her up with our axes. This took
up the greater part of the day. In the after-
noon Jim went up to the head of the river
and reported meeting an Indian who told
him of a large island which was, as near as
he could judge, about thirty miles to the
north, on which there were deer and tur-

" * We had plenty of provisions, and for
three days we pushed our boat northward


among the islands of the great grassy lake.
In many places the water was so shallow
we had to push our way through grass and
reeds. We noticed a great many white
flowers growing on the banks of the islands,
and water-lilies were abundant, but they
had no smell.

" ' Towards evening, on the third day, we
landed on a large island on which there was
a high mound. Hundreds of white herons
and various other kinds of birds were nest-
ing in the trees, and there were a good
many ducks about. We shot some of the
herons and cut off the long hair-like
plumes, but the flesh was strong and unpal-
atable. The ducks, however, were very

"'We camped on the mound, which was
much higher than the rest of the island, and
decided to stay there for a day or two.
While putting up the tent I saw something
shine, and picked up a silver coin which


had evidently been worn as a medal, as one
edge had been flattened and a hole pierced
in it. There was no date, but it was evi-
dently very old.

" ' That day we tried fishing, and shot sev-
eral ducks. We had but one shot-gun, so
took turns with it at the ducks.

" c That evening Jim produced an old pack
of cards from his pocket and suggested a
game of poker. My luck went against me
from the beginning, and when we stopped
playing I had lost fully two-thirds of my
share. The next morning I awoke feeling
remorseful and sulky, and demanded that
Jim play another game to give me a chance
to get even. He assented readily enough,
but my bad luck continued, and in an hour
I had lost all of my money and had nothing
left to bet. Jim got up, taking the gun, and
went down to the boat to repair a leak
which had bothered us the day before. I
sat on a log, inwardly raging and cursing


myself for my foolishness. The rifle was
leaning against the log near me, and invol-
untarily I took it and dropped the lever to
see if it was loaded. It was empty, and the
hammer moved back and forth at the touch
of my ringer. Evidently the spring was
broken. But how ? Why ? I felt in my
pocket for my revolver with feverish haste.
Gone. Then I understood !

lit I rose and walked slowly down the
slope of the mound, and nearly stepped on
a large rattlesnake which lay coiled up
beside a palmetto root. I looked at the
snake as he lay there watching me, rattling
angrily all the while, and then I looked at
Jim's coat which hung on a branch near by,
and at the doctored rifle in my hand, and
the more I looked the more wicked thoughts
came into my mind. I glanced towards
Jim ; he was apparently busy with the boat,
and I could just see the top of his back as
he bent over. I hastily fastened one of the


dead herons to a stick and held it in front
of the snake, which immediately struck it
in the breast, and then uncoiled and slowly
retreated into the scrub. Taking two pins
from my coat, T inserted them into the holes
made by the fangs of the rattlesnake, and
took them out covered with blood and
poison. In a few minutes this dried, and I
then fastened the pins inside the arm of
Jim's coat in such a way that his hand
would be scratched when he put it on.

" ' This done, I hung the coat back on the
branch and walked off a little way, but
feeling more than half inclined to go back
and take the pins out again while there was
yet time. Perhaps Jim did not mean to kill
me, but simply wished to protect himself
against treachery on my part ; but then I
remembered the negro and the morphine,
and well, dead men tell no tales. As I
turned to go back, I saw Jim in the act of
taking down his coat, and I felt a queer


choky sensation in my throat and a sort of
half catch to my breath as he pushed his
arm through the sleeve, at the same time
putting the back of his hand to his lips in a
way that could only have one meaning. I
watched him with an ugly feeling of satis-
faction, wondering how long it would take
for the poison to begin to take effect.

"'Jim put a couple of sticks on the fire,
and then sat down on a log and commenced
to fill his pipe, but soon laid it down.
" Curse it ! " he said ; " I feel queer."

" ' He got up and walked up and down,
rubbing his arm. He looked at me in an
odd sort of way once or twice, and then
went into the tent and lay down. Shortly
after he called to me, and on my going to
the door of the tent he tried to rise, but fell
back and became delirious, laughing and
shouting my name, and muttering to him-
self. He breathed with difficulty, and in a
little while became unconscious, and just as


the sun was sinking over the faint line of
trees in the west he died.

" ' I took down the tent and dug a hole
and buried him where he lay. I built a
huge fire and sat by it all night without
closing my eyes. Towards morning the
moon came up and the sounds of the night
noises ceased, and as soon as it was light I
put the gold and what things I needed in
the boat and made haste to leave the island.
I paddled for two or three hours before I
noticed that the sun, which had been to my
right when I started, was at my left, and I
knew that I must have turned the boat

"' I turned about and paddled on steadily
all day long, but night found me with no
signs of dry land anywhere, nothing but an
unending stretch of grass and water as far
as the eye could reach.

" i When it grew dark I lay down in the
bottom of the boat and tried to sleep ; but


as soon as I closed my eyes I felt cold all
over, a creepy sort of cold, and heard voices
whispering. At first I told myself they
were not voices, 'twas a trick of my
imagination, the wind, perhaps, or the
rustle of the grass about me ; but then I
heard Jim's voice. There could be no mis-
taking his horrid, sneering laugh ; it made
me afraid, but do what I would I could not
help hearing it. I stopped my ears and
wrapped my head in my coat ; but still,
from time to time, I could hear the voices
whispering, and Jim's laugh, and at times I
felt cold.

" ' The next day I poled and paddled until
late in the afternoon. I felt very hot, and
my head ached as though it would split. I
had a pain in the back of my neck and
drank a great deal of water. I knew I had
some sort of a fever, but having no medicine
I could do nothing but push on, hoping to
find my way to dry land,



"'All that day I continually heard Jim's
voice laughing at me, and the next I knew
I found myself in an Indian camp, and was
told that I had been found in the boat sick.
The gold was gone ; the Indians claimed it
was not in the boat. One of them seemed
to be a chief and wore a big turban on his
head with a silver band around it. They
told me his name was Tom Tiger.

" l And now, doctor, good-by. Jim is
whispering to me again and telling me it is
time. In five minutes after I sign this I
shall be dead. I shall make no mistake..
My knife is very sharp.



" TOEHOLD," said Doctor Watson, " the

D Elixir of Life!"

Robinson looked up from his writing
and assumed an expression of deep interest.

"Wonderful! I have often heard of it.
Is it the true Elixir vitce of the ancients,
or a new and more subtle compound? "

"Listen, scoffer; if you will behave with
a decorum consistent with the gravity of
the subject, I will explain how I became
the possessor of this wonderful powder.
Perhaps in your life of seclusion and deep
toil you may not have noticed this adver-
tisement which has appeared for the last
month regularly in the morning paper?"


W^atson took from his pocket-book a news-
paper clipping and read as follows:


" The object of this club is to enable its members to
live to be one hundred and fifty years old. All per-
sons desiring to become members should apply for
particulars to Rengee Sing, No. - - Twenty-seventh
street, City."

"Are you a member? " inquired Robin-

"Not as yet, but Jones is, and it was
through Jones that I came into possession
of this mysterious drug. It seems that
Jones decided after reading the advertise-
ment that he would like to become a mem-
ber of the club. Jones' health is not very
good, as you know, and he called on Ren-
gee Sing, and the result of the interview
was that he came away with this small vial
of the wonderful Elixir, for which he paid
twenty good dollars. He was so impressed


by the gentleman who sold him the powder
that he came to me, as his medical adviser,
to ask my opinion as tp the advisability of
taking some of it. He brought with him a
paper purporting to be the translation of
an ancient papyrus manuscript, the original
of which was in Thibetian or Sanscrit and
which was ingenious, if fraudulent. He
told me a rambling story of how this Ren-
gee Sing had procured this powder, and
the whole thing was so peculiar that I de-
cided to interview the gentleman myself;
but first I made a point of getting our friend
Strauss to analyze the powder. His report
of the analysis shows it to be composed
entirely of chloride of sodium or common
salt, with a small quantity of some unknown
vegetable matter which gives it a yellow
color. Armed with this information, I
called upon Rengee Sing at his office on
Twenty-seventh street."

" You interest me," said Robinson, glanc-


ing at his work, and palpably attempting

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Online LibraryCharles B. (Charles Barney) CoryMontezuma's castle and other weird tales → online text (page 6 of 9)