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Charles B. (Charles Barney) Cory.

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to suppress a yawn.

Watson arose, and gently but firmly re-
moved the pen from Robinson's fingers;
he then placed a book on the papers, and
continued:

" The office was distinctly oriental, and
there were numerous Bokhara and other
good rugs scattered about; besides there
were gorgeous divans, and the air was heavy
with peculiar Eastern odors. I was admitted
by a gigantic negro dressed in oriental cos-
tume, and another negro arose as I entered,
and stood respectfully at the inner door. I
asked for Rengee Sing, and was informed
that he would 'be at liberty in a few mo-
ments,'' and i would I sit down and wait,' all
in very good English from one of the gigan-
tic sable guardians who bowed me in. I
was kept waiting but a few moments, when
the door opened and a small black-bearded
Hindoo came softly into the room dressed
in the ordinary European costume. There



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 177

in the ordinary European costume. There
was nothing striking about him except
his eyes, which were really the most won-
derful eyes I have ever seen in a human
being. With the gentle manner peculiar to
his race he smiled and asked me to take a
seat near the window."

"Is it possible?" said Robinson, lan-
guidly, lighting a cigarette.

" Is what possible ? " inquired Watson,
frowning slightly.

" Why, that he asked you to take a seat
near the window."

" Robinson," remarked Watson sternly,
"remember that your mental infirmities will
not prevent my punching your head if
you interrupt me with any more foolish
questions."

Robinson grinned, and after ostentatiously
placing a paper-weight within easy reach,
Watson continued.

" I inquired if he was the person to whom
I should apply for information about the
Methuselah Club.

" He answered that he had the honor of
being the president of the club, and would
be glad to supply me with all information
in his power. Did I wish to join?



178 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

" ' A friend of mine,' I said, ' has already
become a member, and the description of a
wonderful powder has interested me, like-
wise the history of the powder.'

" The Hindoo smiled gently, showing his
white teeth, and said that he was not sur-
prised at my curiosity. He then went to a
desk and took from it the printed circular
which Jones had already shown me, and
which was supposed to be a translation of
the ancient manuscript. It is the one I
hold in my hand; please glance over it
before I continue my story."

Robinson took the paper.

" What is this hieroglyphic affair at the
top here," he asked.

" That," said Dr. Watson, " is probably a
copy of some very ancient amulet or talis-
man. The fish at the bottom was often
used to designate ' Dag] or the master; next
above we have the Solomon's seal, then the
four Chaldaic letters Jod-He- Van-He-Iaho,



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 179

which is * The Deity;' the other symbols
are strange to me."

" Ah," said Robinson, " a weird sort of
thing, is it not ? "

" Don't be sarcastic, read it," senten-
tiously remarked Watson.

Robinson did so.




" ' Let him who dares to live forever take of
the powder, but let him think of" Aum : "
but speak it not on pain of death; let
absolute " muckta" be known to him; let
him study the secret " mantras" and pon-
der on the mysteries of" Vach ;" let him



l8o THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

also say each day in his prayer " Aum

ma-ni pad-me hum"

" ' He who takes of the powder three
times should acquaint himself with " ~~] [ |"
the marcaba and the lah gash, then he will
never die. Even though he wished to live
a thousand years, so it shall be ! ' " :

" Well," remarked Watson, " what do
you think of it ? "

" Fake," answered Robinson.

" Verily, out of the mouths of babes, etc,"
said Watson, " but, O learned friend, you
have not heard the whole story. Listen. I
asked Rengee Sing if he would be good
enough to explain to me fully about the
powder and especially how and where he
obtained it.

" ( My dear sir,' he said, ' I see you are a
scientific man, and it always gives me great
pleasure to meet such, and to explain to
them as fully as possible how I, Rengee

1 Translation of the sacred manuscript found with the " Elixir of
Life."



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 181

Sing, obtained possession of one of the
most valuable treasures in the world, the
Elixir of Life; but before doing so I must
enroll your name among the members of
our Society; in fact, one of the rules of the
Society is that unless a person becomes a
member we can tell him nothing, beyond
allowing him to read the circular which
you have already seen. The initiation fee
is five dollars, and you are at liberty not to
take the powder if you desire not to do so
after you have become a member, but if
you wish to become a member in high
standing, and to take the powder, which
will insure you a length of life far beyond
that of ordinary mortals, an additional fee of
twenty dollars is charged for the powder.'

" I decided," continued Watson, " that
the experience was worth five dollars, so
I intimated that I should be delighted to
become a member of the Society, and
handed Mr. Sing five dollars, whereupon



182 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

he wrote me a receipt and gave me a mem-
ber's card, which stated that I was a mem-
ber of the Methuselah Club of the second
class, and entitled to receive the Elixir,
and to become a member of the first class
upon the further payment of twenty dollars
any time within the next ten days. After
which, if I had not been made a member of
the first class, my name should be dropped
from the rolls.

" Rengee Sing was the embodiment of
courtesy when he bowed low and handed
me my receipt.

" ' My dear sir,' he said, ' I shall now be
happy to explain to you anything that I can.'

"'I would like,' I said, ' if possible, to see
the original papyrus which I understand was
found with the Elixir, and I also would like
to learn more fully the details as to how and
where this Elixir was obtained.'

" Rengee Sing bowed, and, going to the
corner of the room, opened a small fire-



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 183

proof safe, taking from it a roll of what
proved after being unrolled to be an
ancient papyrus manuscript written in the
Sanscrit language. As far as I could make
out it seemed to be the original of which
the printed circular was a translation. It
certainly appeared ancient enough.

" i This manuscript,' said Sing, ' and the
box of powder was obtained by my brother
and given to me at his death. He died
from the effects of a fall from his horse,
which broke three ribs and otherwise in-
jured him internally. He never would have
died except from the accident, as he had
taken several doses of the Elixir. Just how
long it will enable a man to live we do not
know, but certainly one hundred and fifty
years and perhaps even two hundred years.
He obtained it in the following manner:
My brother had long been desirous of visit-
ing Lassa, which is, as you know, the won-
derful capital of Thibet, but was unable to



184 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

do so until a few years before his death,
when he accompanied a Hindoo who went
there for the purpose of making certain
reports to a foreign government. His name
I am not at liberty to disclose, but his report
was simply signed Punjaub A.B. My dear
brother described Lassa to me very minutely,
and from all accounts it must be the most
wonderful city in the world. As you proba-
bly know, no European or Christian has ever
been allowed to enter within its walls. Ac-
cording to my brother's description the city is
situated in a fertile plain on the Sampo river
some six hundred miles north of Calcutta,
and has a population of fully sixty thousand
persons. The streets are wide, and the
houses have their walls whitened and the
frames of the doors and windows colored
red and yellow.

"'Nearly west of the city, connected
with it by a splendid avenue, is the moun-
tain of Buddha, where now stands the



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. j8 5

temple of the Grand Lama. This temple
is four stones high, and therein dwells
the Grand Lama and his High Priests.
Some idea of the magnificence of this
temple may be obtained when I tell you
that its great pillars are covered with

[plates of pure gold. The Grand Lama can
live forever, and many people believe he
does so, but he really does not. After a
certain time he reincarnates himself into a
new body. All of the priests, however, are
very old. It is claimed the Pandita is at
least one hundred and fifty years old. The
Grand Lama has about him two priests of
the highest grades, one the Pandita and the
other Tchoiji. The Grand Lama sits upon
an altar or throne for hours at a time,
clothed in gold-woven cloth and jewels of
fabulous value. Over his head is a magnif-
icent peacock's tail composed entirely of
gold and precious stones. It is the custom
of the Grand Lama to receive persons who



l86 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

desire to receive his blessing at certain
hours of the day. For a small amount of
money one is allowed to bow before him;
for a little more one may touch his gar-
ment, and receive his silent blessing ; but
for the sum of twenty rupees he will speak
to the person and touch him with a little
wand. The Punjaub A.B. in describing his
interview states that the Grand Lama talks
in a hoarse voice which he tries to make
as much as possible like God's.

*" It was during his visit to the temple that
my brother learned of the wonderful treas-
ures preserved there, fabulous stories being
told about a huge emerald with an ancient
inscription engraved upon it, the mystic
seal of the first Lama, which had been
handed down for ages, together with the
greatest treasure of them all, known as the
Elixir of Life.

" ( The wonderful powder was and is used
by the high priests, some of whom are of



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 187

great age. It is supposed to have been
brought into Thibet by King Srongb Tsan,
during the seventh century, and that it
originally came from Nepaul.'

"'How did your brother procure it,' I
asked.

"'By bribing one of the priests. My
brother was wealthy, and being very de-
sirous of procuring some of this wonderful
powder, he tried to buy some of it. Under
no circumstances, however, would they
listen to him or even allow him to see it.
He succeeded, however, as I said, in bribing
one of the priests, paying him a large sum
of money, several hundred rupees, I believe,
and was shown the sacred chests containing
this powder, and other treasures, including
precious manuscripts and some jewels of
great value. The powder was contained in
five little gold boxes, of beautiful workman-
ship. While examining them they heard
a door close and the sounds of footsteps in



l88 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

the passageway. The priest became very
much frightened and begged my brother to
replace the boxes and manuscript at once,
and was so agitated that he did not notice
my brother when he slipped one of the gold
boxes into his pocket. The person, who-
ever he was, passed on down the passage-
way, and as soon as they dared they hur-
riedly left the vault. Luckily for my
brother he left Lassa with the Punjaub that
evening, and never learned whether the
theft was discovered or not. Probably his
powder would have done him little good
had it been so and had he been suspected.'

" ( But how,' I asked, ' do you know that
this Elixir will really prolong life? '

" Sing smiled sweetly, and said, ' I my-
self, my dear sir, am a living proof of that;
I am one hundred and ten years old, and to-
day there are in New York some sixty men
who will live to that age, having taken the
powder, unless they die from some form of



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 89

disease. This elixir will not protect them
against poison or diseases where the poison
germ has entered the system. That is im-
possible; but it acts upon the nerve centres
and upon the blood corpuscles in such a
wonderful way that there is no degenera-
tion. The person simply lives along the
same as he would between the ages of
thirty and forty; he is always the same.
He may die from many causes, but it would
not be from old age.'

" * My friend,' I said, ' took the liberty to
analyze some of this powder.'

" ' Ah! And may I inquire the result of
his analysis?'

" A peculiar yellow light came into those
eyes, and although he smiled Have you
ever seen a caged tiger languidly looking
at the crowd of people in front of his cage
suddenly discover a dog near him?"

" I don't know that I have," said Robinson.

" Well, if you do you will notice the



190 THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

same yellow light flash into his eyes, and
the sudden change of expression that I saw
in the eyes of our friend Sing. It was gone
in a moment, however, and he was again
smiling sweetly.

" * I understand he found it to consist
principally of common salt.'

"'Quite so,' answered Sing; 'but he
must have discovered that it also contained
something else? '

" l That is true,' I answered, ' there was
a small amount of vegetable matter which
gave it a yellow color.'

" * That is the true Elixir,' said Sing;
' salt is merely necessary for the results.
You, as a scientific man, know that the
poison which kills so quickly from the fang
of a cobra and the ordinary white of an egg
can hardly be distinguished by the chemist.
He finds them both to be albumen.'

" ' Why, then, should one kill and the
other be harmless ? ' I asked.






THE ELIXIR OF LIFE. 19 1

" ' Simply the minute " something else "
which is contained in the snake poison and
which is held in solution by the albumen.'

"'Have you any other proof of the power
of this Elixir ? ' I inquired.

" ' My dear sir, I trust you do not question
the truth of my statement regarding my
own age.'

" He frowned slightly, and those wonder-
ful eyes of his glanced like lightning towards
the two huge attendants standing in plain
sight in the hallway.

" ' Not at all,' I hastened to assure him.
' It all seems so wonderful to me, you must
excuse my apparent incredulity.'

" ' The most natural thing in the world,'
smiled Sing with grave courtesy, * but I will
let your own eyes banish any doubt you
may have as to the wonderful properties of
this strange powder.

" ' Ashmed,' he called, < ask my son to
come here a moment if he will be so good.'



I 9 2



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.



" The attendant who had spoken to me
when I entered immediately disappeared,
and in a moment a back door opened and
the bent figure of a very old man entered
the room and spoke to Sing in a weak voice.
The language was evidently Hindustani,
but I caught a word here and there which
sounded familiar. Sing spoke to him
sharply, and turning to me said, ' This is
my son; he is nearly eighty years old, but
refuses to take the powder on account of
his religious principles he belongs to the
sect who believes that to die is be'cter than
to live, that his spirit will become incarnate
in another body, and in his next life he will
be at least a Kobtchie.'

" My eyes must have betrayed my incre-
dulity.

u ' You do not doubt that he is my son ? '
sweetly asked Mr. Sing.

" ' Certainly not,' I answered.

" ' I trust, then, that I shall have the



THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.



193



pleasure of furnishing you with some of
the wonderful powder? There is not very
much of it left, but luckily it requires a very
small dose. I have enough probably to
supply one hundred men to insure them
existence for one hundred and fifty years.
When that is gone the supply can never be
replenished.'

" He sighed.

"< Thank you,' I answered. <I shall
think the matter over and in all probability
give myself the pleasure of calling upon
you again.'

" Then I came away, being bowed out by
the sable attendants with all ceremony
possible. There ! What do you think of
that ? "

"Do you intend to return and purchase
the powder ? " asked Robinson.

" Perhaps," answered Watson, " but I
think I will wait awhile and see if Jones
lives to be one hundred and fifty ! "



THE VOODOO IDOL



JONES lay on the sofa watching the
consul mix a long, cool drink of Apol-
linaris water and crushed sour-sop. His
arm pained him a good deal and the band-
ages felt hot and uncomfortable. By his
side was a little table on which were piled
numerous articles in a manner common to
mankind, among which were a bottle of
whiskey, a revolver, several books, and a
plate containing some bananas and sapodil-
lias. A light breeze stirred the curtains
behind him, and under the awning he could
see the long stretch of green palms and
waving cocoanuts, back of the city. A
faint white line indicated the road to Le-

coup.

i 94



THE VOODOO IDOL. jgij

" I tell you what, old man," said the con-
sul, as he poured the mixture from the
shaker into the tall, thin glasses, " you are
almightly lucky to get out alive, and you
took big chances. Stealing a god of the
Voodoo priests is about as dangerous an ex-
periment as playing with fire over a barrel
of gunpowder. From your description I
should judge the place you found it was
about fifteen miles back of Gantier."

Jones nodded in silence.

" Well," continued the consul, " it was
somewhere in that vicinity they killed that
Frenchman last year, and how they ever
let you get out alive I don't know. They
meant to kill you fast enough, tried to
poison you at Gantier, and knocked out
that servant of yours. You escaped by not
drinking the coffee. Then some one shot at
you on the road, and even then you did not
have sense enough to throw away the idol;
but even if you had I don't know that it



196 THE VOODOO IDOL.

would have made any difference. Then
the day before yesterday they put a bullet
through your arm at Lecoup, and if old
Chabeau had not gone himself with you
part of the way, I do not believe you would
ever have reached here alive. What on
earth made you monkey with that idol any-
way? "

Jones explained that he could not re-
sist the temptation to steal it. He had
been camping on the banks of a nearly dry
stream, ten miles or more east of Gantier,
where he had found the little humming-
bird, Mellissuga minima, the smallest bird
in the world, very abundant. He had also
trapped a specimen of the extremely rare
Solenodofi) and being anxious to procure
more he had stayed there for several days.
Within half a mile of his camp was a small
stone tower open at the sides, in the mid-
dle of which stood a little idol on a sort
of pedestal. This little idol was about



THE VOODOO IDOL.



I 9 7



eighteen inches high and was carved out of
stone, the eyes oddly enough being bone.
Jones had cast longing glances on this idol,
but did not dare to touch it, or in fact to go
into the tower, as the natives were sullen
and suspicious, and on more than one oc-
casion showed signs of being decidedly



Jones saw enough to confirm his im-
pression that these people were a bad lot,
and one dark night he " folded his tent like
the Arabs and silently stole away," taking
with him as a souvenir the little idol, which
he had carefully rolled in a blanket and
packed on one side of his pack-horse to
balance his box of specimens on the other.
Fear of possible unpleasant consequences
had caused Jones to ride fast, but he had
been followed and three separate attempts
made on his life by unknown persons. The
last one resulted in a bullet through the
upper part of the left arm. He was safe



198 THE VOODOO IDOL.

enough now, however, as he remarked,
there being little likelihood of danger while
under the protection of the American consul
in the city of Porto Prince.

" Don't you be too sure of that," said the
consul. " There, try that and see how you
like it."

Jones sipped the cool mixture; it seemed
like nectar to him in his feverish condition.
The bullet which had passed through his
arm had made a wound, which, while not
in itself serious, had left him weak and
feverish.

" Yes," continued the consul, " you were
mighty lucky to get off as you did. You
may not know it, but right here in Hayti
the people in the interior are as savage and
bloodthirsty as any Central African tribe.
Most of the inhabitants are descendants of
negroes brought from the Gold Coast many
years ago. They have reverted to their
original wild state, keeping up many of the



THE VOODOO IDOL.



I 99



ancient customs. Mixing as they have with
the Indians of the interior, the present race
is even worse than their ancestors. From
Toussant TOverture in 1804, when he first
ruled, to Hyppolite Florvil and Salomon,
the island has been the scene of continuous
insurrection, intrigue, and murder.

" Salomon was probably the best of them
all. He was an immense negro, some six
feet four inches tall, with a pock-marked
face, who had received an education in
Paris and married a Frenchwoman. He,
like the rest, however, was superstitious
and cruel at heart. Hyppolite was a Voodoo
priest and, it is said, an anthropophagist.
The people of the interior have an intense
hatred for the white man, and still retain
many of the barbarous customs of the
savages of the African interior.

" The Voodoo dance is presided over by a
high priest, who usually commands a goat or
a hen to be killed, but in some of the more



200 THE VOODOO IDOL.

important ceremonies a child is murdered,
and its blood mixed with the tafia and drunk
by the dancers. The high priest is called
Papoloy. Every two years after the dance
of the moon a human sacrifice is ordered ;
generally a young girl is killed and eaten.
You probably ran up against one of the
Voodoo gods, and the large stone in front
was undoubtedly the sacrificial stone. How
you ever got away alive passes my compre-
hension. They evidently thought that you
would try to leave in the day-time, and had
things all arranged for taking a shot at you
somewhere, but your nocturnal skedaddle
knocked their plans galley west. There is
one thing dead sure, those Voodoo priests
are bad medicine, as we used to say out
West, and you want to keep your weather-
eye open until you are safe on board a
steamer and out of the harbor. I wouldn't
give five cents for your life if you walked
about the streets of Porto Prince. When



THE VOODOO IDOL. 2 OI

the time comes to leave I will have you
smuggled on board. The authorities would
wink at your assassination, but they would
not openly countenance it."

Jones remarked wearily that he had begun
to believe it might be as well for him to
rest quietly in the consulate, and not give
them another chance.

The soft flower-scented breeze blew
softly in through the open window and was
soothing to Jones. Lying there on the
lounge with his eyes closed, he soon fell
asleep, and the consul left him to attend to
his various duties. When Jones awoke he
lay in a sort of drowsy condition half
asleep and half awake. Through his partly
open eyes he looked through the open door
leading out on the broad piazza. There
was a chair in front of the door, and over
the top of this he saw a face and a pair of
very black eyes looking at him intently.
For a moment he imagined it was some



202 THE VOODOO IDOL.

freak of his imagination, as the face was as
still as though it was carved in wax.
Right in line with Jones' eyes, and within a
foot of his half extended arm, was the little
table, and the handle of the revolver seemed
to stand out as though placed there for his
especial benefit. That was certainly real,
and it required a very slight movement for
his fingers to close over the pistol handle;
but he did not move and lay watching the
figure, which began to rise slowly and devel-
oped into the form of a large, ugly looking
negro. Jones remembered particularly noti-
cing a white scar across the cheek just
under the eye. The man was not looking
at him now, but was glancing about with the
stealthy look of a hunted animal. At the
same time he drew from under his coat a
long, unpleasant-looking knife. As he did
so Jones lifted his pistol, and, aiming
hurriedly at the breast, fired. The man
dropped, grasping at the chair as he did so,



THE VOODOO IDOL.



20 3



but immediately rose to his feet, swaying
unsteadily. Bang! went Jones' pistol again.
This time the negro did not fall, but stood
seeming half dazed, steadying himself by
holding on to the back of the chair. Jones
fired again, and at the report the man
clapped his left hand tightly over his heart,
and with a muttered imprecation threw the
knife at Jones just as he fired his fourth
shot, the thud of the knife driving deep
into the wood close to Jones' head being
followed by the sound of a falling body on


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Online LibraryCharles B. (Charles Barney) CoryMontezuma's castle and other weird tales → online text (page 7 of 9)