FOR a part of the distance
between Auburn and Newcastle the road--first on one side of a creek and
then on the other--occupies the whole bottom of the ravine, being partly
cut out of the steep hillside, and partly built up with boulders removed
from the creek-bed by the miners. The hills are wooded, the course of the
ravine is sinuous. In a dark night care- ful driving is required in order
not to go off into the water. The night that I have in memory was dark,
the creek a torrent, swollen by a recent storm. I had driven up from Newcastle
and was within about a mile of Auburn in the darkest and narrowest part
of the ravine, looking intently ahead of my horse for the roadway. Suddenly
I saw a man almost under the animal's nose, and reined in with a jerk that
came near setting the creature upon its haunches.
'I beg your pardon,' I said; 'I did not see you, sir.'
'You could hardly be expected to see me,' the man replied civilly,
approaching the side of the vehicle; 'and the noise of the creek prevented
my hearing you.'
I at once recognized the voice, although five years had passed
since I had heard it. I was not particu- larly well pleased to hear it
'You are Dr. Dorrimore, I think,' said I.
'Yes; and you are my good friend Mr. Manrich. I am more than
glad to see you--the excess,' he added, with a light laugh, 'being due
to the fact that I am going your way, and naturally expect an invitation
to ride with you.'
'Which I extend with all my heart.'
That was not altogether true.
Dr. Dorrimore thanked me as he seated himself beside me, and
I drove cautiously forward, as before. Doubtless it is fancy, but it seems
to me now that the remaining distance was made in a chill fog; that I was
uncomfortably cold; that the way was longer than ever before, and the town,
when we reached it, cheerless, forbidding, and desolate. It must have been
early in the evening, yet I do not recollect a light in any of the houses
nor a living thing in the streets. Dorrimore explained at some length how
he hap- pened to be there, and where he had been during the years that
had elapsed since I had seen him. I recall the fact of the narrative, but
none of the facts narrated. He had been in foreign countries and had returned--this
is all that my memory retains, and this I already knew. As to myself I
cannot remember that I spoke a word, though doubtless I did.
Of one thing I am distinctly conscious: the man's presence at
my side was strangely distasteful and disquieting--so much so that when
I at last pulled up under the lights of the Putnam House I experi- enced
a sense of having escaped some spiritual peril of a nature peculiarly forbidding.
This sense of relief was somewhat modified by the discovery that Dr. Dorrimore
was living at the same hotel.
In partial explanation of my feelings regarding Dr. Dorrimore
I will relate briefly the circumstances under which I had met him some
years before. One evening a half-dozen men of whom I was one were sitting
in the library of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. The conversation
had turned to the sub- ject of sleight-of-hand and the feats of the prestidigi-
tateurs, one of whom was then exhibiting at a local theatre.
'These fellows are pretenders in a double sense,' said one of
the party; 'they can do nothing which it is worth one's while to be made
a dupe by. The humblest wayside juggler in India could mystify them to
the verge of lunacy.'
'For example, how?' asked another, lighting a cigar.
'For example, by all their common and familiar performances--throwing
large objects into the air which never come down; causing plants to sprout,
grow visibly and blossom, in bare ground chosen by spectators; putting
a man into a wicker basket, piercing him through and through with a sword
while he shrieks and bleeds, and then--the basket being opened nothing
is there; tossing the free end of a silken ladder into the air, mounting
it and disappearing.'
'Nonsense!' I said, rather uncivilly, I fear. 'You surely do
not believe such things?'
'Certainly not: I have seen them too often.'
'But I do,' said a journalist of considerable local fame as a
picturesque reporter. 'I have so frequently related them that nothing but
observation could shake my conviction. Why, gentlemen, I have my own word
Nobody laughed--all were looking at something behind me. Turning
in my seat I saw a man in evening dress who had just entered the room.
He was exceedingly dark, almost swarthy, with a thin face, black-bearded
to the lips, an abundance of coarse black hair in some disorder, a high
nose and eyes that glittered with as soulless an expression as those of
a cobra. One of the group rose and introduced him as Dr. Dorrimore, of
Calcutta. As each of us was presented in turn he acknowledged the fact
with a profound bow in the Oriental manner, but with nothing of Oriental
gravity. His smile impressed me as cynical and a trifle contemptuous. His
whole demeanour I can describe only as disagreeably engaging.
His presence led the conversation into other chan- nels. He said
little--I do not recall anything of what he did say. I thought his voice
singularly rich and melodious, but it affected me in the same way as his
eyes and smile. In a few minutes I rose to go. He also rose and put on
'Mr. Manrich,' he said, 'I am going your way.'
'The devil you are!' I thought. 'How do you know which way I
am going?' Then I said, 'I shall be pleased to have your company.'
We left the building together. No cabs were in sight, the street
cars had gone to bed, there was a full moon and the cool night air was
delightful; we walked up the California Street Hill. I took that direction
thinking he would naturally wish to take another, toward one of the hotels.
'You do not believe what is told of the Hindu jugglers,' he said
'How do you know that?' I asked.
Without replying he laid his hand lightly upon my arm and with
the other pointed to the stone side- walk directly in front. There, almost
at our feet, lay the dead body of a man, the face upturned and white in
the moonlight! A sword whose hilt sparkled with gems stood fixed and upright
in the breast; a pool of blood had collected on the stones of the sidewalk.
I was startled and terrified--not only by what I saw, but by
the circumstances under which I saw it. Repeatedly during our ascent of
the hill my eyes, I thought, had traversed the whole reach of that sidewalk,
from street to street. How could they have been insensible to this dreadful
object now so con- spicuous in the white moonlight.
As my dazed faculties cleared I observed that the body was in
evening dress; the overcoat thrown wide open revealed the dress-coat, the
white tie, the broad expanse of shirt front pierced by the sword. And--horrible
revelation!--the face, except for its pallor, was that of my companion!
It was to the minutest detail of dress and feature Dr. Dorri- more himself.
Bewildered and horrified, I turned to look for the living man. He was nowhere
visible, and with an added terror I retired from the place, down the hill
in the direction whence I had come. I had taken but a few strides when
a strong grasp upon my shoulder arrested me. I came near crying out with
terror: the dead man, the sword still fixed in his breast, stood beside
me! Pulling out the sword with his disengaged hand, he flung it from him,
the moonlight glinting upon the jewels of its hilt and the unsullied steel
of its blade. It fell with a clang upon the sidewalk ahead and--vanished!
The man, swarthy as before, relaxed his grasp upon my shoul- der and looked
at me with the same cynical regard that I had observed on first meeting
him. The dead have not that look--it partly restored me, and turn- ing
my head backward, I saw the smooth white expanse of sidewalk, unbroken
from street to street.
'What is all this nonsense, you devil?' I de- manded, fiercely
enough, though weak and trembling in every limb.
'It is what some are pleased to call jugglery,' he answered,
with a light, hard laugh.
He turned down Dupont Street and I saw him no more until we met
in the Auburn ravine.
On the day after my second meeting with Dr. Dorrimore I did not
see him: the clerk in the Put- nam House explained that a slight illness
confined him to his rooms. That afternoon at the railway station I was
surprised and made happy by the unexpected arrival of Miss Margaret Corray
and her mother, from Oakland.
This is not a love story. I am no story-teller, and love as it
is cannot be portrayed in a literature domi- nated and enthralled by the
debasing tyranny which 'sentences letters' in the name of the Young Girl.
Under the Young Girl's blighting reign--or rather under the rule of those
false Ministers of the Censure who have appointed themselves to the custody
of her welfare--Love
veils her sacred fires, And, unaware, Morality expires,
famished upon the sifted meal and distilled water of a prudish purveyance.
Let it suffice that Miss Corray and I were engaged in marriage.
She and her mother went to the hotel at which I lived, and for two weeks
I saw her daily. That I was happy needs hardly be said; the only bar to
my perfect enjoyment of those golden days was the presence of Dr. Dorrimore,
whom I had felt compelled to introduce to the ladies.
By them he was evidently held in favour. What could I say? I
knew absolutely nothing to his dis- credit. His manners were those of a
cultivated and considerate gentleman; and to women a man's man- ner is
the man. On one or two occasions when I saw Miss Corray walking with him
I was furious, and once had the indiscretion to protest. Asked for rea-
sons, I had none to give, and fancied I saw in her expression a shade of
contempt for the vagaries of a jealous mind. In time I grew morose and
con- sciously disagreeable, and resolved in my madness to return to San
Francisco the next day. Of this, however, I said nothing.
There was at Auburn an old, abandoned cemetery. It was nearly
in the heart of the town, yet by night it was as gruesome a place as the
most dismal of human moods could crave. The railings about the plots were
prostrate, decayed, or altogether gone. Many of the graves were sunken,
from others grew sturdy pines, whose roots had committed unspeak- able
sin. The headstones were fallen and broken across; brambles overran the
ground; the fence was mostly gone, and cows and pigs wandered there at
will; the place was a dishonour to the living, a calumny on the dead, a
blasphemy against God.
The evening of the day on which I had taken my madman's resolution
to depart in anger from all that was dear to me found me in that congenial
spot. The light of the half moon fell ghostly through the foliage of trees
in spots and patches, revealing much that was unsightly, and the black
shadows seemed conspiracies withholding to the proper time revelations
of darker import. Passing along what had been a gravel path, I saw emerging
from shadow the figure of Dr. Dorrimore. I was myself in shadow, and stood
still with clenched hands and set teeth, trying to control the impulse
to leap upon and stran- gle him. A moment later a second figure joined
him and clung to his arm. It was Margaret Corray!
I cannot rightly relate what occurred. I know that I sprang forward,
bent upon murder; I know that I was found in the grey of the morning, bruised
and bloody, with finger marks upon my throat. I was taken to the Putnam
House, where for days I lay in a delirium. All this I know, for I have
been told. And of my own knowledge I know that when consciousness returned
with convalescence I sent for the clerk of the hotel.
'Are Mrs. Corray and her daughter still here?' I asked.
'What name did you say?'
'Nobody of that name has been here.'
'I beg you will not trifle with me,' I said petu- lantly. 'You
see that I am all right now; tell me the truth.'
'I give you my word,' he replied with evident sin- cerity, 'we
have had no guests of that name.'
His words stupefied me. I lay for a few moments in silence; then
I asked: 'Where is Dr. Dorrimore?'
'He left on the morning of your fight and has not been heard
of since. It was a rough deal he gave you.'
Such are the facts of this case. Margaret Corray is now my wife.
She has never seen Auburn, and dur- ing the weeks whose history as it shaped
itself in my brain I have endeavoured to relate, was living at her home
in Oakland, wondering where her lover was and why he did not write. The
other day I saw in the Baltimore Sun the following paragraph:
'Professor Valentine Dorrimore, the hypnotist, had a large
audience last night. The lecturer, who has lived most of his life in India,
gave some mar- vellous exhibitions of his power, hypnotizing anyone who
chose to submit himself to the experiment, by merely looking at him. In
fact, he twice hypnotized the entire audience (reporters alone exempted),
making all entertain the most extraordinary illusions. The most valuable
feature of the lecture was the disclosure of the methods of the Hindu jugglers
in their famous performances, familiar in the mouths of travellers. The
professor declares that these thaumaturgists have acquired such skill in
the art which he learned at their feet that they perform their miracles
by simply throwing the "spectators" into a state of hypnosis and telling
them what to see and hear. His assertion that a peculiarly susceptible
subject may be kept in the realm of the unreal for weeks, months, and even
years, dominated by what- ever delusions and hallucinations the operator
may from time to time suggest, is a trifle disquieting.'
html design by Gary Morton,
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