Part 7 out of 8
things are called, were, if I may use a vulgarism, sprawling about
"all over the place." For instance, two or three of them were
twined about the bowl, two or three of them were twisted round the
stem, and one, a particularly horrible one, was uplifted in the
air, so that if you put the pipe in your mouth the thing was
pointing straight at your nose.
Not the least agreeable feature about the creature was that it was
hideously lifelike. It appeared to have been carved in amber, but
some coloring matter must have been introduced, for inside the
amber the creature was of a peculiarly ghastly green. The more I
examined the pipe the more amazed I was at Tress's generosity. He
and I are rival collectors. I am not going to say, in so many
words, that his collection of pipes contains nothing but rubbish,
because, as a matter of fact, he has two or three rather decent
specimens. But to compare his collection to mine would be absurd.
Tress is conscious of this, and he resents it. He resents it to
such an extent that he has been known, at least on one occasion, to
declare that one single pipe of his--I believe he alluded to the
Brummagem relic preposterously attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh--
was worth the whole of my collection put together. Although I have
forgotten this, as I hope I always shall forgive remarks made when
envious passions get the better of our nobler nature, even of a
Joseph Tress, it is not to be supposed that I have forgotten it.
He was, therefore, not at all the sort of person from whom I
expected to receive a present. And such a present! I do not
believe that he himself had a finer pipe in his collection. And to
have given it to me! I had misjudged the man. I wondered where he
had got it from. I had seen his pipes; I knew them off by heart--
and some nice trumpery he has among them, too! but I had never seen
THAT pipe before. The more I looked at it, the more my amazement
grew. The beast perched upon the edge of the bowl was so lifelike.
Its two bead-like eyes seemed to gleam at me with positively human
intelligence. The pipe fascinated me to such an extent that I
actually resolved to--smoke it!
I filled it with Perique. Ordinarily I use Birdseye, but on those
very rare occasions on which I use a specimen I smoke Perique. I
lit up with quite a small sensation of excitement. As I did so I
kept my eyes perforce fixed upon the beast. The beast pointed its
upraised tentacle directly at me. As I inhaled the pungent tobacco
that tentacle impressed me with a feeling of actual uncanniness.
It was broad daylight, and I was smoking in front of the window,
yet to such an extent was I affected that it seemed to me that the
tentacle was not only vibrating, which, owing to the peculiarity of
its position, was quite within the range of probability, but
actually moving, elongating--stretching forward, that is, farther
toward me, and toward the tip of my nose. So impressed was I by
this idea that I took the pipe out of my mouth and minutely
examined the beast. Really, the delusion was excusable. So
cunningly had the artist wrought that he succeeded in producing a
creature which, such was its uncanniness, I could only hope had no
original in nature.
Replacing the pipe between my lips I took several whiffs. Never
had smoking had such an effect on me before. Either the pipe, or
the creature on it, exercised some singular fascination. I seemed,
without an instant's warning, to be passing into some land of
dreams. I saw the beast, which was perched upon the bowl, writhe
and twist. I saw it lift itself bodily from the meerschaum.
"Feeling better now?"
I looked up. Joseph Tress was speaking.
"What's the matter? Have I been ill?"
"You appear to have been in some kind of swoon." Tress's tone was
peculiar, even a little dry.
"Swoon! I never was guilty of such a thing in my life."
"Nor was I, until I smoked that pipe."
I sat up. The act of sitting up made me conscious of the fact that
I had been lying down. Conscious, too, that I was feeling more
than a little dazed. It seemed as though I was waking out of some
strange, lethargic sleep--a kind of feeling which I have read of
and heard about, but never before experienced.
"Where am I?"
"You're on the couch in your own room. You WERE on the floor; but
I thought it would be better to pick you up and place you on the
couch--though no one performed the same kind office to me when I
was on the floor."
Again Tress's tone was distinctly dry.
"How came YOU here?"
"Ah, that's the question." He rubbed his chin--a habit of his
which has annoyed me more than once before. "Do you think you're
sufficiently recovered to enable you to understand a little simple
explanation?" I stared at him, amazed. He went on stroking his
chin. "The truth is that when I sent you the pipe I made a slight
"I omitted to advise you not to smoke it."
"Because--well, I've reason to believe the thing is drugged."
"Poisoned!" I was wide awake enough then. I jumped off the couch
with a celerity which proved it.
"It is this way. I became its owner in rather a singular manner."
He paused, as if for me to make a remark; but I was silent. "It is
not often that I smoke a specimen, but, for some reason, I did
smoke this. I commenced to smoke it, that is. How long I
continued to smoke it is more than I can say. It had on me the
same peculiar effect which it appears to have had on you. When I
recovered consciousness I was lying on the floor."
"On the floor?"
"On the floor. In about as uncomfortable a position as you can
easily conceive. I was lying face downward, with my legs bent
under me. I was never so surprised in my life as I was when I
found myself WHERE I was. At first I supposed that I had had a
stroke. But by degrees it dawned upon me that I didn't FEEL as
though I had had a stroke." Tress, by the way, has been an army
surgeon. "I was conscious of distinct nausea. Looking about, I
saw the pipe. With me it had fallen on to the floor. I took it
for granted, considering the delicacy of the carving, that the fall
had broken it. But when I picked it up I found it quite uninjured.
While I was examining it a thought flashed to my brain. Might it
not be answerable for what had happened to me? Suppose, for
instance, it was drugged? I had heard of such things. Besides, in
my case were present all the symptoms of drug poisoning, though
what drug had been used I couldn't in the least conceive. I
resolved that I would give the pipe another trial."
"On yourself? or on another party, meaning me?"
"On myself, my dear Pugh--on myself! At that point of my
investigations I had not begun to think of you. I lit up and had
"With what result?"
"Well, that depends on the standpoint from which you regard the
thing. From one point of view the result was wholly satisfactory--
I proved that the thing was drugged, and more."
"Did you have another fall?"
"I did. And something else besides."
"On that account, I presume, you resolved to pass the treasure on
"Partly on that account, and partly on another."
"On my word, I appreciate your generosity. You might have labeled
the thing as poison."
"Exactly. But then you must remember how often you have told me
that you NEVER smoke your specimens."
"That was no reason why you shouldn't have given me a hint that the
thing was more dangerous than dynamite."
"That did occur to me afterwards. Therefore I called to supply the
"SLIGHT omission, you call it! I wonder what you would have called
it if you had found me dead."
"If I had known that you INTENDED smoking it I should not have been
at all surprised if I had."
"Really, Tress, I appreciate your kindness more and more! And
where is this example of your splendid benevolence? Have you
pocketed it, regretting your lapse into the unaccustomed paths of
generosity? Or is it smashed to atoms?"
"Neither the one nor the other. You will find the pipe upon the
table. I neither desire its restoration nor is it in any way
injured. It is merely an expression of personal opinion when I say
that I don't believe that it COULD be injured. Of course, having
discovered its deleterious properties, you will not want to smoke
it again. You will therefore be able to enjoy the consciousness of
being the possessor of what I honestly believe to be the most
remarkable pipe in existence. Good day, Pugh."
He was gone before I could say a word. I immediately concluded,
from the precipitancy of his flight, that the pipe WAS injured.
But when I subjected it to close examination I could discover no
signs of damage. While I was still eying it with jealous scrutiny
the door reopened, and Tress came in again.
"By the way, Pugh, there is one thing I might mention, especially
as I know it won't make any difference to you."
"That depends on what it is. If you have changed your mind, and
want the pipe back again, I tell you frankly that it won't. In my
opinion, a thing once given is given for good."
"Quite so; I don't want it back again. You may make your mind easy
on that point. I merely wanted to tell you WHY I gave it you."
"You have told me that already."
"Only partly, my dear Pugh--only partly. You don't suppose I
should have given you such a pipe as that merely because it
happened to be drugged? Scarcely! I gave it you because I
discovered from indisputable evidence, and to my cost, that it was
"Yes, haunted. Good day."
He was gone again. I ran out of the room, and shouted after him
down the stairs. He was already at the bottom of the flight.
"Tress! Come back! What do you mean by talking such nonsense?"
"Of course it's only nonsense. We know that that sort of thing
always is nonsense. But if you should have reason to suppose that
there is something in it besides nonsense, you may think it worth
your while to make inquiries of me, But I won't have that pipe back
again in my possession on any terms--mind that!"
The bang of the front door told me that he had gone out into the
street. I let him go. I laughed to myself as I reentered the
room. Haunted! That was not a bad idea of his. I saw the whole
position at a glance. The truth of the matter was that he did
regret his generosity, and he was ready to go any lengths if he
could only succeed in cajoling me into restoring his gift. He was
aware that I have views upon certain matters which are not wholly
in accordance with those which are popularly supposed to be the
views of the day, and particularly that on the question of what are
commonly called supernatural visitations I have a standpoint of my
own. Therefore, it was not a bad move on his part to try to make
me believe that about the pipe on which he knew I had set my heart
there was something which could not be accounted for by ordinary
laws. Yet, as his own sense would have told him it would do, if he
had only allowed himself to reflect for a moment, the move failed.
Because I am not yet so far gone as to suppose that a pipe, a thing
of meerschaum and of amber, in the sense in which I understand the
word, COULD be haunted--a pipe, a mere pipe.
"Hollo! I thought the creature's legs were twined right round the
I was holding the pipe in my hand, regarding it with the
affectionate eyes with which a connoisseur does regard a curio,
when I was induced to make this exclamation. I was certainly under
the impression that, when I first took the pipe out of the box,
two, if not three of the feelers had been twined about the bowl--
twined TIGHTLY, so that you could not see daylight between them and
it. Now they were almost entirely detached, only the tips touching
the meerschaum, and those particular feelers were gathered up as
though the creature were in the act of taking a spring. Of course
I was under a misapprehension: the feelers COULDN'T have been
twined; a moment before I should have been ready to bet a thousand
to one that they were. Still, one does make mistakes, and very
egregious mistakes, at times. At the same time, I confess that
when I saw that dreadful-looking animal poised on the extreme edge
of the bowl, for all the world as though it were just going to
spring at me, I was a little startled. I remembered that when I
was smoking the pipe I did think I saw the uplifted tentacle
moving, as though it were reaching out to me. And I had a clear
recollection that just as I had been sinking into that strange
state of unconsciousness, I had been under the impression that the
creature was writhing and twisting, as though it had suddenly
become instinct with life. Under the circumstances, these
reflections were not pleasant. I wished Tress had not talked that
nonsense about the thing being haunted. It was surely sufficient
to know that it was drugged and poisonous, without anything else.
I replaced it in the sandalwood box. I locked the box in a
cabinet. Quite apart from the question as to whether that pipe was
or was not haunted, I know it haunted me. It was with me in a
figurative--which was worse than actual--sense all the day. Still
worse, it was with me all the night. It was with me in my dreams.
Such dreams! Possibly I had not yet wholly recovered from the
effects of that insidious drug, but, whether or no, it was very
wrong of Tress to set my thoughts into such a channel. He knows
that I am of a highly imaginative temperament, and that it is
easier to get morbid thoughts into my mind than to get them out
again. Before that night was through I wished very heartily that I
had never seen the pipe! I woke from one nightmare to fall into
another. One dreadful dream was with me all the time--of a
hideous, green reptile which advanced toward me out of some awful
darkness, slowly, inch by inch, until it clutched me round the
neck, and, gluing its lips to mine, sucked the life's blood out of
my veins as it embraced me with a slimy kiss. Such dreams are not
restful. I woke anything but refreshed when the morning came. And
when I got up and dressed I felt that, on the whole, it would
perhaps have been better if I never had gone to bed. My nerves
were unstrung, and I had that generally tremulous feeling which is,
I believe, an inseparable companion of the more advanced stages of
dipsomania. I ate no breakfast. I am no breakfast eater as a
rule, but that morning I ate absolutely nothing.
"If this sort of thing is to continue, I will let Tress have his
pipe again. He may have the laugh of me, but anything is better
It was with almost funereal forebodings that I went to the cabinet
in which I had placed the sandalwood box. But when I opened it my
feelings of gloom partially vanished. Of what phantasies had I
been guilty! It must have been an entire delusion on my part to
have supposed that those tentacula had ever been twined about the
bowl. The creature was in exactly the same position in which I had
left it the day before--as, of course, I knew it would be--poised,
as if about to spring. I was telling myself how foolish I had been
to allow myself to dwell for a moment on Tress's words, when Martin
Brasher was shown in.
Brasher is an old friend of mine. We have a common ground--ghosts.
Only we approach them from different points of view. He takes the
scientific--psychological--inquiry side. He is always anxious to
hear of a ghost, so that he may have an opportunity of "showing it
"I've something in your line here," I observed, as he came in.
"In my line? How so? I'M not pipe mad."
"No; but you're ghost mad. And this is a haunted pipe."
"A haunted pipe! I think you're rather more mad about ghosts, my
dear Pugh, than I am."
Then I told him all about it. He was deeply interested, especially
when I told him that the pipe was drugged. But when I repeated
Tress's words about its being haunted, and mentioned my own
delusion about the creature moving, he took a more serious view of
the case than I had expected he would do.
"I propose that we act on Tress's suggestion, and go and make
inquiries of him."
"But you don't really think that there is anything in it?"
"On these subjects I never allow myself to think at all. There are
Tress's words, and there is your story. It is agreed on all hands
that the pipe has peculiar properties. It seems to me that there
is a sufficient case here to merit inquiry."
He persuaded me. I went with him. The pipe, in the sandalwood
box, went too. Tress received us with a grin--a grin which was
accentuated when I placed the sandalwood box on the table.
"You understand," he said, "that a gift is a gift. On no terms
will I consent to receive that pipe back in my possession."
I was rather nettled by his tone.
"You need be under no alarm. I have no intention of suggesting
anything of the kind."
"Our business here," began Brasher--I must own that his manner is a
little ponderous--"is of a scientific, I may say also, and at the
same time, of a judicial nature. Our object is the Pursuit of
Truth and the Advancement of Inquiry."
"Have you been trying another smoke?" inquired Tress, nodding his
head toward me.
Before I had time to answer, Brasher went droning on:
"Our friend here tells me that you say this pipe is haunted."
"I say it is haunted because it IS haunted."
I looked at Tress. I half suspected that he was poking fun at us.
But he appeared to be serious enough.
"In these matters," remarked Brasher, as though he were giving
utterance to a new and important truth, "there is a scientific and
nonscientific method of inquiry. The scientific method is to begin
at the beginning. May I ask how this pipe came into your
Tress paused before he answered.
"You may ask." He paused again. "Oh, you certainly may ask. But
it doesn't follow that I shall tell you."
"Surely your object, like ours, can be but the Spreading About of
"I don't see it at all. It is possible to imagine a case in which
the spreading about of the truth might make me look a little
"Indeed!" Brasher pursed up his lips. "Your words would almost
lead one to suppose that there was something about your method of
acquiring the pipe which you have good and weighty reasons for
"I don't know why I should conceal the thing from you. I don't
suppose either of you is any better than I am. I don't mind
telling you how I got the pipe. I stole it."
Brasher seemed both amazed and shocked. But I, who had previous
experience of Tress's methods of adding to his collection, was not
at all surprised. Some of the pipes which he calls his, if only
the whole truth about them were publicly known, would send him to
"That's nothing!" he continued. "All collectors steal! The eighth
commandment was not intended to apply to them. Why, Pugh there has
'conveyed' three fourths of the pipes which he flatters himself are
I was so dumfoundered by the charge that it took my breath away. I
sat in astounded silence. Tress went raving on:
"I was so shy of this particular pipe when I had obtained it, that
I put it away for quite three months. When I took it out to have a
look at it something about the thing so tickled me that I resolved
to smoke it. Owing to peculiar circumstances attending the manner
in which the thing came into my possession, and on which I need not
dwell--you don't like to dwell on those sort of things, do you,
Pugh?--I knew really nothing about the pipe. As was the case with
Pugh, one peculiarity I learned from actual experience. It was
also from actual experience that I learned that the thing was--
well, I said haunted, but you may use any other word you like."
"Tell us, as briefly as possible, what it was you really did
"Take the pipe out of the box!" Brasher took the pipe out of the
box and held it in his hand. "You see that creature on it. Well,
when I first had it it was underneath the pipe."
"How do you mean that it was underneath the pipe?"
"It was bunched together underneath the stem, just at the end of
the mouthpiece, in the same way in which a fly might be suspended
from the ceiling. When I began to smoke the pipe I saw the
"But I thought that unconsciousness immediately followed."
"It did follow, but not before I saw that the thing was moving. It
was because I thought that I had been, in a way, a victim of
delirium that I tried the second smoke. Suspecting that the thing
was drugged I swallowed what I believed would prove a powerful
antidote. It enabled me to resist the influence of the narcotic
much longer than before, and while I still retained my senses I saw
the creature crawl along under the stem and over the bowl. It was
that sight, I believe, as much as anything else, which sent me
silly. When I came to I then and there decided to present the pipe
to Pugh. There is one more thing I would remark. When the pipe
left me the creature's legs were twined about the bowl. Now they
are withdrawn. Possibly you, Pugh, are able to cap my story with a
little one which is all your own."
"I certainly did imagine that I saw the creature move. But I
supposed that while I was under the influence of the drug
imagination had played me a trick."
"Not a bit of it! Depend upon it, the beast is bewitched. Even to
my eye it looks as though it were, and to a trained eye like yours,
Pugh! You've been looking for the devil a long time, and you've
got him at last."
"I--I wish you wouldn't make those remarks, Tress. They jar on
"I confess," interpolated Brasher--I noticed that he had put the
pipe down on the table as though he were tired of holding it--
"that, to MY thinking, such remarks are not appropriate. At the
same time what you have told us is, I am bound to allow, a little
curious. But of course what I require is ocular demonstration. I
haven't seen the movement myself."
"No, but you very soon will do if you care to have a pull at the
pipe on your own account. Do, Brasher, to oblige me! There's a
"It appears, then, that the movement is only observable when the
pipe is smoked. We have at least arrived at step No. 1."
"Here's a match, Brasher! Light up, and we shall have arrived at
step No. 2."
Tress lit a match and held it out to Brasher. Brasher retreated
from its neighborhood.
"Thank you, Mr. Tress, I am no smoker, as you are aware. And I
have no desire to acquire the art of smoking by means of a poisoned
Tress laughed. He blew out the match and threw it into the grate.
"Then I tell you what I'll do--I'll have up Bob."
"Bob"--whose real name was Robert Haines, though I should think he
must have forgotten the fact, so seldom was he addressed by it--was
Tress's servant. He had been an old soldier, and had accompanied
his master when he left the service. He was as depraved a
character as Tress himself. I am not sure even that he was not
worse than his master. I shall never forget how he once behaved
toward myself. He actually had the assurance to accuse me of
attempting to steal the Wardour Street relic which Tress fondly
deludes himself was once the property of Sir Walter Raleigh. The
truth is that I had slipped it with my handkerchief into my pocket
in a fit of absence of mind. A man who could accuse ME of such a
thing would be guilty of anything. I was therefore quite at one
with Brasher when he asked what Bob could possibly be wanted for.
"I'll get him to smoke the pipe," he said.
Brasher and I exchanged glances, but we refrained from speech.
"It won't do him any harm," said Tress.
"What--not a poisoned pipe?" asked Brasher.
"It's not poisoned--it's only drugged."
"Nothing hurts Bob. He is like an ostrich. He has digestive
organs which are peculiarly his own. It will only serve him as it
served me--and Pugh--it will knock him over. It is all done in the
Pursuit of Truth and for the Advancement of Inquiry."
I could see that Brasher did not altogether like the tone in which
Tress repeated his words. As for me, it was not to be supposed
that I should put myself out in a matter which in no way concerned
me. If Tress chose to poison the man, it was his affair, not mine.
He went to the door and shouted:
"Bob! Come here, you scoundrel!"
That is the way in which he speaks to him. No really decent
servant would stand it. I shouldn't care to address Nalder, my
servant, in such a way. He would give me notice on the spot. Bob
came in. He is a great hulking fellow who is always on the grin.
Tress had a decanter of brandy in his hand. He filled a tumbler
with the neat spirit.
"Bob, what would you say to a glassful of brandy--the real thing--
"Thank you, sir."
"And what would you say to a pull at a pipe when the brandy is
"A pipe?" The fellow is sharp enough when he likes. I saw him
look at the pipe upon the table, and then at us, and then a gleam
of intelligence came into his eyes. "I'd do it for a dollar, sir."
"A dollar, you thief?"
"I meant ten shillings, sir."
"Ten shillings, you brazen vagabond?"
"I should have said a pound."
"A pound! Was ever the like of that! Do I understand you to ask a
pound for taking a pull at your master's pipe?"
"I'm thinking that I'll have to make it two."
"The deuce you are! Here, Pugh, lend me a pound."
"I'm afraid I've left my purse behind."
"Then lend me ten shillings--Ananias!"
"I doubt if I have more than five."
"Then give me the five. And, Brasher, lend me the other fifteen."
Brasher lent him the fifteen. I doubt if we shall either of us
ever see our money again. He handed the pound to Bob.
"Here's the brandy--drink it up!" Bob drank it without a word,
draining the glass of every drop. "And here's the pipe."
"Is it poisoned, sir?"
"Poisoned, you villain! What do you mean?"
"It isn't the first time I've seen your tricks, sir--is it now?
And you're not the one to give a pound for nothing at all. If it
kills me you'll send my body to my mother--she'd like to know that
I was dead."
"Send your body to your grandmother! You idiot, sit down and
Bob sat down. Tress had filled the pipe, and handed it, with a
lighted match, to Bob. The fellow declined the match. He handled
the pipe very gingerly, turning it over and over, eying it with all
"Thank you, sir--I'll light up myself if it's the same to you. I
carry matches of my own. It's a beautiful pipe, entirely. I never
see the like of it for ugliness. And what's the slimy-looking
varmint that looks as though it would like to have my life? Is it
living, or is it dead?"
"Come, we don't want to sit here all day, my man!"
"Well, sir, the look of this here pipe has quite upset my stomach.
I'd like another drop of liquor, if it's the same to you."
"Another drop! Why, you've had a tumblerful already! Here's
another tumblerful to put on top of that. You won't want the pipe
to kill you--you'll be killed before you get to it."
"And isn't it better to die a natural death?"
Bob emptied the second tumbler of brandy as though it were water.
I believe he would empty a hogshead without turning a hair! Then
he gave another look at the pipe. Then, taking a match from his
waistcoat pocket, he drew a long breath, as though he were
resigning himself to fate. Striking the match on the seat of his
trousers, while, shaded by his hand, the flame was gathering
strength, he looked at each of us in turn. When he looked at Tress
I distinctly saw him wink his eye. What my feelings would have
been if a servant of mine had winked his eye at me I am unable to
imagine! The match was applied to the tobacco, a puff of smoke
came through his lips--the pipe was alight!
During this process of lighting the pipe we had sat--I do not wish
to use exaggerated language, but we had sat and watched that
alcoholic scamp's proceedings as though we were witnessing an
action which would leave its mark upon the age. When we saw the
pipe was lighted we gave a simultaneous start. Brasher put his
hands under his coat tails and gave a kind of hop. I raised myself
a good six inches from my chair, and Tress rubbed his palms
together with a chuckle. Bob alone was calm.
"Now," cried Tress, "you'll see the devil moving."
Bob took the pipe from between his lips.
"See what?" he said.
"Bob, you rascal, put that pipe back into your mouth, and smoke it
for your life!"
Bob was eying the pipe askance.
"I dare say, but what I want to know is whether this here varmint's
dead or whether he isn't. I don't want to have him flying at my
nose--and he looks vicious enough for anything."
"Give me back that pound, you thief, and get out of my house, and
"I ain't going to give you back no pound."
"Then smoke that pipe!"
"I am smoking it, ain't I?"
With the utmost deliberation Bob returned the pipe to his mouth.
He emitted another whiff or two of smoke.
"Now--now!" cried Tress, all excitement, and wagging his hand in
We gathered round. As we did so Bob again withdrew the pipe.
"What is the meaning of all this here? I ain't going to have you
playing none of your larks on me. I know there's something up, but
I ain't going to throw my life away for twenty shillings--not quite
Tress, whose temper is not at any time one of the best, was seized
with quite a spasm of rage.
"As I live, my lad, if you try to cheat me by taking that pipe from
between your lips until I tell you, you leave this room that
instant, never again to be a servant of mine."
I presume the fellow knew from long experience when his master
meant what he said, and when he didn't. Without an attempt at
remonstrance he replaced the pipe. He continued stolidly to puff
away. Tress caught me by the arm.
"What did I tell you? There--there! That tentacle is moving."
The uplifted tentacle WAS moving. It was doing what I had seen it
do, as I supposed, in my distorted imagination--it was reaching
forward. Undoubtedly Bob saw what it was doing; but, whether in
obedience to his master's commands, or whether because the drug was
already beginning to take effect, he made no movement to withdraw
the pipe. He watched the slowly advancing tentacle, coming closer
and closer toward his nose, with an expression of such intense
horror on his countenance that it became quite shocking. Farther
and farther the creature reached forward, until on a sudden, with a
sort of jerk, the movement assumed a downward direction, and the
tentacle was slowly lowered until the tip rested on the stem of the
pipe. For a moment the creature remained motionless. I was
quieting my nerves with the reflection that this thing was but some
trick of the carver's art, and that what we had seen we had seen in
a sort of nightmare, when the whole hideous reptile was seized with
what seemed to be a fit of convulsive shuddering. It seemed to be
in agony. It trembled so violently that I expected to see it
loosen its hold of the stem and fall to the ground. I was
sufficiently master of myself to steal a glance at Bob. We had had
an inkling of what might happen. He was wholly unprepared. As he
saw that dreadful, human-looking creature, coming to life, as it
seemed, within an inch or two of his nose, his eyes dilated to
twice their usual size. I hoped, for his sake, that
unconsciousness would supervene, through the action of the drug,
before through sheer fright his senses left him. Perhaps
mechanically he puffed steadily on.
The creature's shuddering became more violent. It appeared to
swell before our eyes. Then, just as suddenly as it began, the
shuddering ceased. There was another instant of quiescence. Then
the creature began to crawl along the stem of the pipe! It moved
with marvelous caution, the merest fraction of an inch at a time.
But still it moved! Our eyes were riveted on it with a fascination
which was absolutely nauseous. I am unpleasantly affected even as
I think of it now. My dreams of the night before had been nothing
Slowly, slowly, it went, nearer and nearer to the smoker's nose.
Its mode of progression was in the highest degree unsightly. It
glided, never, so far as I could see, removing its tentacles from
the stem of the pipe. It slipped its hindmost feelers onward until
they came up to those which were in advance. Then, in their turn,
it advanced those which were in front. It seemed, too, to move
with the utmost labor, shuddering as though it were in pain.
We were all, for our parts, speechless. I was momentarily hoping
that the drug would take effect on Bob. Either his constitution
enabled him to offer a strong resistance to narcotics, or else the
large quantity of neat spirit which he had drunk acted--as Tress
had malevolently intended that it should--as an antidote. It
seemed to me that he would NEVER succumb. On went the creature--
on, and on, in its infinitesimal progression. I was spellbound. I
would have given the world to scream, to have been able to utter a
sound. I could do nothing else but watch.
The creature had reached the end of the stem. It had gained the
amber mouthpiece. It was within an inch of the smoker's nose.
Still on it went. It seemed to move with greater freedom on the
amber. It increased its rate of progress. It was actually
touching the foremost feature on the smoker's countenance. I
expected to see it grip the wretched Bob, when it began to
oscillate from side to side. Its oscillations increased in
violence. It fell to the floor. That same instant the narcotic
prevailed. Bob slipped sideways from the chair, the pipe still
held tightly between his rigid jaws.
We were silent. There lay Bob. Close beside him lay the creature.
A few more inches to the left, and he would have fallen on and
squashed it flat. It had fallen on its back. Its feelers were
extended upward. They were writhing and twisting and turning in
Tress was the first to speak.
"I think a little brandy won't be amiss." Emptying the remainder
of the brandy into a glass, he swallowed it at a draught. "Now for
a closer examination of our friend." Taking a pair of tongs from
the grate he nipped the creature between them. He deposited it
upon the table. "I rather fancy that this is a case for
He took a penknife from his waistcoat pocket. Opening the large
blade, he thrust its point into the object on the table. Little or
no resistance seemed to be offered to the passage of the blade, but
as it was inserted the tentacula simultaneously began to writhe and
twist. Tress withdrew the knife.
"I thought so!" He held the blade out for our inspection. The
point was covered with some viscid-looking matter. "That's blood!
The thing's alive!"
"Alive! That's the secret of the whole performance!"
"But me no buts, my Pugh! The mystery's exploded! One more ghost
is lost to the world! The person from whom I OBTAINED that pipe
was an Indian juggler--up to many tricks of the trade. He, or some
one for him, got hold of this sweet thing in reptiles--and a
sweeter thing would, I imagine, be hard to find--and covered it
with some preparation of, possibly, gum arabic. He allowed this to
harden. Then he stuck the thing--still living, for those sort of
gentry are hard to kill--to the pipe. The consequence was that
when anyone lit up, the warmth was communicated to the adhesive
agent--again some preparation of gum, no doubt--it moistened it,
and the creature, with infinite difficulty, was able to move. But
I am open to lay odds with any gentleman of sporting tastes that
THIS time the creature's traveling days ARE done. It has given me
rather a larger taste of the horrors than is good for my
With the aid of the tongs he removed the creature from the table.
He placed it on the hearth. Before Brasher or I had a notion of
what it was he intended to do he covered it with a heavy marble
paper weight. Then he stood upon the weight, and between the
marble and the hearth he ground the creature flat.
While the execution was still proceeding, Bob sat up upon the
"Hollo!" he asked, "what's happened?"
"We've emptied the bottle, Bob," said Tress. "But there's another
where that came from. Perhaps you could drink another tumblerful,
Bob drank it!
"Those gentry are hard to kill." Here is fact, not fantasy.
Lizard yarns no less sensational than this Mystery Story can be
found between the covers of solemn, zoological textbooks.
Reptiles, indeed, are far from finicky in the matters of air,
space, and especially warmth. Frogs and other such sluggish-
blooded creatures have lived after being frozen fast in ice. Their
blood is little warmer than air or water, enjoying no extra casing
of fur or feathers.
Air and food seem held in light esteem by lizards. Their blood
need not be highly oxygenated; it nourishes just as well when
impure. In temperate climes lizards lie torpid and buried all
winter; some species of the tropic deserts sleep peacefully all
summer. Their anatomy includes no means for the continuous
introduction and expulsion of air; reptilian lungs are little more
than closed sacs, without cell structure.
If any further zoological fact were needed to verify the denouement
of "The Pipe," it might be the general statement that lizards are
abnormal brutes anyhow. Consider the chameleons of unsettled hue.
And what is one to think of an animal which, when captured by the
tail, is able to make its escape by willfully shuffling off that
Pugh came into my room holding something wrapped in a piece of
"Tress, I have brought you something on which you may exercise your
ingenuity." He began, with exasperating deliberation, to untie the
string which bound his parcel; he is one of those persons who would
not cut a knot to save their lives. The process occupied him the
better part of a quarter of an hour. Then he held out the contents
of the paper.
"What do you think of that?" he asked. I thought nothing of it,
and I told him so. "I was prepared for that confession. I have
noticed, Tress, that you generally do think nothing of an article
which really deserves the attention of a truly thoughtful mind.
Possibly, as you think so little of it, you will be able to solve
I took what he held out to me. It was an oblong box, perhaps seven
inches long by three inches broad.
"Where's the puzzle?" I asked.
"If you will examine the lid of the box, you will see." I turned
it over and over; it was difficult to see which was the lid. Then
I perceived that on one side were printed these words:
"PUZZLE: TO OPEN THE BOX"
The words were so faintly printed that it was not surprising that I
had not noticed them at first. Pugh explained.
"I observed that box on a tray outside a second-hand furniture
shop. It struck my eye. I took it up. I examined it. I inquired
of the proprietor of the shop in what the puzzle lay. He replied
that that was more than he could tell me. He himself had made
several attempts to open the box, and all of them had failed. I
purchased it. I took it home. I have tried, and I have failed. I
am aware, Tress, of how you pride yourself upon your ingenuity. I
cannot doubt that, if you try, you will not fail."
While Pugh was prosing, I was examining the box. It was at least
well made. It weighed certainly under two ounces. I struck it
with my knuckles; it sounded hollow. There was no hinge; nothing
of any kind to show that it ever had been opened, or, for the
matter of that, that it ever could be opened. The more I examined
the thing, the more it whetted my curiosity. That it could be
opened, and in some ingenious manner, I made no doubt--but how?
The box was not a new one. At a rough guess I should say that it
had been a box for a good half century; there were certain signs of
age about it which could not escape a practiced eye. Had it
remained unopened all that time? When opened, what would be found
inside? It SOUNDED hollow; probably nothing at all--who could
It was formed of small pieces of inlaid wood. Several woods had
been used; some of them were strange to me. They were of different
colors; it was pretty obvious that they must all of them have been
hard woods. The pieces were of various shapes--hexagonal,
octagonal, triangular, square, oblong, and even circular. The
process of inlaying them had been beautifully done. So nicely had
the parts been joined that the lines of meeting were difficult to
discover with the naked eye; they had been joined solid, so to
speak. It was an excellent example of marquetry. I had been over-
hasty in my deprecation; I owed as much to Pugh.
"This box of yours is better worth looking at than I first
supposed. Is it to be sold?"
"No, it is not to be sold. Nor"--he "fixed" me with his
spectacles--"is it to be given away. I have brought it to you for
the simple purpose of ascertaining if you have ingenuity enough to
"I will engage to open it in two seconds--with a hammer."
"I dare say. I will open it with a hammer. The thing is to open
"Let me see." I began, with the aid of a microscope, to examine
the box more closely. "I will give you one piece of information,
Pugh. Unless I am mistaken, the secret lies in one of these little
pieces of inlaid wood. You push it, or you press it, or something,
and the whole affair flies open."
"Such was my own first conviction. I am not so sure of it now. I
have pressed every separate piece of wood; I have tried to move
each piece in every direction. No result has followed. My theory
was a hidden spring."
"But there must be a hidden spring of some sort, unless you are to
open it by a mere exercise of force. I suppose the box is empty."
"I thought it was at first, but now I am not so sure of that
either. It all depends on the position in which you hold it. Hold
it in this position--like this--close to your ear. Have you a
small hammer?" I took a small hammer. "Tap it softly, with the
hammer. Don't you notice a sort of reverberation within?"
Pugh was right, there certainly was something within; something
which seemed to echo back my tapping, almost as if it were a living
thing. I mentioned this, to Pugh.
"But you don't think that there is something alive inside the box?
There can't be. The box must be airtight, probably as much air-
tight as an exhausted receiver."
"How do we know that? How can we tell that no minute interstices
have been left for the express purpose of ventilation?" I
continued tapping with the hammer. I noticed one peculiarity, that
it was only when I held the box in a particular position, and
tapped at a certain spot, there came the answering taps from
within. "I tell you what it is, Pugh, what I hear is the
reverberation of some machinery."
"Do you think so?"
"I'm sure of it."
"Give the box to me." Pugh put the box to his ear. He tapped.
"It sounds to me like the echoing tick, tick of some great beetle;
like the sort of noise which a deathwatch makes, you know."
Trust Pugh to find a remarkable explanation for a simple fact; if
the explanation leans toward the supernatural, so much the more
satisfactory to Pugh. I knew better.
"The sound which you hear is merely the throbbing or the trembling
of the mechanism with which it is intended that the box should be
opened. The mechanism is placed just where you are tapping it with
the hammer. Every tap causes it to jar."
"It sounds to me like the ticking of a deathwatch. However, on
such subjects, Tress, I know what you are."
"My dear Pugh, give it an extra hard tap, and you will see."
He gave it an extra hard tap. The moment he had done so, he
"I've done it now."
"What have you done?"
"Broken something, I fancy." He listened intently, with his ear to
the box. "No--it seems all right. And yet I could have sworn I
had damaged something; I heard it smash."
"Give me the box." He gave it me. In my turn, I listened. I
shook the box. Pugh must have been mistaken. Nothing rattled;
there was not a sound; the box was as empty as before. I gave a
smart tap with the hammer, as Pugh had done. Then there certainly
was a curious sound. To my ear, it sounded like the smashing of
glass. "I wonder if there is anything fragile inside your precious
puzzle, Pugh, and, if so, if we are shivering it by degrees?"
"What IS that noise?"
I lay in bed in that curious condition which is between sleep and
waking. When, at last, I KNEW that I was awake, I asked myself
what it was that had woke me. Suddenly I became conscious that
something was making itself audible in the silence of the night.
For some seconds I lay and listened. Then I sat up in bed.
"What IS that noise?"
It was like the tick, tick of some large and unusually clear-toned
clock. It might have been a clock, had it not been that the sound
was varied, every half dozen ticks or so, by a sort of stifled
screech, such as might have been uttered by some small creature in
an extremity of anguish. I got out of bed; it was ridiculous to
think of sleep during the continuation of that uncanny shrieking.
I struck a light. The sound seemed to come from the neighborhood
of my dressing-table. I went to the dressing-table, the lighted
match in my hand, and, as I did so, my eyes fell on Pugh's
mysterious box. That same instant there issued, from the bowels of
the box, a more uncomfortable screech than any I had previously
heard. It took me so completely by surprise that I let the match
fall from my hand to the floor. The room was in darkness. I
stood, I will not say trembling, listening--considering their
volume--to the EERIEST shrieks I ever heard. All at once they
ceased. Then came the tick, tick, tick again. I struck another
match and lit the gas.
Pugh had left his puzzle box behind him. We had done all we could,
together, to solve the puzzle. He had left it behind to see what I
could do with it alone. So much had it engrossed my attention that
I had even brought it into my bedroom, in order that I might,
before retiring to rest, make a final attempt at the solution of
the mystery. NOW what possessed the thing?
As I stood, and looked, and listened, one thing began to be clear
to me, that some sort of machinery had been set in motion inside
the box. How it had been set in motion was another matter. But
the box had been subjected to so much handling, to such pressing
and such hammering, that it was not strange if, after all, Pugh or
I had unconsciously hit upon the spring which set the whole thing
going. Possibly the mechanism had got so rusty that it had refused
to act at once. It had hung fire, and only after some hours had
something or other set the imprisoned motive power free.
But what about the screeching? Could there be some living creature
concealed within the box? Was I listening to the cries of some
small animal in agony? Momentary reflection suggested that the
explanation of the one thing was the explanation of the other.
Rust!--there was the mystery. The same rust which had prevented
the mechanism from acting at once was causing the screeching now.
The uncanny sounds were caused by nothing more nor less than the
want of a drop or two of oil. Such an explanation would not have
satisfied Pugh, it satisfied me.
Picking up the box, I placed it to my ear.
"I wonder how long this little performance is going to continue.
And what is going to happen when it is good enough to cease? I
hope"--an uncomfortable thought occurred to me--"I hope Pugh hasn't
picked up some pleasant little novelty in the way of an infernal
machine. It would be a first-rate joke if he and I had been
endeavoring to solve the puzzle of how to set it going."
I don't mind owning that as this reflection crossed my mind I
replaced Pugh's puzzle on the dressing-table. The idea did not
commend itself to me at all. The box evidently contained some
curious mechanism. It might be more curious than comfortable.
Possibly some agreeable little device in clockwork. The tick,
tick, tick suggested clockwork which had been planned to go a
certain time, and then--then, for all I knew, ignite an explosive,
and--blow up. It would be a charming solution to the puzzle if it
were to explode while I stood there, in my nightshirt, looking on.
It is true that the box weighed very little. Probably, as I have
said, the whole affair would not have turned the scale at a couple
of ounces. But then its very lightness might have been part of the
ingenious inventor's little game. There are explosives with which
one can work a very satisfactory amount of damage with considerably
less than a couple of ounces.
While I was hesitating--I own it!--whether I had not better immerse
Pugh's puzzle in a can of water, or throw it out of the window, or
call down Bob with a request to at once remove it to his apartment,
both the tick, tick, tick, and the screeching ceased, and all
within the box was still. If it WAS going to explode, it was now
or never. Instinctively I moved in the direction of the door.
I waited with a certain sense of anxiety. I waited in vain.
Nothing happened, not even a renewal of the sound.
"I wish Pugh had kept his precious puzzle at home. This sort of
thing tries one's nerves."
When I thought that I perceived that nothing seemed likely to
happen, I returned to the neighborhood of the table. I looked at
the box askance. I took it up gingerly. Something might go off at
any moment for all I knew. It would be too much of a joke if
Pugh's precious puzzle exploded in my hand. I shook it doubtfully;
nothing rattled. I held it to my ear. There was not a sound.
What had taken place? Had the clockwork run down, and was the
machine arranged with such a diabolical ingenuity that a certain
interval was required, after the clockwork had run down, before an
explosion could occur? Or had rust caused the mechanism to again
"After making all that commotion the thing might at least come
open." I banged the box viciously against the corner of the table.
I felt that I would almost rather that an explosion should take
place than that nothing should occur. One does not care to be
disturbed from one's sound slumber in the small hours of the
morning for a trifle.
"I've half a mind to get a hammer, and try, as they say in the
cookery books, another way."
Unfortunately I had promised Pugh to abstain from using force. I
might have shivered the box open with my hammer, and then explained
that it had fallen, or got trod upon, or sat upon, or something,
and so got shattered, only I was afraid that Pugh would not believe
me. The man is himself such an untruthful man that he is in a
chronic state of suspicion about the truthfulness of others.
"Well, if you're not going to blow up, or open, or something, I'll
say good night."
I gave the box a final rap with my knuckles and a final shake,
replaced it on the table, put out the gas, and returned to bed.
I was just sinking again into slumber, when that box began again.
It was true that Pugh had purchased the puzzle, but it was evident
that the whole enjoyment of the purchase was destined to be mine.
It was useless to think of sleep while that performance was going
on. I sat up in bed once more.
"It strikes me that the puzzle consists in finding out how it is
possible to go to sleep with Pugh's purchase in your bedroom. This
is far better than the old-fashioned prescription of cats on the
It struck me the noise was distinctly louder than before; this
applied both to the tick, tick, tick, and the screeching.
"Possibly," I told myself, as I relighted the gas, "the explosion
is to come off this time."
I turned to look at the box. There could be no doubt about it; the
noise was louder. And, if I could trust my eyes, the box was
moving--giving a series of little jumps. This might have been an
optical delusion, but it seemed to me that at each tick the box
gave a little bound. During the screeches--which sounded more like
the cries of an animal in an agony of pain even than before--if it
did not tilt itself first on one end, and then on another, I shall
never be willing to trust the evidence of my own eyes again. And
surely the box had increased in size; I could have sworn not only
that it had increased, but that it was increasing, even as I stood
there looking on. It had grown, and still was growing, both
broader, and longer, and deeper. Pugh, of course, would have
attributed it to supernatural agency; there never was a man with
such a nose for a ghost. I could picture him occupying my
position, shivering in his nightshirt, as he beheld that miracle
taking place before his eyes. The solution which at once suggested
itself to me--and which would NEVER have suggested itself to Pugh!--
was that the box was fashioned, as it were, in layers, and that
the ingenious mechanism it contained was forcing the sides at once
both upward and outward. I took it in my hand. I could feel
something striking against the bottom of the box, like the tap,
tap, tapping of a tiny hammer.
"This is a pretty puzzle of Pugh's. He would say that that is the
tapping of a deathwatch. For my part I have not much faith in
deathwatches, et hoc genus omne, but it certainly is a curious
tapping; I wonder what is going to happen next?"
Apparently nothing, except a continuation of those mysterious
sounds. That the box had increased in size I had, and have, no
doubt whatever. I should say that it had increased a good inch in
every direction, at least half an inch while I had been looking on.
But while I stood looking its growth was suddenly and perceptibly
stayed; it ceased to move. Only the noise continued.
"I wonder how long it will be before anything worth happening does
happen! I suppose something is going to happen; there can't be all
this to-do for nothing. If it is anything in the infernal machine
line, and there is going to be an explosion, I might as well be
here to see it. I think I'll have a pipe."
I put on my dressing-gown. I lit my pipe. I sat and stared at the
box. I dare say I sat there for quite twenty minutes when, as
before, without any sort of warning, the sound was stilled. Its
sudden cessation rather startled me.
"Has the mechanism again hung fire? Or, this time, is the
explosion coming off?" It did not come off; nothing came off.
"Isn't the box even going to open?"
It did not open. There was simply silence all at once, and that
was all. I sat there in expectation for some moments longer. But
I sat for nothing. I rose. I took the box in my hand. I shook
"This puzzle IS a puzzle." I held the box first to one ear, then
to the other. I gave it several sharp raps with my knuckles.
There was not an answering sound, not even the sort of
reverberation which Pugh and I had noticed at first. It seemed
hollower than ever. It was as though the soul of the box was dead.
"I suppose if I put you down, and extinguish the gas and return to
bed, in about half an hour or so, just as I am dropping off to
sleep, the performance will be recommenced. Perhaps the third time
will be lucky."
But I was mistaken--there was no third time. When I returned to
bed that time I returned to sleep, and I was allowed to sleep;
there was no continuation of the performance, at least so far as I
know. For no sooner was I once more between the sheets than I was
seized with an irresistible drowsiness, a drowsiness which so
mastered me that I--I imagine it must have been instantly--sank
into slumber which lasted till long after day had dawned. Whether
or not any more mysterious sounds issued from the bowels of Pugh's
puzzle is more than I can tell. If they did, they did not succeed
in rousing me.
And yet, when at last I did awake, I had a sort of consciousness
that my waking had been caused by something strange. What it was I
could not surmise. My own impression was that I had been awakened
by the touch of a person's hand. But that impression must have
been a mistaken one, because, as I could easily see by looking
round the room, there was no one in the room to touch me.
It was broad daylight. I looked at my watch; it was nearly eleven
o'clock. I am a pretty late sleeper as a rule, but I do not
usually sleep as late as that. That scoundrel Bob would let me
sleep all day without thinking it necessary to call me. I was just
about to spring out of bed with the intention of ringing the bell
so that I might give Bob a piece of my mind for allowing me to
sleep so late, when my glance fell on the dressing-table on which,
the night before, I had placed Pugh's puzzle. It had gone!
Its absence so took me by surprise that I ran to the table. It HAD
gone. But it had not gone far; it had gone to pieces! There were
the pieces lying where the box had been. The puzzle had solved
itself. The box was open, open with a vengeance, one might say.
Like that unfortunate Humpty Dumpty, who, so the chroniclers tell
us, sat on a wall, surely "all the king's horses and all the king's
men" never could put Pugh's puzzle together again!
The marquetry had resolved itself into its component parts. How
those parts had ever been joined was a mystery. They had been laid
upon no foundation, as is the case with ordinary inlaid work. The
several pieces of wood were not only of different shapes and sizes,
but they were as thin as the thinnest veneer; yet the box had been
formed by simply joining them together. The man who made that box
must have been possessed of ingenuity worthy of a better cause.
I perceived how the puzzle had been worked. The box had contained
an arrangement of springs, which, on being released, had expanded
themselves in different directions until their mere expansion had
rent the box to pieces. There were the springs, lying amid the
ruin they had caused.
There was something else amid that ruin besides those springs;
there was a small piece of writing paper. I took it up. On the
reverse side of it was written in a minute, crabbed hand: "A
Present For You." What was a present for me? I looked, and, not
for the first time since I had caught sight of Pugh's precious
puzzle, could scarcely believe my eyes.
There, poised between two upright wires, the bent ends of which
held it aloft in the air, was either a piece of glass or--a
crystal. The scrap of writing paper had exactly covered it. I
understood what it was, when Pugh and I had tapped with the hammer,
had caused the answering taps to proceed from within. Our taps
caused the wires to oscillate, and in these oscillations the
crystal, which they held suspended, had touched the side of the
I looked again at the piece of paper. "A Present For You." Was
THIS the present--this crystal? I regarded it intently.
"It CAN'T be a diamond."
The idea was ridiculous, absurd. No man in his senses would place
a diamond inside a twopenny-halfpenny puzzle box. The thing was as
big as a walnut! And yet--I am a pretty good judge of precious
stones--if it was not an uncut diamond it was the best imitation I
had seen. I took it up. I examined it closely. The more closely
I examined it, the more my wonder grew.
"It IS a diamond!"
And yet the idea was too preposterous for credence. Who would
present a diamond as big as a walnut with a trumpery puzzle?
Besides, all the diamonds which the world contains of that size are
almost as well known as the Koh-i-noor.
"If it is a diamond, it is worth--it is worth--Heaven only knows
what it isn't worth if it's a diamond."
I regarded it through a strong pocket lens. As I did so I could
not restrain an exclamation.
"The world to a China orange, it IS a diamond!"
The words had scarcely escaped my lips than there came a tapping at
"Come in!" I cried, supposing it was Bob. It was not Bob, it was
Pugh. Instinctively I put the lens and the crystal behind my back.
At sight of me in my nightshirt Pugh began to shake his head.
"What hours, Tress, what hours! Why, my dear Tress, I've
breakfasted, read the papers and my letters, came all the way from
my house here, and you're not up!"
"Don't I look as though I were up?"
"Ah, Tress! Tress!" He approached the dressing-table. His eye
fell upon the ruins. "What's this?"
"That's the solution to the puzzle."
"Have you--have you solved it fairly, Tress?"
"It has solved itself. Our handling, and tapping, and hammering
must have freed the springs which the box contained, and during the
night, while I slept, they have caused it to come open."
"While you slept? Dear me! How strange! And--what are these?"
He had discovered the two upright wires on which the crystal had
"I suppose they're part of the puzzle."
"And was there anything in the box? What's this?" he picked up the
scrap of paper; I had left it on the table. He read what was
written on it: "'A Present For You.' What's it mean? Tress, was
this in the box?"
"What's it mean about a present? Was there anything in the box
"Pugh, if you will leave the room I shall be able to dress; I am
not in the habit of receiving quite such early calls, or I should
have been prepared to receive you. If you will wait in the next
room, I will be with you as soon as I'm dressed. There is a little
subject in connection with the box which I wish to discuss with
"A subject in connection with the box? What is the subject?"
"I will tell you, Pugh, when I have performed my toilet."
"Why can't you tell me now?"
"Do you propose, then, that I should stand here shivering in my
shirt while you are prosing at your ease? Thank you; I am obliged,
but I decline. May I ask you once more, Pugh, to wait for me in
the adjoining apartment?"
He moved toward the door. When he had taken a couple of steps, he
"I--I hope, Tress, that you're--you're going to play no tricks on
"Tricks on you! Is it likely that I am going to play tricks upon
my oldest friend?"
When he had gone--he vanished, it seemed to me, with a somewhat
doubtful visage--I took the crystal to the window. I drew the
blind. I let the sunshine fall on it. I examined it again,
closely and minutely, with the aid of my pocket lens. It WAS a
diamond; there could not be a doubt of it. If, with my knowledge
of stones, I was deceived, then I was deceived as never man had
been deceived before. My heart beat faster as I recognized the
fact that I was holding in my hand what was, in all probability, a
fortune for a man of moderate desires. Of course, Pugh knew
nothing of what I had discovered, and there was no reason why he
should know. Not the least! The only difficulty was that if I
kept my own counsel, and sold the stone and utilized the proceeds
of the sale, I should have to invent a story which would account
for my sudden accession to fortune. Pugh knows almost as much of
my affairs as I do myself. That is the worst of these old friends!
When I joined Pugh I found him dancing up and down the floor like a
bear upon hot plates. He scarcely allowed me to put my nose inside
the door before attacking me.
"Tress, give me what was in the box."
"My dear Pugh, how do you know that there was something in the box
to give you?"
"I know there was!"
"Indeed! If you know that there was something in the box, perhaps
you will tell me what that something was."
He eyed me doubtfully. Then, advancing, he laid upon my arm a hand
which positively trembled.
"Tress, you--you wouldn't play tricks on an old friend."
"You are right, Pugh, I wouldn't, though I believe there have been
occasions on which you have had doubts upon the subject. By the
way, Pugh, I believe that I am the oldest friend you have."
"I--I don't know about that. There's--there's Brasher."
"Brasher! Who's Brasher? You wouldn't compare my friendship to
the friendship of such a man as Brasher? Think of the tastes we
have in common, you and I. We're both collectors."
"Ye-es, we're both collectors."
"I make my interests yours, and you make your interests mine.
Isn't that so, Pugh?"
"Tress, what--what was in the box?"
"I will be frank with you, Pugh. If there had been something in
the box, would you have been willing to go halves with me in my
"Go halves! In your discovery, Tress! Give me what is mine!"
"With pleasure, Pugh, if you will tell me what is yours."
"If--if you don't give me what was in the box I'll--I'll send for
"Do! Then I shall be able to hand to them what was in the box in
order that it may be restored to its proper owner."
"Its proper owner! I'm its proper owner!"
"Excuse me, but I don't understand how that can be; at least, until
the police have made inquiries. I should say that the proper owner
was the person from whom you purchased the box, or, more probably,
the person from whom he purchased it, and by whom, doubtless, it
was sold in ignorance, or by mistake. Thus, Pugh, if you will only
send for the police, we shall earn the gratitude of a person of
whom we never heard in our lives--I for discovering the contents of
the box, and you for returning them."
As I said this, Pugh's face was a study. He gasped for breath. He
actually took out his handkerchief to wipe his brow.
"Tress, I--I don't think you need to use a tone like that to me.
It isn't friendly. What--what was in the box?"
"Let us understand each other, Pugh. If you don't hand over what
was in the box to the police, I go halves."
Pugh began to dance about the floor.
"What a fool I was to trust you with the box! I knew I couldn't
trust you." I said nothing. I turned and rang the bell. "What's
"That, my dear Pugh, is for breakfast, and, if you desire it, for
the police. You know, although you have breakfasted, I haven't.
Perhaps while I am breaking my fast, you would like to summon the
representatives of law and order." Bob came in. I ordered
breakfast. Then I turned to Pugh. "Is there anything you would
"No, I--I've breakfasted."
"It wasn't of breakfast I was thinking. It was of--something else.
Bob is at your service, if, for instance, you wish to send him on
"No, I want nothing. Bob can go." Bob went. Directly he was
gone, Pugh turned to me. "You shall have half. What was in the
"I shall have half?"
"I don't think it is necessary that the terms of our little
understanding should be expressly embodied in black and white. I
fancy that, under the circumstance, I can trust you, Pugh. I
believe that I am capable of seeing that, in this matter, you don't
do me. That was in the box."
I held out the crystal between my finger and thumb.
"What is it?"
"That is what I desire to learn."
"Let me look at it."
"You are welcome to look at it where it is. Look at it as long as
you like, and as closely."
Pugh leaned over my hand. His eyes began to gleam. He is himself
not a bad judge of precious stones, is Pugh.
"It's--it's--Tress!--is it a diamond?"
"That question I have already asked myself."
"Let me look at it! It will be safe with me! It's mine!"
I immediately put the thing behind my back.
"Pardon me, it belongs neither to you nor to me. It belongs, in
all probability, to the person who sold that puzzle to the man from
whom you bought it--perhaps some weeping widow, Pugh, or hopeless
orphan--think of it. Let us have no further misunderstanding upon
that point, my dear old friend. Still, because you are my dear old
friend, I am willing to trust you with this discovery of mine, on
condition that you don't attempt to remove it from my sight, and
that you return it to me the moment I require you."
"You're--you're very hard on me." I made a movement toward my
waistcoat pocket. "I'll return it to you!"
I handed him the crystal, and with it I handed him my pocket lens.
"With the aid of that glass I imagine that you will be able to
subject it to a more acute examination, Pugh."
He began to examine it through the lens. Directly he did so, he
gave an exclamation. In a few moments he looked up at me. His
eyes were glistening behind his spectacles. I could see he
"Tress, it's--it's a diamond, a Brazil diamond. It's worth a
"I'm glad you think so."
"Glad I think so! Don't you think that it's a diamond?"
"It appears to be a diamond. Under ordinary conditions I should
say, without hesitation, that it was a diamond. But when I
consider the circumstances of its discovery, I am driven to doubts.
How much did you give for that puzzle, Pugh?"
"Ninepence; the fellow wanted a shilling, but I gave him ninepence.
He seemed content."
"Ninepence! Does it seem reasonable that we should find a diamond,
which, if it is a diamond, is the finest stone I ever saw and
handled, in a ninepenny puzzle? It is not as though it had got
into the thing by accident, it had evidently been placed there to
be found, and, apparently, by anyone who chanced to solve the
puzzle; witness the writing on the scrap of paper."
Pugh re-examined the crystal.
"It is a diamond! I'll stake my life that it's a diamond!"
"Still, though it be a diamond, I smell a rat!"
"What do you mean?"
"I strongly suspect that the person who placed that diamond inside
that puzzle intended to have a joke at the expense of the person
who discovered it. What was to be the nature of the joke is more
than I can say at present, but I should like to have a bet with you
that the man who compounded that puzzle was an ingenious practical
joker. I may be wrong, Pugh; we shall see. But, until I have
proved the contrary, I don't believe that the maddest man that ever
lived would throw away a diamond worth, apparently, shall we say a
"A thousand pounds! This diamond is worth a good deal more than a
"Well, that only makes my case the stronger; I don't believe that
the maddest man that ever lived would throw away a diamond worth
more than a thousand pounds with such utter wantonness as seems to
have characterized the action of the original owner of the stone
which I found in your ninepenny puzzle, Pugh."
"There have been some eccentric characters in the world, some very
eccentric characters. However, as you say, we shall see. I fancy
that I know somebody who would be quite willing to have such a
diamond as this, and who, moreover, would be willing to pay a fair
price for its possession; I will take it to him and see what he
"Pugh, hand me back that diamond."
"My dear Tress, I was only going--"
Bob came in with the breakfast tray.
"Pugh, you will either hand me that at once, or Bob shall summon
the representatives of law and order."
He handed me the diamond. I sat down to breakfast with a hearty
appetite. Pugh stood and scowled at me.
"Joseph Tress, it is my solemn conviction, and I have no hesitation
in saying so in plain English, that you're a thief."
"My dear Pugh, it seems to me that we show every promise of
becoming a couple of thieves."
"Don't bracket me with you!"
"Not at all, you are worse than I. It is you who decline to return
the contents of the box to its proper owner. Put it to yourself,
you have SOME common sense, my dear old friend I--do you suppose
that a diamond worth more than a thousand pounds is to be HONESTLY
bought for ninepence?"
He resumed his old trick of dancing about the room.
"I was a fool ever to let you have the box! I ought to have known
better than to have trusted you; goodness knows you have given me
sufficient cause to mistrust you! Over and over again! Your
character is only too notorious! You have plundered friend and foe
alike--friend and foe alike! As for the rubbish which you call
your collection, nine tenths of it, I know as a positive fact, you
have stolen out and out."
"Who stole my Sir Walter Raleigh pipe? Wasn't it a man named
"Look here, Joseph Tress!"
"Oh, it's no good talking to you, not the least! You're--you're
dead to all the promptings of conscience! May I inquire, Mr.
Tress, what it is you propose to do?"
"I PROPOSE to do nothing, except summon the representatives of law
and order. Failing that, my dear Pugh, I had some faint, vague,
very vague idea of taking the contents of your ninepenny puzzle to
a certain firm in Hatton Garden, who are dealers in precious
stones, and to learn from them if they are disposed to give
anything for it, and if so, what."
"I shall come with you."
"With pleasure, on condition that you pay the cab."
"I pay the cab! I will pay half."
"Not at all. You will either pay the whole fare, or else I will
have one cab and you shall have another. It is a three-shilling
cab fare from here to Hatton Garden. If you propose to share my
cab, you will be so good as to hand over that three shillings
before we start."
He gasped, but he handed over the three shillings. There are few
things I enjoy so much as getting money out of Pugh!
On the road to Hatton Garden we wrangled nearly all the way. I own
that I feel a certain satisfaction in irritating Pugh, he is such
an irritable man. He wanted to know what I thought we should get
for the diamond.
"You can't expect to get much for the contents of a ninepenny
puzzle, not even the price of a cab fare, Pugh."
He eyed me, but for some minutes he was silent. Then he began
"Tress, I don't think we ought to let it go for less than--than
five thousand pounds."
"Seriously, Pugh, I doubt whether, when the whole affair is ended,
we shall get five thousand pence for it, or, for the matter of
that, five thousand farthings."
"But why not? Why not? It's a magnificent stone--magnificent!
I'll stake my life on it."
I tapped my breast with the tips of my fingers.
"There's a warning voice within my breast that ought to be in
yours, Pugh! Something tells me, perhaps it is the unusually
strong vein of common sense which I possess, that the contents of
your ninepenny puzzle will be found to be a magnificent do--an
ingenious practical joke, my friend."
"I don't believe it."
But I think he did; at any rate, I had unsettled the foundations of
We entered the Hatton Garden office side by side; in his anxiety
not to let me get before him, Pugh actually clung to my arm. The
office was divided into two parts by a counter which ran from wall
to wall. I advanced to a man who stood on the other side of this
"I want to sell you a diamond."
"WE want to sell you a diamond," interpolated Pugh.
I turned to Pugh. I "fixed" him with my glance.
"I want to sell you a diamond. Here it is. What will you give me
Taking the crystal from my waistcoat pocket I handed it to the man
on the other side of the counter. Directly he got it between his
fingers, and saw that it was that he had got, I noticed a sudden
gleam come into his eyes.
"This is--this is rather a fine stone."
Pugh nudged my arm.
"I told you so." I paid no attention to Pugh. "What will you give
me for it?"
"Do you mean, what will I give you for it cash down upon the nail?"
"Just so--what will you give me for it cash down upon the nail?"
The man turned the crystal over and over in his fingers. "Well,
that's rather a large order. We don't often get a chance of buying
such a stone as this across the counter. What do you say to--well--
to ten thousand pounds?"
Ten thousand pounds! It was beyond my wildest imaginings. Pugh
gasped. He lurched against the counter.
"Ten thousand pounds!" he echoed.
The man on the other side glanced at him, I thought, a little
"If you can give me references, or satisfy me in any way as to your
bona fides, I am prepared to give you for this diamond an open
check for ten thousand pounds, or if you prefer it, the cash
I stared; I was not accustomed to see business transacted on quite
such lines as those.
"We'll take it," murmured Pugh; I believe he was too much overcome
by his feelings to do more than murmur. I interposed.
"My dear sir, you will excuse my saying that you arrive very
rapidly at your conclusions. In the first place, how can you make
sure that it is a diamond?"
The man behind the counter smiled.
"I should be very ill-fitted for the position which I hold if I
could not tell a diamond directly I get a sight of it, especially
such a stone as this."
"But have you no tests you can apply?"
"We have tests which we apply in cases in which doubt exists, but
in this case there is no doubt whatever. I am as sure that this is
a diamond as I am sure that it is air I breathe. However, here is
There was a wheel close by the speaker. It was worked by a
treadle. It was more like a superior sort of traveling-tinker's
grindstone than anything else. The man behind the counter put his
foot upon the treadle. The wheel began to revolve. He brought the
crystal into contact with the swiftly revolving wheel. There was a
s--s--sh! And, in an instant, his hand was empty; the crystal had
vanished into air.
"Good heavens!" he gasped. I never saw such a look of amazement on
a human countenance before. "It's splintered!"
It WAS a diamond, although it HAD splintered. In that fact lay the
point of the joke. The man behind the counter had not been wrong;
examination of such dust as could be collected proved that fact
beyond a doubt. It was declared by experts that the diamond, at
some period of its history, had been subjected to intense and
continuing heat. The result had been to make it as brittle as
There could be no doubt that its original owner had been an expert
too. He knew where he got it from, and he probably knew what it
had endured. He was aware that, from a mercantile point of view,
it was worthless; it could never have been cut. So, having a turn
for humor of a peculiar kind, he had devoted days, and weeks, and
possibly months, to the construction of that puzzle. He had placed
the diamond inside, and he had enjoyed, in anticipation and in
imagination, the Alnaschar visions of the lucky finder.
Pugh blamed me for the catastrophe. He said, and still says, that
if I had not, in a measure, and quite gratuitously, insisted on a
test, the man behind the counter would have been satisfied with the
evidence of his organs of vision, and we should have been richer by
ten thousand pounds. But I satisfy my conscience with the
reflection that what I did at any rate was honest, though, at the
same time, I am perfectly well aware that such a reflection gives
Pugh no sort of satisfaction.
The Great Valdez Sapphire
I know more about it than anyone else in the world, its present
owner not excepted. I can give its whole history, from the
Cingalese who found it, the Spanish adventurer who stole it, the
cardinal who bought it, the Pope who graciously accepted it, the
favored son of the Church who received it, the gay and giddy
duchess who pawned it, down to the eminent prelate who now holds it
in trust as a family heirloom.
It will occupy a chapter to itself in my forthcoming work on
"Historic Stones," where full details of its weight, size, color,
and value may be found. At present I am going to relate an
incident in its history which, for obvious reasons, will not be
published--which, in fact, I trust the reader will consider related
in strict confidence.
I had never seen the stone itself when I began to write about it,
and it was not till one evening last spring, while staying with my
nephew, Sir Thomas Acton, that I came within measurable distance of
it. A dinner party was impending, and, at my instigation, the
Bishop of Northchurch and Miss Panton, his daughter and heiress,
were among the invited guests.
The dinner was a particularly good one, I remember that distinctly.
In fact, I felt myself partly responsible for it, having engaged
the new cook--a talented young Italian, pupil of the admirable old
chef at my club. We had gone over the menu carefully together,
with a result refreshing in its novelty, but not so daring as to
disturb the minds of the innocent country guests who were bidden
The first spoonful of soup was reassuring, and I looked to the end
of the table to exchange a congratulatory glance with Leta. What
was amiss? No response. Her pretty face was flushed, her smile
constrained, she was talking with quite unnecessary empressement to
her neighbor, Sir Harry Landor, though Leta is one of those few
women who understand the importance of letting a man settle down
tranquilly and with an undisturbed mind to the business of dining,
allowing no topic of serious interest to come on before the
releves, and reserving mere conversational brilliancy for the
Guests all right? No disappointments? I had gone through the list
with her, selecting just the right people to be asked to meet the
Landors, our new neighbors. Not a mere cumbrous county gathering,
nor yet a showy imported party from town, but a skillful blending
of both. Had anything happened already? I had been late for
dinner and missed the arrivals in the drawing-room. It was Leta's
fault. She has got into a way of coming into my room and putting
the last touches to my toilet. I let her, for I am doubtful of
myself nowadays after many years' dependence on the best of valets.
Her taste is generally beyond dispute, but to-day she had indulged
in a feminine vagary that provoked me and made me late for dinner.
"Are you going to wear your sapphire, Uncle Paul!" she cried in a
tone of dismay. "Oh, why not the ruby?"
"You WOULD have your way about the table decorations," I gently
reminded her. "with that service of Crown Derby repousse and
orchids, the ruby would look absolutely barbaric. Now if you would
have had the Limoges set, white candles, and a yellow silk center--"
"Oh, but--I'm SO disappointed--I wanted the bishop to see your
ruby--or one of your engraved gems--"
"My dear, it is on the bishop's account I put this on. You know
his daughter is heiress of the great Valdez sapphire--"
"Of course she is, and when he has the charge of a stone three
times as big as yours, what's the use of wearing it? The ruby,
dear Uncle Paul, PLEASE!"
She was desperately in earnest I could see, and considering the
obligations which I am supposed to be under to her and Tom, it was
but a little matter to yield, but it involved a good deal of extra
trouble. Studs, sleeve-links, watch-guard, all carefully selected
to go with the sapphire, had to be changed, the emerald which I
chose as a compromise requiring more florid accompaniments of a
deeper tone of gold; and the dinner hour struck as I replaced my
jewel case, the one relic left me of a once handsome fortune, in my
The emerald looked very well that evening, however. I kept my eyes
upon it for comfort when Miss Panton proved trying.
She was a lean, yellow, dictatorial young person with no
conversation. I spoke of her father's celebrated sapphires. "MY
sapphires," she amended sourly; "though I am legally debarred from
making any profitable use of them." She furthermore informed me
that she viewed them as useless gauds, which ought to be disposed
of for the benefit of the heathen. I gave the subject up, and
while she discoursed of the work of the Blue Ribbon Army among the
Bosjesmans I tried to understand a certain dislocation in the
arrangement of the table. Surely we were more or less in number
than we should be? Opposite side all right. Who was extra on
ours? I leaned forward. Lady Landor on one side of Tom, on the
other who? I caught glimpses of plumes pink and green nodding over
a dinner plate, and beneath them a pink nose in a green visage with
a nutcracker chin altogether unknown to me. A sharp gray eye shot
a sideway glance down the table and caught me peeping, and I
retreated, having only marked in addition two clawlike hands, with
pointed ruffles and a mass of brilliant rings, making good play
with a knife and fork. Who was she? At intervals a high acid
voice could be heard addressing Tom, and a laugh that made me
shudder; it had the quality of the scream of a bird of prey or the
yell of a jackal. I had heard that sort of laugh before, and it
always made me feel like a defenseless rabbit.
Every time it sounded I saw Leta's fan flutter more furiously and
her manner grow more nervously animated. Poor dear girl! I never
in all my recollection wished a dinner at an end so earnestly so as
to assure her of my support and sympathy, though without the
faintest conception why either should be required.
The ices at last. A menu card folded in two was laid beside me. I
read it unobserved. "Keep the B. from joining us in the drawing-
room." The B.? The bishop, of course. With pleasure. But why?
And how? THAT'S the question, never mind "why." Could I lure him
into the library--the billiard room--the conservatory? I doubted
it, and I doubted still more what I should do with him when I got
The bishop is a grand and stately ecclesiastic of the mediaeval
type, broad-chested, deep-voiced, martial of bearing. I could
picture him charging mace in hand at the head of his vassals, or
delivering over a dissenter of the period to the rack and
thumbscrew, but not pottering among rare editions, tall copies and
Grolier bindings, nor condescending to a quiet cigar among the tree
ferns and orchids. Leta must and should be obeyed, I swore,
nevertheless, even if I were driven to lock the door in the
fearless old fashion of a bygone day, and declare I'd shoot any man
who left while a drop remained in the bottles.
The ladies were rising. The lady at the head of the line smirked
and nodded her pink plumes coquettishly at Tom, while her hawk's
eyes roved keen and predatory over us all. She stopped suddenly,
creating a block and confusion.
"Ah, the dear bishop! YOU there, and I never saw you! You must
come and have a nice long chat presently. By-by--!" She shook her
fan at him over my shoulder and tripped off. Leta, passing me
last, gave me a look of profound despair.
"Lady Carwitchet!" somebody exclaimed. "I couldn't believe my
"Thought she was dead or in penal servitude. Never should have
expected to see her HERE," said some one else behind me
"What Carwitchet? Not the mother of the Carwitchet who--"
"Just so. The Carwitchet who---" Tom assented with a shrug. "We
needn't go farther, as she's my guest. Just my luck. I met them
at Buxton, thought them uncommonly good company--in fact,
Carwitchet laid me under a great obligation about a horse I was
nearly let in for buying--and gave them a general invitation here,
as one does, you know. Never expected her to turn up with her
luggage this afternoon just before dinner, to stay a week, or a
fortnight if Carwitchet can join her." A groan of sympathy ran