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American Mystery Stories

Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
An Heiress From Redhorse
By The Waters Of Paradise
Horror: A True Tale
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
My Wife's Tempter
The Corpus Delicti
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Man And The Snake
The Minister's Black Veil
The Oblong Box
The Shadows On The Wall
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams

The Lock And Key Library

A Case Of Identity
A Conjurer's Confessions
A Flight Into Texas
A Formidable Weapon
A Mystery With A Moral
A Scandal In Bohemia
A Wish Unexpectedly Gratified
Addressed To The Advocate Who Defended Him At His Trial
Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
Adventures In The Secret Service Of The Post-office Department
An Aspirant For Congress
An Erring Shepherd
An Heiress From Redhorse
An Old Game Revived
Bourgonef
By The Waters Of Paradise
Deception Explained By The Science Of Psychology
Facing The Arab's Pistol
Fact And Fable In Psychology
Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled[1]
His Wedded Wife
Horror: A True Tale
How Spirits Materialize
How The Tricks Succeeded
In The House Of Suddhoo
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
Matter Through Matter
Melmoth The Wanderer
Mind Reading In Public
My Own True Ghost Story
My Wife's Tempter
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
Saint-germain The Deathless
Second Sight
Some Famous Exposures
The Avenger
The Baron's Quarry
The Closed Cabinet
The Corpus Delicti
The Dream Woman
The Fortune Of Seth Savage
The Fowl In The Pot
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hostler's Story Told By Himself
The Incantation
The Lost Duchess
The Magician Who Became An Ambassador
The Man And The Snake
The Man In The Iron Mask
The Methods Of A Doctor Of The Occult
The Minister's Black Veil
The Minor Canon
The Mortals In The House
The Name Of The Dead
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Pavilion On The Links
The Pipe
The Puzzle
The Red-headed League
The Sending Of Dana Da
The Shadows On The Wall
The Story Continued By Percy Fairbank
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams



The Golden Ingot








I had just retired to rest, with my eyes almost blind with the
study of a new work on physiology by M. Brown-Sequard, when the
night bell was pulled violently.

It was winter, and I confess I grumbled as I rose and went
downstairs to open the door. Twice that week I had been aroused
long after midnight for the most trivial causes. Once, to attend
upon the son and heir of a wealthy family, who had cut his thumb
with a penknife, which, it seems, he insisted on taking to bed with
him; and once, to restore a young gentleman to consciousness, who
had been found by his horrified parent stretched insensible on the
staircase. Diachylon in the one case and ammonia in the other were
all that my patients required; and I had a faint suspicion that the
present summons was perhaps occasioned by no case more necessitous
than those I have quoted. I was too young in my profession,
however, to neglect opportunities. It is only when a physician
rises to a very large practice that he can afford to be
inconsiderate. I was on the first step of the ladder, so I humbly
opened my door.

A woman was standing ankle deep in the snow that lay upon the
stoop. I caught but a dim glimpse of her form, for the night was
cloudy; but I could hear her teeth rattling like castanets, and, as
the sharp wind blew her clothes close to her form, I could discern
from the sharpness of the outlines that she was very scantily
supplied with raiment.

"Come in, come in, my good woman," I said hastily, for the wind
seemed to catch eagerly at the opportunity of making itself at home
in my hall, and was rapidly forcing an entrance through the half-
open door. "Come in, you can tell me all you have to communicate
inside."

She slipped in like a ghost, and I closed the door. While I was
striking a light in my office, I could hear her teeth still
clicking out in the dark hall, till it seemed as if some skeleton
was chattering. As soon as I obtained a light I begged her to
enter the room, and, without occupying myself particularly about
her appearance, asked her abruptly what her business was.

"My father has met with a severe accident," she said, "and requires
instant surgical aid. I entreat you to come to him immediately."

The freshness and the melody of her voice startled me. Such voices
rarely, if ever, issue from any but beautiful forms. I looked at
her attentively, but, owing to a nondescript species of shawl in
which her head was wrapped, I could discern nothing beyond what
seemed to be a pale, thin face and large eyes. Her dress was
lamentable. An old silk, of a color now unrecognizable, clung to
her figure in those limp folds which are so eloquent of misery.
The creases where it had been folded were worn nearly through, and
the edges of the skirt had decayed into a species of irregular
fringe, which was clotted and discolored with mud. Her shoes--
which were but half concealed by this scanty garment--were
shapeless and soft with moisture. Her hands were hidden under the
ends of the shawl which covered her head and hung down over a bust,
the outlines of which, although angular, seemed to possess grace.
Poverty, when partially shrouded, seldom fails to interest: witness
the statue of the Veiled Beggar, by Monti.

"In what manner was your father hurt?" I asked, in a tone
considerably softened from the one in which I put my first
question.

"He blew himself up, sir, and is terribly wounded."

"Ah! He is in some factory, then?"

"No, sir, he is a chemist."

"A chemist? Why, he is a brother professional. Wait an instant,
and I will slip on my coat and go with you. Do you live far from
here?"

"In the Seventh Avenue, not more than two blocks from the end of
this street."

"So much the better. We will be with him in a few minutes. Did
you leave anyone in attendance on him?"

"No, sir. He will allow no one but myself to enter his laboratory.
And, injured as he is, I could not induce him to quit it."

"Indeed! He is engaged in some great research, perhaps? I have
known such cases."

We were passing under a lamp-post, and the woman suddenly turned
and glared at me with a look of such wild terror that for an
instant I involuntarily glanced round me under the impression that
some terrible peril, unseen by me, was menacing us both.

"Don't--don't ask me any questions," she said breathlessly. "He
will tell you all. But do, oh, do hasten! Good God! he may be
dead by this time!"

I made no reply, but allowed her to grasp my hand, which she did
with a bony, nervous clutch, and endeavored with some difficulty to
keep pace with the long strides--I might well call them bounds, for
they seemed the springs of a wild animal rather than the paces of a
young girl--with which she covered the ground. Not a word more was
uttered until we stopped before a shabby, old-fashioned tenement
house in the Seventh Avenue, not far above Twenty-third Street.
She pushed the door open with a convulsive pressure, and, still
retaining hold of my hand, literally dragged me upstairs to what
seemed to be a back offshoot from the main building, as high,
perhaps, as the fourth story. In a moment more I found myself in a
moderate-sized chamber, lit by a single lamp. In one corner,
stretched motionless on a wretched pallet bed, I beheld what I
supposed to be the figure of my patient.

"He is there," said the girl; "go to him. See if he is dead--I
dare not look."

I made my way as well as I could through the numberless dilapidated
chemical instruments with which the room was littered. A French
chafing dish supported on an iron tripod had been overturned, and
was lying across the floor, while the charcoal, still warm, was
scattered around in various directions. Crucibles, alembics, and
retorts were confusedly piled in various corners, and on a small
table I saw distributed in separate bottles a number of mineral and
metallic substances, which I recognized as antimony, mercury,
plumbago, arsenic, borax, etc. It was veritably the apartment of a
poor chemist. All the apparatus had the air of being second-hand.
There was no luster of exquisitely annealed glass and highly
polished metals, such as dazzles one in the laboratory of the
prosperous analyst. The makeshifts of poverty were everywhere
visible. The crucibles were broken, or gallipots were used instead
of crucibles. The colored tests were not in the usual transparent
vials, but were placed in ordinary black bottles. There is nothing
more melancholy than to behold science or art in distress. A
threadbare scholar, a tattered book, or a battered violin is a mute
appeal to our sympathy.

I approached the wretched pallet bed on which the victim of
chemistry was lying. He breathed heavily, and had his head turned
toward the wall. I lifted his arm gently to arouse his attention.
"How goes it, my poor friend?" I asked him. "Where are you hurt?"

In a moment, as if startled by the sound of my voice, he sprang up
in his bed, and cowered against the wall like a wild animal driven
to bay. "Who are you? I don't know you. Who brought you here?
You are a stranger. How dare you come into my private rooms to spy
upon me?"

And as he uttered this rapidly with a frightful nervous energy, I
beheld a pale distorted face, draped with long gray hair, glaring
at me with a mingled expression of fury and terror.

"I am no spy," I answered mildly. "I heard that you had met with
an accident, and have come to cure you. I am Dr. Luxor, and here
is my card."

The old man took the card, and scanned it eagerly. "You are a
physician?" he inquired distrustfully.

"And surgeon also."

"You are bound by oath not to reveal the secrets of your patients."

"Undoubtedly."

"I am afraid that I am hurt," he continued faintly, half sinking
back in the bed.

I seized the opportunity to make a brief examination of his body.
I found that the arms, a part of the chest, and a part of the face
were terribly scorched; but it seemed to me that there was nothing
to be apprehended but pain.

"You will not reveal anything that you may learn here?" said the
old man, feebly fixing his eyes on my face while I was applying a
soothing ointment to the burns. "You will promise me."

I nodded assent.

"Then I will trust you. Cure me--I will pay you well."

I could scarce help smiling. If Lorenzo de' Medici, conscious of
millions of ducats in his coffers, had been addressing some leech
of the period, he could not have spoken with a loftier air than
this inhabitant of the fourth story of a tenement house in the
Seventh Avenue.

"You must keep quiet," I answered. "Let nothing irritate you. I
will leave a composing draught with your daughter, which she will
give you immediately. I will see you in the morning. You will be
well in a week."

"Thank God!" came in a murmur from a dusk corner near the door. I
turned, and beheld the dim outline of the girl, standing with
clasped hands in the gloom of the dim chamber.

"My daughter!" screamed the old man, once more leaping up in the
bed with renewed vitality. "You have seen her, then? When?
Where? Oh, may a thousand cur--"

"Father! father! Anything--anything but that. Don't, don't curse
me!" And the poor girl, rushing in, flung herself sobbing on her
knees beside his pallet.

"Ah, brigand! You are there, are you? Sir," said he, turning to
me, "I am the most unhappy man in the world. Talk of Sisyphus
rolling the ever-recoiling stone--of Prometheus gnawed by the
vulture since the birth of time. The fables yet live. There is my
rock, forever crushing me back! there is my eternal vulture,
feeding upon my heart! There! there! there!" And, with an awful
gesture of malediction and hatred, he pointed with his wounded
hand, swathed and shapeless with bandages, at the cowering,
sobbing, wordless woman by his side.

I was too much horror-stricken to attempt even to soothe him. The
anger of blood against blood has an electric power which paralyzes
bystanders.

"Listen to me, sir," he continued, "while I skin this painted
viper. I have your oath; you will not reveal. I am an alchemist,
sir. Since I was twenty-two years old, I have pursued the
wonderful and subtle secret. Yes, to unfold the mysterious Rose
guarded with such terrible thorns; to decipher the wondrous Table
of Emerald; to accomplish the mystic nuptials of the Red King and
the White Queen; to marry them soul to soul and body to body,
forever and ever, in the exact proportions of land and water--such
has been my sublime aim, such has been the splendid feat that I
have accomplished."

I recognized at a glance, in this incomprehensible farrago, the
argot of the true alchemist. Ripley, Flamel, and others have
supplied the world, in their works, with the melancholy spectacle
of a scientific bedlam.

"Two years since," continued the poor man, growing more and more
excited with every word that he uttered--"two years since, I
succeeded in solving the great problem--in transmuting the baser
metals into gold. None but myself, that girl, and God knows the
privations I had suffered up to that time. Food, clothing, air,
exercise, everything but shelter, was sacrificed toward the one
great end. Success at last crowned my labors. That which Nicholas
Flamel did in 1382, that which George Ripley did at Rhodes in 1460,
that which Alexander Sethon and Michael Scudivogius did in the
seventeenth century, I did in 1856. I made gold! I said to
myself, 'I will astonish New York more than Flamel did Paris.' He
was a poor copyist, and suddenly launched into magnificence. I had
scarce a rag to my back: I would rival the Medicis. I made gold
every day. I toiled night and morning; for I must tell you that I
never was able to make more than a certain quantity at a time, and
that by a process almost entirely dissimilar to those hinted at in
those books of alchemy I had hitherto consulted. But I had no
doubt that facility would come with experience, and that ere long I
should be able to eclipse in wealth the richest sovereigns of the
earth.

"So I toiled on. Day after day I gave to this girl here what gold
I succeeded in fabricating, telling her to store it away after
supplying our necessities. I was astonished to perceive that we
lived as poorly as ever. I reflected, however, that it was perhaps
a commendable piece of prudence on the part of my daughter.
Doubtless, I said, she argues that the less we spend the sooner we
shall accumulate a capital wherewith to live at ease; so, thinking
her course a wise one, I did not reproach her with her
niggardliness, but toiled on, amid want, with closed lips.

"The gold which I fabricated was, as I said before, of an
invariable size, namely, a little ingot worth perhaps thirty or
forty-five dollars. In two years I calculated that I had made five
hundred of these ingots, which, rated at an average of thirty
dollars apiece, would amount to the gross sum of fifteen thousand
dollars. After deducting our slight expenses for two years, we
ought to have had nearly fourteen thousand dollars left. It was
time, I thought, to indemnify myself for my years of suffering, and
surround my child and myself with such moderate comforts as our
means allowed. I went to my daughter and explained to her that I
desired to make an encroachment upon our little hoard. To my utter
amazement, she burst into tears, and told me that she had not got a
dollar--that all of our wealth had been stolen from her. Almost
overwhelmed by this new misfortune, I in vain endeavored to
discover from her in what manner our savings had been plundered.
She could afford me no explanation beyond what I might gather from
an abundance of sobs and a copious flow of tears.

"It was a bitter blow, doctor, but nil desperandum was my motto, so
I went to work at my crucible again, with redoubled energy, and
made an ingot nearly every second day. I determined this time to
put them in some secure place myself; but the very first day I set
my apparatus in order for the projection, the girl Marion--that is
my daughter's name--came weeping to me and implored me to allow her
to take care of our treasure. I refused decisively, saying that,
having found her already incapable of filling the trust, I could
place no faith in her again. But she persisted, clung to my neck,
threatened to abandon me; in short, used so many of the bad but
irresistible arguments known to women that I had not the heart to
refuse her. She has since that time continued to take the ingots.

"Yet you behold," continued the old alchemist, casting an
inexpressibly mournful glance around the wretched apartment, "the
way we live. Our food is insufficient and of bad quality; we never
buy clothes; the rent of this hole is a mere nothing. What am I to
think of the wretched girl who plunges me into this misery? Is she
a miser, think you?--or a female gamester?--or--or--does she
squander it riotously in places I know not of? O Doctor, Doctor!
do not blame me if I heap imprecations on her head, for I have
suffered bitterly!" The poor man here closed his eyes and sank
back groaning on his bed.

This singular narrative excited in me the strangest emotions. I
glanced at the girl Marion, who had been a patient listener to
these horrible accusations of cupidity, and never did I behold a
more angelic air of resignation than beamed over her countenance.
It was impossible that anyone with those pure, limpid eyes; that
calm, broad forehead; that childlike mouth, could be such a monster
of avarice or deceit as the old man represented. The truth was
plain enough: the alchemist was mad--what alchemist was there ever
who was not?--and his insanity had taken this terrible shape. I
felt an inexpressible pity move my heart for this poor girl, whose
youth was burdened with such an awful sorrow.

"What is your name?" I asked the old man, taking his tremulous,
fevered hand in mine.

"William Blakelock," he answered. "I come of an old Saxon stock,
sir, that bred true men and women in former days. God! how did it
ever come to pass that such a one as that girl ever sprung from our
line?" The glance of loathing and contempt that he cast at her
made me shudder.

"May you not be mistaken in your daughter?" I said, very mildly.
"Delusions with regard to alchemy are, or have been, very common--"

"What, sir?" cried the old man, bounding in his bed. "What? Do
you doubt that gold can be made? Do you know, sir, that M. C.
Theodore Tiffereau made gold at Paris in the year 1854 in the
presence of M. Levol, the assayer of the Imperial Mint, and the
result of the experiments was read before the Academy of Sciences
on the sixteenth of October of the same year? But stay; you shall
have better proof yet. I will pay you with one of my ingots, and
you shall attend me until I am well. Get me an ingot!"

This last command was addressed to Marion, who was still kneeling
close to her father's bedside. I observed her with some curiosity
as this mandate was issued. She became very pale, clasped her
hands convulsively, but neither moved nor made any reply.

"Get me an ingot, I say!" reiterated the alchemist passionately.

She fixed her large eyes imploringly upon him. Her lips quivered,
and two huge tears rolled slowly down her white cheeks.

"Obey me, wretched girl," cried the old man in an agitated voice,
"or I swear, by all that I reverence in heaven and earth, that I
will lay my curse upon you forever!"

I felt for an instant that I ought perhaps to interfere, and spare
the girl the anguish that she was so evidently suffering; but a
powerful curiosity to see how this strange scene would terminate
withheld me.

The last threat of her father, uttered as it was with a terrible
vehemence, seemed to appall Marion. She rose with a sudden leap,
as if a serpent had stung her, and, rushing into an inner
apartment, returned with a small object which she placed in my
hand, and then flung herself in a chair in a distant corner of the
room, weeping bitterly.

"You see--you see," said the old man sarcastically, "how
reluctantly she parts with it. Take it, sir; it is yours."

It was a small bar of metal. I examined it carefully, poised it in
my hand--the color, weight, everything, announced that it really
was gold.

"You doubt its genuineness, perhaps," continued the alchemist.
"There are acids on yonder table--test it."

I confess that I DID doubt its genuineness; but after I had acted
upon the old man's suggestion, all further suspicion was rendered
impossible. It was gold of the highest purity. I was astounded.
Was then, after all, this man's tale a truth? Was his daughter,
that fair, angelic-looking creature, a demon of avarice, or a slave
to worse passions? I felt bewildered. I had never met with
anything so incomprehensible. I looked from father to daughter in
the blankest amazement. I suppose that my countenance betrayed my
astonishment, for the old man said: "I perceive that you are
surprised. Well, that is natural. You had a right to think me mad
until I proved myself sane."

"But, Mr. Blakelock," I said, "I really cannot take this gold. I
have no right to it. I cannot in justice charge so large a fee."

"Take it--take it," he answered impatiently; "your fee will amount
to that before I am well. Besides," he added mysteriously, "I wish
to secure your friendship. I wish that you should protect me from
her," and he pointed his poor, bandaged hand at Marion.

My eyes followed his gesture, and I caught the glance that replied--
a glance of horror, distrust, despair. The beautiful face was
distorted into positive ugliness.

"It's all true," I thought; "she is the demon that her father
represents her."

I now rose to go. This domestic tragedy sickened me. This
treachery of blood against blood was too horrible to witness. I
wrote a prescription for the old man, left directions as to the
renewal of the dressings upon his burns, and, bidding him good
night, hastened toward the door.

While I was fumbling on the dark, crazy landing for the staircase,
I felt a hand laid on my arm.

"Doctor," whispered a voice that I recognized as Marion
Blakelock's, "Doctor, have you any compassion in your heart?"

"I hope so," I answered shortly, shaking off her hand; her touch
filled me with loathing.

"Hush! don't talk so loud. If you have any pity in your nature,
give me back, I entreat of you, that gold ingot which my father
gave you this evening."

"Great heaven!" said I, "can it be possible that so fair a woman
can be such a mercenary, shameless wretch?"

"Ah! you know not--I cannot tell you! Do not judge me harshly. I
call God to witness that I am not what you deem me. Some day or
other you will know. But," she added, interrupting herself, "the
ingot--where is it? I must have it. My life depends on your
giving it to me."

"Take it, impostor!" I cried, placing it in her hand, that closed
on it with a horrible eagerness. "I never intended to keep it.
Gold made under the same roof that covers such as you must be
accursed."

So saying, heedless of the nervous effort she made to detain me, I
stumbled down the stairs and walked hastily home.

The next morning, while I was in my office, smoking my matutinal
cigar, and speculating over the singular character of my
acquaintances of last night, the door opened, and Marion Blakelock
entered. She had the same look of terror that I had observed the
evening before, and she panted as if she had been running fast.

"Father has got out of bed," she gasped out, "and insists on going
on with his alchemy. Will it kill him?"

"Not exactly," I answered coldly. "It were better that he kept
quiet, so as to avoid the chance of inflammation. However, you
need not be alarmed; his burns are not at all dangerous, although
painful."

"Thank God! thank God!" she cried, in the most impassioned accents;
and, before I was aware of what she was doing, she seized my hand
and kissed it.

"There, that will do," I said, withdrawing my hand; "you are under
no obligations to me. You had better go back to your father."

"I can't go," she answered. "You despise me--is it not so?"

I made no reply.

"You think me a monster--a criminal. When you went home last
night, you were wonderstruck that so vile a creature as I should
have so fair a face."

"You embarrass me, madam," I said, in a most chilling tone. "Pray
relieve me from this unpleasant position."

"Wait. I cannot bear that you should think ill of me. You are
good and kind, and I desire to possess your esteem. You little
know how I love my father."

I could not restrain a bitter smile.

"You do not believe that? Well, I will convince you. I have had a
hard struggle all last night with myself, but am now resolved.
This life of deceit must continue no longer. Will you hear my
vindication?"

I assented. The wonderful melody of her voice and the purity of
her features were charming me once more. I half believed in her
innocence already.

"My father has told you a portion of his history. But he did not
tell you that his continued failures in his search after the secret
of metallic transmutation nearly killed him. Two years ago he was
on the verge of the grave, working every day at his mad pursuit,
and every day growing weaker and more emaciated. I saw that if his
mind was not relieved in some way he would die. The thought was
madness to me, for I loved him--I love him still, as a daughter
never loved a father before. During all these years of poverty I
had supported the house with my needle; it was hard work, but I did
it--I do it still!"

"What?" I cried, startled, "does not--"

"Patience. Hear me out. My father was dying of disappointment. I
must save him. By incredible exertions, working night and day, I
saved about thirty-five dollars in notes. These I exchanged for
gold, and one day, when my father was not looking, I cast them into
the crucible in which he was making one of his vain attempts at
transmutation. God, I am sure, will pardon the deception. I never
anticipated the misery it would lead to.

"I never beheld anything like the joy of my poor father, when,
after emptying his crucible, he found a deposit of pure gold at the
bottom. He wept, and danced, and sang, and built such castles in
the air, that my brain was dizzy to hear him. He gave me the ingot
to keep, and went to work at his alchemy with renewed vigor. The
same thing occurred. He always found the same quantity of gold in
his crucible. I alone knew the secret. He was happy, poor man,
for nearly two years, in the belief that he was amassing a fortune.
I all the while plied my needle for our daily bread. When he asked
me for the savings, the first stroke fell upon me. Then it was
that I recognized the folly of my conduct. I could give him no
money. I never had any--while he believed that I had fourteen
thousand dollars. My heart was nearly broken when I found that he
had conceived the most injurious suspicions against me. Yet I
could not blame him. I could give no account of the treasure I had
permitted him to believe was in my possession. I must suffer the
penalty of my fault, for to undeceive him would be, I felt, to kill
him. I remained silent then, and suffered.

"You know the rest. You now know why it was that I was reluctant
to give you that ingot--why it was that I degraded myself so far as
to ask it back. It was the only means I had of continuing a
deception on which I believed my father's life depended. But that
delusion has been dispelled. I can live this life of hypocrisy no
longer. I cannot exist and hear my father, whom I love so, wither
me daily with his curses. I will undeceive him this very day.
Will you come with me, for I fear the effect on his enfeebled
frame?"

"Willingly," I answered, taking her by the hand; "and I think that
no absolute danger need be apprehended. Now, Marion," I added,
"let me ask forgiveness for having even for a moment wounded so
noble a heart. You are truly as great a martyr as any of those
whose sufferings the Church perpetuates in altar-pieces."

"I knew you would do me justice when you knew all," she sobbed,
pressing my hand; "but come. I am on fire. Let us hasten to my
father, and break this terror to him."

When we reached the old alchemist's room, we found him busily
engaged over a crucible which was placed on a small furnace, and in
which some indescribable mixture was boiling. He looked up as we
entered.

"No fear of me, doctor," he said, with a ghastly smile, "no fear; I
must not allow a little physical pain to interrupt my great work,
you know. By the way, you are just in time. In a few moments the
marriage of the Red King and White Queen will be accomplished, as
George Ripley calls the great act, in his book entitled 'The Twelve
Gates.' Yes, doctor, in less than ten minutes you will see me make
pure, red, shining gold!" And the poor old man smiled
triumphantly, and stirred his foolish mixture with a long rod,
which he held with difficulty in his bandaged hands. It was a
grievous sight for a man of any feeling to witness.

"Father," said Marion, in a low, broken voice, advancing a little
toward the poor old dupe, "I want your forgiveness."

"Ah, hypocrite! for what? Are you going to give me back my gold?"

"No, father, but for the deception that I have been practicing on
you for two years--"

"I knew it! I knew it!" shouted the old man, with a radiant
countenance. "She has concealed my fourteen thousand dollars all
this time, and now comes to restore them. I will forgive her.
Where are they, Marion?"

"Father--it must come out. You never made any gold. It was I who
saved up thirty-five dollars, and I used to slip them into your
crucible when your back was turned--and I did it only because I saw
that you were dying of disappointment. It was wrong, I know--but,
father, I meant well. You'll forgive me, won't you?" And the poor
girl advanced a step toward the alchemist.

He grew deathly pale, and staggered as if about to fall. The next
instant, though, he recovered himself, and burst into a horrible
sardonic laugh. Then he said, in tones full of the bitterest
irony: "A conspiracy, is it? Well done, doctor! You think to

reconcile me with this wretched girl by trumping up this story that
I have been for two years a dupe of her filial piety. It's clumsy,
doctor, and is a total failure. Try again."

"But I assure you, Mr. Blakelock," I said as earnestly as I could,
"I believe your daughter's statement to be perfectly true. You
will find it to be so, as she has got the ingot in her possession
which so often deceived you into the belief that you made gold, and
you will certainly find that no transmutation has taken place in
your crucible."

"Doctor," said the old man, in tones of the most settled
conviction, "you are a fool. The girl has wheedled you. In less
than a minute I will turn you out a piece of gold purer than any
the earth produces. Will that convince you?"

"That will convince me," I answered. By a gesture I imposed
silence on Marion, who was about to speak. I thought it better to
allow the old man to be his own undeceiver--and we awaited the
coming crisis.

The old man, still smiling with anticipated triumph, kept bending
eagerly over his crucible, stirring the mixture with his rod, and
muttering to himself all the time. "Now," I heard him say, "it
changes. There--there's the scum. And now the green and bronze
shades flit across it. Oh, the beautiful green! the precursor of
the golden-red hue that tells of the end attained! Ah! now the
golden-red is coming--slowly--slowly! It deepens, it shines, it is
dazzling! Ah, I have it!" So saying, he caught up his crucible in
a chemist's tongs, and bore it slowly toward the table on which
stood a brass vessel.

"Now, incredulous doctor!" he cried, "come and be convinced," and
immediately began carefully pouring the contents of the crucible
into the brass vessel. When the crucible was quite empty he turned
it up and called me again. "Come, doctor, come and be convinced.
See for yourself."

"See first if there is any gold in your crucible," I answered,
without moving.

He laughed, shook his head derisively, and looked into the
crucible. In a moment he grew pale as death.

"Nothing!" he cried. "Oh, a jest, a jest! There must be gold
somewhere. Marion!"

"The gold is here, father," said Marion, drawing the ingot from her
pocket; "it is all we ever had."

"Ah!" shrieked the poor old man, as he let the empty crucible fall,
and staggered toward the ingot which Marion held out to him. He
made three steps, and then fell on his face. Marion rushed toward
him, and tried to lift him, but could not. I put her aside gently,
and placed my hand on his heart.

"Marion," said I, "it is perhaps better as it is. He is dead!"





Next: My Wife's Tempter

Previous: Wieland's Madness



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