The Pipe





"RANDOLPH CRESCENT, N.W.



"MY DEAR PUGH--I hope you will like the pipe which I send with

this. It is rather a curious example of a certain school of

Indian carving. And is a present from



"Yours truly, Joseph Tress."



It was really very handsome of Tress--very handsome! The more especially

as I was aware that to give presents was not exactly in Tress's line. The

truth is that when I saw what manner of pipe it was I was amazed. It was

contained in a sandalwood box, which was itself illustrated with some

remarkable specimens of carving. I use the word "remarkable" advisedly,

because, although the workmanship was undoubtedly, in its way, artistic,

the result could not be described as beautiful. The carver had thought

proper to ornament the box with some of the ugliest figures I remember to

have seen. They appeared to me to be devils. Or perhaps they were intended

to represent deities appertaining to some mythological system with which,

thank goodness, I am unacquainted. The pipe itself was worthy of the case

in which it was contained. It was of meerschaum, with an amber mouthpiece.

It was rather too large for ordinary smoking. But then, of course, one

doesn't smoke a pipe like that. There are pipes in my collection which I

should as soon think of smoking as I should of eating. Ask a china maniac

to let you have afternoon tea out of his Old Chelsea, and you will learn

some home truths as to the durability of human friendships. The glory of

the pipe, as Tress had suggested, lay in its carving. Not that I claim

that it was beautiful, any more than I make such a claim for the carving

on the box, but, as Tress said in his note, it was curious.



The stem and the bowl were quite plain, but on the edge of the bowl was

perched some kind of lizard. I told myself it was an octopus when I first

saw it, but I have since had reason to believe that it was some almost

unique member of the lizard tribe. The creature was represented as

climbing over the edge of the bowl down toward the stem, and its legs, or

feelers, or tentacula, or whatever the 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 forgiven

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.





II



"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 omission."



"An omission?"



"I omitted to advise you not to smoke it."



"And why?"



"Because--well, I've reason to believe the thing is drugged."



"Drugged!"



"Or poisoned."



"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 another smoke."



"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 to me?"



"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."



"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 haunted."



"Haunted?"



"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 bowl!"



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 than this."



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 up."



"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 possession?"



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 the

Truth?"



"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 awkward."



"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 concealing."



"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."



"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 jail.



"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 his."



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 discover."



"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 creature move."



"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 me."



"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 dear!"



"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 pipe."



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--why 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. Tress explained.



"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."



"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--my boy?"



"Thank you, sir."



"And what would you say to a pull at a pipe when the brandy is drunk!"



"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 smoke!"



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 his eyes.



"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 bundle."



"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 the air.



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 I ain't."



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

to this.



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 the air.



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 dissection."



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!"



"Alive! That's the secret of the whole performance!"



"But--"



"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 digestion."



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 floor.



"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, my boy?"



Bob drank it!





FOOTNOTE



"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 appendage?--EDITOR.





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