Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Floating Fancies among the Weird and the Occult > A TALE OF THE X RAY.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 Christopher Hembold had a mania for experimenting. He had tried everything from hypnotism to electricity, when the “X” ray was first talked about. He could think or talk of nothing else; he perused every magazine and paper with greedy avidity in search of articles concerning it.
“Christopher, do put that paper down and eat your breakfast,” said his wife.
Mrs. Hembold was a nervous little woman, and it annoyed her to hear the newspaper rattle, and she disliked to have it held so as to hide her Christopher from view.
“But, Maria, just listen, here’s more about that wonderful discovery—” he exclaimed excitedly.
“Christopher Hembold! Eat your breakfast! I care much more that the steak and coffee are getting cold than I do for that nonsense.”
“You have no sympathy, Maria; the mysteries of science are beyond your appreciation!” he exclaimed, as he folded the paper in dignified displeasure.
“Appreciate fiddlesticks!” angrily retorted Maria, stirring her coffee vigorously.
215Said Christopher, the next morning at the breakfast table:
“Maria, I am going to Abbeyville on business, and shall in all probability be detained a month.”
“What business have you in Abbeyville?” asked Maria in surprise.
“It is business of a private nature, which you wouldn’t understand,” answered he loftily.
“Which is a polite way of telling me that it is none of my business,” retorted Maria in a huff.
Christopher left the house in dignified anger; his portly figure and handsome profile the admiration of his wrathful wife. The fact was, he did not wish to talk; he had determined that he would investigate the “X” ray to his own satisfaction. A certain idea haunted him by day, and mingled with his dreams at night; it thrust itself between him and the long columns in the ledger; until, with a finger on the figures, he would fix his eyes on vacancy, and go off into a deep study.
At last Mr. Brown, his employer, said to him:
“What is the matter with you Christopher? Are you ill?”
“No—yes—not very,” answered Christopher confusedly.
“You had better take a layoff until you feel better,” said Brown; adding mentally, “You are of no use here; you’ll mix those accounts until it will take an expert a week to straighten them.”
Christopher packed his grip with a sigh of satisfaction, and left home on the evening train.
Maria gave a little regretful sigh. “He might have kissed me; he didn’t even say good-by.”
216She presently began thinking how preoccupied he looked, and how strange he had acted.
“I do wonder if he was in trouble! I ought not have been so cross, but he should have told me; so there!” After a minute of troubled thought, she added: “Perhaps he didn’t want to worry me.”
Whenever Christopher was present she must give him a dig as often as the opportunity occurred; but no sooner was he away than all his good qualities became apparent.
Instead of stopping at Abbeyville, Christopher hastened on to a city more than a thousand miles away. “I’ll just call myself John Smith, and I shall not be bothered while making my investigations,” said he complacently.
The next morning after his arrival he sought out the noted Professor Blank, and at some length explained his project; in conclusion he said:
“You understand that I wish to be cathodographed many times; the working of the brain has always been a tantalizing puzzle to me. What I wish to search out is, how the different emotions affect the gray matter; for instance, it is claimed that this bump is combativeness;” placing his hand on the region indicated. “It is also claimed that all qualities, whether good or bad, are capable of being cultivated; that the bump indicating that trait or quality grows perceptibly larger; well, then, the substance known as gray matter must undergo a change; whenever that emotion is unduly excited, the gray matter must quiver, vibrate; in fact change 217position. Have you never felt as though your brain must burst with the intensity of emotion? I have; and am eager to test it with the ‘X’ ray.” He paused as though for an answer, but receiving none, continued: “Now in order to test this, I wish to subject myself to every possible emotion, and in every change be photographed.”
The professor smiled incredulously.
“How are you to obtain these changes of mood? Such emotions usually come without our choosing.”
“True! Well, I shall endeavor to create the emotion as I wish it.”
The professor laughed aloud. “I think under such conditions that the emotion would be altogether too tame to have a visible effect on the brain.”
Christopher resented the laughter: “Perhaps you are not willing to assist me in making my experiments?” he questioned angrily.
“Oh, yes; perfectly willing,” was the smiling answer.
“Now, look here! I wish to investigate this carefully, and I’m willing and able to pay your price; but I’ll not be ridiculed sir, I’m no boy, I’ll have you understand!”
“No, of course not,” answered the professor soothingly, he thought him a mild lunatic; really he seemed half insane; no matter what reply the professor made, he grew more wroth, until he, out of all patience, said angrily: “What is the matter with you? You act like a maniac!”
218“Quick! Quick! Photograph me!” cried Christopher, with livid lips.
“Well, well!” exclaimed the professor in astonishment, as he hastily complied with the request; after which Christopher sank back, pale and trembling.
The professor looked at him admiringly: “How did you accomplish it?”
“Oh, I don’t know; I just let go of the strings;” smiling faintly.
Thus he went through the whole scale of emotions; he was taken while under the influence of an?sthetics; in a placid mood; in a moment of most uproarious hilarity; in the depths of despondency; in languishing amorousness; in fact, in all conceivable moods of the human mind. He seemed to possess the strange faculty of producing any desired emotion at will.
After he had exhausted all moods, he one day stood gazing meditatively, and rather sadly at the plates.
“Are you not satisfied?” asked the professor.
Christopher sighed deeply: “No, I cannot say that I am; it is certainly shown that there is a change, the exact nature of which is by no means clearly defined. Some future discovery will, I am sure, enable the scientist to see the action of the brain as plainly as we now know the action of the heart.”
He nervously ran his fingers through his hair while speaking; he withdrew his hand with an exclamation of horror: it was covered with hairs and a cloud of the same enveloped him.
“Heaven! Is all my hair falling out?” he cried in dismay.
219The professor calmly observed: “I have noticed it for some time; when you first came your mustache and eyebrows were very thick and long, but have been gradually thinning, I thought several times that I would speak of it, but we have had so much else to talk about, and the most of your moods have been so peculiar—” he smiled as he paused.
“Oh, it’s all right for you to laugh! You wouldn’t if you were in my shoes! Whatever will Maria say?”
He stood ruefully looking at his reflection in the mirror. “I look like a kid!” said he scornfully. “I have been so busy with this confounded foolishness that I did not think of looking in a glass. Pshaw! I’m going to drop this nonsense and go home; I know that my wife is worried about me before this time. I haven’t written to her since I came here. I didn’t want her to know what I was doing.”
“You ought to have told her, though,” said the professor.
“You don’t know Maria!” said Christopher sadly. “Confound it! How my head aches! Now that I take time to think of it, I know that it has ached for a week.”
The following morning Christopher was very ill, and was not able to leave his room for weeks. When at last he arose, he giddily crossed the room to the mirror, and looked at himself; he sank into a chair with a groan; not a vestige of hair remained on head or face.
He covered his long, leathery face with his hands, and cried aloud: “I look like a great 220big sole-leather baby! Whatever will Maria say! I’ll never tell her that it is the effect of that confounded “X” ray; if I did I should never hear the last of it; I’ve been sick, I am sick—sick of the whole business.”
Meanwhile at home, Maria had at first reproached herself with her irritability, and finished by writing Christopher a loving, and penitent little note, which she sent to Abbeyville. Of course she received no reply.
“He must have been very angry,” she sobbingly exclaimed.
She wrote again, a still more penitent and pleading letter; this not being answered, she became very indignant.
“If he wants to be so awfully huffy, let him!” she said wrathfully; but when a whole month passed, and no tidings came as to his whereabouts, she became alarmed, and began to institute cautious inquiries.
Of course, all search proved unavailing, and Maria wept and mourned her Christopher as dead.
Nearly five months from the day he left his home, Christopher wearily climbed the front steps of his own residence, and rang the bell. His clothing hung loosely on his gaunt limbs; his long, thin face was the color of leather; his eyes, devoid of lashes, and without eyebrows, looked perfectly lifeless.
Hannah, an old servant in the family, opened the door.
“If you want food go to the rear door,” she cried sharply, as she shut him out unceremoniously.
221He sat down on the upper step, pale and trembling.
“What does Hannah mean by insulting me thus? Can it be that Maria is so angry that she has ordered the servants to refuse me admittance?”
He mopped his forehead with his handkerchief, although the air was frosty and nipping. Presently he muttered to himself: “I’ll just stay around until Maria comes out, then I’ll persuade her to forgive me. I’ve acted the fool, that’s sure.”
He walked up and down the street, and hung around corners, until the whole neighborhood were watching him.
About three in the afternoon, Maria came out of the house dressed in the deepest of mourning.
“I wonder who is dead; must be her father!” he shambled up to her, and laid his hand on her arm. “Ma—” he began; she gave a frightened scream, and started to run; he clutched her more frantically, and cried wildly: “Listen to me! you shall listen to me!”
She screamed again at the top of her voice: “Help! Murder! Police!”
A gentleman coming toward them, rushed up, and gave Christopher a stunning blow; Maria tore herself loose at the expense of much crape; ran back into the house, and locked the door after herself.
Christopher arose from the sidewalk and shuffled off down the street, muttering maledictions as he went. “It’s all a conspiracy! She has got another lover, and thinks to get rid of me; she’ll find that she can’t do it so easily. 222I’ll wait until dark, and then let myself in with my latchkey; we’ll see whether I am master in my own house or not.”
He paced the street angrily until nightfall; stationing himself opposite, he then watched the house until all was dark and silent. Still another hour he waited: “I’ll be sure that the servants are asleep, evidently they have orders to put me out, or Hannah would not have ordered me off as she did. I’ll show them that they will not get the best of Christopher Hembold yet.”
About eleven o’clock he cautiously crept up the steps, and as cautiously let himself in; just within he removed his boots; then carefully groped his way to Maria’s room. Her door was unlocked, and by the dim light of the night lamp he saw her round white arm thrown............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved