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Carleton Barker, First And Second
by [?]

My first meeting with Carleton Barker was a singular one. A friend and I, in August, 18–, were doing the English Lake District on foot, when, on nearing the base of the famous Mount Skiddaw, we observed on the road, some distance ahead of us, limping along and apparently in great pain, the man whose subsequent career so sorely puzzled us. Noting his very evident distress, Parton and I quickened our pace and soon caught up with the stranger, who, as we reached his side, fell forward upon his face in a fainting condition–as well he might, for not only must he have suffered great agony from a sprained ankle, but inspection of his person disclosed a most extraordinary gash in his right arm, made apparently with a sharp knife, and which was bleeding most profusely. To stanch the flow of blood was our first care, and Parton, having recently been graduated in medicine, made short work of relieving the sufferer’s pain from his ankle, bandaging it about and applying such soothing properties as he had in his knapsack–properties, by the way, with which, knowing the small perils to which pedestrians everywhere are liable, he was always provided.

Our patient soon recovered his senses and evinced no little gratitude for the service we had rendered him, insisting upon our accepting at his hands, merely, he said, as a souvenir of our good -Samaritanship, and as a token of his appreciation of the same, a small pocket-flask and an odd diamond-shaped stone pierced in the centre, which had hung from the end of his watch-chain, held in place by a minute gold ring. The flask became the property of Parton, and to me fell the stone, the exact hue of which I was never able to determine, since it was chameleonic in its properties. When it was placed in my hands by our “grateful patient” it was blood -red; when I looked upon it on the following morning it was of a livid, indescribable hue, yet lustrous as an opal. To-day it is colorless and dull, as though some animating quality that it had once possessed had forever passed from it.

“You seem to have met with an accident,” said Parton, when the injured man had recovered sufficiently to speak.

“Yes,” he said, wincing with pain, “I have. I set out for Saddleback this morning–I wished to visit the Scales Tarn and get a glimpse of those noonday stars that are said to make its waters lustrous, and–“

“And to catch the immortal fish?” I queried.

“No,” he replied, with a laugh. “I should have been satisfied to see the stars–and I did see the stars, but not the ones I set out to see. I have always been more or less careless of my safety, walking with my head in the clouds and letting my feet look out for themselves. The result was that I slipped on a moss-covered stone and fell over a very picturesque bit of scenery on to some more stones that, unfortunately, were not moss-covered.”

“But the cut in your arm?” said Parton, suspiciously. “That looks as if somebody else had given it to you.”

The stranger’s face flushed as red as could be considering the amount of blood he had lost, and a look of absolute devilishness that made my flesh creep came into his eyes. For a moment he did not speak, and then, covering the delay in his answer with a groan of anguish, he said:

“Oh, that! Yes–I–I did manage to cut myself rather badly and–“

“I don’t see how you could, though,” insisted Parton. “You couldn’t reach that part of yourself with a knife, if you tried.”

“That’s just the reason why you should see for yourself that it was caused by my falling on my knife. I had it grasped in my right hand, intending to cut myself a stick, when I slipped. As I slipped it flew from my hand and I landed on it, fortunately on the edge and not on the point,” he explained, his manner far from convincing, though the explanation seemed so simple that to doubt it were useless.