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by [?]

The source of this manuscript lies in tragedy. My possession of it is purely adventitious. That I have had it long you may know, for it came to me at an inland prairie town, far removed from water or mountain, while for ten years or more my name, above the big-lettered dentist sign, has stood here on my office window in this city by the lake. I have waited, hoping some one would come as claimant; but my hair is turning white and I can wait no longer. As now I write of the past, the time of the manuscript’s coming stands clear amid a host of hazy, half-forgotten things.

It was after regular hours, of the day I write, that a man came hurriedly into my office, complaining of a fiercely aching tooth. Against my advice he insisted on an immediate extraction, and the use of an anaesthetic. I telephoned for a physician, and while awaiting his coming my patient placed in my keeping an expansible leather-covered book of a large pocket size.

“Should anything go wrong,” he said, “there are instructions inside.”

The request is common from those unused to an operation, and I accepted without other comment than to assure him he need fear no danger.

Upon arriving, the physician made the customary examination and proceeded to administer chloroform. The patient was visibly excited, but neither of us attached any importance to that under the circumstances. Almost before the effect of the anaesthetic was noticeable, however, there began a series of violent muscular spasms and contractions. The inhaler was removed and all restoratives known to the profession used, but without avail. He died in a few moments, and without regaining consciousness. The symptoms were suspicious, entirely foreign to any caused by the anaesthetic, and at the inquest the cause came to light. In the man’s stomach was a large quantity of strychnine. That he knew something of medicine is certain, for the action of the alkaloid varies little, and he had the timing to a nicety.

The man was, I should judge, thirty years of age, smooth of face and slightly built. Nerve was in every line of face and body. He was faultlessly dressed and perfectly groomed. He wore no jewelry, not even a watch; but within the pocket of his vest was found a small jewel-case containing two beautiful white diamonds, each of more than a carat weight. One was unset, the other mounted in a lady’s ring. There was money in plenty upon his person, but not an article that would give the slightest clue to his identity.

One peculiar thing about him I noticed, and could not account for: upon the palm of each hand was a row of irregular abrasions, but slightly healed, and which looked as though made by some dull instrument.

The book with which he entrusted me had begun as a journal, but with the passage of events it had outgrown its original plan. Being expansible, fresh sheets had been added as it grew, and at the back of the book, on one of these blanks, had been hastily scratched, in pencil, the message of which he spoke:

“You will find sufficient money in my pockets to cover all expenses. Do not take my trinkets, please! Associations make them dear to me. Any attempt to discover my friends will be useless.”

Notwithstanding the last sentence the body was embalmed and the death advertised; but no response came, and after three days the body and the tokens he loved were quietly buried here in the city.

Meantime I had read the book, beginning from a sense of duty that grew into a passing interest, and ended by making me unaware of both time and place. I give you the journal as it stands, word for word and date for date. Would that I could show you the handwriting in the original as well. No printed page can tell the story of mood as can the lines of this journal. There were moments of passion when words slurred and overtook each other, as thought moved more rapidly than the characters which recorded; and again, periods of uncertainty when the hand tarried and busied itself with forming meaningless figures, while the conscious mind roamed far away.