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What Befell Mr. Middleton Because Of The Fifth Gift Of The Emir
by [?]

“I am at a loss to understand,” said Mr. Middleton, “why you have entitled the narration you have just related, ‘The Pleasant Adventures of Dr. McDill.’ For to my mind, they seemed anything but pleasant adventures.”

“How so?” asked the emir. “Is it not pleasant to thwart the machinations and defeat the evil intentions of the villains such as composed the confederacy that sought the doctor’s life? Does there not reside in mankind a sense of justice which rejoices at seeing meted out to wrong-doers the deserts of their crimes?”

To which Mr. Middleton replying with a nod of thoughtful assent, after a proper period of rumination upon the words of the emir, that accomplished ruler continued:

“Despite the boasted protection of the law, how often is a man compelled to rely for his protection upon his own prowess, skill or address. There are many occasions when right under the nose of the police, one saves himself by the resort to physical strength, weapons, or the use of a cajoling tongue. Theoretically, Dr. McDill was amply protected by the mantle of the law. In reality, it was man to man as much as if he had met his foes in the Arabian desert, with none but himself and them and the vultures. Do you go armed?”

“No,” replied Mr. Middleton, with a flippant smile; “but I can go pretty fast, and that has heretofore done as well as going armed.”

“Young man,” said the emir, sternly, “a bullet can outstrip your fleetest footsteps. There may never be but one occasion when you will need a weapon, but on that occasion the possession of the means of protection may spell the difference between life and life.”

Hardly had he uttered them, before Mr. Middleton regretted his forward and pert words, for never before had he answered the emir lightly, such was his respect for him as a man of goodly parts and as one set in authority, and such was his gratitude toward him as a benefactor. Stammering forth what was at once an apology and an acknowledgement of the wisdom of what the emir had said, Mr. Middleton began to make preparations to go. But Prince Achmed bade him wait, and saying a few words to Mesrour in the Arabic language, the blackamore brought to him a pair of pistols of a formidable aspect. In sooth, one could hardly tell whether they ought to be called pistols, or culverins. In the shape of the stocks alone could anyone detect that they were pistols. The bore of each was more than an inch in diameter, and the octagonal barrels of thick steel, heavily inlaid with silver, were a foot and a half long. The handles, which were in proportion to the barrels and so long that four hands could grasp them, were so completely covered with an inlay of pearl that no wood was visible. Taking one of them, the emir rammed home a great load of powder, upon which he placed a handful of balls as large as marbles. Having served the second likewise, he handed the pair to Mr. Middleton.

“Take them. Protected by them, you need have little fear. But woe betide the man who stands in front of them, for so wide is the distribution of their charge, that he must be a most indifferent marksman who could not do execution with them.”

Thanking the emir for the gift and the entertainment and instruction of his discourse, Mr. Middleton departed. Impressed though he had been by Prince Achmed’s counsel and by the lesson to be derived from the recital of the experiences of Dr. McDill, Mr. Middleton did not carry the pistols as he went about his daily vocation. It was impossible to so bestow them about his garments that they did not cause large and unsightly protuberances and to carry them openly was not to be thought of. Their weight, too, was so great that it was burdensome to carry them in any manner. Coming into his room unexpectedly in the middle of the forenoon of the Thursday following the acquisition of the weapons, he surprised Hilda Svenson, maid of all work, in the act of examining one of them, which she had extracted from the place where they lay concealed in the lower bureau drawer beneath a pile of underclothing. With a start of guilty surprise, Hilda let the pistol fall to the floor. Fortunately it did not go off, but nonetheless was he convinced that he ought to dispose of the two weapons, for any day Hilda might shoot herself with one, while on the weekly sheet changing day, Mrs. Leschinger, the landlady, might shoot herself with the other. There was no place in the room where he could conceal them from the painstaking investigations of Hilda and Mrs. Leschinger, and the expedient of extracting the charges not occurring to him, he felt that it was clearly his duty to remove the lives of the two women from jeopardy by disposing of the pistols. He was in truth pained at the necessity of parting with the gifts which the emir had made with such solicitude for his welfare and as some assuagement to this regret he sought to dispose of them as profitably as possible. With this end in view, he made an appointment for a private audience after hours with Mr. Sidney Kuppenheimer, who conducted a large loan bank on Madison Street and was reputed a connoisseur and admirer of all kinds of curios.