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THE Scottish-born author Robert Duncan Milne, who lived and worked in San Fransisco, may be considered as one of the founding-fathers of modern science-fiction. He wrote 60-odd stories in this genre before his untimely death in a street accident in 1899, publishing them, for the most part, in The Argonaut and San Francisco Examiner.
In its report on Milne's demise (he was struck by a cable-car while in a state of inebriation) The San Fransico Call of 17 December 1899 summarised his life as follows:
"Mr. Milne was the son of the late Rev. George Gordon Milne, M.A., F.R.S.A., for forty years incumbent of St. James Episcopal Church, Cupar-Fife. and nephew of Duncan James Kay, Esq., of Drumpark, J.P. and D.L. of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, through which side of the house, and by maternal ancestry (through the Breadalbane family), he was lineally descended from King Robert the Bruce.
"He received his primary education at Trinity College, Glenalmond, where he distinguished himself by gaining first the Skinner scholarship, which he held for a period of three years; second, the Knox prize for Latin verse, the competition for which is open to a number of public echools in England and Ireland, and thirdly, the Buccleuch gold medal as senior and captain of the school, of the eleven of which he was also captain.
"From Glenalmond Mr. Milne proceeded to Oxford, where he further distinguished himself by taking honors, also rowing in his college eight and playing in its eleven.
"After leaving the university he decided to visit California, a country then beginning to be more talked about than ever, and he afterward made the Pacific Coast his residence. In 1874 Mr. Milne invented and exhibited in the Mechanics' Fair at San Francisco a working model of a new type of rotary steam engine, which was pronounced to be the wonder of the fair.
"While in California Mr. Milne for a long time gained distinction as a writer of short stories and verse which appeared in current periodicals. The character of his work was well defined by Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, who said:
"'He has an extravagant imagination, but under it is a reassuring and scientific mind. He takes such a premise as a comet falling into the sun, and works out a terribly realistic series of results: or he will invent a drama for Saturn which might well have grown out of that planet's conditions. His style is so good and so convincing that one is apt to lay down such a story as the former, with an anticipation of nightmare, if comets are hanging about. His sense of humor and literary taste will always stop him the right side of the grotesque.'"
WHILE lounging listlessly along the sea-wall one afternoon about the beginning of August last—the eighth, I think it was—enjoying the sunshine and inhaling the sea- breeze, my attention was attracted to an unusual bustle and commotion on the quay of Section Two. I could see from where I was that considerable exertions were being made to transfer some heavy object from a vessel moored alongside the quay to the quay itself. As I got nearer I discovered by the name on the stern that the vessel was the whaling-bark Marion, and that the object which the crew, assisted by a number of longshoremen, were making such efforts to get on shore was an immense rectangular block, measuring some nine feet in length by about four in breadth and thickness. Had it been a block of granite, the men could not have worked harder, prying it with rollers and levers along a gangway made of a dozen or so of stout planks laid abreast from the ship's deck to the quay. As, however, this object, whatever it was, was swathed and enveloped with a plentiful supply of sacking, I could form no opinion as to its nature.
While standing abstractedly by, looking on and speculating as to what this very heavy object might be, and wondering what it could be doing aboard a whaler, I was tapped gently on the shoulder by somebody, and, looking round, my eyes rested on a heavily-bearded and bronzed individual in pea-jacket and rough trousers, with a laughing eye, who said, cheerily: "What! Don't you know me?"
I was certain I had never seen the man before, though something in the voice sounded familiar. My doubts, however, were speedily set at rest by this individual exclaiming: "Don't you recollect Joe Burnham? Has a year made such a difference? If so, I'm glad of it You couldn't have paid me a better compliment"
"Can it be possible?" I said, in surprise, as I grasped his hand; "why, Joe, who would have expected to meet you coming off a whaler? And with a heavy beard, too!"
"Why, I thought you knew all about it," he returned, with equal surprise; "just wait a minute," he added, as he turned to give some directions to the men who had now got the heavy object safe on shore, and were proceeding to hoist it upon a dray.
While he was thus engaged, I recalled some circumstances which served to explain the unexpected and original appearance of my friend.
Joe Burnham, the son of the well-known millionaire mining-man, had, I knew, been recommended to go abroad for change of air about a year before, owing to failing health arising from too intense application to study. This, however, was all I knew, and I had no idea that he had concluded to take his change of air aboard a whaler. But knowing his taste for scientific pursuits of any and every character, I can not say that I was very much surprised to meet him again as I had just done. At any rate, the trip had certainly been most beneficial, as he had changed from a sickly and rather delicate student to a hale, hearty, and robust man.
"Yes," he remarked, as he came back from the dray, which was now moving slowly off, the four sturdy horses which drew it evidently straining under the weight with which it was loaded, "my doctor prescribed absolute freedom from brain-work of any kind. He shook his head when I suggested Europe. There was too much, he said, to be seen in Asia, or, in fact, in any other quarter of the globe, to insure the perfect repose he thought necessary. Even a prolonged yachting excursion did not meet his views. That, he said, would be worse than anything else. Its very monotony and loneliness would drive me to cogitation. The sea part of it, he admitted, was capital. If a sea voyage could be combined with excitement and something to do—but would I work? Then some lucky inspiration seemed to flash across my mind, and I asked him if there were any objections to a whaling trip. 'The very thing,' he said; 'you have plenty of money and can go more as a passenger than as a sailor. You won't have much time to study on board that kind of a vessel, and I'll risk all the chances you get to indulge in the study of the flora and fauna of the Arctic' And now you see how it is that I happen to be disembarking at the present moment from the staunch bark Marion."
"You seem to have got plenty of baggage, anyhow," I returned, motioning toward the dray, which was now fast retreating in the direction of the city; "your share of the blubber, perhaps," I added, banteringly; "or maybe specimens of the flora and fauna of the Arctic, which your doctor cautioned you against."
"Partly right and partly wrong," said Burnham, sententiously and somewhat seriously; "you may have got nearer the truth about that queer parcel than you think. But this is no time or place to speak about it. Come up to the house to-morrow forenoon, if you have time, and I will show you something that will astonish you. I particularly wish you to come," he added, with emphasis; "you will be amply repaid for doing so by what you will see. Meantime, I have something more to arrange on board this vessel." So saying, he crossed the gangway and disappeared.
NEXT morning about ten, in accordance with my friend's invitation, I ascended the steps of the Burnham mansion, rang the bell, and sent in my card. I was evidently expected, as the servant requested me to follow him, and led the way downstairs. There, in a small court-yard sacred to himself, and in which, together with two apartments opening thereon, my friend conducted his experiments, I found him in his shirt-sleeves, superintending the disposition of the ponderous mass which had excited my curiosity the day before on the sea-wall. The workmen had just succeeded in hoisting it on to a strong and massive trestle-work, some three feet from the ground, and upon this the nondescript, oblong package, swathed with sacking and bound with ropes, now rested.
"There!" said Burnham, as he settled with the men and turned the key of the door leading into the ordinary court-yard of the house; "the most laborious part of the job is over. It was no easy matter getting the package up here. But now, as publicity at this stage must on every consideration be avoided, I must ask you to stand ready to lend me a hand when necessary. Better leave your coat in the laboratory or in the studio—which you please—you can suit yourself."
The "laboratory" and the "studio" were the respective names of the two rooms opening onto the court-yard where we were now standing, which was itself separated, as I have said, from the main court-yard of the building by a tolerably high wall, opposite which were the entrances and windows of the rooms aforesaid, which had been originally intended for outhouses of some sort. The other two sides of this little court-yard were blind-walls of the house itself. Certainly, if secrecy were the requisite aimed at in my friend's enterprise, whatever it might be, a happier place could not have been chosen. The "laboratory" and the "studio," while each opened on the court, and while there was also intercommunication between the rooms, differed greatly in interior arrangement, as well as in the uses to which they were put. The laboratory was fitted up with benches, tables, and shelves, littered with chemical, optical, electrical, and photographic apparatus, zoological and botanical specimens, et hoc genus omne; a perfect scientific chaos, in short, without a semblance of law and order. The "studio," on the other hand, was richly and luxuriously furnished and kept in scrupulous order by Burnham's own valet, who, I noticed, however, was not there at this time.
Passing into the laboratory first, I noticed that a trestle- work similar to that in the court-yard stood in the centre of the floor, and that it was surmounted by a shallow pan of zinc, fitted at one end with a waste-pipe, like that of a bath-tub, leading to the gutter of the court. I was still further surprised to note, when I passed on into the studio, that the centre of that chamber also contained what might be termed a supplement to the trestle-work, in that the furniture had been moved to one side to make room for an improvised table on which rested an ordinary mattress. In addition to this a bureau-bed had been unfolded and set in readiness at one of the walls, while a blazing fire burned in the grate, although the day was anything but cold. Before I had time to speculate upon the meaning of all these mysterious preparations, I heard Burnham calling, so throwing my coat on a settee I hastened to join him. I found him engaged in firing-up a small portable steam-engine that stood in one corner of the yard, and in affixing to the exhaust pipe of the cylinder another pipe, several feet in length, with a movable arm, evidently for the purpose of ejecting steam in any desired direction.
"Now," he said, as he completed the connection, "while the boiler is getting up steam, you and I must get work and uncover our package. I expected Dr. Dunne here before this, but doctors, you know, are always entitled to latitude in non-professional matters."
So saying, he took a knife and began to cut away the ropes from the package, I following his example. Then we removed layer after layer of sacking, the air growing, I thought, all the time sensibly colder, till upon removing the last of the sack- cloth—we could not, of course, remove the wrapping on which the weight rested, but merely contented ourselves with ripping the top open and letting it fall on either side—what was my surprise to see before me an immense oblong block of blue, pellucid ice. But who shall express my feelings when, a moment after, I discerned imbedded in the heart of the transparent crystal the form of a man.
But let me describe what I saw. There, lying on its back in the middle of the frozen slab, was unmistakably the body of a man, but so wonderfully life-like in every detail that it was as difficult to believe that the man was dead as it was to conceive how he had come into his present position. The eyes were dark and wide open, and whether or not it was due to some peculiar refracting qualities of the medium through which they were observed, they did not look glassy or seem to have lost their lustre. The short, thick, curly black locks that clustered about the forehead, and the closely trimmed beard that fringed the cheeks, looked as natural as they could have done in the heyday of life. But just as inexplicable was the dress. It was composed of some light material such as is worn in hot climates, and had more in common with the ancient Greek chlamys, or the Arab burnous, than with any other type of dress that I recall. Such colors as it had were tasteful and resplendent, and had lost none of their original freshness. The feet were shod with sandals, and a gemmed ring still sparkled upon one of the fingers of the right hand. It was the face and figure of a handsome man of thirty, or thereabouts, and the whole posture was so indicative of repose as to indicate that, whoever he might be, he had met his end calmly and without pain.
I turned mechanically toward Burnham and saw that he was watching my surprise and smiling.
"Well, what do you think of my package," he asked; "was it worth the trouble of bringing it here from the Arctic circle?"
"I must congratulate you on your specimen," I returned; "it will certainly be a great acquisition to our scientific men and antiquaries. But how are young going to preserve it? Won't you find it rather a difficult matter to keep the ice in a state of congelation—and expensive, too, I should think?"
"That is not my intention," he replied; "I mean to thaw him out"
"And then?" I queried.
I looked at my friend to see if he were not joking, but could detect no sign of mirth about his face.
"Why not?" he said; "that man in the ice there is as organically perfect as you or I are. No fibre or atom of his organism has undergone any change since he came into the condition he is now in. Say that he met his death—if indeed he is dead—by drowning, and the water he drowned in was subsequently frozen, he is no worse off at this moment, even though he has been lying where he is thousands of years, than the man who was drowned five minutes ago. And I hold, and my friend Dr. Dunne agrees with me—"
Dr. Dunne, one of the most scientific physicians and surgeons in the city, as is well known, entered the court-yard at that moment, after giving a secret knock, and apologized for his tardiness.
"My friend, Dr. Dunne, I say, agrees with me, that our treatment of drowned, or so-called drowned, men is all wrong, and that they can be resuscitated hours after death has apparently supervened, if the proper measures are taken. Drowning is simply a case of arrested function, that is all. Provided the organism is sound, why should it not be made to perform its functions again? Does a temporary stoppage ruin a watch if the works are all right? If so, what are doctors and watch-makers for, I should like to know? Is it not so, doctor?"
"At all events we can try," rejoined the doctor, impressively; "I am heartily glad of such a favorable, such an ultra-favorable, opportunity, I should say, of testing the efficacy of my treatment of drowned men upon so promising a subject."
"But what about the freezing, doctor?" I ventured to remark, for the coolness with which the whole subject was treated reminded me painfully of my own deficiencies of scientific lore and rendered me proportionately modest "I have always understood that frozen limbs are as good as dead, and that amputation alone can save the life of the rest of the organism in such a case. It seems to me that when the whole body is frozen, so much the worse."
"So much the better," returned the doctor, warmly; "it is much easier to work where the conditions are homogeneous."
BY this time the steam escaping from the safety-valve of the portable engine showed that the pressure was considerable, and Burnham, who had previously shifted the slide-valve so that the steam would pass straight into the exhaust, now wheeled the engine opposite the block of ice, pointed the lateral pipe, which he had connected with the exhaust, and which he manipulated on its joint by means of a fork, toward the side of the block, turned the globe-valve and let the jet of blue vapor play upon the ice. The court-yard was soon thick with clouds of steam, but the huge ice-block kept dwindling away as the steam was directed upon one point or the other, by wheeling the engine round it, till in less than half an hour the court-yard was little better than a puddle and nothing remained of the ice-block but a crystal envelope, a few inches thick, around the enclosed body, so deftly and skillfully had Burnham directed the steam-jet upon all portions alike.
"We shall now have to exercise more care," he remarked; "the remaining ice must be removed in a more gentle manner. Help me to carry the body into the laboratory."
So saying, we all lent a hand and transferred the ice-bound body to the zinc tray upon the trestles in the laboratory, in which a roaring stove-fire had previously been lit, and the temperature of which, when the doors were shut, was like that of a Turkish bath.
"There!" ejaculated Burnham, who, though in his shirt-sleeves, was perspiring freely and panting after his work; "so far, so good. Let us go into the studio and sit down and rest while our guest"—I was struck with the quaintness of the epithet as applied to the corpse in the next room, as also with the emphasis Burnham gave it—"sheds the remnant of the crystal mantle he has worn for who shall say how many thousand years. It will take at least half an hour before he is completely thawed out, and meanwhile, if you like, I will tell you how I managed to run across him in the Far North."
We were all curious to know, so Burnham gave the following details:
"AFTER leaving San Francisco in March, last year, we sailed North with the intention of reaching Behring Sea by the time the ice broke up, hoping to do well enough with whales and seals to return before the season closed. I had, of course, made my arrangements with the captain, going as a volunteer, to do duty or not as I pleased, and living in the cabin. We had the usual adventures which are part and parcel of a whaler's experience, and which I will not bother you with, as they are not germane to the question, and I found my health improving wonderfully under the influence of the fresh air, exercise, and excitement.
"By June we had passed Behring Straits and then cruised for a good many weeks in the open sea beyond; but our luck was bad, and, owing to trying to better it before we left, we waited too long; worse than that, we were caught by a storm which blew us nearly due north for several days to a point some hundred miles east of Banks's Land and the Parry Isles; and before we knew where we were, we found ourselves shut in by the ice, luckily in the lee of some bluffs, forming part of a small island only a few square miles in extent, to which circumstance alone we could attribute the escape of our vessel from being crushed by the ice- pack. Subsequent observations showed that we were in longitude 162 degrees W. and about latitude 76 degrees N.—a point, by the way, rarely reached by navigators even under the most exceptionally favorable circumstances. There was nothing for it, however, but to make the best of a bad job and prepare to winter it out with the best grace we could. Luckily we had plenty of provisions—I had looked after the matter of commissariat, personally, before embarking—and I think I may safely say that few whalers ever wintered in the Arctic circle better equipped in that respect than we were.
"As you can readily imagine, the life of a ship's crew, icebound, during the long, dark, northern winter is not an enviable one. Suffice it to say that we got through it with probably less than the ordinary amount of hardship, and were very glad to catch a glimpse of the sun about the beginning of April, as it looked like a sign of release, though the captain did not think the ice would break up for at least six weeks longer. There was now some pleasure in rambling, as there were a few hours of sunlight to do it by, and I used to make the most of it, as one might get an occasional pop at a seal or otter, and not unfrequently the captain—we were by this time great chums—would accompany me.
"One day in May we were tramping along, gun in hand, over the ice-fields, going over some new ground to the east of the ship, when we came upon a patch of remarkably clear and transparent ice, about a mile from the vessel. This was the more peculiar as the generality of the ice in our neighborhood was rough, jagged, opaque, and usually coated with snow. Looking down casually as we were crossing this patch, my eye was arrested by the curious spectacle of the body of a man embedded in the ice, some sixteen or eighteen feet below the surface. I called the captain's attention to the phenomenon, and, getting down on our hands and knees, we spent a good while in examining the strange object as well as we could, and speculating upon how it could have got there. What puzzled us most was the white clothing upon the body, the captain's theory being that it was the corpse of some officer of consequence, belonging, perhaps, to some government expedition, whose shroud had burst its canvas casing after being consigned to the deep, and which had afterward drifted there with the currents and frozen fast. I, however, whose eyes were keener, could see that the dress upon the body was no shroud, and that the features, instead of being livid, bloated, and swollen, like those of a corpse that had been some time in the water, were clear-cut, fresh, and untouched by decay. I became anxious to obtain a nearer view of this strange discovery, and at length prevailed upon the captain to let me have the use of half a dozen of the crew to dig down through the ice till I could satisfy my curiosity regarding it Accordingly, next morning we set to work with pick and shovel to sink a shaft in the ice, and it was only the work of an hour or two before we were within two feet of the body.
"At this distance I renewed my examination and became the more and more impressed and mystified as I did so. But my astonishment was still further increased when, upon gazing downward through the pellucid depths below, I saw, or thought I saw, the dim outlines of buildings, just as they might seem from the top of some tall monument I thought I could detect lines of streets and squares, the buildings on which were white as of marble, their architecture seeming to approach the Grecian in type. Gardens and trees, too, I thought I saw, but the light of the low sun was so feeble that I did not know whether it might not all be due to the fantastic forms of sea-weed, and that imagination was doing the rest As it was, however, the impression I received served to increase my interest in the mysterious object beneath me.
"I now resolved to secure possession of this wonderful windfall, from a scientific standpoint, which luck had thrown in my way; and by dint of promising a liberal reward to my assistants I succeeded in persuading them to dig round and below the body, leaving the block, which we just now melted, only supported securely enough at its end to keep it from breaking down, till such time as we were prepared to remove it. Here, again, I had a bitter altercation with the captain, when I mooted my design of carrying off my prize. It was absurd, he said, preposterous, to think of packing a huge block of ice, containing only the dead body of a man, and of no earthly use to anybody. Did I think that the whalers were fitted out for costly voyages into polar seas for the fun of the thing? Look at the room it would take, if nothing else. No; he must drawn the line there; he would be d——d if he gave his countenance to any such nonsense as that, science or no science.
"I now saw that it was neck or nothing. There is nothing so obdurate as a sea-captain, if he sets his foot down, and by long association I knew my man. I determined to try him on a new tack, and to go to almost any length in doing so, partly through the spirit of opposition which is strong within me, and partly because I had already formulated, in a vague manner, the scheme which we are now carrying into practice. I felt a deep conviction, too, that I was in some mysterious way working out mysterious ends, and that gave new strength to my resolve.
"'Captain,' I said that evening as we sat in the cabin, 'what do you estimate that your present trip is worth?'
"'Worth nothing as yet,' he answered, with a growl; 'worse luck to it.'
"'I mean what would you take for the net earnings of the voyage, provided somebody bought your chances for what you might pick up upon the return?'
"The captain studied. It was plain that I had given his ideas a new turn. Perhaps he divined the bent of mine.
"'Well,' he said, at length, 'there would be the crew to be considered, as well as myself, in a case of that sort. We're all working on shares. Captain gets half, and the other half of the net proceeds are divided pro rata among the petty officers and crew. What would suit me mightn't suit them.'
"'Well, what could you reasonably expect to take on the home voyage with average luck?' I said, returning to the charge.
"'Half a dozen sperm-whales wouldn't be out of the way,' returned the captain, cheerily; 'might get more. Catch might range anywhere from twenty to forty thousand dollars.'
"'Call it thirty thousand,' I said; 'would that be a fair average?'
"'Well, there's twenty-two of a crew. That would net about seven hundred dollars apiece for their share. I don't think they would growl at that. Fifteen thousand would suit me, and I think I should be very well out of it, for that matter. By why do you ask such questions?'
"'Read that,' I said, for answer, and shoved a slip of paper across the table.
"'Why, what's this?' said the captain, taking up the slip of paper and reading:
"'Off the Parry Isles, Long. 162° W., Lat. 76° N.,
May 14th, 1888.
Bank of California, San Francisco.
Pay to the order of J. F. Manson, captain whaling bark Marion, the sum of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) and debit
"'Simply a check for your possible gains on the return voyage, captain. I want the use of your ship as far as San Francisco. Everything satisfactory, I suppose. Good-night.' So saying, I strolled into my stateroom, leaving the worthy captain to deliberate upon my proposal.
"Next morning I purposely got up late; but by the earnest and many-voiced conversation which I could faintly hear, upon the deck above me, I knew that the seed I had sown was germinating, if not bearing fruit.
"Well, to cut a long story short, my proposal was accepted; the ice-block dug out and conveyed to the vessel with a good deal of trouble; my check certified and cashed in Victoria, where most of the crew were paid off, and—here we are. Now, suppose we adjourn to the laboratory and see if our guest has completely thawed out yet."
THE strong heat from the stove had, in truth, very nearly finished what the steam had begun. Though there was still a shell of ice surrounding the body, it was little more than a shell, and Dr. Dunne recommended that the next stage in the treatment should be approached with all expedition. Burnham, accordingly, went off to prepare a bath in the bath-room adjoining the studio, and when he hailed us, the doctor and myself carried in the zinc tray with the body and deposited the latter in the bath.
"We must proceed very slowly," said the doctor, as he stood by, thermometer in hand; "I shall begin with a temperature of fifty and increase it very gradually—say, in half an hour or so—to blood heat. All the internal organs are, of course, frozen; the lungs, too, are doubtless full of ice, and the first thing to be done is to relieve them of the water. Not the least remarkable feature, gentlemen," he continued, turning to us, "is that this body must have been frozen almost before—in my theory, certainly before—it was drowned. But how to account for this? That is the point. It is certainly beyond the range of our scientific experience, nor can we conceive of any natural or chemical force powerful enough to effect such a result. This man, too, is clad in the garb of a tropical, or sub-tropical, region. These are evidently his every- day clothes which he is wearing. He must have been both drowned and frozen almost simultaneously. The drowning and the freezing must have been nearly coincident events—at all events, within an hour or two of each other. I can not see into it. I give it up," concluded the doctor, with a shake of the head.
"Still," said Burnham, "have we not something of a parallel in the elephants which, some years ago, were found embedded in the ice to the north of Siberia, just as this man was? The elephant is a tropical animal, and can scarcely be credited with going to the North Pole on a pleasure trip. How do you account for that?"
"Perhaps," suggested I, "it was a case of the mountain coming to Mahomet in both instances. Perhaps the pole came to them. Suppose that through some unknown natural cause, or some outside cosmical agency, the axis of the earth should change abruptly, as it is probable that it is now doing gradually, and that what were formerly the equatorial regions became the polar, and vice versa, what would naturally follow? In the first place, the oceans and seas would be hurled over the continents in tidal waves miles high. Only mountaineers dwelling in the highest altitudes would escape. That would be the first result. The second would be that the waters upon what were formerly the tropical regions would be frozen. The third would be—what we see before us now in that bath."
"Very ingenious, certainly," remarked the doctor, dryly; "but we have got no time for speculation now. Let us attend to business. Our friend here should be pretty thoroughly warmed through by this time. Please lend a hand to get him on the operating-table."
Accordingly, we removed the body from the bath to the mattress in the studio, the room having been meanwhile closed and its temperature raised to blood heat.
"We must first get the water out of the lungs," said the doctor, as he reached for what looked something like a stomach- pump, but which, instead of the suction tube, terminated in a diaphragm made of some elastic substance, which he applied to the open mouth of the body, pressing it closely with his left hand, at the same time asking me to compress the nostrils tightly. The flesh was now warm, soft, and yielding. The doctor then drew back the piston of his pump and a stream of water followed through the discharge tube. This was repeated several times, till the lungs were pronounced free from water.
A consultation now followed between the doctor and Burnham.
"The blood in the veins and arteries," said the doctor, "though it has undergone liquefaction, is probably, to a certain extent, coagulated. Though why," he continued, musingly, "should such be the case? At any rate, let us see."
He then took a lancet from his instrument-case and proceeded to make an incision in the median vein of the left arm, when, to his manifest joy, as I could see, a few drops of blood spurted out.
"Yes! It is as I thought," he exclaimed, joyfully; "the blood has not coagulated. It is a simple case of drowning, and, to all intents and purposes, our friend here is no better and no worse off than if he had been asphyxiated by water only a few hours ago. Mr. Burnham, I congratulate you," taking that gentleman by the hand and shaking it with the utmost enthusiasm, "upon being instrumental in providing a subject for resuscitation—for resuscitate him I do not doubt that I shall, now that I have direct evidence that the blood has undergone no chemical change—a subject, compared with which a mere, ordinary case of drowning sinks into the most infinitesimal insignificance; for—who can tell?—perhaps this man has lain in this condition for hundreds, aye, for thousands of years; perhaps he belongs to a remote prehistoric age, for ice, the great embalmer, knows neither time nor seasons, and a thousand years are to it but as one hour. Whatever our friend here is, or has been, he will presently be one of us; he will open his mouth and unlock the secrets of the past. He will tell us how he came to be in his present plight. He will add another page to the world's history."
I felt myself catching all the doctor's enthusiasm, and now hung upon everything that he did with breathless interest.
"The next step," said the doctor, "is to stimulate the heart's action and restore the circulation. To do this will require our united efforts. You, Mr. Burnham, will take charge of the battery and apply the electrodes; our friend here"—signifying myself—"will assist in inflating the lungs; I will attend to the circulation. Your battery is ready, is it not, Mr. Burnham?"
The battery, with its auxiliary apparatus for intensifying the current, was brought round and placed on a table close by. Dr. Dunne then made an incision in the breast so as to expose the breast-bone, or sternum, and another in the back, in the region of the third vertebra. To the former of these the negative pole of the battery was applied, and to the latter the positive electrode.
"Where is that phial, I wonder?" interjected the doctor, looking over his medicine-chest, and taking out bottle after bottle; "ah, here it is," he said, at last, "here is the substance on which I rely to restore the action of the heart and give new life to our friend here. It has only lately been introduced into the pharmacopoeia; but since its introduction it has done wonders in cardiac affections. It is distilled from a plant which grows only in East Africa. Its name is strephanthus, and its effect is to accelerate the action of the heart. It is now my purpose to inject a portion of this powerful stimulant into the median vein, which I have just opened, in our friend's arm, whence it will be conveyed to the heart. Meanwhile, you, Mr. Burnham, and our friend here will induce artificial respiration in the lungs, so that the blood may be oxygenated after it has been expelled from the heart by the spasmodic valvular action which the strephanthus will excite in that organ. Now, let us each attend closely to his allotted duty."
My part consisted in inflating the lungs by means of a tiny bellows, the nozzle of which had been introduced into the larynx, till such time as the breathing should become automatic and the rise and fall of the lungs regular. At a given signal from the doctor, Burnham turned on the current, the electrodes having been previously placed in position, and, at the same instant, the chest expanded. I plied my bellows as the breast rose, and a second afterward it collapsed, the discharged air rushing back through the larynx with a whistling sound. Three seconds afterward the chest rose automatically again, and again I assisted its rise by inflating the lungs as before. This was kept up for some dozen or more respirations, occupying in all about two minutes.
Meantime, the doctor was intently engaged with a syringe and graduating glass at the left arm of the body. So absorbed was he in his occupation that he seemed oblivious to everything else. Suddenly he sprang to his feet, with an exclamation which startled us.
"We have won!" he shouted; "see! the blood is circulating."
I looked down at the arm, and, sure enough, blood was spurting in a thin jet from the lower extremity of the vein which the doctor had severed. In my excitement I had withdrawn the bellows from the mouth, but there was no further use for artificial respiration, as the chest was now rising and falling automatically and in regular cadence. The doctor now tied up the severed vein, sewed up the incision in the arm, and, after dressing the patient—for such he must now be called—in a suit of Burnham's underwear, we lifted him into the bureau-bed that had been prepared at the side of the studio next the fire.
"There is nothing more to be done," said the doctor, simply; "he will wake by-and-by of his own accord, and will then need some nourishment. Soup and stimulants will be the proper thing to administer at first."
BURNHAM went out and returned presently with a tray containing the desired refreshments. We now waited anxiously for the awakening, which must sooner or later come. The breathing, which had hitherto been labored and stertorous, was becoming easier, the color was returning to the cheeks, and the occasional twitching of the muscles showed that our strange patient was on the point of awaking. At length he turned on his side, opened his eyes, stared fixedly at us, and then uttered an exclamation in some foreign tongue. Burnham got up, wheeled a table to the side of the bed, set the tray of refreshments upon it, and motioned him to help himself, at the same time pouring out a glass of wine. Here Dr. Dunne interposed.
"No," he said, smiling; "after a fast of so many thousand years I certainly must prescribe hot water as an initiative. It is absolutely necessary for the stomach to begin with."
The hot water was brought, and our patient, evidently comprehending that he was under medical treatment, shifted his position in bed so as to recline upon his elbow, took the tumbler which was handed him, and, after eyeing it critically, raised it to his lips and tasted the contents. A shade of surprise and faint protest passed across his features as he elevated his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and swallowed the potion.
"Now let him attack the viands if he wants to," said the doctor, as our guest's eyes roved somewhat greedily, I thought, over the table. Burnham pushed the tray a little nearer, no second invitation being necessary, and the bowl of soup that had been brought, together with a couple of glasses of old Madeira, speedily disappeared.
This duty having been performed, our guest became voluble. He gesticulated and spoke, and, to judge by the inflexions of his voice and the character of his gestures, he was, I should say, appealing to us for an explanation of his presence there and of the strange objects which met his gaze. It need scarcely be said that we could not understand one word of what he was saying, though the voice was clear and mellow and the syllables of his words as distinct and sonorous as ancient Greek, though they bore no other resemblance to that language.
"Suppose we bring him pen and ink and see if he can write," suggested Burnham, and the idea struck us as a peculiarly happy one.
Pen, ink, and paper were accordingly set upon the table. Our patient eyed the articles curiously for a moment or two, took up the pen, and examined the steel nib with an expression of critical approval, then took up a sheet of paper, examined its texture, and smiled, at the same time spreading it out before him. It was evident that he comprehended what was required of him, for he dipped the pen into the ink and wrote a few words upon the paper, guiding the pen, however, from right to left, according to Oriental usage. The characters partook more of the Chaldaic, or ancient Sanskrit, than any other type. As it was, none of us could make them out. Our guest watched our efforts at deciphering with an amused smile, but when one of our daily papers was handed him by Burnham, this quickly changed to an expression of rapt attention and intense interest. He did not, however, handle the sheet like a savage, but like one who knew the object of it, examining the words and letters with the closest attention, evidently to see whether he could gain any clue to their meaning. After a minute or two he gave up the task, and then, tapping his forehead with a tired expression, smiled at us, lay back on his pillow, and was soon fast asleep.
"He will be all right by evening," remarked the doctor; "and then," turning to Burnham, "what will you do with him? Introduce him to the Academy of Sciences, I suppose?"
"Not just yet," returned Burnham; "I have no objection to some inkling of our wonderful prize getting out—our friend here," alluding to me, "will, no doubt, attend to that—but I certainly shall not bring him before the public in any way, nor even introduce him to our scientific men, till I have educated him to some little knowledge of our language. There will, I think, be no difficulty about that. He is evidently a man of superior intelligence, and I shall go right to work in the same way as if he was any ordinary foreigner cast upon our shores with no knowledge of our language and I myself equally ignorant of his. It is merely giving names of objects, he learning my name for the object, I his. In that manner we shall speedily arrive at a solution of the all-absorbing question who this remarkable being is whom we have rescued from the jaws of death, and who, to all intents and purposes, has been dead for—who can tell?—how many ages past."
THE events I have here detailed occurred on the ninth of August last. Since that time, my friend Burnham has enthusiastically engaged in carrying out the project which he mapped out on the day of the resuscitation of his remarkable patient and guest. His tailor was called in, and, when Mr. Kourban Balanok, as the stranger calls himself, left Burnham's studio three days after, he did so as a nineteenth-century gentleman, and is now installed in Burnham's house as one of the family. People may have noticed the young, handsome, and distinguished stranger to be seen occasionally walking arm-in-arm with Burnham on Kearny or Market Street, but none would guess that he had lain in the North Polar ice in the neighborhood of ten thousand years. Such is the case, however, and, as he is fast acquiring an intimate knowledge of the English language, we may confidently look forward to the appearance, in the near future, of a detailed account of the economy of the prehistoric world, and of the vast cataclysm which swamped it and left Mr. Kourban Balanok embedded in the ice.
SOME weeks after the story, "Ten Thousand Years in Ice," was printed in the Argonaut, there arrived at the editorial rooms one morning quite a large bundle of letters bearing Hungarian postage-stamps. On opening them, we found them to be in various languages. One of them was in very queer English; this we reproduce verbatim:
Aradi Szechenyi-Gozmalomarader Szechenyi—Dampfmuhl-Reszveny-Tarsasag Actien- Gesellschaft.
Arad (Hungary), feb. 25.
To the Editor of the Argonaut, San Francisko:
Before a short time I red an article from Dr. Milne translating in the Pester Lloyd newspaper which was very interesting.
The editor of this newspaper told me that this essay was formerly edited by you, and I am so free to ask you:
Is it very what Dr. Millene wrote from the "Men which is frozen 10,000 years ago in the ice," and beg to accept my salutations. I am thankful.
Yours very truly,
Arad (Hungary), Minorite palace, II étage, door 17.
The next letter contained an inclosure, and was couched as follows:
Reviewer, office of the "Argonaut," San Francisco
I take the liberty to beg you, will you be so kind to deliver the enclosed letter to the autor of the article: "Ten thousand years in the ice" (published in your newspaper of the 14 January) Sir Robert Dunkan Milne.
I thank you, sir, for your kindness and I shall be happy to render you a reciprocal service.
Zombor (Hungary) the 23 february.
Zombor (Hungary), 23 february. Sir Robert Dunkan Milne, Esqr., San Francisco—
I read your article: "Ten thousand years in the ice" in the Argonaut of the 14 January, and while it has made the greatest sensation in our country I take the liberty to beg you, will you be so kind, to answer me, what is the truth of this matter?
I shall be happy, sir, when you will honor me with an answer, and thanking for your kindness, I'm your very obliged
The next letter showed that his Austro-Hungarian majesty's officers have literary taste. It read thus:
Kronstadt (Transylvania, Austria), 20th February.
To the Argonaut, Belletrist, Newspaper, San Francisco, California:
I should feel very much obliged to you, if you were kind enough to give me some accounts about the truth and fact of the most interesting tale, which contained the last number of your excellent paper (dated from the 14th of January)—"ten thousand years in ice," by Sir Robert Dunkan Milne. Looking forward to your kind answer. I am yours thankfully,
lieutenant in the 2d regmt of the Hussars.
The next letter is signed by one of a family whose name is famous in Austria:
To the Editor of the "Argonaute," periodical, San Francisco, California, U.S. (Esrakamerika)—
I had the pleasure to read the article: "Ten thousand years in the ice," by Sir Robert Duncan Milne (which appeared in the Argonaut of January 14th), in the Pester Lloyd, and in answer to a question regarding this article, the editor of the Pester Lloyd advised me to write to you, sir, as you would be surely able to answer the following question:
Is the article: "Ten thousand years in the ice," based on mere fiction, or is he partially true? I am rather inclined to think that there is some truth in the article, because Sir Robert Duncan Milne in speaking of himself and his friend calls him by his real name.
You would very much oblige me, by being so good as to answer my question, or in case that you should neither be able to do this, by forwarding my letter to Sir Robert Duncan Milne.
Apologizing for the trouble I may give you by this request, I am sir,
Yours very obediently,
February 24th. 26, Andrassy street, Budapest (Hungary).
The next letter was in German. It bore a lithographed heading showing that the writer dated it from a large foundry. The letter ran:
Maschinefabrik, Eisen-und Metallgiesserei.
Fuenfkirchen, Hungary, 23 Feb.
To the Esteemed Editorial Department of the Journal of Polite Literature, "Argonaut," at San Francisco:
In your valued paper, and namely in the number of the fourteenth of last month, you published an article by Sir Robert Duncan Milne, "Ten thousand years in ice."
If the honored editorial department does not consider it troublesome, I would allow myself a question, the kind answer to which I beg, what portion is true in this most interesting story? Hoping you will appreciate the respect in which I sign myself,
Your most humble,
Another German letter was as follows:
Budapesth, 23 Feb.
Esteemed Editorial Department of the "Argonaut," Journal of Polite Literature, San Francisco, Cal.:
In the Pester Lloyd of this city was published a story "Ten thousand years in ice." Since I have not the pleasure of knowing the author of the English original, "Sir Robert Duncan Milne," he who alone could give a definite answer as to what is true in this story; and since the original of this most interesting story has been published in the journal "Argonaut," therefore, I hope that the honored Editorial Department will certainly be willing to send to Sir Milne the above-mentioned inquiry, so that, if possible, something more about the particulars of it may be learned.
Rendering you herewith my best thanks for your trouble, I sign
Address: Dolf Harsanyi, Budapest.
The next letter, also in German, came from a lawyer. It read thus:
Ugyved Dr. Rusznyak Samu, Advocat, Budapest, V, Nagy Korona-Utcza, 5.
22nd of February.
An die löbliche Redaction des Argonaut:
Esteemed Editorial Department—
In the Pester Lloyd, a paper appearing in Budapest, was reproduced under the tide "Ten Thousand Years in Ice," a highly interesting story, which was published in your very valued paper in the number of the 14th of January.
The author of the English original published in the Argonaut is Sir Robert Duncan Milne.
The above-mentioned story stirred up a great and general interest here, so that very many readers turned to the editorial department of the Pester Lloyd with the question, how much of the story was true? Said editorial department not being able to answer the question, referred the inquiries to the esteemed editorial department of the Argonaut.
I permit myself, therefore, to make to your esteemed editorial department the humble request, and indeed in my own, as well as in the name of several friends, to be so kind as to state what was true in the above-mentioned story?
At the same time I request that you may make known to me the subscription price of your valued paper.
Since I can not furnish myself with postage stamps of the United States in Budapest, I request that you send me your kind answer without prepaying same.
Recommending my request to your favor, I sign
Most respectfully, Dr. Samuel Rusznyak.
AFTER a lapse of a few days we received another batch of letters, two of which explained the epistolatory avalanche. One of them was from the editor of the Pester Lloyd, stating that he had printed a translation of the story in his journal and had been overwhelmed with inquiries as to whether it was fact or fiction. Another letter was from Mae. Fanny Steinitz, a literary lady living in Buda-Pesth, who confessed that she was the cause of the outburst, as she had translated the story. In order to heighten the interest she had elevated the writer, Mr. Milne, to the order of knighthood by giving him an accolade with her pen.
How naive and ingenuous must by the Hungarian nature! Fancy a number of serious American business men writing to an American journal concerning an exciting story like that of Mr. Milne.
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