A Great Chemical Discovery

Walking along the Strand one evening last year towards Pall Mall, I was

accosted near Charing Cross Station by a strange-looking, middle-aged

man in a poor suit of clothes, who surprised and startled me by asking

if I could tell him from what inn the coach usually started for York.

"Dear me!" I said, a little puzzled. "I didn't know there was a coach to

York. Indeed, I'm almost certain there isn't one."

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The man looked puzzled and surprised in turn. "No coach to York?" he

muttered to himself, half inarticulately. "No coach to York? How things

have changed! I wonder whether nobody ever goes to York nowadays!"

"Pardon me," I said, anxious to discover what could be his meaning;

"many people go to York every day, but of course they go by rail."

"Ah, yes," he answered softly, "I see. Yes, of course, they go by rail.

They go by rail, no doubt. How very stupid of me!" And he turned on his

heel as if to get away from me as quickly as possible.

I can't exactly say why, but I felt instinctively that this curious

stranger was trying to conceal from me his ignorance of what a railway

really was. I was quite certain from the way in which he spoke that he

had not the slightest conception what I meant, and that he was doing

his best to hide his confusion by pretending to understand me. Here was

indeed a strange mystery. In the latter end of this nineteenth century,

in the metropolis of industrial England, within a stone's-throw of

Charing Cross terminus, I had met an adult Englishman who apparently did

not know of the existence of railways. My curiosity was too much piqued

to let the matter rest there. I must find out what he meant by it. I

walked after him hastily, as he tried to disappear among the crowd, and

laid my hand upon his shoulder, to his evident chagrin.

"Excuse me," I said, drawing him aside down the corner of Craven Street;

"you did not understand what I meant when I said people went to York by


He looked in my face steadily, and then, instead of replying to my

remark, he said slowly, "Your name is Spottiswood, I believe?"

Again I gave a start of surprise. "It is," I answered; "but I never

remember to have seen you before."

"No," he replied dreamily; "no, we have never met till now, no doubt;

but I knew your father, I'm sure; or perhaps it may have been your


"Not my grandfather, certainly," said I, "for he was killed at


"At Waterloo! Indeed! How long since, pray?"

I could not refrain from laughing outright. "Why, of course," I

answered, "in 1815. There has been nothing particular to kill off any

large number of Englishmen at Waterloo since the year of the battle, I


"True," he muttered, "quite true; so I should have fancied." But I saw

again from the cloud of doubt and bewilderment which came over his

intelligent face that the name of Waterloo conveyed no idea whatsoever

to his mind.

Never in my life had I felt so utterly confused and astonished. In

spite of his poor dress, I could easily see from the clear-cut face and

the refined accent of my strange acquaintance that he was an educated

gentleman--a man accustomed to mix in cultivated society. Yet he clearly

knew nothing whatsoever about railways, and was ignorant of the most

salient facts in English history. Had I suddenly come across some Caspar

Hauser, immured for years in a private prison, and just let loose upon

the world by his gaolers? or was my mysterious stranger one of the Seven

Sleepers of Ephesus, turned out unexpectedly in modern costume on the

streets of London? I don't suppose there exists on earth a man more

utterly free than I am from any tinge of superstition, any lingering

touch of a love for the miraculous; but I confess for a moment I felt

half inclined to suppose that the man before me must have drunk the

elixir of life, or must have dropped suddenly upon earth from some

distant planet.

The impulse to fathom this mystery was irresistible. I drew my arm

through his. "If you knew my father," I said, "you will not object to

come into my chambers and take a glass of wine with me."

"Thank you," he answered half suspiciously; "thank you very much. I

think you look like a man who can be trusted, and I will go with you."

We walked along the Embankment to Adelphi Terrace, where I took him up

to my rooms, and seated him in my easy-chair near the window. As he sat

down, one of the trains on the Metropolitan line whirred past the

Terrace, snorting steam and whistling shrilly, after the fashion of

Metropolitan engines generally. My mysterious stranger jumped back in

alarm, and seemed to be afraid of some immediate catastrophe. There was

absolutely no possibility of doubting it. The man had obviously never

seen a locomotive before.

"Evidently," I said, "you do not know London. I suppose you are a

colonist from some remote district, perhaps an Australian from the

interior somewhere, just landed at the Tower?"

"No, not an Austrian"--I noted his misapprehension--"but a Londoner born

and bred."

"How is it, then, that you seem never to have seen an engine before?"

"Can I trust you?" he asked in a piteously plaintive, half-terrified

tone. "If I tell you all about it, will you at least not aid in

persecuting and imprisoning me?"

I was touched by his evident grief and terror. "No," I answered, "you

may trust me implicitly. I feel sure there is something in your history

which entitles you to sympathy and protection."

"Well," he replied, grasping my hand warmly, "I will tell you all my

story; but you must be prepared for something almost too startling to be


"My name is Jonathan Spottiswood," he began calmly.

Again I experienced a marvellous start: Jonathan Spottiswood was the

name of my great-great-uncle, whose unaccountable disappearance from

London just a century since had involved our family in so much

protracted litigation as to the succession to his property. In fact, it

was Jonathan Spottiswood's money which at that moment formed the bulk of

my little fortune. But I would not interrupt him, so great was my

anxiety to hear the story of his life.

"I was born in London," he went on, "in 1750. If you can hear me say

that and yet believe that possibly I am not a madman, I will tell you

the rest of my tale; if not, I shall go at once and for ever."

"I suspend judgment for the present," I answered. "What you say is

extraordinary, but not more extraordinary perhaps than the clear

anachronism of your ignorance about locomotives in the midst of the

present century."

"So be it, then. Well, I will tell you the facts briefly in as few words

as I can. I was always much given to experimental philosophy, and I

spent most of my time in the little laboratory which I had built for

myself behind my father's house in the Strand. I had a small independent

fortune of my own, left me by an uncle who had made successful ventures

in the China trade; and as I was indisposed to follow my father's

profession of solicitor, I gave myself up almost entirely to the pursuit

of natural philosophy, following the researches of the great Mr.

Cavendish, our chief English thinker in this kind, as well as of

Monsieur Lavoisier, the ingenious French chemist, and of my friend Dr.

Priestley, the Birmingham philosopher, whose new theory of phlogiston I

have been much concerned to consider and to promulgate. But the especial

subject to which I devoted myself was the elucidation of the nature of

fixed air. I do not know how far you yourself may happen to have heard

respecting these late discoveries in chemical science, but I dare

venture to say that you are at least acquainted with the nature of the

body to which I refer."

"Perfectly," I answered with a smile, "though your terminology is now a

little out of date. Fixed air was, I believe, the old-fashioned name for

carbonic acid gas."

"Ah," he cried vehemently, "that accursed word again! Carbonic acid has

undone me, clearly. Yes, if you will have it so, that seems to be what

they call it in this extraordinary century; but fixed air was the name

we used to give it in our time, and fixed air is what I must call it, of

course, in telling you my story. Well, I was deeply interested in this

curious question, and also in some of the results which I obtained from

working with fixed air in combination with a substance I had produced

from the essential oil of a weed known to us in England as lady's

mantle, but which the learned Mr. Carl Linnaeus describes in his system

as Alchemilla vulgaris. From that weed I obtained an oil which I

combined with a certain decoction of fixed air into a remarkable

compound; and to this compound, from its singular properties, I

proposed to give the name of Pausodyne. For some years I was almost

wholly engaged in investigating the conduct of this remarkable agent;

and lest I should weary you by entering into too much detail, I may as

well say at once that it possessed the singular power of entirely

suspending animation in men or animals for several hours together. It is

a highly volatile oil, like ammonia in smell, but much thicker in

gravity; and when held to the nose of an animal, it causes immediate

stoppage of the heart's action, making the body seem quite dead for long

periods at a time. But the moment a mixture of the pausodyne with oil of

vitriol and gum resin is presented to the nostrils, the animal

instantaneously revives exactly as before, showing no evil effects

whatsoever from its temporary simulation of death. To the reviving

mixture I have given the appropriate name of Anegeiric.

"Of course you will instantly see the valuable medical applications

which may be made of such an agent. I used it at first for experimenting

upon the amputation of limbs and other surgical operations. It succeeded

admirably. I found that a dog under the influence of pausodyne suffered

his leg, which had been broken in a street accident, to be set and

spliced without the slightest symptom of feeling or discomfort. A cat,

shot with a pistol by a cruel boy, had the bullet extracted without

moving a muscle. My assistant, having allowed his little finger to

mortify from neglect of a burn, permitted me to try the effect of my

discovery upon himself; and I removed the injured joints while he

remained in a state of complete insensibility, so that he could hardly

believe afterwards in the actual truth of their removal. I felt certain

that I had invented a medical process of the very highest and greatest


"All this took place in or before the year 1781. How long ago that may

be according to your modern reckoning I cannot say; but to me it seems

hardly more than a few months since. Perhaps you would not mind telling

me the date of the current year. I have never been able to ascertain


"This is 1881," I said, growing every moment more interested in his


"Thank you. I gathered that we must now be somewhere near the close of

the nineteenth century, though I could not learn the exact date with

certainty. Well, I should tell you, my dear sir, that I had contracted

an engagement about the year 1779 with a young lady of most remarkable

beauty and attractive mental gifts, a Miss Amelia Spragg, daughter of

the well-known General Sir Thomas Spragg, with whose achievements you

are doubtless familiar. Pardon me, my friend of another age, pardon me,

I beg of you, if I cannot allude to this subject without emotion after a

lapse of time which to you doubtless seems like a century, but is to me

a matter of some few months only at the utmost. I feel towards her as

towards one whom I have but recently lost, though I now find that she

has been dead for more than eighty years." As he spoke, the tears came

into his eyes profusely; and I could see that under the external

calmness and quaintness of his eighteenth century language and demeanour

his whole nature was profoundly stirred at the thought of his lost love.

"Look here," he continued, taking from his breast a large, old-fashioned

gold locket containing a miniature; "that is her portrait, by Mr.

Walker, and a very truthful likeness indeed. They left me that when they

took away my clothes at the Asylum, for I would not consent to part with

it, and the physician in attendance observed that to deprive me of it

might only increase the frequency and violence of my paroxysms. For I

will not conceal from you the fact that I have just escaped from a

pauper lunatic establishment."

I took the miniature which he handed me, and looked at it closely. It

was the picture of a young and beautiful girl, with the features and

costume of a Sir Joshua. I recognized the face at once as that of a lady

whose portrait by Gainsborough hangs on the walls of my uncle's

dining-room at Whittingham Abbey. It was strange indeed to hear a living

man speak of himself as the former lover of this, to me, historic


"Sir Thomas, however," he went on, "was much opposed to our union, on

the ground of some real or fancied social disparity in our positions;

but I at last obtained his conditional consent, if only I could succeed

in obtaining the Fellowship of the Royal Society, which might, he

thought, be accepted as a passport into that fashionable circle of which

he was a member. Spurred on by this ambition, and by the encouragement

of my Amelia, I worked day and night at the perfectioning of my great

discovery, which I was assured would bring not only honour and dignity

to myself, but also the alleviation and assuagement of pain to countless

thousands of my fellow-creatures. I concealed the nature of my

experiments, however, lest any rival investigator should enter the field

with me prematurely, and share the credit to which I alone was really

entitled. For some months I was successful in my efforts at concealment;

but in March of this year--I mistake; of the year 1781, I should say--an

unfortunate circumstance caused me to take special and exceptional

precautions against intrusion.

"I was then conducting my experiments upon living animals, and

especially upon the extirpation of certain painful internal diseases to

which they are subject. I had a number of suffering cats in my

laboratory, which I had treated with pausodyne, and stretched out on

boards for the purpose of removing the tumours with which they were

afflicted. I had no doubt that in this manner, while directly benefiting

the animal creation, I should indirectly obtain the necessary skill to

operate successfully upon human beings in similar circumstances. Already

I had completely cured several cats without any pain whatsoever, and I

was anxious to proceed to the human subject. Walking one morning in the

Strand, I found a beggar woman outside a gin-shop, quite drunk, with a

small, ill-clad child by her side, suffering the most excruciating

torments from a perfectly remediable cause. I induced the mother to

accompany me to my laboratory, and there I treated the poor little

creature with pausodyne, and began to operate upon her with perfect

confidence of success.

"Unhappily, my laboratory had excited the suspicion of many ill-disposed

persons among the low mob of the neighbourhood. It was whispered abroad

that I was what they called a vivisectionist; and these people, who

would willingly have attended a bull-baiting or a prize fight, found

themselves of a sudden wondrous humane when scientific procedure was

under consideration. Besides, I had made myself unpopular by receiving

visits from my friend Dr. Priestley, whose religious opinions were not

satisfactory to the strict orthodoxy of St. Giles's. I was rumoured to

be a philosopher, a torturer of live animals, and an atheist. Whether

the former accusation were true or not, let others decide; the two

latter, heaven be my witness, were wholly unfounded. However, when the

neighbouring rabble saw a drunken woman with a little girl entering my

door, a report got abroad at once that I was going to vivisect a

Christian child. The mob soon collected in force, and broke into the

laboratory. At that moment I was engaged, with my assistant, in

operating upon the girl, while several cats, all completely

anaestheticised, were bound down on the boards around, awaiting the

healing of their wounds after the removal of tumours. At the sight of

such apparent tortures the people grew wild with rage, and happening in

their transports to fling down a large bottle of the anegeiric, or

reviving mixture, the child and the animals all at once recovered

consciousness, and began of course to writhe and scream with acute pain.

I need not describe to you the scene that ensued. My laboratory was

wrecked, my assistant severely injured, and I myself barely escaped with

my life.

"After this contretemps I determined to be more cautious. I took the

lease of a new house at Hampstead, and in the garden I determined to

build myself a subterranean laboratory where I might be absolutely free

from intrusion. I hired some labourers from Bath for this purpose, and I

explained to them the nature of my wishes, and the absolute necessity of

secrecy. A high wall surrounded the garden, and here the workmen worked

securely and unseen. I concealed my design even from my dear

brother--whose grandson or great-grandson I suppose you must be--and

when the building was finished, I sent my men back to Bath, with strict

injunctions never to mention the matter to any one. A trap-door in the

cellar, artfully concealed, gave access to the passage; a large oak

portal, bound with iron, shut me securely in; and my air supply was

obtained by means of pipes communicating through blank spaces in the

brick wall of the garden with the outer atmosphere. Every arrangement

for concealment was perfect; and I resolved in future, till my results

were perfectly established, that I would dispense with the aid of an


"I was in high spirits when I went to visit my Amelia that evening, and

I told her confidently that before the end of the year I expected to

gain the gold medal of the Royal Society. The dear girl was pleased at

my glowing prospects, and gave me every assurance of the delight with

which she hailed the probability of our approaching union.

"Next day I began my experiments afresh in my new quarters. I bolted

myself into the laboratory, and set to work with renewed vigour. I was

experimenting upon an injured dog, and I placed a large bottle of

pausodyne beside me as I administered the drug to his nostrils. The

rising fumes seemed to affect my head more than usual in that confined

space, and I tottered a little as I worked. My arm grew weaker, and at

last fell powerless to my side. As it fell it knocked down the large

bottle of pausodyne, and I saw the liquid spreading over the floor. That

was almost the last thing that I knew. I staggered toward the door, but

did not reach it; and then I remember nothing more for a considerable


He wiped his forehead with his sleeve--he had no handkerchief--and then


"When I woke up again the effects of the pausodyne had worn themselves

out, and I felt that I must have remained unconscious for at least a

week or a fortnight. My candle had gone out, and I could not find my

tinder-box. I rose up slowly and with difficulty, for the air of the

room was close and filled with fumes, and made my way in the dark

towards the door. To my surprise, the bolt was so stiff with rust that

it would hardly move. I opened it after a struggle, and found myself in

the passage. Groping my way towards the trap-door of the cellar, I felt

it was obstructed by some heavy body. With an immense effort, for my

strength seemed but feeble, I pushed it up, and discovered that a heap

of sea-coals lay on top of it. I extricated myself into the cellar, and

there a fresh surprise awaited me. A new entrance had been made into the

front, so that I walked out at once upon the open road, instead of up

the stairs into the kitchen. Looking up at the exterior of my house, my

brain reeled with bewilderment when I saw that it had disappeared almost

entirely, and that a different porch and wholly unfamiliar windows

occupied its facade. I must have slept far longer than I at first

imagined--perhaps a whole year or more. A vague terror prevented me from

walking up the steps of my own home. Possibly my brother, thinking me

dead, might have sold the lease; possibly some stranger might resent my

intrusion into the house that was now his own. At any rate, I thought it

safer to walk into the road. I would go towards London, to my brother's

house in St. Mary le Bone. I turned into the Hampstead Road, and

directed my steps thitherward.

"Again, another surprise began to affect me with a horrible and

ill-defined sense of awe. Not a single object that I saw was really

familiar to me. I recognized that I was in the Hampstead Road, but it

was not the Hampstead Road which I used to know before my fatal

experiments. The houses were far more numerous, the trees were bigger

and older. A year, nay, even a few years would not have sufficed for

such a change. I began to fear that I had slept away a whole decade.

"It was early morning, and few people were yet abroad. But the costume

of those whom I met seemed strange and fantastic to me. Moreover, I

noticed that they all turned and looked after me with evident surprise,

as though my dress caused them quite as much astonishment as theirs

caused me. I was quietly attired in my snuff-coloured suit of

small-clothes, with silk stockings and simple buckle shoes, and I had of

course no hat; but I gathered that my appearance caused universal

amazement and concern, far more than could be justified by the mere

accidental absence of head-gear. A dread began to oppress me that I

might actually have slept out my whole age and generation. Was my Amelia

alive? and if so, would she be still the same Amelia I had known a week

or two before? Should I find her an aged woman, still cherishing a

reminiscence of her former love; or might she herself perhaps be dead

and forgotten, while I remained, alone and solitary, in a world which

knew me not?

"I walked along unmolested, but with reeling brain, through streets more

and more unfamiliar, till I came near the St. Mary le Bone Road. There,

as I hesitated a little and staggered at the crossing, a man in a

curious suit of dark blue clothes, with a grotesque felt helmet on his

head, whom I afterwards found to be a constable, came up and touched me

on the shoulder.

"'Look here,' he said to me in a rough voice, 'what are you a-doin' in

this 'ere fancy-dress at this hour in the mornin'? You've lost your way

home, I take it.'

"'I was going,' I answered, 'to the St. Mary le Bone Road.'

"'Why, you image,' says he rudely, 'if you mean Marribon, why don't you

say Marribon? What house are you a-lookin' for, eh?'

"'My brother lives,' I replied, 'at the Lamb, near St. Mary's Church,

and I was going to his residence.'

"'The Lamb!' says he, with a rude laugh; 'there ain't no public of that

name in the road. It's my belief,' he goes on after a moment, 'that

you're drunk, or mad, or else you've stole them clothes. Any way, you've

got to go along with me to the station, so walk it, will you?'

"'Pardon me,' I said, 'I suppose you are an officer of the law, and I

would not attempt to resist your authority'--'You'd better not,' says

he, half to himself--'but I should like to go to my brother's house,

where I could show you that I am a respectable person.'

"'Well,' says my fellow insolently, 'I'll go along of you if you like,

and if it's all right, I suppose you won't mind standing a bob?'

"'A what?' said I.

"'A bob,' says he, laughing; 'a shillin', you know.'

"To get rid of his insolence for a while, I pulled out my purse and

handed him a shilling. It was a George II. with milled edges, not like

the things I see you use now. He held it up and looked at it, and then

he said again, 'Look here, you know, this isn't good. You'd better come

along with me straight to the station, and not make a fuss about it.

There's three charges against you, that's all. One is, that you're

drunk. The second is, that you're mad. And the third is, that you've

been trying to utter false coin. Any one of 'em's quite enough to

justify me in takin' you into custody.'

"I saw it was no use to resist, and I went along with him.

"I won't trouble you with the whole of the details, but the upshot of it

all was, they took me before a magistrate. By this time I had begun to

realize the full terror of the situation, and I saw clearly that the

real danger lay in the inevitable suspicion of madness under which I

must labour. When I got into the court I told the magistrate my story

very shortly and simply, as I have told it to you now. He listened to me

without a word, and at the end he turned round to his clerk and said,

'This is clearly a case for Dr. Fitz-Jenkins, I think.'

"'Sir,' I said, 'before you send me to a madhouse, which I suppose is

what you mean by these words, I trust you will at least examine the

evidences of my story. Look at my clothing, look at these coins, look at

everything about me.' And I handed him my purse to see for himself.

"He looked at it for a minute, and then he turned towards me very

sternly. 'Mr. Spottiswood,' he said, 'or whatever else your real name

may be, if this is a joke, it is a very foolish and unbecoming one. Your

dress is no doubt very well designed; your small collection of coins is

interesting and well-selected; and you have got up your character

remarkably well. If you are really sane, which I suspect to be the case,

then your studied attempt to waste the time of this court and to make a

laughing-stock of its magistrate will meet with the punishment it

deserves. I shall remit your case for consideration to our medical

officer. If you consent to give him your real name and address, you will

be liberated after his examination. Otherwise, it will be necessary to

satisfy ourselves as to your identity. Not a word more, sir,' he

continued, as I tried to speak on behalf of my story. 'Inspector, remove

the prisoner.'

"They took me away, and the surgeon examined me. To cut things short, I

was pronounced mad, and three days later the commissioners passed me for

a pauper asylum. When I came to be examined, they said I showed no

recollection of most subjects of ordinary education.

"'I am a chemist,' said I; 'try me with some chemical questions. You

will see that I can answer sanely enough.'

"'How do you mix a grey powder?' said the commissioner.

"'Excuse me,' I said, 'I mean a chemical philosopher, not an


"'Oh, very well, then; what is carbonic acid?'

"'I never heard of it,' I answered in despair. 'It must be something

which has come into use since--since I left off learning chemistry.' For

I had discovered that my only chance now was to avoid all reference to

my past life and the extraordinary calamity which had thus unexpectedly

overtaken me. 'Please try me with something else.'

"'Oh, certainly. What is the atomic weight of chlorine?'

"I could only answer that I did not know.

"'This is a very clear case,' said the commissioner. 'Evidently he is a

gentleman by birth and education, but he can give no very satisfactory

account of his friends, and till they come forward to claim him we can

only send him for a time to North Street.'

"'For Heaven's sake, gentlemen,' I cried, 'before you consign me to an

asylum, give me one more chance. I am perfectly sane; I remember all I

ever knew; but you are asking me questions about subjects on which I

never had any information. Ask me anything historical, and see whether

I have forgotten or confused any of my facts."

"I will do the commissioner the justice to say that he seemed anxious

not to decide upon the case without full consideration. 'Tell me what

you can recollect,' he said, 'as to the reign of George IV.'

"'I know nothing at all about it,' I answered, terror-stricken, 'but oh,

do pray ask me anything up to the time of George III.'

"'Then please say what you think of the French Revolution.'

"I was thunderstruck. I could make no reply, and the commissioners

shortly signed the papers to send me to North Street pauper asylum. They

hurried me into the street, and I walked beside my captors towards the

prison to which they had consigned me. Yet I did not give up all hope

even so of ultimately regaining my freedom. I thought the rationality of

my demeanour and the obvious soundness of all my reasoning powers would

suffice in time to satisfy the medical attendant as to my perfect

sanity. I felt sure that people could never long mistake a man so

clear-headed and collected as myself for a madman.

"On our way, however, we happened to pass a churchyard where some

workmen were engaged in removing a number of old tombstones from the

crowded area. Even in my existing agitated condition, I could not help

catching the name and date on one mouldering slab which a labourer had

just placed upon the edge of the pavement. It ran something like this:

'Sacred to the memory of Amelia, second daughter of the late Sir Thomas

Spragg, knight, and beloved wife of Henry McAlister, Esq., by whom this

stone is erected. Died May 20, 1799, aged 44 years.' Though I had

gathered already that my dear girl must probably have long been dead,

yet the reality of the fact had not yet had time to fix itself upon my

mind. You must remember, my dear sir, that I had but awaked a few days

earlier from my long slumber, and that during those days I had been

harassed and agitated by such a flood of incomprehensible complications,

that I could not really grasp in all its fulness the complete isolation

of my present position. When I saw the tombstone of one whom, as it

seemed to me, I had loved passionately but a week or two before, I could

not refrain from rushing to embrace it, and covering the insensible

stone with my boiling tears. 'Oh, my Amelia, my Amelia,' I cried, 'I

shall never again behold thee, then! I shall never again press thee to

my heart, or hear thy dear lips pronounce my name!'

"But the unfeeling wretches who had charge of me were far from being

moved to sympathy by my bitter grief. 'Died in 1799,' said one of them

with a sneer. 'Why, this madman's blubbering over the grave of an old

lady who has been buried for about a hundred years!' And the workmen

joined in their laughter as my gaolers tore me away to the prison where

I was to spend the remainder of my days.

"When we arrived at the asylum, the surgeon in attendance was informed

of this circumstance, and the opinion that I was hopelessly mad thus

became ingrained in his whole conceptions of my case. I remained five

months or more in the asylum, but I never saw any chance of creating a

more favourable impression on the minds of the authorities. Mixing as I

did only with other patients, I could gain no clear ideas of what had

happened since I had taken my fatal sleep; and whenever I endeavoured to

question the keepers, they amused themselves by giving me evidently

false and inconsistent answers, in order to enjoy my chagrin and

confusion. I could not even learn the actual date of the present year,

for one keeper would laugh and say it was 2001, while another would

confidentially advise me to date my petition to the Commissioners, "Jan.

1, A.D. one million." The surgeon, who never played me any such pranks,

yet refused to aid me in any way, lest, as he said, he should strengthen

me in my sad delusion. He was convinced that I must be an historical

student, whose reason had broken down through too close study of the

eighteenth century; and he felt certain that sooner or later my friends

would come to claim me. He is a gentle and humane man, against whom I

have no personal complaint to make; but his initial misconception

prevented him and everybody else from ever paying the least attention to

my story. I could not even induce them to make inquiries at my house at

Hampstead, where the discovery of the subterranean laboratory would have

partially proved the truth of my account.

"Many visitors came to the asylum from time to time, and they were

always told that I possessed a minute and remarkable acquaintance with

the history of the eighteenth century. They questioned me about facts

which are as vivid in my memory as those of the present month, and were

much surprised at the accuracy of my replies. But they only thought it

strange that so clever a man should be so very mad, and that my

information should be so full as to past events, while my notions about

the modern world were so utterly chaotic. The surgeon, however, always

believed that my reticence about all events posterior to 1781 was a part

of my insanity. I had studied the early part of the eighteenth century

so fully, he said, that I fancied I had lived in it; and I had persuaded

myself that I knew nothing at all about the subsequent state of the


The poor fellow stopped a while, and again drew his sleeve across his

forehead. It was impossible to look at him and believe for a moment that

he was a madman.

"And how did you make your escape from the asylum?" I asked.

"Now, this very evening," he answered; "I simply broke away from the

door and ran down toward the Strand, till I came to a place that looked

a little like St. Martin's Fields, with a great column and some

fountains, and near there I met you. It seemed to me that the best thing

to do was to catch the York coach and get away from the town as soon as

possible. You met me, and your look and name inspired me with

confidence. I believe you must be a descendant of my dear brother."

"I have not the slightest doubt," I answered solemnly, "that every word

of your story is true, and that you are really my great-great-uncle. My

own knowledge of our family history exactly tallies with what you tell

me. I shall spare no endeavour to clear up this extraordinary matter,

and to put you once more in your true position."

"And you will protect me?" he cried fervently, clasping my hand in both

his own with intense eagerness. "You will not give me up once more to

the asylum people?"

"I will do everything on earth that is possible for you," I replied.

He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it several times, while I felt

hot tears falling upon it as he bent over me. It was a strange position,

look at it how you will. Grant that I was but the dupe of a madman, yet

even to believe for a moment that I, a man of well-nigh fifty, stood

there in face of my own great-grandfather's brother, to all appearance

some twenty years my junior, was in itself an extraordinary and

marvellous thing. Both of us were too overcome to speak. It was a few

minutes before we said anything, and then a loud knock at the door made

my hunted stranger rise up hastily in terror from his chair.

"Gracious Heavens!" he cried, "they have tracked me hither. They are

coming to fetch me. Oh, hide me, hide me, anywhere from these wretches!"

As he spoke, the door opened, and two keepers with a policeman entered

my room.

"Ah, here he is!" said one of them, advancing towards the fugitive, who

shrank away towards the window as he approached.

"Do not touch him," I exclaimed, throwing myself in the way. "Every word

of what he says is true, and he is no more insane than I am."

The keeper laughed a low laugh of vulgar incredulity. "Why, there's a

pair of you, I do believe," he said. "You're just as mad yourself as

t'other one." And he pushed me aside roughly to get at his charge.

But the poor fellow, seeing him come towards him, seemed suddenly to

grow instinct with a terrible vigour, and hurled off the keeper with one

hand, as a strong man might do with a little terrier. Then, before we

could see what he was meditating, he jumped upon the ledge of the open

window, shouted out loudly, "Farewell, farewell!" and leapt with a

spring on to the embankment beneath.

All four of us rushed hastily down the three flights of steps to the

bottom, and came below upon a crushed and mangled mass on the spattered

pavement. He was quite dead. Even the policeman was shocked and

horrified at the dreadful way in which the body had been crushed and

mutilated in its fall, and at the suddenness and unexpectedness of the

tragedy. We took him up and laid him out in my room; and from that room

he was interred after the inquest, with all the respect which I should

have paid to an undoubted relative. On his grave in Kensal Green

Cemetery I have placed a stone bearing the simple inscription, "Jonathan

Spottiswood. Died 1881." The hint I had received from the keeper

prevented me from saying anything as to my belief in his story, but I

asked for leave to undertake the duty of his interment on the ground

that he bore my own surname, and that no other person was forthcoming to

assume the task. The parochial authorities were glad enough to rid the

ratepayers of the expense.

At the inquest I gave my evidence simply and briefly, dwelling mainly

upon the accidental nature of our meeting, and the facts as to his fatal

leap. I said nothing about the known disappearance of Jonathan

Spottiswood in 1781, nor the other points which gave credibility to his

strange tale. But from this day forward I give myself up to proving the

truth of his story, and realizing the splendid chemical discovery which

promises so much benefit to mankind. For the first purpose, I have

offered a large reward for the discovery of a trap-door in a coal-cellar

at Hampstead, leading into a subterranean passage and laboratory; since,

unfortunately, my unhappy visitor did not happen to mention the position

of his house. For the second purpose, I have begun a series of

experiments upon the properties of the essential oil of alchemilla, and

the possibility of successfully treating it with carbonic anhydride;

since, unfortunately, he was equally vague as to the nature of his

process and the proportions of either constituent. Many people will

conclude at once, no doubt, that I myself have become infected with the

monomania of my miserable namesake, but I am determined at any rate not

to allow so extraordinary an anaesthetic to go unacknowledged, if there

be even a remote chance of actually proving its useful nature.

Meanwhile, I say nothing even to my dearest friends with regard to the

researches upon which I am engaged.