Pharaoh’s Broker / Being the Very Remarkable Experiences in Another World of Isidor Werner

Pharaoh’s Broker / Being the Very Remarkable Experiences in Another World of Isidor Werner

Author:
Ellsworth Douglass
Author:
Ellsworth Douglass
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Douglass, Ellsworth
Science fiction
Pharaoh’s Broker
Being the Very Remarkable Experiences in Another World of Isidor Werner

PHARAOH’S BROKER

BEING THE VERY REMARKABLE EXPERIENCES
IN ANOTHER WORLD OF
ISIDOR WERNER
(WRITTEN BY HIMSELF)
EDITED, ARRANGED, AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION

BY ELLSWORTH DOUGLASS

LONDON
C. ARTHUR PEARSON LIMITED
HENRIETTA STREET W.C.
1899


CONTENTS

PAGE
Introduction: Elusive Truth 7
BOOK I. SECRETS OF SPACE
CHAPTER
I. Dr. Hermann Anderwelt 19
II. The Gravity Projectile 27
III. Structure of the Projectile 37
IV. What is on Mars? 48
V. Final Preparations 57
VI. Farewell to Earth 67
VII. The Terrors of Light 81
VIII. The Valley of the Shadow 91
IX. Tricks of Refraction 99
X. The Twilight of Space 108
XI. Telling the Time by Geography 117
XII. Space Fever 126
XIII. The Mystery of a Minus Weight 141
BOOK II. OTHER WORLD LIFE
I. Why Mars gives a Red Light 157
II. The Terror Birds 170
III. Two of us against the Armies of Mars 182
IV. The Strange Bravery of Miss Blank 192
V. Zaphnath, Ruler of the Kemi 204
VI. The Iron Men from the Blue Star 220
VII. Parallel Planetary Life 240
VIII. A Plagiarist of Dreams 249
IX. Getting into the Corner 260
X. Humanity on Ptah 275
XI. Revolutionist and Eavesdropper 283
XII. The Doctor Disappears 292
XIII. The Revelation of Hotep 304

INTRODUCTION

Elusive Truth

It was the Chicago Tribune of June 13th, 189-, which contained this paragraph under the head-line: “Big Broker Missing!”

“The friends of Isidor Werner, a young man prominent in Board of Trade circles, are much concerned about him, as he has not been seen for several days. He made his last appearance in the wheat pit as a heavy buyer Tuesday forenoon. That afternoon he left his office at Room 87 Board of Trade, and has not been seen since, nor can his whereabouts be learned. He is six feet two inches high, of athletic build, with black hair and moustache, a regular nose, and an unpronounced Jewish appearance. His age is hardly more than twenty-seven, but he has often made himself felt as a market force on the Board of Trade, where he was well thought of.”

But it was the Evening Post of the same date which prided itself on unearthing the real sensation. A scare-head across the top of a first page column read:

“A Plunger’s Last Plunge!”
“The daring young broker who held the whole wheat market in his hands a few months ago, amassing an independent fortune in three days, but losing most of it gamely on subsequent changes in the market, has made his last plunge. This time he has gone into the cold, kind bosom of Lake Michigan. Isidor Werner evened up his trades in the wheat market last Tuesday forenoon, and then applied for his balance-sheet at a higher clearing house! No trace of him or clue to his whereabouts was found, until the Evening Post, on the principle of setting one mystery to solve another, sent its representative to examine a strange steel rocket, discovered half-buried in the sands of Lake Michigan, near Berrien Springs, two days ago. Our reporter investigated this bullet-shaped contrivance and found an opening into it, and within he discovered a scrap of paper on which were written the words: ‘Farewell to Earth for ever!’ Werner’s friends, when interviewed by the Evening Post, all positively identified the handwriting of this scrap as his chirography. It is supposed that he took an excursion steamer to St. Joseph, Michigan, last Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, and walking down the shore toward Berrien Springs, finally threw himself into the Lake. Neither Israel Werner, with whom the dead man lived on Indiana Avenue, nor Patrick Flynn, the chief clerk at his office, can give any reason for the suicide, or explain the exact connection of the infernal machine (if such it be) with the sad circumstance. But they both positively identify the handwriting on the scrap of paper. We have wired our representative to bring the mysterious machine to Chicago; and those who think they may be able to throw any light upon the case, are invited to call at the office of the Evening Post and examine it.”

The Inter Ocean developed a theory that the suicide was only a pretended one for the purpose of fraudulently collecting life insurance policies. It was cited that Isidor Werner had insured his life for more than $100,000, and this in spite of the fact that he had no family, parents, brothers or sisters to provide for; but had taken the policies in favour of his uncle, Israel Werner, and in case of his prior death, in favour of a cousin, Ruth Werner. This theory gained but little currency among those who knew the man best, and although the insurance companies prepared to resist payment of the policies to the bitter end, yet, as time went on, no one attempted to prove his death, nor to claim the handsome sum which would result from it. Moreover, Israel Werner and his daughter Ruth, the beneficiaries under the policies, persisted in believing that their relative was yet alive, though they could give no good reasons for so believing, nor explain his disappearance.
In its issue of June 15th the Tribune scouted the idea of suicide altogether. It had a better and more plausible theory of the case. Isidor Werner had a large sum of money in the Corn Exchange Bank, drawing interest by the year. In case of either a premeditated or a pretended suicide he would most certainly have withdrawn, and made some disposition of, this money. In fact, he had, on the day of his disappearance, drawn out five thousand dollars of it in gold. For this coin the Tribune believed he had been murdered, and that they had a clue to the murderer. The vanished man had several times been seen in the company of a suspicious German, of intelligent but erratic appearance. This queer character lived in a hotbed of socialism on the West Side, and the young broker was supposed to be in his power. In fact, it was known for certain that the erratic German had secured a large sum of money from him, and that Werner had visited his rooms in the slums of the West Side more than once. Moreover, the two had made a secret railway journey together two days before the disappearance, and on the very day that Werner was last seen, the German had fled his lodgings without giving any explanation of his departure to his few acquaintances. When the Tribune reporter called at these lodgings, the landlord still had in his possession a gold eagle, with which the German had paid his rent, and in the grate of the deserted room were the charred remains of burnt papers. One of these was a rather firm, crisp cinder, and had been a blue-print of a drawing. As nearly as could be judged, from its shrivelled state, it appeared to be the plan of some infernal machine. The name of the fugitive was Anderwelt, and he called himself a doctor. Further investigations were being carried on by the Tribune, which promised to prove beyond a doubt that he was the murderer of Isidor Werner.
But the Evening Post still held the palm for sensations, and I copy verbatim from its columns of June 15th:

“It is rare that a newspaper, dealing strictly in facts, has to record anything so closely bordering on the supernatural and mysterious as that which we must now relate. The following facts, however, are vouched for by the entire editorial department of the Evening Post, and many of them by several hundred witnesses. We begin by apologising to the hundreds who have called at this office and have been unable to see the Werner infernal machine. We gave it that name in a thoughtless jest, but its subsequent actions have more than justified the title. Our reporter brought it from Berrien Springs, as directed, and deposited it in the court of the Evening Post building. As is quite generally known, this court is a central well in the building, affording ventilation and light to the interior offices, from every one of which can be seen what goes on in it. The well is spanned by a glass roof above the eighth storey. In this court, at eleven o’clock this morning, the entire editorial and a large part of the business staff of this paper, repaired, to examine the mysterious rocket-like thing. A little lid was opened, showing the recess where the tell-tale scrap of paper, written by Werner, had been found. Inside there seemed to be a pair of peculiar battery cells, whose exact nature was hidden by the outer shell. Outside there were several thumb-screws, which were turned both ways without any apparent effect. While making this examination the machine had been set up on its lower end, and when it was again laid down it refused to lie on its side, but persisted in standing erect of its own accord. This was the more wonderful because the lower end was not flat, so that it would afford a good base, but was pointed. More than a hundred people saw it stand up on this sharp tip, saw it lift up light weights which were placed upon it to hold it on its side, and saw it quickly right itself when it was placed vertically but wrong end down.
“Thinking this queer property had been contributed to it in some way by loosening the thumb-screws, they were next all set down as tightly as possible, to see if this tendency to erectness would be lost. Then, to the astonishment of every one in the court, and of several hundred people who were by this time watching from the interior windows, this infernal machine, without any explosion, burning of gases, or any apparent force acting upon it, slowly rose from the ground, and then, travelling more swiftly, shot through the roof of glass and vanished from sight! Nor has the most diligent search enabled us to recover it. Does it possess the secret of Isidor Werner’s death?”

But the Chicago Herald had been working thoroughly and saying little until its issue of June 16th, when it claimed the credit of solving the whole mystery. Its long article lies before me as I write: There had been no suicide; there had been no murder; there had been no infernal machine. Doctor Anderwelt was a learned man, and the warm personal friend of Isidor Werner. Both men had shared the same fate; they might yet be alive, but they were certainly at the bottom of Lake Michigan together! They were imprisoned there in a sunken submarine boat, which was the invention of Doctor Anderwelt, and was built with funds furnished by the young broker. The foundryman who had constructed the big torpedo-shaped contrivance had been interviewed. He knew both men, and they were on the most friendly terms. In a moment of confidence Doctor Anderwelt had told him the machine was for submarine exploration; had explained the four-winged rudder, which would make it dive into the water, rise to the surface, or direct it to right or to left. Moreover, there were closed living compartments, around which were chambers containing a supply of air. He himself had pumped them full of compressed air, and it was so arranged that foul air could be let out when used and new air admitted. When all had been finished the foundryman had shipped the new invention, via the Michigan Southern Railway, to the shore of the Lake near Whiting, Indiana. Next the Herald had sought and found the conductor whose train had hauled it to Whiting. He remembered switching off the flat-car there, and he was surprised on his return trip next morning to see the heavy thing already unloaded and gone.
Undoubtedly, the two men had made an experiment with the diving boat under the surface of the water; and its failure to operate as hoped had resulted in its sinking to the bottom, with the two men imprisoned in it. On no other hypothesis could its disappearance, and that of the two men, be so plausibly accounted for. But as they had stores of air, and probably of food, there was a possibility that they were still alive inside the thing in the bottom of the Lake! Only three days had elapsed since it had been launched, and the Herald was willing to head a subscription to drag the Lake and send divers to search for and rescue the two unfortunate men!
All this serves to illustrate the untiring energy of newspaper investigation, as well as the remarkable fertility of journalistic imagination; for none of these clever theories hit at the real truth, or explained the correct bearing of the astonishing facts which the newspapers had so industriously unearthed.
And if the mystery of the disappearance of Isidor Werner was uncommonly deep and wonderful, the explanation and final solution of it is not less marvellous. After a delay of more than six years, it has just now come into my hands whole and perfect. It is in no less satisfactory form than a complete manuscript written by the very hand of Isidor Werner! I came strangely into possession of it, and it relates a story of interest and wonder, compared with which the mystery of his disappearance pales into insignificance. But the reader may judge for himself, for here follows the story exactly as he wrote it. Upon his manuscript I have bestowed hardly more than a proof-reader’s technical revision.
ELLSWORTH DOUGLASS.
Boston, U.S.A.,
December 13th, 1898.


BOOK I

Secrets of Space


CHAPTER I

Dr. Hermann Anderwelt

I had been busy all day trying to swarm the bees and secure my honey. The previous day had been February 29th, a date which doesn’t often happen, and which I had especial reason to remember, for it had been the most successful of my business career. I had made a long guess at the shaky condition of the great house of Slater, Bawker & Co., who had been heavy buyers of wheat. I had talked the market down, sold it down, hammered it down; and, true enough, what nobody else seemed to expect really happened. The big firm failed, the price of wheat went to smash in a panic of my mixing, and, as a result, I saw a profit of more than two hundred thousand dollars in the deal. But, in order to secure this snug sum, I still had to buy back the wheat I had sold at higher prices, and this I didn’t find so easy. The crowd in the wheat pit had seen my hand, and were letting me play it alone against them all.
After the session I hurried to my office to get my overcoat and hat, having an engagement to lunch at the Club.
“If you please, Mr. Werner, there is a queer old gentleman in your private office who wishes to see you,” said Flynn, my chief clerk.
“Ask him to call again to-morrow; I am in a great hurry to-day,” I said, slipping on one sleeve of my overcoat as I started out.
“But he has been waiting in there since eleven o’clock, and said he very much wished to see you when you had plenty of time. He would not allow me to send on the floor for you during the session.”
“Since eleven o’clock! Did he have his lunch and a novel sent up? Well, I can hardly run away from a man who has waited three and a half hours to see me;” and I entered my private office with my overcoat on.
Seated in my deep, leathern arm-chair was an elderly man, with rather long and bushy iron-grey hair, and an uneven grey beard. His head inclined forward, he breathed heavily, and was apparently fast asleep.
“You will pardon my awaking you, but I never do business asleep!” I ventured rather loudly.
Slowly the steel-blue eyes opened, and, without any start or discomposure, the old man answered,—
“And I—my most successful enterprises are developed in my dreams.”
His features and his accent agreed in pronouncing him German. He arose calmly, buttoned the lowest button of his worn frock-coat, and, instead of extending his hand to me, he poked it inside his coat, letting it hang heavily on the single button. It was a lazy but characteristic attitude. It tended to make his coat pouch and his shoulders droop. I remembered having seen it somewhere before.
“Mr. Werner, I have a matter of the deepest and vastest importance to unfold to you,” he began, rather mysteriously, “for which I desire five hours of your unemployed time——”
“Five hours!” I interrupted. “You do not know me! That much is hard to find without running into the middle of the night, or into the middle of the day—which is worse for a busy man. I have just five minutes to spare this afternoon, which will be quite time enough to tell me who you are and why you have sought me.”
“You do not know me because you do not expect to see me on this hemisphere,” he continued. “Nor did I expect to find you a potent force in the commercial world, only three years after a literary and linguistic preparation for a scholarly career. Why, the mädchens of Heidelberg have hardly had time to forget your tall, athletic figure, or ceased wondering if you were really a Hebrew——”
“You seem to be altogether familiar with my history,” I put in with a little heat. “Kindly enlighten me equally well as to your own.”
“I gave you the pleasure of an additional year of residence at the University of Heidelberg not long ago,” he answered.
“I do not know how that can be, for to my uncle I owe my entire education there.”
“Perhaps an unappreciated trifle of it you owe to your instructors and lecturers. Do you forget that I refused to pass your examinations in physics, and kept you there a year longer?”
“You are not Doctor Anderwelt, then?”
“Hermann Anderwelt, Ph.D., at your service, sir,” he replied somewhat proudly.
“But when and why did you leave your chair at Heidelberg?”
“It is to answer this that I ask the five hours,” he said slowly.
“Oh, come now, doctor, you used to tell me more in a two-hour lecture than I could remember in a week,” I answered, taking off my overcoat, and touching an electric button at my desk. My office boy entered.
“Teddy, have I had lunch to-day?” This was my f

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