Open main menu
This page has been validated.


PREFACE.

One evening about three months ago—at a card party given, by a Bohemian acquaintance of mine—I met a man who interested me strangely. We seemed instinctively to take a fancy to each other, and, when we left, exchanged addresses—he promising to call at my hotel the following evening.

He did so, and we sat talking and smoking until past midnight.

Occasionally he would stop in the middle of a sentence and tail into a reverie, then would rouse himself with an effort and continue what he was saying. This is the only peculiarity I noticed about him.

During our conversation he casually mentioned that he was thirty years old. This I rather doubted, as he looked at least over forty. He did not seem at all well, and I told him he should take care of himself.

He laughed, and said that he had consumption, and that the pleasure he would lose by taking care of himself would hardly compensate for the extra few weeks he might live.

After this we visited each other constantly, until one day, calling on him, I was told he had left. At the end of a week I received a letter asking me to come and see him at Queenscliff; he added that he wished to see me particularly.

I went and found him very ill. He told me he did not expect to live more than a few days. I insisted on his obtaining medical advice.

To avoid an inquest he consented. The doctor confirmed his prognosis, adding that he might die at any moment.

He look it very quietly, and said he was not very sorry.

He died a week after my arrival; the day before, he gave me a packet of papers, with instructions to read them after he was dead.

He assured me what I would read in them was perfectly true and had occurred to himself. He also gave me permission to publish them if I cared to. He gave me his solicitors' address, and asked me to forward his will and a few other papers to them. He died on the 28th of July last. After his death I did as he had requested.

I read the papers be had given me, and determined to have them published. If they are true they are wonderful.

He showed me the lock of hair alluded to in the following pages, but would not give it me.

That was all he had to vouch for the truth of what he had written. On the other hand, he may have thought he passed through it all in the delirium caused by the snake-bite and earthquake combined. I will not make any comments, but leave it for all who read his story to decide. I copy it verbatim from his papers.