[DR. WATSON'S STORY.]
It is with the greatest difficulty, (said Dr. Watson), that I force
myself to believe that what I am about to relate to you did not actually
happen. It seemed to me that I was as wide-awake as I am at this present
moment, and impossible that the strange series of incidents could be due
entirely to mental disturbances. I went home and went to bed, after
first taking the powder, and I think I went to sleep. How long I slept I
do not know, but I was startled at finding myself floating about the
room with much the same feeling as one has when floating in water, only
it was without effort. My motion seemed to be governed entirely by my
will,—if I glanced at anything in the room I would float towards it.
Imagine my astonishment at seeing my body lying in the bed apparently
sound asleep; you will admit the sensation was novel, to say the least.
After floating around the room two or three times enjoying the peculiar
sensation, I began to wonder what they had been doing at the hospital
during my absence. Immediately I found myself in the hospital ward. Dr.
Ford and two nurses were standing by a cot at the north end, and
glancing at the chart on the table I saw the patient was seriously ill.
"Moribund," said a voice.
"I'm afraid so," I answered. I turned and saw an elderly gentleman,
dressed in the costume of the last century, floating beside me.
"Sad, is it not? People still die, I see, in spite of the wonderful
advance in the science of medicine since my day."
"Were you a doctor when alive?" I asked.
"Well, I was called one, and received the regular license to kill or
cure. I regret to say that I have since learned that I killed a great
many more than I cured. The trouble is, after you are dead your patients
know this as well as you do and say unkind things; even to-night I
received word from a former patient of mine, and a ghost who ought to
know better, to the effect that he intended to hunt me up and punch my
head. I treated him for renal colic and he died of appendicitis."
"What sort of a death certificate did you give?" I asked.
"Heart disease, and let me tell you that was a great deal nearer to it
than some of you chaps get nowadays."
"You are not complimentary," I said coldly.
"Perhaps not; but if you think my criticisms harsh and uncalled for,
let us get down to cold facts. Did it ever occur to you how very few
people live to be even one hundred and twenty-five years old? You surely
will admit that there is no reason why a man should not live to that
age, barring accidents. We know that in Bible times there were lots of
old fellows who passed their three hundredth birthday, and a chap named
Methuselah claimed to be nine hundred and ninety-nine years old."
"Nine hundred and sixty-nine, was it not?" I asked.
"Perhaps you are right, but sixty-nine or ninety-nine, I am inclined to
be a little sceptical about that record myself; there is one thing in
its favor, however, and that is, that he made it an even nine hundred
and ninety-nine, and not one thousand. Of course, you know there are
plenty of people living to-day who are over one hundred years old, and
some who have reached the very satisfactory age of one hundred and
twenty-five; most of them, however, live in Bulgaria, Mexico, or some
out-of-the-way place, and are so poor that they have to live
"Then you consider the secret of longevity to be a matter of diet?" said
"Partly that, and partly proper care of the nervous system; but come
downstairs, and let us have a cigarette; I am dying for a smoke."
We floated down to the office, which happened to be unoccupied at the
time. The medical ghost helped himself to a cigarette from a trayful on
the mantel-piece, and lighting it, he seated himself in an armchair, and
puffed away with evident enjoyment. I noticed the smoke, which he
inhaled continually, oozed from all parts of his body.
The Smoke continually oozed from All Parts of his Body.
"My dear fellow," he said impressively, "you must understand that all
diseases are caused by germs—microscopic bugs and plants, you know, many of them so
small that they are invisible to an ordinary microscope, or, if seen at
all, are not recognized. There are thousands and thousands of them, and
each and every one has its mission in life, and preys upon and destroys
other germs. Now, the human body is constantly getting a lot of germs
inside of it which do not belong there. Some are taken in by the lungs,
while floating in the air; some by the stomach, by the food and drink;
some by the skin, etc.
"These germs are met by their natural enemies which live in man's
blood—his body-guard, as it were—and are destroyed. But if the
attacking army is very large, or from some reason the home army has been
weakened and decimated, then the invaders flourish, establish themselves
and wax powerful and strong, and the man becomes what is called 'sick.'
"Come," he said, rising abruptly, and throwing the unconsumed end of
his cigarette into the fireplace. "Come with me to the laboratory, and I
will show you in about two minutes more than I could explain if I talked
for years, and a great deal more satisfactorily."
We floated down to the laboratory, and the ghost took from the shelf a
wide-mouthed bottle and held it up to the light.
"Here," he said, "we have a culture. You, of course, understand how the
germs of disease are cultivated for experimental use. It is needless for
me to explain to you that certain media are used for these cultures,
such as milk, beef-broth, etc.
"Here we have the germ of diphtheria, here of tuberculosis, here of
typhoid fever, etc. That little short jar over yonder contains some
cholera bacilli, which have been lately sent here. Now look at this
typhoid germ. If we took a drop of healthy blood and put some of these
typhoid germs in it, how they would wiggle! but if the drop of blood was
from a typhoid patient, they won't wiggle very long, as you know. See
this blunt-headed chap which we have to stain to see properly, even with
this wonderful microscope; that is our old friend the bacillus of
tuberculosis; but unless you see the patient first I do not believe you
could distinguish him from the leprosy bug.
"These are known germs, but look through the glass at this drop, and you
will see some bugs worth seeing, although the medical fraternity have
not as yet discovered their value. Perhaps you know that most
bacteriologists consider these germs to be plants, not bugs, although
they admit some of them move a little. How astonished they would be if
they could look through this glass! See that chap with green hind legs:
he preys on the typhoid germ, and when they discover this physicians
will simply inoculate the patient with a lot of these little chaps with
the green legs, and they will do the rest.
"Here is a germ with yellow stripes which looks a little like a
diminutive potato bug. He is the deadly enemy of the bug of consumption,
and will attack and kill him on every possible occasion. They are about
evenly matched, but I think the little striped chap is a bit the better.
Another ghost and myself made a match the other night,—seven battles,
the result to decide the championship,—a sort of a bugging main, as it
were. I won. The first six matches were even. We won three each, but in
the seventh my striped bug got the tubercular germ down and shook him as
a terrier does a rat. The other ghost and myself nearly had a fight to
get our eyes to the microscope. I tell you it was exciting. There is my
champion bug now, see him?—the one with the fourth hind leg gone."
"But how," I asked, "are you going to prevent people from dying of old
"Of course they will die of old age; but there is no such thing as old
age under one hundred and fifty years; what you call old age is not old
age at all. There are two kinds of old age or senility. Old age,
properly speaking, results from a distinct modification of the nervous
tissues and a hardening of the arteries—the former caused by unnatural
conditions, nervous strain and dissipation, and the latter from
over-feeding and drinking. The trouble with the ordinary man is that he
absorbs great quantities of nitrogenous foods instead of making his diet
one of nuts, fruit, milk, etc. In comparatively young men of the present
age there is often a decided modification of the nervous tissues with
symptoms resembling those in neurasthenia. In such cases galvanic
treatment will restore the centres to their normal condition. You will,
therefore, I think, admit that with proper diet and possibly the aid of
a galvanic battery a man may live,—barring possible death by
violence,—say, two hundred years."
"You mean," I said, "when we have learned to combat the various disease
germs by pitting against them their natural enemies."
"Exactly, of course," answered the shade; "but it seems to me that we
have talked long enough; I am becoming very dry, so let us repair to the
Waldorf and have a cocktail."
"How is it possible," I asked, "that you can take a cocktail, there
being nothing tangible about you?"
"Of course," answered the ghost, "it is impossible for me to actually
drink a cocktail. I can, however, float over the bar and inhale the
pleasing odors arising from the various concoctions served to the
guests, and in my ethereal condition I enjoy the odors and am affected
by them as much as if I were really drinking the liquid."
We floated from the house and down town, until we reached the
brilliantly lighted Waldorf Hotel. There were many people in the
bar-room, and the medical shade and myself, floating about over the
different tables, inhaled with decided enjoyment the delicate aroma of
the various mixed drinks so dear to the present generation.
To my annoyance my shade companion soon began to sing—he was evidently
affected by the odors which had passed through him. His manner became
familiar, and I had great difficulty in keeping him from kicking the
glasses off the tables. At last I succeeded in getting him out of the
room, and it was time, for as we floated into the street he began
shouting in a most uproarious manner, and I was afraid that we should
be arrested for disturbing the peace.
"Be quiet, I beg of you," I pleaded; "see that policeman on the opposite
side of the street? We shall surely get into trouble if you make such a
"Policeman?" hiccoughed the shade, "What the devil do I care for a
policeman? Watch me go over and punch him in the stomach."
In spite of all I could do to prevent him he started straight for the
officer, who was standing all unconscious on the corner, watching a
pretty girl who was looking into one of the brilliantly lighted store
windows. Now was my time to rid myself of this most undesirable
companion, and I wished myself in my own room.
Instantly I found myself floating about over my bed, and there was my
body sleeping as peacefully as ever. I was somewhat tired, but I
remembered our contract to write down the result of our experiences,
and immediately sat down to do it. After I had written it I read it over
carefully to see if I had overlooked anything, and then wished myself in
bed and asleep. The next thing I knew it was broad daylight. There, on
my writing-table, were the pages of manuscript which I had written. They
were real enough, whether the rest was a dream or not.