Everyone knows that Sir Dominick Holden, the famous Indian surgeon,
made me his heir, and that his death changed me in an hour from a
hard-working and impecunious medical man to a well-to-do landed
proprietor. Many know also that there were at least five people between
the inheritance and me, and that Sir Dominick's selection appeared to be
altogether arbitrary and whimsical. I can assure them, however, that they
are quite mistaken, and that, although I only knew Sir Dominick in the
closing years of his life, there were, none the less, very real reasons
why he should show his goodwill towards me. As a matter of fact, though I
say it myself, no man ever did more for another than I did for my Indian
uncle. I cannot expect the story to be believed, but it is so singular
that I should feel that it was a breach of duty if I did not put it upon
record- so here it is, and your belief or incredulity is your own affair.
Sir Dominick Holden, C.B., K.C.S.I., and I don't know what besides,
was the most distinguished Indian surgeon of his day. In the Army
originally, he afterwards settled down into civil practice in Bombay, and
visited, as a consultant, every part of India. His name is best remembered
in connection with the Oriental Hospital which he founded and supported.
The time came, however, when his iron constitution began to show signs of
the long strain to which he had subjected it, and his brother
practitioners (who were not, perhaps, entirely disinterested upon the
point) were unanimous in recommending him to return to England. He held on
so long as he could, but at last he developed nervous symptoms of a very
pronounced character, and so came back, a broken man, to his native county
of Wiltshire. He bought a considerable estate with an ancient manor-house
upon the edge of Salisbury Plain, and devoted his old age to the study of
Comparative Pathology, which had been his learned hobby all his life, and
in which he was a foremost authority.
We of the family were, as may be imagined, much excited by the news
of the return of this rich and childless uncle to England. On his part,
although by no means exuberant in his hospitality, he showed some sense of
his duty to his relations, and each of us in turn had an invitation to
visit him. From the accounts of my cousins it appeared to be a melancholy
business, and it was with mixed feelings that I at last received my own
summons to appear at Rodenhurst. My wife was so carefully excluded in the
invitation that my first impulse was to refuse it, but the interests of
the children had to be considered, and so, with her consent, I set out one
October afternoon upon my visit to Wiltshire, with little thought of what
that visit was to entail.
My uncle's estate was situated where the arable land of the plains
begins to swell upwards into the rounded chalk hills which are
characteristic of the county. As I drove from Dinton Station in the waning
light of that autumn day, I was impressed by the weird nature of the
scenery. The few scattered cottages of the peasants were so dwarfed by the
huge evidences of prehistoric life, that the present appeared to be a
dream and the past to be the obtrusive and masterful reality. The road
wound through the valleys, formed by a succession of grassy hills, and the
summit of each was cut and carved into the most elaborate fortifications,
some circular, and some square, but all on a scale which has defied the
winds and the rains of many centuries. Some call them Roman and some
British, but their true origin and the reasons for this particular tract
of country being so interlaced with entrenchments have never been finally
made clear. Here and there on the long, smooth, olive-coloured slopes
there rose small, rounded barrows or tumuli. Beneath them lie the cremated
ashes of the race which cut so deeply into the hills, but their graves
tell us nothing save that a jar full of dust represents the man who once
laboured under the sun.
It was through this weird country that I approached my uncle's
residence of Rodenhurst, and the house was, as I found, in due keeping
with its surroundings. Two broken and weather-stained pillars, each
surmounted by a mutilated heraldic emblem, flanked the entrance to a
neglected drive. A cold wind whistled through the elms which lined it, and
the air was full of the drifting leaves. At the far end, under the gloomy
arch of trees, a single yellow lamp burned steadily. In the dim half-light
of the coming night I saw a long, low building stretching out two
irregular wings, with deep eaves, a sloping gambrel roof, and walls which
were criss-crossed with timber balks in the fashion of the Tudors. The
cheery light of a fire flickered in the broad, latticed window to the left
of the low-porched door, and this, as it proved, marked the study of my
uncle, for it was thither that I was led by his butler in order to make my
He was cowering over his fire, for the moist chill of an English
autumn had set him shivering. His lamp was unlit, and I only saw the red
glow of the embers beating upon a huge, craggy face, with a Red Indian
nose and cheek, and deep furrows and seams from eye to chin, the sinister
marks of hidden volcanic fires. He sprang up at my entrance with something
of an old-world courtesy and welcomed me warmly to Rodenhurst. At the same
time I was conscious, as the lamp was carried in, that it was a very
critical pair of light-blue eyes which looked out at me from under shaggy
eyebrows, like scouts beneath a bush, and that this outlandish uncle of
mine was carefully reading off my character with all the ease of a
practised observer and an experienced man of the world.
For my part I looked at him, and looked again, for I had never seen a
man whose appearance was more fitted to hold one's attention. His figure
was the framework of a giant, but he had fallen away until his coat
dangled straight down in a shocking fashion from a pair of broad and bony
shoulders. All his limbs were huge and yet emaciated, and I could not take
my gaze from his knobby wrists, and long, gnarled hands. But his
eyes-those peering, light-blue eyes-they were the most arrestive of any of
his peculiarities. It was not their colour alone, nor was it the ambush of
hair in which they lurked; but it was the expression which I read in them.
For the appearance and bearing of the man were masterful, and one expected
a certain corresponding arrogance in his eyes, but instead of that I read
the look which tells of a spirit cowed and crushed, the furtive, expectant
look of the dog whose master has taken the whip from the rack. I formed my
own medical diagnosis upon one glance at those critical and yet appealing
eyes. I believed that he was stricken with some mortal ailment, that he
knew himself to be exposed to sudden death, and that he lived in terror of
it. Such was my judgment-a false one, as the event showed; but I mention
it that it may help you to realize the look which I read in his eyes.
My uncle's welcome was, as I have said, a courteous one, and in an
hour or so I found myself seated between him and his wife at a comfortable
dinner, with curious, pungent delicacies upon the table, and a stealthy,
quick-eyed Oriental waiter behind his chair. The old couple had come round
to that tragic imitation of the dawn of life when husband and wife, having
lost or scattered all those who were their intimates, find themselves face
to face and alone once more, their work done, and the end nearing fast.
Those who have reached that stage in sweetness and love, who can change
their winter into a gentle, Indian summer, have come as victors through
the ordeal of life. Lady Holden was a small, alert woman with a kindly
eye, and her expression as she glanced at him was a certificate of
character to her husband. And yet, though I read a mutual love in their
glances, I read also mutual horror, and recognized in her face some
reflection of that stealthy fear which I had detected in his. Their talk
was sometimes merry and sometimes sad, but there was a forced note in
their merriment and a naturalness in their sadness which told me that a
heavy heart beat upon either side of me.
We were sitting over our first glass of wine, and the servants had
left the room, when the conversation took a turn which produced a
remarkable effect upon my host and hostess. I cannot recall what it was
which started the topic of the supernatural, but it ended in my showing
them that the abnormal in psychical experiences was a subject to which I
had, like many neurologists, devoted a great deal of attention. I
concluded by narrating my experiences when, as a member of the Psychical
Research Society, I had formed one of a committee of three who spent the
night in a haunted house. Our adventures were neither exciting nor
convincing, but, such as it was, the story appeared to interest my
auditors in a remarkable degree. They listened with an eager silence, and
I caught a look of intelligence between them which I could not understand.
Lady Holden immediately afterwards rose and left the room.
Sir Dominick pushed the cigar-box over to me, and we smoked for some
little time in silence. That huge, bony hand of his was twitching as he
raised it with his cheroot to his lips, and I felt that the man's nerves
were vibrating like fiddle-strings. My instincts told me that he was on
the verge of some intimate confidence, and I feared to speak lest I should
interrupt it. At last he turned towards me with a spasmodic gesture like a
man who throws his last scruple to the winds.
"From the little that I have seen of you it appears to me, Dr.
Hardacre," said he, "that you are the very man I have wanted to meet."
"I am delighted to hear it, sir."
"Your head seems to be cool and steady. You will acquit me of any
desire to flatter you, for the circumstances are too serious to permit of
insincerities. You have some special knowledge upon these subjects, and
you evidently view them from that philosophical stand-point which robs
them of all vulgar terror. I presume that the sight of an apparition would
not seriously discompose you?"
"I think not, sir."
"Would even interest you, perhaps?"
"As a psychical observer, you would probably investigate it in as
impersonal a fashion as an astronomer investigates a wandering comet?"
He gave a heavy sigh.
"Believe me, Dr. Hardacre, there was a time when I could have spoken
as you do now. My nerve was a byword in India. Even the Mutiny never shook
it for an instant. And yet you see what I am reduced to-the most timorous
man, perhaps, in all this county of Wiltshire. Do not speak too bravely
upon this subject, or you may find yourself subjected to as long-drawn a
test as I am-a test which can only end in the madhouse or the grave."
I waited patiently until he should see fit to go farther in his
confidence. His preamble had, I need not say, filled me with interest and expectation.
"For some years, Dr. Hardacre," he continued, "my life and that of my
wife have been made miserable by a cause which is so grotesque that it
borders upon the ludicrous. And yet familiarity has never made it more
easy to bear-on the contrary, as time passes my nerves become more worn
and shattered by the constant attrition. If you have no physical fears,
Dr. Hardacre, I should very much value your opinion upon this phenomenon
which troubles us so."
"For what it is worth my opinion is entirely at your service. May I
ask the nature of the phenomenon?"
"I think that your experiences will have a higher evidential value if
you are not told in advance what you may expect to encounter. You are
yourself aware of the quibbles of unconscious cerebration and subjective
impressions with which a scientific sceptic may throw a doubt upon your
statement. It would be as well to guard against them in advance."
"What shall I do, then?"
"I will tell you. Would you mind following me this way?" He led me
out of the dining-room and down a long passage until we came to a terminal
door. Inside there was a large, bare room fitted as a laboratory, with
numerous scientific instruments and bottles. A shelf ran along one side,
upon which there stood a long line of glass jars containing pathological
and anatomical specimens.
"You see that I still dabble in some of my old studies," said Sir
Dominick. "These jars are the remains of what was once a most excellent
collection, but unfortunately I lost the greater part of them when my
house was burned down in Bombay in '92. It was a most unfortunate affair
for me-in more ways than one. I had examples of many rare conditions, and
my splenic collection was probably unique. These are the survivors."
I glanced over them, and saw that they really were of a very great
value and rarity from a pathological point of view: bloated organs, gaping
cysts, distorted bones, odious parasites-a singular exhibition of the products of India.
"There is, as you see, a small settee here," said my host. "It was
far from our intention to offer a guest so meagre an accommodation, but
since affairs have taken this turn, it would be a great kindness upon your
part if you would consent to spend the night in this apartment. I beg that
you will not hesitate to let me know if the idea should be at all repugnant to you."
"On the contrary," I said, "it is most acceptable."
"My own room is the second on the left, so that if you should feel
that you are in need of company a call would always bring me to your side."
"I trust that I shall not be compelled to disturb you."
"It is unlikely that I shall be asleep. I do not sleep much. Do not
hesitate to summon me."
And so with this agreement we joined Lady Holden in the drawing-room
and talked of lighter things.
It was no affectation upon my part to say that the prospect of my
night's adventure was an agreeable one. I have no pretence to greater
physical courage than my neighbours, but familiarity with a subject robs
it of those vague and undefined terrors which are the most appalling to
the imaginative mind. The human brain is capable of only one strong
emotion at a time, and if it be filled with curiosity or scientific
enthusiasm, there is no room for fear. It is true that I had my uncle's
assurance that he had himself originally taken this point of view, but I
reflected that the breakdown of his nervous system might be due to his
forty years in India as much as to any psychical experiences which had
befallen him. I at least was sound in nerve and brain, and it was with
something of the pleasurable thrill of anticipation with which the
sportsman takes his position beside the haunt of his game that I shut the
laboratory door behind me, and partially undressing, lay down upon the
It was not an ideal atmosphere for a bedroom. The air was heavy with
many chemical odours, that of methylated spirit predominating. Nor were
the decorations of my chamber very sedative. The odious line of glass jars
with their relics of disease and suffering stretched in front of my very
eyes. There was no blind to the window, and a three-quarter moon streamed
its white light into the room, tracing a silver square with filigree
lattices upon the opposite wall. When I had extinguished my candle this
one bright patch in the midst of the general gloom had certainly an eerie
and discomposing aspect. A rigid and absolute silence reigned throughout
the old house, so that the low swish of the branches in the garden came
softly and smoothly to my ears. It may have been the hypnotic lullaby of
this gentle susurrus, or it may have been the result of my tiring day, but
after many dozings and many efforts to regain my clearness of perception,
I fell at last into a deep and dreamless sleep.
I was awakened by some sound in the room, and I instantly raised
myself upon my elbow on the couch. Some hours had passed, for the square
patch upon the wall had slid downwards and sideways until it lay obliquely
at the end of my bed. The rest of the room was in deep shadow. At first I
could see nothing, presently, as my eyes became accustomed to the faint
light, I was aware, with a thrill which all my scientific absorption could
not entirely prevent, that something was moving slowly along the line of
the wall. A gentle, shuffling sound, as of soft slippers, came to my ears,
and I dimly discerned a human figure walking stealthily from the direction
of the door. As it emerged into the patch of moonlight I saw very clearly
what it was and how it was employed. It was a man, short and squat,
dressed in some sort of dark-grey gown, which hung straight from his
shoulders to his feet. The moon shone upon the side of his face, and I saw
that it was chocolate-brown in colour, with a ball of black hair like a
woman's at the back of his head. He walked slowly, and his eyes were cast
upwards towards the line of bottles which contained those gruesome
remnants of humanity. He seemed to examine each jar with attention, and
then to pass on to the next. When he had come to the end of the line,
immediately opposite my bed, he stopped, faced me, threw up his hands with
a gesture of despair, and vanished from my sight.
I have said that he threw up his hands, but I should have said his
arms, for as he assumed that attitude of despair I observed a singular
peculiarity about his appearance. He had only one hand! As the sleeves
drooped down from the upflung arms I saw the left plainly, but the right
ended in a knobby and unsightly stump. In every other way his appearance
was so natural, and I had both seen and heard him so clearly, that I could
easily have believed that he was an Indian servant of Sir Dominick's who
had come into my room in search of something. It was only his sudden
disappearance which suggested anything more sinister to me. As it was I
sprang from my couch, lit a candle, and examined the whole room carefully.
There were no signs of my visitor, and I was forced to conclude that there
had really been something outside the normal laws of Nature in his
appearance. I lay awake for the remainder of the night, but nothing else
occurred to disturb me.
I am an early riser, but my uncle was an even earlier one, for I
found him pacing up and down the lawn at the side of the house. He ran
towards me in his eagerness when he saw me come out from the door.
"Well, well!" he cried. "Did you see him?"
"An Indian with one hand?"
"Yes, I saw him"-and I told him all that occurred. When I had
finished, he led the way into his study.
"We have a little time before breakfast," said he. "It will suffice
to give you an explanation of this extraordinary affair-so far as I can
explain that which is essentially inexplicable. In the first place, when I
tell you that for four years I have never passed one single night, either
in Bombay, aboard ship, or here in England without my sleep being broken
by this fellow, you will understand why it is that I am a wreck of my
former self. His programme is always the same. He appears by my bedside,
shakes me roughly by the shoulder, passes from my room into the
laboratory, walks slowly along the line of my bottles, and then vanishes.
For more than a thousand times he had gone through the same routine."
"What does he want?"
"He wants his hand."
"Yes, it came about in this way. I was summoned to Peshawur for a
consultation some ten years ago, and while there I was asked to look at
the hand of a native who was passing through with an Afghan caravan. The
fellow came from some mountain tribe living away at the back of beyond
somewhere on the other side of Kaffiristan. He talked a bastard Pushtoo,
and it was all I could do to understand him. He was suffering from a soft
sarcomatous swelling of one of the metacarpal joints, and I made him
realize that it was only by losing his hand that he could hope to save his
life. After much persuasion he consented to the operation, and he asked
me, when it was over, what fee I demanded. The poor fellow was almost a
beggar, so that idea of a fee was absurd, but I answered in jest that my
fee should be his hand, and that I proposed to add it to my pathological collection.
"To my surprise he demurred very much to the suggestion, and he
explained that according to his religion it was an all-important matter
that the body should be reunited after death, and so make a perfect
dwelling for the spirit. The belief is, of course, an old one, and the
mummies of the Egyptians arose from an analogous superstition. I answered
him that his hand was already off, and asked him how he intended to
preserve it. He replied that he would pickle it in salt and carry it about
with him. I suggested that it might be safer in my keeping than his, and
that I had better means than salt for preserving it. On realizing that I
really intended to carefully keep it, his opposition vanished instantly.
'But remember, sahib,' said he, 'I shall want it back when I am dead.' I
laughed at the remark, and so the matter ended. I returned to my practice,
and he no doubt in the course of time was able to continue his journey to Afghanistan.
"Well, as I told you last night, I had a bad fire in my house at
Bombay. Half of it was burned down, and, among other things, my
pathological collection was largely destroyed. What you see are the poor
remains of it. The hand of the hillman went with the rest, but I gave the
matter no particular thought at the time. That was six years ago.
"Four years ago-two years after the fire-I was awakened one night by
a furious tugging at my sleeve. I sat up under the impression that my
favourite mastiff was trying to arouse me. Instead of this, I saw my
Indian patient of long ago, dressed in the long, grey gown which was the
badge of his people. He was holding up his stump and looking reproachfully
at me. He then went over to my bottles, which at that time I kept in my
room, and he examined them carefully, after which he gave a gesture of
anger and vanished. I realized that he had just died, and that he had come
to claim my promise that I should keep his limb in safety for him.
"Well, there you have it all, Dr. Hardacre. Every night at the same
hour for four years this performance has been repeated. It is a simple
thing in itself, but it has worn me out like water dropping on a stone. It
has brought a vile insomnia with it, for I cannot sleep now for the
expectation of his coming. It has poisoned my old age and that of my wife,
who has been the sharer in this great trouble. But there is the breakfast
gong, and she will be waiting impatiently to know how it fared with you
last night. We are both much indebted to you for your gallantry, for it
takes something from the weight of our misfortune when we share it, even
for a single night, with a friend, and it reassures us to our sanity,
which we are sometimes driven to question."
This was the curious narrative which Sir Dominick confided to me-a
story which to many would have appeared to be a grotesque impossibility,
but which, after my experience of the night before, and my previous
knowledge of such things, I was prepared to accept as an absolute fact. I
thought deeply over the matter, and brought the whole range of my reading
and experience to bear upon it. After breakfast, I surprised my host and
hostess by announcing that I was returning to London by the next train.
"My dear doctor," cried Sir Dominick in great distress, "you make me
feel that I have been guilty of a gross breach of hospitality in intruding
this unfortunate matter upon you. I should have borne my own burden."
"It is, indeed, that matter which is taking me to London," I
answered; "but you are mistaken, I assure you, if you think that my
experience of last night was an unpleasant one to me. On the contrary, I
am about to ask your permission to return in the evening and spend one
more night in your laboratory. I am very eager to see this visitor once again."
My uncle was exceedingly anxious to know what I was about to do, but
my fears of raising false hopes prevented me from telling him. I was back
in my own consulting-room a little after luncheon, and was confirming my
memory of a passage in a recent book upon occultism which had arrested my
attention when I read it. "In the case of earth-bound spirits," said my
authority, "some one dominant idea obsessing them at the hour of death is
sufficient to hold them in this material world. They are the amphibia of
this life and of the next, capable of passing from one to the other as the
turtle passes from land to water. The causes which may bind a soul so
strongly to a life which its body has abandoned are any violent emotion.
Avarice, revenge, anxiety, love and pity have all been known to have this
effect. As a rule it springs from some unfulfilled wish, and when the wish
has been fulfilled the material bond relaxes. There are many cases upon
record which show the singular persistence of these visitors, and also
their disappearance when their wishes have been fulfilled, or in some
cases when a reasonable compromise has been effected."
"A reasonable compromise effected"-those were the words which I had
brooded over all the morning, and which I now verified in the original. No
actual atonement could be made here-but a reasonable compromise! I made my
way as fast as a train could take me to the Shadwell Seamen's Hospital,
where my old friend Jack Hewett was house-surgeon. Without explaining the
situation I made him understand what it was that I wanted.
"A brown man's hand!" said he, in amazement. "What in the world do you want that for?"
"Never mind. I'll tell you some day. I know that your wards are full of Indians."
"I should think so. But a hand-" He thought a little and then struck a bell.
"Travers," said he to a student-dresser, "what became of the hands of
the Lascar which we took off yesterday? I mean the fellow from the East
India Dock who got caught in the steam winch."
"They are in the post-mortem room, sir.
"Just pack one of them in antiseptics and give it to Dr. Hardacre."
And so I found myself back at Rodenhurst before dinner with this
curious outcome of my day in town. I still said nothing to Sir Dominick,
but I slept that night in the laboratory, and I placed the Lascar's hand
in one of the glass jars at the end of my couch.
So interested was I in the result of my experiment that sleep was out
of the question. I sat with a shaded lamp beside me and waited patiently
for my visitor. This time I saw him clearly from the first. He appeared
beside the door, nebulous for an instant, and then hardening into as
distinct an outline as any living man. The slippers beneath his grey gown
were red and heelless, which accounted for the low, shuffling sound which
he made as he walked. As on the previous night he passed slowly along the
line of bottles until he paused before that which contained the hand. He
reached up to it, his whole figure quivering with expectation, took it
down, examined it eagerly, and then, with a face which was convulsed with
fury and disappointment, he hurled it down on the floor. There was a crash
which resounded through the house, and when I looked up the mutilated
Indian had disappeared. A moment later my door flew open and Sir Dominick rushed in.
"You are not hurt?" he cried.
"No-but deeply disappointed."
He looked in astonishment at the splinters of glass, and the brown
hand lying upon the floor.
"Good God!" he cried. "What is this?"
I told him my idea and its wretched sequel. He listened intently, but
shook his head.
"It was well thought of," said he, "but I fear that there is no such
easy end to my sufferings. But one thing I now insist upon. It is that you
shall never again upon any pretext occupy this room. My fears that
something might have happened to you-when I heard that crash-have been the
most acute of all the agonies which I have undergone. I will not expose
myself to a repetition of it."
He allowed me, however, to spend the remainder of that night where I
was, and I lay there worrying over the problem and lamenting my own
failure. With the first light of morning there was the Lascar's hand still
lying upon the floor to remind me of my fiasco. I lay looking at it and as
I lay suddenly an idea flew like a bullet through my head and brought me
quivering with excitement out of my couch. I raised the grim relic from
where it had fallen. Yes, it was indeed so. The hand was the left hand of the Lascar.
By the first train I was on my way to town, and hurried at once to
the Seamen's Hospital. I remembered that both hands of the Lascar had been
amputated, but I was terrified lest the precious organ which I was in
search of might have been already consumed in the crematory. My suspense
was soon ended. It had still been preserved in the post-mortem room. And
so I returned to Rodenhurst in the evening with my mission accomplished
and the material for a fresh experiment.
But Sir Dominick Holden would not hear of my occupying the laboratory
again. To all my entreaties he turned a deaf ear. It offended his sense of
hospitality, and he could no longer permit it. I left the hand, therefore,
as I had done its fellow the night before, and I occupied a comfortable
bedroom in another portion of the house, some distance from the scene of my adventures.
But in spite of that my sleep was not destined to be uninterrupted.
In the dead of night my host burst into my room, a lamp in his hand. His
huge, gaunt figure was enveloped in a loose dressing-gown, and his whole
appearance might certainly have seemed more formidable to a weak-nerved
man than that of the Indian of the night before. But it was not his
entrance so much as his expression which amazed me. He had turned suddenly
younger by twenty years at the least. His eyes were shining, his features
radiant, and he waved one hand in triumph over his head. I sat up
astounded, staring sleepily at this extraordinary visitor. But his words
soon drove the sleep from my eyes.
"We have done it! We have succeeded!" he shouted. "My dear Hardacre,
how can I ever in this world repay you?"
"You don't mean to say that it is all right?"
"Indeed I do. I was sure that you would not mind being awakened to
hear such blessed news."
"Mind! I should think not indeed. But is it really certain?"
"I have no doubt whatever upon the point. I owe you such a debt, my
dear nephew, as I have never owed a man before, and never expected to.
What can I possibly do for you that is commensurate? Providence must have
sent you to my rescue. You have saved both my reason and my life, for
another six months of this must have seen me either in a cell or a coffin.
And my wife-it was wearing her out before my eyes. Never could I have
believed that any human being could have lifted this burden off me." He
seized my hand and wrung it in his bony grip.
"It was only an experiment-a forlorn hope-but I am delighted from my
heart that it has succeeded. But how do you know that it is all right?
Have you seen something?"
He seated himself at the foot of my bed.
"I have seen enough," said he. "It satisfies me that I shall be
troubled no more. What has passed is easily told. You know that at a
certain hour this creature always comes to me. To-night he arrived at the
usual time, and aroused me with even more violence than is his custom. I
can only surmise that his disappointment of last night increased the
bitterness of his anger against me. He looked angrily at me, and then went
on his usual round. But in a few minutes I saw him, for the first time
since his persecution began, return to my chamber. He was smiling. I saw
the gleam of his white teeth through the dim light. He stood facing me at
the end of my bed, and three times he made the low, Eastern salaam which
is their solemn leave-taking. And the third time that he bowed he raised
his arms over his head, and I saw his Two hands outstretched in the air.
So he vanished, and, as I believe, for ever."
So that is the curious experience which won me the affection and the
gratitude of my celebrated uncle, the famous Indian surgeon. His
anticipations were realised, and never again was he disturbed by the
visits of the restless hillman in search of his lost hand. Sir Dominick
and Lady Holden spent a very happy old age, unclouded, so far as I know,
by any trouble, and they finally died during the great influenza epidemic
within a few weeks of each other. In his lifetime he always turned to me
for advice in everything which concerned that English life of which he
knew so little; and I aided him also in the purchase and development of
his estates. It was no great surprise to me, therefore, that I found
myself eventually promoted over the heads of five exasperated cousins, and
changed in a single day from a hard-working country doctor into the head
of an important Wiltshire family. I, at least, have reason to bless the
memory of the man with the brown hand, and the day when I was fortunate
enough to relieve Rodenhurst of his unwelcome presence.