In The Shade Of The Lonely Palm
Persian opium of good quality contains from ten to fifteen percent morphine, and
chandu made from opium of Yezd would contain perhaps twenty-five per cent of
this potent drug; but because in the act of smoking distillation occurs, nothing like
this quantity of morphine reaches the smoker. To the distilling process, also, may
be due the different symptoms resulting from smoking chandu and injecting
morphia --or drinking tincture of opium, as De Quincey did.
Rita found the flavor of the preparation to be not entirely unpleasant. Having
overcome an initial aversion, caused by its marked medicinal tang, she grew
reconciled to it and finished her first smoke without experiencing any other effect
than a sensation of placid contentment. Deftly, Mrs. Sin renewed the pipe. Silence
had fallen upon the party.
The second "pill" was no more than half consumed when a growing feeling of
nausea seized upon the novice, becoming so marked that she dropped the ivory
pipe weakly and uttered a faint moan.
Instantly, silently, Mrs. Sin was beside her.
"Lean forward--so," she whispered, softly, as if fearful of intruding her voice upon
these sacred rites. "In a moment you will be better. Then, if you feel faint, lie back.
It is the sleep. Do not fight against it."
The influence of the stronger will prevailed. Self-control and judgment are qualities
among the first to succumb to opium. Rita ceased to think longingly of the clean,
fresh air, of escape from these sickly fumes which seemed now to fill the room with
a moving vacuum. She bent forward, her chin resting upon her breast, and
gradually the deathly sickness passed. Mentally, she underwent a change, too.
From an active state of resistance the ego traversed a descending curve ending in
absolute passivity. The floor had seemingly begun to revolve and was moving
insidiously, so that the pattern of the carpet formed a series of concentric rings.
She found this imaginary phenomenon to be soothing rather than otherwise, and
resigned herself almost eagerly to the delusion.
Mrs. Sin allowed her to fall back upon the cushions--so gently and so slowly that
the operation appeared to occupy several minutes and to resemble that of sinking
into innumerable layers of swansdown. The sinuous figure bending over her grew
taller with the passage of each minute, until the dark eyes of Mrs. Sin were looking
down at Rita from a dizzy elevation. As often occurs in the case of a neurotic
subject, delusion as to time and space had followed the depression of the sensory
But surely, she mused, this could not be Mrs. Sin who towered so loftily above her.
Of course, how absurd to imagine that a woman could remain motionless for so
many hours. And Rita thought, now, that she had been lying for several hours
beneath the shadow of that tall, graceful, and protective shape.
Why--it was a slender palm-tree, which stretched its fanlike foliage over her! Far,
far above her head the long, dusty green fronds projected from the mast-like trunk.
The sun, a ball of fiery brass, burned directly in the zenith, so that the shadow of