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Tales of Terror and Mystery

The Leather Funnel
My friend, Lionel Dacre, lived in the Avenue de Wagram, Paris. His house was that small
one, with the iron railings and grass plot in front of it, on the left-hand side as you pass
down from the Arc de Triomphe. I fancy that it had been there long before the avenue
was constructed, for the grey tiles were stained with lichens, and the walls were
mildewed and discoloured with age. It looked a small house from the street, five windows
in front, if I remember right, but it deepened into a single long chamber at the back. It
was here that Dacre had that singular library of occult literature, and the fantastic
curiosities which served as a hobby for himself, and an amusement for his friends. A
wealthy man of refined and eccentric tastes, he had spent much of his life and fortune in
gathering together what was said to be a unique private collection of Talmudic, cabalistic,
and magical works, many of them of great rarity and value. His tastes leaned toward the
marvellous and the monstrous, and I have heard that his experiments in the direction of
the unknown have passed all the bounds of civilization and of decorum. To his English
friends he never alluded to such matters, and took the tone of the student and virtuoso;
but a Frenchman whose tastes were of the same nature has assured me that the worst
excesses of the black mass have been perpetrated in that large and lofty hall, which is
lined with the shelves of his books, and the cases of his museum.
Dacre's appearance was enough to show that his deep interest in these psychic matters
was intellectual rather than spiritual. There was no trace of asceticism upon his heavy
face, but there was much mental force in his huge, dome-like skull, which curved upward
from amongst his thinning locks, like a snowpeak above its fringe of fir trees. His
knowledge was greater than his wisdom, and his powers were far superior to his
character. The small bright eyes, buried deeply in his fleshy face, twinkled with
intelligence and an unabated curiosity of life, but they were the eyes of a sensualist and
an egotist. Enough of the man, for he is dead now, poor devil, dead at the very time that
he had made sure that he had at last discovered the elixir of life. It is not with his complex
character that I have to deal, but with the very strange and inexplicable incident which
had its rise in my visit to him in the early spring of the year '82.
I had known Dacre in England, for my researches in the Assyrian Room of the British
Museum had been conducted at the time when he was endeavouring to establish a mystic
and esoteric meaning in the Babylonian tablets, and this community of interests had
brought us together. Chance remarks had led to daily conversation, and that to something
verging upon friendship. I had promised him that on my next visit to Paris I would call
upon him. At the time when I was able to fulfil my compact I was living in a cottage at
Fontainebleau, and as the evening trains were inconvenient, he asked me to spend the
night in his house.
"I have only that one spare couch," said he, pointing to a broad sofa in his large salon; "I
hope that you will manage to be comfortable there."
 
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