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The Best Mystery and Detective Stories

The Waters of Death
The warm mineral waters of Spinbronn, situated in the Hundsrück, several leagues from
Pirmesens, formerly enjoyed a magnificent reputation. All who were afflicted with gout
or gravel in Germany repaired thither; the savage aspect of the country did not deter
them. They lodged in pretty cottages at the head of the defile; they bathed in the cascade,
which fell in large sheets of foam from the summit of the rocks; they drank one or two
decanters of mineral water daily, and the doctor of the place, Daniel Hâselnoss, who
distributed his prescriptions clad in a great wig and chestnut coat, had an excellent
practice.
To-day the waters of Spinbronn figure no longer in the "Codex"; [Note: A collection of
prescriptions indorsed by the Faculty of Paris] in this poor village one no longer sees
anyone but a few miserable woodcutters, and, sad to say, Dr. Hâselnoss has left!
All this resulted from a series of very strange catastrophes which lawyer Brêmer of
Pirmesens told me about the other day.
You should know, Master Frantz (said he), that the spring of Spinbronn issues from a sort
of cavern, about five feet high and twelve or fifteen feet wide; the water has a warmth of
sixty-seven degrees Centigrade; it is salt. As for the cavern, entirely covered without with
moss, ivy, and brushwood, its depth is unknown because the hot exhalations prevent all
entrance.
Nevertheless, strangely enough, it was noticed early in the last century that birds of the
neighborhood—thrushes, doves, hawks—were engulfed in it in full flight, and it was
never known to what mysterious influence to attribute this particular.
In 1801, at the height of the season, owing to some circumstance which is still
unexplained, the spring became more abundant, and the bathers, walking below on the
greensward, saw a human skeleton as white as snow fall from the cascade.
You may judge, Master Frantz, of the general fright; it was thought naturally that a
murder had been committed at Spinbronn in a recent year, and that the body of the victim
had been thrown in the spring. But the skeleton weighed no more than a dozen francs,
and Hâselnoss concluded that it must have sojourned more than three centuries in the
sand to have become reduced to such a state of desiccation.
This very plausible reasoning did not prevent a crowd of patrons, wild at the idea of
having drunk the saline water, from leaving before the end of the day; those worst
afflicted with gout and gravel consoled themselves. But the overflow continuing, all the
rubbish, slime, and detritus which the cavern contained was disgorged on the following
days; a veritable bone-yard came down from the mountain: skeletons of animals of every
kind—of quadrupeds, birds, and reptiles—in short, all that one could conceive as most
horrible.
 
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