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The Mystery

The Achievement
For some moments Darrow sat gazing fixedly at the table before him. His cigarette tip
glowed and failed. Someone suggested drinks. The captain asked Darrow what he would
have, but the question went unnoted.
"How I passed the next six months I could hardly tell you," he began again, quite
abruptly. "At times I was bored--fearfully bored. Yet the element of mystery, of
uncertainty, of underlying peril, gave a certain zest to the affair. In the periods of dulness
I found some amusement in visiting the lower camp and baiting the Nigger. Slade will
have told you about him; he possessed quite a fund of bastard Voodooism: he possessed
more before I got through with him. Yes; if he had lived to return to his country, I fancy
he would have added considerably to Afro-American witch- lore. You remember the
vampire bats, Slade? And the devil-fires? Naturally I didn't mention to you that the devil-
fire business wasn't altogether as clear to me as I pretended. It wasn't, though. But at the
time it served very well as an amusement. All the while I realised that my self-
entertainment was not without its element of danger, too: I remember glances not
altogether friendly but always a little doubtful, a little awed. Even Handy Solomon,
practical as he was, had a scruple or two of superstition in his make-up, on which one
might work. Only Eagen--Slade, I mean--was beyond me there. You puzzled me not a
little in those days, Slade. Well....
"Did I say that I was sometimes annoyed by the doctor's attitude? Yes: it seemed that he
might have given me a little more of his confidence; but one can't judge such a man as he
was. Among the ordinary affairs of life he had relied on me for every detail. Now he was
independent of me. Independent! I doubt if he remembered my existence at times. Even
in his blackest moods of depression he was sufficient unto himself. It was strange.... How
he did rage the day the chemicals from Washington went wrong! I was washing my shirt
in the hot water spring when he came bolting out of the laboratory and keeled me over. I
came out pretty indignant. Apologise? Not at all. He just sputtered. His nearest approach
to coherence seemed to indicate a desire that I should go back to Washington at once and
destroy a perfectly reputable firm of chemists. Finally he calmed down and took it out in
entering it in his daily record. He was quite proud of that daily record and remembered to
write in it on an average of once a week.
"Then the chest went wrong. Whether it had rusted a bit, or whether the chemicals had
got in their work on the hinges, I don't know; but one day the Professor, of his own
initiative, recognised my existence by lugging his box out in the open and asking me to
fix it. Previously he had emptied it. It was rather a complicated thing, with an inner
compartment over which was a hollow cover, opening along one rim. That, I conjectured,
was designed to hold some chemical compound or salt. There were many minor
openings, too, each guarded by a similar hollow door. My business was with the heavy
top cover.
"'It should shut and open softly, gently,' explained the Professor. 'So. Not with-a-grating-
sound-to-be-accompanied,' he added, with his curious effect of linked phraseology.
 
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