The Flying Death
The Flying Death
CHAPTER ONE-THE INSOMNIAC
S TANLEY RICHARD COLTON, M. D., heaved his powerful form to and fro in his bed and cursed the day he had come to Montant Point, which chanced to be the day just ended. All the world had been open to him, and his father's yacht to bear him to whatsoever corner thereof he might elect, in search of that which, once forfeited, no mere millions may buy back, the knack of peaceful sleep. But his wise old family physician had prescribed the tip-end of Long Island. "Go down there to that suburban wilderness, Dick," he had said, "and devote yourself to filling your lungs with the narcotic ocean air. Practise feeding, breathing and loafing, and forget that you've ever practised medicine."
Too much medicine was what ailed Dick Colton. Not that he had been taking it. On the contrary he had been administering it to others. Amid the unbounded amazement of his friends, who couldn't see why the heir of the great Colton interests should want to devote his energies otherwhere, he had insisted on graduating from medical school, and, with a fashionable practice fairly yearning for him, had entered upon the grimy and malodorous duties of a dispensary among the tenement-folk. There, because the chances of birth had given him a good intelligence which his own efforts had kept brightened and sharpened, because Providence had equipped him with a comely and powerful body, which his own manner of life had kept attuned to strength and vigour, and because Heaven had blessed him with the heart and the face of a boy, whereof his own fineness and enthusiasm had kept the one untainted and the other defiant of care and lines, he had become a power in the slums. It was only by eternal vigilance that he had kept himself from being elected an alderman from one of the worst districts in New York.
There came a week of terrible heat when the tenements vented forth their half-naked sufferers nightly upon the smoking asphalt, and the Angel of Death smote his daily hundreds with a sword of flame. Dick Colton fought for the lives of his people, and was already at the limit of endurance when Fate, employing as its dismayed instrument a contractor with liberal views on the subject of dynamite, reduced the dispensary outfit in one fell shock to a mass of shattered glass and a mephitic compound of tinctures, extracts and powders. Only one thing was to be done, and the young physician did it. He stocked up again, attending to all details himself, using his own money and his own energy freely, and proving to his own satisfaction that strong coffee and wet towels about the head would enable a man to live and toil on four hours' sleep a night.
When, at length, a two days' rain had drenched the fevered city to coolness, Dick Colton drew a deep breath and said: "Now I'll go to sleep and sleep for a week."
But the drugs which for so many weary days had filled his entire attention declined now to be evicted from his thoughts. Disposing themselves in neatly labelled bottles, all of a size, they marched in monotonous and nauseating files before his closed eyes, each individual of the passing show introducing itself by some outrageous and incredible title utterly unknown to the art and practice of pharmacy. To think upon sheep jumping in undulatory procession over a stone wall, so the wisdom of our forebears tell us, is to invite slumber. To contemplate misnamed medicine bottles interminably hurdling the bridge of one's nose, operates otherwise. From the family doctor Colton had carried his vision to Montauk Point with him.
Now, on this cool September midnight he rose, struck a light, and found himself facing two neat, little, beribboned perfume jars, representing the decorative ideas of little Mrs. Johnston, the hostess of Third House. It was too much. Resentment at this shabby practical joke of Fate rose in his soul. Seizing the pair of bottles, he hurled them mightily, one after the other