The Leopard Man and Other Stories by Perley Poore Sheehan
Three stories of magic, mysticism, mystery, and the strange unexplainable things that happen in some of the remote corners of the world.
The Leopard Man and Other Stories – Three stories of magic, mysticism, mystery, and the strange unexplainable things that happen in some of the remote corners of the world.
The Coiled Raja (1933) – It Happened in India—and Could Have Happened No Other Place on Earth!
Jungle Joss (1932) (as by Paul Regard) – A Weird Story of Macao and the Mysterious Unseen Forces of Black Magic
The Leopard Man (1932) – A Three Part Serial Novel of the Mystery, Magic and Fantasy That Is Dark Africa
Chapter I – Bayou Tanga
Chapter II – The Murder Cults
Chapter III – Leopard Tracks
Chapter IV – “Miss Lily”
Chapter V – “O Tangani”
Chapter VI – Good-bye to All That!
Chapter VII – Senhor Faro
Part Two – Synopsis
Chapter VIII – The Black-White Girl
Chapter IX – Leopards and Men
Chapter X – White or Black
Chapter XI – White Man’s Magic
Part III – Synopsis
Chapter XII – Back to Noah
Chapter XIII – Guardians of the Morass
Chapter XIV – “Inlaga! Inlaga!”
Chapter XV – Face of the Dead
Chapter XVI – “Mary Smollet”
Chapter XVII – Where Two Ends Meet
Perley Poore Sheehan (1875-1943) was a journalist and then later a screen writer, and is best known as the writer for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) starring Lon Chaney, The Way of All Flesh (1927) starring Emil Jannings, and The Lost City (1935).
Paul Regard was a pen-name that Sheehan frequently used.
The Leopard Man and Other Stories has 5 illustrations.
Excerpt: The Coiled Raja
IT WAS only when he saw the cobra there, reared high in the middle of his room, that Manton guessed the truth. His servants had seen the horror first and run away. They’d left him all alone. At a time when he was still so weak with fever that he could barely lift a hand.
He looked at the snake. He could feel that it was looking at him. It was the biggest cobra he had ever seen. And he’d seen some pretty big ones since coming to this part of India. For an interval it went into a misty bright shimmer before his eyes. But by an effort of his will he brought his eyes back to focus.
The cobra was there, all right— reared almost to the height of a man; but slender, graceful, and now so steady that it might have been an image carved from jade. It had crawled through the open door, no doubt. The door was screened with nothing more than a mat of loosely woven grass—the sort of grass the natives called “khus-khus,” fragrant when it was wet. Dena, the principal houseman, had but recently thrown a jar of water over the screen to cool the air. The still air was heavy now with the fragrance of it; and the silence was such that Manton could hear the faint rustle of the woven grass as it dried.
Manton summoned his wits and his scattered memories of the vernacular.
“Jao!” he said. “Jao!”
That meant “Get out!” And he made a shooing motion with his hand.
IT was during the heat of the late afternoon—at a time when the servants, six of them in all, and each of them of some different caste— would have been lying about in the shade of the veranda that surrounded the bungalow. No wonder they’d run if they’d been awakened by a thing like this—crawling, perhaps, over their bare feet.
Town Hindus, all of them. That might have been a mistake. This was a district of wild natives and wild animals. Less than a hundred yards from the bungalow in any direction the solid jungle reared its secretive mass of green—the last great stand of the Gohra forest. A country that had, it seemed, had a curse put on it by some god or other, who’d walked these parts a few centuries ago.
Anyway, in the meantime, the mahogany and the ebony, the teak and sandalwood had kept on growing; the wild elephants and tigers had moved in; deer—all sorts, from stags with a weight of beef like oxen, on down to pygmies; all sorts of cats; all sorts of snakes.
But you couldn’t order a snake like this about like a beggar.
Manton closed his eyes and dove through a hot wave of fever that threatened to swamp him.
He’d been out in the forest one day with a Gohra wild man. An old man, of a stock such as had lived in this part of the world before the Arians—”the noble race”—came down from the North. The old Gohra was as naked as the day he was born except for a curious gold necklace he wore. And in ways that he couldn’t now recall, Manton had learned that the old man’s name was Koa and that he was some sort of a prophet among his kind.
While Koa was with him, they’d met a cobra—reared high like this one but smaller—and Koa had addressed the serpent with soft words, whereupon the snake had disappeared.
Manton made an effort to rise. He’d also address the cobra.
The only response the cobra made to this effort was to spread its hood and sway. The spreading of the hood was gradual. The swaying movement was slow and slight. From time to time the black tongue flickered— with something about it strangely to recall to Manton sultry nights at home, back in the United States, when he was a boy and he’d watched the heat-lightning in some black quarter of the sky. The same speed and silence and hint of mystery were there.
The cobra’s hood continued to expand until it was almost the width of a soup-plate—a concave width of silvered bronze which tapered gradually down into the strong and graceful body.
Then it was as if the cobra also spoke.
IT had expelled its breath with a sound that wasn’t very loud and yet which filled the room. The sound wasn’t a hiss. It was more like the “Sh-h-h!” of a nurse when trying to quiet a restless patient.
At the first sight of the serpent, Manton had felt a surge of fear. It was like the rise of a swift cold tide. But he was steady now. He listened to that voice of the cobra—the first he had ever heard. Even when he knew that he could be hearing it no longer, he seemed to hear it. Like a vibration it was lingering in his nerves, lulling him a little.
He remembered now.
SEVERAL days ago, when the fever was just getting its first good hold on him, a saddhu, or, at any rate, some sort of a holy beggar, had been hanging about the bungalow. He’d heard the fellow telling the servants about a “darshan.”
Now, a “darshan” meant the appearance of a god. The servants had been jumpy ever since. Wasn’t the cobra the god whose coming the saddhu had foretold? All over this part of India were Naga temples. Nagas. Cobras. And their king, their raja, was Sesha.
“Sesha!” Manton whispered.
Whether the serpent had advanced or not, Manton couldn’t tell.
But there, for an instant, it seemed to be leaning over him. As the cobra rocked, so rocked the room.
When you’ve been lying down in a furnace of fever in the midst of a world which itself is like a Turkish bath, your nerves play strange tricks. Your eyes see strange things, and strange things come to your ears. Stranger still are the imaginings that come and go through periods of sleeping and waking that have no sharp borders. Asleep, you wake; awake, you sleep. In either case the world is a distorted dream.
Why shouldn’t this cobra lean over him and look down into his face if it wanted to? This was Sesha.
For a flighty second, it seemed to Manton that this wasn’t a cobra leaning over him but the old Gohra prophet, Koa. He saw that this couldn’t be. Koa was black—or almost. The cobra was more the color of tarnished silver. He could see the design of the scales that covered the cobra’s thin lips. By raising his eyes a little he found himself able to look into the cobra’s eyes.
Excerpt From: Perley Poore Sheehan. “The Leopard Man and Other Stories.”
More by Perley Poore Sheehan