Bell, Book, and Chicken in a Hatbox 96
Frank and I couldn't get right in to see "Papa." Dr.
Schlichter von Koenigswald, the physician in attendance, muttered
that we would have to wait about half an hour. So Frank and I
waited in the anteroom of "Papa's" suite, a room without windows.
The room was thirty feet square, furnished with several rugged
benches and a card table. The card table supported an electric
fan. The walls were stone. There were no pictures, no decorations
of any sort on the walls.
There were iron rings fixed to the wall, however, seven feet
off the floor and at intervals of six feet. I asked Frank if the
room had ever been a torture chamber.
He told me that it had, and that the manhole cover on which I
stood was the lid of an oubliette.
There was a listless guard in the anteroom. There was also a
Christian minister, who was ready to take care of "Papa's"
spiritual needs as they arose. He had a brass dinner bell and a
hatbox with holes drilled in it, and a Bible, and a butcher knife-
-all laid out on the bench beside him.
He told me there was a live chicken in the hatbox. The
chicken was quiet, he said, because he had fed it tranquilizers.
Like all San Lorenzans past the age of twenty-five, he looked
at least sixty. He told me that his name was Dr. Vox Humana, that
he was named after an organ stop that had struck his mother when
San Lorenzo Cathedral was dynamited in 1923. His father, he told
me without shame, was unknown.
I asked him what particular Christian sect he represented,
and I observed frankly that the chicken and the butcher knife were
novelties insofar as my understanding of Christianity went.
"The bell," I commented, "I can understand how that might fit
He turned out to be an intelligent man. His doctorate, which
he invited me to examine, was awarded by the Western Hemisphere
University of the Bible of Little Rock, Arkansas. He made contact
with the University through a classified ad in _Popular
Mechanics_, he told me. He said that the motto of the University