Charles R. Tanner The Schoenberg Chalice

To the doctors and psychiatrists who have charge of my friend, Geoffrey Caldwell, there is nothing mysterious about his case at all. Geoffrey Caldwell is a schizophrenic, and his case is a rather simple one of double identity. More than half the time, he lives as a rather vague and saddened counterpart of his original self, but occasionally a violent and brutish second self takes over and rules him for several days, leaving him drained and weakened by its excesses of physical violence, dazed and subdued into a veritable lethargy, from which he slowly and never entirely returns to his former identity.

The case seems common enough; doctors do not study him with care and interest they would give to a rarer and more interesting from of his malady, so Caldwell remains in the mental hospital where he has been incarcerated and slowly weakens, physically and mentally. I do not expect him to live many more years.

To me, though, Caldwell presents a mystery that borders on the terrible. I have evidence which, if it could be taken as more than the vagaries of a deteriorating mind, presents a picture of things so vast and mind shaking in its implications that it presents a whole new picture of reality. I do not think that Geoffrey Caldwell is insane at all. I am not sure that any schizophrenic is insane. I think…

No, I might as well be frank in this statement. I do not know what I think. I fear, rather than think. I fear that the human soul and its relation to the body is something entirely different from what religion and the philosophies have taught us. And, yet, the evidence of my belief is so vague that no respectable scientist would consider for the moment.

Caldwell has been my friend now for almost twenty years. We were first attracted to each other in high school, drawn by mutual interest in the marvels of the world around us. We studied and discussed the elementary paleontology and astronomy that we were taught, decided that we believed in evolution and Einstein, speculated on telepathy and reincarnation, and in general behaved like the average high school boy with a little more than average intelligence. Only… with us, it kept on.

Al through college, and even afterward our frequent bull sessions continued. Often others were included in our talks; for a while, we had a small group at college that met regularly once a week. We solved all the world’s problems, of course; we had our period when Marx was our god, and for a while, Geoffrey professed to be an atheist. We studied theosophy and yoga, not deeply, but with a wild sort of enthusiasm that dissipated itself in a few months, and then, slowly, we grew up and directed our attentions more and more to our studies.

I was working for a degree in Chemistry, Geoffrey, who was the son of a rather prominent artist, was taking a liberal arts course, with the ultimate intention of becoming an art dealer. So it was that as we drew nearer and nearer to our graduations, our paths gradually separated. By the time we were ready to leave college, we saw each other, but seldom, though after each meeting, we swore that we must get together more often.

After graduation, I went to Chicago to take a job in a great laboratory, and Geoffrey returned to his home in Burton. A few months later, I got a letter from him, detailing the news of our home town and telling me quite a few of the details of his progress in his chosen profession. I answered it and this began a curious correspondence that lasted for over ten years.

There was nothing in Geoffrey’s letters that one would imagine would interest a prosaic chemist; there was nothing in mine that one would expect to interest an art dealer, but perhaps we both had a twist of writing that enabled us to put a spell of interest into what we wrote. At any rate, as I say, our correspondence continued for over ten years, and whenever Geoffrey was in Chicago, he never failed to call on me; and whenever I returned home, I always spent an afternoon with Geoffrey.

After the war, Geoffrey made frequent trips to Europe. That stricken continent was an art dealer’s paradise in those days, for impoverished noblemen by the hundred were disposing of rare old family heirlooms to enable them to continue living in the style to which they had been accustomed. Exquisite works of art that would not have been obtainable before the war for love or money were now going at very reasonable prices, and Geoffrey would have been a fool not to take advantage of the opportunities which his competitors were scrambling madly for.

His correspondence continued as regularly as if he were still in Burton. I got a number of letters from him in 1946 and 1947 and sent as many in reply. And then, in October of the latter year, I got the letter which brings me to the real beginning of my story.

Dear Chad: (the letter ran) I got your missive last Tuesday and found your speculations on the synthesis of the amino acids remarkably lucid and interesting. But if you are expecting congratulations and the usual amenities, I beg of you to forget about them now, for, Chad, I am simply bursting with news. I, my friend, have just purchased the famous Schoenberg Chalice! I suppose you have heard of it, but in case you haven’t, it’s that famous silver chalice owned by the German Baron von Schoenberg, the one that’s supposed to have the curse on it.

It’s commonly supposed to have been made by Cellini, but experts say that it’s far older than that and from my own knowledge I don’t hesitate to believe that they are right. Since it has come into my possession I have had a chance to study it pretty carefully and it’s my opinion that it was carved at least as far back as the days of the Roman Emperors.

I can’t help congratulating myself over and over for being the fortunate purchaser. I just happened to be in Bonn at the time the owner decided to sell, and his asking price was so ridiculously small that I gave it to him without any haggling at all. The poor fellow had a daughter who had recently been committed to a mental hospital, suffering with dementia praecox, and he was all broken up about it. Apparently he needed money to give her the proper care and I was able to profit by his misfortune.