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Two Nights a Coffin trap H
A Grand Guignol "Thriller" in Real Life, This Unusual and Uncomfortable Stratagem by Which a Rich Swedish Merchant Secured Divorce from the Wife Who Loved Another Mrs. Karl Peterson, the Divorced Wife. IT is not often that real life supplies tlio peculiar sort of plot required in the hnir-r.iising plays which liave made the Theatre Grand Guignol, of Paris, famous the world over. Yet a divorce case just tried in Stockholm, Sweden, presented evidence that shows a faithless wife and her male accomplice to have figured in scenes that could hardly he improved upon at the Grand Guignol, where the es sential stage "props" are coffins and shrouds, bottles or vitriol and knives drip ping with staye blood. It is unfortunately true that wives are occasionally faithless in actual life, as well as upon the stage. And the same applies' to husbands. Divorce court rec ords revc;il many ingenious ruses where by wives and husbands have secured evi dence of the faithlessness of their wed ded partners; but this appears to be the first instanco of a husband accomplishing such a feat T)y having himself pronounced dead and placed in a coffin ready for burial. That is the feat that was successfully performed by Karl Petersen, a well-to-do citizen of the Swedish capital. Upon evi dence thus obtained the court granted him a divorce from the handsome woman to whom he had been married barely a year. Owing to her beauty and many charm ing accomplishments, Mrs. Petersen's for mer suitors and admirers were not alto gether discouraged by the fact of her marriage to one of the wealthiest mer chants of Stockholm. Several of them be came frequent guests at the Petersen home. One in particular?a certain dash ing young society man named Swen Egs trom?shortly became a recognized fam ily friend of the type that, in this country and England, is called "tame cat." Several months ago Petersen became suspicious that Egstrom was exceeding his duties as bundle-carrier and general utility man about the house. In fact., he more than half believed that the bond between his charming bride and Egstrom was of a nature that was reflecting upon his own honor. Petersen vainly en deavored to prove or disprove his sus picions, and then resolved upon spinning the strangest web in which an erring wife ever was entangled. He feigned illness and made that an excuse to go to his country house for a lew days' re^t away from the business and social whirl of the metropolis. He was accompanied only by two or three old and confidential servants. The day after his arrival in the coun try, Petersen took to his bed and quietly summoned his confidential physician, to whom he stated his suspicions and out lined the details of his-'plap." The phy sician's sympathies were with the hus band. "Kor a beginning." said Petersen, "I want you to telegraph to my wife, 6aying that ] am dying." "T will do that. Villingly." said the physician "And 1 will manage to make you appear as dead as you are supposed to be, when the time rorai-s. But I can't see my way clear to signing any death certificate." "How long can you defer your official Report of ni.v death?" inquired Petersen. j"Will forty-eight hours he long enough?" "Ample," said Petersen. "1 have rea son to believe that within twenty-four hours after you have pronounced me ?lead rov wife's paroxysms of grief will have subsided sufficiently to allow her to give me all the evidence 1 need." ' The physician sent the telegram in the afternoon, and a few hours later received Mrs. Petersen's answer that she would take the f? rt train and reach her hus bands bedside <>u the ne.\t afternoon. Petersen's "illness" had an alarming change for the worse at midnight. At dawn the physician announced to the sor rowing servant? that their master had passed away. The butler alone was In the conspiracy, for reasons that will become obvious. Hut he was naturally melancholy and. therefore, needed to add merely n touch more of solemnity to his features. Petersen being of spare build and en tirely without color in face or hands. It was a simple matter for the physician to add the corpse-like chill and rigidity that would deceive any ordinary beholder. He n!.<.o undertook the "s.-tting" of a scene in th?* library that would give the suspected wife every opportunity to betray herself. A handsome burial casket had'heen timed to arrive before noon. This was placed on trestles in the library within a yard or two of a desk, on which was a tele phone. The physician took upon himself the duties of undertaker. Aided by the un deceived butler, he prepared Petersen's corpse-like body for burial and placed u in the casket. The coffin's cover wa.? in two part". The lower two-thirds was t ere wed down, the upper part being left throwu V'cic-k on its lunges, so that sorrowing relatives inigbt view the features of the dead merchant. These preparations were com plete some time before the ar rival of Mrs. Petersen. She ar rived from the railway station iii an automobile?escorted by the faithful Kgstrom. The phy sician met them at the door. "My poor, dear husband!" said the wife. , "Do tell me that he is better." A housemaid, visible In the hall, threw her apron over her face and burst into tears. "Calm yourself," said the physician. "Your poor husband suffered very lit tle" "Oh, he's dead! My darling husband is dead!" exclaimed Mrs. Petersen. The grief of the housemaid told all. Egstrom, the family friend, quietly ef . faced himself, for the time being. The physician conducted the sorrowing wife into the library. He received her faint ing form in his arms?for one glanoe at the white face in the coffin assured her that fainting was now in order. Then he carried her to her room and delivered her over to the ministrations of "the sin cerely sorrowing housemaid. Mrs. Petersen was too much overcome to appear at dinner. The physician found it convenient to remain for the night. It gave him secret pleasure to dine with Ugstrom and listen to that gentleman's mournful acknowledgment of the late Petersen's innumerable graces of mind and heart Mrs. Petersen did not leave her room that night. Kgstrotn retired early to the chamber allotted to him. The butler busied himself in the kit chen behind closed doors preparing a nourishing broth that could be safely taken by a dead man without bringing any tint of life to his cheeks. The physician watched beside the cof fin. Toward midnight he was awakened by a loud' yawn. For a moment, con fused by drowsiness, he was startled at the sight of Petersen sitting up in his coffin and drumming Impatiently on Its lit! with his lingers. "Did she come?" asked Petersen, who, in the interests of Hie conspiracy, had lain all this time unconscious under the influence of a drug. "She came," said the physician. "When she gazed on your dead face she fainted ?as I was there ready to catch her. We took her to her room, and she hasn't left it since. Egstrom was with her, of course." "Did the fellow stay?" asked the "corpse," eagerly. "lie did. We dined together and he recalled all your excellent Qualities.'' "Good." said the corpse. "Now kindly tell Ole^en to bring me that bowl of broth. I'm famished?and it's my only dead man's chance to eat." Sitting up in his coffin, with the folded lid for n table, Petersen consumed his broth with evident relish. "How about a bit of steak?" he inquired. The physician promptly vetoed solid food and advanced with his hypodermic needle. "Not yet." pleaded the corpse. "In fact, I won't need any more of your dope. There won't be any more attention paid to me?not till 1 play my little joker." "If you fall asleep naturally you may snore," warned the physician. "Naturally I won't fall asleep," said the corpse. "From now on this is a wide awake job." "Nothing can happen for six or eight hours yet," observed the doctor. ' You'd better get some sleep while you can." But Peterseu was restless in his narrow quarters, and to get out to stretch his legs and to get back in again would disarrange the coffin's upholstery. So he suggested a game of cribbage. "I'll play you for the amount of your bill," he said with a grim smile. "Which bill? Doctor or undertaker?" "Both, in their natural order," Petersen came bark at the facetious physician. So the doctor brought cards and crib bage board, placed them on the folded cof fin lid. and the game began. Tiie corpse '?pegged" rapidly away from his opponent, winning three straight games. "That settles the doctor's bill," he said. "Reach into that box on the desk and give me a cigar." They lighted cigars and proceeded with the other half of the contest?best two out of three. As the coming dawn rorealed itself through the window the doctor threw down his cards, beaten. "And that disposes of the undertaker's bill," remarked the corpse with much sat isfaction. Right here Olesen, the butler, entered noiselessly and whispered: "Mr. Egstrom is up, ready for break fast. Mrs. Petersen has ordered her breakfast in her room, sir." The corpse bobbed down into Its coffin, white hands folded across his breast. The doctor threw himself into an easy chair, puffing furiously on a fresh cigar to ac count for the unfunereal atmosphere of the room. But these precautions proved unneces sary. The Petersen ^country house being isolated, there were no callerB. Mrs. Pet ersen and Egstrom went out for a drive immediately after breakfast. Mrs. Peter sen was sure that the doctor would make all arrangements. She was "too overcome to be of any use." She and her "kind escort" probably would not return until evening. The corpse spent a long day between unsatisfying cat napB and bowls of most inadequate broth. Egstrom and Mrs. Petersen returned barely in time for din ner, after which they retired to their re spective rooms. The physician agreed with the corpse that it might excite sus picions if he remained any longer. So he departed immediately after dinner. "Good Lord!" sighed the corpse. "An other night of it." Rut he stuck to his resolution not to risk anything by getting out of his cof fin. During this long second night the butler was his victim at cribbage. At dawn the poor butler was as nearly dead from lack of sleep as the corpse looked? once more serenely stretched out in his coffin awaiting developments. Those developments came early?Imme diately after breakfast, which Mrs. Peter sen and Egstrom took together in the small breakfast room adjoining the library. Petersen could hear their cheerful conver sation. "Petersen sat up in his coffin. Mrs. Petersen and Egstrom, not two yards away, were clasped in each other's arms." After breakfast the.unsuspecting couple entered the library, carefully closing the door after them. They barely glanced at the coffin, never once looking inside, where Petersen lay with a most undeath like flush of exasperation on his counte nance. Mrs. Petersen went directly to the tele phone. Petersen heard her calling up one of his most intimate business associates. In tones that were so cheerful as to be almost gay she announced the joyous fact of her husband's death. "The will leaves everything to me, you know," telephoned Mrs. Petersen. "I shall be rich?and you know what that means, naughty boy!" Petersen could hardly restrain himself. It was lucky he did, for now he heard the voice of Egstrom tenderly rebuking Mrs. Petersen for holding out false hopes to the "fool at tlie other end of the wire." "La, la! Let me have my little joke with the old reprobate." said Mrs. Peter sen. "You know, Duckie, that I love no one but you, and never have." "You darling!" These two words wero uttered In the voice of Egstrom. Petersen sat up in his coffin. Mrs. Petersen nud Egstrom, not two yards away, were damped in each other's arms. At that instant the butler entered. The exposure was complete, witness included. "Caught!" thundered the corpse, with bony finger pointed at the deceitful couple. Mrs. Petersen, beholding the fearsome spectacle of her departed husband sitting up in his coffin and so justly denouncing her, fainted in dead earnest. Egstrom was so scared that he let her /all to the floor. Then he ran from the room and clashed, hatless, from the house. Petersen crawled out of the coffin. Aided by the butler, he carried Mrs. Peter sen to her room and sent for a physician?1 Tor truly she needed one. When Petersen had regaled himself wlthi a bath and a large steak with plenty o? fried potatoes, he went back to the city and started divoree proceedings. The trial, which promptly freed Peter sen, created a sensation. Kgsttom nearly collapsed on the witness stand. He Is eaid to be traveling abroad for his health. The divorced Mrs. Petersen Is living in strict retirement. it Is reported that the shock of that "Grand Guignol" scene showing her de parted husband sitting up in his coffin tci accuse her has transformed her from a beauty into a nerve-racked old woman. Our New Gun That Can Shoot 400 Mexicans a Minute-and Never Get Hot HE machine sun is the most deadly weapon ever invented. * The United States Army pos sesses the most deadly of nil ma chine puns. It is called the Benet Mercier gun. The Renet-Mercier pun is capable of killing 400 m<*n a minute. It would kill 400.. Mexicans a minute if they got in the way. The Mexi cans also have some machine guns hut they are of a very inferior type to the American, and those half civil l/.ed people are not capable of keeping the tnorhanlam in good run ning order as a bright, ingenious American soldier would do. A machine gun iB a device that fires riflo bullets continuously and automatically. All the soldipr has to do is to pull a string or press a lever and then the bullets fly out. The man in control ran play the stream of "biillt?t8 over a field just as you scatter the jots of a watering can over the garden. It is impos sible for any man to remain alive in an open space over which a ma chine gun is playing its death rain. The only imperfection in the ab A Single Clip of 30 Cartridges Fired by the New Guns in Less Than Five Seconds. solute dcadllness of the machine gun was its liability to jam occa sionally. That has been almost en tirely overcome In the Benet-Mer cler gun. This gun -weighs only twenty-nine sounds and needs no tripod like the older machine guns. In an emergency It might be rested on the shoulder of one man and fired by another. But under ordinary cir cumstances the soldier who fires It lies on his stomach ,on the ground, holding the breech, while the muz zle is upheld at the requisite eleva tion by a pair of steel prongs. Only two men are needed to operate this marvellous weapon. One aims it and pulls the trigger, while the other replaces the spent clips ol cartridges with fresh ones as fast as they are used up. Two addi tional men are required, however, for bringing supplies of I he car tridge-clips, cach one of which con tains rifle cartridges with conical bullets. Theoretically, the gun is capable of firing fiOO bullets a minute?that is to say. at Ihe rate of ten a second. Tn actual practice, however, it can discharge only 100 per minute, be cause some time is lost in replacing the spent clips with fresh ones. But ?100 per minute means 24,000 man k.'llng projectiles per hour?at which rale the enlire population of greater New York uiight. theoretically speak ing. be wiped out by a single Benef it e roller in a bailie over eight days of twenty-four hours each. The Benet-Mercler is ?n auto matic gun. It is gas-operated. The gas from each powder charge, fol lowing tho bullet as it goes through the barrel, passes through a hole, in the bottom of the barrel Into the chamber beneath the latter. Its ex pansion in the chamber presses back a piston with a coiled spring, the recoil of which eicrts Ihe emntv cart How One Man Can Manipulate the New Deadly Arm. ridge case, feeds in a new cartridge, ami fires il. Thus Hie process re peating itself with almost ineonoeiv able rapidity, tlio bullets are dis charged in a continuous stream like water from a hosp. Nothing to compare ?with the Benet Mercier lias been known up to the present time. Vet the War Depart ment does not consider it. beyond improvement. As a matter of faet, the perfect machine gun has not yet been developed. All such weapons give trouble now and then with "jiims," due to stoppages of the me chanism. Such jams my be caused by heat caused by the enormous ac tivity of the mechanism, by dirt, ac cumulated from the tiring, by break age of parts, duo to rapidity tire. or. in other instances, to irregularities in the cartridges. Once in a while it. happens that the primer drop? Ollt nf !1 rartplHlm inln *V>" clogging the latter. These troubles have either been eliminated or re duced to a minimum In the Benet Mercler gun. A sandstorm has been known lo put a machine rlTle out of commission temporally. It is ingeniously cooled by the cir culation of air around the barrel. A machine gun is of necessity a very ? complex pieoe of mechanism. For portability, it must be made light in weight, yet it lias to operate under the most trying imaginable conditions, enduring enormously high pressure from the powder charges. lSvcn now a competitive test is go ing on at tilt* (iovernment arsenal at Springfield, to see if any gun can provo itself better Ihnn tlie Benet Alercier. In tills conpetltion are en tered two machine rifles from Eng land, one from Denmark and two from the United Stales. Our own War Department would rather have a foreign Run If it is superior fo an American gun. We want the best possible weapon. The Benet-Mercier is made by a French company, though Hcnet, one of the inventors, is an American. Our government has se cured the right lo mnnufaieture it at Springfield; and the Colt Company, at Hartford, is equipped for turning it out. Strange, 1 bought it may seem. the. regular army of the I'nited States; possesses no machine gun companies,' simply for (he reason that they have] not been authorized by Congress as yet. With every regiment of infantry or cavalry in the service, however, is a so-called '.'machine gun platoon,' consisting of twenty men detailed from different companies. Each pla toon comprises two "sections." Each section has one mule, carrying ono machine gun and 1,'JOO rounds of am munition; also two additional mules. Copyright, 1014, by the Star Company. Great Britain Rllsiits Ilcsorved.