Can Such Things Be? eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 221 pages of information about Can Such Things Be?.
action of some controlling part—­an effect such as might be expected if a pawl should be jostled from the teeth of a ratchet-wheel.  But before I had time for much conjecture as to its nature my attention was taken by the strange motions of the automaton itself.  A slight but continuous convulsion appeared to have possession of it.  In body and head it shook like a man with palsy or an ague chill, and the motion augmented every moment until the entire figure was in violent agitation.  Suddenly it sprang to its feet and with a movement almost too quick for the eye to follow shot forward across table and chair, with both arms thrust forth to their full length—­the posture and lunge of a diver.  Moxon tried to throw himself backward out of reach, but he was too late:  I saw the horrible thing’s hands close upon his throat, his own clutch its wrists.  Then the table was overturned, the candle thrown to the floor and extinguished, and all was black dark.  But the noise of the struggle was dreadfully distinct, and most terrible of all were the raucous, squawking sounds made by the strangled man’s efforts to breathe.  Guided by the infernal hubbub, I sprang to the rescue of my friend, but had hardly taken a stride in the darkness when the whole room blazed with a blinding white light that burned into my brain and heart and memory a vivid picture of the combatants on the floor, Moxon underneath, his throat still in the clutch of those iron hands, his head forced backward, his eyes protruding, his mouth wide open and his tongue thrust out; and—­horrible contrast!—­upon the painted face of his assassin an expression of tranquil and profound thought, as in the solution of a problem in chess!  This I observed, then all was blackness and silence.

Three days later I recovered consciousness in a hospital.  As the memory of that tragic night slowly evolved in my ailing brain recognized in my attendant Moxon’s confidential workman, Haley.  Responding to a look he approached, smiling.

“Tell me about it,” I managed to say, faintly—­“all about it.”

“Certainly,” he said; “you were carried unconscious from a burning house—­Moxon’s.  Nobody knows how you came to be there.  You may have to do a little explaining.  The origin of the fire is a bit mysterious, too.  My own notion is that the house was struck by lightning.”

“And Moxon?”

“Buried yesterday—­what was left of him.”

Apparently this reticent person could unfold himself on occasion.  When imparting shocking intelligence to the sick he was affable enough.  After some moments of the keenest mental suffering I ventured to ask another question: 

“Who rescued me?”

“Well, if that interests you—­I did.”

“Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you for it.  Did you rescue, also, that charming product of your skill, the automaton chess-player that murdered its inventor?”

The man was silent a long time, looking away from me.  Presently he turned and gravely said: 

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Can Such Things Be? from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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