(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Eighth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,——
’Tis a Marvel indeed how quickly Gossip penetrates from one End of the Country to the Other, and I do verily question whether you will not already have heard whatever News I might convey to you before my Letter reaches you. You are aware, as I know, that the Automaton has occupied the Tongues of the Gossips, and the Pens of the Wits, from one End of London to the other: But it appears that the Reach of her Influence extends far beyond the Town. I say so, for that I have had the Privilege of welcoming the eminent Doctor Albertus and his Automaton as Guests in my own Drawing-room, where a Number of my Acquaintances, and their Acquaintances, and the Acquaintances of those Acquaintances, assembled to observe the Demonstration; so that I feared the Walls might burst like an old Sack with the unaccustomed Pressure of so many Guests. In Conversation with one of whom, I learned that he had travelled from York expressly to see the Automaton, who, he informs me, is as well known in the North, as she is in the Metropolis. Such is the Swiftness of Rumor, who is not without Reason represented with Wings in the antique Writers.
The Mania for the Automaton has only grown in the Days since I wrote you, and I am given to understand, That a Ballad-opera, whose Subject is Doctor Albertus thinly veiled under another Name, will be acted at one of the Theaters. Such is the Extent of the popular Fascination with this new Phenomenon.
For Reasons which I shall reveal to you presently, I anticipate writing you a great deal on the Subject of the Automaton. I will not, therefore, narrate in Detail the Demonstration of the Automaton given to my Guests, for it was much like the previous Exhibition; but I must own that I almost pitied the poor Creature. Reason tells me that she is Clockwork and no more; but a Machine that so much resembles a human Female, must of Necessity evoke that Sympathy, which any Man of good Will feels for a Member of his own Race. To be exhibited as a Curiosity in a Room filled with such a Multitude, must necessarily be grievous to any Creature of a sensible Nature; and, tho’ Reason tells me that the Automaton has no such Sensibility, yet Reason is not always my Master.
Such Sympathy as I felt, was augmented in the Hour after the Departure of my Guests. It was very late, for the Guests were much pleased with the Entertainment; and many of them placed Orders with Doctor Albertus for such clockwork Contrivances as they desired him to manufacture, so that I suppose he must have left a much richer Man than he arrived. When the last Guest had departed, Doctor Albertus remained, and was pleased to give me the Privilege of a private Demonstration. At this Time I was able to examine the Automaton in more Detail, and I must tell you, That her Resemblance to a Woman, tho’ far from perfect, is yet much to be admired, and shews the Hand of an Artist of unusual Skill. Her Movement, however, is awkward in the Extreme; and Doctor Albertus frankly admits that there is much Work to be done before she resembles a living Being in that Regard. Yet the halting Uncertainty of her Steps, and the graceless Motions of her Arms and Head, have a certain Charm of their own; and it pleased me immensely when Doctor Albertus directed his Creation to perform a Courtesy to me, and she obeyed forthwith, tho’ it nearly ended in a Tumble which doubtless would have been detrimental to the Mechanism.
It is not to be wondered at that Doctor Albertus was as much pleased with the Success of the Demonstration as the Guests were, and in Gratitude he has asked me to pay him a Visit at his Country-house. As I have no pressing business in London, I have accepted his kind Invitation, and in a few Days will depart for Grimthorne Abbey, where the eminent Doctor has taken up Residence, and has established his Manufactory of Clockworks. It is a Privilege to be admitted into the Confidence of such a Man as the Doctor; and you may trust that I shall not neglect my promised Duty to you. Expect, my dear Amelia, that I shall be sending Letters as frequently from Grimthorne as from London;
For I shall ever remain, &c.
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Seventh: Miss Honoria Wells to Sir George Purvis.
My own beloved George,——
Imprisoned here like the illustrious Rozabel among the Barbary Pirates, tho’ without the daily Necessity of defending my Honor, I cannot but suppose that this Dulness of which you complain in London must be a poor weakling Dulness, hardly worthy of the Name, when measured against the hard and unyielding Dulness which keeps me an unwilling Captive here. Yet Rozabel found her Alphonzo at last; and so I trust that my George in Time shall come to set me free, and make me exchange the unwilling Slavery from which I long to escape, for that willing Submission from which I shall never desire to be released.
Thus I remain, &c.
A Poem by Mr. M——, written on the Occasion of seeing a Demonstration of the celebrated Automaton by Doctor Albertus.
O Women! ye have borne the Wits’ Abuse,
And Libels without Number or Excuse;
What Gibes and Innuendoes most impure
With Patience more than Job’s do ye endure!
But now, to Arms! Let all arise as one:
To Arms! To Arms, or ye are all undone!
A greater Threat upon the Field is seen:
The Enemy not Man, but a Machine!
For once, tho’ Wits pretended to despise
The Lure of cherry Lips, or glist’ning Eyes,
The Touch of Fingers delicately slim,—
Man needed Woman, more than she did him.
But now the Beaux all suddenly have spurn’d
Their celebrated Beauties, and have turn’d
Their rapt Attention to a clockwork Toy,
With Transports of unfathomable Joy.
Let Barriers of Rank be thrust aside;
Let Queen with common Hussy be ally’d;
Let ev’ry Art of Woman be employ’d
To win back the Esteem you once enjoy’d.
Make such Adjustments to your Face and Gown
As will turn back the Eyes of Beaux in Town;
Let over-scrupled Virtue be no Bar:
With delicate Allurements win the War.
For should ye lose this Battle, then I fear
The Ruin of the Race of Man is near.
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Sixth: Miss Honoria Wells to Miss Amelia Purvis.
A Letter from you is always a Delight, but how much more so when it brings News of my beloved George! —I ought to say, our beloved George: For never did a Sister love a Brother with a purer Affection than that which you feel for George, as I know by sundry incontrovertible Evidences. Nay, even the noble Eniazira, tho’ she would have died for her Apollonio, was never your Match in this Regard.
I know also that George loves you after the same Manner. He has told me as much. Even if he had not told me, you would have Proof enough in his Letters to you;—for I must tell you, my dear, that he writes to you more often than he writes to me. Of course, his Letters to me are full of the sublimest Expressions of Devotion; for when he writes to me, all the small Matters of daily Life are banished from his Mind, and he thinks only of our immortal Love.
But you, who are already more than a Sister to me,—you, dearest Amelia, are almost my only Source of Intelligence from the World at Large. You have visited me more than once, but you could not possibly form any Notion of how dull it is here without you! My Mother seldom leaves her Chamber, tho’ she keeps the Servants as busy as if she were planning an Expedition to conquer the Indies. My Father is content with his Pipe, and might sit immobile in his Chair the Remainder of his Life, did not my Mother require his Assistance ever and anon. And there is no one else!—for even the Servants might be good for some Companionship, but my Mother employs them to such an Extent that they have no Time for me. I do not exaggerate, dear Amelia, when I tell you that there are many Mornings when I must perforce dress myself, my Mother’s Demands having occupied the Attention of every Domestick in the House.
Aside from the Letters I receive from you and from George—far more frequent than I have any Right to expect, but alas! far too infrequent to disperse the gloomy Loneliness of my Solitude—aside from those Letters, I say, my Books are my only Delight,—the Books in which I study the exemplary Adventures of illustrious Women, whose Lives have been narrated for us in Folio by the incomparable M. de Scudery and many other Historians, so that we shall not be left without Guidance when our own Lives overwhelm us with Difficulties.
Such Folios as these, as I have said, are my sole Companions, save that on fine Days, I often take a long Walk in the Fields, and sit by the Brook, where I read from the Book of Nature as well as the Book in my Hands. All my Skirts are in Tatters from these Expeditions, and I must be a startling Sight if anybody came to see me; but nobody comes, and nobody sees, so I put off having them mended, knowing that I should most probably have to do the Mending myself, the Servants being occupied with my Mother’s insistent Whimsies. A Girl in a tattered Skirt, with a Book in her Hands, sitting solitary in a Field: That is what you would see if you came to-day, or to-morrow, or Monday next. I verily believe the Farmers round about take me for a Mad-woman.
If I am mad, however, I am no more so than any Citizen of London: For as George informs you, and you have informed me, the whole Town has gone mad for a clockwork Facsimile of a Woman. Had I not heard the Intelligence from so trustworthy a Source, I might have thought it a Jest, or a Rumor unfounded. It is plain, however, that you speak the Truth. Indeed, the Thing is so ridiculous, that I doubt whether you could have invented it.
Shall I tell you what I think? It seems to me that the clockwork Female is a Sensation, because it can be displayed without that Degree of Decency to which even the most notorious Denizens of Drury-lane are subject. This Grecian Drapery of which we hear: Would even Mrs. H—— dare to appear on stage so draped, or rather un-draped? What is barely decent on a Statue, is obscene on a living Woman. But altho’ this Automaton partakes of the Nature of a Statue, in that it is not endowed with Life, yet it moves, and walks, and appears to a certain Degree to be animate: Wherefore it is more than a Statue, and approaches unto a living Female in Appearance. ’Tis a Machine, and therefore not subject to the Laws of Decency; but in the Imagination ’tis a Woman indecently draped. I own that I felt a Pang of Jealousy when I read George’s Description of the Thing, tho’ I must dismiss my Jealousy as absurd.
You were entirely correct, however, in supposing that these Letters might relieve the Dulness of my Existence here: For which I thank you, my dear Sister, with more Gratitude than I can express; and I can only beg more of ’em. For believe me when I say that I think my very Life may depend on that Relief, just as the renowned Orzivieta gained the Vigor to endure her Imprisonment only through the Missives from her Arturo, which her faithful Maidservant contrived to convey to her by Sling. With a deep Sense of Obligation, therefore, I acknowledge myself
Your indebted Servant,
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
That ’tis both good, and profitable, to enquire into the Secrets of Nature, and to discover and reduce to Order the Laws by which she operates, is a Point so universally admitted in our Age, as to require no Argument here: But in descending from the general Principle to the particular Case, we may often find some Difficulty in distinguishing between rational Enquiry, which is laudable, and groundless Speculation, which is no more than philosophick Gossip. We have in London now, and have had this Fortnight, the eminent Doctor Albertus;—“eminent” he styles himself, tho’ ’tis to be doubted whether his Name had been heard at all in this Country a Month ago. His clockwork Contrivances have entertained us a great deal, and we acknowledge without Hesitation, that few have equalled, and none surpassed him, in the Art of imparting Motion to lifeless Matter. But the eminent Doctor is not content with mechanical Demonstrations, for he would teach us Theology as well, as if his Skill in assembling Gears and Ratchetts had made him a Kind of younger Brother to the Creator.
Now, the Interlocutor himself, out of Materials no more elevated than a Pot of Ink and a few Scraps of Paper, assembles a lofty Universe of Thought three Days out of every Week, and therefore might claim equal if not closer Kinship with the Author of the greater Universe. But he refrains: For he considers such Pride not only blasphemous, but unbecoming a Gentleman.
Doctor Albertus shews us a clockwork Hound, and we applaud his Skill. He shews us a clockwork Woman, and we marvel at his Ingenuity. When he styles her the new Eve, however, and raises a lofty Tower of philosophical Speculation upon so soft a Foundation, we think he is a better Mechanick than he is a Philosopher, and ought to confine his Efforts to those Endeavors in which he is an acknowledged Master, leaving Divinity to the Divines.
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Fifth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,—
As I have promised to send you an Account of my Interview with the celebrated Doctor Albertus, I am sitting down to write this Evening while the Memory of our Conversation is still bright. A brief Talk with the celebrated Doctor is a veritable University of speculative Reasoning; and tho’ his Arguments all bear the Stamp of that Singularity which defines the Man, yet when he speaks I own myself half convinced, tho’ now I can think of a thousand Objections to his Assertions.
Certainly I must rank Punctuality among his Virtues: For he arrived and was announced at the appointed Hour, just as the Clock struck. As soon as our Greetings had been exchanged, Doctor Albertus presented me with a small Gift in a wooden Box, which he declared was owed to me for the Aid I had rendered him last night at my lady Neville’s. I opened the Lid, and beheld a small Serpent, one of the eminent Doctor’s remarkable Clockworks. I could not resist the Experiment, and winding the Mechanism, placed it on the Table, where it slithered after the Manner proper to Serpents in a most amusing Way. I gave him my profuse Thanks, but Doctor Albertus repeated that it was merely my Desert, and but the Least he could render me for my timely Aid.
As soon as the Tea was laid before us, Doctor Albertus began the Discussion with a few Compliments on my Understanding, which were more flattering than deserved. I rejoined with my own compliments on his mechanical Skill, and on the wonderfull mechanical Devices of which he was the Author. In recording our Conversation, which is still in a Manner ringing in my Ears, I shall make an attempt to record his Words exactly, but without those Interruptions incidental to common Speech.
“Indeed (quoth Doctor Albertus) I have made many Improvements in Mechanicks, for which I hope Men to come shall be in my Debt, as I am in the Debt of the Philosophers who came before me. But I may say to thee (for I feel instinctively that with thee I may speak freely), That I expect much more than a Demonstration of mechanical Principles to proceed from my Labor in building my Automaton. When I spoke to thy Friends last Night, I gave them a Hint of mine Aim, which is the Creation of a new Form of Life. I believe that my Mission is the Restoration of our Earth, and the Cleansing of it from Sin and Death. It is my Destiny, perhaps not to complete the Task, but at least to begin it, and leave the Completion of it to a later and perhaps greater Philosopher.”
“I had thought (I reply’d) that the Task had been accomplished for all Men by our Savior.”
“O but I speak of the Earth of the Present, and not of the Time to Come, of which no Man can form an accurate Impression, and which may be said to be more Rumor than Fact. Now, thou must empty thy Mind of Prejudice, for I know thee, Sir George, to be a Man of singular Understanding, and I would not have thee bound by the Authorities of a thousand Years ago, and neglect the Improvements which our present Age has made in Philosophy. Think not that the Antients were wise, because antient: For in very Truth it is we who are antient, and not they. They lived in the Youth of the World; we in its Maturity. They had but their own Wisdom to guide them; we have theirs, and our own, and the Wisdom of all the Centuries between.”
“But surely there must be an Exception made for Religion, whose Truths are eternal, and not subject to that Improvement which has marked the Progress of natural Philosophy.”
When I spoke thus, Doctor Albertus smiled, and leaned forward as if to impart some great Confidence. “Religion (he said) is but that Branch of Philosophy which investigates the Divine. Wherefore there is a Development in Religion as there is in the other Branches of Philosophy: For as we understand more of the Nature of God, the provisional Postulates of the Past must be modified or abandoned, just as the Wisdom of Aristotle, in spite of the Labor which it cost that great Philosopher, has given Way to the superior Wisdom of Newton, whose Discoveries have shewn us as it were the Mind of God himself.”
“And it is your Belief, then, that the Conquest of Sin, which has so far infected every Generation of Men, may in some Manner be effected by the Construction of a Clockwork?”
“Not merely a Clockwork (quoth Doctor Albertus) but rather a new Species of Soul.”
At this Remark I am sure I smiled, but Doctor Albertus continued.
“I call that an Old Soul, which is generated according to Nature, and therefore carries the indelible Taint of our primordial Sin. And I call that a New Soul, which is not generated according to Nature, and therefore has no part in original Sin.
“For I do not suppose that the Soul is a Kind of Object, which, tho’ immaterial, may be distinguished from the other Parts of a Man, as a Finger is distinct from an Eye. No: By Soul I mean, the harmonious Working of all the Parts together; nor do I believe that there is any other Thing that may be termed a Soul.
“Sin (quoth Doctor Albertus) is the Thing that limits the Old Soul. We may well speak of original Sin: For that Article of christian Doctrine is confirmed by the most cursory Observation of the human Race. That a Tendency toward Sin is implanted in us all at Birth, seems the only rational Means of accounting for History, which is Naught but a Record of Men’s Sins writ across the Face of the terrestrial Globe. Wars, and Tyrannies, and ruinous Famines while the Rich eat their Fill, and Murders, and Adulteries, and Persecutions, and Slaughters without Number: This is the Sum of our History, and thus is the Tale of our Race told in Epitome.
“Now, the Automaton is a New Soul, generated without Sin, and not susceptible to that Temptation, or irresistible Drive toward Evil, which is the common Lot of all Mankind. Altho’ its Operations are simple, they are entirely Rational. Anger, Lust, Envy, and what have you, do not enter into the Calculation of its Actions. I have already shewn what Misery our Sin leads us into; now consider for a Moment what a Paradise our World might be, if it were once freed from Sin. ’Twould be Eden incorrupt, Sir George. Now, the Automaton is generated without Sin, and feels no Pain; and tho’ I own it is primitive, and undeveloped, yet the Principles of its Construction are capable of infinite Refinement. But a short Time–the Blink of an Eye in our long History–and Automata may be produced whose Capabilities as far exceed those of the present Automaton as our Capabilities exceed those of a Mouse.”
“Yet Men (I objected) must build these Automata, and Men are subject to Sin; wherefore there must still be Sin in the World, as long as the Dominion of Man shall last.”
“But why (quoth Doctor Albertus) ought we to suppose that Man’s Dominion over the Earth is to be perpetual? Might we not instead be merely Stewards or Custodians for the true Masters of the Globe, holding it in Trust during the Minority of the Proprietors? Nay, perhaps the entire Purpose of our Existence is to act as Midwives, assisting at the Birth of the true Rulers of the Terrestrial Sphere.
“I have built the present Automaton with mine own Hands; the next Automaton likewise will be the Product of Man’s Labor; and so, without Doubt, the Automaton after that. But a Time will come, when Automata shall manipulate Objects with more Dexterity than Men are capable of, and then the Automata shall build the Automata. In Short, the Race of Automata shall perpetuate itself, whether we will or no; and living Machines shall be fruitfull, and multiply, and fill the Earth.”
“But surely (said I) that would make us Slaves to these Automata, if indeed they did not destroy us altogether.”
“Nay (quoth Doctor Albertus), it is not the Extinction or Enslavement of our Race that I see when I gaze into the Future of Mankind. On the contrary, I see naught but Liberty. There are some among us destined to be Monarchs, but how many are they? Each Country admits of but one Monarch, for that is the very Meaning of the Word. The Rest of us, and thou and I, Sir George, are in that Number;–the Rest of us, I say, are destined not to rule, but to be ruled; and in such Circumstances, our Happiness depends upon the Virtue of the Ruler. Now, who would not chuse rather to be guided by Reason, than to be subject to arbitrary Tyranny? Therefore I proclaim the Manumission of the Race of Man: For now we are Slaves to the Whims of Tyrants; but soon, when the Automata take their Place as Heirs of the whole Earth, we shall be guided only by Reason, and live under Rulers which cannot hate, or persecute, or lie, or sin in any Way.
“But if we shall be ruled by Automata, why should we not also be served by Automata? Machines have always served Men, tho’ in a limited and primitive Capacity; but what great Accomplishments lie within our Grasp, when we shall have Machines of greater Capability to serve us!–Machines that shall build, or dig, or plough the Earth; Machines that shall row our Ships faster than the Wind, or push our Carriages; Machines that shall fly through the Air like Birds, and carry us away with ’em on Wings like those Daedalus once dreamed of. Famine shall be unknown; the most impossible and artistic Constructions shall be put up in a week; the most distant Climes shall be brought near, and the most distant Peoples made our proximate Neighbors. In short, the Want, Misery, Ugliness, and Hatred of our current Existence shall give way to an Age of Plenty, Happiness, Beauty, and Peace.”
Here I shall leave off my Writing: For if I recorded every Word that dropped from the Mouth of the celebrated Doctor, I should weary myself with the Writing of them, if not you with the Reading. But you shall hear more: For I have asked Doctor Albertus to bring his Automaton here for the Evening Thursday next, when the Doctor and his Creation shall be introduced to a number of Friends and Acquaintances of mine. I promise you a full Account of that Evening; in the Interim,
I remain, &c.
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Third: Miss Amelia Purvis to Miss Honoria Wells.
George has made it his Habit to send me the Gossip current in London:—A Boon for which I own I most importunately begged him when he left for the Metropolis. I know my Brother, & therefore know that he would not willingly repeat that Labor, which he has expended on his Letters to me (for I may tell you candidly, as I know you will forgive his small Failings, and rather love him the More for ‘em, that his Letters to me are writ once and never copied, as I can see by the Multitude of Scribbles and Corrections). I know furthermore, That his Letters to you must be filled with such Expressions of Devotion as must occur to him when he addresses his beloved Wife to be. Considering which Facts, I have made Copies of his two most recent Letters to me, in the hope of relieving the Dulness of which you complain. The Subject may entertain you: For we have News from George of the latest Folly in London, of which you may have heard, or read, if the Papers have made their Way to you, as they do to us (my Father taking particular Care that the Interlocutor shall be brought to him with every Stage-coach). It is a Kind of Machine built in the Shape of a Woman, for what Purpose none can guess, unless it be to make up the Deficiency of Women in the Capital caused by the large Number of ‘em who, like us, are left to rot in the Country for the Duration of the Season. What is George’s Connexion to this curious Object I shall leave him to narrate: Wherefore I now take my Leave of you, whom I delight to call my Sister, and subscribe myself,
Ever your faithful Friend,
Letter the Fourth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Honoria Wells.
My esteemed Honoria,—
London at this Season is a mere Catalogue of Dulness, which, tho’ your Presence would doubtless enliven it, yet I would not wish upon you, whom I have always held in the highest Regard. You may depend upon’t when I say, That you are better entertained, and what is more happier, in the Country: Where I would fain join you, did not certain small but necessary Articles of Business detain me here. In a few Months I shall have the Privilege of seeing you in Person: Until which Time I have the Honor to remain
Your obedient Servant,
(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Second: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,—
‘Tis but two Days since I wrote you last, but I trust you will forgive me for Trespassing so soon on your Attention, when I tell you that I bring you the freshest Intelligence from London: I mean News of the marvelous Automaton itself, which I have now seen with my own Eyes, and not on a distant Stage, but at my Side in my lady Neville’s Drawing-room.
I have, you recall, often been a Guest of the Nevilles; it is, indeed, my usual Custom to spend one Evening each Week watching Sir Joshua dust the Snuff from his Sleeve, which is the ordinary Extent of his Participation in the Proceedings. No Purpose would be served by my Pretending to you that these Evenings are anything but dull; but ’tis a comfortable Dulness, and our family Connexion makes it a Species of Duty for me to attend, whatever my Inclination might otherwise be.
You may well imagine my Surprize, then, when I arrived last Night and found, not the usual Complement of faded Beaux, ambitious Tradesmen’s Wives, and supernumerary Divines, but a Throng of the most fashionable Guests, all of ‘em apparently Sir Joshua’s oldest and most intimate Friends, tho’ I cannot recall ever having seen any of ‘em there before.
I soon discovered (as you will have already surmised) the Cause of Sir Joshua’s sudden Rise in the World of Fashion: For as I entered the Drawing-room, I beheld a great Crowd gathered in the Corner opposite; and at the Center of it, a Head taller and as much broader than anyone else in the Room, was the famous Doctor Albertus himself. Beside him was an enormous wooden Chest, elaborately carved and ornamented in the oriental Stile, and doubtless containing the Object of everybody’s Curiosity.
This Doctor Albertus is a striking Figure of a Man; and tho’ I shall attempt to describe him to you, nothing can convey the Effect of the Man himself. To his prodigious Size I have already alluded. He wears his own Hair, which grows in such Profusion that I can only say he must possess an extraordinarily fertile Head. He wears a full beard as well, and ’tis at once apparent that his Head is equally fertile all the Way round. This Beard alone would suffice to set him apart from the common Mass of Mankind, and to mark him as something out of the ordinary Way; but his other Features combine to give the Impression of entire Singularity. His Nose, which I mention first because it is most certainly the first Thing you would notice after the Beard, is of the aquiline Type, and perfectly formed, but much larger than his Visage would appear to require, as tho’ ’twere fashioned for one of the antediluvian Giants, and given to Doctor Albertus on the Extinction of that unfortunate Race. His Mouth is hard and determined, even on those rare Occasions when he smiles, at which Time he reveals two Rows of Teeth perfectly white and straight. His Eyes are sharp and penetrating, set beneath prominent Brows surmounted by luxuriant Tufts of Hair. His entire Frame is large but not corpulent; and his every Movement shews a deliberate Grace, as tho’ he might call on a vast Reservoir of Strength if he chose to do so. He speaks our Tongue perfectly and without Effort, but with enough of the High Dutch in his Pronunciation to betray his Origin, and with a certain Number of archaic Words and Forms, which suggest a greater Familiarity with the Literature of fifty Years ago than with the current Speech of the Day. His Voice is deep, and in a small Space resounds as tho’ he were speaking in a great Hall. In short, every Aspect of his Appearance contributes to the Air of entire Singularity that surrounds him, and even without the Automaton he would be a remarkable Figure of a Man.
The Automaton, however, is the Thing that has made the reputation of Doctor Albertus, and has added the Epithet “eminent” to his Name, so that indeed the Word now seems his personal Property. Tho’ imprisoned in a Box, and thus in a Manner absent, the Automaton was as much Lord of the Room as if it were seated on a Throne in the Middle of it; and any Glory that shone from Doctor Albertus was a mere reflected Moon-light, for the Automaton was the Sun.
After all this Description, you may have forgot my place in the Narrative: I repeat, therefore, that I had arrived at my lady Neville’s. Sir Joshua greeted me pleasantly enough, but in a perfunctory Manner; and it was not hard to see that it was his more fashionable Guests who consumed most of his Attention. Lady Neville, however, was most charming and solicitous; and, having greeted me, she took me at once to the Corner where Doctor Albertus held Court. Making a Kind of Furrow in the assembled Crowd, she brought me to the august Presence and presented me to the eminent Doctor.
I soon discovered that Doctor Albertus has an Air of easy Amiability about him, and his Charm was directed at me with all its Force. “Sir George Purvis? (quoth he) O but no Introduction is necessary. Your Reputation is Introduction enough wherever you go.”
“I was not aware (I reply’d) that I had any sort of Reputation at all.”
“Your Modesty is creditable, but unnecessary. I have often heard you spoken of as a Man of Parts, and one in whom the Lamp of true Philosophy shines bright.”
It may have been Flattery, but I own I was pleased thus to be acknowledged by the famous Doctor. “I know not what you may have heard of me, but I am always grateful for the kind Words of my Friends.”
“The wise Man always has all the Learned for his Friends, and I hope that I may be enrolled in that Number.”
I was aware that the Conversation, which had been animated before my Arrival, had come to a Stop. “Please do not allow a late Arrival to divert the Stream of your Conversation,” I said to the Company at Large.
“Not at all (quoth Doctor Albertus), for I was just about to give us a small Demonstration of the Capabilities of my Machine.”
At this a Murmur spread through the Guests, and all Eyes turned toward the great wooden Chest that stood in our Midst.
“I warn you first, my Friends (continued Doctor Albertus), that there are yet Flaws in the Mechanism, and Imperfections which must be overcome. The Automaton is moreover in a very primitive State of Development, and must be considered rather as a kind of Presentiment of what Science must certainly accomplish one Day, than as a completed Work. I make these frank Acknowledgments because I have heard, and perhaps you have heard as well, certain Rumors spread abroad, to the Effect that the Automaton is perfect in its Construction, and indistinguishable in its Capabilities from a veritable Woman: Which Rumors are unfounded, and but the natural Consequence of that Inflation or Magnification which invariably accompanies the Spread of any Intelligence. I make no such Claims for my Work.
“My Claim is more modest, but still perhaps of some Import: For I call myself the Inventor of a new Science, which is the Art of producing living Machines. And my Automaton, however imperfect in its capabilities, is nevertheless the first of what must in Time to Come be a great Multitude of such Machines. I may, indeed, style her the new Eve, Mother of her Race.”
At this, a few of the Observers laughed; but Doctor Albertus’ expression was unchanged. “Again I say, a great Multitude; but at present there is but one, and that one mine. Now, therefore, let us see what this Machine can do. You, sir”–he turned to address me–”You, sir, appear to be a Man of Strength and Dexterity: May I ask your Assistance in opening the Front of my Box, and freeing my Automaton to join our Conversation?”
Lady Neville interposed, saying, That her Footmen were more than equal to the Task; to which Doctor Albertus bowed, and reply’d, That he did not wish to trouble them, when two strong Men might lift the Cover in a Moment. I need not tell you, that I was more than willing to offer my Assistance.
The Chest was fitted with a Panel or Lid in the Front, latched on with brazen Buckles, and having two Handles, by means of which it might be lifted away once the Buckles were undone. The Wood was heavy, but not so heavy that Doctor Albertus and I had any Trouble moving it to one side–tho’ I dare say Doctor Albertus carried most of the weight, confirming my Impression that he was a Man of great physical Power.
Not until we had set the Lid aside was I able to turn and look into the Box, and then I had my first Glimpse of the celebrated Automaton.
It was a Woman, or a Thing that resembled a Woman in its general Proportions; but its Complexion was grey all over, and its Face entirely devoid of any Expression. At first it was altogether motionless: But then its Eyes opened, and it stepped forth from its Chest.
“For the Sake of Decency (quoth Doctor Albertus) I have given my Machine this Drapery, which resembles in many Particulars that affected by the Grecians in the Age of Pericles. You may be assured, however, that the Automaton is a perfect Woman in every Detail, for which I must thank a certain well-known Sculptor in the Palatine, who labored with me in creating the Design, and of whom I entertain the highest possible Opinion; indeed, I have often spoken of him as a new Praxiteles.“
The Assembly parted as the Machine took two more steps forward; and I observed that nobody seemed disposed to stand too near the Thing. Its Stride was so awkward, that with each Step I thought it must surely fall and be smashed to Pieces.
“The Automaton (Doctor Albertus explained) responds to Light and Shadow, tho’ it has other Senses by which it may find its Way in utter Darkness. We may therefore say that it sees; but we must remember that we speak in Metaphors, for the Perceptions and Understanding of a Machine differ from ours in Kind. Thus the Introduction of Light into its Chamber has caused it to awaken, so to speak; which is to say, to rouse itself from Inertia into Activity.”
Here the Automaton turned to face its Creator, who continued thus: “It responds also to Sounds, and responds differently to different Resonances; wherefore I may say, speaking again in Metaphor, that it knows my Voice.”
Here he gave the Automaton a Series of simple Commands, such as to walk, turn right, step backwards, &c., the Machine executing each one with perfect Alacrity, tho’ with the same Awkwardness I had observed before.
The Demonstration was brief, Doctor Albertus explaining that too much Activity might put the Mechanism out of Adjustment. After a few more Turns, the Automaton marched back into its Box, and the Company resumed its Conversation: A Conversation over which Dr. Albertus ruled as absolute Monarch, his philosophical Speculations concerning the Automaton being as wonderfully out of the Ordinary as the Machine itself.
As I have already scribbled, very probably, the longest Letter you have ever received, I shall end it now with one more Piece of News: Which is that I have invited the eminent Doctor Albertus to visit me to-morrow and discuss his Philosophy in more Depth, and he has kindly accepted my Invitation: A Point which made me the Envy of many of the more fashionable Guests. I shall not neglect my Promises to you, and shall report every Word of our Conversation, so far as it lies in my Ability to do so. Until then, with my Apologies for a Letter so full of Bulk without Substance,
I remain, &c.
IN PRESENTING A gothic novel in letters from the eighteenth century, to be published in serial form over the coming months, Dr. Boli is well aware that the language of the work may be a considerable departure from the crisp, modern style normally favored in the pages of this Magazine. The subject, however, caught Dr. Boli’s attention: it asks the ancient question, What is the nature of Love? Like every good novel, it leaves the central question unanswered, and the reader vaguely dissatisfied, in the end.
Dr. Boli feels compelled to point out that the work is presented here in a somewhat abbreviated form, although without omitting anything essential to an understanding of the story. He also feels compelled to remark that the surname of one of the principal characters, the eminent Dr. Albertus, is identical to Dr. Boli’s middle name by mere coincidence, the action taking place in a distant time before even Dr. Boli was born.
At this point it would be customary to add some account of the discovery of the manuscript; for it is indeed an uncommon thing for a work of this sort to be resurrected after two and a half centuries of neglect. Having composed such an account, however, Dr. Boli read it over, and, having bored himself into insensibility, decided to forgo publishing it.
Letter the First: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,—
I send you this curious Handbill because you asked me for it. To speak with more Accuracy, you charged me to omit nothing of the Talk and Gossip of the Metropolis in my Letters. Here it is: For I must inform you that nothing else is spoken of here.
You might suppose that the Intrigues of the Jacobites, or the inflammatory Speeches of Mr. B—, or the comical Incident of my lord M—’s Wig, might furnish some Matter for Conversation here and there; but you would be mistaken, for throughout the Length and Breadth of London I hear only of the miraculous Doctor Albertus and his wonderfull Automaton. The Town is mad for Clockworks, and the Few who have been fortunate enough to procure some clockwork Toy, however small, made by the eminent Doctor himself, have displayed their Acquisitions with a Pride that would be universally denounced if its Object were a rare Gem, or a fine Picture, or any other Possession.
I have not seen the celebrated Automaton myself; but I have seen a small clockwork Mouse of the eminent Doctor’s Manufacture, and I confess that I thought it a remarkably clever Contrivance. Its most surprising Aspect is its Ability to learn a simple Task: For if it meets with any Obstruction in its Path, it turns to the Left or to the Right; and starting again from the same Point, it will turn before it meets the Obstacle, as tho’ it remembered the Course from its previous Trial. I presume that the celebrated Automaton is constructed on the same Principles, but its larger Frame must necessarily admit of a much greater Number of Gears and Pulleys, and thus a correspondingly greater Variety in its Motions and Capabilities.
Since I have not observed the Thing itself, I have no more to report on this Subject; but I pledge you my Word that I shall not forget my promised Diligence, and shall consider it my Duty and my Obligation to seek out whatever Report I may find of this most interesting Phenomenon.
Convey my Greetings to our cousin Honoria: For I know not whether I shall have the Leisure to write to her myself, altho’ I think of her often. You shall hear from me soon. Until then,
I remain, &c.
Advertisement.-–A certain eminent Doctor of Philosophy, who amuses himself with the Construction of clockwork Toys, is desired to restrict his Hours: For his Clockworks have lately made such a Noise, that all London is kept awake.
(Continuing the narrative which began here.)
Chapter 12: In Which I Learn the Truth.
WE DIDN’T TAKE the money, O’Really and I. We thought about it for a while—I don’t want you to think we didn’t. But we just couldn’t see a way to make it work. O’Really was a suspected embezzler; I was a suspected murderer. Both supposed crimes were connected with the cases of cash we had found in the Harding apartment.
In fact, I couldn’t even take one of the cases back to the Countess. We needed to call the police to see the apartment for themselves, or O’Really would live under his little cloud forever. With the twelve cases there—no need to mention the thirteenth lump of money deposited in the Steamfitters and Phrenologists Federal Savings Bank—the whole question of O’Really’s guilt was answered in the negative. With one missing, he was just as suspicious as before.
O’Really suggested buying a small South American country and repudiating all its extradition treaties, but in the end we agreed that even a run-down South American country with a lot of mileage on it would probably cost more than $425,553,815.76. Everything is so expensive these days.
So the police were really impressed with our integrity, if that’s what you call cowardice, when we called them to the Harding apartment and showed them the twelve cases all lined up and still filled with cash. They spent some time counting the cash and drooling on it, and then some time talking into radios and filling out forms. Then they were gone, and so was the money.
O’Really went back to his car, poor but vindicated. I walked for a while, collecting my thoughts. Once I had them collected and bound in morocco, I caught a streetcar on Warrington Avenue.
Obviously, my collected thoughts told me, the next thing to do was to see the Countess. That was obvious enough, but it wasn’t so obvious how I was going to find her. She had always found me before. Now I’d have to do some detective work to find her so I could tell her the results of my detective work. And even when I found her, I’d have to tell her that I didn’t exactly have her case in hand—news that would probably earn me a faceful of sprouts. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this job.
I finally got the Countess’ address from her entry in the Wikipedia, which told me that she lived in a penthouse at the top of Bellefield Hall. I have no idea what detectives did before the Wikipedia.
Bellefield Hall was about forty-five minutes away by streetcar and bus, so I had plenty of time to think of what I was going to say to the Countess. Not that it did any good. I couldn’t think of any way to begin. My conclusion was simple enough: there were thirteen identical sums of money, one of which was bound to be hers, and I didn’t exactly have any of them in my hands at the moment. It was just a question of how to lead up to that. I thought of starting out lightheartedly, maybe with a few knock-knock jokes. Or maybe not.
And there was the matter of the thirteenth case—if there was a thirteenth case. Harding had deposited $35,462,817.98 in the Steamfitters and Phrenologists Federal Savings Bank. It had to be Harding: who else would be using the name Higgins and depositing exactly $35,462,817.98? So there was some chance—let’s call it one in thirteen—that the Countess’ money was in the bank rather than with the police. I didn’t know whether that was better or worse. Either way it would be hard.
The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t decide whether I’d succeeded or failed in this case. I knew what had happened to the money. Success! Well, I wasn’t really sure which of two places the money was in. Failure! But either way I knew that the money was in one of two places. Success! But I hadn’t actually retrieved the missing case. Failure! But I knew who had taken it. Success! But I was likely to get sprouts in my face again. Failure!
By the time I had thought through all the possibilities (and there were a lot more, but why should you suffer as much as I did?), my bus was pulling up in front of Bellefield Hall.
This was a huge Art Deco hotel built of an odd combination of brick and deep red sandstone. It was definitely a swankier place than I was used to. I’d seen the outside, but I’d never been inside before—and for a very good reason. There was a doorman standing in front who looked like a four-star general with all the tin plating and tassels on his deep red uniform. You couldn’t go past the doorman: he was right in front of the door, so you had to ask him to open it or fight him for it. I had never got up the courage to do either. Now I had to get in there to see the Countess, so I decided to ask, since the doorman was about six and a half feet tall and a good bit weightier than I am. I walked right up to te doorman, stared him straight in the lapels, gave him my name, and told him I had an appointment with the Countess Tatiana von Sturzhelm y Sombrero.
Well, you should have seen what that did to his face. He looked like a man who had just discovered pixies in the bottom of his underwear drawer. “The Countess?” he sputtered. “But she never sees anybody!”
“She’ll see me,” I told him with a certainty I didn’t quite feel.
He stared down at me intently, as though he could read the answers to all his questions about the universe in my face if he could just make out the writing. He got purpler and purpler, until I thought his face was just going to explode. Then finally he pushed a button on some square thing hanging from his belt, and almost immediately an assistant doorman appeared at his side.
“This gentleman says he has an appointment with the Countess,” the doorman told the assistant.
“The Countess?” The assistant was obviously just as surprised. Then the assistant pushed a button on the square thing on his belt, and a deputy assistant underdoorman whooshed up.
“This gentleman says he has an appointment with the Countess,” the assistant said.
“The Countess?” the deputy assistant underdoorman sputtered, and he pushed a button on the square thing on his belt. Immediately a bellboy in a splendid burgundy uniform appeared in the doorway.
“This gentleman says he has an appointment with the Countess,” the deputy assistant underdoorman said.
The bellboy didn’t react at all. He simply said “This way, sir,” and led me through the door into the lobby.
Everything in the lobby was dark red marble and polished chrome sunbursts, sinuous curves and symmetry. But it was hard to make out any deeper level of detail than that, because the lobby was filled with herds of bellboys, all in the same burgundy uniform, and all carrying little silver trays and frantically trying to page somebody. There were certainly more bellboys than there were patrons, and it was impossible to hear any of the pages in the cacophony. So, as far as I could tell, the bellboys just kept circulating forever, weaving in and out of the crowd of identical bellboys and shouting incomprehensible pages into the echoing marble of the lobby.
I tried to follow the bellboy who was leading me, but it was hopeless. Soon I realized I’d lost him and was following another bellboy, and then when I thought I’d found the first again it turned out to be another one altogether. After five or six more bellboys, I ended up in the bar somehow, where I was very surprised to see my old friend Ludmilla behind the counter.
“What are you doing here?” I asked her.
“Polishing a glass,” she said, polishing a glass. “What are you doing here?”
I sat down on one of the stools. “I’m looking for the Countess Tatiana,” I answered, hoping she might be able to steer me in the right direction.
“There’s no such person,” Ludmilla said.
“Well, of course there is,” I replied. “I still have the sprouts to prove it.”
“There’s no such person,” Ludmilla repeated.
I looked around helplessly, and for the first time recognized that the man to my right at the bar was someone I knew. I couldn’t place him at first, but then I recognized him: Midas Geldman, the reclusive zillionaire. I don’t know why, but for some reason I wasn’t surprised to see him there.
“But you knew the Countess,” I said to him. “You know she’s a real person.”
“Yes,” Mr. Geldman agreed. “But she is not quite what she seems to be.”
“What does that mean?” I demanded impatiently.
“I don’t really know,” he replied. “I heard it somewhere, and I thought I’d pass it along to you.”
I threw up my hands in disgust and despair and looked the other way.
“Well, don’t look at me, my dear sir,” said Seamus O’Really, sitting on the stool to my left. “To me, this Countess is only a name in a newspaper clipping.”
I’d had enough of this. I stood up and stomped back toward the lobby.
“You wouldn’t be like this if you ate more protein!” I heard Ludmilla shouting after me. But I was too tired and confused to think up a witty rejoinder.
Wading into the sea of bellboys, I spied a wall of elevator doors on the opposite side of the lobby. Fine, I thought: if no one would take me to the Countess, I’d go myself. How hard can it be to find a penthouse? Certainly not as hard as swimming through the shouting bellboys. Several times I thought I’d lost my way, and one I was afraid I was going under for the last time. But eventually I made it to the other side and lunged for an open elevator. I was just a little too slow: it filled up with bellboys and slammed shut just before I got to the door.
No matter: another would be here soon. As soon as I heard the ding and saw the light, I raced for the elevator at the end of the row. But it had filled up with bellboys and departed before I got there. Then the elevator next to me dinged and lit up. I took one step toward it, but in that time it had opened and filled up with bellboys so tightly packed that there was simply no room at all in it. The same thing happened three more times.
I was about to give up and take the stairs when the elevator next to me opened. It was empty, and no bellboys were running for it. I stepped in a bit suspiciously, but the bellboys were completely ignoring it. So I turned to the operator and told him I wanted the penthouse.
“Yes, sir,” he replied in a flat monotone.
The doors closed, and the elevator lurched upward.
At the next floor, the doors opened again.
“Mezzanine,” the operator chanted in his invariable monotone. “Guest services, tapas bar, post office.”
No one got on, and I didn’t get off.
At the next floor, we stopped again.
“Second floor,” the operator chanted. “Grand ballroom, conference rooms, coffee shop, trampolines.”
No one got on, and I didn’t get off.
At the next floor, we stopped again.
“Third floor. Rooms three-oh-one to three-twenty-eight.”
No one got on.
“Is it positively necessary to stop at every floor?” I asked, a bit testily.
“This is a local,” the operator replied with unvarying expression. “Express elevators go straight. Locals stop at every floor.”
“Is it likely that I could get an express from this floor?”
“Express elevators fill up fast,” the operator chanted as the doors closed. “Only forty-six more floors to go.”
So we stopped at every floor, and I began to notice a strange progression. Dark red was the dominant color on the lower floors, but as we went higher it dominated more and more. By the thirtieth floor, it was getting hard to distinguish details in the decorations, which were becoming more and more uniformly burgundy. Then even the light in the elevator began to shift subtly toward the red spectrum. I looked up and saw dark red gels closing over the ceiling lights one by one.
I was beginning to feel feverish. This was far worse than the Harding apartment. This was an inescapable maelstrom of burgundy. And still the elevator went up one floor at a time, stopping at every floor, and each floor more burgundy than the last. My brain was whirling. I was drowning in a deluge of burgundy. I was spiraling into a burgundy hole, the collapsed remnant of a red giant. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight—
I burst out of the elevator, my mind spinning. “There was never any Harding at all!” I shouted. “Burgundy limousines! Burgundy hotels! It was you all the time, you crazy burgundy-loving, sprout-throwing—um…”
I stopped. The penthouse wasn’t burgundy at all. It was tastefully furnished in inlaid wood, a bit on the moderne side but not too flashy. Everything about it was in the very best taste, from the oriental rugs to the Epidendrum orchids on the balcony, which I could see through a pair of open French doors.
“Well done,” said a familiar voice beside me.
I turned and saw Mr. Higgins, old Doc Boli’s secretary.
“Thank you,” I said. I sat down in an armchair and tried to stop my head from spinning around on my neck. “Um, what did I do well?”
“You have done very well in following these mysteries to their conclusion,” Mr. Higgins said. “You have not deduced everything, but that was not required of you. The Countess and I were more interested in how you approached the problems than in whether you solved them completely.”
I looked up, and for the first time I noticed the Countess, still wearing her veil, sitting in a huge wicker chair on the opposite side of the room.
“So what is she?” I demanded, trying to keep a civil tongue in my head. “Some sort of international criminal mastermind?”
Mr. Higgins came close to smiling. “Hardly, sir. But you were given certain clues, if I may use the term, which you might have applied to the problem.”
“Clues?” I was beyond baffled by now.
“Mr. Midas Geldman, for example, was instructed to tell you that the Countess was not quite what she seemed to be. Miss Ludmilla McArdle was instructed to tell you that there was no such person as the Countess. Both statements are, in the strictest sense, true.”
“But I see the Countess over there,” I protested. “Have I been having hallucinations? Did I just imagine the sprouts in my hair?”
“Certainly not, sir,” Mr. Higgins answered. “You have, however, been slightly deceived. Since you have not yet discovered it for yourself, I see no harm in revealing to you that the Countess Tatiana von Klapphut y Sombrero is in fact Dr. Henricus Albertus Boli.”
Here the Countess removed her veil, and sure enough she was a he.
“Didn’t Dr. Boli have a beard?” I asked.
“Dr. Boli’s beard is removable when the occasion warrants,” Mr. Higgins explained. “It is a trick, if I may call it that, which Dr. Boli learned from the late King William I of Prussia.”
I slumped back in my chair. “Well, I admit I sort of missed that,” I said. “But I was right that there was no Harding, wasn’t I?”
“Perfectly correct,” Mr. Higgins replied.
“And that body we saw in the Hyundai?”
“Merely a well-known actor employed for the occasion. He is particularly celebrated for his roles as corpses, and is currently starring in a regendered theatrical adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.”
“So this was all some weird and elaborate test?”
“Elaborate, yes,” Mr. Higgins said, “but perfectly justified under the circumstances. Dr. Boli devised a series of events and puzzles to test your disposition, your adaptability, your intelligence, and most of all your integrity.”
“And why did he do that?” I was getting a bit annoyed. Actually, when I thought about all I’d been through, I was getting a lot annoyed.
“The time of my service to Dr. Boli is coming to an end. In a year, I shall be retiring to my estates in the Pays d’Oc, and at that time Dr. Boli will require a new secretary. Because of your resourcefulness, your intelligence, and your entire lack of other prospects of success for the future, Dr. Boli has chosen to offer that position to you.”
“Me? A private secretary?” I was about to say something along the lines of “Ha,” but Mr. Higgins continued.
“I should mention that the starting salary for this position is something in the lower eight figures.”
The “Ha” I’d been preparing withered on the vine, fell off, and fluttered away in the gentle breeze from the balcony. Instead, some appalling instinct for honesty and fairness led me to protest, “But I didn’t figure everything out. I never even figured out where the thirteenth case came from.”
“There was no thirteenth case,” Mr Higgins replied.
“But Harding—I mean the Countess—I mean—well, you know what I mean—deposited $35,462,817.98 in the Steamfitters and Phrenologists Federal Savings Bank, and we found twelve cases of cash in his apartment. That makes thirteen cases altogether, doesn’t it? Or am I going crazy?”
“Your sanity is not the subject of discussion,” Mr. Higgins said calmly. “Dr. Boli, in his persona of the Countess, in her persona of Mr. Harding, did not make that deposit.”
“But the name was Higgins, and—wait a minute…”
“Yes,” Mr. Higgins said. “I made that deposit. It was the retirement bonus given to me by Dr. Boli. That it was exactly the same amount as the one you were hired to find was an added distraction for you, a ‘red herring’ as it were, as well as an example of what I may call Dr. Boli’s sly sense of humor.”
Well, one thing was obvious. I was a pretty hopeless detective. Maybe I’d make a better secretary—especially at an eight-figure salary.
“So when do I start?” I asked.
“Then I take it that you accept the position?”
“Well, the offer is very attractive.”
“In that case, you may start immediately. I shall spend the next year training you. By the end of that time, you should be familiar with most of Dr. Boli’s whims and preferences, thus relieving Dr. Boli of the necessity of speaking except on extraordinary occasions. You have already demonstrated a remarkable equilibrium in dealing with unusual behaviors, so nothing Dr. Boli does should dismay you inordinately.”
“That’s good,” I said. It sounded like quite a roller coaster ahead. “So Dr. Boli was willing to risk all that cash just to audition a new secretary. What happens to it now? Do the police still have it?”
“No, sir. The police were also hired actors. The cases, with the cash undisturbed, have been returned to Dr. Boli.”
“I see,” I said. I felt a momentary pang of regret when I thought of all that cash going out of circulation again.
“If you like,” Mr. Higgins continued, “you may keep the cases and the cash they contain as souvenirs.”
I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up several hours later in a very comfortable bed. Mr. Higgins tells me I passed out, but Dr. Boli’s private physicians say it’s not likely to happen again.