The Sick Lion

A Lion, unable from old age and infirmities to provide himself with food by force, resolved to do so by artifice. He returned to his den, and lying down there, pretended to be sick, taking care that his sickness should be publicly known. The beasts expressed their sorrow, and came one by one to his den, where the Lion devoured them. After many of the beasts had thus disappeared, the Fox discovered the trick and presenting himself to the Lion, stood on the outside of the cave, at a respectful distance, and asked him how he was. "I am very middling," replied the Lion, "but why do you stand without? Pray enter within to talk with me." "No, thank you," said the Fox. "I notice that there are many prints of feet entering your cave, but I see no trace of any returning."

He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others.


  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane


   The great pullman was whirling onward with such dignity of motion that a glance from the window seemed simply to prove that the plains of Texas were pouring eastward. Vast flats of green grass, dull-hued spaces of mesquite and cactus, little groups of frame houses, woods of light and tender trees, all were sweeping into the east, sweeping over the horizon, a precipice.
   A newly married pair had boarded this coach at San Antonio. The man's face was reddened from many days in the wind and sun, and a direct result of his new black clothes was that his brick-colored hands were constantly performing in a most conscious fashion. From time to time he looked down respectfully at his attire. He sat with a hand on each knee, like a man waiting in a barber's shop. The glances he devoted to other passengers were furtive and shy.
   The bride was not pretty, nor was she very young. She wore a dress of blue cashmere, with small reservations of velvet here and there and with steel buttons abounding. She continually twisted her head to regard her puff sleeves, very stiff, straight, and high. They embarrassed her. It was quite apparent that she had cooked, and that she expected to cook, dutifully. The blushes caused by the careless scrutiny of some passengers as she had entered the car were strange to see upon this plain, under-class countenance, which was drawn in placid, almost emotionless lines.
   They were evidently very happy. "Ever been in a parlor-car before?" he asked, smiling with delight.
   "No," she answered, "I never was. It's fine, ain't it?"
   "Great! And then after a while we'll go forward to the diner and get a big layout. Finest meal in the world. Charge a dollar."
   "Oh, do they?" cried the bride. "Charge a dollar? Why, that's too much -- for us -- ain't it, Jack?"
   "Not this trip, anyhow," he answered bravely. "We're going to go the whole thing."
   Later, he explained to her about the trains. "You see, it's a thousand miles from one end of Texas to the other, and this train runs right across it and never stops but four times." He had the pride of an owner. He pointed out to her the dazzling fittings of the coach, and in truth her eyes opened wider as she contemplated the sea-green figured velvet, the shining brass, silver, and glass, the wood that gleamed as darkly brilliant as the surface of a pool of oil. At one end a bronze figure sturdily held a support for a separated chamber, and at convenient places on the ceiling were frescoes in olive and silver.
   To the minds of the pair, their surroundings reflected the glory of their marriage that morning in San Antonio. This was the environment of their new estate, and the man's face in particular beamed with an elation that made him appear ridiculous to the negro porter. This individual at times surveyed them from afar with an amused and superior grin. On other occasions he bullied them with skill in ways that did not make it exactly plain to them that they were being bullied. He subtly used all the manners of the most unconquerable kind of snobbery. He oppressed them, but of this oppression they had small knowledge, and they speedily forgot that infrequently a number of travelers covered them with stares of derisive enjoyment. Historically there was supposed to be something infinitely humorous in their situation.
   "We are due in Yellow Sky at 3:42," he said, looking tenderly into her eyes.
   "Oh, are we?" she said, as if she had not been aware of it. To evince surprise at her husband's statement was part of her wifely amiability. She took from a pocket a little silver watch, and as she held it before her and stared at it with a frown of attention, the new husband's face shone.
   "I bought it in San Anton' from a friend of mine," he told her gleefully.
   "It's seventeen minutes past twelve," she said, looking up at him with a kind of shy and clumsy coquetry. A passenger, noting this play, grew excessively sardonic, and winked at himself in one of the numerous mirrors.
   At last they went to the dining-car. Two rows of negro waiters, in glowing white suits, surveyed their entrance with the interest and also the equanimity of men who had been forewarned. The pair fell to the lot of a waiter who happened to feel pleasure in steering them through their meal. He viewed them with the manner of a fatherly pilot, his countenance radiant with benevolence. The patronage, entwined with the ordinary deference, was not plain to them. And yet, as they returned to their coach, they showed in their faces a sense of escape.
   To the left, miles down a long purple slope, was a little ribbon of mist where moved the keening Rio Grande. The train was approaching it at an angle, and the apex was Yellow Sky. Presently it was apparent that, as the distance from Yellow Sky grew shorter, the husband became commensurately restless. His brick-red hands were more insistent in their prominence. Occasionally he was even rather absent-minded and far-away when the bride leaned forward and addressed him.
   As a matter of truth, Jack Potter was beginning to find the shadow of a deed weigh upon him like a leaden slab. He, the town marshal of Yellow Sky, a man known, liked, and feared in his corner, a prominent person, had gone to San Antonio to meet a girl he believed he loved, and there, after the usual prayers, had actually induced her to marry him, without consulting Yellow Sky for any part of the transaction. He was now bringing his bride before an innocent and unsuspecting community.
   Of course, people in Yellow Sky married as it pleased them, in accordance with a general custom; but such was Potter's thought of his duty to his friends, or of their idea of his duty, or of an unspoken form which does not control men in these matters, that he felt he was heinous. He had committed an extraordinary crime. Face to face with this girl in San Antonio, and spurred by his sharp impulse, he had gone headlong over all the social hedges. At San Antonio he was like a man hidden in the dark. A knife to sever any friendly duty, any form, was easy to his hand in that remote city. But the hour of Yellow Sky, the hour of daylight, was approaching.
   He knew full well that his marriage was an important thing to his town. It could only be exceeded by the burning of the new hotel. His friends could not forgive him. Frequently he had reflected on the advisability of telling them by telegraph, but a new cowardice had been upon him. He feared to do it. And now the train was hurrying him toward a scene of amazement, glee, and reproach. He glanced out of the window at the line of haze swinging slowly in towards the train.
   Yellow Sky had a kind of brass band, which played painfully, to the delight of the populace. He laughed without heart as he thought of it. If the citizens could dream of his prospective arrival with his bride, they would parade the band at the station and escort them, amid cheers and laughing congratulations, to his adobe home.
   He resolved that he would use all the devices of speed and plains-craft in making the journey from the station to his house. Once within that safe citadel he could issue some sort of a vocal bulletin, and then not go among the citizens until they had time to wear off a little of their enthusiasm.
   The bride looked anxiously at him. "What's worrying you, Jack?"
   He laughed again. "I'm not worrying, girl. I'm only thinking of Yellow Sky."
   She flushed in comprehension.
   A sense of mutual guilt invaded their minds and developed a finer tenderness. They looked at each other with eyes softly aglow. But Potter often laughed the same nervous laugh. The flush upon the bride's face seemed quite permanent.
   The traitor to the feelings of Yellow Sky narrowly watched the speeding landscape. "We're nearly there," he said.
   Presently the porter came and announced the proximity of Potter's home. He held a brush in his hand and, with all his airy superiority gone, he brushed Potter's new clothes as the latter slowly turned this way and that way. Potter fumbled out a coin and gave it to the porter, as he had seen others do. It was a heavy and muscle-bound business, as that of a man shoeing his first horse.
   The porter took their bag, and as the train began to slow they moved forward to the hooded platform of the car. Presently the two engines and their long string of coaches rushed into the station of Yellow Sky.
   "They have to take water here," said Potter, from a constricted throat and in mournful cadence, as one announcing death. Before the train stopped, his eye had swept the length of the platform, and he was glad and astonished to see there was none upon it but the station-agent, who, with a slightly hurried and anxious air, was walking toward the water-tanks. When the train had halted, the porter alighted first and placed in position a little temporary step.
   "Come on, girl," said Potter hoarsely. As he helped her down they each laughed on a false note. He took the bag from the negro, and bade his wife cling to his arm. As they slunk rapidly away, his hang-dog glance perceived that they were unloading the two trunks, and also that the station-agent far ahead near the baggage-car had turned and was running toward him, making gestures. He laughed, and groaned as he laughed, when he noted the first effect of his marital bliss upon Yellow Sky. He gripped his wife's arm firmly to his side, and they fled. Behind them the porter stood chuckling fatuously.


   THE California Express on the Southern Railway was due at Yellow Sky in twenty-one minutes. There were six men at the bar of the "Weary Gentleman" saloon. One was a drummer who talked a great deal and rapidly; three were Texans who did not care to talk at that time; and two were Mexican sheep-herders who did not talk as a general practice in the "Weary Gentleman" saloon. The barkeeper's dog lay on the board walk that crossed in front of the door. His head was on his paws, and he glanced drowsily here and there with the constant vigilance of a dog that is kicked on occasion. Across the sandy street were some vivid green grass plots, so wonderful in appearance amid the sands that burned near them in a blazing sun that they caused a doubt in the mind. They exactly resembled the grass mats used to represent lawns on the stage. At the cooler end of the railway station a man without a coat sat in a tilted chair and smoked his pipe. The fresh-cut bank of the Rio Grande circled near the town, and there could be seen beyond it a great, plum-colored plain of mesquite.
   Save for the busy drummer and his companions in the saloon, Yellow Sky was dozing. The new-comer leaned gracefully upon the bar, and recited many tales with the confidence of a bard who has come upon a new field.
   " -- and at the moment that the old man fell down stairs with the bureau in his arms, the old woman was coming up with two scuttles of coal, and, of course -- "
   The drummer's tale was interrupted by a young man who suddenly appeared in the open door. He cried: "Scratchy Wilson's drunk, and has turned loose with both hands." The two Mexicans at once set down their glasses and faded out of the rear entrance of the saloon.
   The drummer, innocent and jocular, answered: "All right, old man. S'pose he has. Come in and have a drink, anyhow."
   But the information had made such an obvious cleft in every skull in the room that the drummer was obliged to see its importance. All had become instantly solemn. "Say," said he, mystified, "what is this?" His three companions made the introductory gesture of eloquent speech, but the young man at the door forestalled them.
   "It means, my friend," he answered, as he came into the saloon, "that for the next two hours this town won't be a health resort."
   The barkeeper went to the door and locked and barred it. Reaching out of the window, he pulled in heavy wooden shutters and barred them. Immediately a solemn, chapel-like gloom was upon the place. The drummer was looking from one to another.
   "But, say," he cried, "what is this, anyhow? You don't mean there is going to be a gun-fight?"
   "Don't know whether there'll be a fight or not," answered one man grimly. "But there'll be some shootin' -- some good shootin'."
   The young man who had warned them waved his hand. "Oh, there'll be a fight fast enough if anyone wants it. Anybody can get a fight out there in the street. There's a fight just waiting."
   The drummer seemed to be swayed between the interest of a foreigner and a perception of personal danger.
   "What did you say his name was?" he asked.
   "Scratchy Wilson," they answered in chorus.
   "And will he kill anybody? What are you going to do? Does this happen often? Does he rampage around like this once a week or so? Can he break in that door?"
   "No, he can't break down that door," replied the barkeeper. "He's tried it three times. But when he comes you'd better lay down on the floor, stranger. He's dead sure to shoot at it, and a bullet may come through."
   Thereafter the drummer kept a strict eye upon the door. The time had not yet been called for him to hug the floor, but, as a minor precaution, he sidled near to the wall. "Will he kill anybody?" he said again.
   The men laughed low and scornfully at the question.
   "He's out to shoot, and he's out for trouble. Don't see any good in experimentin' with him."
   "But what do you do in a case like this? What do you do?"
   A man responded: "Why, he and Jack Potter -- "
   "But," in chorus, the other men interrupted, "Jack Potter's in San Anton'."
   "Well, who is he? What's he got to do with it?"
   "Oh, he's the town marshal. He goes out and fights Scratchy when he gets on one of these tears."
   "Wow," said the drummer, mopping his brow. "Nice job he's got."
   The voices had toned away to mere whisperings. The drummer wished to ask further questions which were born of an increasing anxiety and bewilderment; but when he attempted them, the men merely looked at him in irritation and motioned him to remain silent. A tense waiting hush was upon them. In the deep shadows of the room their eyes shone as they listened for sounds from the street. One man made three gestures at the barkeeper, and the latter, moving like a ghost, handed him a glass and a bottle. The man poured a full glass of whisky, and set down the bottle noiselessly. He gulped the whisky in a swallow, and turned again toward the door in immovable silence. The drummer saw that the barkeeper, without a sound, had taken a Winchester from beneath the bar. Later he saw this individual beckoning to him, so he tiptoed across the room.
   "You better come with me back of the bar."
   "No, thanks," said the drummer, perspiring. "I'd rather be where I can make a break for the back door."
   Whereupon the man of bottles made a kindly but peremptory gesture. The drummer obeyed it, and finding himself seated on a box with his head below the level of the bar, balm was laid upon his soul at sight of various zinc and copper fittings that bore a resemblance to armor-plate. The barkeeper took a seat comfortably upon an adjacent box.
   "You see," he whispered, "this here Scratchy Wilson is a wonder with a gun -- a perfect wonder -- and when he goes on the war trail, we hunt our holes -- naturally. He's about the last one of the old gang that used to hang out along the river here. He's a terror when he's drunk. When he's sober he's all right -- kind of simple -- wouldn't hurt a fly -- nicest fellow in town. But when he's drunk -- whoo!"
   There were periods of stillness. "I wish Jack Potter was back from San Anton'," said the barkeeper. "He shot Wilson up once -- in the leg -- and he would sail in and pull out the kinks in this thing."
   Presently they heard from a distance the sound of a shot, followed by three wild yowls. It instantly removed a bond from the men in the darkened saloon. There was a shuffling of feet. They looked at each other. "Here he comes," they said.


   A MAN in a maroon-colored flannel shirt, which had been purchased for purposes of decoration and made, principally, by some Jewish women on the east side of New York, rounded a corner and walked into the middle of the main street of Yellow Sky. In either hand the man held a long, heavy, blue-black revolver. Often he yelled, and these cries rang through a semblance of a deserted village, shrilly flying over the roofs in a volume that seemed to have no relation to the ordinary vocal strength of a man. It was as if the surrounding stillness formed the arch of a tomb over him. These cries of ferocious challenge rang against walls of silence. And his boots had red tops with gilded imprints, of the kind beloved in winter by little sledding boys on the hillsides of New England.
   The man's face flamed in a rage begot of whisky. His eyes, rolling and yet keen for ambush, hunted the still doorways and windows. He walked with the creeping movement of the midnight cat. As it occurred to him, he roared menacing information. The long revolvers in his hands were as easy as straws; they were moved with an electric swiftness. The little fingers of each hand played sometimes in a musician's way. Plain from the low collar of the shirt, the cords of his neck straightened and sank, straightened and sank, as passion moved him. The only sounds were his terrible invitations. The calm adobes preserved their demeanor at the passing of this small thing in the middle of the street.
   There was no offer of fight; no offer of fight. The man called to the sky. There were no attractions. He bellowed and fumed and swayed his revolvers here and everywhere.
   The dog of the barkeeper of the "Weary Gentleman" saloon had not appreciated the advance of events. He yet lay dozing in front of his master's door. At sight of the dog, the man paused and raised his revolver humorously. At sight of the man, the dog sprang up and walked diagonally away, with a sullen head, and growling. The man yelled, and the dog broke into a gallop. As it was about to enter an alley, there was a loud noise, a whistling, and something spat the ground directly before it. The dog screamed, and, wheeling in terror, galloped headlong in a new direction. Again there was a noise, a whistling, and sand was kicked viciously before it. Fear-stricken, the dog turned and flurried like an animal in a pen. The man stood laughing, his weapons at his hips.
   Ultimately the man was attracted by the closed door of the "Weary Gentleman" saloon. He went to it, and hammering with a revolver, demanded drink.
   The door remaining imperturbable, he picked a bit of paper from the walk and nailed it to the framework with a knife. He then turned his back contemptuously upon this popular resort, and walking to the opposite side of the street, and spinning there on his heel quickly and lithely, fired at the bit of paper. He missed it by a half inch. He swore at himself, and went away. Later, he comfortably fusilladed the windows of his most intimate friend. The man was playing with this town. It was a toy for him.
   But still there was no offer of fight. The name of Jack Potter, his ancient antagonist, entered his mind, and he concluded that it would be a glad thing if he should go to Potter's house and by bombardment induce him to come out and fight. He moved in the direction of his desire, chanting Apache scalp-music.
   When he arrived at it, Potter's house presented the same still front as had the other adobes. Taking up a strategic position, the man howled a challenge. But this house regarded him as might a great stone god. It gave no sign. After a decent wait, the man howled further challenges, mingling with them wonderful epithets.
   Presently there came the spectacle of a man churning himself into deepest rage over the immobility of a house. He fumed at it as the winter wind attacks a prairie cabin in the North. To the distance there should have gone the sound of a tumult like the fighting of 200 Mexicans. As necessity bade him, he paused for breath or to reload his revolvers.


   POTTER and his bride walked sheepishly and with speed. Sometimes they laughed together shamefacedly and low.
   "Next corner, dear," he said finally.
   They put forth the efforts of a pair walking bowed against a strong wind. Potter was about to raise a finger to point the first appearance of the new home when, as they circled the corner, they came face to face with a man in a maroon-colored shirt who was feverishly pushing cartridges into a large revolver. Upon the instant the man dropped his revolver to the ground, and, like lightning, whipped another from its holster. The second weapon was aimed at the bridegroom's chest.
   There was silence. Potter's mouth seemed to be merely a grave for his tongue. He exhibited an instinct to at once loosen his arm from the woman's grip, and he dropped the bag to the sand. As for the bride, her face had gone as yellow as old cloth. She was a slave to hideous rites gazing at the apparitional snake.
   The two men faced each other at a distance of three paces. He of the revolver smiled with a new and quiet ferocity.
   "Tried to sneak up on me," he said. "Tried to sneak up on me!" His eyes grew more baleful. As Potter made a slight movement, the man thrust his revolver venomously forward. "No, don't you do it, Jack Potter. Don't you move a finger toward a gun just yet. Don't you move an eyelash. The time has come for me to settle with you, and I'm goin' to do it my own way and loaf along with no interferin'. So if you don't want a gun bent on you, just mind what I tell you."
   Potter looked at his enemy. "I ain't got a gun on me, Scratchy," he said. "Honest, I ain't." He was stiffening and steadying, but yet somewhere at the back of his mind a vision of the Pullman floated, the sea-green figured velvet, the shining brass, silver, and glass, the wood that gleamed as darkly brilliant as the surface of a pool of oil -- all the glory of the marriage, the environment of the new estate. "You know I fight when it comes to fighting, Scratchy Wilson, but I ain't got a gun on me. You'll have to do all the shootin' yourself."
   His enemy's face went livid. He stepped forward and lashed his weapon to and fro before Potter's chest. "Don't you tell me you ain't got no gun on you, you whelp. Don't tell me no lie like that. There ain't a man in Texas ever seen you without no gun. Don't take me for no kid." His eyes blazed with light, and his throat worked like a pump.
   "I ain't takin' you for no kid," answered Potter. His heels had not moved an inch backward. "I'm takin' you for a -- -- -- fool. I tell you I ain't got a gun, and I ain't. If you're goin' to shoot me up, you better begin now. You'll never get a chance like this again."
   So much enforced reasoning had told on Wilson's rage. He was calmer. "If you ain't got a gun, why ain't you got a gun?" he sneered. "Been to Sunday-school?"
   "I ain't got a gun because I've just come from San Anton' with my wife. I'm married," said Potter. "And if I'd thought there was going to be any galoots like you prowling around when I brought my wife home, I'd had a gun, and don't you forget it."
   "Married!" said Scratchy, not at all comprehending.
   "Yes, married. I'm married," said Potter distinctly.
   "Married?" said Scratchy. Seemingly for the first time he saw the drooping, drowning woman at the other man's side. "No!" he said. He was like a creature allowed a glimpse of another world. He moved a pace backward, and his arm with the revolver dropped to his side. "Is this the lady?" he asked.
   "Yes, this is the lady," answered Potter.
   There was another period of silence.
   "Well," said Wilson at last, slowly, "I s'pose it's all off now."
   "It's all off if you say so, Scratchy. You know I didn't make the trouble." Potter lifted his valise.
   "Well, I 'low it's off, Jack," said Wilson. He was looking at the ground. "Married!" He was not a student of chivalry; it was merely that in the presence of this foreign condition he was a simple child of the earlier plains. He picked up his starboard revolver, and placing both weapons in their holsters, he went away. His feet made funnel-shaped tracks in the heavy sand.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

A Terribbly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins

             Shortly after my education at college was finished, I happened to be
staying at Paris with an English friend. We were both young men then, and lived,
I am afraid, rather a wild life, in the delightful city of our sojourn. One
night we were idling about the neighborhood of the Palais Royal, doubtful to
what amusement we should next betake ourselves. My friend proposed a visit to
Frascati's; but his suggestion was not to my taste. I knew Frascati's, as the
French saying is, by heart; had lost and won plenty of five-franc pieces there,
merely for amusement's sake, until it was amusement no longer, and was
thoroughly tired, in fact, of all the ghastly respectabilities of such a social
anomaly as a respectable gambling-house. "For Heaven's sake," said I to my
friend, "let us go somewhere where we can see a little genuine, blackguard,
poverty-stricken gaming with no false gingerbread glitter thrown over it all.
Let us get away from fashionable Frascati's, to a house where they don't mind
letting in a man with a ragged coat, or a man with no coat, ragged or
otherwise." "Very well," said my friend, "we needn't go out of the Palais Royal
to find the sort of company you want. Here's the place just before us; as
blackguard a place, by all report, as you could possibly wish to see." In
another minute we arrived at the door, and entered the house, the back of which
you have drawn in your sketch. 
            When we got upstairs, and had left our hats and sticks with the doorkeeper,
we were admitted into the chief gambling-room. We did not find many people
assembled there. But, few as the men were who looked up at us on our entrance,
they were all types--lamentably true types--of their respective classes. 
            We had come to see blackguards; but these men were something worse. There is
a comic side, more or less appreciable, in all blackguardism--here there was
nothing but tragedy--mute, weird tragedy. The quiet in the room was horrible.
The thin, haggard, long-haired young man, whose sunken eyes fiercely watched the
turning up of the cards, never spoke; the flabby, fat-faced, pimply player, who
pricked his piece of pasteboard perseveringly, to register how often black won,
and how often red--never spoke; the dirty, wrinkled old man, with the vulture
eyes and the darned great-coat, who had lost his last sou, and still looked on
desperately, after he could play no longer--never spoke. Even the voice of the
croupier sounded as if it were strangely dulled and thickened in the atmosphere
of the room. I had entered the place to laugh, but the spectacle before me was
something to weep over. I soon found it necessary to take refuge in excitement
from the depression of spirits which was fast stealing on me. Unfortunately I
sought the nearest excitement, by going to the table and beginning to play.
Still more unfortunately, as the event will show, I won--won prodigiously; won
incredibly; won at such a rate that the regular players at the table crowded
round me; and staring at my stakes with hungry, superstitious eyes, whispered to
one another that the English stranger was going to break the bank. 
            The game was Rouge et Noir. I had played at it in every city in Europe,
without, however, the care or the wish to study the Theory of Chances--that
philosopher's stone of all gamblers! And a gambler, in the strict sense of the
word, I had never been. I was heart-whole from the corroding passion for play.
My gaming was a mere idle amusement. I never resorted to it by necessity,
because I never knew what it was to want money. I never practiced it so
incessantly as to lose more than I could afford, or to gain more than I could
coolly pocket without being thrown off my balance by my good luck. In short, I
had hitherto frequented gambling-tables--just as I frequented ball-rooms and
opera-houses--because they amused me, and because I had nothing better to do
with my leisure hours. 
            But on this occasion it was very different--now, for the first time in my
life, I felt what the passion for play really was. My success first bewildered,
and then, in the most literal meaning of the word, intoxicated me. Incredible as
it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that I only lost when I attempted to
estimate chances, and played according to previous calculation. If I left
everything to luck, and staked without any care or consideration, I was sure to
win--to win in the face of every recognized probability in favor of the bank. At
first some of the men present ventured their money safely enough on my color;
but I speedily increased my stakes to sums which they dared not risk. One after
another they left off playing, and breathlessly looked on at my game. 
            Still, time after time, I staked higher and higher, and still won. The
excitement in the room rose to fever pitch. The silence was interrupted by a
deep-muttered chorus of oaths and exclamations in different languages, every
time the gold was shoveled across to my side of the table--even the
imperturbable croupier dashed his rake on the floor in a (French) fury of
astonishment at my success. But one man present preserved his self-possession,
and that man was my friend. He came to my side, and whispering in English,
begged me to leave the place, satisfied with what I had already gained. I must
do him the justice to say that he repeated his warnings and entreaties several
times, and only left me and went away after I had rejected his advice (I was to
all intents and purposes gambling drunk) in terms which rendered it impossible
for him to address me again that night. 
            Shortly after he had gone, a hoarse voice behind me cried: "Permit me, my
dear sir--permit me to restore to their proper place two napoleons which you
have dropped. Wonderful luck, sir! I pledge you my word of honor, as an old
soldier, in the course of my long experience in this sort of thing, I never saw
such luck as yours--never! Go on, sir--SacrŽ mille bombes! Go on boldly, and
break the bank!" 
            I turned round and saw, nodding and smiling at me with inveterate civility,
a tall man, dressed in a frogged and braided surtout. 
            If I had been in my senses, I should have considered him, personally, as
being rather a suspicious specimen of an old soldier. He had goggling, bloodshot
eyes, mangy mustaches, and a broken nose. His voice betrayed a barrack-room
intonation of the worst order, and he had the dirtiest pair of hands I ever
saw--even in France. These little personal peculiarities exercised, however, no
repelling influence on me. In the mad excitement, the reckless triumph of that
moment, I was ready to "fraternize" with anybody who encouraged me in my game. I
accepted the old soldier's offered pinch of snuff; clapped him on the back, and
swore he was the honestest fellow in the world--the most glorious relic of the
Grand Army that I had ever met with. "Go on!" cried my military friend, snapping
his fingers in ecstasy--"Go on, and win! Break the bank--Mille tonnerres! my
gallant English comrade, break the bank!" 
            And I did go on--went on at such a rate, that in another quarter of an hour
the croupier called out, "Gentlemen, the bank has discontinued for to-night."
All the notes, and all the gold in that "bank," now lay in a heap under my
hands; the whole floating capital of the gambling-house was waiting to pour into
my pockets! 
            "Tie up the money in your pocket-handkerchief, my worthy sir," said the old
soldier, as I wildly plunged my hands into my heap of gold. "Tie it up, as we
used to tie up a bit of dinner in the Grand Army; your winnings are too heavy
for any breeches-pockets that ever were sewed. There! that's it--shovel them in,
notes and all! CrediŽ! what luck! Stop! another napoleon on the floor! Ah! sacrŽ
petit polisson de Napoleon! have I found thee at last? Now then, sir--two tight
double knots each way with your honorable permission, and the money's safe. Feel
it! feel it, fortunate sir! hard and round as a cannon-ball--Ah, bah! if they
had only fired such cannon-balls at us at Austerlitz--nom d'une pipe! if they
only had! And now, as an ancient grenadier, as an ex-brave of the French army,
what remains for me to do? I ask what? Simply this: to entreat my valued English
friend to drink a bottle of Champagne with me, and toast the goddess Fortune in
foaming goblets before we part!" 
            Excellent ex-brave! Convivial ancient grenadier! Champagne by all means! An
English cheer for an old soldier! Hurrah! hurrah! Another English cheer for the
goddess Fortune! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! 
            "Bravo! the Englishman; the amiable, gracious Englishman, in whose veins
circulates the vivacious blood of France! Another glass? Ah, bah!--the bottle is
empty! Never mind! Vive le vin! I, the old soldier, order another bottle, and
half a pound of bonbons with it!" 
            "No, no, ex-brave; never--ancient grenadier! Your bottle last time; my
bottle this. Behold it! Toast away! The French Army! the great Napoleon! the
present company! the croupier! the honest croupier's wife and daughters--if he
has any! the Ladies generally! everybody in the world!" 
            By the time the second bottle of Champagne was emptied, I felt as if I had
been drinking liquid fire--my brain seemed all aflame. No excess in wine had
ever had this effect on me before in my life. Was it the result of a stimulant
acting upon my system when I was in a highly excited state? Was my stomach in a
particularly disordered condition? Or was the Champagne amazingly strong? 
            "Ex-brave of the French Army!" cried I, in a mad state of exhilaration, "I
am on fire! how are you? You have set me on fire! Do you hear, my hero of
Austerlitz? Let us have a third bottle of Champagne to put the flame out!" 
            The old soldier wagged his head, rolled his goggle-eyes, until I expected to
see them slip out of their sockets; placed his dirty forefinger by the side of
his broken nose; solemnly ejaculated "Coffee!" and immediately ran off into an
inner room. 
            The word pronounced by the eccentric veteran seemed to have a magical effect
on the rest of the company present. With one accord they all rose to depart.
Probably they had expected to profit by my intoxication; but finding that my new
friend was benevolently bent on preventing me from getting dead drunk, had now
abandoned all hope of thriving pleasantly on my winnings. Whatever their motive
might be, at any rate they went away in a body. When the old soldier returned,
and sat down again opposite to me at the table, we had the room to ourselves. I
could see the croupier, in a sort of vestibule which opened out of it, eating
his supper in solitude. The silence was now deeper than ever. 
            A sudden change, too, had come over the "ex-brave." He assumed a
portentously solemn look; and when he spoke to me again, his speech was
ornamented by no oaths, enforced by no finger-snapping, enlivened by no
apostrophes or exclamations. 
            "Listen, my dear sir," said he, in mysteriously confidential tones--"listen
to an old soldier's advice. I have been to the mistress of the house (a very
charming woman, with a genius for cookery!) to impress on her the necessity of
making us some particularly strong and good coffee. You must drink this coffee
in order to get rid of your little amiable exaltation of spirits before you
think of going home--you must, my good and gracious friend! With all that money
to take home to-night, it is a sacred duty to yourself to have your wits about
you. You are known to be a winner to an enormous extent by several gentlemen
present to-night, who, in a certain point of view, are very worthy and excellent
fellows; but they are mortal men, my dear sir, and they have their amiable
weaknesses. Need I say more? Ah, no, no! you understand me! Now, this is what
you must do--send for a cabriolet when you feel quite well again--draw up all
the windows when you get into it--and tell the driver to take you home only
through the large and well-lighted thoroughfares. Do this; and you and your
money will be safe. Do this; and to-morrow you will thank an old soldier for
giving you a word of honest advice." 
            Just as the ex-brave ended his oration in very lachrymose tones, the coffee
came in, ready poured out in two cups. My attentive friend handed me one of the
cups with a bow. I was parched with thirst, and drank it off at a draught.
Almost instantly afterwards, I was seized with a fit of giddiness, and felt more
completely intoxicated than ever. The room whirled round and round furiously;
the old soldier seemed to be regularly bobbing up and down before me like the
piston of a steam-engine. I was half deafened by a violent singing in my ears; a
feeling of utter bewilderment, helplessness, idiocy, overcame me. I rose from my
chair, holding on by the table to keep my balance; and stammered out that I felt
dreadfully unwell--so unwell that I did not know how I was to get home. 
            "My dear friend," answered the old soldier--and even his voice seemed to be
bobbing up and down as he spoke--"my dear friend, it would be madness to go home
in your state; you would be sure to lose your money; you might be robbed and
murdered with the greatest ease. I am going to sleep here; do you sleep here,
too--they make up capital beds in this house--take one; sleep off the effects of
the wine, and go home safely with your winnings to-morrow--to-morrow, in broad
            I had but two ideas left: one, that I must never let go hold of my
handkerchief full of money; the other, that I must lie down somewhere
immediately, and fall off into a comfortable sleep. So I agreed to the proposal
about the bed, and took the offered arm of the old soldier, carrying my money
with my disengaged hand. Preceded by the croupier, we passed along some passages
and up a flight of stairs into the bedroom which I was to occupy. The ex-brave
shook me warmly by the hand, proposed that we should breakfast together, and
then, followed by the croupier, left me for the night. 
            I ran to the wash-hand stand; drank some of the water in my jug; poured the
rest out, and plunged my face into it; then sat down in a chair and tried to
compose myself. I soon felt better. The change for my lungs, from the fetid
atmosphere of the gambling-room to the cool air of the apartment I now occupied,
the almost equally refreshing change for my eyes, from the glaring gaslights of
the "salon" to the dim, quiet flicker of one bedroom-candle, aided wonderfully
the restorative effects of cold water. The giddiness left me, and I began to
feel a little like a reasonable being again. My first thought was of the risk of
sleeping all night in a gambling-house; my second, of the still greater risk of
trying to get out after the house was closed, and of going home alone at night
through the streets of Paris with a large sum of money about me. I had slept in
worse places than this on my travels; so I determined to lock, bolt, and
barricade my door, and take my chance till the next morning. 
            Accordingly, I secured myself against all intrusion; looked under the bed,
and into the cupboard; tried the fastening of the window; and then, satisfied
that I had taken every proper precaution, pulled off my upper clothing, put my
light, which was a dim one, on the hearth among a feathery litter of wood-ashes,
and got into bed, with the handkerchief full of money under my pillow. 
            I soon felt not only that I could not go to sleep, but that I could not even
close my eyes. I was wide awake, and in a high fever. Every nerve in my body
trembled--every one of my senses seemed to be preternaturally sharpened. I
tossed and rolled, and tried every kind of position, and perseveringly sought
out the cold corners of the bed, and all to no purpose. Now I thrust my arms
over the clothes; now I poked them under the clothes; now I violently shot my
legs straight out down to the bottom of the bed; now I convulsively coiled them
up as near my chin as they would go; now I shook out my crumpled pillow, changed
it to the cool side, patted it flat, and lay down quietly on my back; now I
fiercely doubled it in two, set it up on end, thrust it against the board of the
bed, and tried a sitting posture. Every effort was in vain; I groaned with
vexation as I felt that I was in for a sleepless night. 
            What could I do? I had no book to read. And yet, unless I found out some
method of diverting my mind, I felt certain that I was in the condition to
imagine all sorts of horrors; to rack my brain with forebodings of every
possible and impossible danger; in short, to pass the night in suffering all
conceivable varieties of nervous terror. 
            I raised myself on my elbow, and looked about the room--which was brightened
by a lovely moonlight pouring straight through the window--to see if it
contained any pictures or ornaments that I could at all clearly distinguish.
While my eyes wandered from wall to wall, a remembrance of Le Maistre's
delightful little book, "Voyage autour de ma Chambre," occurred to me. I
resolved to imitate the French author, and find occupation and amusement enough
to relieve the tedium of my wakefulness, by making a mental inventory of every
article of furniture I could see, and by following up to their sources the
multitude of associations which even a chair, a table, or a wash-hand stand may
be made to call forth. 
            In the nervous unsettled state of my mind at that moment, I found it much
easier to make my inventory than to make my reflections, and thereupon soon gave
up all hope of thinking in Le Maistre's fanciful track--or, indeed, of thinking
at all. I looked about the room at the different articles of furniture, and did
nothing more. 
            There was, first, the bed I was lying in; a four-post bed, of all things in
the world to meet with in Paris--yes, a thorough clumsy British four-poster,
with the regular top lined with chintz--the regular fringed valance all
round--the regular stifling, unwholesome curtains, which I remembered having
mechanically drawn back against the posts without particularly noticing the bed
when I first got into the room. Then there was the marble-topped wash-hand
stand, from which the water I had spilled, in my hurry to pour it out, was still
dripping, slowly and more slowly, on to the brick floor. Then two small chairs,
with my coat, waistcoat, and trousers flung on them. Then a large elbow-chair
covered with dirty-white dimity, with my cravat and shirt collar thrown over the
back. Then a chest of drawers with two of the brass handles off, and a tawdry,
broken china inkstand placed on it by way of ornament for the top. Then the
dressing-table, adorned by a very small looking-glass, and a very large
pincushion. Then the window--an unusually large window. Then a dark old picture,
which the feeble candle dimly showed me. It was a picture of a fellow in a high
Spanish hat, crowned with a plume of towering feathers. A swarthy, sinister
ruffian, looking upward, shading his eyes with his hand, and looking intently
upward--it might be at some tall gallows at which he was going to be hanged. At
any rate, he had the appearance of thoroughly deserving it. 
            This picture put a kind of constraint upon me to look upward too--at the top
of the bed. It was a gloomy and not an interesting object, and I looked back at
the picture. I counted the feathers in the man's hat--they stood out in
relief--three white, two green. I observed the crown of his hat, which was of
conical shape, according to the fashion supposed to have been favored by Guido
Fawkes. I wondered what he was looking up at. It couldn't be at the stars; such
a desperado was neither astrologer nor astronomer. It must be at the high
gallows, and he was going to be hanged presently. Would the executioner come
into possession of his conical crowned hat and plume of feathers? I counted the
feathers again--three white, two green. 
            While I still lingered over this very improving and intellectual employment,
my thoughts insensibly began to wander. The moonlight shining into the room
reminded me of a certain moonlight night in England--the night after a picnic
party in a Welsh valley. Every incident of the drive homeward, through lovely
scenery, which the moonlight made lovelier than ever, came back to my
remembrance, though I had never given the picnic a thought for years; though, if
I had tried to recollect it, I could certainly have recalled little or nothing
of that scene long past. Of all the wonderful faculties that help to tell us we
are immortal, which speaks the sublime truth more eloquently than memory? Here
was I, in a strange house of the most suspicious character, in a situation of
uncertainty, and even of peril, which might seem to make the cool exercise of my
recollection almost out of the question; nevertheless, remembering, quite
involuntarily, places, people, conversations, minute circumstances of every
kind, which I had thought forgotten forever; which I could not possibly have
recalled at will, even under the most favorable auspices. And what cause had
produced in a moment the whole of this strange, complicated, mysterious effect?
Nothing but some rays of moonlight shining in at my bedroom window. 
            I was still thinking of the picnic--of our merriment on the drive home--of
the sentimental young lady who would quote "Childe Harold" because it was
moonlight. I was absorbed by these past scenes and past amusements, when, in an
instant, the thread on which my memories hung snapped asunder; my attention
immediately came back to present things more vividly than ever, and I found
myself, I neither knew why nor wherefore, looking hard at the picture again. 
            Looking for what? 
            Good God! the man had pulled his hat down on his brows! No! the hat itself
was gone! Where was the conical crown? Where the feathers--three white, two
green? Not there! In place of the hat and feathers, what dusky object was it
that now hid his forehead, his eyes, his shading hand? 
            Was the bed moving? 
            I turned on my back and looked up. Was I mad? drunk? dreaming? giddy again?
or was the top of the bed really moving down--sinking slowly, regularly,
silently, horribly, right down throughout the whole of its length and
breadth--right down upon me, as I lay underneath? 
            My blood seemed to stand still. A deadly paralysing coldness stole all over
me as I turned my head round on the pillow and determined to test whether the
bed-top was really moving or not, by keeping my eye on the man in the picture. 
            The next look in that direction was enough. The dull, black, frowzy outline
of the valance above me was within an inch of being parallel with his waist. I
still looked breathlessly. And steadily and slowly--very slowly--I saw the
figure, and the line of frame below the figure, vanish, as the valance moved
down before it. 
            I am, constitutionally, anything but timid. I have been on more than one
occasion in peril of my life, and have not lost my self-possession for an
instant; but when the conviction first settled on my mind that the bed-top was
really moving, was steadily and continuously sinking down upon me, I looked up
shuddering, helpless, panic-stricken, beneath the hideous machinery for murder,
which was advancing closer and closer to suffocate me where I lay. 
            I looked up, motionless, speechless, breathless. The candle, fully spent,
went out; but the moonlight still brightened the room. Down and down, without
pausing and without sounding, came the bed-top, and still my panic-terror seemed
to bind me faster and faster to the mattress on which I lay--down and down it
sank, till the dusty odor from the lining of the canopy came stealing into my
            At that final moment the instinct of self-preservation startled me out of my
trance, and I moved at last. There was just room for me to roll myself sidewise
off the bed. As I dropped noiselessly to the floor, the edge of the murderous
canopy touched me on the shoulder. 
            Without stopping to draw my breath, without wiping the cold sweat from my
face, I rose instantly on my knees to watch the bed-top. I was literally
spellbound by it. If I had heard footsteps behind me, I could not have turned
round; if a means of escape had been miraculously provided for me, I could not
have moved to take advantage of it. The whole life in me was, at that moment,
concentrated in my eyes. 
            It descended--the whole canopy, with the fringe round it, came
down--down--close down; so close that there was not room now to squeeze my
finger between the bed-top and the bed. I felt at the sides, and discovered that
what had appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary light canopy of a
four-post bed was in reality a thick, broad mattress, the substance of which was
concealed by the valance and its fringe. I looked up and saw the four posts
rising hideously bare. In the middle of the bed-top was a huge wooden screw that
had evidently worked it down through a hole in the ceiling, just as ordinary
presses are worked down on the substance selected for compression. The frightful
apparatus moved without making the faintest noise. There had been no creaking as
it came down; there was now not the faintest sound from the room above. Amid a
dead and awful silence I beheld before me--in the nineteenth century, and in the
civilized capital of France--such a machine for secret murder by suffocation as
might have existed in the worst days of the Inquisition, in the lonely inns
among the Hartz Mountains, in the mysterious tribunals of Westphalia! Still, as
I looked on it, I could not move, I could hardly breathe, but I began to recover
the power of thinking, and in a moment I discovered the murderous conspiracy
framed against me in all its horror. 
            My cup of coffee had been drugged, and drugged too strongly. I had been
saved from being smothered by having taken an overdose of some narcotic. How I
had chafed and fretted at the fever fit which had preserved my life by keeping
me awake! How recklessly I had confided myself to the two wretches who had led
me into this room, determined, for the sake of my winnings, to kill me in my
sleep by the surest and most horrible contrivance for secretly accomplishing my
destruction! How many men, winners like me, had slept, as I had proposed to
sleep, in that bed, and had never been seen or heard of more! I shuddered at the
bare idea of it. 
            But, ere long, all thought was again suspended by the sight of the murderous
canopy moving once more. After it had remained on the bed--as nearly as I could
guess--about ten minutes, it began to move up again. The villains who worked it
from above evidently believed that their purpose was now accomplished. Slowly
and silently, as it had descended, that horrible bed-top rose towards its former
place. When it reached the upper extremities of the four posts, it reached the
ceiling, too. Neither hole nor screw could be seen; the bed became in appearance
an ordinary bed again--the canopy an ordinary canopy--even to the most
suspicious eyes. 
            Now, for the first time, I was able to move--to rise from my knees--to dress
myself in my upper clothing--and to consider of how I should escape. If I
betrayed by the smallest noise that the attempt to suffocate me had failed, I
was certain to be murdered. Had I made any noise already? I listened intently,
looking towards the door. 
            No! no footsteps in the passage outside--no sound of a tread, light or
heavy, in the room above--absolute silence everywhere. Besides locking and
bolting my door, I had moved an old wooden chest against it, which I had found
under the bed. To remove this chest (my blood ran cold as I thought of what its
contents might be!) without making some disturbance was impossible; and,
moreover, to think of escaping through the house, now barred up for the night,
was sheer insanity. Only one chance was left me--the window. I stole to it on
            My bedroom was on the first floor, above an entresol, and looked into a back
street, which you have sketched in your view. I raised my hand to open the
window, knowing that on that action hung, by the merest hair-breadth, my chance
of safety. They keep vigilant watch in a House of Murder. If any part of the
frame cracked, if the hinge creaked, I was a lost man! It must have occupied me
at least five minutes, reckoning by time--five hours, reckoning by suspense--to
open that window. I succeeded in doing it silently--in doing it with all the
dexterity of a house-breaker--and then looked down into the street. To leap the
distance beneath me would be almost certain destruction! Next, I looked round at
the sides of the house. Down the left side ran a thick water-pipe which you have
drawn--it passed close by the outer edge of the window. The moment I saw the
pipe I knew I was saved. My breath came and went freely for the first time since
I had seen the canopy of the bed moving down upon me! 
            To some men the means of escape which I had discovered might have seemed
difficult and dangerous enough--to me the prospect of slipping down the pipe
into the street did not suggest even a thought of peril. I had always been
accustomed, by the practice of gymnastics, to keep up my school-boy powers as a
daring and expert climber; and knew that my head, hands, and feet would serve me
faithfully in any hazards of ascent or descent. I had already got one leg over
the window-sill, when I remembered the handkerchief filled with money under my
pillow. I could well have afforded to leave it behind me, but I was revengefully
determined that the miscreants of the gambling-house should miss their plunder
as well as their victim. So I went back to the bed and tied the heavy
handkerchief at my back by my cravat. 
            Just as I had made it tight and fixed it in a comfortable place, I thought I
heard a sound of breathing outside the door. The chill feeling of horror ran
through me again as I listened. No! dead silence still in the passage--I had
only heard the night air blowing softly into the room. The next moment I was on
the window-sill--and the next I had a firm grip on the water-pipe with my hands
and knees. 
            I slid down into the street easily and quietly, as I thought I should, and
immediately set off at the top of my speed to a branch "Prefecture" of Police,
which I knew was situated in the immediate neighbourhood. A "Sub-prefect," and
several picked men among his subordinates, happened to be up, maturing, I
believe, some scheme for discovering the perpetrator of a mysterious murder
which all Paris was talking of just then. When I began my story, in a breathless
hurry and in very bad French, I could see that the Sub-prefect suspected me of
being a drunken Englishman who had robbed somebody; but he soon altered his
opinion as I went on, and before I had anything like concluded, he shoved all
the papers before him into a drawer, put on his hat, supplied me with another
(for I was bareheaded), ordered a file of soldiers, desired his expert followers
to get ready all sorts of tools for breaking open doors and ripping up brick
flooring, and took my arm, in the most friendly and familiar manner possible, to
lead me with him out of the house. I will venture to say that when the
Sub-prefect was a little boy, and was taken for the first time to the play, he
was not half as much pleased as he was now at the job in prospect for him at the
            Away we went through the streets, the Sub-prefect cross-examining and
congratulating me in the same breath as we marched at the head of our formidable
posse comitatus. Sentinels were placed at the back and front of the house the
moment we got to it; a tremendous battery of knocks was directed against the
door; a light appeared at a window; I was told to conceal myself behind the
police--then came more knocks and a cry of "Open in the name of the law!" At
that terrible summons bolts and locks gave way before an invisible hand, and the
moment after the Sub-prefect was in the passage, confronting a waiter
half-dressed and ghastly pale. This was the short dialogue which immediately
took place: 
            "We want to see the Englishman who is sleeping in this house?" 
            "He went away hours ago." 
            "He did no such thing. His friend went away; he remained. Show us to his
            "I swear to you, Monsieur le Sous-prefect, he is not here! he--" 
            "I swear to you, Monsieur le Garon, he is. He slept here--he didn't find
your bed comfortable--he came to us to complain of it--here he is among my
men--and here am I ready to look for a flea or two in his bedstead. Renaudin!
(calling to one of the subordinates, and pointing to the waiter) collar that man
and tie his hands behind him. Now, then, gentlemen, let us walk upstairs!" 
            Every man and woman in the house was secured--the "Old Soldier" the first.
Then I identified the bed in which I had slept, and then we went into the room
            No object that was at all extraordinary appeared in any part of it. The
Sub-prefect looked round the place, commanded everybody to be silent, stamped
twice on the floor, called for a candle, looked attentively at the spot he had
stamped on, and ordered the flooring there to be carefully taken up. This was
done in no time. Lights were produced, and we saw a deep raftered cavity between
the floor of this room and the ceiling of the room beneath. Through this cavity
there ran perpendicularly a sort of case of iron thickly greased; and inside the
case appeared the screw, which communicated with the bed-top below. Extra
lengths of screw, freshly oiled; levers covered with felt; all the complete
upper works of a heavy press--constructed with infernal ingenuity so as to join
the fixtures below, and when taken to pieces again, to go into the smallest
possible compass--were next discovered and pulled out on the floor. After some
little difficulty the Sub-prefect succeeded in putting the machinery together,
and, leaving his men to work it, descended with me to the bedroom. The
smothering canopy was then lowered, but not so noiselessly as I had seen it
lowered. When I mentioned this to the Sub-prefect, his answer, simple as it was,
had a terrible significance. "My men," said he, "are working down the bed-top
for the first time--the men whose money you won were in better practice." 
            We left the house in the sole possession of two police agents--every one of
the inmates being removed to prison on the spot. The Sub-prefect, after taking
down my "procŽs verbal" in his office, returned with me to my hotel to get my
passport. "Do you think," I asked, as I gave it to him, "that any men have
really been smothered in that bed, as they tried to smother me?" 
            "I have seen dozens of drowned men laid out at the Morgue," answered the
Sub-prefect, "in whose pocketbooks were found letters stating that they had
committed suicide in the Seine, because they had lost everything at the gaming
table. Do I know how many of those men entered the same gambling-house that you
entered? won as you won? took that bed as you took it? slept in it? were
smothered in it? and were privately thrown into the river, with a letter of
explanation written by the murderers and placed in their pocket-books? No man
can say how many or how few have suffered the fate from which you have escaped.
The people of the gambling-house kept their bedstead machinery a secret from
us--even from the police! The dead kept the rest of the secret for them.
Good-night, or rather good-morning, Monsieur Faulkner! Be at my office again at
nine o'clock--in the meantime, au revoir!" 
            The rest of my story is soon told. I was examined and re-examined; the
gambling-house was strictly searched all through from top to bottom; the
prisoners were separately interrogated; and two of the less guilty among them
made a confession. I discovered that the Old Soldier was the master of the
gambling-house--justice discovered that he had been drummed out of the army as a
vagabond years ago; that he had been guilty of all sorts of villainies since;
that he was in possession of stolen property, which the owners identified; and
that he, the croupier, another accomplice, and the woman who had made my cup of
coffee, were all in the secret of the bedstead. There appeared some reason to
doubt whether the inferior persons attached to the house knew anything of the
suffocating machinery; and they received the benefit of that doubt, by being
treated simply as thieves and vagabonds. As for the Old Soldier and his two head
myrmidons, they went to the galleys; the woman who had drugged my coffee was
imprisoned for I forget how many years; the regular attendants at the
gambling-house were considered "suspicious" and placed under "surveillance"; and
I became, for one whole week (which is a long time) the head "lion" in Parisian
society. My adventure was dramatized by three illustrious play-makers, but never
saw theatrical daylight; for the censorship forbade the introduction on the
stage of a correct copy of the gambling-house bedstead. 
            One good result was produced by my adventure, which any censorship must have
approved: it cured me of ever again trying "Rouge et Noir" as an amusement. The
sight of a green cloth, with packs of cards and heaps of money on it, will
henceforth be forever associated in my mind with the sight of a bed canopy
descending to suffocate me in the silence and darkness of the night.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS