A Terribly Strange Bed part 11
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
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.
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.
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.
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.