(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Twenty-Fourth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dearest Amelia,——
’Tis all done, all exploded, and doubtless the News has reached you before these Letters,—Letters which I had until recently supposed were in your Hands already. I send them to you now in a Bundle, because the Rumors of my Part in the Affair must have caused you no little Distress; and these Letters, writ as the Events took Place, may explain, what must, when you heard of it, have seemed inexplicable. I know not whether you can forgive me now for the Disgrace which you must surely have suffered on my Behalf; but I ask that you put aside your Resentment, until after you have read these Letters:—Letters which, I trust, will represent me as a Fool, but not as a Criminal.
Farewell, my dearest Sister, and my Companion. Whether I shall see you again, I cannot say, but I shall always carry your Image in my Heart; for, believe me, I am ever
Your loving Brother,
The Letters that follow were found in a Bundle tied with String; and it is very doubtful, whether any of ’em had ever been read, before the Preparation of this Volume.
Letter the Twenty-Fifth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My poor dear Amelia,——
Why do I write? I tremble with Rage, —with Shame, —with I know not what Passions, so that I can scarce hold the Pen; I have been imposed upon, to such a Degree, that I cannot express my Fury. I write to express, what I cannot express: This is a Paradox, or unnatural Contradiction. But I shall tell you what has passed, and you shall know. —But because I have taken an Oath, which may not be abnegated, tho’ all Reason begs me to break it, I must ask you to consider all I write as a Confidence, to be imparted to you only.
I retired last Night, the third Night of my Stay here, in that same cavernous, but now familiar Room; and I had nearly drifted into Slumber, when I felt an overwhelming Sense that someone stood without the Door. I know not whether I had heard some Movement, or whether some preternatural Sense had given me a Warning; but the Impression would no be dispelled. At once my old Fears came back, and I could not overcome them without opening the Door and seeing what stood beyond. I rose from the Bed, and grasped a Taper; I strode toward the Door, and now I positively heard a Sound, as of footsteps without. I flung the door aside and stepped into the darkened Hall; and what was my Horror, you may easily imagine, when I beheld rapidly receding from me, that same spectral Apparition which had terrified me on my first Visit: a ghostly Woman, all in white, on the Edge of the Candle-light.
I know not whether I have grown bolder, or whether my Fear impelled me to Action. I began to pursue the Apparition, and at once the Apparition quickened its Step; I positively ran, and soon caught her; she struggled, twisted, turned toward me, and in the light of the dim Candle I beheld the Face of the Automaton. It was not the Automaton, for it was a Woman of living Flesh; and yet it was that Face, which I had studied, and committed to Memory in every Part and Detail. Then she twisted to escape me again, and the Taper fell, and was extinguished, so that we were in utter Darkness.
I had relinquished my Hold on the Creature, and I heard her hastening Footsteps receding from me in the impenetrable Blackness; but I stood unmoving for some Time. At first I was bewildered; then the awful Verity that I had been monstrously deceived flooded into me all at once, and I was filled with impotent Anger. ’Twas at once clear to me, That there had never been an Automaton, and I resolved, or rather was impelled by blind Rage, to wake Doctor Albertus, and have Words with him.
Why shall I prolong your Distress, as mine was prolong’d? I took a Taper from my Room and woke the Doctor; he admitted, with a cold Frankness that was as appalling as it was unexpected, that the Automaton I had seen was but a Woman artfully disguised. In a word, she was one Fanny Smith, late a Seamstress of London, whom he had trained and employed to impersonate a Machine. When I began to express my Indignation, he had the Temerity to suggest that we discuss the matter in a civilized Fashion, which is to say over Coffee in the Drawing-room. As I was nearly apoplectic with Rage, he took the Opportunity of my Speechlessness to ring for his antient Housekeeper; and the Coffee was poured, and as he drank (for I drank nothing) the Scoundrel actually attempted to perswade me that he had done no wrong. “You cannot know how true my falsehoods have been,” he said to me, speaking in such impenetrable Riddles that I verily did begin to believe him mad. I was not perswaded, however, and so he began to speak of another more shameful Matter, and to my Shame I admit to having listened to his base Appeal. For this is what he said:
“There is—alas that I should mention it!—one other Matter, the Consideration of which may be of some Assistance in determining thy Course of Action. I refer to thine own Reputation, which I do verily believe is as much involved as mine in the publick Perception of my Work. Consider it well, Sir George: Consider the Opinion of thine Acquaintances, thy Friends, thine own Family, wert thou to denounce me as a Fraud;—me, whom thou hast introduced into their Society as thine especial Friend. I own I know not what Course I should pursue, were I in thy Position. Thou knowest so little of me, that thou thinkest me an Impostor, not seeing—for how couldst thou see?—that mine Imposture, as thou must see it, serves only Truth. Yet I could show thee, when thou art more prepared for the Beholding of it;—I could show thee, I say, that which would remove thy Doubts. Thou didst think me honest until now; thou wilt think me so again, I dare say, when thou knowest all; in the Interval, a little Faith will sustain thee, and thy Trust will prove a Benefit to us both.”
“Trust?” I spoke with a Vehemence that surprised me.—”Trust? How do you speak to me of Trust, when you pass off a common Hussy as the scientifick Miracle of the Age? Trust, sir, is not a Privilege you have earned, you and your Cockney Seamstress. Can you truly expect my Trust after such a foul Betrayal?”
I stopped: The Fiend was smiling at me.
“My Indignation amuses you,” I said, with my Rage scarce controlled.
“Thou speakest (quoth he) in the Accents of a disappointed Lover. ’Tis natural, Sir George. Mistress Smith is not the Mystery thou thought’st her, tho’ I should wager she has Mystery enough in the Depths and Recesses of her Soul. She might surprize thee, Sir George. No matter: I can see that thou feelest a Loss or Bereavement. It is my place as thy Friend—nay, speak not, Sir George, and leave unsaid what thou wouldst fain unsay in Time to come, for thou wilt find me thy true Friend ere long; and it is my place as thy Friend, I say, to console thee. Thou grievest for the Automaton that is dead: Rejoice, for the Automaton lives.
“Thou hast (he continued) a rare and penetrating Intellect, which is a Faculty not to be despised. I love thee for it; I verily do; ’tis the Thing that makes us Brothers, whatever thine Opinion of me may be at the Moment.”
I refrained from expressing my Opinion, for which I own at the Moment I could hardly find Words. With great Deliberateness, he took a lingering Sip from his Coffee before continuing thus:
“Wherefore I have made up my Mind to introduce thee to the most profound Mysteries of mine Art: For I am not quite the Fraud thou mightst think me. It is true that I have in a Manner of Speaking deceived the Publick, and thee as well; but my Deception, as thou wouldst name it, has been in the Service of a greater and deeper Truth. That such is the Case, thou wilt doubtless acknowledge, when thou hast seen, what no Man, and only one Woman, has seen heretofore: I mean the Workshop wherein my Secrets are hid from the uncomprehending Gaze of the unsympathetic World.”
And this is where we have left the matter. I blush to say it, and cannot explain it; but I have given the Doctor my Promise, That I shall not make any precipitate Decision, until I have viewed this Workshop of his: Wherein he undertakes to shew me the Reason for his Fraud and Subterfuge. Here in my Room, away from the Flow of honey’d Words with which he attempts to soothe my wounded Conscience, I can see no reason for it; I should like to depart at once, and tell all London that the great Doctor is a Cheat and a Liar. But I have given him my Word, and I am bound by it: For my Honor, I hope, has not been taken from me, tho’ my Reputation might be ruined. Farewell for the Moment, and believe me that I am innocent of any Intention to Deceive: For I am
Your honorable brother,