(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Twenty-Fifth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dearest Sister,——
I have seen such Wonders, as I know not how to describe; I have been to the infernall Regions, and have touched a Demon. If my Words seem disjointed, and the Sense opaque, I beg your Indulgence.
The Dawn had scarce broken over the blasted Moors around Grimthorne, when Doctor Albertus appeared at my Door with a Torch, where I awaited him, dressed and waiting, having slept not a moment since I left him.
“Ah! Sir George,” he greeted me, “thou art prepared for the Journey. I say, a Journey, for thou shalt travel, not in Distance, but in Time; thou shalt depart the World which we inhabit, and enter the World of our Children’s Children.”
“Show me what you have to show me,” I reply’d, “for I have granted you that much, tho’ unwillingly.”
“If thou wilt come with me, then, I promise to change, by a most wonderfull Metamorphosis, thine Unwillingness to Delight, and thy Doubt to Conviction.”
I made no Reply, but followed him in Silence; we proceeded through the House, to a Door, and from there out into the cold and miserable Air, the Torch still blazing, tho’ ’twas as near to Daylight without as Grimthorne comes. Here were the Ruins of the great Abbey Church, which once stood next to the Abbey, and whose Tower was visible a League across the barren Country. Skirting the Edge of the Ruins, we walked along one Wall, where a fine Pathway of Stone had been laid but recently. The Ground sloped gently, so that as we approached the Tower, we had reached the Depth of the Foundation.
The Pathway came to an end at an antient Doorway beneath the Tower. It was a great pointed Arch, with the Splinters of an antique Door lying on the Ground some Distance away, as tho’ some mighty Giant had escaped from his Dungeon. Within all was Darkness, but Doctor Albertus walked in with an air of easy Familiarity with the Place. With his Torch he lit another on the Wall, and another after that; and in the dim Light I could see that we were in the Crypt of the Abbey Church. Gothick Tombs, with grotesque Statues, lay here and there, and on the Walls more Memorials, with Inscriptions in barbarous Latin.
As the Doctor lit more Torches, the Light grew brighter, and I could see at the far End of the vast Space, such a collection of Clockworks, Gears, and Tools, as must be the Envy of every Clockmaker in Europe.
“Here,” quoth Doctor Albertus, and his Voice echo’d in the great Chamber,—”Here I create mine own World of mechanicall Creatures: Tho’ without I am but a Man, within this Place I am a God.”
“’Tis a distasteful Comparison,” I reply’d: For I had not forgiven him for his Deception.
“And thou, Sir George,” he said (passing over my Remark), “thou alone hast seen it. Here I fashion those Toys, by the Sale of which I support mine Endeavors in more important Fields. Behold, Sir George,—behold the Eidos or Form, of which our Mistress Fanny Smith is but the visible Shadow.”
He indicated a large Object against the far Wall. My Mind could not at once form an Impression of what my Senses perceived. I beheld an upright Chest or Box of dark Wood, the Height perhaps eight or nine Feet; the Surface of which was so much crusted over with Gears, Levers, and other Protuberances, that the Form and Shape of the Object was obscured: I supposed for the Moment that I might be standing before some small Chamber, such as that Camera Obscura favored by certain Painters.
But what was my Horror, you may well imagine, when the Box or Chamber sent forth a Volley of the most appalling Noises, and began slowly to approach me, rolling on invisible Wheels. At once I recognized the Sound: For it was the strange and terrifying Noise I had heard in the Middle of the Night, when I first came to Grimthorne.
“Sir George (quoth Doctor Albertus), I present the Automaton.”
His Basso Profundo was easily able to penetrate the horrid Din, but I do not believe that I could have made my own Voice heard: Which Experiment I did not attempt, for the dreadfull clockwork Monstrosity still approached, and my natural Fear deprived me of the Power of Speech. Without any conscious Will, I began to move away, but the Monster turned and continued its Approach.
“Be not alarmed (quoth Doctor Albertus); she senses thy Presence, and wishes to make thine Acquaintance. She will not harm thee, tho’ ‘twould be nothing to her if she wished to harm thee. She has Power, but tempered by Gentleness. Stand thou there; she will greet thee.”
Indeed I did stand there: I should like to tell you that I summoned every Particle of my Courage, but in very Truth I believe I was rooted to the Spot, and in a Manner of Speaking astonished or petrified with Fear. The monstrous Clockwork, whirring and clacking and hissing like a hundred Serpents, came ever closer, until at last it came to rest with one of its multifarious Protuberances just touching my Chest. As soon as it touched me, a Bell somewhere inside the Monster rang twice.
Doctor Albertus laughed a bellowing Laugh. “She greets thee, Sir George, and ’twould be only proper Manners for thee to say how-d’ye-do in Return.”
“How do you do?” I asked; and my Voice betrayed me, so that I seemed to bleat like a Sheep. Doctor Albertus laughed once more.
“Ah, Sir George (quoth he), thou knowest now the Secret I have kept from the World, and now moreover thou seest that I am not quite the Fraud thou didst suppose me to be.”
He clapped thrice, and the Automaton began to move away from me along the same Course, returning to its former Position.
“Our Mistress Smith (he continued) is but the visible Symbol or Representative of the true Automaton, which thou seest here. I believe I have judged aright in supposing that the Publick would not be ready to make the Acquaintance of the true Automaton, which might inspire Terror where Mistress Smith inspires—shall I say Love? As the visible Automaton, our beautiful young Lady is not perpetrating a Falsehood; instead, she presents the Truth of the Automaton in symbolick Form, so that the ordinary Mind may the more readily comprehend it. But thou, Sir George, thou alone of all Humanity, thou hast seen the World to Come: For it is such Machines as this, which shall rule in that happy Time. The humane Form, which we regard as essential to the Intelligence of a Being, is, to speak in Aristotelian Terms, an Accident, or incidental Quality. Machines are made in such Forms as most befit their severall Functions; and here you behold my Automaton configured, not to imitate the Body of a Woman or of a Man, but to surpass it in Capability.”
Even now, as I recall to Memory the Form of that Creature, or machine,—for I know not which Term to use,—my Heart chills over, and I tremble with a nameless Horror. I have more to write, but my Fingers are frozen to the Bone; I shall end this Letter here, and write to you again on the Morrow. I confess, my dear Sister, That I know not what to think of these Revelations. But I know that
I remain, &c.