“The professor is expecting you, sir,” she said.
“Archy, my friend!” came a loud voice a moment later from the inner doorway. “How delightful that you could join me.”
Professor Haversham swept into the room, a bottle of champagne in one hand, two flutes in the other. Placing the glasses on an end-table, he popped the cork and poured. “Success!” he said, and tilted back his glass.
Bemused, I echoed his toast. “I must confess,” I added, “that I am quite at a loss. Your request induced me to board the first train to town, and your greeting implies some celebration, but so far I have not a clue as to the cause.”
“I want you to witness something that the world has never before seen,” he said, pouring himself another glass. “A machine like no other.”
“You’ve invented the chess-playing automaton?” I asked—for such, indeed, was the challenge of the age. Modern scientific engineering stood poised on the verge of turning Von Kempelen’s Mechanical Turk from hoax to reality, and competition was fierce among the savants of the city.
“No, no, dear boy. Better. Come, let me show you.” The professor led the way, up two flights of stairs, to a combination workshop and laboratory under the garret. Boxes, jars, and tools filled shelves along three walls, while the fourth held a chalkboard covered with mathematical formulae and schematic diagrams. Benches and tables were piled with papers, electrical apparatus, and chemical flasks. Notebooks, opened, lay scattered on the floor. A sheeted object stood on a pedestal against the far wall.
“Archy,” Haversham said to me, “have you any pocket change?”
“Yes, but what has that to do…?”
“Everything.” He whipped away the sheet to reveal what appeared to be a human arm and hand, attached to an iron framework. Pneumatic tubes ran into the arm, connected to pressure bottles and a baffling array of mechanical switches. Palm up, elbow slightly bent, the arm extended into the room.
“Here,” Haversham said. “I have no idea what money you have in your pocket, do I? No way of knowing in advance, will you grant me as much?”
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Recent Posts by Dr. Doyle: Dr. Doyle's Blog
Originally posted on Madhouse Manor:
It is with great sorrow that I report that Debra Doyle, my beloved bride of 42 years, died this evening at 1841 hours. She died of an apparent cardiac event, at home, in my arms. Doyle at Hadrian’s Wall Update, 01NOV20: GoFundMe for funeral expenses (organized by Pippin)
Under normal circumstances, I’m not a political animal. If there’s a gene for passionate political engagement, I don’t have it. I vote, I pay my taxes, I serve on a jury if I’m called, and I try to behave myself in public so as not to disturb the peace. But these, as has been amply […]
The first snowfall of Winter 2020. At the time of this picture, the depth was 4 inches of heavy wet stuff. The road crews were talking about how thing were “getting greasy” out, and how somebody had to put on their chains up by Beaver Brook Falls. And just now the Errol Fire Department got […]