The waxwork (alfred burrage)

A new waxwork, Dr Bourdette, had just been moved in, and earlier that day there had been some talk of a fire in the room. The night watchman brought the armchair for Hewson. He tried to make him laugh.

‘Where do I put it, sir?’ he asked. ‘Just here? Then you can talk to Dr Crippen, when you get tired of doing nothing. Or there’s old Mrs Dyer over there making eyes at you. She usually likes to have a man to talk to. Just tell me where, sir.’
Hewson smiled. The man’s words made him feel happier – tonight’s work didn’t seem quite so difficult.
‘I can choose a place for it, thank you,’ he said.
‘Well, goodnight, sir. I’m on the floor above if you want me. Don’t let any of these figures come up behind you and put their cold hands round your throat. And look out for that old Mrs Dyer. I think she finds you interesting.’
Hewson laughed and said goodnight to the man.

After

some thought, he put the armchair with its back to Dr Bourdette. He couldn’t say why but Bourdette was much worse to look at than the other figures. He felt quite happy as he put the chair in its place. But as the watchman’s feet died away, he thought of the long night in front of him. Weak light lit the lines of figures. They seemed near to being living people. The big dark room was very quiet. Hewson wanted to hear the usual sounds of people talking and moving about, but there was nothing. Not a movement. Not a sound.

‘I feel I’m on the floor of the sea,’ he thought. ‘I must remember to put that into my story.’
He looked without much interest at the unmoving figures all round him. But before long, he felt those eyes again, the hard eyes of Bourdette, looking at him from behind. He wanted more and more to turn round and look at the figure.
‘This is all wrong,’ he thought. ‘If I turn round now, it only shows that I’m afraid.’
And then he heard another person speaking inside his head. ‘It’s just because you are afraid, that you can’t turn round and look.’
These different thoughts seemed to be fighting inside him.

Finally, Hewson turned his chair a little and looked behind him. Of the many figures standing there, the figure of the little doctor seemed the most important. Perhaps this was because a stronger light came down on the place where he stood. Hewson looked at the face so cleverly made in wax. His eyes met the figure’s eyes. He quickly turned away.
He’s only a waxwork, the same as the others,’ Hewson said quietly.

They were only waxworks, yes. But waxworks do not move. He didn’t see any of them moving. But he did think that now the figures in front of him seemed to be standing a little differently. Crippen was one. Was his body turned a little more to the left? ‘Or,’ he thought, ‘perhaps my chair isn’t quite in the same place after turning round.’

Hewson stopped looking. He took out a little book and wrote a line or two.
‘Everything quiet. Feel I’m on the floor of the sea. Bourdette trying to send me to sleep with his eyes. Figures seem to move when you’re not watching.’
He closed the book and quickly looked to his right. He saw only the wax face of Lefroy, looking back at him with a sorry smile.

It was just his fears. Or was it? Didn’t Crippen move again as he looked away? He just waited for you to take your eyes off him, them made his move. ‘That’s what they all do. I know it!’ he thought. ‘It’s too much!’ He started to get up from his chair. He must leave immediately. He couldn’t stay all night with a lot of murderers, moving about when he wasn’t looking!

Hewson sat down again. He must not be so jumpy.



The waxwork (alfred burrage)