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
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
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
Hewson stopped looking. He
took out a little book and wrote a line
'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
They were only waxworks, so there was nothing to fear. But why
then did he feel so afraid, always thinking that they played games
with him? He turned round again quickly and met Bourdette's hard
eyes. Then suddenly, he turned back to look at Crippen. He nearly
caught Crippen moving that time.
'Be careful, Crippen - and all you others,' he said. 'If I do catch
you moving, I'm going to break your arms and legs off. Do you
'I can leave now,' he thought. ''I've got a lot to write about. A
good story - ten good stories! The Morning Times isn't going to
know how long I stayed here. They aren't interested. But the
watchman is going to laugh if he sees me leaving so early. And
then there's the money from Marriner - I don't want to lose that.'
But this was too hard. It was bad that the waxworks moved behind
your back. But it was worse that they could
breathe. Or was it
just his breathing, seeming to come from far away? These figures
seemed to be doing what children do in a lesson: talking, laughing
and playing when the person giving the lesson turns his back.
'There I go again,' he thought. 'I must think about other things.
I'm Raymond Hewson. I live and breathe. These figures round me
aren't living. They can't move and speak as I can. They're only
made of wax. They just stand there for old ladies and little boys
to look at.'
He began to feel better again. He tried to remember a good story a
friend told him last week.
He remembered some of it but not all. He had the feeling that
Bourdette's eyes were on him again. He must have a look.
He half-turned and then pulled his chair right round. Now, they were
face to face. As he spoke, his words seemed to fly back at him
from the darkest corners of the room.
'You moved, you little animal!' he screamed. 'Yes you did. I saw
Then he sat, looking in front of him, not moving, cold with fear.
Dr Bourdette moved his little body slowly and carefully. He got
down from his stand and sat right in front of Hewson. Then he
smiled and said in good English, 'Good evening. I did not know
that I was going to have a friend here tonight. Then I heard you
and Marriner talking. You cannot move or speak now until I tell
you. But you can hear me quite easily, I know. Something tells me
that you are - let's say, a little afraid of me. Make no mistake,
sir. I am not one of these poor dead figures suddenly turned into
a living thing. Oh no. I am Dr Bourdette in person.'
He stopped and moved his legs.
'I am sorry but my arms and legs are quite tired. I don't want
take up your time with my uninteresting story. I can just say that
some unusual happenings brought me to England. I was near this
building this evening, when I saw a policeman looking at me too
closely. I thought perhaps he wanted to ask me some difficult
questions, so I quickly came in here with all the other visitors.
Then I had a very good idea. I told somebody that I saw smoke.
Everybody ran out into the street, thinking there was a fire. I
stayed here. I
undressed that figure of me, put on its coat and
quickly put the figure at the back of the room, where nobody could
see it. Then I took its place here on the stand.
'I must say that I had a very tiring evening. But luckily the
people didn't watch me all the time. I could breathe sometimes and
move my arms and legs a little.
'What Marriner said about me was not very nice, you know. But he
was right about one thing - I am not dead. It's important that the
world thinks I am. What he said about my doings is mostly right,
too. Most people, you know, collect something or other. Some
collect books, some collect money, others collect pictures or
train tickets. And me? I collect
He stopped talking for a minute and looked at Hewson's throat
carefully. He did not seem to think it was a very good one.
'I'm happy you came tonight,' he
went on. 'You mustn't think that
I don't want you here. It was difficult for me to do any
interesting "collecting" over the last few months. So
now I'm happy
go back to my usual work. I'm sorry to see that
your throat is a little thin, sir. Perhaps that is not a nice
thing to say. But I like men with big throats best. Big, thick,
He took something from his coat, looked at it closely and ran it
across his wet finger. Then he moved it slowly up and down over
his open hand.
'This is a little French
razor,' he said quietly. 'Perhaps you
know them. They do not cut very far into the throat but they cut
very cleanly, I find. In just a minute, I am going to show you how
well they cut. But first, I must ask the question that I always
ask: is the razor to your liking, sir?'
He stood up: small and very dangerous. He walked over to Hewson as
slowly and quietly as a cat going after a bird.
'Please be so good as to put your head back a little. Thank you.
And now a little more. Just a little more. Ah, thank you! That's
right, Monsieur... Thank you... Thank you...'
At one end of the room is a small window. In the daytime it gives
a weak light. After the sun
comes up, this new light makes the
room seem sadder and dirtier than before.
The waxwork figures stand in their places, with unseeing eyes.
Soon the visitors are going to arrive. They are going to walk
round, looking at this figure or that. But today in the centre of
the room, Hewson sits with his head far back in his armchair. His
face is up, ready for the razor. There is no cut on his throat or
anywhere on his body. But he is cold. Dead.
And Dr Bourdette watches the dead man from his stand, without any
show of feeling. He does not move. He cannot move. But then, he is
only a waxwork.