Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper

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Never mind. I bethought me of Democritus, and resolved to keep cool. At all events, the mystery of the ticking was explained. It was simply the sound of the gnawing and filing, and tapping of the bug, in eating its way out. It was satisfactory to think, that there was an end forever to the ticking. I resolved not to let the occasion pass without reaping some credit from it. I have put a stop to all that. Depend upon it, the ticking will trouble you no more. In vain she besought me to explain myself. I would not gratify her; being willing to balance any previous trepidation I might have betrayed, by leaving room now for the imputation of some heroic feat whereby I had silenced the ticking.

It was a sort of innocent deceit by implication, quite harmless, and, I thought, of utility. But when I went to breakfast, I saw my wife kneeling at the table again, and my girls looking ten times more frightened than ever. See this crack, too; and here is the ticking again, plainer than ever. The ticking was there.

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You have not been putting bugs into our tumblers? Oh, what does—what does it all mean? What have you been doing to the table? Here, involuntarily, I paused, fascinated by the expectant attitudes and bursting eyes of Julia and Anna. I'll never drink out of that tumbler; never put it before me, Biddy. A bug—a bug! Oh, Julia! Oh, mamma! I feel it crawling all over me, even now.

Haunted table! Is it a bug—a bug that can frighten you out of what little wits you ever had? Leave the room.

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I am astonished, I am pained by such childish conduct. She was silent. I began to think that the mystery of the thing began to tell even upon her. Yes, thought I, I shall presently see my wife shaking and shuddering, and, who knows, calling in some old dominie to exorcise the table, and drive out the spirits. Neither roach powder nor whipping will cure this table. It's a queer table, wife; there's no blinking it. That done, the cloth was again laid, and we sat down to our morning meal; but my daughters did not make their appearance.

Julia and Anna took no breakfast that day. When the cloth was removed, in a businesslike way, my wife went to work with a dark colored cement, and hermetically closed the little hole in the table. My daughters looking pale, I insisted upon taking them out for a walk that morning, when the following conversation ensued:. The spirit of Democritus was stronger on me now.

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By a curious coincidence, it strengthened with the strength of the sunlight. It is a very common thing for bugs to come out of wood. You yourself must have seen them coming out of the ends of the billets on the hearth. But the table is at least a hundred years old. Curiously enough, that had not occurred to me before. I had not thought of there being twins of bugs. But now, who knew; there might be even triplets. I resolved to take precautions, and, if there was to be a second bug, infallibly secure it. During the evening, the ticking was again heard.

About ten o'clock I clapped a tumbler over the spot, as near as I could judge of it by my ear. Then we all retired, and locking the door of the cedar-parlor, I put the key in my pocket. In the morning, nothing was to be seen, but the ticking was heard. The trepidation of my daughters returned.

They wanted to call in the neighbors. But to this my wife was vigorously opposed. We should be the laughing-stock of the whole town. So it was agreed that nothing should be disclosed.

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Biddy received strict charges; and, to make sure, was not allowed that week to go to confession, lest she should tell the priest. I stayed home all that day; every hour or [43] two bending over the table, both eye and ear. Towards night, I thought the ticking grew more distinct, and seemed divided from my ear by a thinner and thinner partition of the wood.

I thought, too, that I perceived a faint heaving up, or bulging of the wood, in the place where I had placed the tumbler. To put an end to the suspense, my wife proposed taking a knife and cutting into the wood there; but I had a less impatient plan; namely, that she and I should sit up with the table that night, as, from present symptoms, the bug would probably make its appearance before morning. For myself, I was curious to see the first advent of the thing—the first dazzle of the chick as it chipped the shell. The idea struck my wife not unfavorably.

She insisted that both Julia and Anna should be of the party, in order that the evidence of their senses should disabuse their minds of all nursery nonsense.

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For that spirits should tick, and that spirits should take unto themselves the form of bugs, was, to my wife, the most foolish of all foolish imaginations. True, she could not account for the thing; but she had all confidence that it could be, and would yet be, [44] somehow explained, and that to her entire satisfaction. Without knowing it herself, my wife was a female Democritus.

For my part, my present feelings were of a mixed sort. In a strange and not unpleasing way, I gently oscillated between Democritus and Cotton Mather. But to my wife and daughters I assumed to be pure Democritus—a jeerer at all tea-table spirits whatever. So, laying in a good supply of candles and crackers, all four of us sat up with the table, and at the same time sat round it.

For a while my wife and I carried on an animated conversation. But my daughters were silent. Then my wife and I would have had a rubber of whist, but my daughters could not be prevailed upon to join. So we played whist with two dummies literally; my wife won the rubber and, fatigued with victory, put away the cards. Half past eleven o'clock. No sign of the bug. The candles began to burn dim. My wife was just in the act of snuffing them, when a sudden, violent, hollow, resounding, rumbling, thumping was heard. It [45] was the watchman, first ringing down his club on the pavement, and then following it up with this highly satisfactory verbal announcement.

Indeed it was astonishing how brave as Bruce I felt in company with three women, and two of them half frightened out of their wits. In profound silence, I sat smoking, when lo! I told Biddy to wire the bottles to-day. Ticking pretty steady. Julia and Anna getting sleepy. Ticking regular, but not spirited. Wife, Julia, and Anna, all fast asleep in their chairs.

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Ticking faint. Myself feeling drowsy.

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The rest still asleep. She went to throw back the shutters, but ere it was done, a cry came from Julia.

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There, half in and half out its crack, there wriggled the bug, flashing in the room's general dimness, like a fiery opal. Had this bug had a tiny sword by its side—a Damascus sword—and a tiny necklace round its neck—a diamond necklace—and a tiny gun in its claw—brass gun—and a tiny manuscript in its mouth—a Chaldee manuscript—Julia and Anna could not have stood more charmed.

Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper
Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper
Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper
Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper
Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper Bloodbound: The Railroad Ripper

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