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When the King Loses His Head and Other Stories

Library of Alexandria
There stood once in a public place a black tower with massive fortress-like walls and a few grim bastioned windows. It had been built by robber barons, but time swept them into the beyond, and the tower became partly a prison for dangerous criminals and grave offenders, and partly a residence. In the course of centuries new structures were added to it, and were buttressed against the massive walls of the tower and against one another; little by little it assumed the dimensions of a fair sized town set on a rock, with a broken skyline of chimneys, turrets and pointed roofs. When the sky gleamed green in the west there appeared, here and there, lights in the various parts of the tower. The gloomy pile assumed quaint and fanciful contours, and it somehow seemed that at its foot there stretched not an ordinary pavement, but the waves of the sea, the salty and shoreless ocean. And the picture brought to one's mind the shapes of the past, long since dead and forgotten. An immense ancient clock, which could be seen from afar, was set in the tower. Its complicated mechanism occupied an entire story of the structure, and it was under the care of a one-eyed man who could use a magnifying glass with expert skill. This was the reason why he had become a clockmaker and had tinkered for years with small timepieces before he was given charge of the large clock. Here he felt at home and happy. Often, at odd hours, without apparent need he would enter the room where the wheels, the gears and the levers moved deliberately, and where the immense pendulum cleft the air with wide and even sweep.