A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins

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BBC Radio 7, 14-15 October 2009
This ghostly tale, read by the late Robin Bailey, opened in France where a young adventurer enjoyed unprecedented success at the gambling-table. Try as he might, he could not help but win; eventually he broke the bank. On his way out of the casino with a bag chock-full of gold coins, the young man was accosted by an old soldier; after a while the two of them repaired to a local hostelry where they quaffed champagne in such quantities that the young man felt ın no fit state to return home. The old soldier persuaded him to go to a local lodging-house and sleep in what looked like a very comfortable four poster bed. However all was not what it seemed; as the young man slept, he became aware that the top of the bed was gradually moving towards him, if he did not move quickly, he could be suffocated. In the nick of time he managed to roll off the bed and call the police. It eventually emerged that the soldier was a member of a gang of criminals who deliberately inveigled their victims to sleep in the bed, murdered them and ran off with their money (the top of the bed was operated hydraulically by a system of pulleys concealed in the ceiling).
This macabre story depended for much of its effect on an awareness of the distinctions separating rich and poor in a capitalist society. For every person fortunate enough to acquire quick riches, there are another ten plotting to deprive them. Money is a double-edged sword; it gives people the power to spend, but it can also provoke jealousy. It was fortunate that Collins' protagonist escaped a grisly end, although there was no guarantee that the same thing might not happen to him in the future.