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Title: Masterpieces of Mystery, Vol. 1 (of 4) - Ghost Stories
Author: French, Joseph Lewis, 1858-1936 [Editor]
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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   MASTERPIECES OF MYSTERY



       Masterpieces of
           Mystery

      _In Four Volumes_

        GHOST STORIES

          Edited by
     Joseph Lewis French


   Garden City    New York
  Doubleday, Page & Company
            1922



COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION

INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES

AT

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



NOTE


The Editor desires especially to acknowledge assistance in granting the
use of original material, and for helpful advice and suggestion, to
Professor Brander Matthews of Columbia University, to Mrs. Anna
Katherine Green Rohlfs, to Cleveland Moffett, to Arthur Reeve, creator
of "Craig Kennedy," to Wilbur Daniel Steele, to Ralph Adams Cram, to
Chester Bailey Fernald, to Brian Brown, to Mrs. Lillian M. Robins of the
publisher's office, and to Charles E. Farrington of the Brooklyn Public
Library.



FOREWORD


The ghost story is as old as human speech,--and perhaps even antedates
it. A naïve acceptance of the supernatural was unquestionably one of the
primal attributes of human intelligence. The ghost story may thus quite
conceivably be the first form of tale ever invented. It makes its
appearance comparatively early in the annals of literature. Who that has
read it is likely to forget Pliny's account in a letter to an intimate
of an apparition shortly after death to a mutual acquaintance? Old books
of tales and legends are full of the ghost story. It has persisted
throughout the ages. It began to attain some real standing in
literature,--to take its definite place,--a little more than a century
ago. Like the apparition it embodies it had always been--and is still
to-day even--more or less discredited. Mrs. Radcliffe gave it a new
being and even a certain dignity in her "Castle of Otranto"; and after
her came Sir Walter Scott who frankly surrendered to the power and charm
of the theme. The line of succession has been continuous. The ghost has
held his own with his human fellow in fiction, and his tale has been
told with increasing skill as the art of the writer has developed.
To-day the case for the ghost as an element in fiction is an exceedingly
strong one. There has indeed sprung into being within a couple of
decades a new school of such writers. Nowadays almost every fictionist
of account produces one good thriller at least of this sort. The
temptation is irresistible for the simple reason that the theme imposes
absolutely no limit on the imagination.

The reader will find here a careful selection illustrating the growth in
art of this exotic in literature during the past fifty years, and for a
contrast, spanning the centuries, the naïve narration of Pliny the
Younger.

                                             JOSEPH LEWIS FRENCH.



CONTENTS


                                        PAGE

     I. THE LISTENER                       3
           _Algernon Blackwood_

    II. NUMBER 13                         45
           _Montague Rhodes James_

   III. JOSEPH: A STORY                   70
           _Katherine Rickford_

    IV. THE HORLA                         84
           _Guy de Maupassant_

     V. THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS      123
           _William F. Harvey_

    VI. SISTER MADDELENA                 167
           _Ralph Adams Cram_

   VII. THRAWN JANET                     191
           _Robert Louis Stevenson_

  VIII. THE YELLOW CAT                   207
           _Wilbur Daniel Steele_

    IX. LETTER TO SURA                   237
           _Pliny the Younger_



MASTERPIECES OF MYSTERY



Masterpieces of Mystery

_GHOST STORIES_



THE LISTENER[A]

ALGERNON BLACKWOOD


Sept. 4.--I have hunted all over London for rooms suited to my
income--£120 a year--and have at last found them. Two rooms, without
modern conveniences, it is true, and in an old, ramshackle building, but
within a stone's throw of P-- Place and in an eminently respectable
street. The rent is only £25 a year. I had begun to despair when at last
I found them by chance. The chance was a mere chance, and unworthy of
record. I had to sign a lease for a year, and I did so willingly. The
furniture from our old place in H--shire, which has been stored so long,
will just suit them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 1.--Here I am in my two rooms, in the centre of London, and not far
from the offices of the periodicals where occasionally I dispose of an
article or two. The building is at the end of a _cul-de-sac_. The alley
is well paved and clean, and lined chiefly with the backs of sedate and
institutional-looking buildings. There is a stable in it. My own house
is dignified with the title of "Chambers." I feel as if one day the
honour must prove too much for it, and it will swell with pride--and
fall asunder. It is very old. The floor of my sitting-room has valleys
and low hills on it, and the top of the door slants away from the
ceiling with a glorious disregard of what is usual. They must have
quarrelled--fifty years ago--and have been going apart ever since.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 2.--My landlady is old and thin, with a faded, dusty face. She is
uncommunicative. The few words she utters seem to cost her pain.
Probably her lungs are half choked with dust. She keeps my rooms as free
from this commodity as possible, and has the assistance of a strong girl
who brings up the breakfast and lights the fire. As I have said already,
she is not communicative. In reply to pleasant efforts on my part she
informed me briefly that I was the only occupant of the house at
present. My rooms had not been occupied for some years. There had been
other gentlemen upstairs, but they had left.

She never looks straight at me when she speaks, but fixes her dim eyes
on my middle waistcoat button, till I get nervous and begin to think it
isn't on straight, or is the wrong sort of button altogether.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 8.--My week's book is nicely kept, and so far is reasonable. Milk
and sugar 7d., bread 6d., butter 8d., marmalade 6d., eggs 1s. 8d.,
laundress 2s. 9d., oil 6d., attendance 5s.; total 12s. 2d.

The landlady has a son who, she told me, is "somethink on a homnibus."
He comes occasionally to see her. I think he drinks, for he talks very
loud, regardless of the hour of the day or night, and tumbles about over
the furniture downstairs.

All the morning I sit indoors writing--articles; verses for the comic
papers; a novel I've been "at" for three years, and concerning which I
have dreams; a children's book, in which the imagination has free rein;
and another book which is to last as long as myself, since it is an
honest record of my soul's advance or retreat in the struggle of life.
Besides these, I keep a book of poems which I use as a safety valve, and
concerning which I have no dreams whatsoever. Between the lot I am
always occupied. In the afternoons I generally try to take a walk for my
health's sake, through Regent's Park, into Kensington Gardens, or
farther afield to Hampstead Heath.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 10.--Everything went wrong to-day. I have two eggs for breakfast.
This morning one of them was bad. I rang the bell for Emily. When she
came in I was reading the paper, and, without looking up, I said, "Egg's
bad." "Oh, is it, sir?" she said; "I'll get another one," and went out,
taking the egg with her. I waited my breakfast for her return, which was
in five minutes. She put the new egg on the table and went away. But,
when I looked down, I saw that she had taken away the good egg and left
the bad one--all green and yellow--in the slop basin. I rang again.

"You've taken the wrong egg," I said.

"Oh!" she exclaimed; "I thought the one I took down didn't smell so
_very_ bad." In due time she returned with the good egg, and I resumed
my breakfast with two eggs, but less appetite. It was all very trivial,
to be sure, but so stupid that I felt annoyed. The character of that egg
influenced everything I did. I wrote a bad article, and tore it up. I
got a bad headache. I used bad words--to myself. Everything was bad, so
I "chucked" work and went for a long walk.

I dined at a cheap chop-house on my way back, and reached home about
nine o'clock.

Rain was just beginning to fall as I came in, and the wind was rising.
It promised an ugly night. The alley looked dismal and dreary, and the
hall of the house, as I passed through it, felt chilly as a tomb. It was
the first stormy night I had experienced in my new quarters. The
draughts were awful. They came criss-cross, met in the middle of the
room, and formed eddies and whirlpools and cold silent currents that
almost lifted the hair of my head. I stuffed up the sashes of the
windows with neckties and odd socks, and sat over the smoky fire to keep
warm. First I tried to write, but found it too cold. My hand turned to
ice on the paper.

What tricks the wind did play with the old place! It came rushing up the
forsaken alley with a sound like the feet of a hurrying crowd of people
who stopped suddenly at the door. I felt as if a lot of curious folk had
arranged themselves just outside and were staring up at my windows. Then
they took to their heels again and fled whispering and laughing down the
lane, only, however, to return with the next gust of wind and repeat
their impertinence. On the other side of my room, a single square window
opens into a sort of shaft, or well, that measures about six feet across
to the back wall of another house. Down this funnel the wind dropped,
and puffed and shouted. Such noises I never heard before. Between these
two entertainments I sat over the fire in a great-coat, listening to the
deep booming in the chimney. It was like being in a ship at sea, and I
almost looked for the floor to rise in undulations and rock to and fro.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 12.--I wish I were not quite so lonely--and so poor. And yet I love
both my loneliness and my poverty. The former makes me appreciate the
companionship of the wind and rain, while the latter preserves my liver
and prevents me wasting time in dancing attendance upon women. Poor,
ill-dressed men are not acceptable "attendants."

My parents are dead, and my only sister is--no, not dead exactly, but
married to a very rich man. They travel most of the time, he to find his
health, she to lose herself. Through sheer neglect on her part she has
long passed out of my life. The door closed when, after an absolute
silence of five years, she sent me a cheque for £50 at Christmas. It was
signed by her husband! I returned it to her in a thousand pieces and in
an unstamped envelope. So at least I had the satisfaction of knowing
that it cost her something! She wrote back with a broad quill pen that
covered a whole page with three lines, "You are evidently as cracked as
ever, and rude and ungrateful into the bargain." It had always been my
special terror lest the insanity in my father's family should leap
across the generations and appear in me. This thought haunted me, and
she knew it. So after this little exchange of civilities the door
slammed, never to open again. I heard the crash it made, and, with it,
the falling from the walls of my heart of many little bits of china with
their own peculiar value--rare china, some of it, that only needed
dusting. The same walls, too, carried mirrors in which I used sometimes
to see reflected the misty lawns of childhood, the daisy chains, the
wind-torn blossoms scattered through the orchard by warm rains, the
robbers' cave in the long walk, and the hidden store of apples in the
hay-loft. She was my inseparable companion then--but, when the door
slammed, the mirrors cracked across their entire length, and the visions
they held vanished for ever. Now I am quite alone. At forty one cannot
begin all over again to build up careful friendships, and all others are
comparatively worthless.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 14.--My bedroom is 10 by 10. It is below the level of the front
room, and a step leads down into it. Both rooms are very quiet on calm
nights, for there is no traffic down this forsaken alley-way. In spite
of the occasional larks of the wind, it is a most sheltered strip. At
its upper end, below my windows, all the cats of the neighbourhood
congregate as soon as darkness gathers. They lie undisturbed on the long
ledge of a blind window of the opposite building, for after the postman
has come and gone at 9:30, no footsteps ever dare to interrupt their
sinister conclave, no step but my own, or sometimes the unsteady
footfall of the son who "is somethink on a homnibus."

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 15.--I dined at an "A. B. C." shop on poached eggs and coffee, and
then went for a stroll round the outer edge of Regent's Park. It was ten
o'clock when I got home. I counted no less than thirteen cats, all of a
dark colour, crouching under the lee side of the alley walls. It was a
cold night, and the stars shone like points of ice in a blue-black sky.
The cats turned their heads and stared at me in silence as I passed. An
odd sensation of shyness took possession of me under the glare of so
many pairs of unblinking eyes. As I fumbled with the latch-key they
jumped noiselessly down and pressed against my legs, as if anxious to be
let in. But I slammed the door in their faces and ran quickly upstairs.
The front room, as I entered to grope for the matches, felt as cold as a
stone vault, and the air held an unusual dampness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 17.--For several days I have been working on a ponderous article
that allows no play for the fancy. My imagination requires a judicious
rein; I am afraid to let it loose, for it carries me sometimes into
appalling places beyond the stars and beneath the world. No one realizes
the danger more than I do. But what a foolish thing to write here--for
there is no one to know, no one to realize! My mind of late has held
unusual thoughts, thoughts I have never had before, about medicines and
drugs and the treatment of strange illnesses. I cannot imagine their
source. At no time in my life have I dwelt upon such ideas as now
constantly throng my brain. I have had no exercise lately, for the
weather has been shocking; and all my afternoons have been spent in the
reading-room of the British Museum, where I have a reader's ticket.

I have made an unpleasant discovery: there are rats in the house. At
night from my bed I have heard them scampering across the hills and
valleys of the front room, and my sleep has been a good deal disturbed
in consequence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 24.--Last night the son who is "somethink on a homnibus" came in.
He had evidently been drinking, for I heard loud and angry voices below
in the kitchen long after I had gone to bed. Once, too, I caught the
singular words rising up to me through the floor, "Burning from top to
bottom is the only thing that'll ever make this 'ouse right." I knocked
on the floor, and the voices ceased suddenly, though later I again heard
their clamour in my dreams.

These rooms are very quiet, almost too quiet sometimes. On windless
nights they are silent as the grave, and the house might be miles in the
country. The roar of London's traffic reaches me only in heavy, distant
vibrations. It holds an ominous note sometimes, like that of an
approaching army, or an immense tidal-wave very far away thundering in
the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 27.--Mrs. Monson, though admirably silent, is a foolish, fussy
woman. She does such stupid things. In dusting the room she puts all my
things in the wrong places. The ash-trays, which should be on the
writing-table she sets in a silly row on the mantelpiece. The pen-tray,
which should be beside the inkstand, she hides away cleverly among the
books on my reading-desk. My gloves she arranges daily in idiotic array
upon a half-filled bookshelf, and I always have to rearrange them on the
low table by the door. She places my armchair at impossible angles
between the fire and the light, and the tablecloth--the one with Trinity
Hall stains--she puts on the table in such a fashion that when I look at
it I feel as if my tie and all my clothes were on crooked and awry. She
exasperates me. Her very silence and meekness are irritating. Sometimes
I feel inclined to throw the inkstand at her, just to bring an
expression into her watery eyes and a squeak from those colourless lips.
Dear me! What violent expressions I am making use of! How very foolish
of me! And yet it almost seems as if the words were not my own, but had
been spoken into my ear--I mean, I never make use of such terms
naturally.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oct. 30.--I have been here a month. The place does not agree with me, I
think. My headaches are more frequent and violent, and my nerves are a
perpetual source of discomfort and annoyance.

I have conceived a great dislike for Mrs. Monson, a feeling I am certain
she reciprocates. Somehow, the impression comes frequently to me that
there are goings on in this house of which I know nothing, and which she
is careful to hide from me.

Last night her son slept in the house, and this morning as I was
standing at the window I saw him go out. He glanced up and caught my
eye. It was a loutish figure and a singularly repulsive face that I
saw, and he gave me the benefit of a very unpleasant leer. At least, so
I imagined.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 2.--The utter stillness of this house is beginning to oppress me. I
wish there were other fellows living upstairs. No footsteps ever sound
overhead, and no tread ever passes my door to go up the next flight of
stairs. I am beginning to feel some curiosity to go up myself and see
what the upper rooms are like. I feel lonely here and isolated, swept
into a deserted corner of the world and forgotten.... Once I actually
caught myself gazing into the long, cracked mirrors, trying to see the
sunlight dancing beneath the trees in the orchard. But only deep shadows
seemed to congregate there now, and I soon desisted.

It has been very dark all day, and no wind stirring. The fogs have
begun. I had to use a reading-lamp all this morning. There was no cart
to be heard to-day. I actually missed it. This morning, in the gloom and
silence, I think I could almost have welcomed it. After all, the sound
is a very human one, and this empty house at the end of the alley holds
other noises that are not quite so satisfactory.

I have never once seen a policeman in the lane, and the postmen always
hurry out with no evidence of a desire to loiter.

10 P.M.--As I write this I hear no sound but the deep murmur of the
distant traffic and the low sighing of the wind. The two sounds melt
into one another. Now and again a cat raises its shrill, uncanny cry
upon the darkness. The cats are always there under my windows when the
darkness falls. The wind is dropping into the funnel with a noise like
the sudden sweeping of immense distant wings. It is a dreary night. I
feel lost and forgotten.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 3.--From my windows I can see arrivals. When anyone comes to the
door I can just see the hat and shoulders and the hand on the bell. Only
two fellows have been to see me since I came here two months ago. Both
of them I saw from the window before they came up, and heard their
voices asking if I was in. Neither of them ever came back.

I have finished the ponderous article. On reading it through, however, I
was dissatisfied with it, and drew my pencil through almost every page.
There were strange expressions and ideas in it that I could not explain,
and viewed with amazement, not to say alarm. They did not sound like my
_very own_, and I could not remember having written them. Can it be that
my memory is beginning to be affected?

My pens are never to be found. That stupid old woman puts them in a
different place each day. I must give her due credit for finding so many
new hiding places; such ingenuity is wonderful. I have told her
repeatedly, but she always says, "I'll speak to Emily, sir." Emily
always says, "I'll tell Mrs. Monson, sir." Their foolishness makes me
irritable and scatters all my thoughts. I should like to stick the lost
pens into them and turn them out, blind-eyed, to be scratched and mauled
by those thousand hungry cats. Whew! What a ghastly thought! Where in
the world did it come from? Such an idea is no more my own than it is
the policeman's. Yet I felt I _had_ to write it. It was like a voice
singing in my head, and my pen wouldn't stop till the last word was
finished. What ridiculous nonsense! I must and will restrain myself. I
must take more regular exercise; my nerves and liver plague me horribly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 4.--I attended a curious lecture in the French quarter on "Death,"
but the room was so hot and I was so weary that I fell asleep. The only
part I heard, however, touched my imagination vividly. Speaking of
suicides, the lecturer said that self-murder was no escape from the
miseries of the present, but only a preparation of greater sorrow for
the future. Suicides, he declared, cannot shirk their responsibilities
so easily. They must return to take up life exactly where they laid it
so violently down, but with the added pain and punishment of their
weakness. Many of them wander the earth in unspeakable misery till they
can _reclothe_ themselves in the body of some one else--generally a
lunatic or weak-minded person, who cannot resist the hideous obsession.
This is their only means of escape. Surely a weird and horrible idea! I
wish I had slept all the time and not heard it at all. My mind is morbid
enough without such ghastly fancies. Such mischievous propaganda should
be stopped by the police. I'll write to the _Times_ and suggest it. Good
idea!

I walked home through Greek Street, Soho, and imagined that a hundred
years had slipped back into place and De Quincey was still there,
haunting the night with invocations to his "just, subtle, and mighty"
drug. His vast dreams seemed to hover not very far away. Once started in
my brain, the pictures refused to go away; and I saw him sleeping in
that cold, tenantless mansion with the strange little waif who was
afraid of its ghosts, both together in the shadows under a single
horseman's cloak; or wandering in the companionship of the spectral
Anne; or, later still, on his way to the eternal rendezvous she never
was able to keep. What an unutterable gloom, what an untold horror of
sorrow and suffering comes over me as I try to realize something of what
that man--boy he then was--must have taken into his lonely heart.

As I came up the alley I saw a light in the top window, and a head and
shoulders thrown in an exaggerated shadow upon the blind. I wondered
what the son could be doing up there at such an hour.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 5.--This morning, while writing, some one came up the creaking
stairs and knocked cautiously at my door. Thinking it was the landlady,
I said, "Come in!" The knock was repeated, and I cried louder, "Come in,
come in!" But no one turned the handle, and I continued my writing with
a vexed "Well, stay out, then!" under my breath. Went on writing. I
tried to, but my thoughts had suddenly dried up at their source. I could
not set down a single word. It was a dark, yellow-fog morning, and there
was little enough inspiration in the air as it was, but that stupid
woman standing just outside my door waiting to be told again to come in
roused a spirit of vexation that filled my head to the exclusion of all
else. At last I jumped up and opened the door myself.

"What do you want, and why in the world don't you come in?" I cried out.
But the words dropped into empty air. There was no one there. The fog
poured up the dingy staircase in deep yellow coils, but there was no
sign of a human being anywhere.

I slammed the door, with imprecations upon the house and its noises, and
went back to my work. A few minutes later Emily came in with a letter.

"Were you or Mrs. Monson outside a few minutes ago knocking at my door?"

"No, sir."

"Are you sure?"

"Mrs. Monson's gone to market, and there's no one but me and the child
in the 'ole 'ouse, and I've been washing the dishes for the last hour,
sir."

I fancied the girl's face turned a shade paler. She fidgeted toward the
door with a glance over her shoulder.

"Wait, Emily," I said, and then told her what I had heard. She stared
stupidly at me, though her eyes shifted now and then over the articles
in the room.

"Who was it?" I asked when I had come to the end.

"Mrs. Monson says it's honly mice," she said, as if repeating a learned
lesson.

"Mice!" I exclaimed; "it's nothing of the sort. Someone was feeling
about outside my door. Who was it? Is the son in the house?"

Her whole manner changed suddenly, and she became earnest instead of
evasive. She seemed anxious to tell the truth.

"Oh, no, sir; there's no one in the house at all but you and me and the
child, and there couldn't have been nobody at your door. As for them
knocks--" She stopped abruptly, as though she had said too much.

"Well, what about the knocks?" I said more gently.

"Of course," she stammered, "the knocks isn't mice, nor the footsteps
neither, but then--" Again she came to a full halt.

"Anything wrong with the house?"

"Lor', no, sir; the drains is splendid."

"I don't mean drains, girl. I mean, did anything--anything bad ever
happen here?"

She flushed up to the roots of her hair, and then turned suddenly pale
again. She was obviously in considerable distress, and there was
something she was anxious, yet afraid to tell--some forbidden thing she
was not allowed to mention.

"I don't mind what it was, only I should like to know," I said
encouragingly.

Raising her frightened eyes to my face, she began to blurt out something
about "that which 'appened once to a gentleman that lived hupstairs,"
when a shrill voice calling her name sounded below.

"Emily, Emily!" It was the returning landlady, and the girl tumbled
downstairs as if pulled backward by a rope, leaving me full of
conjectures as to what in the world could have happened to a gentleman
_upstairs_ that could in so curious a manner affect my ears
_downstairs_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 10.--I have done capital work; have finished the ponderous article
and had it accepted for the _---- Review_, and another one ordered. I
feel well and cheerful, and have had regular exercise and good sleep; no
headaches, no nerves, no liver! Those pills the chemist recommended are
wonderful. Even the gray-faced landlady rouses pity in me; I am sorry
for her: so worn, so weary, so oddly put together, just like the
building. She looks as if she had once suffered some shock of terror,
and was momentarily dreading another. When I spoke to her to-day very
gently about not putting the pens in the ash-tray and the gloves on the
book-shelf she raised her faint eyes to mine for the first time, and
said with the ghost of a smile, "I'll try and remember, sir," I felt
inclined to pat her on the back and say, "Come, cheer up and be jolly.
Life's not so bad after all." Oh! I am much better. There's nothing like
open air and success and good sleep. They build up as if by magic the
portions of the heart eaten down by despair and unsatisfied yearnings.
Even to the cats I feel friendly. When I came in at eleven o'clock
to-night they followed me to the door in a stream, and I stooped down to
stroke the one nearest to me. Bah! The brute hissed and spat, and struck
at me with her paws. The claw caught my hand and drew blood in a thin
line. The others danced sideways into the darkness, screeching, as
though I had done them an injury. I believe these cats really hate me.
Perhaps they are only waiting to be reinforced. Then they will attack
me. Ha, ha! In spite of the momentary annoyance, this fancy sent me
laughing upstairs to my room.

The fire was out, and the room seemed unusually cold. As I groped my way
over to the mantelpiece to find the matches I realized all at once that
there was another person standing beside me in the darkness. I could, of
course, see nothing, but my fingers, feeling along the ledge, came into
forcible contact with something that was at once withdrawn. It was cold
and moist. I could have sworn it was somebody's hand. My flesh began to
creep instantly.

"Who's that?" I exclaimed in a loud voice.

My voice dropped into the silence like a pebble into a deep well. There
was no answer, but at the same moment I heard someone moving away from
me across the room in the direction of the door. It was a confused sort
of footstep, and the sound of garments brushing the furniture on the
way. The same second my hand stumbled upon the matchbox, and I struck a
light. I expected to see Mrs. Monson, or Emily, or perhaps the son who
is something on an omnibus. But the flare of the gas jet illumined an
empty room; there was not a sign of a person anywhere. I felt the hair
stir upon my head, and instinctively I backed up against the wall, lest
something should approach me from behind. I was distinctly alarmed. But
the next minute I recovered myself. The door was open on to the landing,
and I crossed the room, not without some inward trepidation, and went
out. The light from the room fell upon the stairs, but there was no one
to be seen anywhere, nor was there any sound on the creaking wooden
staircase to indicate a departing creature.

I was in the act of turning to go in again when a sound overhead caught
my ear. It was a very faint sound, not unlike the sigh of wind; yet it
could not have been the wind, for the night was still as the grave.
Though it was not repeated, I resolved to go upstairs and see for myself
what it all meant. Two senses had been affected--touch and hearing--and
I could not believe that I had been deceived. So, with a lighted candle,
I went stealthily forth on my unpleasant journey into the upper regions
of this queer little old house.

On the first landing there was only one door, and it was locked. On the
second there was also only one door, but when I turned the handle it
opened. There came forth to meet me the chill musty air that is
characteristic of a long unoccupied room. With it there came an
indescribable odour. I use the adjective advisedly. Though very faint,
diluted as it were, it was nevertheless an odour that made my gorge
rise. I had never smelt anything like it before, and I cannot describe
it.

The room was small and square, close under the roof, with a sloping
ceiling and two tiny windows. It was cold as the grave, without a shred
of carpet or a stick of furniture. The icy atmosphere and the nameless
odour combined to make the room abominable to me, and, after lingering a
moment to see that it contained no cupboards or corners into which a
person might have crept for concealment, I made haste to shut the door,
and went downstairs again to bed. Evidently I had been deceived after
all as to the noise.

In the night I had a foolish but very vivid dream. I dreamed that the
landlady and another person, dark and not properly visible, entered my
room on all fours, followed by a horde of immense cats. They attacked me
as I lay in bed, and murdered me, and then dragged my body upstairs and
deposited it on the floor of that cold little square room under the
roof.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 11.--Since my talk with Emily--the unfinished talk--I have hardly
once set eyes on her. Mrs. Monson now attends wholly to my wants. As
usual, she does everything exactly as I don't like it done. It is all
too utterly trivial to mention, but it is exceedingly irritating. Like
small doses of morphine often repeated she has finally a cumulative
effect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 12.--This morning I woke early, and came into the front room to get
a book, meaning to read in bed till it was time to get up. Emily was
laying the fire.

"Good morning!" I said cheerfully. "Mind you make a good fire. It's very
cold."

The girl turned and showed me a startled face. It was not Emily at all!

"Where's Emily?" I exclaimed.

"You mean the girl as was 'ere before me?"

"Has Emily left?"

"I came on the 6th," she replied sullenly, "and she'd gone then." I got
my book and went back to bed. Emily must have been sent away almost
immediately after our conversation. This reflection kept coming between
me and the printed page. I was glad when it was time to get up. Such
prompt energy, such merciless decision, seemed to argue something of
importance--to somebody.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 13.--The wound inflicted by the cat's claw has swollen, and causes
me annoyance and some pain. It throbs and itches. I'm afraid my blood
must be in poor condition, or it would have healed by now. I opened it
with a penknife soaked in an antiseptic solution, and cleaned it
thoroughly. I have heard unpleasant stories of the results of wounds
inflicted by cats.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 14.--In spite of the curious effect this house certainly exercises
upon my nerves, I like it. It is lonely and deserted in the very heart
of London, but it is also for that reason quiet to work in. I wonder why
it is so cheap. Some people might be suspicious, but I did not even ask
the reason. No answer is better than a lie. If only I could remove the
cats from the outside and the rats from the inside. I feel that I shall
grow accustomed more and more to its peculiarities, and shall die here.
Ah, that expression reads queerly and gives a wrong impression: I meant
_live and die_ here. I shall renew the lease from year to year till one
of us crumbles to pieces. From present indications the building will be
the first to go.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 16.--This morning I woke to find my clothes scattered about the
room, and a cane chair overturned beside the bed. My coat and waistcoat
looked just as if they had been _tried on_ by someone in the night. I
had horribly vivid dreams, too, in which someone covering his face with
his hands kept coming close up to me, crying out as if in pain, "Where
can I find covering? Oh, who will clothe me?" How silly, and yet it
frightened me a little. It was so dreadfully real. It is now over a year
since I last walked in my sleep and woke up with such a shock on the
cold pavement of Earl's Court Road, where I then lived. I thought I was
cured, but evidently not. This discovery has rather a disquieting effect
upon me. To-night I shall resort to the old trick of tying my toe to the
bed-post.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 17.--Last night I was again troubled by most oppressive dreams.
Someone seemed to be moving in the night up and down my room, sometimes
passing into the front room, and then returning to stand beside the bed
and stare intently down upon me. I was being watched by this person all
night long. I never actually awoke, though I was often very near it. I
suppose it was a nightmare from indigestion, for this morning I have one
of my old vile headaches. Yet all my clothes lay about the floor when I
awoke, where they had evidently been flung (had I tossed them?) during
the dark hours, and my trousers trailed over the step into the front
room.

Worse than this, though--I fancied I noticed about the room in the
morning that strange, fetid odour. Though very faint, its mere
suggestion is foul and nauseating. What in the world can it be, I
wonder?... In future I shall lock my door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 26.--I have accomplished a lot of good work during this past week,
and have also managed to get regular exercise. I have felt well and in
an equable state of mind. Only two things have occurred to disturb my
equanimity. The first is trivial in itself, and no doubt to be easily
explained. The upper window where I saw the light on the night of
November 4, with the shadow of a large head and shoulder upon the blind,
is one of the windows in the square room under the roof. In reality it
has _no blind at all_!

Here is the other thing. I was coming home last night in a fresh fall of
snow about eleven o'clock, my umbrella low down over my head. Half-way
up the alley, where the snow was wholly untrodden, I saw a man's legs in
front of me. The umbrella hid the rest of his figure, but on raising it
I saw that he was tall and broad and was walking, as I was, towards the
door of my house. He could not have been four feet ahead of me. I had
thought the alley was empty when I entered it, but might of course been
mistaken very easily.

A sudden gust of wind compelled me to lower the umbrella, and when I
raised it again, not half a minute later, there was no longer any man to
be seen. With a few more steps I reached the door. It was closed as
usual. I then noticed with a sudden sensation of dismay that the surface
of the freshly fallen snow was _unbroken_. My own footmarks were the
only ones to be seen anywhere, and though I retraced my way to the point
where I had first seen the man, I could find no slightest impression of
any other boots. Feeling creepy and uncomfortable, I went upstairs, and
was glad to get into bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 28.--With the fastening of my bedroom door the disturbances ceased.
I am convinced that I walked in my sleep. Probably I untied my toe and
then tied it up again. The fancied security of the locked door would
alone have been enough to restore sleep to my troubled spirit and enable
me to rest quietly.

Last night, however, the annoyance was suddenly renewed in another and
more aggressive form. I woke in the darkness with the impression that
some one was standing outside my bedroom door _listening_. As I became
more awake the impression grew into positive knowledge. Though there was
no appreciable sound of moving or breathing, I was so convinced of the
propinquity of a listener that I crept out of bed and approached the
door. As I did so there came faintly from the next room the unmistakable
sound of someone retreating stealthily across the floor. Yet, as I heard
it, it was neither the tread of a man nor a regular footstep, but
rather, it seemed to me, a confused sort of crawling, almost as of
someone on his hands and knees.

I unlocked the door in less than a second, and passed quickly into the
front room, and I could feel, as by the subtlest imaginable vibrations
upon my nerves, that the spot I was standing in had just that instant
been vacated! The Listener had moved; he was now behind the other door,
standing in the passage. Yet this door was also closed. I moved swiftly,
and as silently as possible, across the floor, and turned the handle. A
cold rush of air met me from the passage and sent shiver after shiver
down my back. There was no one in the doorway; there was no one on the
little landing; there was no one moving down the staircase. Yet I had
been so quick that this midnight Listener could not be very far away,
and I felt that if I persevered I should eventually come face to face
with him. And the courage that came so opportunely to overcome my
nervousness and horror seemed born of the unwilling conviction that it
was somehow necessary for my safety as well as my sanity that I should
find this intruder and force his secret from him. For was it not the
intent action of his mind upon my own, in concentrated listening, that
had awakened me with such a vivid realization of his presence?

Advancing across the narrow landing, I peered down into the well of the
little house. There was nothing to be seen; no one was moving in the
darkness. How cold the oilcloth was to my bare feet.

I cannot say what it was that suddenly drew my eyes upward. I only know
that, without apparent reason, I looked up and saw a person about
half-way up the next turn of the stairs, leaning forward over the
balustrade and staring straight into my face. It was a man. He appeared
to be clinging to the rail rather than standing on the stairs. The gloom
made it impossible to see much beyond the general outline, but the head
and shoulders were seemingly enormous, and stood sharply silhouetted
against the skylight in the roof immediately above. The idea flashed
into my brain in a moment that I was looking into the visage of
something monstrous. The huge skull, the mane-like hair, the wide-humped
shoulders, suggested, in a way I did not pause to analyze, that which
was scarcely human; and for some seconds, fascinated by horror, I
returned the gaze and stared into the dark, inscrutable countenance
above me, without knowing exactly where I was or what I was doing. Then
I realized in quite a new way that I was face to face with the secret
midnight Listener, and I steeled myself as best I could for what was
about to come.

The source of the rash courage that came to me at this awful moment will
ever be to me an inexplicable mystery. Though shivering with fear, and
my forehead wet with an unholy dew, I resolved to advance. Twenty
questions leaped to my lips: What are you? What do you want? Why do you
listen and watch? Why do you come into my room? But none of them found
articulate utterance.

I began forthwith to climb the stairs, and with the first signs of my
advance _he_ drew himself back into the shadows and began to move too.
He retreated as swiftly as I advanced. I heard the sound of his crawling
motion a few steps ahead of me, ever maintaining the same distance. When
I reached the landing he was half-way up the next flight, and when I was
half-way up the next flight he had already arrived at the top landing.
And then I heard him open the door of the little square room under the
roof and go in. Immediately, though the door did not close after him,
the sound of his moving entirely ceased.

At this moment I longed for a light, or a stick, or any weapon
whatsoever; but I had none of these things, and it was impossible to go
back. So I marched steadily up the rest of the stairs, and in less than
a minute found myself standing in the gloom face to face with the door
through which this creature had just entered.

For a moment I hesitated. The door was about half-way open, and the
Listener was standing evidently in his favourite attitude just behind
it--listening. To search through that dark room for him seemed hopeless;
to enter the same small space where he was seemed horrible. The very
idea filled me with loathing, and I almost decided to turn back.

It is strange at such times how trivial things impinge on the
consciousness with a shock as of something important and immense.
Something--it might have been a beetle or a mouse--scuttled over the
bare boards behind me. The door moved a quarter of an inch, closing. My
decision came back with a sudden rush, as it were, and thrusting out a
foot, I kicked the door so that it swung sharply back to its full
extent, and permitted me to walk forward slowly into the aperture of
profound blackness beyond. What a queer soft sound my bare feet made on
the boards! How the blood sang and buzzed in my head!

I was inside. The darkness closed over me, hiding even the windows. I
groped my way round the walls in a thorough search; but in order to
prevent all possibility of the other's escape, I first of all _closed
the door_.

There we were, we two, shut in together between four walls, within a few
feet of one another. But with what, with whom, was I thus momentarily
imprisoned? A new light flashed suddenly over the affair with a swift,
illuminating brilliance--and I knew I was a fool, an utter fool! I was
wide awake at last, and the horror was evaporating. My cursed nerves
again; a dream, a nightmare, and the old result--walking in my sleep.
The figure was a dream-figure. Many a time before had the actors in my
dreams stood before me for some moments after I was awake.... There was
a chance match in my pajamas' pocket, and I struck it on the wall. The
room was utterly empty. It held not even a shadow. I went quickly down
to bed, cursing my wretched nerves and my foolish, vivid dreams. But as
soon as ever I was asleep again, the same uncouth figure of a man crept
back to my bedside, and bending over me with his immense head close to
my ear whispered repeatedly in my dreams, "I want your body; I want its
covering. I'm waiting for it, and listening always." Words scarcely less
foolish than the dream.

But I wonder what that queer odour was up in the square room. I noticed
it again, and stronger than ever before and it seemed to be also in my
bedroom when I woke this morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 29.--Slowly, as moonbeams rise over a misty sea in June, the
thought is entering my mind that my nerves and somnambulistic dreams do
not adequately account for the influence this house exercises upon me.
It holds me as with a fine, invisible net. I cannot escape if I would.
It draws me, and it means to keep me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nov. 30.--The post this morning brought me a letter from Aden, forwarded
from my old rooms in Earl's Court. It was from Chapter, my former
Trinity chum, who is on his way home from the East, and asks for my
address. I sent it to him at the hotel he mentioned, "to await arrival."

As I have already said, my windows command a view of the alley, and I
can see an arrival without difficulty. This morning, while I was busy
writing, the sound of footsteps coming up the alley filled me with a
sense of vague alarm that I could in no way account for. I went over to
the window, and saw a man standing below waiting for the door to be
opened. His shoulders were broad, his top-hat glossy, and his overcoat
fitted beautifully round the collar. All this I could see, but no more.
Presently the door opened, and the shock to my nerves was unmistakable
when I heard a man's voice ask, "Is Mr. ---- still here?" mentioning my
name. I could not catch the answer, but it could only have been in the
affirmative, for the man entered the hall and the door shut to behind
him. But I waited in vain for the sound of his steps on the stairs.
There was no sound of any kind. It seemed to me so strange that I opened
my door and looked out. No one was anywhere to be seen. I walked across
the narrow landing, and looked through the window that commands the
whole length of the alley. There was no sign of a human being, coming or
going. The lane was deserted. Then I deliberately walked downstairs into
the kitchen, and asked the gray-faced landlady if a gentleman had just
that minute called for me.

The answer, given with an odd, weary sort of smile, was "No!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dec. 1.--I feel genuinely alarmed and uneasy over the state of my
nerves. Dreams are dreams, but never before have I had dreams in broad
daylight.

I am looking forward very much to Chapter's arrival. He is a capital
fellow, vigorous, healthy, with no nerves, and even less imagination;
and he has £2000 a year into the bargain. Periodically he makes me
offers--the last was to travel round the world with him as secretary,
which was a delicate way of paying my expenses and giving me some
pocket-money--offers, however, which I invariably decline. I prefer
to keep his friendship. Women could not come between us; money
might--therefore I give it no opportunity. Chapter always laughed at
what he called my "fancies," being himself possessed only of that
thin-blooded quality of imagination which is ever associated with the
prosaic-minded man. Yet, if taunted with this obvious lack, his wrath is
deeply stirred. His psychology is that of the crass materialist--always
a rather funny article. It will afford me genuine relief, none the less,
to hear the cold judgment his mind will have to pass upon the story of
this house as I shall have it to tell.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dec. 2.--The strangest part of it all I have not referred to in this
brief diary. Truth to tell, I have been afraid to set it down in black
and white. I have kept it in the background of my thoughts, preventing
it as far as possible from taking shape. In spite of my efforts,
however, it has continued to grow stronger.

Now that I come to face the issue squarely, it is harder to express than
I imagined. Like a half-remembered melody that trips in the head but
vanishes the moment you try to sing it, these thoughts form a group in
the background of my mind, _behind_ my mind, as it were, and refuse to
come forward. They are crouching ready to spring, but the actual leap
never takes place.

In these rooms, except when my mind is strongly concentrated on my own
work, I find myself suddenly dealing in thoughts and ideas that are not
my own! New, strange conceptions, wholly foreign to my temperament, are
forever cropping up in my head. What precisely they are is of no
particular importance. The point is that they are entirely apart from
the channel in which my thoughts have hitherto been accustomed to flow.
Especially they come when my mind is at rest, unoccupied; when I'm
dreaming over the fire, or sitting with a book which fails to hold my
attention. Then these thoughts which are not mine spring into life and
make me feel exceedingly uncomfortable. Sometimes they are so strong
that I almost feel as if someone were in the room beside me, thinking
aloud.

Evidently my nerves and liver are shockingly out of order. I must work
harder and take more vigorous exercise. The horrid thoughts never come
when my mind is much occupied. But they are always there--waiting and as
it were _alive_.

What I have attempted to describe above came first upon me gradually
after I had been some days in the house, and then grew steadily in
strength. The other strange thing has come to me only twice in all
these weeks. _It appals me._ It is the consciousness of the propinquity
of some deadly and loathsome disease. It comes over me like a wave of
fever heat, and then passes off, leaving me cold and trembling. The air
seems for a few seconds to become tainted. So penetrating and convincing
is the thought of this sickness, that on both occasions my brain has
turned momentarily dizzy, and through my mind, like flames of white
heat, have flashed the ominous names of all the dangerous illnesses I
know. I can no more explain these visitations than I can fly, yet I know
there is no dreaming about the clammy skin and palpitating heart which
they always leave as witnesses of their brief visit.

Most strongly of all was I aware of this nearness of a mortal sickness
when, on the night of the 28th, I went upstairs in pursuit of the
listening figure. When we were shut in together in that little square
room under the roof, I felt that I was face to face with the actual
essence of this invisible and malignant disease. Such a feeling never
entered my heart before, and I pray to God it never may again.

There! Now I have confessed. I have given some expression at least to
the feelings that so far I have been afraid to see in my own writing.
For--since I can no longer deceive myself--the experiences of that night
(28th) were no more a dream than my daily breakfast is a dream; and the
trivial entry in this diary by which I sought to explain away an
occurrence that caused me unutterable horror was due solely to my
desire not to acknowledge in words what I really felt and believed to be
true. The increase that would have accrued to my horror by so doing
might have been more than I could stand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dec. 3.--I wish Chapter would come. My facts are all ready marshalled,
and I can see his cool, gray eyes fixed incredulously on my face as I
relate them: the knocking at my door, the well-dressed caller, the light
in the upper window and the shadow upon the blind, the man who preceded
me in the snow, the scattering of my clothes at night, Emily's arrested
confession, the landlady's suspicious reticence, the midnight listener
on the stairs, and those awful subsequent words in my sleep; and above
all, and hardest to tell, the presence of the abominable sickness, and
the stream of thoughts and ideas that are not my own.

I can see Chapter's face, and I can almost hear his deliberate words,
"You've been at the tea again, and underfeeding, I expect, as usual.
Better see my nerve doctor, and then come with me to the south of
France." For this fellow, who knows nothing of disordered liver or
high-strung nerves, goes regularly to a great nerve specialist with the
periodical belief that his nervous system is beginning to decay.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dec. 5.--Ever since the incident of the Listener, I have kept a
night-light burning in my bedroom, and my sleep has been undisturbed.
Last night, however, I was subjected to a far worse annoyance. I woke
suddenly, and saw a man in front of the dressing-table regarding himself
in the mirror. The door was locked, as usual. I knew at once it was the
Listener, and the blood turned to ice in my veins. Such a wave of horror
and dread swept over me that it seemed to turn me rigid in the bed, and
I could neither move nor speak. I noted, however, that the odour I so
abhorred was strong in the room.

The man seemed to be tall and broad. He was stooping forward over the
mirror. His back was turned to me, but in the glass I saw the reflection
of a huge head and face illumined fitfully by the flicker of the
night-light. The spectral gray of very early morning stealing in round
the edges of the curtains lent an additional horror to the picture, for
it fell upon the hair that was tawny and mane-like, hanging about a face
whose swollen, rugose features bore the once seen never forgotten
leonine expression of--I dare not write down that awful word. But, by
way of corroborative proof, I saw in the faint mingling of the two
lights that there were several bronze-coloured blotches on the cheeks
which the man was evidently examining with great care in the glass. The
lips were pale and very thick and large. One hand I could not see, but
the other rested on the ivory back of my hair-brush. Its muscles were
strangely contracted, the fingers thin to emaciation, the back of the
hand closely puckered up. It was like a big gray spider crouching to
spring, or the claw of a great bird.

The full realization that I was alone in the room with this nameless
creature, almost within arm's reach of him, overcame me to such a degree
that, when he suddenly turned and regarded me with small beady eyes,
wholly out of proportion to the grandeur of their massive setting, I sat
bolt upright in bed, uttered a loud cry, and then fell back in a dead
swoon of terror upon the bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dec. 6.-- ... When I came to this morning, the first thing I noticed was
that my clothes were strewn all over the floor.... I find it difficult
to put my thoughts together, and have sudden accesses of violent
trembling. I determined that I would go at once to Chapter's hotel and
find out when he is expected. I cannot refer to what happened in the
night; it is too awful, and I have to keep my thoughts rigorously away
from it. I feel lightheaded and queer, couldn't eat any breakfast, and
have twice vomited with blood. While dressing to go out, a hansom
rattled up noisily over the cobbles, and a minute later the door opened,
and to my great joy in walked the very subject of my thoughts.

The sight of his strong face and quiet eyes had an immediate effect upon
me, and I grew calmer again. His very handshake was a sort of tonic.
But, as I listened eagerly to the deep tones of his reassuring voice,
and the visions of the night time paled a little, I began to realize
how very hard it was going to be to tell him my wild, intangible tale.
Some men radiate an animal vigour that destroys the delicate woof of a
vision and effectually prevents its reconstruction. Chapter was one of
these men.

We talked of incidents that had filled the interval since we last met,
and he told me something of his travels. He talked and I listened. But,
so full was I of the horrid thing I had to tell that I made a poor
listener. I was forever watching my opportunity to leap in and explode
it all under his nose.

Before very long, however, it was borne in upon me that he too was
merely talking for time. He too held something of importance in the
background of his mind, something too weighty to let fall till the right
moment presented itself. So that during the whole of the first half-hour
we were both waiting for the psychological moment in which properly to
release our respective bombs; and the intensity of our minds' action set
up opposing forces that merely sufficed to hold one another in
check--and nothing more. As soon as I realized this, therefore, I
resolved to yield. I renounced for the time my purpose of telling my
story, and had the satisfaction of seeing that his mind, released from
the restraint of my own, at once began to make preparations for the
discharge of its momentous burden. The talk grew less and less magnetic;
the interest waned; the descriptions of his travels became less alive.
There were pauses between his sentences. Presently he repeated himself.
His words clothed no living thoughts. The pauses grew longer. Then the
interest dwindled altogether and went out like a candle in the wind. His
voice ceased, and he looked up squarely into my face with serious and
anxious eyes.

The psychological moment had come at last!

"I say--" he began, and then stopped short.

I made an unconscious gesture of encouragement, but said no word. I
dreaded the impending disclosure exceedingly. A dark shadow seemed to
precede it.

"I say," he blurted out at last, "what in the world made you ever come
to this place--to these rooms, I mean?"

"They're cheap, for one thing," I began, "and central and--"

"They're too cheap," he interrupted. "Didn't you ask what made 'em so
cheap?"

"It never occurred to me at the time."

There was a pause in which he avoided my eyes.

"For God's sake, go on, man, and tell it!" I cried, for the suspense was
getting more than I could stand in my nervous condition.

"This was where Blount lived so long," he said quietly, "and where
he--died. You know, in the old days I often used to come here and see
him and do what I could to alleviate his--" He stuck fast again.

"Well!" I said with a great effort. "_Please_ go on--faster."

"But," Chapter went on, turning his face to the window with a
perceptible shiver, "he finally got so terrible I simply couldn't stand
it, though I always thought I could stand anything. It got on my nerves
and made me dream, and haunted me day and night."

I stared at him, and said nothing. I had never heard of Blount in my
life, and didn't know what he was talking about. But all the same, I was
trembling, and my mouth had become strangely dry.

"This is the first time I've been back here since," he said almost in a
whisper, "and, 'pon my word, it gives me the creeps. I swear it isn't
fit for a man to live in. I never saw you look so bad, old man."

"I've got it for a year," I jerked out, with a forced laugh; "signed the
lease and all. I thought it was rather a bargain."

Chapter shuddered, and buttoned his overcoat up to his neck. Then he
spoke in a low voice, looking occasionally behind him as though he
thought someone was listening. I too could have sworn someone else was
in the room with us.

"He did it himself, you know, and no one blamed him a bit; his
sufferings were awful. For the last two years he used to wear a veil
when he went out, and even then it was always in a closed carriage. Even
the attendant who had nursed him for so long was at length obliged to
leave. The extremities of both the lower limbs were gone, dropped off,
and he moved about the ground on all fours with a sort of crawling
motion. The odour, too, was--"

I was obliged to interrupt him here. I could hear no more details of
that sort. My skin was moist, I felt hot and cold by turns, for at last
I was beginning to understand.

"Poor devil," Chapter went on; "I used to keep my eyes closed as much as
possible. He always begged to be allowed to take his veil off, and asked
if I minded very much. I used to stand by the open window. He never
touched me, though. He rented the whole house. Nothing would induce him
to leave it."

"Did he occupy--these very rooms?"

"No. He had the little room on the top floor, the square one just under
the roof. He preferred it because it was dark. These rooms were too near
the ground, and he was afraid people might see him through the windows.
A crowd had been known to follow him up to the very door, and then stand
below the windows in the hope of catching a glimpse of his face."

"But there were hospitals."

"He wouldn't go near one, and they didn't like to force him. You know,
they say it's _not_ contagious, so there was nothing to prevent his
staying here if he wanted to. He spent all his time reading medical
books, about drugs and so on. His head and face were something
appalling, just like a lion's."

I held up my hand to arrest further description.

"He was a burden to the world, and he knew it. One night I suppose he
realized it too keenly to wish to live. He had the free use of
drugs--and in the morning he was found dead on the floor. Two years ago,
that was, and they said then he had still several years to live."

"Then, in Heaven's name!" I cried, unable to bear the suspense any
longer, "tell me what it was he had, and be quick about it."

"I thought you knew!" he exclaimed, with genuine surprise. "I thought
you knew!"

He leaned forward and our eyes met. In a scarcely audible whisper I
caught the words his lip seemed almost afraid to utter:

"He was a leper!"

[A] Courtesy of Laurence J. Gomme.



II

NUMBER 13

MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES


Among the towns of Jutland, Viborg justly holds a high place. It is the
seat of a bishopric; it has a handsome but almost entirely new
cathedral, a charming garden, a lake of great beauty, and many storks.
Near it is Hald, accounted one of the prettiest things in Denmark, and
hard by is Finderup, where Marsk Stig murdered King Erik Glipping on St.
Cecilia's Day, in the year 1286. Fifty-six blows of square-headed iron
maces were traced on Erik's skull when his tomb was opened in the
seventeenth century. But I am not writing a guide-book.

There are good hotels in Viborg--Preisler's and the Phoenix are all that
can be desired. But my cousin whose experiences I have to tell you now,
went to the Golden Lion the first time that he visited Viborg. He has
not been there since, and the following pages will perhaps explain the
reason of his abstention.

The Golden Lion is one of the very few houses in the town that were not
destroyed in the great fire of 1726, which practically demolished the
cathedral, the Sognekirke, the Raadhuus, and so much else that was old
and interesting. It is a great red-brick house--that is, the front is of
brick, with corbie steps on the gables and a text over the door, but the
courtyard into which the omnibus drives is of black and white wood and
plaster.

The sun was declining in the heavens when my cousin walked up to the
door, and the light smote full upon the imposing façade of the house. He
was delighted with the old-fashioned aspect of the place, and promised
himself a thoroughly satisfactory and amusing stay in an inn so typical
of old Jutland.

It was not business in the ordinary sense of the word that had brought
Mr. Anderson to Viborg. He was engaged upon some researches into the
Church history of Denmark, and it had come to his knowledge that in the
Rigsarkiv of Viborg there were papers, saved from the fire, relating to
the last days of Roman Catholicism in the country. He proposed,
therefore, to spend a considerable time--perhaps as much as a fortnight
or three weeks--in examining and copying these, and he hoped that the
Golden Lion would be able to give him a room of sufficient size to serve
alike as a bedroom and a study. His wishes were explained to the
landlord, and, after a certain amount of thought, the latter suggested
that perhaps it might be the best way for the gentleman to look at one
or two of the larger rooms and pick one for himself. It seemed a good
idea.

The top floor was soon rejected as entailing too much getting upstairs
after the day's work; the second floor contained no room of exactly the
dimensions required; but on the first floor there was a choice of two or
three rooms which would, so far as size went, suit admirably.

The landlord was strongly in favour of Number 17, but Mr. Anderson
pointed out that its windows commanded only the blank wall of the next
house, and that it would be very dark in the afternoon. Either Number 12
or Number 14 would be better, for both of them looked on the street, and
the bright evening light and the pretty view would more than compensate
him for the additional amount of noise.

Eventually Number 12 was selected. Like its neighbours, it had three
windows, all on one side of the room; it was fairly high and unusually
long. There was, of course, no fireplace, but the stove was handsome and
rather old--a cast-iron erection, on the side of which was a
representation of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the inscription, "1 Bog
Mose, Cap. 22," above. Nothing else in the room was remarkable; the only
interesting picture was an old coloured print of the town, date about
1820.

Supper-time was approaching, but when Anderson, refreshed by the
ordinary ablutions, descended the staircase, there were still a few
minutes before the bell rang. He devoted them to examining the list of
his fellow-lodgers. As is usual in Denmark, their names were displayed
on a large blackboard, divided into columns and lines, the numbers of
the rooms being painted in at the beginning of each line. The list was
not exciting. There was an advocate, or Sagförer, a German, and some
bagmen from Copenhagen. The one and only point which suggested any food
for thought was the absence of any Number 13 from the tale of the rooms,
and even this was a thing which Anderson had already noticed half a
dozen times in his experience of Danish hotels. He could not help
wondering whether the objection to that particular number, common as it
is, was so widespread and so strong as to make it difficult to let a
room so ticketed, and he resolved to ask the landlord if he and his
colleagues in the profession had actually met with many clients who
refused to be accommodated in the thirteenth room.

He had nothing to tell me (I am giving the story as I heard it from him)
about what passed at supper, and the evening, which was spent in
unpacking and arranging his clothes, books, and papers, was not more
eventful. Toward eleven o'clock he resolved to go to bed, but with him,
as with a good many other people nowadays, an almost necessary
preliminary to bed, if he meant to sleep, was the reading of a few pages
of print, and he now remembered that the particular book which he had
been reading in the train, and which alone would satisfy him at that
present moment, was in the pocket of his greatcoat, then hanging on a
peg outside the dining-room.

To run down and secure it was the work of a moment, and, as the
passages were by no means dark, it was not difficult for him to find his
way back to his own door. So, at least, he thought; but when he arrived
there, and turned the handle, the door entirely refused to open, and he
caught the sound of a hasty movement toward it from within. He had tried
the wrong door, of course. Was his own room to the right or to the left?
He glanced at the number: it was 13. His room would be on the left; and
so it was. And not before he had been in bed for some minutes, had read
his wonted three or four pages of his book, blown out his light, and
turned over to go to sleep, did it occur to him that, whereas on the
blackboard of the hotel there had been no Number 13, there was
undoubtedly a room numbered 13 in the hotel. He felt rather sorry he had
not chosen it for his own. Perhaps he might have done the landlord a
little service by occupying it, and given him the chance of saying that
a well-worn English gentleman had lived in it for three weeks and liked
it very much. But probably it was used as a servant's room or something
of the kind. After all, it was most likely not so large or good a room
as his own. And he looked drowsily about the room, which was fairly
perceptible in the half-light from the street-lamp. It was a curious
effect, he thought. Rooms usually look larger in a dim light than a full
one, but this seemed to have contracted in length and grown
proportionately higher. Well, well! sleep was more important than these
vague ruminations--and to sleep he went.

On the day after his arrival Anderson attacked the Rigsarkiv of Viborg.
He was, as one might expect in Denmark, kindly received, and access to
all that he wished to see was made as easy for him as possible. The
documents laid before him were far more numerous and interesting than he
had at all anticipated. Besides official papers, there was a large
bundle of correspondence relating to Bishop Jörgen Friis, the last Roman
Catholic who held the see, and in these there cropped up many amusing
and what are called "intimate" details of private life and individual
character. There was much talk of a house owned by the Bishop, but not
inhabited by him in the town. Its tenant was apparently somewhat of a
scandal and a stumbling-block to the reforming party. He was a disgrace,
they wrote, to the city; he practised secret and wicked arts, and had
sold his soul to the enemy. It was of a piece with the gross corruption
and superstition of the Babylonish Church that such a viper and
blood-sucking _Troldmand_ should be patronized and harboured by the
Bishop. The Bishop met these reproaches boldly; he protested his own
abhorrence of all such things as secret arts, and required his
antagonists to bring the matter before the proper court--of course, the
spiritual court--and sift it to the bottom. No one could be more ready
and willing than himself to condemn Mag. Nicolas Francken if the
evidence showed him to have been guilty of any of the crimes informally
alleged against him.

Anderson had not time to do more than glance at the next letter of the
Protestant leader, Rasmus Nielsen, before the record office was closed
for the day, but he gathered its general tenor, which was to the effect
that Christian men were now no longer bound by the decisions of Bishops
of Rome, and that the Bishop's Court was not, and could not be, a fit or
competent tribunal to judge so grave and weighty a cause.

On leaving the office, Mr. Anderson was accompanied by the old gentleman
who presided over it, and, as they walked, the conversation very
naturally turned to the papers of which I have just been speaking.

Herr Scavenius, the Archivist of Viborg, though very well informed as to
the general run of the documents under his charge, was not a specialist
in those of the Reformation period. He was much interested in what
Anderson had to tell him about them. He looked forward with great
pleasure, he said, to seeing the publication in which Mr. Anderson spoke
of embodying their contents. "This house of the Bishop Friis," he added,
"it is a great puzzle to me where it can have stood. I have studied
carefully the topography of old Viborg, but it is most unlucky--of the
old terrier of the Bishop's property which was made in 1560, and of
which we have the greater part in the Arkiv, just the piece which had
the list of the town property is missing. Never mind. Perhaps I shall
some day succeed to find him."

After taking some exercise--I forget exactly how or where--Anderson went
back to the Golden Lion, his supper, his game of patience, and his bed.
On the way to his room it occurred to him that he had forgotten to talk
to the landlord about the omission of Number 13 from the hotel board,
and also that he might as well make sure that Number 13 did actually
exist before he made any reference to the matter.

The decision was not difficult to arrive at. There was the door with its
number as plain as could be, and work of some kind was evidently going
on inside it, for as he neared the door he could hear footsteps and
voices, or a voice, within. During the few seconds in which he halted to
make sure of the number, the footsteps ceased, seemingly very near the
door, and he was a little startled at hearing a quick hissing breathing
as of a person in strong excitement. He went on to his own room, and
again he was surprised to find how much smaller it seemed now than it
had when he selected it. It was a slight disappointment, but only
slight. If he found it really not large enough, he could very easily
shift to another. In the meantime he wanted something--as far as I
remember it was a pocket-handkerchief--out of his portmanteau, which
had been placed by the porter on a very inadequate trestle or stool
against the wall at the furthest end of the room from his bed. Here was
a very curious thing: the portmanteau was not to be seen. It had been
moved by officious servants; doubtless the contents had been put in the
wardrobe. No, none of them were there. This was vexatious. The idea of a
theft he dismissed at once. Such things rarely happen in Denmark, but
some piece of stupidity had certainly been performed (which is not so
uncommon), and the _stuepige_ must be severely spoken to. Whatever it
was that he wanted, it was not so necessary to his comfort that he could
not wait till the morning for it, and he therefore settled not to ring
the bell and disturb the servants. He went to the window--the right-hand
window it was--and looked out on the quiet street. There was a tall
building opposite, with large spaces of dead wall; no passers by; a dark
night; and very little to be seen of any kind.

The light was behind him, and he could see his own shadow clearly cast
on the wall opposite. Also the shadow of the bearded man in Number 11 on
the left, who passed to and fro in shirt sleeves once or twice, and was
seen first brushing his hair, and later on in a nightgown. Also the
shadow of the occupant of Number 13 on the right. This might be more
interesting. Number 13 was, like himself, leaning on his elbows on the
window-sill looking out into the street. He seemed to be a tall thin
man--or was it by any chance a woman?--at least, it was someone who
covered his or her head with some kind of drapery before going to bed,
and, he thought, must be possessed of a red lamp-shade--and the lamp
must be flickering very much. There was a distinct playing up and down
of a dull red light on the opposite wall. He craned out a little to see
if he could make any more of the figure, but beyond a fold of some
light, perhaps white, material on the window-sill he could see nothing.

Now came a distant step in the street, and its approach seemed to recall
Number 13 to a sense of his exposed position, for very swiftly and
suddenly he swept aside from the window, and his red light went out.
Anderson, who had been smoking a cigarette, laid the end of it on the
window-sill and went to bed.

Next morning he was woke by the _stuepige_ with hot water, etc. He
roused himself, and after thinking out the correct Danish words, said as
distinctly as he could:

"You must not move my portmanteau. Where is it?"

As is not uncommon, the maid laughed, and went away without making any
distinct answer.

Anderson, rather irritated, sat up in bed, intending to call her back,
but he remained sitting up, staring straight in front of him. There was
his portmanteau on its trestle, exactly where he had seen the porter put
it when he first arrived. This was a rude shock for a man who prided
himself on his accuracy of observation. How it could possibly have
escaped him the night before he did not pretend to understand; at any
rate, there it was now.

The daylight showed more than the portmanteau; it let the true
proportions of the room with its three windows appear, and satisfied its
tenant that his choice after all had not been a bad one. When he was
almost dressed he walked to the middle one of the three windows to look
out at the weather. Another shock awaited him. Strangely unobservant he
must have been last night. He could have sworn ten times over that he
had been smoking at the right-hand window the last thing before he went
to bed, and here was his cigarette-end on the sill of the middle window.

He started to go down to breakfast. Rather late, but Number 13 was
later: here were his boots still outside his door--a gentleman's boots.
So then Number 13 was a man, not a woman. Just then he caught sight of
the number on the door. It was 14. He thought he must have passed Number
13 without noticing it. Three stupid mistakes in twelve hours were too
much for a methodical, accurate-minded man, so he turned back to make
sure. The next number to 14 was number 12, his own room. There was no
Number 13 at all.

After some minutes devoted to a careful consideration of everything he
had had to eat and drink during the last twenty-four hours, Anderson
decided to give the question up. If his eyes or his brain were giving
way he would have plenty of opportunities for ascertaining that fact; if
not, then he was evidently being treated to a very interesting
experience. In either case the development of events would certainly be
worth watching.

During the day he continued his examination of the episcopal
correspondence which I have already summarized. To his disappointment,
it was incomplete. Only one other letter could be found which referred
to the affair of Mag. Nicolas Francken. It was from the Bishop Jörgen
Friis to Rasmus Nielsen. He said:

"Although we are not in the least degree inclined to assent to your
judgment concerning our court, and shall be prepared if need be to
withstand you to the uttermost in that behalf, yet forasmuch as our
trusty and well-beloved Mag. Nicolas Francken, against whom you have
dared to allege certain false and malicious charges, hath been suddenly
removed from among us, it is apparent that the question for this term
falls. But forasmuch as you further allege that the Apostle and
Evangelist St. John in his heavenly Apocalypse describes the Holy Roman
Church under the guise and symbol of the Scarlet Woman, be it known to
you," etc.

Search as he would, Anderson could find no sequel to this letter nor any
clue to the cause or manner of the "removal" of the _casus belli_. He
could only suppose that Francken had died suddenly; and as there were
only two days between the date of Nielsen's last letter--when Francken
was evidently still in being--and that of the Bishop's letter, the death
must have been completely unexpected.

In the afternoon he paid a short visit to Hald, and took his tea at
Baekkelund; nor could he notice, though he was in a somewhat nervous
frame of mind, that there was any indication of such a failure of eye or
brain as his experiences of the morning had led him to fear.

At supper he found himself next to the landlord.

"What," he asked him, after some indifferent conversation, "is the
reason why in most of the hotels one visits in this country the number
thirteen is left out of the list of rooms? I see you have none here."

The landlord seemed amused.

"To think that you should have noticed a thing like that! I've thought
about it once or twice, myself, to tell the truth. An educated man, I've
said, has no business with these superstitious notions. I was brought up
myself here in the high school of Viborg, and our old master was always
a man to set his face against anything of that kind. He's been dead now
this many years--a fine upstanding man he was, and ready with his hands
as well as his head. I recollect us boys, one snowy day--"

Here he plunged into reminiscence.

"Then you don't think there is any particular objection to having a
Number 13?" said Anderson.

"Ah! to be sure. Well, you understand, I was brought up to the business
by my poor old father. He kept an hotel in Aarhuus first, and then, when
we were born, he moved to Viborg here, which was his native place, and
had the Phoenix here until he died. That was in 1876. Then I started
business in Silkeborg, and only the year before last I moved into this
house."

Then followed more details as to the state of the house and business
when first taken over.

"And when you came here, was there a Number 13?"

"No, no. I was going to tell you about that. You see, in a place like
this, the commercial class--the travellers--are what we have to provide
for in general. And put them in Number 13? Why, they'd as soon sleep in
the street, or sooner. As far as I'm concerned myself, it wouldn't make
a penny difference to me what the number of my room was, and so I've
often said to them; but they stick to it that it brings them bad luck.
Quantities of stories they have among them of men that have slept in a
Number 13 and never been the same again, or lost their best customers,
or--one thing and another," said the landlord, after searching for a
more graphic phrase.

"Then, what do you use your Number 13 for?" said Anderson, conscious as
he said the words of a curious anxiety quite disproportionate to the
importance of the question.

"My Number 13? Why, don't I tell you that there isn't such a thing in
the house? I thought you might have noticed that. If there was it would
be next door to your own room."

"Well, yes; only I happened to think--that is, I fancied last night that
I had seen a door numbered thirteen in that passage; and, really, I am
almost certain I must have been right, for I saw it the night before as
well."

Of course, Herr Kristensen laughed this notion to scorn, as Anderson had
expected, and emphasized with much iteration the fact that no Number 13
existed or had existed before him in that hotel.

Anderson was in some ways relieved by his certainty, but still puzzled,
and he began to think that the best way to make sure whether he had
indeed been subject to an illusion or not was to invite the landlord to
his room to smoke a cigar later on in the evening. Some photographs of
English towns which he had with him formed a sufficiently good excuse.

Herr Kristensen was flattered by the invitation, and most willingly
accepted it. At about ten o'clock he was to make his appearance, but
before that Anderson had some letters to write, and retired for the
purpose of writing them. He almost blushed to himself at confessing it,
but he could not deny that it was the fact that he was becoming quite
nervous about the question of the existence of Number 13; so much so
that he approached his room by way of Number 11, in order that he might
not be obliged to pass the door, or the place where the door ought to
be. He looked quickly and suspiciously about the room when he entered
it, but there was nothing beyond that indefinable air of being smaller
than usual, to warrant any misgivings. There was no question of the
presence or absence of his portmanteau to-night. He had himself emptied
it of its contents and lodged it under his bed. With a certain effort he
dismissed the thought of Number 13 from his mind, and sat down to his
writing.

His neighbours were quiet enough. Occasionally a door opened in the
passage and a pair of boots was thrown out, or a bagman walked past
humming to himself, and outside, from time to time a cart thundered over
the atrocious cobble-stones, or a quick step hurried along the flags.

Anderson finished his letters, ordered in whiskey and soda, and then
went to the window and studied the dead wall opposite and the shadows
upon it.

As far as he could remember, Number 14 had been occupied by the lawyer,
a staid man, who said little at meals, being generally engaged in
studying a small bundle of papers beside his plate. Apparently, however,
he was in the habit of giving vent to his animal spirits when alone. Why
else should he be dancing? The shadow from the next room evidently
showed that he was. Again and again his thin form crossed the window,
his arms waved, and a gaunt leg was kicked up with surprising agility.
He seemed to be barefooted, and the floor must be well laid, for no
sound betrayed his movements. Sagförer Herr Anders Jensen, dancing at
ten o'clock at night in a hotel bedroom, seemed a fitting subject for a
historical painting in the grand style; and Anderson's thoughts, like
those of Emily in the "Mysteries of Udolpho," began to "arrange
themselves in the following lines":

    "When I return to my hotel,
      At ten o'clock P.M.,
    The waiters think I am unwell;
      I do not care for them.
    But when I've locked my chamber door,
      And put my boots outside,
    I dance all night upon the floor.
    And even if my neighbours swore,
    I'd go on dancing all the more,
    For I'm acquainted with the law,
    And in despite of all their jaw,
    Their protests I deride."

Had not the landlord at this moment knocked at the door, it is probable
that quite a long poem might have been laid before the reader. To judge
from his look of surprise when he found himself in the room, Herr
Kristensen was struck, as Anderson had been, by something unusual in its
aspect. But he made no remark. Anderson's photographs interested him
mightily, and formed the text of many autobiographical discourses. Nor
is it quite clear how the conversation could have been diverted into the
desired channel of Number 13, had not the lawyer at this moment begun to
sing, and to sing in a manner which could leave no doubt in anyone's
mind that he was either exceedingly drunk or raving mad. It was a high,
thin voice that they heard, and it seemed dry, as if from long disuse.
Of words or tune there was no question. It went sailing up to a
surprising height, and was carried down with a despairing moan as of a
winter wind in a hollow chimney, or an organ whose wind fails suddenly.
It was a really horrible sound, and Anderson felt that if he had been
alone he must have fled for refuge and society to some neighbour
bagman's room.

The landlord sat open-mouthed.

"I don't understand it," he said at last, wiping his forehead. "It is
dreadful. I have heard it once before, but I made sure it was a cat."

"Is he mad?" said Anderson.

"He must be; and what a sad thing! Such a good customer, too, and so
successful in his business, by what I hear, and a young family to bring
up."

Just then came an impatient knock at the door, and the knocker entered,
without waiting to be asked. It was the lawyer, in deshabille and very
rough-haired; and very angry he looked.

"I beg pardon, sir," he said, "but I should be much obliged if you would
kindly desist--"

Here he stopped, for it was evident that neither of the persons before
him was responsible for the disturbance; and after a moment's lull it
swelled forth again more wildly than before.

"But what in the name of Heaven does it mean?" broke out the lawyer.
"Where is it? Who is it? Am I going out of my mind?"

"Surely, Herr Jensen, it comes from your room next door? Isn't there a
cat or something stuck in the chimney?"

This was the best that occurred to Anderson to say, and he realized its
futility as he spoke; but any thing was better than to stand and listen
to that horrible voice, and look at the broad, white face of the
landlord, all perspiring and quivering as he clutched the arms of his
chair.

"Impossible," said the lawyer, "impossible. There is no chimney. I came
here because I was convinced the noise was going on here. It was
certainly in the next room to mine."

"Was there no door between yours and mine?" said Anderson eagerly.

"No, sir," said Herr Jensen, rather sharply. "At least, not this
morning."

"Ah!" said Anderson. "Nor to-night?"

"I am not sure," said the lawyer with some hesitation.

Suddenly the crying or singing voice in the next room died away, and the
singer was heard seemingly to laugh to himself in a crooning manner. The
three men actually shivered at the sound. Then there was a silence.

"Come," said the lawyer, "what have you to say, Herr Kristensen? What
does this mean?"

"Good Heaven!" said Kristensen. "How should I tell! I know no more than
you, gentlemen. I pray I may never hear such a noise again."

"So do I," said Herr Jensen, and he added something under his breath.
Anderson thought it sounded like the last words of the Psalter, "_omnis
spiritus laudet Dominum_," but he could not be sure.

"But we must do something," said Anderson--"the three of us. Shall we go
and investigate in the next room?"

"But that is Herr Jensen's room," wailed the landlord. "It is no use; he
has come from there himself."

"I am not so sure," said Jensen. "I think this gentleman is right: we
must go and see."

The only weapons of defence that could be mustered on the spot were a
stick and umbrella. The expedition went out into the passage, not
without quakings. There was a deadly quiet outside, but a light shone
from under the next door. Anderson and Jensen approached it. The latter
turned the handle, and gave a sudden vigorous push. No use. The door
stood fast.

"Herr Kristensen," said Jensen, "will you go and fetch the strongest
servant you have in the place? We must see this through."

The landlord nodded, and hurried off, glad to be away from the scene of
action. Jensen and Anderson remained outside looking at the door.

"It _is_ Number 13, you see," said the latter.

"Yes; there is your door, and there is mine," said Jensen.

"My room has three windows in the daytime," said Anderson, with
difficulty suppressing a nervous laugh.

"By George, so has mine!" said the lawyer, turning and looking at
Anderson. His back was now to the door. In that moment the door opened,
and an arm came out and clawed at his shoulder. It was clad in ragged,
yellowish linen, and the bare skin, where it could be seen, had long
gray hair upon it.

Anderson was just in time to pull Jensen out of its reach with a cry of
disgust and fright, when the door shut again, and a low laugh was heard.

Jensen had seen nothing, but when Anderson hurriedly told him what a
risk he had run, he fell into a great state of agitation, and suggested
that they should retire from the enterprise, and lock themselves up in
one or other of their rooms.

However, while he was developing this plan, the landlord and two
able-bodied men arrived on the scene, all looking rather serious and
alarmed. Jensen met them with a torrent of description and explanation,
which did not at all tend to encourage them for the fray.

The men dropped the crowbars they had brought, and said flatly that they
were not going to risk their throats in that devil's den. The landlord
was miserably nervous and undecided, conscious that if the danger were
not faced his hotel was ruined, and very loath to face it himself.
Luckily Anderson hit upon a way of rallying the demoralized force.

"Is this," he said, "the Danish courage I have heard so much of? It
isn't a German in there, and if it was, we are five to one."

The two servants and Jensen were stung into action by this, and made a
dash at the door.

"Stop!" said Anderson. "Don't lose your heads. You stay out here with
the light, landlord, and one of you two men break in the door, and don't
go in when it gives way."

The men nodded, and the younger stepped forward, raised his crowbar, and
dealt a tremendous blow on the upper panel. The result was not in the
least what any of them anticipated. There was no cracking or rending of
wood--only a dull sound, as if the solid wall had been struck. The man
dropped his tool with a shout, and began rubbing his elbow. His cry drew
their eyes upon him for a moment; then Anderson looked at the door
again. It was gone; the plaster wall of the passage stared him in the
face, with a considerable gash in it where the crowbar had struck it.
Number 13 had passed out of existence.

For a brief space they stood perfectly still, gazing at the blank wall.
An early cock in the yard beneath was heard to crow; and as Anderson
glanced in the direction of the sound, he saw through the window at the
end of the long passage that the eastern sky was paling to the dawn.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Perhaps," said the landlord, with hesitation, "you gentleman would like
another room for to-night--a double-bedded one?"

Neither Jensen nor Anderson was averse to the suggestion. They felt
inclined to hunt in couples after their late experience. It was found
convenient, when each of them went to his room to collect the articles
he wanted for the night, that the other should go with him and hold the
candle. They noticed that both Number 12 and Number 14 had _three_
windows.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning the same party re-assembled in Number 12. The landlord was
naturally anxious to avoid engaging outside help, and yet it was
imperative that the mystery attaching to that part of the house should
be cleared up. Accordingly the two servants had been induced to take
upon them the function of carpenters. The furniture was cleared away,
and, at the cost of a good many irretrievably damaged planks, that
portion of the floor was taken up which lay nearest to Number 14.

You will naturally suppose that a skeleton--say that of Mag. Nicolas
Francken--was discovered. That was not so. What they did find lying
between the beams which supported the flooring was a small copper box.
In it was a neatly-folded vellum document, with about twenty lines of
writing. Both Anderson and Jensen (who proved to be something of a
palæographer) were much excited by this discovery, which promised to
afford the key to these extraordinary phenomena.

       *       *       *       *       *

I possess a copy of an astrological work which I have never read. It
has, by way of frontispiece, a woodcut by Hans Sebald Beham,
representing a number of sages seated round a table. This detail may
enable connoisseurs to identify the book. I cannot myself recollect its
title, and it is not at this moment within reach; but the fly-leaves of
it are covered with writing, and, during the ten years in which I have
owned the volume, I have not been able to determine which way up this
writing ought to be read, much less in what language it is. Not
dissimilar was the position of Anderson and Jensen after the protracted
examination to which they submitted the document in the copper box.

After two days' contemplation of it, Jensen, who was the bolder spirit
of the two, hazarded the conjecture that the language was either Latin
or Old Danish.

Anderson ventured upon no surmises, and was very willing to surrender
the box and the parchment to the Historical Society of Viborg to be
placed in their museum.

I had the whole story from him a few months later, as we sat in a wood
near Upsala, after a visit to the library there, where we--or, rather,
I--had laughed over the contract by which Daniel Salthenius (in later
life Professor of Hebrew at Königsberg) sold himself to Satan. Anderson
was not really amused.

"Young idiot!" he said, meaning Salthenius, who was only an
undergraduate when he committed that indiscretion, "how did he know what
company he was courting?"

And when I suggested the usual considerations he only grunted. That same
afternoon he told me what you have read; but he refused to draw any
inferences from it, and to assent to any that I drew for him.



III

JOSEPH: A STORY

KATHERINE RICKFORD


They were sitting round the fire after dinner--not an ordinary fire, one
of those fires that has a little room all to itself with seats at each
side of it to hold a couple of people or three.

The big dining-room was panelled with oak. At the far end was a handsome
dresser that dated back for generations. One's imagination ran riot when
one pictured the people who must have laid those pewter plates on the
long, narrow, solid table. Massive, mediæval chests stood against the
walls. Arms and parts of armour hung against the panelling; but one
noticed few of these things, for there was no light in the room save
what the fire gave.

It was Christmas Eve. Games had been played. The old had vied with the
young at snatching raisins from the burning snapdragon. The children had
long since gone to bed; it was time their elders followed them, but they
lingered round the fire, taking turns at telling stories. Nothing very
weird had been told; no one had felt any wish to peep over his shoulder
or try to penetrate the darkness of the far end of the room; the
omission caused a sensation of something wanting. From each one there
this thought went out, and so a sudden silence fell upon the party. It
was a girl who broke it--a mere child; she wore her hair up that night
for the first time, and that seemed to give her the right to sit up so
late.

"Mr. Grady is going to tell one," she said.

All eyes were turned to a middle-aged man in a deep armchair placed
straight in front of the fire. He was short, inclined to be fat, with a
bald head and a pointed beard like the beards that sailors wear. It was
plain that he was deeply conscious of the sudden turning of so much
strained yet forceful thought upon himself. He was restless in his chair
as people are in a room that is overheated. He blinked his eyes as he
looked round the company. His lips twitched in a nervous manner. One
side of him seemed to be endeavouring to restrain another side of him
from a feverish desire to speak.

"It was this room that made me think of him," he said thoughtfully.

There was a long silence, but it occurred to no one to prompt him.
Everyone seemed to understand that he was going to speak, or rather that
something inside him was going to speak, some force that craved
expression and was using him as a medium.

The little old man's pink face grew strangely calm, the animation that
usually lit it was gone. One would have said that the girl who had
started him already regretted the impulse, and now wanted to stop him.
She was breathing heavily, and once or twice made as though she would
speak to him, but no words came. She must have abandoned the idea, for
she fell to studying the company. She examined them carefully, one by
one. "This one," she told herself, "is so-and-so, and that one there
just another so-and-so." She stared at them, knowing that she could not
turn them to herself with her stare. They were just bodies kept working,
so to speak, by some subtle sort of sentry left behind by the real
selves that streamed out in pent-up thought to the little old man in the
chair in front of the fire.

"His name was Joseph: at least they called him Joseph. He dreamed, you
understand--dreams. He was an extraordinary lad in many ways. His
mother--I knew her very well--had three children in quick succession,
soon after marriage; then ten years went by and Joseph was born. Quiet
and reserved he always was, a self-contained child whose only friend was
his mother. People said things about him, you know how people talk. Some
said he was not Clara's child at all, but that she had adopted him;
others, that her husband was not his father, and these put her change of
manner down to a perpetual struggle to keep her husband comfortably in
the dark. I always imagined that the boy was in some way aware of all
this gossip, for I noticed that he took a dislike to the people who
spread it most."

The little man rested his elbows on the arms of his chair and let the
tips of his fingers meet in front of him. A smile played about his
mouth. He seemed to be searching among his reminiscences for the one
that would give the clearest portrait of Joseph.

"Well, anyway," he said at last, "the boy was odd, there is no
gainsaying the fact. I suppose he was eleven when Clara came down here
with her family for Christmas. The Coningtons owned the place then--Mrs.
Conington was Clara's sister. It was Christmas Eve, as it is now, many
years ago. We had spent a normal Christmas Eve; a little happier,
perhaps, than usual by reason of the family reunion and because of the
presence of so many children. We had eaten and drank, laughed and played
and gone to bed.

"I woke in the middle of the night from sheer restlessness. Clara,
knowing my weakness, had given me a fire in my room. I lit a cigarette,
played with a book, and then, purely from curiosity, opened the door and
looked down the passage. From my door I could see the head of the
staircase in the distance; the opposite wing of the house, or the
passage rather beyond the stairs, was in darkness. The reason I saw the
staircase at all was that the window you pass coming downstairs allowed
the moon to throw an uncertain light upon it, a weird light because of
the stained glass. I was arrested by the curious effect of this patch of
light in so much darkness when suddenly someone came into it, turned,
and went downstairs. It was just like a scene in a theatre; something
was about to happen that I was going to miss. I ran as I was,
barefooted, to the head of the stairs and looked over the banister. I
was excited, strung up, too strung up to feel the fright that I knew
must be with me. I remember the sensation perfectly. I knew that I was
afraid, yet I did not feel fright.

"On the stairs nothing moved. The little hall down here was lost in
darkness. Looking over the banister I was facing the stained glass
window. You know how the stairs run round three sides of the hall; well,
it occurred to me that if I went half-way down and stood under the
window I should be able to keep the top of the stairs in sight and see
anything that might happen in the hall. I crept down very cautiously and
waited under the window. First of all, I saw the suit of empty armour
just outside the door here. You know how a thing like that, if you stare
at it in a poor light, appears to move; well, it moved sure enough, and
the illusion was enhanced by clouds being blown across the moon. By the
fire like this one can talk of these things rationally, but in the dead
of night it is a different matter, so I went down a few steps to make
sure of that armour, when suddenly something passed me on the stairs. I
did not hear it, I did not see it, I sensed it in no way, I just knew
that something had passed me on its way upstairs. I realized that my
retreat was cut off, and with the knowledge fear came upon me.

"I had seen someone come down the stairs; that, at any rate, was
definite; now I wanted to see him again. Any ghost is bad enough, but a
ghost that one can see is better than one that one can't. I managed to
get past the suit of armour, but then I had to feel my way to these
double doors here."

He indicated the direction of the doors by a curious wave of his hand.
He did not look toward them nor did any of the party. Both men and women
were completely absorbed in his story, they seemed to be mesmerized by
the earnestness of his manner. Only the girl was restless, she gave an
impression of impatience with the slowness with which he came to his
point. One would have said that she was apart from her fellows, an alien
among strangers.

"So dense was the darkness that I made sure of finding the first door
closed, but it was not, it was wide open, and, standing between them, I
could feel that the other was open, too. I was standing literally in the
wall of the house, and as I peered into the room, trying to make out
some familiar object, thoughts ran through my mind of people who had
been bricked up in walls and left there to die. For a moment I caught
the spirit of the inside of a thick wall. Then suddenly I felt the
sensation I have often read about but never experienced before: I knew
there was someone in the room. You are surprised, yes, but wait! I knew
more: I knew that that someone was conscious of my presence. It occurred
to me that whoever it was might want to get out of the door. I made
room for him to pass. I waited for him, made sure of him, began to feel
giddy, and then a man's voice, deep and clear:

"'There is someone there; who is it?'

"I answered mechanically: 'George Grady.'

"'I'm Joseph.'

"A match was drawn across a match-box, and I saw the boy bending over a
candle waiting for the wick to catch. For a moment I thought he must be
walking in his sleep, but he turned to me quite naturally and said in
his own boyish voice:

"'Lost anything?'

"I was amazed at the lad's complete calm. I wanted to share my fright
with someone, instead I had to hide it from this boy. I was conscious of
a curious sense of shame. I had watched him grow, taught him, praised
him, scolded him, and yet here he was waiting for an explanation of my
presence in the dining-room at that odd hour of the night.

"Soon he repeated the question: 'Lost anything?'

"'No,' I said, and then I stammered: 'Have you?'

"'No,' he said with a little laugh. 'It's that room, I can't sleep in
it.'

"'Oh,' I said. 'What's the matter with the room?'

"'It's the room I was killed in,' he said quite simply.

"Of course I had heard about his dreams, but I had had no direct
experience of them; when, therefore, he said that he had been killed in
his room I took it for granted that he had been dreaming again. I was at
a loss to know quite how to tackle him; whether to treat the whole thing
as absurd and laugh it off as such, or whether to humour him and hear
his story. I got him upstairs to my room, sat him in a big armchair, and
poked the fire into a blaze.

"'You've been dreaming again,' I said bluntly.

"'Oh, no I haven't. Don't you run away with that idea.'

"His whole manner was so grown up that it was quite unthinkable to treat
him as the child he really was. In fact, it was a little uncanny, this
man in a child's frame.

"'I was killed there,' he said again.

"'How do you mean killed?' I asked him.

"'Why, killed--murdered. Of course it was years and years ago, I can't
say when; still I remember the room. I suppose it was the room that
reminded me of the incident.'

"'Incident!' I exclaimed.

"'What else? Being killed is only an incident in the existence of
anyone. One makes a fuss about it at the time, of course, but really
when you come to think of it...'

"'Tell me about it,' I said, lighting a cigarette. He lit one too, that
child, and began.

"'You know my room is the only modern one in this old house. Nobody
knows why it is modern. The reason is obvious. Of course it was made
modern after I was killed there. The funny thing is that I should have
been put there. I suppose it was done for a purpose, because I--I--'

"He looked at me so fixedly I knew he would catch me if I lied.

"'What,' I asked.

"'Dream.'

"'Yes,' I said, 'that is why you were put there.'

"'I thought so, and yet of all the rooms--but then, of course, no one
knew. Anyhow I did not recognize the room until after I was in bed. I
had been asleep some time and then I woke suddenly. There is an old
wheel-back chair there--the only old thing in the room. It is standing
facing the fire as it must have stood the night I was killed. The fire
was burning brightly, the pattern of the back of the chair was thrown in
shadow across the ceiling. Now the night I was murdered the conditions
were exactly the same, so directly I saw that pattern on the ceiling I
remembered the whole thing. I was not dreaming, don't think it, I was
not. What happened that night was this: I was lying in bed counting the
parts of the back of that chair in shadow on the ceiling. I probably
could not get to sleep: you know the sort of thing, count up to a
thousand and remember in the morning where you got to. Well, I was
counting those pieces when suddenly they were obliterated, the whole
back became a shadow, someone was sitting in the chair. Now, surely you
understand that directly I saw the shadow of that chair on the ceiling
to-night I realized that I had not a moment to lose. At any moment that
same person might come back to that same chair and escape would be
impossible. I slipped from my bed as quickly as I could and ran
downstairs.'

"'But were you not afraid,' I asked,'downstairs?'

"'That she might follow me? It was a woman, you know. No, I don't think
I was. She does not belong downstairs. Anyhow she didn't.'

"'No,' I said. 'No.'

"My voice must have been out of control, for he caught me up at once.

"'You don't mean to say you saw her?' he said vehemently.

"'Oh, no.'

"'You felt her?'

"'She passed me as I came downstairs,' I said.

"'What can I have done to her that she follows me so?' He buried his
face in his hands as though searching for an answer to his thought.
Suddenly he looked up and stared at me.

"'Where had I got to? Oh yes, the murder. I can remember it all
distinctly.

"'You can imagine how startled I was to see that shadow in the
chair--startled, you know, but not really frightened. I leaned up in bed
and looked at the chair, and sure enough a woman was sitting in it--a
young woman. I watched her with a profound interest until she began to
turn in her chair, as I felt, to look at me; when she did that I shrank
back in bed. I dared not meet her eyes. She might not have had eyes, she
might not have had a face. You know the sort of pictures that one sees
when one glances back at all one's soul has ever thought.

"'I got back in the bed as far as I could and peeped over the sheets at
the shadow on the ceiling. I was tired; frightened to death; I grew
weary of watching; I must have fallen asleep, for suddenly the fire was
almost out, the pattern of the chair barely discernible, the shadow had
gone. I raised myself with a sense of huge relief. Yes, the chair was
empty, but, just think of it: the woman was on the floor, on her hands
and knees, crawling toward the bed.

"'I fell back stricken with terror.

"'Very soon I felt a gentle pull at the counterpane. I thought I was in
a nightmare but too lazy or too comfortable to try to wake myself from
it. I waited in an agony of suspense, but nothing seemed to be
happening, in fact I had just persuaded myself that the movement of the
counterpane was fancy when a hand brushed softly over my knee. There was
no mistaking it, I could feel the long, thin fingers. Now was the time
to do something. I tried to rouse myself, but all my efforts were
futile, I was stiff from head to foot.

"'Although the hand was lost to me, outwardly, it now came within my
range of knowledge, if you know what I mean. I knew that it was groping
its way along the bed, feeling for some other part of me. At any moment
I could have said exactly where it had got to. When it was hovering just
over my chest another hand knocked lightly against my shoulder. I
fancied it lost, and wandering in search of its fellow.

"'I was lying on my back staring at the ceiling when the hands met; the
weight of their presence brought a feeling of oppression to my chest. I
seemed to be completely cut off from my body; I had no sort of
connection with any part of it, nothing about me would respond to my
will to make it move.

"'There was no sound at all anywhere.

"'I fell into a state of indifference, a sort of patient indifference
that can wait for an appointed time to come. How long I waited I cannot
say, but when the time came it found me ready. I was not taken by
surprise.

"'There was a great upward rush of pent-up force released; it was like a
mighty mass of men who have been lost in prayer rising to their feet. I
can't remember clearly, but I think the woman must have got on to my
bed. I could not follow her distinctly, my whole attention was
concentrated on her hands. All the time I felt those fingers itching for
my throat.

"'At last they moved; slowly at first, then quicker; and then a
long-drawn swish like the sound of an overbold wave that has broken too
far up the beach and is sweeping back to join the sea.'

"The boy was silent for a moment, then he stretched out his hand for
the cigarettes.

"'You remember nothing else?' I asked him.

"'No,' he said. 'The next thing I remember clearly is deliberately
breaking the nursery window because it was raining and mother would not
let me go out.'"

There was a moment's tension, then the strain of listening passed and
everyone seemed to be speaking at once. The Rector was taking the story
seriously.

"Tell me, Grady," he said. "How long do you suppose elapsed between the
boy's murder and his breaking the nursery window?"

But a young married woman in the first flush of her happiness broke in
between them. She ridiculed the whole idea. Of course the boy was
dreaming. She was drawing the majority to her way of thinking when, from
the corner where the girl sat, a hollow-sounding voice:

"And the boy? Where is he?"

The tone of the girl's voice inspired horror, that fear that does not
know what it is it fears; one could see it on every face; on every face,
that is, but the face of the bald-headed little man; there was no horror
on his face, he was smiling serenely as he looked the girl straight in
the eyes.

"He's a man now," he said.

"Alive?" she cried.

"Why not?" said the little old man, rubbing his hands together.

She tried to rise, but her frock had got caught between the chairs and
pulled her to her seat again. The man next her put out his hand to
steady her, but she dashed it away roughly. She looked round the party
for an instant for all the world like an animal at bay, then she sprang
to her feet and charged blindly. They crowded round her to prevent her
falling; at the touch of their hands she stopped. She was out of breath
as though she had been running.

"All right," she said, pushing their hands from her. "All right. I'll
come quietly. I did it."

They caught her as she fell and laid her on the sofa watching the colour
fade from her face.

The hostess, an old woman with white hair and a kind face, approached
the little old man; for once in her life she was roused to anger.

"I can't think how you could be so stupid," she said. "See what you have
done."

"I did it for a purpose," he said.

"For a purpose?"

"I have always thought that girl was the culprit. I have to thank you
for the opportunity you have given me of making sure."



IV

THE HORLA

GUY DE MAUPASSANT


_May 8th._ What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying in the
grass in front of my house, under the enormous plantain tree which
covers it, and shades and shelters the whole of it. I like this part of
the country and I am fond of living here because I am attached to it by
deep roots, profound and delicate roots which attach a man to the soil
on which his ancestors were born and died, which attach him to what
people think and what they eat, to the usages as well as to the food,
local expression, the peculiar language of the peasants, to the smell of
the soil, of the villages and of the atmosphere itself.

I love my house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see the Seine
which flows by the side of my garden, on the other side of the road,
almost through my grounds, the great and wide Seine which goes to Rouen
and Havre, and which is covered with boats passing to and fro.

On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, that large town with its blue
roofs, under its pointed Gothic towers. They are innumerable, delicate
or broad, dominated by the spire of the cathedral, and full of bells
which sound through the blue air on fine mornings, sending their sweet
and distant iron clang to me; their metallic sound which the breeze
wafts in my direction, now stronger and now weaker, according as the
wind is stronger or lighter.

What a delicious morning it was!

About eleven o'clock, a long line of boats drawn by a steam tug, as big
as a fly, and which scarcely puffed while emitting its thick smoke,
passed my gate.

After two English schooners, whose red flag fluttered toward the sky,
there came a magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was perfectly white
and wonderfully clean and shining. I saluted it, I hardly know why,
except that the sight of the vessel gave me great pleasure.

_May 12th._ I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few days,
and I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited.

Whence do these mysterious influences come, which change our happiness
into discouragement, and our self-confidence into diffidence? One might
almost say that the air, the invisible air, is full of unknowable
Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to endure. I wake up in the
best spirits, with an inclination to sing in my throat. Why? I go down
by the side of the water, and suddenly, after walking a short distance,
I return home wretched, as if some misfortune were awaiting me there.
Why? Is it a cold shiver which, passing over my skin, has upset my
nerves and given me low spirits? Is it the form of the clouds, or the
colour of the sky, or the colour of the surrounding objects which is so
changeable, which have troubled my thoughts as they passed before my
eyes? Who can tell? Everything that surrounds us, everything that we see
without looking at it, everything that we touch without knowing it,
everything that we handle without feeling it, all that we meet without
clearly distinguishing it, has a rapid, surprising and inexplicable
effect upon us and upon our organs, and through them on our ideas and on
our heart itself.

How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with
our miserable senses, with our eyes which are unable to perceive what is
either too small or too great, too near to, or too far from us; neither
the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water ... with our ears that
deceive us, for they transmit to us the vibrations of the air in
sonorous notes. They are fairies who work the miracle of changing that
movement into noise, and by that metamorphosis give birth to music,
which makes the mute agitation of nature musical ... with our sense of
smell which is smaller than that of a dog ... with our sense of taste
which can scarcely distinguish the age of a wine!

Oh! If we only had other organs which would work other miracles in our
favour, what a number of fresh things we might discover around us!

_May 16th._ I am ill, decidedly! I was so well last month! I am
feverish, horribly feverish, or rather I am in a state of feverish
enervation, which makes my mind suffer as much as my body. I have
without ceasing that horrible sensation of some danger threatening me,
that apprehension of some coming misfortune or of approaching death,
that presentiment which is, no doubt, an attack of some illness which is
still unknown, which germinates in the flesh and in the blood.

_May 18th._ I have just come from consulting my medical man, for I could
no longer get any sleep. He found that my pulse was high, my eyes
dilated, my nerves highly strung, but no alarming symptoms. I must have
a course of shower-baths and of bromide of potassium.

_May 25th._ No change! My state is really very peculiar. As the evening
comes on, an incomprehensible feeling of disquietude seizes me, just as
if night concealed some terrible menace toward me. I dine quickly, and
then try to read, but I do not understand the words, and can scarcely
distinguish the letters. Then I walk up and down my drawing-room,
oppressed by a feeling of confused and irresistible fear, the fear of
sleep and fear of my bed.

About ten o'clock I go up to my room. As soon as I have got in I double
lock, and bolt it: I am frightened--of what? Up till the present time I
have been frightened of nothing--I open my cupboards, and look under my
bed; I listen--I listen--to what? How strange it is that a simple
feeling of discomfort, impeded or heightened circulation, perhaps the
irritation of a nervous thread, a slight congestion, a small disturbance
in the imperfect and delicate functions of our living machinery, can
turn the most lighthearted of men into a melancholy one, and make a
coward of the bravest! Then, I go to bed, and I wait for sleep as a man
might wait for the executioner. I wait for its coming with dread, and my
heart beats and my legs tremble, while my whole body shivers beneath the
warmth of the bedclothes, until the moment when I suddenly fall asleep,
as one would throw oneself into a pool of stagnant water in order to
drown oneself. I do not feel coming over me, as I used to do formerly,
this perfidious sleep which is close to me and watching me, which is
going to seize me by the head, to close my eyes and annihilate me.

I sleep--a long time--two or three hours perhaps--then a dream--no--a
nightmare lays hold on me. I feel that I am in bed and asleep--I feel it
and I know it--and I feel also that somebody is coming close to me, is
looking at me, touching me, is getting on to my bed, is kneeling on my
chest, is taking my neck between his hands and squeezing it--squeezing
it with all his might in order to strangle me.

I struggle, bound by that terrible powerlessness which paralyzes us in
our dreams; I try to cry out--but I cannot; I want to move--I cannot; I
try, with the most violent efforts and out of breath, to turn over and
throw off this being which is crushing and suffocating me--I cannot!

And then, suddenly, I wake up, shaken and bathed in perspiration; I
light a candle and find that I am alone, and after that crisis, which
occurs every night, I at length fall asleep and slumber tranquilly till
morning.

_June 2d._ My state has grown worse. What is the matter with me? The
bromide does me no good, and the shower-baths have no effect whatever.
Sometimes, in order to tire myself out, though I am fatigued enough
already, I go for a walk in the forest of Roumare. I used to think at
first that the fresh light and soft air, impregnated with the odour of
herbs and leaves, would instill new blood into my veins and impart fresh
energy to my heart. I turned into a broad ride in the wood, and then I
turned toward La Bouille, through a narrow path, between two rows of
exceedingly tall trees, which placed a thick, green, almost black roof
between the sky and me.

A sudden shiver ran through me, not a cold shiver, but a shiver of
agony, and so I hastened my steps, uneasy at being alone in the wood,
frightened stupidly and without reason, at the profound solitude.
Suddenly it seemed to me as if I were being followed, that somebody was
walking at my heels, close, quite close to me, near enough to touch me.

I turned round suddenly, but I was alone. I saw nothing behind me
except the straight, broad ride, empty and bordered by high trees,
horribly empty; on the other side it also extended until it was lost in
the distance, and looked just the same, terrible.

I closed my eyes. Why? And then I began to turn round on one heel very
quickly, just like a top. I nearly fell down, and opened my eyes; the
trees were dancing round me and the earth heaved; I was obliged to sit
down. Then, ah! I no longer remembered how I had come! What a strange
idea! What a strange, strange idea! I did not the least know. I started
off to the right, and got back into the avenue which had led me into the
middle of the forest.

_June 3d._ I have had a terrible night. I shall go away for a few weeks,
for no doubt a journey will set me up again.

_July 2d._ I have come back, quite cured, and have had a most delightful
trip into the bargain. I have been to Mont Saint-Michel, which I had not
seen before.

What a sight, when one arrives as I did, at Avranches toward the end of
the day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken into the public
garden at the extremity of the town. I uttered a cry of astonishment. An
extraordinary large bay lay extended before me, as far as my eyes could
reach, between two hills which were lost to sight in the mist; and in
the middle of this immense yellow bay, under a clear, golden sky, a
peculiar hill rose up, sombre and pointed in the midst of the sand. The
sun had just disappeared, and under the still flaming sky the outline of
that fantastic rock stood out, which bears on its summit a fantastic
monument.

At daybreak I went to it. The tide was low as it had been the night
before, and I saw that wonderful abbey rise up before me as I approached
it. After several hours' walking, I reached the enormous mass of rocks
which supports the little town, dominated by the great church. Having
climbed the steep and narrow street, I entered the most wonderful Gothic
building that has ever been built to God on earth, as large as a town,
full of low rooms which seem buried beneath vaulted roofs, and lofty
galleries supported by delicate columns.

I entered this gigantic granite jewel which is as light as a bit of
lace, covered with towers, with slender belfries to which spiral
staircases ascend, and which raise their strange heads that bristle with
chimeras, with devils, with fantastic animals, with monstrous flowers,
and which are joined together by finely carved arches, to the blue sky
by day, and to the black sky by night.

When I had reached the summit, I said to the monk who accompanied me:
"Father, how happy you must be here!" And he replied: "It is very windy,
Monsieur"; and so we began to talk while watching the rising tide,
which ran over the sand and covered it with a steel cuirass.

And then the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging to the
place, legends, nothing but legends.

One of them struck me forcibly. The country people, those belonging to
the Mornet, declare that at night one can hear talking going on in the
sand, and then that one hears two goats bleat, one with a strong, the
other with a weak voice. Incredulous people declare that it is nothing
but the cry of the sea birds, which occasionally resembles bleatings,
and occasionally human lamentations; but belated fishermen swear that
they have met an old shepherd, whose head, which is covered by his
cloak, they can never see, wandering on the downs, between two tides,
round the little town placed so far out of the world, and who is guiding
and walking before them, a he-goat with a man's face, and a she-goat
with a woman's face, and both of them with white hair; and talking
incessantly, quarrelling in a strange language, and then suddenly
ceasing to talk in order to bleat with all their might.

"Do you believe it?" I asked the monk. "I scarcely know," he replied,
and I continued: "If there are other beings besides ourselves on this
earth, how comes it that we have not known it for so long a time, or why
have you not seen them? How is it that I have not seen them?" He
replied: "Do we see the hundred thousandth part of what exists? Look
here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature, which
knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea
into mountains of water; destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto the
breakers; the wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which
roars--have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all
that, however."

I was silent before this simple reasoning. The man was a philosopher, or
perhaps a fool; I could not say which exactly, so I held my tongue. What
he had said, had often been in my own thoughts.

_July 3d._ I have slept badly; certainly there is some feverish
influence here, for my coachman is suffering in the same way as I am.
When I went back home yesterday, I noticed his singular paleness, and I
asked him: "What is the matter with you, Jean?" "The matter is that I
never get any rest, and my nights devour my days. Since your departure,
monsieur, there has been a spell over me."

However, the other servants are all well, but I am very frightened of
having another attack, myself.

_July 4th._ I am decidedly taken again; for my old nightmares have
returned. Last night I felt somebody leaning on me who was sucking my
life from between my lips with his mouth. Yes, he was sucking it out of
my neck, like a leech would have done. Then he got up, satiated, and I
woke up, so beaten, crushed and annihilated that I could not move. If
this continues for a few days, I shall certainly go away again.

_July 5th._ Have I lost my reason? What has happened? What I saw last
night is so strange that my head wanders when I think of it!

As I do now every evening, I had locked my door, and then, being
thirsty, I drank half a glass of water, and I accidentally noticed that
the water bottle was full up to the cut-glass stopper.

Then I went to bed and fell into one of my terrible sleeps, from which I
was aroused in about two hours by a still more terrible shock.

Picture to yourself a sleeping man who is being murdered and who wakes
up with a knife in his chest, and who is rattling in his throat, covered
with blood, and who can no longer breathe, and is going to die, and does
not understand anything at all about it--there it is.

Having recovered my senses, I was thirsty again, so I lit a candle and
went to the table on which my water bottle was. I lifted it up and
tilted it over my glass, but nothing came out. It was empty! It was
completely empty! At first I could not understand it at all, and then
suddenly I was seized by such a terrible feeling that I had to sit down,
or rather I fell into a chair! Then I sprang up with a bound to look
about me, and then I sat down again, overcome by astonishment and fear,
in front of the transparent crystal bottle! I looked at it with fixed
eyes, trying to conjecture, and my hands trembled! Somebody had drunk
the water, but who? I? I without any doubt. It could surely only be I?
In that case I was a somnambulist, I lived, without knowing it, that
double mysterious life which makes us doubt whether there are not two
beings in us, or whether a strange, unknowable and invisible being does
not at such moments, when our soul is in a state of torpor, animate our
captive body which obeys this other being, as it does us ourselves, and
more than it does ourselves.

Oh! Who will understand my horrible agony? Who will understand the
emotion of a man who is sound in mind, wide awake, full of sound sense,
and who looks in horror at the remains of a little water that has
disappeared while he was asleep, through the glass of a water bottle?
And I remained there until it was daylight, without venturing to go to
bed again.

_July 6th._ I am going mad. Again all the contents of my water bottle
have been drunk during the night--or rather, I have drunk it!

But is it I? Is it I? Who could it be? Who? Oh! God! Am I going mad? Who
will save me?

_July 10th._ I have just been through some surprising ordeals. Decidedly
I am mad! And yet!--

On July 6th, before going to bed, I put some wine, milk, water, bread
and strawberries on my table. Somebody drank--I drank--all the water and
a little of the milk, but neither the wine, bread nor the strawberries
were touched.

On the seventh of July I renewed the same experiment, with the same
results, and on July 8th, I left out the water and the milk and nothing
was touched.

Lastly, on July 9th I put only water and milk on my table, taking care
to wrap up the bottles in white muslin and to tie down the stoppers.
Then I rubbed my lips, my beard and my hands with pencil lead, and went
to bed.

Irresistible sleep seized me, which was soon followed by a terrible
awakening. I had not moved, and my sheets were not marked. I rushed to
the table. The muslin round the bottles remained intact; I undid the
string, trembling with fear. All the water had been drunk, and so had
the milk! Ah! Great God!--

I must start for Paris immediately.

_July 12th._ Paris. I must have lost my head during the last few days! I
must be the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless I am really a
somnambulist, or that I have been brought under the power of one of
those influences which have been proved to exist, but which have
hitherto been inexplicable, which are called suggestions. In any case,
my mental state bordered on madness, and twenty-four hours of Paris
sufficed to restore me to my equilibrium.

Yesterday after doing some business and paying some visits which
instilled fresh and invigorating mental air into me, I wound up my
evening at the _Théâtre Français_. A play by Alexandre Dumas the
Younger was being acted, and his active and powerful mind completed my
cure. Certainly solitude is dangerous for active minds. We require men
who can think and can talk, around us. When we are alone for a long time
we people space with phantoms.

I returned along the boulevards to my hotel in excellent spirits. Amid
the jostling of the crowd I thought, not without irony, of my terrors
and surmises of the previous week, because I believed, yes, I believed,
that an invisible being lived beneath my roof. How weak our head is, and
how quickly it is terrified and goes astray, as soon as we are struck by
a small, incomprehensible fact.

Instead of concluding with these simple words: "I do not understand
because the cause escapes me," we immediately imagine terrible mysteries
and supernatural powers.

_July 14th._ Fête of the Republic. I walked through the streets, and the
crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still it is very foolish to
be merry on a fixed date, by a Government decree. The populace is an
imbecile flock of sheep, now steadily patient, and now in ferocious
revolt. Say to it: "Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to it:
"Go and fight with your neighbour," and it goes and fights. Say to it:
"Vote for the Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor, and then say to
it: "Vote for the Republic," and it votes for the Republic.

Those who direct it are also stupid; but instead of obeying men they
obey principles, which can only be stupid, sterile, and false, for the
very reason that they are principles, that is to say, ideas which are
considered as certain and unchangeable, in this world where one is
certain of nothing, since light is an illusion and noise is an illusion.

_July 16th._ I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much.

I was dining at my cousin's Madame Sablé, whose husband is colonel of
the 76th Chasseurs at Limoges. There were two young women there, one of
whom had married a medical man, Dr. Parent, who devotes himself a great
deal to nervous diseases and the extraordinary manifestations to which
at this moment experiments in hypnotism and suggestion give rise.

He related to us at some length, the enormous results obtained by
English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at Nancy, and
the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange, that I declared
that I was altogether incredulous.

"We are," he declared, "on the point of discovering one of the most
important secrets of nature, I mean to say, one of its most important
secrets on this earth, for there are certainly some which are of a
different kind of importance up in the stars, yonder. Ever since man has
thought, since he has been able to express and write down his thoughts,
he has felt himself close to a mystery which is impenetrable to his
coarse and imperfect senses, and he endeavours to supplement the want of
power of his organs by the efforts of his intellect. As long as that
intellect still remained in its elementary stage, this intercourse with
invisible spirits assumed forms which were commonplace though
terrifying. Thence sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the
legends of wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, ghosts, I might
even say the legend of God, for our conceptions of the workman-creator,
from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are certainly the
most mediocre, the stupidest and the most unacceptable inventions that
ever sprang from the frightened brain of any human creatures. Nothing is
truer than what Voltaire says: 'God made man in His own image, but man
has certainly paid Him back again.'

"But for rather more than a century, men seem to have had a presentiment
of something new. Mesmer and some others have put us on an unexpected
track, and especially within the last two or three years, we have
arrived at really surprising results."

My cousin, who is also very incredulous, smiled, and Dr. Parent said to
her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep, Madame?" "Yes,
certainly."

She sat down in an easy-chair, and he began to look at her fixedly, so
as to fascinate her. I suddenly felt myself somewhat uncomfortable, with
a beating heart and a choking feeling in my throat. I saw that Madame
Sablé's eyes were growing heavy, her mouth twitched and her bosom
heaved, and at the end of ten minutes she was asleep.

"Stand behind her," the doctor said to me, and so I took a seat behind
her. He put a visiting card into her hands, and said to her: "This is a
looking-glass; what do you see in it?" And she replied: "I see my
cousin." "What is he doing?" "He is twisting his moustache." "And now?"
"He is taking a photograph out of his pocket." "Whose photograph is it?"
"His own."

That was true, and that photograph had been given me that same evening
at the hotel.

"What is his attitude in this portrait?" "He is standing up with his hat
in his hand."

So she saw on that card, on that piece of white pasteboard, as if she
had seen it in a looking glass.

The young women were frightened, and exclaimed: "That is quite enough!
Quite, quite enough!"

But the doctor said to her authoritatively: "You will get up at eight
o'clock to-morrow morning; then you will go and call on your cousin at
his hotel and ask him to lend you five thousand francs which your
husband demands of you, and which he will ask for when he sets out on
his coming journey."

Then he woke her up.

On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious _séance_ and I was
assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and undoubted good
faith, for I had known her as well as if she had been my own sister
ever since she was a child, but as to a possible trick on the doctor's
part. Had not he, perhaps, kept a glass hidden in his hand, which he
showed to the young woman in her sleep, at the same time as he did the
card? Professional conjurers do things which are just as singular.

So I went home and to bed, and this morning, at about half past eight, I
was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame Sablé has asked to
see you immediately, Monsieur," so I dressed hastily and went to her.

She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and without
raising her veil she said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going to ask a
great favour of you." "What is it, cousin?" "I do not like to tell you,
and yet I must. I am in absolute want of five thousand francs." "What,
you?" "Yes, I, or rather my husband, who has asked me to procure them
for him."

I was so stupefied that I stammered out my answers. I asked myself
whether she had not really been making fun of me with Doctor Parent, if
it were not merely a very well-acted farce which had been got up
beforehand. On looking at her attentively, however, my doubts
disappeared. She was trembling with grief, so painful was this step to
her, and I was sure that her throat was full of sobs.

I knew that she was very rich and so I continued: "What! Has not your
husband five thousand francs at his disposal! Come, think. Are you sure
that he commissioned you to ask me for them?"

She hesitated for a few seconds, as if she were making a great effort to
search her memory, and then she replied: "Yes ... yes, I am quite sure
of it." "He has written to you?"

She hesitated again and reflected, and I guessed the torture of her
thoughts. She did not know. She only knew that she was to borrow five
thousand francs of me for her husband. So she told a lie. "Yes, he has
written to me." "When, pray? You did not mention it to me yesterday." "I
received his letter this morning." "Can you show it me?" "No; no ... no
... it contained private matters ... things too personal to
ourselves.... I burnt it." "So your husband runs into debt?"

She hesitated again, and then murmured: "I do not know." Thereupon I
said bluntly: "I have not five thousand francs at my disposal at this
moment, my dear cousin."

She uttered a kind of cry as if she were in pain and said: "Oh! oh! I
beseech you, I beseech you to get them for me..."

She got excited and clasped her hands as if she were praying to me! I
heard her voice change its tone; she wept and stammered, harassed and
dominated by the irresistible order that she had received.

"Oh! oh! I beg you to ... if you knew what I am suffering.... I want
them to-day."

I had pity on her: "You shall have them by and by, I swear to you."
"Oh! thank you! thank you! How kind you are!"

I continued: "Do you remember what took place at your house last night?"
"Yes." "Do you remember that Doctor Parent sent you to sleep?" "Yes."
"Oh! Very well then; he ordered you to come to me this morning to borrow
five thousand francs, and at this moment you are obeying that
suggestion."

She considered for a few moments, and then replied: "But as it is my
husband who wants them..."

For a whole hour I tried to convince her, but could not succeed, and
when she had gone I went to the doctor. He was just going out, and he
listened to me with a smile, and said: "Do you believe now?" "Yes, I
cannot help it." "Let us go to your cousin's."

She was already dozing on a couch, overcome with fatigue. The doctor
felt her pulse, looked at her for some time with one hand raised toward
her eyes which she closed by degrees under the irresistible power of
this influence, and when she was asleep, he said:

"Your husband does not require the five thousand francs any longer! You
must, therefore, forget that you asked your cousin to lend them to you,
and, if he speaks to you about it, you will not understand him."

Then he woke her up, and I took out a pocketbook and said: "Here is
what you asked me for this morning, my dear cousin." But she was so
surprised that I did not venture to persist; nevertheless, I tried to
recall the circumstance to her, but she denied it vigorously, thought
that I was making fun of her, and in the end very nearly lost her
temper.

       *       *       *       *       *

There! I have just come back, and I have not been able to eat any lunch,
for this experiment has altogether upset me.

_July 19th._ Many people to whom I have told the adventure have laughed
at me. I no longer know what to think. The wise man says: Perhaps?

_July 21st._ I dined at Bougival, and then I spent the evening at a
boatmen's ball. Decidedly everything depends on place and surroundings.
It would be the height of folly to believe in the supernatural on the
_île de la Grenouillière_[1] ... but on the top of Mont Saint-Michel?...
and in India? We are terribly under the influence of our surroundings. I
shall return home next week.

[1] Frog Island.

_July 30th._ I came back to my own house yesterday. Everything is going
on well.

_August 2d._ Nothing fresh; it is splendid weather, and I spend my days
in watching the Seine flow past.

_August 4th._ Quarrels among my servants. They declare that the glasses
are broken in the cupboards at night. The footman accuses the cook, who
accuses the needlewoman, who accuses the other two. Who is the culprit?
A clever person, to be able to tell.

_August 6th._ This time I am not mad. I have seen ... I have seen ... I
have seen!... I can doubt no longer ... I have seen it!...

I was walking at two o'clock among my rose trees, in the full sunlight
... in the walk bordered by autumn roses which are beginning to fall. As
I stopped to look at a _Géant de Bataille_, which had three splendid
blooms, I distinctly saw the stalk of one of the roses bend, close to
me, as if an invisible hand had bent it, and then break, as if that hand
had picked it! Then the flower raised itself, following the curve which
a hand would have described in carrying it toward a mouth, and it
remained suspended in the transparent air, all alone and motionless, a
terrible red spot, three yards from my eyes. In desperation I rushed at
it to take it! I found nothing; it had disappeared. Then I was seized
with furious rage against myself, for it is not allowable for a
reasonable and serious man to have such hallucinations.

But was it a hallucination? I turned round to look for the stalk, and I
found it immediately under the bush, freshly broken, between two other
roses which remained on the branch, and I returned home then, with a
much disturbed mind; for I am certain now, as certain as I am of the
alternation of day and night, that there exists close to me an
invisible being that lives on milk and on water, which can touch
objects, take them and change their places; which is, consequently,
endowed with a material nature, although it is impossible to our senses,
and which lives as I do, under my roof....

_August 7th._ I slept tranquilly. He drank the water out of my decanter,
but did not disturb my sleep.

I ask myself whether I am mad. As I was walking just now in the sun by
the riverside, doubts as to my own sanity arose in me; not vague doubts
such as I have had hitherto, but precise and absolute doubts. I have
seen mad people, and I have known some who have been quite intelligent,
lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one point.
They spoke clearly, readily, profoundly, on everything, when suddenly
their thoughts struck upon the breakers of their madness and broke to
pieces there, and were dispersed and foundered in that furious and
terrible sea, full of bounding waves, fogs and squalls, which is called
_madness_.

I certainly should think that I was mad, absolutely mad, if I were not
conscious, did not perfectly know my state, if I did fathom it by
analyzing it with the most complete lucidity. I should, in fact, be a
reasonable man who was labouring under a hallucination. Some unknown
disturbance must have been excited in my brain, one of those
disturbances which physiologists of the present day try to note and to
fix precisely, and that disturbance must have caused a profound gulf in
my mind and in the order and logic of my ideas. Similar phenomena occur
in the dreams which lead us through the most unlikely phantasmagoria,
without causing us any surprise, because our verifying apparatus and our
sense of control has gone to sleep, while our imaginative faculty wakes
and works. Is it not possible that one of the imperceptible keys of the
cerebral finger-board has been paralyzed in me? Some men lose the
recollection of proper names, or of verbs, or of numbers, or merely of
dates, in consequence of an accident. The localization of all the
particles of thought has been proved nowadays; what then would there be
surprising in the fact that my faculty of controlling the unreality of
certain hallucinations should be destroyed for the time being!

I thought of all this as I walked by the side of the water. The sun was
shining brightly on the river and made earth delightful, while it filled
my looks with love for life, for the swallows, whose agility is always
delightful in my eyes, for the plants by the riverside, whose rustling
is a pleasure to my ears.

By degrees, however, an inexplicable feeling of discomfort seized me. It
seemed to me as if some unknown force were numbing and stopping me, were
preventing me from going farther and were calling me back. I felt that
painful wish to return which oppresses you when you have left a beloved
invalid at home, and when you are seized by a presentiment that he is
worse.

I, therefore, returned in spite of myself, feeling certain that I
should find some bad news awaiting me, a letter or a telegram. There was
nothing, however, and I was more surprised and uneasy than if I had had
another fantastic vision.

_August 8th._ I spent a terrible evening yesterday. He does not show
himself any more, but I feel that he is near me, watching me, looking at
me, penetrating me, dominating me, and more redoubtable when he hides
himself thus than if he were to manifest his constant and invisible
presence by supernatural phenomena. However, I slept.

_August 9th._ Nothing, but I am afraid.

_August 10th._ Nothing; what will happen to-morrow?

_August 11th._ Still nothing; I cannot stop at home with this fear
hanging over me and these thoughts in my mind; I shall go away.

_August 12th._ Ten o'clock at night. All day long I have been trying to
get away, and have not been able. I wished to accomplish this simple and
easy act of liberty--go out--get into my carriage in order to go to
Rouen--and I have not been able to do it. What is the reason?

_August 13th._ When one is attacked by certain maladies, all the springs
of our physical being appear to be broken, all our energies destroyed,
all our muscles relaxed, our bones to have become as soft as our flesh,
and our blood as liquid as water. I am experiencing that in my moral
being in a strange and distressing manner. I have no longer any
strength, any courage, any self-control, nor even any power to set my
own will in motion. I have no power left to _will_ anything, but someone
does it for me and I obey.

_August 14th._ I am lost! Somebody possesses my soul and governs it!
Somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts. I am no
longer anything in myself, nothing except an enslaved and terrified
spectator of all the things which I do. I wish to go out; I cannot. He
does not wish to, and so I remain, trembling and distracted, in the
armchair in which he keeps me sitting. I merely wish to get up and to
rouse myself, so as to think that I am still master of myself: I cannot!
I am riveted to my chair, and my chair adheres to the ground in such a
manner that no force could move us.

Then suddenly, I must, I must go to the bottom of my garden to pick some
strawberries and eat them, and I go there. I pick the strawberries and I
eat them! Oh! my God! my God! Is there a God? If there be one, deliver
me! save me! succour me! Pardon! Pity! Mercy! Save me! Oh! what
sufferings! what torture! what horror!

_August 15th._ Certainly this is the way in which my poor cousin was
possessed and swayed, when she came to borrow five thousand francs of
me. She was under the power of a strange will which had entered into
her, like another soul, like another parasitic and ruling soul. Is the
world coming to an end?

But who is he, this invisible being that rules me? This unknowable
being, this rover of a supernatural race?

Invisible beings exist, then! How is it then that since the beginning of
the world they have never manifested themselves in such a manner
precisely as they do to me? I have never read anything which resembles
what goes on in my house. Oh! If I could only leave it, if I could only
go away and flee, so as never to return, I should be saved; but I
cannot.

_August 16th._ I managed to escape to-day for two hours, like a prisoner
who finds the door of his dungeon accidentally open. I suddenly felt
that I was free and that he was far away, and so I gave orders to put
the horses in as quickly as possible, and I drove to Rouen. Oh! How
delightful to be able to say to a man who obeyed you: "Go to Rouen!"

I made him pull up before the library, and I begged them to lend me Dr.
Herrmann Herestauss's treatise on the unknown inhabitants of the ancient
and modern world.

Then, as I was getting into my carriage, I intended to say: "To the
railway station!" but instead of this I shouted--I did not say, but I
shouted--in such a loud voice that all the passers-by turned round:
"Home!" and I fell back onto the cushion of my carriage, overcome by
mental agony. He had found me out and regained possession of me.

_August 17th._ Oh! What a night! what a night! And yet it seems to me
that I ought to rejoice. I read until one o'clock in the morning!
Herestauss, Doctor of Philosophy and Theogony, wrote the history and the
manifestation of all those invisible beings which hover around man, or
of whom he dreams. He describes their origin, their domains, their
power; but none of them resembles the one which haunts me. One might say
that man, ever since he has thought, has had a foreboding of, and feared
a new being, stronger than himself, his successor in this world, and
that, feeling him near, and not being able to foretell the nature of
that master, he has, in his terror, created the whole race of hidden
beings, of vague phantoms born of fear.

Having, therefore, read until one o'clock in the morning, I went and sat
down at the open window, in order to cool my forehead and my thoughts,
in the calm night air. It was very pleasant and warm! How I should have
enjoyed such a night formerly!

There was no moon, but the stars darted out their rays in the dark
heavens. Who inhabits those worlds? What forms, what living beings, what
animals are there yonder? What do those who are thinkers in those
distant worlds know more than we do? What can they do more than we can?
What do they see which we do not know? Will not one of them, some day or
other, traversing space, appear on our earth to conquer it, just as the
Norsemen formerly crossed the sea in order to subjugate nations more
feeble than themselves?

We are so weak, so unarmed, so ignorant, so small, we who live on this
particle of mud which turns round in a drop of water.

I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then, having
slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my eyes without
moving, awakened by I know not what confused and strange sensation. At
first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it appeared to me as if a page of
a book which had remained open on my table, turned over of its own
accord. Not a breath of air had come in at my window, and I was
surprised and waited. In about four minutes, I saw, I saw, yes I saw
with my own eyes another page lift itself up and fall down on the
others, as if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty,
appeared empty, but I knew that he was there, he, and sitting in my
place, and that he was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an
enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed my
room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him!... But before I could
reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away from me ... my
table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my window closed as if some
thief had been surprised and had fled out into the night, shutting it
behind him.

So he had run away: he had been afraid; he, afraid of me!

So ... so ... to-morrow ... or later ... some day or other ... I should
be able to hold him in my clutches and crush him against the ground! Do
not dogs occasionally bite and strangle their masters?

_August 18th._ I have been thinking the whole day long. Oh! yes, I will
obey him, follow his impulses, fulfill all his wishes, show myself
humble, submissive, a coward. He is the stronger; but an hour will
come...

_August 19th._ I know, ... I know ... I know all! I have just read the
following in the _Revue de Monde Scientifique_: "A curious piece of news
comes to us from Rio de Janeiro. Madness, an epidemic of madness, which
may be compared to that contagious madness which attacked the people of
Europe in the Middle Ages, is at this moment raging in the Province of
San-Paulo. The frightened inhabitants are leaving their houses,
deserting their villages, abandoning their land, saying that they are
pursued, possessed, governed like human cattle by invisible, though
tangible beings, a species of vampire, which feed on their life while
they are asleep, and who, besides, drink water and milk without
appearing to touch any other nourishment.

"Professor Dom Pedro Henriques, accompanied by several medical savants,
has gone to the Province of San-Paulo, in order to study the origin and
the manifestations of this surprising madness on the spot, and to
propose such measures to the Emperor as may appear to him to be most
fitted to restore the mad population to reason."

Ah! Ah! I remember now that fine Brazilian three-master which passed in
front of my windows as it was going up the Seine, on the 8th of last
May! I thought it looked so pretty, so white and bright! That Being was
on board of her, coming from there, where its race sprang from. And it
saw me! It saw my house which was also white, and it sprang from the
ship onto the land. Oh! Good heavens!

Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has come. He
whom disquieted priests exorcised, whom sorcerers evoked on dark nights,
without yet seeing him appear, to whom the presentiments of the
transient masters of the world lent all the monstrous or graceful forms
of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies, and familiar spirits. After the
coarse conceptions of primitive fear, more clear-sighted men foresaw it
more clearly. Mesmer divined him, and ten years ago physicians
accurately discovered the nature of his power, even before he exercised
it himself. They played with that weapon of their new Lord, the sway of
a mysterious will over the human soul, which had become enslaved. They
called it magnetism, hypnotism, suggestion ... what do I know? I have
seen them amusing themselves like impudent children with this horrible
power! Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come, the ... the ... what does he
call himself ... the ... I fancy that he is shouting out his name to me
and I do not hear him ... the ... yes ... he is shouting it out ... I
am listening ... I cannot ... repeat ... it ... Horla ... I have heard
... the Horla ... it is he ... the Horla ... he has come!...

Ah! the vulture has eaten the pigeon, the wolf has eaten the lamb; the
lion has devoured the buffalo with sharp horns; man has killed the lion
with an arrow, with a sword, with gunpowder; but the Horla will make of
man what we have made of the horse and of the ox: his chattel, his slave
and his food, by the mere power of his will. Woe to us!

But, nevertheless, the animal sometimes revolts and kills the man who
has subjugated it.... I should also like ... I shall be able to ... but
I must know him, touch him, see him! Learned men say that beasts' eyes,
as they differ from ours, do not distinguish like ours do.... And my eye
cannot distinguish this newcomer who is oppressing me.

Why? Oh! Now I remember the words of the monk at Mont Saint-Michel: "Can
we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists? Look here; there is
the wind which is the strongest force in nature, which knocks down men,
and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains
of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto the breakers; the
wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which roars--have you
ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all that, however!"

And I went on thinking: my eyes are so weak, so imperfect, that they do
not even distinguish hard bodies, if they are as transparent as
glass!... If a glass without tinfoil behind it were to bar my way, I
should run into it, just as a bird which has flown into a room breaks
its head against the window panes. A thousand things, moreover, deceive
him and lead him astray. How should it then be surprising that he cannot
perceive a fresh body which is traversed by the light?

A new being! Why not? It was assuredly bound to come! Why should we be
the last? We do not distinguish it, like all the others created before
us. The reason is, that its nature is more perfect, its body finer and
more finished than ours, that ours is so weak, so awkwardly conceived,
encumbered with organs that are always tired, always on the strain like
locks that are too complicated, which lives like a plant and like a
beast, nourishing itself with difficulty on air, herbs and flesh, an
animal machine which is a prey to maladies, to malformations, to decay;
broken-winded, badly regulated, simple and eccentric, ingeniously badly
made, a coarse and a delicate work, the outline of a being which might
become intelligent and grand.

We are only a few, so few in this world, from the oyster up to man. Why
should there not be one more, when once that period is accomplished
which separates the successive apparitions from all the different
species?

Why not one more? Why not, also, other trees with immense, splendid
flowers, perfuming whole regions? Why not other elements besides fire,
air, earth and water? There are four, only four, those nursing fathers
of various beings! What a pity! Why are they not forty, four hundred,
four thousand! How poor everything is, how mean and wretched! grudgingly
given, dryly invented, clumsily made! Ah! the elephant and the
hippopotamus, what grace! And the camel, what elegance!

But, the butterfly you will say, a flying flower! I dream of one that
should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose shape, beauty,
colours, and motion I cannot even express. But I see it ... it flutters
from star to star, refreshing them and perfuming them with the light and
harmonious breath of its flight!... And the people up there look at it
as it passes in an ecstasy of delight!...

What is the matter with me? It is he, the Horla who haunts me, and who
makes me think of these foolish things! He is within me, he is becoming
my soul; I shall kill him!

_August 19th._ I shall kill him. I have seen him! Yesterday I sat down
at my table and pretended to write very assiduously. I knew quite well
that he would come prowling round me, quite close to me, so close that I
might perhaps be able to touch him, to seize him. And then!... then I
should have the strength of desperation; I should have my hands, my
knees, my chest, my forehead, my teeth to strangle him, to crush him, to
bite him, to tear him to pieces. And I watched for him with all my
overexcited organs.

I had lighted my two lamps and the eight wax candles on my mantelpiece,
as if by this light I could have discovered him.

My bed, my old oak bed with its columns, was opposite to me; on my right
was the fireplace; on my left the door which was carefully closed, after
I had left it open for some time, in order to attract him; behind me was
a very high wardrobe with a looking-glass in it, which served me to make
my toilet every day, and in which I was in the habit of looking at
myself from head to foot every time I passed it.

So I pretended to be writing in order to deceive him, for he also was
watching me, and suddenly I felt, I was certain that he was reading over
my shoulder, that he was there, almost touching my ear.

I got up so quickly, with my hands extended, that I almost fell. Eh!
well?... It was as bright as at midday, but I did not see myself in the
glass!... It was empty, clear, profound, full of light! But my figure
was not reflected in it ... and I, I was opposite to it! I saw the
large, clear glass from top to bottom, and I looked at it with unsteady
eyes; and I did not dare to advance; I did not venture to make a
movement, nevertheless, feeling perfectly that he was there, but that he
would escape me again, he whose imperceptible body had absorbed my
reflection.

How frightened I was! And then suddenly I began to see myself through a
mist in the depths of the looking-glass, in a mist as it were through a
sheet of water; and it seemed to me as if this water were flowing slowly
from left to right, and making my figure clearer every moment. It was
like the end of an eclipse. Whatever it was that hid me, did not appear
to possess any clearly defined outlines, but a sort of opaque
transparency, which gradually grew clearer.

At last I was able to distinguish myself completely, as I do every day
when I look at myself.

I had seen it! And the horror of it remained with me and makes me
shudder even now.

_August 20th._ How could I kill it, as I could not get hold of it?
Poison? But it would see me mix it with the water; and then, would our
poisons have any effect on its impalpable body? No ... no ... no doubt
about the matter.... Then?... then?...

_August 21st._ I sent for a blacksmith from Rouen, and ordered iron
shutters of him for my room, such as some private hotels in Paris have
on the ground floor, for fear of thieves, and he is going to make me a
similar door as well. I have made myself out as a coward, but I do not
care about that!...

_September 10th._ Rouen, Hotel Continental. It is done; ... it is done
... but is he dead? My mind is thoroughly upset by what I have seen.

Well, then, yesterday the locksmith having put on the iron shutters and
door, I left everything open until midnight, although it was getting
cold.

Suddenly I felt that he was there and joy, mad joy, took possession of
me. I got up softly, and I walked to the right and left for some time,
so that he might not guess anything; then I took off my boots and put on
my slippers carelessly; then I fastened the iron shutters and going back
to the door quickly I double-locked it with a padlock, putting the key
into my pocket.

Suddenly I noticed that he was moving restlessly round me, that in his
turn he was frightened and was ordering me to let him out. I nearly
yielded, though I did not yet, but putting my back to the door I half
opened it, just enough to allow me to go out backward, and as I am very
tall, my head touched the lintel. I was sure that he had not been able
to escape, and I shut him up quite alone, quite alone. What happiness! I
had him fast. Then I ran downstairs; in the drawing-room, which was
under my bedroom, I took the two lamps and I poured all the oil onto the
carpet, the furniture, everywhere; then I set fire to it and made my
escape, after having carefully double-locked the door.

I went and hid myself at the bottom of the garden in a clump of laurel
bushes. How long it was! how long it was! Everything was dark, silent,
motionless, not a breath of air and not a star, but heavy banks of
clouds which one could not see, but which weighed, oh! so heavily on my
soul.

I looked at my house and waited. How long it was! I already began to
think that the fire had gone out of its own accord, or that he had
extinguished it, when one of the lower windows gave way under the
violence of the flames, and a long, soft, caressing sheet of red flame
mounted up the white wall and kissed it as high as the roof. The light
fell onto the trees, the branches, and the leaves, and a shiver of fear
pervaded them also! The birds awoke; a dog began to howl, and it seemed
to me as if the day were breaking! Almost immediately two other windows
flew into fragments, and I saw that the whole of the lower part of my
house was nothing but a terrible furnace. But a cry, a horrible, shrill,
heartrending cry, a woman's cry, sounded through the night, and two
garret windows were opened! I had forgotten the servants! I saw the
terrorstruck faces, and their frantically waving arms!...

Then, overwhelmed with horror, I set off to run to the village,
shouting: "Help! help! fire! fire!" I met some people who were already
coming onto the scene, and I went back with them to see!

By this time the house was nothing but a horrible and magnificent
funeral pile, a monstrous funeral pile which lit up the whole country, a
funeral pile where men were burning, and where he was burning also, He,
He, my prisoner, that new Being, the new master, the Horla!

Suddenly the whole roof fell in between the walls, and a volcano of
flames darted up to the sky. Through all the windows which opened onto
that furnace I saw the flames darting, and I thought that he was there,
in that kiln, dead.

Dead? perhaps?... His body? Was not his body, which was transparent,
indestructible by such means as would kill ours?

If he was not dead?... Perhaps time alone has power over that Invisible
and Redoubtable Being. Why this transparent, unrecognizable body, this
body belonging to a spirit, if it also had to fear ills, infirmities and
premature destruction?

Premature destruction? All human terror springs from that! After man the
Horla. After him who can die every day, at any hour, at any moment, by
any accident, he came who was only to die at his own proper hour and
minute, because he had touched the limits of his existence!

No ... no ... without any doubt ... he is not dead. Then ... then ... I
suppose I must kill myself!



V

THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS[B]

WILLIAM F. HARVEY


When I was a little boy I once went with my father to call on Adrian
Borlsover. I played on the floor with a black spaniel while my father
appealed for a subscription. Just before we left my father said, "Mr.
Borlsover, may my son here shake hands with you? It will be a thing to
look back upon with pride when he grows to be a man."

I came up to the bed on which the old man was lying and put my hand in
his, awed by the still beauty of his face. He spoke to me kindly, and
hoped that I should always try to please my father. Then he placed his
right hand on my head and asked for a blessing to rest upon me. "Amen!"
said my father, and I followed him out of the room, feeling as if I
wanted to cry. But my father was in excellent spirits.

"That old gentleman, Jim," said he, "is the most wonderful man in the
whole town. For ten years he has been quite blind."

"But I saw his eyes," I said. "They were ever so black and shiny; they
weren't shut up like Nora's puppies. Can't he see at all?"

And so I learnt for the first time that a man might have eyes that
looked dark and beautiful and shining without being able to see.

"Just like Mrs. Tomlinson has big ears," I said, "and can't hear at all
except when Mr. Tomlinson shouts."

"Jim," said my father, "it's not right to talk about a lady's ears.
Remember what Mr. Borlsover said about pleasing me and being a good
boy."

That was the only time I saw Adrian Borlsover. I soon forgot about him
and the hand which he laid in blessing on my head. But for a week I
prayed that those dark tender eyes might see.

"His spaniel may have puppies," I said in my prayers, "and he will never
be able to know how funny they look with their eyes all closed up.
Please let old Mr. Borlsover see."

       *       *       *       *       *

Adrian Borlsover, as my father had said, was a wonderful man. He came of
an eccentric family. Borlsovers' sons, for some reason, always seemed to
marry very ordinary women, which perhaps accounted for the fact that no
Borlsover had been a genius, and only one Borlsover had been mad. But
they were great champions of little causes, generous patrons of odd
sciences, founders of querulous sects, trustworthy guides to the bypath
meadows of erudition.

Adrian was an authority on the fertilization of orchids. He had held at
one time the family living at Borlsover Conyers, until a congenital
weakness of the lungs obliged him to seek a less rigorous climate in the
sunny south coast watering-place where I had seen him. Occasionally he
would relieve one or other of the local clergy. My father described him
as a fine preacher, who gave long and inspiring sermons from what many
men would have considered unprofitable texts. "An excellent proof," he
would add, "of the truth of the doctrine of direct verbal inspiration."

Adrian Borlsover was exceedingly clever with his hands. His penmanship
was exquisite. He illustrated all his scientific papers, made his own
woodcuts, and carved the reredos that is at present the chief feature of
interest in the church at Borlsover Conyers. He had an exceedingly
clever knack in cutting silhouettes for young ladies and paper pigs and
cows for little children, and made more than one complicated wind
instrument of his own devising.

When he was fifty years old Adrian Borlsover lost his sight. In a
wonderfully short time he had adapted himself to the new conditions of
life. He quickly learned to read Braille. So marvellous indeed was his
sense of touch that he was still able to maintain his interest in
botany. The mere passing of his long supple fingers over a flower was
sufficient means for its identification, though occasionally he would
use his lips. I have found several letters of his among my father's
correspondence. In no case was there anything to show that he was
afflicted with blindness, and this in spite of the fact that he
exercised undue economy in the spacing of lines. Toward the close of his
life the old man was credited with powers of touch that seemed almost
uncanny: it has been said that he could tell at once the colour of a
ribbon placed between his fingers. My father would neither confirm nor
deny the story.


I

Adrian Borlsover was a bachelor. His elder brother George had married
late in life, leaving one son, Eustace, who lived in the gloomy Georgian
mansion at Borlsover Conyers, where he could work undisturbed in
collecting material for his great book on heredity.

Like his uncle, he was a remarkable man. The Borlsovers had always been
born naturalists, but Eustace possessed in a special degree the power of
systematizing his knowledge. He had received his university education in
Germany, and then, after post-graduate work in Vienna and Naples, had
travelled for four years in South America and the East, getting together
a huge store of material for a new study into the processes of
variation.

He lived alone at Borlsover Conyers with Saunders his secretary, a man
who bore a somewhat dubious reputation in the district, but whose
powers as a mathematician, combined with his business abilities, were
invaluable to Eustace.

Uncle and nephew saw little of each other. The visits of Eustace were
confined to a week in the summer or autumn: long weeks, that dragged
almost as slowly as the bath-chair in which the old man was drawn along
the sunny sea front. In their way the two men were fond of each other,
though their intimacy would doubtless have been greater had they shared
the same religious views. Adrian held to the old-fashioned evangelical
dogmas of his early manhood; his nephew for many years had been thinking
of embracing Buddhism. Both men possessed, too, the reticence the
Borlsovers had always shown, and which their enemies sometimes called
hypocrisy. With Adrian it was a reticence as to the things he had left
undone; but with Eustace it seemed that the curtain which he was so
careful to leave undrawn hid something more than a half-empty chamber.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two years before his death Adrian Borlsover developed, unknown to
himself, the not uncommon power of automatic writing. Eustace made the
discovery by accident. Adrian was sitting reading in bed, the forefinger
of his left hand tracing the Braille characters, when his nephew noticed
that a pencil the old man held in his right hand was moving slowly along
the opposite page. He left his seat in the window and sat down beside
the bed. The right hand continued to move, and now he could see plainly
that they were letters and words which it was forming.

"Adrian Borlsover," wrote the hand, "Eustace Borlsover, George
Borlsover, Francis Borlsover, Sigismund Borlsover, Adrian Borlsover,
Eustace Borlsover, Saville Borlsover. B, for Borlsover. Honesty is the
Best Policy. Beautiful Belinda Borlsover."

"What curious nonsense!" said Eustace to himself.

"King George the Third ascended the throne in 1760," wrote the hand.
"Crowd, a noun of multitude; a collection of individuals--Adrian
Borlsover, Eustace Borlsover."

"It seems to me," said his uncle, closing the book, "that you had much
better make the most of the afternoon sunshine and take your walk now."

"I think perhaps I will," Eustace answered as he picked up the volume.
"I won't go far, and when I come back I can read to you those articles
in _Nature_ about which we were speaking."

He went along the promenade, but stopped at the first shelter, and
seating himself in the corner best protected from the wind, he examined
the book at leisure. Nearly every page was scored with a meaningless
jungle of pencil marks: rows of capital letters, short words, long
words, complete sentences, copy-book tags. The whole thing, in fact,
had the appearance of a copy-book, and on a more careful scrutiny
Eustace thought that there was ample evidence to show that the
handwriting at the beginning of the book, good though it was, was not
nearly so good as the handwriting at the end.

He left his uncle at the end of October, with a promise to return early
in December. It seemed to him quite clear that the old man's power of
automatic writing was developing rapidly, and for the first time he
looked forward to a visit that combined duty with interest.

But on his return he was at first disappointed. His uncle, he thought,
looked older. He was listless too, preferring others to read to him and
dictating nearly all his letters. Not until the day before he left had
Eustace an opportunity of observing Adrian Borlsover's new-found
faculty.

The old man, propped up in bed with pillows, had sunk into a light
sleep. His two hands lay on the coverlet, his left hand tightly clasping
his right. Eustace took an empty manuscript book and placed a pencil
within reach of the fingers of the right hand. They snatched at it
eagerly; then dropped the pencil to unloose the left hand from its
restraining grasp.

"Perhaps to prevent interference I had better hold that hand," said
Eustace to himself, as he watched the pencil. Almost immediately it
began to write.

"Blundering Borlsovers, unnecessarily unnatural, extraordinarily
eccentric, culpably curious."

"Who are you?" asked Eustace, in a low voice.

"Never you mind," wrote the hand of Adrian.

"Is it my uncle who is writing?"

"Oh, my prophetic soul, mine uncle."

"Is it anyone I know?"

"Silly Eustace, you'll see me very soon."

"When shall I see you?"

"When poor old Adrian's dead."

"Where shall I see you?"

"Where shall you not?"

Instead of speaking his next question, Borlsover wrote it. "What is the
time?"

The fingers dropped the pencil and moved three or four times across the
paper. Then, picking up the pencil, they wrote:

"Ten minutes before four. Put your book away, Eustace. Adrian mustn't
find us working at this sort of thing. He doesn't know what to make of
it, and I won't have poor old Adrian disturbed. _Au revoir._"

Adrian Borlsover awoke with a start.

"I've been dreaming again," he said; "such queer dreams of leaguered
cities and forgotten towns. You were mixed up in this one, Eustace,
though I can't remember how. Eustace, I want to warn you. Don't walk in
doubtful paths. Choose your friends well. Your poor grandfather--"

A fit of coughing put an end to what he was saying, but Eustace saw
that the hand was still writing. He managed unnoticed to draw the book
away. "I'll light the gas," he said, "and ring for tea." On the other
side of the bed curtain he saw the last sentences that had been written.

"It's too late, Adrian," he read. "We're friends already; aren't we,
Eustace Borlsover?"

On the following day Eustace Borlsover left. He thought his uncle looked
ill when he said goodbye, and the old man spoke despondently of the
failure his life had been.

"Nonsense, uncle!" said his nephew. "You have got over your difficulties
in a way not one in a hundred thousand would have done. Everyone marvels
at your splendid perseverance in teaching your hand to take the place of
your lost sight. To me it's been a revelation of the possibilities of
education."

"Education," said his uncle dreamily, as if the word had started a new
train of thought, "education is good so long as you know to whom and for
what purpose you give it. But with the lower orders of men, the base and
more sordid spirits, I have grave doubts as to its results. Well,
goodbye, Eustace, I may not see you again. You are a true Borlsover,
with all the Borlsover faults. Marry, Eustace. Marry some good, sensible
girl. And if by any chance I don't see you again, my will is at my
solicitor's. I've not left you any legacy, because I know you're well
provided for, but I thought you might like to have my books. Oh, and
there's just one other thing. You know, before the end people often lose
control over themselves and make absurd requests. Don't pay any
attention to them, Eustace. Good-bye!" and he held out his hand. Eustace
took it. It remained in his a fraction of a second longer than he had
expected, and gripped him with a virility that was surprising. There
was, too, in its touch a subtle sense of intimacy.

"Why, uncle!" he said, "I shall see you alive and well for many long
years to come."

Two months later Adrian Borlsover died.


II

Eustace Borlsover was in Naples at the time. He read the obituary notice
in the _Morning Post_ on the day announced for the funeral.

"Poor old fellow!" he said. "I wonder where I shall find room for all
his books."

The question occurred to him again with greater force when three days
later he found himself standing in the library at Borlsover Conyers, a
huge room built for use, and not for beauty, in the year of Waterloo by
a Borlsover who was an ardent admirer of the great Napoleon. It was
arranged on the plan of many college libraries, with tall, projecting
bookcases forming deep recesses of dusty silence, fit graves for the old
hates of forgotten controversy, the dead passions of forgotten lives. At
the end of the room, behind the bust of some unknown eighteenth-century
divine, an ugly iron corkscrew stair led to a shelf-lined gallery.
Nearly every shelf was full.

"I must talk to Saunders about it," said Eustace. "I suppose that it
will be necessary to have the billiard-room fitted up with bookcases."

The two men met for the first time after many weeks in the dining-room
that evening.

"Hullo!" said Eustace, standing before the fire with his hands in his
pockets. "How goes the world, Saunders? Why these dress togs?" He
himself was wearing an old shooting-jacket. He did not believe in
mourning, as he had told his uncle on his last visit; and though he
usually went in for quiet-coloured ties, he wore this evening one of an
ugly red, in order to shock Morton the butler, and to make them thrash
out the whole question of mourning for themselves in the servants' hall.
Eustace was a true Borlsover. "The world," said Saunders, "goes the same
as usual, confoundedly slow. The dress togs are accounted for by an
invitation from Captain Lockwood to bridge."

"How are you getting there?"

"I've told your coachman to drive me in your carriage. Any objection?"

"Oh, dear me, no! We've had all things in common for far too many years
for me to raise objections at this hour of the day."

"You'll find your correspondence in the library," went on Saunders.
"Most of it I've seen to. There are a few private letters I haven't
opened. There's also a box with a rat, or something, inside it that came
by the evening post. Very likely it's the six-toed beast Terry was
sending us to cross with the four-toed albino. I didn't look, because I
didn't want to mess up my things, but I should gather from the way it's
jumping about that it's pretty hungry."

"Oh, I'll see to it," said Eustace, "while you and the Captain earn an
honest penny."

Dinner over and Saunders gone, Eustace went into the library. Though the
fire had been lit the room was by no means cheerful.

"We'll have all the lights on at any rate," he said, as he turned the
switches. "And, Morton," he added, when the butler brought the coffee,
"get me a screwdriver or something to undo this box. Whatever the animal
is, he's kicking up the deuce of a row. What is it? Why are you
dawdling?"

"If you please, sir, when the postman brought it he told me that they'd
bored the holes in the lid at the post-office. There were no breathin'
holes in the lid, sir, and they didn't want the animal to die. That is
all, sir."

"It's culpably careless of the man, whoever he was," said Eustace, as he
removed the screws, "packing an animal like this in a wooden box with no
means of getting air. Confound it all! I meant to ask Morton to bring me
a cage to put it in. Now I suppose I shall have to get one myself."

He placed a heavy book on the lid from which the screws had been
removed, and went into the billiard-room. As he came back into the
library with an empty cage in his hand he heard the sound of something
falling, and then of something scuttling along the floor.

"Bother it! The beast's got out. How in the world am I to find it again
in this library!"

To search for it did indeed seem hopeless. He tried to follow the sound
of the scuttling in one of the recesses where the animal seemed to be
running behind the books in the shelves, but it was impossible to locate
it. Eustace resolved to go on quietly reading. Very likely the animal
might gain confidence and show itself. Saunders seemed to have dealt in
his usual methodical manner with most of the correspondence. There were
still the private letters.

What was that? Two sharp clicks and the lights in the hideous candelabra
that hung from the ceiling suddenly went out.

"I wonder if something has gone wrong with the fuse," said Eustace, as
he went to the switches by the door. Then he stopped. There was a noise
at the other end of the room, as if something was crawling up the iron
corkscrew stair. "If it's gone into the gallery," he said, "well and
good." He hastily turned on the lights, crossed the room, and climbed up
the stair. But he could see nothing. His grandfather had placed a little
gate at the top of the stair, so that children could run and romp in
the gallery without fear of accident. This Eustace closed, and having
considerably narrowed the circle of his search, returned to his desk by
the fire.

How gloomy the library was! There was no sense of intimacy about the
room. The few busts that an eighteenth-century Borlsover had brought
back from the grand tour, might have been in keeping in the old library.
Here they seemed out of place. They made the room feel cold, in spite of
the heavy red damask curtains and great gilt cornices.

With a crash two heavy books fell from the gallery to the floor; then,
as Borlsover looked, another and yet another.

"Very well; you'll starve for this, my beauty!" he said. "We'll do some
little experiments on the metabolism of rats deprived of water. Go on!
Chuck them down! I think I've got the upper hand." He turned once again
to his correspondence. The letter was from the family solicitor. It
spoke of his uncle's death and of the valuable collection of books that
had been left to him in the will.

"There was one request," he read, "which certainly came as a surprise to
me. As you know, Mr. Adrian Borlsover had left instructions that his
body was to be buried in as simple a manner as possible at Eastbourne.
He expressed a desire that there should be neither wreaths nor flowers
of any kind, and hoped that his friends and relatives would not consider
it necessary to wear mourning. The day before his death we received a
letter cancelling these instructions. He wished his body to be embalmed
(he gave us the address of the man we were to employ--Pennifer, Ludgate
Hill), with orders that his right hand was to be sent to you, stating
that it was at your special request. The other arrangements as to the
funeral remained unaltered."

"Good Lord!" said Eustace; "what in the world was the old boy driving
at? And what in the name of all that's holy is that?"

Someone was in the gallery. Someone had pulled the cord attached to one
of the blinds, and it had rolled up with a snap. Someone must be in the
gallery, for a second blind did the same. Someone must be walking round
the gallery, for one after the other the blinds sprang up, letting in
the moonlight.

"I haven't got to the bottom of this yet," said Eustace, "but I will
before the night is very much older," and he hurried up the corkscrew
stair. He had just got to the top when the lights went out a second
time, and he heard again the scuttling along the floor. Quickly he stole
on tiptoe in the dim moonshine in the direction of the noise, feeling as
he went for one of the switches. His fingers touched the metal knob at
last. He turned on the electric light.

About ten yards in front of him, crawling along the floor, was a man's
hand. Eustace stared at it in utter astonishment. It was moving quickly,
in the manner of a geometer caterpillar, the five fingers humped up one
moment, flattened out the next; the thumb appeared to give a crab-like
motion to the whole. While he was looking, too surprised to stir, the
hand disappeared round the corner. Eustace ran forward. He no longer saw
it, but he could hear it as it squeezed its way behind the books on one
of the shelves. A heavy volume had been displaced. There was a gap in
the row of books where it had got in. In his fear lest it should escape
him again, he seized the first book that came to his hand and plugged it
into the hole. Then, emptying two shelves of their contents, he took the
wooden boards and propped them up in front to make his barrier doubly
sure.

"I wish Saunders was back," he said; "one can't tackle this sort of
thing alone." It was after eleven, and there seemed little likelihood of
Saunders returning before twelve. He did not dare to leave the shelf
unwatched, even to run downstairs to ring the bell. Morton the butler
often used to come round about eleven to see that the windows were
fastened, but he might not come. Eustace was thoroughly unstrung. At
last he heard steps down below.

"Morton!" he shouted; "Morton!"

"Sir?"

"Has Mr. Saunders got back yet?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, bring me some brandy, and hurry up about it. I'm up here in the
gallery, you duffer."

"Thanks," said Eustace, as he emptied the glass. "Don't go to bed yet,
Morton. There are a lot of books that have fallen down by accident;
bring them up and put them back in their shelves."

Morton had never seen Borlsover in so talkative a mood as on that night.
"Here," said Eustace, when the books had been put back and dusted, "you
might hold up these boards for me, Morton. That beast in the box got
out, and I've been chasing it all over the place."

"I think I can hear it chawing at the books, sir. They're not valuable,
I hope? I think that's the carriage, sir; I'll go and call Mr.
Saunders."

It seemed to Eustace that he was away for five minutes, but it could
hardly have been more than one when he returned with Saunders. "All
right, Morton, you can go now. I'm up here, Saunders."

"What's all the row?" asked Saunders, as he lounged forward with his
hands in his pockets. The luck had been with him all the evening. He was
completely satisfied, both with himself and with Captain Lockwood's
taste in wines. "What's the matter? You look to me to be in an absolute
blue funk."

"That old devil of an uncle of mine," began Eustace--"oh, I can't
explain it all. It's his hand that's been playing old Harry all the
evening. But I've got it cornered behind these books. You've got to
help me catch it."

"What's up with you, Eustace? What's the game?"

"It's no game, you silly idiot! If you don't believe me take out one of
those books and put your hand in and feel."

"All right," said Saunders; "but wait till I've rolled up my sleeve. The
accumulated dust of centuries, eh?" He took off his coat, knelt down,
and thrust his arm along the shelf.

"There's something there right enough," he said. "It's got a funny
stumpy end to it, whatever it is, and nips like a crab. Ah, no, you
don't!" He pulled his hand out in a flash. "Shove in a book quickly. Now
it can't get out."

"What was it?" asked Eustace.

"It was something that wanted very much to get hold of me. I felt what
seemed like a thumb and forefinger. Give me some brandy."

"How are we to get it out of there?"

"What about a landing net?"

"No good. It would be too smart for us. I tell you, Saunders, it can
cover the ground far faster than I can walk. But I think I see how we
can manage it. The two books at the end of the shelf are big ones that
go right back against the wall. The others are very thin. I'll take out
one at a time, and you slide the rest along until we have it squashed
between the end two."

It certainly seemed to be the best plan. One by one, as they took out
the books, the space behind grew smaller and smaller. There was
something in it that was certainly very much alive. Once they caught
sight of fingers pressing outward for a way of escape. At last they had
it pressed between the two big books.

"There's muscle there, if there isn't flesh and blood," said Saunders,
as he held them together. "It seems to be a hand right enough, too. I
suppose this is a sort of infectious hallucination. I've read about such
cases before."

"Infectious fiddlesticks!" said Eustace, his face white with anger;
"bring the thing downstairs. We'll get it back into the box."

It was not altogether easy, but they were successful at last. "Drive in
the screws," said Eustace, "we won't run any risks. Put the box in this
old desk of mine. There's nothing in it that I want. Here's the key.
Thank goodness, there's nothing wrong with the lock."

"Quite a lively evening," said Saunders. "Now let's hear more about your
uncle."

They sat up together until early morning. Saunders had no desire for
sleep. Eustace was trying to explain and to forget: to conceal from
himself a fear that he had never felt before--the fear of walking alone
down the long corridor to his bedroom.


III

"Whatever it was," said Eustace to Saunders on the following morning, "I
propose that we drop the subject. There's nothing to keep us here for
the next ten days. We'll motor up to the Lakes and get some climbing."

"And see nobody all day, and sit bored to death with each other every
night. Not for me, thanks. Why not run up to town? Run's the exact word
in this case, isn't it? We're both in such a blessed funk. Pull yourself
together, Eustace, and let's have another look at the hand."

"As you like," said Eustace; "there's the key." They went into the
library and opened the desk. The box was as they had left it on the
previous night.

"What are you waiting for?" asked Eustace.

"I am waiting for you to volunteer to open the lid. However, since you
seem to funk it, allow me. There doesn't seem to be the likelihood of
any rumpus this morning, at all events." He opened the lid and picked
out the hand.

"Cold?" asked Eustace.

"Tepid. A bit below blood-heat by the feel. Soft and supple too. If it's
the embalming, it's a sort of embalming I've never seen before. Is it
your uncle's hand?"

"Oh, yes, it's his all right," said Eustace. "I should know those long
thin fingers anywhere. Put it back in the box, Saunders. Never mind
about the screws. I'll lock the desk, so that there'll be no chance of
its getting out. We'll compromise by motoring up to town for a week. If
we get off soon after lunch we ought to be at Grantham or Stamford by
night."

"Right," said Saunders; "and to-morrow--Oh, well, by to-morrow we shall
have forgotten all about this beastly thing."

If when the morrow came they had not forgotten, it was certainly true
that at the end of the week they were able to tell a very vivid ghost
story at the little supper Eustace gave on Hallow E'en.

"You don't want us to believe that it's true, Mr. Borlsover? How
perfectly awful!"

"I'll take my oath on it, and so would Saunders here; wouldn't you, old
chap?"

"Any number of oaths," said Saunders. "It was a long thin hand, you
know, and it gripped me just like that."

"Don't, Mr. Saunders! Don't! How perfectly horrid! Now tell us another
one, do. Only a really creepy one, please!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here's a pretty mess!" said Eustace on the following day as he threw a
letter across the table to Saunders. "It's your affair, though. Mrs.
Merrit, if I understand it, gives a month's notice."

"Oh, that's quite absurd on Mrs. Merrit's part," Saunders replied. "She
doesn't know what she's talking about. Let's see what she says."

    "DEAR SIR," he read, "this is to let you know that I must
    give you a month's notice as from Tuesday the 13th. For a
    long time I've felt the place too big for me, but when Jane
    Parfit and Emma Laidlaw go off with scarcely as much as an
    'if you please,' after frightening the wits out of the other
    girls, so that they can't turn out a room by themselves or
    walk alone down the stairs for fear of treading on
    half-frozen toads or hearing it run along the passages at
    night, all I can say is that it's no place for me. So I must
    ask you, Mr. Borlsover, sir, to find a new housekeeper that
    has no objection to large and lonely houses, which some
    people do say, not that I believe them for a minute, my poor
    mother always having been a Wesleyan, are haunted.

                    "Yours faithfully,
                              ELIZABETH MERRIT.

    "P. S.--I should be obliged if you would give my respects to
    Mr. Saunders. I hope that he won't run no risks with his
    cold."

"Saunders," said Eustace, "you've always had a wonderful way with you in
dealing with servants. You mustn't let poor old Merrit go."

"Of course she shan't go," said Saunders. "She's probably only angling
for a rise in salary. I'll write to her this morning."

"No; there's nothing like a personal interview. We've had enough of
town. We'll go back to-morrow, and you must work your cold for all it's
worth. Don't forget that it's got on to the chest, and will require
weeks of feeding up and nursing."

"All right. I think I can manage Mrs. Merrit."

But Mrs. Merrit was more obstinate than he had thought. She was very
sorry to hear of Mr. Saunders's cold, and how he lay awake all night in
London coughing; very sorry indeed. She'd change his room for him
gladly, and get the south room aired. And wouldn't he have a hot basin
of bread and milk last thing at night? But she was afraid that she would
have to leave at the end of the month.

"Try her with an increase of salary," was the advice of Eustace.

It was no use. Mrs. Merrit was obdurate, though she knew of a Mrs.
Handyside who had been housekeeper to Lord Gargrave, who might be glad
to come at the salary mentioned.

"What's the matter with the servants, Morton?" asked Eustace that
evening when he brought the coffee into the library. "What's all this
about Mrs. Merrit wanting to leave?"

"If you please, sir, I was going to mention it myself. I have a
confession to make, sir. When I found your note asking me to open that
desk and take out the box with the rat, I broke the lock as you told me,
and was glad to do it, because I could hear the animal in the box making
a great noise, and I thought it wanted food. So I took out the box,
sir, and got a cage and was going to transfer it, when the animal got
away."

"What in the world are you talking about? I never wrote any such note."

"Excuse me, sir, it was the note I picked up here on the floor on the
day you and Mr. Saunders left. I have it in my pocket now."

It certainly seemed to be in Eustace's handwriting. It was written in
pencil, and began somewhat abruptly.

"Get a hammer, Morton," he read, "or some other tool, and break open the
lock in the old desk in the library. Take out the box that is inside.
You need not do anything else. The lid is already open. Eustace
Borlsover."

"And you opened the desk?"

"Yes, sir; and as I was getting the cage ready the animal hopped out."

"What animal?"

"The animal inside the box, sir."

"What did it look like?"

"Well, sir, I couldn't tell you," said Morton nervously; "my back was
turned, and it was half-way down the room when I looked up."

"What was its colour?" asked Saunders; "black?"

"Oh, no, sir, a grayish white. It crept along in a very funny way, sir.
I don't think it had a tail."

"What did you do then?"

"I tried to catch it, but it was no use. So I set the rat-traps and
kept the library shut. Then that girl Emma Laidlaw left the door open
when she was cleaning, and I think it must have escaped."

"And you think it was the animal that's been frightening the maids?"

"Well, no, sir, not quite. They said it was--you'll excuse me, sir--a
hand that they saw. Emma trod on it once at the bottom of the stairs.
She thought then it was a half-frozen toad, only white. And then Parfit
was washing up the dishes in the scullery. She wasn't thinking about
anything in particular. It was close on dusk. She took her hands out of
the water and was drying them absentminded like on the roller towel,
when she found that she was drying someone else's hand as well, only
colder than hers."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed Saunders.

"Exactly, sir; that's what I told her; but we couldn't get her to stop."

"You don't believe all this?" said Eustace, turning suddenly towards the
butler.

"Me, sir? Oh, no, sir! I've not seen anything."

"Nor heard anything?"

"Well, sir, if you must know, the bells do ring at odd times, and
there's nobody there when we go; and when we go round to draw the blinds
of a night, as often as not somebody's been there before us. But as I
says to Mrs. Merrit, a young monkey might do wonderful things, and we
all know that Mr. Borlsover has had some strange animals about the
place."

"Very well, Morton, that will do."

"What do you make of it?" asked Saunders when they were alone. "I mean
of the letter he said you wrote."

"Oh, that's simple enough," said Eustace. "See the paper it's written
on? I stopped using that years ago, but there were a few odd sheets and
envelopes left in the old desk. We never fastened up the lid of the box
before locking it in. The hand got out, found a pencil, wrote this note,
and shoved it through the crack on to the floor where Morton found it.
That's plain as daylight."

"But the hand couldn't write?"

"Couldn't it? You've not seen it do the things I've seen," and he told
Saunders more of what had happened at Eastbourne.

"Well," said Saunders, "in that case we have at least an explanation of
the legacy. It was the hand which wrote unknown to your uncle that
letter to your solicitor, bequeathing itself to you. Your uncle had no
more to do with that request than I. In fact, it would seem that he had
some idea of this automatic writing, and feared it."

"Then if it's not my uncle, what is it?"

"I suppose some people might say that a disembodied spirit had got your
uncle to educate and prepare a little body for it. Now it's got into
that little body and is off on its own."

"Well, what are we to do?"

"We'll keep our eyes open," said Saunders, "and try to catch it. If we
can't do that, we shall have to wait till the bally clockwork runs down.
After all, if it's flesh and blood, it can't live forever."

For two days nothing happened. Then Saunders saw it sliding down the
banister in the hall. He was taken unawares, and lost a full second
before he started in pursuit, only to find that the thing had escaped
him. Three days later, Eustace, writing alone in the library at night,
saw it sitting on an open book at the other end of the room. The fingers
crept over the page, feeling the print as if it were reading; but before
he had time to get up from his seat, it had taken the alarm and was
pulling itself up the curtains. Eustace watched it grimly as it hung on
to the cornice with three fingers, flicking thumb and forefinger at him
in an expression of scornful derision.

"I know what I'll do," he said. "If I only get it into the open I'll set
the dogs on to it."

He spoke to Saunders of the suggestion.

"It's a jolly good idea," he said; "only we won't wait till we find it
out of doors. We'll get the dogs. There are the two terriers and the
underkeeper's Irish mongrel that's on to rats like a flash. Your spaniel
has not got spirit enough for this sort of game." They brought the dogs
into the house, and the keeper's Irish mongrel chewed up the slippers,
and the terriers tripped up Morton as he waited at table; but all three
were welcome. Even false security is better than no security at all.

For a fortnight nothing happened. Then the hand was caught, not by the
dogs, but by Mrs. Merrit's gray parrot. The bird was in the habit of
periodically removing the pins that kept its seed and water tins in
place, and of escaping through the holes in the side of the cage. When
once at liberty Peter would show no inclination to return, and would
often be about the house for days. Now, after six consecutive weeks of
captivity, Peter had again discovered a new means of unloosing his bolts
and was at large, exploring the tapestried forests of the curtains and
singing songs in praise of liberty from cornice and picture rail.

"It's no use your trying to catch him," said Eustace to Mrs. Merrit, as
she came into the study one afternoon toward dusk with a step-ladder.
"You'd much better leave Peter alone. Starve him into surrender, Mrs.
Merrit, and don't leave bananas and seed about for him to peck at when
he fancies he's hungry. You're far too soft-hearted."

"Well, sir, I see he's right out of reach now on that picture rail, so
if you wouldn't mind closing the door, sir, when you leave the room,
I'll bring his cage in to-night and put some meat inside it. He's that
fond of meat, though it does make him pull out his feathers to suck the
quills. They _do_ say that if you cook--"

"Never mind, Mrs. Merrit," said Eustace, who was busy writing. "That
will do; I'll keep an eye on the bird."

There was silence in the room, unbroken but for the continuous whisper
of his pen.

"Scratch poor Peter," said the bird. "Scratch poor old Peter!"

"Be quiet, you beastly bird!"

"Poor old Peter! Scratch poor Peter, do."

"I'm more likely to wring your neck if I get hold of you." He looked up
at the picture rail, and there was the hand holding on to a hook with
three fingers, and slowly scratching the head of the parrot with the
fourth. Eustace ran to the bell and pressed it hard; then across to the
window, which he closed with a bang. Frightened by the noise the parrot
shook its wings preparatory to flight, and as it did so the fingers of
the hand got hold of it by the throat. There was a shrill scream from
Peter as he fluttered across the room, wheeling round in circles that
ever descended, borne down under the weight that clung to him. The bird
dropped at last quite suddenly, and Eustace saw fingers and feathers
rolled into an inextricable mass on the floor. The struggle abruptly
ceased as finger and thumb squeezed the neck; the bird's eyes rolled up
to show the whites, and there was a faint, half-choked gurgle. But
before the fingers had time to loose their hold, Eustace had them in his
own.

"Send Mr. Saunders here at once," he said to the maid who came in
answer to the bell. "Tell him I want him immediately."

Then he went with the hand to the fire. There was a ragged gash across
the back where the bird's beak had torn it, but no blood oozed from the
wound. He noticed with disgust that the nails had grown long and
discoloured.

"I'll burn the beastly thing," he said. But he could not burn it. He
tried to throw it into the flames, but his own hands, as if restrained
by some old primitive feeling, would not let him. And so Saunders found
him, pale and irresolute, with the hand still clasped tightly in his
fingers.

"I've got it at last," he said in a tone of triumph.

"Good; let's have a look at it."

"Not when it's loose. Get me some nails and a hammer and a board of some
sort."

"Can you hold it all right?"

"Yes, the thing's quite limp; tired out with throttling poor old Peter,
I should say."

"And now," said Saunders when he returned with the things, "what are we
going to do?"

"Drive a nail through it first, so that it can't get away; then we can
take our time over examining it."

"Do it yourself," said Saunders. "I don't mind helping you with
guinea-pigs occasionally when there's something to be learned; partly
because I don't fear a guinea-pig's revenge. This thing's different."

"All right, you miserable skunk. I won't forget the way you've stood by
me."

He took up a nail, and before Saunders had realized what he was doing
had driven it through the hand, deep into the board.

"Oh, my aunt," he giggled hysterically, "look at it now," for the hand
was writhing in agonized contortions, squirming and wriggling upon the
nail like a worm upon the hook.

"Well," said Saunders, "you've done it now. I'll leave you to examine
it."

"Don't go, in heaven's name. Cover it up, man, cover it up! Shove a
cloth over it! Here!" and he pulled off the antimacassar from the back
of a chair and wrapped the board in it. "Now get the keys from my pocket
and open the safe. Chuck the other things out. Oh, Lord, it's getting
itself into frightful knots! and open it quick!" He threw the thing in
and banged the door.

"We'll keep it there till it dies," he said. "May I burn in hell if I
ever open the door of that safe again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Merrit departed at the end of the month. Her successor certainly
was more successful in the management of the servants. Early in her rule
she declared that she would stand no nonsense, and gossip soon withered
and died. Eustace Borlsover went back to his old way of life. Old habits
crept over and covered his new experience. He was if anything, less
morose, and showed a greater inclination to take his natural part in
country society.

"I shouldn't be surprised if he marries one of these days," said
Saunders. "Well, I'm in no hurry for such an event. I know Eustace far
too well for the future Mrs. Borlsover to like me. It will be the same
old story again: a long friendship slowly made--marriage--and a long
friendship quickly forgotten."


IV

But Eustace Borlsover did not follow the advice of his uncle and marry.
He was too fond of old slippers and tobacco. The cooking, too, under
Mrs. Handyside's management was excellent, and she seemed, too, to have
a heaven-sent faculty in knowing when to stop dusting.

Little by little the old life resumed its old power. Then came the
burglary. The men, it was said, broke into the house by way of the
conservatory. It was really little more than an attempt, for they only
succeeded in carrying away a few pieces of plate from the pantry. The
safe in the study was certainly found open and empty, but, as Mr.
Borlsover informed the police inspector, he had kept nothing of value in
it during the last six months.

"Then you're lucky in getting off so easily, sir," the man replied. "By
the way they have gone about their business, I should say they were
experienced cracksmen. They must have caught the alarm when they were
just beginning their evening's work."

"Yes," said Eustace, "I suppose I am lucky."

"I've no doubt," said the inspector, "that we shall be able to trace the
men. I've said that they must have been old hands at the game. The way
they got in and opened the safe shows that. But there's one little thing
that puzzles me. One of them was careless enough not to wear gloves, and
I'm bothered if I know what he was trying to do. I've traced his
finger-marks on the new varnish on the window sashes in every one of the
downstairs rooms. They are very distinctive ones too."

"Right hand or left, or both?" asked Eustace.

"Oh, right every time. That's the funny thing. He must have been a
foolhardy fellow, and I rather think it was him that wrote that." He
took out a slip of paper from his pocket. "That's what he wrote, sir.
'I've got out, Eustace Borlsover, but I'll be back before long.' Some
jail bird just escaped, I suppose. It will make it all the easier for us
to trace him. Do you know the writing, sir?"

"No," said Eustace; "it's not the writing of any one I know."

"I'm not going to stay here any longer," said Eustace to Saunders at
luncheon. "I've got on far better during the last six months than ever I
expected, but I'm not going to run the risk of seeing that thing again.
I shall go up to town this afternoon. Get Morton to put my things
together, and join me with the car at Brighton on the day after
to-morrow. And bring the proofs of those two papers with you. We'll run
over them together."

"How long are you going to be away?"

"I can't say for certain, but be prepared to stay for some time. We've
stuck to work pretty closely through the summer, and I for one need a
holiday. I'll engage the rooms at Brighton. You'll find it best to break
the journey at Hitchin. I'll wire to you there at the Crown to tell you
the Brighton address."

The house he chose at Brighton was in a terrace. He had been there
before. It was kept by his old college gyp, a man of discreet silence,
who was admirably partnered by an excellent cook. The rooms were on the
first floor. The two bedrooms were at the back, and opened out of each
other. "Saunders can have the smaller one, though it is the only one
with a fireplace," he said. "I'll stick to the larger of the two, since
it's got a bathroom adjoining. I wonder what time he'll arrive with the
car."

Saunders came about seven, cold and cross and dirty. "We'll light the
fire in the dining-room," said Eustace, "and get Prince to unpack some
of the things while we are at dinner. What were the roads like?"

"Rotten; swimming with mud, and a beastly cold wind against us all day.
And this is July. Dear old England!"

"Yes," said Eustace, "I think we might do worse than leave dear old
England for a few months."

They turned in soon after twelve.

"You oughtn't to feel cold, Saunders," said Eustace, "when you can
afford to sport a great cat-skin lined coat like this. You do yourself
very well, all things considered. Look at those gloves, for instance.
Who could possibly feel cold when wearing them?"

"They are far too clumsy though for driving. Try them on and see," and
he tossed them through the door on to Eustace's bed, and went on with
his unpacking. A minute later he heard a shrill cry of terror. "Oh,
Lord," he heard, "it's in the glove! Quick, Saunders, quick!" Then came
a smacking thud. Eustace had thrown it from him. "I've chucked it into
the bathroom," he gasped, "it's hit the wall and fallen into the bath.
Come now if you want to help." Saunders, with a lighted candle in his
hand, looked over the edge of the bath. There it was, old and maimed,
dumb and blind, with a ragged hole in the middle, crawling, staggering,
trying to creep up the slippery sides, only to fall back helpless.

"Stay there," said Saunders. "I'll empty a collar box or something, and
we'll jam it in. It can't get out while I'm away."

"Yes, it can," shouted Eustace. "It's getting out now. It's climbing up
the plug chain. No, you brute, you filthy brute, you don't! Come back,
Saunders, it's getting away from me. I can't hold it; it's all slippery.
Curse its claw! Shut the window, you idiot! The top too, as well as the
bottom. You utter idiot! It's got out!" There was the sound of something
dropping on to the hard flagstones below, and Eustace fell back
fainting.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a fortnight he was ill.

"I don't know what to make of it," the doctor said to Saunders. "I can
only suppose that Mr. Borlsover has suffered some great emotional shock.
You had better let me send someone to help you nurse him. And by all
means indulge that whim of his never to be left alone in the dark. I
would keep a light burning all night if I were you. But he _must_ have
more fresh air. It's perfectly absurd--this hatred of open windows."

Eustace, however, would have no one with him but Saunders. "I don't want
the other men," he said. "They'd smuggle it in somehow. I know they
would."

"Don't worry about it, old chap. This sort of thing can't go on
indefinitely. You know I saw it this time as well as you. It wasn't half
so active. It won't go on living much longer, especially after that
fall. I heard it hit the flags myself. As soon as you're a bit stronger
we'll leave this place; not bag and baggage, but with only the clothes
on our backs, so that it won't be able to hide anywhere. We'll escape
it that way. We won't give any address, and we won't have any parcels
sent after us. Cheer up, Eustace! You'll be well enough to leave in a
day or two. The doctor says I can take you out in a chair to-morrow."

"What have I done?" asked Eustace. "Why does it come after me? I'm no
worse than other men. I'm no worse than you, Saunders; you know I'm not.
It was you who were at the bottom of that dirty business in San Diego,
and that was fifteen years ago."

"It's not that, of course," said Saunders. "We are in the twentieth
century, and even the parsons have dropped the idea of your old sins
finding you out. Before you caught the hand in the library it was filled
with pure malevolence--to you and all mankind. After you spiked it
through with that nail it naturally forgot about other people, and
concentrated its attention on you. It was shut up in that safe, you
know, for nearly six months. That gives plenty of time for thinking of
revenge."

Eustace Borlsover would not leave his room, but he thought that there
might be something in Saunders's suggestion to leave Brighton without
notice. He began rapidly to regain his strength.

"We'll go on the first of September," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening of August 31st was oppressively warm. Though at midday the
windows had been wide open, they had been shut an hour or so before
dusk. Mrs. Prince had long since ceased to wonder at the strange habits
of the gentlemen on the first floor. Soon after their arrival she had
been told to take down the heavy window curtains in the two bedrooms,
and day by day the rooms had seemed to grow more bare. Nothing was left
lying about.

"Mr. Borlsover doesn't like to have any place where dirt can collect,"
Saunders had said as an excuse. "He likes to see into all the corners of
the room."

"Couldn't I open the window just a little?" he said to Eustace that
evening. "We're simply roasting in here, you know."

"No, leave well alone. We're not a couple of boarding-school misses
fresh from a course of hygiene lectures. Get the chessboard out."

They sat down and played. At ten o'clock Mrs. Prince came to the door
with a note. "I am sorry I didn't bring it before," she said, "but it
was left in the letter-box."

"Open it, Saunders, and see if it wants answering."

It was very brief. There was neither address nor signature.

     _"Will eleven o'clock to-night be suitable for our last
     appointment?"_

"Who is it from?" asked Borlsover.

"It was meant for me," said Saunders. "There's no answer, Mrs. Prince,"
and he put the paper into his pocket. "A dunning letter from a tailor; I
suppose he must have got wind of our leaving."

It was a clever lie, and Eustace asked no more questions. They went on
with their game.

On the landing outside Saunders could hear the grandfather's clock
whispering the seconds, blurting out the quarter-hours.

"Check!" said Eustace. The clock struck eleven. At the same time there
was a gentle knocking on the door; it seemed to come from the bottom
panel.

"Who's there?" asked Eustace.

There was no answer.

"Mrs. Prince, is that you?"

"She is up above," said Saunders; "I can hear her walking about the
room."

"Then lock the door; bolt it too. Your move, Saunders."

While Saunders sat with his eyes on the chessboard, Eustace walked over
to the window and examined the fastenings. He did the same in Saunders's
room and the bathroom. There were no doors between the three rooms, or
he would have shut and locked them too.

"Now, Saunders," he said, "don't stay all night over your move. I've had
time to smoke one cigarette already. It's bad to keep an invalid
waiting. There's only one possible thing for you to do. What was that?"

"The ivy blowing against the window. There, it's your move now,
Eustace."

"It wasn't the ivy, you idiot. It was someone tapping at the window,"
and he pulled up the blind. On the outer side of the window, clinging to
the sash, was the hand.

"What is it that it's holding?"

"It's a pocket-knife. It's going to try to open the window by pushing
back the fastener with the blade."

"Well, let it try," said Eustace. "Those fasteners screw down; they
can't be opened that way. Anyhow, we'll close the shutters. It's your
move, Saunders. I've played."

But Saunders found it impossible to fix his attention on the game. He
could not understand Eustace who seemed all at once to have lost his
fear. "What do you say to some wine?" he asked. "You seem to be taking
things coolly, but I don't mind confessing that I'm in a blessed funk."

"You've no need to be. There's nothing supernatural about that hand,
Saunders. I mean it seems to be governed by the laws of time and space.
It's not the sort of thing that vanishes into thin air or slides through
oaken doors. And since that's so, I defy it to get in here. We'll leave
the place in the morning. I for one have bottomed the depths of fear.
Fill your glass, man! The windows are all shuttered, the door is locked
and bolted. Pledge me my uncle Adrian! Drink, man! What are you waiting
for?"

Saunders was standing with his glass half raised. "It can get in," he
said hoarsely; "it can get in! We've forgotten. There's the fireplace in
my bedroom. It will come down the chimney."

"Quick!" said Eustace, as he rushed into the other room; "we haven't a
minute to lose. What can we do? Light the fire, Saunders. Give me a
match, quick!"

"They must be all in the other room. I'll get them."

"Hurry, man, for goodness' sake! Look in the bookcase! Look in the
bathroom! Here, come and stand here; I'll look."

"Be quick!" shouted Saunders. "I can hear something!"

"Then plug a sheet from your bed up the chimney. No, here's a match." He
had found one at last that had slipped into a crack in the floor.

"Is the fire laid? Good, but it may not burn. I know--the oil from that
old reading-lamp and this cotton-wool. Now the match, quick! Pull the
sheet away, you fool! We don't want it now."

There was a great roar from the grate as the flames shot up. Saunders
had been a fraction of a second too late with the sheet. The oil had
fallen on to it. It, too, was burning.

"The whole place will be on fire!" cried Eustace, as he tried to beat
out the flames with a blanket. "It's no good! I can't manage it. You
must open the door, Saunders, and get help."

Saunders ran to the door and fumbled with the bolts. The key was stiff
in the lock.

"Hurry!" shouted Eustace; "the whole place is ablaze!"

The key turned in the lock at last. For half a second Saunders stopped
to look back. Afterwards he could never be quite sure as to what he had
seen, but at the time he thought that something black and charred was
creeping slowly, very slowly, from the mass of flames toward Eustace
Borlsover. For a moment he thought of returning to his friend, but the
noise and the smell of the burning sent him running down the passage
crying, "Fire! Fire!" He rushed to the telephone to summon help, and
then back to the bathroom--he should have thought of that before--for
water. As he burst open the bedroom door there came a scream of terror
which ended suddenly, and then the sound of a heavy fall.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is the story which I heard on successive Saturday evenings from the
senior mathematical master at a second-rate suburban school. For
Saunders has had to earn a living in a way which other men might reckon
less congenial than his old manner of life. I had mentioned by chance
the name of Adrian Borlsover, and wondered at the time why he changed
the conversation with such unusual abruptness. A week later, Saunders
began to tell me something of his own history--sordid enough, though
shielded with a reserve I could well understand, for it had to cover
not only his failings but those of a dead friend. Of the final tragedy
he was at first especially loath to speak, and it was only gradually
that I was able to piece together the narrative of the preceding pages.
Saunders was reluctant to draw any conclusions. At one time he thought
that the fingered beast had been animated by the spirit of Sigismund
Borlsover, a sinister eighteenth-century ancestor, who, according to
legend, built and worshipped in the ugly pagan temple that overlooked
the lake. At another time Saunders believed the spirit to belong to a
man whom Eustace had once employed as a laboratory assistant, "a
black-haired spiteful little brute," he said, "who died cursing his
doctor because the fellow couldn't help him to live to settle some
paltry score with Borlsover."

From the point of view of direct contemporary evidence, Saunders's story
is practically uncorroborated. All the letters mentioned in the
narrative were destroyed, with the exception of the last note which
Eustace received, or rather which he would have received had not
Saunders intercepted it. That I have seen myself. The handwriting was
thin and shaky, the handwriting of an old man. I remember the Greek "e"
was used in "appointment." A little thing that amused me at the time was
that Saunders seemed to keep the note pressed between the pages of his
Bible.

I had seen Adrian Borlsover once. Saunders, I learnt to know well. It
was by chance, however, and not by design, that I met a third person of
the story, Morton the butler. Saunders and I were walking in the
Zoological Gardens one Sunday afternoon, when he called my attention to
an old man who was standing before the door of the reptile house.

"Why, Morton!" he said, clapping him on the back. "How is the world
treating you?"

"Poorly, Mr. Saunders," said the old fellow, though his face lighted up
at the greeting. "The winters drag terribly nowadays. There don't seem
no summers or springs."

"You haven't found what you were looking for, I suppose?"

"No, sir, not yet; but I shall some day. I always told them that Mr.
Borlsover kept some queer animals."

"And what is he looking for?" I asked, when we had parted from him.

"A beast with five fingers," said Saunders. "This afternoon, since he
has been in the reptile house, I suppose it will be a reptile with a
hand. Next week it will be a monkey with practically no body. The poor
old chap is a born materialist.

"It's a queer coincidence, by the way, that you should have known Adrian
Borlsover and that you should have received a blessing at his hand. Has
it brought you any luck?"

"No," I answered slowly, as I looked back over a life of inconspicuous
failure, "I don't think it has. It was his right hand, you know."

[B] Reprinted by permission of Robt. M. McBride & Co.



VI

SISTER MADDELENA

RALPH ADAMS CRAM


Across the valley of the Oreto from Monreale, on the slopes of the
mountains just above the little village of Parco, lies the old convent
of Sta. Catarina. From the cloister terrace at Monreale you can see its
pale walls and the slim campanile of its chapel rising from the crowded
citron and mulberry orchards that flourish, rank and wild, no longer
cared for by pious and loving hands. From the rough road that climbs the
mountains to Assunto, the convent is invisible, a gnarled and ragged
olive grove intervening, and a spur of cliffs as well, while from
Palermo one sees only the speck of white, flashing in the sun,
indistinguishable from the many similar gleams of desert monastery or
pauper village.

Partly because of this seclusion, partly by reason of its extreme
beauty, partly, it may be, because the present owners are more than
charming and gracious in their pressing hospitality, Sta. Catarina seems
to preserve an element of the poetic, almost magical; and as I drove
with the Cavaliere Valguanera one evening in March out of Palermo, along
the garden valley of the Oreto, then up the mountain side where the
warm light of the spring sunset swept across from Monreale, lying golden
and mellow on the luxuriant growth of figs, and olives, and
orange-trees, and fantastic cacti, and so up to where the path of the
convent swung off to the right round a dizzy point of cliff that reached
out gaunt and gray from the olives below,--as I drove thus in the balmy
air, and saw of a sudden a vision of creamy walls and orange roof,
draped in fantastic festoons of roses, with a single curving palm-tree
stuck black and feathery against the gold sunset, it is hardly to be
wondered at that I should slip into a mood of visionary enjoyment,
looking for a time on the whole thing as the misty phantasm of a summer
dream.

The Cavaliere had introduced himself to us,--Tom Rendel and me,--one
morning soon after we reached Palermo, when, in the first bewilderment
of architects in this paradise of art and colour, we were working nobly
at our sketches in that dream of delight, the Capella Palatina. He was
himself an amateur archæologist, he told us, and passionately devoted to
his island; so he felt impelled to speak to anyone whom he saw
appreciating the almost--and in a way fortunately--unknown beauties of
Palermo. In a little time we were fully acquainted, and talking like the
oldest friends. Of course he knew acquaintances of Rendel's,--someone
always does: this time they were officers on the tubby U. S. S.
_Quinebaug_, that, during the summer of 1888, was trying to uphold the
maritime honour of the United States in European waters. Luckily for us,
one of the officers was a kind of cousin of Rendel's, and came from
Baltimore as well, so, as he had visited at the Cavaliere's place, we
were soon invited to do the same. It was in this way that, with the luck
that attends Rendel wherever he goes, we came to see something of
domestic life in Italy, and that I found myself involved in another of
those adventures for which I naturally sought so little.

I wonder if there is any other place in Sicily so faultless as Sta.
Catarina? Taormina is a paradise, an epitome of all that is beautiful in
Italy,--Venice excepted. Girgenti is a solemn epic, with its golden
temples between the sea and hills. Cefalú is wild and strange, and
Monreale a vision out of a fairy tale; but Sta. Catarina!--

Fancy a convent of creamy stone and rose red brick perched on a ledge of
rock midway between earth and heaven, the cliff falling almost sheer to
the valley two hundred feet and more, the mountain rising behind
straight toward the sky; all the rocks covered with cactus and dwarf
fig-trees, the convent draped in smothering roses, and in front a
terrace with a fountain in the midst; and then--nothing--between you and
the sapphire sea, six miles away. Below stretches the Eden valley, the
Concha d'Oro, gold-green fig orchards alternating with smoke-blue
olives, the mountains rising on either hand and sinking undulously away
toward the bay where, like a magic city of ivory and nacre, Palermo
lies guarded by the twin mountains, Monte Pelligrino and Capo Zafferano,
arid rocks like dull amethysts, rose in sunlight, violet in shadow:
lions couchant, guarding the sleeping town.

Seen as we saw it for the first time that hot evening in March, with the
golden lambent light pouring down through the valley, making it in
verity a "shell of gold," sitting in Indian chairs on the terrace, with
the perfume of roses and jasmines all around us, the valley of the
Oreto, Palermo, Sta. Catarina, Monreale,--all were but parts of a dreamy
vision, like the heavenly city of Sir Percivale, to attain which he
passed across the golden bridge that burned after him as he vanished in
the intolerable light of the Beatific Vision.

It was all so unreal, so phantasmal, that I was not surprised in the
least when, late in the evening after the ladies had gone to their
rooms, and the Cavaliere, Tom, and I were stretched out in chairs on the
terrace, smoking lazily under the multitudinous stars, the Cavaliere
said, "There is something I really must tell you both before you go to
bed, so that you may be spared any unnecessary alarm."

"You are going to say that the place is haunted," said Rendel, feeling
vaguely on the floor beside him for his glass of Amaro: "thank you; it
is all it needs."

The Cavaliere smiled a little: "Yes, that is just it. Sta. Catarina is
really haunted; and much as my reason revolts against the idea as
superstitious and savouring of priestcraft, yet I must acknowledge I see
no way of avoiding the admission. I do not presume to offer any
explanations, I only state the fact; and the fact is that to-night one
or other of you will, in all human--or unhuman--probability, receive a
visit from Sister Maddelena. You need not be in the least afraid, the
apparition is perfectly gentle and harmless; and, moreover, having seen
it once, you will never see it again. No one sees the ghost, or whatever
it is, but once, and that usually the first night he spends in the
house. I myself saw the thing eight--nine years ago, when I first bought
the place from the Marchese di Muxaro; all my people have seen it,
nearly all my guests, so I think you may as well be prepared."

"Then tell us what to expect," I said; "what kind of a ghost is this
nocturnal visitor?"

"It is simple enough. Some time to-night you will suddenly awake and see
before you a Carmelite nun who will look fixedly at you, say distinctly
and very sadly, 'I cannot sleep,' and then vanish. That is all, it is
hardly worth speaking of, only some people are terribly frightened if
they are visited unwarned by strange apparitions; so I tell you this
that you may be prepared."

"This was a Carmelite convent, then?" I said.

"Yes; it was suppressed after the unification of Italy, and given to the
House of Muxaro; but the family died out, and I bought it. There is a
story about the ghostly nun, who was only a novice, and even that
unwillingly, which gives an interest to an otherwise very commonplace
and uninteresting ghost."

"I beg that you will tell it us," cried Rendel.

"There is a storm coming," I added. "See, the lightning is flashing
already up among the mountains at the head of the valley; if the story
is tragic, as it must be, now is just the time for it. You will tell it,
will you not?"

The Cavaliere smiled that slow, cryptic smile of his that was so
unfathomable.

"As you say, there is a shower coming, and as we have fierce tempests
here, we might not sleep; so perhaps we may as well sit up a little
longer, and I will tell you the story."

The air was utterly still, hot and oppressive; the rich, sick odour of
the oranges just bursting into bloom came up from the valley in a gently
rising tide. The sky, thick with stars, seemed mirrored in the rich
foliage below, so numerous were the glow-worms under the still trees,
and the fireflies that gleamed in the hot air. Lightning flashed
fitfully from the darkening west; but as yet no thunder broke the heavy
silence.

The Cavaliere lighted another cigar, and pulled a cushion under his head
so that he could look down to the distant lights of the city. "This is
the story," he said.

"Once upon a time, late in the last century, the Duca di Castiglione
was attached to the court of Charles III., King of the Two Sicilies,
down at Palermo. They tell me he was very ambitious, and, not content
with marrying his son to one of the ladies of the House of Tuscany, had
betrothed his only daughter, Rosalia, to Prince Antonio, a cousin of the
king. His whole life was wrapped up in the fame of his family, and he
quite forgot all domestic affection in his madness for dynastic glory.
His son was a worthy scion, cold and proud; but Rosalia was, according
to legend, utterly the reverse,--a passionate, beautiful girl, wilful
and headstrong, and careless of her family and the world.

"The time had nearly come for her to marry Prince Antonio, a typical
_roué_ of the Spanish court, when, through the treachery of a servant,
the Duke discovered that his daughter was in love with a young military
officer whose name I don't remember, and that an elopement had been
planned to take place the next night. The fury and dismay of the old
autocrat passed belief; he saw in a flash the downfall of all his hopes
of family aggrandizement through union with the royal house, and,
knowing well the spirit of his daughter, despaired of ever bringing her
to subjection. Nevertheless, he attacked her unmercifully, and, by
bullying and threats, by imprisonment, and even bodily chastisement, he
tried to break her spirit and bend her to his indomitable will. Through
his power at court he had the lover sent away to the mainland, and for
more than a year he held his daughter closely imprisoned in his palace
on the Toledo,--that one, you may remember, on the right, just beyond
the Via del Collegio dei Gesuiti, with the beautiful ironwork grilles at
all the windows, and the painted frieze. But nothing could move her,
nothing bend her stubborn will; and at last, furious at the girl he
could not govern, Castiglione sent her to this convent, then one of the
few houses of barefoot Carmelite nuns in Italy. He stipulated that she
should take the name of Maddelena, that he should never hear of her
again, and that she should be held an absolute prisoner in this
conventual castle.

"Rosalia--or Sister Maddelena, as she was now--believed her lover dead,
for her father had given her good proofs of this, and she believed him;
nevertheless she refused to marry another, and seized upon the convent
life as a blessed relief from the tyranny of her maniacal father.

"She lived here for four or five years; her name was forgotten at court
and in her father's palace. Rosalia di Castiglione was dead, and only
Sister Maddelena lived, a Carmelite nun, in her place.

"In 1798 Ferdinand IV. found himself driven from his throne on the
mainland, his kingdom divided, and he himself forced to flee to Sicily.
With him came the lover of the dead Rosalia, now high in military
honour. He on his part had thought Rosalia dead, and it was only by
accident that he found that she still lived, a Carmelite nun. Then
began the second act of the romance that until then had been only sadly
commonplace, but now became dark and tragic. Michele--Michele
Biscari,--that was his name; I remember now--haunted the region of the
convent, striving to communicate with Sister Maddelena; and at last,
from the cliffs over us, up there among the citrons--you will see by the
next flash of lightning--he saw her in the great cloister, recognized
her in her white habit, found her the same dark and splendid beauty of
six years before, only made more beautiful by her white habit and her
rigid life. By and by he found a day when she was alone, and tossed a
ring to her as she stood in the midst of the cloister. She looked up,
saw him, and from that moment lived only to love him in life as she had
loved his memory in the death she had thought had overtaken him.

"With the utmost craft they arranged their plans together. They could
not speak, for a word would have aroused the other inmates of the
convent. They could make signs only when Sister Maddelena was alone.
Michele could throw notes to her from the cliff,--a feat demanding a
strong arm, as you will see, if you measure the distance with your
eye,--and she could drop replies from the window over the cliff, which
he picked up at the bottom. Finally he succeeded in casting into the
cloister a coil of light rope. The girl fastened it to the bars of one
of the windows, and--so great is the madness of love--Biscari actually
climbed the rope from the valley to the window of the cell, a distance
of almost two hundred feet, with but three little craggy resting-places
in all that height. For nearly a month these nocturnal visits were
undiscovered, and Michele had almost completed his arrangements for
carrying the girl from Sta. Catarina and away to Spain, when
unfortunately one of the sisters, suspecting some mystery, from the
changed face of Sister Maddelena, began investigating, and at length
discovered the rope neatly coiled up by the nun's window, and hidden
under some clinging vines. She instantly told the Mother Superior; and
together they watched from a window in the crypt of the chapel,--the
only place, as you will see to-morrow, from which one could see the
window of Sister Maddelena's cell. They saw the figure of Michele
daringly ascending the slim rope; watched hour after hour, the Sister
remaining while the Superior went to say the hours in the chapel, at
each of which Sister Maddelena was present; and at last, at prime, just
as the sun was rising, they saw the figure slip down the rope, watched
the rope drawn up and concealed, and knew that Sister Maddelena was in
their hands for vengeance and punishment,--a criminal.

"The next day, by the order of the Mother Superior, Sister Maddelena was
imprisoned in one of the cells under the chapel, charged with her guilt,
and commanded to make full and complete confession. But not a word would
she say, although they offered her forgiveness if she would tell the
name of her lover. At last the Superior told her that after this fashion
would they act the coming night: she herself would be placed in the
crypt, tied in front of the window, her mouth gagged; that the rope
would be lowered, and the lover allowed to approach even to the sill of
her window, and at that moment the rope would be cut, and before her
eyes her lover would be dashed to death on the ragged cliffs. The plan
was feasible, and Sister Maddelena knew that the Mother was perfectly
capable of carrying it out. Her stubborn spirit was broken, and in the
only way possible she begged for mercy, for the sparing of her lover.
The Mother Superior was deaf at first; at last she said, 'It is your
life or his. I will spare him on condition that you sacrifice your own
life.' Sister Maddelena accepted the terms joyfully, wrote a last
farewell to Michele, fastened the note to the rope, and with her own
hands cut the rope and saw it fall coiling down to the valley bed far
below.

"Then she silently prepared for death; and at midnight, while her lover
was wandering, mad with the horror of impotent fear, around the white
walls of the convent, Sister Maddelena, for love of Michele, gave up her
life. How, was never known. That she was indeed dead was only a
suspicion, for when Biscari finally compelled the civil authorities to
enter the convent, claiming that murder had been done there, they found
no sign. Sister Maddelena had been sent to the parent house of the
barefoot Carmelites at Avila in Spain, so the Superior stated, because
of her incorrigible contumacy. The old Duke of Castiglione refused to
stir hand or foot in the matter, and Michele, after fruitless attempts
to prove that the Superior of Sta. Catarina had caused the death, was
forced to leave Sicily. He sought in Spain for very long; but no sign of
the girl was to be found, and at last he died, exhausted with suffering
and sorrow.

"Even the name of Sister Maddelena was forgotten, and it was not until
the convents were suppressed, and this house came into the hands of the
Muxaros, that her story was remembered. It was then that the ghost began
to appear; and, an explanation being necessary, the story, or legend,
was obtained from one of the nuns who still lived after the suppression.
I think the fact--for it is a fact--of the ghost rather goes to prove
that Michele was right, and that poor Rosalia gave her life a sacrifice
for love,--whether in accordance with the terms of the legend or not, I
cannot say. One or the other of you will probably see her to-night. You
might ask her for the facts. Well, that is all the story of Sister
Maddelena, known in the world as Rosalia di Castiglione. Do you like
it?"

"It is admirable," said Rendel, enthusiastically. "But I fancy I should
rather look on it simply as a story, and not as a warning of what is
going to happen. I don't much fancy real ghosts myself."

"But the poor Sister is quite harmless"; and Valguanera rose,
stretching himself. "My servants say she wants a mass said over her, or
something of that kind; but I haven't much love for such priestly
hocus-pocus,--I beg your pardon" (turning to me), "I had forgotten that
you were a Catholic: forgive my rudeness."

"My dear Cavaliere, I beg you not to apologize. I am sorry you cannot
see things as I do; but don't for a moment think I am hypersensitive."

"I have an excuse,--perhaps you will say only an explanation; but I live
where I see all the absurdities and corruptions of the Church."

"Perhaps you let the accidents blind you to the essentials; but do not
let us quarrel to-night,--see, the storm is close on us. Shall we go
in?"

The stars were blotted out through nearly all the sky; low, thunderous
clouds, massed at the head of the valley, were sweeping over so close
that they seemed to brush the black pines on the mountain above us. To
the south and east the storm-clouds had shut down almost to the sea,
leaving a space of black sky where the moon in its last quarter was
rising just to the left of Monte Pellegrino,--a black silhouette against
the pallid moonlight. The rosy lightning flashed almost incessantly, and
through the fitful darkness came the sound of bells across the valley,
the rushing torrent below, and the dull roar of the approaching rain,
with a deep organ-point of solemn thunder through it all.

We fled indoors from the coming tempest, and taking our candles, said
"good-night," and sought each his respective room.

My own was in the southern part of the old convent, giving on the
terrace we had just quitted, and about over the main doorway. The
rushing storm, as it swept down the valley with the swelling torrent
beneath, was very fascinating, and after wrapping myself in a
dressing-gown I stood for some time by the deeply embrasured window,
watching the blazing lightning and the beating rain whirled by fitful
gusts of wind around the spurs of the mountains. Gradually the violence
of the shower seemed to decrease, and I threw myself down on my bed in
the hot air, wondering if I really was to experience the ghostly visit
the Cavaliere so confidently predicted.

I had thought out the whole matter to my own satisfaction, and fancied I
knew exactly what I should do, in case Sister Maddelena came to visit
me. The story touched me: the thought of the poor faithful girl who
sacrificed herself for her lover,--himself very likely, quite
unworthy,--and who now could never sleep for reason of her unquiet soul,
sent out into the storm of eternity without spiritual aid or counsel. I
could not sleep; for the still vivid lightning, the crowding thoughts of
the dead nun, and the shivering anticipation of my possible visitation,
made slumber quite out of the question. No suspicion of sleepiness had
visited me, when, perhaps an hour after midnight, came a sudden vivid
flash of lightning, and, as my dazzled eyes began to regain the power
of sight, I saw her as plainly as in life,--a tall figure, shrouded in
the white habit of the Carmelites, her head bent, her hands clasped
before her. In another flash of lightning she slowly raised her head and
looked at me long and earnestly. She was very beautiful, like the Virgin
of Beltraffio in the National Gallery,--more beautiful than I had
supposed possible, her deep, passionate eyes very tender and pitiful in
their pleading, beseeching glance. I hardly think I was frightened, or
even startled, but lay looking steadily at her as she stood in the
beating lightning.

Then she breathed, rather than articulated, with a voice that almost
brought tears, so infinitely sad and sorrowful was it, "I cannot sleep!"
and the liquid eyes grew more pitiful and questioning as bright tears
fell from them down the pale dark face.

The figure began to move slowly toward the door, its eyes fixed on mine
with a look that was weary and almost agonized. I leaped from the bed
and stood waiting. A look of utter gratitude swept over the face, and,
turning, the figure passed through the doorway.

Out into the shadow of the corridor it moved, like a drift of pallid
storm-cloud, and I followed, all natural and instinctive fear or
nervousness quite blotted out by the part I felt I was to play in giving
rest to a tortured soul. The corridors were velvet black; but the pale
figure floated before me always, an unerring guide, now but a thin mist
on the utter night, now white and clear in the bluish lightning through
some window or doorway.

Down the stairway into the lower hall, across the refectory, where the
great frescoed Crucifixion flared into sudden clearness under the fitful
lightning, out into the silent cloister.

It was very dark. I stumbled along the heaving bricks, now guiding
myself by a hand on the whitewashed wall, now by a touch on a column wet
with the storm. From all the eaves the rain was dripping on to the
pebbles at the foot of the arcade: a pigeon, startled from the capital
where it was sleeping, beat its way into the cloister close. Still the
white thing drifted before me to the farther side of the court, then
along the cloister at right angles, and paused before one of the many
doorways that led to the cells.

A sudden blaze of fierce lightning, the last now of the fleeting trail
of storm, leaped around us, and in the vivid light I saw the white face
turned again with the look of overwhelming desire, of beseeching pathos,
that had choked my throat with an involuntary sob when first I saw
Sister Maddelena. In the brief interval that ensued after the flash, and
before the roaring thunder burst like the crash of battle over the
trembling convent, I heard again the sorrowful words, "I cannot sleep,"
come from the impenetrable darkness. And when the lightning came again,
the white figure was gone.

I wandered around the courtyard, searching in vain for Sister Maddelena,
even until the moonlight broke through the torn and sweeping fringes of
the storm. I tried the door where the white figure vanished: it was
locked; but I had found what I sought, and, carefully noting its
location, went back to my room, but not to sleep.

In the morning the Cavaliere asked Rendel and me which of us had seen
the ghost, and I told him my story; then I asked him to grant me
permission to sift the thing to the bottom; and he courteously gave the
whole matter into my charge, promising that he would consent to
anything.

I could hardly wait to finish breakfast; but no sooner was this done
than, forgetting my morning pipe, I started with Rendel and the
Cavaliere to investigate.

"I am sure there is nothing in that cell," said Valguanera, when we came
in front of the door I had marked. "It is curious that you should have
chosen the door of the very cell that tradition assigns to Sister
Maddelena; but I have often examined that room myself, and I am sure
that there is no chance for anything to be concealed. In fact, I had the
floor taken up once, soon after I came here, knowing the room was that
of the mysterious Sister, and thinking that there, if anywhere, the
monastic crime would have taken place; still, we will go in, if you
like."

He unlocked the door, and we entered, one of us, at all events, with a
beating heart. The cell was very small, hardly eight feet square. There
certainly seemed no opportunity for concealing a body in the tiny
place; and although I sounded the floor and walls, all gave a solid,
heavy answer,--the unmistakable sound of masonry.

For the innocence of the floor the Cavaliere answered. He had, he said,
had it all removed, even to the curving surfaces of the vault below; yet
somewhere in this room the body of the murdered girl was concealed,--of
this I was certain. But where? There seemed no answer; and I was
compelled to give up the search for the moment, somewhat to the
amusement of Valguanera, who had watched curiously to see if I could
solve the mystery.

But I could not forget the subject, and toward noon started on another
tour of investigation. I procured the keys from the Cavaliere, and
examined the cells adjoining; they were apparently the same, each with
its window opposite the door, and nothing--Stay, were they the same? I
hastened into the suspected cell; it was as I thought: this cell, being
on the corner, could have had two windows, yet only one was visible, and
that to the left, at right angles with the doorway. Was it imagination?
As I sounded the wall opposite the door, where the other window should
be; I fancied that the sound was a trifle less solid and dull. I was
becoming excited. I dashed back to the cell on the right, and, forcing
open the little window, thrust my head out.

It was found at last! In the smooth surface of the yellow wall was a
rough space, following approximately the shape of the other cell
windows, not plastered like the rest of the wall, but showing the shapes
of bricks through its thick coatings of whitewash. I turned with a gasp
of excitement and satisfaction: yes, the embrasure of the wall was deep
enough; what a wall it was!--four feet at least, and the opening of the
window reached to the floor, though the window itself was hardly three
feet square. I felt absolutely certain that the secret was solved, and
called the Cavaliere and Rendel, too excited to give them an explanation
of my theories.

They must have thought me mad when I suddenly began scraping away at the
solid wall in front of the door; but in a few minutes they understood
what I was about, for under the coatings of paint and plaster appeared
the original bricks; and as my architectural knowledge had led me
rightly, the space I had cleared was directly over a vertical joint
between firm, workmanlike masonry on one hand, and rough amateurish work
on the other, bricks laid anyway, and without order or science.

Rendel seized a pick, and was about to assail the rude wall, when I
stopped him.

"Let us be careful," I said; "who knows what we may find?" So we set to
work digging out the mortar around a brick at about the level of our
eyes.

How hard the mortar had become! But a brick yielded at last, and with
trembling fingers I detached it. Darkness within, yet beyond question
there was a cavity there, not a solid wall; and with infinite care we
removed another brick. Still the hole was too small to admit enough
light from the dimly illuminated cell. With a chisel we pried at the
sides of a large block of masonry, perhaps eight bricks in size. It
moved, and we softly slid it from its bed.

Valguanera, who was standing watching us as we lowered the bricks to the
floor, gave a sudden cry, a cry like that of a frightened
woman,--terrible, coming from him. Yet there was cause.

Framed by the ragged opening of the bricks, hardly seen in the dim
light, was a face, an ivory image, more beautiful than any antique bust,
but drawn and distorted by unspeakable agony: the lovely mouth half
open, as though gasping for breath; the eyes cast upward; and below,
slim chiselled hands crossed on the breast, but clutching the folds of
the white Carmelite habit, torture and agony visible in every tense
muscle, fighting against the determination of the rigid pose.

We stood there breathless, staring at the pitiful sight, fascinated,
bewitched. So this was the secret. With fiendish ingenuity, the rigid
ecclesiastics had blocked up the window, then forced the beautiful
creature to stand in the alcove, while with remorseless hands and iron
hearts they had shut her into a living tomb. I had read of such things
in romance; but to find the verity here, before my eyes--

Steps came down the cloister, and with a simultaneous thought we sprang
to the door and closed it behind us. The room was sacred; that awful
sight was not for curious eyes. The gardener was coming to ask some
trivial question of Valguanera. The Cavaliere cut him short. "Pietro, go
down to Parco and ask Padre Stefano to come here at once." (I thanked
him with a glance.) "Stay!" He turned to me: "Signore, it is already two
o'clock and too late for mass, is it not?"

I nodded.

Valguanera thought a moment, then he said, "Bring two horses; the Signor
Americano will go with you,--do you understand?" Then, turning to me,
"You will go, will you not? I think you can explain matters to Padre
Stefano better than I."

"Of course I will go, more than gladly." So it happened that after a
hasty luncheon I wound down the mountain to Parco, found Padre Stefano,
explained my errand to him, found him intensely eager and sympathetic,
and by five o'clock had him back at the convent with all that was
necessary for the resting of the soul of the dead girl.

In the warm twilight, with the last light of the sunset pouring into the
little cell through the window where almost a century ago Rosalia had
for the last time said farewell to her lover, we gathered together to
speed her tortured soul on its journey, so long delayed. Nothing was
omitted; all the needful offices of the Church were said by Padre
Stefano, while the light in the window died away, and the flickering
flames of the candles carried by two of the acolytes from San Francesco
threw fitful flashes of pallid light into the dark recess where the
white face had prayed to Heaven for a hundred years.

Finally, the Padre took the asperge from the hands of one of the
acolytes, and with a sign of the cross in benediction while he chanted
the _Asperges_, gently sprinkled the holy water on the upturned face.
Instantly the whole vision crumbled to dust, the face was gone, and
where once the candlelight had flickered on the perfect semblance of the
girl dead so very long, it now fell only on the rough bricks which
closed the window, bricks laid with frozen hearts by pitiless hands.

But our task was not done yet. It had been arranged that Padre Stefano
should remain at the convent all night, and that as soon as midnight
made it possible he should say the first mass for the repose of the
girl's soul. We sat on the terrace talking over the strange events of
the last crowded hours, and I noted with satisfaction that the Cavaliere
no longer spoke of the Church with that hardness, which had hurt me so
often. It is true that the Padre was with us nearly all the time; but
not only was Valguanera courteous, he was almost sympathetic; and I
wondered if it might not prove that more than one soul benefited by the
untoward events of the day.

With the aid of the astonished and delighted servants, and no little
help as well from Signora Valguanera, I fitted up the long cold Altar in
the chapel, and by midnight we had the gloomy sanctuary beautiful with
flowers and candles. It was a curiously solemn service, in the first
hour of the new day, in the midst of blazing candles and the thick
incense, the odour of the opening orange-blooms drifting up in the fresh
morning air, and mingling with the incense smoke and the perfume of
flowers within. Many prayers were said that night for the soul of the
dead girl, and I think many afterward; for after the benediction I
remained for a little time in my place, and when I rose from my knees
and went toward the chapel door, I saw a figure kneeling still, and,
with a start, recognized the form of the Cavaliere. I smiled with quiet
satisfaction and gratitude, and went away softly, content with the chain
of events that now seemed finished.

The next day the alcove was again walled up, for the precious dust could
not be gathered together for transportation to consecrated ground; so I
went down to the little cemetery at Parco for a basket of earth, which
we cast in over the ashes of Sister Maddelena.

By and by, when Rendel and I went away, with great regret, Valguanera
came down to Palermo with us; and the last act that we performed in
Sicily was assisting him to order a tablet of marble, whereon was
carved this simple inscription:--

       HERE LIES THE BODY OF
      ROSALIA DI CASTIGLIONI,
              CALLED
         SISTER MADDELENA.
             HER SOUL
     IS WITH HIM WHO GAVE IT.

To this I added in thought:--

"Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone."



VII

THRAWN JANET

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON


The Reverend Murdoch Soulis was long minister of the moorland parish of
Balweary, in the vale of Dule. A severe, bleak-faced old man, dreadful
to his hearers, he dwelt in the last years of his life, without relative
or servant or any human company, in the small and lonely manse under the
Hanging Shaw. In spite of the iron composure of his features, his eye
was wild, scared, and uncertain; and when he dwelt, in private
admonitions, on the future of the impenitent, it seemed as if his eye
pierced through the storms of time to the terrors of eternity. Many
young persons, coming to prepare themselves against the season of the
Holy Communion, were dreadfully affected by his talk. He had a sermon on
1st Peter, v. and 8th, "The devil as a roaring lion," on the Sunday
after every seventeenth of August, and he was accustomed to surpass
himself upon that text both by the appalling nature of the matter and
the terror of his bearing in the pulpit. The children were frightened
into fits, and the old looked more than usually oracular, and were, all
that day, full of those hints that Hamlet deprecated. The manse itself,
where it stood by the water of Dule among some thick trees, with the
Shaw overhanging it on the one side, and on the other many cold, moorish
hill-tops rising toward the sky, had begun, at a very early period of
Mr. Soulis's ministry, to be avoided in the dusk hours by all who valued
themselves upon their prudence; and guidmen sitting at the clachan
alehouse shook their heads together at the thought of passing late by
that uncanny neighbourhood. There was one spot, to be more particular,
which was regarded with especial awe. The manse stood between the
highroad and the water of Dule with a gable to each; its back was toward
the kirktown of Balweary, nearly half a mile away; in front of it, a
bare garden, hedged with thorn, occupied the land between the river and
the road. The house was two stories high, with two large rooms on each.
It opened not directly on the garden, but on a causewayed path, or
passage, giving on the road on the one hand, and closed on the other by
the tall willows and elders that bordered on the stream. And it was this
strip of causeway that enjoyed among the young parishioners of Balweary
so infamous a reputation. The minister walked there often after dark,
sometimes groaning aloud in the instancy of his unspoken prayers; and
when he was from home, and the manse door was locked, the more daring
schoolboys ventured, with beating hearts, to "follow my leader" across
that legendary spot.

This atmosphere of terror, surrounding, as it did, a man of God of
spotless character and orthodoxy, was a common cause of wonder and
subject of inquiry among the few strangers who were led by chance or
business into that unknown, outlying country. But many even of the
people of the parish were ignorant of the strange events which had
marked the first year of Mr. Soulis's ministrations; and among those who
were better informed, some were naturally reticent, and others shy of
that particular topic. Now and again, only, one of the older folk would
warm into courage over his third tumbler, and recount the cause of the
minister's strange and solitary life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fifty years syne, when Mr. Soulis cam' first into Ba'weary, he was still
a young man--a callant, the folk said--fu' o' book learnin' and grand at
the exposition, but, as was natural in sae young a man, wi' nae leevin'
experience in religion. The younger sort were greatly taken wi' his
gifts and his gab; but auld, concerned, serious men and women were moved
even to prayer for the young man, whom they took to be a self-deceiver,
and the parish that was like to be sae ill-supplied. It was before the
days o' the moderates--weary fa' them; but ill things are like
guid--they baith come bit by bit, a pickle at a time; and there were
folk even then that said the Lord had left the college professors to
their ain devices an' the lads that went to study wi' them wad hae done
mair and better sittin' in a peat-bog, like their forbears of the
persecution, wi' a Bible under their oxter and a speerit o' prayer in
their heart. There was nae doubt, onyway, but that Mr. Soulis had been
ower lang at the college. He was careful and troubled for mony things
besides the ae thing needful. He had a feck o' books wi' him--mair than
had ever been seen before in a' that presbytery; and a sair wark the
carrier had wi' them, for they were a' like to have smoored in the
Deil's Hag between this and Kilmackerlie. They were books o' divinity,
to be sure, or so they ca'd them; but the serious were o' opinion there
was little service for sae mony, when the hail o' God's Word would gang
in the neuk of a plaid. Then he wad sit half the day and half the nicht
forbye, which was scant decent--writin' nae less; and first, they were
feared he wad read his sermons; and syne it proved he was writin' a book
himsel', which was surely no fittin' for ane of his years and sma'
experience.

Onyway it behoved him to get an auld, decent wife to keep the manse for
him an' see to his bit denners; and he was recommended to an auld
limmer--Janet M'Clour, they ca'ed her--and sae far left to himsel' as to
be ower persuaded. There was mony advised him to the contrar, for Janet
was mair than suspeckit by the best folk in Ba'weary. Lang or that, she
had had a wean to a dragoon; she hadnae come forrit[2] for maybe thretty
year; and bairns had seen her mumblin' to hersel' up on Key's Loan in
the gloamin', whilk was an unco time an' place for a God-fearin' woman.
Howsoever, it was the laird himsel' that had first tauld the minister o'
Janet; and in thae days he wad have gane a far gate to pleesure the
laird. When folk tauld him that Janet was sib to the deil, it was a'
superstition by his way of it; an' when they cast up the Bible to him
an' the witch of Endor, he wad threep it doun their thrapples that thir
days were a' gane by, and the deil was mercifully restrained.

[2] To come forrit--to offer oneself as a communicant.

Weel, when it got about the clachan that Janet M'Clour was to be servant
at the manse, the folk were fair mad wi' her an' him thegether; and some
o' the guidwives had nae better to dae than get round her door cheeks
and chairge her wi' a' that was ken't again her, frae the sodger's bairn
to John Tamson's twa kye. She was nae great speaker; folk usually let
her gang her ain gate, an' she let them gang theirs, wi' neither
Fair-gui-deen nor Fair-guid-day; but when she buckled to, she had a
tongue to deave the miller. Up she got, an' there wasnae an auld story
in Ba'weary but she gart somebody lowp for it that day; they couldnae
say ae thing but she could say twa to it; till, at the hinder end, the
guidwives up and claught hand of her, and clawed the coats aff her back,
and pu'd her doun the clachan to the water o' Dule, to see if she were a
witch or no, soum or droun. The carline skirled till ye could hear her
at the Hangin' Shaw, and she focht like ten; there was mony a guidwife
bure the mark of her neist day an' mony a lang day after; and just in
the hettest o' the collieshangie, wha suld come up (for his sins) but
the new minister.

"Women," said he (and he had a grand voice), "I charge you in the Lord's
name to let her go."

Janet ran to him--she was fair wud wi' terror--an' clang to him, an'
prayed him, for Christ's sake, save her frae the cummers; an' they, for
their part, tauld him a' that was ken't, and maybe mair.

"Woman," says he to Janet, "is this true?"

"As the Lord sees me," says she, "as the Lord made me, no a word o't.
Forbye the bairn," says she, "I've been a decent woman a' my days."

"Will you," says Mr. Soulis, "in the name of God, and before me, His
unworthy minister, renounce the devil and his works?"

Weel, it wad appear that when he askit that, she gave a girn that fairly
frichtit them that saw her, an' they could hear her teeth play dirl
thegether in her chafts; but there was naething for it but the ae way or
the ither; an' Janet lifted up her hand and renounced the deil before
them a'.

"And now," says Mr. Soulis to the guidwives, "home with ye, one and all,
and pray to God for His forgiveness."

And he gied Janet his arm, though she had little on her but a sark, and
took her up the clachan to her ain door like a leddy of the land; an'
her scrieghin, and laughin' as was a scandal to be heard.

There were mony grave folk lang ower their prayers that nicht; but when
the morn cam' there was sic a fear fell upon a' Ba'weary that the bairns
hid theirsels, and even the men folk stood and keekit frae their doors.
For there was Janet comin' doun the clachan--her or her likeness, nane
could tell--wi' her neck thrawn, and her held on ae side, like a body
that has been hangit, and a grin on her face like an unstreakit corp. By
an' by they got used wi' it, and even speered at her to ken what was
wrang; but frae that day forth she couldnae speak like a Christian
woman, but slavered and played click wi' her teeth like a pair o'
shears; and frae that day forth the name o' God cam' never on her lips.
Whiles she wad try to say it, but it michtnae be. Them that kenned best
said least; but they never gied that Thing the name o' Janet M'Clour;
for the auld Janet, by their way o't, was in muckle hell that day. But
the minister was neither to haud nor to bind; he preached about naething
but the folk's cruelty that had gi'en her a stroke of the palsy; he
skelpt the bairns that meddled her; and he had her up to the manse that
same nicht, and dwalled there a' his lane wi' her under the Hangin'
Shaw.

Weel, time gaed by: and the idler sort commenced to think mair lichtly
o' that black business. The minister was weel thocht o'; he was aye late
at the writing, folk wad see his can'le doon by the Dule water after
twal' at e'en; and he seemed pleased wi' himsel' and upsitten as at
first, though a' body could see that he was dwining. As for Janet she
cam' an' she gaed; if she didnae speak muckle afore, it was reason she
should speak less then; she meddled naebody; but she was an eldritch
thing to see, an' nane wad hae mistrysted wi' her for Ba'weary glebe.

About the end o' July there cam' a spell o' weather, the like o't never
was in that countryside; it was lown an' het an' heartless; the herds
couldnae win up the Black Hill, the bairns were ower weariet to play;
an' yet it was gousty too, wi' claps o' het wund that rummled in the
glens, and bits o' shouers that slockened naething. We aye thocht it but
to thun'er on the morn; but the morn cam', an' the morn's morning, and
it was aye the same uncanny weather, sair on folks and bestial. Of a'
that were the waur, nane suffered like Mr. Soulis; he could neither
sleep nor eat, he tauld his elders; an' when he wasnae writin' at his
weary book, he wad be stravaguin' ower a' the countryside like a man
possessed, when a' body else was blythe to keep caller ben the house.

Abune Hangin' Shaw, in the bield o' the Black Hill, there's a bit
enclosed grund wi' an iron yett; and it seems, in the auld days, that
was the kirkyaird o' Ba'weary, and consecrated by the Papists before the
blessed licht shone upon the kingdom. It was a great howff, o' Mr.
Soulis's onyway; there he would sit an' consider his sermons; and inded
it's a bieldy bit. Weel, as he cam' ower the wast end o' the Black Hill,
ae day, he saw first twa, an' syne fower, an' syne seeven corbie craws
fleein' round an' round abune the auld kirkyaird. They flew laigh and
heavy, an' squawked to ither as they gaed; and it was clear to Mr.
Soulis that something had put them frae their ordinar. He wasnae easy
fleyed, an' gaed straucht up to the wa's; and what suld he find there
but a man, or the appearance of a man, sittin' in the inside upon a
grave. He was of a great stature, an' black as hell, and his e'en were
singular to see.[3] Mr. Soulis had heard tell o' black men mony's the
time; but there was something unco about this black man that daunted
him. Het as he was, he took a kind o' cauld grue in the marrow o' his
banes; but up he spak for a' that; an' says he: "My friend, are you a
stranger in this place?" The black man answered never a word; he got
upon his feet, an' begude to hirsle to the wa' on the far side; but he
aye lookit at the minister; an' the minister stood an' lookit back; till
a' in a meenute the black man was ower the wa' an' runnin' for the bield
o' the trees. Mr. Soulis, he hardly kenned why, ran after him; but he
was sair forjaskit wi' his walk an' the het, unhalsome weather; and rin
as he likit, he got nae mair than a glisk o' the black man amang the
birks, till he won doun to the foot o' the hillside, an' there he saw
him ance mair, gaun, hap, step, an' lowp, ower Dule water to the manse.

[3] It was a common belief in Scotland that the devil appeared as a
black man. This appears in several witch trials and I think in Law's
_Memorials_, that delightful storehouse of the quaint and grisly.

Mr. Soulis wasnae weel pleased that this fearsome gangrel suld mak' sae
free wi' Ba'weary manse; an' he ran the harder, an' wet shoon, ower the
burn, an' up the walk; but the deil a black man was there to see. He
stepped out upon the road, but there was naebody there; he gaed a' ower
the gairden, but na, nae black man. At the binder end, and a bit feared
as was but natural, he lifted the hasp and into the manse; and there was
Janet M'Clour before his een, wi' her thrawn craig, and nane sae pleased
to see him. And he aye minded sinsyne, when first he set his een upon
her, he had the same cauld and deidly grue.

"Janet," says he, "have you seen a black man?"

"A black man!" quo' she. "Save us a'! Ye're no wise, minister. There's
nae black man in a' Ba'weary."

But she didnae speak plain, ye maun understand; but yam-yammered, like a
powny wi' the bit in its moo.

"Weel," says he, "Janet, if there was nae black man, I have spoken with
the Accuser of the Brethren."

And he sat doun like ane wi' a fever, an' his teeth chittered in his
heid.

"Hoots," says she, "think shame to yoursel', minister"; and gied him a
drap brandy that she keept aye by her.

Syne Mr. Soulis gaed into his study amang a' his books. It's a lang,
laigh, mirk chalmer, perishin' cauld in winter, an' no very dry even in
the top o' the simmer, for the manse stands near the burn. Sae doun he
sat, and thocht of a' that had come an' gane since he was in Ba'weary,
an' his hame, an' the days when he was a bairn an' ran daffin' on the
braes; and that black man aye ran in his held like the owercome of a
sang. Aye the mair he thocht, the mair he thocht o' the black man. He
tried the prayer, an' the words wouldnae come to him; an' he tried, they
say, to write at his book, but he couldnae mak' nae mair o' that. There
was whiles he thocht the black man was at his oxter, an' the swat stood
upon him cauld as well-water; and there was other whiles, when he cam'
to himsel' like a christened bairn and minded naething.

The upshot was that he gaed to the window an' stood glowrin' at Dule
water. The trees are unco thick, an' the water lies deep an' black under
the manse; and there was Janet washin' the cla'es wi' her coats kilted.
She had her back to the minister, an' he, for his pairt, hardly kenned
what he was lookin' at. Syne she turned round, an' shawed her face: Mr.
Soulis had the same cauld grue as twice that day afore, an' it was borne
in upon him what folk said, that Janet was deid lang syne, an' this was
a bogle in her clay-cauld flesh. He drew back a pickle and he scanned
her narrowly. She was tramp-trampin' in the cla'es, croonin' to hersel';
and eh! Gude guide us, but it was a fearsome face. Whiles she sang
louder, but there was nae man born o' woman that could tell the words o'
her sang; an' whiles she lookit side-lang doun, but there was naething
there for her to look at. There gaed a scunner through the flesh upon
his banes; and that was Heeven's advertisement. But Mr. Soulis just
blamed himsel', he said, to think sae ill of a puir, auld afflicted wife
that hadnae a freend forbye himsel'; an' he put up a bit prayer for him
an' her, an' drank a little caller water--for his heart rose again the
meat--an' gaed up to his naked bed in the gloaming.

That was a nicht that has never been forgotten in Ba'weary, the nicht o'
the seeventeenth of August, seventeen hun'er' an' twal'. It had been het
afore, as I hae said, but that nicht it was better than ever. The sun
gaed doun amang unco-lookin' clouds; it fell as mirk as the pit; no a
star, no a breath o' wund; ye couldnae see your han' afore your face,
and even the auld folk cuist the covers frae their beds and lay pechin'
for their breath. Wi' a' that he had upon his mind, it was gey and
unlikely Mr. Soulis wad get muckle sleep. He lay an' he tummled; the
gude, caller bed that he got into brunt his very banes; whiles he slept,
and whiles he waukened; whiles he heard the time o' nicht, and whiles a
tyke yowlin' up the muir, as if somebody was deid; whiles he thocht he
heard bogles claverin' in his lug, an' whiles he saw spunkies in the
room. He behoved, he judged, to be sick; an' sick he was--little he
jaloosed the sickness.

At the hinder end, he got a clearness in his mind, sat up in his sark on
the bed-side, and fell thinkin' ance mair o' the black man an' Janet. He
couldnae weel tell how--maybe it was the cauld to his feet--but it cam'
in up upon him wi' a spate that there was some connection between thir
twa, an' that either or baith o' them were bogles. And just at that
moment, in Janet's room, which was neist to his, there cam' a stramp o'
feet as if men were wars'lin', an' then a loud bang; an' then a wund
gaed reishling round the fower quarters of the house; an' then a' was
ance mair as seelent as the grave.

Mr. Soulis was feared for neither man nor deevil. He got his tinder-box,
an' lit a can'le. He made three steps o't ower to Janet's door. It was
on the hasp, an' he pushed it open, an' keeked bauldly in. It was a big
room, as big as the minister's ain, a' plenished wi' grand, auld, solid
gear, for he had nathing else. There was a fower-posted bed wi' auld
tapestry; and a braw cabinet of aik, that was fu' o' the minister's
divinity books, an' put there to be out o' the gate; an' a wheen duds o'
Janet's lying here and there about the floor. But nae Janet could Mr.
Soulis see; nor ony sign of a contention. In he gaed (an' there's few
that wad ha'e followed him) an' lookit a' round, an' listened. But there
was naethin' to be heard, neither inside the manse nor in a' Ba'weary
parish, an' naethin' to be seen but the muckle shadows turnin' round the
can'le. An' then, a' at ance, the minister's heart played dunt an' stood
stock-still; an' a cauld wund blew amang the hairs o' his heid. Whaten a
weary sicht was that for the puir man's een! For there was Janet
hangin' frae a nail beside the auld aik cabinet: her heid aye lay on her
shouther, her een were steeked, the tongue projeckit frae her mouth, and
her heels were twa feet clear abune the floor.

"God forgive us all!" thocht Mr. Soulis, "poor Janet's dead."

He cam' a step nearer to the corp; an' then his heart fair whammled in
his inside. For by what cantrip it wad ill-beseem a man to judge, she
was hingin' frae a single nail an' by a single wursted thread for
darnin' hose.

It's a awfu' thing to be your lane at nicht wi' siccan prodigies o'
darkness; but Mr. Soulis was strong in the Lord. He turned an' gaed his
ways oot o' that room, and lockit the door ahint him; and step by step,
doon the stairs, as heavy as leed; and set doon the can'le on the table
at the stairfoot. He couldnae pray, he couldnae think, he was dreepin'
wi' caul' swat, an' naething could he hear but the dunt-dunt-duntin' o'
his ain heart. He micht maybe have stood there an hour, or maybe twa, he
minded sae little; when a' o' a sudden, he heard a laigh, uncanny steer
up-stairs; a foot gaed to an' fro in the chalmer whaur the corp was
hingin'; syne the door was opened, though he minded weel that he had
lockit it; an' syne there was a step upon the landin', an' it seemed to
him as if the corp was lookin' ower the rail and doun upon him whaur he
stood.

He took up the can'le again (for he couldnae want the licht), and as
saftly as ever he could, gaed straucht out o' the manse an' to the far
end o' the causeway. It was aye pit-mirk; the flame o' th can'le, when
he set it on the grund, brunt steedy an clear as in a room; naething
moved, but the Dule water seepin' and sabbin' doon the glen, an' yon
unhaly footstep that cam' ploddin' doun the stairs inside the manse. He
kenned the foot ower weel, for it was Janet's; and at ilka step that
cam' a wee thing nearer, the cauld got deeper in his vitals. He
commended his soul to Him that made an' keepit him; "and O Lord," said
he, "give me strength this night to war against the powers of evil."

By this time the foot was comin' through the passage for the door; he
could hear a hand skirt alang the wa', as if the fearsome thing was
feelin' for its way. The saughs tossed an' maned thegether, a long sigh
cam' ower the hills, the flame o' the can'le was blawn aboot; an' there
stood the corp of Thrawn Janet, wi' her grogram goun an' her black
mutch, wi' the heid upon the shouther, an' the grin still upon the face
o't--leevin', ye wad he said--deid, as Mr. Soulis weel kenned--upon the
threshold o' the manse.

It's a strange thing that the saul of man should be that thirled into
his perishable body; but the minister saw that, an' his heart didnae
break.

She didnae stand there lang; she began to move again an' cam' slowly
towards Mr. Soulis whaur he stood under the saughs. A' the life o' his
body, a' the strength o' his speerit, were glowerin' frae his een. It
seemed she was gaun to speak, but wanted words, an' made a sign wi' the
left hand. There cam' a clap o' wund, like a cat's fuff; oot gaed the
can'le, the saughs skrieghed like folk; an' Mr. Soulis keened that, live
or die, this was the end o't.

"Witch, beldame, devil!" he cried, "I charge you, by the power of God,
begone--if you be dead, to the grave--if you be damned, to hell."

An' at that moment the Lord's ain hand out o' the Heevens struck the
Horror whaur it stood; the auld, deid, desecrated corp o' the
witch-wife, sae lang keepit frae the grave and hirsled round by deils,
lowed up like a brunstane spunk and fell in ashes to the grund; the
thunder followed, peal on dirling peal, the rairing rain upon the back
o' that; and Mr. Soulis lowped through the garden hedge, and ran, wi'
skelloch upon skelloch, for the clachan.

That same mornin', John Christie saw the Black Man pass the Muckle Cairn
as it was chappin' six; before eicht, he gaed by the change-house at
Knockdow; an' no lang after, Sandy M'Lellan saw him gaun linkin' doun
the braes frae Kilmackerlie. There's little doubt but it was him that
dwalled se lang in Janet's body; but he was awa' at last; and sinsyne
the deil has never fashed us in Ba'weary.

But it was a sair dispensation for the minister; lang, lang he lay
ravin' in his bed; and frae that hour to this, he was the man ye ken the
day.



VIII

THE YELLOW CAT[C]

WILBUR DANIEL STEELE


At least once in my life I have had the good fortune to board a deserted
vessel at sea. I say "good fortune" because it has left me the memory of
a singular impression. I have felt a ghost of the same thing two or
three times since then, when peeping through the doorway of an abandoned
house.

Now that vessel was not dead. She was a good vessel, a sound vessel,
even a handsome vessel, in her blunt-bowed, coastwise way. She sailed
under four lowers across as blue and glittering a sea as I have ever
known, and there was not a point in her sailing that one could lay a
finger upon as wrong. And yet, passing that schooner at two miles, one
knew, somehow, that no hand was on her wheel. Sometimes I can imagine a
vessel, stricken like that, moving over the empty spaces of the sea,
carrying it off quite well were it not for that indefinable suggestion
of a stagger; and I can think of all those ocean gods, in whom no
landsman will ever believe, looking at one another and tapping their
foreheads with just the shadow of a smile.

I wonder if they all scream--these ships that have lost their souls?
Mine screamed. We heard her voice, like nothing I have ever heard
before, when we rowed under her counter to read her name--the
_Marionnette_ it was, of Halifax. I remember how it made me shiver,
there in the full blaze of the sun, to hear her going on so, railing and
screaming in that stark fashion. And I remember, too, how our footsteps,
pattering through the vacant internals in search of that haggard
utterance, made me think of the footsteps of hurrying warders roused in
the night.

And we found a parrot in a cage; that was all. It wanted water. We gave
it water and went away to look things over, keeping pretty close
together, all of us. In the quarters the table was set for four. Two men
had begun to eat, by the evidences of the plates. Nowhere in the vessel
was there any sign of disorder, except one sea-chest broken out,
evidently in haste. Her papers were gone and the stern davits were
empty. That is how the case stood that day, and that is how it has stood
to this. I saw this same _Marionnette_ a week later, tied up to a
Hoboken dock, where she awaited news from her owners; but even there, in
the midst of all the water-front bustle, I could not get rid of the
feeling that she was still very far away--in a sort of shippish
other-world.

The thing happens now and then. Sometimes half a dozen years will go by
without a solitary wanderer of this sort crossing the ocean paths, and
then in a single season perhaps several of them will turn up: vacant
waifs, impassive and mysterious--a quarter-column of tidings tucked away
on the second page of the evening paper.

That is where I read the story about the _Abbie Rose_. I recollect how
painfully awkward and out-of-place it looked there, cramped between
ruled black edges and smelling of landsman's ink--this thing that had to
do essentially with air and vast coloured spaces. I forget the exact
words of the heading--something like "Abandoned Craft Picked Up At
Sea"--but I still have the clipping itself, couched in the formal patter
of the marine-news writer:

     The first hint of another mystery of the sea came in to-day
     when the schooner _Abbie Rose_ dropped anchor in the upper
     river, manned only by a crew of one. It appears that the
     outbound freighter _Mercury_ sighted the _Abbie Rose_ off
     Block Island on Thursday last, acting in a suspicious
     manner. A boat-party sent aboard found the schooner in
     perfect order and condition, sailing under four lower sails,
     the topsails being pursed up to the mastheads but not
     stowed. With the exception of a yellow cat, the vessel was
     found to be utterly deserted, though her small boat still
     hung in the davits. No evidences of disorder were visible in
     any part of the craft. The dishes were washed up, the stove
     in the galley was still slightly warm to the touch,
     everything in its proper place with the exception of the
     vessel's papers, which were not to be found.

     All indications being for fair weather, Captain Rohmer of
     the _Mercury_ detailed two of his company to bring the find
     back to this port, a distance of one hundred and fifteen
     miles. The only man available with a knowledge of the
     fore-and-aft rig was Stewart McCord, the second engineer. A
     seaman by the name of Björnsen was sent with him. McCord
     arrived this noon, after a very heavy voyage of five days,
     reporting that Björnsen had fallen overboard while shaking
     out the foretopsail. McCord himself showed evidence of the
     hardships he has passed through, being almost a nervous
     wreck.

Stewart McCord! Yes, Stewart McCord would have a knowledge of the
fore-and-aft rig, or of almost anything else connected with the affairs
of the sea. It happened that I used to know this fellow. I had even been
quite chummy with him in the old days--that is, to the extent of
drinking too many beers with him in certain hot-country ports. I
remembered him as a stolid and deliberate sort of a person, with an
amazing hodgepodge of learning, a stamp collection, and a theory about
the effects of tropical sunshine on the Caucasian race, to which I have
listened half of more than one night, stretched out naked on a
freighter's deck. He had not impressed me as a fellow who would be
bothered by his nerves.

And there was another thing about the story which struck me as rather
queer. Perhaps it is a relic of my seafaring days, but I have always
been a conscientious reader of the weather reports; and I could remember
no weather in the past week sufficient to shake a man out of a top,
especially a man by the name of Björnsen--a thoroughgoing seafaring
name.

I was destined to hear more of this in the evening, from the ancient
boatman who rowed me out on the upper river. He had been to sea in his
day. He knew enough to wonder about this thing, even to indulge in a
little superstitious awe about it.

"No sir-ee. Something _happened_ to them four chaps. And another
thing--"

I fancied I heard a sea-bird whining in the darkness overhead. A shape
moved out of the gloom ahead, passed to the left, lofty and silent, and
merged once more with the gloom behind--a barge at anchor, with the
sea-grass clinging around her water-line.

"Funny about that other chap," the old fellow speculated. "Björnsen--I
b'lieve he called 'im. Now that story sounds to me kind of--" He
feathered his oars with a suspicious jerk and peered at me. "This McCord
a friend of yourn?" he inquired.

"In a way," I said.

"Hm-m--well--" He turned on his thwart to squint ahead. "There she is,"
he announced, with something of relief, I thought.

It was hard at that time of night to make anything but a black blotch
out of the _Abbie Rose_. Of course I could see that she was pot-bellied,
like the rest of the coastwise sisterhood. And that McCord had not
stowed his topsails. I could make them out, pursed at the mastheads and
hanging down as far as the cross-trees, like huge, over-ripe pears.
Then I recollected that he had found them so--probably had not touched
them since; a queer way to leave tops, it seemed to me. I could see also
the glowing tip of a cigar floating restlessly along the farther rail. I
called: "McCord! Oh, McCord!"

The spark came swimming across the deck. "Hello! Hello, there--ah--"
There was a note of querulous uneasiness there that somehow jarred with
my remembrance of this man.

"Ridgeway," I explained.

He echoed the name uncertainly, still with that suggestion of
peevishness, hanging over the rail and peering down at us. "Oh! By
gracious!" he exclaimed, abruptly. "I'm glad to see you, Ridgeway. I had
a boatman coming out before this, but I guess--well, I guess he'll be
along. By gracious! I'm glad--"

"I'll not keep you," I told the gnome, putting the money in his palm and
reaching for the rail. McCord lent me a hand on my wrist. Then when I
stood squarely on the deck beside him he appeared to forget my presence,
leaned forward heavily on the rail, and squinted after my waning
boatman.

"Ahoy--boat!" he called out, sharply, shielding his lips with his hand.
His violence seemed to bring him out of the blank, for he fell
immediately to puffing strongly at his cigar and explaining in rather a
shame-voiced way that he was beginning to think his own boatman had
"passed him up."

"Come in and have a nip," he urged with an abrupt heartiness, clapping
me on the shoulder.

"So you've--" I did not say what I had intended. I was thinking that in
the old days McCord had made rather a fetish of touching nothing
stronger than beer. Neither had he been of the shoulder-clapping sort.
"So you've got something aboard?" I shifted.

"Dead men's liquor," he chuckled. It gave me a queer feeling in the pit
of my stomach to hear him. I began to wish I had not come, but there was
nothing for it now but to follow him into the after-house. The cabin
itself might have been nine feet square, with three bunks occupying the
port side. To the right opened the master's stateroom, and a door in the
forward bulkhead led to the galley.

I took in these features at a casual glance. Then, hardly knowing why I
did it, I began to examine them with greater care.

"Have you a match?" I asked. My voice sounded very small, as though
something unheard of had happened to all the air.

"Smoke?" he asked. "I'll get you a cigar."

"No." I took the proffered match, scratched it on the side of the galley
door, and passed out. There seemed to be a thousand pans there, throwing
my match back at me from every wall of the box-like compartment. Even
McCord's eyes, in the doorway, were large and round and shining. He
probably thought me crazy. Perhaps I was, a little. I ran the match
along close to the ceiling and came upon a rusty hook a little aport of
the centre.

"There," I said. "Was there anything hanging from this--er--say a
parrot--or something, McCord?" The match burned my fingers and went out.

"What do you mean?" McCord demanded from the doorway. I got myself back
into the comfortable yellow glow of the cabin before I answered, and
then it was a question.

"Do you happen to know anything about this craft's personal history?"

"No. What are you talking about! Why?"

"Well, I do," I offered. "For one thing, she's changed her name. And it
happens this isn't the first time she's--Well, damn it all, fourteen
years ago I helped pick up this whatever-she-is off the Virginia
Capes--in the same sort of condition. There you are!" I was yapping like
a nerve-strung puppy.

McCord leaned forward with his hands on the table, bringing his face
beneath the fan of the hanging-lamp. For the first time I could mark how
shockingly it had changed. It was almost colourless. The jaw had somehow
lost its old-time security and the eyes seemed to be loose in their
sockets. I had expected him to start at my announcement; he only blinked
at the light.

"I am not surprised," he remarked at length. "After what I've seen and
heard--" He lifted his fist and brought it down with a sudden crash on
the table. "Man--let's have a nip!"

He was off before I could say a word, fumbling out of sight in the
narrow stateroom. Presently he reappeared, holding a glass in either
hand and a dark bottle hugged between his elbows. Putting the glasses
down, he held up the bottle between his eyes and the lamp, and its
shadow, falling across his face, green and luminous at the core, gave
him a ghastly look--like a mutilation or an unspeakable birthmark. He
shook the bottle gently and chuckled his "Dead men's liquor" again. Then
he poured two half-glasses of the clear gin, swallowed his portion, and
sat down.

"A parrot," he mused, a little of the liquor's colour creeping into his
cheeks. "No, this time it was a cat, Ridgeway. A yellow cat. She was--"

"_Was?_" I caught him up. "What's happened--what's become of her?"

"Vanished. Evaporated. I haven't seen her since night before last, when
I caught her trying to lower the boat--"

"_Stop it!_" It was I who banged the table now, without any of the
reserve of decency. "McCord, you're drunk--_drunk_, I tell you. A _cat_!
Let a _cat_ throw you off your head like this! She's probably hiding out
below this minute, on affairs of her own."

"Hiding?" He regarded me for a moment with the queer superiority of the
damned. "I guess you don't realize how many times I've been over this
hulk, from decks to keelson, with a mallet and a foot-rule."

"Or fallen overboard," I shifted, with less assurance. "Like this fellow
Björnsen. By the way, McCord--" I stopped there on account of the look
in his eyes.

He reached out, poured himself a shot, swallowed it, and got up to
shuffle about the confined quarters. I watched their restless
circuit--my friend and his jumping shadow. He stopped and bent forward
to examine a Sunday-supplement chromo tacked on the wall, and the two
heads drew together, as though there were something to whisper. Of a
sudden I seemed to hear the old gnome croaking, "Now that story sounds
to me kind of--"

McCord straightened up and turned to face me.

"What do you know about Björnsen?" he demanded.

"Well--only what they had you saying in the papers," I told him.

"Pshaw!" He snapped his fingers, tossing the affair aside. "I found her
log," he announced in quite another voice.

"You did, eh? I judged, from what I read in the paper, that there wasn't
a sign."

"No, no; I happened on this the other night, under the mattress in
there." He jerked his head toward the stateroom. "Wait!" I heard him
knocking things over in the dark and mumbling at them. After a moment he
came out and threw on the table a long, cloth-covered ledger, of the
common commercial sort. It lay open at about the middle, showing close
script running indiscriminately across the column ruling.

"When I said 'log,'" he went on, "I guess I was going it a little
strong. At least, I wouldn't want that sort of log found around _my_
vessel. Let's call it a personal record. Here's his picture,
somewhere--" He shook the book by its back and a common kodak blue-print
fluttered to the table. It was the likeness of a solid man with a
paunch, a huge square beard, small squinting eyes, and a bald head.
"What do you make of him--a writing chap?"

"From the nose down, yes," I estimated. "From the nose up, he will 'tend
to his own business if you will 'tend to yours, strictly."

McCord slapped his thigh. "By gracious! that's the fellow! He hates the
Chinaman. He knows as well as anything he ought not to put down in black
and white how intolerably he hates the Chinaman, and yet he must sneak
off to his cubby-hole and suck his pencil, and--how is it Stevenson has
it?--the 'agony of composition,' you remember. Can you imagine the
fellow, Ridgeway, bundling down here with the fever on him--"

"About the Chinaman," I broke in. "I think you said something about a
Chinaman?"

"Yes. The cook, he must have been. I gather he wasn't the master's pick,
by the reading-matter here. Probably clapped on to him by the
owners--shifted from one of their others at the last moment; a queer
trick. Listen." He picked up the book and, running over the pages with a
selective thumb, read:

     "_August second._--First part, moderate southwesterly breeze--

and so forth--er--but here he comes to it:

     "Anything can happen to a man at sea, even a funeral. In
     special to a Chinyman, who is of no account to social
     welfare, being a barbarian as I look at it.

"Something of a philosopher, you see. And did you get the reserve in
that 'even a funeral'? An artist, I tell you. But wait: let me catch him
a bit wilder. Here:

     "I'll get that mustard-coloured ---- [This is back a couple
     of days.] Never can hear the ---- coming, in them carpet
     slippers. Turned round and found him standing right to my
     back this morning. Could have stuck a knife into me easy.
     'Look here!' says I, and fetched him a tap on the ear that
     will make him walk louder next time, I warrant. He could
     have stuck a knife into me easy.

"A clear case of moral funk, I should say. Can you imagine the fellow,
Ridgeway--"

"Yes; oh, yes." I was ready with a phrase of my own. "A man handicapped
with an imagination. You see he can't quite understand this 'barbarian,'
who has him beaten by about thirty centuries of civilization--and his
imagination has to have something to chew on, something to hit--a 'tap
on the ear,' you know."

"By gracious! that's the ticket!" McCord pounded his knee. "And now
we've got another chap going to pieces--Peters, he calls him. Refuses to
eat dinner on August the third, claiming he caught the Chink making
passes over the chowder-pot with his thumb. Can you believe it,
Ridgeway--in this very cabin here?" Then he went on with a suggestion of
haste, as though he had somehow made a slip. "Well, at any rate, the
disease seems to be catching. Next day it's Bach, the second seaman, who
begins to feel the gaff. Listen:

     "Bach he comes to me to-night, complaining he's being
     watched. He claims the ---- has got the evil eye. Says he
     can see you through a two-inch bulkhead, and the like. The
     Chink's laying in his bunk, turned the other way. 'Why don't
     you go aboard of him?' says I. The Dutcher says nothing, but
     goes over to his own bunk and feels under the straw. When he
     comes back he's looking queer. 'By God!' says he, 'the devil
     has swiped my gun!' ... Now if that's true there is going to
     be hell to pay in this vessel very quick. I figure I'm still
     master of this vessel."

"The evil eye," I grunted. "Consciences gone wrong there somewhere."

"Not altogether, Ridgeway. I can see that yellow man peeking. Now just
figure yourself, say, eight thousand miles from home, out on the water
alone with a crowd of heathen fanatics crazy from fright, looking around
for guns and so on. Don't you believe you'd keep an eye around the
corners, kind of--eh? I'll bet a hat he was taking it all in, lying
there in his bunk, 'turned the other way.' Eh? I pity the poor
cuss--Well, there's only one more entry after that. He's good and mad.
Here:

     "Now, by God! this is the end. My gun's gone, too; right out
     from under lock and key, by God! I been talking with Bach
     this morning. Not to let on, I had him in to clean my lamp.
     There's more ways than one, he says, and so do I."

McCord closed the book and dropped it on the table. "Finis," he said.
"The rest is blank paper."

"Well!" I will confess I felt much better than I had for some time past.
"There's _one_ 'mystery of the sea' gone to pot, at any rate. And now,
if you don't mind, I think I'll have another of your nips, McCord."

He pushed my glass across the table and got up, and behind his back his
shadow rose to scour the corners of the room, like an incorruptible
sentinel. I forgot to take up my gin, watching him. After an uneasy
minute or so he came back to the table and pressed the tip of a
forefinger on the book.

"Ridgeway," he said, "you don't seem to understand. This particular
'mystery of the sea' hasn't been scratched yet--not even _scratched_,
Ridgeway." He sat down and leaned forward, fixing me with a didactic
finger. "What happened?"

"Well, I have an idea the 'barbarian' got them, when it came to the
pinch."

"And let the--remains over the side?"

"I should say."

"And they came back and got the 'barbarian' and let _him_ over the side,
eh? There were none left, you remember."

"Oh, good Lord, I don't know!" I flared with a childish resentment at
this catechizing of his. But his finger remained there, challenging.

"I do," he announced. "The Chinaman put them over the side, as we have
said. And then, after that, he died--of wounds about the head."

"So?" I had still sarcasm.

"You will remember," he went on, "that the skipper did not happen to
mention a cat, a _yellow_ cat, in his confessions."

"McCord," I begged him, "please drop it. Why in thunder _should_ he
mention a cat?"

"True. Why _should_ he mention a cat? I think one of the reasons why he
should _not_ mention a cat is because there did not happen to be a cat
aboard at that time."

"Oh, all right!" I reached out and pulled the bottle to my side of the
table. Then I took out my watch. "If you don't mind," I suggested, "I
think we'd better be going ashore. I've got to get to my office rather
early in the morning. What do you say?"

He said nothing for the moment, but his finger had dropped. He leaned
back and stared straight into the core of the light above, his eyes
squinting.

"He would have been from the south of China, probably." He seemed to be
talking to himself. "There's a considerable sprinkling of the belief
down there, I've heard. It's an uncanny business--this transmigration of
souls--"

Personally, I had had enough of it. McCord's fingers came groping across
the table for the bottle. I picked it up hastily and let it go through
the open companionway, where it died with a faint gurgle, out somewhere
on the river.

"Now," I said to him, shaking the vagrant wrist, "either you come ashore
with me or you go in there and get under the blankets. You're drunk,
McCord--_drunk_. Do you hear me?"

"Ridgeway," he pronounced, bringing his eyes down to me and speaking
very slowly. "You're a fool, if you can't see better than that. I'm not
drunk. I'm sick. I haven't slept for three nights--and now I can't. And
you say--you--" He went to pieces very suddenly, jumped up, pounded the
legs of his chair on the decking, and shouted at me: "And you say that,
you--you landlubber, you office coddler! You're so comfortably sure that
everything in the world is cut and dried. Come back to the water again
and learn how to wonder--and stop talking like a damn fool. Do you know
where--Is there anything in your municipal budget to tell me where
Björnsen went? Listen!" He sat down, waving me to do the same, and went
on with a sort of desperate repression.

"It happened on the first night after we took this hellion. I'd stood
the wheel most of the afternoon--off and on, that is, because she sails
herself uncommonly well. Just put her on a reach, you know, and she
carries it off pretty well--"

"I know," I nodded.

"Well, we mugged up about seven o'clock. There was a good deal of canned
stuff in the galley, and Björnsen wasn't a bad hand with a kettle--a
thoroughgoing Square-head he was--tall and lean and yellow-haired, with
little fat, round cheeks and a white moustache. Not a bad chap at all.
He took the wheel to stand till midnight, and I turned in, but I didn't
drop off for quite a spell. I could hear his boots wandering around over
my head, padding off forward, coming back again. I heard him whistling
now and then--an outlandish air. Occasionally I could see the shadow of
his head waving in a block of moonlight that lay on the decking right
down there in front of the stateroom door. It came from the companion;
the cabin was dark because we were going easy on the oil. They hadn't
left a great deal, for some reason or other."

McCord leaned back and described with his finger where the illumination
had cut the decking.

"There! I could see it from my bunk, as I lay, you understand. I must
have almost dropped off once when I heard him fiddling around out here
in the cabin, and then he said something in a whisper, just to find out
if I was still awake, I suppose. I asked him what the matter was. He
came and poked his head in the door."

"'The breeze is going out,' says he. 'I was wondering if we couldn't get
a little more sail on her.' Only I can't give you his fierce Square-head
tang. 'How about the tops?' he suggested.

"I was so sleepy I didn't care, and I told him so. 'All right,' he says,
'but I thought I might shake out one of them tops.' Then I heard him
blow at something outside. 'Scat, you ----!' Then: 'This cat's going to
set me crazy, Mr. McCord,' he says, 'following me around everywhere.' He
gave a kick, and I saw something yellow floating across the moonlight.
It never made a sound--just floated. You wouldn't have known it ever lit
anywhere, just like--"

McCord stopped and drummed a few beats on the table with his fist, as
though to bring himself back to the straight narrative.

"I went to sleep," he began again. "I dreamed about a lot of things. I
woke up sweating. You know how glad you are to wake up after a dream
like that and find none of it is so? Well, I turned over and settled to
go off again, and then I got a little more awake and thought to myself
it must be pretty near time for me to go on deck. I scratched a match
and looked at my watch. 'That fellow must be either a good chap or
asleep,' I said to myself. And I rolled out quick and went above-decks.
He wasn't at the wheel. I called him: 'Björnsen! Björnsen!' No answer."

McCord was really telling a story now. He paused for a long moment, one
hand shielding an ear and his eyeballs turned far up.

"That was the first time I really went over the hulk," he ran on. "I got
out a lantern and started at the forward end of the hold, and I worked
aft, and there was nothing there. Not a sign, or a stain, or a scrap of
clothing, or anything. You may believe that I began to feel funny
inside. I went over the decks and the rails and the house itself--inch
by inch. Not a trace. I went out aft again. The cat sat on the
wheel-box, washing her face. I hadn't noticed the scar on her head
before, running down between her ears--rather a new scar--three or four
days old, I should say. It looked ghastly and blue-white in the flat
moonlight. I ran over and grabbed her up to heave her over the side--you
understand how upset I was. Now you know a cat will squirm around and
grab something when you hold it like that, generally speaking. This one
didn't. She just drooped and began to purr and looked up at me out of
her moonlit eyes under that scar. I dropped her on the deck and backed
off. You remember Björnsen had _kicked_ her--and I didn't want anything
like that happening to--"

The narrator turned upon me with a sudden heat, leaned over and shook
his finger before my face.

"There you go!" he cried. "You, with your stout stone buildings and your
policemen and your neighbourhood church--you're so damn sure. But I'd
just like to see you out there, alone, with the moon setting, and all
the lights gone tall and queer, and a shipmate--" He lifted his hand
overhead, the finger-tips pressed together and then suddenly separated
as though he had released an impalpable something into the air.

"Go on," I told him.

"I felt more like you do, when it got light again, and warm and
sunshiny. I said 'Bah!' to the whole business. I even fed the cat, and I
slept awhile on the roof of the house--I was so sure. We lay dead most
of the day, without a streak of air. But that night--! Well, that night
I hadn't got over being sure yet. It takes quite a jolt, you know, to
shake loose several dozen generations. A fair, steady breeze had come
along, the glass was high, she was staying herself like a doll, and so I
figured I could get a little rest, lying below in the bunk, even if I
didn't sleep.

"I tried not to sleep, in case something should come up--a squall or the
like. But I think I must have dropped off once or twice. I remember I
heard something fiddling around in the galley, and I hollered 'Scat!'
and everything was quiet again. I rolled over and lay on my left side,
staring at that square of moonlight outside my door for a long time.
You'll think it was a dream--what I saw there."

"Go on," I said.

"Call this table-top the spot of light, roughly," he said. He placed a
finger-tip at about the middle of the forward edge and drew it slowly
toward the centre. "Here, what would correspond with the upper side of
the companionway, there came down very gradually the shadow of a tail. I
watched it streaking out there across the deck, wiggling the slightest
bit now and then. When it had come down about half-way across the light,
the solid part of the animal--its shadow, you understand--began to
appear, quite big and round. But how could she hang there, done up in a
ball, from the hatch?"

He shifted his finger back to the edge of the table and puddled it
around to signify the shadowed body.

"I fished my gun out from behind my back. You see, I was feeling funny
again. Then I started to slide one foot over the edge of the bunk,
always with my eyes on that shadow. Now I swear I didn't make the sound
of a pin dropping, but I had no more than moved a muscle when that
shadowed thing twisted itself around in a flash--and there on the floor
before me was the profile of a man's head, upside down, listening--a
man's head with a tail of hair."

McCord got up hastily and stepped over in front of the stateroom door,
where he bent down and scratched a match.

"See," he said, holding the tiny flame above a splintered scar on the
boards. "You wouldn't think a man would be fool enough to shoot at a
shadow?"

He came back and sat down.

"It seemed to me all hell had shaken loose. You've no idea, Ridgeway,
the rumpus a gun raises in a box like this. I found out afterward the
slug ricochetted into the galley, bringing down a couple of pans--and
that helped. Oh, yes, I got out of here quick enough. I stood there,
half out of the companion, with my hands on the hatch and the gun
between them, and my shadow running off across the top of the house
shivering before my eyes like a dry leaf. There wasn't a whisper of
sound in the world--just the pale water floating past and the sails
towering up like a pair of twittering ghosts. And everything that crazy
colour--

"Well, in a minute I saw it, just abreast of the mainmast, crouched down
in the shadow of the weather rail, sneaking off forward very slowly.
This time I took a good long sight before I let go. Did you ever happen
to see black-powder smoke in the moonlight? It puffed out perfectly
round, like a big, pale balloon, this did, and for a second something
was bounding through it--without a sound, you understand--something a
shade solider than the smoke and big as a cow, it looked to me. It
passed from the weather side to the lee and ducked behind the sweep of
the mainsail like _that_--" McCord snapped his thumb and forefinger
under the light.

"Go on," I said. "What did you do then?"

McCord regarded me for an instant from beneath his lids, uncertain. His
fist hung above the table. "You're--" He hesitated, his lips working
vacantly. A forefinger came out of the fist and gesticulated before my
face. "If you're laughing, why, damn me, I'll--"

"Go on," I repeated. "What did you do then?"

"I followed the thing." He was still watching me sullenly. "I got up and
went forward along the roof of the house, so as to have an eye on either
rail. You understand, this business had to be done with. I kept straight
along. Every shadow I wasn't absolutely sure of I _made_ sure
of--point-blank. And I rounded the thing up at the very stern--sitting
on the butt of the bowsprit, Ridgeway, washing her yellow face under the
moon. I didn't make any bones about it this time. I put the bad end of
that gun against the scar on her head and squeezed the trigger. It
snicked on an empty shell. I tell you a fact; I was almost deafened by
the report that didn't come.

"She followed me aft. I couldn't get away from her. I went and sat on
the wheel-box and she came and sat on the edge of the house, facing me.
And there we stayed for upward of an hour, without moving. Finally she
went over and stuck her paw in the water-pan I'd set out for her; then
she raised her head and looked at me and yawled. At sundown there'd
been two quarts of water in that pan. You wouldn't think a cat could get
away with two quarts of water in--"

He broke off again and considered me with a sort of weary defiance.

"What's the use?" He spread out his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.
"I knew you wouldn't believe it when I started. You _couldn't_. It would
be a kind of blasphemy against the sacred institution of pavements.
You're too damn smug, Ridgeway. I can't shake you. You haven't sat two
days and two nights, keeping your eyes open by sheer teeth-gritting,
until they got used to it and wouldn't shut any more. When I tell you I
found that yellow thing snooping around the davits, and three bights off
the boat-fall loosened out, plain on deck--you grin behind your collar.
When I tell you she padded off forward and evaporated--flickered back to
hell and hasn't been seen since, then--why, you explain to yourself that
I'm drunk. I tell you--" He jerked his head back abruptly and turned to
face the companionway, his lips still apart. He listened so for a
moment, then he shook himself out of it and went on:

"I tell you, Ridgeway, I've been over this hulk with a foot-rule.
There's not a cubic inch I haven't accounted for, not a plank I--"

This time he got up and moved a step toward the companion, where he
stood with his head bent forward and slightly to the side. After what
might have been twenty seconds of this he whispered, "Do you hear?"

Far and far away down the reach a ferry-boat lifted its infinitesimal
wail, and then the silence of the night river came down once more,
profound and inscrutable. A corner of the wick above my head sputtered a
little--that was all.

"Hear what?" I whispered back. He lifted a cautious finger toward the
opening.

"Somebody. Listen."

The man's faculties must have been keyed up to the pitch of his nerves,
for to me the night remained as voiceless as a subterranean cavern. I
became intensely irritated with him; within my mind I cried out against
this infatuated pantomime of his. And then, of a sudden, there was a
sound--the dying rumour of a ripple, somewhere in the outside darkness,
as though an object had been let into the water with extreme care.

"You heard?"

I nodded. The ticking of the watch in my vest pocket came to my ears,
shucking off the leisurely seconds, while McCord's finger-nails gnawed
at the palms of his hands. The man was really sick. He wheeled on me and
cried out, "My God! Ridgeway--why don't we go out?"

I, for one, refused to be a fool. I passed him and climbed out of the
opening; he followed far enough to lean his elbows on the hatch, his
feet and legs still within the secure glow of the cabin.

"You see, there's nothing." My wave of assurance was possibly a little
overdone.

"Over there," he muttered, jerking his head toward the shore lights.
"Something swimming."

I moved to the corner of the house and listened.

"River thieves," I argued. "The place is full of--"

"_Ridgeway. Look behind you!_"

Perhaps it is the pavements--but no matter; I am not ordinarily a
jumping sort. And yet there was something in the quality of that voice
beyond my shoulder that brought the sweat stinging through the pores of
my scalp even while I was in the act of turning.

A cat sat there on the hatch, expressionless and immobile in the gloom.

I did not say anything. I turned and went below. McCord was there
already, standing on the farther side of the table. After a moment or so
the cat followed and sat on her haunches at the foot of the ladder and
stared at us without winking.

"I think she wants something to eat," I said to McCord.

He lit a lantern and went out into the galley. Returning with a chunk of
salt beef, he threw it into the farther corner. The cat went over and
began to tear at it, her muscles playing with convulsive shadow-lines
under the sagging yellow hide.

And now it was she who listened, to something beyond the reach of even
McCord's faculties, her neck stiff and her ears flattened. I looked at
McCord and found him brooding at the animal with a sort of listless
malevolence. "_Quick!_ She has kittens somewhere about." I shook his
elbow sharply. "When she starts, now--"

"You don't seem to understand," he mumbled. "It wouldn't be any use."

She had turned now and was making for the ladder with the soundless
agility of her race. I grasped McCord's wrist and dragged him after me,
the lantern banging against his knees. When we came up the cat was
already amidships, a scarcely discernible shadow at the margin of our
lantern's ring. She stopped and looked back at us with her luminous
eyes, appeared to hesitate, uneasy at our pursuit of her, shifted here
and there with quick, soft bounds, and stopped to fawn with her back
arched at the foot of the mast. Then she was off with an amazing
suddenness into the shadows forward.

"Lively now!" I yelled at McCord. He came pounding along behind me,
still protesting that it was of no use. Abreast of the foremast I took
the lantern from him to hold above my head.

"You see," he complained, peering here and there over the illuminated
deck. "I tell you, Ridgeway, this thing--" But my eyes were in another
quarter, and I slapped him on the shoulder.

"An engineer--an engineer to the core," I cried at him. "Look aloft,
man."

Our quarry was almost to the cross-trees, clambering up the shrouds
with a smartness no sailor has ever come to, her yellow body, cut by the
moving shadows of the ratlines, a queer sight against the mat of the
night. McCord closed his mouth and opened it again for two words: "By
gracious!" The following instant he had the lantern and was after her. I
watched him go up above my head--a ponderous, swaying climber into the
sky--come to the cross-trees, and squat there with his knees clamped
around the mast. The clear star of the lantern shot this way and that
for a moment, then it disappeared, and in its place there sprang out a
bag of yellow light, like a fire-balloon at anchor in the heavens. I
could see the shadows of his head and hands moving monstrously over the
inner surface of the sail, and muffled exclamations without meaning came
down to me. After a moment he drew out his head and called: "All
right--they're here. Heads! there below!"

I ducked at his warning, and something spanked on the planking a yard
from my feet. I stepped over to the vague blur on the deck and picked up
a slipper--a slipper covered with some woven straw stuff and soled with
a matted felt, perhaps a half-inch thick. Another struck somewhere abaft
the mast, and then McCord reappeared above and began to stagger down the
shrouds. Under his left arm he hugged a curious assortment of litter, a
sheaf of papers, a brace of revolvers, a gray kimono, and a soiled
apron.

"Well," he said when he had come to deck, "I feel like a man who has
gone to hell and come back again. You know I'd come to the place where I
really believed that about the cat. When you think of it--By gracious!
we haven't come so far from the jungle, after all."

We went aft and below and sat down at the table as we had been. McCord
broke a prolonged silence.

"I'm sort of glad he got away--poor cuss! He's probably climbing up a
wharf this minute, shivering and scared to death. Over toward the
gas-tanks, by the way he was swimming. By gracious! now that the world's
turned over straight again, I feel I could sleep a solid week. Poor
cuss! can you imagine him, Ridgeway--"

"Yes," I broke in. "I think I can. He must have lost his nerve when he
made out your smoke and shinnied up there to stow away, taking the
ship's papers with him. He would have attached some profound importance
to them--remember, the 'barbarian,' eight thousand miles from home.
Probably couldn't read a word. I suppose the cat followed him--the
traditional source of food. He must have wanted water badly."

"I should say! He wouldn't have taken the chances he did."

"Well," I announced, "at any rate, I can say it now--there's another
'mystery of the sea' gone to pot."

McCord lifted his heavy lids.

"No," he mumbled. "The mystery is that a man who has been to sea all
his life could sail around for three days with a man bundled up in his
top and not know it. When I think of him peeking down at me--and playing
off that damn cat--probably without realizing it--scared to death--by
gracious! Ridgeway, there was a pair of funks aboard this craft, eh?
Wow--yow--I could sleep--"

"I should think you could."

McCord did not answer.

"By the way," I speculated. "I guess you were right about Björnsen,
McCord--that is, his fooling with the foretop. He must have been caught
all of a bunch, eh?"

Again McCord failed to answer. I looked up mildly surprised, and found
his head hanging back over his chair and his mouth opened wide. He was
asleep.

[C] Reprinted by permission of the author and Messrs. Harper &
Brothers.



IX

LETTER TO SURA

PLINY, THE YOUNGER


Our leisure furnishes me with the opportunity of learning from you, and
you with that of instructing me. Accordingly, I particularly wish to
know whether you think there exist such things as phantoms, possessing
an appearance peculiar to themselves, and a certain supernatural power,
or that mere empty delusions receive a shape from our fears. For my
part, I am led to believe in their existence, especially by what I hear
happened to Curtius Rufus. While still in humble circumstances and
obscure, he was a hanger-on in the suit of the Governor of Africa. While
pacing the colonnade one afternoon, there appeared to him a female form
of superhuman size and beauty. She informed the terrified man that she
was "Africa," and had come to foretell future events; for that he would
go to Rome, would fill offices of state there, and would even return to
that same province with the highest powers, and die in it. All which
things were fulfilled. Moreover, as he touched at Carthage, and was
disembarking from his ship, the same form is said to have presented
itself to him on the shore. It is certain that, being seized with
illness, and auguring the future from the past and misfortune from his
previous prosperity, he himself abandoned all hope of life, though none
of those about him despaired.

Is not the following story again still more appalling and not less
marvellous? I will relate it as it was received by me:

There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and commodious, but of evil
repute and dangerous to health. In the dead of night there was a noise
as of iron, and, if you listened more closely, a clanking of chains was
heard, first of all from a distance, and afterward hard by. Presently a
spectre used to appear, an ancient man sinking with emaciation and
squalor, with a long beard and bristly hair, wearing shackles on his
legs and fetters on his hands, and shaking them. Hence the inmates, by
reason of their fears, passed miserable and horrible nights in
sleeplessness. This want of sleep was followed by disease, and, their
terrors increasing, by death. For in the daytime as well, though the
apparition had departed, yet a reminiscence of it flitted before their
eyes, and their dread outlived its cause. The mansion was accordingly
deserted, and condemned to solitude, was entirely abandoned to the
dreadful ghost. However, it was advertised, on the chance of someone,
ignorant of the fearful curse attached to it, being willing to buy or to
rent it. Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to Athens and read the
advertisement. When he had been informed of the terms, which were so low
as to appear suspicious, he made inquiries, and learned the whole of the
particulars. Yet none the less on that account, nay, all the more
readily, did he rent the house. As evening began to draw on, he ordered
a sofa to be set for himself in the front part of the house, and called
for his notebooks, writing implements, and a light. The whole of his
servants he dismissed to the interior apartments, and for himself
applied his soul, eyes, and hand to composition, that his mind might
not, from want of occupation, picture to itself the phantoms of which he
had heard, or any empty terrors. At the commencement there was the
universal silence of night. Soon the shaking of irons and the clanking
of chains was heard, yet he never raised his eyes nor slackened his pen,
but hardened his soul and deadened his ears by its help. The noise grew
and approached: now it seemed to be heard at the door, and next inside
the door. He looked round, beheld and recognized the figure he had been
told of. It was standing and signalling to him with its finger, as
though inviting him. He, in reply, made a sign with his hand that it
should wait a moment, and applied himself afresh to his tablets and pen.
Upon this the figure kept rattling its chains over his head as he wrote.
On looking round again, he saw it making the same signal as before, and
without delay took up a light and followed it. It moved with a slow
step, as though oppressed by its chains, and, after turning into the
courtyard of the house, vanished suddenly and left his company. On being
thus left to himself, he marked the spot with some grass and leaves
which he plucked. Next day he applied to the magistrates, and urged them
to have the spot in question dug up. There were found there some bones
attached to and intermingled with fetters; the body to which they had
belonged, rotted away by time and the soil, had abandoned them thus
naked and corroded to the chains. They were collected and interred at
the public expense, and the house was ever afterward free from the
spirit, which had obtained due sepulture.

The above story I believe on the strength of those who affirm it. What
follows I am myself in a position to affirm to others. I have a
freedman, who is not without some knowledge of letters. A younger
brother of his was sleeping with him in the same bed. The latter dreamed
he saw someone sitting on the couch, who approached a pair of scissors
to his head, and even cut the hair from the crown of it. When day dawned
he was found to be cropped round the crown, and his locks were
discovered lying about. A very short time afterward a fresh occurrence
of the same kind confirmed the truth of the former one. A lad of mine
was sleeping, in company with several others, in the pages' apartment.
There came through the windows (so he tells the story) two figures in
white tunics, who cut his hair as he lay, and departed the way they
came. In his case, too, daylight exhibited him shorn, and his locks
scattered around. Nothing remarkable followed, except, perhaps, this,
that I was not brought under accusation, as I should have been, if
Domitian (in whose reign these events happened) had lived longer. For in
his desk was found an information against me which had been presented by
Carus; from which circumstance may be conjectured--inasmuch as it is the
custom of accused persons to let their hair grow--that the cutting off
of my slaves' hair was a sign of the danger which threatened me being
averted.

I beg, then, that you will apply your great learning to this subject.
The matter is one which deserves long and deep consideration on your
part; nor am I, for my part, undeserving of having the fruits of your
wisdom imparted to me. You may even argue on both sides (as your way
is), provided you argue more forcibly on one side than the other, so as
not to dismiss me in suspense and anxiety, when the very cause of my
consulting you has been to have my doubts put an end to.


THE END



[Transcriber's Note:


The Foreword refers to "Mrs. Radcliffe" as the author of "Castle of
Otranto." The editor likely confused Ann Radcliffe's _The Mysteries of
Udolpho_ with Horace Walpole's _The Castle of Otranto_. As it is unclear
which book he was referring to, the error has not been corrected.

Irregularities in hyphenation (e.g. bed-side and bedside) between
stories have not been changed.

Where a line of dots was used as a thought break in the original, the
number of dots has been regularized. In the plain text version of this
book, all thought breaks appear as a line of asterisks. Some stories
included a credit line at the bottom of the first page. These have been
formatted as lettered footnotes.

Two oe-ligatures were changed to oe (Phoenix, pp. 45 and 58).

Also, the following errors were corrected: checque to cheque (p. 8);
forty-one to forty one (p. 9: At forty one cannot); stealthly to
stealthily (p. 22); missing comma added (p. 55: during the last
twenty-four hours, Anderson); hyphen added (p. 85: threemaster to
three-master); missing close quote added (p. 130: "Blundering
Borlsovers, unnecessarily unnatural, extraordinarily eccentric, culpably
curious."); single close quote to double close quote (p. 130: "Is it my
uncle who is writing?"); capitivity to captivity (p. 150); temptests to
tempests (p. 172); Caremelite to Carmelite (p. 174); missing close quote
added (p. 187: "Pietro, go down to Parco and ask Padre Stefano to come
here at once."); Valguanero to Valguanera (p. 189); hyphen removed (p.
198: country-side to countryside); apostrophe added (p. 203: duds o'
Janets to duds o' Janet's); Say she to Says he (p. 219: Says he can see
you through a two-inch bulkhead, and the like.)]





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