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Title: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
Author: James, M. R. (Montague Rhodes), 1862-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" ***

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       *       *       *       *       *

_These stories are dedicated to all those who at various times have
listened to them._

       *       *       *       *       *



  Canon Alberic's Scrap-book
  Lost Hearts
  The Mezzotint
  The Ash-tree
  Number 13
  Count Magnus
  'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'
  The Treasure of Abbot Thomas


  A School Story
  The Rose Garden
  The Tractate Middoth
  Casting the Runes
  The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral
  Martin's Close
  Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

If anyone is curious about my local settings, let it be recorded that St
Bertrand de Comminges and Viborg are real places: that in 'Oh, Whistle,
and I'll Come to You' I had Felixstowe in mind. As for the fragments of
ostensible erudition which are scattered about my pages, hardly anything
in them is not pure invention; there never was, naturally, any such book
as that which I quote in 'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas'. 'Canon Alberic's
Scrap-book' was written in 1894 and printed soon after in the _National
Review_, 'Lost Hearts' appeared in the _Pall Mall Magazine_; of the next
five stories, most of which were read to friends at Christmas-time at
King's College, Cambridge, I only recollect that I wrote 'Number 13' in
1899, while 'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas' was composed in the summer of


       *       *       *       *       *


St Bertrand de Comminges is a decayed town on the spurs of the Pyrenees,
not very far from Toulouse, and still nearer to Bagnères-de-Luchon. It
was the site of a bishopric until the Revolution, and has a cathedral
which is visited by a certain number of tourists. In the spring of 1883
an Englishman arrived at this old-world place--I can hardly dignify it
with the name of city, for there are not a thousand inhabitants. He was a
Cambridge man, who had come specially from Toulouse to see St Bertrand's
Church, and had left two friends, who were less keen archaeologists than
himself, in their hotel at Toulouse, under promise to join him on the
following morning. Half an hour at the church would satisfy _them_, and
all three could then pursue their journey in the direction of Auch. But
our Englishman had come early on the day in question, and proposed to
himself to fill a note-book and to use several dozens of plates in the
process of describing and photographing every corner of the wonderful
church that dominates the little hill of Comminges. In order to carry out
this design satisfactorily, it was necessary to monopolize the verger of
the church for the day. The verger or sacristan (I prefer the latter
appellation, inaccurate as it may be) was accordingly sent for by the
somewhat brusque lady who keeps the inn of the Chapeau Rouge; and when he
came, the Englishman found him an unexpectedly interesting object of
study. It was not in the personal appearance of the little, dry, wizened
old man that the interest lay, for he was precisely like dozens of other
church-guardians in France, but in a curious furtive or rather hunted and
oppressed air which he had. He was perpetually half glancing behind him;
the muscles of his back and shoulders seemed to be hunched in a continual
nervous contraction, as if he were expecting every moment to find himself
in the clutch of an enemy. The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him
down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a
guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The
probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but,
still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor
even than a termagant wife.

However, the Englishman (let us call him Dennistoun) was soon too deep in
his note-book and too busy with his camera to give more than an
occasional glance to the sacristan. Whenever he did look at him, he found
him at no great distance, either huddling himself back against the wall
or crouching in one of the gorgeous stalls. Dennistoun became rather
fidgety after a time. Mingled suspicions that he was keeping the old man
from his _déjeuner_, that he was regarded as likely to make away with St
Bertrand's ivory crozier, or with the dusty stuffed crocodile that hangs
over the font, began to torment him.

'Won't you go home?' he said at last; 'I'm quite well able to finish my
notes alone; you can lock me in if you like. I shall want at least two
hours more here, and it must be cold for you, isn't it?'

'Good heavens!' said the little man, whom the suggestion seemed to throw
into a state of unaccountable terror, 'such a thing cannot be thought of
for a moment. Leave monsieur alone in the church? No, no; two hours,
three hours, all will be the same to me. I have breakfasted, I am not at
all cold, with many thanks to monsieur.'

'Very well, my little man,' quoth Dennistoun to himself: 'you have been
warned, and you must take the consequences.'

Before the expiration of the two hours, the stalls, the enormous
dilapidated organ, the choir-screen of Bishop John de Mauléon, the
remnants of glass and tapestry, and the objects in the treasure-chamber
had been well and truly examined; the sacristan still keeping at
Dennistoun's heels, and every now and then whipping round as if he had
been stung, when one or other of the strange noises that trouble a large
empty building fell on his ear. Curious noises they were, sometimes.

'Once,' Dennistoun said to me, 'I could have sworn I heard a thin
metallic voice laughing high up in the tower. I darted an inquiring
glance at my sacristan. He was white to the lips. "It is he--that is--it
is no one; the door is locked," was all he said, and we looked at each
other for a full minute.'

Another little incident puzzled Dennistoun a good deal. He was examining
a large dark picture that hangs behind the altar, one of a series
illustrating the miracles of St Bertrand. The composition of the picture
is well-nigh indecipherable, but there is a Latin legend below, which
runs thus:

    _Qualiter S. Bertrandus liberavit hominem quem diabolus diu volebat
    strangulare_. (How St Bertrand delivered a man whom the Devil long
    sought to strangle.)

Dennistoun was turning to the sacristan with a smile and a jocular remark
of some sort on his lips, but he was confounded to see the old man on his
knees, gazing at the picture with the eye of a suppliant in agony, his
hands tightly clasped, and a rain of tears on his cheeks. Dennistoun
naturally pretended to have noticed nothing, but the question would not
go away from him,'Why should a daub of this kind affect anyone so
strongly?' He seemed to himself to be getting some sort of clue to the
reason of the strange look that had been puzzling him all the day: the
man must be a monomaniac; but what was his monomania?

It was nearly five o'clock; the short day was drawing in, and the church
began to fill with shadows, while the curious noises--the muffled
footfalls and distant talking voices that had been perceptible all
day--seemed, no doubt because of the fading light and the consequently
quickened sense of hearing, to become more frequent and insistent.

The sacristan began for the first time to show signs of hurry and
impatience. He heaved a sigh of relief when camera and note-book were
finally packed up and stowed away, and hurriedly beckoned Dennistoun to
the western door of the church, under the tower. It was time to ring the
Angelus. A few pulls at the reluctant rope, and the great bell Bertrande,
high in the tower, began to speak, and swung her voice up among the pines
and down to the valleys, loud with mountain-streams, calling the dwellers
on those lonely hills to remember and repeat the salutation of the angel
to her whom he called Blessed among women. With that a profound quiet
seemed to fall for the first time that day upon the little town, and
Dennistoun and the sacristan went out of the church.

On the doorstep they fell into conversation.

'Monsieur seemed to interest himself in the old choir-books in the

'Undoubtedly. I was going to ask you if there were a library in the

'No, monsieur; perhaps there used to be one belonging to the Chapter, but
it is now such a small place--' Here came a strange pause of
irresolution, as it seemed; then, with a sort of plunge, he went on: 'But
if monsieur is _amateur des vieux livres_, I have at home something that
might interest him. It is not a hundred yards.'

At once all Dennistoun's cherished dreams of finding priceless
manuscripts in untrodden corners of France flashed up, to die down again
the next moment. It was probably a stupid missal of Plantin's printing,
about 1580. Where was the likelihood that a place so near Toulouse would
not have been ransacked long ago by collectors? However, it would be
foolish not to go; he would reproach himself for ever after if he
refused. So they set off. On the way the curious irresolution and sudden
determination of the sacristan recurred to Dennistoun, and he wondered in
a shamefaced way whether he was being decoyed into some purlieu to be
made away with as a supposed rich Englishman. He contrived, therefore, to
begin talking with his guide, and to drag in, in a rather clumsy fashion,
the fact that he expected two friends to join him early the next morning.
To his surprise, the announcement seemed to relieve the sacristan at once
of some of the anxiety that oppressed him.

'That is well,' he said quite brightly--'that is very well. Monsieur will
travel in company with his friends: they will be always near him. It is a
good thing to travel thus in company--sometimes.'

The last word appeared to be added as an afterthought and to bring with
it a relapse into gloom for the poor little man.

They were soon at the house, which was one rather larger than its
neighbours, stone-built, with a shield carved over the door, the shield
of Alberic de Mauléon, a collateral descendant, Dennistoun tells me, of
Bishop John de Mauléon. This Alberic was a Canon of Comminges from 1680
to 1701. The upper windows of the mansion were boarded up, and the whole
place bore, as does the rest of Comminges, the aspect of decaying age.

Arrived on his doorstep, the sacristan paused a moment.

'Perhaps,' he said, 'perhaps, after all, monsieur has not the time?'

'Not at all--lots of time--nothing to do till tomorrow. Let us see what
it is you have got.'

The door was opened at this point, and a face looked out, a face far
younger than the sacristan's, but bearing something of the same
distressing look: only here it seemed to be the mark, not so much of fear
for personal safety as of acute anxiety on behalf of another. Plainly the
owner of the face was the sacristan's daughter; and, but for the
expression I have described, she was a handsome girl enough. She
brightened up considerably on seeing her father accompanied by an
able-bodied stranger. A few remarks passed between father and daughter of
which Dennistoun only caught these words, said by the sacristan: 'He was
laughing in the church,' words which were answered only by a look of
terror from the girl.

But in another minute they were in the sitting-room of the house, a
small, high chamber with a stone floor, full of moving shadows cast by a
wood-fire that flickered on a great hearth. Something of the character of
an oratory was imparted to it by a tall crucifix, which reached almost to
the ceiling on one side; the figure was painted of the natural colours,
the cross was black. Under this stood a chest of some age and solidity,
and when a lamp had been brought, and chairs set, the sacristan went to
this chest, and produced therefrom, with growing excitement and
nervousness, as Dennistoun thought, a large book, wrapped in a white
cloth, on which cloth a cross was rudely embroidered in red thread. Even
before the wrapping had been removed, Dennistoun began to be interested
by the size and shape of the volume. 'Too large for a missal,' he
thought, 'and not the shape of an antiphoner; perhaps it may be something
good, after all.' The next moment the book was open, and Dennistoun felt
that he had at last lit upon something better than good. Before him lay a
large folio, bound, perhaps, late in the seventeenth century, with the
arms of Canon Alberic de Mauléon stamped in gold on the sides. There may
have been a hundred and fifty leaves of paper in the book, and on almost
every one of them was fastened a leaf from an illuminated manuscript.
Such a collection Dennistoun had hardly dreamed of in his wildest
moments. Here were ten leaves from a copy of Genesis, illustrated with
pictures, which could not be later than A.D. 700. Further on was a
complete set of pictures from a Psalter, of English execution, of the
very finest kind that the thirteenth century could produce; and, perhaps
best of all, there were twenty leaves of uncial writing in Latin, which,
as a few words seen here and there told him at once, must belong to some
very early unknown patristic treatise. Could it possibly be a fragment of
the copy of Papias 'On the Words of Our Lord', which was known to have
existed as late as the twelfth century at Nimes?[1] In any case, his mind
was made up; that book must return to Cambridge with him, even if he had
to draw the whole of his balance from the bank and stay at St. Bertrand
till the money came. He glanced up at the sacristan to see if his face
yielded any hint that the book was for sale. The sacristan was pale, and
his lips were working.

    [1] We now know that these leaves did contain a considerable fragment
  of that work, if not of that actual copy of it.

'If monsieur will turn on to the end,' he said.

So monsieur turned on, meeting new treasures at every rise of a leaf; and
at the end of the book he came upon two sheets of paper, of much more
recent date than anything he had seen yet, which puzzled him
considerably. They must be contemporary, he decided, with the
unprincipled Canon Alberic, who had doubtless plundered the Chapter
library of St Bertrand to form this priceless scrap-book. On the first of
the paper sheets was a plan, carefully drawn and instantly recognizable
by a person who knew the ground, of the south aisle and cloisters of St
Bertrand's. There were curious signs looking like planetary symbols, and
a few Hebrew words in the corners; and in the north-west angle of the
cloister was a cross drawn in gold paint. Below the plan were some lines
of writing in Latin, which ran thus:

    _Responsa 12(mi) Dec. 1694. Interrogatum est: Inveniamne? Responsum
    est: Invenies. Fiamne dives? Fies. Vivamne invidendus? Vives.
    Moriarne in lecto meo? Ita._ (Answers of the 12th of December, 1694.
    It was asked: Shall I find it? Answer: Thou shalt. Shall I become
    rich? Thou wilt. Shall I live an object of envy? Thou wilt. Shall I
    die in my bed? Thou wilt.)

'A good specimen of the treasure-hunter's record--quite reminds one of Mr
Minor-Canon Quatremain in _Old St Paul's_,' was Dennistoun's comment, and
he turned the leaf.

What he then saw impressed him, as he has often told me, more than he
could have conceived any drawing or picture capable of impressing him.
And, though the drawing he saw is no longer in existence, there is a
photograph of it (which I possess) which fully bears out that statement.
The picture in question was a sepia drawing at the end of the seventeenth
century, representing, one would say at first sight, a Biblical scene;
for the architecture (the picture represented an interior) and the
figures had that semi-classical flavour about them which the artists of
two hundred years ago thought appropriate to illustrations of the Bible.
On the right was a king on his throne, the throne elevated on twelve
steps, a canopy overhead, soldiers on either side--evidently King
Solomon. He was bending forward with outstretched sceptre, in attitude of
command; his face expressed horror and disgust, yet there was in it also
the mark of imperious command and confident power. The left half of the
picture was the strangest, however. The interest plainly centred there.

On the pavement before the throne were grouped four soldiers, surrounding
a crouching figure which must be described in a moment. A fifth soldier
lay dead on the pavement, his neck distorted, and his eye-balls starting
from his head. The four surrounding guards were looking at the King. In
their faces, the sentiment of horror was intensified; they seemed, in
fact, only restrained from flight by their implicit trust in their
master. All this terror was plainly excited by the being that crouched in
their midst.

I entirely despair of conveying by any words the impression which this
figure makes upon anyone who looks at it. I recollect once showing the
photograph of the drawing to a lecturer on morphology--a person of, I was
going to say, abnormally sane and unimaginative habits of mind. He
absolutely refused to be alone for the rest of that evening, and he told
me afterwards that for many nights he had not dared to put out his light
before going to sleep. However, the main traits of the figure I can at
least indicate.

At first you saw only a mass of coarse, matted black hair; presently it
was seen that this covered a body of fearful thinness, almost a skeleton,
but with the muscles standing out like wires. The hands were of a dusky
pallor, covered, like the body, with long, coarse hairs, and hideously
taloned. The eyes, touched in with a burning yellow, had intensely black
pupils, and were fixed upon the throned King with a look of beast-like
hate. Imagine one of the awful bird-catching spiders of South America
translated into human form, and endowed with intelligence just less than
human, and you will have some faint conception of the terror inspired by
the appalling effigy. One remark is universally made by those to whom I
have shown the picture: 'It was drawn from the life.'

As soon as the first shock of his irresistible fright had subsided,
Dennistoun stole a look at his hosts. The sacristan's hands were pressed
upon his eyes; his daughter, looking up at the cross on the wall, was
telling her beads feverishly.

At last the question was asked: 'Is this book for sale?'

There was the same hesitation, the same plunge of determination that he
had noticed before, and then came the welcome answer: 'If monsieur

'How much do you ask for it?'

'I will take two hundred and fifty francs.'

This was confounding. Even a collector's conscience is sometimes stirred,
and Dennistoun's conscience was tenderer than a collector's.

'My good man!' he said again and again, 'your book is worth far more than
two hundred and fifty francs. I assure you--far more.'

But the answer did not vary: 'I will take two hundred and fifty
francs--not more.'

There was really no possibility of refusing such a chance. The money was
paid, the receipt signed, a glass of wine drunk over the transaction, and
then the sacristan seemed to become a new man. He stood upright, he
ceased to throw those suspicious glances behind him, he actually laughed
or tried to laugh. Dennistoun rose to go.

'I shall have the honour of accompanying monsieur to his hotel?' said the

'Oh, no, thanks! it isn't a hundred yards. I know the way perfectly, and
there is a moon.'

The offer was pressed three or four times and refused as often.

'Then, monsieur will summon me if--if he finds occasion; he will keep the
middle of the road, the sides are so rough.'

'Certainly, certainly,' said Dennistoun, who was impatient to examine his
prize by himself; and he stepped out into the passage with his book under
his arm.

Here he was met by the daughter; she, it appeared, was anxious to do a
little business on her own account; perhaps, like Gehazi, to 'take
somewhat' from the foreigner whom her father had spared.

'A silver crucifix and chain for the neck; monsieur would perhaps be good
enough to accept it?'

Well, really, Dennistoun hadn't much use for these things. What did
mademoiselle want for it?

'Nothing--nothing in the world. Monsieur is more than welcome to it.'

The tone in which this and much more was said was unmistakably genuine,
so that Dennistoun was reduced to profuse thanks, and submitted to have
the chain put round his neck. It really seemed as if he had rendered the
father and daughter some service which they hardly knew how to repay. As
he set off with his book they stood at the door looking after him, and
they were still looking when he waved them a last good night from the
steps of the Chapeau Rouge.

Dinner was over, and Dennistoun was in his bedroom, shut up alone with
his acquisition. The landlady had manifested a particular interest in him
since he had told her that he had paid a visit to the sacristan and
bought an old book from him. He thought, too, that he had heard a hurried
dialogue between her and the said sacristan in the passage outside the
_salle à manger_; some words to the effect that 'Pierre and Bertrand
would be sleeping in the house' had closed the conversation.

All this time a growing feeling of discomfort had been creeping over
him--nervous reaction, perhaps, after the delight of his discovery.
Whatever it was, it resulted in a conviction that there was someone
behind him, and that he was far more comfortable with his back to the
wall. All this, of course, weighed light in the balance as against the
obvious value of the collection he had acquired. And now, as I said, he
was alone in his bedroom, taking stock of Canon Alberic's treasures, in
which every moment revealed something more charming.

'Bless Canon Alberic!' said Dennistoun, who had an inveterate habit of
talking to himself. 'I wonder where he is now? Dear me! I wish that
landlady would learn to laugh in a more cheering manner; it makes one
feel as if there was someone dead in the house. Half a pipe more, did you
say? I think perhaps you are right. I wonder what that crucifix is that
the young woman insisted on giving me? Last century, I suppose. Yes,
probably. It is rather a nuisance of a thing to have round one's
neck--just too heavy. Most likely her father has been wearing it for
years. I think I might give it a clean up before I put it away.'

He had taken the crucifix off, and laid it on the table, when his
attention was caught by an object lying on the red cloth just by his left
elbow. Two or three ideas of what it might be flitted through his brain
with their own incalculable quickness.

A penwiper? No, no such thing in the house. A rat? No, too black. A large
spider? I trust to goodness not--no. Good God! a hand like the hand in
that picture!

In another infinitesimal flash he had taken it in. Pale, dusky skin,
covering nothing but bones and tendons of appalling strength; coarse
black hairs, longer than ever grew on a human hand; nails rising from the
ends of the fingers and curving sharply down and forward, grey, horny,
and wrinkled.

He flew out of his chair with deadly, inconceivable terror clutching at
his heart. The shape, whose left hand rested on the table, was rising to
a standing posture behind his seat, its right hand crooked above his
scalp. There was black and tattered drapery about it; the coarse hair
covered it as in the drawing. The lower jaw was thin--what can I call
it?--shallow, like a beast's; teeth showed behind the black lips; there
was no nose; the eyes, of a fiery yellow, against which the pupils showed
black and intense, and the exulting hate and thirst to destroy life which
shone there, were the most horrifying features in the whole vision. There
was intelligence of a kind in them--intelligence beyond that of a beast,
below that of a man.

The feelings which this horror stirred in Dennistoun were the intensest
physical fear and the most profound mental loathing. What did he do? What
could he do? He has never been quite certain what words he said, but he
knows that he spoke, that he grasped blindly at the silver crucifix, that
he was conscious of a movement towards him on the part of the demon, and
that he screamed with the voice of an animal in hideous pain.

Pierre and Bertrand, the two sturdy little serving-men, who rushed in,
saw nothing, but felt themselves thrust aside by something that passed
out between them, and found Dennistoun in a swoon. They sat up with him
that night, and his two friends were at St Bertrand by nine o'clock next
morning. He himself, though still shaken and nervous, was almost himself
by that time, and his story found credence with them, though not until
they had seen the drawing and talked with the sacristan.

Almost at dawn the little man had come to the inn on some pretence, and
had listened with the deepest interest to the story retailed by the
landlady. He showed no surprise.

'It is he--it is he! I have seen him myself,' was his only comment; and
to all questionings but one reply was vouchsafed: 'Deux fois je l'ai vu:
mille fois je l'ai senti.' He would tell them nothing of the provenance
of the book, nor any details of his experiences. 'I shall soon sleep, and
my rest will be sweet. Why should you trouble me?' he said.[2]

    [2] He died that summer; his daughter married, and settled at St
  Papoul. She never understood the circumstances of her father's

We shall never know what he or Canon Alberic de Mauléon suffered. At the
back of that fateful drawing were some lines of writing which may be
supposed to throw light on the situation:

    _Contradictio Salomonis cum demonio nocturno.
    Albericus de Mauléone delineavit.
    V. Deus in adiutorium. Ps. Qui habitat.
    Sancte Bertrande, demoniorum effugator, intercede pro me miserrimo.
    Primum uidi nocte 12(mi) Dec. 1694:
    uidebo mox ultimum. Peccaui et passus
    sum, plura adhuc passurus.
    Dec. 29, 1701_.[3]

    [3] _i.e._, The Dispute of Solomon with a demon of the night. Drawn by
  Alberic de Mauléon. _Versicle_. O Lord, make haste to help me. _Psalm_.
  Whoso dwelleth xci.

    Saint Bertrand, who puttest devils to flight, pray for me most unhappy.
  I saw it first on the night of Dec. 12, 1694: soon I shall see it for
  the last time. I have sinned and suffered, and have more to suffer yet.
  Dec. 29, 1701.

    The 'Gallia Christiana' gives the date of the Canon's death as December
  31, 1701, 'in bed, of a sudden seizure'. Details of this kind are not
  common in the great work of the Sammarthani.

I have never quite understood what was Dennistoun's view of the events I
have narrated. He quoted to me once a text from Ecclesiasticus: 'Some
spirits there be that are created for vengeance, and in their fury lay on
sore strokes.' On another occasion he said: 'Isaiah was a very sensible
man; doesn't he say something about night monsters living in the ruins of
Babylon? These things are rather beyond us at present.'

Another confidence of his impressed me rather, and I sympathized with it.
We had been, last year, to Comminges, to see Canon Alberic's tomb. It is
a great marble erection with an effigy of the Canon in a large wig and
soutane, and an elaborate eulogy of his learning below. I saw Dennistoun
talking for some time with the Vicar of St Bertrand's, and as we drove
away he said to me: 'I hope it isn't wrong: you know I am a
Presbyterian--but I--I believe there will be "saying of Mass and singing
of dirges" for Alberic de Mauléon's rest.' Then he added, with a touch of
the Northern British in his tone, 'I had no notion they came so dear.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The book is in the Wentworth Collection at Cambridge. The drawing was
photographed and then burnt by Dennistoun on the day when he left
Comminges on the occasion of his first visit.


It was, as far as I can ascertain, in September of the year 1811 that a
post-chaise drew up before the door of Aswarby Hall, in the heart of
Lincolnshire. The little boy who was the only passenger in the chaise,
and who jumped out as soon as it had stopped, looked about him with the
keenest curiosity during the short interval that elapsed between the
ringing of the bell and the opening of the hall door. He saw a tall,
square, red-brick house, built in the reign of Anne; a stone-pillared
porch had been added in the purer classical style of 1790; the windows of
the house were many, tall and narrow, with small panes and thick white
woodwork. A pediment, pierced with a round window, crowned the front.
There were wings to right and left, connected by curious glazed
galleries, supported by colonnades, with the central block. These wings
plainly contained the stables and offices of the house. Each was
surmounted by an ornamental cupola with a gilded vane.

An evening light shone on the building, making the window-panes glow like
so many fires. Away from the Hall in front stretched a flat park studded
with oaks and fringed with firs, which stood out against the sky. The
clock in the church-tower, buried in trees on the edge of the park, only
its golden weather-cock catching the light, was striking six, and the
sound came gently beating down the wind. It was altogether a pleasant
impression, though tinged with the sort of melancholy appropriate to an
evening in early autumn, that was conveyed to the mind of the boy who was
standing in the porch waiting for the door to open to him.

The post-chaise had brought him from Warwickshire, where, some six months
before, he had been left an orphan. Now, owing to the generous offer of
his elderly cousin, Mr Abney, he had come to live at Aswarby. The offer
was unexpected, because all who knew anything of Mr Abney looked upon him
as a somewhat austere recluse, into whose steady-going household the
advent of a small boy would import a new and, it seemed, incongruous
element. The truth is that very little was known of Mr Abney's pursuits
or temper. The Professor of Greek at Cambridge had been heard to say that
no one knew more of the religious beliefs of the later pagans than did
the owner of Aswarby. Certainly his library contained all the then
available books bearing on the Mysteries, the Orphic poems, the worship
of Mithras, and the Neo-Platonists. In the marble-paved hall stood a fine
group of Mithras slaying a bull, which had been imported from the Levant
at great expense by the owner. He had contributed a description of it to
the _Gentleman's Magazine_, and he had written a remarkable series of
articles in the _Critical Museum_ on the superstitions of the Romans of
the Lower Empire. He was looked upon, in fine, as a man wrapped up in his
books, and it was a matter of great surprise among his neighbours that he
should ever have heard of his orphan cousin, Stephen Elliott, much more
that he should have volunteered to make him an inmate of Aswarby Hall.

Whatever may have been expected by his neighbours, it is certain that Mr
Abney--the tall, the thin, the austere--seemed inclined to give his young
cousin a kindly reception. The moment the front-door was opened he darted
out of his study, rubbing his hands with delight.

'How are you, my boy?--how are you? How old are you?' said he--'that is,
you are not too much tired, I hope, by your journey to eat your supper?'

'No, thank you, sir,' said Master Elliott; 'I am pretty well.'

'That's a good lad,' said Mr Abney. 'And how old are you, my boy?'

It seemed a little odd that he should have asked the question twice in
the first two minutes of their acquaintance.

'I'm twelve years old next birthday, sir,' said Stephen.

'And when is your birthday, my dear boy? Eleventh of September, eh?
That's well--that's very well. Nearly a year hence, isn't it? I like--ha,
ha!--I like to get these things down in my book. Sure it's twelve?

'Yes, quite sure, sir.'

'Well, well! Take him to Mrs Bunch's room, Parkes, and let him have his
tea--supper--whatever it is.'

'Yes, sir,' answered the staid Mr Parkes; and conducted Stephen to the
lower regions.

Mrs Bunch was the most comfortable and human person whom Stephen had as
yet met at Aswarby. She made him completely at home; they were great
friends in a quarter of an hour: and great friends they remained. Mrs
Bunch had been born in the neighbourhood some fifty-five years before the
date of Stephen's arrival, and her residence at the Hall was of twenty
years' standing. Consequently, if anyone knew the ins and outs of the
house and the district, Mrs Bunch knew them; and she was by no means
disinclined to communicate her information.

Certainly there were plenty of things about the Hall and the Hall gardens
which Stephen, who was of an adventurous and inquiring turn, was anxious
to have explained to him. 'Who built the temple at the end of the laurel
walk? Who was the old man whose picture hung on the staircase, sitting at
a table, with a skull under his hand?' These and many similar points were
cleared up by the resources of Mrs Bunch's powerful intellect. There were
others, however, of which the explanations furnished were less

One November evening Stephen was sitting by the fire in the housekeeper's
room reflecting on his surroundings.

'Is Mr Abney a good man, and will he go to heaven?' he suddenly asked,
with the peculiar confidence which children possess in the ability of
their elders to settle these questions, the decision of which is believed
to be reserved for other tribunals.

'Good?--bless the child!' said Mrs Bunch. 'Master's as kind a soul as
ever I see! Didn't I never tell you of the little boy as he took in out
of the street, as you may say, this seven years back? and the little
girl, two years after I first come here?'

'No. Do tell me all about them, Mrs Bunch--now, this minute!'

'Well,' said Mrs Bunch, 'the little girl I don't seem to recollect so
much about. I know master brought her back with him from his walk one
day, and give orders to Mrs Ellis, as was housekeeper then, as she should
be took every care with. And the pore child hadn't no one belonging to
her--she telled me so her own self--and here she lived with us a matter
of three weeks it might be; and then, whether she were somethink of a
gipsy in her blood or what not, but one morning she out of her bed afore
any of us had opened a eye, and neither track nor yet trace of her have I
set eyes on since. Master was wonderful put about, and had all the ponds
dragged; but it's my belief she was had away by them gipsies, for there
was singing round the house for as much as an hour the night she went,
and Parkes, he declare as he heard them a-calling in the woods all that
afternoon. Dear, dear! a hodd child she was, so silent in her ways and
all, but I was wonderful taken up with her, so domesticated she

'And what about the little boy?' said Stephen.

'Ah, that pore boy!' sighed Mrs Bunch. 'He were a foreigner--Jevanny he
called hisself--and he come a-tweaking his 'urdy-gurdy round and about
the drive one winter day, and master 'ad him in that minute, and ast all
about where he came from, and how old he was, and how he made his way,
and where was his relatives, and all as kind as heart could wish. But it
went the same way with him. They're a hunruly lot, them foreign nations,
I do suppose, and he was off one fine morning just the same as the girl.
Why he went and what he done was our question for as much as a year
after; for he never took his 'urdy-gurdy, and there it lays on the

The remainder of the evening was spent by Stephen in miscellaneous
cross-examination of Mrs Bunch and in efforts to extract a tune from the

That night he had a curious dream. At the end of the passage at the top
of the house, in which his bedroom was situated, there was an old disused
bathroom. It was kept locked, but the upper half of the door was glazed,
and, since the muslin curtains which used to hang there had long been
gone, you could look in and see the lead-lined bath affixed to the wall
on the right hand, with its head towards the window.

On the night of which I am speaking, Stephen Elliott found himself, as he
thought, looking through the glazed door. The moon was shining through
the window, and he was gazing at a figure which lay in the bath.

His description of what he saw reminds me of what I once beheld myself in
the famous vaults of St Michan's Church in Dublin, which possesses the
horrid property of preserving corpses from decay for centuries. A figure
inexpressibly thin and pathetic, of a dusty leaden colour, enveloped in a
shroud-like garment, the thin lips crooked into a faint and dreadful
smile, the hands pressed tightly over the region of the heart.

As he looked upon it, a distant, almost inaudible moan seemed to issue
from its lips, and the arms began to stir. The terror of the sight forced
Stephen backwards and he awoke to the fact that he was indeed standing on
the cold boarded floor of the passage in the full light of the moon. With
a courage which I do not think can be common among boys of his age, he
went to the door of the bathroom to ascertain if the figure of his dreams
were really there. It was not, and he went back to bed.

Mrs Bunch was much impressed next morning by his story, and went so far
as to replace the muslin curtain over the glazed door of the bathroom. Mr
Abney, moreover, to whom he confided his experiences at breakfast, was
greatly interested and made notes of the matter in what he called 'his

The spring equinox was approaching, as Mr Abney frequently reminded his
cousin, adding that this had been always considered by the ancients to be
a critical time for the young: that Stephen would do well to take care of
himself, and to shut his bedroom window at night; and that Censorinus had
some valuable remarks on the subject. Two incidents that occurred about
this time made an impression upon Stephen's mind.

The first was after an unusually uneasy and oppressed night that he had
passed--though he could not recall any particular dream that he had had.

The following evening Mrs Bunch was occupying herself in mending his

'Gracious me, Master Stephen!' she broke forth rather irritably, 'how do
you manage to tear your nightdress all to flinders this way? Look here,
sir, what trouble you do give to poor servants that have to darn and mend
after you!'

There was indeed a most destructive and apparently wanton series of slits
or scorings in the garment, which would undoubtedly require a skilful
needle to make good. They were confined to the left side of the
chest--long, parallel slits about six inches in length, some of them not
quite piercing the texture of the linen. Stephen could only express his
entire ignorance of their origin: he was sure they were not there the
night before.

'But,' he said, 'Mrs Bunch, they are just the same as the scratches on
the outside of my bedroom door: and I'm sure I never had anything to do
with making _them_.'

Mrs Bunch gazed at him open-mouthed, then snatched up a candle, departed
hastily from the room, and was heard making her way upstairs. In a few
minutes she came down.

'Well,' she said, 'Master Stephen, it's a funny thing to me how them
marks and scratches can 'a' come there--too high up for any cat or dog to
'ave made 'em, much less a rat: for all the world like a Chinaman's
finger-nails, as my uncle in the tea-trade used to tell us of when we was
girls together. I wouldn't say nothing to master, not if I was you,
Master Stephen, my dear; and just turn the key of the door when you go to
your bed.'

'I always do, Mrs Bunch, as soon as I've said my prayers.'

'Ah, that's a good child: always say your prayers, and then no one can't
hurt you.'

Herewith Mrs Bunch addressed herself to mending the injured nightgown,
with intervals of meditation, until bed-time. This was on a Friday night
in March, 1812.

On the following evening the usual duet of Stephen and Mrs Bunch was
augmented by the sudden arrival of Mr Parkes, the butler, who as a rule
kept himself rather _to_ himself in his own pantry. He did not see that
Stephen was there: he was, moreover, flustered and less slow of speech
than was his wont.

'Master may get up his own wine, if he likes, of an evening,' was his
first remark. 'Either I do it in the daytime or not at all, Mrs Bunch. I
don't know what it may be: very like it's the rats, or the wind got into
the cellars; but I'm not so young as I was, and I can't go through with
it as I have done.'

'Well, Mr Parkes, you know it is a surprising place for the rats, is the

'I'm not denying that, Mrs Bunch; and, to be sure, many a time I've heard
the tale from the men in the shipyards about the rat that could speak. I
never laid no confidence in that before; but tonight, if I'd demeaned
myself to lay my ear to the door of the further bin, I could pretty much
have heard what they was saying.'

'Oh, there, Mr Parkes, I've no patience with your fancies! Rats talking
in the wine-cellar indeed!'

'Well, Mrs Bunch, I've no wish to argue with you: all I say is, if you
choose to go to the far bin, and lay your ear to the door, you may prove
my words this minute.'

'What nonsense you do talk, Mr Parkes--not fit for children to listen to!
Why, you'll be frightening Master Stephen there out of his wits.'

'What! Master Stephen?' said Parkes, awaking to the consciousness of the
boy's presence. 'Master Stephen knows well enough when I'm a-playing a
joke with you, Mrs Bunch.'

In fact, Master Stephen knew much too well to suppose that Mr Parkes had
in the first instance intended a joke. He was interested, not altogether
pleasantly, in the situation; but all his questions were unsuccessful in
inducing the butler to give any more detailed account of his experiences
in the wine-cellar.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have now arrived at March 24, 1812. It was a day of curious
experiences for Stephen: a windy, noisy day, which filled the house and
the gardens with a restless impression. As Stephen stood by the fence of
the grounds, and looked out into the park, he felt as if an endless
procession of unseen people were sweeping past him on the wind, borne on
resistlessly and aimlessly, vainly striving to stop themselves, to catch
at something that might arrest their flight and bring them once again
into contact with the living world of which they had formed a part. After
luncheon that day Mr Abney said:

'Stephen, my boy, do you think you could manage to come to me tonight as
late as eleven o'clock in my study? I shall be busy until that time, and
I wish to show you something connected with your future life which it is
most important that you should know. You are not to mention this matter
to Mrs Bunch nor to anyone else in the house; and you had better go to
your room at the usual time.'

Here was a new excitement added to life: Stephen eagerly grasped at the
opportunity of sitting up till eleven o'clock. He looked in at the
library door on his way upstairs that evening, and saw a brazier, which
he had often noticed in the corner of the room, moved out before the
fire; an old silver-gilt cup stood on the table, filled with red wine,
and some written sheets of paper lay near it. Mr Abney was sprinkling
some incense on the brazier from a round silver box as Stephen passed,
but did not seem to notice his step.

The wind had fallen, and there was a still night and a full moon. At
about ten o'clock Stephen was standing at the open window of his bedroom,
looking out over the country. Still as the night was, the mysterious
population of the distant moon-lit woods was not yet lulled to rest. From
time to time strange cries as of lost and despairing wanderers sounded
from across the mere. They might be the notes of owls or water-birds, yet
they did not quite resemble either sound. Were not they coming nearer?
Now they sounded from the nearer side of the water, and in a few moments
they seemed to be floating about among the shrubberies. Then they ceased;
but just as Stephen was thinking of shutting the window and resuming his
reading of _Robinson Crusoe_, he caught sight of two figures standing on
the gravelled terrace that ran along the garden side of the Hall--the
figures of a boy and girl, as it seemed; they stood side by side, looking
up at the windows. Something in the form of the girl recalled
irresistibly his dream of the figure in the bath. The boy inspired him
with more acute fear.

Whilst the girl stood still, half smiling, with her hands clasped over
her heart, the boy, a thin shape, with black hair and ragged clothing,
raised his arms in the air with an appearance of menace and of
unappeasable hunger and longing. The moon shone upon his almost
transparent hands, and Stephen saw that the nails were fearfully long and
that the light shone through them. As he stood with his arms thus raised,
he disclosed a terrifying spectacle. On the left side of his chest there
opened a black and gaping rent; and there fell upon Stephen's brain,
rather than upon his ear, the impression of one of those hungry and
desolate cries that he had heard resounding over the woods of Aswarby all
that evening. In another moment this dreadful pair had moved swiftly and
noiselessly over the dry gravel, and he saw them no more.

Inexpressibly frightened as he was, he determined to take his candle and
go down to Mr Abney's study, for the hour appointed for their meeting was
near at hand. The study or library opened out of the front-hall on one
side, and Stephen, urged on by his terrors, did not take long in getting
there. To effect an entrance was not so easy. It was not locked, he felt
sure, for the key was on the outside of the door as usual. His repeated
knocks produced no answer. Mr Abney was engaged: he was speaking. What!
why did he try to cry out? and why was the cry choked in his throat? Had
he, too, seen the mysterious children? But now everything was quiet, and
the door yielded to Stephen's terrified and frantic pushing.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the table in Mr Abney's study certain papers were found which
explained the situation to Stephen Elliott when he was of an age to
understand them. The most important sentences were as follows:

'It was a belief very strongly and generally held by the ancients--of
whose wisdom in these matters I have had such experience as induces me to
place confidence in their assertions--that by enacting certain processes,
which to us moderns have something of a barbaric complexion, a very
remarkable enlightenment of the spiritual faculties in man may be
attained: that, for example, by absorbing the personalities of a certain
number of his fellow-creatures, an individual may gain a complete
ascendancy over those orders of spiritual beings which control the
elemental forces of our universe.

'It is recorded of Simon Magus that he was able to fly in the air, to
become invisible, or to assume any form he pleased, by the agency of the
soul of a boy whom, to use the libellous phrase employed by the author of
the _Clementine Recognitions_, he had "murdered". I find it set down,
moreover, with considerable detail in the writings of Hermes
Trismegistus, that similar happy results may be produced by the
absorption of the hearts of not less than three human beings below the
age of twenty-one years. To the testing of the truth of this receipt I
have devoted the greater part of the last twenty years, selecting as the
_corpora vilia_ of my experiment such persons as could conveniently be
removed without occasioning a sensible gap in society. The first step I
effected by the removal of one Phoebe Stanley, a girl of gipsy
extraction, on March 24, 1792. The second, by the removal of a wandering
Italian lad, named Giovanni Paoli, on the night of March 23, 1805. The
final "victim"--to employ a word repugnant in the highest degree to my
feelings--must be my cousin, Stephen Elliott. His day must be this March
24, 1812.

'The best means of effecting the required absorption is to remove the
heart from the _living_ subject, to reduce it to ashes, and to mingle
them with about a pint of some red wine, preferably port. The remains of
the first two subjects, at least, it will be well to conceal: a disused
bathroom or wine-cellar will be found convenient for such a purpose. Some
annoyance may be experienced from the psychic portion of the subjects,
which popular language dignifies with the name of ghosts. But the man of
philosophic temperament--to whom alone the experiment is
appropriate--will be little prone to attach importance to the feeble
efforts of these beings to wreak their vengeance on him. I contemplate
with the liveliest satisfaction the enlarged and emancipated existence
which the experiment, if successful, will confer on me; not only placing
me beyond the reach of human justice (so-called), but eliminating to a
great extent the prospect of death itself.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr Abney was found in his chair, his head thrown back, his face stamped
with an expression of rage, fright, and mortal pain. In his left side was
a terrible lacerated wound, exposing the heart. There was no blood on his
hands, and a long knife that lay on the table was perfectly clean. A
savage wild-cat might have inflicted the injuries. The window of the
study was open, and it was the opinion of the coroner that Mr Abney had
met his death by the agency of some wild creature. But Stephen Elliott's
study of the papers I have quoted led him to a very different conclusion.


Some time ago I believe I had the pleasure of telling you the story of an
adventure which happened to a friend of mine by the name of Dennistoun,
during his pursuit of objects of art for the museum at Cambridge.

He did not publish his experiences very widely upon his return to
England; but they could not fail to become known to a good many of his
friends, and among others to the gentleman who at that time presided over
an art museum at another University. It was to be expected that the story
should make a considerable impression on the mind of a man whose vocation
lay in lines similar to Dennistoun's, and that he should be eager to
catch at any explanation of the matter which tended to make it seem
improbable that he should ever be called upon to deal with so agitating
an emergency. It was, indeed, somewhat consoling to him to reflect that
he was not expected to acquire ancient MSS. for his institution; that was
the business of the Shelburnian Library. The authorities of that
institution might, if they pleased, ransack obscure corners of the
Continent for such matters. He was glad to be obliged at the moment to
confine his attention to enlarging the already unsurpassed collection of
English topographical drawings and engravings possessed by his museum.
Yet, as it turned out, even a department so homely and familiar as this
may have its dark corners, and to one of these Mr Williams was
unexpectedly introduced.

Those who have taken even the most limited interest in the acquisition of
topographical pictures are aware that there is one London dealer whose
aid is indispensable to their researches. Mr J. W. Britnell publishes at
short intervals very admirable catalogues of a large and constantly
changing stock of engravings, plans, and old sketches of mansions,
churches, and towns in England and Wales. These catalogues were, of
course, the ABC of his subject to Mr Williams: but as his museum already
contained an enormous accumulation of topographical pictures, he was a
regular, rather than a copious, buyer; and he rather looked to Mr
Britnell to fill up gaps in the rank and file of his collection than to
supply him with rarities.

Now, in February of last year there appeared upon Mr Williams's desk at
the museum a catalogue from Mr Britnell's emporium, and accompanying it
was a typewritten communication from the dealer himself. This latter ran
as follows:

    Dear Sir,

    We beg to call your attention to No. 978 in our accompanying
    catalogue, which we shall be glad to send on approval.

    Yours faithfully,

    J. W. Britnell.

To turn to No. 978 in the accompanying catalogue was with Mr. Williams
(as he observed to himself) the work of a moment, and in the place
indicated he found the following entry:

    978.--_Unknown._ Interesting mezzotint: View of a manor-house, early
    part of the century. 15 by 10 inches; black frame. £2 2s.

It was not specially exciting, and the price seemed high. However, as Mr
Britnell, who knew his business and his customer, seemed to set store by
it, Mr Williams wrote a postcard asking for the article to be sent on
approval, along with some other engravings and sketches which appeared in
the same catalogue. And so he passed without much excitement of
anticipation to the ordinary labours of the day.

A parcel of any kind always arrives a day later than you expect it, and
that of Mr Britnell proved, as I believe the right phrase goes, no
exception to the rule. It was delivered at the museum by the afternoon
post of Saturday, after Mr Williams had left his work, and it was
accordingly brought round to his rooms in college by the attendant, in
order that he might not have to wait over Sunday before looking through
it and returning such of the contents as he did not propose to keep. And
here he found it when he came in to tea, with a friend.

The only item with which I am concerned was the rather large,
black-framed mezzotint of which I have already quoted the short
description given in Mr Britnell's catalogue. Some more details of it
will have to be given, though I cannot hope to put before you the look of
the picture as clearly as it is present to my own eye. Very nearly the
exact duplicate of it may be seen in a good many old inn parlours, or in
the passages of undisturbed country mansions at the present moment. It
was a rather indifferent mezzotint, and an indifferent mezzotint is,
perhaps, the worst form of engraving known. It presented a full-face view
of a not very large manor-house of the last century, with three rows of
plain sashed windows with rusticated masonry about them, a parapet with
balls or vases at the angles, and a small portico in the centre. On
either side were trees, and in front a considerable expanse of lawn. The
legend _A. W. F. sculpsit_ was engraved on the narrow margin; and there
was no further inscription. The whole thing gave the impression that it
was the work of an amateur. What in the world Mr Britnell could mean by
affixing the price of £2 2s. to such an object was more than Mr Williams
could imagine. He turned it over with a good deal of contempt; upon the
back was a paper label, the left-hand half of which had been torn off.
All that remained were the ends of two lines of writing; the first had
the letters--_ngley Hall_; the second,--_ssex_.

It would, perhaps, be just worth while to identify the place represented,
which he could easily do with the help of a gazetteer, and then he would
send it back to Mr Britnell, with some remarks reflecting upon the
judgement of that gentleman.

He lighted the candles, for it was now dark, made the tea, and supplied
the friend with whom he had been playing golf (for I believe the
authorities of the University I write of indulge in that pursuit by way
of relaxation); and tea was taken to the accompaniment of a discussion
which golfing persons can imagine for themselves, but which the
conscientious writer has no right to inflict upon any non-golfing

The conclusion arrived at was that certain strokes might have been
better, and that in certain emergencies neither player had experienced
that amount of luck which a human being has a right to expect. It was now
that the friend--let us call him Professor Binks--took up the framed
engraving and said:

'What's this place, Williams?'

'Just what I am going to try to find out,' said Williams, going to the
shelf for a gazetteer. 'Look at the back. Somethingley Hall, either in
Sussex or Essex. Half the name's gone, you see. You don't happen to know
it, I suppose?'

'It's from that man Britnell, I suppose, isn't it?' said Binks. 'Is it
for the museum?'

'Well, I think I should buy it if the price was five shillings,' said
Williams; 'but for some unearthly reason he wants two guineas for it. I
can't conceive why. It's a wretched engraving, and there aren't even any
figures to give it life.'

'It's not worth two guineas, I should think,' said Binks; 'but I don't
think it's so badly done. The moonlight seems rather good to me; and I
should have thought there _were_ figures, or at least a figure, just on
the edge in front.'

'Let's look,' said Williams. 'Well, it's true the light is rather
cleverly given. Where's your figure? Oh, yes! Just the head, in the very
front of the picture.'

And indeed there was--hardly more than a black blot on the extreme edge
of the engraving--the head of a man or woman, a good deal muffled up, the
back turned to the spectator, and looking towards the house.

Williams had not noticed it before.

'Still,' he said, 'though it's a cleverer thing than I thought, I can't
spend two guineas of museum money on a picture of a place I don't know.'

Professor Binks had his work to do, and soon went; and very nearly up to
Hall time Williams was engaged in a vain attempt to identify the subject
of his picture. 'If the vowel before the _ng_ had only been left, it
would have been easy enough,' he thought; 'but as it is, the name may be
anything from Guestingley to Langley, and there are many more names
ending like this than I thought; and this rotten book has no index of

Hall in Mr Williams's college was at seven. It need not be dwelt upon;
the less so as he met there colleagues who had been playing golf during
the afternoon, and words with which we have no concern were freely
bandied across the table--merely golfing words, I would hasten to

I suppose an hour or more to have been spent in what is called
common-room after dinner. Later in the evening some few retired to
Williams's rooms, and I have little doubt that whist was played and
tobacco smoked. During a lull in these operations Williams picked up the
mezzotint from the table without looking at it, and handed it to a person
mildly interested in art, telling him where it had come from, and the
other particulars which we already know.

The gentleman took it carelessly, looked at it, then said, in a tone of
some interest:

'It's really a very good piece of work, Williams; it has quite a feeling
of the romantic period. The light is admirably managed, it seems to me,
and the figure, though it's rather too grotesque, is somehow very

'Yes, isn't it?' said Williams, who was just then busy giving whisky and
soda to others of the company, and was unable to come across the room to
look at the view again.

It was by this time rather late in the evening, and the visitors were on
the move. After they went Williams was obliged to write a letter or two
and clear up some odd bits of work. At last, some time past midnight, he
was disposed to turn in, and he put out his lamp after lighting his
bedroom candle. The picture lay face upwards on the table where the last
man who looked at it had put it, and it caught his eye as he turned the
lamp down. What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor,
and he declares now if he had been left in the dark at that moment he
would have had a fit. But, as that did not happen, he was able to put
down the light on the table and take a good look at the picture. It was
indubitable--rankly impossible, no doubt, but absolutely certain. In the
middle of the lawn in front of the unknown house there was a figure where
no figure had been at five o'clock that afternoon. It was crawling on all
fours towards the house, and it was muffled in a strange black garment
with a white cross on the back.

I do not know what is the ideal course to pursue in a situation of this
kind, I can only tell you what Mr Williams did. He took the picture by
one corner and carried it across the passage to a second set of rooms
which he possessed. There he locked it up in a drawer, sported the doors
of both sets of rooms, and retired to bed; but first he wrote out and
signed an account of the extraordinary change which the picture had
undergone since it had come into his possession.

Sleep visited him rather late; but it was consoling to reflect that the
behaviour of the picture did not depend upon his own unsupported
testimony. Evidently the man who had looked at it the night before had
seen something of the same kind as he had, otherwise he might have been
tempted to think that something gravely wrong was happening either to his
eyes or his mind. This possibility being fortunately precluded, two
matters awaited him on the morrow. He must take stock of the picture very
carefully, and call in a witness for the purpose, and he must make a
determined effort to ascertain what house it was that was represented. He
would therefore ask his neighbour Nisbet to breakfast with him, and he
would subsequently spend a morning over the gazetteer.

Nisbet was disengaged, and arrived about 9.20. His host was not quite
dressed, I am sorry to say, even at this late hour. During breakfast
nothing was said about the mezzotint by Williams, save that he had a
picture on which he wished for Nisbet's opinion. But those who are
familiar with University life can picture for themselves the wide and
delightful range of subjects over which the conversation of two Fellows
of Canterbury College is likely to extend during a Sunday morning
breakfast. Hardly a topic was left unchallenged, from golf to
lawn-tennis. Yet I am bound to say that Williams was rather distraught;
for his interest naturally centred in that very strange picture which was
now reposing, face downwards, in the drawer in the room opposite.

The morning pipe was at last lighted, and the moment had arrived for
which he looked. With very considerable--almost tremulous--excitement he
ran across, unlocked the drawer, and, extracting the picture--still face
downwards--ran back, and put it into Nisbet's hands.

'Now,' he said, 'Nisbet, I want you to tell me exactly what you see in
that picture. Describe it, if you don't mind, rather minutely. I'll tell
you why afterwards.'

'Well,' said Nisbet, 'I have here a view of a country-house--English, I
presume--by moonlight.'

'Moonlight? You're sure of that?'

'Certainly. The moon appears to be on the wane, if you wish for details,
and there are clouds in the sky.'

'All right. Go on. I'll swear,' added Williams in an aside, 'there was no
moon when I saw it first.'

'Well, there's not much more to be said,' Nisbet continued. 'The house
has one--two--three rows of windows, five in each row, except at the
bottom, where there's a porch instead of the middle one, and--'

'But what about figures?' said Williams, with marked interest.

'There aren't any,' said Nisbet; 'but--'

'What! No figure on the grass in front?'

'Not a thing.'

'You'll swear to that?'

'Certainly I will. But there's just one other thing.'


'Why, one of the windows on the ground-floor--left of the door--is open.'

'Is it really so? My goodness! he must have got in,' said Williams, with
great excitement; and he hurried to the back of the sofa on which Nisbet
was sitting, and, catching the picture from him, verified the matter for

It was quite true. There was no figure, and there was the open window.
Williams, after a moment of speechless surprise, went to the
writing-table and scribbled for a short time. Then he brought two papers
to Nisbet, and asked him first to sign one--it was his own description of
the picture, which you have just heard--and then to read the other which
was Williams's statement written the night before.

'What can it all mean?' said Nisbet.

'Exactly,' said Williams. 'Well, one thing I must do--or three things,
now I think of it. I must find out from Garwood'--this was his last
night's visitor--'what he saw, and then I must get the thing photographed
before it goes further, and then I must find out what the place is.'

'I can do the photographing myself,' said Nisbet, 'and I will. But, you
know, it looks very much as if we were assisting at the working out of a
tragedy somewhere. The question is, has it happened already, or is it
going to come off? You must find out what the place is. Yes,' he said,
looking at the picture again, 'I expect you're right: he has got in. And
if I don't mistake, there'll be the devil to pay in one of the rooms

'I'll tell you what,' said Williams: 'I'll take the picture across to old
Green' (this was the senior Fellow of the College, who had been Bursar
for many years). 'It's quite likely he'll know it. We have property in
Essex and Sussex, and he must have been over the two counties a lot in
his time.'

'Quite likely he will,' said Nisbet; 'but just let me take my photograph
first. But look here, I rather think Green isn't up today. He wasn't in
Hall last night, and I think I heard him say he was going down for the

'That's true, too,' said Williams; 'I know he's gone to Brighton. Well,
if you'll photograph it now, I'll go across to Garwood and get his
statement, and you keep an eye on it while I'm gone. I'm beginning to
think two guineas is not a very exorbitant price for it now.'

In a short time he had returned, and brought Mr Garwood with him.
Garwood's statement was to the effect that the figure, when he had seen
it, was clear of the edge of the picture, but had not got far across the
lawn. He remembered a white mark on the back of its drapery, but could
not have been sure it was a cross. A document to this effect was then
drawn up and signed, and Nisbet proceeded to photograph the picture.

'Now what do you mean to do?' he said. 'Are you going to sit and watch it
all day?'

'Well, no, I think not,' said Williams. 'I rather imagine we're meant to
see the whole thing. You see, between the time I saw it last night and
this morning there was time for lots of things to happen, but the
creature only got into the house. It could easily have got through its
business in the time and gone to its own place again; but the fact of the
window being open, I think, must mean that it's in there now. So I feel
quite easy about leaving it. And besides, I have a kind of idea that it
wouldn't change much, if at all, in the daytime. We might go out for a
walk this afternoon, and come in to tea, or whenever it gets dark. I
shall leave it out on the table here, and sport the door. My skip can get
in, but no one else.'

The three agreed that this would be a good plan; and, further, that if
they spent the afternoon together they would be less likely to talk about
the business to other people; for any rumour of such a transaction as was
going on would bring the whole of the Phasmatological Society about their

We may give them a respite until five o'clock.

At or near that hour the three were entering Williams's staircase. They
were at first slightly annoyed to see that the door of his rooms was
unsported; but in a moment it was remembered that on Sunday the skips
came for orders an hour or so earlier than on weekdays. However, a
surprise was awaiting them. The first thing they saw was the picture
leaning up against a pile of books on the table, as it had been left, and
the next thing was Williams's skip, seated on a chair opposite, gazing at
it with undisguised horror. How was this? Mr Filcher (the name is not my
own invention) was a servant of considerable standing, and set the
standard of etiquette to all his own college and to several neighbouring
ones, and nothing could be more alien to his practice than to be found
sitting on his master's chair, or appearing to take any particular notice
of his master's furniture or pictures. Indeed, he seemed to feel this
himself. He started violently when the three men were in the room, and
got up with a marked effort. Then he said:

'I ask your pardon, sir, for taking such a freedom as to set down.'

'Not at all, Robert,' interposed Mr Williams. 'I was meaning to ask you
some time what you thought of that picture.'

'Well, sir, of course I don't set up my opinion against yours, but it
ain't the pictur I should 'ang where my little girl could see it, sir.'

'Wouldn't you, Robert? Why not?'

'No, sir. Why, the pore child, I recollect once she see a Door Bible,
with pictures not 'alf what that is, and we 'ad to set up with her three
or four nights afterwards, if you'll believe me; and if she was to ketch
a sight of this skelinton here, or whatever it is, carrying off the pore
baby, she would be in a taking. You know 'ow it is with children; 'ow
nervish they git with a little thing and all. But what I should say, it
don't seem a right pictur to be laying about, sir, not where anyone
that's liable to be startled could come on it. Should you be wanting
anything this evening, sir? Thank you, sir.'

With these words the excellent man went to continue the round of his
masters, and you may be sure the gentlemen whom he left lost no time in
gathering round the engraving. There was the house, as before under the
waning moon and the drifting clouds. The window that had been open was
shut, and the figure was once more on the lawn: but not this time
crawling cautiously on hands and knees. Now it was erect and stepping
swiftly, with long strides, towards the front of the picture. The moon
was behind it, and the black drapery hung down over its face so that only
hints of that could be seen, and what was visible made the spectators
profoundly thankful that they could see no more than a white dome-like
forehead and a few straggling hairs. The head was bent down, and the arms
were tightly clasped over an object which could be dimly seen and
identified as a child, whether dead or living it was not possible to say.
The legs of the appearance alone could be plainly discerned, and they
were horribly thin.

From five to seven the three companions sat and watched the picture by
turns. But it never changed. They agreed at last that it would be safe to
leave it, and that they would return after Hall and await further

When they assembled again, at the earliest possible moment, the engraving
was there, but the figure was gone, and the house was quiet under the
moonbeams. There was nothing for it but to spend the evening over
gazetteers and guide-books. Williams was the lucky one at last, and
perhaps he deserved it. At 11.30 p.m. he read from Murray's _Guide to
Essex_ the following lines:

    16-1/2 miles, _Anningley_. The church has been an interesting
    building of Norman date, but was extensively classicized in the last
    century. It contains the tomb of the family of Francis, whose
    mansion, Anningley Hall, a solid Queen Anne house, stands immediately
    beyond the churchyard in a park of about 80 acres. The family is now
    extinct, the last heir having disappeared mysteriously in infancy in
    the year 1802. The father, Mr Arthur Francis, was locally known as a
    talented amateur engraver in mezzotint. After his son's disappearance
    he lived in complete retirement at the Hall, and was found dead in
    his studio on the third anniversary of the disaster, having just
    completed an engraving of the house, impressions of which are of
    considerable rarity.

This looked like business, and, indeed, Mr Green on his return at once
identified the house as Anningley Hall.

'Is there any kind of explanation of the figure, Green?' was the question
which Williams naturally asked.

'I don't know, I'm sure, Williams. What used to be said in the place when
I first knew it, which was before I came up here, was just this: old
Francis was always very much down on these poaching fellows, and whenever
he got a chance he used to get a man whom he suspected of it turned off
the estate, and by degrees he got rid of them all but one. Squires could
do a lot of things then that they daren't think of now. Well, this man
that was left was what you find pretty often in that country--the last
remains of a very old family. I believe they were Lords of the Manor at
one time. I recollect just the same thing in my own parish.'

'What, like the man in _Tess o' the Durbervilles_?' Williams put in.

'Yes, I dare say; it's not a book I could ever read myself. But this
fellow could show a row of tombs in the church there that belonged to his
ancestors, and all that went to sour him a bit; but Francis, they said,
could never get at him--he always kept just on the right side of the
law--until one night the keepers found him at it in a wood right at the
end of the estate. I could show you the place now; it marches with some
land that used to belong to an uncle of mine. And you can imagine there
was a row; and this man Gawdy (that was the name, to be sure--Gawdy; I
thought I should get it--Gawdy), he was unlucky enough, poor chap! to
shoot a keeper. Well, that was what Francis wanted, and grand juries--you
know what they would have been then--and poor Gawdy was strung up in
double-quick time; and I've been shown the place he was buried in, on the
north side of the church--you know the way in that part of the world:
anyone that's been hanged or made away with themselves, they bury them
that side. And the idea was that some friend of Gawdy's--not a relation,
because he had none, poor devil! he was the last of his line: kind of
_spes ultima gentis_--must have planned to get hold of Francis's boy and
put an end to _his_ line, too. I don't know--it's rather an
out-of-the-way thing for an Essex poacher to think of--but, you know, I
should say now it looks more as if old Gawdy had managed the job himself.
Booh! I hate to think of it! have some whisky, Williams!'

The facts were communicated by Williams to Dennistoun, and by him to a
mixed company, of which I was one, and the Sadducean Professor of
Ophiology another. I am sorry to say that the latter when asked what he
thought of it, only remarked: 'Oh, those Bridgeford people will say
anything'--a sentiment which met with the reception it deserved.

I have only to add that the picture is now in the Ashleian Museum; that
it has been treated with a view to discovering whether sympathetic ink
has been used in it, but without effect; that Mr Britnell knew nothing of
it save that he was sure it was uncommon; and that, though carefully
watched, it has never been known to change again.


Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller
country-houses with which it is studded--the rather dank little
buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded with parks of some
eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong
attraction, with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres
with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the
pillared portico--perhaps stuck on to a red-brick Queen Anne house which
has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the 'Grecian' taste
of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the
roof, which hall ought always to be provided with a gallery and a small
organ. I like the library, too, where you may find anything from a
Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the
pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in
such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of
landlords' prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so
plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to
have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and
entertain my friends in it modestly.

But this is a digression. I have to tell you of a curious series of
events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe. It is
Castringham Hall in Suffolk. I think a good deal has been done to the
building since the period of my story, but the essential features I have
sketched are still there--Italian portico, square block of white house,
older inside than out, park with fringe of woods, and mere. The one
feature that marked out the house from a score of others is gone. As you
looked at it from the park, you saw on the right a great old ash-tree
growing within half a dozen yards of the wall, and almost or quite
touching the building with its branches. I suppose it had stood there
ever since Castringham ceased to be a fortified place, and since the moat
was filled in and the Elizabethan dwelling-house built. At any rate, it
had well-nigh attained its full dimensions in the year 1690.

In that year the district in which the Hall is situated was the scene of
a number of witch-trials. It will be long, I think, before we arrive at a
just estimate of the amount of solid reason--if there was any--which lay
at the root of the universal fear of witches in old times. Whether the
persons accused of this offence really did imagine that they were
possessed of unusual power of any kind; or whether they had the will at
least, if not the power, of doing mischief to their neighbours; or
whether all the confessions, of which there are so many, were extorted by
the cruelty of the witch-finders--these are questions which are not, I
fancy, yet solved. And the present narrative gives me pause. I cannot
altogether sweep it away as mere invention. The reader must judge for

Castringham contributed a victim to the _auto-da-fé_. Mrs Mothersole was
her name, and she differed from the ordinary run of village witches only
in being rather better off and in a more influential position. Efforts
were made to save her by several reputable farmers of the parish. They
did their best to testify to her character, and showed considerable
anxiety as to the verdict of the jury.

But what seems to have been fatal to the woman was the evidence of the
then proprietor of Castringham Hall--Sir Matthew Fell. He deposed to
having watched her on three different occasions from his window, at the
full of the moon, gathering sprigs 'from the ash-tree near my house'. She
had climbed into the branches, clad only in her shift, and was cutting
off small twigs with a peculiarly curved knife, and as she did so she
seemed to be talking to herself. On each occasion Sir Matthew had done
his best to capture the woman, but she had always taken alarm at some
accidental noise he had made, and all he could see when he got down to
the garden was a hare running across the path in the direction of the

On the third night he had been at the pains to follow at his best speed,
and had gone straight to Mrs Mothersole's house; but he had had to wait a
quarter of an hour battering at her door, and then she had come out very
cross, and apparently very sleepy, as if just out of bed; and he had no
good explanation to offer of his visit.

Mainly on this evidence, though there was much more of a less striking
and unusual kind from other parishioners, Mrs Mothersole was found guilty
and condemned to die. She was hanged a week after the trial, with five or
six more unhappy creatures, at Bury St Edmunds.

Sir Matthew Fell, then Deputy-Sheriff, was present at the execution. It
was a damp, drizzly March morning when the cart made its way up the rough
grass hill outside Northgate, where the gallows stood. The other victims
were apathetic or broken down with misery; but Mrs Mothersole was, as in
life so in death, of a very different temper. Her 'poysonous Rage', as a
reporter of the time puts it, 'did so work upon the Bystanders--yea, even
upon the Hangman--that it was constantly affirmed of all that saw her
that she presented the living Aspect of a mad Divell. Yet she offer'd no
Resistance to the Officers of the Law; onely she looked upon those that
laid Hands upon her with so direfull and venomous an Aspect that--as one
of them afterwards assured me--the meer Thought of it preyed inwardly
upon his Mind for six Months after.'

However, all that she is reported to have said were the seemingly
meaningless words: 'There will be guests at the Hall.' Which she repeated
more than once in an undertone.

Sir Matthew Fell was not unimpressed by the bearing of the woman. He had
some talk upon the matter with the Vicar of his parish, with whom he
travelled home after the assize business was over. His evidence at the
trial had not been very willingly given; he was not specially infected
with the witch-finding mania, but he declared, then and afterwards, that
he could not give any other account of the matter than that he had given,
and that he could not possibly have been mistaken as to what he saw. The
whole transaction had been repugnant to him, for he was a man who liked
to be on pleasant terms with those about him; but he saw a duty to be
done in this business, and he had done it. That seems to have been the
gist of his sentiments, and the Vicar applauded it, as any reasonable man
must have done.

A few weeks after, when the moon of May was at the full, Vicar and Squire
met again in the park, and walked to the Hall together. Lady Fell was
with her mother, who was dangerously ill, and Sir Matthew was alone at
home; so the Vicar, Mr Crome, was easily persuaded to take a late supper
at the Hall.

Sir Matthew was not very good company this evening. The talk ran chiefly
on family and parish matters, and, as luck would have it, Sir Matthew
made a memorandum in writing of certain wishes or intentions of his
regarding his estates, which afterwards proved exceedingly useful.

When Mr Crome thought of starting for home, about half past nine o'clock,
Sir Matthew and he took a preliminary turn on the gravelled walk at the
back of the house. The only incident that struck Mr Crome was this: they
were in sight of the ash-tree which I described as growing near the
windows of the building, when Sir Matthew stopped and said:

'What is that that runs up and down the stem of the ash? It is never a
squirrel? They will all be in their nests by now.'

The Vicar looked and saw the moving creature, but he could make nothing
of its colour in the moonlight. The sharp outline, however, seen for an
instant, was imprinted on his brain, and he could have sworn, he said,
though it sounded foolish, that, squirrel or not, it had more than four

Still, not much was to be made of the momentary vision, and the two men
parted. They may have met since then, but it was not for a score of

Next day Sir Matthew Fell was not downstairs at six in the morning, as
was his custom, nor at seven, nor yet at eight. Hereupon the servants
went and knocked at his chamber door. I need not prolong the description
of their anxious listenings and renewed batterings on the panels. The
door was opened at last from the outside, and they found their master
dead and black. So much you have guessed. That there were any marks of
violence did not at the moment appear; but the window was open.

One of the men went to fetch the parson, and then by his directions rode
on to give notice to the coroner. Mr Crome himself went as quick as he
might to the Hall, and was shown to the room where the dead man lay. He
has left some notes among his papers which show how genuine a respect and
sorrow was felt for Sir Matthew, and there is also this passage, which I
transcribe for the sake of the light it throws upon the course of events,
and also upon the common beliefs of the time:

'There was not any the least Trace of an Entrance having been forc'd to
the Chamber: but the Casement stood open, as my poor Friend would always
have it in this Season. He had his Evening Drink of small Ale in a silver
vessel of about a pint measure, and tonight had not drunk it out. This
Drink was examined by the Physician from Bury, a Mr Hodgkins, who could
not, however, as he afterwards declar'd upon his Oath, before the
Coroner's quest, discover that any matter of a venomous kind was present
in it. For, as was natural, in the great Swelling and Blackness of the
Corpse, there was talk made among the Neighbours of Poyson. The Body was
very much Disorder'd as it laid in the Bed, being twisted after so
extream a sort as gave too probable Conjecture that my worthy Friend and
Patron had expir'd in great Pain and Agony. And what is as yet
unexplain'd, and to myself the Argument of some Horrid and Artfull
Designe in the Perpetrators of this Barbarous Murther, was this, that the
Women which were entrusted with the laying-out of the Corpse and washing
it, being both sad Pearsons and very well Respected in their Mournfull
Profession, came to me in a great Pain and Distress both of Mind and
Body, saying, what was indeed confirmed upon the first View, that they
had no sooner touch'd the Breast of the Corpse with their naked Hands
than they were sensible of a more than ordinary violent Smart and Acheing
in their Palms, which, with their whole Forearms, in no long time swell'd
so immoderately, the Pain still continuing, that, as afterwards proved,
during many weeks they were forc'd to lay by the exercise of their
Calling; and yet no mark seen on the Skin.

'Upon hearing this, I sent for the Physician, who was still in the House,
and we made as carefull a Proof as we were able by the Help of a small
Magnifying Lens of Crystal of the condition of the Skinn on this Part of
the Body: but could not detect with the Instrument we had any Matter of
Importance beyond a couple of small Punctures or Pricks, which we then
concluded were the Spotts by which the Poyson might be introduced,
remembering that Ring of _Pope Borgia_, with other known Specimens of the
Horrid Art of the Italian Poysoners of the last age.

'So much is to be said of the Symptoms seen on the Corpse. As to what I
am to add, it is meerly my own Experiment, and to be left to Posterity to
judge whether there be anything of Value therein. There was on the Table
by the Beddside a Bible of the small size, in which my Friend--punctuall
as in Matters of less Moment, so in this more weighty one--used nightly,
and upon his First Rising, to read a sett Portion. And I taking it
up--not without a Tear duly paid to him wich from the Study of this
poorer Adumbration was now pass'd to the contemplation of its great
Originall--it came into my Thoughts, as at such moments of Helplessness
we are prone to catch at any the least Glimmer that makes promise of
Light, to make trial of that old and by many accounted Superstitious
Practice of drawing the _Sortes;_ of which a Principall Instance, in the
case of his late Sacred Majesty the Blessed Martyr King _Charles_ and my
Lord _Falkland_, was now much talked of. I must needs admit that by my
Trial not much Assistance was afforded me: yet, as the Cause and Origin
of these Dreadfull Events may hereafter be search'd out, I set down the
Results, in the case it may be found that they pointed the true Quarter
of the Mischief to a quicker Intelligence than my own.

'I made, then, three trials, opening the Book and placing my Finger upon
certain Words: which gave in the first these words, from Luke xiii. 7,
_Cut it down_; in the second, Isaiah xiii. 20, _It shall never be
inhabited_; and upon the third Experiment, Job xxxix. 30, _Her young ones
also suck up blood_.'

This is all that need be quoted from Mr Crome's papers. Sir Matthew Fell
was duly coffined and laid into the earth, and his funeral sermon,
preached by Mr Crome on the following Sunday, has been printed under the
title of 'The Unsearchable Way; or, England's Danger and the Malicious
Dealings of Antichrist', it being the Vicar's view, as well as that most
commonly held in the neighbourhood, that the Squire was the victim of a
recrudescence of the Popish Plot.

His son, Sir Matthew the second, succeeded to the title and estates. And
so ends the first act of the Castringham tragedy. It is to be mentioned,
though the fact is not surprising, that the new Baronet did not occupy
the room in which his father had died. Nor, indeed, was it slept in by
anyone but an occasional visitor during the whole of his occupation. He
died in 1735, and I do not find that anything particular marked his
reign, save a curiously constant mortality among his cattle and
live-stock in general, which showed a tendency to increase slightly as
time went on.

Those who are interested in the details will find a statistical account
in a letter to the _Gentleman's Magazine_ of 1772, which draws the facts
from the Baronet's own papers. He put an end to it at last by a very
simple expedient, that of shutting up all his beasts in sheds at night,
and keeping no sheep in his park. For he had noticed that nothing was
ever attacked that spent the night indoors. After that the disorder
confined itself to wild birds, and beasts of chase. But as we have no
good account of the symptoms, and as all-night watching was quite
unproductive of any clue, I do not dwell on what the Suffolk farmers
called the 'Castringham sickness'.

The second Sir Matthew died in 1735, as I said, and was duly succeeded by
his son, Sir Richard. It was in his time that the great family pew was
built out on the north side of the parish church. So large were the
Squire's ideas that several of the graves on that unhallowed side of the
building had to be disturbed to satisfy his requirements. Among them was
that of Mrs Mothersole, the position of which was accurately known,
thanks to a note on a plan of the church and yard, both made by Mr Crome.

A certain amount of interest was excited in the village when it was known
that the famous witch, who was still remembered by a few, was to be
exhumed. And the feeling of surprise, and indeed disquiet, was very
strong when it was found that, though her coffin was fairly sound and
unbroken, there was no trace whatever inside it of body, bones, or dust.
Indeed, it is a curious phenomenon, for at the time of her burying no
such things were dreamt of as resurrection-men, and it is difficult to
conceive any rational motive for stealing a body otherwise than for the
uses of the dissecting-room.

The incident revived for a time all the stories of witch-trials and of
the exploits of the witches, dormant for forty years, and Sir Richard's
orders that the coffin should be burnt were thought by a good many to be
rather foolhardy, though they were duly carried out.

Sir Richard was a pestilent innovator, it is certain. Before his time the
Hall had been a fine block of the mellowest red brick; but Sir Richard
had travelled in Italy and become infected with the Italian taste, and,
having more money than his predecessors, he determined to leave an
Italian palace where he had found an English house. So stucco and ashlar
masked the brick; some indifferent Roman marbles were planted about in
the entrance-hall and gardens; a reproduction of the Sibyl's temple at
Tivoli was erected on the opposite bank of the mere; and Castringham took
on an entirely new, and, I must say, a less engaging, aspect. But it was
much admired, and served as a model to a good many of the neighbouring
gentry in after-years.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning (it was in 1754) Sir Richard woke after a night of
discomfort. It had been windy, and his chimney had smoked persistently,
and yet it was so cold that he must keep up a fire. Also something had so
rattled about the window that no man could get a moment's peace. Further,
there was the prospect of several guests of position arriving in the
course of the day, who would expect sport of some kind, and the inroads
of the distemper (which continued among his game) had been lately so
serious that he was afraid for his reputation as a game-preserver. But
what really touched him most nearly was the other matter of his sleepless
night. He could certainly not sleep in that room again.

That was the chief subject of his meditations at breakfast, and after it
he began a systematic examination of the rooms to see which would suit
his notions best. It was long before he found one. This had a window with
an eastern aspect and that with a northern; this door the servants would
be always passing, and he did not like the bedstead in that. No, he must
have a room with a western look-out, so that the sun could not wake him
early, and it must be out of the way of the business of the house. The
housekeeper was at the end of her resources.

'Well, Sir Richard,' she said, 'you know that there is but the one room
like that in the house.'

'Which may that be?' said Sir Richard.

'And that is Sir Matthew's--the West Chamber.'

'Well, put me in there, for there I'll lie tonight,' said her master.
'Which way is it? Here, to be sure'; and he hurried off.

'Oh, Sir Richard, but no one has slept there these forty years. The air
has hardly been changed since Sir Matthew died there.'

Thus she spoke, and rustled after him.

'Come, open the door, Mrs Chiddock. I'll see the chamber, at least.'

So it was opened, and, indeed, the smell was very close and earthy. Sir
Richard crossed to the window, and, impatiently, as was his wont, threw
the shutters back, and flung open the casement. For this end of the house
was one which the alterations had barely touched, grown up as it was with
the great ash-tree, and being otherwise concealed from view.

'Air it, Mrs Chiddock, all today, and move my bed-furniture in in the
afternoon. Put the Bishop of Kilmore in my old room.'

'Pray, Sir Richard,' said a new voice, breaking in on this speech, 'might
I have the favour of a moment's interview?'

Sir Richard turned round and saw a man in black in the doorway, who

'I must ask your indulgence for this intrusion, Sir Richard. You will,
perhaps, hardly remember me. My name is William Crome, and my grandfather
was Vicar in your grandfather's time.'

'Well, sir,' said Sir Richard, 'the name of Crome is always a passport to
Castringham. I am glad to renew a friendship of two generations'
standing. In what can I serve you? for your hour of calling--and, if I do
not mistake you, your bearing--shows you to be in some haste.'

'That is no more than the truth, sir. I am riding from Norwich to Bury St
Edmunds with what haste I can make, and I have called in on my way to
leave with you some papers which we have but just come upon in looking
over what my grandfather left at his death. It is thought you may find
some matters of family interest in them.'

'You are mighty obliging, Mr Crome, and, if you will be so good as to
follow me to the parlour, and drink a glass of wine, we will take a first
look at these same papers together. And you, Mrs Chiddock, as I said, be
about airing this chamber.... Yes, it is here my grandfather died....
Yes, the tree, perhaps, does make the place a little dampish.... No; I do
not wish to listen to any more. Make no difficulties, I beg. You have
your orders--go. Will you follow me, sir?'

They went to the study. The packet which young Mr Crome had brought--he
was then just become a Fellow of Clare Hall in Cambridge, I may say, and
subsequently brought out a respectable edition of Polyaenus--contained
among other things the notes which the old Vicar had made upon the
occasion of Sir Matthew Fell's death. And for the first time Sir Richard
was confronted with the enigmatical _Sortes Biblicae_ which you have
heard. They amused him a good deal.

'Well,' he said, 'my grandfather's Bible gave one prudent piece of
advice--_Cut it down_. If that stands for the ash-tree, he may rest
assured I shall not neglect it. Such a nest of catarrhs and agues was
never seen.'

The parlour contained the family books, which, pending the arrival of a
collection which Sir Richard had made in Italy, and the building of a
proper room to receive them, were not many in number.

Sir Richard looked up from the paper to the bookcase.

'I wonder,' says he, 'whether the old prophet is there yet? I fancy I see

Crossing the room, he took out a dumpy Bible, which, sure enough, bore on
the flyleaf the inscription: 'To Matthew Fell, from his Loving Godmother,
Anne Aldous, 2 September 1659.'

'It would be no bad plan to test him again, Mr Crome. I will wager we get
a couple of names in the Chronicles. H'm! what have we here? "Thou shalt
seek me in the morning, and I shall not be." Well, well! Your grandfather
would have made a fine omen of that, hey? No more prophets for me! They
are all in a tale. And now, Mr Crome, I am infinitely obliged to you for
your packet. You will, I fear, be impatient to get on. Pray allow
me--another glass.'

So with offers of hospitality, which were genuinely meant (for Sir
Richard thought well of the young man's address and manner), they parted.

In the afternoon came the guests--the Bishop of Kilmore, Lady Mary
Hervey, Sir William Kentfield, etc. Dinner at five, wine, cards, supper,
and dispersal to bed.

Next morning Sir Richard is disinclined to take his gun with the rest. He
talks with the Bishop of Kilmore. This prelate, unlike a good many of the
Irish Bishops of his day, had visited his see, and, indeed, resided
there, for some considerable time. This morning, as the two were walking
along the terrace and talking over the alterations and improvements in
the house, the Bishop said, pointing to the window of the West Room:

'You could never get one of my Irish flock to occupy that room, Sir

'Why is that, my lord? It is, in fact, my own.'

'Well, our Irish peasantry will always have it that it brings the worst
of luck to sleep near an ash-tree, and you have a fine growth of ash not
two yards from your chamber window. Perhaps,' the Bishop went on, with a
smile, 'it has given you a touch of its quality already, for you do not
seem, if I may say it, so much the fresher for your night's rest as your
friends would like to see you.'

'That, or something else, it is true, cost me my sleep from twelve to
four, my lord. But the tree is to come down tomorrow, so I shall not hear
much more from it.'

'I applaud your determination. It can hardly be wholesome to have the air
you breathe strained, as it were, through all that leafage.'

'Your lordship is right there, I think. But I had not my window open last
night. It was rather the noise that went on--no doubt from the twigs
sweeping the glass--that kept me open-eyed.'

'I think that can hardly be, Sir Richard. Here--you see it from this
point. None of these nearest branches even can touch your casement unless
there were a gale, and there was none of that last night. They miss the
panes by a foot.'

'No, sir, true. What, then, will it be, I wonder, that scratched and
rustled so--ay, and covered the dust on my sill with lines and marks?'

At last they agreed that the rats must have come up through the ivy. That
was the Bishop's idea, and Sir Richard jumped at it.

So the day passed quietly, and night came, and the party dispersed to
their rooms, and wished Sir Richard a better night.

And now we are in his bedroom, with the light out and the Squire in bed.
The room is over the kitchen, and the night outside still and warm, so
the window stands open.

There is very little light about the bedstead, but there is a strange
movement there; it seems as if Sir Richard were moving his head rapidly
to and fro with only the slightest possible sound. And now you would
guess, so deceptive is the half-darkness, that he had several heads,
round and brownish, which move back and forward, even as low as his
chest. It is a horrible illusion. Is it nothing more? There! something
drops off the bed with a soft plump, like a kitten, and is out of the
window in a flash; another--four--and after that there is quiet again.

  _Thou shall seek me in the morning, and I shall not be._

As with Sir Matthew, so with Sir Richard--dead and black in his bed!

A pale and silent party of guests and servants gathered under the window
when the news was known. Italian poisoners, Popish emissaries, infected
air--all these and more guesses were hazarded, and the Bishop of Kilmore
looked at the tree, in the fork of whose lower boughs a white tom-cat was
crouching, looking down the hollow which years had gnawed in the trunk.
It was watching something inside the tree with great interest.

Suddenly it got up and craned over the hole. Then a bit of the edge on
which it stood gave way, and it went slithering in. Everyone looked up at
the noise of the fall.

It is known to most of us that a cat can cry; but few of us have heard, I
hope, such a yell as came out of the trunk of the great ash. Two or three
screams there were--the witnesses are not sure which--and then a slight
and muffled noise of some commotion or struggling was all that came. But
Lady Mary Hervey fainted outright, and the housekeeper stopped her ears
and fled till she fell on the terrace.

The Bishop of Kilmore and Sir William Kentfield stayed. Yet even they
were daunted, though it was only at the cry of a cat; and Sir William
swallowed once or twice before he could say:

'There is something more than we know of in that tree, my lord. I am for
an instant search.'

And this was agreed upon. A ladder was brought, and one of the gardeners
went up, and, looking down the hollow, could detect nothing but a few dim
indications of something moving. They got a lantern, and let it down by a

'We must get at the bottom of this. My life upon it, my lord, but the
secret of these terrible deaths is there.'

Up went the gardener again with the lantern, and let it down the hole
cautiously. They saw the yellow light upon his face as he bent over, and
saw his face struck with an incredulous terror and loathing before he
cried out in a dreadful voice and fell back from the ladder--where,
happily, he was caught by two of the men--letting the lantern fall inside
the tree.

He was in a dead faint, and it was some time before any word could be got
from him.

By then they had something else to look at. The lantern must have broken
at the bottom, and the light in it caught upon dry leaves and rubbish
that lay there for in a few minutes a dense smoke began to come up, and
then flame; and, to be short, the tree was in a blaze.

The bystanders made a ring at some yards' distance, and Sir William and
the Bishop sent men to get what weapons and tools they could; for,
clearly, whatever might be using the tree as its lair would be forced out
by the fire.

So it was. First, at the fork, they saw a round body covered with
fire--the size of a man's head--appear very suddenly, then seem to
collapse and fall back. This, five or six times; then a similar ball
leapt into the air and fell on the grass, where after a moment it lay
still. The Bishop went as near as he dared to it, and saw--what but the
remains of an enormous spider, veinous and seared! And, as the fire
burned lower down, more terrible bodies like this began to break out from
the trunk, and it was seen that these were covered with greyish hair.

All that day the ash burned, and until it fell to pieces the men stood
about it, and from time to time killed the brutes as they darted out. At
last there was a long interval when none appeared, and they cautiously
closed in and examined the roots of the tree.

'They found,' says the Bishop of Kilmore, 'below it a rounded hollow
place in the earth, wherein were two or three bodies of these creatures
that had plainly been smothered by the smoke; and, what is to me more
curious, at the side of this den, against the wall, was crouching the
anatomy or skeleton of a human being, with the skin dried upon the bones,
having some remains of black hair, which was pronounced by those that
examined it to be undoubtedly the body of a woman, and clearly dead for a
period of fifty years.'


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

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, 'I 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

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. Towards 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 great-coat, 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 towards 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-born 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
farthest 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 shirtsleeves 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 woken 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
judgement 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 time 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 might, 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

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

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 tonight. 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 whisky 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

  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

Just then came an impatient knock at the door, and the knocker entered,
without waiting to be asked. It was the lawyer, in _déshabille_ 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 anything 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

'Ah!' said Anderson. 'Nor tonight?'

'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 grey
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 loth 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 gentlemen would like
another room for tonight--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_

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning the same party reassembled 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
palaeographer) 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

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.


By what means the papers out of which I have made a connected story came
into my hands is the last point which the reader will learn from these
pages. But it is necessary to prefix to my extracts from them a statement
of the form in which I possess them.

They consist, then, partly of a series of collections for a book of
travels, such a volume as was a common product of the forties and
fifties. Horace Marryat's _Journal of a Residence in Jutland and the
Danish Isles_ is a fair specimen of the class to which I allude. These
books usually treated of some unknown district on the Continent. They
were illustrated with woodcuts or steel plates. They gave details of
hotel accommodation and of means of communication, such as we now expect
to find in any well-regulated guide-book, and they dealt largely in
reported conversations with intelligent foreigners, racy innkeepers, and
garrulous peasants. In a word, they were chatty.

Begun with the idea of furnishing material for such a book, my papers as
they progressed assumed the character of a record of one single personal
experience, and this record was continued up to the very eve, almost, of
its termination.

The writer was a Mr Wraxall. For my knowledge of him I have to depend
entirely on the evidence his writings afford, and from these I deduce
that he was a man past middle age, possessed of some private means, and
very much alone in the world. He had, it seems, no settled abode in
England, but was a denizen of hotels and boarding-houses. It is probable
that he entertained the idea of settling down at some future time which
never came; and I think it also likely that the Pantechnicon fire in the
early seventies must have destroyed a great deal that would have thrown
light on his antecedents, for he refers once or twice to property of his
that was warehoused at that establishment.

It is further apparent that Mr Wraxall had published a book, and that it
treated of a holiday he had once taken in Brittany. More than this I
cannot say about his work, because a diligent search in bibliographical
works has convinced me that it must have appeared either anonymously or
under a pseudonym.

As to his character, it is not difficult to form some superficial
opinion. He must have been an intelligent and cultivated man. It seems
that he was near being a Fellow of his college at Oxford--Brasenose, as I
judge from the Calendar. His besetting fault was pretty clearly that of
over-inquisitiveness, possibly a good fault in a traveller, certainly a
fault for which this traveller paid dearly enough in the end.

On what proved to be his last expedition, he was plotting another book.
Scandinavia, a region not widely known to Englishmen forty years ago, had
struck him as an interesting field. He must have alighted on some old
books of Swedish history or memoirs, and the idea had struck him that
there was room for a book descriptive of travel in Sweden, interspersed
with episodes from the history of some of the great Swedish families. He
procured letters of introduction, therefore, to some persons of quality
in Sweden, and set out thither in the early summer of 1863.

Of his travels in the North there is no need to speak, nor of his
residence of some weeks in Stockholm. I need only mention that some
_savant_ resident there put him on the track of an important collection
of family papers belonging to the proprietors of an ancient manor-house
in Vestergothland, and obtained for him permission to examine them.

The manor-house, or _herrgard_, in question is to be called Råbäck
(pronounced something like Roebeck), though that is not its name. It is
one of the best buildings of its kind in all the country, and the picture
of it in Dahlenberg's _Suecia antiqua et moderna_, engraved in 1694,
shows it very much as the tourist may see it today. It was built soon
after 1600, and is, roughly speaking, very much like an English house of
that period in respect of material--red-brick with stone facings--and
style. The man who built it was a scion of the great house of De la
Gardie, and his descendants possess it still. De la Gardie is the name by
which I will designate them when mention of them becomes necessary.

They received Mr Wraxall with great kindness and courtesy, and pressed
him to stay in the house as long as his researches lasted. But,
preferring to be independent, and mistrusting his powers of conversing in
Swedish, he settled himself at the village inn, which turned out quite
sufficiently comfortable, at any rate during the summer months. This
arrangement would entail a short walk daily to and from the manor-house
of something under a mile. The house itself stood in a park, and was
protected--we should say grown up--with large old timber. Near it you
found the walled garden, and then entered a close wood fringing one of
the small lakes with which the whole country is pitted. Then came the
wall of the demesne, and you climbed a steep knoll--a knob of rock
lightly covered with soil--and on the top of this stood the church,
fenced in with tall dark trees. It was a curious building to English
eyes. The nave and aisles were low, and filled with pews and galleries.
In the western gallery stood the handsome old organ, gaily painted, and
with silver pipes. The ceiling was flat, and had been adorned by a
seventeenth-century artist with a strange and hideous 'Last Judgement',
full of lurid flames, falling cities, burning ships, crying souls, and
brown and smiling demons. Handsome brass coronae hung from the roof; the
pulpit was like a doll's-house covered with little painted wooden cherubs
and saints; a stand with three hour-glasses was hinged to the preacher's
desk. Such sights as these may be seen in many a church in Sweden now,
but what distinguished this one was an addition to the original building.
At the eastern end of the north aisle the builder of the manor-house had
erected a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was a largish
eight-sided building, lighted by a series of oval windows, and it had a
domed roof, topped by a kind of pumpkin-shaped object rising into a
spire, a form in which Swedish architects greatly delighted. The roof was
of copper externally, and was painted black, while the walls, in common
with those of the church, were staringly white. To this mausoleum there
was no access from the church. It had a portal and steps of its own on
the northern side.

Past the churchyard the path to the village goes, and not more than three
or four minutes bring you to the inn door.

On the first day of his stay at Råbäck Mr Wraxall found the church door
open, and made these notes of the interior which I have epitomized. Into
the mausoleum, however, he could not make his way. He could by looking
through the keyhole just descry that there were fine marble effigies and
sarcophagi of copper, and a wealth of armorial ornament, which made him
very anxious to spend some time in investigation.

The papers he had come to examine at the manor-house proved to be of just
the kind he wanted for his book. There were family correspondence,
journals, and account-books of the earliest owners of the estate, very
carefully kept and clearly written, full of amusing and picturesque
detail. The first De la Gardie appeared in them as a strong and capable
man. Shortly after the building of the mansion there had been a period of
distress in the district, and the peasants had risen and attacked several
châteaux and done some damage. The owner of Råbäck took a leading part in
supressing trouble, and there was reference to executions of ring-leaders
and severe punishments inflicted with no sparing hand.

The portrait of this Magnus de la Gardie was one of the best in the
house, and Mr Wraxall studied it with no little interest after his day's
work. He gives no detailed description of it, but I gather that the face
impressed him rather by its power than by its beauty or goodness; in
fact, he writes that Count Magnus was an almost phenomenally ugly man.

On this day Mr Wraxall took his supper with the family, and walked back
in the late but still bright evening.

'I must remember,' he writes, 'to ask the sexton if he can let me into
the mausoleum at the church. He evidently has access to it himself, for I
saw him tonight standing on the steps, and, as I thought, locking or
unlocking the door.'

I find that early on the following day Mr Wraxall had some conversation
with his landlord. His setting it down at such length as he does
surprised me at first; but I soon realized that the papers I was reading
were, at least in their beginning, the materials for the book he was
meditating, and that it was to have been one of those quasi-journalistic
productions which admit of the introduction of an admixture of
conversational matter.

His object, he says, was to find out whether any traditions of Count
Magnus de la Gardie lingered on in the scenes of that gentleman's
activity, and whether the popular estimate of him were favourable or not.
He found that the Count was decidedly not a favourite. If his tenants
came late to their work on the days which they owed to him as Lord of the
Manor, they were set on the wooden horse, or flogged and branded in the
manor-house yard. One or two cases there were of men who had occupied
lands which encroached on the lord's domain, and whose houses had been
mysteriously burnt on a winter's night, with the whole family inside. But
what seemed to dwell on the innkeeper's mind most--for he returned to the
subject more than once--was that the Count had been on the Black
Pilgrimage, and had brought something or someone back with him.

You will naturally inquire, as Mr Wraxall did, what the Black Pilgrimage
may have been. But your curiosity on the point must remain unsatisfied
for the time being, just as his did. The landlord was evidently unwilling
to give a full answer, or indeed any answer, on the point, and, being
called out for a moment, trotted out with obvious alacrity, only putting
his head in at the door a few minutes afterwards to say that he was
called away to Skara, and should not be back till evening.

So Mr Wraxall had to go unsatisfied to his day's work at the manor-house.
The papers on which he was just then engaged soon put his thoughts into
another channel, for he had to occupy himself with glancing over the
correspondence between Sophia Albertina in Stockholm and her married
cousin Ulrica Leonora at Råbäck in the years 1705-10. The letters were of
exceptional interest from the light they threw upon the culture of that
period in Sweden, as anyone can testify who has read the full edition of
them in the publications of the Swedish Historical Manuscripts

In the afternoon he had done with these, and after returning the boxes in
which they were kept to their places on the shelf, he proceeded, very
naturally, to take down some of the volumes nearest to them, in order to
determine which of them had best be his principal subject of
investigation next day. The shelf he had hit upon was occupied mostly by
a collection of account-books in the writing of the first Count Magnus.
But one among them was not an account-book, but a book of alchemical and
other tracts in another sixteenth-century hand. Not being very familiar
with alchemical literature, Mr Wraxall spends much space which he might
have spared in setting out the names and beginnings of the various
treatises: The book of the Phoenix, book of the Thirty Words, book of the
Toad, book of Miriam, Turba philosophorum, and so forth; and then he
announces with a good deal of circumstance his delight at finding, on a
leaf originally left blank near the middle of the book, some writing of
Count Magnus himself headed 'Liber nigrae peregrinationis'. It is true
that only a few lines were written, but there was quite enough to show
that the landlord had that morning been referring to a belief at least as
old as the time of Count Magnus, and probably shared by him. This is the
English of what was written:

'If any man desires to obtain a long life, if he would obtain a faithful
messenger and see the blood of his enemies, it is necessary that he
should first go into the city of Chorazin, and there salute the
prince....' Here there was an erasure of one word, not very thoroughly
done, so that Mr Wraxall felt pretty sure that he was right in reading it
as _aeris_ ('of the air'). But there was no more of the text copied, only
a line in Latin: _Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora_. (See
the rest of this matter among the more private things.)

It could not be denied that this threw a rather lurid light upon the
tastes and beliefs of the Count; but to Mr Wraxall, separated from him by
nearly three centuries, the thought that he might have added to his
general forcefulness alchemy, and to alchemy something like magic, only
made him a more picturesque figure, and when, after a rather prolonged
contemplation of his picture in the hall, Mr Wraxall set out on his
homeward way, his mind was full of the thought of Count Magnus. He had no
eyes for his surroundings, no perception of the evening scents of the
woods or the evening light on the lake; and when all of a sudden he
pulled up short, he was astonished to find himself already at the gate of
the churchyard, and within a few minutes of his dinner. His eyes fell on
the mausoleum.

'Ah,' he said, 'Count Magnus, there you are. I should dearly like to see

'Like many solitary men,' he writes, 'I have a habit of talking to myself
aloud; and, unlike some of the Greek and Latin particles, I do not expect
an answer. Certainly, and perhaps fortunately in this case, there was
neither voice nor any that regarded: only the woman who, I suppose, was
cleaning up the church, dropped some metallic object on the floor, whose
clang startled me. Count Magnus, I think, sleeps sound enough.'

That same evening the landlord of the inn, who had heard Mr Wraxall say
that he wished to see the clerk or deacon (as he would be called in
Sweden) of the parish, introduced him to that official in the inn
parlour. A visit to the De la Gardie tomb-house was soon arranged for the
next day, and a little general conversation ensued.

Mr Wraxall, remembering that one function of Scandinavian deacons is to
teach candidates for Confirmation, thought he would refresh his own
memory on a Biblical point.

'Can you tell me,' he said, 'anything about Chorazin?'

The deacon seemed startled, but readily reminded him how that village had
once been denounced.

'To be sure,' said Mr Wraxall; 'it is, I suppose, quite a ruin now?'

'So I expect,' replied the deacon. 'I have heard some of our old priests
say that Antichrist is to be born there; and there are tales--'

'Ah! what tales are those?' Mr Wraxall put in.

'Tales, I was going to say, which I have forgotten,' said the deacon; and
soon after that he said good night.

The landlord was now alone, and at Mr Wraxall's mercy; and that inquirer
was not inclined to spare him.

'Herr Nielsen,' he said, 'I have found out something about the Black
Pilgrimage. You may as well tell me what you know. What did the Count
bring back with him?'

Swedes are habitually slow, perhaps, in answering, or perhaps the
landlord was an exception. I am not sure; but Mr Wraxall notes that the
landlord spent at least one minute in looking at him before he said
anything at all. Then he came close up to his guest, and with a good deal
of effort he spoke:

'Mr Wraxall, I can tell you this one little tale, and no more--not any
more. You must not ask anything when I have done. In my grandfather's
time--that is, ninety-two years ago--there were two men who said: "The
Count is dead; we do not care for him. We will go tonight and have a free
hunt in his wood"--the long wood on the hill that you have seen behind
Råbäck. Well, those that heard them say this, they said: "No, do not go;
we are sure you will meet with persons walking who should not be walking.
They should be resting, not walking." These men laughed. There were no
forestmen to keep the wood, because no one wished to live there. The
family were not here at the house. These men could do what they wished.

'Very well, they go to the wood that night. My grandfather was sitting
here in this room. It was the summer, and a light night. With the window
open, he could see out to the wood, and hear.

'So he sat there, and two or three men with him, and they listened. At
first they hear nothing at all; then they hear someone--you know how far
away it is--they hear someone scream, just as if the most inside part of
his soul was twisted out of him. All of them in the room caught hold of
each other, and they sat so for three-quarters of an hour. Then they hear
someone else, only about three hundred ells off. They hear him laugh out
loud: it was not one of those two men that laughed, and, indeed, they
have all of them said that it was not any man at all. After that they
hear a great door shut.

'Then, when it was just light with the sun, they all went to the priest.
They said to him:

'"Father, put on your gown and your ruff, and come to bury these men,
Anders Bjornsen and Hans Thorbjorn."

'You understand that they were sure these men were dead. So they went to
the wood--my grandfather never forgot this. He said they were all like so
many dead men themselves. The priest, too, he was in a white fear. He
said when they came to him:

'"I heard one cry in the night, and I heard one laugh afterwards. If I
cannot forget that, I shall not be able to sleep again."

'So they went to the wood, and they found these men on the edge of the
wood. Hans Thorbjorn was standing with his back against a tree, and all
the time he was pushing with his hands--pushing something away from him
which was not there. So he was not dead. And they led him away, and took
him to the house at Nykjoping, and he died before the winter; but he went
on pushing with his hands. Also Anders Bjornsen was there; but he was
dead. And I tell you this about Anders Bjornsen, that he was once a
beautiful man, but now his face was not there, because the flesh of it
was sucked away off the bones. You understand that? My grandfather did
not forget that. And they laid him on the bier which they brought, and
they put a cloth over his head, and the priest walked before; and they
began to sing the psalm for the dead as well as they could. So, as they
were singing the end of the first verse, one fell down, who was carrying
the head of the bier, and the others looked back, and they saw that the
cloth had fallen off, and the eyes of Anders Bjornsen were looking up,
because there was nothing to close over them. And this they could not
bear. Therefore the priest laid the cloth upon him, and sent for a spade,
and they buried him in that place.'

The next day Mr Wraxall records that the deacon called for him soon after
his breakfast, and took him to the church and mausoleum. He noticed that
the key of the latter was hung on a nail just by the pulpit, and it
occurred to him that, as the church door seemed to be left unlocked as a
rule, it would not be difficult for him to pay a second and more private
visit to the monuments if there proved to be more of interest among them
than could be digested at first. The building, when he entered it, he
found not unimposing. The monuments, mostly large erections of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were dignified if luxuriant, and
the epitaphs and heraldry were copious. The central space of the domed
room was occupied by three copper sarcophagi, covered with
finely-engraved ornament. Two of them had, as is commonly the case in
Denmark and Sweden, a large metal crucifix on the lid. The third, that of
Count Magnus, as it appeared, had, instead of that, a full-length effigy
engraved upon it, and round the edge were several bands of similar
ornament representing various scenes. One was a battle, with cannon
belching out smoke, and walled towns, and troops of pikemen. Another
showed an execution. In a third, among trees, was a man running at full
speed, with flying hair and outstretched hands. After him followed a
strange form; it would be hard to say whether the artist had intended it
for a man, and was unable to give the requisite similitude, or whether it
was intentionally made as monstrous as it looked. In view of the skill
with which the rest of the drawing was done, Mr Wraxall felt inclined to
adopt the latter idea. The figure was unduly short, and was for the most
part muffled in a hooded garment which swept the ground. The only part of
the form which projected from that shelter was not shaped like any hand
or arm. Mr Wraxall compares it to the tentacle of a devil-fish, and
continues: 'On seeing this, I said to myself, "This, then, which is
evidently an allegorical representation of some kind--a fiend pursuing a
hunted soul--may be the origin of the story of Count Magnus and his
mysterious companion. Let us see how the huntsman is pictured: doubtless
it will be a demon blowing his horn.'" But, as it turned out, there was
no such sensational figure, only the semblance of a cloaked man on a
hillock, who stood leaning on a stick, and watching the hunt with an
interest which the engraver had tried to express in his attitude.

Mr Wraxall noted the finely-worked and massive steel padlocks--three in
number--which secured the sarcophagus. One of them, he saw, was detached,
and lay on the pavement. And then, unwilling to delay the deacon longer
or to waste his own working-time, he made his way onward to the

'It is curious,' he notes, 'how, on retracing a familiar path, one's
thoughts engross one to the absolute exclusion of surrounding objects.
Tonight, for the second time, I had entirely failed to notice where I was
going (I had planned a private visit to the tomb-house to copy the
epitaphs), when I suddenly, as it were, awoke to consciousness, and found
myself (as before) turning in at the churchyard gate, and, I believe,
singing or chanting some such words as, "Are you awake, Count Magnus? Are
you asleep, Count Magnus?" and then something more which I have failed to
recollect. It seemed to me that I must have been behaving in this
nonsensical way for some time.'

He found the key of the mausoleum where he had expected to find it, and
copied the greater part of what he wanted; in fact, he stayed until the
light began to fail him.

'I must have been wrong,' he writes, 'in saying that one of the padlocks
of my Counts sarcophagus was unfastened; I see tonight that two are
loose. I picked both up, and laid them carefully on the window-ledge,
after trying unsuccessfully to close them. The remaining one is still
firm, and, though I take it to be a spring lock, I cannot guess how it is
opened. Had I succeeded in undoing it, I am almost afraid I should have
taken the liberty of opening the sarcophagus. It is strange, the interest
I feel in the personality of this, I fear, somewhat ferocious and grim
old noble.'

The day following was, as it turned out, the last of Mr Wraxall's stay at
Råbäck. He received letters connected with certain investments which made
it desirable that he should return to England; his work among the papers
was practically done, and travelling was slow. He decided, therefore, to
make his farewells, put some finishing touches to his notes, and be off.

These finishing touches and farewells, as it turned out, took more time
than he had expected. The hospitable family insisted on his staying to
dine with them--they dined at three--and it was verging on half past six
before he was outside the iron gates of Råbäck. He dwelt on every step of
his walk by the lake, determined to saturate himself, now that he trod it
for the last time, in the sentiment of the place and hour. And when he
reached the summit of the churchyard knoll, he lingered for many minutes,
gazing at the limitless prospect of woods near and distant, all dark
beneath a sky of liquid green. When at last he turned to go, the thought
struck him that surely he must bid farewell to Count Magnus as well as
the rest of the De la Gardies. The church was but twenty yards away, and
he knew where the key of the mausoleum hung. It was not long before he
was standing over the great copper coffin, and, as usual, talking to
himself aloud: 'You may have been a bit of a rascal in your time,
Magnus,' he was saying, 'but for all that I should like to see you, or,

'Just at that instant,' he says, 'I felt a blow on my foot. Hastily
enough I drew it back, and something fell on the pavement with a clash.
It was the third, the last of the three padlocks which had fastened the
sarcophagus. I stooped to pick it up, and--Heaven is my witness that I am
writing only the bare truth--before I had raised myself there was a sound
of metal hinges creaking, and I distinctly saw the lid shifting upwards.
I may have behaved like a coward, but I could not for my life stay for
one moment. I was outside that dreadful building in less time than I can
write--almost as quickly as I could have said--the words; and what
frightens me yet more, I could not turn the key in the lock. As I sit
here in my room noting these facts, I ask myself (it was not twenty
minutes ago) whether that noise of creaking metal continued, and I cannot
tell whether it did or not. I only know that there was something more
than I have written that alarmed me, but whether it was sound or sight I
am not able to remember. What is this that I have done?'

       *       *       *       *       *

Poor Mr Wraxall! He set out on his journey to England on the next day, as
he had planned, and he reached England in safety; and yet, as I gather
from his changed hand and inconsequent jottings, a broken man. One of the
several small note-books that have come to me with his papers gives, not
a key to, but a kind of inkling of, his experiences. Much of his journey
was made by canal-boat, and I find not less than six painful attempts to
enumerate and describe his fellow-passengers. The entries are of this

    24. Pastor of village in Skane. Usual black coat and soft black hat.

    25. Commercial traveller from Stockholm going to Trollhättan. Black
    cloak, brown hat.

    26. Man in long black cloak, broad-leafed hat, very old-fashioned.

This entry is lined out, and a note added: 'Perhaps identical with No.
13. Have not yet seen his face.' On referring to No. 13, I find that he
is a Roman priest in a cassock.

The net result of the reckoning is always the same. Twenty-eight people
appear in the enumeration, one being always a man in a long black cloak
and broad hat, and another a 'short figure in dark cloak and hood'. On
the other hand, it is always noted that only twenty-six passengers appear
at meals, and that the man in the cloak is perhaps absent, and the short
figure is certainly absent.

On reaching England, it appears that Mr Wraxall landed at Harwich, and
that he resolved at once to put himself out of the reach of some person
or persons whom he never specifies, but whom he had evidently come to
regard as his pursuers. Accordingly he took a vehicle--it was a closed
fly--not trusting the railway and drove across country to the village of
Belchamp St Paul. It was about nine o'clock on a moonlight August night
when he neared the place. He was sitting forward, and looking out of the
window at the fields and thickets--there was little else to be
seen--racing past him. Suddenly he came to a cross-road. At the corner
two figures were standing motionless; both were in dark cloaks; the
taller one wore a hat, the shorter a hood. He had no time to see their
faces, nor did they make any motion that he could discern. Yet the horse
shied violently and broke into a gallop, and Mr Wraxall sank back into
his seat in something like desperation. He had seen them before.

Arrived at Belchamp St Paul, he was fortunate enough to find a decent
furnished lodging, and for the next twenty-four hours he lived,
comparatively speaking, in peace. His last notes were written on this
day. They are too disjointed and ejaculatory to be given here in full,
but the substance of them is clear enough. He is expecting a visit from
his pursuers--how or when he knows not--and his constant cry is 'What has
he done?' and 'Is there no hope?' Doctors, he knows, would call him mad,
policemen would laugh at him. The parson is away. What can he do but lock
his door and cry to God?

People still remember last year at Belchamp St Paul how a strange
gentleman came one evening in August years back; and how the next morning
but one he was found dead, and there was an inquest; and the jury that
viewed the body fainted, seven of 'em did, and none of 'em wouldn't speak
to what they see, and the verdict was visitation of God; and how the
people as kep' the 'ouse moved out that same week, and went away from
that part. But they do not, I think, know that any glimmer of light has
ever been thrown, or could be thrown, on the mystery. It so happened that
last year the little house came into my hands as part of a legacy. It had
stood empty since 1863, and there seemed no prospect of letting it; so I
had it pulled down, and the papers of which I have given you an abstract
were found in a forgotten cupboard under the window in the best bedroom.


'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Full Term is over,
Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of
Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in
the hospitable hall of St James's College.

The Professor was young, neat, and precise in speech.

'Yes,' he said; 'my friends have been making me take up golf this term,
and I mean to go to the East Coast--in point of fact to Burnstow--(I dare
say you know it) for a week or ten days, to improve my game. I hope to
get off tomorrow.'

'Oh, Parkins,' said his neighbour on the other side, 'if you are going to
Burnstow, I wish you would look at the site of the Templars' preceptory,
and let me know if you think it would be any good to have a dig there in
the summer.'

It was, as you might suppose, a person of antiquarian pursuits who said
this, but, since he merely appears in this prologue, there is no need to
give his entitlements.

'Certainly,' said Parkins, the Professor: 'if you will describe to me
whereabouts the site is, I will do my best to give you an idea of the lie
of the land when I get back; or I could write to you about it, if you
would tell me where you are likely to be.'

'Don't trouble to do that, thanks. It's only that I'm thinking of taking
my family in that direction in the Long, and it occurred to me that, as
very few of the English preceptories have ever been properly planned, I
might have an opportunity of doing something useful on off-days.'

The Professor rather sniffed at the idea that planning out a preceptory
could be described as useful. His neighbour continued:

'The site--I doubt if there is anything showing above ground--must be
down quite close to the beach now. The sea has encroached tremendously,
as you know, all along that bit of coast. I should think, from the map,
that it must be about three-quarters of a mile from the Globe Inn, at the
north end of the town. Where are you going to stay?'

'Well, _at_ the Globe Inn, as a matter of fact,' said Parkins; 'I have
engaged a room there. I couldn't get in anywhere else; most of the
lodging-houses are shut up in winter, it seems; and, as it is, they tell
me that the only room of any size I can have is really a double-bedded
one, and that they haven't a corner in which to store the other bed, and
so on. But I must have a fairly large room, for I am taking some books
down, and mean to do a bit of work; and though I don't quite fancy having
an empty bed--not to speak of two--in what I may call for the time being
my study, I suppose I can manage to rough it for the short time I shall
be there.'

'Do you call having an extra bed in your room roughing it, Parkins?' said
a bluff person opposite. 'Look here, I shall come down and occupy it for
a bit; it'll be company for you.'

The Professor quivered, but managed to laugh in a courteous manner.

'By all means, Rogers; there's nothing I should like better. But I'm
afraid you would find it rather dull; you don't play golf, do you?'

'No, thank Heaven!' said rude Mr Rogers.

'Well, you see, when I'm not writing I shall most likely be out on the
links, and that, as I say, would be rather dull for you, I'm afraid.'

'Oh, I don't know! There's certain to be somebody I know in the place;
but, of course, if you don't want me, speak the word, Parkins; I shan't
be offended. Truth, as you always tell us, is never offensive.'

Parkins was, indeed, scrupulously polite and strictly truthful. It is to
be feared that Mr Rogers sometimes practised upon his knowledge of these
characteristics. In Parkins's breast there was a conflict now raging,
which for a moment or two did not allow him to answer. That interval
being over, he said:

'Well, if you want the exact truth, Rogers, I was considering whether the
room I speak of would really be large enough to accommodate us both
comfortably; and also whether (mind, I shouldn't have said this if you
hadn't pressed me) you would not constitute something in the nature of a
hindrance to my work.'

Rogers laughed loudly.

'Well done, Parkins!' he said. 'It's all right. I promise not to
interrupt your work; don't you disturb yourself about that. No, I won't
come if you don't want me; but I thought I should do so nicely to keep
the ghosts off.' Here he might have been seen to wink and to nudge his
next neighbour. Parkins might also have been seen to become pink. 'I beg
pardon, Parkins,' Rogers continued; 'I oughtn't to have said that. I
forgot you didn't like levity on these topics.'

'Well,' Parkins said, 'as you have mentioned the matter, I freely own
that I do _not_ like careless talk about what you call ghosts. A man in
my position,' he went on, raising his voice a little, 'cannot, I find, be
too careful about appearing to sanction the current beliefs on such
subjects. As you know, Rogers, or as you ought to know; for I think I
have never concealed my views--'

'No, you certainly have not, old man,' put in Rogers _sotto voce._

'--I hold that any semblance, any appearance of concession to the view
that such things might exist is equivalent to a renunciation of all that
I hold most sacred. But I'm afraid I have not succeeded in securing your

'Your _undivided_ attention, was what Dr Blimber actually _said_,'[4]
Rogers interrupted, with every appearance of an earnest desire for
accuracy. 'But I beg your pardon, Parkins: I'm stopping you.'

    [4] Mr Rogers was wrong, _vide Dombey and Son_, chapter xii.

'No, not at all,' said Parkins. 'I don't remember Blimber; perhaps he was
before my time. But I needn't go on. I'm sure you know what I mean.'

'Yes, yes,' said Rogers, rather hastily--'just so. We'll go into it fully
at Burnstow, or somewhere.'

In repeating the above dialogue I have tried to give the impression which
it made on me, that Parkins was something of an old woman--rather
henlike, perhaps, in his little ways; totally destitute, alas! of the
sense of humour, but at the same time dauntless and sincere in his
convictions, and a man deserving of the greatest respect. Whether or not
the reader has gathered so much, that was the character which Parkins

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following day Parkins did, as he had hoped, succeed in getting
away from his college, and in arriving at Burnstow. He was made welcome
at the Globe Inn, was safely installed in the large double-bedded room of
which we have heard, and was able before retiring to rest to arrange his
materials for work in apple-pie order upon a commodious table which
occupied the outer end of the room, and was surrounded on three sides by
windows looking out seaward; that is to say, the central window looked
straight out to sea, and those on the left and right commanded prospects
along the shore to the north and south respectively. On the south you saw
the village of Burnstow. On the north no houses were to be seen, but only
the beach and the low cliff backing it. Immediately in front was a
strip--not considerable--of rough grass, dotted with old anchors,
capstans, and so forth; then a broad path; then the beach. Whatever may
have been the original distance between the Globe Inn and the sea, not
more than sixty yards now separated them.

The rest of the population of the inn was, of course, a golfing one, and
included few elements that call for a special description. The most
conspicuous figure was, perhaps, that of an _ancien militaire_, secretary
of a London club, and possessed of a voice of incredible strength, and of
views of a pronouncedly Protestant type. These were apt to find utterance
after his attendance upon the ministrations of the Vicar, an estimable
man with inclinations towards a picturesque ritual, which he gallantly
kept down as far as he could out of deference to East Anglian tradition.

Professor Parkins, one of whose principal characteristics was pluck,
spent the greater part of the day following his arrival at Burnstow in
what he had called improving his game, in company with this Colonel
Wilson: and during the afternoon--whether the process of improvement were
to blame or not, I am not sure--the Colonel's demeanour assumed a
colouring so lurid that even Parkins jibbed at the thought of walking
home with him from the links. He determined, after a short and furtive
look at that bristling moustache and those incarnadined features, that it
would be wiser to allow the influences of tea and tobacco to do what they
could with the Colonel before the dinner-hour should render a meeting

'I might walk home tonight along the beach,' he reflected--'yes, and take
a look--there will be light enough for that--at the ruins of which Disney
was talking. I don't exactly know where they are, by the way; but I
expect I can hardly help stumbling on them.'

This he accomplished, I may say, in the most literal sense, for in
picking his way from the links to the shingle beach his foot caught,
partly in a gorse-root and partly in a biggish stone, and over he went.
When he got up and surveyed his surroundings, he found himself in a patch
of somewhat broken ground covered with small depressions and mounds.
These latter, when he came to examine them, proved to be simply masses of
flints embedded in mortar and grown over with turf. He must, he quite
rightly concluded, be on the site of the preceptory he had promised to
look at. It seemed not unlikely to reward the spade of the explorer;
enough of the foundations was probably left at no great depth to throw a
good deal of light on the general plan. He remembered vaguely that the
Templars, to whom this site had belonged, were in the habit of building
round churches, and he thought a particular series of the humps or mounds
near him did appear to be arranged in something of a circular form. Few
people can resist the temptation to try a little amateur research in a
department quite outside their own, if only for the satisfaction of
showing how successful they would have been had they only taken it up
seriously. Our Professor, however, if he felt something of this mean
desire, was also truly anxious to oblige Mr Disney. So he paced with care
the circular area he had noticed, and wrote down its rough dimensions in
his pocket-book. Then he proceeded to examine an oblong eminence which
lay east of the centre of the circle, and seemed to his thinking likely
to be the base of a platform or altar. At one end of it, the northern, a
patch of the turf was gone--removed by some boy or other creature _ferae
naturae_. It might, he thought, be as well to probe the soil here for
evidences of masonry, and he took out his knife and began scraping away
the earth. And now followed another little discovery: a portion of soil
fell inward as he scraped, and disclosed a small cavity. He lighted one
match after another to help him to see of what nature the hole was, but
the wind was too strong for them all. By tapping and scratching the sides
with his knife, however, he was able to make out that it must be an
artificial hole in masonry. It was rectangular, and the sides, top, and
bottom, if not actually plastered, were smooth and regular. Of course it
was empty. No! As he withdrew the knife he heard a metallic clink, and
when he introduced his hand it met with a cylindrical object lying on the
floor of the hole. Naturally enough, he picked it up, and when he brought
it into the light, now fast fading, he could see that it, too, was of
man's making--a metal tube about four inches long, and evidently of some
considerable age.

By the time Parkins had made sure that there was nothing else in this odd
receptacle, it was too late and too dark for him to think of undertaking
any further search. What he had done had proved so unexpectedly
interesting that he determined to sacrifice a little more of the daylight
on the morrow to archaeology. The object which he now had safe in his
pocket was bound to be of some slight value at least, he felt sure.

Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before
starting homeward. A faint yellow light in the west showed the links, on
which a few figures moving towards the club-house were still visible, the
squat martello tower, the lights of Aldsey village, the pale ribbon of
sands intersected at intervals by black wooden groynings, the dim and
murmuring sea. The wind was bitter from the north, but was at his back
when he set out for the Globe. He quickly rattled and clashed through the
shingle and gained the sand, upon which, but for the groynings which had
to be got over every few yards, the going was both good and quiet. One
last look behind, to measure the distance he had made since leaving the
ruined Templars' church, showed him a prospect of company on his walk, in
the shape of a rather indistinct personage, who seemed to be making great
efforts to catch up with him, but made little, if any, progress. I mean
that there was an appearance of running about his movements, but that the
distance between him and Parkins did not seem materially to lessen. So,
at least, Parkins thought, and decided that he almost certainly did not
know him, and that it would be absurd to wait until he came up. For all
that, company, he began to think, would really be very welcome on that
lonely shore, if only you could choose your companion. In his
unenlightened days he had read of meetings in such places which even now
would hardly bear thinking of. He went on thinking of them, however,
until he reached home, and particularly of one which catches most
people's fancy at some time of their childhood. 'Now I saw in my dream
that Christian had gone but a very little way when he saw a foul fiend
coming over the field to meet him.' 'What should I do now,' he thought,
'if I looked back and caught sight of a black figure sharply defined
against the yellow sky, and saw that it had horns and wings? I wonder
whether I should stand or run for it. Luckily, the gentleman behind is
not of that kind, and he seems to be about as far off now as when I saw
him first. Well, at this rate, he won't get his dinner as soon as I
shall; and, dear me! it's within a quarter of an hour of the time now. I
must run!'

Parkins had, in fact, very little time for dressing. When he met the
Colonel at dinner, Peace--or as much of her as that gentleman could
manage--reigned once more in the military bosom; nor was she put to
flight in the hours of bridge that followed dinner, for Parkins was a
more than respectable player. When, therefore, he retired towards twelve
o'clock, he felt that he had spent his evening in quite a satisfactory
way, and that, even for so long as a fortnight or three weeks, life at
the Globe would be supportable under similar conditions--'especially,'
thought he, 'if I go on improving my game.'

As he went along the passages he met the boots of the Globe, who stopped
and said:

'Beg your pardon, sir, but as I was abrushing your coat just now there
was something fell out of the pocket. I put it on your chest of drawers,
sir, in your room, sir--a piece of a pipe or somethink of that, sir.
Thank you, sir. You'll find it on your chest of drawers, sir--yes, sir.
Good night, sir.'

The speech served to remind Parkins of his little discovery of that
afternoon. It was with some considerable curiosity that he turned it over
by the light of his candles. It was of bronze, he now saw, and was shaped
very much after the manner of the modern dog-whistle; in fact it
was--yes, certainly it was--actually no more nor less than a whistle. He
put it to his lips, but it was quite full of a fine, caked-up sand or
earth, which would not yield to knocking, but must be loosened with a
knife. Tidy as ever in his habits, Parkins cleared out the earth on to a
piece of paper, and took the latter to the window to empty it out. The
night was clear and bright, as he saw when he had opened the casement,
and he stopped for an instant to look at the sea and note a belated
wanderer stationed on the shore in front of the inn. Then he shut the
window, a little surprised at the late hours people kept at Burnstow, and
took his whistle to the light again. Why, surely there were marks on it,
and not merely marks, but letters! A very little rubbing rendered the
deeply-cut inscription quite legible, but the Professor had to confess,
after some earnest thought, that the meaning of it was as obscure to him
as the writing on the wall to Belshazzar. There were legends both on the
front and on the back of the whistle. The one read thus:

    FUR         BIS

The other:


'I ought to be able to make it out,' he thought; 'but I suppose I am a
little rusty in my Latin. When I come to think of it, I don't believe I
even know the word for a whistle. The long one does seem simple enough.
It ought to mean: "Who is this who is coming?" Well, the best way to find
out is evidently to whistle for him.'

He blew tentatively and stopped suddenly, startled and yet pleased at the
note he had elicited. It had a quality of infinite distance in it, and,
soft as it was, he somehow felt it must be audible for miles round. It
was a sound, too, that seemed to have the power (which many scents
possess) of forming pictures in the brain. He saw quite clearly for a
moment a vision of a wide, dark expanse at night, with a fresh wind
blowing, and in the midst a lonely figure--how employed, he could not
tell. Perhaps he would have seen more had not the picture been broken by
the sudden surge of a gust of wind against his casement, so sudden that
it made him look up, just in time to see the white glint of a seabird's
wing somewhere outside the dark panes.

The sound of the whistle had so fascinated him that he could not help
trying it once more, this time more boldly. The note was little, if at
all, louder than before, and repetition broke the illusion--no picture
followed, as he had half hoped it might. "But what is this? Goodness!
what force the wind can get up in a few minutes! What a tremendous gust!
There! I knew that window-fastening was no use! Ah! I thought so--both
candles out. It is enough to tear the room to pieces."

The first thing was to get the window shut. While you might count twenty
Parkins was struggling with the small casement, and felt almost as if he
were pushing back a sturdy burglar, so strong was the pressure. It
slackened all at once, and the window banged to and latched itself. Now
to relight the candles and see what damage, if any, had been done. No,
nothing seemed amiss; no glass even was broken in the casement. But the
noise had evidently roused at least one member of the household: the
Colonel was to be heard stumping in his stockinged feet on the floor
above, and growling. Quickly as it had risen, the wind did not fall at
once. On it went, moaning and rushing past the house, at times rising to
a cry so desolate that, as Parkins disinterestedly said, it might have
made fanciful people feel quite uncomfortable; even the unimaginative, he
thought after a quarter of an hour, might be happier without it.

Whether it was the wind, or the excitement of golf, or of the researches
in the preceptory that kept Parkins awake, he was not sure. Awake he
remained, in any case, long enough to fancy (as I am afraid I often do
myself under such conditions) that he was the victim of all manner of
fatal disorders: he would lie counting the beats of his heart, convinced
that it was going to stop work every moment, and would entertain grave
suspicions of his lungs, brain, liver, etc.--suspicions which he was sure
would be dispelled by the return of daylight, but which until then
refused to be put aside. He found a little vicarious comfort in the idea
that someone else was in the same boat. A near neighbour (in the darkness
it was not easy to tell his direction) was tossing and rustling in his
bed, too.

The next stage was that Parkins shut his eyes and determined to give
sleep every chance. Here again over-excitement asserted itself in another
form--that of making pictures. _Experto crede_, pictures do come to the
closed eyes of one trying to sleep, and are often so little to his taste
that he must open his eyes and disperse them.

Parkins's experience on this occasion was a very distressing one. He
found that the picture which presented itself to him was continuous. When
he opened his eyes, of course, it went; but when he shut them once more
it framed itself afresh, and acted itself out again, neither quicker nor
slower than before. What he saw was this:

A long stretch of shore--shingle edged by sand, and intersected at short
intervals with black groynes running down to the water--a scene, in fact,
so like that of his afternoon's walk that, in the absence of any
landmark, it could not be distinguished therefrom. The light was obscure,
conveying an impression of gathering storm, late winter evening, and
slight cold rain. On this bleak stage at first no actor was visible.
Then, in the distance, a bobbing black object appeared; a moment more,
and it was a man running, jumping, clambering over the groynes, and every
few seconds looking eagerly back. The nearer he came the more obvious it
was that he was not only anxious, but even terribly frightened, though
his face was not to be distinguished. He was, moreover, almost at the end
of his strength. On he came; each successive obstacle seemed to cause him
more difficulty than the last. 'Will he get over this next one?' thought
Parkins; 'it seems a little higher than the others.' Yes; half climbing,
half throwing himself, he did get over, and fell all in a heap on the
other side (the side nearest to the spectator). There, as if really
unable to get up again, he remained crouching under the groyne, looking
up in an attitude of painful anxiety.

So far no cause whatever for the fear of the runner had been shown; but
now there began to be seen, far up the shore, a little flicker of
something light-coloured moving to and fro with great swiftness and
irregularity. Rapidly growing larger, it, too, declared itself as a
figure in pale, fluttering draperies, ill-defined. There was something
about its motion which made Parkins very unwilling to see it at close
quarters. It would stop, raise arms, bow itself towards the sand, then
run stooping across the beach to the water-edge and back again; and then,
rising upright, once more continue its course forward at a speed that was
startling and terrifying. The moment came when the pursuer was hovering
about from left to right only a few yards beyond the groyne where the
runner lay in hiding. After two or three ineffectual castings hither and
thither it came to a stop, stood upright, with arms raised high, and then
darted straight forward towards the groyne.

It was at this point that Parkins always failed in his resolution to keep
his eyes shut. With many misgivings as to incipient failure of eyesight,
overworked brain, excessive smoking, and so on, he finally resigned
himself to light his candle, get out a book, and pass the night waking,
rather than be tormented by this persistent panorama, which he saw
clearly enough could only be a morbid reflection of his walk and his
thoughts on that very day.

The scraping of match on box and the glare of light must have startled
some creatures of the night--rats or what not--which he heard scurry
across the floor from the side of his bed with much rustling. Dear, dear!
the match is out! Fool that it is! But the second one burnt better, and a
candle and book were duly procured, over which Parkins pored till sleep
of a wholesome kind came upon him, and that in no long space. For about
the first time in his orderly and prudent life he forgot to blow out the
candle, and when he was called next morning at eight there was still a
flicker in the socket and a sad mess of guttered grease on the top of the
little table.

After breakfast he was in his room, putting the finishing touches to his
golfing costume--fortune had again allotted the Colonel to him for a
partner--when one of the maids came in.

'Oh, if you please,' she said, 'would you like any extra blankets on your
bed, sir?'

'Ah! thank you,' said Parkins. 'Yes, I think I should like one. It seems
likely to turn rather colder.'

In a very short time the maid was back with the blanket.

'Which bed should I put it on, sir?' she asked.

'What? Why, that one--the one I slept in last night,' he said, pointing
to it.

'Oh yes! I beg your pardon, sir, but you seemed to have tried both of
'em; leastways, we had to make 'em both up this morning.'

'Really? How very absurd!' said Parkins. 'I certainly never touched the
other, except to lay some things on it. Did it actually seem to have been
slept in?'

'Oh yes, sir!' said the maid. 'Why, all the things was crumpled and
throwed about all ways, if you'll excuse me, sir--quite as if anyone
'adn't passed but a very poor night, sir.'

'Dear me,' said Parkins. 'Well, I may have disordered it more than I
thought when I unpacked my things. I'm very sorry to have given you the
extra trouble, I'm sure. I expect a friend of mine soon, by the way--a
gentleman from Cambridge--to come and occupy it for a night or two. That
will be all right, I suppose, won't it?'

'Oh yes, to be sure, sir. Thank you, sir. It's no trouble, I'm sure,'
said the maid, and departed to giggle with her colleagues.

Parkins set forth, with a stern determination to improve his game.

I am glad to be able to report that he succeeded so far in this
enterprise that the Colonel, who had been rather repining at the prospect
of a second day's play in his company, became quite chatty as the morning
advanced; and his voice boomed out over the flats, as certain also of our
own minor poets have said, 'like some great bourdon in a minster tower'.

'Extraordinary wind, that, we had last night,' he said. 'In my old home
we should have said someone had been whistling for it.'

'Should you, indeed!' said Perkins. 'Is there a superstition of that kind
still current in your part of the country?'

'I don't know about superstition,' said the Colonel. 'They believe in it
all over Denmark and Norway, as well as on the Yorkshire coast; and my
experience is, mind you, that there's generally something at the bottom
of what these country-folk hold to, and have held to for generations. But
it's your drive' (or whatever it might have been: the golfing reader will
have to imagine appropriate digressions at the proper intervals).

When conversation was resumed, Parkins said, with a slight hesitancy:

'A propos of what you were saying just now, Colonel, I think I ought to
tell you that my own views on such subjects are very strong. I am, in
fact, a convinced disbeliever in what is called the "supernatural".'

'What!' said the Colonel,'do you mean to tell me you don't believe in
second-sight, or ghosts, or anything of that kind?'

'In nothing whatever of that kind,' returned Parkins firmly.

'Well,' said the Colonel, 'but it appears to me at that rate, sir, that
you must be little better than a Sadducee.'

Parkins was on the point of answering that, in his opinion, the Sadducees
were the most sensible persons he had ever read of in the Old Testament;
but feeling some doubt as to whether much mention of them was to be found
in that work, he preferred to laugh the accusation off.

'Perhaps I am,' he said; 'but--Here, give me my cleek, boy!--Excuse me
one moment, Colonel.' A short interval. 'Now, as to whistling for the
wind, let me give you my theory about it. The laws which govern winds are
really not at all perfectly known--to fisherfolk and such, of course, not
known at all. A man or woman of eccentric habits, perhaps, or a stranger,
is seen repeatedly on the beach at some unusual hour, and is heard
whistling. Soon afterwards a violent wind rises; a man who could read the
sky perfectly or who possessed a barometer could have foretold that it
would. The simple people of a fishing-village have no barometers, and
only a few rough rules for prophesying weather. What more natural than
that the eccentric personage I postulated should be regarded as having
raised the wind, or that he or she should clutch eagerly at the
reputation of being able to do so? Now, take last night's wind: as it
happens, I myself was whistling. I blew a whistle twice, and the wind
seemed to come absolutely in answer to my call. If anyone had seen me--'

The audience had been a little restive under this harangue, and Parkins
had, I fear, fallen somewhat into the tone of a lecturer; but at the last
sentence the Colonel stopped.

'Whistling, were you?' he said. 'And what sort of whistle did you use?
Play this stroke first.' Interval.

'About that whistle you were asking, Colonel. It's rather a curious one.
I have it in my--No; I see I've left it in my room. As a matter of fact,
I found it yesterday.'

And then Parkins narrated the manner of his discovery of the whistle,
upon hearing which the Colonel grunted, and opined that, in Parkins's
place, he should himself be careful about using a thing that had belonged
to a set of Papists, of whom, speaking generally, it might be affirmed
that you never knew what they might not have been up to. From this topic
he diverged to the enormities of the Vicar, who had given notice on the
previous Sunday that Friday would be the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle,
and that there would be service at eleven o'clock in the church. This and
other similar proceedings constituted in the Colonel's view a strong
presumption that the Vicar was a concealed Papist, if not a Jesuit; and
Parkins, who could not very readily follow the Colonel in this region,
did not disagree with him. In fact, they got on so well together in the
morning that there was not talk on either side of their separating after

Both continued to play well during the afternoon, or at least, well
enough to make them forget everything else until the light began to fail
them. Not until then did Parkins remember that he had meant to do some
more investigating at the preceptory; but it was of no great importance,
he reflected. One day was as good as another; he might as well go home
with the Colonel.

As they turned the corner of the house, the Colonel was almost knocked
down by a boy who rushed into him at the very top of his speed, and then,
instead of running away, remained hanging on to him and panting. The
first words of the warrior were naturally those of reproof and
objurgation, but he very quickly discerned that the boy was almost
speechless with fright. Inquiries were useless at first. When the boy got
his breath he began to howl, and still clung to the Colonel's legs. He
was at last detached, but continued to howl.

'What in the world is the matter with you? What have you been up to? What
have you seen?' said the two men.

'Ow, I seen it wive at me out of the winder,' wailed the boy, 'and I
don't like it.'

'What window?' said the irritated Colonel. 'Come pull yourself together,
my boy.'

'The front winder it was, at the 'otel,' said the boy.

At this point Parkins was in favour of sending the boy home, but the
Colonel refused; he wanted to get to the bottom of it, he said; it was
most dangerous to give a boy such a fright as this one had had, and if it
turned out that people had been playing jokes, they should suffer for it
in some way. And by a series of questions he made out this story: The boy
had been playing about on the grass in front of the Globe with some
others; then they had gone home to their teas, and he was just going,
when he happened to look up at the front winder and see it a-wiving at
him. _It_ seemed to be a figure of some sort, in white as far as he
knew--couldn't see its face; but it wived at him, and it warn't a right
thing--not to say not a right person. Was there a light in the room? No,
he didn't think to look if there was a light. Which was the window? Was
it the top one or the second one? The seckind one it was--the big winder
what got two little uns at the sides.

'Very well, my boy,' said the Colonel, after a few more questions. 'You
run away home now. I expect it was some person trying to give you a
start. Another time, like a brave English boy, you just throw a
stone--well, no, not that exactly, but you go and speak to the waiter, or
to Mr Simpson, the landlord, and--yes--and say that I advised you to do

The boy's face expressed some of the doubt he felt as to the likelihood
of Mr Simpson's lending a favourable ear to his complaint, but the
Colonel did not appear to perceive this, and went on:

'And here's a sixpence--no, I see it's a shilling--and you be off home,
and don't think any more about it.'

The youth hurried off with agitated thanks, and the Colonel and Parkins
went round to the front of the Globe and reconnoitred. There was only one
window answering to the description they had been hearing.

'Well, that's curious,' said Parkins; 'it's evidently my window the lad
was talking about. Will you come up for a moment, Colonel Wilson? We
ought to be able to see if anyone has been taking liberties in my room.'

They were soon in the passage, and Parkins made as if to open the door.
Then he stopped and felt in his pockets.

'This is more serious than I thought,' was his next remark. 'I remember
now that before I started this morning I locked the door. It is locked
now, and, what is more, here is the key.' And he held it up. 'Now,' he
went on, 'if the servants are in the habit of going into one's room
during the day when one is away, I can only say that--well, that I don't
approve of it at all.' Conscious of a somewhat weak climax, he busied
himself in opening the door (which was indeed locked) and in lighting
candles. 'No,' he said, 'nothing seems disturbed.'

'Except your bed,' put in the Colonel.

'Excuse me, that isn't my bed,' said Parkins. 'I don't use that one. But
it does look as if someone had been playing tricks with it.'

It certainly did: the clothes were bundled up and twisted together in a
most tortuous confusion. Parkins pondered.

'That must be it,' he said at last. 'I disordered the clothes last night
in unpacking, and they haven't made it since. Perhaps they came in to
make it, and that boy saw them through the window; and then they were
called away and locked the door after them. Yes, I think that must be

'Well, ring and ask,' said the Colonel, and this appealed to Parkins as

The maid appeared, and, to make a long story short, deposed that she had
made the bed in the morning when the gentleman was in the room, and
hadn't been there since. No, she hadn't no other key. Mr Simpson, he kep'
the keys; he'd be able to tell the gentleman if anyone had been up.

This was a puzzle. Investigation showed that nothing of value had been
taken, and Parkins remembered the disposition of the small objects on
tables and so forth well enough to be pretty sure that no pranks had been
played with them. Mr and Mrs Simpson furthermore agreed that neither of
them had given the duplicate key of the room to any person whatever
during the day. Nor could Parkins, fair-minded man as he was, detect
anything in the demeanour of master, mistress, or maid that indicated
guilt. He was much more inclined to think that the boy had been imposing
on the Colonel.

The latter was unwontedly silent and pensive at dinner and throughout the
evening. When he bade goodnight to Parkins, he murmured in a gruff

'You know where I am if you want me during the night.'

'Why, yes, thank you, Colonel Wilson, I think I do; but there isn't much
prospect of my disturbing you, I hope. By the way,' he added, 'did I show
you that old whistle I spoke of? I think not. Well, here it is.'

The Colonel turned it over gingerly in the light of the candle.

'Can you make anything of the inscription?' asked Parkins, as he took it

'No, not in this light. What do you mean to do with it?'

'Oh, well, when I get back to Cambridge I shall submit it to some of the
archaeologists there, and see what they think of it; and very likely, if
they consider it worth having, I may present it to one of the museums.'

'M!' said the Colonel. 'Well, you may be right. All I know is that, if it
were mine, I should chuck it straight into the sea. It's no use talking,
I'm well aware, but I expect that with you it's a case of live and learn.
I hope so, I'm sure, and I wish you a good night.'

He turned away, leaving Parkins in act to speak at the bottom of the
stair, and soon each was in his own bedroom.

By some unfortunate accident, there were neither blinds nor curtains to
the windows of the Professor's room. The previous night he had thought
little of this, but tonight there seemed every prospect of a bright moon
rising to shine directly on his bed, and probably wake him later on. When
he noticed this he was a good deal annoyed, but, with an ingenuity which
I can only envy, he succeeded in rigging up, with the help of a
railway-rug, some safety-pins, and a stick and umbrella, a screen which,
if it only held together, would completely keep the moonlight off his
bed. And shortly afterwards he was comfortably in that bed. When he had
read a somewhat solid work long enough to produce a decided wish to
sleep, he cast a drowsy glance round the room, blew out the candle, and
fell back upon the pillow.

He must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clatter
shook him up in a most unwelcome manner. In a moment he realized what had
happened: his carefully-constructed screen had given way, and a very
bright frosty moon was shining directly on his face. This was highly
annoying. Could he possibly get up and reconstruct the screen? or could
he manage to sleep if he did not?

For some minutes he lay and pondered over all the possibilities; then he
turned over sharply, and with his eyes open lay breathlessly listening.
There had been a movement, he was sure, in the empty bed on the opposite
side of the room. Tomorrow he would have it moved, for there must be rats
or something playing about in it. It was quiet now. No! the commotion
began again. There was a rustling and shaking: surely more than any rat
could cause.

I can figure to myself something of the Professor's bewilderment and
horror, for I have in a dream thirty years back seen the same thing
happen; but the reader will hardly, perhaps, imagine how dreadful it was
to him to see a figure suddenly sit up in what he had known was an empty
bed. He was out of his own bed in one bound, and made a dash towards the
window, where lay his only weapon, the stick with which he had propped
his screen. This was, as it turned out, the worst thing he could have
done, because the personage in the empty bed, with a sudden smooth
motion, slipped from the bed and took up a position, with outspread arms,
between the two beds, and in front of the door. Parkins watched it in a
horrid perplexity. Somehow, the idea of getting past it and escaping
through the door was intolerable to him; he could not have borne--he
didn't know why--to touch it; and as for its touching him, he would
sooner dash himself through the window than have that happen. It stood
for the moment in a band of dark shadow, and he had not seen what its
face was like. Now it began to move, in a stooping posture, and all at
once the spectator realized, with some horror and some relief, that it
must be blind, for it seemed to feel about it with its muffled arms in a
groping and random fashion. Turning half away from him, it became
suddenly conscious of the bed he had just left, and darted towards it,
and bent and felt over the pillows in a way which made Parkins shudder as
he had never in his life thought it possible. In a very few moments it
seemed to know that the bed was empty, and then, moving forward into the
area of light and facing the window, it showed for the first time what
manner of thing it was.

Parkins, who very much dislikes being questioned about it, did once
describe something of it in my hearing, and I gathered that what he
chiefly remembers about it is a horrible, an intensely horrible, face _of
crumpled linen._ What expression he read upon it he could not or would
not tell, but that the fear of it went nigh to maddening him is certain.

But he was not at leisure to watch it for long. With formidable quickness
it moved into the middle of the room, and, as it groped and waved, one
corner of its draperies swept across Parkins's face. He could not, though
he knew how perilous a sound was--he could not keep back a cry of
disgust, and this gave the searcher an instant clue. It leapt towards him
upon the instant, and the next moment he was half-way through the window
backwards, uttering cry upon cry at the utmost pitch of his voice, and
the linen face was thrust close into his own. At this, almost the last
possible second, deliverance came, as you will have guessed: the Colonel
burst the door open, and was just in time to see the dreadful group at
the window. When he reached the figures only one was left. Parkins sank
forward into the room in a faint, and before him on the floor lay a
tumbled heap of bed-clothes.

Colonel Wilson asked no questions, but busied himself in keeping everyone
else out of the room and in getting Parkins back to his bed; and himself,
wrapped in a rug, occupied the other bed, for the rest of the night.
Early on the next day Rogers arrived, more welcome than he would have
been a day before, and the three of them held a very long consultation in
the Professor's room. At the end of it the Colonel left the hotel door
carrying a small object between his finger and thumb, which he cast as
far into the sea as a very brawny arm could send it. Later on the smoke
of a burning ascended from the back premises of the Globe.

Exactly what explanation was patched up for the staff and visitors at the
hotel I must confess I do not recollect. The Professor was somehow
cleared of the ready suspicion of delirium tremens, and the hotel of the
reputation of a troubled house.

There is not much question as to what would have happened to Parkins if
the Colonel had not intervened when he did. He would either have fallen
out of the window or else lost his wits. But it is not so evident what
more the creature that came in answer to the whistle could have done than
frighten. There seemed to be absolutely nothing material about it save
the bedclothes of which it had made itself a body. The Colonel, who
remembered a not very dissimilar occurrence in India, was of the opinion
that if Parkins had closed with it it could really have done very little,
and that its one power was that of frightening. The whole thing, he said,
served to confirm his opinion of the Church of Rome.

There is really nothing more to tell, but, as you may imagine, the
Professor's views on certain points are less clear cut than they used to
be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a surplice
hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a scarecrow in a
field late on a winter afternoon has cost him more than one sleepless



    _Verum usque in praesentem diem multa garriunt inter se Canonici de
    abscondito quodam istius Abbatis Thomae thesauro, quem saepe,
    quanquam ahduc incassum, quaesiverunt Steinfeldenses. Ipsum enim
    Thomam adhuc florida in aetate existentem ingentem auri massam circa
    monasterium defodisse perhibent; de quo multoties interrogatus ubi
    esset, cum risu respondere solitus erat: 'Job, Johannes, et Zacharias
    vel vobis vel posteris indicabunt'; idemque aliquando adiicere se
    inventuris minime invisurum. Inter alia huius Abbatis opera, hoc
    memoria praecipue dignum indico quod fenestram magnam in orientali
    parte alae australis in ecclesia sua imaginibus optime in vitro
    depictis impleverit: id quod et ipsius effigies et insignia ibidem
    posita demonstrant. Domum quoque Abbatialem fere totam restauravit:
    puteo in atrio ipsius effosso et lapidibus marmoreis pulchre caelatis
    exornato. Decessit autem, morte aliquantulum subitanea perculsus,
    aetatis suae anno lxxii(do), incarnationis vero Dominicae mdxxix(o)._

'I suppose I shall have to translate this,' said the antiquary to
himself, as he finished copying the above lines from that rather rare and
exceedingly diffuse book, the _Sertum Steinfeldense Norbertinum.[5]_
'Well, it may as well be done first as last,' and accordingly the
following rendering was very quickly produced:

    Up to the present day there is much gossip among the Canons about a
    certain hidden treasure of this Abbot Thomas, for which those of
    Steinfeld have often made search, though hitherto in vain. The story
    is that Thomas, while yet in the vigour of life, concealed a very
    large quantity of gold somewhere in the monastery. He was often asked
    where it was, and always answered, with a laugh: 'Job, John, and
    Zechariah will tell either you or your successors.' He sometimes
    added that he should feel no grudge against those who might find it.
    Among other works carried out by this Abbot I may specially mention
    his filling the great window at the east end of the south aisle of
    the church with figures admirably painted on glass, as his effigy and
    arms in the window attest. He also restored almost the whole of the
    Abbot's lodging, and dug a well in the court of it, which he adorned
    with beautiful carvings in marble. He died rather suddenly in the
    seventy-second year of his age, A.D. 1529.

    [5] An account of the Premonstratensian abbey of Steinfeld, in the
  Eiffel, with lives of the Abbots, published at Cologne in 1712 by
  Christian Albert Erhard, a resident in the district. The epithet
  _Norbertinum_ is due to the fact that St Norbert was founder of the
  Premonstratensian Order.

The object which the antiquary had before him at the moment was that of
tracing the whereabouts of the painted windows of the Abbey Church at
Steinfeld. Shortly after the Revolution, a very large quantity of painted
glass made its way from the dissolved abbeys of Germany and Belgium to
this country, and may now be seen adorning various of our parish
churches, cathedrals, and private chapels. Steinfeld Abbey was among the
most considerable of these involuntary contributors to our artistic
possession (I am quoting the somewhat ponderous preamble of the book
which the antiquary wrote), and the greater part of the glass from that
institution can be identified without much difficulty by the help, either
of the numerous inscriptions in which the place is mentioned, or of the
subjects of the windows, in which several well-defined cycles or
narratives were represented.

The passage with which I began my story had set the antiquary on the
track of another identification. In a private chapel--no matter where--he
had seen three large figures, each occupying a whole light in a window,
and evidently the work of one artist. Their style made it plain that that
artist had been a German of the sixteenth century; but hitherto the more
exact localizing of them had been a puzzle. They represented--will you be
PROPHETA, and each of them held a book or scroll, inscribed with a
sentence from his writings. These, as a matter of course, the antiquary
had noted, and had been struck by the curious way in which they differed
from any text of the Vulgate that he had been able to examine. Thus the
scroll in Job's hand was inscribed: _Auro est locus in quo absconditur_
(for _conflatur_)[6]; on the book of John was: _Habent in vestimentis
suis scripturam quam nemo novit_[7] (for in _vestimento scriptum_, the
following words being taken from another verse); and Zacharias had:
_Super lapidem unum septem oculi sunt_[8] (which alone of the three
presents an unaltered text).

    [6] There is a place for gold where it is hidden.

    [7] They have on their raiment a writing which no man knoweth.

    [8] Upon one stone are seven eyes.

A sad perplexity it had been to our investigator to think why these three
personages should have been placed together in one window. There was no
bond of connexion between them, either historic, symbolic, or doctrinal,
and he could only suppose that they must have formed part of a very large
series of Prophets and Apostles, which might have filled, say, all the
clerestory windows of some capacious church. But the passage from the
_Sertum_ had altered the situation by showing that the names of the
actual personages represented in the glass now in Lord D----'s chapel had
been constantly on the lips of Abbot Thomas von Eschenhausen of
Steinfeld, and that this Abbot had put up a painted window, probably
about the year 1520, in the south aisle of his abbey church. It was no
very wild conjecture that the three figures might have formed part of
Abbot Thomas's offering; it was one which, moreover, could probably be
confirmed or set aside by another careful examination of the glass. And,
as Mr. Somerton was a man of leisure, he set out on pilgrimage to the
private chapel with very little delay. His conjecture was confirmed to
the full. Not only did the style and technique of the glass suit
perfectly with the date and place required, but in another window of the
chapel he found some glass, known to have been bought along with the
figures, which contained the arms of Abbot Thomas von Eschenhausen.

At intervals during his researches Mr. Somerton had been haunted by the
recollection of the gossip about the hidden treasure, and, as he thought
the matter over, it became more and more obvious to him that if the Abbot
meant anything by the enigmatical answer which he gave to his
questioners, he must have meant that the secret was to be found somewhere
in the window he had placed in the abbey church. It was undeniable,
furthermore, that the first of the curiously-selected texts on the
scrolls in the window might be taken to have a reference to hidden

Every feature, therefore, or mark which could possibly assist in
elucidating the riddle which, he felt sure, the Abbot had set to
posterity he noted with scrupulous care, and, returning to his Berkshire
manor-house, consumed many a pint of the midnight oil over his tracings
and sketches. After two or three weeks, a day came when Mr Somerton
announced to his man that he must pack his own and his master's things
for a short journey abroad, whither for the moment we will not follow


Mr Gregory, the Rector of Parsbury, had strolled out before breakfast, it
being a fine autumn morning, as far as the gate of his carriage-drive,
with intent to meet the postman and sniff the cool air. Nor was he
disappointed of either purpose. Before he had had time to answer more
than ten or eleven of the miscellaneous questions propounded to him in
the lightness of their hearts by his young offspring, who had accompanied
him, the postman was seen approaching; and among the morning's budget was
one letter bearing a foreign postmark and stamp (which became at once the
objects of an eager competition among the youthful Gregorys), and
addressed in an uneducated, but plainly an English hand.

When the Rector opened it, and turned to the signature, he realized that
it came from the confidential valet of his friend and squire, Mr.
Somerton. Thus it ran:

    Honoured Sir,

    Has I am in a great anxiety about Master I write at is Wish to beg
    you Sir if you could be so good as Step over. Master Has add a Nastey
    Shock and keeps His Bedd. I never Have known Him like this but No
    wonder and Nothing will serve but you Sir.  Master says would I
    mintion the Short Way Here is Drive to Cobblince and take a Trap.
    Hopeing I Have maid all Plain, but am much Confused in Myself what
    with Anxiatey and Weakfulness at Night. If I might be so Bold Sir it
    will be a Pleasure to see a Honnest Brish Face among all These Forig

    I am Sir

    Your obed't Serv't

    William Brown.

    P.S.--The Village for Town I will not Turm It is name Steenfeld.

The reader must be left to picture to himself in detail the surprise,
confusion, and hurry of preparation into which the receipt of such a
letter would be likely to plunge a quiet Berkshire parsonage in the year
of grace 1859. It is enough for me to say that a train to town was caught
in the course of the day, and that Mr Gregory was able to secure a cabin
in the Antwerp boat and a place in the Coblenz train. Nor was it
difficult to manage the transit from that centre to Steinfeld.

I labour under a grave disadvantage as narrator of this story in that I
have never visited Steinfeld myself, and that neither of the principal
actors in the episode (from whom I derive my information) was able to
give me anything but a vague and rather dismal idea of its appearance. I
gather that it is a small place, with a large church despoiled of its
ancient fittings; a number of rather ruinous great buildings, mostly of
the seventeenth century, surround this church; for the abbey, in common
with most of those on the Continent, was rebuilt in a luxurious fashion
by its inhabitants at that period. It has not seemed to me worth while to
lavish money on a visit to the place, for though it is probably far more
attractive than either Mr Somerton or Mr Gregory thought it, there is
evidently little, if anything, of first-rate interest to be seen--except,
perhaps, one thing, which I should not care to see.

The inn where the English gentleman and his servant were lodged is, or
was, the only 'possible' one in the village. Mr Gregory was taken to it
at once by his driver, and found Mr Brown waiting at the door. Mr Brown,
a model when in his Berkshire home of the impassive whiskered race who
are known as confidential valets, was now egregiously out of his element,
in a light tweed suit, anxious, almost irritable, and plainly anything
but master of the situation. His relief at the sight of the 'honest
British face' of his Rector was unmeasured, but words to describe it were
denied him. He could only say:

'Well, I ham pleased, I'm sure, sir, to see you. And so I'm sure, sir,
will master.'

'How is your master, Brown?' Mr Gregory eagerly put in.

'I think he's better, sir, thank you; but he's had a dreadful time of it.
I 'ope he's gettin' some sleep now, but--'

'What has been the matter--I couldn't make out from your letter? Was it
an accident of any kind?'

'Well, sir, I 'ardly know whether I'd better speak about it. Master was
very partickler he should be the one to tell you. But there's no bones
broke--that's one thing I'm sure we ought to be thankful--'

'What does the doctor say?' asked Mr Gregory.

They were by this time outside Mr Somerton's bedroom door, and speaking
in low tones. Mr Gregory, who happened to be in front, was feeling for
the handle, and chanced to run his fingers over the panels. Before Brown
could answer, there was a terrible cry from within the room.

'In God's name, who is that?' were the first words they heard. 'Brown, is

'Yes, sir--me, sir, and Mr Gregory,' Brown hastened to answer, and there
was an audible groan of relief in reply.

They entered the room, which was darkened against the afternoon sun, and
Mr Gregory saw, with a shock of pity, how drawn, how damp with drops of
fear, was the usually calm face of his friend, who, sitting up in the
curtained bed, stretched out a shaking hand to welcome him.

'Better for seeing you, my dear Gregory,' was the reply to the Rector's
first question, and it was palpably true.

After five minutes of conversation Mr Somerton was more his own man,
Brown afterwards reported, than he had been for days. He was able to eat
a more than respectable dinner, and talked confidently of being fit to
stand a journey to Coblenz within twenty-four hours.

'But there's one thing,' he said, with a return of agitation which Mr
Gregory did not like to see, 'which I must beg you to do for me, my dear
Gregory. Don't,' he went on, laying his hand on Gregory's to forestall
any interruption--'don't ask me what it is, or why I want it done. I'm
not up to explaining it yet; it would throw me back--undo all the good
you have done me by coming. The only word I will say about it is that you
run no risk whatever by doing it, and that Brown can and will show you
tomorrow what it is. It's merely to put back--to keep--something--No; I
can't speak of it yet. Do you mind calling Brown?'

'Well, Somerton,' said Mr Gregory, as he crossed the room to the door. 'I
won't ask for any explanations till you see fit to give them. And if this
bit of business is as easy as you represent it to be, I will very gladly
undertake it for you the first thing in the morning.'

'Ah, I was sure you would, my dear Gregory; I was certain I could rely on
you. I shall owe you more thanks than I can tell. Now, here is Brown.
Brown, one word with you.'

'Shall I go?' interjected Mr Gregory.

'Not at all. Dear me, no. Brown, the first thing tomorrow morning--(you
don't mind early hours, I know, Gregory)--you must take the Rector
to--_there_, you know' (a nod from Brown, who looked grave and anxious),
'and he and you will put that back. You needn't be in the least alarmed;
it's _perfectly_ safe in the daytime. You know what I mean. It lies on
the step, you know, where--where we put it.' (Brown swallowed dryly once
or twice, and, failing to speak, bowed.) 'And--yes, that's all. Only this
one other word, my dear Gregory. If you _can_ manage to keep from
questioning Brown about this matter, I shall be still more bound to you.
Tomorrow evening, at latest, if all goes well, I shall be able, I
believe, to tell you the whole story from start to finish. And now I'll
wish you good night. Brown will be with me--he sleeps here--and if I were
you, I should lock my door. Yes, be particular to do that. They--they
like it, the people here, and it's better. Good night, good night.'

They parted upon this, and if Mr Gregory woke once or twice in the small
hours and fancied he heard a fumbling about the lower part of his locked
door, it was, perhaps, no more than what a quiet man, suddenly plunged
into a strange bed and the heart of a mystery, might reasonably expect.
Certainly he thought, to the end of his days, that he had heard such a
sound twice or three times between midnight and dawn.

He was up with the sun, and out in company with Brown soon after.
Perplexing as was the service he had been asked to perform for Mr
Somerton, it was not a difficult or an alarming one, and within half an
hour from his leaving the inn it was over. What it was I shall not as yet

Later in the morning Mr Somerton, now almost himself again, was able to
make a start from Steinfeld; and that same evening, whether at Coblenz or
at some intermediate stage on the journey I am not certain, he settled
down to the promised explanation. Brown was present, but how much of the
matter was ever really made plain to his comprehension he would never
say, and I am unable to conjecture.


This was Mr Somerton's story:

'You know roughly, both of you, that this expedition of mine was
undertaken with the object of tracing something in connexion with some
old painted glass in Lord D----'s private chapel. Well, the
starting-point of the whole matter lies in this passage from an old
printed book, to which I will ask your attention.'

And at this point Mr Somerton went carefully over some ground with which
we are already familiar.

'On my second visit to the chapel,' he went on, 'my purpose was to take
every note I could of figures, lettering, diamond-scratchings on the
glass, and even apparently accidental markings. The first point which I
tackled was that of the inscribed scrolls. I could not doubt that the
first of these, that of Job--"There is a place for the gold where it is
hidden"--with its intentional alteration, must refer to the treasure; so
I applied myself with some confidence to the next, that of St John--"They
have on their vestures a writing which no man knoweth." The natural
question will have occurred to you: Was there an inscription on the robes
of the figures? I could see none; each of the three had a broad black
border to his mantle, which made a conspicuous and rather ugly feature in
the window. I was nonplussed, I will own, and, but for a curious bit of
luck, I think I should have left the search where the Canons of Steinfeld
had left it before me. But it so happened that there was a good deal of
dust on the surface of the glass, and Lord D----, happening to come in,
noticed my blackened hands, and kindly insisted on sending for a Turk's
head broom to clean down the window. There must, I suppose, have been a
rough piece in the broom; anyhow, as it passed over the border of one of
the mantles, I noticed that it left a long scratch, and that some yellow
stain instantly showed up. I asked the man to stop his work for a moment,
and ran up the ladder to examine the place. The yellow stain was there,
sure enough, and what had come away was a thick black pigment, which had
evidently been laid on with the brush after the glass had been burnt, and
could therefore be easily scraped off without doing any harm. I scraped,
accordingly, and you will hardly believe--no, I do you an injustice; you
will have guessed already--that I found under this black pigment two or
three clearly-formed capital letters in yellow stain on a clear ground.
Of course, I could hardly contain my delight.

'I told Lord D---- that I had detected an inscription which I thought
might be very interesting, and begged to be allowed to uncover the whole
of it. He made no difficulty about it whatever, told me to do exactly as
I pleased, and then, having an engagement, was obliged--rather to my
relief, I must say--to leave me. I set to work at once, and found the
task a fairly easy one. The pigment, disintegrated, of course, by time,
came off almost at a touch, and I don't think that it took me a couple of
hours, all told, to clean the whole of the black borders in all three
lights. Each of the figures had, as the inscription said, "a writing on
their vestures which nobody knew".

'This discovery, of course, made it absolutely certain to my mind that I
was on the right track. And, now, what was the inscription?  While I was
cleaning the glass I almost took pains not to read the lettering, saving
up the treat until I had got the whole thing clear. And when that was
done, my dear Gregory, I assure you I could almost have cried from sheer
disappointment. What I read was only the most hopeless jumble of letters
that was ever shaken up in a hat. Here it is:




'Blank as I felt and must have looked for the first few minutes, my
disappointment didn't last long. I realized almost at once that I was
dealing with a cipher or cryptogram; and I reflected that it was likely
to be of a pretty simple kind, considering its early date. So I copied
the letters with the most anxious care. Another little point, I may tell
you, turned up in the process which confirmed my belief in the cipher.
After copying the letters on Job's robe I counted them, to make sure that
I had them right. There were thirty-eight; and, just as I finished going
through them, my eye fell on a scratching made with a sharp point on the
edge of the border. It was simply the number xxxviii in Roman numerals.
To cut the matter short, there was a similar note, as I may call it, in
each of the other lights; and that made it plain to me that the
glass-painter had had very strict orders from Abbot Thomas about the
inscription and had taken pains to get it correct.

'Well, after that discovery you may imagine how minutely I went over the
whole surface of the glass in search of further light. Of course, I did
not neglect the inscription on the scroll of Zechariah--"Upon one stone
are seven eyes," but I very quickly concluded that this must refer to
some mark on a stone which could only be found _in situ_, where the
treasure was concealed. To be short, I made all possible notes and
sketches and tracings, and then came back to Parsbury to work out the
cipher at leisure. Oh, the agonies I went through! I thought myself very
clever at first, for I made sure that the key would be found in some of
the old books on secret writing. The _Steganographia_ of Joachim
Trithemius, who was an earlier contemporary of Abbot Thomas, seemed
particularly promising; so I got that and Selenius's _Cryptographia_ and
Bacon's _de Augmentis Scientiarum_ and some more. But I could hit upon
nothing. Then I tried the principle of the "most frequent letter", taking
first Latin and then German as a basis. That didn't help, either; whether
it ought to have done so, I am not clear. And then I came back to the
window itself, and read over my notes, hoping almost against hope that
the Abbot might himself have somewhere supplied the key I wanted. I could
make nothing out of the colour or pattern of the robes. There were no
landscape backgrounds with subsidiary objects; there was nothing in the
canopies. The only resource possible seemed to be in the attitudes of the
figures. "Job," I read: "scroll in left hand, forefinger of right hand
extended upwards. John: holds inscribed book in left hand; with right
hand blesses, with two fingers. Zechariah: scroll in left hand; right
hand extended upwards, as Job, but with three fingers pointing up." In
other words, I reflected, Job has one finger extended, John has _two_,
Zechariah has _three_. May not there be a numerical key concealed in
that? My dear Gregory,' said Mr Somerton, laying his hand on his friend's
knee, 'that _was_ the key. I didn't get it to fit at first, but after two
or three trials I saw what was meant. After the first letter of the
inscription you skip _one_ letter, after the next you skip _two_, and
after that skip _three_. Now look at the result I got. I've underlined
the letters which form words:


'Do you see it? "_Decem millia auri reposita sunt in puteo in at_ ..."
(Ten thousand [pieces] of gold are laid up in a well in ...), followed by
an incomplete word beginning _at_. So far so good. I tried the same plan
with the remaining letters; but it wouldn't work, and I fancied that
perhaps the placing of dots after the three last letters might indicate
some difference of procedure. Then I thought to myself, "Wasn't there
some allusion to a well in the account of Abbot Thomas in that book the
'_Sertum_'?" Yes, there was; he built a _puteus in atrio_; (a well in the
court). There, of course, was my word _atrio_. The next step was to copy
out the remaining letters of the inscription, omitting those I had
already used. That gave what you will see on this slip:


'Now, I knew what the three first letters I wanted were--namely,
_rio_--to complete the word _atrio_; and, as you will see, these are all
to be found in the first five letters. I was a little confused at first
by the occurrence of two _i_'s, but very soon I saw that every alternate
letter must be taken in the remainder of the inscription. You can work it
out for yourself; the result, continuing where the first "round" left
off, thus:

    _rio domus abbatialis de Steinfeld a me, Thoma, qui posui custodem
    super ea. Gare à qui la touche_.

'So the whole secret was out:

    "Ten thousand pieces of gold are laid up in the well in the court of
    the Abbot's house of Steinfeld by me, Thomas, who have set a guardian
    over them. _Gare à qui la louche_."

'The last words, I ought to say, are a device which Abbot Thomas had
adopted. I found it with his arms in another piece of glass at Lord
D----'s, and he drafted it bodily into his cipher, though it doesn't
quite fit in point of grammar.

'Well, what would any human being have been tempted to do, my dear
Gregory, in my place? Could he have helped setting off, as I did, to
Steinfeld, and tracing the secret literally to the fountain-head? I don't
believe he could. Anyhow, I couldn't, and, as I needn't tell you, I found
myself at Steinfeld as soon as the resources of civilization could put me
there, and installed myself in the inn you saw. I must tell you that I
was not altogether free from forebodings--on one hand of disappointment,
on the other of danger. There was always the possibility that Abbot
Thomas's well might have been wholly obliterated, or else that someone,
ignorant of cryptograms, and guided only by luck, might have stumbled on
the treasure before me. And then'--there was a very perceptible shaking
of the voice here--'I was not entirely easy, I need not mind confessing,
as to the meaning of the words about the guardian of the treasure. But,
if you don't mind, I'll say no more about that until--until it becomes

'At the first possible opportunity Brown and I began exploring the place.
I had naturally represented myself as being interested in the remains of
the abbey, and we could not avoid paying a visit to the church, impatient
as I was to be elsewhere. Still, it did interest me to see the windows
where the glass had been, and especially that at the east end of the
south aisle. In the tracery lights of that I was startled to see some
fragments and coats-of-arms remaining--Abbot Thomas's shield was there,
and a small figure with a scroll inscribed _Oculos habent, et non
videbunt_ (They have eyes, and shall not see), which, I take it, was a
hit of the Abbot at his Canons.

'But, of course, the principal object was to find the Abbot's house.
There is no prescribed place for this, so far as I know, in the plan of a
monastery; you can't predict of it, as you can of the chapter-house, that
it will be on the eastern side of the cloister, or, as of the dormitory,
that it will communicate with a transept of the church. I felt that if I
asked many questions I might awaken lingering memories of the treasure,
and I thought it best to try first to discover it for myself. It was not
a very long or difficult search. That three-sided court south-east of the
church, with deserted piles of building round it, and grass-grown
pavement, which you saw this morning, was the place. And glad enough I
was to see that it was put to no use, and was neither very far from our
inn nor overlooked by any inhabited building; there were only orchards
and paddocks on the slopes east of the church. I can tell you that fine
stone glowed wonderfully in the rather watery yellow sunset that we had
on the Tuesday afternoon.

'Next, what about the well? There was not much doubt about that, as you
can testify. It is really a very remarkable thing. That curb is, I think,
of Italian marble, and the carving I thought must be Italian also. There
were reliefs, you will perhaps remember, of Eliezer and Rebekah, and of
Jacob opening the well for Rachel, and similar subjects; but, by way of
disarming suspicion, I suppose, the Abbot had carefully abstained from
any of his cynical and allusive inscriptions.

'I examined the whole structure with the keenest interest, of course--a
square well-head with an opening in one side; an arch over it, with a
wheel for the rope to pass over, evidently in very good condition still,
for it had been used within sixty years, or perhaps even later though not
quite recently. Then there was the question of depth and access to the
interior. I suppose the depth was about sixty to seventy feet; and as to
the other point, it really seemed as if the Abbot had wished to lead
searchers up to the very door of his treasure-house, for, as you tested
for yourself, there were big blocks of stone bonded into the masonry, and
leading down in a regular staircase round and round the inside of the

'It seemed almost too good to be true. I wondered if there was a trap--if
the stones were so contrived as to tip over when a weight was placed on
them; but I tried a good many with my own weight and with my stick, and
all seemed, and actually were, perfectly firm. Of course, I resolved that
Brown and I would make an experiment that very night.

'I was well prepared. Knowing the sort of place I should have to explore,
I had brought a sufficiency of good rope and bands of webbing to surround
my body, and cross-bars to hold to, as well as lanterns and candles and
crowbars, all of which would go into a single carpet-bag and excite no
suspicion. I satisfied myself that my rope would be long enough, and that
the wheel for the bucket was in good working order, and then we went home
to dinner.

'I had a little cautious conversation with the landlord, and made out
that he would not be overmuch surprised if I went out for a stroll with
my man about nine o'clock, to make (Heaven forgive me!) a sketch of the
abbey by moonlight. I asked no questions about the well, and am not
likely to do so now. I fancy I know as much about it as anyone in
Steinfeld: at least'--with a strong shudder--'I don't want to know any

'Now we come to the crisis, and, though I hate to think of it, I feel
sure, Gregory, that it will be better for me in all ways to recall it
just as it happened. We started, Brown and I, at about nine with our bag,
and attracted no attention; for we managed to slip out at the hinder end
of the inn-yard into an alley which brought us quite to the edge of the
village. In five minutes we were at the well, and for some little time we
sat on the edge of the well-head to make sure that no one was stirring or
spying on us. All we heard was some horses cropping grass out of sight
farther down the eastern slope. We were perfectly unobserved, and had
plenty of light from the gorgeous full moon to allow us to get the rope
properly fitted over the wheel. Then I secured the band round my body
beneath the arms. We attached the end of the rope very securely to a ring
in the stonework. Brown took the lighted lantern and followed me; I had a
crowbar. And so we began to descend cautiously, feeling every step before
we set foot on it, and scanning the walls in search of any marked stone.

'Half aloud I counted the steps as we went down, and we got as far as the
thirty-eighth before I noted anything at all irregular in the surface of
the masonry. Even here there was no mark, and I began to feel very blank,
and to wonder if the Abbot's cryptogram could possibly be an elaborate
hoax. At the forty-ninth step the staircase ceased. It was with a very
sinking heart that I began retracing my steps, and when I was back on the
thirty-eighth--Brown, with the lantern, being a step or two above me--I
scrutinized the little bit of irregularity in the stonework with all my
might; but there was no vestige of a mark.

'Then it struck me that the texture of the surface looked just a little
smoother than the rest, or, at least, in some way different. It might
possibly be cement and not stone. I gave it a good blow with my iron bar.
There was a decidedly hollow sound, though that might be the result of
our being in a well. But there was more. A great flake of cement dropped
on to my feet, and I saw marks on the stone underneath. I had tracked the
Abbot down, my dear Gregory; even now I think of it with a certain pride.
It took but a very few more taps to clear the whole of the cement away,
and I saw a slab of stone about two feet square, upon which was engraven
a cross. Disappointment again, but only for a moment. It was you, Brown,
who reassured me by a casual remark. You said, if I remember right:

"'It's a funny cross: looks like a lot of eyes."

'I snatched the lantern out of your hand, and saw with inexpressible
pleasure that the cross was composed of seven eyes, four in a vertical
line, three horizontal. The last of the scrolls in the window was
explained in the way I had anticipated. Here was my "stone with the seven
eyes". So far the Abbot's data had been exact, and as I thought of this,
the anxiety about the "guardian" returned upon me with increased force.
Still I wasn't going to retreat now.

'Without giving myself time to think, I knocked away the cement all round
the marked stone, and then gave it a prise on the right side with my
crowbar. It moved at once, and I saw that it was but a thin light slab,
such as I could easily lift out myself, and that it stopped the entrance
to a cavity. I did lift it out unbroken, and set it on the step, for it
might be very important to us to be able to replace it. Then I waited for
several minutes on the step just above. I don't know why, but I think to
see if any dreadful thing would rush out. Nothing happened. Next I lit a
candle, and very cautiously I placed it inside the cavity, with some idea
of seeing whether there were foul air, and of getting a glimpse of what
was inside. There _was_ some foulness of air which nearly extinguished
the flame, but in no long time it burned quite steadily. The hole went
some little way back, and also on the right and left of the entrance, and
I could see some rounded light-coloured objects within which might be
bags. There was no use in waiting. I faced the cavity, and looked in.
There was nothing immediately in the front of the hole. I put my arm in
and felt to the right, very gingerly....

'Just give me a glass of cognac, Brown. I'll go on in a moment,

'Well, I felt to the right, and my fingers touched something curved, that
felt--yes--more or less like leather; dampish it was, and evidently part
of a heavy, full thing. There was nothing, I must say, to alarm one. I
grew bolder, and putting both hands in as well as I could, I pulled it to
me, and it came. It was heavy, but moved more easily than I had expected.
As I pulled it towards the entrance, my left elbow knocked over and
extinguished the candle. I got the thing fairly in front of the mouth and
began drawing it out. Just then Brown gave a sharp ejaculation and ran
quickly up the steps with the lantern. He will tell you why in a moment.
Startled as I was, I looked round after him, and saw him stand for a
minute at the top and then walk away a few yards. Then I heard him call
softly, "All right, sir," and went on pulling out the great bag, in
complete darkness. It hung for an instant on the edge of the hole, then
slipped forward on to my chest, and _put its arms round my neck_.

'My dear Gregory, I am telling you the exact truth. I believe I am now
acquainted with the extremity of terror and repulsion which a man can
endure without losing his mind. I can only just manage to tell you now
the bare outline of the experience. I was conscious of a most horrible
smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own, and
moving slowly over it, and of several--I don't know how many--legs or
arms or tentacles or something clinging to my body. I screamed out, Brown
says, like a beast, and fell away backward from the step on which I
stood, and the creature slipped downwards, I suppose, on to that same
step. Providentially the band round me held firm. Brown did not lose his
head, and was strong enough to pull me up to the top and get me over the
edge quite promptly. How he managed it exactly I don't know, and I think
he would find it hard to tell you. I believe he contrived to hide our
implements in the deserted building near by, and with very great
difficulty he got me back to the inn. I was in no state to make
explanations, and Brown knows no German; but next morning I told the
people some tale of having had a bad fall in the abbey ruins, which I
suppose they believed. And now, before I go further, I should just like
you to hear what Brown's experiences during those few minutes were. Tell
the Rector, Brown, what you told me.'

'Well, sir,' said Brown, speaking low and nervously, 'it was just this
way. Master was busy down in front of the 'ole, and I was 'olding the
lantern and looking on, when I 'eard somethink drop in the water from the
top, as I thought. So I looked up, and I see someone's 'ead lookin' over
at us. I s'pose I must ha' said somethink, and I 'eld the light up and
run up the steps, and my light shone right on the face. That was a bad
un, sir, if ever I see one! A holdish man, and the face very much fell
in, and larfin', as I thought. And I got up the steps as quick pretty
nigh as I'm tellin' you, and when I was out on the ground there warn't a
sign of any person. There 'adn't been the time for anyone to get away,
let alone a hold chap, and I made sure he warn't crouching down by the
well, nor nothink. Next thing I hear master cry out somethink 'orrible,
and hall I see was him hanging out by the rope, and, as master says,
'owever I got him up I couldn't tell you.'

'You hear that, Gregory?' said Mr Somerton. 'Now, does any explanation of
that incident strike you?'

'The whole thing is so ghastly and abnormal that I must own it puts me
quite off my balance; but the thought did occur to me that possibly
the--well, the person who set the trap might have come to see the success
of his plan.'

'Just so, Gregory, just so. I can think of nothing else so--_likely_, I
should say, if such a word had a place anywhere in my story. I think it
must have been the Abbot.... Well, I haven't much more to tell you. I
spent a miserable night, Brown sitting up with me. Next day I was no
better; unable to get up; no doctor to be had; and if one had been
available, I doubt if he could have done much for me. I made Brown write
off to you, and spent a second terrible night. And, Gregory, of this I am
sure, and I think it affected me more than the first shock, for it lasted
longer: there was someone or something on the watch outside my door the
whole night. I almost fancy there were two. It wasn't only the faint
noises I heard from time to time all through the dark hours, but there
was the smell--the hideous smell of mould. Every rag I had had on me on
that first evening I had stripped off and made Brown take it away. I
believe he stuffed the things into the stove in his room; and yet the
smell was there, as intense as it had been in the well; and, what is
more, it came from outside the door. But with the first glimmer of dawn
it faded out, and the sounds ceased, too; and that convinced me that the
thing or things were creatures of darkness, and could not stand the
daylight; and so I was sure that if anyone could put back the stone, it
or they would be powerless until someone else took it away again. I had
to wait until you came to get that done. Of course, I couldn't send Brown
to do it by himself, and still less could I tell anyone who belonged to
the place.

'Well, there is my story; and, if you don't believe it, I can't help it.
But I think you do.'

'Indeed,' said Mr Gregory, 'I can find no alternative. I _must_ believe
it! I saw the well and the stone myself, and had a glimpse, I thought, of
the bags or something else in the hole. And, to be plain with you,
Somerton, I believe my door was watched last night, too.'

'I dare say it was, Gregory; but, thank goodness, that is over. Have you,
by the way, anything to tell about your visit to that dreadful place?'

'Very little,' was the answer. 'Brown and I managed easily enough to get
the slab into its place, and he fixed it very firmly with the irons and
wedges you had desired him to get, and we contrived to smear the surface
with mud so that it looks just like the rest of the wall. One thing I did
notice in the carving on the well-head, which I think must have escaped
you. It was a horrid, grotesque shape--perhaps more like a toad than
anything else, and there was a label by it inscribed with the two words,
"Depositum custodi".'[9]

    [9] 'Keep that which is committed to thee.'

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