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T HE E M PT Y H O US E

AN D OTH E R G H O ST S T O R I ES

AL G E R N O N B LA C KW O O D
A UT H O R O F

JO H N S I L E NC E
” “
T HE LO ST V
A LL EY E T C.

LO NDO N
E VE L E I G H N A S H C O MPA N Y
L I MI TE D
1
9 1 6
C O NTENTS

TH E E M PT O SEY H U

A H NT ED I S N D
AU LA

A C SE E VESD O PP I N
A OF A R G

K EE P I N G P O MI SE
HI S R

WIT I N T E N T
H STE To AL

THE WOOD DE D
OF TH E A

S MIT H ! A E P I SODE I N
N L OD I N H O SE
A G G- U

A S S P I IO S G I T
U C U F

THE ST N E AD V
RA G E NT ES P IVTE SE ET
UR OF A R A CR AR Y

IN N W Y O E RK

S E ETO N L
K L E AK E P I SODE IN C MP A

S
TH E E M P TY H O U SE

C T
E R AI Nhouses like certain persons manage
, ,

somehow t proclaim at on ce their character for


o

evil I n the case of the latter no particular


.
,

feature need betray them ; they may bo ast an


Open countenance and an ingenuous smile ; and
yet a little f their company leave the unalterable
o s

conviction that there is something radically amiss


with their being that they are evil Willy illy
! . n ,

they seem to communicate an atmosphere of secret


and wicked thoughts which makes those in their
immediate neighbourhood shrink from them as
from a thing diseased .

And perhaps with houses the same principle


, ,

is operative and it is the aroma f evil deeds


, o

committed under a particular roof long after the ,

actual doers have passed away that makes the,

go o fi
se h come
es and the hair rise S omething of .

the original passion of the evil doer and f the -


, o

horror felt by his victim enters the hea t f


, r o

the inno cent watcher and he bec omes sudd nly


, e
T he E m pty H ou se .

conscious f tingling nerves creeping skin and


o , , a

chilling of the blood He is terror stri cken without


.
-

apparent cause .

There was manifestly nothing in the external


appearance f this particular house to bear t
o ou

the t les f the hor or that was said to reign


a o r

within It was neither lonely nor unkempt I t


. .

stood crowded into a corner f the square and


, o ,

looked exactly like the houses either side f on o

it It had the same number f windows as i t


. o s

neighbours ; the same balcony overlooking the


gardens ; the same white steps leading p to the u

heavy black front door ; and in the rear there , ,

was the same narrow strip of green with neat ,

box borders running p t the wall that divided


,
u o

it from the backs f the adjoining houses o .

Apparently too the number f chimney pots


, , o on

the roof was the same ; th breadth and angle f e o

the eaves ; and even the height f the dirty area o

railings .

And yet this house in the square that seemed ,

pre cisely similar to its fifty ugly neighbours was ,

as a matter of fac t entirely di fferen t— horribly


di fferent .

Wherein lay this m arked invisible di fferen c e ,

is impossible to say I t cannot be ascribed wholly


.
T he E mp ty H o n sc 3
to the imagination because persons who had spent
,

some time in the house knowing nothing of the ,

fact had declared positively that certain rooms


s,

wer s disagreeable they would rathe r die than


e o

enter them again and that the atmosphere f


, o

the whole house produced in them symptoms of


a genuine t rror ; while the series f inno cent
e o

tenants who had tried t live in it and been o

forc ed t decamp at the shortest possible noti ce


o ,

was indeed little less than a s c andal in the


town .

When S h th arrived to pay a week end


or o use

-

visit to his Aunt Julia in her little house o n

the sea front at the other end of the town he


-
,

found her charged to the brim with mystery and


e xcitement He had only re ceived her telegram
.

that morning and he had c ome anticipating bore


,

dom ; but the moment b touched her hand and e

kissed her apple skin wrinkled ch ek he caught


-
e ,

the first wave f her electri c al condition The


o .

impression deepened when he learned that


there were to be no other visitors and that he ,

had been telegraphed for with a very special


obje ct .

Something was in the wind and the something ,

would doubtless bear fruit ; for this elderly spinste r


4 The E mp ty Hou se
aunt with a mania for psychical research b d brains
, ,
a

as well will power and by b k


as by crook
, oo or

S he usually managed to accomplish her en ds The .

revelation w made soon after tea when h as , s e

sidled close p to him as they pac ed slowly along


u

the front in the dusk


se a -
.


I ve got the keys h announced in a de

,

s e

light d yet half awesome voi ce Got them till


e , .

Monday ! ”


The keys f the bathing machine o 7 -
,
or
"

he asked inno c ently looking from the sea to the ,

town Nothing brought her so qui ckly to the


.

point as feigning stupidity .


N either h whispered I ve got the keys
,

s e .
“ ’

of the haunted house in the square— and I m ’

going there to night -


.

S h thor was conscious f the slightest


o u se o

possible tremor down his back He dropped his .

teasing tone Something in her voi c e and manner


.

/
thrilled him She was in e rn e st . a .

But you can t go alone he began’


.

That s w hy I Wired for you he said with



,

s

decision .

He turned to look at her The ugly lined .


, ,

e nigmati c al fa c e was alive with e x citement There .

was the glow o f genuin e enthusias m round it


The E mp ty Hou se 5
like a h lo The eyes shone He caught anothe r
a . .

w f her excitement and a second tremor more


av e o , ,

marked than the first accompanied it , .


Thanks Aunt Julia he said politely ; thanks
, ,

awfully .


I should not dare to go quite alone h w ent , s e

on raising her voice ; but with you I should enjoy


,

it immensely You re afraid of nothing I know


.

, .


Thanks s much he said agai n o E — is
,

. r

anything likely to happen ? ”

A great deal h happened h whispered as , s e ,

though it s b een most cleverly hushed p Three



u .

tenants have come and gone in the last few


months and the house is said to be empty for
,

good now .

In spite f himself S h th o became interested or o u se .

His aunt was very much in earne t so s .


The house is very ld indee d h went on o ,

s e ,

and the story— unpleasant — dates a long an on e

way back It has to do with a murder committed


.

by a jealous stableman who had some a ffair with


a servant in the house One night he managed .

to s crete himself in the cellar and when every


e ,

one was asleep he crept upstairs t the servants


, o

qu arters chased the girl down to the next landing


, ,

and before anyone cO ld come to the rescu e u


6 The E mp ty Hou se
threw her bodily over the banisters into the
hall below .

And the stableman


Was caught I believe and hanged for murder ;, ,

but it all happened a century ago and I ve not



,

been able to get more details f the story o .


S h th se
or w felt his interest thoroughly
ou no

aroused but though he was not particularly


,

nervous for himself he hesitated a little o his , n

aunt s account

.

On o condition he said at length



ne , .

Nothing will prevent my going she said ,


firmly ; but I may as well hear your condition



.

That you guarantee your power of self control


“ -

if anything really horrible happens I mean .

that y are sure you w on t get too frightened


ou

.

Jim she said scornfully I m not young I



,

,
“ ’
,

know nor are my nerves ; but w i th y I should


,
ou

be afraid f nothing in the world 1


o

This of course settled it f Shb th


,
had no , ,
or r ou se

pretensions to being other than a very ordinary


young man and an appeal to his vanity was
,

irresistible He agreed to go . .

Instinctively by a sort of sub conscious pre ,


-

p ti
ar a he kept
on himself
,
and his forces well in
hand the whole evening compelling an accumula ,
The E mp ty Hou se 7
tive reserve f control by that nameless inward
o

process of gradually putting all the emotions away


and t rning the key upon them a process
u

diffi cult to describe but wonderfully e ffective , , as

all men who have lived through severe trials of the


inner man well understand L ater it stood him .
,

in good stead .

But it was not until half past ten when they -


,

stood in the hall well in the glare f fri ndly,


o e

lamps and still surrounded by comforti g human n

influences that he had t make the first call U pon


,

this store of c ollected strength For once the .


,

door was closed and he w the deserted silent


, sa

street stretching away white in the moonlight


before them it came to him clearly that the real
,

test that night would be in dealing with tw f o ea r s

instead f o He would have to carry his aunt s


on e .

fear as well as his own And as he glanced down .


,

at her sphinx like countenance and realised that it


-

might assume no pleasant aspect in a rush of real


terror he felt satisfied with only
,
thing in the on e

whole adventure that he had confidence in his


wo will and power to stand against any shock


n

that might come .

Slowly they walked along the empty streets of


the town ; a bright autumn moon silvered the roofs ,
8 T h e E mp ty Hou se
casting deep shadows ; there was no breath f o

wind ; and the trees in the formal gardens by the


sea front watched them silently as they passed
-

along T his aunt s oc c asional remarks S h th


. o

or ou se

m de no reply realising that she was simply sur


a ,

rounding herself with mental b fi saying u


'

er s

ordinary things to prevent herself thinking of


extra ordinary things Few windows showed
-
.

lights and from s c arc ely a single chimney c ame


,

smoke sparks S h th
or h d already begun
. or o u se a

to notice everything even the smallest details ,


.

Presently th ey st pped at the street corner and o

looked up at the name the side f the house on o

full in the moonlight and with


"

accord but , on e ,

without remark tu ned into the square and crossed


,
r

over to the side of it that lay in shadow .

The number f the house is thirteen whispered


o ,

a voice at his side ; a d neither f them made the n o

obvious reference b t passed across the broad sheet


,
u

of moonlight and began to m hm p the pavement arc


in silence .

It was about half way p the square that - u

S h th or felt an arm slipped quietly but ig i


o u se s n

fi c tly into his own and knew then that their


an ,

ad enture had beg n in earnest and th at his


v
'

u ,

c ompanion was already yielding imperceptibly


T he E mp ty Hou se 9
to the influen c es against them She needed .

support .

A few minutes later they stopped before a tall ,

narrow house that rose before them into the night ,

ugly in shape and painted a dingy white Shutter .

1ess windows without blinds stared dow upon


, , n

th m
e , hi i g here and there in the moo light
,
s n n n .

There were weather streaks in the wall and cra cks


in the paint and the bal cony bulged u t from the
, o

first floor a little unnaturally But beyond this .


,

generally forlorn appearance f an unoccupied house o ,

there w nothing at first sight to single t this


as ou

particular mansion for the evil character it had


most ce rtainly ac quired .

Taking a look over their shoulders to make sure


they had not be en followed they went boldly p , u

the steps and stood against the huge black door


that fronted them forbiddingly B t the first

. u

wave f nervousness was now upon them and


o ,

S h th se fumbled a long time with the key


or ou

before he could fit it into the lock at all For a .

moment if truth were told they both hoped it


, ,

would t open for they w ere a prey to various


no ,

unpleasant emoti s they stood there on the


as on

threshold f their ghostly adventure S h tho


o . or u se ,

shu ffl ing with the key and hampered by the


IO T h e E mp ty Hou se
ste dy weight
a his arm certainly felt the
on ,

solemnity f the moment It was as if the whole


o .

world for all experience seemed at that instant


concentrated in his w consciousness — were


o n

listening to the grating noise of that key A stray .

pu ff of wind wandering down the empty street


woke a momentary rustling in the trees behind
them but otherwise this rattling f the key
, o

was the only sound audible ; and at last it


tur ed in the lock and the heavy door swung
n

ope and revealed a yawning gulf f darkness


n o

beyond .

With a last glan c e at the moonlit square they ,

passed quickly in and the door slammed behind


,

them with a roar that echoed prodigiously through


empty halls and passages But ins tantly with.
, ,

the echoes another sound made itself heard and


, ,

Aunt Julia leaned suddenly so heavily upon him


that he had to take a step backwards to save
himself from falling .

A man had coughed close beside them — close so

that it seemed they must have been actually by


his side in the darkness .

With the possibility f practical jokes in his


o

mind S h thou at once swung his heavy stick in


,
or se

the dire ction of the sound ; but it met nothing


The E mp ty Hou se 1 1

more solid than air He heard his aunt give a


.

little gasp beside him .

There s someone here she whispered I heard


“ ’
,


him .

Be quiet ! he said sternly I t was nothing


“ ”
.

but the noise f the front door


o .

O h ! get a light— quick h added as her s e ,

nephew fumbling with a box of matches opened


, ,

it up ide down and let them all fall with a rattle


s

on to the stone fl or o .

The sound however was not repeated and there


, ,

was no evidence of retreating footsteps In another .

minute they had a candle burning using an empty ,

end f a cigar case as a holder ; and when the first


o

flare had died down he held the impromptu lamp


aloft and surveyed the scene And it w dreary . as

enough in all conscience f there is nothi g more , or n

desolate in all the abodes f men than an unfur o

i h d house dimly lit silent and forsaken and


n s e , , ,

yet tenanted by rumour with the memories f evil o

and violent histories .

They were standing in a wide hall way ; their - on

left was the open door f a spacious dining room o -


,

and in front the hall ran ever narrowing into a , ,

long dark passage that led apparently t the top f


,
o o

the kitchen stairs The broad uncarpeted staircase


.
12 T h e E m p ty Hou se
rose in a sweep before them everywhere draped in ,

shadows except f o a single spot about half way p


,
r -
u

where the moonlight c ame in through the windo w


and fell on a bright patch o the boards This n .

shaft f light shed a faint radian ce above d below


o an

it lending to the object within its reac h a misty


,
s

outline that was infinitely more suggestive and


ghostly than complete darkness Filtered moon .

light always se ems to paint faces on the surrounding


gloom and as S h th
,
peered p into the well of
or ou se u

darkness d thought of the c ountless empty rooms


an

and passages in the upper p rt f the old house he a o ,

caught himself longing again for the safety of the


moonlit square the cosy bright drawing room
, or ,
-

they had left an hour before Then realising that .

these thoughts were dangerous he thrust them ,

away again and summoned all hi energy f s or

con c entration the present


on .

Aunt Julia he sai d aloud severely we m ust



,

, ,

now go through the house f m top to bottom nd r n a

make a thorough search .


The echoes f his voi c e died away slowly all


o

over the building and in the intense silence that


,

followed he turned t look at her I n the candle


o .

light he w that her face was already gha tly


sa s

pale ; but h d opped his arm for a moment and


s e

r
14 T h e E mp ty Hou se
be seen Bare walls ugly m antel pieces and empty
.
,
-

grates stared at them E verything they felt.


, ,

resented their intrusion watching them as it were


, , ,

with veiled eyes whispers followed them ; shadows


fl i tt d noiselessly t
e right and left ; something
o

seemed ever at their back watching waiting an , ,

Opportunity to do them injury There was the .

inevitable sense that operations which went on

when the room was empty had been temporarily


suspe ded till they were well t of the way again
n ou .

The whole dark interior of the ld building seemed o

to become a malignant Presence that rose p u ,

warning them to desist and mind their w o n

business ; every moment the strain the erves on n

increased .

Out f the gloomy dining room they passed


o -

through large folding doors into a sort f library o or

smoking room wrapt equally in silen ce darkness


-
, , ,

and dust ; and from this they regained the hall


near the top of the back stair s .

Here a pitch black tunnel Opened before them


into the lower regions and— it must be confessed
,

they hesitated But only f a minute With the


. or .

worst f the night still to come it was essential t


o o

turn from nothing Aunt Julia stumbled at the


.

t p step f the dark des c ent ill lit by the flicke ing
o o ,
r
The E mp ty Hou se 1 5
candle and even S h th
, felt at least half the or o u se

decision go t f his legs ou o .

C ome ! he said peremptorily and his voice


on

,

ran on and lost itself in the dark empty spaces ,

below .

I m coming h faltered catching his m with



,
s e , ar

unnecessary violence .

They went a little unsteadily down the stone


steps a cold damp air meeting them in the face
, , ,

elo se and m l odorous The kitchen into which


a - .
,

the stairs led along a narrow passage was large , ,

with a lofty ceiling Several doors O pened out f . o

it— some into cupboards with empty jars still stand


ing on the shelves and others into h bl little , or r I e

ghostly back o ffices each colder and less inviting ,

than the last Black beetles scurried over the floor


.
,

and once when they knocked against a deal table


,

standing in a corner somethin g about the size f a , o

cat jumped down with a rush and fled scampering ,

a cross the stone fl or into the darkness E very o .

where there was sense f recent occupation an a o ,

impression of sadness and gloom .

Leaving the main kitchen they next went ,

towards the scullery The door was standing aj ar .


,

and they pushed it open to its f l l extent Aunt


as u

J ulia uttered a pier c ing s c ream which she instantly ,


16 The E mp ty Hou se
tried to stifle by placing her hand over her mouth
For a se cond S ho th u stood stock still catching
r o se -
,

his breath He felt if his spine had suddenly


. as

become hollo w and som eone had filled it with


particles of ice .

Facing them directly in their way between the


,

doorposts stood the figure of a woman She had


, .

dishevelled hair and wildly staring eyes and her ,

face was terrified and white death as .

She stood there motio l ess for the space f a n o

single second Then the candle flickered and h


. s e


was gon e gone utterly and the door framed

nothing but empty darkness .


Only the beastly j umping candle light, he -

said quickly in a voice that sounded like someone


,

else s and was only half un der control



C ome on .
,

aunt There s nothing there


.

.

He dragged her forward With a clattering of feet .

and a great appearance of boldness they went on b t ,


u

r
/
ove his body the skin m v d s if crawling ants o e a

c overed it and he knew by the weight o his arm


, n

that he was supplying the force f locomotion for o

two The s cullery was cold bare and empty ; more


.
, ,

like a large prison c ell than anything else They .

went round it tried the door in to the yard and


, ,

the windows but found them all fastened se curely


, .
The E mp ty Hou se I 7
His aunt moved beside him like a person in a
dream Her eyes were tightly shut and h
. , s e

seemed merely to follow the pressure f his arm o .

Her courage filled him with amazement At the .

same time he noticed that a certain dd change o

had come over h face a change which so mehow er ,

evaded his power of analysis .


There s nothing here aunty he repeated

, ,

aloud quickly L et s go pstairs and see the rest


.
“ ’
u

f the house Then we ll choose a room to wait ’


o .

u
p in .

She followed him obediently keeping close to his ,

side and they locked the kitchen door behind them


,
.

It was a relief to get up again In the hall there was .

more light than before f the moon had travelled , or

a little further down the stairs C autiously they .

began to go p into the dark vault f the upper


u o

house the boards creaking under their weight


, .

On the first floor they found the large double


drawing rooms a sea ch f which revealed nothing
-
,
r o .

Here also was no sign f furniture recent o or

occ upancy ; nothing but dust and neglect and


shadows They opened the big folding doors
.

between f t d back drawing rooms and then


r on a n -

came out again to the landing and went upstairs on .

They had not gone p more than a dozen steps u


I8 T h e E mp ty Hou se
when they both simultaneously stopped to listen ,

looking into each other s eyes with a new pp h ’


a re en

sion across the flickering candle flame From the .

room they had left hardly ten se conds before came


the sound f doors quietly closing I t w beyond
o . as

all question ; they heard the booming noise that


a ccompanies the shutting f heavy doors followed o ,

by the sharp cat hing f the latch


c o

We must go back and see said S ho tho ,


r use

briefly in a low to ne and turning to go downstairs


, ,

again.

Somehow she managed to drag after him her ,

feet catching in her dress her face livid , .

When they entered the front drawing room it -

was plain th t the folding doo s had been closed


a r

half a minute be f ore Without hesitation Short


.

house opened them H l most e xpected to


. e a se e

someone facing him in the back room ; but only


darkness and cold air met him T hey went .

through both rooms finding Othi g unusual


,
n n .

They tried in every w y to make the doors close a

o f themselves but there was not wind enough even


,

to set the c andle flame flickering The doors .

would not move without strong pressure All was .

silent as the grave Undeniably the rooms were


.

utterly empty and the house utterly still


,
.
T h e E mp ty Hou se 19

It s beginning whispered a voice at his elbow



,

which he hardly recognised as his aunt s



.

He nodded acq i escence taking out his watch


u ,

to note the time It was fifteen minutes before


.

midnight ; he made the entry f exactly what had o

occurred in his notebook setting the candle in it , s

case upon the floor in order to do It took a so .

moment two to balance it safely against the


or

wall .

Aunt Julia always declared that at thi s moment


she was not actually watching him but had turned ,

her head towards the inner room where h fancied , s e

sh heard something moving ; but at any rate both


e , ,

posi tively agreed that there came a sound f o

rushing feet heavy and very swift— and the next


,

instant the candle was t ! ou

But to S h th himself had come more than


or o u se

this and he has always thanked his fortunat stars


, e

that it came t him alone and ot to his aunt to


o n o .

For as he rose from the stooping position f b l c


, o a an

ing the candle and before it was actually xti


, e n

g i h
u s d a f ace
e thrust
, i tself forward close to his so

o w that he could almost have touched it with his


n

lips It w a face working with passion ; a man s


. as

fac e dark with thick features and angry savage


, , , ,

eyes It b l ged to a common man and it w a evil


. eo n , s
20 T h e E mp ty Hou se
in its ordinary normal expression no doubt but as , ,

he saw it alive with intense aggressive emotion


, , ,

it was a malignant and terrible human t co u n e n

ance .

There was no movement of the air ; nothing but


the sound f rushing feet stockinged or muffled
o -

feet ; the apparition f the face ; and the almost


o

simultaneous extinguishing f the candle o .

I n spite f himself S h th uttered a little


o , or o u se

cry nearly losing his balance as his aunt clung to


,

him with her whole weight in o moment f real ne o ,

uncontrollable terror She made no sound but


.
,

simply s ized him bodily Fortunately however


e .
, ,

she had seen nothing but had only heard the rushing
,

feet for her control returned almost at once and


, ,

he was able to disentangle himself and strike a


match .

The shadows ran away all sides before the on

glare and his aunt stooped down and groped f


, or

the c igar case with th /p eciOu candle Then e r s .

they dis c overed that the candle had not been


blown out at all ; it had been h d out The cr u s e .

wick was pressed down into the wax which ,

was flattened as if by some smooth heavy i t , n s ru

ment .

How his companion o quickly overcame her s


2 2 T h e E m p ty Hou se
ceilings already hung here and there with c obwebs ,

small windows and badly plastered walls a


,

depressing and dismal region which they were glad


t leave behind
o .

I t was o the stroke of midnight when they


n

entered a small room o the third floor close to the n ,

top f the stairs and arranged to make themselves


o ,

comfortable for the remainder f their adventure o .

It was absolutely bare and was said to be the ,

room — then used as a clothes closet —into which


the infuriated groom had chased his vi cti m and
finally c au ght her Outside acro ss the narrow.
,

landing began the stairs leading up to the floor


,

above and the se vants quarters where they had


,
r

just searched .

I n spite f the chilliness of the night there was


o

something in the air of this room that cried for an


open W indow But there was more than this
. .

S ho th
r c ould only describe it by saying that
ou se
/
he felt less master f hi ms elf here than in any o

other part of the house There was something .

that ac ted directly o the nerves tiring the resolu


n ,

tion enfeebling the will He w s conscious f this


,
. a o

result before he had been the room five minutes In ,

and i t was in the short time they stayed there that


he su ffer e d th wholesale de pletion of his vital
e
The E m p ty Hou se 2 3
forces which was for himself the chief horror of
, , ,

the whole experience .

They put the candle the flo r f the c upboard on o o ,

leaving the door a few inches ajar o that there , s

was no glare to confuse the eyes and no shadow ,


to shift about walls and ceiling Then they


on .

spread the cloak the floor d s t down to wait


on an a ,

with their backs against the wall .

S h th or was within tw o feet of the doo r o


o u se n

to the landing ; his position c ommanded a good


view f the main stairc ase leading down into the
o

darkness and also of the beginning of the servants


,

stairs going to the floor above ; the heavy sti ck lay


be ide him within easy reach
s .

The moon was now high above the house .

Through the open window they could the se e

comforting stars like friendly eyes watching in the


sky One by o the clo cks f the town stru ck
. ne o

midnight and when the sounds died away the deep


,

silence of a windless night fell again over every


thing Only the boom Of the s far away and
. ea,

lugubrious filled the air with hollow murmurs


,
.

Inside the house the s ilence became awful ;


awful he thought because any minute w it
, ,
no

might be broken by soun ds portending terror .

The strain of w aiting t ol d more an d more severely


2 4 The E mp ty Hou se
on the nerves ; they talked in whispers when
they talked at all for their voices aloud sounded
,

queer and nnatural A chilliness not altogether


u .
,

due t the night air invaded the room and made


o , ,

them cold The influences against them whatever


.
,

these might be were slowly robbing them of self


,

co n fid and the power of decisive ction ; their


e n ce , a

forces were the wane and the possibility f real


on , o

fear took a new and terrible meaning He


on .

began t tremble for the elderly woman by his side


o ,

whose pluck could hardly save her beyond a certain


extent .

He heard the blood singing in his veins It .

sometimes seemed loud that he fancied it pre so

vented hi hearing properly certain other sounds


s

that were beginning very faintly to make them


selves audible i the d pth f the house E very
'

n e s o .

time he fastened his attention on these sounds ,

they instantly ceased They certainly came no .

nearer Yet he could not rid hims€lf f the idea


.

!
, o

that movement was going o somewhere in the n

lower regions of the house The drawing room .


-

floor where the doors had been so strangely closed


, ,

seemed too near the sounds were further ff than o

that He thought of the great kitchen with the


.
,

s currying black beetles a d of the dism al lit tl e


-
,
n
The E mp ty Hou se 2 5
scullery but somehow other they did not seem
, or ,

to come from there either S rely they were not . u

t i d the house
ou s e

Then suddenly the truth flashed into his mind


, , ,

and f the space f a minute he felt as if his


or o

blood had stopped flowing and turned to ice .

The sounds were not downstairs at all ; they


were p t i — upstairs somewhere among those
u s a rs ,

horrid gloomy little servants rooms with their bits ’

of broken furniture l w ceilings and cramped ,


o ,

windows— upstairs where the victim had first been


disturbed and stalked to her death .

And the moment he discovered where the sounds


were he began t hear them more clearly It was
, o .

the sound f feet moving stealthily along the


o ,

passage overhead in and out among the room and


, s,

past the furniture .

He turned quickly to steal a glan c e at the motion


less figure seated beside him to note whether h ,
s e

had shared his discovery The fain t c andle light .


-

coming through the crack in the c upboard door ,

threw her strongly marked face into vivid relief


-

against the white f the wall But it was some


o .

thing else that made him catc h his breath and


stare again An extraordinary something had
.

come in to her fa ce an d s eemed to s pread over her


2 6 The E m p ty Hou se
features like a mask ; it smoothed t the deep ou

lines and drew the skin everywhere a little tighter


s o that the wrinkles disappeared ; it brought into

the face— with the sole e x ception f the ld eyes o o

an appearance of youth and almost f childhood o .

He stared in speechless amazemen t— amazement


that was dangerously near to horror It was his .

aunt s face indeed but it was her face f forty



, o

years ago the vacant inno c ent face f a girl He


, o .

had heard stories f that strange effect of terror


o

which could wipe a human countenan c e clean f o

other emotions obliterating all previous expres


,

sions ; b t he had never realised that it c ould be


u

literally true could m ean anything so si m ply


, or

horrible as what he now saw Fo the dreadful . r

Signature of overmastering fear was written plainly

in that utter vacan cy of the girlish face beside


him ; and when feeling his intense gaze she turned
, ,

to look at him he instinctively closed his eyes


,

tightly to shut u t the o

Yet when he turned a m


,
inute later his feelings ,

well in hand he s w t his inten e relief another


, a o s

e xpression ; his aunt was m ili g a d though thes n ,_ n

face was deathly white the awful veil had lifted


,

and the normal look was returning .

Anything wrong ? was all he coul d think f



o
The E m p ty Hou se 2 7
to y at the moment And the answer was
sa .

eloquent coming from such a woman


,
.

I feel cold— and a little frightened h



,

s e

whispered .

He offered to close the window but she seized ,

hold of him and begged him ot to leave her side n

even f an instant
or .

It s upstairs I know sh whispered with an


“ ’
, ,
e ,

odd half laugh ; but I can t possibly go p ’


u .

But S ho th u thought otherwise knowing


r o se ,

that in action lay their best hope of self control -


.

He took the brandy flask and poured out a glass


f neat spirit stifl enough to help anybody over

o ,

anything She swallowed it with a little shiver


. .

Hi only idea now was to get ou t f the house


s o

before her collapse became inevitable ; but thi s


could not safely be done by turning tail and
running from the enemy I na ction was no longer .

possible every minute he was growing less master


of himself and desperate aggressive mea ures were
, , s

imperative without further delay Moreover the .


,

action must be taken towa d the enemy not away r s ,

from it ; the climax if necessary and unavoidable , ,

would have to be fac ed boldly He could do it .

no w ; but in ten minutes he might not have the

force left to act for himself mu c h le ss for both ! ,


2 8 The E mp ty Hou se
Upstairs the sounds were meanwhile becoming
,

louder and closer accompanied by occasional ,

creaking of the boards Someone was moving .

stealthily about stumbling now and then


,

awkwardly gainst the furniture


a .

Waiting a few moments to allow the tremendous


dose of spirits to produce its eff ect and knowing ,

this would last but a short time under the circum


stances S h th
, or then quietly got
o u se his feet on ,

saying in a determined voice


N w Aunt Julia we ll g upstairs and find out

o , , o

what all this noise is about Y must come too . ou .

I t s what we ag eed

r .

He picked up his stick and went t the cupboard o

f
or the candle A limp form rose h kily besid him
. s a e

breathing hard and he heard a voi c e ay very


, s

f aintly something ab t b i g ready to come The ”


ou e n .

woman s c ourage amazed him it was so much greater


than his w ; and as they advanced holding aloft


o n , ,

the dripping candle some btl /f or ce e xhaled from


,
su e

this trembling white faced old woman at his side


,
-

that was the true sourc e f his inspiration It held o .

something really great that shamed him and gave


him the support without which he would have
proved far less equal to the o c casion .

T hey c rossed the dark landing avoiding with ,


3 0 The E mp ty Hou se
passed clean through them where they stood and ,

already with a thud th boards below had receivede

first one then the other Yet they had seen


, .

absolutely nothing not a hand


— arm or face or , or , ,

even a shred of flying clothing .

There came a second s pause Then the first ’


.

on e,the lighter f the two obviously the pursued


o ,

on e, ran with un c ertain footsteps into the little


ro m which ? S h tho
o and his aunt had just
or u se

left The heavier


. followed There was a
on e .

sound f oflfli g g sping and smothered


scu n , a ,

screaming ; and then t on to the landing came ou

the step — f a single person t d i g w ighti ly


o r ea n e .

A dead silence followed for the sp ce f half a a o

minute and then was heard a rushing sound


,

through the air It was followed by a dull cr sh


.
, a

ing thud in the depths f the house below— the o ou

stone floor f the hall o .

Utter silence reigned after N othing moved . .

The flame of the candle w st dy I t had been as


/
ea ,

ste dy the whole time and the air had been


a ,

undisturbed by any movement whatsoever Palsied .

with terror Aunt Julia without waiting for her


, ,

companion began fumbling her way downstairs ;


,

sh was crying gently to herself and when Short


e ,

house put his arm round her and half carried her
The E mp ty Hou se 3 I

he felt that h was trembling like a leaf He


s e .

went into the little room and picked p the cloak u

from the floor and arm in arm walking very


, , ,

slowly without speaking a word looking once


,
or

behind them they marched down the three flights


,

into the hall .

In the hall they w nothing but the whole way


sa ,

down the stairs they were conscious that someone


followed them ; step by tep ; w hen they went
s

faster I T was left behind a d when they went,


n

more slowly I T caught them up But never once .

did they look behind to ; and at each tu rning


se e

of the stair c ase they lowered their eyes for fear of


the f ll w i g h
o o n
~

they might
~
or r or Upon the se e

stairs above .

With trembling hands S h th opened the or ou se

front door and they walked ut into the moonlight


,
o

and drew a deep breath of the cool night air blowing


In from the sea .
A H A U NT ED ISLAND

TH E following events occurred a small island on

o f isolated position in a large C anadian lake t , o

whose cool waters th inhabitants of Montreal


e f

and Toronto flee for rest and recreation in the


h t months
o It is only t be regretted that
. o

events of such peculiar interest to the genuine


student f the psychical should be entirely
o u n co r

ro b t d S h unfortunately however is the


or a e . uc , ,

case .

Our ow party of nearly twenty had returned


n

to Montreal that very day and I was left in ,

solitary possession for a week tw longer in or o ,

order to accomplish some important reading “ ”

for the law which I had fool i t neglected during s

the summer .

It was late in September and the big trout and


,

maskinonge were stirring themselves in the depths


of the lake and beginning slowly to move up t
,
o

the surface waters as the north winds and early


frosts lowered their temperature Already the .

32
A H aun ted I sl and 33
maples were crimson and gold and the wild ,

laughter f the loons echoed in sheltered bays that


o

never knew their strange cry in the S i mmer l .

With a whole island to oneself a two —storey ,

cottage a canoe and only the chipmunks and the


, , ,

farmer s weekly visit with eggs and bread to



,

disturb one the Opportunities for hard reading


,

might be very great I t all depends !


.

The rest of the party had gone ff with many o

warnings to beware of I ndians and not t st y , o a

late eno gh to be the Vc t m of a frost that thi nks


u i i

nothing of forty below zero After they had gone .


,

th loneliness of the situation made itself


e p l un e as

an tly felt There were no other islands within


.

six or seven miles and though the mainland forests


,

lay a couple of miles behind me they stretched ,

for a very great dis tance unbroken by any sig s n

of human habitation But though the island was


.
,

completely deserted d silent the r cks and trees


an , o

that had echoed human laughter and voices almost


every hour f the day f two months could not
o or

fail to retain some memories f it all ; and I was o

not surprised to fancy I heard a shout or a cry as


I p ssed from rock to rock and more than once to
a ,

imagine that I heard my w name called aloud o n .

In the cottage there were ix tiny little b d s e

3
34 A H aun ted I sl and
rooms divided from another by plain
on e u n v ar

i h d partitions of pine
n s e A wooden bedstead .
,

a mattress and a chair stood in each room but I


, , ,

only found two mirrors and one of these was ,

broken .

The boards creaked a good deal as I moved


about and the signs of occupation were recent
,
so

that I could hardl y believe I was alone I half .

expected to find someone left behind still trying ,

to crowd into a b x m ore than it would hold


o .

The door of room was sti ff and refused for


on e ,

a moment to Open and it required very little


,

persuasion to imagine someone was holding the


handle the inside and that when it Opened I
on ,

should meet a pair f human eyes o .

A thorough search f the floor led me to select o

as my w sleeping quarters a little room with a


o n

diminutive balcony over the verandah roof The .

room was very small but the bed was large and , ,

had the best mattress of th m l f I t was situated e a .

directly over the S itting room where I should live -

and do my reading and the miniature window



,

looked out to the rising sun With the exceptio . n

of a narrow path which led from the front doo r

and verandah through the trees to the boat


landing the island was densely c overed with
,
A H aun ted I sl and 35
m aples hemlocks and cedars The trees gathered
, ,
.

in round the cottage so closely that the slightest


wind made the branches scrape the roof d tap an

the wooden walls A few moments after sunset.

the darkness became impenetrable and ten yards ,

beyond the glare f the lamps that shone through


o

- —
the sitting room windows f which there were o

four— you could not see an inch before your nose ,

nor move a step without running p against a u

tree.

The rest f that day I spent moving my b long


o e

ings from my tent to the sitting room taking -


,

stock of the contents f the larder and choppingo ,

enough wood for the stove to last me for a week .

Af ter that just before s nset I went round the


,
u ,

island a couple of times in my canoe for p c r e au

tion s sake I had never dreamed of doing this



.

before but when a man is alone he does thi ngs that


,

never o ccur to him when he is f a large on e o

party .

How lonely the island seemed when I landed


again The was down and twilight is unknown
su n ,

in these northern regions The darkness comes p . u

at once The canoe safely pulled up and turned


.

over onher face I groped my way up the little


,

narrow pathway to the verandah The ix lamps . s


3 6 A H aun ted I sl and
were soon burning merrily in the front room ; but
in the kitchen where I dined the shadows were
,

,

so gloomy and the lamplight was inadequate


, so ,

that the stars could be seen peeping through the


cracks between the rafters .

I turned in early that night Though it was .

calm and there w no wind the creaking of my


as ,

bedstead and the musical gurgle of the water over


the rocks below were not the only sounds that
reached my ears As I lay awake the appalling
.
,

emptiness f th house grew upon me The


o e .

corridors and vacant rooms seemed to echo


innumerable footsteps , h ffli g the rustle of s u n s,

ski ts and a constant unde tone of whispering


r , r .

When sleep at length overtook me the breathings ,

and noises however pa sed gently to mingle with


, , s

the voices f my dreams


o .

A week passed by and the reading progressed


,

favourably On the tenth day f my solitude a


. o ,

strange thing happened I after a good .

night s sleep to find myself possessed with a


marked repugnance for my room The air seemed .

to stifle me The more I tried to define the cause


.

o f this dislike the more unreasonable it appeared


,
.

There was something about the room that made me


afraid Absurd as i t seem s this feeling clung to
. ,
3 8 A H aun ted I sl and
a swim and luncheon I was very much surprised , ,

if not a little alarmed to find that my dislike for ,

the room had if anything grown stronger Going


, , .

upstairs to get a book I e xperienced the most ,

marked aversion to entering the room and whil e ,

within I w c onscious all the time f an


as o un

comfortable feeling that was half uneasiness and


half apprehension The result f it was that. o ,

instead of reading I spent the afternoon , the on

water paddling and fishing and when I got home ,

about sundown brought with me half a dozen


,

delicious black bass for the supper table and the -

larder .

As sleep was an important matter to me at this


time I had decided that if my aversion to the room
,

was strongly marked


so my return as it had on

been before I would move my bed down into the


,

sitting room and sleep there This w a I argued in


-
,
. s, ,

no sense a concession to an absurd and fanciful fear ,

but simply a precaution t / mf a good night s


/

o e s re

sleep A bad night involved the loss f the next


. o

day s reading — loss I was not prepared to



, a

incur .

I accordingly moved my bed downstairs into a


cor er of the sitting room facing the door and was
n -
,

m oreover uncommonly glad when the operation


A H aun ted I sl and 39
was completed and the d or f the bedroom closed
,
o o

finally upon the shadows the silence and the , ,

strange f that shared the room with them


ea r .

The croaking s troke f the kitchen clock sounded


o

the hour f eight as I finished washing p my


o u

few dishes and closing the kitchen door behind


,

me passed into the front room All the lamps


, .

were lit and their reflectors whi c h I had polished


, ,

up during the day threw a blaze


,
f light into the o

room .

O tside the night was still and warm Not a


u .

breath f air was stirring ; the waves were silent


o ,

the trees motionless and heavy clouds hung like


,

an oppressive curtain over the heavens The .

darkness seemed to have rolled up with unusual


swiftness and not the faintest glow f colour
, o

remained to show where the had t There su n se .

was present in the atmosphere that ominous and


overwhelming silence which so often precedes the
most violent storms .

I sat down to my books with my brain unusually


clear and in my heart the pleasant satisfaction of
,

knowing that five black bass were lying in the


ice house and that to morrow m orning the ld
-
,
-
o

farmer would arrive with fresh bread and eggs I .

was soon absorbed in my books .


4 0 A H aun ted I sland
As the night wore on the sil nce deepened e .

E ve the chipmunks were still ; and the boards f


n o

the floors and walls ceased creaking I read on .

steadily till from the gloomy shadows of the


,

kitchen came the hoarse sound of the clock striking


,

nine H w loud the strokes sound d They were


. o e

like blows f a big hammer I closed one book


o .

and Opened another feeling that I was just


,

warming up to my work .

This how ver did not last long I presently


,
e , .

found that I was reading the same paragraphs over


twice simple paragraphs that did not require such
,

e ffort Then I noticed that my mind began to


.

wander to other thi n gs and the effort t recall my


, o

thoughts be c ame harder with each digression .

C oncentration was growi g momentarily more n

difficult Presently I discovered that I had t rned


. u

over two pages instead of o and had not noticed n e,

my mistake until I was well down the page This .

was becoming serious Wh / t w s the disturbi g


. a a n

influen c e ? It could not be physical fatigue On .

the contrary my mind was unusually alert and


, ,

in a more receptive c ondition than usual I made


a new and d termined effort to read and for a
e ,

short time succeeded in giving my whole attention


to my subject But in a very few moments again
.
A H aun ted I sl and 4 1

I found myself leaning back in m y chair staring ,

vacan tly into space .

Something was evidently at work in my sub


consciousness There was somethin g I had
.

neglected to do Perhaps the kitchen d oor and


.

windows were not fastened I accordingly went .

to and found that they were ! The fire perhaps


se e ,

needed attention I went in to . and found that se e ,

it was all right ! I looked at the lamps went ,

upstairs into every bedroom in turn and then went ,

round the house and even into the ice house ,


-
.

Nothing was wrong ; everything was in it place s .

Yet something w wrong ! The conviction grew as

stronger and stronger within me .

When I at length se ttled down to my books


again and tried to read I became aware for the , ,

first time that the room seemed growing c old


, .

Yet the day had been O ppressively warm and ,

evening had brough t no relief The ix big lamps


. s ,

moreover gave out heat enough to warm the room


,

pleasantly But a chill ine s that perhaps crept


. s ,

u
p from
, the lake made itself felt in the
,
room and ,

caused me to get up to close the glass door opening


on to the verandah .

For a brief moment I stood looking t at the ou

shaft of light that fell from the windows and shon e


A H aun ted I sl and
some little distance down the pathway and t f , ou or

a few feet into the lake .

As I looked I w a canoe glide i to the pathway


, sa n

o f light and immediately crossing it pass out of


, ,

S ight again into the darkness It was perhaps .

a hundred feet from the shore and it moved ,

swiftly .

I was surprised that a canoe should pass the


island at that time f night for all the sum m er
o ,

visitors from the other side f the lake had gone o

home weeks before and the island was a long way


,

ou t f any line f water traffic


o o .

My reading from this moment did not m ake


very good progress for somehow the picture f
, o

that canoe gliding so dimly and swiftly across the


,

narro w track f light o the black waters on ,

silhouetted itself against the background f my o

mind with singular vivi dness I t kept coming .

between my eyes and the printed page The more .

I thought about it the more urprised I became s .

It was f larger build than any I had seen d ing


o ur

the past summer months and w more like the ,


as

o ld Indian war canoes with the high curving bows


and stern and wide beam The more I tried to .

read the less success attended my effort s ; and


,

finally I closed my books and went t the ou on


A H a u n ted I sl and 43
verandah to walk up and down a bit and shake ,

the chilliness out f my bones o .

The night was perfectly still and as dark as ,

imaginable I stumbled down the path to the little


.

landing wharf where the water made the very


,

faintest of gurgling under the timbers The sound .

of a big tree falling in the mainland forest far ,

across the lake stirred echoes in the heavy air like


, ,

the first guns f a distant night attack N other


o . 0

sound disturbed the stillness that reigned supreme .

As I stood upon the wharf in the broad splash


of light that followed me from the sitting room -

w indows I w another canoe cross the pathway


, sa

of unce tain light upon the water and disappear


r ,

at once into the impenetrable gloom that lay


beyond This time I saw more distinctly than
.

before It w like the former canoe a big birch


. as ,

bark w ith high crested bows and stern and broad


,
-

beam It was paddled by tw Indians of whom


. o ,

the on ein the stern — the steerer— appeared to be


a very large m I could this very plainly ;
an . see

and though the second canoe was much nearer the


island than the first I judged that they were both ,

on their way home to the Government Reservation ,

which was situated some fifteen miles away upon


the mainland .
44 A H aun ted I sl and
I w wondering in my mind what could possibly
as

bring any Indians down to this part of the lake at


such an hour f the night when a third canoe of
o , ,

precisely similar build and also o c cupied by two


,

Indians passed silently round the end f the wharf


, o .

This time the canoe was very much nearer shore ,

and it suddenly fl hed into my mind that the


as

three canoes were in reality and the same and


on e ,

that only one canoe was circling the island !


This was by no means a pleasan t reflection ,

because if it were the correct solution f the


, o

unusual appearance of the three canoes in this


lonely part of the lake at late an hour the
so ,

purpose f the two men could only reasonably be


o

considered to be in some way connected with


myself I had never known of the Indians
.

attempting any violence upon the settlers who


shared the wild inhospitable country with them ;

at the s me time it was not beyond the region f


a , o

possib ility to suppose But thEii I did not care


even t think f such hideous possibilities and my
o o ,

imagination immediately sought relief in ll manner a

of other solutions to the problem which indeed ,

came readily enough to my mind but did not ,

suc ceed in re commending themselves to m y


reason .
4 6 A H aun ted I sl and
Indians !) late at night a lonely island was not
on

exactly my idea of pleasant intercourse .

In a corner of the sitting room leaning p -


,
u

against the back wall stood my Marlin rifle with


, ,

ten cartridges in the magazine and lying on e

snugly in the greased breech There was just .

time to get p to the house and take p a position


u u

o f defence in that corner Without an instant s ’


.

h sitation I ran p to the verandah c arefully


e u ,

picking my way among the trees as to avoid ,


so

being seen in the light E ntering the room I shut


.
,

the door leading to the verandah and as quickly ,

as possible turned o t every o f the ix lamps


u ne o s .

To be in a room so brilliantly lighted where my ,

every movement could be observed from outside ,

while I could see nothing b t impenetrable dark u

ness at every window was by all laws f warfare


, o

an unnecessary concession t the enemy And thiso .

enemy if enemy it was t be was far t wily and


, o , oo

da gerous t be granted any such Edv t g


n o an a es .

I stood in the corner of the room with my back


agains t the wall and my hand
, the cold ifl on r e

barrel The table covered with my books lay


.
, ,

between me and the door but for the first f w , e

minutes af ter the lights were t the darkness ou

was sointense that nothing c ould be dis c erned


A H a un ted I sl and 47
at all Then very gradually the outline f the
.
, , o

room became visible and the framework Of the


,

windows began to shape itself di m ly before my


eyes .

After a few minutes the door (its upper half


of glass ) and the two windows that looked
,

ou t upon the front verandah became specially ,

distinct ; and I was glad that this was because so ,

if the Indians came p to the house I should beu

able to their approach and gather som thing


se e , e

o f their plans Nor w I mistaken for there


. as ,

presently came to my ears the peculiar hollow


sound f a canoe landing and being carefully
o

dragged p over the rocks The paddles I dis


u .

ti tly heard being placed underneath and the


nc ,

silence that ensued thereupon I rightly interpreted


to mean that the Indians were stealthily approach
ing the house .

While it would be absurd to claim that I was


no t alarmed even frightened
— — t the gravity of a

the situation and it possible outcome I speak the


s ,

whole truth when I y that I was not overwhelm


sa

i gly afraid for myself


n I was conscious that even
.

at this stage f the night I was passing into a


o

psychical condition in which my sensations seemed


no longer normal Physical fear at no time entered
.
4 8 A H aun ted I sl and
into the nature of my feelings ; and though I
kept my hand upon my rifle the greater part of
the n ight I was all the time conscious that its
,

assistance c ould be of little avail against the terrors


that I had to face More than once I seemed to
.

feel most curiously that I was in no real sense a


pa t f the proc eedings nor actually involv d i
r o , e n

them but that I w playing the part of a spe c


,
as

tato r— S pectator moreover


a a psy chic rather
, ,
on

than a material plane Many of my sensations


on .

that night were too vague f o definite description r

and analysis but the main feeling that will stay


, ,

with me t the end f my days is the awful horror


o o

of it all and the miserable sensation that if the


,

strain had last d a little longer than was act ually


e

the case my mind must inevitably have given way .

Meanwhile I stood still in my corner and waited ,

patiently f what was t come The house was


or o .

as still as the grave but the inarticulate voices


, f o

the night sang in my ears d I seemed to hear ,


an
/

the blood running in my veins and dan c ing in my


pulses .
s
I

If the I ndians c ame to the back f the hou e o s ,

they would find the kitchen door and window


securely fastened They could not get in there
.

without making considerable noise which I w s , a


A H aun ted I sl a nd 49
bound to hear T he only mode f getting in w
. o as

by means of the door that faced me and I kept my ,

eyes glued that door without taking them ff


on o

for the smallest fraction of a second .

My sight adapted itself every minute better to


th darkness I w the table that nearly filled
e . sa

th room and left only a narrow passage


e ,
each on

side I could also make out the straight backs of


.

t h wooden c hairs pressed p against it and could


e u ,

even distinguish my papers and inkstan d lying on


the white oilcloth covering I thought of the gay .

faces that had gathered round that table during


the summer and I longed for the sunlight as I had
,

never lo ged for it before


n .

Less than three feet t my left the passage way


o -

led to the ki tchen and the stairs leading to the


,

bedrooms above commenced in this passage way -


,

but almost in the sitting room itself Through -


.

the windows I could the dim motionless se e

o utlines f the trees not a leaf stirred not a


o ! ,

branch moved .

A few moments f this awful silence and then


o ,

I was aware of a soft tread on the boards of


the verandah so stealthy that it seemed an im
,

pression directly on my brain rather than upon


the nerves of hearing I mmediately afterwards a
.
50 A H aun ted I sl and
black figure darkened the glass door and I per ,

i d that a face was pressed against the upper


ce ve

panes A shiver ran down my back and my hair


.
,

was conscious f a tendency to rise and stand at


o

right angles t my head o .

I t was the fig re f an I ndian broad shouldered


u o ,
-

and immense ; indeed the largest figure f a man , o

I have ever seen outside f a circus hall By some o .

power f light that seemed t generate itself in the


o o

brain I w the strong dark face with th aquiline


,
sa e

nose and high cheek bones flattened against the -

glass The direction of the gaze I c ould not deter


.

mine ; but faint gleams f light as the big eyes o

rolled round and showed their whites told me ,

plainly tha t no c orner of the room es c aped their


searching .

F o what seemed f lly five minutes the dark


r u

figure stood there with the huge shoulders bent


,

forward so as to bring the head down to the level


of the glass ; while behind lm though not nearly i it! ,

so large the shadowy form f the other I ndia


,
o n

swayed to and fro like a bent tree While I waited .

in an agony f suspense and agitation for their


o

next movement little currents f icy sensation ran o

u
p and down my spine and my heart seemed alter
t ly to stop b ti g
na e d then startea ff gain
n . an o a
A H aun ted I sl and 5 1

with terrifying rapidity They must have heard.

its thumping and the singing f the blood in my o

head ! Moreover I was conscious as I felt a cold


, ,

stream f perspiration trickle down my face of a


o ,

desir to scream to shout to bang the walls like a


e , ,

child to make a noise or do anything that would


, ,

relieve the suspense and bring things to a speedy


clima x .

It was probably this inclination that led me to


another discovery for when I tried to bring my
,

rifle from behind my back to raise it and have it


pointed at the door ready to fire I found that ,

I was powerless to move The muscles paralysed .


,

by this strange fear refused to Obey the will


, .

Here indeed was a terrifying compli cation !

There was a faint sound of rattling at the brass


knob and the door was pushed open a couple f
, o

inches A pause f a few seconds and it was


. o ,

pushed open still further Without a sound f . o

footsteps that was appreciable to my ears the tw o ,

figures glided into the room and the man behind ,

gently closed the door after him .

They were alone with me between the four


walls C ould they e me standing there still
. se , so

and straight in my corner ? Had they perhaps , ,


5 2 A H aun ted I sl and
already seen me ? My blood surged and sang like
the roll f drums in an orchestra ; and though I
o

did my best to suppres s my breathi g it sounded n ,

like the rushing of wind through a pneumatic


tube .

My suspense as t the nex t move was soon at an


o

end—only however to give place to a new and


, ,

keener alarm The men had hitherto e xchanged


.

no words and no signs but there were general ,

indications of a movement across the room and ,

whichever way they wen t they would have to pass


round the table If they came my way they
.

would have to pass within ix inches of my person s .

Wh ile I was considering this very disagreeable


possibility I perc eived that the smaller Indian
,

(smaller by c omparison ) suddenly raised his arm


and pointed to the c eiling The other fellow rai ed . s

his head and followed the direction of his com


panion s arm I began to understand at last

. .

They were going p t i s/n d t h room dire ctly


'

u s a r a e

overhead to which they pointed had been until


this night my bedroom I t was the roo m in which
.

I had e xperienced that very mo ning o strange a r s

sensation f fear and but for which I should then


o ,

have been lying asleep in the narrow bed again st


the window .
54 A H aun ted I sl and
standing mere supports of wood
on stone or .

Worse still I was conscious that I was losing the


,

power of balance the power to stand upright


, , or

even t lean backwards against the wall Some


o .

force was drawing me forward and a diz zy terror ,

seized me that I should lose my balance and topple ,

forward agai st the Indians just as they were in


n

the ac t f passing me
o .

E ven moments drawn o t into hours must c ome u

to an end some time and almost before I knew it


,

the figures had passed me and had their feet upon


the lower step f the stairs leading t the upper
o o

bedrooms There c ould not have been ix inches


. s

between u s and yet I was conscious only f a


, o

current f c old air that followed them They had


o .

not touched me and I was convinced that they


,

had not seen me E ven the trailing thing o the


. n

floor behind them had not tou ched my feet as I ,

had dreaded it would and such an occasion as


, on

this I was grateful even forf h smallest mercies e .

The absen c e of the I ndians from my immediate


neighbourhood brought little sense f relief I o .

stood shivering and shuddering i my corner and n , ,

beyond being able to breathe more freely I felt no ,

whit less uncomfortable Also I was aware that .


,

a certain li ght w hi c h without apparen t source o


, ,
r
A H aun ted I sl and 55
rays had e abled me to follow their every gesture
,
n

and movement; had gone t of the room with ou

their departure An unnatural darkness now filled


.

the room and pervaded its every corner so that I


,

could barely make t the positions f the windows


ou o

and the glass doors .

As I said before my c ondition was evidently an


,

abnormal The c apacity f feeling surprise


on e . or

seemed as in dreams to be wholly absent My


, , .

senses re corded with unusual ac curacy every


smallest o ccurrence but I w able to draw only , as

the simplest deductions .

The I ndians soon rea c hed the top f the stairs o ,

and there they halted for a moment I had not .

the faintest clue as to their ne xt movement They .

appeared t hesitate They were listening atten


o .

ti ly
ve Then I heard
. f them who by the on e o ,

weight f his soft tread must have been the


o

giant cross the nar ow corridor and enter the


,
r

room directly overhead —m y w little bedroom o n .

But for the insistence of that unaccountable dread


I had experienced there in the morning I should ,

at that very mom ent have been lying in the bed


with the big I ndian in the room standing beside
me .

Fo r the s pa c e of a hund red second s the re wa


s
5 6 A H aun ted I sl and
silence such as might have existed before the
,

birth of sound It was followed by a long quiver


.

i g shriek f terror which rang


n o t into the night
, ou ,

and ended in a short gulp before it had run its


full course At the same moment the other Indian
.

left hi place at the head f the stairs and joined


s o ,

his companion in the bedroom I heard the .

thing trailing behind him along the floor A



.

thud followed as f something heavy falling and


, o ,

then all became as still and S ilent as before .

I t was at this point that the atmosphere , su r

charged all day with the electricity f a fierce o

storm found relief in a dancing flash f brilli ant


, o

lightning simultaneously with a crash f loudest o

thunder F five seconds every article in the


. or

room was visible to me with amazing distinctness ,

and through the window s I w the tree trunks sa

standing in solemn rows The thunder pealed and .

echoed across the lake and among the distant


islands and the fl d gates f heafv then opened
,
oo - o /
/
en

and let out their rain in streaming torrents .

The drops fell with a swift rushing sound upon


the still waters of the lake which leaped p to ,
u

meet them and pattered with the rattle f shot


,
o

on the leaves f the maples and the roof of the


o

cottage A moment later and another flash even


. , ,
A H aun t ed I sl and 57
more brill iant and of longer duration than the first ,

lit p the sky from zenith to horizon and bathed


u ,

the room momentarily in dazzling whiteness I .

could the rain glistening


se e the leaves and on

branches outside The wind rose suddenly


.
,

and in less than a minute the storm that had


been gathering all day burst forth in its full
fury .

Above all the noisy Voices f the elements the o ,

slightest sounds in the room overhead made them


selves heard and in the few seconds f deep silence
, o

that followed the shriek f terror and pain I was o

aware that the movements had commenced again .

The men were leaving the room and approaching


the top of the stairs A short pause and they .
,

began to descend Behind them tumbling from.


,

step t step I could hear that traili g thi ng


o ,
n
“ ”

being dragged along I t had become ponderous .

I awaited their approach with a degree of c alm


ness almost f apathy which was only explicable
,
o ,

on the ground that after a certain point Nature


applies her w an esthetic and a merciful con di
o n a ,

tion of numbness supervenes On they came step .


,

by step nearer and nearer with the h fii i g sound


, , s u n

of the burden behind growing louder as they


approached .
5 8 A H aun ted I sl and
They were already y down the stairs
f
half w a
when I was galvanised afresh into a condition of
terror by the consideration f a w and horrible o ne

possibility It was the reflection that if another


.

vivid flash f lightning were to come when the


o

shadowy procession was in the room perhaps when ,

it was actually passing in front of me I should see ,

everything in detail and worse be seen myself


, ,

I could only hold my breath and wait— wait while


the minutes lengthened into hours and the ,

proc ession made its slow progress round the


room .

The I ndians had reached the foot f the staircase o .

The form f the huge leader loomed in the doorway


o

o f the passage and the burden with an ominous


,

thud had dropped from the last step to the floor .

The e was a moment s pause while I saw the


r

Indian turn and stoop to assist his c ompanion .

Then the procession moved forward again entered ,

the room close my left and beg fi m v slowly


on ,
a n o e

round my side f the table The leader was already


o .

beyond me and his companion dragging


,
the ,
on

floor behind him the burden whose confused t , ou

line I could dimly make t was exactly in front ou ,

o f me when the caval c ade came to a dead halt


,
.

At the s ame mom ent with th stran ge sudde nnes s


,
e
A H aun t ed I sl and 59
of thunderstorms the splash of the rain ceased,

altogether and the w ind died away into utter


,

silence .

For the space f five seconds my heart seemedo

to stop beating and then the worst came A


, .

double flash of lightning lit p the room and its u

contents with merciless vivi dness .

The huge Indian leader stood a few feet past


me on my right One leg was stretched forward
.

in the act of taking a step His immense shoulders .

were turned toward his companion and in all their ,

magnificent fi c s I w the outline f his


e r en e s sa o

features His gaze was directed upon the burden


.

his companion was dragging along the floor ; but


his profile with the big aquiline nose high cheek
, ,

bone straight black hair and bold chin burnt


, ,

it elf in that brief instant into my brain never


s ,

again to fade .

D w fi h compared with this gigantic figure


ar s , ,

appeared the proportions of the other Indian ,

who within twelve inches f my face was stooping


,
o ,

over the thing he was dragging in a position that


lent to his person the additional horror of deformity .

And the bu den lying upon a sweeping cedar


r ,

branch whi ch he held and dragged by a long stem ,

was the body o f a white man The scalp had been .


60 A H aun ted I sl and
neatly lifted and blood lay in a broad smear upon
,

the cheeks and forehead .

Then for the first time that night the terror that
, ,

had paralysed my muscles and my will lifted its


unholy spell from my soul With a loud cry I .

stretched t my arms to seize the big Indian by


ou

the throat and grasping only air tumbled forward


, , ,

unconscious upon the ground .

I had re cognised the body and the f was m y , a ce

It was bright daylight when a man s voice ’

recalled me to consciousness I was lying where .

I had fallen and the farmer w standing in th


, as e

room with the loaves o f bread in his hands The .

horror of the night w still in my heart and as


as ,

the bluff settler helped me to my feet and pi ked c

u
p the rifle which had fall n with me with
e many ,

questions and e xpressions f condolence I imagine


o ,

my brief replies were neither self explanatory nor -

even intelligible .

That day after a thorough and fruitless search


,

of the house I left the island and went over to


, ,

spend my last ten days with the farmer ; a d when n

the time came f me to leave the necessary read


or ,

ing had been accomplished and my nerves had ,

completely recovered their balance .


62 A H aun ted I sl and
sitting o their haunches were paddling swiftly
n ,

in my direction.

I never paddled faster in my life th I did in an

those next few minutes When I turned to look


.

again the Indians had altered their course and


, ,

were again c ircling the island .

The sun was sinking behind the forests the on

mainland and the crimson coloured clouds f


,
-
o su n

set were reflected i the waters f the lake when


n o ,

I looked round for the last time and w the big ,


sa

bark canoe and its two dusky occupants still going


round the island Then th shadows deepened
. e

rapidly ; the lake grew black and the night wind


,

blew its first breath in my face as I tur ed a c orner n ,

and a projecting bluff of rock hid from my view


both island and canoe .
A C ASE O F EA VES D R O PP I N G

JIM was the sort f fellow who


S HORTHOU S E o

always made a mess of things E verything with .

which his hands or mind came into contact issued


from such contact in an unqualified and irremediable
state f mess His college days were a mess he
o . !

was twice rusticated His schooldays were a mess


.

he went to half a dozen each passing him , to on

the next with a worse character and in a more


developed state of mess His early boyhood was
.

the sort of mess that copy books and dictionaries -

spell with a big M and babyhood gh was


hi ,

— s u

the emb diment f howling yowling screaming


o o , ,

mess .

At the age f forty however there came a


o , ,

change in his troubled life when he met a girl ,

with half a million in her own right who consented ,

to marry him and who very soon suc ceeded in


,

reducing his most messy existence into a state of


comparative order and system .

C ertain incidents important and otherwise f


,
63
, o
64 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
Jim s life would never have come to be told here

but for the fact that in getting into his messes “ ”

and out f them again he succeeded in drawing


o

himself into the atmosphere of peculiar circum


s tances and strange happenings He attracted to .

his path the curious adventures of life as unfailingly


as meat attra cts flies and jam wasps It is to the
, .

meat and jam of his life to speak that he owes


, so ,

his experiences ; his after life was all pudding-


,

which attracts nothing but greedy children With .

marriage the interest f his life c eased for all but


o

one person and his path became regular as the


,

sun s instead of erratic as a comet s


’ ’
.

The first experience in o rder of time that he


related to me shows that somewhere latent behind
his disarranged nervous system there lay psychic
perceptions of an uncommon order About the .

age f twenty two I think after h i se cond


o -
s

rustication— his father s purse and patience had


equally given t and J im fou d himself stranded


ou , n

hi gh and dry in a large American city High and .

dry ! And the only clothes that had no holes in


them safely in the keeping of his uncle s ward ’

robe .

C areful reflection a bench in


on f the city on e o

parks led him to the conclusion that the only


A C ase of E ave sd r opping 65
thing to do was to persuade the city editor f o on e

o f the daily journals that he possessed an observant


mind and a ready pen and that he could do good ,

work for your paper sir as a reporter This , , .


,

then he did standing at a most unnatural angle


, ,

between the editor and the window to conceal the


whereabouts of the holes .


Guess we ll have to give you a week s trial
’ ’
,

said the editor who ever the lookou t for good


, ,
on

chance material took on shoals f men in that way


,
o

and retained the average


on man per shoal on e .

Anyhow it gave Jim S h th the wherewithal or o u se

to w up the holes and relieve his uncle s wardrobe


se

of its burden .

Then he went to find living quarters ; and in


this proc eeding his unique characteristics already
referred to what theosophists would call his
Karma— began unmistakably t a sert themselves o s ,

f
or it was in the house he eventually sele cted that
this sad tale took place .

There are no diggings in Ameri c an cities


“ ”
.

The alternatives for small incomes are grim enough


— rooms in a boarding house where meals are -

served ,
in a room house where no meals are
or -

served— t even breakfast Rich people live in


no .

palaces f course but J im had n othing to do


, o ,

5
66 A C ase o f E ave sd r opping
with sich like

His ho izon was bounded by
— . r

boarding houses and room houses ; and owing to


- -
,

the necessary irregularity of his meals and hours ,

he took the latter .

It was a large gaunt looking place in a side street


,
-
,

with dirty windows and a creaking iron gate but ,

the rooms were large and the he sel cted and , on e e

paid for in advance was on the top flo r The land o .

lady looked gaunt and dusty as the house and quite ,

as ld Her eyes were green and faded and her


o .
,

features large .

Waal she twanged with her electrifying


,

,

Western drawl that s the room if you like it and


,

, ,

that s the price I said Now if you want it why



.
, , ,

just y ; and if you don t w hy it don t hurt


sa so

, ,

me any .

Jim wanted to shake her but he feared th , e

clouds of long accumulated dust in her lothes and


-
c ,

as the price and size f the room suited him he o ,

decided to take it .


Anyone else this floor ? he asked on

.

She looked at him queerly out of her faded eyes


before h answered
s e .


None of my guests ever put such questions t o

me before h said ; but I guess you re di ff erent


,

s e
“ ’
.

Why there s no
,
at all but an old gent that s

on e

A C ase o f E ave sd r opping 67
stayed here every bit of five years He s over .

thar pointing to the end of the passage


,

.

Ah ! I

said S h thse e ,feebly So I m

or o u se .
“ ’

alone Up here ?

Reckon you are pretty n ar she twanged t , e , ou ,

ending the c nver ation abruptly by turn ng her


o s i

back her new guest and going slowly and


on

,

deliberately downstairs .

The newspaper work kept S h tho t most or u se ou

of the night Three times a week he got home at


.

1 m and three times at 3


a m The room proved a .

comfortable enough and he paid for a second week , .

His unusual hours had S O far prevented his meeting


any inmates f the house and not a sound had
o ,

been heard from the ld gent who shared the “


o

floor with him It seemed a very quiet house . .

One night about the middle of the second week


, ,

he came home tired after a long day s work The ’


.

lamp that usually stood all night in the hall had


burned itself t and he had to stumble upstairs
ou ,

in the dark H made considerable noise in doing


. e

so but nobody seemed to be disturbed The whole


,
.

house was utterly quiet and probably everybody ,

was asleep There were no lights under any f the


. o

doors All was in darkness It was after two


. .

o clock

.
68 A C ase o f E ave sd r opping

After reading some English letters that had


come during the day and dipping for a few ,

minutes into a book he became drowsy d got


, an

ready for bed Just as he was about to get in


.

between the sheets he stopped for a moment and


,

listened
. There rose in the night as he did so the , ,

sound f steps somewhere in the house belo w


o .

Listening attentively he heard that it was some


,

body coming upstairs — heavy tread and the a ,

owner taking no pains to step quietly On it came .

up the stairs tramp tramp tramp — evidently the


, , ,

tread of a big man and in something of a hurry


, on e .

At once thoughts connected somehow with fire


and police flashed through Jim s brain but there ’
,

were no sounds of voices with the steps and he ,

reflected in the same moment that it could only be


the old gentleman keeping late hours and tumbling
upstairs in the darkness He was in the act f . o

turning t the gas and stepping into bed when


ou ,

the house resumed its f m /till ne by the foot


or er s ss

steps suddenly coming to a dead st p immediately 0

outside his w room


o n .

With his hand the gas S h th


on paused a , or ou se

moment before turning it t to if the steps ou se e

would go on again when he w startled by a loud


,
as

kno cking his door I nstantly in obedience to a


on .
,
70 A Case of E ave sd r opping
originally one She had put p a thin partition
. u

j u t a row of boards to increase her income The


s -
.

doors were adjacent and only separated by the ,

massive upright beam between them When one .

was opened shut the other rattled


or .

With utter i n difference to the comfort of the


other sleepers in the house the two Germans had ,

meanwhile commenced to talk both at once and at


the top f their voices They talked emphatically
o .
,

even angrily The words Father and Otto


.
“ ” “ ”

were freely sed S h thou understood German


u . or se ,

but as he stood listening for the first minute or

two an eavesdropper in spite of himself it was


, ,

di fii lt to make head
cu tail f the talk for neither or o ,

would give way to the other and the jumble f , o

guttural sounds and unfinished sentences was


w holly unintelligible Then very suddenly both .
, ,

voices dropped together ; and after a moment s ,


pause the deep tones f e f them who seemed


,
o on o ,

to be the father i dV /
vfi tlf the utmost
“ ”
, sa

distinctness

You mean Otto that y refuse to get it ?
, ,
ou

There was a sound f someone h flli g in the o s u n

chair b f th answer came I m ean that I don t ’


'


e or e e .

know how to get it It is much father It is . so ,


.

too much A part f it 3)


. o
A C ase of E ave sd r opping ‘ 71

A part of it ! cried the other with an angry ,

oath a part f it when ruin and disgrace are


,

o ,

already in the house is worse than us eless If you , .

can get half you can get all y wretched fool , ou .

Half measures only damn all concerned


-
.

Y“
told me last time
ou began the Other
firmly but was not allowed to finish A succession
, .

of horrible oaths drowned his sentence and the ,

father went on in a voice vibrating with anger


,

Y

know h will give you anything You
ou s e .

have only b een married a few months If y ask . ou

an d give a plausible reason you can get all we want


and more You can k it temporarily All will
. as .

be paid back It will establish the firm and h


. r e- , s e

will never know what was done with it With that .

amount Otto you know I can recoup all these


, ,

terrible losses and in less than a year all will be


,

repaid But without it


. You must get it Ott .
, o

Hear me you must Am I to be arrested for the


, .

misu e f trust moneys ? I s


s o honoured name to ou r

be cursed and spat on The old man choked and


stammered in his anger and desperation .

S h th or stood shivering in the darkness and


ou se

listening in spite f himself The c onversation h d


o . a

carried him along with it and he had b een for some ,

reason afraid to let his neighbourhood be known .


72 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
But at this point he realised that he had listened
too long and that he must inform the two men that
they could be overheard to every single syllable S . o

he coughed loudly and at the same time rattled,

the handle of his door I t seemed to have no effect .


,

f
or the voices continued just as loudly as before ,

the s protesting and the father growing more and


on

more angry He coughed again persistently and


.
,

also contrived purposely in the darkness to tumble


agains t the partition feeling the thin boards yield
,

easily under his weight and making a considerable ,

noise in so doing But the voices went on c


. un on

cer n e dly and lou der than ever


,
C ould it be .

possible they had not heard ?

By this time Jim was more concerned about his


o w n sleep than the morality f v b i g the o o er e ar n

private scandals f his neighbours and he went


o ,

o u t into the passage and knocked smartly at their

door Instantly as if by magic the sound ceased


.
, ,
s .

Everything dropped into utter silence There was .

no light under the door and not a whisper coul d


be heard within He kno cked again but received
. ,

no answer .


Gentlemen he began at length with his lips
, ,

close to the keyhole and in German please do not ,


talk so loud I c an overhear all you y in the


. sa
A C ase of E ave sd r opp i ng 73
next room Besides it is very late and I wish t
.
, , o

sleep .

He paused and listened but no answer was ,

forthcoming He turned the handle and found


.

the door was locked N t a sound broke the . o

stillness of the night except the faint swish f the o

wind over the skylight and the creaking f a o

board here and there in the house below The cold .

air f a very early morning crept down the passage


o ,

and made him shiver The silence f the house . o

began to impress him disagreeably He looked .

behind him and about him h p i g and yet fearing , O n , ,

that something would break the stillness The .

voices still seemed to ring on in his ears ; but that


sudden silence when he knocked at the d or
, o ,

aff ected him far more unpleasantly than the voices ,


and p t strange thoughts in his brain thoughts
u

he did not like approve or .

Moving stealthily from the door he peered over ,

the banisters into the space below It was like a .

deep vault that m ight conceal in its shadows


anything that was not good I t was not difli lt . cu

to fancy he w an indistinct moving to and f


sa - -
ro

below him Was that a figure sitting th stairs


. on e

peering p obliquely at him t f hideous eyes ?


u ou o

Was that a sound f whisp ering and h flli g o s u



n
74 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
do w n there in the dark halls and forsake n

landings ? W it something more than the as

inarticulate murmur of the night 7


Th wind made an e ffort overhead singing
e ,

over the skylight and the door behind him rattled


,

and made him start He turned to go back to his .

ro om and the draught closed the door slowly in


,

his face as if there were someone pressing against


it from the other side Wh n he pushed it open . e

and went in a hundred shadowy forms seemed to


,

dart swiftly and silently back to their corners nd a

hiding places But in the adjoining room th


-
. e

sound had entirely ceased and S h th


s soon , or o u se

crept into bed and left the house with its inmates
, ,

waking sleep ng to take care of themselves


or i , ,

while he entered the region of dreams and silence .

Next d y strong in the common sense that the


a ,

sunlight brings he determined to lodge a complaint


,

against the noisy occupants of the next room and


make the landlady request them ti m odify their
voices at such late hours of then ght and morning i .

But it happened that she was not to be seen that


so

day and when he returned from the o ffice at mid


,

night it was of course t late , ,


oo .

Looking under the door as he came up to bed he


noticed that there was no light d l d d that ,
an . co n c u e
A C ase of E ave sd r opp i ng 75
the Germans were not in So much the better . .

He went to sleep about o clock fully de idedon e



, c

that if they came p later and woke him with u

their horrible noises he would not rest till he had


roused the landlady and made her reprove them
With that authoritative t w ang in which every ,

word was like the la h of a metallic whip s .

However there proved to be no need for such


,

drastic measures for S h th ,


slumbered peace or o u se

fully all night and his dreams — hi fly of the


, c e

fields of grain and flocks of sheep the far away on -

farms of his father s estate— were permitted to run


their fanciful course unbroken .

Two nights later however when he came home


, ,

tired out after a di ffi cult day and wet and blown


, ,

about by of the wickedest storms he had ever


on e

seen his dreams always of the fields and sheep


,

were not destined to be undisturbed so .

He had already dozed ff in that delicious glow o

that follows the removal of wet clothes and the


immediate sn ggling under warm blankets when
u ,

his consciousness hovering on the borderland


,

between sleep and waking was vaguely troubled ,

by a sound that rose indistinctly from the depths


of the house and between the gusts f wind and
, ,
o

rain reached his ears with an accompanying sense


,
76 A C ase of E ave sd r opp i ng
of uneasiness and discomfort It rose the . on

night air with some pretence f regularity dying o ,

away again in the roar f the wind to reassert o

itself distantly in the deep brief hushes of the ,

storm .

For a few minutes Jim s dreams were c oloured ’

only— tinged as it were by thi s impression f fear


, ,
o

appro ching from somewhere insensibly upon him


a .

His consciousness at first refused t be drawn


, ,
o

back from that enchanted region where it had


wandered and he di d ot immediately awaken
,
n .

But the nature of his dreams changed unpleasantly .

He w the sheep suddenly run huddled together


sa ,

as though frightened by the n eighbourhood of an


enemy while the fi lds of waving c orn became
,
e

agitated as though some monster were moving un

couthly among the crowded stalks The sky grew .

dark and in his dream an awful sound c ame some


,

where from the clouds It was in reality the sound


.

downstairs growing m ore di sti ct n .

S h thoor shifted uneasily across the bed with


u se

somethi ng like a groan of distress The next .

minute he awoke and found himself sitting s traight


,

in bed — listening Was it a nightmare ? Had


u
p .

he been dreaming evil dreams that his flesh ,

crawled and the hair stirred on his head ?


78 ~

A C ase of E ave sd r opping


clamour f the elements and had resolved itself
o ,

into the footsteps of one or more persons .


The Germans hang em thought Jim But
,

.

what on earth is the matter W th me ? I never felt i

so queer in all my life .


He was trembling all over and felt as c old as ,

though he were in a freezing atmosphere His .

nerves were steady enough and he felt dim i


'

,
no nu

tion f physical courage b t he was conscious f a


o , u o

curious sense f malaise and trepidation such as


o ,

even the most vigorous men have been known to


experience when in the first grip f some horrible o

and deadly!disease A the footsteps approached . s

this feeling f weakness increased He felt a


o .

strange lassitude creeping over him a sort of ,

exhaustion accompanied by a grow ing numbness


,

in the extremities and a sensation f dreaminess in


, o

the head as if perhaps the c ons ciousness were


,

leaving its accustomed seat in the brain and


preparing to a ct o another pla e t strange n ne ,

to say as the vitality was slowly withdrawn from


,

his body his senses seemed to gro w more acute


, .

Meanwhile the steps were already on the landing


at the top f the s tairs and S h th
o still , or ou se ,

sitting upright in bed heard a heavy body brush ,

past his door and along the wall outside almost ,


A C ase of E ave sd r opping 79
immediately afterwards the loud knocking f o

someone s knuckles on the do or f the adjoi ing



o n

room .

Instantly though so far not a sound had pro


,

ce ed d f rom within he heard through the thin


e , ,

partition a chair pushed back and a man quickly


,

cross th floor and open the door


e .


Ah ! it s y he heard in the son s voice

ou ,

.

Had the fellow then been sitting silently in there


, ,

all this time waiting for his father s arrival ? To


,

S h th
or it came not as a pleasant reflection by
ouse

any means .

There was no answer to this dubious greeting ,

but the door was closed quickly and then there ,

w as a sound as if a bag parcel had been thrown or

on a wooden table and had slid some distance


across it before stopping .


What s that ? asked the s with anxiety in
’ ”
on ,

his tone .

Y u may know before I go returned the other


o ,

g ru ffly Indeed
. his voice was more than gru ff it !

betrayed ill suppressed passion -


.

S h th or was conscious of a stro g desire to


o u se n

stop the conversation before it proceeded any


further but somehow ,
other his will w not or as

equal to the task and he c ould not get out f ,


o
80 A C ase of E ave sd r opp i ng
bed The conversation went
. every tone and on ,

i fl xi
n e distin ctly audible above the noise f the
on o

storm .

In a l w voice the fath er continued Jim


o .

missed some f the words at the begi nning of the


o

sentence It ended with . but now they ve !


all left and I ve managed to get up to y


,

You ou .

know what I ve come f There was distinct



or .

menace in his tone .


Yes returned the other ; I have been
,
” “

waiting .

And the money ? asked the father impatiently ”


.

N answer 0 .


You ve had three days t get it i and I ve

o n,

contrived to stave ff the worst so far— but o

to morrow is the end



- .

N o answer .


Speak Otto ! What have yo g t for me ?
,
u o

Speak my ; for God s sake tell me


, so n

, .

There w a moment s silen c e, during which


as

the ld man s vibrating acc ents seemed to ec ho


o

through the rooms Then came in a low voice the .

answer
I have nothing

.

O tto cried the other with passion nothing ! ,


I can get nothing came almost i a whisper ”


, n .
A C ase o f E ave sd r opping 81
You lie ! cried the other in a half tifl d

,
-
s e

voice I swear you lie Give me the money


.

. .

A chair was heard scraping along the floor .

E vidently the men had been sitting over the table ,

an d one f them had risen


o S h th heard the . or ou se

bag o parcel drawn across the table and then


r ,

a step as if of the men w crossing to the


on e as

door .

Father what s in that ? I must know said



,

,

Otto with the first signs f determination in his


, o

voi c e There must have been an e ff ort the son s


. on

part to gain possession of the parcel in question ,

and on the father s to retain it for between them



,

it fell to the ground A curious rattle followed .

it c onta c t with the floor


s Instantly there were .

sounds f a scu ffle The men were struggling for


o .

the possession f the bo x The elder man with


o .

oaths and blasphemous impre cations the other


, ,

with short gasps that betokened the strength of


his efforts It was f short duration and the
. o ,

younger man had evidently won for a minute ,

later was heard his angry exclamation .


I knew it Her j ewels ! You scoundrel you
.
,

shall never have them I t is a crime . .

The elder man uttered a short guttural laugh , ,

which froze J im s blood and made hi skin creep



s .

6
82 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
No word was spoken and f the space f ten , or o

seconds there was a living silence Then the air .

trembled with the sound f a thud followed o ,

immediately by a groan and the crash of a heavy


body falling over to the table A second later
on .

there w a lurching from the table


as t the on o

floor and against the partition that separated the


rooms The bed quivered an instant at the shock
.
,

but the unholy spell was lifted from his soul and
Jim S h th sprang t f bed and ac ross the
or ou se ou o

floor in a single bound He knew that ghastly .

murder had been done — the murder by a father


o f his so n .

With shaking fingers but a determined heart he


lit the gas and the first thing in which his eyes
,

c orroborated the evidenc e f his ears was the o

horrifying detail that the lower portion f the o

partition bulged unnaturally into his w room o n .

The glaring paper with which it was covered had


cracked under the tension and/the boards beneath
it bent inwards towards him What hideous load .

was behind them he shuddered to think , .

All this he w in less than a second Since the


sa .

final lurch against the wall not a sound had pro


ce ed d from the ro m not even a groan o a foot
e o , r

step All was still but the howl of the wind


.
,
A C ase of E ave sd r oppi n g 83
which to his ears had in it a note f triumphant o

horror .

S h th
or ouse was in the act of leaving the room
to rouse the house and send for the police— i fact n

his hand was already on the door knob — when -

something in the room arrested his attention Out .

of the corner f his eyes he thought he caught


o

sight f something moving He was sure f it


o . o ,

and turning hi eyes in the direction he found


s ,

he was not mistaken .

Something was creeping slowly towards him


along the floor I t was something dark and
.

serpentine in shape and it came from the place


,

where the partition bulged He stooped down to .

examine it with feelings of intense horror and


repugnance and he di scovered that it was moving
,

toward him from the th i d f the wall His


o er s e o .

eyes were fascinated and for the moment he was


,

unable to move Silently slowly from ide to side


.
, , s

like a thick worm it crawled forward into the


,

room beneath his frightened eyes until at length ,

he could stand it no longer and stretched t his ou

arm to touch it But at the instant f contact he


. o

withdrew his hand with a suppressed scream I t .

was sluggish and it was warm ! and he saw that



his fingers were stained with living crimson .
84 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
A second more and S h th
, was t in the
or o u se ou

passage with his hand on the door of the next room .

I t was locked He plunged forward with all his


.

weight against it and the lock giving way he fell


, , ,

headlong into a room that was pitch dark and very


cold In a moment he w on his feet again a d
. as n

trying to penetrate the blackness N t sound . o a ,

not a movement N t even the sense of a presen ce


. o .

I t w as empty miserably empty !


,

Across the room he could trace the outline f a o

window with rain streaming down the outside and ,

the blurred lights of the city beyond But the .

room was empty appallingly empty ; and o still


, s .

He stood there cold as ice staring shivering


, , ,

listen ing Suddenly there was a step behind him


.

and a light flashed into the room and when he ,

turned quickly with his arm up as if to ward off a


terrific blow he found himself face to face with the
landlady I nstantly the reaction b gan to t in
. e se .

I t was nearly three l k i th morning and



o c oc / n

e ,

he was standing there with bare feet and striped


pyjam as in a small room which in the merciful,

light he perceived to be absolutely empty c arpet ,

less and without a stick f furniture


,
even a
o ,
or

window blind There he stood staring at the di


-
. s

agreeable landlady And there sh stood too


. e ,
86 A Case of E ave sd r opping
S hor thou sewas beside himself He felt ready .

to pick her up and drop her over the banisters ,

candle and all


Look there he said pointing at her within an
, ,

inch f her blinking eyes with the fingers that


o

had touched the oozing blood ; look there my “


,

good woman I s that only thinking ?


.

She stared a minute as if not knowing what ,

he meant .


I guess so she said at length ,
.

He followed her eyes and to his amazement s w , a

that his fingers were as white as usual and quite ,

free from the awful stain that had been there ten
minutes before There was no sign of blo d No
. o .

amount f staring could bring it back Had he


o .

gone t f his mind ? Had his eyes and ears


ou o

played such tricks with him ? Had his senses


become false and perverted ? He dashed past the
landlady t into the passage and/ gained his w
, ou , o n
/
room in a couple of strides Whew ! the .

pa tition no longer bulged The paper was t


r . no

torn There w no creeping crawling thing


. as , on

the faded ld carpet o

It s all over now d awled the metallic voice



,
r

behind him I m going to bed again


.
“ ’
.

He turned and w the landlady slowly going sa


A C ase of E ave sd r opping 87
downstairs again tlll shading the candle with , s

her hand and peering p at him from time to time u

as h moved A black ugly unwholesome object


s e .
, , ,

he thought as h disappeared into the darkness


, s e

below and the last flicker f her candle threw a


, o

queer Shaped shadow along the wall and over the


-

ceiling .

Without hesitating a moment S h tho threw , or u se

himself into his clothes and went t f the house ou o .

He preferred the storm to the horrors f that t p o o

floor d he walked the streets till daylight In


,
an .

the evening he told the landlady he would leave


ne xt day in spite f her assuran ces that nothing
, o

more would happen .

It never comes back she said that is not , ,

after he s killed ’
.

S h th or gasped o u se .

Y gave me a lot for my mo ey he g owled


ou n , r .

Waal it aren t my show h drawled I m


,

,

s e .

no spirit medium You take chances S m ll . . o e


sleep right along and never hear nothin Others ’


.
,

like yourself are di fferent and get the whole


,

t hing

.


Who s the ld gentleman —does he hear it ?

o

asked Jim .

There s o ld gentleman t all she answ ered



n o a ,
88 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
coolly I just told you that to make you feel
.

easy like in case you did hear ythi Y an n



. ou

were all alone on the fl oor .


Say now h went



after a pause in which
,

s e on ,

S h th
or could think of no thing to say but
ou se un

publishable things y now do tell did you


,

sa , ,

feel sort f cold when the show was on sort f


o , o

tired and weak I mean as if you might be going


, ,

t die
o

H w can I say ?

o he answered savagely ;
what I felt God only knows .

Waal but He won t tell sh drawled t



,

, e ou .

Only I was w d i h w yo really did feel


-


on er n o u ,

because the man who had that room last was


found morning in bed
on e

In bed ? ”

He was dead He was the before y


. on e ou .

Oh ! You don t need to get rattled so You re



.

all right And it all really happened they do


.
,

sa y This
. hous used to be a p i v te eresidence r a

some twenty fi years ago and a German family


-
ve ,

o f the name of Steinhardt lived here They had .

a big business in Wall Street and stood way up ,


in things .

Ah ! said her list ner e .

Oh yes they did right at the top till o


,
fine , , ne
A C ase of E ave sd r opping 89
day it all bust and the old man skipped with the
boodle
Skipped with th boodle e

That s h said

got clear away with all
so ,

s e

the money and the was found d ead in his


,
so n

house committed,
id it was thought Though
soo c e .

there was some as said he couldn t have stabbed ’

himself and fallen in that position They said he .

was murdered The father died in prison They


. .

tried to fasten the murder him but there was on ,

no motive or no evidence o no som thi I ,


r e n

.

forget now .

Very pretty said S h th u



,
or o se .

I ll show you m thi mighty queer any


“ ’
so e n

ways h drawled if you ll come upstairs a


, s e ,
“ ’

minute I ve heard the steps and voi c es lots f


.

o

times ; they don t p h me any I d j ust as lief



ea z e .

hear so many dogs barkin You ll find the whole ’


.

story in the newspapers if you look it p — not u

what goes on here but the story f theG rmans , o e .

My house would be ruined if they told all and ,

Id

for damages
su e .

They reached the bedroom and the woman ,

went in and pulled p the edge f the carpet u o

where S ho th had seen the blood soaking in


r o use

the previous night .


9 0 A C ase of E ave sd r opping
Look thar if feel like it said the ld
, y o u ,

o

hag Stooping down he saw a dark dull stain in


.
, ,

th boards that corresponded exactly to the shape


e

and position of the blood as he had seen it .

That night he slept in a hotel and th following , e

day sought new quarters I n the newspapers o


. n

file in his o ffice after a long search he found


twenty years back the detailed story substantially ,

s the woman had said o f Steinhardt 8b C o s



a , .

failure the absconding and subsequent arres t f


, o

the senior partner and the suicide o murder f


, ,
r ,
o

his Otto The landlady s room house had


so n .

-

formerly been their p rivate residen ce .


KEE P I N G HIS P RO MI S E

IT was eleven o clock at night and young Marriott



,

was locked into his room cramming as hard as he


,

could cram He was a Fourth Year Man at


.

E dinburgh University and he had been ploughed


for this particular examination often that his so

parents had positi ely declared they could no


v

longer supply the funds t keep him there


o .

His rooms were cheap and dingy but it was the ,

lecture fees that took the money So Marriott .

pulled himself together at last and definitely made


up his mind that he Would pass die in the or

attempt and f some weeks now he had been


, or

ding as hard as mortal man can read He was .

trying t make up for lost time a d money in a


o n

way that showed c onclusively he did not under


stand the value f either For no ordinary man
o .

and Marriott was in every sense an ordinary man


can afford to drive the mind as he had lately b en e

driving his without sooner


,
later paying the
or

cost
.
9 2 K eeping his P r om i se
Among the students he had few f riends or
acquaintances and these few had promised not to
,

disturb him at night knowing he was at last


,

reading in earnest I t was therefore with feelings


.
, ,

a good deal stronger than mere surprise that he


heard his door bel l ring -
this particular night
on

and realised that he was to have a visitor Some .

men would simply have muffled the bell and gone


on quietly with their work But Marriott was t . no

this sort He was nervous I t would have


. .

bothered and p k d at his mind ll night long


ee e a

not to know who the visitor was nd what he a

wanted The only thi g to do therefore was to


. n , ,

let him i —and t again— as quickly as possible


n ou .

The landlady went to bed at ten o clock punctu ’

ally after which hour nothing would induce her


,

t pretend sh heard the bell so Marriott jumped


o e ,

u p from hi books with an exclamation that


s

augured ill f the reception f his caller and


or o ,

prepared to let him in with his ow he d


/ n a .

The streets of E dinburgh town were very still at


this late hour it was late for E dinburgh and in
— —
the quiet neighb urhood f F
o Stre et where o ,

Marriott lived the third floor scarc ely a sound


on ,

broke the silence As he crossed the floor the


.
,

bell rang a second time with unnecessary clamour


, ,
94 K eeping his P r omi se
his work But the man did not appear The steps
. .

sounded almost under his nose yet no one was ,

visible .

A sudden queer sensation f fear passed over o

him— faintness and a shiver down the back I t


a .

went however almost as soon as it came and he


, , ,

was just debating whether he would call aloud to


his invisible visitor slam the door and return
, or

t his books when the cause o f the di sturbance


o ,

turned the corner very slowly and c ame into


vie w.

It was a stranger He saw a youngish man .

short of figure and very broad His face was the .

colour f a piece f chalk and the eyes which were


o o ,

very bright had heavy lines underneath them


, .

Though the cheeks and chin were unshaven and


the general appearance unkempt the man w a , s

evidently a gentleman for he was well dressed ,

and bore himself w ith a c ertain air But strangest .


,

o f all he wore no hat and carried none in his


, ,

hand ; and although rain had beef falling steadily


all the evening he appeared to have neither
,

overcoat nor umbrella .

A hundred questions sprang up in M i tt


l


ar r o s

mind and rushed to his lips chief among which ,

w as something like Wh in the world are y u ?



o o
K eeping his P r omi se 95
and What in the name f heaven do you come o

to me for ? But none f these questions found



o

time to express themselves in words for almost at ,

once the caller turned his head a little that the so

gas light in the hall fell upon his features from a


new angle Then in a flash Marriott recognised
.

him .

Field ! Man alive I s it yo ? he gasped u .

The Fourth Year Man was not lacking in


intuition and he perceived at once that here w as a
,

case for delicate treatment He divined without .


,

any actual process f thought that the catastrophe o ,

often predi cted had c ome at last and that this ,

man s father had turned! him t of the house



ou .

They had been at a private school together years


before and though they had hardly met on ce si ce
, n ,

the news had not failed to reach him from time to


time with considerable detail for the family lived ,

near his w and between certain of the sisters


o n

there was great intimacy Young Field had gone .

w ild later he remembered hearing about it all


,

drink a woman Opium o something f the sor t


, , ,
r o

— h could not e x actly call to mind


e .

C ome in he said at once his anger vanish


,

,

ing There s been something wrong I can see


.
“ ’
, .

C ome in and tell me all about it and perhaps I can


,
9 6 K eeping his P r omi se
help He hardly knew what to y and sa ,

stammered a lot more besides The dark side f



. o

life and the horror of it belonged to a world that


, ,

lay remote from his own select little atmosphere


f books and dreamings But he h d a man s ’
o . a

heart f o all that


r .

He led the way across the hall shutting the ,

front door carefully behind him and noti c ed as ,

he did so that the other though certainly sober , ,

was unsteady his legs and evidently much


on ,

e xhausted Marriott might not be able to pass his


.

e xaminations but he t least knew the symptoms


, a

o f starvation —acute starvation unless he was ,

much mistaken — when they stared him in the

C ome along he said cheerfully and wi th


, ,

genuine sympathy in his voice I m glad to see .


“ ’

y ou I was
. going to have a bite f something to o

eat and you re just in time to join me


,

.

The other made no audible reply and h ffl d so , s u e

feebly with his feet that M iOtt took his arm by ar r

way f support He noticed for the first time that


o .

the clo thes hung on him with pitiful looseness .

The broad frame was literally hardly more than a


frame He was as thin as a skeleton But he
.


.
, as

tou ched him the sensation of faintness and dread


,
9 8 K eeping his P r omi se
yet to take a full square look The fello w was in .

a bad way and it would have been ,


like an so

examination to stare and wait for explanations .

Besides he was evidently almost too exhausted to


,

speak So for reasons f delicacy— and f another


.
,
o or

reason as well which he could not exactly formulate


t
o himself — h let his visitor rest apparently
e un

noticed while he busied himself with the supper


,
.

He lit the spirit lamp to make cocoa and when ,

the water was boiling he drew up the table


with the good things to the sofa that Field , so

need not have even the trouble f moving to a o

chair .

No w let s tuck in he said and afterwards



, , ,

we ll have a pipe and a chat I m reading f an



.

or

exam y u know and I always have something


, o ,

about thi s time It s jolly t have companion .



o a .

He looked p and caught his guest s eyes directed


u

straight upon his w An involuntary shudder


'

o n .

ran through him from head t f fi t The face o c .

opposite him was deadly white and wore a dreadful


expression of pain and mental su ffering .

By Gad ! he s id jumping up I quite forgot



a , , .

I ve got some whisky somewhere What an ass I



.

am I never touch it myself when I m working


.

like this .

K eeping his P r omi se 99
He went to the cupboard and poured t a sti ff ou

glass which the other swallowed at a single gulp


and without any water Marriott watched him .

while he drank it and at the same time noticed


,

something else as well— Field s coat w all over ’


as

dust and o
,
n shoulder w a bit f cobweb
on e as o .

It was perfectly dry ; Field arrived o a soaking n

wet night without hat umbrella overcoat and


, , or ,

yet perfectly dry even dusty Therefore he had


, .

been under cover What did it all mean ? Had


.

he been hiding in the building 7

I t was very strange Yet he volunteered .

nothing ; and Marriott had pretty well made p u

his mind by this time that he would not ask any


que tions until he had eaten and slept Food and
s .

sleep were obviously what the poor devil needed


most and fi t—h was pleased with his powers f
rs e o

ready di agnosis — and it would not be fair to press


him till he had recovered a bit .

They ate their supper together while the host


carried ona running sided conversation on e- ,

chiefly about himself and his e x ams and hi s ld “


o

cat f a lan dl ady that the guest need ot



o , so n

utter a single word unless he really wished to


which he evidently did not ! But while he toyed ,

with his food feeling no desire t o eat the other ate


, ,
I oo K eeping his P r o m i se
voraciously To see a hungry man devour cold
.

s cones stale oatcake and brown bread laden with


, ,

marmalade was a revelation to this inexperienced


student who had never known what it was to be
without at least three meals a day He watched .

in spite f himself wondering why the fellow did


o ,

not choke in the process .

But Field seemed t be as sleepy as he was o

hungry More than once his he d dropped and he


. a

ceased to masticate the food in his mouth Marriott .

had positively to shake him before he would go


-

on

with his meal A stronger emotion will overcome


.

a weaker but this struggle between the sting f


, o

real hunger and the m gi l pi t of overpower a ca t


o a e

ing sleep was a curious sight to the student who ,

watched it with mingled astonishment and alarm .

He had heard f the pleasure it was to feed hungry


o

men d watch them t but he had never actually


,
an ea ,

witnessed it and he had no idea it w like


, as
/
this Field ate like an animal— gobbled stuffed
.
, ,

gorged Marriott forgot his reading and began


.
,

to feel something very much like a lump in his


throat .


Afraid there s been awfully little to offer y

ou,

ld man he managed to blurt t when at length



o , ou

the last scone had disappeared a d the rapid , n ,


10 2 K eepi n g his Pr om i se
then fell to wondering what he would do with his
unbidden gu st the morro w But he did not
e on .

stop long to think for the call of his books was


,

imperative and happen what might he must see


, ,

to it that he passed that examination .

Having again locked the door into the hall he ,

sat down to his books and resumed his notes on

m t i m di
a er a where he had left ff when th
e ca o e

bell rang But it was difli lt for some time to con


. cu

centrate his mind the subject His thoughts


on .

kept wandering to the picture of that whi te faced -


,

strange eyed fellow starved and dirty lying in his


-
, ,

clothes and boots the bed He recalled their


on .

schooldays together before they had drifted apart ,

and how they had vowed eternal friendship


and all the rest f it And w ! What horrible
o . no

straits to be in How could any man let the love


.

of dissipation take such hold upon him ?


But f their vows together Marriott it
on e o ,

,
/
seemed had completely f g tt j t w at or o en us no ,

any rate it lay t far in the background f his


, oo o

memory to be recalled .

Through the half open door the bedroom led


— -

ou t f the sitting room and had no other door


o -

came the sound f deep long drawn breathing the


o ,
-
,

regular steady breathing f a tired man o tired


,
o , s
K eeping his P r omi se 10 3
that even to listen to it made Marriott almost
,

want to go to Sleep himself .


He needed it reflected the student and
,

,

perhaps it came only just in time


Perhaps ; for outside the bitter wind from
so

across the Forth howled cruelly and drove the rain


in cold streams against the window panes and -
,

down the deserted streets Long before Marriott .

settled down again properly to his reading he ,

heard distantly as it were through the sentences


, ,

o f the book the heavy deep breathing of the


, ,

sleeper in the next room .

A couple f hours later when he yawned and


o ,

changed his books he still heard the breathing and


, ,

w ent cautiously up to the door to look round .

At first the darkness of the room must have


deceived him else his eyes were confused and
, or

dazzled by the recent glare f the reading lamp o .

For a minute o two he could make t nothing


r ou

at ll but dark lumps f furniture the mass f


a o , o

the chest of drawe by the wall and the white rs ,

patch where his bath s tood in the centre f the o

floor .

Then the bed came slowly into view And on .

i t he w the outline f the sleeping body gradually


sa o

take hape before his eyes growing up strangely


s ,
10 4 K eeping his P r omi se
into the darkness till it stood o t in marked ,
u

relief— the long black form against the white


counterpane .

He c ould hardly help smiling Field had not .

m oved an inch He w atched him a moment o


. r

tw and then returned to his books


o The night .

was full of the singing voices of the wind and rain .

There was no sound of traffi c ; no hansoms clattered


over the cobbles and it was still t early f ,
oo or

the milk carts He worked o steadily and . n

co nscientiously only stopping now and again to


,

change a book t ip some f the poison


,
or o s o

s st fl that kept him awake and made his



ou u

brain so active and these occasions Field s,


on

breathing was always distinctly audible in the


room Outside the storm continued to howl but
.
, ,

inside the house all w stillness The shade of as .

the reading lamp threw all the light pon the u

littered table leaving the other end f the room


, o

in comparative darkness The M m dm door was .

exactly opposite him where he sat There was .

nothi g to disturb the worker nothing but an


n ,

occasional rush f wind against the windows and o ,

a slight pain in his arm .

This pain however which h was unable to


, ,
e

a c count for grew once or twice very acute I t


, .
10 6 K eeping his P r omi se
bu twith much g eater force He became conscious
r .
,

too that his left arm was throbbing violently and


,

causing him great pain He stood wondering and .


,

staring and trying to collect his thoughts He


, .

was trembling from head to foot .

By a great e ffort f the will he left the support


o

of the door and walked forward boldly into the


room .

There upon the bed was the impress f a body


, , o ,

where Field had lain and slept There was the .

mark f the head o the pillow and the slight


o n ,

indentation at the foot f the bed where the boots o

had rested the c ounterpane And there plainer


on .
,

than ever— for he was closer to i t was the -

br ea thi n g !
Marriott tried to pull himself together With .

a grea t e ff ort he found his voice and called his


friend aloud by name !
Field ! Is that y ? Where are y ? ou ou

There was no reply ; but the breathing continued


without interruption coming directly from the
,

bed His voice had such an unfamiliar sound that


.

Marriott did not care to repeat his questions but ,

he went down hi knees and examined the bed


on s

above and below pulling the mattress ff finally


, o ,

and taking the coverings away separately on e


K eep i ng his P r omi se 10 7
by on e But though the sounds continued there
.

w as no visible sign of Field nor was there any ,

S pace in which a human being however small , ,

could have concealed itself He pulled the bed .

ou t from the wall but the sound t y d w h it


,
s a e er e

w as .It did not move with the bed .

Marriott finding self control a little di fficult in


,
-

hi weary con di tion at once set about a thorough


s ,

search of the room He went through the cup .

board the chest f drawers the little alcove where


,

o ,

the l th h g— everything But there was no


c o es un .

sign f anyone The small window near the


o .

ceiling was closed ; and anyhow was not large , ,

enough to let a cat pass The sitting room door .


-

was locked the inside ; he could not have got


on

ou t t hat way C urious tho ghts began to trouble


. u

Marriott s mind bringing in their train unwelcome



,

sensations He grew more and more excited ; he


.

searched the bed again till it resembled the scene


o f a pillow fight ; he searched both rooms knowing ,

all the time it was useless and then he searched


— ,

again A cold perspiration broke t all over his


. ou

body ; and the sound of heavy breathing all this ,

time never ceased to come from the corner where


,

Field had lain down to sleep .

Then he tried something else He pushed the .


10 8 K eepi n g his P r omi se
bed back exactly into its original —
position and
himself lay down upon it just where his guest had
lain But the same instant he sprang up again
.

in a single bound The breathing was close beside


.

him almost
,
his cheek and between him and
on ,

the wall ! N t even a child could have squeezed


o

into the space .

He went back into his sitting room opened the -


,

windows welcoming all the light and air possible


, ,

and tried to think the whole matter over quietly


and clearly Men who read too hard and slept
.
,

too little he knew were sometimes troubled with


very viv d hallucinations Again he calmly
i . re

viewed every incident of the night ; his ccurate a

sensations ; the vivid details ; the emotions stirred


in him ; the dreadful feast— no single hallucination
could ever combine all these and cover long a so

period of time But with less satisfaction he


.

thought of th recurring faintness and curious


e ,

sense f horror that had once OP t W ic come over


o e

him and then of the violent pains in his arm


, .

These were quite unaccountable .

Moreover now that he began to nalyse and


,
a

examine there was e other thing that fell upon


,
on

him like a sudden revelation D i g the w h l ! ur n o e

ti m e F i eld ha d n ot a ctu a lly u tter ed a simg le


1 10 K eeping his P r om i se
D idn t know you had any friends who drank

,

Marriott
This was obviously tentative and Marriott ,

replied drily that he did not know it either .


Sounds just as if some chap were sleeping it ‘

off in

there doesn t it though ?
,
persisted the ’
,

other with a nod in the direction f the bedroom


, o ,

and looking curiously at his friend The two .

men stared steadily at each other for several


seconds and then Marriott said earnestly
,


Then y hear it too thank Godou ,

Of course I hear it The door s open Sorry .



.

if I wasn t m eant to ’
.

Oh I don t mean that said Marriott lowering


,

, ,

his voice But I m awfully relieved Let me


.
“ ’
.

explain Of course if you hear it too then it s


.
, ,

all right ; but really it frightened me more than


I can tell you I thought I was going to have .

brai n fever o something and y kno w what a


,
r , ou

lot depends o this e xam I t al ways begins


/ n .

with sounds visions o some sort of beastly


, or , r

hallucination and I ,

R t o ejaculated the other impatiently What .

ar e y talking
ou about

N w listen to me Greene said Marriott as
o , , , ,

calmly as he could for the breathing w s still ,


a
K eeping his P r omi se I I I

plainly audible and I ll tell you what I mean


,
“ ’
,

only don t interrupt And thereupon he related



.

exactly what had happened during the night ,

telling everything even down to the pain in his ,

arm When it was over he got p from the table


. u

and crossed the room .


You hear the breathing now plainl y don t ,

you ? he said Greene said he did Well come



. .
,

with me and we ll search the room together


,

.

The other however did not move from his


, ,

chair .


I ve been in already he said sheepishly ; I

,

heard the sounds and thought it was you The .

door was ajar— I went in so .

Marriott made no comment but pushed the ,

door open as wide as it would go As it opened .


,

the sound f breathing grew more and more


o

distinct .

S m e e must be in there said Greene under


o on ,

his breath

S m o is in there but w h ? said
eon e ,
er e

Marriott Again he urged his friend to go in


.

with him But Greene refused point blank ;


.
-

said he had been in once and had searched the


room and there was nothing there He would .

n t go in again for a good deal


o .
1 12 K eeping his P r omi se
They shut the door and retired into the other
room to talk it all over with many pipes Greene .

questioned his friend very closely but without ,

illuminating result since questions cannot alter ,

The only thing that ought t have a proper o ,

a logical explanation is the pain in my arm said


, ,

Marriott rubbing that member with an attempt


,

at a smile It hurts so infernally and aches all


.

the way p I can t remember bruising it though


u .

, .

Let me examine it for you said Greene I m ,



.

awfully good at bones in spite of the e xamine s r


opinion to the contr ry It was a relief to play



a .

the fool a bit and Marriott took his coat ff and


, o

rolled U p his slee ve .

By George th gh I m bleeding ! he e x claimed


,
ou ,
’ ”
.

L ook here ! What earth s this on


On the forearm quite close to the wrist was a


, ,

thin red line There was a tiny drop f apparently


. o

fresh blood o it Greene came fi and looked


n . ( r

closely at it fo some minutes Then he sat back


r .

in his chair looking curiously at his friend s face


,

.


You ve scratched yourself without knowing

it he said presently .

There s no sign f a bruise I t must be som e



o .
-
a

thing else that made the arm a che


1 14 K eep i ng his P r omi se
Hush ! Be quiet and— I ll tell y , he ’
ou ,

said F i ld m d th t
.

e a e a sca r .

For a whole minute the two men looked each


other full in the fa c e without speaki g n .

Field made that scar ! repeated Marriott at ”

length in a louder voice .

Field ! You mean— last night ? ”

No not last night Years ago


, at s chool .
,

with his knife And I made a o in his. s ar

arm with mine Marriott was talking rapidly


.

now .


We e x changed drops f blood in each other s o

cuts He put a drop into my arm and I put


.

on e into his
I n the name f heaven what for ?
o ,

I t was a boys compact We made a sacred



.

pledge a bargain I remember it all perfectly


, .

now We had been reading some dr adful book


. e

and we swore t appear to o another — I on e

m ean whoever died first w /t h w himself to


/
,
s or e O s o

the other And we sealed the compact with each


.

other s blood I remember it all s well the



.
— o

hot summer afternoon in the playground seven ,

years ago— and o f the masters caught us and


ne o

confiscated the knives — and I have never thought


o f it again to this day
K eeping his P r omi se 1 1 5
And you mean stammered Greene .

But Marriott made no answer He got p and . u

crossed the room and lay down wearily upon the


sofa hiding his fac e in his hands
,
.

Greene himself was a bit non plussed He left -


.

his friend alone for a little while thi nking it all ,

over again Suddenly an idea seemed to strike


.

him He went over t W here Marriott still lay


. o

motionless the sofa and roused him In any


on .

case it was better to face the matter whether there ,

was an explanation o not Giving in was always r .

the silly exit .

1

y Marriott
sa ,
he began as the other t u rned , ,

his white face U p to him There s no good being .


so upset about it I mean— if it s all an hallucina


.

tion we know what to do And if it isn t— well .



,

we know what to think don t we ? ,


I suppose

But it frightens me horribly
so .

for some reason returned his friend in a hushed


,

voice And that poor devil


.

But after ll if the worst is true and— and



,
a ,

that chap h kept his promi se well he h that s


—as , as,

all isn t it ?
,
’ ”

Marriott nodded .

There s only one thing that o ccurs to me


“ ’
,

Greene went and that is are you quite sure


on ,

,
1 16 K eeping his P r o m i se
that — that he really ate like that— I mean that he
actually t ythi g t ll ? he finished blurting
a e an n a a

,

ou t all his thought .

Marriott stared at him for a moment and then


said he could easily make certain He spoke .

quietly After the main shock no lesser surpr se


. i

could affect him .

I put the things a way myself he said after , ,


we had finished They are the third shelf in


. on

that cupboard N o one s touched em since


.
’ ’
.

He pointed without getting p and Greene took u ,

the hint and went over to look .

E xactly he said after a brief examination ;


,

,

j ust as I thought I t was partly hallucination .


,

at any rate The things haven t been touched


.

.

C ome and for yourself se e .


Together they e xamined the shelf There was .

the brown loaf the plate of stale scon es the oat


, ,

cake all untouched E ven the glass of whisky


,
.

Marriott had poured ut to d t he with the o s o


/

re

whisky still in it .

You were feeding — no one said Greene ,

Field ate and drank nothing He was not there .

at all

But the breathing ? urged the other in a low
voi c e staring with a dazed expression
,
hi face on s .
1 1 8 K eeping his P r omi se
himself At least it looks like suicide I nstead
.
,
.

of leaving the house he went do w n into the cellar


,

and simply starved himself to death They re .


trying to suppress it f course but I heard it all


, o ,

f rom my maid who got it from their footman


, .

They found the body the 1 4 th and the doctor


on

said he had died about twelve hours before .

He was dreadfully thin .

Then he died o the 1 3 th said Greene


n ,
.

Marriott nodded .


That s the very night he came to y u

se e o .

Marriott nodded aga n i .


W IT H INT E NT T O S T EA L

To sleep in a lonely barn when the best bedrooms


in the house were at disposal seemed to y our , , sa

the least unnecessary and I felt that some ex


, ,

planation was due to u host o r .

But S h tho I soon discovered had seen to


or u se , ,

all that ; enterprise would be tolerated t


ou r , no

welcomed for the master kept this sort f thing


, o

down with a firm hand And then how little I .


,

could g t this man S h th s t tell me There


e ,
or ou e , o .

was much I wanted to ask and hear b t he , u su r

rounded himself with impossible barriers I t was .

ludicrous ; he was surely asking a good deal f me o ,

and yet he would give little in return and his so ,

reason— that it was for my good — may have been


perfectly true but did not bring me any comfort in
,

its train He gave me p


. w and then how s0 s no ,

ever to keep Up my curiosity till I soon was


, ,

aware that there were growing up side by side


within m a genuine interest and an equally
e
11 9
12 0 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
genuine fear ; and som ething f both these is o

probably necessary to all real exci tement .

The barn in question was some distance from


the house on the side of the stables and I had
, ,

passed it several f my journeyings to and fro


on o

wondering at its forlorn and untarred appearance


under a egim where everything was so spi ck and
r e

span ; but it had never once occurred to me as


possible that I should come to spend a ight n

under its roof with a comparative stranger and ,

undergo there an experience belonging to order an

of things I had a lways rather ridiculed a d n

despised .

At the moment I can only partially recall the


proces by which S h th
s persuaded me to l end
or o u se

him my company Like myself he was a guest in


.
,

this autumn house party and where there were


-
,
so

m any to chatter and t chaff I think his taciturnity


o ,

of manner had appealed to me by contrast and ,

that I wished to repay something f Wh t I owed


/ re a .

/
There was no d oubt flattery
, t as well for he
,
In I ,

was more than twice my age a man of amazingly ,

wide experience an explorer of all the world s


,

corners where danger lurked and— most subtle ,

flattery f all —by far the best shot in the w hole


o

art
p y , hos
ou rt include d .
12 2 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
it —no ordinary means that is But I h v found , . a e

many facts in the case which point t the o

exercise of a most desperate and unscrupulous


will ; and the strange disappearances in the neigh
b o h d as well as the bones found buried in the
ur oo ,

kitchen garden though never a ctually traced to


,

him seem to me full of dreadful suggestion


, .

I laughed again a little uncomfortably perhaps


, ,

and said it reminded one of the story of Giles de


Rays m aréchal f France who was said t have
, o , o

killed and tortured to death in a few years no less


than e hundred and sixty women and children
on

for the purposes f necromancy and who was o ,

executed f o his crimes at Nantes But S h th


r . or ou se

would not rise and only returned to his subj ect


,

.


His suicide seems to have been o l y jus t in n

time to es c ape arrest he said ,



.


A m agician f no high order then I observed
o ,
.

sceptically if suicide was his only way of evading


,

the country police .



The police f L o don and St Petersburg
o n .

rather returned S h th
,

for the headquarters
or ou se

of this pretty company was somewhere in Russia ,

and his apparatus all bore the marks f the most o

skilful foreign make A Russian woman then .


employed in the household governess or some ,
Wi th I n ten t to S te al 12 3
thing— vanished too about the same time and was
, ,

never caught She w no doubt the cleverest of


. as

the lot And remember the object of this appalling


.
, ,

group was t mere vulgar gain but a kind f


no , o

knowledge that called for the highest qualities f o

courage and intellect in the seekers


'

.

I admit I was impressed by the man s c onviction ’

of voi ce and manner for there is something very ,

compelling in the forc e f an earnest man s belief o



,

though I still affected to sneer politely .

But like most Black Magicians the fellow only


, ,

succeeded in compassing his ow destruction— that n

f his tools rather and of escaping himself



o , , .

So that he might better accomplish his Objects


l wh
e se d the w i
er e a n said S h tho giving
o r se,

or u se , ,

as he spoke the most minute attention t the


, o

cleaning of the lock .

E lsewhere and otherwise I gasped , .

As if the shell he left hanging from the rafter


in the barn in no way impeded the man s spirit ’

from continuing his dreadful work under new


conditions he added quietly without noticing my
,

,

inter uption The idea being that he sometimes


r .

revisits the garden and the barn chiefly the ,

barn

The barn ! I e xclaimed ; f o what purpose ?
” “
r

12 4 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
the barn he finished as if he had
C hi e fly , ,

not heard me that is when th ere is anybody


,

,

in it .

I stared at him without speaking for there was ,

a wonder in me how he would add to this .


When h wants fresh material that is— h
e , e

comes to steal from the living .



Fresh material ! I repeated aghast To steal .

from the living ! E ven then in broad daylight



, ,

I was foolishly conscious f a c reeping sensation o

at the roots of my hair as if a cold breeze were ,

p i
a ss ng v my‘

skull
o er .


The strong vitality f the living is what this o

sort f creature is supposed to need most he went


o ,

on imperturbably and where he has worked and


,

thought and struggled before is the easiest place


for him to get it in The former conditions are .

in some way more easily reconstructed He


stopped suddenly nd devoted all his attention,
a

to the g It s difficult to expla fi you know


un .
“ ’
r , ,

rather he added presently and besides i t much


, , , ,

s

better that you should not know till afterwards .


I made a noise that was the beginning of a score


o f questions and of as m any sentences b t it got ,
u

no further than a mere noise and S ho tho s of , r u e,

course stepped in again


, .
12 6 Wi t h I n ten t S t e al to

more sense f o conviction to me than I had felt


hitherto and I realised that there had been a
,

sudden little change in my attitude and that I


was now much more inclined to go in f the or

adventure with him At least I thought with .


, ,

such a man would be safe in any emergency ;


, on e

for he is determined resourceful and to be de , ,

pended upon .


There s the point he answered slowly ; for

,

there has apparently been a fresh outburst— an

attack almost it seems — quite recently There is


, , .

evidence f c ourse plenty of it


,
o I should not, , or

feel the interest I do feel but he hesitated a ,

moment as though considering how much he ought


,

to let me know but the fact is that three ,


men thi s summer o separate occasions who have


,
n ,

gone into that barn after nightfall have been ,

a ccosted


Accosted ? I repeated betrayed into the inter ,

ruption by hi choice of so i guls Word s n ar/a .

And one f the stablemen — recent arrival


o a


and quite ignorant of the story who had to go
in there late one night w a dark substance , sa

hanging down from of the rafters and when on e ,

he climbed p shaking all over t cut it down


u , , o

f
or he said he felt sure it was a corpse the knife

Wi th I n t en t to S te al 12 7
passed through nothing but air and he heard a ,

sound up under the eaves if someone were laugh as

ing Yet while he slashed away and afterwards


.
, ,

t
oo , the thing went swinging there before his
on

eyes and turning slowly with its w weight like o n ,

a huge joint on a spit The man declares too .


, ,

that it had a large bearded face and that the ,

mouth was open and drawn down like the mouth


f a hanged man

o .

C an we question thi s fellow


He s gone gave notice at on c e b t ot before
—’
, u n

I had questioned him m yself very closely .


Then this was quite recent ? I said for I knew ”


,

S h th
or had not been in the house more than a
ou se

week .


Four days ago he replied But more than
, .

,

that only three days ago a couple f men were in


,
o

there together in full daylight when f them on e o

suddenly turned deadly faint He said that he .

felt an overmastering impulse to hang hi mself ;


and he looked about for a rope and was furious
when his companion tried to prevent him
But he did prevent him
Just in time but not before he had clambered
,

on to a beam He was very violent


. .

I had much t y and k that I could get


so o sa as
12 8 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
nothing t in time and S h th
ou went , or o u se on

again .

I ve had a sort of watching brief for this case


“ ’
,

he said with a s mile whose real significance how , ,

ever completely escaped me at the time and


, ,

on e

of the most disagreeable features about it is the


deliberate way the servants have invented excuses
to go t to the place and always after dark ;
ou ,

some of them who have no right to go there and ,

no real occasion at all have never been there in


their lives before probably— and now all f a o

sudden have shown the keenest desire and deter


mination to go t there about dusk or soon after
ou , ,

and with the most paltry and foolish excuses in


the world Of c ourse he added they have been
.
,

,

prevented but the desire stronger than their


, ,

S uperstitious dread and which they cannot explain


, ,

is very curious .

Very I admitted feeling that my hair was


“ ”
, ,

beginning to stand p again u .

Y he went on presently it all points


ou se e ,

,

to volition — i fact to deliberate arrangement


n It .

i no mere family ghost that goes with every ivied


s

house in E ngland of a certain age it is something


real and something very malignant
,
.

He raised his face from the gun barrel and f ,


or
1 30 Wi th I n ten t to S t e al
That s why you clean your ow g I suppose

n un ,

T hat s why when there s any danger I take as


’ ’
, ,

few chances as possible he said with the same ,



,

enigmatical smile I had noticed before ; and then he


added with mphasis And that is also why I ask
e ,

y to
ou keep me company now .

Of course the shaft went straight home and I


, ,

gave my promise without further ado .

Our preparations for the night couple of rugs


— a

and a flask of black coff ee— were not elaborate ,

a d we found no di fli lty about ten o clock in



n cu , ,

absenting oursel es from the billiard room with


v -

out attracting curiosity S h tho met me by . or u se

arrangement under the cedar o the back lawn and n ,

I at once realised with vividness what a di fference


there is between making plans in the daytime and
carrying them t in the dark One s common
ou .

sense — t least in matters f this sort —is redu ced


a o a

t o a minimum and imagination with all her


,

attendant sprites usurps the p lace f judgment o .

Two and two no longer make four— they make a


mystery and the mystery loses no time in growing
,

into a menace In this particular case however my


.
, ,

imagination did not find wings very readily f


, or

I knew that my companion was the most m va bl un o e

of m — unemotional solid block of a man w ho


en an ,
Wi t h I n ten t to S te al 1
3 1

would never lose his head and in any conceivable ,

state f fl i would always take the right as well


o a a rs

as the strong c ourse So my faith in th man gave . e

me a false courage that was nevertheless very


consoling and I looked forward t the night s
,
o

adventure with a genuine appetite .

Side by side and in s ilence we followed the path


, ,

that skirted the East Woods as they were called , ,

and then led across t w hay fi elds and through o ,

another wood to the barn which thus l y about


, , a

half a mile from the Lower Farm To the L ower .

Farm indeed it properly belonged ; nd this made


, , a

us realise more clearly how very ingenious must


have been the excuses f the Hall servan ts who felt o

the desire to visit it .

It had been raining during the late afternoon


and the trees were still dripping hea ily all v on

sides but the moment we left the second wood and


,

came o t into the open we w a clearing with the


u , sa

stars overhead against which the barn outlined


,

its lf in a black lugubrious shadow S h th


e , . or o u se

led the way still without a word and we c rawled


— —
in through a low door and seated ourselves in a soft
heap of hay in the extreme corner .

Now he said speaking f the first time I ll


,

, or ,
“ ’

S how y the in side f the barn so that y may


ou o , ou
132 Wi th I n ten t to S t e al
know where you are and what to do in case , ,

anything happens .

A match flared in the darkness and with the ,

help of two more that followed I w the interior f sa o

a lofty and somewhat rickety looking barn erected -


,

upon a wall f grey stones that ran all round and


o

extended t a height f perhaps four feet Above


o o .

this masonry rose the wooden sides running up ,

into the usual vaulted roof and supported by a ,

double tier f massive k rafters which stretched


o oa ,

across from wall to wall and were intersected by


occasional uprights I felt as if we were inside the
.

skeleton f some antediluvian monster whose huge


o

black ribs completely enfolded Most f this f us


. o , o

course only sketched itself to my eye in the


,

uncertain light of the flickering matches and when ,

I said I had seen enough and the matches went t , ou ,

we were at once enveloped in an atm osphere as


den ely black as anything that I have ever known
s .

And the silence equalled the dark ess n .

We made ourselves comfortable and talked in low


voi ces The rugs which were very large c overed
.
, ,

o ur legs ; and shoulders sank into a really


ou r

luxurious bed f softness Yet neither f


o . o us

apparently felt sleepy I certainly didn t and.



,

S h th se dropping his customary brevity that


or ou ,
1 34 Wi th I n t en t t o S te al

from the Lower Farm ; and from the Hall and


stables at least a mile Yet the stillness was being
, .

continually broken— perhaps di tw b d is a better s r e

word— and it was to these very remote and tiny


disturbances that I felt compelled to devote at least
half my listening faculties .

From time t time however I m ade a remark


o , ,

or asked a quest on to show that I was listening


i ,

and interested ; but in a sens my questions


,
e,

always seemed to bear in direction d to on e an

make for on eissue namely my companion s previous


, ,

experience in the barn when he had been obliged ”

to come out quickly .


Apparently I could not help myself in the matte r,

for this was really the consuming curiosity Ion e

had ; and the fact that it was better for me not to


know it made m the keener to kno w it all even
e ,

the wors t .

S h th u se realised this even better than I did


or o .

I could tell it by the way ha dodged or wholly ,

ignored my questions and this subtle sympathy


, ,

between us showed plainly enough had I been able ,

at the time t reflect Upon its meaning that the


o ,

ne rves f both of were in a very sensitive and


o us

highly strung c ondition Probably the complete


-
.
,

confidence I felt his ability to face whatever


In
Wi th I n ten t to S t e al 1 35
might happen and the extent to which also I
,

relied upon him for my own courage prevented ,

the exercise of my ordinary powers of reflection ,

while it left my senses free to a more than usual


degree of activity .

Things must have gone on in this w ay for a


good hour more when I m ade the sudden dis
or ,

co v e r
y that there was something unus al in the u

conditions f environment This sounds a


o ou r .

roundabout mode of expression but I really know ,

not how else to put it The discovery almost .

rushed upon me By rights we were two men


.
,

waiting in an alleged haunted bar for something n

to happen ; and as two men who tru ted one


, s

another implicitly (though for very different


reasons ) there should have been two minds keenly
,

alert with the ordinary senses in active opera


,
co -

tion Some slight degree of nervousness t


.
, oo ,

there might also have been but beyond this , ,

nothing It was therefore with something of


.

dismay that I made the sudden discovery that


there w something more and something that I
as ,

ought to have noticed very much sooner than I


actually did notice it .

The fact was— S h th stream of talk was


or ou se s

wholly unnatural He was talking wi th a purpose


.
1 3 6 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
He did not wish to be cornered by my questions ,

true but he had another and a deeper purpose still


, ,

and it grew upon me as an unpleasant deduction ,

from my discovery that this strong cynical , , ,

unemotional man by my side was talking— and


had been talking all this time to gain a particular

end A d this end I soon felt clearly was to


. n , ,

con vi hi m lf But of what ?


n ce se .
,

For myself as the hours wore on towards mid


,

night I was not anxious to find the answer ; but


,

in the end it became impossible t avoid it and I o ,

knew as I listened that he was pouring forth this ,

steady stream f vivid reminiscences of travel


o

South Seas big game Russian exploration women


, , , ,

ad ventures f all sorts b


— h w i h d th p t
o eca u se e s e e as

to r ea sser t i tself to the com


p lete exclu si on
f
o the

p r esen t
. He was taking his prec utions He w a . as

afraid .

I felt a hundred things once this was clear ,

to me but none f them more W wish to get


"

,
o e

u
p at once and leave the barn I f S h th . or ou se

was afraid already w ha t in the world was t , o

happen to me in the long hours that lay ahead ?


I only know that in my fierce efforts to deny ,

to myself the evidence of his partial collapse the ,

strength came that enabled me to play my part


138
i
f t hte n t to S te al
that in my uneventful life I had never yet been
face to face with a real fear I t slipped t . ou

inadvertently and f course without intention but


, , o , ,

the tendency in him at the time w too stro g t as n o

be r sisted He w the loophole and made f it


e . sa , or

full tilt .

It is the same with all the emotions he said ,

The experiences of others never gi ve a complete


account Until a man has deliberately turned and
.

faced for himself the fiends that chase him down


the years he has no knowledge f what they really
,
o

are,
f what they can do
or o Imaginative authors .

may write moralists may preach and scholars


, ,

may criticise b t they are dealing all the time in


,
u

a coin age f which they know not the actual value


o .

Their listener gets a sensation— but not the true “

one Until you have faced these emotions he


.
,

went o with the same race f words t hat had


n , o

come from him the whole evening and made them ,

your w your slaves you ha/


o n, ve n idea of the , o

power that is in them— hunger that shows lights ,

beckoning beyond the grave thirst that fills w ith ,

mingled ice and fire ; passion love loneliness , , ,

revenge and ,
He paused for a minute and ,

though I knew we were on the brink I w power as

less to hold him an d f a he went . e r,



on
Wi t h I n ten t to S teal 1 39
fear I think that death from fear or madness ,

fro m fear must m U p in a second f time the


, su

total f all the most awful sensations it is possibl


o e

f
or a man to know .

Then you have yourself felt something f thi



o s

fear I interr pted for you said just now


,

u

I do not mean physical fear he replied ; for



,
” “

that is more or less a question f nerves and will o ,

and it is i magination that makes men cowards I .

mean an b l t fear a physical fear


a so u e might , on e

call it that reaches the soul and withers every


,

power one possesses .

He said a lot more for he too was wholly unable , , ,

to stem the torrent once it broke loose ; but I have


forgotten it ; rather mercifully I did not hear it
or, , ,

f rI stopp ed my e rs and o ly heard the occasional


o a n

words when I took my fingers t to find if he had ou

come to an end I n due course he did c me to an


. o

end and there we left it for I then knew positively


, ,

what he already knew that somewhere here in !

the night and within the walls f this very barn


,
o

where we were sitting there was waiting Some ,

thing f dreadful malignancy and of great power


o

Something that we might both have to face ere


morning and Something that he had already tried
,

to face once and failed in the attempt .


14 0 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
The night wore slowly ; and it gradually
on

became more and more clear to me that I could not


dare to rely as at first upon m y companion and that ,

our positions were undergoing a slow process f o

reversal I thank Heaven this was not borne in


.

upon me too suddenly ; and that I had at least the


time to readjust myself somewhat to the new
conditions Preparation was possible even if it
.
,

was ot much and I sought by every means in my


n ,

power to gather up all the shreds of my courage ,

so that they might together make a decent


rope that would stand the strain when it came .

The strain would come that was Certain and I was


, ,

thoroughly well aware — though for my life I cannot


pu t into words the reasons f my knowledge
or

that the massing of the material against us was


pro ceeding somewhere in the darkness with deter
mination and a horrible skill besides .

S h th or meanwhil e talked withou t ceasi g


o u se n .

The great quantity f hay p po i t


o o straw I
s e i or ,

believe it actually was —seemed to deaden the sound


o f his voice but the silence too had become so
, , ,

Oppressive that I welcomed his torrent and even


dreaded the moment when it would stop I heard .
,

t o the gentle ticking of my watch


o ,
E ach second.

uttered its voice and dropped away into a gulf s , a


14 2 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
enveloped me pressing on the eyelids
, I t must .

have been just here that I actually fell asleep some ,

where between twelve and o clock because as I on e



, ,

ch sed this word at tremendous s peed through space


a ,

I knew that I had left the other words far very far ,

behind me till at last I could no longer hear them


, , ,

at all Th voice f the story t ller was beyond


. e o -
e

the reach of hearing ; and I was fal ling with ever


increasing rapidity through an immense void .

A sound f whispering roused me


o Two persons .

were talking under their breath close beside me .

The words in the main escaped me but I caught ,

every now and gth bitten ff p hrases and half


en -
o

sentences t which however I could attach no


, o , ,

intelligible meaning The words were quite close.

t my very side in fact— and


-a
o f the voices on e

sounded s familiar that curiosity overcame dread


o , ,

and I turned to look I was not mistaken ; it w .


f
as

S h th
or w hi p i g
ou se But the other person who
s er n .
,

must have been just a little b / y dd i m was lost e on i ,

in the darkness and invisible to me I t seemed .

then that S h th e at once turned p his face


or ou s u

and looked at me and by some means or other that ,

caused me no surprise at the time I easily made ,

ou t the features in the darkness They wore an .

expression I had never seen there before he


Wi th I n ten t to S te al 14 3
seemed distressed exhausted worn t and as, , ou ,

though he were about to give in fter a long mental a

struggle He looked at me almost beseechi ngly


.
, ,

and the whi spering of the other person di d away e .

They re at me he said

,

.

I found it q i te impossible to answer ; the word


u s

stuck i my throat His voice was thin plaintive


n .
, ,

almost like a child s ’


.

I shall have to go I m not as strong s I .



a

thought They ll call it suicide but of course it s


’ ’
.
, , ,

really murder There was real anguish in hi


.

s

voice and it terrified me


,
.

A deep silence followed these extraordinary


words and I somehow understood that the Other
,

Person was just going to carry on the conversation


— I even fancied I w lips shapi g themselves just
sa n

over my friend s shoulder when I felt a sharp


— ’

blow in the ribs and a voice this time a deep voice , ,

sounded in my ear I opened my eyes and the .


,

wretched dream vanished Yet it left behind .

it an impression of a strong and quite unusual


reality .

D try not to go to sleep again he said sternly


o , .

You seem exhausted D o you feel so ? There .

was a note in his voice I did not welco me —less ,

than alarm but certainly more than mere solicitude


, .
14 4 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
I do feel terribly sleepy all f a sudden I o ,

admitted ashamed ,
.

So you may he added very earnestly ; but I



,

rely you t keep awake if only to watch You


on o , .

have been asleep for half an hour at least— and


y u
o were so still — I thought I d wake you ’

Why I a ked f my curiosity and nerv ous


s , or

ness were altogether too strong to be resisted .

D o you think we are in danger


I think th y are about here now I feel my
e .

vitality going rapidly— that s always the first sign ’


.

You ll last longer than I remember Watch



, .

carefully .

The conversation dropped I was afraid to say all .

I wanted to say It would have been too m i t k


. un s a

ably confession ; and intuitively I realised the


a

danger f admitting the existence of certain


o

emotions until positively forced t But presently o .

S h th
or began again His voice sounded dd
ouse . o ,

and as if it had lost power I t w s more like . a a

woman s a boy s voice than a man s and rec alled



or
’ ’
,

the voice in my dream .

I suppose you ve got a knife he asked’


.

Yes— big clasp knife but why ? He made


a

no answer You don t think a practical joke


.

likely ? No o e suspects we re here I wen t n


n
’ ”
, o
,
14 6 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
I w asglad when it stopped for it completely ,

drowned all other sounds and made it impossible


to hear anything else that might be going on .

Something w going too all the time though


as on , , ,

for the life f me I could not say what The outer


o .

world had grown quite dim— the house party the -


,

shooters the billiard room and the ordinary daily


,
-
,

incident f my visit All my energies were con


s o .

c t t d o n the present and the constant strain o f


en r a e ,

watching waiting listening was excessively telling


, , ,
.

S h th
or still talked of his adventures in some
ou se ,

E astern country w and less connectedly These


no , .

adventur s real imaginary had quite a s vour


e ,
or , a

o f the Arabian Nights and did not by any means ,

m ake it easier for me to keep my hold reality on .

T he lightest weight will affect the balance under


such circumsta ces and i this c ase the weight f
n ,
n o

his talk was o the wrong scale His words were


'

n .

very rapid and I found i t overwhelmingly difficult


,

not to follow them into that gre t gulf of darkness a

where they all rushed and vanished But that I .


,

knew meant sleep again Yet it was strange I


,
.
,

should feel sleepy when at the same time all my

n erves were fairly tingling E very time I heard .

what seemed like a step outside a movement in ,


or

the hay opposite the blood stood still f o a moment


,
r
Wi th I n ten t to S te al 1 4 7
in my veins D oubtless the unremitting strain
. ,

told upon me more t han I realised and this was ,

doubly great now that I knew S h th


-

was a or o u se

source of weakness instead f strength as I had o ,

counted C ertainly a curious sense f languor


.
, o

grew upon me more and more and I was sure that ,

the man beside me was engage d in the same


stru ggle The feverishness f his talk proved this
. o ,

if nothing else I t was dreadfully hard to keep


.

awake .

But this time instead of dropping into the gulf


, ,

I w something come up t of it ! I t reached


sa ou

ou r world by a door in the side of the bar furthest n

from me and it came in cautiously and silently and


,

moved into the mass of hay opposite There f a .


,
or

moment I lost it but presently I c aught it again


, ,

higher p I t was clinging like a great bat to the


u .
, ,

side o f the barn Something trailed behind it I.


,

c ould not make out what It crawled up the .

wooden wall and began to move t along of ou on e

the rafters A numb terror settled down all over


.

me as I watched it The thing trailing behind it .

was apparently a rope .

The whispering began again just then but th , e

only w ords I could catch seemed witho ut meaning ;


it was almost like another la guage The voice n . s
14 8 Wi th I n ten t to S teal
were above me under the roof Suddenly I saw
, .

signs f active movement going j ust beyond the


o on

place where the thing lay upon the rafter There .

was something else p there with it ! Then u

followed panting like the quick breathing that


,

accompanies effort and the next minute a black


,

mass dropped through the air and dangled at the


end f the rope
o .

Instantly it all flashed upon me I Sprang to


, .

my feet and rushed headlong across the floor f o

the barn How I moved quickly in the dark


. so

ness I do t know ; but even as I ran it flashed


no , ,

into my mind that I should never get at my knife


in time to cut the thing down else that I should , or

find it had been taken from me Somehow . or

other — the Goddess f D reams knows how — I o

c limbed up by the hay bales and swung t along ou

the rafter I was hanging f course by my arms


.
, o , ,

and the knife was already between my tee th ,

though I had no recollection d /h ow it got there ’

I t was Open The mass hanging like a side of


.
,

bacon was only a few feet in front of me and I


, ,

could plainly see the dark line f rope that fastened o

it to the beam I then noticed for the firs t time


.

that it was swinging and turning in the air and ,

that as I approached it seemed to move along the


1 50 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
yielded to the persuasions f the seductive god o .

I turned to wake him and get the comfort f com o

p i
an o n sh ip f the horror
or f my dream whenoto ,

my utter dismay I saw that the place where he


had been was vacant He was no longer beside.

me .

I t had been no little shock before t discover o

that the ally in whom lay all my faith and depend


ence was really frightened but it is quite im p , os

sible to describe the sensations I experienced when


I realised he had gone altogether and that I was
alone in the barn F a minute o two my head
. or r

swam and I felt a prey to a helpless terror The .

dream to still seemed half real so vivid had it


, o, ,

been ! I was thoroughly frightened — hot and


cold by tur ns and I clutched the hay at my side

in handfuls and for some mom ents had o idea in
, n

the world what I should do .

This time at least I was unmistakably awake


, , ,

and I made a great effort to col lect myself and


face the meaning f the disappearance of my m
o co

panion I n this I succeeded o far that I de cided


. s

upon a thorough search f the barn inside and o ,

outside It was a dreadful undertaking and I did


.
,

not feel at all sure of being able to bring it to a


c onclusion but I knew pretty well that un less
,
Wi th I n ten t to S te al 1 5 1

something w done at on c e I should simply


as ,

collapse .

But when I tried t move I found that the cold


,
o , ,

and fear and I kno wnot what else unholy besides


, ,

combined to make it almost impossible I suddenly .

realised that a tour f inspection during the Whole o ,

o f which my back would be open to attack w as not ,

to be thought f My will was not equal t ito . o .

Anything might spring upon me any moment from


the dark corners and the growing light was just
,

enough to rev al every movement I made to any


e

wh o might be watching Fo even then and . r, ,

while I was still half da z ed and stupid I knew ,

perfectly well that someone was watching me ll a

the time with the utmost intentness I had ot . n

merely awakened ; I had bee awakened n .

I decided to try another plan ; I called to him .

My voice had a thin weak sound far away and ,

quite u real and there was no answer to it Hark


n , .
,

though ! There was somethi g that might have n

been a very faint voic e near me !


I called again this time with greate distinct
, r

ness Sh th us where are you ? can yo hear


,
or o e, u

me ?
There certainly was a sound b t it w t a ,
u as n o

voi c Something w movin g It w a someone


e . as . s
1 5 2 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
shu fli in
g along and it seemed to
, be outside the
barn I was afraid to call again and the sound
.
,

continued I t was an ordinary sound enough no


.
,

doubt but it came to me just then as something


,

unusual and unpleasant Ordinary sounds remain .

ordinary only so long as is t listening to on e no

them under the influence f intense listening they o

become unusual portentous and therefore e xtra


, ,

ordinary S this c ommon sound came to me as


. o,

something un common disagreeable It conveyed , .


,

too an impression f stealth And with it there


, o .

w s another a slighter sound


a , .

Just at this minute the wind bore faintly over


the field the sound of the stable clock a m ile away , .

It was three o clock ; the hour when life s pulses


’ ’

beat lowest ; when poor souls lying between life


and death find it hardest to resist Vividly I .

remember this thought crashing through my


brain with a sound f thunder and I realised o ,

that the strain my nerves w nearing the


on as

limit and that something would have to be


,

done at once if I was to reclaim my self control -

When thinking over afterwards the events f o

thi s dreadful night it has always seemed strange


,

to me that m y second nightmare so v ivid in ts ,


1 54 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
knew at once that it was he who had been watch
ing me .

This point was I think f o me the clima x of


, ,
r

feeling in the whole experience ; I was incapable


of any further sensation — that is any further
sensation in the same direction But her the . e

abominable character f the affair showed itself o

most plainly f it suddenly presented n entirely


, or a

new aspect to me The light fell the picture


. on

from a new angle and galvanised me into a fresh


,

ability t feel when I thought a mercif ul numbness


o

had supervened I t may not sound a great deal in


.

the printed letter but it came to me almost as if


,

it had been an extension f consciousness f the o , or

Hand that held the pencil suddenly touched in


with ghastly eff ect f c ontrast th element f the
o e o

ludicrous N othing c ould have been worse just


.

then S h th . the masterful spirit intrepid


or o u se , , so

in the affairs f ordinary life whose power i


o , n

creased rather than lessened imth f fi c f danger r e o

thi s man creeping


-
,hands a d knees along on n

a rafter in a barn at three o clock in the morning ’


,

watching me all the time as a cat watches a mouse !


Yes it was distin ctly ludicro s and W hile
,
u ,

it gave me a measure with which to gauge the


dread emotion that c aused his aberration it stirre d ,
Wi t h I n ten t to S te al 1 55
somewhere deep in my interior the strings f an o

empty laughter .

One f th se moments then came to me that are


o o

said to come sometimes under the stress f great o

emotion wh en in an instant the mind grows


,

dazzlingly clear An abnormal lucidity took the


.

place f my confus on f thought and I suddenly


o i o ,

understood that the two dreams whi h I had taken c

f
or nightmares must really have been sent me ,

and th t I had been allowed for


a moment to on e

look over the edge f what was to come ; the Good


'

was helping even when the E vil was most


,

determined to destroy .

I saw it all clearly now S ho th s had over . r ou e

rated his strength The terror inspired by his


.

first visit t the barn (when he had failed) had


o

roused the man s whole nature to win and he had



,

b ought me t divert the deadly stream f evil


r o o .

That he had again underrated the power against


hi m was apparent as soon as he entered the barn ,

and his wild talk and refusal to admit what he


,

felt were due to this desire not to acknowledge


,

the insidious fear that was growing in his heart .

But at length it had b ec ome too strong He


, , .


had lef t my side in my sleep had been over
com e himself perhaps firs t i n hi
, sleep by the , s ,
1 5 6 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
dreadful impulse He knew that I should interfere
.
,

and with every movement he made he watched me ,

steadily for the mania was upon him and he was


,

d t m i d t h g hi m lf
e er ne o He pretended not t
an se . o

hear me calling and I k ew that anything coming


,
n

between him and his purpose would meet the full


force f his fury— the fury f a maniac of one for
o o , ,

the time being truly possessed, .

F a minute or two I sat there and stared I


or .

sa w then for the first time that there was a bit f o

rope trailing after him and that this was what ,

made the rustling sound I had noticed Short .

house t had come to a stop His body lay


, oo , .

along the rafter like a crouching animal He .

was looking hard at me That whitish patch was .

his f ce a .

I can lay claim to no courage in the matter for ,

I must confess that in one sense I was frightened


almost beyond control But at the same time the
/
.

necessity for decided action if v s to save his ,


a

life came to me with an intense relief No matter


,
.

what animated him f the moment S h th or , or ou se

was only a m ; it was flesh and blood I had to


an

contend with and not the intangible powers Only .

a few hours before I had seen him cleaning his


gun , smoking his pi p e knocking the billiard
, bal ls
1 5 8 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
came wriggling along like a great cat to interc ept
me He came by a series f leaps and bounds and
. o

at an astonishing pace and the way he moved


,

somehow inspired me with a fresh horror for it ,

di d not see m the natural movement f a human o

being at all but more as I have said like that f


, , , o

some lithe wild animal .

He was close upon me I had no clear idea f. o

what e xactly I meant to do I could see his face .

plainly now ; he was grinning cruelly ; the eyes


were positively luminous and the menacing e x ,

pression f the mouth was most di stressing to


o

look upon Otherwise it was the face of a chalk


.

man white and dead with all the semblance of


, ,

the living human drawn out of it Between his .

teeth he held my clasp knife which he must have ,

taken from me in my sleep and with a flash I ,

recalled his anxiety to know xactly w hich pocket e

it was in .

D rop that knife I shouted at him and drop


1 ”
,

after it yourself
Don t you dare to stop me ! he hissed the
“ ’
,

breath coming between his lips across the knife


that he held in his teeth Nothing in the world
.

can stop me now— I have promised— and I must


do it I can t hold out any longer
.

.

Wi th I n ten t to S te al 1 59
Then drop the knife and I ll help y I ’
ou ,

shouted back in his face I promise .


N o use he cried laughing a little I must
, , ,

do it and you can t stop me



.

I he ard a sound f laughter too somewhere in


o , ,

the air behind me The next second S h th s


. or ou e

came at m with a single bound


e .

To this day I c annot quit tell how it happened e .

I t is still a wild confusion and a fever of horror in


my mind but from somewhere I drew more than
,

my usual allowan ce f strength and before he could


o ,

w ell have realised what I meant to do I had his ,

throat between my fi gers He opened his teeth


n .

and the knife dropped at once f I gave him a , or

squeeze he need never forget Before my muscles .


,

had felt like so much soaked paper ; now they


recovered their natural strength and more besides , .

I managed to work ourselves along the rafter until


the hay was beneath us and then c ompletely , ,

exhausted I let go my hold and we swung round


,

together and dropped on to the hay he clawing ,

at me in the air even as we fell .

The strug gle that began by my fighting for his


life ended in a wild e ffort to save my w for o n,

S h th s was quite beside himself and had no


or ou e ,

idea what he was doing Indeed he h always.


, as
1 60 Wi th I n ten t to S te al
averred that he remembers nothing of the entire
night s experiences after the time when he first

woke me from sleep A sort of deadly mist settled


.

over hi m he declares and he lost all sense of his


, ,

ow identity
n The rest was a blank until he came
.

to his senses under a mass f hay with me on the


o

top f him
o

I t was the hay that saved s first by breaking


u ,

the fall and then by impeding his movements so

that I was able to prevent his choking me to


death .
162 T h e Wood o f the D e ad
The inn keeper s daughter a little maiden with a
-

,

simple country loveliness presently entered with ,

a foaming pewter mug enquired aft r my welfare , e ,

and went t again Apparently h had not


ou . s e

noticed the ld man sitting in the settle by the


o

bow window nor had he for his part so much as


, , ,

once turned his head in direction our .

Under ordinary circumstances I should probably


have given no thought to this other occupant f the o

room ; but the fact that it was supposed t be o

reserved for my private s and the singular u e,

thing that he t looking aimlessly t o f the


sa ou

window with no attempt to e gage me in con


,
n

versation drew my eyes more than once somewhat


,

curiously upon him and I soon caught myself,

wondering why he t there s silently and always


sa o ,

with averted head .

He was I saw a rather bent ld man in rustic


, , o

dress and the skin f his face was wrinkled like


, o

that of an apple ; corduroy t g were caught r ou s s -

u
p with a string below the k nee and he wore a ,

sort of brown fustian jacket that was very much


faded His thin hand rested upon a stoutish stick .

He wore no hat and carried none and I noticed ,

that his head covered with silvery bal r was finely


, ,

shaped and gave the impression of something noble .


.
The Wood of the D e ad 163

Tho gh rather piqued by his studied disregard


u

of my pre ence I came to the conclusion that he


s ,

probably had something t do with the little


o

hostel and had a perfect right to use this room


with freedom and I finished my luncheon Without
,

breaki ng the silence and then took the settle


opposite t smoke a pipe before going on my way
o .

Through the open window came the scents of


the blossoming fruit trees ; the orchard was
drenched in sunshine and the branches danced
lazily in the breeze ; the grass below fairly shone
with white and yellow daisies and the red roses
,

climbing in profusion over the casement m ingled


their perfume with the sweetly penetrati g odou n r

o f the
se a .

It was a place to dawdle in t lie and drea m , o

away a whole afternoon watching the sleepy butter


,

flies and listening t the chorus f birds which


o o

seemed to fill every corner of the ky Indeed I s .


,

was already debating in my mind whether to linger


and enjoy it all instead f taking the strenuous
o

pathway over the hills when the old rustic in the


,

settle pposite suddenly turned h i face t owards


o s

me for the first time and began to speak .

His voice had a quiet dreamy note in it that


was quite in harmony wi th the d y and the scene a ,
1 64 T h e Wood of the D e ad
but it sounded far away I thought almost as , ,

though it came to me from outside where the


shadows were weaving their eternal tissue f o

dreams upon the garden floor Moreover there .


,

was no trace in it f the rough quality one might


o

naturally have expected d now that I saw the , an ,

f ll face f the speaker for the first time I noted


u o ,

with something like a start that the deep gentle ,

eyes seemed far more in keeping with the timbre


of the voice than with the rough and very o t i c un r

fl d appearan c e f the clothes and manner


e o His .

voi c e t pleasant waves f sound in motion towa ds


se o r

me and the act ual words if I remember rightly


, , ,

were
You are a stranger in these parts ? Is or

not this part f the country strange to y ?


o ou

There w no i nor any outward and visible


as s r,

sign f the deference usually p id by real country


o a

folk to the town bred visit r but in its place a


-
o ,

gentleness almost a sweetness! of p olite sympathy


,

that was far more f a compliment than either


o .

I answered that I was wandering foot through on

a part f the country that was wholly new to me


o ,

and that I was surprised not to find a place of such


idyllic loveliness marked upon my map .


I have lived her all my life he said with
e ,

, a
166 T h e Wood of the D e ad
the visions f childhood days before
o knew, on e

anything f — f
o o

I had been oddly drawn into his vein f speech o ,

some inner force compelling me But here the .

spell passed and I could not catch the thoughts


that had a moment before opened a long vista
before my inner vision .

To tell y u the truth I co cluded lamely the


o ,
n ,

place fascinates me and I am in two minds about


going further
E ven at this stage I remember thinking it odd
that I should be talking hk thi s with a stranger
e

whom I met in a country inn for it has always ,

been one f my failings that to strangers my


o

manner is brief to surliness It was as though .

we were figures meeting in a dream speaking ,

without sound obeying laws not operative in the


,

e very day working world and about t play with


, o

a new scale f space and time j e h p


o B t r a s
. u

my as tonishment passed quickly into an entirely


di fferent feeling when I became aware that the
o ld man opposite had turned his head from the
window again and was regarding m with eyes
,
e

so bright they seemed almost to shine with an

inner flame His gaze w fixed upon my face


. as

with an intense ardour and his whole manner had


,
The Wood of t he D e ad 167

suddenly become alert and concentrated There .

was something about him I now felt for the first


time that made little thrills f excitement p o run u

and down my back I met his look squarely b t .


, u

with an inward tremor .

Stay then a little while longer he said in a



, , ,

much lower and deeper voice than before ; stay ,

and I will teach you something of the pu pose of r

my coming .

He stopped abruptly I was conscious of a .

decided shiver .

Y

ouhave a special purp ose then — i coming n

back ? I asked hardly knowing what I was saying


, .

T call away someone he went on in the sa me



o ,

thrilling voice someone who is not quite ready


,

t come but who is needed elsewhere for a worthier


o ,

pu p ose There was a sadness in his manner that


r .

mystified me more tha ever n .

Yo mean

u I began with an c t
,

, u n a cou n

able access i trembling o .

I have come for someone who must soon move ,

even as I have moved .


He looked me through and through with a dread


fully piercing gaze but I met his eyes with a full
,

straight stare trembling though I was and I was


, ,

aware that something stirred within me that had


168 T h e Wood of the D ead
never stirred before though for the life f m 1
,
o e

could not have put a name to it or have analysed ,

its nature Something lifted and rolled away F


. . or

on e single second I understood clearly that the


past and the future exist actually side by side in
on e immense Present ; that it was I who moved
to and fro among shifting protean appearances ,
.

The ld man dropped his eyes from my face


o ,

and the momentary glimpse of a mightier universe


passed utterly away Reason regained its sway
.

over a dull limited kingdom


, .

C ome to night I heard the old man y


-
,

sa ,

come to me to night into the Wood of the D ead


-
.

C ome at midnight 3)

Involuntarily I clutched the arm of the settle


for support for I then felt that I was speaking
,

with someone who knew more f the real things o

that are and will be than I could ever know while


,

in the body working through the ordinary channel


, s

o f sense — and this curious h lf p m of a partial a 3 ro 1se

lifting of the veil had its undeniable e ffe ct upon


me .

The breeze from the had died away outsidese a ,

and the blossoms were still A yellow butterfly .

floated lazily past the w indow The song of the .

birds hushed—I smelt the sea— I smel t the perfume


1 70 T he Wood of t he D e ad
wind sighed over their radiant eyes the ld old o ,

tale f its personal love Once or twice a


o .

voice called my name A wonderful sensation .

of lightness and power began to steal over


me .

Suddenly the door opened and the inn keeper s -


daughter came in By all ordinary standards


.
,

her s was a charming country loveliness born of



,

the stars and wild fl w of moonlight shining


-
o e r s,

through autumn mists upon the river and the


fields ; yet by contrast with the higher order of
,

beauty I had just momentarily been in touch


with h seemed almost ugly H w dull her eyes
,
s e . o ,

how thin her voice how vapid her smile and , ,

insipid her whole presentment .

F a moment she stood between me and the


or

o cupant of the window seat while I counted o t


c u

the small change for my meal and for h r services ; e

but when an instant later she moved aside I saw


, , ,

that the settle was empty d tl t there was no an


/

longer anyone in the room but our two selves .

This discovery was no shock to me ; indeed I ,

had almost expected it and the man had gone just ,

as a figure goes t f a dream causing no surprise


ou o ,

and leaving me as part and parcel of the same


dream without breaking of continuity But as .
,
T he Wood of the D e ad 1 71

soon as I had paid my bill and thus resumed in


very practical fashion the thread of my m l

n or a

consciousness I turned to the girl and asked h r ii


, e

sh knew the ld man who had been sit ting in the


e o

window seat and w hat he had meant by the


,

Wood f the D ead


o .

Th maiden started v isibly gla cing quickly


e , n

round the empty room but answering simply that ,

sh had seen no one


e I described him in great .

detail and then the description grew clearer h


, ,
as , s e

turned a little pale under her pretty s b and un or n

said very gravely that it mu t have been the ghost s .

Ghost What ghost


Oh the village ghost h said quietly coming
, , s e ,

closer to my chair with a little nervous movement


of genuine alarm and adding in a lower voice, ,


He comes before a death they y , sa

It was not di fficult to induce the girl to talk ,

and the story h told me shorn of the p ti


s e , su er s

tion that had obviously gathered with the yea s r

round the m emory f a strangely picturesque o

figure w an interesting and peculiar one


,
as .

The inn h said was originally a farmhouse


, s e , ,

occupied by a y eoman farmer evidently of a ,

superior if rather eccentric character who had


, , ,

been very poor until he reached old age when a ,


1 72 T h e Wood of the D e ad
so n died suddenly in the C olonies and left him
an nexpected amount f money almost a fortune
u o ,
.

The old man thereupon altered no whit his


simple manner f living but devoted his income
o ,

entirely to the improvement f the village and to o

the assistance of its inhabitants ; he did this quite


regardless f his personal likes and dislikes as if
o ,

one and all were absolutely alike to him objects f , o

a genuine and impersonal benevolence People .

had always been a little afraid of the man not ,

understanding his eccentricities but the simple ,

force of this love for humanity changed all that in


a very short space f time ; and before he died h
o e

came to be known as the Father f the Village o

and was held in great love and veneration by all .

A short time before his end however he began , ,

to act queerly He spent his moneyjust usef lly


. as u

and wisely b t the shock of sudden wealth after a


,
u

life f poverty people said had unsettled his mind


o , , .

He claime d to see things that oth s did not see to er ,

hear voices and to have Vs ons E vidently he


,
i i .
,

w asnot f the harmless foolish visionary order


o , , ,

but a man of character and f great personal force o ,

for the people became divided in their Opinions ,

and the vicar good man regarded and treated him


, ,

as a special case For many his name and



.

,
1 74 T h e Wood of the D e ad
g rove talking earnestly
, to someone she co l d not u

see he turned and rebuked her very gently but


, ,

in such a way that she never repeated the exp i er

m ent saying,

Y should never interrupt me Mary when I


ou , ,

am talking with the others ; for they teach me ,

remember wonderful things and I must learn all I


, ,

can before I go t join them o .

This story went like wild fire through the


village increasing with every repetition until t
, , a

length everyone w able to give an accurate


as

description f the great veiled figures the woman


o

declared she had seen moving among the trees


where her husband stood! The t pine 1n n oce n

grove now became positively haunted and the title ,

of “
Wood of the D ead clung naturally as if it

had been applied to it in the ordinary course f o

events by the compilers f the Ordnance Surveyo .

On the evening of his ninetieth birthday the old


man went p to his wife and kiss ed her His
u .

manner was loving and very gentle and there was


, ,

something about him besides h declared after ,


s e

wards that made her slightly in awe of him and


,

feel that he was almost more of a spirit than a


m an .

He kissed her tenderly on both cheeks but his ,


The Wood o f t he D e ad 1 75
eyes seemed to look right through her as he
spoke.

D earest wife he said I am saying good bye


, ,
-

t you for I am now going into the Wood of the


o ,

D ead and I shall not return D o not follow me or


,
.
,

send to search but be ready soon to come upon the


,

same journey yourself .


The good woman burst into tears and tried to


hold him but be easily slipped from her hands and
, ,

she was afraid to follow him Slowly h w him . s e sa

cross the field in the sunshine and then enter the ,

cool shadows f the grove where he disappeared


o ,

from her si ght .

That same night much later h woke to find , , s e

him lying peacefully by h side in bed with one er ,

arm stretched out towards her d d Her story , ea .

was half believed half doubted at the time b t


, , u

in a very few years afterwards it evidently came


to be accepted by all the countryside A funeral .

service was held to which the people flocked in great


numbers a d everyone approved f the sentiment
,
n o

which led the w idow to add the words The ,


Father f the Village after the usual texts which


o ,

appeared upon the stone over his grave .

This then was the story I pieced together f the


, , o

village ghost the little inn keeper s daughter


as -

1 76 T h e Wood of the D e ad
told it to me that afternoon in the parlour of the
inn .

But you re not the first to y you ve seen him



sa

,

the girl concluded ; and your description is just “

what we ve always heard and that window they



, ,

say w just where he used to sit and think and


, as ,

think when he was alive and sometimes they y


, , sa ,

to cry for hours together .

And would you feel afraid if you had seen him


I asked for the girl seemed strangely moved and
,

interested in the whole story .


I think h answered timidly
so , s Surely if
e .
,

he spoke to me He did speak to you di dn t he


.
,

,

i ?
s r h asked after a slight pause
s e .

He said he had come for someone .

C ome for someone h repeated D id he ,



s e .

h went on falteringly
s e .

N he di d not say f r whom I said quickly


0, o , ,

noticing the sudden shadow her fa c e and the on

tremulous voi c e .

Are y really sure sir



ou ,

Oh quite sure I answered cheerfully I did


, ,
.

not even ask him The girl looked at me steadily


.
3)

for nearly a whole minute as though there were


many things she wished t tell me to ask B t o or . u

s h sa id nothing and presently p icked p her tray


e ,
u
1 78 T h e Wood of t he D e ad
a considerable number of people into the region
of the haunted and ill omened -
.

The inn lay below me and all round it the ,

village clustered in a soft black shadow unrelieved


by a single light The night was moonless yet
.
,

distinctly luminous for the stars crowded the sky


, .

The silence f deep slumber was everywhere ;


o so

still indeed that every time my foot kicked against


, ,

a stone I thought the sound must be heard below


in the village and waken the sleepers .

I climbed the hill slowly thinking chiefly f the , o

strange story of the noble old man who had seized


the opportunity to d good to his fellows the o

moment it came his way and wondering why the ,

causes that operate ceaselessly behind human life


did not always select such admirable instruments .

Once twice a night bird circled swiftly over my


or -

head but the bats had long since gone to rest and
, ,

there was no other sign f life stirring o .

Then suddenly with a sing ular thrill of emotion


, , ,

I w the first trees f the Wood of th D ead rise


sa o e

in front f me in a high black wall Their crests


o .

s tood p like giant spears against the starry


u

sky ; and though there was no perceptible


movement f the air o my cheek I heard on

a faint rushing sound among their branches


,
The Wood o f the D e ad 1 79

as the night breeze passed to and fro over their


countless little needles A remote hushed murmur
.
,

rose overhead and died away again almost i m m di e

ately ; for in these trees the wind seems to be


never absolutely at rest and on the calmest day
,

there is always a sort of whispering musi c among


their branches .

For a moment I hesitated o the edge f this n o

dark wood and listened intently D elicate per


, .

fumes f earth and bark stole o t to meet me


o u .

Impenetrable darkness faced me Only the .

consciousness that I w obeying an order strangely


as ,

given and including a mighty privilege enabled


, ,

me to find the c ourage to go for w ard and step in


boldly under the trees .

Instantly the shadows closed in upon me and



something c ame forward to meet me from the
c entre of the darkness I t would be easy enough to
.

meet myimagination half way with fact and y that


-
, sa

a cold hand grasped my w and led me by invisible


o n

paths into the unknown depths f the grove ; but o

at any rate without stumbling d always with


, ,
an

the positive knowledge that I was going straight


towards the desired object I pressed on confidently
,

and securely into the wood So dark w it that . as ,

at first not a single star beam pierced the roof f


,
-
o
1 80 T h e Wood of t he D e ad
branches overhead and as we moved forward side
'

by side the trees shifted silently past


, in long us

lines w upon row squadron upon squadron like


, ro , ,

the units f a vast soundless army


o , .

And at length we c ame t a comparatively open


, , o

space where the trees halted upon u for a while s ,

and looking p I s w the white river of the ky


, u , a s

beginning to yield to the influence f a new light o

that w seemed spreading swiftly across the


no

heavens .

I t is the dawn c oming said the voice at my side ,

that I certainly re c ognised but which seemed ,

almost like a whispering from the trees and we are ,

o w in the heart f the Wood of the D ead



n o .

We seated ourselves o a moss covered boulder n -

and waited the c oming of the With marvel su n .

lous swiftness it seemed to me the light in the


, ,

east passed into the radiance f early morning and o ,

when the wind awoke and began to whisper in the


tree tops the first rays f the ri en
,
fell between o s su n

the tr nks and rested in a circle f gold at our


u o

feet .


N ow come with me whispered my companion
, ,

in the same deep voice f time has no existence ,



or

here and th t whi ch I would sho w you is already


, a

ther e
1 82 T he Wood o f the D e ad
laughing and talking with the driver and he , ,

from time to time cast p at her ardent glances , u

of admiration glances that won instant smiles


and soft blushes in response .

The c art presently turned into the roadway that


skirted the edge f the wood where we were o

sitting I watched the scene with intense interest


.

and became so much absorbed in it that I quite


forgot the manifold strange steps by which I was ,

permitted to become a spectator .

C ome down and walk with me cried the



,

young fellow tOppi g a moment in front f the, s n o

horses and opening wide his arms Jump ! and .


I ll catch y ii

o

Oh oh sh laughed and her voice sounded


,

,
e ,

to me the happiest me riest laughter I had


as ,
r

ever heard from a girl s throat Oh h ! that s ’


.
, o

all ve y well But remember I m Q ueen of the


r .

Hay and I must ride !


,

/
Then I m ust come and ride beside y

he ou,

cried and began at once to climb p by way


,
u

f the driver s seat B t with a peal of silvery



o . u ,

laughter h slipped down easily over the back


, s e

of the hay to escape him and ran a little way ,

along the road I could s e her qui te clearly and


. e ,

noticed the charming natural gra c e of her move ,


The Wood of the D e ad 1 83
ments and the loving expression in her eyes
, as

she looked over her houlder to m ke sure he was s a

following Evidently h di d not wish to escape


.
, s e

f
or long certainly not for ever
,
.

In two strides the big brown swain was after ,

her leaving the horses to do as they pleased


, .

Another second and his arms would have caught


the slender waist and pressed the little body to
his heart B t just at that instant the old man
. u , ,

beside me uttered a peculiar cry I t was low .

and thrilling and it went through me like a sharp


,

sword .

H E had called her by her ow name— and n

she had heard .

For a se cond she halted glancing back with ,

frightened eyes Then with a brief cry f .


, o

despair the girl swerved aside and dived in


,

swiftly among the shadows of the trees .

But the young man s w the sudden movement a

and cried out to her passionately


Not that way my love ! Not that way ! It s
,

the Wood of the D ead 1

She threw a laughing glance over her shoulder


at him and the wind caught her hair and drew
,

it t in a brown cloud under the


ou But the su n .

n e x t minute she w s clo se beside me lyin g a , on


1 84 The Wood of the D e ad
the breast f my companion and I was certain I
o ,

heard the words repeatedly uttered with many


sighs Father y called and I have come And
, ou , .

I come willingly for I am very ver y tired


, , .

At any rate the words sounded t me and


, so o ,

mingled with them I seemed to catch the answer


in that deep thrilling whisper I already k w
, no


And you shall sleep m y child sleep for a long , , ,

long time until it is time for you to begin the


,

journey again .

I n that brief se cond f time I had re cognised o

the face and voice f the inn keeper s daughter o -



,

but the ne x t minute a dreadful wail broke from


the lips f the young man and the sky grew
o ,

suddenly as dark as night the wind rose and ,

began to toss the branches about us and th , e

whole s c ene was swallowed p in a wave f utter u o

bl ckness
a .

Again the chill fingers seemed to sei z e my


hand and I w guided by the way I had come
,
as

to the edge f th w d and crossing the h yfi ld


o e
'

oo , a e

still slumbering in the starlight I crept back to ,

the inn and went to bed .

A year later I happened to be in the same par t


of the country and the memory of the stran g e
,
S M IT H !
A N E P I S O DE I N A
L O D G IN G H O U S E -

W HE N I was a medical student began the ,

doctor half turning towards his circle f listeners


, o

in the fi light I came a c ross one


re ,

two very or

curious human beings ; but there was one fellow


I remember particularly f o b c aused me the , r e

most vivid and I think the most uncomfortable


, ,

emotions I have ever known .

F many months I knew Smith only by name


or

as the occupant f the floor above me Obviously


o .

his name meant nothing to me Moreover I was .

busy with lectures reading cliniques and the


, ,

like and had little leisure t d evi plans f


, o
a
se or

scraping acquaintance with any f the other o

lodgers in the house Then chance brought us .

curiously together and this fellow Smith left a


,

deep impression upon me as the result of our first


meeting At the time the strength of this first
.

impression seemed qui te inexpli cable to me but ,

186
E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se 187

looking back at the episode now from a stand


point i greater knowledge I judge the fact to
o

have been that he stirred my curiosity to an


unusual degree and at the same time awakened my
,

sense f horror whatever that may be in a


o —

medical student— about as deeply and permanently


as these tw emotions were capable f being stirred
o o

at all in the parti cular system and set of nerves


called ME .

How he knew that I was interested in the


study f languages was something I could never
o

explain but ,
day quite unannounced he came
on e , ,

quietly into my room in the evening and asked


me point blank if I knew enough Hebrew to help
-

him in the pronunciation f certain words o .

He caught me along the line f least resistance o ,

and I was g eatly flattered to be able to give him


r

the desired information ; but it w only when he as

had thanked me and was gone that I realised I


had been in the presence f an unusual individu
o

ality For the life f me I could not quite seize


. o

and label the pe culiarities f what I felt to be a o

very striking personality but it was borne in ,

upon me that he was a man apart from his fellows ,

a mind that followed a line leading away from


ordinary human interc ou rse and human interests ,
188 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
and into regions that left in his atmosphere some
thing remote rarefied chilling , , .


The moment he was gone I became conscious
o f two things — intense curiosity to know more
an

about this man and what his real interests were ,

and se condly the fact that my skin was crawling


,

and that my hair had a tendency to rise .


The doctor paused a moment here to puff hard


at his pipe which however had gone t beyond
, , , ou

recall without the assistance of a match ; and in the


deep silence which testified to the genuine interest
,

o f his listeners someone poked the fire p into a


,
u

li ttle blaz e and e o two othe s glanc d over


, on r r e

their shoulders into the dark distan c es of the big


hall
On looking back he went o watching the ,
n,

momentary flames in the grate I se a short ,



e ,

thick s t man f perhaps forty fi v with immense


-
e o -
e,

sho l ders and small slender hands Th contrast


u ,
. e

was noticeable for I remember thinking that such a


,

giant frame and such slim finger bones hardly b e

longed together His head too was large and very.


, ,

long the head of an idealist beyond all question yet


, ,

with an unusually strong development of the jaw


and chin Here again w a singular contradiction
. as ,

though I am better able now to appreciate its full


190 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
course I have left untouched for it is both inde
, ,

scribable and get atable I have spoken already


un - -
.

o f an atmosphere of warning and aloofness he


carried about with him It is impossible further.

to analyse the series f little shocks his presence


o

al ways communicated to my being ; but there was


that about him which made me instantly the on

q wi r i v in his
e presence every nerve alert every
, ,

sense strained and the watch I do not mean


on .

that he deliberately suggested danger but rather ,

that he brought forces in his wake which auto


m ti lly warned the nervous centres f my system
a ca o

to be on their guard and alert .

Since the days of my first acquaintance with


this man I have lived through other experiences
and have seen much I c annot pretend to explain or

understand ; but so far in my life I have only


, ,

Once come across a human being who suggested a


disagreeab le familiarity with unholy things and ,

wh made me feel uncanny


o in his
presence ; and that unenviable individual was Mr .

Smith .

What his occupation was during the day I


never knew I think he slept until the sun t
. se .

No on eever saw him the stairs heard him


on , or

move in his room during the day He was . a


E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se 19 1

creature f the shadows who apparently preferred


o ,

darkness to light Our landlady either knew .

nothing or would y nothing At any rate h


,
sa . s e

found no fault and I have since wondered Often


,

by what magic this fellow was able to convert a


common lan dl ady f a common lodging house into o -

a discreet and uncommunicative person This .

alone was a sign f genius of some sort o .

He s been here with me f years — long before



or

y ouc ome an I d n t
,
interfere ’
k no questions
o

o r as

f what doesn t concern me as long as people pays



o ,

their rent was the only remark o the subject



, n

that I ever succeeded in winning from that quarter ,

and it certainly told me nothing nor gave me any


encouragement to k for further information as .

E xaminations however and the general e x cite



, ,

ment of a medical student s life for a time put Mr ’


.

Smith completely t f my head F a long ou o . or

period he did not call upon me again and for my ,

part I felt no c ourage to return his unsolicited


,

visit .

Just then however there came a change in the


, ,

fortunes f those who controlled my very limited


o

income and I was obliged to give p my ground


,
u

floor and move aloft to more modest chambers


on the top of the house Here I w dire ctly . as
192 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
over Smith and had to pass his door t reach
, o

my w o n .

It happen d that about this time I was


so e

frequently called out at all hours of the night f or

the maternity cases which a fourth year student -

takes at a certain period f his studies and o , on

retur ing from


n of these visits at about two
on e

o clock in the morning I was surprised to hear the


sound of voices as I passed his door A pe culiar .

sweet odour too not unli ke the smell of incense


, , ,

penetrated into the passage .

I went upstairs very quietly wondering what ,

w asgoing on there at this hour f the morning o .

To my knowledge Smith never had visitors For .

a moment I hesitated outs ide the door with o ne

foot on the stairs Al l my interest in this strange


.

man revived and my curiosity rose to a poi t not


,
n

far from action At last I might learn something


.

of the habits f this lover f the night and the


o o

darkness .

The sound of voices was plainly audible Smith s



,

predominating so much that I never could catch


more than points of sound from the other p t t ,
en e r a

ing now and then the steady stream f his voice o .

N ot a single word reached me at least not a word , ,

that I could understand though the voice was ,


194 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
speaking though the sound did not seem t have
,
o

come t me through the door It was close in


o .

my very ear as though he stood besi de me and


, ,

it gave me such a start that I clutched the ,

banisters to save myself fro m stepping backwards


and making a clatter on the stairs .

T here i nothing y can do to help m


s it ou e,

said distin tly d y will be much safer in your


c ,
an ou

w room

o n .


I am ashamed t this day f the pace at whi ch o o

I covered the flight f stairs in the darkness to o

the top floor and f the shaking hand with whi ch


,
o

I lit my c andles and bolted the door But there .


,

it is just as it happened
,
.


This midnight episode so dd and yet so , o

trivial in itself fired me with more curiosity than


,

ever about my fellow lodger I t also made me -


.

connect him in my mind with a sense f fear and o

distrust I never saw him yet I was often and


.
, ,

uncomfortably aware f his presence in the upp er


, o

regions f that gloomy lodging house Smith and


o -
.

his se c ret mode f life and mysterious pursuits o ,

somehow contrived to awaken in my being a


line f refle ction that disturbed my comfortable
o

condition f ignorance I never s w him as I


o . a ,

have said and exchanged no sort of comm nication


. u
E pi sode in a L odg i ng - H ou se 1
95
with him yet it seemed to me that his m ind was
,

in contact with mine and some f the strange , o

forces f his atmosphere filtered thro gh into my


o u

being and disturbed my equilibrium Those upper .

floors became haunted for me after dark and , ,

though outwardly our live never came into s

contact I became unwillingly involved in certain


,

p ursuits which
on his mind w c entre d I f elt as .

th t he was somehow making


a of me agai s t u se n

my will and by methods whi c h passed my


,

comprehension .

I was at that time moreover in the heavy



, , ,

unquestioning state of materialism which is


common to medical students when they begin t o

understand something f the human anatomy o

and nervous system and jump at on c e to the


,

conclusion that they control the universe and


hold in their forceps the last word f life o

and death I knew it all and regarded a belief


.

,

in anything beyond matter as the wanderings


of weak ,
at best untrained minds And
or , .

this condition of mind of course added to the , ,

strength of this upsetting fear which emanated


from the floor below and began slowly to take
possession of me .

Though I kept no no tes f the subsequ ent



o
1
9 6 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
events in this m atter they made t deep an ,
oo

impression for me ever to forget the sequence in


which they occurred Without di fficulty I can
.

recall the nex t step in the adventure with Smith ,

f
or ad enture it rapi dly grew to be
v .

The doctor stopped a moment and laid his pipe


on the table behind him before continuing The .

fire had burned low and no one stirred to poke it


,
.

The silence in the great hall was so deep that


when the speaker s pipe touched the table the

sound woke audible echoes at the far end among


the shadow s
.

One evening while I was reading the door



,

o f my room opened and Smith c ame in He made .

no attempt at ceremony I t was after ten o clock


.

and I w tired b t the presence f the m


as , u o an

immediately galvanised me into activity My .

attempts at ordinary politeness he thrust one on

side at once and began asking m eto vocalise and


,

,

then pronounce for him c tfi Hebrew wor ds ; , er h

and when this was done he abruptly inquired if


I w as ot the fortu ate possessor f a very rare
n n o

Rabbinical Treatise which he nam ed


,
.

How he kne w that I possessed this book


pu z zled me e xceedingly ; but I was still more


surpri sed to see him cro ss the room a d take it n
19 8 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
the level f my rea di ng lamp and peered across
o

the flame straight into my eyes .

I hope he whispered I hope you are never


,

,

disturbed at night
Eh I stammered disturbed at night ? Oh ,

no thanks at least,not that I know of


, ,

I m glad he replied gravely appearing not t



,

, o

noti c e my confusion and surprise at his question .

But remember shoul d it ever be the case please


, , ,

let me know at once ’


.

And he w gone down the stairs and into


as

his room again .

F some minutes I sat reflecting upon his


or

strange behaviour He was ot mad I argued . n , ,

but was the vi ctim of some harmless delusion that


had gradually grown upon him as a result f his o

soli tary mode of life ; and from the books he used ,

I judged that it had something to do with medi e al a v

magic or some system of ancient Hebrew mysticism


, .

The words he asked me to p n fi f him were ro ou r or

probably Words f Power which when uttered o ,



,

with the vehemence of a strong will behind them ,

were supposed to produce physical r sults or s t e ,


e

u
p vibrations in one s o w inner being that had ’
n

the effect of a partial lifti g Of the veil n .


I sat thinking about the man and his way ,
E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se 199

of living and the probable e ff ects in the long run


,
-

o f his dangerous experiments and I can recall ,

perfectly well the sensation of disappointmen t


that crept over me when I realised that I had
labelled his particular form f aberration and o ,

that my curiosity would therefore no longer be


excited .

F some time I had been sitting alone with


or

these fl t re i — it may have been ten minutes


ec on s

or it may have been half an hour— when I was


aroused from my reverie by the knowledge that
someone was again in the room standing close
beside my chair My first thought was that Smith
.

had come back again in his swift unaccountable ,

manner but almost at the same moment I realised


,

that this could not be the case at all For the .

door faced my position and it certainly had not,

been opened again .

Yet someone was in the room moving



, ,

cautiously to and fro watching me almost , ,

touching me I was as sure f it as I was of


. o

myself and though at the moment I do not think


,

I was actually afraid I am bound to admit that


,

a certain weakness came over me and that I felt


that strange disinclination for action which is
probably the beginning f the horrible paralysis o
200 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
of real terror I should have been glad to hide
.

myself if that had been possible to cower into


, ,

a corner behind a door or anywhere so that I


, or ,

could not be watched and observed .


But overcoming my nervousness with an
,

e ff ort f the will I got p quickly out of my


o ,
u

chair n d held the reading lamp aloft so that it


a

shone into all the corners like a searchlight .


The room was utterly empty ! It was utterly
empty at least to the y but to the nerves and
, , e e, ,

especially t that combination f sense p erception


o o

which is made p by all the senses acting together


u ,

and by no in particular there was a pe son


on e , r

standing there at my very elbow .

I y person for I can think f appropriate


sa ,

o no

word For if it w a a human being I can only


.
, s ,

a ffi rm that I had the overwhelming conviction that


it was t but that it was some form of life wholly
no ,

unknown to me both as to its essence and its nature .

A sensation f gigantic force dm came with


o an er

it and I remember vividly to this day my terror


,
on

realising that I was close to an invisible being who


could crush me as easily as I could crush a fly and ,

who could my every movement while itself


se e

remaining invisible .

To this terror was added the certain knowledge


20 2 E p i sode i n a L odging - Hou se
and the atmosphere seemed to resume its normal
condition .

Smith s door closed quietly downstairs I put


“ ’
, as

the lamp down with trembling hands What had .

happened I do not kno w ; only I was alone again ,

and my strength was returning as rapidly as it


had left me .

I went across the room and examined myself


in the glass The skin was very pale and the eyes
.
,

dull My temperature I found was a little below


.
, ,

normal and my pulse faint and irreg lar But u .

these smaller signs f disturbance were as nothingo

compared with the feeling I had — though no t ou

ward signs bore testimony to the fact— that I had


narrowly escaped a real and ghastly catastrophe .

I felt shaken somehow shaken to the very roots f


, , o

my being .

The doctor rose from his chair and crossed over


t the dying fire so that no
o could see the
, on e

expression his face as he t od wi th his back t


on s o o

the grate and continued his weird tale


, .

It would be wearisome he went in a lower



,

on

voice looking over o heads as though he still


,
ur

saw th dingy top floor f that haunted Edinburgh


e o

lodging house ; it would be tedious for me at


- “

this length of time to analyse my feelings , or


E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se 20 3
attempt to reproduce for you the thorough examina
tion to which I endeavoured then to subject my
whole being intellectual emotional and physical
, , , .

I need only mention the dominant emotion with


which this c rious episode left me the indignant
u —

anger against myself that I could ever have lost


my self control enough to come under th sway of
-
e

so gross and absurd a delusion This protest .


,

however I remember making with all the


,

emphasis possible And I also remember noting


.

that it brought me very little satisfaction for ,

it was the protest of my reason only when all ,

the rest of my being was up in arms against its


conclusions .

My dealings with the delusion however were ,



,

not yet over for the night ; f very early next or

morning somewhere about three o clock I was


,

,

awakened by a curiously stealthy noise in the


room and the next minute there followed a crash
,

as if all my books had been swept bodily from


thei shelf on to the floor
r .

But this time I was not frightened C ursing



.

the disturbance with all the resounding and harm


less words I could accumulate I jumped t f bed , ou o

and lit the candle in a second and in the first ,

dazzle of the flaring m tch but before the wick


— a
204 E pi s ode in a L odging - Hou se
had time to catch — I was certain I w a dark sa

grey shadow f ungainly shape and with some


, o ,

thing more less like a human head drive rapidly


or ,

past the side of the wall farthest from me and


disappear into the gloom by the angle f the o

door .


I waited single se cond to be sure the candle
on e

was alight and then dashed after it but before I


, ,

had gone two steps my foot stumbled against ,

something hard piled up the carpet and I only on

just saved myself from falling headlong I picked .

myself up and found that all the books fro m what


I called my language shelf were stre wn across
‘ ’

the floor The oom meanwhile as a minute s


. r , ,

s earch revealed was quite empty I looked in


, .

every c orner and behind every stick f furniture o ,

d a student s bedroom o top floor costing



an n a. ,

twelve shillings a week did not hold man y avail ,

able hiding places as you may imagine


-
,
.

The crash however was explain d ! Some very


, , e

practical and physical force had thrown the books


from their resting plac e That at least w -
.
, , as

beyond all doubt And as I repla c ed them the


. on

shelf and noted that t was missing I busied


no on e ,

myself mentally with the sore problem of how the


agent of this little pra cti cal joke had gained access
20 6 E pi sode in a L odging -
Hou se
You should have called me at once he said in ’
,

his whispering voice fixing his great eyes my , on

face .


I stammered something about awful dream an ,

but he ignored my remark utterly and I caught ,

his eye wandering next— if any movement f those o

optics c be described as wandering to the


an -

book shelf I wat hed him unable t move my


- . c , o

ga z e from his person The man fascinated me .

horribly for some reason Why in the devil s .


,

name was he up and dressed at three in the


,

morning ? How did he know anything had


happened unusual in my room ? Then his whisper
began again .

“ ‘
It your amazing vitality that c auses you

s

this annoyance he said shifting his eyes back to


,

,

mine .


I gasped Something in his voice . manner or

turned my blood into i c e .

That s the real attraction he w f t



But ,

e on .

if this c ontinues one f us will have to leave y o , ou

know .


I po sitively c ould not find a word to say in
reply The channels f speech dried up within me
. o .

I simply stared and wondered what he would y sa

nex t I watched him in a sort of dream and as


.
,
E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se 2 0 7
far as I can remember he asked me to promise to ,

c ll him sooner another time and then began to


a ,

walk round the room uttering strange sounds and , ,

making signs with his arms and hands until he


reached the door Then he was gone in a second
.
,

an d I had closed and locked the door behind him .

After this the Smith adventure drew rapidly



,

t a climax
o It w a week or two later and I
. as ,

was com ing home between tw and three in the o

morning f rom a maternity case certain features f , o

which for the time being had very much taken


possession of my mind o much so indeed that I , s , ,

passed Smith s door without giving him a single


thought
The gas j et

the landing was still burning
on ,

but low that it made little impression


so th on e

waves f deep s hadow that lay across the stairs


o .

Overhead the faintest possible gleam of g ey


, r

showed that the m rning was not far away A o .

few tars shone down through the sky light The


s -
.

house was still the grave and the only sound to


as ,

break the silence was the rushing of the wind


round the walls and o ver the roof But this was a .

fi tf l sound suddenly rising and as suddenly falling


u ,

away again and it only served to t i fy the


,
1n en s

silence .
20 8 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
I had already reached my own landing when I
gave a violent start It was automatic almost a
.
,

reflex action in fact for it was only when I caught


,

myself fumbling t the door handle and thinking


a

where I could conceal myself quickest that I real


ised a voice had sounded close beside me in the air .

I t was the same voice I had heard before and it ,

seemed t me to be calling for help And yet the


o .

very same minute I pushed on into the room ,

determined t disregard it and seeking to persuade


o ,

myself it was the creaking f the boards under my o

weight or the rushing noise f the wind that had o

deceived me .


But hardly had I reached the table where
the candles stood when the sound was m i t k un s a

ably repeated Help help 1 And this t i m e


!

it w accompanied by what I can only de


as

scri be as a vivid tactile hallucination I was .

touched the ki n of my arm was clu tched by


! s

fingers .

Some c ompelling force sent me headl ong down


stairs as if the haunting forces of the whole world
were at my heels At Smith s door I paused The
.

.

force of his previous warning inj unction to seek his


aid without delay acted suddenly and I leant my
whole weight against the panels littl e dream ing ,
2 10 E p i sode in a L odging - Hou se
momentary glimpse f living intelligent entities I
o ,

can never doubt but I am equally convinced


, ,

tho gh I cannot prove it that these entities were


u ,

from some other scheme f evolution altogether o ,

and had nothing to do with the ordinary human


life either in c arnate discarnate
, or .

But whatever they were the visible appearan c e


, ,

of them w exceedingly fleeting I no longer saw


as .

anything though I still felt convinced f their


, o

immediate presence They were moreover f the


.
, , o

same order f life as the visitan t in my bedroom f


o o

a few nights before and their proximity to my


,

atmosphere in numbers instead of singly as before


, ,

conveyed to my mind something that was quite


terrible and overwhelming I fell into a violent .

trembling and the perspiration poure d from my


,

face in streams .

They were in constant motion about me They .

stood close to my side ; moved behind me ; brushed


past my shoulder ; stirred the h i p my forehead ; a r n

and circled round me without ever actually touching


me yet always pressing closer and closer E p i
,
. s ec

ally i the air just over my head there seemed


n

ceaseless movement and it was accompanied by a


,

confused noise of whispering and sighing that


threatened every moment to beco m e articulate in
E pi s ode in a L odging -
Hou se 2 1 1

words T my intense relief however I heard no


. o , ,

distinct words and the noise continued more like


,

the rising and fal ling of the wind than anything


else I can imagine .

But the characteristic f these Beings that



o

impressed me most strongly at the time and f , o

which I have carried away the most permanent


recollection was that each ,
f them possessed on e o

what seemed to be a vi b ti g t which impelled ra n cen r e

it with tremendous force and caused a rapid whirl


ing motion O f the atmosphere as it passed me .

The air was full f these little vortices f whirring


o o ,

rotating force and whenever f them pressed


, on e o

me too closely I felt as if the nerves in that


particular portion of my body had been literally
drawn t absolutely depleted of vitality and then
ou , ,

immediately replaced— but replaced dead flabby , ,

useless .

Then suddenly for the first time my eyes fell



, ,

upon Smi th He was crouching against the wall


.

on my right in an attitude that was obviously


,

defensive and it was plain he was in extremities


, .

The terror his face was pitiable but at the same


on ,

time there was another expression about the tightly


clenched teeth and mo th which showed that he u

had not lost all control of himself He wore the .


2 I 2 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
most resolute expression I have ever seen a on

human countenance and though for the moment at


, ,

a fearful disadvantage he looked like a man who


,

had confidence in himself and in spite f the , , o

w orking f fear was waiting his opportunity


o , .


For my part I was face to fac e with a situation
,

so utterly beyond my knowledge and compre


h i
en s on ,that I felt as helpless as a child and as ,

useless .

Help me back — quick— into that circle I ,


heard him half cry half whisper to me across the


,

moving vapours .


My only value appears to have been that I
was not afraid to a ct Knowing nothing o f the
.

forces I w s dealing with I had no idea of the


a

deadly peril risked and I sprang forward and


s ,

caught him by the arms He threw all his weight .

in my direction and by u c ombined fl t his


, o r e
'

or s

body left the wall and lurched across the floor


towards the c ircle .


Instantly there descended upon us t of the , ou

empty air of that smoke laden room a force which -


,

I can only compare to the pushing, driving power


of a great wind pent up within a narrow space .

I t was almost explosive in its effect d it seemed ,


an

to Operate upon all parts f my body equally It o .


2 14 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
one of absolute command He looked steadily .

round the room and then his voice began to vi b t ra e .

At first in a low tone it gradually rose till it


,

assumed the same volume and intensity I had


heard that night when he called up the stairs into
my room .

It w a curiously increasing sound more like


as ,

the swelling f an instrument than a human voice ;


o

and as it grew in power and filled the room I ,

b came aware that a great change was being


e

effected slowly d surely The confusion of noise


an .

and rushings of air fell into the roll f long o ,

steady vibrations not unlike those caused by the


deeper pedals f an organ The movements in the
o .

air became less violent then grew decidedly ,

weaker and finally ceased altogether The w hi


, . s

p i
er n gs and i g h i gsbecame fainter
n and
s fainter ,

till at last I could not hear them at all ; and ,

strangest f all the light emitted by the circle as


o
/
, ,

well as by the designs roun d it d to a ,


i n cr e a se

steady glow casting their radiance upwards with


,

the weirdest possible e ffect upon his features .

Slowly by the power of his voice behind whi h lay


, , c

undoubtedly a genuine knowledge f the occult o

manipulation f sound this man dominated the


o ,

forces that had escaped from their proper sphere ,


E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se 2 1 5
until at length the room was reduced to silence
and perfect order again .

Judging by the immense relief which also


communicated itself to my nerves I then felt that


the crisis was o er and Smith was wholly master
v

of the situation .

But hardly had I begun t cong atulate myself o r

upon this result and to gather my scattered senses


,

about me when uttering a loud cry I saw him leap


, , ,

ou t f the circle and fling himself into the air


o

as it seemed to me into the empty air Then even


, .
,

while holding my breath for dread of the crash he


was bound to come upon the floor I w him strike , sa

with a dull thud against a solid body in mid air -


,

and the next instant he w wrestling with some as

ponderous thing that was absolutely invisible t o

me and the room shook with the struggle


,
.

To and fro th y swayed sometimes lurching



e ,

in direction sometimes in another and


on e , ,

always in horrible proximity to myself as I ,

leaned trembling against the wall and watched


the encounter .

It lasted at most but a short m inute or two



,

ending as suddenly as it had begun Smith with .


,

an unexpected movement threw p his arms with ,


u

a cr
y f relief
o At the same instant there was a
.
2 16 E pi sode in a L odging - Hou se
wild tearing shriek in the air beside me and
,

something rushed past with a noise like the us

passage f a flock of big birds Both windows


o .

rattled as if they would brea k away from their


s shes Then a sense f emptiness and peace
a . o

suddenly came over the room and I knew that ,

all was over .

Smith hi face exceedingly white but other


, s ,

wise strangely composed turned to me at once .

God if you hadn t come


— Y deflected ou

the stream ; broke it p he whispered Y u . ou

saved me .

The doctor made a long pause Presently he .

felt for his pipe in the darkness groping over the ,

table behind with both hands N one S poke


us . 0

for a bit but all dreaded the sudden glare that


,

would come when he struck the m atch The fire .

w asnearly t and the great hall w pitch dark


ou as .

But the story teller did not strike that match


-
.

/
He was merely gaining tim / f r s m hidden e O o e

reason of his w And presently he w ent o n . on

with his tale in a more subdued voice .


I quite forget he said how I got back to my
,

,
“ !

o w n room I only know that I lay with two


.

lighted candles for the rest of the night and the ,

fi rst thing I did in the morning was t l et the o


A S U SP I C I O U S G I FT

BL AK E had been in very low water for months


almost under water par t f the time — due to o

circumstances he was fond of saying were no fault


of hi w ; and as he
s o t writing in his room
n sa

on third floor back of a New York boarding


house part f his mind was busily occupied in


, o

wondering when his lu c k was going to t rn u

again .

It was his room only in the sense that he paid


the rent Two friends one a little Frenchman and
.
,

the other a big D ane shared it with him both, ,

h p i g eventually to contribute something towards


O n

expenses but so far not having accomplished this


,

.
/
result They had two beds o nly 65 third being 3

a mattress they slept upon l n turns a week at a ,

time A good deal f their irregular feeding


. o
“ ”

consisted f oatmeal potatoes and som times eggs


o , ,
e ,

all f which they cooked a strange utensil they


o on

had contrived to fix into the gas jet Occasionally .


,

when dinner failed them altogether they swallowed ,

21 8
A Su spi c iou s Gi ft 2 19

a little raw rice and drank hot water from the


bathroo m on the top f it and then made a wild
o ,

race for bed as to get to sleep while the sensa


so

tion f false repletion was still there For sleep


O .

and hunger are slight acquaintances as they well


knew Fortunately all New York houses are
.

supplied with hot i and they only had to open


a r,

a grating in the wall to get a plentiful if not a ,

whole some amount of heat .

Though loneliness in a big city is a real punish


ment ,
they had severally learnt to their cost
as ,

their experiences three in a small room for


,

several months had revealed to them horrors of


,

quite another kind d their nerves had suffered


, an

accordi ng to the temperament f each But o .


, on

this particular evening Blake t scribbling by


, as sa

the only window that was not cracked the D ane ,

and the Frenchman his companions in adversity


, ,

were in wonderful luck They had both been .

asked t to a restaurant to dine !with a friend


ou

who also held out to f them a chance of work


on e o

and remuneration They would not be back till


.

late and when they did come they were pretty sure
,

t bring in supplies of one kind or another


o F . or

the Frenchman never could resist the off er f a o

g la s
s of absinthe and this
,
meant that he would be
2 20 A Su sp i c iou s Gift
able t help himself plentifully from the free
o

lunch counters with which all N w York bars


,
e

are fur i shed and to which any purchaser of a


n ,

drink is entitled to help himself and devour o the n

spot car y away casually in his hand for con


or r

sumption elsewhere Thousands f unfortunate


. o

men get their sole subsistence in this way in New


York and experien ce soon teaches where f the
, ,
or

price f a single drink a man ca take away


o ,
n

almost a meal f chip potatoes sausage bits f


o , , o

bread and even eggs The Frenchman and the


,
.

Dane knew their way about and Blake looked ,

forward t a supper more or less su bstantial before


o

pulli g his mattress t of the cupboard and


n ou

turning in upon the floor f the night or .

Meanwhile he could enjoy a quiet and lonely


evening with the roo m all to himself .

In the d ytime he was a reporter an evening


a on

newspaper of sensational and lying habits His .

work w chiefly in the police c urts; and in his


as o

spare hours at night when not too tired , to or o

empty he wrote sketches and stories f o the


, r

magazines that very rarely w the light of day o sa n

their printed and paid for sentences On this -


.

particular occasion he was deep in a most involved


tale f a psychological character and had just
o ,
2 2 2 A Su spi c iou s Gift
imagination is so vivid as to be almost an e xten
sion of consciousness But here he stuck
.

absolutely He w not quite sure what he meant


. as

by the words and how to finish the senten c e


,

puzzled him into blank inaction It was a diffic lt . u

point to decide for i t seemed to come in appro


,

p i t
r a e ly at this point in his story and he did o t ,
n

know whether to leave it as it stood change it ,

round a bit o take it t altogether It might


,
r ou .

just spoil its chances f being accepted editors o !

were such clever men But t rewrite the .


, o

sentence was a grind and he was so tired and ,

sleepy Af ter all what did it matter ? People


.
,

who were clever w ould force a meaning into it ;


people who were not clever would pretend— h e

knew f no other classes f readers He would let


o o .

it stay and g o with the action f the st ry


,

O n o o .

He put his head in his hands and began to think


hard .

His mind soon passed from thmght to reverie l .

He fell t wondering when his friends would find


o

work and relieve him of the burden— h acknow e

ledged it as such f keeping them and of letting


— o ,

another man wear his b est clothes alternate on

Sundays He wondered when his luck woul d


.
“ ”

turn There were


. two influential people i
o n e or n
A Su spi c iou s Gi ft 2 2 3
New York whom he could go and see if he had a
dress suit and the other conventional uniforms .

His thoughts ran on far ahead and at the same ,

time by a sort of double process far behind as well


, , .

His home in the ld country rose up before him ;


o

he w the lawn a d the cedars in sunshine ; he


sa n

looked through the familiar windows and w the sa

clean swept rooms His story began to suffer ;


, .

the psychological masterpiece would not make


much progress unless he pulled p and dragged u

hi thoughts back to the treadmill


s But he no .

longer cared ; on c e he had got as far as that cedar


with the sunshine on it he never could get back
,

again For all he cared the troublesome sentence


.
,

might away and get into someone else s pages


ru n

,

or be snu ff ed out altogether .

There came a gentle knock at the do r and o ,

Blake started The knock was repeated louder


. .

Wh in the world could it be at this late hour of


o

the night ? On the floor above he remembered , ,

there lived nother E nglishman a foolish second


a , ,

rate creature who sometimes came in and made


,

himself obj ectionable with endless and silly chatter .

But he was an Englishman for all that and Blake ,

always tried to treat him with politeness realising ,

that he was lonely in a strange land But t night . o -


,
2 2 4 A Su spi c iou s Gift
of all people in the world he did not want to be ,

bored wi th Perry s cackle as he called it and the



, ,

C ome in he gave in answer to the second knock


had no very cordial sound of welcome in i t .

However the door opened in response and the


, ,

man came in Blake did not turn round at once


.
,

and the other advanced to the centre of the room ,

but wi th t p ki g Then Blake knew it was


ou s ea n .

no t his enemy Perry and turned round


, , .

He saw a man of about forty standing in the


middle f the carpet but standing sideways so
o ,

that he did not present a full face He wore an .

overcoat buttoned p t the neck and on the felt


u o ,

hat which he held in front f him fresh rain drops O -

glistened I n his other hand he carried a small


.

black bag Blake gave him a good look and came


.
,

to the conclusion that he might be a secretary o , r

a chief clerk or a confidential man of sorts He


,
.

w asa shabby respectable looking person This


- -
.

was the m total of the first impression gained


su -
,

the moment his eyes took in that it was t Perry ; n o

the second impression was less pleasant and ,

reported at once that something was wrong .

Though otherwise young and inexperienced ,

Blake— thanks o curses to the police court


,
r ,

training — knew more about com m on criminal


2 2 6 A Su spi c iou s Gi ft
in oily tones without lifting his eyes Blake in
,
.
,

his mind ran quickly over all the people he knew


,

in New York who might possibly have sent such a


man , while waiting for him to supply the name .

But the man had come to a full stop and was


waiting too .

A well wisher f m i ? repeated Blake t


“ - o ne , no

knowing quite what else to s y a .

Just o replied the other still with his eyes



s ,

,

on the floor A well wisher of yours


.
“ -
.

A man o

he felt himself blushing or
r ,

a woman ? ”

That said the man shortly I cannot tell



, ,

can t tell me ! exclaimed the other


Yo u
’ ”
,

wondering what was coming next and who in the ,

world this mysterious well wisher could be who -

sent so discreet and mysterious a messenger .

I c annot tell y u the name replied the man



o ,

firmly Those are my instruction s! But I bring


.

you something from this person and I am t give , o

it t y t take a receipt f it and then to g


o ou , o or , o

away without answering any que tions s .

Blake stared very hard The man however .


, ,

never raised his eyes above the level f the se ond o c

china knob the chest of drawers opposite The


on .
A Su spi c iou s Gift 2 2 7

giving f a re ceipt sounded like money C ould it


o .

be that some of his influential friends had heard f o

his plight ? There were possibilities that made his


heart beat At length however he found his
.
, ,

tongue for this strange c reature was determined


,

apparently t say nothing more until he h d heard


o a

from him .


Then what have y got for me please ? b
,
ou , e

asked bluntly .

By way f answer the man proceeded to open


o

the bag He took t a parcel wrapped loosely in


. ou

brown paper and about the size f a large book


,
o .

It was tied with string and the man seemed ,

unnecessarily long untying the knot When at .

last the string was ff and the paper unfolded


o ,

there appeared a series of smaller p ckages inside a .

The man took them t very carefully almost if


ou , as

they had been alive Blake thought and set them


, ,

in a ow upon his knees They were dollar


r .

bills Blake all in a flutter c raned his neck


.
, ,

forward a little to try and make t their ou

denomination He read plainly the figures 100


. .


There are ten thousand dollars here said the ,

man quietly .

The other could t suppress a little cry


no .

And they are for y ou .


2 2 8 A Su spi c iou s Gift
Blake simply gasped Ten thousand dollars ! .

he repeated a queer feeling growi g p in his


,
n u

throat T th . d Are you sure ? I mean


en o u sa n .

you mean they are for m ? he stammered


- e

.

He felt quite silly with e xcitement and grew ,

more so with every minute as the man main ,

t i d a perfect silence
a ne Was it not a dream ? .

Wouldn t the man put them back in the bag


presently and say it was a mistake and they ,

were meant f somebody else ? He could not


or

believe his eyes hi ears Yet in a sense or s .


, ,

it w possible He had re d of such things in


as . a

books and even come across them in his experien c e


,

o f the co rts — the errati c and generous philan


u

th p i t who is determined to d his good deed and


ro s o

to get no thanks o acknowledgment for it Still r .


,

it seemed almost incredible His troubles began to .

m elt away like bubbles in the sun ; he thou ght f o

the other fellows when they came in and what he ,

would have to tell them he tho ght f the German u o

landlady and the arrears of rent f regular food , o

and clean linen and books and music of the chan e


, , c

o f getting into some respectable bu ines s f s , o

well of as many things as it is possible to think of


,

when excitement and surprise fling wide open the


gates f the imagination
o .
2 3 0 A Su spi c i ou s Gi ft
and other police protected abominations ; and the
-

only weak point in the supposition that this was


part f some such proceeding was the selection
o

o f himself— poor newspaper reporter as a


a —

vi c tim I t did seem absurd but then the whole


.
,

thing was so out f the ordinary and the thought


o ,

once having entered his mind was not so easily ,

got rid of Blake resolved t be very cautio us


. o .

The man meanwhile though he never appeared ,

to raise his eyes from the carpet had been watch ,

ing him c losely all the time .

I f you will give me a receipt I ll leave the ’

money at on c e he said with just a vestige of


, ,

impatien c e i his tone as if he were an x io s to


n ,
u

bring the matter to a c on clusion as soon as


possible .


But yo say it is quite impossible f yo t
u or u o

t ll me the name f my well wisher o why sh


e o -
,
r e

sends me su ch a large sum f money in this e xtra o

ordinary way ? ”

The money is sent to y because yo are in ou u

need f it returned the oth er ; and it is a present


o ,

without conditions f any sort attached You have o .

t give me a receipt only to satisfy the sender that


o

it has r eached your hands The money will never .

be a ked f you again


s o .

A Su spi c iou s Gift 2 3 1

Blake noticed two thi gs from this answer n

first that the man was t to be c ght i t


,
no au c
n o

betraying the sex of the well wisher ; and se condly -


,

that he was in some hurry to complete the trans


action F he was w giving reasons attractive
. or no ,

rea n w hy he should ac cept the money and


so s,

make o t the receipt u .

Suddenly it flashed a cross his mind that if he


took the money and gave the re ceipt b f e or e a

wi t nothing very disastrous could come of


n ess,

the affair It would protect him against black


.

mail if this was after all a plot of some sort with


, , ,

blackmail in it ; whereas if the man were a mad ,

man a criminal who was getting rid of a portion


, Or

of his ill gotten gains to di vert suspicion


-
if ,
or

any other improbable explanation turned t to ou

be the true there was no great harm done


on e , ,

and he could hold the money till it was claimed ,

or advertised for in the newspapers His mind .

rapidly ran over these possibilities though of , ,

course under the stress f e x citement he was


, o ,

unabl e to weigh any of them properly ; then he


turned to his strange visitor again and said
quietly
I will take the money although I must y it ,
sa

seems t me a very unusual transaction and I will


o ,
2 3 2 A Su spi c iou s Gift
give y ou for it such a receipt as I think proper
under the circumstances .

A proper re ceipt is all I want was the answer ,


.

I mean by that a receipt before a proper


witness
Perfectly satisfactory interrupted the man

, ,

his eyes still on the carpet Only it must be .



,

dated and headed with your address here in the


,

correct way .

Blake could see no possible Objection to this ,

an d he at once proceeded to obtain his witness .

The person he had in his mind was a Mr Barc lay .


,

who occupied the room above his w ; an Old o n

gentleman who had retired from business and


who the landlady always said was a miser and
, , ,

kept large sums secreted in his room He was .


,

at any rate a perfectly respectable man and would


,

make an admirable witness to a transaction f o

this sort Blake made an apology and rose t


. o

fetch him crossing the ro m in


,
/
fr nt f the sofa o o o

where the man t in d f to reach the door sa , or e


As he did he s w for the first time the


so, a

i d of his visitor s face the side that



o th er s e ,

had been always carefully turned away from


so

him .

T here was a broad smear of blood down the


2 34 A Su sp i c i ou s Gift
or having anything at all to do with it became an
impossibility Here was crime He felt certain
. .

o f it .

In three bounds he reached the next landing and


began to hammer at the ld miser s door as if his o

very life depended it Fo a long time he c ould


on . r

get no answer His fists seemed to make no noise


. .

He might have been knocking cotton wool and on ,

the thought dashed through his brain that it was


all just like the terror of a nightmare .

Barclay evidently was still t


, else sound
, ou ,
or

asleep But the other simply could not wait a


.

minute longer in suspense He turned the handle .

and walked into the room At first he saw nothing .

for the darkness and made sure the owner f the


, o

room was t ; but the moment the light from the


ou

passage began a little to disper e the gloom he s ,

saw the old man to his immense relief lying


, ,

asleep o the bed n .

Blake opened the door to its wid st to get more e

light and then walked quickly up to the bed He .

no w w the figure mo re plainly and noted that it


sa ,

was dressed and lay only upon the outside f the o

bed I t struck him too that he was sleeping in a


.
, ,

very O dd almost an unnatural position


, , .

Something clutched at his heart as he looked


A Su spi c iou s Gift 2 35
closer He stumbled over a chair and found the
.

matches C alling upon Barclay the whole time to


.

wake up and come downstairs with him he ,

blundered across the floor a dreadful thought in ,

his mind and lit the gas ov er the table It seemed


,
.

strange that there was no movement reply to or

his shouting But it no longer seemed strange


.

when at length he turned in the full glare f the


, o

gas, and saw the old man lying huddled p into a u

ghastly heap on the bed his throat cut across from


,

ear to ear .

And all over the carpet lay new dollar bills ,

crisp and clean like those he had left dow stairs n ,

and strewn about in little heaps .

Fo a moment Blake stood stock still bere f t of


r -
,

all power of movement The next his courage .


,

returned and he fled from the room and dashed


,

downstairs tak ng five steps at a time He reached


,
i .

the bottom and tore along the passage to his room ,

determined at any rate t seize the man and prevent


o

his es cape till help came .

But when he got to the end of th little landing e

he found that hi door had been closed He seiz ed


s .

the handle fumbling with it in his violence It


,
.

felt slippery and kept turning under his fingers


without opening the door and fully half a minute
,
2 3 6 A Su spi c iou s Gift
passed before it yielded and let him in head
long .

At the first glance he s w the room w a empty a s ,

and the man gone !


Scattered upon the carpet lay a number of the
bills and beside them half hidden under the sofa
, ,

where the man had sat he saw a pair fZgl v s , O o e

thick leathern !gloves — and a butcher s knife


,

.

E ven f rom the distan c e where he stood the blood


stains both were easily visible
on .

D azed and confused by the terrible discoveries


of the last f w minutes Blake stood in the middle
e ,

of the room overwhelmed and unable to thi nk o


, r

move Un consciously he must have passed his


.

hand over his forehead in the natural gesture f o

perplexity for he noticed that the skin f elt wet


,

and sticky His hand was covered with blood !


.

And when he rushed in terror to the looki ng glass -


,

he w that there was a broad red smear across his


sa

face and forehead Then he r membered the


. e

slippery handle of the door and knew that it had


been carefully moistened
In an instant the whole plot became clear as
daylight and he was so spell bound with horror
,

that a sort o f numbness came over him and he


came very near to fainting He was in a condition .
2 3 8 A Su spi c i ou s Gi ft
Hardly knowing what he was doing in the
fearful stress f c onflicting emotions he made a
o ,

step forward But before he had time t make a


. o

second o he felt the heavy hand of the law


n e,

des cend upon both shoulders at once as the tw o

policemen moved up t seize him At the sa me o .

moment a voice f thunder cried in his ear


o

Wake p man ! Wake up ! Here s the supper


u ,

,

and good news t ! oo


Blake turned with a start in his chair and saw


th D ane very red in the face standing beside
e , ,

him a hand ,
each shoulder and a little further
on ,

back he saw the Frenchman leering happily at him


over the end of the bed a bottle f beer in , o

on e

hand and a paper pa ckage in the other .

He rubbed his eyes glancing from


to the ,
on e

other and then g t p sleepily t fix the wire


,
o u o

a rangement o the gas j et to boil water f


r n or

cooking the eggs which the Frenchman w as in


momentary danger o f letti g m a upon the n / )
THE S T R A N G E AD VE NT U R ES O F
A PRIV A T E SE C R E T A R Y IN
NEW YO RK

IT w s never quite clear to me how Jim S h th us


a or o e

managed to get his private secretaryship ; but ,

once he g t it he kept it and f some years he


o , , or

led a steady life and put money in the savings


!

bank .

One morning his employer sent for him into the


study and it was evident to the secretary s trained
,

senses that there was something unusual in the


air .

M S ho th s he began somewhat nervously



r . r ou e , , ,

I have never yet had the opportunity f observing o

whether not you are possessed f personal


or o

courage .
u

S h th s gasped but he said nothi g


or ou e He,
n .

w as growing accustomed to the eccentricities


O f his chief S h th was a Kentish man ;
. or o u se
2 4 0 S trange Adven tu r e s
S id b th m was raised in C hicago ; N ew York
e o a

w the present place Of residence


as .


But the other continued with a pu ff at his
, ,

very black cigar I must consider myself a poor


,

judge f human nature in future if it is not one f


o , o

your strongest qualities .


The private secretary made a foolish little bow


in modest appre ciation f so uncertain a compli o

ment Mr Jona B S id b th m watched him


. . s . e o a

narrowly the novelists y before he continued


, as sa ,

his remarks .

I have doubt that you are a plucky fellow


no

and He hesitated and p fl d at his cigar , u



e

as if his life depended upon it keeping alight .

I don t think I m afraid f anything in


“ ’ ’
o

particular sir— except women interposed the


, ,

young man feeling that it was time f him


, or

t
o make an Observation f some sort but still o ,

quite in the dark as to his chief s purpose ’


.

Humph ! he gr unted W ell there are no .


,

women in this case so far as I know But there .

may be other things that— that hurt more .



Wants a special service f some kind evi o ,

d tly was the secretary s reflection Personal


” ’
en , .

violence ? he asked aloud ”


.

Possibly (puff) in fact (puff puff) probably


, ,
.
2 4 2 S trange Adven tu r e s
houses supply h t air and are termed registers
o

.

Mr S id b th m had meanwhile found the paper he


. e o a

was looking for He held it in front f him and


. o

tapped it once twice with the back f his right


or o

hand as if it were a stage letter and himself the


villain of the melodrama .

This is a letter from Joel Garvey my ld , o

partner he said at length You have heard me



, .

speak of him .

The other bowed He knew that ma y years


. n

before Garvey St S id both m had been well e a

known in the C hicago financial world He knew .

that the amaz ing rap idity with which they ao


cumulated a fortune had only been surpassed
by the amaz ing rapidity wi th which they had
immediately afterwards disappeared into space .

He w as further aware — his position afforded


fac ilities— that each partner was still to some e x tent
in the other s power and that each wished most

,

devoutly that the other woul d driei


The si s of his employer s early years di d not
n

con c ern him however The man was kind and


,
.

just if e ccentric ; and S h th


,
being in N ew or ou se ,

York did not probe to discover more particularly


,

th sources whence his salary was


e regularly paid so .

Moreover the two men had grown to like each


,
S trange Adven tu r e s 2 43
other and there was a genuine feeling f trust o

and respect between them .

I hope it s a pleasant communication sir he



, ,

said in a low voice .


Quite the reverse returned the other fingering
, ,

the paper nervously as he stood in front f the fire o .

Blackmail I suppose ,
.

Precisely Mr S id both m s cigar was not


.

. e a

burning well ; he struck a match and applied it


to the un ven edge and presently his voi c e spoke
e ,

through cloud f wreathing smoke


s o .


There are valuable papers in my possession
bearing his signature I cannot inform you of .

their nature ; but they are extremely valuable t o

m e They belong as a matter of fact to Garvey a


. , , s

much as to me Only I ve got them


.


I see
.

Garvey writes that he wan ts to have hi s


signature remo ed wan ts to cut it t with his
v ou

own hand He gives reasons which incline me to


.

consider his request



And you would like me to take him the papers
and see that he does it
And bring them back again with y he ou ,

whispered s crewing up his eyes into a shrewd


,

g rimace.
2 44 S trange Adven t u r e s
And bring them back again with me repeated ,

the secretary I understand perfectly


. .

S h th or knew from unfortunate experience


o u se

more than a little f the horrors f blackmail o o .

The pressure Garvey was bringing to bear upon


his ld enemy must be exceedingly strong That
o .

w asquite clear At the same time the commission


.
,

that w being entrusted to him seemed somewhat


as

quixoti c in its nature He had already enjoyed .


“ ”

more than experience of his employer s


on e

eccentricity and he now caught himself wondering


,

whether this same e cc entricity did not sometimes


o — fu ther than eccentricity
r
g .

I ca t re d the letter to you Mr S id b th m


nno a , . e o a

was e xplaining but I shall give it into your,

b d
a r
I t will prove that y are y — m y
s
. m — ou sr

accredited representative I shall also ask y not . ou

t read the package f papers


o The signature in o .

question y will find of course the last page


ou , , on ,

at the bottom .

There was a pause f several minut s during o e

which the end f the cigar glowed eloquently


o .

C ircumstances compel me he went at length ,



on

almost in a whisper I should never d this , or o .

But you under tand f course the thing is a ruse


s ,
o ,

C utting out the signature is a mere pretence I t is .


2 4 6 S trange Adven tu re s
I have not seen Garvey f twenty years he or ,

said ; all I can tell you is that I believe him


to be occasionally of unsound mind I have heard .

strange rumours He lives alone and in his lucid


.
,

intervals studie s chemistry It was always a .

hobby of his But the chances are twenty to o


. ne

against his attempting violence I only w ished .

to warn y — i case I mean


ou— n that you may , sso

be the watch
on .

He handed his se cretary a Smith and Wesson


revolver as he spoke S h th slipped it int o
. or ou se

hi hip pocket and went ut o f the room


s o .

A drizzling c old rain was falling fields c overed on

with half melted snow when S ho th


-
s tood late r ou se ,

in the afternoon the platform f the lonely little


, on o

Long Isla d sta tion and watched the train he had


n

just left vanish into the distance .

I t was a bleak country that Joel Gar vey E q , s .


,

fo merly Of C hicago had chos en for his residence


r ,

and o this pa ticular afternoon it present d a


n r e

more than usually dismal appearance An expanse .

o f flat fields c overed with dirty snow st ret c hed away

on all sides till the ky dropped down to meet


s

them Only o ccasional farm buildings broke the


.

monotony and the road wound along muddy lanes


,
S trange Adven tu r e s 2 47
and beneath dripping trees swathed in the cold raw
fog that swept in like a pal ! f the dead from the o se a .

I t w as ix miles from the station to Garvey s


s

house and the driver of the rickety buggy


,

S h th
or had found at the station was not
ou se

communicative Between the dreary lan ds cape


.

and the drearier driver he fell back upon his w o n

thoughts which but for the spice f adventure


, , o

that w s promised would themselves have been


a ,

even drearier than either He made p his mind . u

that he would waste no time over the transaction .

The moment the signature was cut ou t he would


pack p and be off The last train back tO B kly
u .

r oo n

was and he would have to walk the ix miles s

o f mud and snow for the driver of the buggy had


,

refused point blank to wait for him


-
.

F purposes f safety S h th u had done


or o , or o se

what he flattered himself was rather a clever thi ng .

He had made up a second packet of papers identi cal


in outside appearance with the first The i ip . n scr

tion the blue envelope the red elasti c band and


, , ,

even a blot in the lower left hand corner had been -

exactly reproduced Inside f course were only.


, o ,

sheets of blank paper I t was his intention to .

change the packets and to let Garvey him put see

th sham o e i n to the bag


e n In case of violence .
2 4 8 S trange Adven tu r e s
the bag would be the point of attack and he ,

intended to lock it and throw away the key .

Before it could be forced open and the deception


discovered there would be time to increase his
cha ces f escape with the real packet
n o .

It was five o cl ck when the silent Jehu pulled’


o

up in front f a half broken gate and pointed with


o -

his whip to a house that stood in its ow grounds n

among trees and was just visible in the gathering


gloom S h th . told him to drive up to the
or o u se

front door but the man refused .

I ain t

i no risks he said ; I ve got a

r un n n

,
” “ ’

family .

This cryptic remark was not encouraging but ,

S h th
or did not pause to decipher it He paid
o u se .

the man and then pushed Open the rickety ld


, o

gate swinging a single hinge and proceeded on ,

t walk up the drive that ilay dark between c lose


o

standing trees The house soon came into full .

view I t w tall and square d had once


.
.
as ,
an

evidently been white but Ow the walls were , n

covered with dirty patches and there were wide


yellow streaks where the plaster had fallen away .

The windows stared black and uncompromising


into the night The garden was overgrown with
.

Weeds and long g rass standing p in u gly p atch es , u


2 50 S trange Adven t u r e s
Then he turned suddenly and w that the door , sa

was standing ajar I t had been quietly opened .

and a pair f eyes were peering at him round the


o

edge There was no light in the hall beyond and


.

he could only just make ut the shape f a dim o o

human face .

D oes Mr Garvey live here ? he asked in a firm


.

voi c e .

Wh are y ? c ame in a man s tone s


o ou

.

I m Mr S id b th m private secretary I

. e o a

s .

wish to s Mr Garvey on important business


ee . .

Are y u expected ? o

I suppose he said impatiently thrusting so ,



,

a card through the opening Please take my .


name to him at once and y I come from Mr , sa .

S id both m
e the matter Mr G rvey wrote
a on . a

about .

The man took the c ard and the face vanished ,

into the darkness leaving S h th e standing in , or o us

th cold porch with mingled f lm g o f impatience


e ee s

and dismay The door h now noticed f the first


.
,
-

e or

time was a chain and could not open more than


,
on

a few inches B t it was the manner of his recep


. u

tion that caused uneasy refle ctions to stir within


him — fl tio s that continued fo some minu tes
re ec n r

before they were interrupted by the sound o f


S trange Adven tu r e s 2 5 1

approaching footstep s and the flicker f a light in o

the hall .

The ne xt instant the chain fell with a rattle and ,

gripping his bag tightly he walked into a large ,

ill smelling hall f which he c ould only just


-
the
o se e

ceiling There was no light but the fli ckering


.

taper held by the man and by its uncertain ,

glimmer S h th u turned to examine him He


or o se .

sa w an undersized m f middle age with brilliant an o ,

shifting eyes a curling black beard and a nose that


, ,

a t on c e proclaimed him a J ew His shoulders were .

bent and as he watched him replacing the chain


, , ,

he w that he wore a peculiar black gown like


sa

a priest s cas ock reaching to the feet I t w a



s . s

altogether a lugubrious figure f a man sinister o ,

and fun real yet it seemed in perfect harmony


e ,

with the general character f its surroundings o .

The hall w as devoid of furniture of any kind and ,

against the dingy walls stood rows f ld picture o o

frames empty and disordered and dd looking bits


, ,
o -

o f wood work that appeared doubly fantastic as


-

their shadows dan ced que erly over the floor in the
shifting light .

If you ll c ome this way Mr Gar vey will see


“ ’
, .

y o u presently said the J w g u fliy crossing th


,

e r , e

floor and shielding the taper with a bony hand .


2 5 2 S trange Adven tu r e s
He never once raised his eyes above the level of
the visitor s waistcoat and to S h th us he some

, , or o e,

ho w suggested figure from the dead rather than


a

a man f flesh and blood The hall smelt decidedly


o .

ill .

Al l the more surprising then was the sc ene that , ,

met his eyes when the J ew opened the door at the


further end and he entered a room brilliantly
lit with swinging lamps and furnished with a
degree O f taste and comfort that amounted to
lu xury The walls were lined with handsomely
.

bound books and armchairs were arranged round


,

a large mahogany desk in the middle of the room .

A bright fire burned in the grate and neatly framed


photographs of men and women i stood the f ”

on

mantelpiece either side of an elaborately carved


on

clock French windows that Opened li ke doors


.

were partially c oncealed by warm red curtains and ,

on a sideboard against the wall st od decanters and o

glasses with several bo xes f cig ars piled


, top o on

o f on eanother There was a pleasant odour


.

o f toba cco about the room Indeed it was in .


,

such glowing contrast to the chilly poverty of


the hall that S ho th us already w s conscious
r o e a

o f a distinct rise in the ther mometer of his


sp irits .
2 54 S trange Ad ven tu r e s
The lamp was not lit but when Sh thous put his
, or e

hand upon it he found it was w m The room ar .

had evidently only just been vacated .

Apart from the te timony of the lamp however


s , ,

he had already felt without being able to give a


,

re son f o it that the room had been occ upied a


a r ,

few moments before he entered The atmosphere .

over the desk seemed to retain the disturbing


influen ce f human being ; an influen c e moreover
o .
a , ,

so re c ent that he felt s if the c ause of it were


a

still in his immediate neighbourhood It was .

di ffi cult to realise that he was quite alone in the


room and that somebody was not in hiding The .

finer counterpa ts of his senses w ned him to t


r ar ac

as if he were being observed he w as dimly


cons cious of a desire to fi dg t and look round to e ,

keep his eyes in every part f the room at on c e o ,

and to c onduct himself generally as if he were the


Object of careful human obse vation r .

How far he recognised the (w e e f these sensa


tions it is impossible to say ; but they were fli su

ci ently marked to prev nt his carrying out a strong


e

inclination to get p nd make a s earch of the


u a

room He s t quite still staring alternately at


. a ,

the b acks o f the books and at the red curtains ;


,

wonderi g all the time if he was really bei g


n n
S trange Adven tu r e s 2 55
watched if it was only the imagination playing
, or

tricks with him .

A full quarter of an hour passed and then ,

twenty rows of volumes suddenly shifted t ou

towards him and he saw that a door had Opened


,

in the wall opposite The books were only sham .

backs after all and when they moved back again


,

with the sliding door Sho th s w the figure ,


r o u se a

o f J oel Garv ey standing before hi m .

Surprise almost took his breath away He had .

expe cted t se an unpleasant even a vi cious


o e ,

apparition with the mark f the beast u m i t k o n s a

ably upon its face ; b t he was wholly unprepared u

for the elderly tall fi looki g man who stood, ,


n e- n

in front f him— well groomed refined vigorous


o -
, , ,

with a lofty forehead clear grey eyes and a , ,

hooked nose dominating a clean shaven mouth and


chin of c onsiderable chara cter — a disting ished u

looking man altogether .


I m afraid I ve kept you waiting Mr Sho t
’ ’
, . r

house he said in a pleasant voi ce but with o


,

,
n

trace f a smile in the mouth o eye s But the


o r .

fact is you know I ve a mania for chemistry and


, ,

,

just when y were announced I was at the most


ou

critical moment of a problem and was really com


pe lled to bring it to a conclusion .
2 5 6 S trange Adven tu r e s
had risen to meet him but the
S hor thou se ,

other motioned him to resume his seat It was .

borne in upon him irresistibly that Mr Joel .

Garvey f reasons best known to himself was


, or ,

deliberately lying and he c ould not help wonder


,

ing at the ne c essity f such an elaborate mis or

representation He took ff his overcoat and t


. o sa

down .

I ve no doubt too that the door startled y



, , ou ,

Garvey went evidently reading something f


on , o

his guest s feelings in his face Y probably



.

ou

had ot suspe cted it It leads into my little


n .

laboratory C hemistry is an absorbing study t


. o

me and I spend most f my time there


, Mr o .

.

Gar vey moved up to the armchair o the opposite n

side of the fireplac e and sat down .

S h th
or made appropriate answers to these
ouse

remarks but hi mind was really engaged in


, s

taking stock of Mr S id b th m ld time pa tner


. e o a

s o -
r .

So far there was no sign ofy ental irregularity


and there was certainly nothing about him to
suggest violent wrong doi g coarseness f -
n or o

living On the whole Mr S id b th m secretary


.
,
. e o a

s

was most pleasantly surprised and wishing to , ,

conclude his business as speedily as possible he ,

made a motion towards the bag for the purpose


2 5 8 S trange Adven tu re s
papers in my laboratory If you will allow me .

to leave you alone a few minutes for this purpose


we can conclude the whole matter in a very short
time .

S h th or did not approve f this further


ou se o

delay but he had no Option than to acquiesce and


, ,

when Garvey had left the room by the private


door he t and waited w ith the papers in his
sa

hand The minutes went by and the other did


.

not return T pass the time he thought f


. o o

taking the false packet from his c oat to see that


the papers were in order and the move was ,

indeed almost completed when something— h , e

never knew what warned him to desist The


— .

feeling ag in came over him that he was being


a

watched and he leaned back in his chair with the


,

bag his knees and waited with considerable


on

impatience for the other s return F more than ’


. or

twenty minutes he waited and when at le gth , n

the door opened and G y rfp d with pro ar v e a e ar e ,

fuse apologies for the delay he w by the clock , sa

that only a few m inutes still remained of the time


he had allowed himself to catch the last train .

Now I am completely at your service he said ,


pleasantly ; you must f course know Mr



, o , , .

S h th
or that cannot be t careful in
o use , on e oo
S trange Adven tu r e s 2 59
m atters of this kind especially he went —
, on ,

speaking very slowly and impressively in de l ,



a

ing with a man like my former partner whose ,

mind as you doubtless may have discovered is at


, ,

times very sadly affected .


S h th
or made no reply to this He felt that
o u se .

the other was watching him as a cat watches a


mouse .


It is almost a wonder to me Garvey added , ,

that he is still at large Unless he has greatly .

improved it can hardly be safe for those who are


closely associated with him .

The other began to feel uncomfortable Either .

this was the other side of the story or it was the ,

first signs of mental irresponsibility .


All business matters of importance require the
utmost care in my Opinion M Garvey he said , r .
,

at length cautiously
,
.

Ah ! then as I thought you have had a great


, ,

de l to put p with f om him Garvey said with


a u r ,

,

his eyes fix ed his companion s face And no


on

.
,

doubt he is still as bitter against me as he was


,

years ago when the disease first showed itself


Al though this last remark was a deliberate
question and the questio er was waiting with n

fixed eyes f an answer S h th


or elected to , or ouse
2 60 S trange Adven tu r e s
take no notice of it Without a word he pulled .

the elastic band from the blue envelope with a


snap and plainly showed his desire to conclude the
business as soon as possible The tendency on the .

other s part to delay did not suit him at all



.

But never personal violen c I trust Mr e, , .

S h th or he add d
o u se ,

e !


Never .

I m glad t hear it Garvey said in a sym



o ,

pathetic voice very glad to hear it And now


, .

he went on if you are ready we can transact this


,

little matter of business before dinn r I t will e .

only take a moment .


He drew a chair up to the desk and t down sa ,

taking a pair of scissors from a drawer His .

companion approached with the papers in his hand ,

u nfolding them as he came Garvey at once took .

them from him and after turning over a few pages


,

he sto pped and c t t a piece of writing at the


u ou

bottom of the last sheet but on e /


/ r

Hold ing it up to him S horth s read the words ou e

J oel Garvey in faded ink ”


.

There ! That s my signature h said and ’


,
e ,

I ve cut it t It must be nearly twenty years



ou .

since I wrote it and now I m going t burn it


,

o .

He went to the fire and stooped over to burn the


2 62 S trange Adven tu r e s
The two men stood fa cing each other Garvey .

pulled t his watch


ou .

I m exceedingly sorry he said ; but upon my



, ,

word I took it f granted you would stay I


, or .

ought to have said long ago I m such a lonely so .


fellow and so little accustomed to visitors that I


fear I forgot my manners altogether But in any .

case Mr S h th
, you cannot catch the
. or ou se ,

for it s already after six o clock and that s


’ ’
,

the last train to night Garvey spoke very -


.

quickly almost eagerly but his voice sounded


, ,

genuine .


There s time if I walk quickly aid the

, s

young man with decision moving toward the , s

door He glanced at his watch as he went


. .

Hitherto he had gone by the clock the mantel on

piece T his dismay he w that it was as his


. o sa ,

host had said long after ix The clo ck was half


, s .

an hour slow and he realised at once that it was no


,

longer possible t catch the trai n o .

Had the hands of the clock been moved back


intentionally ? Had he been purposely detained 7
Unpleasant thoughts flashed into hi brain and s

made him hesitate before taking the next step .

His employer s warning rang in his ears The



.

alternative was ix miles along a lonely road in


s
S trange Adven tu r e s 2 63
the dark or a night under Gar ey s roof The
, v

.

former seemed a direct invitation to catastrophe if ,

catastrophe there was planned to be The latter .

well the choice was certainly small One thing


,
.
,

however he realised was plain h must show


,
— , e

neither fear nor hesitancy .


My watch must have gained he observed ,

quietly turning the hands back without looking


,

up It seems I have certainly missed that train


.

and shall be obliged to throw myself upon your


hospitality But believe me I had no intention f
.
, , o

putting you t t any such extent ou o .



I m delighted the other said D efer to the

,

.

j udgment of an older man and make yourself


comfortable for the night There s a bitter storm .

outside and you don t p t me t at all On the


,

u ou .

contrary it s a great pleasure I have



little . so

contact with the outside world that it s really a ’

god send to have y


-
ou .

The man s face changed as he spoke His



.

manner was cordial and sincere S h th . or ou se

began to feel ashamed of his doubts and to read


between the lines f his employer s warning He o

.

took ff his coat and the two men moved to the


o

armchairs beside the fire .


Y see Garvey went on in a lowered voice
ou ,

,
2 64 S trange Adven tu r e s
I understand your hesitancy perfectly I didn t .

know S i d b th m all those years without knowing


e o a

a good d al about hi m — perhaps more than you do


e .

I ve no doubt now he filled your mind wi th all



, ,

sorts f nonsense about me probably told you


o —

that I was the greatest villain unhung eh ? and all ,

that sort f thing ? Poor fellow ! He was a fine


o

sort before his mind became unhinged One f his . o

fancies used to be that everybody else w in ane as s ,

o just about to be c ome insane


r I s he still as bad .

a s that ?

Few men replied S h tho s with the manner


,
or u e,

o f making a great confidence but enti ely refusing ,


r

to b drawn go through his e xperien ces and reach


e ,

his age without entertaining delusions f kind o on e

or another .

Perfe ctly true said Garvey Your observ



, .

a

tion is evidently keen .


Very keen indeed S h th



replied taking ,
or o u se ,

his o neatly ; but of c ourse there are some


ne

, , ;

/

things and here he looked cautiously over his
shoulder there are some things one cannot tal k
about too circumspectly .

I understand perfectly and respe ct your


r erve
es .

There was a little more c onvers ation and then


2 66 S trange Adven t u r e s
preferable to six miles in the dark no di ner and , n ,

a cold train into the bargain .

Garvey returned presently We ll do the best .


“ ’

we can for y he said dropping into the deep


ou,

,

armchair the other side of the fire Marx is a


on .

good servant if you watch him all the time Y . ou

must always stand over a Jew though if you want , ,

things done properly They re tricky and uncertain.


unless they re working for their own interest But



.

Marx might be worse I ll admit He s been with ,



.

me for nearly twenty years cook valet housemaid


— , , ,

and butler all in In the ld days you know


on e . o , ,

he was a clerk in o ffice in C hicago our .


Garvey rattled on and S h th listened with or ou se

occasional remarks thrown in The former seemed .

pleased to have somebody to talk to and t h sound e

of his w voice was evidently sweet music in his


o n

ears After a few minutes he crossed over t the


.
, o

sideboard and again took p the decanter f u o

whisky holding it to the lighg f Y T will join me


, /
‘ e

Ol

this time he said pleasantly pouring t two


,

, ou

glasses it will give an appetite for dinner and


,

us ,

this time S h th did not refuse The liquor


or ou se .

was mellow and soft and the men took two glasses
apiece .

E xcellent remarked the secretary


, .
S trange Adven t u r e s 2 67
Glad you appreciate it said the host smacking , ,

his lips I t very old whisky and I rarely touch


.

s ,

it when I m alone But this he added is a



.
,

,

special occasion isn t it ,


S h th
or was in the act of putting his glass
o u se

down when something drew his eyes suddenly to


the other s face A strange note in th man s

. e

voice caught his attention and communicated


alarm to his nerves A new light shone in .

Garvey s eyes and there fl itt d momentarily across



e

hi strong features the shadow f somet hi ng that


s o

set the secretary s nerves tingling A mist spread



.

before his eyes and the unaccountable belief rose


strong in him that he was staring into the visage
of an untamed animal Close to his heart there .

was something that was wild fierce savage An , , .

involuntary shiver ran over him and seemed to


dispel the strange fancy as suddenly as it had
come He met the other s eye with a smile the
.

,

count erpart of which in his heart was vivid


horror .

It i a special occasion he said as naturally as


s , ,

possible and allow me to add very special


, , ,

whisky .

Garvey appeared delighted He was in the .

middle f a devious tale des cribing how the whisky


o
2 68 S trange Adven tu re s
came originally into his possession when the door
Opened behind them and a grating voice announced
that dinner w ready They followed the
as .

cassocked form f Marx a cross the dirty hall lit


o ,

only by the shaft f light that followed them from


o

the library door and entered a small room where


,

a single lamp stood upon a table laid for dinner .

The walls were destitute of pictures and the ,

windows h d venetian blinds without c urtains


a .

There w as no fire in the grate and when the men ,

sat down f acing e ach other S h th noticed or ou se

that while his w cover was laid with i t due


, o n s

proportion f glasses and cutlery his companion


o ,

had nothing before him but a soup plate without ,

fork knife or spoon besid e it


, ,
.

I don t know wh at there is to offer y he


“ ’
ou ,

said ; but I m sure Marx h done the best he c an


“ ’
as

at such short notice I only eat course for. on e

dinner but pray take your time and enjoy your


,

food .

Marx presently t a plate of soup before these

g est yet so loathsome was the immediate presence


u ,

of this old Hebrew servitor that the spoonfuls ,

disappeared somewhat slowly Garvey t and . sa

watched him .

S h tho ors id the soup was delicious d


u se a an
2 70 S trange Adven t u r e s
soon as the man w gone but better than nothi ng
as ,

I hope .

S h th or remarked that he w as exceedingly


o u se

fond f bacon and eggs and looking up with the


o , ,

last word w that Garvey s face was twitching


, sa

convulsively and that he was almost wriggling in


his chair He quieted down however under the
.
, ,

secretary s gaze and observed though evidently



,

w ith an e ffort

Very good f you t say so Wish I could join


o o .

yo u only
,
I never eat such stu ff I only take o . ne

course f dinner or .

S h th or began to feel some curiosity as to


o u se

what the nature of this course might be but he on e ,

made no further remark and contented hi mself with


noting mentally that his com pani on s e xcitement ’

seemed to be rapidly growing beyond his control .

There was something uncanny about it and he ,

began t wish he had chosen the alternative of the


o

walk t the station


o .

I m glad to see you never speak when Marx is


in the room said Garvey presently I m sure it s



, .
’ ’

better ot D on t you think so ?


n .
’ ”

He appeared t wait eagerly f the answer


o or .

Undoubtedly said the pu z zled secretary



,

.

Y the other went o quickly


es,

He s an n .

S trange Adven tu r e s 2 71

excellent but hem an , drawback really h as on e — a

horrid Yon emay— but no you could hardly


. ou , ,

have noticed it yet .


N t drink I trust said S h th


o ,
who wo ld ,
or ou se , u

rather have discussed any other subject than the


odious Jew .

Worse than that a great deal Garvey replied , ,

evidently expecting the other to draw him t ou .

But S h th was in no mood to hear anythi g


or o u se n

horrible and he declined to step int the trap


,
o .

The best of servants have their faults he said ,


coldly .

I ll tell y what it is if you like Garvey went



ou ,

on , still speaking very low and leaning forward


over the table so that hi face came close to the s

flame f the lamp only we must speak quietly in


o ,

case h listening I ll tell you what it is if y



e s — .

ou

think you won t be frightened ’


.

Nothing frightens me he laughed (Garvey



,

.

m st understand that at all events ) Nothing


u .

can frighten me he repeated ,


.

I m glad of that ; for it frightens m a good


“ ’
e

deal sometimes .

S h thor feigned indi fferen c e Yet he was


o u se .

aware that his heart was beating a little quicker


a d that there was a sensation of chilliness in his
n
2 72 S trange Adven tu r e s
back . He waited i silen c e for what
w as to n

come .

He has a horrible predilection for vacuums ,

Garvey went on presently in a still lower voice


and thrusting his face farther forward under the
lamp .

Va c uums ex claimed the secretary in spite f o

himself What in the world do you mean


.

What I y of cou se He s always tumbling


sa r .

into them s that I can t find him get at him


,
o

or .

He hide there for hours at a tim and for the life


s . e,

f me I ant make t what he does there


’ ”
o c ou .

S h th or stared his companion straight in the


o u se

eyes What in the name f Heaven was he talking


. o

about ?

Do you suppose he goes there for a change f o

i —
a r , or to escape ? he went in a louder voice
or

on .

S h th s could have laughed outright but for


or ou e

the expression of the other s face ’


.

/

I should not think th wa much air f any er e r
s o

sort in a vacuum he said quietly , .


That s exactly what I feel continued Garvey

,

with ever growing excitement That s the ’


horrid part f it How the devil does he live


o .

there ? Y see ou


Have you ever follo wed him there ? inter ”
2 74 S t range Adven t u r e s

and somehow lip c onfusedly together He stared


s .

for a —
second it seemed
only a second into the f or —

visage f a ferocious and abominable animal ; and


o

then suddenly it had come the filthy shadow


, as as ,

Of the beast passed ff the mist melted out and o , ,

with a mighty e ffort over his nerves he forced


himself to finish his senten c e .


Y see it s s long sin c e I ve given
ou

o

attention to such things he stammered His ,



.

heart was beating rapidly and a feeling of ,

oppression was gathering over it .

It s my peculiar and special study the other



on

hand Garvey resumed I ve t spent all the e


,

.
“ ’
no s

years in my laboratory to purpose I can assure no ,

you . N ature I know f ,a fact he added with or ,


unnatural warmth does n ot abhor a vacuum , , .

On the fo t y she s uncommonl y fond of em


on r ar ,
’ ’
,

much to o fond it seems f o the comfort f my


, ,
r o

little household I f there were fewer v cuums


. a

and more abhorrence we shoul d get o better "

a damned sight better in my Opinion .


Your special knowledge no doubt enables y u , , o

to speak with authority S h th said curiosity , or o use ,

and alarm warring with other mixed feelings in


his mind ; but h w ca n a man tumble into o a

vacuum
S trange Adven tu re s 2 75
Yo u may well k That s just it H w can
as .

. o

he ? I t s preposterous and I can t make it t


’ ’
ou

at all Marx knows but he won t tell me Jews


.
,

.

know more than we do F my part I have . or

reason to believe He stopped d listened an .

Hush ! here he comes he added rubbing his ,



,

hands together if in glee a d fi dg ti g in his


as n e n

chair,

Step s were heard coming down the passage ,

and s they approached the door Garvey seemed


a

to give himself c ompletely over t an e xc itement o

he could not control His eyes were fixed o the


. n

door and he began clutching the tablecloth with


both hands Again his face w as s creened by the
.

loathsome shadow I t grew wild w lfl h As


.
, o s .

through a mask that con c ealed and yet was thin


, ,

enough to let through a suggestion of the beast ,

crouching behind there leaped into his countenan c e


,

the strange look f the animal in the human— the


o

expression of the were wolf th monster The -


, e .

change in all its loathsomeness came rapidly over


his features which began to lose their outline
, .

The nose flattened dropping with broad nostrils


,

over thick lips The face rounded filled and


.
, ,

became squat T he eyes which luckily for


.
, ,

S ho tho s
r u e, no longer sought his w glowed o n,
2 76 S trange Adven tu r e s
with the light f untamed appetite and bestial
o

greed The hands left the cloth and grasped the


.

edges of the plate and then clutched the cloth


,

again .


This is m y course coming now said Garvey , ,

i a deep guttural voice


n He was shivering His . .

upper lip was partly lifted and showed the teeth ,

white and gleaming .

A moment later the door Opened and Marx


hurried into the room and set a dish in front
o f his master Garvey half rose to meet him
.
,

stretching t his hands and grinning horribly


ou .

With his mouth he made a s und like the snarl o

o f an animal The dish before him was steaming


.
,

bu t the slight vapour rising from it betrayed by


its odour that it was t born f a fi f coals no o re o .

I t was the natural heat f flesh warmed by the o

fires f life only just expelle d The moment the


o .

dish rested o the table Garvey pushed away his


n
/
o w plate and drew the th r p close under his
n o e ti

mouth Then he seized the food in both hands


.

and commenced to tear it with his teeth grunting ,

as he did so S h th . cl d hi eyes with a


or o u se o se

s ,

feeling f nausea When he looked p again


o . u

the lips and jaw f the man opposite were stained


o

with cri mson The whole man was transformed


. .
2 78 S trange Adven tu r e s
D oes he choose any particular time for his
visits ? the secretary managed to ask

.


He generally goes after dinner ; j ust about this
time in fact But he s not gone yet he added
, .
’ ”
, ,

shrugging his shoulders for I think I hear him ,


coming .

S h tho or wondered whether vacuum was


u se

possibly synonymous with wine cellar but gave , no

e xpression t his thoughts With chills of horror


o .

still running p and down his ba ck he aw Marx


u , s

come in with a basin and towel while Garvey ,

thrust p his face just as a animal puts p its


u n u

muz zle to be rubbed .


Now we ll have coffee in the library if you re

,

ready he said in the tone of a gentleman address


,

,

ing his guests after a dinner party .

S h th or picked up the bag which had lain


ouse ,

all this time between his feet and walked through ,

the doo his host held open for him Side by side
r .

they crossed the dark hall tog ether and to his ; , ,

disgust Garvey linked an arm in his and with his


, ,

face so close to the secretary s ear that he felt the ’

warm breath said in a thick voice ,

You re uncommonly careful with that bag Mr



, .

S ho thor It surely must contain something


u se .

more than the b undle of papers .



S trange Adven tu r e s 2 79
Nothing but the papers he answered feeling , ,

the hand burning upon his arm and wishing he


were miles away from the house and its bomi a n

able occupant s .


Quite sure ? asked the other with an odious
and suggestive chuckle Is there any meat in it .
,

fresh meat— raw meat ? ”

The secretary felt somehow that at the least , ,

sign f fear the beast his arm wo uld leap upon


o on

him and tear him with his teeth .

Nothing of the sort he answered vigorously



,

.

It wouldn t hold enough to feed a cat



.

True said Garvey with a vile sigh while the



, ,

other felt the h nd upon his arm twitch up and


a

down as if feeling the flesh True it s t s m all .



,

oo

to be f any real use As you y it wouldn t


o . sa ,

hold enough to feed a cat .

S h th or was unable to suppress a cry The


ou se .

muscles f his fi gers t o rela xed in spite f him


o n , o , o

self and he let the black bag drop with a bang to


the floor Garvey instantly w ithdrew his arm and
.

turned w ith a qui ck movement But the secretary .

had regained his control as suddenly as he had lost


it and he met the maniac s eyes with a teady and
,

s

aggressive glare .

T here you see it s quite li ght I t makes no


, ,

.
2 80 S tran ge Adven tu re s
appreciable noise when I drop it He picked it .

up and let it fal l again as if he had dropped it for ,

the first time purposely The r se was successful . u .

Yes You re right Gar ey said still standing


.

,

v ,

in the doorway and staring at him At any rate .

it wouldn t hold enough for two he laughed



, .

And as he closed the door the horrid laughter


echoed in the empty hall .

They sat down by a blazing fire and S h th or ou se

was glad gt feel its warmth Marx presently


o .

brought in coff ee A glass f the old whisky and


. o

a good cigar helped to restore equilibrium F r . o

some minutes the men sat in silence staring into


the fire Then without looking up Garvey said
.
, ,

in a quiet voice
I suppose it was a shock to you to se me eat ‘

r
s

raw meat like that I must apologise if it was .

u npleasant to you But it s all I can eat and it


.
’ ’
s

the only meal I take in the twenty four hours -


.

Best nourishment in the world no doubt ; /


,

though I should think it m g t be a trifle strong i i

for some stomachs .


He tried to lead the conversation away from


so unpleasant a subject and went to talk , on

rapidly f the values f di fferent foods of vegetar


o o ,

ia ism and vegetarians a d o f m n Who had gon e


n ,
n e
2 82 S trange Adven tu r e s
he thought f this solution f his attendant s
o o

disappearances .

S h th s seized the poker and poked the fire


or ou e

as if his life depended it But when the on .

ba ging and clattering was over Garvey con


n

tin ed his remarks with the same calmne s The


n s .

next sentence however w never finished The


, , as .

secretary had got upon his feet suddenly .


I shall ask your permission to retire he ,

said in a determined voice ; I m tired to night ; “ ’ -

will you be good enough to show me to my room ? ”

Garvey looked up at him with a c urious cringing


expression behind which there shone the gleam
of cunning passion .

C ertai ly he said rising from his chair


n

J

, , .

You ve had a tiring journey I ought to have



.

thought f that before


o .

He took the candle from the table and lit it and ,

the fingers that held the match trembled .

We needn t trouble Marx he/explained That



,

.

beast s in his va c uum by thistime



.

III

They crossed the hall and began to ascend the


carpetless wooden stairs They were