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Title: The Familiar
Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
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Language: English
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The Familiar
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


OUT of about two hundred and thirty cases more or less nearly akin to
that I have entitled "Green Tea," I select the following which I call
"The Familiar."

To this MS., Doctor Hesselius has, after his wont, attached some
sheets of letter-paper, on which are written, in his hand nearly as
compact as print, his own remarks upon the case. He says:

"In point of conscience, no more unexceptionable narrator than the
venerable Irish Clergyman who has given me this paper, on Mr. Barton's
case, could have been chosen. The statement is, however, medically
imperfect. The report of an intelligent physician, who had marked its
progress, and attended the patient, from its earlier stages to its
close, would have supplied what is wanting to enable me to pronounce
with confidence. I should have been acquainted with Mr. Barton's
probable hereditary predispositions; I should have known, possibly by
very early indicators, something of a remoter origin of the disease
than can now be ascertained.

"In a rough way, we may reduce all similar cases to three distinct
classes. They are founded on the primary distinction between the
subjective and the objective. Of those whose senses are alleged to be
subject to supernatural impressions--some are simply visionaries, and
propagate the illusions of which they complain from diseased brain or
nerves. Others are, unquestionably, infested by, as we term them,
spiritual agencies, exterior to themselves. Others, again, owe their
sufferings to a mixed condition. The interior sense, it is true, is
opened; but it has been and continues open by the action of disease.
This form of disease may, in one sense, be compared to the loss of the
scarf-skin, and a consequent exposure of surfaces for whose excessive
sensitiveness nature has provided a muffling. The loss of this
covering is attended by an habitual impassibility, by influences
against which we were intended to be guarded. But in the case of the
brain, and the nerves immediately connected with its functions and its
sensuous impressions, the cerebral circulation undergoes periodically
that vibratory disturbance which, I believe, I have satisfactorily
examined and demonstrated in my MS. Essay, A. 17. This vibratory
disturbance differs, as I there prove, essentially from the congestive
disturbance, the phenomena of which are examined in A. 19. It is, when
excessive, invariably accompanied by illusions.

"Had I seen Mr. Barton, and examined him upon the points in his case
which need elucidation, I should have without difficulty referred
those phenomena to their proper disease. My diagnosis is now,
necessarily, conjectural."

Thus writes Doctor Hesselius; and adds a great deal which is of
interest only to a scientific physician.

The Narrative of the Rev. Thomas Herbert, which furnishes all that is
known of the case will be found in the chapters that follow.


I WAS a young man at the time, and intimately acquainted with some of
the actors in this strange tale; the impression which its incidents
made on me, therefore, were deep and lasting. I shall now endeavour,
with precision, to relate them all, combining, of course, in the
narrative, whatever I have learned from various sources, tending,
however imperfectly, to illuminate the darkness which involves its
progress and termination.

Somewhere about the year 1794, the younger brother of a certain
baronet, whom I shall call Sir James Barton, returned to Dublin. He
had served in the navy with some distinction, having commanded one of
His Majesty's frigates during the greater part of the American war.
Captain Barton was apparently some two or three-and-forty years of
age. He was an intelligent and agreeable companion when he pleased it,
though generally reserved, and occasionally even moody.

In society, however, he deported himself as a man of the world, and a
gentleman. He had not contracted any of the noisy brusqueness
sometimes acquired at sea; on the contrary, his manners were
remarkably easy, quiet, and even polished. He was in person about the
middle size, and somewhat strongly formed--his countenance was marked
with the lines of thought, and on the whole wore an expression of
gravity and melancholy. Being, however, as I have said, a man of
perfect breeding, as well as of good family and in affluent
circumstances, he had, of course, ready access to the best society of
Dublin without the necessity of any other credentials.

In his personal habits Mr. Barton was unexpensive. He occupied
lodgings in one of the then fashionable streets in the south side of
the town--kept but one horse and one servant--and though a reputed
free-thinker, yet lived an orderly and moral life--indulging neither
in gaming, drinking, nor any other vicious pursuit--living very much
to himself, without forming intimacies, or choosing any companions,
and appearing to mix in gay society rather for the sake of its bustle
and distraction, than for any opportunities it offered of
interchanging thought or feeling with its votaries.

Barton was, therefore, pronounced a saving, prudent, unsocial sort of
fellow, who bid fair to maintain his celibacy alike against stratagem
and assault, and was likely to live to a good old age, die rich, and
leave his money to an hospital.

It was now apparent, however, that the nature of Mr. Barton's plans had
been totally misconceived. A young lady, whom I shall call Miss
Montague, was at this time introduced into the gay world by her aunt,
the Dowager Lady L---. Miss Montague was decidedly pretty and
accomplished, and having some natural cleverness and a great deal of
gaiety, became for a while a reigning toast.

Her popularity, however, gained her for a time nothing more than that
unsubstantial admiration which, however pleasant as an incense to
vanity, is by no means necessarily antecedent to matrimony--for,
unhappily for the young lady in question, it was an understood thing
that, beyond her personal attractions, she had no kind of earthly
provision. Such being the state of affairs, it will readily be
believed that no little surprise was consequent upon the appearance of
Captain Barton as the avowed lover of the penniless Miss Montague.

His suit prospered, as might have been expected, and in a short time
it was communicated by old Lady L--- to each of her hundred-and-fifty
particular friends in succession, that Captain Barton had actually
tendered proposals of marriage, with her approbation, to her niece,
Miss Montague, who had, moreover, accepted the offer of his hand,
conditionally upon the consent of her father, who was then upon his
homeward voyage from India, and expected in two or three weeks at the

About this consent there could be no doubt--the delay, therefore, was
one merely of form--they were looked upon as absolutely engaged, and
Lady L---, with a rigour of old-fashioned decorum with which her niece
would, no doubt, gladly have dispensed, withdrew her thenceforward
from all further participation in the gaieties of the town.

Captain Barton was a constant visitor, as well as a frequent guest at
the house, and was permitted all the privileges of intimacy which a
betrothed suitor is usually accorded. Such was the relation of
parties, when the mysterious circumstances which darken this narrative
first began to unfold themselves.

Lady L--- resided in a handsome mansion at the north side of Dublin,
and Captain Barton's lodgings, as we have already said, were situated
at the south. The distance intervening was considerable, and it was
Captain Barton's habit generally to walk home without an attendant, as
often as he passed the evening with the old lady and her fair charge.

His shortest way in such nocturnal walks lay, for a considerable
space, through a line of street which had as yet merely been laid out,
and little more than the foundations of the houses constructed.

One night, shortly after his engagement with Miss Montague had
commenced, he happened to remain unusually late, in company with her
and Lady L---. The conversation had turned upon the evidences of
revelation, which he had disputed with the callous scepticism of a
confirmed infidel. What were called "French principles" had in those
days found their way a good deal into fashionable society, especially
that portion of it which professed allegiance to Whiggism, and neither
the old lady nor her charge was so perfectly free from the taint as
to look upon Mr. Barton's views as any serious objection to the
proposed union.

The discussion had degenerated into one upon the supernatural and the
marvellous, in which he had pursued precisely the same line of
argument and ridicule. In all this, it is but truth to state, Captain
Barton was guilty of no affectation--the doctrines upon which he
insisted, were, in reality, but too truly the basis of his own fixed
belief, if so it might be called; and perhaps not the least strange of
the many strange circumstances connected with my narrative was the
fact that the subject of the fearful influences I am about to describe
was himself, from the deliberate conviction of years, an utter
disbeliever in what are usually termed preternatural agencies.

It was considerably past midnight when Mr. Barton took his leave and
set out upon his solitary walk homeward. He had now reached the lonely
road, with its unfinished dwarf walls tracing the foundations of the
projected row of houses on either side--the moon was shining mistily,
and its imperfect light made the road he trod but additionally
dreary--that utter silence which has in it something indefinably
exciting reigned there and made the sound of his steps, which alone
broke it, unnaturally loud and distinct.

He had proceeded thus some way, when he, on a sudden, heard other
footfalls, pattering at a measured pace, and, as it seemed, about two
score steps behind him.

The suspicion of being dogged is at all times unpleasant: it is,
however, especially so in a spot so lonely: and this suspicion became
so strong in the mind of Captain Barton, that he abruptly turned about
to confront his pursuer, but, though there was quite sufficient
moonlight to disclose any object upon the road he had traversed, no
form of any kind was visible there.

The steps he had heard could not have been the reverberation of his
own, for he stamped his foot upon the ground, and walked briskly up
and down, in the vain attempt to awake an echo; though by no means a
fanciful person, therefore, he was at last fain to charge the sounds
upon his imagination, and treat them as an illusion. Thus satisfying
himself he resumed his walk, and before he had proceeded a dozen paces
the mysterious footfall was again audible from behind, and this time,
as if with the special design of showing that the sounds were not the
responses of an echo, the steps sometimes slackened nearly to a halt,
and sometimes hurried for six or eight strides to a run, and again
abated to a walk.

Captain Barton, as before, turned suddenly round, and with the same
result--no object was visible above the deserted level of the road. He
walked back over the same ground, determined that, whatever might have
been the cause of the sounds which had so disconcerted him, it should
not escape his search--the endeavour, however, was unrewarded.

In spite of all his scepticism he felt something like a superstitious
fear stealing fast upon him, and with these unwonted and uncomfortable
sensations he once more turned and pursued his way. There was no
repetition of these haunting sounds until he had reached the point
where he had last stopped to retrace his steps--here they were
resumed--and with sudden starts of running which threatened to bring
the unseen pursuer up to the alarmed pedestrian.

Captain Barton arrested his course as formerly--the unaccountable
nature of the occurrence filled him with vague and disagreeable
sensations--and yielding to the excitement that was gaining upon him,
he shouted sternly, "Who goes there?" The sound of one's own voice,
thus exerted, in utter solitude, and followed by total silence, has in
it something unpleasantly dismaying, and he felt a degree of
nervousness which, perhaps, from no cause had he ever known before.

To the very end of this solitary street the steps pursued him--and it
required a strong effort of stubborn pride on his part to resist the
impulse that prompted him every moment to run for safety at the top of
his speed. It was not until he had reached his lodgings, and sate by
his own fireside, that he felt sufficiently reassured to rearrange and
reconsider in his own mind the occurrences which had so discomposed
him. So little a matter, after all, is sufficient to upset the pride
of scepticism and vindicate the old simple laws of nature within us.


MR. BARTON was next morning sitting at a late breakfast, reflecting
upon the incidents of the previous night, with more of inquisitiveness
than awe, so speedily do gloomy impressions upon the fancy disappear
under the cheerful influence of day, when a letter just delivered by
the postman was placed upon the table before him.

There was nothing remarkable in the address of this missive, except
that it was written in a hand which he did not know--perhaps it was
disguised--for the tall narrow characters were sloped backward; and
with the self-inflicted suspense which we often see practised in such
cases he puzzled over the inscription for a full minute before he
broke the seal. When he did so he read the following words, written in
the same hand:

"Mr. Barton, late captain of the 'Dolphin,' is warned of DANGER. He
will do wisely to avoid Street--[here the locality of his last night's
adventure was named] if he walks there as usual he will meet with
something unlucky--let him take warning, once for all, for he has
reason to dread THE WATCHER."

Captain Barton read and re-read this strange effusion; in every light
and in every direction he turned it over and over; he examined the
paper on which it was written, and scrutinized the handwriting once
more. Defeated here, he turned to the seal; it was nothing but a patch
of wax, upon which the accidental impression of a thumb was
imperfectly visible.

There was not the slightest mark, or clue of any kind, to lead him to
even a guess as to its possible origin. The writer's object seemed a
friendly one, and yet he subscribed himself as one whom he had "reason
to dread." Altogether the letter, its author, and its real purpose
were to him an inexplicable puzzle, and one, moreover, unpleasantly
suggestive, in his mind, of other associations connected with his last
night's adventure.

In obedience to some feeling--perhaps of pride--Mr. Barton did not
communicate, even to his intended bride, the occurrences which I have
just detailed. Trifling as they might appear, they had in reality most
disagreeably affected his imagination, and he cared not to disclose,
even to the young lady in question, what she might possibly look upon
as evidences of weakness. The letter might very well be but a hoax,
and the mysterious footfall but a delusion or a trick. But although he
affected to treat the whole affair as unworthy of a thought, it yet
haunted him pertinaciously, tormenting him with perplexing doubts and
depressing him with undefined apprehensions. Certain it is, that for a
considerable time afterwards he carefully avoided the street indicated
in the letter as the scene of danger.

It was not until about a week after the receipt of the letter which I
have transcribed, that anything further occurred to remind Captain
Barton of its contents, or to counteract the gradual disappearance
from his mind of the disagreeable impressions then received.

He was returning one night, after the interval I have stated, from the
theatre, which was then situated in Crow Street, and having there seen
Miss Montague and Lady L--- into their carriage he loitered for some
time with two or three acquaintances.

With these, however, he parted close to the college, and pursued his
way alone. It was now fully one o'clock, and the streets were quite
deserted. During the whole of his walk with the companions from whom
he had just parted he had been at times painfully aware of the sound
of steps, as it seemed, dogging them on their way.

Once or twice he had looked back, in the uneasy anticipation that he
was again about to experience the same mysterious annoyances which had
so disconcerted him a week before, and earnestly hoping that he might
see some form to account naturally for the sounds. But the street was
deserted--no one was visible.

Proceeding now quite alone upon his homeward way he grew really
nervous and uncomfortable, as he became sensible, with increased
distinctness, of the well-known and now absolutely dreaded sounds.

By the side of the dead wall which bounded the college park, the
sounds followed, recommencing almost simultaneously with his own
steps. The same unequal pace--sometimes slow, sometimes for a score
yards or so, quickened almost to a run--was audible from behind him.
Again and again he turned; quickly and stealthily he glanced over his
shoulder--almost at every half-dozen steps; but no one was visible.

The irritation of this intangible and unseen pursuit became gradually
all but intolerable; and when at last he reached his home his nerves
were strung to such a pitch of excitement that he could not rest, and
did not attempt even to lie down until after the daylight had broken.

He was awakened by a knock at his chamber-door, and his servant,
entering, handed him several letters which had just been received by
the penny post. One among them instantly arrested his attention--a
single glance at the direction aroused him thoroughly. He at once
recognized its character, and read as follows:

"You may as well think, Captain Barton, to escape from your own shadow
as from me; do what you may, I will see you as often I please, and you
shall see me, for I do not want to hide myself, as you fancy. Do not
let it trouble your rest, Captain Barton; for, with a good conscience,
what need you fear from the eye of THE WATCHER."

It is scarcely necessary to dwell upon the feelings that accompanied a
perusal of this strange communication. Captain Barton was observed to
be unusually absent and out of spirits for several days afterwards....
But no one divined the cause.

Whatever he might think as to the phantom steps which followed him,
there could be no possible illusion about the letters he had received;
and, to say the least, their immediate sequence upon the mysterious
sounds which had haunted him, was an odd coincidence.

The whole circumstance was, in his own mind, vaguely and instinctively
connected with certain passages in his past life, which, of all
others, he hated to remember.

It happened, however, that in addition to his own approaching
nuptials, Captain Barton had just then--fortunately, perhaps, for
himself--some business of an engrossing kind connected with the
adjustment of a large and long-litigated claim upon certain

The hurry and excitement of business had its natural effect in
gradually dispelling the gloom which had for a time occasionally
oppressed him, and in a little while his spirits had entirely
recovered their accustomed tone.

During all this time, however, he was, now and then, dismayed by
indistinct and half-heard repetitions of the same annoyance, and that
in lonely places, in the day-time as well as after nightfall. These
renewals of the strange impressions from which he had suffered so
much, were, however, desultory and faint, insomuch that often he
really could not, to his own satisfaction, distinguish between them
and the mere suggestions of an excited imagination.

One evening he walked down to the House of Commons with a Member, an
acquaintance of his and mine. This was one of the few occasions upon
which I have been in company with Captain Barton. As we walked down
together, I observed that he became absent and silent, and to a degree
that seemed to argue the pressure of some urgent and absorbing

I afterwards learned that during the whole of our walk he had heard
the well-known footsteps tracking him as we proceeded.

This, however, was the last time he suffered from this phase of the
persecution, of which he was already the anxious victim. A new and a
very different one was about to be presented.


OF the new series of impressions which were afterwards gradually to
work out his destiny, I that evening witnessed the fact; and but for
its relation to the train of events which followed, the incident would
scarcely have been now remembered by me.

As we were walking in at the passage from College Green a man, of whom
I remember only that he was short in stature, looked like a foreigner,
and wore a kind of fur travelling-cap, walked very rapidly, and, as if
under fierce excitement, directly towards us, muttering to himself
fast and vehemently the while.

This odd-looking person walked straight toward Barton, who was
foremost of the three, and halted, regarding him for a moment or two
with a look of maniacal menace and fury; and then turning about as
abruptly he walked before us at the same agitated pace and disappeared
at a side passage. I do distinctly remember being a good deal shocked
at the countenance and bearing of this man, which indeed irresistibly
impressed me with an undefined sense of danger, such as I have never
felt before or since from the presence of anything human; but these
sensations were, on my part, far from amounting to anything so
disconcerting as to flurry or excite me--I had seen only a singularly
evil countenance, agitated, as it seemed, with the excitement of

I was absolutely astonished, however, at the effect of this apparition
upon Captain Barton. I knew him to be a man of proud courage and
coolness in real danger--a circumstance which made his conduct upon
this occasion the more conspicuously odd. He recoiled a step or two as
the stranger advanced, and clutched my arm in silence, with what
seemed to be a spasm of agony or terror! And then, as the figure
disappeared, shoving me roughly back, he followed it for a few paces,
stopped in great disorder, and sat down upon a form. I never beheld a
countenance more ghastly and haggard.

"For God's sake, Barton, what is the matter?" said---, our companion,
really alarmed at his appearance. "You're not hurt, are you?--or
unwell? What is it?"

"What did he say?--I did not hear it--what was it?" asked Barton,
wholly disregarding the question.

"Nonsense," said---, greatly surprised, "who cares what the fellow
said? You are unwell, Barton, decidedly unwell; let me call a coach."

"Unwell! No--not unwell," he said, evidently making an effort to
recover his self-possession; "but, to say the truth, I am fatigued--a
little over-worked--and perhaps over-anxious. You know I have been in
Chancery, and the winding-up of a suit is always a nervous affair. I
have felt uncomfortable all this evening; but I am better now. Come,
come--shall we go on?"

"No, no. Take my advice, Barton, and go home; you really do need rest;
you are looking quite ill. I really do insist on your allowing me to
see you home," replied his friend.

I seconded---'s advice, the more readily as it was obvious that Barton
was not himself disinclined to be persuaded. He left us, declining our
offered escort. I was not sufficiently intimate with---to discuss the
scene we had both just witnessed. I was, however, convinced from his
manner in the few common-place comments and regrets we exchanged, that
he was just as little satisfied as I with the extempore plea of
illness with which he had accounted for the strange exhibition, and
that we were both agreed in suspecting some lurking mystery in the

I called next day at Barton's lodgings to inquire for him, and learned
from the servant that he had not left his room since his return the
night before; but that he was not seriously indisposed, and hoped to
be out in a few days. That evening he sent for Dr. R---, then in large
and fashionable practice in Dublin, and their interview was, it is
said, an odd one.

He entered into a detail of his own symptoms in an abstracted and
desultory way, which seemed to argue a strange want of interest in his
own cure, and, at all events, make it manifest that there was some
topic engaging his mind of more engrossing importance than his present
ailment. He complained of occasional palpitations and headache.

Doctor R---asked him, among other questions, whether there was any
irritating circumstance or anxiety then occupying his thoughts. This
he denied quickly and almost peevishly; and the physician thereupon
declared his opinion that there was nothing amiss except some slight
derangement of the digestion, for which he accordingly wrote a
prescription, and was about to withdraw when Mr. Barton, with the air
of a man who recollects a topic which had nearly escaped him, recalled

"I beg your pardon, Doctor, but I really almost forgot; will you
permit me to ask you two or three medical questions--rather odd ones,
perhaps, but a wager depends upon their solution; you will, I hope,
excuse my unreasonableness?"

The physician readily undertook to satisfy the inquirer.

Barton seemed to have some difficulty about opening the proposed
interrogatories, for he was silent for a minute, then walked to his
book-case, and returned as he had gone; at last he sat down, and said:

"You'll think them very childish questions, but I can't recover my
wager without a decision; so I must put them. I want to know first
about lockjaw. If a man actually has had that complaint, and appears
to have died of it--so much so, that a physician of average skill
pronounces him actually dead--may he, after all, recover?"

The physician smiled, and shook his head.

"But--but a blunder may be made," resumed Barton. "Suppose an ignorant
pretender to medical skill; may he be so deceived by any stage of the
complaint, as to mistake what is only a part of the progress of the
disease, for death itself?"

"No one who had ever seen death," answered he, "could mistake it in a
case of lockjaw."

Barton mused for a few minutes. "I am going to ask you a question,
perhaps, still more childish; but first, tell me, are the regulations
of foreign hospitals, such as that of, let us say, Naples, very lax
and bungling. May not all kinds of blunders and slips occur in their
entries of names, and so forth?"

Doctor R---professed his incompetence to answer that query.

"Well, then, Doctor, here is the last of my questions. You will,
probably, laugh at it; but it must out nevertheless. Is there any
disease, in all the range of human maladies, which would have the
effect of perceptibly contracting the stature and the whole frame--
causing the man to shrink in all his proportions, and yet to preserve
his exact resemblance to himself in every particular--with the one
exception, his height and bulk; any disease, mark--no matter how
rare--how little believed in, generally--which could possibly result
in producing such an effect?"

The physician replied with a smile, and a very decided negative.

"Tell me, then," said Barton, abruptly, "if a man be in reasonable
fear of assault from a lunatic who is at large, can he not procure a
warrant for his arrest and detention?"

"Really, that is more a lawyer's question than one in my way," replied
Doctor R---; "but I believe, on applying to a magistrate, such a course
would be directed."

The physician then took his leave; but, just as he reached the hall-
door, remembered that he had left his cane upstairs, and returned. His
reappearance was awkward, for a piece of paper, which he recognized as
his own prescription, was slowly burning upon the fire, and Barton
sitting close by with an expression of settled gloom and dismay.

Doctor R---had too much tact to observe what presented itself; but he
had seen quite enough to assure him that the mind, and not the body,
of Captain Barton was in reality the seat of suffering.

A few days afterwards, the following advertisement appeared in the
Dublin newspapers:

"If Sylvester Yelland, formerly a foremast man on board His Majesty's
frigate 'Dolphin,' or his nearest of kin, will apply to Mr. Hubert
Smith, attorney, at his office, Dame Street, he or they may hear of
something greatly to his or their advantage. Admission may be had at
any hour up to twelve o'clock at night, should parties desire to avoid
observation; and the strictest secrecy, as to all communications
intended to be confidential, shall be honourably observed."

The "Dolphin," as I have mentioned, was the vessel which Captain
Barton had commanded; and this circumstance, connected with the
extraordinary exertions made by the circulation of hand-bills, etc.,
as well as by repeated advertisements, to secure for this strange
notice the utmost possible publicity, suggested to Dr. R---the idea
that Captain Barton's extreme uneasiness was somehow connected with
the individual to whom the advertisement was addressed, and he himself
the author of it.

This, however, it is needless to add, was no more than a conjecture.
No information, whatsoever, as to the real purpose of the
advertisement was divulged by the agent, nor yet any hint as to who
his employer might be.


MR. BARTON, although he had latterly begun to earn for himself the
character of an hypochondriac, was yet very far from deserving it.
Though by no means lively, he had yet, naturally, what are termed
"even spirits," and was not subject to undue depressions.

He soon, therefore, began to return to his former habits; and one of
the earnest symptoms of this healthier tone of spirits was his
appearing at a grand dinner of the Freemasons, of which worthy
fraternity he was himself a brother. Barton, who had been at first
gloomy and abstracted, drank much more freely than was his wont--
possibly with the purpose of dispelling his own secret anxieties--and
under the influence of good wine and pleasant company, became
gradually (unlike himself) talkative, and even noisy.

It was under this unwonted excitement that he left his company at
about half-past ten o'clock; and, as conviviality is a strong
incentive to gallantry, it occurred to him to proceed forthwith to
Lady L---'s, and pass the remainder of the evening with her and his
destined bride.

Accordingly, he was soon at----Street and chatting gaily with the
ladies. It is not to be supposed that Captain Barton had exceeded the
limits which propriety prescribes to good fellowship--he had merely
taken enough wine to raise his spirits, without, however, in the least
degree unsteadying his mind or affecting his manners.

With this undue elevation of spirits had supervened an entire oblivion
or contempt of those undefined apprehensions which had for so long
weighed upon his mind, and to a certain extent estranged him from
society; but as the night wore away, and his artificial gaiety began
to flag, these painful feelings gradually intruded themselves again,
and he grew abstracted and anxious as heretofore.

He took his leave at length, with an unpleasant foreboding of some
coming mischief, and with a mind haunted with a thousand mysterious
apprehensions, such as, even while he acutely felt their pressure, he,
nevertheless, inwardly strove or affected to contemn.

It was this proud defiance of what he regarded as his own weakness,
which prompted him upon the present occasion to that course which
brought about the adventure I am now about to relate.

Mr. Barton might have easily called a coach, but he was conscious that
his strong inclination to do so proceeded from no cause other than
what he desperately persisted in representing to himself to be his own
superstitious tremors.

He might also have returned home by a route different from that
against which he had been warned by his mysterious correspondent; but
for the same reason he dismissed this idea also, and with a dogged and
half desperate resolution to force matters to a crisis of some kind,
if there were any reality in the causes of his former suffering, and
if not, satisfactorily to bring their delusiveness to the proof, he
determined to follow precisely the course which he had trodden upon
the night so painfully memorable in his own mind as that on which his
strange persecution commenced. Though, sooth to say, the pilot who for
the first time steers his vessel under the muzzles of a hostile
battery, never felt his resolution more severely tasked than did
Captain Barton, as he breathlessly pursued this solitary path--a path
which, spite of every effort of scepticism and reason, he felt to be
infested by some (as respected him) malignant being.

He pursued his way steadily and rapidly, scarcely breathing from
intensity of suspense; he, however, was troubled by no renewal of the
dreaded footsteps, and was beginning to feel a return of confidence
as, more than three-fourths of the way being accomplished with
impunity, he approached the long line of twinkling oil lamps which
indicated the frequented streets.

This feeling of self-congratulation was, however, but momentary. The
report of a musket at some hundred yards behind him, and the whistle
of a bullet close to his head, disagreeably and startlingly dispelled
it. His first impulse was to retrace his steps in pursuit of the
assassin; but the road on either side was, as we have said,
embarrassed by the foundations of a street, beyond which extended
waste fields, full of rubbish and neglected lime and brick-kilns, and
all now as utterly silent as though no sound had ever disturbed their
dark and unsightly solitude. The futility of, single-handed,
attempting, under such circumstances, a search for the murderer, was
apparent; especially as no sound, either of retreating steps or any
other kind, was audible to direct his pursuit.

With the tumultuous sensations of one whose life has just been exposed
to a murderous attempt, and whose escape has been the narrowest
possible, Captain Barton turned again; and without, however,
quickening his pace actually to a run, hurriedly pursued his way.

He had turned, as I have said, after a pause of a few seconds, and had
just commenced his rapid retreat, when on a sudden he met the well-
remembered little man in the fur cap. The encounter was but momentary.
The figure was walking at the same exaggerated pace, and with the same
strange air of menace as before; and as it passed him he thought he
heard it say, in a furious whisper, "Still alive, still alive!"

The state of Mr. Barton's spirits began now to work a corresponding
alteration in his health and looks, and to such a degree that it was
impossible that the change should escape general remark.

For some reasons, known but to himself, he took no steps whatsoever to
bring the attempt upon his life, which he had so narrowly escaped,
under the notice of the authorities; on the contrary, he kept it
jealously to himself; and it was not for many weeks after the
occurrence that he mentioned it, and then in strict confidence, to a
gentleman, whom the torments of his mind at last compelled him to

In spite of his blue devils, however, poor Barton, having no satisfactory
reason to render to the public for any undue remissness in the
attentions exacted by the relation existing between him and Miss
Montague, was obliged to exert himself, and present to the world a
confident and cheerful bearing.

The true source of his sufferings, and every circumstance connected
with him, he guarded with a reserve so jealous, that it seemed
dictated by at least a suspicion that the origin of his strange
persecution was known to himself, and that it was of a nature which,
upon his own account, he could not or dared not disclose.

The mind thus turned in upon itself, and constantly occupied with a
haunting anxiety which it dared not reveal or confide to any human
breast, became daily more excited, and, of course, more vividly
impressible, by a system of attack which operated through the nervous
system; and in this state he was destined to sustain, with increasing
frequency, the stealthy visitations of that apparition which, from the
first, had seemed to possess so terrible a hold upon his imagination.

It was about this time that Captain Barton called upon the then
celebrated preacher, Dr.---, with whom he had a slight acquaintance,
and an extraordinary conversation ensued.

The divine was seated in his chambers in college, surrounded with
works upon his favourite pursuit, and deep in theology, when Barton
was announced.

There was something at once embarrassed and excited in his manner,
which, along with his wan and haggard countenance, impressed the
student with the unpleasant consciousness that his visitor must have
recently suffered terribly indeed, to account for an alteration so
striking--almost shocking.

After the usual interchange of polite greeting, and a few common-place
remarks, Captain Barton, who obviously perceived the surprise which
his visit had excited, and which Doctor--- was unable wholly to conceal,
interrupted a brief pause by remarking:

"This is a strange call, Doctor---, perhaps scarcely warranted by an
acquaintance so slight as mine with you. I should not under ordinary
circumstances have ventured to disturb you; but my visit is neither an
idle nor impertinent intrusion. I am sure you will not so account it,
when I tell you how afflicted I am."

Doctor--- interrupted him with assurances such as good breeding
suggested, and Barton resumed.

"I am come to task your patience by asking your advice. When I say
your patience, I might, indeed, say more; I might have said your
humanity--your compassion; for I have been and am a great sufferer."

"My dear sir," replied the churchman, "it will, indeed, afford me
infinite gratification if I can give you comfort in any distress of
mind! but--you know--"

"I know what you would say," resumed Barton, quickly; "I am an
unbeliever, and, therefore, incapable of deriving help from religion;
but don't take that for granted. At least you must not assume that,
however unsettled my convictions may be, I do not feel a deep--a very
deep--interest in the subject. Circumstances have lately forced it
upon my attention in such a way as to compel me to review the whole
question in a more candid and teachable spirit, I believe, than I ever
studied it in before."

"Your difficulties, I take it for granted, refer to the evidences of
revelation," suggested the clergyman.

"Why--no--not altogether; in fact, I am ashamed to say I have not
considered even my objections sufficiently to state them connectedly;
but--but there is one subject on which I feel a peculiar interest."

He paused again, and Doctor pressed him to proceed.

"The fact is," said Barton, "whatever may be my uncertainty as to the
authenticity of what we are taught to call revelation, of one fact I
am deeply and horribly convinced, that there does exist beyond this a
spiritual world--a system whose workings are generally in mercy hidden
from us--a system which may be, and which is sometimes, partially and
terribly revealed. I am sure--I know," continued Barton, with
increasing excitement, "that there is a God--a dreadful God--and that
retribution follows guilt, in ways the most mysterious and
stupendous--by agencies the most inexplicable and terrific;--there is
a spiritual system--great God, how I have been convinced!--a system
malignant, and implacable, and omnipotent, under whose persecutions I
am, and have been, suffering the torments of the damned!--yes, sir--
yes--the fires and frenzy of hell!"

As Barton spoke, his agitation became so vehement that the Divine was
shocked, and even alarmed. The wild and excited rapidity with which he
spoke, and, above all, the indefinable horror that stamped his
features, afforded a contrast to his ordinary cool and unimpassioned
self-possession striking and painful in the last degree.


"MY dear sir," said Doctor---, after a brief pause, "I fear you have
been very unhappy, indeed; but I venture to predict that the
depression under which you labour will be found to originate in purely
physical causes, and that with a change of air, and the aid of a few
tonics, your spirits will return, and the tone of your mind be once
more cheerful and tranquil as heretofore. There was, after all, more
truth than we are quite willing to admit in the classic theories which
assigned the undue predominance of any one affection of the mind to
the undue action or torpidity of one or other of our bodily organs.
Believe me, that a little attention to diet, exercise, and the other
essentials of health, under competent direction, will make you as much
yourself as you can wish."

"Doctor---," said Barton, with something like a shudder, "I cannot
delude myself with such a hope. I have no hope to cling to but one,
and that is, that by some other spiritual agency more potent than that
which tortures me, it may be combated, and I delivered. If this may
not be, I am lost--now and for ever lost."

"But, Mr. Barton, you must remember," urged his companion, "that
others have suffered as you have done, and--"

"No, no, no," interrupted he, with irritability--"no, sir, I am not a
credulous--far from a superstitious man. I have been, perhaps, too
much the reverse--too sceptical, too slow of belief; but unless I were
one whom no amount of evidence could convince, unless I were to
contemn the repeated, the perpetual evidence of my own senses, I am
now--now at last constrained to believe--I have no escape from the
conviction--the overwhelming certainty--that I am haunted and dogged,
go where I may, by--by a DEMON!"

There was a preternatural energy of horror in Barton's face, as, with
its damp and death-like lineaments turned towards his companion, he
thus delivered himself.

"God help you, my poor friend," said Dr.---, much shocked, "God help
you; for, indeed, you are a sufferer, however your sufferings may have
been caused."

"Ay, ay, God help me," echoed Barton, sternly; "but will He help me--
will He help me?"

"Pray to Him--pray in an humble and trusting spirit," said he.

"Pray, pray," echoed he again; "I can't pray--I could as easily move a
mountain by an effort of my will. I have not belief enough to pray;
there is something within me that will not pray. You prescribe
impossibilities--literal impossibilities."

"You will not find it so, if you will but try," said Doctor---.

"Try! I have tried, and the attempt only fills me with confusion: and,
sometimes, terror: I have tried in vain, and more than in vain. The
awful, unutterable idea of eternity and infinity oppresses and maddens
my brain whenever my mind approaches the contemplation of the Creator:
I recoil from the effort scared. I tell you, Doctor---, if I am to be
saved, it must be by other means. The idea of an eternal Creator is to
me intolerable--my mind cannot support it."

"Say, then, my dear sir," urged he, "say how you would have me serve
you--what you would learn of me--what I can do or say to relieve you?"

"Listen to me first," replied Captain Barton; with a subdued air, and
an effort to suppress his excitement, "listen to me while I detail the
circumstances of the persecution under which my life has become all
but intolerable--a persecution which has made me fear death and the
world beyond the grave as much as I have grown to hate existence."

Barton then proceeded to relate the circumstances which I have already
detailed, and then continued:

"This has now become habitual--an accustomed thing. I do not mean the
actual seeing him in the flesh--thank God, that at least is not
permitted daily. Thank God, from the ineffable horrors of that
visitation I have been mercifully allowed intervals of repose, though
none of security; but from the consciousness that a malignant spirit
is following and watching me wherever I go, I have never, for a single
instant, a temporary respite. I am pursued with blasphemies, cries of
despair, and appalling hatred. I hear those dreadful sounds called
after me as I turn the corners of the streets; they come in the night-
time, while I sit in my chamber alone; they haunt me everywhere,
charging me with hideous crimes, and--great God!--threatening me with
coming vengeance and eternal misery. Hush! do you hear that?" he
cried, with a horrible smile of triumph; "there--there, will that
convince you?"

The clergyman felt a chill of horror steal over him, while, during the
wail of a sudden gust of wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the
half-articulate sounds of rage and derision mingling in the sough.

"Well, what do you think of that?" at length Barton cried, drawing a
long breath through his teeth.

"I heard the wind," said Doctor---. "What should I think of it--what
is there remarkable about it?"

"The prince of the powers of the air," muttered Barton, with a

"Tut, tut! my dear sir," said the student, with an effort to reassure
himself; for though it was broad daylight there was nevertheless
something disagreeably contagious in the nervous excitement under
which his visitor so miserably suffered. "You must not give way to
these wild fancies; you must resist these impulses of the

"Ay, ay; 'resist the devil and he will flee from thee,'" said Barton,
in the same tone; "but how resist him? ay, there it is--there is the
rub. What--what am I to do? what can I do?"

"My dear sir, this is fancy," said the man of folios; "you are your
own tormentor."

"No, no, sir--fancy has no part in it," answered Barton, somewhat
sternly. "Fancy! was it that made you, as well as me, hear, but this
moment, those accents of hell? Fancy, indeed! No, no."

"But you have seen this person frequently," said the ecclesiastic;
"why have you not accosted or secured him? Is it not a little
precipitate, to say no more, to assume, as you have done, the
existence of preternatural agency; when, after all, everything may be
easily accountable, if only proper means were taken to sift the

"There are circumstances connected with this--this appearance," said
Barton, "which it is needless to disclose, but which to me are proofs
of its horrible nature. I know that the being that follows me is not
human--I say I know this; I could prove it to your own conviction." He
paused for a minute, and then added, "And as to accosting it, I dare
not, I could not; when I see it I am powerless; I stand in the gaze of
death, in the triumphant presence of infernal power and malignity. My
strength, and faculties, and memory, all forsake me. O God, I fear,
sir, you know not what you speak of. Mercy, mercy; heaven have pity on

He leaned his elbow on the table, and passed his hand across his eyes,
as if to exclude some image of horror, muttering the last words of the
sentence he had just concluded again and again.

"Doctor---," he said, abruptly raising himself, and looking full upon
the clergyman with an imploring eye, "I know you will do for me
whatever may be done. You know now fully the circumstances and the
nature of my affliction. I tell you I cannot help myself; I cannot
hope to escape; I am utterly passive. I conjure you, then, to weigh my
case well, and if anything may be done for me by vicarious
supplication--by the intercession of the good--or by any aid or
influence whatsoever, I implore of you, I adjure you in the name of
the Most High, give me the benefit of that influence--deliver me from
the body of this death. Strive for me, pity me; I know you will; you
cannot refuse this; it is the purpose and object of my visit. Send me
away with some hope--however little--some faint hope of ultimate
deliverance, and I will nerve myself to endure, from hour to hour, the
hideous dream into which my existence has been transformed."

Doctor--- assured him that all he could do was to pray earnestly for him,
and that so much he would not fail to do. They parted with a hurried
and melancholy valediction. Barton hastened to the carriage that
awaited him at the door, drew down the blinds, and drove away, while
Doctor---  returned to his chamber, to ruminate at leisure upon the
strange interview which had just interrupted his studies.


IT was not to be expected that Captain Barton's changed and eccentric
habits should long escape remark and discussion. Various were the
theories suggested to account for it. Some attributed the alteration
to the pressure of secret pecuniary embarrassments; others to a
repugnance to fulfil an engagement into which he was presumed to have
too precipitately entered; and others, again, to the supposed
incipiency of mental disease, which latter, indeed, was the most
plausible, as well as the most generally received, of the hypotheses
circulated in the gossip of the day.

From the very commencement of this change, at first so gradual in its
advances, Miss Montague had of course been aware of it. The intimacy
involved in their peculiar relation, as well as the near interest
which it inspired, afforded, in her case, a like opportunity and
motive for the successful exercise of that keen and penetrating
observation peculiar to her sex.

His visits became, at length, so interrupted, and his manner, while
they lasted, so abstracted, strange, and agitated, that Lady L---,
after hinting her anxiety and her suspicions more than once, at length
distinctly stated her anxiety, and pressed for an explanation.

The explanation was given, and although its nature at first relieved
the worst solicitudes of the old lady and her niece, yet the
circumstances which attended it, and the really dreadful consequences
which it obviously indicated, as regarded the spirits, and indeed the
reason of the now wretched man who made the strange declaration, were
enough, upon little reflection, to fill their minds with perturbation
and alarm.

General Montague, the young lady's father, at length arrived. He had
himself slightly known Barton some ten or twelve years previously and,
being aware of his fortune and connexions, was disposed to regard him
as an unexceptionable and indeed a most desirable match for his
daughter. He laughed at the story of Barton's supernatural
visitations, and lost no time in calling upon his intended son-in-law.

"My dear Barton," he continued, gaily, after a little conversation,
"my sister tells me that you are a victim to blue devils, in quite a
new and original shape."

Barton changed countenance, and sighed profoundly.

"Come, come; I protest this will never do," continued the General;
"you are more like a man on his way to the gallows than to the altar.
These devils have made quite a saint of you."

Barton made an effort to change the conversation.

"No, no, it won't do," said his visitor laughing; "I am resolved to
say what I have to say upon this magnificent mock mystery of yours.
You must not be angry, but really it is too bad to see you at your
time of life absolutely frightened into good behaviour, like a naughty
child, by a bugaboo, and as far as I can learn a very contemptible
one. Seriously, I have been a good deal annoyed at what they tell me;
but at the same time thoroughly convinced that there is nothing in the
matter that may not be cleared up, with a little attention and
management, within a week at furthest."

"Ah, General, you do not know--" he began.

"Yes, but I do know quite enough to warrant my confidence,"
interrupted the soldier; "don't I know that all your annoyance
proceeds from the occasional appearance of a certain little man in a
cap and greatcoat, with a red vest and a bad face, who follows you
about, and pops upon you at corners of lanes, and throws you into ague
fits. Now, my dear fellow, I'll make it my business to catch this
mischievous little mountebank, and either beat him to a jelly with my
own hands, or have him whipped through the town, at the cart's tail,
before a month passes."

"If you knew what I knew," said Barton, with gloomy agitation, "you
would speak very differently. Don't imagine that I am so weak as to
assume, without proof the most overwhelming, the conclusion to which I
have been forced--the proofs are here, locked up here." As he spoke he
tapped upon his breast, and with an anxious sigh continued to walk up
and down the room.

"Well, well, Barton," said his visitor, "I'll wager a rump and a dozen
I collar the ghost, and convince even you before many days are over."

He was running on in the same strain when he was suddenly arrested,
and not a little shocked, by observing Barton, who had approached the
window, stagger slowly back, like one who had received a stunning
blow; his arm extended toward the street--his face and his very lips
white as ashes--while he muttered, "There--by heaven!--there--there!"

General Montague started mechanically to his feet, and from the window
of the drawing-room saw a figure corresponding, as well as his hurry
would permit him to discern, with the description of the person whose
appearance so persistently disturbed the repose of his friend.

The figure was just turning from the rails of the area upon which it
had been leaning, and, without waiting to see more, the old gentleman
snatched his cane and hat, and rushed down the stairs and into the
street, in the furious hope of securing the person, and punishing the
audacity of the mysterious stranger.

He looked round him, but in vain, for any trace of the person he had
himself distinctly seen. He ran breathlessly to the nearest corner,
expecting to see from thence the retiring figure, but no such form was
visible. Back and forward, from crossing to crossing, he ran, at
fault, and it was not until the curious gaze and laughing countenances
of the passers-by reminded him of the absurdity of his pursuit, that
he checked his hurried pace, lowered his walking cane from the
menacing altitude which he had mechanically given it, adjusted his
hat, and walked composedly back again, inwardly vexed and flurried. He
found Barton pale and trembling in every joint; they both remained
silent, though under emotions very different. At last Barton
whispered, "You saw it?"

"It--him--some one--you mean--to be sure I did," replied Montague,
testily. "But where is the good or the harm of seeing him? The fellow
runs like a lamplighter. I wanted to catch him, but he had stolen away
before I could reach the hall door. However, it is no great matter;
next time, I dare say, I'll do better; and, egad, if I once come
within reach of him, I'll introduce his shoulders to the weight of my

Notwithstanding General Montague's undertakings and exhortations,
however, Barton continued to suffer from the self-same unexplained
cause; go how, when, or where he would, he was still constantly dogged
or confronted by the being who had established over him so horrible an

Nowhere and at no time was he secure against the odious appearance
which haunted him with such diabolic perseverance.

His depression, misery, and excitement became more settled and
alarming every day, and the mental agonies that ceaselessly preyed
upon him began at last so sensibly to affect his health that Lady L---
and General Montague succeeded, without, indeed, much difficulty, in
persuading him to try a short tour on the Continent, in the hope that
an entire change of scene would, at all events, have the effect of
breaking through the influences of local association, which the more
sceptical of his friends assumed to be by no means inoperative in
suggesting and perpetuating what they conceived to be a mere form of
nervous illusion.

General Montague indeed was persuaded that the figure which haunted
his intended son-in-law was by no means the creation of his
imagination, but, on the contrary, a substantial form of flesh and
blood, animated by a resolution, perhaps with some murderous object in
perspective, to watch and follow the unfortunate gentleman.

Even this hypothesis was not a very pleasant one; yet it was plain
that if Barton could ever be convinced that there was nothing
preternatural in the phenomenon which he had hitherto regarded in that
light, the affair would lose all its terrors in his eyes, and wholly
cease to exercise upon his health and spirits the baleful influence
which it had hitherto done. He therefore reasoned, that if the
annoyance were actually escaped by mere locomotion and change of
scene, it obviously could not have originated in any supernatural


YIELDING to their persuasions, Barton left Dublin for England
accompanied by General Montague. They posted rapidly to London, and
thence to Dover, whence they took the packet with a fair wind for
Calais. The General's confidence in the result of the expedition on
Barton's spirits had risen day by day since their departure from the
shores of Ireland; for to the inexpressible relief and delight of the
latter, he had not since then so much as even once fancied a
repetition of those impressions which had, when at home, drawn him
gradually down to the very depths of despair.

This exemption from what he had begun to regard as the inevitable
condition of his existence, and the sense of security which began to
pervade his mind, were inexpressibly delightful; and in the exultation
of what he considered his deliverance, he indulged in a thousand happy
anticipations for a future into which so lately he had hardly dared to
look; and, in short, both he and his companion secretly congratulated
themselves upon the termination of that persecution which had been to
its immediate victim a source of such unspeakable agony.

It was a beautiful day, and a crowd of idlers stood upon the jetty to
receive the packet and enjoy the bustle of the new arrivals. Montague
walked a few paces in advance of his friend, and as he made his way
through the crowd a little man touched his arm and said to him, in a
broad provincial patois:

"Monsieur is walking too fast; he will lose his sick comrade in the
throng, for, by my faith, the poor gentleman seems to be fainting."

Montague turned quickly, and observed that Barton did indeed look
deadly pale. He hastened to his side.

"My dear fellow, are you ill?" he asked anxiously.

The question was unheeded, and twice repeated, ere Barton stammered--

"I saw him--by--, I saw him!"

"Him!--the wretch--who--where now?--where is he?" cried Montague,
looking around him.

"I saw him--but he is gone," repeated Barton, faintly.

"But where--where? For God's sake speak," urged Montague, vehemently.

"It is but this moment--here," said he.

"But what did he look like--what had he on--what did he wear--quick,
quick," urged his excited companion, ready to dart among the crowd and
collar the delinquent on the spot.

"He touched your arm--he spoke to you--he pointed to me. God be
merciful to me, there is no escape," said Barton, in the low, subdued
tones of despair.

Montague had already bustled away in all the flurry of mingled hope
and rage; but though the singular personnel of the stranger who had
accosted him was vividly impressed upon his recollection, he failed to
discover among the crowd even the slightest resemblance to him.

After a fruitless search, in which he enlisted the services of several
of the bystanders, who aided all the more zealously as they believed
he had been robbed, he at length, out of breath and baffled, gave over
the attempt.

"Ah, my friend, it won't do," said Barton, with the faint voice and
bewildered, ghastly look of one who had been stunned by some mortal
shock; "there is no use in contending; whatever it is, the dreadful
association between me and it is now established--I shall never

"Nonsense, nonsense, my dear Barton; don't talk so," said Montague,
with something at once of irritation and dismay; "you must not, I say;
we'll jockey the scoundrel yet; never mind, I say--never mind."

It was, however, but labour lost to endeavour henceforward to inspire
Barton with one ray of hope; he became desponding.

This intangible and, as it seemed, utterly inadequate influence was
fast destroying his energies of intellect, character, and health. His
first object was now to return to Ireland, there, as he believed, and
now almost hoped, speedily to die.

To Ireland accordingly he came, and one of the first faces he saw upon
the shore was again that of his implacable and dreaded attendant.
Barton seemed at last to have lost not only all enjoyment and every
hope in existence, but all independence of will besides. He now
submitted himself passively to the management of the friends most
nearly interested in his welfare.

With the apathy of entire despair he implicitly assented to whatever
measures they suggested and advised; and as a last resource it was
determined to remove him to a house of Lady L---'s, in the
neighbourhood of Clontarf, where, with the advice of his medical
attendant, who persisted in his opinion that the whole train of
consequences resulted merely from some nervous derangement, it was
resolved that he was to confine himself strictly to the house, and
make use only of those apartments which commanded a view of an
enclosed yard, the gates of which were to be kept jealously locked.

Those precautions would certainly secure him against the casual
appearance of any living form that his excited imagination might
possibly confound with the spectre which, as it was contended, his
fancy recognized in every figure that bore even a distant or general
resemblance to the peculiarities with which his fancy had at first
invested it.

A month or six weeks' absolute seclusion under these conditions, it
was hoped might, by interrupting the series of these terrible
impressions, gradually dispel the predisposing apprehensions, and the
associations which had confirmed the supposed disease, and rendered
recovery hopeless.

Cheerful society and that of his friends was to be constantly
supplied, and on the whole, very sanguine expectations were indulged
in, that under the treatment thus detailed the obstinate hypochondria
of the patient might at length give way.

Accompanied, therefore, by Lady L---, General Montague and his
daughter--his own affianced bride--poor Barton--himself never daring
to cherish a hope of his ultimate emancipation from the horrors under
which his life was literally wasting away--took possession of the
apartments, whose situation protected him against the intrusions from
which he shrank with such unutterable terror.

After a little time, a steady persistence in this system began to
manifest its results in a very marked though gradual improvement,
alike in the health and spirits of the invalid. Not, indeed, that
anything at all approaching complete recovery was yet discernible. On
the contrary, to those who had not seen him since the commencement of
his strange sufferings, such an alteration would have been apparent as
might well have shocked them.

The improvement, however, such as it was, was welcomed with gratitude
and delight, especially by the young lady, whom her attachment to him,
as well as her now singularly painful position, consequent on his
protracted illness, rendered an object scarcely one degree less to be
commiserated than himself.

A week passed--a fortnight--a month--and yet there had been no
recurrence of the hated visitation. The treatment had, so far forth,
been followed by complete success. The chain of associations was
broken. The constant pressure upon the over-tasked spirits had been
removed, and, under these comparatively favourable circumstances, the
sense of social community with the world about him, and something of
human interest, if not of enjoyment, began to reanimate him.

It was about this time that Lady L---, who, like most old ladies of the
day, was deep in family receipts, and a great pretender to medical
science, dispatched her own maid to the kitchen garden with a list of
herbs, which were there to be carefully culled and brought back to
her housekeeper for the purpose stated. The handmaiden, however,
returned with her task scarce half completed, and a good deal flurried
and alarmed. Her mode of accounting for her precipitate retreat and
evident agitation was odd and, to the old lady, startling.


IT appeared that she had repaired to the kitchen garden, pursuant to
her mistress's directions, and had there begun to make the specified
election among the rank and neglected herbs which crowded one corner
of the enclosure; and while engaged in this pleasant labour she
carelessly sang a fragment of an old song, as she said, "to keep
herself company." She was, however, interrupted by an ill-natured
laugh; and, looking up, she saw through the old thorn hedge, which
surrounded the garden, a singularly ill-looking little man, whose
countenance wore the stamp of menace and malignity, standing close to
her at the other side of the hawthorn screen.

She described herself as utterly unable to move or speak, while he
charged her with a message for Captain Barton, the substance of which
she distinctly remembered to have been to the effect that he, Captain
Barton, must come abroad as usual, and show himself to his friends out
of doors, or else prepare for a visit in his own chamber.

On concluding this brief message, the stranger had, with a threatening
air, got down into the outer ditch, and, seizing the hawthorn stems in
his hands, seemed on the point of climbing through the fence--a feat
which might have been accomplished without much difficulty.

Without, of course, awaiting this result, the girl--throwing down her
treasures of thyme and rosemary--had turned and run, with the
swiftness of terror, to the house. Lady L---commanded her, on pain of
instant dismissal, to observe an absolute silence respecting all that
passed of the incident which related to Captain Barton; and, at the
same time, directed instant search to be made by her men in the garden
and the fields adjacent. This measure, however, was as usual
unsuccessful, and, filled with indefinable misgivings, Lady L---
communicated the incident to her brother. The story, however, until
long afterwards, went no further, and, of course, it was jealously
guarded from Barton, who continued to amend though slowly.

Barton now began to walk occasionally in the court-yard which I have
mentioned, and which, being enclosed by a high wall, commanded no view
beyond its own extent. Here he, therefore, considered himself
perfectly secure: and, but for a careless violation of orders by one
of the grooms, he might have enjoyed, at least for some time longer,
his much-prized immunity. Opening upon the public road, this yard was
entered by a wooden gate, with a wicket in it, and was further
defended by an iron gate upon the outside. Strict orders had been
given to keep both carefully locked; but, spite of these, it had
happened that one day, as Barton was slowly pacing this narrow
enclosure in his accustomed walk, and reaching the farther extremity
was turning to retrace his steps, he saw the boarded wicket ajar, and
the face of his tormentor immovably looking at him through the iron
bars. For a few seconds he stood riveted to the earth--breathless and
bloodless--in the fascination of that dreaded gaze, and then fell
helplessly insensible upon the pavement.

There he was found a few minutes afterwards, and conveyed to his
room--the apartment which he was never afterwards to leave alive.
Henceforward a marked and unaccountable change was observable in the
tone of his mind. Captain Barton was now no longer the excited and
despairing man he had been before; a strange alteration had passed
upon him--an unearthly tranquillity reigned in his mind--it was the
anticipated stillness of the grave.

"Montague, my friend, this struggle is nearly ended now," he said,
tranquilly, but with a look of fixed and fearful awe. "I have, at
last, some comfort from that world of spirits from which my punishment
has come. I now know that my sufferings will soon be over."

Montague pressed him to speak on.

"Yes," said he, in a softened voice, "my punishment is nearly ended.
From sorrow, perhaps, I shall never, in time or eternity, escape; but
my agony is almost over. Comfort has been revealed to me, and what
remains of my allotted struggle I will bear with submission--even with

"I am glad to hear you speak so tranquilly, my dear Barton," said
Montague; "peace and cheer of mind are all you need to make you what
you were."

"No, no--I never can be that," said he mournfully. "I am no longer fit
for life. I am soon to die. I am to see him but once again, and then
all is ended."

"He said so, then?" suggested Montague.

"He?--No, no: good tidings could scarcely come through him; and these
were good and welcome; and they came so solemnly and sweetly--with
unutterable love and melancholy, such as I could not--without saying
more than is needful, or fitting, of other long past scenes and
persons--fully explain to you." As Barton said this he shed tears.

"Come, come," said Montague, mistaking the source of his emotions,
"you must not give way. What is it, after all, but a pack of dreams
and nonsense; or, at worst, the practices of a scheming rascal that
enjoys his power of playing upon your nerves, and loves to exert it--a
sneaking vagabond that owes you a grudge, and pays it off this way,
not daring to try a more manly one."

"A grudge, indeed, he owes me--you say rightly," said Barton, with a
sudden shudder; "a grudge as you call it. Oh, my God! when the justice
of Heaven permits the Evil one to carry out a scheme of vengeance--
when its execution is committed to the lost and terrible victim of
sin, who owes his own ruin to the man, the very man, whom he is
commissioned to pursue--then, indeed, the torments and terrors of hell
are anticipated on earth. But Heaven has dealt mercifully with me--
hope has opened to me at last; and if death could come without the
dreadful sight I am doomed to see, I would gladly close my eyes this
moment upon the world. But though death is welcome, I shrink with an
agony you cannot understand--an actual frenzy of terror--from the last
encounter with that--that DEMON, who has drawn me thus to the verge of
the chasm, and who is himself to plunge me down. I am to see him
again--once more--but under circumstances unutterably more terrific
than ever."

As Barton thus spoke, he trembled so violently that Montague was
really alarmed at the extremity of his sudden agitation, and hastened
to lead him back to the topic which had before seemed to exert so
tranquillizing an effect upon his mind.

"It was not a dream," he said, after a time; "I was in a different
state--I felt differently and strangely; and yet it was all as real,
as clear and vivid, as what I now see and hear--it was a reality."

"And what did you see and hear?" urged his companion.

"When I wakened from the swoon I fell into on seeing him," said
Barton, continuing as if he had not heard the question, "it was
slowly, very slowly--I was lying by the margin of a broad lake, with
misty hills all round, and a soft, melancholy, rose-coloured light
illuminated it all. It was unusually sad and lonely, and yet more
beautiful than any earthly scene. My head was leaning on the lap of a
girl, and she was singing a song, that told, I know not how--whether
by words or harmonies--of all my life--all that is past, and all that
is still to come; and with the song the old feelings that I thought
had perished within me came back, and tears flowed from my eyes--
partly for the song and its mysterious beauty, and partly for the
unearthly sweetness of her voice; and yet I knew the voice--oh! how
well; and I was spellbound as I listened and looked at the solitary
scene, without stirring, almost without breathing--and, alas! alas!
without turning my eyes towards the face that I knew was near me, so
sweetly powerful was the enchantment that held me. And so, slowly, the
song and scene grew fainter, and fainter, to my senses, till all was
dark and still again. And then I awoke to this world, as you saw,
comforted, for I knew that I was forgiven much." Barton wept again
long and bitterly.

From this time, as we have said, the prevailing tone of his mind was
one of profound and tranquil melancholy. This, however, was not
without its interruptions. He was thoroughly impressed with the
conviction that he was to experience another and a final visitation,
transcending in horror all he had before experienced. From this
anticipated and unknown agony he often shrank in such paroxysms of
abject terror and distraction, as filled the whole household with
dismay and superstitious panic. Even those among them who affected to
discredit the theory of preternatural agency, were often in their
secret souls visited during the silence of night with qualms and
apprehensions, which they would not have readily confessed; and none
of them attempted to dissuade Barton from the resolution on which he
now systematically acted, of shutting himself up in his own apartment.
The window-blinds of this room were kept jealously down, and his own
man was seldom out of his presence, day or night, his bed being placed
in the same chamber.

This man was an attached and respectable servant; and his duties, in
addition to those ordinarily imposed upon valets, but which Barton's
independent habits generally dispensed with, were to attend carefully
to the simple precautions by means of which his master hoped to
exclude the dreaded intrusion of the "Watcher." And, in addition to
attending to whose arrangements, which amounted merely to guarding
against the possibility of his master's being, through any unscreened
window or open door, exposed to the dreaded influence, the valet was
never to suffer him to be alone--total solitude, even for a minute,
had become to him now almost as intolerable as the idea of going
abroad into the public ways--it was an instinctive anticipation of
what was coming.


IT is needless to say, that under these circumstances no steps were
taken toward the fulfilment of that engagement into which he had
entered. There was quite disparity enough in point of years, and
indeed of habits, between the young lady and Captain Barton to have
precluded anything like very vehement or romantic attachment on her
part. Though grieved and anxious, therefore, she was very far from
being heart-broken.

Miss Montague, however, devoted much of her time to the patient but
fruitless attempt to cheer the unhappy invalid. She read to him and
conversed with him; but it was apparent that whatever exertions he
made, the endeavour to escape from the one ever waking fear that
preyed upon him was utterly and miserably unavailing.

Young ladies are much given to the cultivation of pets; and among
those who shared the favour of Miss Montague was a fine old owl, which
the gardener, who caught him napping among the ivy of a ruined stable,
had dutifully presented to that young lady.

The caprice which regulates such preferences was manifested in the
extravagant favour with which this grim and ill-favoured bird was at
once distinguished by his mistress; and, trifling as this whimsical
circumstance may seem, I am forced to mention it, inasmuch as it is
connected, oddly enough, with the concluding scene of the story.

Barton, so far from sharing in this liking for the new favourite,
regarded it from the first with an antipathy as violent as it was
utterly unaccountable. Its very vicinity was unsupportable to him. He
seemed to hate and dread it with a vehemence absolutely laughable, and
which, to those who have never witnessed the exhibition of antipathies
of this kind, would seem all but incredible.

With these few words of preliminary explanation, I shall proceed to
state the particulars of the last scene in this strange series of
incidents. It was almost two o'clock one winter's night, and Barton
was, as usual at that hour, in his bed; the servant we have mentioned
occupied a smaller bed in the same room, and a light was burning. The
man was on a sudden aroused by his master, who said:

"I can't get it out of my head that that accursed bird has got out
somehow, and is lurking in some corner of the room. I have been
dreaming about him. Get up, Smith, and look about; search for him.
Such hateful dreams!"

The servant rose and examined the chamber, and while engaged in so
doing he heard the well-known sound, more like a long-drawn gasp than
a hiss, with which these birds from their secret haunts affright the
quiet of the night.

This ghostly indication of its proximity--for the sound proceeded from
the passage upon which Barton's chamber-door opened--determined the
search of the servant, who, opening the door, proceeded a step or two
forward for the purpose of driving the bird away. He had, however,
hardly entered the lobby, when the door behind him slowly swung to
under the impulse, as it seemed, of some gentle current of air; but as
immediately over the door there was a kind of window, intended in the
day-time to aid in lighting the passage, and through which at present
the rays of the candle were issuing, the valet could see quite enough
for his purpose.

As he advanced he heard his master--who, lying in a well-curtained
bed, had not, as it seemed, perceived his exit from the room--call him
by name, and direct him to place the candle on the table by his bed.
The servant, who was now some way in the long passage, and not liking
to raise his voice for the purpose of replying, lest he should startle
the sleeping inmates of the house, began to walk hurriedly and softly
back again, when, to his amazement, he heard a voice in the interior
of the chamber answering calmly, and actually saw, through the window
which overtopped the door, that the light was slowly shifting, as if
carried across the room in answer to his master's call. Palsied by a
feeling akin to terror, yet not unmingled with curiosity, he stood
breathless and listening at the threshold, unable to summon resolution
to push open the door and enter. Then came a rustling of the curtains,
and a sound like that of one who in a low voice hushes a child to
rest, in the midst of which he heard Barton say, in a tone of stifled
horror--"Oh, God--oh, my God!" and repeat the same exclamation several
times. Then ensued silence, which again was broken by the same strange
soothing sound; and at last there burst forth, in one swelling peal, a
yell of agony so appalling and hideous that, under some impulse of
ungovernable horror, the man rushed to the door, and with his whole
strength strove to force it open. Whether it was that, in his
agitation, he had himself but imperfectly turned the handle, or that
the door was really secured upon the inside, he failed to effect an
entrance; and as he tugged and pushed, yell after yell rang louder and
wilder through the chamber, accompanied all the while by the same
hushed sounds. Actually freezing with terror, and scarce knowing what
he did, the man turned and ran down the passage, wringing his hands in
the extremity of horror and irresolution. At the stair-head he was
encountered by General Montague, scared and eager, and just as they
met the fearful sounds had ceased.

"What is it? Who--where is your master?" said Montague, with the
incoherence of extreme agitation. "Has anything--for God's sake is
anything wrong?"

"Lord have mercy on us, it's all over," said the man, staring wildly
towards his master's chamber. "He's dead, sir, I'm sure he's dead."

Without waiting for inquiry or explanation, Montague, closely followed
by the servant, hurried to the chamber door, turned the handle, and
pushed it open. As the door yielded to his pressure, the ill-omened
bird of which the servant had been in search, uttering its spectral
warning, started suddenly from the far side of the bed, and flying
through the doorway close over their heads, and extinguishing, in its
passage, the candle which Montague carried, crashed through the
skylight that overlooked the lobby and sailed away into the darkness
of the outer space.

"There it is, God bless us," whispered the man after a breathless

"Curse that bird," muttered the General, startled by the suddenness of
the apparition, and unable to conceal his discomposure.

"The candle is moved," said the man, after another breathless pause,
pointing to the candle that still burned in the room; "see, they put
it by the bed."

"Draw the curtains, fellow, and don't stand gaping there," whispered
Montague, sternly.

The man hesitated.

"Hold this, then," said Montague, impatiently thrusting the
candlestick into the servant's hand, and himself advancing to the
bedside, he drew the curtains apart. The light of the candle, which
was still burning at the bedside, fell upon a figure huddled together,
and half upright, at the head of the bed. It seemed as though it had
slunk back as far as the solid panelling would allow, and the hands
were still clutched in the bed-clothes.

"Barton, Barton, Barton!" cried the General, with a strange mixture of
awe and vehemence. He took the candle, and held it so that it shone
full upon the face. The features were fixed, stern, and white; the jaw
was fallen; and the sightless eyes, still open, gazed vacantly forward
toward the front of the bed. "God Almighty! he's dead," muttered the
General, as he looked upon this fearful spectacle. They both continued
to gaze upon it in silence for a minute or more. "And cold, too,"
whispered Montague, withdrawing his hand from that of the dead man.

"And see, see--may I never have life, sir," added the man, after
another pause, with a shudder, "but there was something else on the
bed with him. Look there--look there--see that, sir."

As the man thus spoke he pointed to a deep indenture, as if caused by
a heavy pressure, near the foot of the bed.

Montague was silent.

"Come, sir, come away, for God's sake," whispered the man, drawing
close up to him, and holding fast by his arm, while he glanced
fearfully round; "what good can be done here now--come away, for God's

At this moment they heard the steps of more than one approaching, and
Montague, hastily desiring the servant to arrest their progress,
endeavoured to loose the rigid gripe with which the fingers of the
dead man were clutched in the bed-clothes, and drew, as well as he was
able, the awful figure into a reclining posture; then closing the
curtains carefully upon it, he hastened himself to meet those persons
that were approaching.

* * * * * * *

It is needless to follow the personages so slightly connected with
this narrative into the events of their after-life; it is enough to
say, that no clue to the solution of these mysterious occurrences was
ever after discovered; and so long an interval having now passed since
the event which I have just described concluded this strange history,
it is scarcely to be expected that time can throw any new lights upon
its dark and inexplicable outline. Until the secrets of the earth
shall be no longer hidden, therefore, these transactions must remain
shrouded in their original obscurity.

The only occurrence in Captain Barton's former life to which reference
was ever made, as having any possible connexion with the sufferings
with which his existence closed, and which he himself seemed to regard
as working out a retribution for some grievous sin of his past life,
was a circumstance which not for several years after his death was
brought to light. The nature of this disclosure was painful to his
relatives, and discreditable to his memory.

It appeared that some six years before Captain Barton's final return
to Dublin, he had formed, in the town of Plymouth, a guilty
attachment, the object of which was the daughter of one of the ship's
crew under his command. The father had visited the frailty of his
unhappy child with extreme harshness, and even brutality, and it was
said that she had died heart-broken. Presuming upon Barton's
implication in her guilt, this man had conducted himself toward him
with marked insolence; and Barton retaliated this, and what he
resented with still more exasperated bitterness--his treatment of the
unfortunate girl--by a systematic exercise of those terrible and
arbitrary severities which the regulations of the navy placed at the
command of those who are responsible for its discipline. The man had
at length made his escape, while the vessel was in port at Naples, but
died, as it was said, in an hospital in that town, of the wounds
inflicted in one of his recent and sanguinary punishments.

Whether these circumstances in reality bear, or not, upon the
occurrences of Barton's after-life, it is, of course, impossible to
say. It seems, however, more than probable that they were at least, in
his own mind, closely associated with them. But however the truth may
be as to the origin and motives of this mysterious persecution, there
can be no doubt that, with respect to the agencies by which it was
accomplished, absolute and impenetrable mystery is like to prevail
until the day of doom.


The preceding narrative is given in the ipsissima verba of the good
old clergyman, under whose hand it was delivered to Doctor Hesselius.
Notwithstanding the occasional stiffness and redundancy of his
sentences, I thought it better to reserve to myself the power of
assuring the reader, that in handing to the printer the MS. of a
statement so marvellous, the Editor has not altered one letter of the
original text--[Ed. Papers of Dr. Hesselius].


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