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Title: Collected Stories
Author: E. F. Benson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605171.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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E. F. Benson
Collected Stories



Table of Contents

How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery
At Abdul Ali's Grave
Mrs. Amworth
Between the Lights
The House with the Brick-Kiln
The Man Who Went Too Far
The Bus-Conductor
Caterpillars
And the Dead Spake
The Dust-Cloud
The Cat
The Gardener
The China Bowl
Gavon's Eve
The Horror-Horn
In the Tube
The Confession of Charles Linkworth
Negotium Perambulans
The Other Bed
Outside the Door
The Room in the Tower
The Shootings Of Achnaleish
The Terror by Night
Mr. Tilly's Seance



HOW FEAR DEPARTED FROM THE LONG GALLERY

Church-Peveril is a house so beset and frequented by spectres, both
visible and audible, that none of the family which it shelters under
its acre and a half of green copper roofs takes psychical phenomena
with any seriousness. For to the Peverils the appearance of a ghost is
a matter of hardly greater significance than is the appearance of the
post to those who live in more ordinary houses. It arrives, that is to
say, practically every day, it knocks (or makes other noises), it is
observed coming up the drive (or in other places). I myself, when
staying there, have seen the present Mrs. Peveril, who is rather
short-sighted, peer into the dusk, while we were taking our coffee on
the terrace after dinner, and say to her daughter:

"My dear, was not that the Blue Lady who has just gone into the
shrubbery. I hope she won't frighten Flo. Whistle for Flo, dear."

(Flo, it may be remarked, is the youngest and most precious of many
dachshunds.)

Blanche Peveril gave a cursory whistle, and crunched the sugar left
unmelted at the bottom of her coffee-cup between her very white teeth.

"Oh, darling, Flo isn't so silly as to mind," she said. "Poor blue
Aunt Barbara is such a bore!"

"Whenever I meet her she always looks as if she wanted to speak to me,
but when I say, 'What is it, Aunt Barbara?' she never utters, but only
points somewhere towards the house, which is so vague. I believe there
was something she wanted to confess about two hundred years ago, but
she has forgotten what it is."

Here Flo gave two or three short pleased barks, and came out of the
shrubbery wagging her tail, and capering round what appeared to me to
be a perfectly empty space on the lawn.

"There! Flo has made friends with her," said Mrs. Peveril. "I wonder
why she dresses in that very stupid shade of blue."

From this it may be gathered that even with regard to psychical
phenomena there is some truth in the proverb that speaks of
familiarity. But the Peverils do not exactly treat their ghosts with
contempt, since most of that delightful family never despised anybody
except such people as avowedly did not care for hunting or shooting,
or golf or skating. And as all of their ghosts are of their family, it
seems reasonable to suppose that they all, even the poor Blue Lady,
excelled at one time in field-sports. So far, then, they harbour no
such unkindness or contempt, but only pity. Of one Peveril, indeed,
who broke his neck in vainly attempting to ride up the main staircase
on a thoroughbred mare after some monstrous and violent deed in the
back-garden, they are very fond, and Blanche comes downstairs in the
morning with an eye unusually bright when she can announce that Master
Anthony was "very loud" last night. He (apart from the fact of his
having been so foul a ruffian) was a tremendous fellow across country,
and they like these indications of the continuance of his superb
vitality. In fact, it is supposed to be a compliment, when you go to
stay at Church-Peveril, to be assigned a bedroom which is frequented
by defunct members of the family. It means that you are worthy to look
on the august and villainous dead, and you will find yourself shown
into some vaulted or tapestried chamber, without benefit of electric
light, and are told that great-great-grandmamma Bridget occasionally
has vague business by the fireplace, but it is better not to talk to
her, and that you will hear Master Anthony "awfully well" if he
attempts the front staircase any time before morning. There you are
left for your night's repose, and, having quakingly undressed, begin
reluctantly to put out your candles. It is draughty in these great
chambers, and the solemn tapestry swings and bellows and subsides, and
the firelight dances on the forms of huntsmen and warriors and stern
pursuits. Then you climb into your bed, a bed so huge that you feel as
if the desert of Sahara was spread for you, and pray, like the
mariners who sailed with St. Paul, for day. And, all the time, you are
aware that Freddy and Harry and Blanche and possibly even Mrs. Peveril
are quite capable of dressing up and making disquieting tappings
outside your door, so that when you open it some inconjecturable
horror fronts you. For myself, I stick steadily to the assertion that
I have an obscure valvular disease of the heart, and so sleep
undisturbed in the new wing of the house where Aunt Barbara, and
great-great-grandmamma Bridget and Master Anthony never penetrate. I
forget the details of great-great-grandmamma Bridget, but she
certainly cut the throat of some distant relation before she
disembowelled herself with the axe that had been used at Agincourt.
Before that she had led a very sultry life, crammed with amazing
incident.

But there is one ghost at Church-Peveril at which the family never
laugh, in which they feel no friendly and amused interest, and of
which they only speak just as much as is necessary for the safety of
their guests. More properly it should be described as two ghosts, for
the "haunt" in question is that of two very young children, who were
twins. These, not without reason, the family take very seriously
indeed. The story of them, as told me by Mrs. Peveril, is as follows:

In the year 1602, the same being the last of Queen Elizabeth's reign,
a certain Dick Peveril was greatly in favour at Court. He was brother
to Master Joseph Peveril, then owner of the family house and lands,
who two years previously, at the respectable age of seventy-four,
became father of twin boys, first-born of his progeny. It is known
that the royal and ancient virgin had said to handsome Dick, who was
nearly forty years his brother's junior, "'Tis pity that you are not
master of Church-Peveril," and these words probably suggested to him a
sinister design. Be that as it may, handsome Dick, who very adequately
sustained the family reputation for wickedness, set off to ride down
to Yorkshire, and found that, very conveniently, his brother Joseph
had just been seized with an apoplexy, which appeared to be the result
of a continued spell of hot weather combined with the necessity of
quenching his thirst with an augmented amount of sack, and had
actually died while handsome Dick, with God knows what thoughts in his
mind, was journeying northwards. Thus it came about that he arrived at
Church-Peveril just in time for his brother's funeral. It was with
great propriety that he attended the obsequies, and returned to spend
a sympathetic day or two of mourning with his widowed sister-in-law,
who was but a faint-hearted dame, little fit to be mated with such
hawks as these. On the second night of his stay, he did that which the
Peverils regret to this day. He entered the room where the twins slept
with their nurse, and quietly strangled the latter as she slept. Then
he took the twins and put them into the fire which warms the long
gallery. The weather, which up to the day of Joseph's death had been
so hot, had changed suddenly to bitter cold, and the fire was heaped
high with burning logs and was exultant with flame. In the core of
this conflagration he struck out a cremation-chamber, and into that he
threw the two children, stamping them down with his riding-boots. They
could just walk, but they could not walk out of that ardent place. It
is said that he laughed as he added more logs. Thus he became master
of Church-Peveril.

The crime was never brought home to him, but he lived no longer than a
year in the enjoyment of his blood-stained inheritance. When he lay a-
dying he made his confession to the priest who attended him, but his
spirit struggled forth from its fleshly coil before Absolution could
be given him. On that very night there began in Church-Peveril the
haunting which to this day is but seldom spoken of by the family, and
then only in low tones and with serious mien. For only an hour or two
after handsome Dick's death, one of the servants passing the door of
the long gallery heard from within peals of the loud laughter so
jovial and yet so sinister which he had thought would never be heard
in the house again. In a moment of that cold courage which is so
nearly akin to mortal terror he opened the door and entered, expecting
to see he knew not what manifestation of him who lay dead in the room
below. Instead he saw two little white-robed figures toddling towards
him hand in hand across the moon-lit floor.

The watchers in the room below ran upstairs startled by the crash of
his fallen body, and found him lying in the grip of some dread
convulsion. Just before morning he regained consciousness and told his
tale. Then pointing with trembling and ash-grey finger towards the
door, he screamed aloud, and so fell back dead.

During the next fifty years this strange and terrible legend of the
twin-babies became fixed and consolidated. Their appearance, luckily
for those who inhabit the house, was exceedingly rare, and during
these years they seem to have been seen four or five times only. On
each occasion they appeared at night, between sunset and sunrise,
always in the same long gallery, and always as two toddling children
scarcely able to walk. And on each occasion the luckless individual
who saw them died either speedily or terribly, or with both speed and
terror, after the accursed vision had appeared to him. Sometimes he
might live for a few months: he was lucky if he died, as did the
servant who first saw them, in a few hours. Vastly more awful was the
fate of a certain Mrs.
Canning, who had the ill-luck to see them in the middle of the next
century, or to be quite accurate, in the year 1760. By this time the
hours and the place of their appearance were well known, and, as up
till a year ago, visitors were warned not to go between sunset and
sunrise into the long gallery.

But Mrs. Canning, a brilliantly clever and beautiful woman, admirer
also and friend of the notorious sceptic M. Voltaire, wilfully went
and sat night after night, in spite of all protestations, in the
haunted place. For four evenings she saw nothing, but on the fifth she
had her will, for the door in the middle of the gallery opened, and
there came toddling towards her the ill-omened innocent little pair.
It seemed that even then she was not frightened, but she thought it good,
poor wretch, to mock at them, telling them it was time for them to get
back into the fire. They gave no word in answer, but turned away from
her crying and sobbing. Immediately after they disappeared from her
vision and she rustled downstairs to where the family and guests in
the house were waiting for her, with the triumphant announcement that
she has seen them both, and must needs write to M. Voltaire, saying
that she had spoken to spirits made manifest. It would make him laugh.
But when some months later the whole news reached him he did not
laugh at all.

Mrs. Canning was one of the great beauties of her day, and in the year
1760 she was at the height and zenith of her blossoming. The chief
beauty, if it is possible to single out one point where all was so
exquisite, lay in the dazzling colour and incomparable brilliance of
her complexion. She was now just thirty years of age, but, in spite of
the excesses of her life, retained the snow and roses of girlhood, and
she courted the bright light of day which other women shunned, for it
but showed to great advantage the splendour of her skin. In
consequence she was very considerably dismayed one morning, about a
fortnight after her strange experience in the long gallery, to observe
on her left cheek, an inch or two below her turquoise-coloured eyes, a
little greyish patch of skin, about as big as a threepenny piece. It
was in vain that she applied her accustomed washes and unguents: vain,
too, were the arts of her fardeuse and of her medical adviser. For a
week she kept herself secluded, martyring herself with solitude and
unaccustomed physics, and for result at the end of the week she had no
amelioration to comfort herself with: instead this woeful grey patch
had doubled itself in size. Thereafter the nameless disease, whatever
it was, developed in new and terrible ways. From the centre of the
discoloured place there sprouted forth little lichen-like tendrils of
greenish-grey, and another patch appeared on her lower lip. This, too,
soon vegetated, and one morning, on opening her eyes to the horror of
a new day, she found that her vision was strangely blurred. She sprang
to her looking-glass, and what she saw caused her to shriek aloud with
horror. From under her upper eye-lid a fresh growth had sprung up,
mushroom-like, in the night, and its filaments extended downwards,
screening the pupil of her eye. Soon after, her tongue and throat were
attacked: the air passages became obstructed, and death by suffocation
was merciful after such suffering.

More terrible yet was the case of a certain Colonel Blantyre who fired
at the children with his revolver. What he went through is not to be
recorded here.

It is this haunting, then, that the Peverils take quite seriously, and
every guest on his arrival in the house is told that the long gallery
must not be entered after nightfall on any pretext whatever. By day,
however, it is a delightful room and intrinsically merits description,
apart from the fact that the due understanding of its geography is
necessary for the account that here follows. It is full eighty feet in
length, and is lit by a row of six tall windows looking over the
gardens at the back of the house. A door communicates with the landing
at the top of the main staircase, and about half-way down the gallery
in the wall facing the windows is another door communicating with the
back staircase and servants' quarters, and thus the gallery forms a
constant place of passage for them in going to the rooms on the first
landing. It was through this door that the baby-figures came when they
appeared to Mrs. Canning, and on several other occasions they have
been known to make their entry here, for the room out of which
handsome Dick took them lies just beyond at the top of the back
stairs. Further on again in the gallery is the fireplace into which he
thrust them, and at the far end a large bow-window looks straight down
the avenue. Above this fireplace there hangs with grim significance a
portrait of handsome Dick, in the insolent beauty of early manhood,
attributed to Holbein, and a dozen other portraits of great merit face
the windows. During the day this is the most frequented sitting-room
in the house, for its other visitors never appear there then, nor does
it then ever resound with the harsh jovial laugh of handsome Dick,
which sometimes, after dark has fallen, is heard by passers-by on the
landing outside. But Blanche does not grow bright-eyed when she hears
it: she shuts her ears and hastens to put a greater distance between
her and the sound of that atrocious mirth.

But during the day the long gallery is frequented by many occupants,
and much laughter in no wise sinister or saturnine resounds there.
When summer lies hot over the land, those occupants lounge in the deep
window seats, and when winter spreads his icy fingers and blows
shrilly between his frozen palms, congregate round the fireplace at
the far end, and perch, in companies of cheerful chatterers, upon sofa
and chair, and chair-back and floor. Often have I sat there on long
August evenings up till dressing-time, but never have I been there
when anyone has seemed disposed to linger over-late without hearing
the warning: "It is close on sunset: shall we go?" Later on in the
shorter autumn days they often have tea laid there, and sometimes it
has happened that, even while merriment was most uproarious, Mrs.
Peveril has suddenly looked out of the window and said, "My dears, it
is getting so late: let us finish our nonsense downstairs in the
hall." And then for a moment a curious hush always falls on loquacious
family and guests alike, and as if some bad news had just been known,
we all make our silent way out of the place.

But the spirits of the Peverils (of the living ones, that is to say)
are the most mercurial imaginable, and the blight which the thought of
handsome Dick and his doings casts over them passes away again with
amazing rapidity.

A typical party, large, young, and peculiarly cheerful, was staying at
Church-Peveril shortly after Christmas last year, and as usual on
December 31, Mrs. Peveril was giving her annual New Year's Eve ball.
The house was quite full, and she had commandeered as well the greater
part of the Peveril Arms to provide sleeping-quarters for the overflow
from the house. For some days past a black and windless frost had
stopped all hunting, but it is an ill windlessness that blows no good
(if so mixed a metaphor may be forgiven), and the lake below the house
had for the last day or two been covered with an adequate and
admirable sheet of ice. Everyone in the house had been occupied all
the morning of that day in performing swift and violent manoeuvres on
the elusive surface, and as soon as lunch was over we all, with one
exception, hurried out again. This one exception was Madge Dalrymple,
who had had the misfortune to fall rather badly earlier in the day,
but hoped, by resting her injured knee, instead of joining the skaters
again, to be able to dance that evening. The hope, it is true, was the
most sanguine sort, for she could but hobble ignobly back to the
house, but with the breezy optimism which characterises the Peverils
(she is Blanche's first cousin), she remarked that it would be but
tepid enjoyment that she could, in her present state, derive from
further skating, and thus she sacrificed little, but might gain much.

Accordingly, after a rapid cup of coffee which was served in the long
gallery, we left Madge comfortably reclined on the big sofa at right-
angles to the fireplace, with an attractive book to beguile the tedium
till tea. Being of the family, she knew all about handsome Dick and
the babies, and the fate of Mrs. Canning and Colonel Blantyre, but as
we went out I heard Blanche say to her, "Don't run it too fine, dear,"
and Madge had replied, "No; I'll go away well before sunset." And so
we left her alone in the long gallery.

Madge read her attractive book for some minutes, but failing to get
absorbed in it, put it down and limped across to the window. Though it
was still but little after two, it was but a dim and uncertain light
that entered, for the crystalline brightness of the morning had given
place to a veiled obscurity produced by flocks of thick clouds which
were coming sluggishly up from the north-east. Already the whole sky
was overcast with them, and occasionally a few snow-flakes fluttered
waveringly down past the long windows. From the darkness and bitter
cold of the afternoon, it seemed to her that there was like to be a
heavy snowfall before long, and these outward signs were echoed
inwardly in her by that muffled drowsiness of the brain, which to
those who are sensitive to the pressures and lightness of weather
portends storm. Madge was peculiarly the prey of such external
influences: to her a brisk morning gave an ineffable brightness and
briskness of spirit, and correspondingly the approach of heavy weather
produced a somnolence in sensation that both drowsed and depressed
her.

It was in such mood as this that she limped back again to the sofa
beside the log-fire. The whole house was comfortably heated by water-
pipes, and though the fire of logs and peat, an adorable mixture, had
been allowed to burn low, the room was very warm. Idly she watched the
dwindling flames, not opening her book again, but lying on the sofa
with face towards the fireplace, intending drowsily and not
immediately to go to her own room and spend the hours, until the
return of the skaters made gaiety in the house again, in writing one
or two neglected letters. Still drowsily she began thinking over what
she had to communicate: one letter several days overdue should go to
her mother, who was immensely interested in the psychical affairs of
the family. She would tell her how Master Anthony had been
prodigiously active on the staircase a night or two ago, and how the
Blue Lady, regardless of the severity of the weather, had been seen by
Mrs. Peveril that morning, strolling about. It was rather interesting:
the Blue Lady had gone down the laurel walk and had been seen by her
to enter the stables, where, at the moment, Freddy Peveril was
inspecting the frost-bound hunters. Identically then, a sudden panic
had spread through the stables, and the horses had whinnied and
kicked, and shied, and sweated. Of the fatal twins nothing had been
seen for many years past, but, as her mother knew, the Peverils never
used the long gallery after dark.

Then for a moment she sat up, remembering that she was in the long
gallery now. But it was still but a little after half-past two, and if
she went to her room in half an hour, she would have ample time to
write this and another letter before tea. Till then she would read her
book. But she found she had left it on the window-sill, and it seemed
scarcely worth while to get it. She felt exceedingly drowsy.

The sofa where she lay had been lately recovered, in a greyish green
shade of velvet, somewhat the colour of lichen. It was of very thick
soft texture, and she luxuriously stretched her arms out, one on each
side of her body, and pressed her fingers into the nap. How horrible
that story of Mrs. Canning was: the growth on her face was of the
colour of lichen. And then without further transition or blurring of
thought Madge fell asleep.

She dreamed. She dreamed that she awoke and found herself exactly
where she had gone to sleep, and in exactly the same attitude. The
flames from the logs had burned up again, and leaped on the walls,
fitfully illuminating the picture of handsome Dick above the
fireplace. In her dream she knew exactly what she had done to-day, and
for what reason she was lying here now instead of being out with the
rest of the skaters. She remembered also (still dreaming), that she
was going to write a letter or two before tea, and prepared to get up
in order to go to her room. As she half-rose she caught sight of her
own arms lying out on each side of her on the grey velvet sofa.

But she could not see where her hands ended, and where the grey velvet
began: her fingers seemed to have melted into the stuff. She could see
her wrists quite clearly, and a blue vein on the backs of her hands,
and here and there a knuckle. Then, in her dream, she remembered the
last thought which had been in her mind before she fell asleep, namely
the growth of the lichen-coloured vegetation on the face and the eyes
and the throat of Mrs. Canning. At that thought the strangling terror
of real nightmare began: she knew that she was being transformed into
this grey stuff, and she was absolutely unable to move. Soon the grey
would spread up her arms, and over her feet; when they came in from
skating they would find here nothing but a huge misshapen cushion of
lichen-coloured velvet, and that would be she. The horror grew more
acute, and then by a violent effort she shook herself free of the
clutches of this very evil dream, and she awoke.

For a minute or two she lay there, conscious only of the tremendous
relief at finding herself awake. She felt again with her fingers the
pleasant touch of the velvet, and drew them backwards and forwards,
assuring herself that she was not, as her dream had suggested, melting
into greyness and softness. But she was still, in spite of the
violence of her awakening, very sleepy, and lay there till, looking
down, she was aware that she could not see her hands at all. It was
very nearly dark.

At that moment a sudden flicker of flame came from the dying fire, and
a flare of burning gas from the peat flooded the room. The portrait of
handsome Dick looked evilly down on her, and her hands were visible
again. And then a panic worse than the panic of her dreams seized her.

Daylight had altogether faded, and she knew that she was alone in the
dark in the terrible gallery.

This panic was of the nature of nightmare, for she felt unable to move
for terror. But it was worse than nightmare because she knew she was
awake. And then the full cause of this frozen fear dawned on her; she
knew with the certainty of absolute conviction that she was about to
see the twin-babies.

She felt a sudden moisture break out on her face, and within her mouth
her tongue and throat went suddenly dry, and she felt her tongue grate
along the inner surface of her teeth. All power of movement had
slipped from her limbs, leaving them dead and inert, and she stared
with wide eyes into the blackness. The spurt of flame from the peat
had burned itself out again, and darkness encompassed her.

Then on the wall opposite her, facing the windows, there grew a faint
light of dusky crimson.

For a moment she thought it but heralded the approach of the awful
vision, then hope revived in her heart, and she remembered that thick
clouds had overcast the sky before she went to sleep, and guessed that
this light came from the sun not yet quite sunk and set. This sudden
revival of hope gave her the necessary stimulus, and she sprang off
the sofa where she lay. She looked out of the window and saw the dull
glow on the horizon. But before she could take a step forward it was
obscured again. A tiny sparkle of light came from the hearth which did
no more than illuminate the tiles of the fireplace, and snow falling
heavily tapped at the window panes. There was neither light nor sound
except these.

But the courage that had come to her, giving her the power of
movement, had not quite deserted her, and she began feeling her way
down the gallery. And then she found that she was lost. She stumbled
against a chair, and, recovering herself, stumbled against another.
Then a table barred her way, and, turning swiftly aside, she found
herself up against the back of a sofa.

Once more she turned and saw the dim gleam of the firelight on the
side opposite to that on which she expected it. In her blind gropings
she must have reversed her direction. But which way was she to go now.
She seemed blocked in by furniture. And all the time insistent and
imminent was the fact that the two innocent terrible ghosts were about
to appear to her.

Then she began to pray. "Lighten our darkness, O Lord," she said to
herself. But she could not remember how the prayer continued, and she
had sore need of it. There was something about the perils of the
night. All this time she felt about her with groping, fluttering
hands. The fire-glimmer which should have been on her left was on her
right again; therefore she must turn herself round again. "Lighten our
darkness," she whispered, and then aloud she repeated, "Lighten our
darkness."

She stumbled up against a screen, and could not remember the existence
of any such screen.

Hastily she felt beside it with blind hands, and touched something
soft and velvety. Was it the sofa on which she had lain? If so, where
was the head of it. It had a head and a back and feet--it was like a
person, all covered with grey lichen. Then she lost her head
completely. All that remained to her was to pray; she was lost, lost
in this awful place, where no one came in the dark except the babies
that cried. And she heard her voice rising from whisper to speech, and
speech to scream. She shrieked out the holy words, she yelled them as
if blaspheming as she groped among tables and chairs and the pleasant
things of ordinary life which had become so terrible.

Then came a sudden and an awful answer to her screamed prayer. Once
more a pocket of inflammable gas in the peat on the hearth was reached
by the smouldering embers, and the room started into light. She saw
the evil eyes of handsome Dick, she saw the little ghostly snow-flakes
falling thickly outside. And she saw where she was, just opposite the
door through which the terrible twins made their entrance. Then the
flame went out again, and left her in blackness once more. But she had
gained something, for she had her geography now. The centre of the
room was bare of furniture, and one swift dart would take her to the
door of the landing above the main staircase and into safety. In that
gleam she had been able to see the handle of the door, bright-brassed,
luminous like a star. She would go straight for it; it was but a
matter of a few seconds now.

She took a long breath, partly of relief, partly to satisfy the
demands of her galloping heart.

But the breath was only half-taken when she was stricken once more
into the immobility of nightmare.

There came a little whisper, it was no more than that, from the door
opposite which she stood, and through which the twin-babies entered.
It was not quite dark outside it, for she could see that the door was
opening. And there stood in the opening two little white figures, side
by side. They came towards her slowly, shufflingly. She could not see
face or form at all distinctly, but the two little white figures were
advancing. She knew them to be the ghosts of terror, innocent of the
awful doom they were bound to bring, even as she was innocent. With
the inconceivable rapidity of thought, she made up her mind what to
do. She had not hurt them or laughed at them, and they, they were but
babies when the wicked and bloody deed had sent them to their burning
death. Surely the spirits of these children would not be inaccessible
to the cry of one who was of the same blood as they, who had committed
no fault that merited the doom they brought. If she entreated them
they might have mercy, they might forebear to bring the curse on her,
they might allow her to pass out of the place without blight, without
the sentence of death, or the shadow of things worse than death upon
her.

It was but for the space of a moment that she hesitated, then she sank
down on to her knees, and stretched out her hands towards them.

"Oh, my dears," she said, "I only fell asleep. I have done no more
wrong than that--"

She paused a moment, and her tender girl's heart thought no more of
herself, but only of them, those little innocent spirits on whom so
awful a doom was laid, that they should bring death where other
children bring laughter, and doom for delight. But all those who had
seen them before had dreaded and feared them, or had mocked at them.

Then, as the enlightenment of pity dawned on her, her fear fell from
her like the wrinkled sheath that holds the sweet folded buds of
Spring.

"Dears, I am so sorry for you," she said. "It is not your fault that
you must bring me what you must bring, but I am not afraid any longer.
I am only sorry for you. God bless you, you poor darlings."

She raised her head and looked at them. Though it was so dark, she
could now see their faces, though all was dim and wavering, like the
light of pale flames shaken by a draught. But the faces were not
miserable or fierce--they smiled at her with shy little baby smiles.
And as she looked they grew faint, fading slowly away like wreaths of
vapour in frosty air.

Madge did not at once move when they had vanished, for instead of fear
there was wrapped round her a wonderful sense of peace, so happy and
serene that she would not willingly stir, and so perhaps disturb it.
But before long she got up, and feeling her way, but without any sense
of nightmare pressing her on, or frenzy of fear to spur her, she went
out of the long gallery, to find Blanche just coming upstairs
whistling and swinging her skates.

"How's the leg, dear," she asked. "You're not limping any more."

Till that moment Madge had not thought of it.

"I think it must be all right," she said; "I had forgotten it, anyhow.
Blanche, dear, you won't be frightened for me, will you, but--but I
have seen the twins."

For a moment Blanche's face whitened with terror.

"What?" she said in a whisper.

"Yes, I saw them just now. But they were kind, they smiled at me, and
I was so sorry for them. And somehow I am sure I have nothing to
fear."

It seems that Madge was right, for nothing has come to touch her.
Something, her attitude to them, we must suppose, her pity, her
sympathy, touched and dissolved and annihilated the curse.

Indeed, I was at Church-Peveril only last week, arriving there after
dark. Just as I passed the gallery door, Blanche came out.

"Ah, there you are," she said: "I've just been seeing the twins. They
looked too sweet and stopped nearly ten minutes. Let us have tea at
once."




AT ABDUL ALI'S GRAVE

Luxor, as most of those who have been there will allow, is a place of
notable charm, and boasts many attractions for the traveller, chief
among which he will reckon an excellent hotel containing a billiard-
room, a garden fit for the gods to sit in, any quantity of visitors,
at least a weekly dance on board a tourist steamer, quail shooting, a
climate as of Avilion, and a number of stupendously ancient monuments
for those archeologically inclined. But to certain others, few indeed
in number, but almost fanatically convinced of their own orthodoxy,
the charm of Luxor, like some sleeping beauty, only wakes when these
things cease, when the hotel has grown empty and the billiard-marker
"has gone for a long rest" to Cairo, when the decimated quail and the
decimating tourist have fled northwards, and the Theban plain, Dana to
a tropical sun, is a gridiron across which no man would willingly make
a journey by day, not even if Queen Hatasoo herself should signify
that she would give him audience on the terraces of Deir-el-Bahari.

A suspicion however that the fanatic few were right, for in other
respects they were men of estimable opinions, induced me to examine
their convictions for myself, and thus it came about that two years
ago, certain days toward the beginning of June saw me still there, a
confirmed convert.

Much tobacco and the length of summer days had assisted us to the
analysis of the charm of which summer in the south is possessed, and
Weston--one of the earliest of the elect--and myself had discussed it
at some length, and though we reserved as the principal ingredient a
nameless something which baffled the chemist, and must be felt to be
understood, we were easily able to detect certain other drugs of sight
and sound, which we were agreed contributed to the whole. A few of
them are here sub joined.

The waking in the warm darkness just before dawn to find that the
desire for stopping in bed fails with the awakening.

The silent start across the Nile in the still air with our horses,
who, like us, stand and sniff at the incredible sweetness of the
coming morning without apparently finding it less wonderful in
repetition.

The moment infinitesimal in duration but infinite in sensation, just
before the sun rises, when the grey shrouded river is struck suddenly
out of darkness, and becomes a sheet of green bronze.

The rose flush, rapid as a change of colour in some chemical
combination, which shoots across the sky from east to west, followed
immediately by the sunlight which catches the peaks of the western
hills, and flows down like some luminous liquid.

The stir and whisper which goes through the world: a breeze springs
up; a lark soars, and sings; the boatman shouts "Yallah, Yallah"; the
horses toss their heads.

The subsequent ride.

The subsequent breakfast on our return.

The subsequent absence of anything to do.

At sunset the ride into the desert thick with the scent of warm barren
sand, which smells like nothing else in the world, for it smells of
nothing at all.

The blaze of the tropical night.

Camel's milk.

Converse with the fellahin, who are the most charming and least
accountable people on the face of the earth except when tourists are
about, and when in consequence there is no thought but backsheesh.

Lastly, and with this we are concerned, the possibility of odd
experiences.

The beginning of the things which make this tale occurred four days
ago, when Abdul Mi, the oldest man in the village, died suddenly, full
of days and riches. Both, some thought, had probably been somewhat
exaggerated, but his relations affirmed without variation that he had
as many years as he had English pounds, and that each was a hundred.
The apt roundness of these numbers was incontestable, the thing was
too neat not to be true, and before he had been dead for twenty-four
hours it was a matter of orthodoxy. But with regard to his relations,
that which turned their bereavement, which must soon have occurred,
into a source of blank dismay instead of pious resignation, was that
not one of these English pounds, not even their less satisfactory
equivalent in notes, which, out of the tourist season, are looked upon
at Luxor as a not very dependable variety of Philosopher's stone,
though certainly capable of producing gold under favourable
circumstances, could be found. Abdul Au with his hundred years was
dead, his century of sovereigns--they might as well have been an
annuity--were dead with him, and his son Mohamed, who had previously
enjoyed a sort of brevet rank in anticipation of the event, was
considered to be throwing far more dust in the air than the genuine
affection even of a chief mourner wholly justified.

Abdul, it is to be feared, was not a man of stereotyped
respectability; though full of years and riches, he enjoyed no great
reputation for honour. He drank wine whenever he could get it, he ate
food during the days of Ramadan, scornful of the fact, when his
appetite desired it, he was supposed to have the evil eye, and in his
last moments he was attended by the notorious Achmet, who is well
known here to be practised in Black Magic, and has been suspected of
the much meaner crime of robbing the bodies of those lately dead. For
in Egypt, while to despoil the bodies of ancient kings and priests is
a privilege for which advanced and learned societies vie with each
other, to rob the corpses of your contemporaries is considered the
deed of a dog.

Mohamed, who soon exchanged the throwing of dust in the air for the
more natural mode of expressing chagrin, which is to gnaw the nails,
told us in confidence that he suspected Achmet of having ascertained
the secret of where his father's money was, but it appeared that
Achmet had as blank a face as anybody when his patient, who was
striving to make some communication to him, went out into the great
silence, and the suspicion that he knew where the money was gave way,
in the minds, of those who were competent to form an estimate of his
character, to a but dubious regret that he had just failed to learn
that very important fact.

So Abdul died and was buried, and we all went to the funeral feast, at
which we ate more roast meat than one naturally cares about at five in
the afternoon on a June day, in consequence of which Weston and I, not
requiring dinner, stopped at home after our return from the ride into
the desert, and talked to Mohamed, Abdul's son, and Hussein, Abdul's
youngest grandson, a boy of about twenty, who is also our valet, cook
and housemaid, and they together woefully narrated of the money that
had been and was not, and told us scandalous tales about Achmet
concerning his weakness for cemeteries. They drank coffee and smoked,
for though Hussein was our servant, we had been that day the guests of
his father, and shortly after they had gone, up came Machmout.

Machmout, who says he thinks he is twelve, but does not know for
certain, is kitchen-maid, groom and gardener, and has to an
extraordinary degree some occult power resembling clairvoyance.
Weston, who is a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and the
tragedy of whose life has been the detection of the fraudulent medium
Mrs. Blunt, says that it is all thought-reading, and has made notes of
many of Machmout's performances, which may subsequently turn out to be
of interest. Thought-reading, however, does not seem to me to fully
explain the experience which followed Abdul's funeral, and with
Machmout I have to put it down to White Magic, which should be a very
inclusive term, or to Pure Coincidence, which is even more inclusive,
and will cover all the inexplicable phenomena of the world, taken
singly. Machmout's method of unloosing the forces of White Magic is
simple, being the ink-mirror known by name to many, and it is as
follows.

A little black ink is poured into the palm of Machmout's hand, or, as
ink has been at a premium lately owing to the last post-boat from
Cairo which contained stationery for us having stuck on a sand-bank, a
small piece of black American cloth about an inch in diameter is found
to be a perfect substitute. Upon this he gazes. After five or ten
minutes his shrewd monkey-like expression is struck from his face, his
eyes, wide open, remain fixed on the cloth, a complete rigidity sets
in over his muscles, and he tells us of the curious things he sees. In
whatever position he is, in that position he remains without the
deflection of a hair's breadth until the ink is washed off or the
cloth removed. Then he looks up and says "Khahás," which means, "It is
finished."

We only engaged Machmout's services as second general domestic a
fortnight ago, but the first evening he was with us he came upstairs
when he had finished his work, and said, "I will show you White Magic;
give me ink," and proceeded to describe the front hall of our house in
London, saying that there were two horses at the door, and that a man
and woman soon came out, gave the horses each a piece of bread and
mounted. The thing was so probable that by the next mail I wrote
asking my mother to write down exactly what she was doing and where at
half-past five (English time) on the evening of June 12. At the
corresponding time in Egypt Machmout was describing speaking to us of
a "sitt" (lady) having tea in a room which he described with some
minuteness, and I am waiting anxiously for her letter. The explanation
which Weston gives us of all these phenomena is that a certain picture
of people I know is present in my mind, though I may not be aware of
it,--present to my subliminal self, I think, he says,--and that I give
an unspoken suggestion to the hypnotised Machmout. My explanation is
that there isn't any explanation, for no suggestion on my part would
make my brother go out and ride at the moment when Machmout says he is
so doing (if indeed we find that Machmout's visions are
chronologically correct). Consequently I prefer the open mind and am
prepared to believe anything. Weston, however, does not speak quite so
calmly or scientifically about Machmout's last performance, and since
it took place he has almost entirely ceased to urge me to become a
member of the Society for Psychical Research, in order that I may no
longer be hidebound by vain superstitions.

Machmout will not exercise these powers if his own folk are present,
for he says that when he is in this state, if a man who knew Black
Magic was in the room, or knew that he was practising White Magic, he
could get the spirit who presides over the Black Magic to kill the
spirit of White Magic, for the Black Magic is the more potent, and the
two are foes. And as the spirit of White Magic is on occasions a
powerful friend--he had before now befriended Machmout in a manner
which I consider incredible--Machmout is very desirous that he should
abide long with him. But Englishmen it appears do not know the Black
Magic, so with us he is safe. The spirit of Black Magic, to speak to
whom it is death, Machmout saw once "between heaven and earth, and
night and day," so he phrases it, on the Karnak road. He may be known,
he told us, by the fact that he is of paler skin than his people, that
he has two long teeth, one in each corner of his mouth, and that his
eyes, which are white all over, are as big as the eyes of a horse.

Machmout squatted himself comfortably in the corner, and I gave him
the piece of black American cloth. As some minutes must elapse before
he gets into the hypnotic state in which the visions begin, I strolled
out on to the balcony for coolness. It was the hottest night we had
yet had, and though the sun had set three hours, the thermometer still
registered close on 100º.

Above, the sky seemed veiled with grey, where it should have been dark
velvety blue, and a fitful puffing wind from the south threatened
three days of the sandy intolerable khamseen. A little way up the
street to the left was a small café in front of which were glowing and
waning little glowworm specks of light from the water pipes of Arabs
sitting out there in the dark. From inside came the click of brass
castanets in the hands of some dancing-girl, sounding sharp and
precise against the wailing bagpipe music of the strings and pipes
which accompany these movements which Arabs love and Europeans think
so unpleasing. Eastwards the sky was paler and luminous, for the moon
was imminently rising, and even as I looked the red rim of the
enormous disc cut the line of the desert, and on the instant, with a
curious aptness, one of the Arabs outside the café broke out into that
wonderful chant--"I cannot sleep for longing for thee, O full moon.
Far is thy throne over Mecca, slip down, O beloved, to me."

Immediately afterwards I heard the piping monotone of Machmout's voice
begin, and in a moment or two I went inside.

We have found that the experiments gave the quickest result by
contact, a fact which confirmed Weston in his explanation of them by
thought transference of some elaborate kind, which I confess I cannot
understand. He was writing at a table in the window when I came in,
but looked up.

"Take his hand," he said; "at present he is quite incoherent."

"Do you explain that?" I asked.

"It is closely analogous, so Myers thinks, to talking in sleep. He has
been saying something about a tomb. Do make a suggestion, and see if
he gives it right. He is remarkably sensitive, and he responds quicker
to you than to me. Probably Abdul's funeral suggested the tomb!"

A sudden thought struck me.

"Hush!" I said, "I want to listen."

Machmout's head was thrown a little back, and he held the hand in
which was the piece of cloth rather above his face. As usual he was
talking very slowly, and in a high staccato voice, absolutely unlike
his usual tones.

"On one side of the grave," he pipes, "is a tamarisk tree, and the
green beetles make fantasia about it. On the other side is a mud wall.
There are many other graves about, but they are all asleep. This is
the grave, because it is awake, and it moist and not sandy."

"I thought so," said Weston. "It is Abdul's grave he is talking
about."

"There is a red moon sitting on the desert," continued Machmout, "and
it is now. There is the puffing of khamseen, and much dust coming. The
moon is red with dust, and because it is low."

"Still sensitive to external conditions," said Weston. "That is rather
curious. Pinch him, will you?"

I pinched Machmout; he did not pay the slightest attention.

"In the last house of the street, and in the doorway stands a man. Ah!
ah!" cried the boy, suddenly, "it is the Black Magic he knows. Don't
let him come. He is going out of the house," he shrieked, "he is
coming--no, he is going the other way towards the moon and the grave.
He has the Black Magic with him, which can raise the dead, and he has
a murdering knife, and a spade. I cannot see his face, for the Black
Magic is between it and my eyes."

Weston had got up, and, like me, was hanging on Machmout's words.

"We will go there," he said. "Here is an opportunity of testing it.
Listen a moment."

"He is walking, walking, walking," piped Machmout, "still walking to
the moon and the grave. The moon sits no longer on the desert, but has
sprung up a little way."

I pointed out of the window.

"That at any rate is true," I said.

Weston took the cloth out of Machmout's hand, and the piping ceased.
In a moment he stretched himself, and rubbed his eyes.

"Khalás," he said.

"Yes, it is Khalás."

"Did I tell you of the sitt in England?" he asked.

"Yes, oh, yes," I answered; "thank you, little Machmout. The White
Magic was very good to-night. Get you to bed."

Machmout trotted obediently out of the room, and Weston closed the
door after him.

"We must be quick," he said. "It is worth while going and giving the
thing a chance, though I wish he had seen something less gruesome. The
odd thing is that he was not at the funeral, and yet he describes the
grave accurately. What do you make of it?"

"I make that the White Magic has shown Machmout that somebody with
Black Magic is going to Abdul's grave, perhaps to rob it," I answered
resolutely.

"What are we to do when we get there?" asked Weston.

"See the Black Magic at work. Personally I am in a blue funk. So are
you."

"There is no such thing as Black Magic," said Weston. "Ah, I have it.
Give me that orange."

Weston rapidly skinned it, and cut from the rind two circles as big as
a five shilling piece, and two long, white fangs of skin. The first he
fixed in his eyes, the two latter in the corners of his mouth.

"The Spirit of Black Magic?" I asked.

"The same."

He took up a long black burnous and wrapped it round him. Even in the
bright lamp light, the spirit of Black Magic was a sufficiently
terrific personage.

"I don't believe in Black Magic," he said, "but others do. If it is
necessary to put a stop to--to anything that is going on, we will
hoist the man on his own petard. Come along. Whom do you suspect it
is--I mean, of course, who was the person you were thinking of when
your thoughts were transferred to Machmout."

"What Machmout said," I answered, "suggested Achmet to me."

Weston indulged in a laugh of scientific incredulity, and we set off.

The moon, as the boy had told us, was just clear of the horizon, and
as it rose higher, its colour at first red and sombre, like the blaze
of some distant conflagration, paled to a tawny yellow. The hot wind
from the south, blowing no longer fitfully but with a steadily
increasing violence, was thick with sand, and of an incredibly
scorching heat, and the tops of the palm trees in the garden of the
deserted hotel on the right were lashing themselves to and fro with a
harsh rattle of dry leaves. The cemetery lay on the outskirts of the
village, and, as long as our way lay between the mud walls of the
huddling street, the wind came to us only as the heat from behind
closed furnace doors. Every now and then with a whisper and whistle
rising into a great buffeting flap, a sudden whirlwind of dust would
scour some twenty yards along the road, and then break like a shore-
quenched wave against one or other of the mud walls or throw itself
heavily against a house and fall in a shower of sand. But once free of
obstructions we were opposed to the full heat and blast of the wind
which blew full in our teeth. It was the first summer khamseen of the
year, and for the moment I wished I had gone north with the tourist
and the quail and the billiard marker, for khamseen fetches the marrow
out of the bones, and turns the body to blotting paper.

We passed no one in the street, and the only sound we heard, except
the wind, was the howling of moonstruck dogs.

The cemetery is surrounded by a tall mud-built wall, and sheltering
for a few moments under this we discussed our movements. The row of
tamarisks close to which the tomb lay went down the centre of the
graveyard, and by skirting the wall outside and climbing softly over
where they approached it, the fury of the wind might help us to get
near the grave without being seen, if anyone happened to be there. We
had just decided on this, and were moving on to put the scheme into
execution, when the wind dropped for a moment, and in the silence we
could hear the chump of the spade being driven into the earth, and
what gave me a sudden thrill of intimate horror, the cry of the
carrion-feeding hawk from the dusky sky just overhead.

Two minutes later we were creeping up in the shade of the tamarisks,
to where Abdul had been buried. The great green beetles which live on
the trees were flying about blindly, and once or twice one dashed into
my face with a whirr of mail-clad wings. When we were within some
twenty yards of the grave we stopped for a moment, and, looking
cautiously out from our shelter of tamarisks, saw the figure of a man
already waist deep in the earth, digging out the newly turned grave.
Weston, who was standing behind me, had adjusted the characteristics
of the spirit of Black Magic so as to be ready for emergencies, and
turning round suddenly, and finding myself unawares face to face with
that realistic impersonation, though my nerves are not precariously
strong, I could have found it within me to shriek aloud. But that
unsympathetic man of iron only shook with suppressed laughter, and,
holding the eyes in his hand, motioned me forward again without
speaking to where the trees grew thicker. There we stood not a dozen
yards away from the grave.

We waited, I suppose, for some ten minutes, while the man, whom we saw
to be Achmet, toiled on at his impious task. He was entirely naked,
and his brown skin glistened with the dews of exertion in the
moonlight. At times he chattered in a cold uncanny manner to himself,
and once or twice he stopped for breath. Then he began scraping the
earth away with his hands, and soon afterwards searched in his
clothes, which were lying near, for a piece of rope, with which he
stepped into the grave, and in a moment reappeared again with both
ends in his hands. Then, standing astride the grave, he pulled
strongly, and one end of the coffin appeared above the ground. He
chipped a piece of the lid away to make sure that he had the right
end, and then, setting it upright, wrenched off the top with his
knife, and there faced us, leaning against the coffin lid, the small
shrivelled figure of the dead Abdul, swathed like a baby in white.

I was just about to motion the spirit of Black Magic to make his
appearance, when Machmout's words came into my head: "He had with him
the Black Magic which can raise the dead," and sudden overwhelming
curiosity, which froze disgust and horror into chill unfeeling things,
came over me.

"Wait," I whispered to Weston, "he will use the Black Magic."

Again the wind dropped for a moment, and again, in the silence that
came with it, I heard the chiding of the hawk overhead, this time
nearer, and thought I heard more birds than one.

Achmet meantime had taken the covering from off the face, and had
undone the swathing band, which at the moment after death is bound
round the chin to close the jaw, and in Arab burial is always left
there, and from where we stood I could see that the jaw dropped when
the bandage was untied, as if, though the wind blew towards us with a
ghastly scent of mortality on it, the muscles were not even now set,
though the man had been dead sixty hours. But still a rank and burning
curiosity to see what this unclean ghoul would do next stifled all
other feelings in my mind. He seemed not to notice, or, at any rate,
to disregard that mouth gaping awry, and moved about nimbly in the
moonlight.

He took from a pocket of his clothes, which were lying near, two small
black objects, which now are safely embedded in the mud at the bottom
of the Nile, and rubbed them briskly together.

By degrees they grew luminous with a sickly yellow pallor of light,
and from his hands went up a wavy, phosphorescent flame. One of these
cubes he placed in the open mouth of the corpse, the other in his own,
and, taking the dead man closely in his arms as though he would indeed
dance with death, he breathed long breaths from his mouth into that
dead cavern which was pressed to his. Suddenly he started back with a
quick-drawn breath of wonder and perhaps of horror, and stood for a
space as if irresolute, for the cube which the dead man held instead
of lying loosely in the jaw was pressed tight between clenched teeth.
After a moment of irresolution he stepped back quickly to his clothes
again, and took up from near them the knife with which he had stripped
off the coffin lid, and holding this in one hand behind his back, with
the other he took out the cube from the dead man's mouth, though with
a visible exhibition of force, and spoke.

"Abdul," he said, "I am your friend, and I swear I will give your
money to Mohamed, if you will tell me where it is."

Certain I am that the lips of the dead moved, and the eyelids
fluttered for a moment like the wings of a wounded bird, but at that
sight the horror so grew on me that I was physically incapable of
stifling the cry that rose to my lips, and Achmet turned round. Next
moment the complete Spirit of Black Magic glided out of the shade of
the trees, and stood before him. The wretched man stood for a moment
without stirring, then, turning with shaking knees to flee, he stepped
back and fell into the grave he had just opened.

Weston turned on me angrily, dropping the eyes and the teeth of the
Afrit.

"You spoiled it all," he cried. "It would perhaps have been the most
interesting..." and his eye lighted on the dead Abdul, who peered
open-eyed from the coffin, then swayed, tottered, and fell forward,
face downwards on the ground close to him. For one moment he lay
there, and then the body rolled slowly on to its back without visible
cause of movement, and lay staring into the sky. The face was covered
with dust, but with the dust was mingled fresh blood. A nail had
caught the cloth that wound him, underneath which, as usual, were the
clothes in which he had died, for the Arabs do not wash their dead,
and it had torn a great rent through them all, leaving the right
shoulder bare.

Weston strove to speak once, but failed. Then:

"I will go and inform the police," he said, "if you will stop here,
and see that Achmet does not get out."

But this I altogether refused to do, and, after covering the body with
the coffin to protect it from the hawks, we secured Achmet's arms with
the rope he had already used that night, and took him off to Luxor.

Next morning Mohamed came to see us.

"I thought Achmet knew where the money was," he said exultantly.

"Where was it?"

"In a little purse tied round the shoulder. The dog had already begun
stripping it. See"--and he brought it out of his pocket--"it is all
there in those English notes, five pounds each, and there are twenty
of them."

Our conclusion was slightly different, for even Weston will allow that
Achmet hoped to learn from dead lips the secret of the treasure, and
then to kill the man anew and bury him. But that is pure conjecture.

The only other point of interest lies in the two black cubes which we
picked up, and found to be graven with curious characters. These I put
one evening into Machmout's hand, when he was exhibiting to us his
curious powers of "thought transference." The effect was that he
screamed aloud, crying out that the Black Magic had come, and though I
did not feel certain about that, I thought they would be safer in mid-
Nile. Weston grumbled a little, and said that he had wanted to take
them to the British Museum, but that I feel sure was an afterthought.




MRS. AMWORTH

The village of Maxley, where, last summer and autumn, these strange
events took place, lies on a heathery and pine-clad upland of Sussex.
In all England you could not find a sweeter and saner situation.
Should the wind blow from the south, it comes laden with the spices of
the sea; to the east high downs protect it from the inclemencies of
March; and from the west and north the breezes which reach it travel
over miles of aromatic forest and heather. The village itself is
insignificant enough in point of population, but rich in amenities and
beauty. Half-way down the single street, with its broad road and
spacious areas of grass on each side, stands the little Norman Church
and the antique graveyard long disused: for the rest there are a dozen
small, sedate Georgian houses, red-bricked and long-windowed, each
with a square of flower-garden in front, and an ampler strip behind; a
score of shops, and a couple of score of thatched cottages belonging
to labourers on neighbouring estates, complete the entire cluster of
its peaceful habitations. The general peace, however, is sadly broken
on Saturdays and Sundays, for we lie on one of the main roads between
London and Brighton and our quiet street becomes a race-course for
flying motor-cars and bicycles.

A notice just outside the village begging them to go slowly only seems
to encourage them to accelerate their speed, for the road lies open
and straight, and there is really no reason why they should do
otherwise. By way of protest, therefore, the ladies of Maxley cover
their noses and mouths with their handkerchiefs as they see a motor-
car approaching, though, as the street is asphalted, they need not
really take these precautions against dust. But late on Sunday night
the horde of scorchers has passed, and we settle down again to five
days of cheerful and leisurely seclusion. Railway strikes which
agitate the country so much leave us undisturbed because most of the
inhabitants of Maxley never leave it at all.

I am the fortunate possessor of one of these small Georgian houses,
and consider myself no less fortunate in having so interesting and
stimulating a neighbour as Francis Urcombe, who, the most confirmed of
Maxleyites, has not slept away from his house, which stands just
opposite to mine in the village street, for nearly two years, at which
date, though still in middle life, he resigned his Physiological
Professorship at Cambridge University and devoted himself to the study
of those occult and curious phenomena which seem equally to concern
the physical and the psychical sides of human nature. Indeed his
retirement was not unconnected with his passion for the strange
uncharted places that lie on the confines and borders of science, the
existence of which is so stoutly denied by the more materialistic
minds, for he advocated that all medical students should be obliged to
pass some sort of examination in mesmerism, and that one of the tripos
papers should be designed to test their knowledge in such subjects as
appearances at time of death, haunted houses, vampirism, automatic
writing, and possession.

"Of course they wouldn't listen to me," ran his account of the matter,
"for there is nothing that these seats of learning are so frightened
of as knowledge, and the road to knowledge lies in the study of things
like these. The functions of the human frame are, broadly speaking,
known.

"They are a country, anyhow, that has been charted and mapped out. But
outside that lie huge tracts of undiscovered country, which certainly
exist, and the real pioneers of knowledge are those who, at the cost
of being derided as credulous and superstitious, want to push on into
those misty and probably perilous places. I felt that I could be of
more use by setting out without compass or knapsack into the mists
than by sitting in a cage like a canary and chirping about what was
known. Besides, teaching is very bad for a man who knows himself only
to be a learner: you only need to be a self-conceited ass to teach."

Here, then, in Francis Urcombe, was a delightful neighbour to one who,
like myself, has an uneasy and burning curiosity about what he called
the "misty and perilous places"; and this last spring we had a further
and most welcome addition to our pleasant little community, in the
person of Mrs. Amworth, widow of an Indian civil servant. Her husband
had been a judge in the North-West Provinces, and after his death at
Peshawar she came back to England, and after a year in London found
herself starving for the ampler air and sunshine of the country to
take the place of the fogs and griminess of town. She had, too, a
special reason for settling in Maxley, since her ancestors up till a
hundred years ago had long been native to the place, and in the old
churchyard, now disused, are many gravestones bearing her maiden name
of Chaston. Big and energetic, her vigorous and genial personality
speedily woke Maxley up to a higher degree of sociality than it had
ever known. Most of us were bachelors or spinsters or elderly folk not
much inclined to exert ourselves in the expense and effort of
hospitality, and hitherto the gaiety of a small tea-party, with bridge
afterwards and goloshes (when it was wet) to trip home in again for a
solitary dinner, was about the climax of our festivities. But Mrs.
Amworth showed us a more gregarious way, and set an example of
luncheon-parties and little dinners, which we began to follow. On
other nights when no such hospitality was on foot, a lone man like
myself found it pleasant to know that a call on the telephone to Mrs.
Amworth's house not a hundred yards off, and an inquiry as to whether
I might come over after dinner for a game of piquet before bed-time,
would probably evoke a response of welcome. There she would be, with a
comrade-like eagerness for companionship, and there was a glass of
port and a cup of coffee and a cigarette and a game of piquet. She
played the piano, too, in a free and exuberant manner, and had a
charming voice and sang to her own accompaniment; and as the days grew
long and the light lingered late, we played our game in her garden,
which in the course of a few months she had turned from being a
nursery for slugs and snails into a glowing patch of luxuriant
blossoming.

She was always cheery and jolly; she was interested in everything, and
in music, in gardening, in games of all sorts was a competent
performer. Everybody (with one exception) liked her, everybody felt
her to bring with her the tonic of a sunny day. That one exception was
Francis Urcombe; he, though he confessed he did not like her,
acknowledged that he was vastly interested in her. This always seemed
strange to me, for pleasant and jovial as she was, I could see nothing
in her that could call forth conjecture or intrigued surmise, so
healthy and unmysterious a figure did she present. But of the
genuineness of Urcombe's interest there could be no doubt; one could
see him watching and scrutinising her. In matter of age, she frankly
volunteered the information that she was forty-five; but her
briskness, her activity, her unravaged skin, her coal-black hair, made
it difficult to believe that she was not adopting an unusual device,
and adding ten years on to her age instead of subtracting them.

Often, also, as our quite unsentimental friendship ripened, Mrs.
Amworth would ring me up and propose her advent. If I was busy
writing, I was to give her, so we definitely bargained, a frank
negative, and in answer I could hear her jolly laugh and her wishes
for a successful evening of work. Sometimes, before her proposal
arrived, Urcombe would already have stepped across from his house
opposite for a smoke and a chat, and he, hearing who my intending
visitor was, always urged me to beg her to come. She and I should play
our piquet, said he, and he would look on, if we did not object, and
learn something of the game. But I doubt whether he paid much
attention to it, for nothing could be clearer than that, under that
penthouse of forehead and thick eyebrows, his attention was fixed not
on the cards, but on one of the players. But he seemed to enjoy an
hour spent thus, and often, until one particular evening in July, he
would watch her with the air of a man who has some deep problem in
front of him. She, enthusiastically keen about our game, seemed not to
notice his scrutiny. Then came that evening, when, as I see in the
light of subsequent events, began the first twitching of the veil that
hid the secret horror from my eyes. I did not know it then, though I
noticed that thereafter, if she rang up to propose coming round, she
always asked not only if I was at leisure, but whether Mr. Urcombe was
with me. If so, she said, she would not spoil the chat of two old
bachelors, and laughingly wished me good night.

Urcombe, on this occasion, had been with me for some half-hour before
Mrs. Amworth's appearance, and had been talking to me about the
medieval beliefs concerning vampirism, one of those borderland
subjects which he declared had not been sufficiently studied before it
had been consigned by the medical profession to the dust-heap of
exploded superstitions. There he sat, grim and eager, tracing, with
that pellucid clearness which had made him in his Cambridge days so
admirable a lecturer, the history of those mysterious visitations. In
them all there were the same general features: one of those ghoulish
spirits took up its abode in a living man or woman, conferring
supernatural powers of bat-like flight and glutting itself with
nocturnal blood-feasts.

When its host died it continued to dwell in the corpse, which remained
undecayed. By day it rested, by night it left the grave and went on
its awful errands. No European country in the Middle Ages seemed to
have escaped them; earlier yet, parallels were to be found, in Roman
and Greek and in Jewish history.

"It's a large order to set all that evidence aside as being
moonshine," he said. "Hundreds of totally independent witnesses in
many ages have testified to the occurrence of these phenomena, and
there's no explanation known to me which covers all the facts. And if
you feel inclined to say 'Why, then, if these are facts, do we not
come across them now?' there are two answers I can make you. One is
that there were diseases known in the Middle Ages, such as the black
death; which were certainly existent then and which have become
extinct since, but for that reason we do not assert that such diseases
never existed. Just as the black death visited England and decimated
the population of Norfolk, so here in this very district about three
hundred years ago there was certainly an outbreak of vampirism, and
Maxley was the centre of it. My second answer is even more convincing,
for I tell you that vampirism is by no means extinct now. An outbreak
of it certainly occurred in India a year or two ago."

At that moment I heard my knocker plied in the cheerful and peremptory
manner in which Mrs. Amworth is accustomed to announce her arrival,
and I went to the door to open it.

"Come in at once," I said, "and save me from having my blood curdled.
Mr. Urcombe has been trying to alarm me."

Instantly her vital, voluminous presence seemed to fill the room.

"Ah, but how lovely!" she said. "I delight in having my blood curdled.
Go on with your ghost-story, Mr. Urcombe. I adore ghost-stories."

I saw that, as his habit was, he was intently observing her.

"It wasn't a ghost-story exactly," said he. "I was only telling our
host how vampirism was not extinct yet. I was saying that there was an
outbreak of it in India only a few years ago."

There was a more than perceptible pause, and I saw that, if Urcombe
was observing her, she on her side was observing him with fixed eye
and parted mouth. Then her jolly laugh invaded that rather tense
silence.

"Oh, what a shame!" she said. "You're not going to curdle my blood at
all. Where did you pick up such a tale, Mr. Urcombe? I have lived for
years in India and never heard a rumour of such a thing. Some story-
teller in the bazaars must have invented it: they are famous at that."

I could see that Urcombe was on the point of saying something further,
but checked himself.

"Ah! very likely that was it," he said.

But something had disturbed our usual peaceful sociability that night,
and something had damped Mrs. Amworth's usual high spirits. She had no
gusto for her piquet, and left after a couple of games. Urcombe had
been silent too, indeed he hardly spoke again till she departed.

"That was unfortunate," he said, "for the outbreak of--of a very
mysterious disease, let us call it, took place at Peshawar, where she
and her husband were. And--"

"Well?" I asked.

"He was one of the victims of it," said he. "Naturally I had quite
forgotten that when I spoke."

The summer was unreasonably hot and rainless, and Maxley suffered much
from drought, and also from a plague of big black night-flying gnats,
the bite of which was very irritating and virulent. They came sailing
in of an evening, settling on one's skin so quietly that one perceived
nothing till the sharp stab announced that one had been bitten. They
did not bite the hands or face, but chose always the neck and throat
for their feeding-ground, and most of us, as the poison spread,
assumed a temporary goitre. Then about the middle of August appeared
the first of those mysterious cases of illness which our local doctor
attributed to the long-continued heat coupled with the bite of these
venomous insects. The patient was a boy of sixteen or seventeen, the
son of Mrs. Amworth's gardener, and the symptoms were an anemic pallor
and a languid prostration, accompanied by great drowsiness and an
abnormal appetite. He had, too, on his throat two small punctures
where, so Dr. Ross conjectured, one of these great gnats had bitten
him. But the odd thing was that there was no swelling or inflammation
round the place where he had been bitten.

The heat at this time had begun to abate, but the cooler weather
failed to restore him, and the boy, in spite of the quantity of good
food which he so ravenously swallowed, wasted away to a skin-clad
skeleton.

I met Dr. Ross in the street one afternoon about this time, and in
answer to my inquiries about his patient he said that he was afraid
the boy was dying. The case, he confessed, completely puzzled him:
some obscure form of pernicious anemia was all he could suggest. But
he wondered whether Mr. Urcombe would consent to see the boy, on the
chance of his being able to throw some new light on the case, and
since Urcombe was dining with me that night, I proposed to Dr. Ross to
join us. He could not do this, but said he would look in later. When
he came, Urcombe at once consented to put his skill at the other's
disposal, and together they went off at once. Being thus shorn of my
sociable evening, I telephoned to Mrs. Amworth to know if I might
inflict myself on her for an hour. Her answer was a welcoming
affirmative, and between piquet and music the hour lengthened itself
into two. She spoke of the boy who was lying so desperately and
mysteriously ill, and told me that she had often been to see him,
taking him nourishing and delicate food. But to-day--and her kind eyes
moistened as she spoke she was afraid she had paid her last visit.
Knowing the antipathy between her and Urcombe, I did not tell her that
he had been called into consultation; and when I returned home she
accompanied me to my door, for the sake of a breath of night air, and
in order to borrow a magazine which contained an article on gardening
which she wished to read.

"Ah, this delicious night air," she said, luxuriously sniffing in the
coolness. "Night air and gardening are the great tonics. There is
nothing so stimulating as bare contact with rich mother earth. You are
never so fresh as when you have been grubbing in the soil--black
hands, black nails, and boots covered with mud." She gave her great
jovial laugh. "I'm a glutton for air and earth," she said. "Positively
I look forward to death, for then I shall be buried and have the kind
earth all round me. No leaden caskets for me--I have given explicit
directions. But what shall I do about air? Well, I suppose one can't
have everything. The magazine? A thousand thanks, I will faithfully
return it. Good night: garden and keep your windows open, and you
won't have anemia."

"I always sleep with my windows open," said I.

I went straight up to my bedroom, of which one of the windows looks
out over the street, and as I undressed I thought I heard voices
talking outside not far away. But I paid no particular attention, put
out my lights, and falling asleep plunged into the depths of a most
horrible dream, distortedly suggested no doubt, by my last words with
Mrs. Amworth. I dreamed that I woke, and found that both my bedroom
windows were shut. Half-suffocating I dreamed that I sprang out of
bed, and went across to open them. The blind over the first was drawn
down, and pulling it up I saw, with the indescribable horror of
incipient nightmare, Mrs. Amworth's face suspended close to the pane
in the darkness outside, nodding and smiling at me. Pulling down the
blind again to keep that terror out, I rushed to the second window on
the other side of the room, and there again was Mrs. Amworth's face.
Then the panic came upon me in full blast; here was I suffocating in
the airless room, and whichever window I opened Mrs. Amworth's face
would float in, like those noiseless black gnats that bit before one
was aware. The nightmare rose to screaming point, and with strangled
yells I awoke to find my room cool and quiet with both windows open
and blinds up and a half-moon high in its course, casting an oblong of
tranquil light on the floor. But even when I was awake the horror
persisted, and I lay tossing and turning.

I must have slept long before the nightmare seized me, for now it was
nearly day, and soon in the east the drowsy eyelids of morning began
to lift.

I was scarcely downstairs next morning--for after the dawn I slept
late--when Urcombe rang up to know if he might see me immediately. He
came in, grim and preoccupied, and I noticed that he was pulling on a
pipe that was not even filled.

"I want your help," he said, "and so I must tell you first of all what
happened last night. I went round with the little doctor to see his
patient, and found him just alive, but scarcely more. I instantly
diagnosed in my own mind what this anemia, unaccountable by any other
explanation, meant. The boy is the prey of a vampire."

He put his empty pipe on the breakfast-table, by which I had just sat
down, and folded his arms, looking at me steadily from under his
overhanging brows.

"Now about last night," he said. "I insisted that he should be moved
from his father's cottage into my house. As we were carrying him on a
stretcher, whom should we meet but Mrs. Amworth? She expressed shocked
surprise that we were moving him. Now why do you think she did that?"

With a start of horror, as I remembered my dream that night before, I
felt an idea come into my mind so preposterous and unthinkable that I
instantly turned it out again.

"I haven't the smallest idea," I said.

"Then listen, while I tell you about what happened later. I put out
all light in the room where the boy lay, and watched. One window was a
little open, for I had forgotten to close it, and about midnight I
heard something outside, trying apparently to push it farther open. I
guessed who it was--yes, it was full twenty feet from the ground--and
I peeped round the corner of the blind."

"Just outside was the face of Mrs. Amworth and her hand was on the
frame of the window. Very softly I crept close, and then banged the
window down, and I think I just caught the tip of one of her fingers."

"But it's impossible," I cried. "How could she be floating in the air
like that? And what had she come for? Don't tell me such--"

Once more, with closer grip, the remembrance of my nightmare seized
me.

"I am telling you what I saw," said he. "And all night long, until it
was nearly day, she was fluttering outside, like some terrible bat,
trying to gain admittance. Now put together various things I have told
you."

He began checking them off on his fingers.

"Number one," he said: "there was an outbreak of disease similar to
that which this boy is suffering from at Peshawar, and her husband
died of it. Number two: Mrs. Amworth protested against my moving the
boy to my house. Number three: she, or the demon that inhabits her
body, a creature powerful and deadly, tries to gain admittance. And
add this, too: in medieval times there was an epidemic of vampirism
here at Maxley. The vampire, so the accounts run, was found to be
Elizabeth Chaston ... I see you remember Mrs. Amworth's maiden name.
Finally, the boy is stronger this morning. He would certainly not have
been alive if he had been visited again."

"And what do you make of it?"

There was a long silence, during which I found this incredible horror
assuming the hues of reality.

"I have something to add," I said, "which may or may not bear on it.
You say that the--the spectre went away shortly before dawn."

"Yes."

I told him of my dream, and he smiled grimly.

"Yes, you did well to awake," he said. "That warning came from your
subconscious self, which never wholly slumbers, and cried out to you
of deadly danger. For two reasons, then, you must help me: one to save
others, the second to save yourself."

"What do you want me to do?" I asked.

"I want you first of all to help me in watching this boy, and ensuring
that she does not come near him. Eventually I want you to help me in
tracking the thing down, in exposing and destroying it. It is not
human: it is an incarnate fiend. What steps we shall have to take I
don't yet know."

It was now eleven of the forenoon, and presently I went across to his
house for a twelve-hour vigil while he slept, to come on duty again
that night, so that for the next twenty-four hours either Urcombe or
myself was always in the room where the boy, now getting stronger
every hour, was lying. The day following was Saturday and a morning of
brilliant, pellucid weather, and already when I went across to his
house to resume my duty the stream of motors down to Brighton had
begun. Simultaneously I saw Urcombe with a cheerful face, which boded
good news of his patient, coming out of his house, and Mrs. Amworth,
with a gesture of salutation to me and a basket in her hand, walking
up the broad strip of grass which bordered the road. There we all
three met. I noticed (and saw that Urcombe noticed it too) that one
finger of her left hand was bandaged.

"Good morning to you both," said she. "And I hear your patient is
doing well, Mr. Urcombe. I have come to bring him a bowl of jelly, and
to sit with him for an hour. He and I are great friends. I am
overjoyed at his recovery."

Urcombe paused a moment, as if making up his mind, and then shot out a
pointing finger at her.

"I forbid that," he said. "You shall not sit with him or see him. And
you know the reason as well as I do."

I have never seen so horrible a change pass over a human face as that
which now blanched hers to the colour of a grey mist. She put up her
hand as if to shield herself from that pointing finger, which drew the
sign of the cross in the air, and shrank back cowering on to the road.

There was a wild hoot from a horn, a grinding of brakes, a shout--too
late--from a passing car, and one long scream suddenly cut short. Her
body rebounded from the roadway after the first wheel had gone over
it, and the second followed. It lay there, quivering and twitching,
and was still.

She was buried three days afterwards in the cemetery outside Maxley,
in accordance with the wishes she had told me that she had devised
about her interment, and the shock which her sudden and awful death
had caused to the little community began by degrees to pass off. To
two people only, Urcombe and myself, the horror of it was mitigated
from the first by the nature of the relief that her death brought;
but, naturally enough, we kept our own counsel, and no hint of what
greater horror had been thus averted was ever let slip. But, oddly
enough, so it seemed to me, he was still not satisfied about something
in connection with her, and would give no answer to my questions on
the subject. Then as the days of a tranquil mellow September and the
October that followed began to drop away like the leaves of the
yellowing trees, his uneasiness relaxed. But before the entry of
November the seeming tranquillity broke into hurricane.

I had been dining one night at the far end of the village, and about
eleven o'clock was walking home again. The moon was of an unusual
brilliance, rendering all that it shone on as distinct as in some
etching. I had just come opposite the house which Mrs. Amworth had
occupied, where there was a board up telling that it was to let, when
I heard the click of her front gate, and next moment I saw, with a
sudden chill and quaking of my very spirit, that she stood there. Her
profile, vividly illuminated, was turned to me, and I could not be
mistaken in my identification of her. She appeared not to see me
(indeed the shadow of the yew hedge in front of her garden enveloped
me in its blackness) and she went swiftly across the road, and entered
the gate of the house directly opposite. There I lost sight of her
completely.

My breath was coming in short pants as if I had been running--and now
indeed I ran, with fearful backward glances, along the hundred yards
that separated me from my house and Urcombe's. It was to his that my
flying steps took me, and next minute I was within.

"What have you come to tell me?" he asked. "Or shall I guess?" 

"You can't guess," said I.

"No; it's no guess. She has come back and you have seen her. Tell me
about it."

I gave him my story.

"That's Major Pearsall's house," he said. "Come back with me there at
once."

"But what can we do?" I asked.

"I've no idea. That's what we have got to find out."

A minute later, we were opposite the house. When I had passed it
before, it was all dark; now lights gleamed from a couple of windows
upstairs. Even as we faced it, the front door opened, and next moment
Major Pearsall emerged from the gate. He saw us and stopped.

"I'm on my way to Dr. Ross," he said quickly, "My wife has been taken
suddenly ill. She had been in bed an hour when I came upstairs, and I
found her white as a ghost and utterly exhausted. She had been to
sleep, it seemed--but you will excuse me."

"One moment, Major," said Urcombe. "Was there any mark on her throat?"

"How did you guess that?" said he. "There was: one of those beastly
gnats must have bitten her twice there. She was streaming with blood."

"And there's someone with her?" asked Urcombe.

"Yes, I roused her maid."

He went off, and Urcombe turned to me. "I know now what we have to
do," he said. "Change your clothes, and I'll join you at your house."

"What is it?" I asked.

"I'll tell you on our way. We're going to the cemetery."

He carried a pick, a shovel, and a screwdriver when he rejoined me,
and wore round his shoulders a long coil of rope. As we walked, he
gave me the outlines of the ghastly hour that lay before us.

"What I have to tell you," he said, "will seem to you now too
fantastic for credence, but before dawn we shall see whether it
outstrips reality. By a most fortunate happening, you saw the spectre,
the astral body, whatever you choose to call it, of Mrs. Amworth,
going on its grisly business, and therefore, beyond doubt, the vampire
spirit which abode in her during life animates her again in death.
That is not exceptional--indeed, all these weeks since her death I
have been expecting it. If I am right, we shall find her body
undecayed and untouched by corruption."

"But she has been dead nearly two months," said I.

"If she had been dead two years it would still be so, if the vampire
has possession of her. So remember: whatever you see done, it will be
done not to her, who in the natural course would now be feeding the
grasses above her grave, but to a spirit of untold evil and
malignancy, which gives a phantom life to her body."

"But what shall I see done?" said I.

"I will tell you. We know that now, at this moment, the vampire clad
in her mortal semblance is out; dining out. But it must get back
before dawn, and it will pass into the material form that lies in her
grave. We must wait for that, and then with your help I shall dig up
her body. If I am right, you will look on her as she was in life, with
the full vigour of the dreadful nutriment she has received pulsing in
her veins. And then, when dawn has come, and the vampire cannot leave
the lair of her body, I shall strike her with this"--and he pointed to
his pick--"through the heart, and she, who comes to life again only
with the animation the fiend gives her, she and her hellish partner
will be dead indeed. Then we must bury her again, delivered at last."

We had come to the cemetery, and in the brightness of the moonshine
there was no difficulty in identifying her grave. It lay some twenty
yards from the small chapel, in the porch of which, obscured by
shadow, we concealed ourselves. From there we had a clear and open
sight of the grave, and now we must wait till its infernal visitor
returned home. The night was warm and windless, yet even if a freezing
wind had been raging I think I should have felt nothing of it, so
intense was my preoccupation as to what the night and dawn would
bring. There was a bell in the turret of the chapel, that struck the
quarters of the hour, and it amazed me to find how swiftly the chimes
succeeded one another.

The moon had long set, but a twilight of stars shone in a clear sky,
when five o'clock of the morning sounded from the turret. A few
minutes more passed, and then I felt Urcombe's hand softly nudging me;
and looking out in the direction of his pointing finger, I saw that
the form of a woman, tall and large in build, was approaching from the
right. Noiselessly, with a motion more of gliding and floating than
walking, she moved across the cemetery to the grave which was the
centre of our observation. She moved round it as if to be certain of
its identity, and for a moment stood directly facing us. In the
greyness to which now my eyes had grown accustomed, I could easily see
her face, and recognise its features.

She drew her hand across her mouth as if wiping it, and broke into a
chuckle of such laughter as made my hair stir on my head. Then she
leaped on to the grave, holding her hands high above her head, and
inch by inch disappeared into the earth. Urcombe's hand was laid on my
arm, in an injunction to keep still, but now he removed it.

"Come," he said.

With pick and shovel and rope we went to the grave. The earth was
light and sandy, and, soon after six struck, we had delved down to the
coffin lid. With his pick he loosened the earth round it, and,
adjusting the rope through the handles by which it had been lowered,
we tried to raise it.

This was a long and laborious business, and the light had begun to
herald day in the east before we had it out, and lying by the side of
the grave. With his screwdriver he loosed the fastenings of the lid,
and slid it aside, and standing there we looked on the face of Mrs.
Amworth. The eyes, once closed in death, were open, the cheeks were
flushed with colour, the red, full-lipped mouth seemed to smile.

"One blow and it is all over," he said. "You need not look."

Even as he spoke he took up the pick again, and, laying the point of
it on her left breast, measured his distance. And though I knew what
was coming I could not look away...

He grasped the pick in both hands, raised it an inch or two for the
taking of his aim, and then with full force brought it down on her
breast. A fountain of blood, though she had been dead so long, spouted
high in the air, falling with the thud of a heavy splash over the
shroud, and simultaneously from those red lips came one long,
appalling cry, swelling up like some hooting siren, and dying away
again. With that, instantaneous as a lightning flash, came the touch
of corruption on her face, the colour of it faded to ash, the plump
cheeks fell in, the mouth dropped.

"Thank God, that's over," said he, and without pause slipped the
coffin lid back into its place.

Day was coming fast now, and, working like men possessed, we lowered
the coffin into its place again, and shovelled the earth over it...
The birds were busy with their earliest pipings as we went back to
Maxley.




BETWEEN THE LIGHTS

The day had been one unceasing fall of snow from sunrise until the
gradual withdrawal of the vague white light outside indicated that the
sun had set again. But as usual at this hospitable and delightful
house of Everard Chandler where I often spent Christmas, and was
spending it now, there had been no lack of entertainment, and the
hours had passed with a rapidity that had surprised us. A short
billiard tournament had filled up the time between breakfast and
lunch, with Badminton and the morning papers for those who were
temporarily not engaged, while afterwards, the interval till tea-time
had been occupied by the majority of the party in a huge game of hide-
and-seek all over the house, barring the billiard-room, which was
sanctuary for any who desired peace. But few had done that; the
enchantment of Christmas, I must suppose, had, like some spell, made
children of us again, and it was with palsied terror and trembling
misgivings that we had tip-toed up and down the dim passages, from any
corner of which some wild screaming form might dart out on us. Then,
wearied with exercise and emotion, we had assembled again for tea in
the hall, a room of shadows and panels on which the light from the
wide open fireplace, where there burned a divine mixture of peat and
logs, flickered and grew bright again on the walls. Then, as was
proper, ghost-stories, for the narration of which the electric light
was put out, so that the listeners might conjecture anything they
pleased to be lurking in the corners, succeeded, and we vied with each
other in blood, bones, skeletons, armour and shrieks. I had, just
given my contribution, and was reflecting with some complacency that
probably the worst was now known, when Everard, who had not yet
administered to the horror of his guests, spoke. He was sitting
opposite me in the full blaze of the fire, looking, after the illness
he had gone through during the autumn, still rather pale and delicate.
All the same he had been among the boldest and best in the exploration
of dark places that afternoon, and the look on his face now rather
startled me.

"No, I don't mind that sort of thing," he said. "The paraphernalia of
ghosts has become somehow rather hackneyed, and when I hear of screams
and skeletons I feel I am on familiar ground, and can at least hide my
head under the bed-clothes."

"Ah, but the bed-clothes were twitched away by my skeleton," said I,
in self-defence.

"I know, but I don't even mind that. Why, there are seven, eight
skeletons in this room now, covered with blood and skin and other
horrors. No, the nightmares of one's childhood were the really
frightening things, because they were vague. There was the true
atmosphere of horror about them because one didn't know what one
feared. Now if one could recapture that--"

Mrs. Chandler got quickly out of her seat.

"Oh, Everard," she said, "surely you don't wish to recapture it again.
I should have thought once was enough."

This was enchanting. A chorus of invitation asked him to proceed: the
real true ghost-story first-hand, which was what seemed to be
indicated, was too precious a thing to lose.

Everard laughed. "No, dear, I don't want to recapture it again at
all," he said to his wife.

Then to us: "But really the--well, the nightmare perhaps, to which I
was referring, is of the vaguest and most unsatisfactory kind. It has
no apparatus about it at all. You will probably all say that it was
nothing, and wonder why I was frightened. But I was; it frightened me
out of my wits. And I only just saw something, without being able to
swear what it was, and heard something which might have been a falling
stone."

"Anyhow, tell us about the falling stone," said I.

There was a stir of movement about the circle round the fire, and the
movement was not of purely physical order. It was as if--this is only
what I personally felt--it was as if the childish gaiety of the hours
we had passed that day was suddenly withdrawn; we had jested on
certain subjects, we had played hide-and-seek with all the power of
earnestness that was in us. But now--so it seemed to me--there was
going to be real hide-and-seek, real terrors were going to lurk in
dark corners, or if not real terrors, terrors so convincing as to
assume the garb of reality, were going to pounce on us. And Mrs.
Chandler's exclamation as she sat down again, "Oh, Everard, won't it
excite you?" tended in any case to excite us. The room still remained
in dubious darkness except for the sudden lights disclosed on the
walls by the leaping flames on the hearth, and there was wide field
for conjecture as to what might lurk in the dim corners. Everard,
moreover, who had been sitting in bright light before, was banished by
the extinction of some flaming log into the shadows. A voice alone
spoke to us, as he sat back in his low chair, a voice rather slow but
very distinct.

"Last year," he said, "on the twenty-fourth of December, we were down
here, as usual, Amy and I, for Christmas. Several of you who are here
now were here then. Three or four of you at least."

I was one of these, but like the others kept silence, for the
identification, so it seemed to me, was not asked for. And he went on
again without a pause.

"Those of you who were here then," he said, "and are here now, will
remember how very warm it was this day year. You will remember, too,
that we played croquet that day on the lawn. It was perhaps a little
cold for croquet, and we played it rather in order to be able to say--
with sound evidence to back the statement--that we had done so."

Then he turned and addressed the whole little circle.

"We played ties of half-games," he said, "just as we have played
billiards to-day, and it was certainly as warm on the lawn then as it
was in the billiard-room this morning directly after breakfast, while
to-day I should not wonder if there was three feet of snow outside.
More, probably; listen."

A sudden draught fluted in the chimney, and the fire flared up as the
current of air caught it.

The wind also drove the snow against the windows, and as he said,
"Listen," we heard a soft scurry of the falling flakes against the
panes, like the soft tread of many little people who stepped lightly,
but with the persistence of multitudes who were flocking to some
rendezvous. Hundreds of little feet seemed to be gathering outside;
only the glass kept them out. And of the eight skeletons present four
or five, anyhow, turned and looked at the windows. These were small-
paned, with leaden bars. On the leaden bars little heaps of snow had
accumulated, but there was nothing else to be seen.

"Yes, last Christmas Eve was very warm and sunny," went on Everard.
"We had had no frost that autumn, and a temerarious dahlia was still
in flower. I have always thought that it must have been mad."

He paused a moment.

"And I wonder if I were not mad too," he added.

No one interrupted him; there was something arresting, I must suppose,
in what he was saying; it chimed in anyhow with the hide-and-seek,
with the suggestions of the lonely snow.

Mrs. Chandler had sat down again, but I heard her stir in her chair.
But never was there a gay party so reduced as we had been in the last
five minutes. Instead of laughing at ourselves for playing silly
games, we were all taking a serious game seriously.

"Anyhow, I was sitting out," he said to me, "while you and my wife
played your half-game of croquet. Then it struck me that it was not so
warm as I had supposed, because quite suddenly I shivered. And
shivering I looked up. But I did not see you and her playing croquet
at all. I saw something which had no relation to you and her--at least
I hope not."

Now the angler lands his fish, the stalker kills his stag, and the
speaker holds his audience.

And as the fish is gaffed, and as the stag is shot, so were we held.
There was no getting away till he had finished with us.

"You all know the croquet lawn," he said, "and how it is bounded all
round by a flower border with a brick wall behind it, through which,
you will remember, there is only one gate.

"Well, I looked up and saw that the lawn--I could for one moment see
it was still a lawn--was shrinking, and the walls closing in upon it.
As they closed in too, they grew higher, and simultaneously the light
began to fade and be sucked from the sky, till it grew quite dark
overhead and only a glimmer of light came in through the gate.

"There was, as I told you, a dahlia in flower that day, and as this
dreadful darkness and bewilderment came over me, I remember that my
eyes sought it in a kind of despair, holding on, as it were, to any
familiar object. But it was no longer a dahlia, and for the red of its
petals I saw only the red of some feeble firelight. And at that moment
the hallucination was complete. I was no longer sitting on the lawn
watching croquet, but I was in a low-roofed room, something like a
cattle-shed, but round. Close above my head, though I was sitting
down, ran rafters from wall to wall. It was nearly dark, but a little
light came in from the door opposite to me, which seemed to lead into
a passage that communicated with the exterior of the place. Little,
however, of the wholesome air came into this dreadful den; the
atmosphere was oppressive and foul beyond all telling, it was as if
for years it had been the place of some human menagerie, and for those
years had been uncleaned and unsweetened by the winds of heaven. Yet
that oppressiveness was nothing to the awful horror of the place from
the view of the spirit. Some dreadful atmosphere of crime and
abomination dwelt heavy in it, its denizens, whoever they were, were
scarce human, so it seemed to me, and though men and women, were akin
more to the beasts of the field. And in addition there was present to
me some sense of the weight of years; I had been taken and thrust down
into some epoch of dim antiquity."

He paused a moment, and the fire on the hearth leaped up for a second
and then died down again. But in that gleam I saw that all faces were
turned to Everard, and that all wore some look of dreadful expectancy.
Certainly I felt it myself, and waited in a sort of shrinking horror
for what was coming.

"As I told you," he continued, "where there had been that unseasonable
dahlia, there now burned a dim firelight, and my eyes were drawn
there. Shapes were gathered round it; what they were I could not at
first see. Then perhaps my eyes got more accustomed to the dusk, or
the fire burned better, for I perceived that they were of human form,
but very small, for when one rose with a horrible chattering, to his
feet, his head was still some inches off the low roof. He was dressed
in a sort of shirt that came to his knees, but his arms were bare and
covered with hair.

"Then the gesticulation and chattering increased, and I knew that they
were talking about me, for they kept pointing in my direction. At that
my horror suddenly deepened, for I became aware that I was powerless
and could not move hand or foot; a helpless, nightmare impotence had
possession of me. I could not lift a finger or turn my head. And in
the paralysis of that fear I tried to scream, but not a sound could I
utter.

"All this I suppose took place with the instantaneousness of a dream,
for at once, and without transition, the whole thing had vanished, and
I was back on the lawn again, while the stroke for which my wife was
aiming was still unplayed. But my face was dripping with perspiration,
and I was trembling all over.

"Now you may all say that I had fallen asleep, and had a sudden
nightmare. That may be so; but I was conscious of no sense of
sleepiness before, and I was conscious of none afterwards. It was as
if someone had held a book before me, whisked the pages open for a
second and closed them again."

Somebody, I don't know who, got up from his chair with a sudden
movement that made me start, and turned on the electric light. I do
not mind confessing that I was rather glad of this.

Everard laughed.

"Really I feel like Hamlet in the play-scene," he said, "and as if
there was a guilty uncle present. Shall I go on?"

I don't think anyone replied, and he went on.

"Well, let us say for the moment that it was not a dream exactly, but
a hallucination.

"Whichever it was, in any case it haunted me; for months, I think, it
was never quite out of my mind, but lingered somewhere in the dusk of
consciousness, sometimes sleeping quietly, so to speak, but sometimes
stirring in its sleep. It was no good my telling myself that I was
disquieting myself in vain, for it was as if something had actually
entered into my very soul, as if some seed of horror had been planted
there. And as the weeks went on the seed began to sprout, so that I
could no longer even tell myself that that vision had been a moment's
disorderment only. I can't say that it actually affected my health. I
did not, as far as I know, sleep or eat insufficiently, but morning
after morning I used to wake, not gradually and through pleasant
dozings into full consciousness, but with absolute suddenness, and
find myself plunged in an abyss of despair.

"Often too, eating or drinking, I used to pause and wonder if it was
worth while.

"Eventually, I told two people about my trouble, hoping that perhaps
the mere communication would help matters, hoping also, but very
distantly, that though I could not believe at present that digestion
or the obscurities of the nervous system were at fault, a doctor by
some simple dose might convince me of it. In other words I told my
wife, who laughed at me, and my doctor, who laughed also, and assured
me that my health was quite unnecessarily robust.

"At the same time he suggested that change of air and scene does
wonders for the delusions that exist merely in the imagination. He
also told me, in answer to a direct question, that he would stake his
reputation on the certainty that I was not going mad.

"Well, we went up to London as usual for the season, and though
nothing whatever occurred to remind me in any way of that single
moment on Christmas Eve, the reminding was seen to all right, the
moment itself took care of that, for instead of fading as is the way
of sleeping or waking dreams, it grew every day more vivid, and ate,
so to speak, like some corrosive acid into my mind, etching itself
there. And to London succeeded Scotland.

"I took last year for the first time a small forest up in Sutherland,
called Glen Callan, very remote and wild, but affording excellent
stalking. It was not far from the sea, and the gillies used always to
warn me to carry a compass on the hill, because sea-mists were liable
to come up with frightful rapidity, and there was always a danger of
being caught by one, and of having perhaps to wait hours till it
cleared again. This at first I always used to do, but, as everyone
knows, any precaution that one takes which continues to be unjustified
gets gradually relaxed, and at the end of a few weeks, since the
weather had been uniformly clear, it was natural that, as often as
not, my compass remained at home.

"One day the stalk took me on to a part of my ground that I had seldom
been on before, a very high table-land on the limit of my forest,
which went down very steeply on one side to a loch that lay below it,
and on the other, by gentler gradations, to the river that came from
the loch, six miles below which stood the lodge. The wind had
necessitated our climbing up--or so my stalker had insisted--not by
the easier way, but up the crags from the loch. I had argued the point
with him for it seemed to me that it was impossible that the deer
could get our scent if we went by the more natural path, but he still
held to his opinion; and therefore, since after all this was his part
of the job, I yielded. A dreadful climb we had of it, over big
boulders with deep holes in between, masked by clumps of heather, so
that a wary eye and a prodding stick were necessary for each step if
one wished to avoid broken bones. Adders also literally swarmed in the
heather; we must have seen a dozen at least on our way up, and adders
are a beast for which I have no manner of use. But a couple of hours
saw us to the top, only to find that the stalker had been utterly at
fault, and that the deer must quite infallibly have got wind of us, if
they had remained in the place where we last saw them. That, when we
could spy the ground again, we saw had happened; in any case they had
gone. The man insisted the wind had changed, a palpably stupid excuse,
and I wondered at that moment what other reason he had--for reason I
felt sure there must be--for not wishing to take what would clearly
now have been a better route. But this piece of bad management did not
spoil our luck, for within an hour we had spied more deer, and about
two o'clock I got a shot, killing a heavy stag. Then sitting on the
heather I ate lunch, and enjoyed a well-earned bask and smoke in the
sun. The pony meantime had been saddled with the stag, and was
plodding homewards.

"The morning had been extraordinarily warm, with a little wind blowing
off the sea, which lay a few miles off sparkling beneath a blue haze,
and all morning in spite of our abominable climb I had had an extreme
sense of peace, so much so that several times I had probed my mind, so
to speak, to find if the horror still lingered there. But I could
scarcely get any response from it.

"Never since Christmas had I been so free of fear, and it was with a
great sense of repose, both physical and spiritual, that I lay looking
up into the blue sky, watching my smoke-whorls curl slowly away into
nothingness. But I was not allowed to take my ease long, for Sandy
came and begged that I would move. The weather had changed, he said,
the wind had shifted again, and he wanted me to be off this high
ground and on the path again as soon as possible, because it looked to
him as if a sea-mist would presently come up.

"'And yon's a bad place to get down in the mist,' he added, nodding
towards the crags we had come up.

"I looked at the man in amazement, for to our right lay a gentle slope
down on to the river, and there was now no possible reason for again
tackling those hideous rocks up which we had climbed this morning.
More than ever I was sure he had some secret reason for not wishing to
go the obvious way. But about one thing he was certainly right, the
mist was coming up from the sea, and I felt in my pocket for the
compass, and found I had forgotten to bring it.

"Then there followed a curious scene which lost us time that we could
really ill afford to waste, I insisting on going down by the way that
common sense directed, he imploring me to take his word for it that
the crags were the better way. Eventually, I marched off to the easier
descent, and told him not to argue any more but follow. What annoyed
me about him was that he would only give the most senseless reasons
for preferring the crags. There were mossy places, he said, on the way
I wished to go, a thing patently false, since the summer had been one
spell of unbroken weather; or it was longer, also obviously untrue; or
there were so many vipers about.

"But seeing that none of these arguments produced any effect, at last
he desisted, and came after me in silence.

"We were not yet half down when the mist was upon us, shooting up from
the valley like the broken water of a wave, and in three minutes we
were enveloped in a cloud of fog so thick that we could barely see a
dozen yards in front of us. It was therefore another cause for self-
congratulation that we were not now, as we should otherwise have been,
precariously clambering on the face of those crags up which we had
come with such difficulty in the morning, and as I rather prided
myself on my powers of generalship in the matter of direction, I
continued leading, feeling sure that before long we should strike the
track by the river. More than all, the absolute freedom from fear
elated me; since Christmas I had not known the instinctive joy of
that; I felt like a schoolboy home for the holidays. But the mist grew
thicker and thicker, and whether it was that real rain-clouds had
formed above it, or that it was of an extraordinary density itself, I
got wetter in the next hour than I have ever been before or since. The
wet seemed to penetrate the skin, and chill the very bones. And still
there was no sign of the track for which I was making.

"Behind me, muttering to himself, followed the stalker, but his
arguments and protestations were dumb, and it seemed as if he kept
close to me, as if afraid.

"Now there are many unpleasant companions in this world; I would not,
for instance, care to be on the hill with a drunkard or a maniac, but
worse than either, I think, is a frightened man, because his trouble
is infectious, and, insensibly. I began to be afraid of being
frightened too.

"From that it is but a short step to fear. Other perplexities too
beset us. At one time we seemed to be walking on flat ground, at
another I felt sure we were climbing again, whereas all the time we
ought to have been descending, unless we had missed the way very badly
indeed. Also, for the month was October, it was beginning to get dark,
and it was with a sense of relief that I remembered that the full moon
would rise soon after sunset. But it had grown very much colder, and
soon, instead of rain, we found we were walking through a steady fall
of snow.

"Things were pretty bad, but then for the moment they seemed to mend,
for, far away to the left, I suddenly heard the brawling of the river.
It should, it is true, have been straight in front of me and we were
perhaps a mile out of our way, but this was better than the blind
wandering of the last hour, and turning to the left, I walked towards
it. But before I had gone a hundred yards, I heard a sudden choked cry
behind me, and just saw Sandy's form flying as if in terror of
pursuit, into the mists. I called to him, but got no reply, and heard
only the spurned stones of his running.

"What had frightened him I had no idea, but certainly with his
disappearance, the infection of his fear disappeared also, and I went
on, I may almost say, with gaiety. On the moment, however, I saw a
sudden well-defined blackness in front of me, and before I knew what I
was doing I was half stumbling, half walking up a very steep grass
slope.

"During the last few minutes the wind had got up, and the driving snow
was peculiarly uncomfortable, but there had been a certain consolation
in thinking that the wind would soon disperse these mists, and I had
nothing more than a moonlight walk home. But as I paused on this
slope, I became aware of two things, one, that the blackness in front
of me was very close, the other that, whatever it was, it sheltered me
from the snow. So I climbed on a dozen yards into its friendly
shelter, for it seemed to me to be friendly.

"A wall some twelve feet high crowned the slope, and exactly where I
struck it there was a hole in it, or door rather, through which a
little light appeared. Wondering at this I pushed on, bending down,
for the passage was very low, and in a dozen yards came out on the
other side.

"Just as I did this the sky suddenly grew lighter, the wind, I
suppose, having dispersed the mists, and the moon, though not yet
visible through the flying skirts of cloud, made sufficient
illumination.

"I was in a circular enclosure, and above me there projected from the
walls some four feet from the ground, broken stones which must have
been intended to support a floor. Then simultaneously two things
occurred.

"The whole of my nine months' terror came back to me, for I saw that
the vision in the garden was fulfilled, and at the same moment I saw
stealing towards me a little figure as of a man, but only about three
foot six in height. That my eyes told me; my ears told me that he
stumbled on a stone; my nostrils told me that the air I breathed was
of an overpowering foulness, and my soul told me that it was sick unto
death. I think I tried to scream, but could not; I know I tried to
move and could not. And it crept closer.

"Then I suppose the terror which held me spellbound so spurred me that
I must move, for next moment I heard a cry break from my lips, and was
stumbling through the passage. I made one leap of it down the grass
slope, and ran as I hope never to have to run again. What direction I
took I did not pause to consider, so long as I put distance between me
and that place. Luck, however, favoured me, and before long I struck
the track by the river, and an hour afterwards reached the lodge.

"Next day I developed a chill, and as you know pneumonia laid me on my
back for six weeks.

"Well, that is my story, and there are many explanations. You may say
that I fell asleep on the lawn, and was reminded of that by finding
myself, under discouraging circumstances, in an old Picts' castle,
where a sheep or a goat that, like myself, had taken shelter from the
storm, was moving about. Yes, there are hundreds of ways in which you
may explain it. But the coincidence was an odd one, and those who
believe in second sight might find an instance of their hobby in it."

"And that is all?" I asked.

"Yes, it was nearly too much for me. I think the dressing-bell has
sounded."




THE HOUSE WITH THE BRICK-KILN

The hamlet of Trevor Major lies very lonely and sequestered in a
hollow below the north side of the south downs that stretch westward
from Lewes, and run parallel with the coast. It is a hamlet of some
three or four dozen inconsiderable houses and cottages much girt about
with trees, but the big Norman church and the manor house which stands
a little outside the village are evidence of a more conspicuous past.
This latter, except for a tenancy of rather less than three weeks, now
four years ago, has stood unoccupied since the summer of 1896, and
though it could be taken at a rent almost comically small, it is
highly improbable that either of its last tenants, even if times were
very bad, would think of passing a night in it again. For myself--I
was one of the tenants--I would far prefer living in a workhouse to
inhabiting those low-pitched oak-panelled rooms, and I would sooner
look from my garret windows on to the squalor and grime of Whitechapel
than from the diamond-shaped and leaded panes of the Manor of Trevor
Major on to the boskage of its cool thickets, and the glimmering of
its clear chalk streams where the quick trout glance among the waving
water-weeds and over the chalk and gravel of its sliding rapids.

It was the news of these trout that led Jack Singleton and myself to
take the house for the month between mid-May and mid-June, but as I
have already mentioned a short three weeks was all the time we passed
there, and we had more than a week of our tenancy yet unexpired when
we left the place, though on the very last afternoon we enjoyed the
finest dry-fly fishing that has ever fallen to my lot. Singleton had
originally seen the advertisement of the house in a Sussex paper, with
the statement that there was good dry-fly fishing belonging to it, but
it was with but faint hopes of the reality of the dry-fly fishing that
we went down to look at the place, since we had before this so often
inspected depopulated ditches which were offered to the unwary under
high-sounding titles. Yet after a half-hour's stroll by the stream, we
went straight back to the agent, and before nightfall had taken it for
a month with option of renewal.

We arrived accordingly from town at about five o'clock on a cloudless
afternoon in May, and through the mists of horror that now stand
between me and the remembrance of what occurred later, I cannot forget
the exquisite loveliness of the impression then conveyed. The garden,
it is true, appeared to have been for years untended; weeds half-
choked the gravel paths, and the flower-beds were a congestion of
mingled wild and cultivated vegetations. It was set in a wall of
mellowed brick, in which snap-dragon and stone-crop had found an
anchorage to their liking, and beyond that there stood sentinel a ring
of ancient pines in which the breeze made music as of a distant sea.
Outside that the ground sloped slightly downwards in a bank covered
with a jungle of wild-rose to the stream that ran round three sides of
the garden, and then followed a meandering course through the two big
fields which lay towards the village. Over all this we had fishing-
rights; above, the same rights extended for another quarter of a mile
to the arched bridge over which there crossed the road which led to
the house. In this field above the house on the fourth side, where the
ground had been embanked to carry the road, stood a brick-kiln in a
ruinous state. A shallow pit, long overgrown with tall grasses and
wild field-flowers, showed where the clay had been digged.

The house itself was long and narrow; entering, you passed direct into
a square panelled hall, on the left of which was the dining-room which
communicated with the passage leading to the kitchen and offices. On
the right of the hall were two excellent sitting-rooms looking out,
the one on to the gravel in front of the house, the other on to the
garden. From the first of these you could see, through the gap in the
pines by which the road approached the house, the brick-kiln of which
I have already spoken. An oak staircase went up from the hall, and
round it ran a gallery on to which the three principal bedrooms
opened. These were commensurate with the dining-room and the two
sitting-rooms below. From this gallery there led a long narrow passage
shut off from the rest of the house by a red-baize door, which led to
a couple more guest-rooms and the servants' quarters.

Jack Singleton and I share the same flat in town, and we had sent down
in the morning Franklyn and his wife, two old and valued servants, to
get things ready at Trevor Major, and procure help from the village to
look after the house, and Mrs. Franklyn, with her stout comfortable
face all wreathed in smiles, opened the door to us. She had had some
previous experience of the "comfortable quarters" which go with
fishing, and had come down prepared for the worst, but found it all of
the best. The kitchen-boiler was not furred; hot and cold water was
laid on in the most convenient fashion, and could be obtained from
taps that neither stuck nor leaked. Her husband, it appeared, had gone
into the village to buy a few necessaries, and she brought up tea for
us, and then went upstairs to the two rooms over the dining-room and
bigger sitting-room, which we had chosen for our bedrooms, to unpack.
The doors of these were exactly opposite one another to right and left
of the gallery, and Jack, who chose the bedroom above the sitting-
room, had thus a smaller room, above the second sitting-room,
unoccupied, next his and opening out from it.

We had a couple of hours' fishing before dinner, each of us catching
three or four brace of trout, and came back in the dusk to the house.
Franklyn had returned from the village from his errand, reported that
he had got a woman to come in to do housework in the mornings, and
mentioned that our arrival had seemed to arouse a good deal of
interest. The reason for this was obscure; he could only tell us that
he was questioned a dozen times as to whether we really intended to
live in the house, and his assurance that we did produced silence and
a shaking of heads. But the country-folk of Sussex are notable for
their silence and chronic attitude of disapproval, and we put this
down to local idiosyncrasy.

The evening was exquisitely warm, and after dinner we pulled out a
couple of basket-chairs on to the gravel by the front door, and sat
for an hour or so, while the night deepened in throbs of gathering
darkness. The moon was not risen and the ring of pines cut off much of
the pale starlight, so that when we went in, allured by the shining of
the lamp in the sitting-room, it was curiously dark for a clear night
in May. And at that moment of stepping from the darkness into the
cheerfulness of the lighted house, I had a sudden sensation, to which,
during the next fortnight, I became almost accustomed, of there being
something unseen and unheard and dreadful near me. In spite of the
warmth, I felt myself shiver, and concluded instantly that I had sat
out-of-doors long enough, and without mentioning it to Jack, followed
him into the smaller sitting-room in which we had scarcely yet set
foot. It, like the hall, was oak-panelled, and in the panels hung some
half-dozen of water-colour sketches, which we examined, idly at first,
and then with growing interest, for they were executed with
extraordinary finish and delicacy, and each represented some aspect of
the house or garden. Here you looked up the gap in the fir-trees into
a crimson sunset; here the garden, trim and carefully tended, dozed
beneath some languid summer noon; here an angry wreath of storm-cloud
brooded over the meadow where the trout-stream ran grey and leaden
below a threatening sky, while another, the most careful and arresting
of all, was a study of the brick-kiln. In this, alone of them all, was
there a human figure; a man, dressed in grey, peered into the open
door from which issued a fierce red glow. The figure was painted with
miniature-like elaboration; the face was in profile, and represented a
youngish man, clean-shaven, with a long aquiline nose and singularly
square chin. The sketch was long and narrow in shape, and the chimney
of the kiln appeared against a dark sky. From it there issued a thin
stream of grey smoke.

Jack looked at this with attention.

"What a horrible picture!" he said, "and how beautifully painted! I
feel as if it meant something, as if it was a representation of
something that happened, not a mere sketch. By Jove!--"

He broke off suddenly and went in turn to each of the other pictures.

"That's a queer thing," he said. "See if you notice what I mean."

With the brick-kiln rather vividly impressed on my mind, it was not
difficult to see what he had noticed. In each of the pictures appeared
the brick-kiln, chimney and all, now seen faintly between trees, now
in full view, and in each the chimney was smoking.

"And the odd part is that from the garden side, you can't really see
the kiln at all," observed Jack, "it's hidden by the house, and yet
the artist F. A., as I see by his signature, puts it in just the
same."

"What do you make of that?" I asked.

"Nothing. I suppose he had a fancy for brick-kilns. Let's have a game
of picquet."

A fortnight of our three weeks passed without incident, except that
again and again the curious feeling of something dreadful being close
at hand was present in my mind. In a way, as I said, I got used to it,
but on the other hand the feeling itself seemed to gain in poignancy.
Once just at the end of the fortnight I mentioned it to Jack.

"Odd you should speak of it," he said, "because I've felt the same.
When do you feel it? Do you feel it now, for instance?"

We were again sitting out after dinner, and as he spoke I felt it with
far greater intensity than ever before. And at the same moment the
house-door which had been closed, though probably not latched, swung
gently open, letting out a shaft of light from the hall, and as gently
swung to again, as if something had stealthily entered.

"Yes," I said. "I felt it then. I only feel it in the evening. It was
rather bad that time."

Jack was silent a moment.

"Funny thing the door opening and shutting like that," he said. "Let's
go indoors."

We got up and I remember seeing at that moment that the windows of my
bedroom were lit; Mrs. Franklyn probably was making things ready for
the night. Simultaneously, as we crossed the gravel, there came from
just inside the house the sound of a hurried footstep on the stairs,
and entering we found Mrs. Franklyn in the hall, looking rather white
and startled.

"Anything wrong?" I asked.

She took two or three quick breaths before she answered:

"No, sir," she said, "at least nothing that I can give an account of.
I was tidying up in your room, and I thought you came in. But there
was nobody, and it gave me a turn. I left my candle there; I must go
up for it."

I waited in the hall a moment, while she again ascended the stairs,
and passed along the gallery to my room. At the door, which I could
see was open, she paused, not entering.

"What is the matter?" I asked from below.

"I left the candle alight," she said, "and it's gone out." Jack
laughed.

"And you left the door and window open," said he.

"Yes, sir, but not a breath of wind is stirring," said Mrs. Franklyn,
rather faintly.

This was true, and yet a few moments ago the heavy hall-door had swung
open and back again. Jack ran upstairs.

"We'll brave the dark together, Mrs. Franklyn," he said.

He went into my room, and I heard the sound of a match struck. Then
through the open door came the light of the rekindled candle and
simultaneously I heard a bell ring in the servants' quarters. In a
moment came steps, and Franklyn appeared.

"What bell was that?" I asked.

"Mr. Jack's bedroom, sir," he said.

I felt there was a marked atmosphere of nerves about for which there
was really no adequate cause. All that had happened of a disturbing
nature was that Mrs. Franklyn had thought I had come into my bedroom,
and had been startled by finding I had not. She had then left the
candle in a draught, and it had been blown out. As for a bell ringing,
that, even if it had happened, was a very innocuous proceeding.

"Mouse on a wire," I said. "Mr. Jack is in my room this moment
lighting Mrs. Franklyn's candle for her."

Jack came down at this juncture, and we went into the sitting-room.
But Franklyn apparently was not satisfied, for we heard him in the
room above us, which was Jack's bedroom, moving about with his slow
and rather ponderous tread. Then his steps seemed to pass into the
bedroom adjoining and we heard no more.

I remember feeling hugely sleepy that night, and went to bed earlier
than usual, to pass rather a broken night with stretches of dreamless
sleep interspersed with startled awakenings, in which I passed very
suddenly into complete consciousness. Sometimes the house was
absolutely still, and the only sound to be heard was the sighing of
the night breeze outside in the pines, but sometimes the place seemed
full of muffled movements and once I could have sworn that the handle
of my door turned. That required verification, and I lit my candle,
but found that my ears must have played me false. Yet even as I stood
there, I thought I heard steps just outside, and with a considerable
qualm, I must confess, I opened the door and looked out. But the
gallery was quite empty, and the house quite still. Then from Jack's
room opposite I heard a sound that was somehow comforting, the snorts
of the snorer, and I went back to bed and slept again, and when next I
woke, morning was already breaking in red lines on the horizon, and
the sense of trouble that had been with me ever since last evening had
gone.

Heavy rain set in after lunch next day, and as I had arrears of
letter-writing to do, and the water was soon both muddy and rising, I
came home alone about five, leaving Jack still sanguine by the stream,
and worked for a couple of hours sitting at a writing-table in the
room overlooking the gravel at the front of the house, where hung the
water-colours. By seven I had finished, and just as I got up to light
candles, since it was already dusk, I saw, as I thought, Jack's figure
emerge from the bushes that bordered the path to the stream, on to the
space in front of the house. Then instantaneously and with a sudden
queer sinking of the heart quite unaccountable, I saw that it was not
Jack at all, but a stranger. He was only some six yards from the
window, and after pausing there a moment he came close up to the
window, so that his face nearly touched the glass, looking intently at
me. In the light from the freshly-kindled candles I could distinguish
his features with great clearness, but though, as far as I knew, I had
never seen him before, there was something familiar about both his
face and figure. He appeared to smile at me, but the smile was one of
inscrutable evil and malevolence, and immediately he walked on,
straight towards the house door opposite him, and out of sight of the
sitting-room window.

Now, little though I liked the look of the man, he was, as I have
said, familiar to my eye, and I went out into the hall, since he was
clearly coming to the front door, to open it to him and learn his
business. So without waiting for him to ring, I opened it, feeling
sure I should find him on the step. Instead, I looked out into the
empty gravel-sweep, the heavy-falling rain, the thick dusk.

And even as I looked, I felt something that I could not see push by me
through the half-opened door and pass into the house. Then the stairs
creaked, and a moment after a bell rang.

Franklyn is the quickest man to answer a bell I have ever seen, and
next instant he passed me going upstairs. He tapped at Jack's door,
entered and then came down again.

"Mr. Jack still out, sir?" he asked.

"Yes. His bell ringing again?"

"Yes, sir," said Franklyn, quite imperturbably.

I went back into the sitting-room, and soon Franklyn brought a lamp.
He put it on the table above which hung the careful and curious
picture of the brick-kiln, and then with a sudden horror I saw why the
stranger on the gravel outside had been so familiar to me. In all
respects he resembled the figure that peered into the kiln; it was
more than a resemblance, it was an identity.

And what had happened to this man who had inscrutably and evilly
smiled at me? And what had pushed in through the half-closed door?

At that moment I saw the face of Fear; my mouth went dry, and I heard
my heart leaping and cracking in my throat. That face was only turned
on me for a moment, and then away again, but I knew it to be the
genuine thing; not apprehension, not foreboding, not a feeling of
being startled, but Fear, cold Fear. And then though nothing had
occurred to assuage the Fear, it passed, and a certain sort of reason
usurped--for so I must say--its place. I had certainly seen somebody
on the gravel outside the house; I had supposed he was going to the
front door. I had opened it, and found he had not come to the front 
door. Or--and once again the terror resurged--had the invisible
pushing thing been that which I had seen outside? And if so, what was
it? And how came it that the face and figure of the man I had seen
were the same as those which were so scrupulously painted in the
picture of the brick-kiln?

I set myself to argue down the Fear for which there was no more
foundation than this, this and the repetition of the ringing bell, and
my belief is that I did so. I told myself, till I believed it, that a
man--a human man--had been walking across the gravel outside, and that
he had not come to the front door but had gone, as he might easily
have done, up the drive into the high-road.

I told myself that it was mere fancy that was the cause of the belief
that Something had pushed in by me, and as for the ringing of the
bell, I said to myself, as was true, that this had happened before.
And I must ask the reader to believe also that I argued these things
away, and looked no longer on the face of Fear itself. I was not
comfortable, but I fell short of being terrified.

I sat down again by the window looking on to the gravel in front of
the house, and finding another letter that asked, though it did not
demand, an answer, proceeded to occupy myself with it. Straight in
front led the drive through the gap in the pines, and passed through
the field where lay the brick-kiln. In a pause of page-turning I
looked up and saw something unusual about it; at the same moment an
unusual smell came to my nostril. What I saw was smoke coming out of
the chimney of the kiln, what I smelt was the odour of roasting meat.
The wind--such as there was--set from the kiln to the house. But as
far as I knew the smell of roast meat probably came from the kitchen
where dinner, so I supposed, was cooking. I had to tell myself this: I
wanted reassurance, lest the face of Fear should look whitely on me
again.

Then there came a crisp step on the gravel, a rattle at the front-
door, and Jack came in.

"Good sport," he said, "you gave up too soon."

And he went straight to the table above which hung the picture of the
man at the brick-kiln, and looked at it. Then there was silence; and
eventually I spoke, for I wanted to know one thing.

"Seen anybody?" I asked.

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"Because I have also; the man in that picture."

Jack came and sat down near me.

"It's a ghost, you know," he said. "He came down to the river about
dusk and stood near me for an hour. At first I thought he was real--
was real, and I warned him that he had better stand further off if he
didn't want to be hooked. And then it struck me he wasn't real, and I
cast, well, right through him, and about seven he walked up towards
the house."

"Were you frightened?"

"No. It was so tremendously interesting. So you saw him here too.
Whereabouts?"

"Just outside. I think he is in the house now."

Jack looked round.

"Did you see him come in?" he asked.

"No, but I felt him. There's another queer thing too; the chimney of
the brick-kiln is smoking."

Jack looked out of the window. It was nearly dark, but the wreathing
smoke could just be seen.

"So it is," he said, "fat, greasy smoke. I think I'll go up and see
what's on. Come too?"

"I think not," I said.

"Are you frightened? It isn't worth while. Besides, it is so
tremendously interesting."

Jack came back from his little expedition still interested. He had
found nothing stirring at the kiln, but though it was then nearly dark
the interior was faintly luminous, and against the black of the sky he
could see a wisp of thick white smoke floating northwards. But for the
rest of the evening we neither heard nor saw anything of abnormal
import, and the next day ran a course of undisturbed hours. Then
suddenly a hellish activity was manifested.

That night, while I was undressing for bed, I heard a bell ring
furiously, and I thought I heard a shout also. I guessed where the
ring came from, since Franklyn and his wife had long ago gone to bed,
and went straight to Jack's room. But as I tapped at the door I heard
his voice from inside calling loud to me. "Take care," it said, "he's
close to the door."

A sudden qualm of blank fear took hold of me, but mastering it as best
I could, I opened the door to enter, and once again something pushed
softly by me, though I saw nothing.

Jack was standing by his bed, half-undressed. I saw him wipe his
forehead with the back of his hand.

"He's been here again," he said. "I was standing just here, a minute
ago, when I found him close by me. He came out of the inner room, I
think. Did you see what he had in his hand?"

"I saw nothing."

"It was a knife; a great long carving knife. Do you mind my sleeping
on the sofa in your room to-night? I got an awful turn then. There was
another thing too. All round the edge of his clothes, at his collar
and at his wrists, there were little flames playing, little white
licking flames." But next day, again, we neither heard nor saw
anything, nor that night did the sense of that dreadful presence in
the house come to us. And then came the last day. We had been out till
it was dark, and as I said, had a wonderful day among the fish. On
reaching home we sat together in the sitting-room, when suddenly from
overhead came a tread of feet, a violent pealing of the bell, and the
moment after yell after yell as of someone in mortal agony. The
thought occurred to both of us that this might be Mrs. Franklyn in
terror of some fearful sight, and together we rushed up and sprang
into Jack's bedroom.

The doorway into the room beyond was open, and just inside it we saw
the man bending over some dark huddled object. Though the room was
dark we could see him perfectly, for a light stale and impure seemed
to come from him. He had again a long knife in his hand, and as we
entered he was wiping it on the mass that lay at his feet. Then he
took it up, and we saw what it was, a woman with head nearly severed.
But it was not Mrs. Franklyn.

And then the whole thing vanished, and we were standing looking into a
dark and empty room. We went downstairs without a word, and it was not
till we were both in the sitting-room below that Jack spoke.

"And he takes her to the brick-kiln," he said rather unsteadily.

"I say, have you had enough of this house? I have. There is hell in
it."

About a week later Jack put into my hand a guide-book to Sussex open
at the description of Trevor Major, and I read:

"Just outside the village stands the picturesque manor house, once the
home of the artist and notorious murderer, Francis Adam. It was here
he killed his wife, in a fit, it is believed, of groundless jealousy,
cutting her throat and disposing of her remains by burning them in a
brick-kiln."

"Certain charred fragments found six months afterwards led to his
arrest and execution."

So I prefer to leave the house with the brick-kiln and the pictures
signed F. A. to others.




THE MAN WHO WENT TOO FAR

The little village of St. Faith's nestles in a hollow of wooded till
up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire,
huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual
protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and "little
people," who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty
spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful
businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so
long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the
length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation,
or possibly even catching sight of another human being.

Shaggy wild ponies may stop their feeding for a moment as you pass,
the white scuts of rabbits will vanish into their burrows, a brown
viper perhaps will glide from your path into a clump of heather, and
unseen birds will chuckle in the bushes, but it may easily happen that
for a long day you will see nothing human. But you will not feel in
the least lonely; in summer, at any rate, the sunlight will be gay
with butterflies, and the air thick with all those woodland sounds
which like instruments in an orchestra combine to play the great
symphony of the yearly festival of June.

Winds whisper in the birches, and sigh among the firs; bees are busy
with their redolent labour among the heather, a myriad birds chirp in
the green temples of the forest trees, and the voice of the river
prattling over stony places, bubbling into pools, chuckling and
gulping round corners, gives you the sense that many presences and
companions are near at hand.

Yet, oddly enough, though one would have thought that these benign and
cheerful influences of wholesome air and spaciousness of forest were
very healthful comrades for a man, in so far as Nature can really
influence this wonderful human genus which has in these centuries
learned to defy her most violent storms in its well-established
houses, to bridle her torrents and make them light its streets, to
tunnel her mountains and plough her seas, the inhabitants of St.
Faith's will not willingly venture into the forest after dark. For in
spite of the silence and loneliness of the hooded night it seems that
a man is not sure in what company he may suddenly find himself, and
though it is difficult to get from these villagers any very clear
story of occult appearances, the feeling is widespread. One story
indeed I have heard with some definiteness, the tale of a monstrous
goat that has been seen to skip with hellish glee about the woods and
shady places, and this perhaps is connected with the story which I
have here attempted to piece together. It too is well-known to them;
for all remember the young artist who died here not long ago, a young
man, or so he struck the beholder, of great personal beauty, with
something about him that made men's faces to smile and brighten when
they looked on him. His ghost they will tell you "walks" constantly by
the stream and through the woods which he loved so, and in especial it
haunts a certain house, the last of the village, where he lived, and
its garden in which he was done to death. For my part I am inclined to
think that the terror of the forest dates chiefly from that day.

So, such as the story is, I have set it forth in connected form. It is
based partly on the accounts of the villagers, but mainly on that of
Darcy, a friend of mine and a friend of the man with whom these events
were chiefly concerned.

The day had been one of untarnished midsummer splendour, and as the
sun drew near to its setting, the glory of the evening grew every
moment more crystalline, more miraculous.

Westward from St. Faith's the beechwood which stretched for some miles
toward the heathery upland beyond already cast its veil of clear
shadow over the red roofs of the village, but the spire of the grey
church, over-topping all, still pointed a flaming orange finger into
the sky. The river Fawn, which runs below, lay in sheets of sky-
reflected blue, and wound its dreamy devious course round the edge of
this wood, where a rough two-planked bridge crossed from the bottom of
the garden of the last house in the village, and communicated by means
of a little wicker gate with the wood itself. Then once out of the
shadow of the wood the stream lay in flaming pools of the molten
crimson of the sunset, and lost itself in the haze of woodland
distances.

This house at the end of the village stood outside the shadow, and the
lawn which sloped down to the river was still flecked with sunlight.
Garden-beds of dazzling colour lined its gravel walks, and down the
middle of it ran a brick pergola, half-hidden in clusters of rambler-
rose and purple with starry clematis. At the bottom end of it, between
two of its pillars, was slung a hammock containing a shirtsleeved
figure.

The house itself lay somewhat remote from the rest of the village, and
a footpath leading across two fields, now tall and fragrant with hay,
was its only communication with the high road.

It was low-built, only two stories in height, and like the garden, its
walls were a mass of flowering roses. A narrow stone terrace ran along
the garden front, over which was stretched an awning, and on the
terrace a young silent-footed man-servant was busied with the laying
of the table for dinner. He was neat-handed and quick with his job,
and having finished it he went back into the house, and reappeared
again with a large rough bath-towel on his arm. With this he went to
the hammock in the pergola.

"Nearly eight, sir," he said.

"Has Mr. Darcy come yet?" asked a voice from the hammock.

"No, sir."

"If I'm not back when he comes, tell him that I'm just having a bathe
before dinner."

The servant went back to the house, and after a moment or two Frank
Halton struggled to a sitting posture, and slipped out on to the
grass. He was of medium height and rather slender in build, but the
supple ease and grace of his movements gave the impression of great
physical strength: even his descent from the hammock was not an
awkward performance. His face and hands were of very dark complexion,
either from constant exposure to wind and sun, or, as his black hair
and dark eyes tended to show, from some strain of southern blood. His
head was small, his face of an exquisite beauty of modelling, while
the smoothness of its contour would have led you to believe that he
was a beardless lad still in his teens. But something, some look which
living and experience alone can give, seemed to contradict that, and
finding yourself completely puzzled as to his age, you would next
moment probably cease to think about that, and only look at this
glorious specimen of young manhood with wondering satisfaction.

He was dressed as became the season and the heat, and wore only a
shirt open at the neck, and a pair of flannel trousers. His head,
covered very thickly with a somewhat rebellious crop of short curly
hair, was bare as he strolled across the lawn to the bathing-place
that lay below. Then for a moment there was silence, then the sound of
splashed and divided waters, and presently after, a great shout of
ecstatic joy, as he swam up-stream with the foamed water standing in a
frill round his neck. Then after some five minutes of limb-stretching
struggle with the flood, he turned over on his back, and with arms
thrown wide, floated down-stream, ripple-cradled and inert. His eyes
were shut, and between half-parted lips he talked gently to himself.

"I am one with it," he said to himself, "the river and I, I and the
river. The coolness and splash of it is I, and the water-herbs that
wave in it are I also. And my strength and my limbs are not mine but
the river's. It is all one, all one, dear Fawn." A quarter of an hour
later he appeared again at the bottom of the lawn, dressed as before,
his wet hair already drying into its crisp short curls again. There he
paused a moment, looking back at the stream with the smile with which
men look on the face of a friend, then turned towards the house.
Simultaneously his servant came to the door leading on to the terrace,
followed by a man who appeared to be some half-way through the fourth
decade of his years. Frank and he saw each other across the bushes and
garden-beds, and each quickening his step, they met suddenly face to
face round an angle of the garden walk, in the fragrance of syringa.

"My dear Darcy," cried Frank, "I am charmed to see you." But the other
stared at him in amazement.

"Frank!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, that is my name," he said, laughing; "what is the matter?" Darcy
took his hand.

"What have you done to yourself?" he asked.

"You are a boy again."

"Ah, I have a lot to tell you," said Frank.

"Lots that you will hardly believe, but I shall convince you--"

He broke off suddenly, and held up his hand.

"Hush, there is my nightingale," he said.

The smile of recognition and welcome with which he had greeted his
friend faded from his face, and a look of rapt wonder took its place,
as of a lover listening to the voice of his beloved.

His mouth parted slightly, showing the white line of teeth, and his
eyes looked out and out till they seemed to Darcy to be focussed on
things beyond the vision of man. Then something perhaps startled the
bird, for the song ceased.

"Yes, lots to tell you," he said. "Really I am delighted to see you.
But you look rather white and pulled down; no wonder after that fever.
And there is to be no nonsense about this visit. It is June now, you
stop here till you are fit to begin work again. Two months at least."

"Ah, I can't trespass quite to that extent."

Frank took his arm and walked him down the grass.

"Trespass? Who talks of trespass? I shall tell you quite openly when I
am tired of you, but you know when we had the studio together, we used
not to bore each other. However, it is ill talking of going away on
the moment of your arrival. Just a stroll to the river, and then it
will be dinner-time."

Darcy took out his cigarette case, and offered it to the other.

Frank laughed.

"No, not for me. Dear me, I suppose I used to smoke once. How very
odd!"

"Given it up?"

"I don't know. I suppose I must have. Anyhow I don't do it now. I
would as soon think of eating meat."

"Another victim on the smoking altar of vegetarianism?"

"Victim?" asked Frank. "Do I strike you as such?"

He paused on the margin of the stream and whistled softly. Next moment
a moor-hen made its splashing flight across the river, and ran up the
bank. Frank took it very gently in his hands and stroked its head, as
the creature lay against his shirt.

"And is the house among the reeds still secure?" he half-crooned to
it. "And is the missus quite well, and are the neighbours flourishing?
There, dear, home with you," and he flung it into the air.

"That bird's very tame," said Darcy, slightly bewildered.

"It is rather," said Frank, following its flight.

During dinner Frank chiefly occupied himself in bringing himself up-
to-date in the movements and achievements of this old friend whom he
had not seen for six years. Those six years, it now appeared, had been
full of incident and success for Darcy; he had made a name for himself
as a portrait painter which bade fair to outlast the vogue of a couple
of seasons, and his leisure time had been brief. Then some four months
previously he had been through a severe attack of typhoid, the result
of which as concerns this story was that he had come down to this
sequestered place to recruit.

"Yes, you've got on," said Frank at the end. "I always knew you would.
A.R.A. with more in prospect. Money? You roll in it, I suppose, and, O
Darcy, how much happiness have you had all these years? That is the
only imperishable possession. And how much have you learned? Oh, I
don't mean in Art. Even I could have done well in that."

Darcy laughed.

"Done well? My dear fellow, all I have learned in these six years you
knew, so to speak, in your cradle. Your old pictures fetch huge
prices. Do you never paint now?"

Frank shook his head.

"No, I'm too busy," he said.

"Doing what? Please tell me. That is what everyone is for ever asking
me."

"Doing? I suppose you would say I do nothing."

Darcy glanced up at the brilliant young face opposite him.

"It seems to suit you, that way of being busy," he said. "Now, it's
your turn. Do you read? Do you study? I remember you saying that it
would do us all--all us artists, I mean--a great deal of good if we
would study any one human face carefully for a year, without recording
a line."

"Have you been doing that?"

Frank shook his head again.

"I mean exactly what I say," he said. "I have been doing nothing. And
I have never been so occupied. Look at me; have I not done something
to myself to begin with?"

"You are two years younger than I," said Darcy, "at least you used to
be. You therefore are thirty-five. But had I never seen you before I
should say you were just twenty. But was it worth while to spend six
years of greatly-occupied life in order to look twenty? Seems rather
like a woman of fashion."

Frank laughed boisterously.

"First time I've ever been compared to that particular bird of prey,"
he said. "No, that has not been my occupation--in fact I am only very
rarely conscious that one effect of my occupation has been that. Of
course, it must have been if one comes to think of it. It is not very
important."

"Quite true my body has become young. But that is very little; I have
become young."

Darcy pushed back his chair and sat sideways to the table looking at
the other.

"Has that been your occupation then?" he asked.

"Yes, that anyhow is one aspect of it. Think what youth means! It is
the capacity for growth, mind, body, spirit, all grow, all get
stronger, all have a fuller, firmer life every day. That is something,
considering that every day that passes after the ordinary man reaches
the full-blown flower of his strength, weakens his hold on life. A man
reaches his prime, and remains, we say, in his prime for ten years, or
perhaps twenty. But after his primest prime is reached, he slowly,
insensibly weakens. These are the signs of age in you, in your body,
in your art probably, in your mind. You are less electric than you
were. But I, when I reach my prime--I am nearing it--ah, you shall
see." The stars had begun to appear in the blue velvet of the sky, and
to the east the horizon seen above the black silhouette of the village
was growing dove-coloured with the approach of moon-rise.

White moths hovered dimly over the garden-beds, and the footsteps of
night tip-toed through the bushes. Suddenly Frank rose.

"Ah, it is the supreme moment," he said softly. "Now more than at any
other time the current of life, the eternal imperishable current runs
so close to me that I am almost enveloped in it. Be silent a minute."

He advanced to the edge of the terrace and looked out, standing
stretched with arms outspread. Darcy heard him draw a long breath into
his lungs, and after many seconds expel it again. Six or eight times
he did this, then turned back into the lamplight.

"It will sound to you quite mad, I expect," he said, "but if you want
to hear the soberest truth I have ever spoken and shall ever speak, I
will tell you about myself. But come into the garden if it is not damp
for you. I have never told anyone yet, but I shall like to tell you.
It is long, in fact, since I have even tried to classify what I have
learned."

They wandered into the fragrant dimness of the pergola, and sat down.
Then Frank began:

"Years ago, do you remember," he said, "we used often to talk about
the decay of joy in the world. Many impulses, we settled, had
contributed to this decay, some of which were good in themselves,
others that were quite completely bad. Among the good things, I put
what we may call certain Christian virtues, renunciation, resignation,
sympathy with suffering, and the desire to relieve sufferers, but out
of those things spring very bad ones, useless renunciation, asceticism
for its own sake, mortification of the flesh with nothing to follow,
no corresponding gain that is, and that awful and terrible disease
which devastated England some centuries ago, and from which by
heredity of spirit we suffer now, Puritanism. That was a dreadful
plague, the brutes held and taught that joy and laughter and merriment
were evil: it was a doctrine the most profane and wicked. Why, what is
the commonest crime one sees? A sullen face. That is the truth of the
matter. Now all my life I have believed that we are intended to be
happy, that joy is of all gifts the most divine. And when I left
London, abandoned my career, such as it was, I did so because I
intended to devote my life to the cultivation of joy, and, by
continuous and unsparing effort to be happy. Among people, and in
constant intercourse with others, I did not find it possible; there
were too many distractions in towns and work-rooms, and also too much
suffering. So I took one step backwards or forwards, as you may choose
to put it, and went straight to Nature, to trees, birds, animals, to
all those things which quite clearly pursue one aim only, which
blindly follow the great native instinct to be happy without any care
at all for morality, or human law or divine law. I wanted, you
understand, to get all joy first-hand and unadulterated, and I think
it scarcely exists among men; it is obsolete."

Darcy turned in his chair.

"Ah, but what makes birds and animals happy?" he asked. "Food, food
and mating."

Frank laughed gently in the stillness.

"Do not think I became a sensualist," he said. "I did not make that
mistake. For the sensualist carries his miseries pick-a-back, and
round his feet is wound the shroud that shall soon enwrap him. I may
be mad, it is true, but I am not so stupid anyhow as to have tried
that. No, what is it that makes puppies play with their own tails,
that sends cats on their prowling ecstatic errands at night?"

He paused a moment.

"So I went to Nature," he said. "I sat down here in this New Forest,
sat down fair and square, and looked. That was my first difficulty, to
sit here quiet without being bored, to wait without being impatient,
to be receptive and very alert, though for a long time nothing
particular happened. The change in fact was slow in those early
stages."

"Nothing happened?" asked Darcy, rather impatiently, with the sturdy
revolt against any new idea which to the English mind is synonymous
with nonsense. "Why, what in the world should happen?"

Now Frank as he had known him was the most generous but most quick-
tempered of mortal men; in other words his anger would flare to a
prodigious beacon, under almost no provocation, only to be quenched
again under a gust of no less impulsive kindliness. Thus the moment
Darcy had spoken, an apology for his hasty question was half-way up
his tongue. But there was no need for it to have travelled even so
far, for Frank laughed again with kindly, genuine mirth.

"Oh, how I should have resented that a few years ago," he said. "Thank
goodness that resentment is one of the things I have got rid of. I
certainly wish that you should believe my story--in fact, you are
going to--but that you at this moment should imply that you do not
does not concern me."

"Ah, your solitary sojournings have made you inhuman," said Darcy,
still very English.

"No, human," said Frank. "Rather more human, at least rather less of
an ape."

"Well, that was my first quest," he continued, after a moment, "the
deliberate and unswerving pursuit of joy, and my method, the eager
contemplation of Nature. As far as motive went, I daresay it was
purely selfish, but as far as effect goes, it seems to me about the
best thing one can do for one's follow-creatures, for happiness is
more infectious than small-pox. So, as I said, I sat down and waited;
I looked at happy things, zealously avoided the sight of anything
unhappy, and by degrees a little trickle of the happiness of this
blissful world began to filter into me. The trickle grew more
abundant, and now, my dear fellow, if I could for a moment divert from
me into you one half of the torrent of joy that pours through me day
and night, you would throw the world, art, everything aside, and just
live, exist. When a man's body dies, it passes into trees and flowers.
Well, that is what I have been trying to do with my soul before
death."

The servant had brought into the pergola a table with syphons and
spirits, and had set a lamp upon it. As Frank spoke he leaned forward
towards the other, and Darcy for all his matter-of-fact common sense
could have sworn that his companion's face shone, was luminous in
itself. His dark brown eyes glowed from within, the unconscious smile
of a child irradiated and transformed his face. Darcy felt suddenly
excited, exhilarated.

"Go on," he said. "Go on. I can feel you are somehow telling me sober
truth. I daresay you are mad; but I don't see that matters."

Frank laughed again.

"Mad?" he said. "Yes, certainly, if you wish. But I prefer to call it
sane. However, nothing matters less than what anybody chooses to call
things. God never labels his gifts; He just puts them into our hands;
just as he put animals in the garden of Eden, for Adam to name if he
felt disposed.

"So by the continual observance and study of things that were happy,"
continued he, "I got happiness, I got joy. But seeking it, as I did,
from Nature, I got much more which I did not seek, but stumbled upon
originally by accident. It is difficult to explain, but I will try.

"About three years ago I was sitting one morning in a place I will
show you to-morrow. It is down by the river brink, very green, dappled
with shade and sun, and the river passes there through some little
clumps of reeds. Well, as I sat there, doing nothing, but just looking
and listening, I heard the sound quite distinctly of some flute-like
instrument playing a strange unending melody. I thought at first it
was some musical yokel on the highway and did not pay much attention.
But before long the strangeness and indescribable beauty of the tune
struck me.

"It never repeated itself, but it never came to an end, phrase after
phrase ran its sweet course, it worked gradually and inevitably up to
a climax, and having attained it, it went on; another climax was
reached and another and another. Then with a sudden gasp of wonder I
localised where it came from. It came from the reeds and from the sky
and from the trees. It was everywhere, it was the sound of life. It
was, my dear Darcy, as the Greeks would have said, it was Pan playing
on his pipes, the voice of Nature. It was the life-melody, the world-
melody."

Darcy was far too interested to interrupt, though there was a question
he would have liked to ask, and Frank went on:

"Well, for the moment I was terrified, terrified with the impotent
horror of nightmare, and I stopped my ears and just ran from the place
and got back to the house panting, trembling, literally in a panic.
Unknowingly, for at that time I only pursued joy, I had begun, since I
drew my joy from Nature, to get in touch with Nature. Nature, force,
God, call it what you will, had drawn across my face a little gossamer
web of essential life. I saw that when I emerged from my terror, and I
went very humbly back to where I had heard the Pan-pipes. But it was
nearly six months before I heard them again."

"Why was that?" asked Darcy.

"Surely because I had revolted, rebelled, and worst of all been
frightened. For I believe that just as there is nothing in the world
which so injures one's body as fear, so there is nothing that so much
shuts up the soul. I was afraid, you see, of the one thing in the
world which has real existence. No wonder its manifestation was
withdrawn."

"And after six months?"

"After six months one blessed morning I heard the piping again. I
wasn't afraid that time."

"And since then it has grown louder, it has become more constant. I
now hear it often, and I can put myself into such an attitude towards
Nature that the pipes will almost certainly sound. And never yet have
they played the same tune, it is always something new, something
fuller, richer, more complete than before."

"What do you mean by 'such an attitude towards Nature'?" asked Darcy.

"I can't explain that; but by translating it into a bodily attitude it
is this."

Frank sat up for a moment quite straight in his chair, then slowly
sunk back with arms outspread and head drooped.

"That;" he said, "an effortless attitude, but open, resting,
receptive. It is just that which you must do with your soul."

Then he sat up again.

"One word more," he said, "and I will bore you no further. Nor unless
you ask me questions shall I talk about it again. You will find me, in
fact, quite sane in my mode of life. Birds and beasts you will see
behaving somewhat intimately to me, like that moor-hen, but that is
all. I will walk with you, ride with you, play golf with you, and talk
with you on any subject you like. But I wanted you on the threshold to
know what has happened to me. And one thing more will happen."

He paused again, and a slight look of fear crossed his eyes.

"There will be a final revelation," he said, "a complete and blinding
stroke which will throw open to me, once and for all, the full
knowledge, the full realisation and comprehension that I am one, just
as you are, with life. In reality there is no 'me,' no 'you,' no 'it.'
Everything is part of the one and only thing which is life. I know
that that is so, but the realisation of it is not yet mine.

"But it will be, and on that day, so I take it, I shall see Pan. It
may mean death, the death of my body, that is, but I don't care. It
may mean immortal, eternal life lived here and now and for ever.

"Then having gained that, ah, my dear Darcy, I shall preach such a
gospel of joy, showing myself as the living proof of the truth, that
Puritanism, the dismal religion of sour faces, shall vanish like a
breath of smoke, and be dispersed and disappear in the sunlit air. But
first the full knowledge must be mine."

Darcy watched his face narrowly.

"You are afraid of that moment," he said. Frank smiled at him.

"Quite true; you are quick to have seen that. But when it comes I hope
I shall not be afraid."

For some little time there was silence; then Darcy rose. "You have
bewitched me, you extraordinary boy," he said. "You have been telling
me a fairy-story, and I find myself saying, 'Promise me it is true."'

"I promise you that," said the other.

"And I know I shan't sleep," added Darcy.

Frank looked at him with a sort of mild wonder as if he scarcely
understood.

"Well, what does that matter?" he said.

"I assure you it does. I am wretched unless I sleep."

"Of course I can make you sleep if I want," said Frank in a rather
bored voice.

"Well, do."

"Very good: go to bed. I'll come upstairs in ten minutes."

Frank busied himself for a little after the other had gone, moving the
table back under the awning of the verandah and quenching the lamp.
Then he went with his quick silent tread upstairs and into Darcy's
room. The latter was already in bed, but very wide-eyed and wakeful,
and Frank with an amused smile of indulgence, as for a fretful child,
sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Look at me," he said, and Darcy looked.

"The birds are sleeping in the brake," said Frank softly, "and the
winds are asleep. The sea sleeps, and the tides are but the heaving of
its breast. The stars swing slow, rocked in the great cradle of the
Heavens, and--"

He stopped suddenly, gently blew out Darcy's candle, and left him
sleeping.

Morning brought to Darcy a flood of hard common sense, as clear and
crisp as the sunshine that filled his room. Slowly as he woke he
gathered together the broken threads of the memories of the evening
which had ended, so he told himself, in a trick of common hypnotism.
That accounted for it all; the whole strange talk he had had was under
a spell of suggestion from the extraordinary vivid boy who had once
been a man; all his own excitement, his acceptance of the incredible
had been merely the effect of a stronger, more potent will imposed on
his own. How strong that will was, he guessed from his own
instantaneous obedience to Frank's suggestion of sleep. And armed with
impenetrable common sense he came down to breakfast. Frank had already
begun, and was consuming a large plateful of porridge and milk with
the most prosaic and healthy appetite.

"Slept well?" he asked.

"Yes, of course. Where did you learn hypnotism?"

"By the side of the river."

"You talked an amazing quantity of nonsense last night," remarked
Darcy, in a voice prickly with reason.

"Rather. I felt quite giddy. Look, I remembered to order a dreadful
daily paper for you. You can read about money markets or politics or
cricket matches." Darcy looked at him closely. In the morning light
Frank looked even fresher, younger, more vital than he had done the
night before, and the sight of him somehow dinted Darcy's armour of
common sense.

"You are the most extraordinary fellow I ever saw," he said. "I want
to ask you some more questions."

"Ask away," said Frank.

For the next day or two Darcy plied his friend with many questions,
objections and criticisms on the theory of life, and gradually got out
of him a coherent and complete account of his experience. In brief,
then, Frank believed that "by lying naked," as he put it, to the force
which controls the passage of the stars, the breaking of a wave, the
budding of a tree, the love of a youth and maiden, he had succeeded in
a way hitherto undreamed of in possessing himself of the essential
principle of life. Day by day, so he thought, he was getting nearer
to, and in closer union with, the great power itself which caused all
life to be, the spirit of nature, of force, or the spirit of God. For
himself, he confessed to what others would call paganism; it was
sufficient for him that there existed a principle of life. He did not
worship it, he did not pray to it, he did not praise it. Some of it
existed in all human beings, just as it existed in trees and animals;
to realise and make living to himself the fact that it was all one,
was his sole aim and object.

Here perhaps Darcy would put in a word of warning.

"Take care," he said. "To see Pan meant death, did it not."

Frank's eyebrows would rise at this.

"What does that matter?" he said. "True, the Greeks were always right,
and they said so, but there is another possibility. For the nearer I
get to it, the more living, the more vital and young I become."

"What then do you expect the final revelation will do for you?"

"I have told you," said he. "It will make me immortal."

But it was not so much from speech and argument that Darcy grew to
grasp his friend's conception, as from the ordinary conduct of his
life. They were passing, for instance, one morning down the village
street, when an old woman, very bent and decrepit, but with an
extraordinary cheerfulness of face, hobbled out from her cottage.
Frank instantly stopped when he saw her.

"You old darling! How goes it all?" he said.

But she did not answer, her dim old eyes were riveted on his face; she
seemed to drink in like a thirsty creature the beautiful radiance
which shone there. Suddenly she put her two withered old hands on his
shoulders.

"You're just the sunshine itself," she said, and he kissed her and
passed on.

But scarcely a hundred yards further a strange contradiction of such
tenderness occurred. A child running along the path towards them fell
on its face and set up a dismal cry of fright and pain. A look of
horror came into Frank's eyes, and, putting his fingers in his ears,
he fled at full speed down the street, and did not pause till he was
out of hearing. Darcy, having ascertained that the child was not
really hurt, followed him in bewilderment.

"Are you without pity then?" he asked. Frank shook his head
impatiently.

"Can't you see?" he asked. "Can't you understand that that sort of
thing, pain, anger, anything unlovely, throws me back, retards the
coming of the great hour! Perhaps when it comes I shall be able to
piece that side of life on to the other, on to the true religion of
joy. At present I can't."

"But the old woman. Was she not ugly?"

Frank's radiance gradually returned.

"Ah, no. She was like me. She longed for joy, and knew it when she saw
it, the old darling."

Another question suggested itself.

"Then what about Christianity?" asked Darcy.

"I can't accept it. I can't believe in any creed of which the central
doctrine is that God who is Joy should have had to suffer. Perhaps it
was so; in some inscrutable way I believe it may have been so, but I
don't understand how it was possible. So I leave it alone; my affair
is joy."

They had come to the weir above the village, and the thunder of
riotous cool water was heavy in the air. Trees dipped into the
translucent stream with slender trailing branches, and the meadow
where they stood was starred with midsummer blossomings. Larks shot up
carolling into the crystal dome of blue, and a thousand voices of June
sang round them. Frank, bare-headed as was his wont, with his coat
slung over his arm and his shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbow,
stood there like some beautiful wild animal with eyes half-shut and
mouth half-open, drinking in the scented warmth of the air. Then
suddenly he flung himself face downwards on the grass at the edge of
the stream, burying his face in the daisies and cowslips, and lay
stretched there in wide-armed ecstasy, with his long fingers pressing
and stroking the dewy herbs of the field. Never before had Darcy seen
him thus fully possessed by his idea; his caressing fingers, his half-
buried face pressed close to the grass, even the clothed lines of his
figure were instinct with a vitality that somehow was different from
that of other men. And some faint glow from it reached Darcy, some
thrill, some vibration from that charged recumbent body passed to him,
and for a moment he understood as he had not understood before,
despite his persistent questions and the candid answers they received,
how real, and how realised by Frank, his idea was.

Then suddenly the muscles in Frank's neck became stiff and alert, and
he half-raised his head.

"The Pan-pipes, the Pan-pipes," he whispered. "Close, oh, so close."

Very slowly, as if a sudden movement might interrupt the melody, he
raised himself and leaned on the elbow of his bent arm. His eyes
opened wider, the lower lids drooped as if he focussed his eyes on
something very far away, and the smile on his face broadened and
quivered like sunlight on still water, till the exultance of its
happiness was scarcely human. So he remained motionless and rapt for
some minutes, then the look of listening died from his face, and he
bowed his head, satisfied.

"Ah, that was good," he said. "How is it possible you did not hear?
Oh, you poor fellow! Did you really hear nothing?"

A week of this outdoor and stimulating life did wonders in restoring
to Darcy the vigour and health which his weeks of fever had filched
from him, and as his normal activity and higher pressure of vitality
returned, he seemed to himself to fall even more under the spell which
the miracle of Frank's youth cast over him. Twenty times a day he
found himself saying to himself suddenly at the end of some ten
minutes silent resistance to the absurdity of Frank's idea: "But it
isn't possible; it can't be possible," and from the fact of his having
to assure himself so frequently of this, he knew that he was
struggling and arguing with a conclusion which already had taken root
in his mind. For in any case a visible living miracle confronted him,
since it was equally impossible that this youth, this boy, trembling
on the verge of manhood, was thirty-five.

Yet such was the fact.

July was ushered in by a couple of days of blustering and fretful
rain, and Darcy, unwilling to risk a chill, kept to the house. But to
Frank this weeping change of weather seemed to have no bearing on the
behaviour of man, and he spent his days exactly as he did under the
suns of June, lying in his hammock, stretched on the dripping grass,
or making huge rambling excursions into the forest, the birds hopping
from tree to tree after him, to return in the evening, drenched and
soaked, but with the same unquenchable flame of joy burning within
him.

"Catch cold?" he would ask; "I've forgotten how to do it, I think I
suppose it makes one's body more sensible always to sleep out-of-
doors. People who live indoors always remind me of something peeled
and skinless."

"Do you mean to say you slept out-of-doors last night in that deluge?"
asked Darcy. "And where, may I ask?"

Frank thought a moment.

"I slept in the hammock till nearly dawn," he said. "For I remember
the light blinked in the east when I awoke. Then I went--where did I
go--oh, yes, to the meadow where the Pan-pipes sounded so close a week
ago. You were with me, do you remember? But I always have a rug if it
is wet."

And he went whistling upstairs.

Somehow that little touch, his obvious effort to recall where he had
slept, brought strangely home to Darcy the wonderful romance of which
he was the still half-incredulous beholder. Sleep till close on dawn
in a hammock, then the tramp--or probably scamper--underneath the
windy and weeping heavens to the remote and lonely meadow by the weir!
The picture of other such nights rose before him; Frank sleeping
perhaps by the bathing-place under the filtered twilight of the stars,
or the white blaze of moon-shine, a stir and awakening at some dead
hour, perhaps a space of silent wide-eyed thought, and then awandering
through the hushed woods to some other dormitory, alone with his
happiness, alone with the joy and the life that suffused and enveloped
him, without other thought or desire or aim except the hourly and
never-ceasing communion with the joy of nature.

They were in the middle of dinner that night, talking on indifferent
subjects, when Darcy suddenly broke off in the middle of a sentence.

"I've got it," he said. "At last I've got it."

"Congratulate you," said Frank. "But what?"

"The radical unsoundness of your idea. It is this: 'All Nature from
highest to lowest is full, crammed full of suffering; every living
organism in Nature preys on another, yet in your aim to get close to,
to be one with Nature, you leave suffering altogether out; you run
away from it, you refuse to recognise it. And you are waiting, you
say, for the final revelation."

Frank's brow clouded slightly.

"Well," he asked, rather wearily.

"Cannot you guess then when the final revelation will be? In joy you
are supreme, I grant you that; I did not know a man could be so master
of it. You have learned perhaps practically all that Nature can teach.
And if, as you think, the final revelation is coming to you, it will
be the revelation of horror, suffering, death, pain in all its hideous
forms. Suffering does exist: you hate it and fear it."

Frank held up his hand.

"Stop; let me think," he said.

There was silence for a long minute.

"That never struck me," he said at length. "It is possible that what
you suggest is true. Does the sight of Pan mean that, do you think? Is
it that Nature, take it altogether, suffers horribly, suffers to a
hideous inconceivable extent? Shall I be shown all the suffering?" He
got up and came round to where Darcy sat.

"If it is so, so be it," he said. "Because, my dear fellow, I am near,
so splendidly near to the final revelation. To-day the pipes have
sounded almost without pause. I have even heard the rustle in the
bushes, I believe, of Pan's coming. I have seen, yes, I saw to-day,
the bushes pushed aside as if by a hand, and piece of a face, not
human, peered through. But I was not frightened, at least I did not
run away this time."

He took a turn up to the window and back again.

"Yes, there is suffering all through," he said, "and I have left it
all out of my search. Perhaps, as you say, the revelation will be
that. And in that case, it will be good-bye. I have gone on one line.
I shall have gone too far along one road, without having explored the
other. But I can't go back now. I wouldn't if I could; not a step
would I retrace! In any case, whatever the revelation is, it will be
God. I'm sure of that."

The rainy weather soon passed, and with the return of the sun Darcy
again joined Frank in long rambling days. It grew extraordinarily
hotter, and with the fresh bursting of life, after the rain, Frank's
vitality seemed to blaze higher and higher. Then, as is the habit of
the English weather, one evening clouds began to bank themselves up in
the west, the sun went down in a glare of coppery thunder-rack, and
the whole earth broiling under an unspeakable oppression and
sultriness paused and panted for the storm. After sunset the remote
fires of lightning began to wink and flicker on the horizon, but when
bed-time came the storm seemed to have moved no nearer, though a very
low unceasing noise of thunder was audible. Weary and oppressed by the
stress of the day, Darcy fell at once into a heavy uncomforting sleep.

He woke suddenly into full consciousness, with the din of some
appalling explosion of thunder in his ears, and sat up in bed with
racing heart. Then for a moment, as he recovered himself from the
panic-land which lies between sleeping and waking, there was silence,
except for the steady hissing of rain on the shrubs outside his
window. But suddenly that silence was shattered and shredded into
fragments by a scream from somewhere close at hand outside in the
black garden, a scream of supreme and despairing terror. Again and
once again it shrilled up, and then a babble of awful words was
interjected. A quivering sobbing voice that he knew said:

"My God, oh, my God; oh, Christ!"

And then followed a little mocking, bleating laugh. Then was silence
again; only the rain hissed on the shrubs.

All this was but the affair of a moment, and without pause either to
put on clothes or light a candle, Darcy was already fumbling at his
door-handle. Even as he opened it he met a terror-stricken face
outside, that of the man-servant who carried a light.

"Did you hear?" he asked.

The man's face was bleached to a dull shining whiteness. "Yes, sir,"
he said. "It was the master's voice."

Together they hurried down the stairs and through the dining-room
where an orderly table for breakfast had already been laid, and out on
to the terrace. The rain for the moment had been utterly stayed, as if
the tap of the heavens had been turned off, and under the lowering
black sky, not quite dark, since the moon rode somewhere serene behind
the conglomerated thunder-clouds, Darcy stumbled into the garden,
followed by the servant with the candle. The monstrous leaping shadow
of himself was cast before him on the lawn; lost and wandering odours
of rose and lily and damp earth were thick about him, but more pungent
was some sharp and acrid smell that suddenly reminded him of a certain
chalet in which he had once taken refuge in the Alps. In the blackness
of the hazy light from the sky, and the vague tossing of the candle
behind him, he saw that the hammock in which Frank so often lay was
tenanted. A gleam of white shirt was there, as if a man were sitting
up in it, but across that there was an obscure dark shadow, and as he
approached the acrid odour grew more intense.

He was now only some few yards away, when suddenly the black shadow
seemed to jump into the air, then came down with tappings of hard
hoofs on the brick path that ran down the pergola, and with frolicsome
skippings galloped off into the bushes. When that was gone Darcy could
see quite clearly that a shirted figure sat up in the hammock. For one
moment, from sheer terror of the unseen, he hung on his step, and the
servant joining him they walked together to the hammock.

It was Frank. He was in shirt and trousers only, and he sat up with
braced arms. For one half-second he stared at them, his face a mask of
horrible contorted terror. His upper lip was drawn back so that the
gums of the teeth appeared, and his eyes were focussed not on the two
who approached him, but on something quite close to him; his nostrils
were widely expanded, as if he panted for breath, and terror incarnate
and repulsion and deathly anguish ruled dreadful lines on his smooth
cheeks and forehead. Then even as they looked the body sank backwards,
and the ropes of the hammock wheezed and strained.

Darcy lifted him out and carried him indoors. Once he thought there
was a faint convulsive stir of the limbs that lay with so dead a
weight in his arms, but when they got inside, there was no trace of
life. But the look of supreme terror and agony of fear had gone from
his face, a boy tired with play but still smiling in his sleep was the
burden he laid on the floor. His eyes had closed, and the beautiful
mouth lay in smiling curves, even as when a few mornings ago, in the
meadow by the weir, it had quivered to the music of the unheard melody
of Pan's pipes. Then they looked further.

Frank had come back from his bathe before dinner that night in his
usual costume of shirt and trousers only. He had not dressed, and
during dinner, so Darcy remembered, he had rolled up the sleeves of
his shirt to above the elbow. Later, as they sat and talked after
dinner on the close sultriness of the evening, he had unbuttoned the
front of his shirt to let what little breath of wind there was play on
his skin. The sleeves were rolled up now, the front of the shirt was
unbuttoned, and on his arms and on the brown skin of his chest were
strange discolorations which grew momently more clear and defined,
till they saw that the marks were pointed prints, as if caused by the
hoofs of some monstrous goat that had leaped and stamped upon him.




THE BUS-CONDUCTOR

My friend, Hugh Grainger, and I had just returned from a two days'
visit in the country, where we had been staying in a house of sinister
repute which was supposed to be haunted by ghosts of a peculiarly
fearsome and truculent sort. The house itself was all that such a
house should be, Jacobean and oak-panelled, with long dark passages
and high vaulted rooms. It stood, also, very remote, and was
encompassed by a wood of sombre pines that muttered and whispered in
the dark, and all the time that we were there a southwesterly gale
with torrents of scolding rain had prevailed, so that by day and night
weird voices moaned and fluted in the chimneys, a company of uneasy
spirits held colloquy among the trees, and sudden tattoos and tappings
beckoned from the window-panes. But in spite of these surroundings,
which were sufficient in themselves, one would almost say, to
spontaneously generate occult phenomena, nothing of any description
had occurred. I am bound to add, also, that my own state of mind was
peculiarly well adapted to receive or even to invent the sights and
sounds we had gone to seek, for I was, I confess, during the whole
time that we were there, in a state of abject apprehension, and lay
awake both nights through hours of terrified unrest, afraid of the
dark, yet more afraid of what a lighted candle might show me.

Hugh Grainger, on the evening after our return to town, had dined with
me, and after dinner our conversation, as was natural, soon came back
to these entrancing topics.

"But why you go ghost-seeking I cannot imagine," he said, "because
your teeth were chattering and your eyes starting out of your head all
the rime you were there, from sheer fright."

"Or do you like being frightened?"

Hugh, though generally intelligent, is dense in certain ways; this is
one of them.

"Why, of course, I like being frightened," I said. "I want to be made
to creep and creep and creep. Fear is the most absorbing and luxurious
of emotions. One forgets all else if one is afraid."

"Well, the fact that neither of us saw anything," he said, "confirms
what I have always believed."

"And what have you always believed?"

"That these phenomena are purely objective, not subjective, and that
one's state of mind has nothing to do with the perception that
perceives them, nor have circumstances or surroundings anything to do
with them either. Look at Osburton. It has had the reputation of being
a haunted house for years, and it certainly has all the accessories of
one. Look at yourself, too, with all your nerves on edge, afraid to
look round or light a candle for fear of seeing something! Surely
there was the right man in the right place then, if ghosts are
subjective."

He got up and lit a cigarette, and looking at him--Hugh is about six
feet high, and as broad as he is long--I felt a retort on my lips, for
I could not help my mind going back to a certain period in his life,
when, from some cause which, as far as I knew, he had never told
anybody, he had become a mere quivering mass of disordered nerves.
Oddly enough, at the same moment and for the first time, he began to
speak of it himself.

"You may reply that it was not worth my while to go either," he said,
"because I was so clearly the wrong man in the wrong place. But I
wasn't. You for all your apprehensions and expectancy have never seen
a ghost. But I have, though I am the last person in the world you
would have thought likely to do so, and, though my nerves are steady
enough again now, it knocked me all to bits."

He sat down again in his chair.

"No doubt you remember my going to bits," he said, "and since I
believe that I am sound again now, I should rather like to tell you
about it. But before I couldn't; I couldn't speak of it at all to
anybody. Yet there ought to have been nothing frightening about it;
what I saw was certainly a most useful and friendly ghost. But it came
from the shaded side of things; it looked suddenly out of the night
and the mystery with which life is surrounded.

"I want first to tell you quite shortly my theory about ghost-seeing,"
he continued, "and I can explain it best by a simile, an image.
Imagine then that you and I and everybody in the world are like people
whose eye is directly opposite a little tiny hole in a sheet of
cardboard which is continually shifting and revolving and moving
about. Back to back with that sheet of cardboard is another, which
also, by laws of its own, is in perpetual but independent motion. In
it too there is another hole, and when, fortuitously it would seem,
these two holes, the one through which we are always looking, and the
other in the spiritual plane, come opposite one another, we see
through, and then only do the sights and sounds of the spiritual world
become visible or audible to us. With most people these holes never
come opposite each other during their life. But at the hour of death
they do, and then they remain stationary. That, I fancy, is how we
'pass over.'

"Now, in some natures, these holes are comparatively large, and are
constantly coming into opposition. Clairvoyants, mediums are like
that. But, as far as I knew, I had no clairvoyant or mediumistic
powers at all. I therefore am the sort of person who long ago made up
his mind that he never would see a ghost. It was, so to speak, an
incalculable chance that my minute spy-hole should come into
opposition with the other. But it did: and it knocked me out of time."

I had heard some such theory before, and though Hugh put it rather
picturesquely, there was nothing in the least convincing or practical
about it. It might be so, or again it might not.

"I hope your ghost was more original than your theory," said I, in
order to bring him to the point.

"Yes, I think it was. You shall judge."

I put on more coal and poked up the fire. Hugh has got, so I have
always considered, a great talent for telling stories, and that sense
of drama which is so necessary for the narrator. Indeed, before now, I
have suggested to him that he should take this up as a profession, sit
by the fountain in Piccadilly Circus, when times are, as usual, bad,
and tell stories to the passers-by in the street, Arabian fashion, for
reward. The most part of mankind, I am aware, do not like long
stories, but to the few, among whom I number myself, who really like
to listen to lengthy accounts of experiences, Hugh is an ideal
narrator. I do not care for his theories, or for his similes, but when
it comes to facts, to things that happened, I like him to be lengthy.

"Go on, please, and slowly," I said. "Brevity may be the soul of wit,
but it is the ruin of story-telling. I want to hear when and where and
how it all was, and what you had for lunch and where you had dined and
what--Hugh began:

"It was the 24th of June, just eighteen months ago," he said. "I had
let my flat, you may remember, and came up from the country to stay
with you for a week. We had dined alone here--"

I could not help interrupting.

"Did you see the ghost here?" I asked. "In this square little box of a
house in a modern street?"

"I was in the house when I saw it." I hugged myself in silence.

"We had dined alone here in Graeme Street," he said, "and after dinner
I went out to some party, and you stopped at home. At dinner your man
did not wait, and when I asked where he was, you told me he was ill,
and, I thought, changed the subject rather abruptly.

"You gave me your latch-key when I went out, and on coming back, I
found you had gone to bed. There were, however, several letters for
me, which required answers. I wrote them there and then, and posted
them at the pillar-box opposite. So I suppose it was rather late when
I went upstairs.

"You had put me in the front room, on the third floor, overlooking the
street, a room which I thought you generally occupied yourself. It was
a very hot night, and though there had been a moon when I started to
my party, on my return the whole sky was cloud-covered, and it both
looked and felt as if we might have a thunderstorm before morning. I
was feeling very sleepy and heavy, and it was not till after I had got
into bed that I noticed by the shadows of the window-frames on the
blind that only one of the windows was open. But it did not seem worth
while to get out of bed in order to open it, though I felt rather
airless and uncomfortable, and I went to sleep.

"What time it was when I awoke I do not know, but it was certainly not
yet dawn, and I never remember being conscious of such an
extraordinary stillness as prevailed. There was no sound either of
foot-passengers or wheeled traffic; the music of life appeared to be
absolutely mute. But now, instead of being sleepy and heavy, I felt,
though I must have slept an hour or two at most, since it was not yet
dawn, perfectly fresh and wide-awake, and the effort which had seemed
not worth making before, that of getting out of bed and opening the
other window, was quite easy now and I pulled up the blind, threw it
wide open, and leaned out, for somehow I parched and pined for air.
Even outside the oppression was very noticeable, and though, as you
know, I am not easily given to feel the mental effects of climate, I
was aware of an awful creepiness coming over me. I tried to analyse it
away, but without success; the past day had been pleasant, I looked
forward to another pleasant day to-morrow, and yet I was full of some
nameless apprehension. I felt, too, dreadfully lonely in this
stillness before the dawn.

"Then I heard suddenly and not very far away the sound of some
approaching vehicle; I could distinguish the tread of two horses
walking at a slow foot's pace. They were, though not yet visible,
coming up the street, and yet this indication of life did not abate
that dreadful sense of loneliness which I have spoken of. Also in some
dim unformulated way that which was coming seemed to me to have
something to do with the cause of my oppression.

"Then the vehicle came into sight. At first I could not distinguish
what it was. Then I saw that the horses were black and had long tails,
and that what they dragged was made of glass, but had a black frame.
It was a hearse. Empty."

"It was moving up this side of the street. It stopped at your door.

"Then the obvious solution struck me. You had said at dinner that your
man was ill, and you were, I thought, unwilling to speak more about
his illness. No doubt, so I imagined now, he was dead, and for some
reason, perhaps because you did not want me to know anything about it,
you were having the body removed at night. This, I must tell you,
passed through my mind quite instantaneously, and it did not occur to
me how unlikely it really was, before the next thing happened.

"I was still leaning out of the window, and I remember also wondering,
yet only momentarily, how odd it was that I saw things--or rather the
one thing I was looking at--so very distinctly. Of course, there was a
moon behind the clouds, but it was curious how every detail of the
hearse and the horses was visible. There was only one man, the driver,
with it, and the street was otherwise absolutely empty. It was at him
I was looking now. I could see every detail of his clothes, but from
where I was, so high above him, I could not see his face. He had on
grey trousers, brown boots, a black coat buttoned all the way up, and
a straw hat. Over his shoulder there was a strap, which seemed to
support some sort of little bag. He looked exactly like--well, from my
description what did he look exactly like?"

"Why--a bus-conductor," I said instantly.

"So I thought, and even while I was thinking this, he looked up at me.
He had a rather long thin face, and on his left cheek there was a mole
with a growth of dark hair on it. All this was as distinct as if it
had been noonday, and as if I was within a yard of him. But--so
instantaneous was all that takes so long in the telling--I had not
time to think it strange that the driver of a hearse should be so
unfunereally dressed.

"Then he touched his hat to me, and jerked his thumb over his
shoulder.

"'Just room for one inside, sir,' he said.

"There was something so odious, so coarse, so unfeeling about this
that I instantly drew my head in, pulled the blind down again, and
then, for what reason I do not know, turned on the electric light in
order to see what time it was. The hands of my watch pointed to half-
past eleven.

"It was then for the first time, I think, that a doubt crossed my mind
as to the nature of what I had just seen. But I put out the light
again, got into bed, and began to think. We had dined; I had gone to a
party, I had come back and written letters, had gone to bed and had
slept. So how could it be half-past eleven?...Or--what half-past
eleven was it?

"Then another easy solution struck me; my watch must have stopped. But
it had not; I could hear it ticking.

"There was stillness and silence again. I expected every moment to
hear muffled footsteps on the stairs, footsteps moving slowly and
smally under the weight of a heavy burden, but from inside the house
there was no sound whatever. Outside, too, there was the same dead
silence, while the hearse waited at the door. And the minutes ticked
on and ticked on, and at length I began to see a difference in the
light in the room, and knew that the dawn was beginning to break
outside. But how had it happened, then, that if the corpse was to be
removed at night it had not gone, and that the hearse still waited,
when morning was already coming?

"Presently I got out of bed again, and with the sense of strong
physical shrinking I went to the window and pulled back the blind. The
dawn was coming fast; the whole street was lit by that silver hueless
light of morning. But there was no hearse there.

"Once again I looked at my watch. It was just a quarter-past four. But
I would swear that not half an hour had passed since it had told me
that it was half-past eleven.

"Then a curious double sense, as if I was living in the present and at
the same moment had been living in some other time, came over me. It
was dawn on June 25th, and the street, as natural, was empty. But a
little while ago the driver of a hearse had spoken to me, and it was
half-past eleven. What was that driver, to what plane did he belong?
And again what half-past eleven was it that I had seen recorded on the
dial of my watch?

"And then I told myself that the whole thing had been a dream. But if
you ask me whether I believed what I told myself, I must confess that
I did not.

"Your man did not appear at breakfast next morning, nor did I see him
again before I left that afternoon. I think if I had, I should have
told you about all this, but it was still possible, you see, that what
I had seen was a real hearse, driven by a real driver, for all the
ghastly gaiety of the face that had looked up to mine, and the levity
of his pointing hand. I might possibly have fallen asleep soon after
seeing him, and slumbered through the removal of the body and the
departure of the hearse. So I did not speak of it to you."

There was something wonderfully straight-forward and prosaic in all
this; here were no Jacobean houses oak-panelled and surrounded by
weeping pine-trees, and somehow the very absence of suitable
surroundings made the story more impressive. But for a moment a doubt
assailed me.

"Don't tell me it was all a dream," I said.

"I don't know whether it was or not. I can only say that I believe
myself to have been wide awake. In any case the rest of the story is--
odd.

"I went out of town again that afternoon," he continued, "and I may
say that I don't think that even for a moment did I get the haunting
sense of what I had seen or dreamed that night out of my mind. It was
present to me always as some vision unfulfilled. It was as if some
clock had struck the four quarters, and I was still waiting to hear
what the hour would be.

"Exactly a month afterwards I was in London again, but only for the
day. I arrived at Victoria about eleven, and took the underground to
Sloane Square in order to see if you were in town and would give me
lunch. It was a baking hot morning, and I intended to take a bus from
the King's Road as far as Graeme Street. There was one standing at the
corner just as I came out of the station, but I saw that the top was
full, and the inside appeared to be full also. Just as I came up to it
the conductor, who, I suppose, had been inside, collecting fares or
what not, came out on to the step within a few feet of me. He wore
grey trousers, brown boots, a black coat buttoned, a straw hat, and
over his shoulder was a strap on which hung his little machine for
punching tickets. I saw his face, too; it was the face of the driver
of the hearse, with a mole on the left cheek. Then he spoke to me,
jerking his thumb over his shoulder.

"'Just room for one inside, sir,' he said.

"At that a sort of panic-terror took possession of me, and I knew I
gesticulated wildly with my arms, and cried, 'No, no!' But at that
moment I was living not in the hour that was then passing, but in that
hour which had passed a month ago, when I leaned from the window of
your bedroom here just before the dawn broke. At this moment too I
knew that my spy-hole had been opposite the spy-hole into the
spiritual world. What I had seen there had some significance, now
being fulfilled, beyond the significance of the trivial happenings of
to-day and to-morrow. The Powers of which we know so little were
visibly working before me. And I stood there on the pavement shaking
and trembling.

"I was opposite the post-office at the corner, and just as the bus
started my eye fell on the clock in the window there. I need not tell
you what the time was.

"Perhaps I need not tell you the rest, for you probably conjecture it,
since you will not have forgotten what happened at the corner of
Sloane Square at the end of July, the summer before last. The bus
pulled out from the pavement into the street in order to get round a
van that was standing in front of it. At the moment there came down
the King's Road a big motor going at a hideously dangerous pace. It
crashed full into the bus, burrowing into it as a gimlet burrows into
a board."

He paused.

"And that's my story," he said.




CATERPILLARS

I saw a month or two ago in an Italian paper that the Villa Cascana,
in which I once stayed, had been pulled down, and that a manufactory
of some sort was in process of erection on its site.

There is therefore no longer any reason for refraining from writing of
those things which I myself saw (or imagined I saw) in a certain room
and on a certain landing of the villa in question, nor from mentioning
the circumstances which followed, which may or may not (according to
the opinion of the reader) throw some light on or be somehow connected
with this experience.

The Villa Cascana was in all ways but one a perfectly delightful
house, yet, if it were standing now, nothing in the world--I use the
phrase in its literal sense--would induce me to set foot in it again,
for I believe it to have been haunted in a very terrible and practical
manner.

Most ghosts, when all is said and done, do not do much harm; they may
perhaps terrify, but the person whom they visit usually gets over
their visitation. They may on the other hand be entirely friendly and
beneficent. But the appearances in the Villa Cascana were not
beneficent, and had they made their "visit" in a very slightly
different manner, I do not suppose I should have got over it any more
than Arthur Inglis did.

The house stood on an ilex-clad hill not far from Sestri di Levante on
the Italian Riviera, looking out over the iridescent blues of that
enchanted sea, while behind it rose the pale green chestnut woods that
climb up the hillsides till they give place to the pines that, black
in contrast with them, crown the slopes. All round it the garden in
the luxuriance of mid-spring bloomed and was fragrant, and the scent
of magnolia and rose, borne on the salt freshness of the winds from
the sea, flowed like a stream through the cool vaulted rooms.

On the ground floor a broad pillared loggia ran round three sides of
the house, the top of which formed a balcony for certain rooms of the
first floor. The main staircase, broad and of grey marble steps, led
up from the hall to the landing outside these rooms, which were three
in number, namely, two big sitting-rooms and a bedroom arranged en
suite. The latter was unoccupied, the sitting-rooms were in use. From
these the main staircase was continued to the second floor, where were
situated certain bedrooms, one of which I occupied, while from the
other side of the first-floor landing some half-dozen steps led to
another suite of rooms, where, at the time I am speaking of, Arthur
Inglis, the artist, had his bedroom and studio. Thus the landing
outside my bedroom at the top of the house commanded both the landing
of the first floor and also the steps that led to Inglis' rooms. Jim
Stanley and his wife, finally (whose guest I was), occupied rooms in
another wing of the house, where also were the servants' quarters.

I arrived just in time for lunch on a brilliant noon of mid-May. The
garden was shouting with colour and fragrance, and not less delightful
after my broiling walk up from the marina, should have been the coming
from the reverberating heat and blaze of the day into the marble
coolness of the villa. Only (the reader has my bare word for this, and
nothing more), the moment I set foot in the house I felt that
something was wrong. This feeling, I may say, was quite vague, though
very strong, and I remember that when I saw letters waiting for me on
the table in the hall I felt certain that the explanation was here: I
was convinced that there was bad news of some sort for me. Yet when I
opened them I found no such explanation of my premonition: my
correspondents all reeked of prosperity. Yet this clear miscarriage of
a presentiment did not dissipate my uneasiness. In that cool fragrant
house there was something wrong.

I am at pains to mention this because to the general view it may
explain that though I am as a rule so excellent a sleeper that the
extinction of my light on getting into bed is apparently
contemporaneous with being called on the following morning, I slept
very badly on my first night in the Villa Cascana. It may also explain
the fact that when I did sleep (if it was indeed in sleep that I saw
what I thought I saw) I dreamed in a very vivid and original manner,
original, that is to say, in the sense that something that, as far as
I knew, had never previously entered into my consciousness, usurped it
then. But since, in addition to this evil premonition, certain words
and events occurring during the rest of the day might have suggested
something of what I thought happened that night, it will be well to
relate them.

After lunch, then, I went round the house with Mrs. Stanley, and
during our tour she referred, it is true, to the unoccupied bedroom on
the first floor, which opened out of the room where we had lunched.

"We left that unoccupied," she said, "because Jim and I have a
charming bedroom and dressing-room, as you saw, in the wing, and if we
used it ourselves we should have to turn the dining-room into a
dressing-room and have our meals downstairs. As it is, however, we
have our little flat there, Arthur Inglis has his little flat in the
other passage; and I remembered (aren't I extraordinary?) that you
once said that the higher up you were in a house the better you were
pleased. So I put you at the top of the house, instead of giving you
that room."

It is true, that a doubt, vague as my uneasy premonition, crossed my
mind at this. I did not see why Mrs. Stanley should have explained all
this, if there had not been more to explain. I allow, therefore, that
the thought that there was something to explain about the unoccupied
bedroom was momentarily present to my mind.

The second thing that may have borne on my dream was this.

At dinner the conversation turned for a moment on ghosts. Inglis, with
the certainty of conviction, expressed his belief that anybody who
could possibly believe in the existence of supernatural phenomena was
unworthy of the name of an ass. The subject instantly dropped. As far
as I can recollect, nothing else occurred or was said that could bear
on what follows.

We all went to bed rather early, and personally I yawned my way
upstairs, feeling hideously sleepy. My room was rather hot, and I
threw all the windows wide, and from without poured in the white light
of the moon, and the love-song of many nightingales. I undressed
quickly, and got into bed, but though I had felt so sleepy before, I
now felt extremely wide-awake. But I was quite content to be awake: I
did not toss or turn, I felt perfectly happy listening to the song and
seeing the light. Then, it is possible, I may have gone to sleep, and
what follows may have been a dream. I thought, anyhow, that after a
time the nightingales ceased singing and the moon sank. I thought also
that if, for some unexplained reason, I was going to lie awake all
night, I might as well read, and I remembered that I had left a book
in which I was interested in the dining-room on the first floor. So I
got out of bed, lit a candle, and went downstairs. I went into the
room, saw on a side-table the book I had come to look for, and then,
simultaneously, saw that the door into the unoccupied bedroom was
open. A curious grey light, not of dawn nor of moonshine, came out of
it, and I looked in. The bed stood just opposite the door, a big four-
poster, hung with tapestry at the head. Then I saw that the greyish
light of the bedroom came from the bed, or rather from what was on the
bed. For it was covered with great caterpillars, a foot or more in
length, which crawled over it. They were faintly luminous, and it was
the light from them that showed me the room. Instead of the sucker-
feet of ordinary caterpillars they had rows of pincers like crabs, and
they moved by grasping what they lay on with their pincers, and then
sliding their bodies forward. In colour these dreadful insects were
yellowish-grey, and they were covered with irregular lumps and
swellings. There must have been hundreds of them, for they formed a
sort of writhing, crawling pyramid on the bed. Occasionally one fell
off on to the floor, with a soft fleshy thud, and though the floor was
of hard concrete, it yielded to the pincerfeet as if it had been
putty, and, crawling back, the caterpillar would mount on to the bed
again, to rejoin its fearful companions. They appeared to have no
faces, so to speak, but at one end of them there was a mouth that
opened sideways in respiration.

Then, as I looked, it seemed to me as if they all suddenly became
conscious of my presence.

All the mouths, at any rate, were turned in my direction, and next
moment they began dropping off the bed with those soft fleshy thuds on
to the floor, and wriggling towards me. For one second a paralysis as
of a dream was on me, but the next I was running upstairs again to my
room, and I remember feeling the cold of the marble steps on my bare
feet. I rushed into my bedroom, and slammed the door behind me, and
then--I was certainly wide-awake now--I found myself standing by my
bed with the sweat of terror pouring from me. The noise of the banged
door still rang in my ears. But, as would have been more usual, if
this had been mere nightmare, the terror that had been mine when I saw
those foul beasts crawling about the bed or dropping softly on to the
floor did not cease then. Awake, now, if dreaming before, I did not at
all recover from the horror of dream: it did not seem to me that I had
dreamed. And until dawn, I sat or stood, not daring to lie down,
thinking that every rustle or movement that I heard was the approach
of the caterpillars. To them and the claws that bit into the cement
the wood of the door was child's play: steel would not keep them out.

But with the sweet and noble return of day the horror vanished: the
whisper of wind became benignant again: the nameless fear, whatever it
was, was smoothed out and terrified me no longer. Dawn broke, hueless
at first; then it grew dove-coloured, then the flaming pageant of light
spread over the sky.

The admirable rule of the house was that everybody had breakfast where
and when he pleased, and in consequence it was not till lunch-time
that I met any of the other members of our party, since I had
breakfast on my balcony, and wrote letters and other things till
lunch. In fact, I got down to that meal rather late, after the other
three had begun. Between my knife and fork there was a small pill-box
of cardboard, and as I sat down Inglis spoke.

"Do look at that," he said, "since you are interested in natural
history. I found it crawling on my counterpane last night, and I don't
know what it is."

I think that before I opened the pill-box I expected something of the
sort which I found in it.

Inside it, anyhow, was a small caterpillar, greyish-yellow in colour,
with curious bumps and excrescences on its rings. It was extremely
active, and hurried round the box, this way and that.

Its feet were unlike the feet of any caterpillar I ever saw: they were
like the pincers of a crab. I looked, and shut the lid down again.

"No, I don't know it," I said, "but it looks rather unwholesome. What
are you going to do with it?"

"Oh, I shall keep it," said Inglis. "It has begun to spin: I want to
see what sort of a moth it turns into."

I opened the box again, and saw that these hurrying movements were
indeed the beginning of the spinning of the web of its cocoon. Then
Inglis spoke again.

"It has got funny feet, too," he said. "They are like crabs' pincers.
What's the Latin for crab?"

"Oh, yes, Cancer. So in case it is unique, let's christen it: 'Cancer
Inglisensis.'"  Then something happened in my brain, some momentary
piecing together of all that I had seen or dreamed. Something in his
words seemed to me to throw light on it all, and my own intense horror
at the experience of the night before linked itself on to what he had
just said. In effect, I took the box and threw it, caterpillar and
all, out of the window. There was a gravel path just outside, and
beyond it, a fountain playing into a basin. The box fell on to the
middle of this.

Inglis laughed.

"So the students of the occult don't like solid facts," he said. "My
poor caterpillar!"

The talk went off again at once on to other subjects, and I have only
given in detail, as they happened, these trivialities in order to be
sure myself that I have recorded everything that could have borne on
occult subjects or on the subject of caterpillars. But at the moment
when I threw the pill-box into the fountain, I lost my head: my only
excuse is that, as is probably plain, the tenant of it was, in
miniature, exactly what I had seen crowded on to the bed in the
unoccupied room. And though this translation of those phantoms into
flesh and blood--or whatever it is that caterpillars are made of--
ought perhaps to have relieved the horror of the night, as a matter of
fact it did nothing of the kind. It only made the crawling pyramid
that covered the bed in the unoccupied room more hideously real.

After lunch we spent a lazy hour or two strolling about the garden or
sitting in the loggia, and it must have been about four o'clock when
Stanley and I started off to bathe, down the path that led by the
fountain into which I had thrown the pill-box. The water was shallow
and clear, and at the bottom of it I saw its white remains. The water
had disintegrated the cardboard, and it had become no more than a few
strips and shreds of sodden paper. The centre of the fountain was a
marble Italian Cupid which squirted the water out of a wine-skin held
under its arm. And crawling up its leg was the caterpillar. Strange
and scarcely credible as it seemed, it must have survived the falling-
to-bits of its prison, and made its way to shore, and there it was,
out of arm's reach, weaving and waving this way and that as it evolved
its cocoon.

Then, as I looked at it, it seemed to me again that, like the
caterpillar I had seen last night, it saw me, and breaking out of the
threads that surrounded it, it crawled down the marble leg of the
Cupid and began swimming like a snake across the water of the fountain
towards me. It came with extraordinary speed (the fact of a
caterpillar being able to swim was new to me), and in another moment
was crawling up the marble lip of the basin. Just then Inglis joined
us.

"Why, if it isn't old 'Cancer Inglisensis' again," he said, catching
sight of the beast. "What a tearing hurry it is in!"

We were standing side by side on the path, and when the caterpillar
had advanced to within about a yard of us, it stopped, and began
waving again as if in doubt as to the direction in which it should go.
Then it appeared to make up its mind, and crawled on to Inglis' shoe.

"It likes me best," he said, "but I don't really know that I like it.
And as it won't drown I think perhaps--"

He shook it off his shoe on to the gravel path and trod on it.

All afternoon the air got heavier and heavier with the Sirocco that
was without doubt coming up from the south, and that night again I
went up to bed feeling very sleepy; but below my drowsiness, so to
speak, there was the consciousness, stronger than before, that there
was something wrong in the house, that something dangerous was close
at hand. But I fell asleep at once, and--how long after I do not
know--either woke or dreamed I awoke, feeling that I must get up at
once, or I should be too late. Then (dreaming or awake) I lay and
fought this fear, telling myself that I was but the prey of my own
nerves disordered by Sirocco or what not, and at the same time quite
clearly knowing in another part of my mind, so to speak, that every
moment's delay added to the danger. At last this second feeling became
irresistible, and I put on coat and trousers and went out of my room
on to the landing. And then I saw that I had already delayed too long,
and that I was now too late.

The whole of the landing of the first floor below was invisible under
the swarm of caterpillars that crawled there. The folding doors into
the sitting-room from which opened the bedroom where I had seen them
last night were shut, but they were squeezing through the cracks of it
and dropping one by one through the keyhole, elongating themselves
into mere string as they passed, and growing fat and lumpy again on
emerging. Some, as if exploring, were nosing about the steps into the
passage at the end of which were Inglis' rooms, others were crawling
on the lowest steps of the staircase that led up to where I stood. The
landing, however, was completely covered with them: I was cut off. And
of the frozen horror that seized me when I saw that I can give no idea
in words.

Then at last a general movement began to take place, and they grew
thicker on the steps that led to Inglis' room. Gradually, like some
hideous tide of flesh, they advanced along the passage, and I saw the
foremost, visible by the pale grey luminousness that came from them,
reach his door. Again and again I tried to shout and warn him, in
terror all the time that they would turn at the sound of my voice and
mount my stair instead, but for all my efforts I felt that no sound
came from my throat. They crawled along the hinge-crack of his door,
passing through as they had done before, and still I stood there,
making impotent efforts to shout to him, to bid him escape while there
was time.

At last the passage was completely empty: they had all gone, and at
that moment I was conscious for the first time of the cold of the
marble landing on which I stood barefooted. The dawn was just
beginning to break in the Eastern sky.

Six months after I met Mrs. Stanley in a country house in England. We
talked on many subjects and at last she said:

"I don't think I have seen you since I got that dreadful news about
Arthur Inglis a month ago."

"I haven't heard," said I.

"No? He has got cancer. They don't even advise an operation, for there
is no hope of a cure: he is riddled with it, the doctors say."

Now during all these six months I do not think a day had passed on
which I had not had in my mind the dreams (or whatever you like to
call them) which I had seen in the Villa Cascana.

"It is awful, is it not?" she continued, "and I feel I can't help
feeling, that he may have--"

"Caught it at the villa?" I asked.

She looked at me in blank surprise.

"Why did you say that?" she asked. "How did you know?"

Then she told me. In the unoccupied bedroom a year before there had
been a fatal case of cancer. She had, of course, taken the best advice
and had been told that the utmost dictates of prudence would be obeyed
so long as she did not put anybody to sleep in the room, which had
also been thoroughly disinfected and newly white-washed and painted.
But--




AND THE DEAD SPAKE

 There is not in all London a quieter spot, or one, apparently, more
withdrawn from the heat and bustle of life than Newsome Terrace. It is
a cul-de-sac, for at the upper end the roadway between its two lines
of square, compact little residences is brought to an end by a high
brick wall, while at the lower end, the only access to it is through
Newsome Square, that small discreet oblong of Georgian houses, a relic
of the time when Kensington was a suburban village sundered from the
metropolis by a stretch of pastures stretching to the river. Both
square and terrace are most inconveniently situated for those whose
ideal environment includes a rank of taxicabs immediately opposite
their door, a spate of 'buses roaring down the street, and a
procession of underground trains, accessible by a station a few yards
away, shaking and rattling the cutlery and silver on their dining
tables. In consequence Newsome Terrace had come, two years ago, to be
inhabited by leisurely and retired folk or by those who wished to
pursue their work in quiet and tranquillity. Children with hoops and
scooters are phenomena rarely encountered in the Terrace and dogs are
equally uncommon.

In front of each of the couple of dozen houses of which the Terrace is
composed lies a little square of railinged garden, in which you may
often see the middle-aged or elderly mistress of the residence
horticulturally employed. By five o'clock of a winter's evening the
pavements will generally be empty of all passengers except the
policeman, who with felted step, at intervals throughout the night,
peers with his bull's-eye into these small front gardens, and never
finds anything more suspicious there than an early crocus or an
aconite. For by the time it is dark the inhabitants of the Terrace
have got themselves home, where behind drawn curtains and bolted
shutters they will pass a domestic and uninterrupted evening. No
funeral (up to the time I speak of) had I ever seen leave the Terrace,
no marriage party had strewed its pavements with confetti, and
perambulators were unknown. It and its inhabitants seemed to be
quietly mellowing like bottles of sound wine. No doubt there was
stored within them the sunshine and summer of youth long past, and
now, dozing in a cool place, they waited for the turn of the key in
the cellar door, and the entry of one who would draw them forth and
see what they were worth.

Yet, after the time of which I shall now speak, I have never passed
down its pavement without wondering whether each house, so seemingly-
tranquil, is not, like some dynamo, softly and smoothly bringing into
being vast and terrible forces, such as those I once saw at work in
the last house at the upper end of the Terrace, the quietest, you
would have said, of all the row. Had you observed it with continuous
scrutiny, for all the length of a summer day, it is quite possible
that you might have only seen issue from it in the morning an elderly
woman whom you would have rightly conjectured to be the housekeeper,
with her basket for marketing on her arm, who returned an hour later.
Except for her the entire day might often pass without there being
either ingress or egress from the door. Occasionally a middle-aged
man, lean and wiry, came swiftly down the pavement, but his exit was
by no means a daily occurrence, and indeed when he did emerge, he
broke the almost universal usage of the Terrace, for his appearances
took place, when such there were, between nine and ten in the evening.
At that hour sometimes he would come round to my house in Newsome
Square to see if I was at home and inclined for a talk a little later
on. For the sake of air and exercise he would then have an hour's
tramp through the lit and noisy streets, and return about ten, still
pale and unflushed, for one of those talks which grew to have an
absorbing fascination for me. More rarely through the telephone I
proposed that I should drop in on him: this I did not often do, since
I found that if he did not come out himself, it implied that he was
busy with some investigation, and though he made me welcome, I could
easily see that he burned for my departure, so that he might get busy
with his batteries and pieces of tissue, hot on the track of
discoveries that never yet had presented themselves to the mind of man
as coming within the horizon of possibility.

My last sentence may have led the reader to guess that I am indeed
speaking of none other than that recluse and mysterious physicist Sir
James Horton, with whose death a hundred half-hewn avenues into the
dark forest from which life comes must wait completion till another
pioneer as bold as he takes up the axe which hitherto none but himself
has been able to wield.

Probably there was never a man to whom humanity owed more, and of whom
humanity knew less. He seemed utterly independent of the race to whom
(though indeed with no service of love) he devoted himself: for years
he lived aloof and apart in his house at the end of the Terrace.

Men and women were to him like fossils to the geologist, things to be
tapped and hammered and dissected and studied with a view not only to
the reconstruction of past ages, but to construction in the future. It
is known, for instance, that he made an artificial being formed of the
tissue, still living, of animals lately killed, with the brain of an
ape and the heart of a bullock, and a sheep's thyroid, and so forth.
Of that I can give no first-hand account; Horton, it is true, told me
something about it, and in his will directed that certain memoranda on
the subject should on his death be sent to me. But on the bulky
envelope there is the direction, "Not to be opened till January,
1925." He spoke with some reserve and, so I think, with slight horror
at the strange things which had happened on the completion of this
creature. It evidently made him uncomfortable to talk about it, and
for that reason I fancy he put what was then a rather remote date to
the day when his record should reach my eye. Finally, in these
preliminaries, for the last five years before the war, he had scarcely
entered, for the sake of companionship, any house other than his own
and mine. Ours was a friendship dating from school-days, which he had
never suffered to drop entirely, but I doubt if in those years he
spoke except on matters of business to half a dozen other people. He
had already retired from surgical practice in which his skill was
unapproached, and most completely now did he avoid the slightest
intercourse with his colleagues, whom he regarded as ignorant pedants
without courage or the rudiments of knowledge. Now and then he would
write an epoch-making little monograph, which he flung to them like a
bone to a starving dog, but for the most part, utterly absorbed in his
own investigations, he left them to grope along unaided. He frankly
told me that he enjoyed talking to me about such subjects, since I was
utterly unacquainted with them. It clarified his mind to be obliged to
put his theories and guesses and confirmations with such simplicity
that anyone could understand them.

I well remember his coming in to see me on the evening of the 4th of
August, 1914.

"So the war has broken out," he said, "and the streets are impassable
with excited crowds."

"Odd, isn't it? Just as if each of us already was not a far more
murderous battlefield than any which can be conceived between warring
nations."

"How's that?" said I.

"Let me try to put it plainly, though it isn't that I want to talk
about. Your blood is one eternal battlefield. It is full of armies
eternally marching and counter-marching. As long as the armies
friendly to you are in a superior position, you remain in good health;
if a detachment of microbes that, if suffered to establish themselves,
would give you a cold in the head, entrench themselves in your mucous
membrane, the commander-in-chief sends a regiment down and drives them
out. He doesn't give his orders from your brain, mind you--those
aren't his headquarters, for your brain knows nothing about the
landing of the enemy till they have made good their position and given
you a cold."

He paused a moment.

"There isn't one headquarters inside you," he said, "there are many.
For instance, I killed a frog this morning; at least most people would
say I killed it. But had I killed it, though its head lay in one place
and its severed body in another? Not a bit: I had only killed a piece
of it. For I opened the body afterwards and took out the heart, which
I put in a sterilised chamber of suitable temperature, so that it
wouldn't get cold or be infected by any microbe. That was about twelve
o'clock to-day. And when I came out just now, the heart was beating
still. It was alive, in fact."

"That's full of suggestions, you know. Come and see it."

The Terrace had been stirred into volcanic activity by the news of
war: the vendor of some late edition had penetrated into its quietude,
and there were half a dozen parlour-maids fluttering about like black
and white moths. But once inside Horton's door isolation as of an
Arctic night seemed to close round me. He had forgotten his latch-key,
but his housekeeper, then newly come to him, who became so regular and
familiar a figure in the Terrace, must have heard his step, for before
he rang the bell she had opened the door, and stood with his forgotten
latch-key in her hand.

"Thanks, Mrs. Gabriel," said he, and without a sound the door shut
behind us. Both her name and face, as reproduced in some illustrated
daily paper, seemed familiar, rather terribly familiar, but before I
had time to grope for the association, Horton supplied it.

"Tried for the murder of her husband six months ago," he said. "Odd
case. The point is that she is the one and perfect housekeeper. I once
had four servants, and everything was all mucky, as we used to say at
school. Now I live in amazing comfort and propriety with one. She does
everything. She is cook, valet, housemaid, butler, and won't have
anyone to help her. No doubt she killed her husband, but she planned
it so well that she could not be convicted. She told me quite frankly
who she was when I engaged her."

Of course I remembered the whole trial vividly now. Her husband, a
morose, quarrelsome fellow, tipsy as often as sober, had, according to
the defence cut his own throat while shaving; according to the
prosecution, she had done that for him. There was the usual
discrepancy of evidence as to whether the wound could have been self-
inflicted, and the prosecution tried to prove that the face had been
lathered after his throat had been cut. So singular an exhibition of
forethought and nerve had hurt rather than helped their case, and
after prolonged deliberation on the part of the jury, she had been
acquitted. Yet not less singular was Horton's selection of a probable
murderess, however efficient, as housekeeper.

He anticipated this reflection.

"Apart from the wonderful comfort of having a perfectly appointed and
absolutely silent house," he said, "I regard Mrs. Gabriel as a sort of
insurance against my being murdered. If you had been tried for your
life, you would take very especial care not to find yourself in
suspicious proximity to a murdered body again: no more deaths in your
house, if you could help it. Come through to my laboratory, and look
at my little instance of life after death."

Certainly it was amazing to see that little piece of tissue still
pulsating with what must be called life; it contracted and expanded
faintly indeed but perceptibly, though for nine hours now it had been
severed from the rest of the organisation. All by itself it went on
living, and if the heart could go on living with nothing, you would
say, to feed and stimulate its energy, there must also, so reasoned
Horton, reside in all the other vital organs of the body other
independent focuses of life.

"Of course a severed organ like that," he said, "will run down quicker
than if it had the co-operation of the others, and presently I shall
apply a gentle electric stimulus to it. If I can keep that glass bowl
under which it beats at the temperature of a frog's body, in
sterilised air, I don't see why it should not go on living. Food--of
course there's the question of feeding it. Do you see what that opens
up in the way of surgery? Imagine a shop with glass cases containing
healthy organs taken from the dead. Say a man dies of pneumonia. He
should, as soon as ever the breath is out of his body, be dissected,
and though they would, of course, destroy his lungs, as they will he
full of pneumococci, his liver and digestive organs are probably
healthy. Take them out, keep them in a sterilised atmosphere with the
temperature at 98.4, and sell the liver, let us say, to another poor
devil who has cancer there. Fit him with a new healthy liver, eh?"

"And insert the brain of someone who has died of heart disease into
the skull of a congenital idiot?" I asked.

"Yes, perhaps; but the brain's tiresomely complicated in its
connections and the joining up of the nerves, you know. Surgery will
have to learn a lot before it fits new brains in. And the brain has
got such a lot of functions. All thinking, all inventing seem to
belong to it, though, as you have seen, the heart can get on quite
well without it. But there are other functions of the brain I want to
study first. I've been trying some experiments already."

He made some little readjustment to the flame of the spirit lamp which
kept at the right temperature the water that surrounded the sterilised
receptacle in which the frog's heart was beating.

"Start with the more simple and mechanical uses of the brain," he
said. "Primarily it is a sort of record office, a diary. Say that I
rap your knuckles with that ruler. What happens? The nerves there send
a message to the brain, of course, saying--how can I put it most
simply--saying, 'Somebody is hurting me.' And the eye sends another,
saying 'I perceive a ruler hitting my knuckles,' and the ear sends
another, saying 'I hear the rap of it.' But leaving all that alone,
what else happens? Why, the brain records it. It makes a note of your
knuckles having been hit."

He had been moving about the room as he spoke, taking off his coat and
waistcoat and putting on in their place a thin black dressing-gown,
and by now he was seated in his favourite attitude cross-legged on the
hearth-rug, looking like some magician or perhaps the afrit which a
magician of black arts had caused to appear. He was thinking intently
now, passing through his fingers his string of amber beads, and
talking more to himself than to me.

"And how does it make that note?" he went on. "Why, in the manner in
which phonograph records are made. There are millions of minute dots,
depressions, pockmarks on your brain which certainly record what you
remember, what you have enjoyed or disliked, or done or said."

"The surface of the brain anyhow is large enough to furnish writing-
paper for the record of all these things, of all your memories. If the
impression of an experience has not been acute, the dot is not sharply
impressed, and the record fades: in other words, you come to forget
it. But if it has been vividly impressed, the record is never
obliterated. Mrs. Gabriel, for instance, won't lose the impression of
how she lathered her husband's face after she had cut his throat.
That's to say, if she did it.

"Now do you see what I'm driving at? Of course you do. There is stored
within a man's head the complete record of all the memorable things he
has done and said: there are all his thoughts there, and all his
speeches, and, most well-marked of all, his habitual thoughts and the
things he has often said; for habit, there is reason to believe, wears
a sort of rut in the brain, so that the life principle, whatever it
is, as it gropes and steals about the brain, is continually stumbling
into it. There's your record, your gramophone plate all ready. What we
want, and what I'm trying to arrive at, is a needle which, as it
traces its minute way over these dots, will come across words or
sentences which the dead have uttered, and will reproduce them. My
word, what Judgment Books! What a resurrection!"

Here in this withdrawn situation no remotest echo of the excitement
which was seething through the streets penetrated; through the open
window there came in only the tide of the midnight silence. But from
somewhere closer at hand, through the wall surely of the laboratory,
there came a low, somewhat persistent murmur.

"Perhaps our needle--unhappily not yet invented--as it passed over the
record of speech in the brain, might induce even facial expression,"
he said. "Enjoyment or horror might even pass over dead features.
There might be gestures and movements even, as the words were
reproduced in our gramophone of the dead. Some people when they want
to think intensely walk about: some, there's an instance of it audible
now, talk to themselves aloud."

He held up his finger for silence.

"Yes, that's Mrs. Gabriel," he said. "She talks to herself by the hour
together. She's always done that, she tells me. I shouldn't wonder if
she has plenty to talk about."

It was that night when, first of all, the notion of intense activity
going on below the placid house-fronts of the Terrace occurred to me.
None looked more quiet than this, and yet there was seething here a
volcanic activity and intensity of living, both in the man who sat
cross-legged on the floor and behind that voice just audible through
the partition wall. But I thought of that no more, for Horton began
speaking of the brain-gramophone again ... Were it possible to trace
those infinitesimal dots and pock-marks in the brain by some needle
exquisitely fine, it might follow that by the aid of some such
contrivance as translated the pock-marks on a gramophone record into
sound, some audible rendering of speech might be recovered from the
brain of a dead man. It was necessary, so he pointed out to me, that
this strange gramophone record should be new; it must be that of one
lately dead, for corruption and decay would soon obliterate these
infinitesimal markings. He was not of opinion that unspoken thought
could be thus recovered: the utmost he hoped for from his pioneering
work was to be able to recapture actual speech, especially when such
speech had habitually dwelt on one subject, and thus had worn a rut on
that part of the brain known the speech-centre.

"Let me get, for instance," he said, "the brain of a railway porter,
newly dead, who has been accustomed for years to call out the name of
a station, and I do not despair of hearing his voice through my
gramophone trumpet. Or again, given that Mrs. Gabriel, in all her
interminable conversations with herself, talks about one subject, I
might, in similar circumstances, recapture what she had been
constantly saying. Of course my instrument must be of a power and
delicacy still unknown, one of which the needle can trace the minutest
irregularities of surface, and of which the trumpet must be of immense
magnifying power, able to translate the smallest whisper into a shout.
But just as a microscope will show you the details of an object
invisible to the eye, so there are instruments which act in the same
way on sound. Here, for instance, is one of remarkable magnifying
power. Try it if you like."

He took me over to a table on which was standing an electric battery
connected with a round steel globe, out of the side of which sprang a
gramophone trumpet of curious construction. He adjusted the battery,
and directed me to click my fingers quite gently opposite an aperture
in the globe, and the noise, ordinarily scarcely audible, resounded
through the room like a thunderclap.

"Something of that sort might permit us to hear the record on a
brain," he said. After this night my visits to Horton became far more
common than they had hitherto been.

Having once admitted me into the region of his strange explorations,
he seemed to welcome me there. Partly, as he had said, it clarified
his own thought to put it into simple language, partly, as he
subsequently admitted, he was beginning to penetrate into such lonely
fields of knowledge by paths so utterly untrodden, that even he, the
most aloof and independent of mankind, wanted some human presence near
him. Despite his utter indifference to the issues of the war--for, in
his regard, issues far more crucial demanded his energies--he offered
himself as surgeon to a London hospital for operations on the brain,
and his services, naturally, were welcomed, for none brought knowledge
or skill like his to such work. Occupied all day, he performed
miracles of healing, with bold and dexterous excisions which none but
he would have dared to attempt. He would operate, often successfully,
for lesions that seemed certainly fatal, and all the time he was
learning. He refused to accept any salary; he only asked, in cases
where he had removed pieces of brain matter, to take these away, in
order by further examination and dissection, to add to the knowledge
and manipulative skill which he devoted to the wounded. He wrapped
these morsels in sterilised lint, and took them back to the Terrace in
a box, electrically heated to maintain the normal temperature of a
man's blood. His fragment might then, so he reasoned, keep some sort
of independent life of its own, even as the severed heart of a frog
had continued to beat for hours without connection with the rest of
the body. Then for half the night he would continue to work on these
sundered pieces of tissue scarcely dead, which his operations during
the day had given him. Simultaneously, he was busy over the needle
that must be of such infinite delicacy.

One evening, fatigued with a long day's work, I had just heard with a
certain tremor of uneasy anticipation the whistles of warning which
heralded an air-raid, when my telephone bell rang. My servants,
according to custom, had already betaken themselves to the cellar, and
I went to see what the summons was, determined in any case not to go
out into the streets. I recognised Horton's voice. "I want you at
once," he said.

"But the warning whistles have gone," said I. "And I don't like
showers of shrapnel."

"Oh, never mind that," said he. "You must come. I'm so excited that I
distrust the evidence of my own ears. I want a witness. Just come."

He did not pause for my reply, for I heard the click of his receiver
going back into its place.

Clearly he assumed that I was coming, and that I suppose had the
effect of suggestion on my mind. I told myself that I would not go,
but in a couple of minutes his certainty that I was coming, coupled
with the prospect of being interested in something else than air-
raids, made me fidget in my chair and eventually go to the street door
and look out. The moon was brilliantly bright, the square quite empty,
and far away the coughings of very distant guns. Next moment, almost
against my will, I was running down the deserted pavements of Newsome
Terrace. My ring at his bell was answered by Horton, before Mrs.
Gabriel could come to the door, and he positively dragged me in.

"I shan't tell you a word of what I am doing," he said. "I want you to
tell me what you hear. Come into the laboratory."

The remote guns were silent again as I sat myself, as directed, in a
chair close to the gramophone trumpet, but suddenly through the wall I
heard the familiar mutter of Mrs. Gabriel's voice. Horton, already
busy with his battery, sprang to his feet.

"That won't do," he said. "I want absolute silence."

He went out of the room, and I heard him calling to her. While he was
gone I observed more closely what was on the table. Battery, round
steel globe, and gramophone trumpet were there, and some sort of a
needle on a spiral steel spring linked up with the battery and the
glass vessel, in which I had seen the frog's heart beat. In it now
there lay a fragment of grey matter.

Horton came back in a minute or two, and stood in the middle of the
room listening.

"That's better," he said. "Now I want you to listen at the mouth of
the trumpet. I'll answer any questions afterwards."

With my ear turned to the trumpet, I could see nothing of what he was
doing, and I listened till the silence became a rustling in my ears.
Then suddenly that rustling ceased, for it was overscored by a whisper
which undoubtedly came from the aperture on which my aural attention
was fixed. It was no more than the faintest murmur, and though no
words were audible, it had the timbre of a human voice.

"Well, do you hear anything?" asked Horton.

"Yes, something very faint, scarcely audible."

"Describe it," said he.

"Somebody whispering."

"I'll try a fresh place," said he.

The silence descended again; the mutter of the distant guns was still
mute, and some slight creaking from my shirt front, as I breathed,
alone broke it. And then the whispering from the gramophone trumpet
began again, this time much louder than it had been before--it was as
if the speaker (still whispering) had advanced a dozen yards--but
still blurred and indistinct.

More unmistakable, too, was it that the whisper was that of a human
voice, and every now and then, whether fancifully or not, I thought I
caught a word or two. For a moment it was silent altogether, and then
with a sudden inkling of what I was listening to I heard something
begin to sing. Though the words were still inaudible there was melody,
and the tune was "Tipperary."

From that convolvulus-shaped trumpet there came two bars of it.

"And what do you hear now?" cried Horton with a crack of exultation in
his voice. "Singing, singing! That's the tune they all sang. Fine
music that from a dead man. Encore! you say? Yes, wait a second, and
he'll sing it again for you. Confound it, I can't get on to the place.
Ah! I've got it: listen again."

Surely that was the strangest manner of song ever yet heard on the
earth, this melody from the brain of the dead. Horror and fascination
strove within me, and I suppose the first for the moment prevailed,
for with a shudder I jumped up.

"Stop it!" I said. "It's terrible."

His face, thin and eager, gleamed in the strong ray of the lamp which
he had placed close to him. His hand was on the metal rod from which
depended the spiral spring and the needle, which just rested on that
fragment of grey stuff which I had seen in the glass vessel.

"Yes, I'm going to stop it now," he said, "or the germs will be
getting at my gramophone record, or the record will get cold. See, I
spray it with carbolic vapour, I put it back into its nice warm bed.
It will sing to us again. But terrible? What do you mean by terrible?"

Indeed, when he asked that I scarcely knew myself what I meant. I had
been witness to a new marvel of science as wonderful perhaps as any
that had ever astounded the beholder, and my nerves--these childish
whimperers--had cried out at the darkness and the profundity.

But the horror diminished, the fascination increased as he quite
shortly told me the history of this phenomenon. He had attended that
day and operated upon a young soldier in whose brain was embedded a
piece of shrapnel. The boy was in extremis, but Horton had hoped for
the possibility of saving him. To extract the shrapnel was the only
chance, and this involved the cutting away of a piece of brain known
as the speech-centre, and taking from it what was embedded there. But
the hope was not realised, and two hours later the boy died. It was to
this fragment of brain that, when Horton returned home, he had applied
the needle of his gramophone, and had obtained the faint whisperings
which had caused him to ring me up, so that he might have a witness of
this wonder. Witness I had been, not to these whisperings alone, but
to the fragment of singing.

"And this is but the first step on the new road," said he. "Who knows
where it may lead, or to what new temple of knowledge it may not be
the avenue? Well, it is late: I shall do no more to-night."

"What about the raid, by the way?"

To my amazement I saw that the time was verging on midnight. Two hours
had elapsed since he let me in at his door; they had passed like a
couple of minutes. Next morning some neighbours spoke of the prolonged
firing that had gone on, of which I had been wholly unconscious.

Week after week Horton worked on this new road of research, perfecting
the sensitiveness and subtlety of the needle, and, by vastly
increasing the power of his batteries, enlarging the magnifying power
of his trumpet. Many and many an evening during the next year did I
listen to voices that were dumb in death, and the sounds which had
been blurred and unintelligible mutterings in the earlier experiments,
developed, as the delicacy of his mechanical devices increased, into
coherence and clear articulation. It was no longer necessary to Impose
silence on Mrs. Gabriel when the gramophone was at work, or now the
voice we listened to had risen to the pitch of ordinary human
utterance, while as for the faithfulness and individuality of these
records, striking testimony was given more than once by some living
friend of the dead, who, without knowing what he was about to hear,
recognised the tones of the speaker. More than once also, Mrs.
Gabriel, bringing in syphons and whisky, provided us with three
glasses, for she had heard, so she told us, three different voices in
talk. But for the present no fresh phenomenon occurred; Horton was but
perfecting the mechanism of his previous discovery and, rather
grudging the time, was scribbling at a monograph, which presently he
would toss to his colleagues, concerning the results he had already
obtained. And then, even while Horton was on he threshold of new
wonders, which he had already foreseen and spoken of as theoretically
possible, there came an evening of marvel and of swift catastrophe.

I had dined with him that day, Mrs. Gabriel deftly serving the meal
that she had so daintily prepared, and towards the end, as she was
clearing the table for our dessert, she stumbled, I supposed, on a
loose edge of carpet, quickly recovering herself. But instantly Horton
checked some half-finished sentence, and turned to her.

"You're all right, Mrs. Gabriel?" he asked quickly.

"Yes, sir, thank you," said she, and went on with her serving.

"As I was saying," began Horton again, but his attention clearly
wandered, and without concluding his narrative, he relapsed into
silence, till Mrs. Gabriel had given us our coffee and left the room.

"I'm sadly afraid my domestic felicity may be disturbed," he said.
"Mrs. Gabriel had an epileptic fit yesterday, and she confessed when
she recovered that she had been subject to them when a child, and
since then had occasionally experienced them."

"Dangerous, then?" I asked.

"In themselves not in the least," said he. "If she was sitting in her
chair or lying in bed when one occurred, there would be nothing to
trouble about. But if one occurred while she was cooking my dinner or
beginning to come downstairs, she might fall into the fire or tumble
down the whole flight. We'll hope no such deplorable calamity will
happen. Now, if you've finished your coffee, let us go into the
laboratory. Not that I've got anything very interesting in the way of
new records. But I've introduced a second battery with a very strong
induction coil into my apparatus. I find that if I link it up with my
record, given that the record is a--a fresh one, it stimulates certain
nerve centres. It's odd, isn't it, that the same forces which so
encourage the dead to live would certainly encourage the living to
die, if a man received the full current. One has to be careful in
handling it. Yes, and what then? you ask."

The night was very hot, and he threw the windows wide before he
settled himself cross-legged on the floor.

"I'll answer your question for you," he said, "though I believe we've
talked of it before.

"Supposing I had not a fragment of brain-tissue only, but a whole
head, let us say, or best of all, a complete corpse, I think I could
expect to produce more than mere speech through the gramophone. The
dead lips themselves perhaps might utter--God! what's that?"

From close outside, at the bottom of the stairs leading from the
dining room which we had just quitted to the laboratory where we now
sat, there came a crash of glass followed by the fall as of something
heavy which bumped from step to step, and was finally flung on the
threshold against the door with the sound as of knuckles rapping at
it, and demanding admittance. Horton sprang up and threw the door
open, and there lay, half inside the room and half on the landing
outside, the body of Mrs. Gabriel. Round her were splinters of broken
bottles and glasses, and from a cut in her forehead, as she lay
ghastly with face upturned, the blood trickled into her thick grey
hair.

Horton was on his knees beside her, dabbing his handkerchief on her
forehead.

"Ah! that's not serious," he said; "there's neither vein nor artery
cut. I'll just bind that up first."

He tore his handkerchief into strips which he tied together, and made
a dexterous bandage covering the lower part of her forehead, but
leaving her eyes unobscured. They stared with a fixed meaningless
steadiness, and he scrutinised them closely.

"But there's worse yet," he said. "There's been some severe blow on
the head. Help me to carry her into the laboratory. Get round to her
feet and lift underneath the knees when I am ready. There! Now put
your arm right under her and carry her."

Her head swung limply back as he lifted her shoulders, and he propped
it up against his knee, where it mutely nodded and bowed, as his leg
moved, as if in silent assent to what we were doing, and the mouth, at
the extremity of which there had gathered a little lather, lolled
open. He still supported her shoulders as I fetched a cushion on which
to place her head, and presently she was lying close to the low table
on which stood the gramophone of the dead. Then with light deft
fingers he passed his hands over her skull, pausing as he came to the
spot just above and behind her right ear. Twice and again his fingers
groped and lightly pressed, while with shut eyes and concentrated
attention he interpreted what his trained touch revealed.

"Her skull is broken to fragments just here," he said. "In the middle
there is a piece completely severed from the rest, and the edges of
the cracked pieces must be pressing on her brain."

Her right arm was lying palm upwards on the floor, and with one hand
he felt her wrist with fingertips.

"Not a sign of pulse," he said. "She's dead in the ordinary sense of
the word. But life persists in an extraordinary manner, you may
remember. She can't be wholly dead: no one is wholly dead in a moment,
unless every organ is blown to bits. But she soon will be dead, if we
don't relieve the pressure on the brain. That's the first thing to be
done. While I'm busy at that, shut the window, will you, and make up
the fire. In this sort of case the vital heat, whatever that is,
leaves the body very quickly. Make the room as hot as you can--fetch
an oil-stove, and turn on the electric radiator, and stoke up a
roaring fire. The hotter the room is the more slowly will the heat of
life leave her."

Already he had opened his cabinet of surgical instruments, and taken
out of it two drawers full of bright steel which he laid on the floor
beside her. I heard the grating chink of scissors severing her long
grey hair, and as I busied myself with laying and lighting the fire in
the hearth, and kindling the oil-stove, which I found, by Horton's
directions, in the pantry, I saw that his lancet was busy on the
exposed skin. He had placed some vaporising spray, heated by a spirit
lamp close to her head, and as he worked its fizzing nozzle filled the
air with some clean and aromatic odour. Now and then he threw out an
order.

"Bring me that electric lamp on the long cord," he said. "I haven't
got enough light. Don't look at what I'm doing if you're squeamish,
for if it makes you feel faint, I shan't be able to attend to you."

I suppose that violent interest in what he was doing overcame any
qualm that I might have had, for I looked quite unflinching over his
shoulder as I moved the lamp about till it was in such a place that it
threw its beam directly into a dark hole at the edge of which depended
a flap of skin. Into this he put his forceps, and as he withdrew them
they grasped a piece of blood-stained bone.

"That's better," he said, "and the room's warming up well. But there's
no sign of pulse yet.

"Go on stoking, will you, till the thermometer on the wall there
registers a hundred degrees."

When next, on my journey from the coal-cellar, I looked, two more
pieces of bone lay beside the one I had seen extracted, and presently
referring to the thermometer, I saw, that between the oil-stove and
the roaring fire and the electric radiator, I had raised the room to
the temperature he wanted. Soon, peering fixedly at the seat of his
operation, he felt for her pulse again.

"Not a sign of returning vitality," he said, "and I've done all I can.
There's nothing more possible that can be devised to restore her."

As he spoke the zeal of the unrivalled surgeon relaxed, and with a
sigh and a shrug he rose to his feet and mopped his face. Then
suddenly the fire and eagerness blazed there again. "The gramophone!"
he said. "The speech centre is close to where I've been working, and
it is quite uninjured. Good heavens, what a wonderful opportunity. She
served me well living, and she shall serve me dead. And I can
stimulate the motor nerve-centre, too, with the second battery. We may
see a new wonder tonight."

Some qualm of horror shook me.

"No, don't!" I said. "It's terrible: she's just dead. I shall go if
you do."

"But I've got exactly all the conditions I have long been wanting,"
said he. "And I simply can't spare you. You must be witness: I must
have a witness. Why, man, there's not a surgeon or a physiologist in
the kingdom who would not give an eye or an ear to be in your place
now.

"She's dead. I pledge you my honour on that, and it's grand to be dead
if you can help the living."

Once again, in a far fiercer struggle, horror and the intensest
curiosity strove together in me.

"Be quick, then," said I.

"Ha! That's right," exclaimed Horton. "Help me to lift her on to the
table by the gramophone. The cushion too; I can get at the place more
easily with her head a little raised."

He turned on the battery and with the movable light close beside him,
brilliantly illuminating what he sought, he inserted the needle of the
gramophone into the jagged aperture in her skull.

For a few minutes, as he groped and explored there, there was silence,
and then quite suddenly Mrs. Gabriel's voice, clear and unmistakable
and of the normal loudness of human speech, issued from the trumpet.
"Yes, I always said that I'd be even with him," came the articulated
syllables. "He used to knock me about, he did, when he came home
drunk, and often I was black and blue with bruises.

"But I'll give him a redness for the black and blue."

The record grew blurred; instead of articulate words there came from
it a gobbling noise. By degrees that cleared, and we were listening to
some dreadful suppressed sort of laughter, hideous to hear. On and on
it went.

"I've got into some sort of rut," said Horton. "She must have laughed
a lot to herself."

For a long time we got nothing more except the repetition of the words
we had already heard and the sound of that suppressed laughter. Then
Horton drew towards him the second battery.

"I'll try a stimulation of the motor nerve-centres," he said. "Watch
her face."

He propped the gramophone needle in position, and inserted into the
fractured skull the two poles of the second battery, moving them about
there very carefully. And as I watched her face, I saw with a freezing
horror that her lips were beginning to move.

"Her mouth's moving," I cried. "She can't be dead."

He peered into her face.

"Nonsense," he said. "That's only the stimulus from the current. She's
been dead half an hour. Ah! what's coming now?"

The lips lengthened into a smile, the lower jaw dropped, and from her
mouth came the laughter we had heard just now through the gramophone.
And then the dead mouth spoke, with a mumble of unintelligible words,
a bubbling torrent of incoherent syllables.

"I'll turn the full current on," he said.

The head jerked and raised itself, the lips struggled for utterance,
and suddenly she spoke swiftly and distinctly.

"Just when he'd got his razor out," she said, "I came up behind him,
and put my hand over his face, and bent his neck back over his chair
with all my strength. And I picked up his razor and with one slit--ha,
ha, that was the way to pay him out. And I didn't lose my head, but I
lathered his chin well, and put the razor in his hand, and left him
there, and went downstairs and cooked his dinner for him, and then an
hour afterwards, as he didn't come down, up I went to see what kept
him. It was a nasty cut in his neck that had kept him--"

Horton suddenly withdrew the two poles of the battery from her head,
and even in the middle of her word the mouth ceased working, and lay
rigid and open.

"By God!" he said. "There's a tale for dead lips to tell. But we'll
get more yet."

Exactly what happened then I never knew. It appeared to me that as he
still leaned over the table with the two poles of the battery in his
hand, his foot slipped, and he fell forward across it.

There came a sharp crack, and a flash of blue dazzling light, and
there he lay face downwards, with arms that just stirred and quivered.
With his fall the two poles that must momentarily have come into
contact with his hand were jerked away again, and I lifted him and
laid him on the floor. But his lips as well as those of the dead woman
had spoken for the last time.




THE DUST-CLOUD

The big French windows were open on to the lawn, and, dinner being
over, two or three of the party who were staying for the week at the
end of August with the Combe-Martins had strolled out on to the
terrace to look at the sea, over which the moon, large and low, was
just rising and tracing a path of pale gold from horizon to shore,
while others, less lunar of inclination, had gone in search of bridge
or billiards. Coffee had come round immediately after dessert, and the
end of dinner, according to the delectable custom of the house, was as
informal as the end of breakfast.

Every one, that is to say, remained or went away, smoked, drank port
or abstained, according to his personal tastes. Thus, on this
particular evening it so happened that Harry Combe-Martin and I were
very soon left alone in the dining-room, because we were talking
unmitigated motor "shop," and the rest of the party (small wonder)
were bored with it, and had left us. The shop was home-shop, so to
speak, for it was almost entirely concerned with the manifold
perfections of the new six-cylinder Napier which my host in a moment
of extravagance, which he did not in the least regret, had just
purchased; in which, too, he proposed to take me over to lunch at a
friend's house near Hunstanton on the following day. He observed with
legitimate pride that an early start would not be necessary, as the
distance was only eighty miles and there were no police traps.

"Queer things these big motors are," he said, relapsing into
generalities as we rose to go.

"Often I can scarcely believe that my new car is merely a machine. It
seems to me to possess an independent life of its own. It is really
much more like a thoroughbred with a wonderfully fine mouth."

"And the moods of a thoroughbred?" I asked.

"No; it's got an excellent temper, I'm glad to say. It doesn't mind
being checked, or even stopped, when it's going its best. Some of
these big cars can't stand that. They get sulky--I assure you it is
literally true--if they are checked too often."

He paused on his way to ring the bell. "Guy Elphinstone's car, for
instance," he said: "it was a bad-tempered brute, a violent, vicious
beast of a car."

"What make?" I asked.

"Twenty-five horse-power Amédée. They are a fretful strain of car; too
thin, not enough bone--and bone is very good for the nerves. The brute
liked running over a chicken or a rabbit, though perhaps it was less
the car's ill-temper than Guy's, poor chap. Well, he paid for it--he
paid to the uttermost farthing. Did you know him?"

"No; but surely I have heard the name. Ah, yes, he ran over a child,
did he not?"

"Yes," said Harry, "and then smashed up against his own park gates."

"Killed, wasn't he?"

"Oh, yes, killed instantly, and the car just a heap of splinters.
There's an old story about it, I'm told, in the village: rather in
your line."

"Ghosts?" I asked.

"Yes, the ghost of his motor-car. Seems almost too up-to-date, doesn't
it?"

"And what's the story?" I demanded.

"Why, just this. His place was outside the village of Bircham, ten
miles out from Norwich; and there's a long straight bit of road
there--that's where he ran over the child--and a couple of hundred
yards further on, a rather awkward turn into the park gates. Well, a
month or two ago, soon after the accident, one old gaffer in the
village swore he had seen a motor there coming full tilt along the
road, but without a sound, and it disappeared at the lodge gates of
the park, which were shut. Soon after another said he had heard a
motor whirl by him at the same place, followed by a hideous scream,
but he saw nothing."

"The scream is rather horrible," said I.

"Ah, I see what you mean! I only thought of his syren. Guy had a syren
on his exhaust, same as I have. His had a dreadful frightened sort of
wail, and always made me feel creepy."

"And is that all the story?" I asked: "that one old man thought he saw
a noiseless motor, and another thought he heard an invisible one?"

Harry flicked the ash off his cigarette into the grate. "Oh dear no!"
he said. "Half a dozen of them have seen something or heard something.
It is quite a heavily authenticated yarn."

"Yes, and talked over and edited in the public-house," I said.

"Well, not a man of them will go there after dark. Also the lodge-
keeper gave notice a week or two after the accident. He said he was
always hearing a motor stop and hoot outside the lodge, and he was
kept running out at all hours of the night to see what it was."

"And what was it?"

"It wasn't anything. Simply nothing there. He thought it rather
uncanny, anyhow, and threw up a good post. Besides, his wife was
always hearing a child scream, and while her man toddled out to the
gate she would go and see whether the kids were all right. And the
kids themselves--"

"Ah, what of them?" I asked.

"They kept coming to their mother, asking who the little girl was who
walked up and down the road and would not speak to them or play with
them."

"It's a many-sided story," I said. "All the witnesses seem to have
heard and seen different things."

"Yes, that is just what to my mind makes the yarn so good," he said.
"Personally I don't take much stock in spooks at all. But given that
there are such things as spooks, and given that the death of the child
and the death of Guy have caused spooks to play about there, it seems
to me a very good point that different people should be aware of
different phenomena. One hears the car, another sees it, one hears the
child scream, another sees the child. How does that strike you?"

This, I am bound to say, was a new view to me, and the more I thought
of it the more reasonable it appeared. For the vast majority of
mankind have all those occult senses by which is perceived the
spiritual world (which, I hold, is thick and populous around us),
sealed up, as it were; in other words, the majority of mankind never
hear or see a ghost at all. Is it not, then, very probable that of the
remainder--those, in fact, to whom occult experiences have happened or
can happen--few should have every sense unsealed, but that some should
have the unsealed ear, others the unsealed eye--that some should be
clairaudient, others clairvoyant?

"Yes, it strikes me as reasonable," I said. "Can't you take me over
there?"

"Certainly! If you will stop till Friday I'll take you over on
Thursday. The others all go that day, so that we can get there after
dark."

I shook my head. "I can't stop till Friday, I'm afraid," I said. "I
must leave on Thursday. But how about to-morrow? Can't we take it on
the way to or from Hunstanton?"

"No; it's thirty miles out of our way. Besides, to be at Bircham after
dark means that we shouldn't get back here till midnight. And as host
to my guests--"

"Ah! things are only heard and seen after dark, are they?" I asked.
"That makes it so much less interesting. It is like a séance where all
lights are put out."

"Well, the accident happened at night," he said. "I don't know the
rules, but that may have some bearing on it, I should think."

I had one question more in the back of my mind, but I did not like to
ask it. At least, I wanted information on this subject without
appearing to ask for it.

"Neither do I know the rules of motors," I said; "and I don't
understand you when you say that Guy Elphinstone's machine was an
irritable, cross-grained brute, that liked running over chickens and
rabbits. But I think you subsequently said that the irritability may
have been the irritability of its owner. Did he mind being checked?"

"It made him blind-mad if it happened often," said Harry. "I shall
never forget a drive I had with him once: there were hay-carts and
perambulators every hundred yards. It was perfectly ghastly; it was
like being with a madman. And when we got inside his gate, his dog
came running out to meet him. He did not go an inch out of his course:
it was worse than that--he went for it, just grinding his teeth with
rage. I never drove with him again."

He stopped a moment, guessing what might be in my mind. "I say, you
mustn't think--you mustn't think--" he began.

"No, of course not," said I.

Harry Combe-Martin's house stood close to the weather-eaten, sandy
cliffs of the Suffolk shore, which are being incessantly gnawed away
by the hunger of the insatiable sea. Fathoms deep below it, and now
any hundred yards out, lies what was once the second port in England;
but now of the ancient town of Dunwich, and of its seven great
churches, nothing remains but one, and that ruinous and already half
destroyed by the falling cliff and the encroachments of the sea. Foot
by foot, it too is disappearing, and of the graveyard which surrounded
it more than half is gone, so that from the face of the sandy cliff on
which it stands there stick out like straws in glass, as Dante says,
the bones of those who were once committed there to the kindly and
stable earth.

Whether it was the remembrance of this rather grim spectacle as I had
seen it that afternoon, or whether Harry's story had caused some
trouble in my brain, or whether it was merely that the keen bracing
air of this place, to one who had just come from the sleepy languor of
the Norfolk Broads, kept me sleepless, I do not know; but, anyhow, the
moment I put out my light that night and got into bed, I felt that all
the footlights and gas-jets in the internal theatre of my mind sprang
into flame, and that I was very vividly and alertly awake. It was in
vain that I counted a hundred forwards and a hundred backwards, that I
pictured to myself a flock of visionary sheep coming singly through a
gap in an imaginary hedge, and tried to number their monotonous and
uniform countenances, that I played noughts and crosses with myself,
that I marked out scores of double lawn-tennis courts,--for with each
repetition of these supposedly soporific exercises I only became more
intensely wakeful. It was not in remote hope of sleep that I continued
to repeat these weary performances long after their inefficacy was
proved to the hilt, but because I was strangely unwilling in this
timeless hour of the night to think about those protruding relics of
humanity; also I quite distinctly did not desire to think about that
subject with regard to which I had, a few hours ago, promised Harry
that I would not make it the subject of reflection. For these reasons
I continued during the black hours to practise these narcotic
exercises of the mind, knowing well that if I paused on the tedious
treadmill my thoughts, like some released spring, would fly back to
rather gruesome subjects. I kept my mind, in fact, talking loud to
itself, so that it should not hear what other voices were saying.

Then by degrees these absurd mental occupations became impossible; my
mind simply refused to occupy itself with them any longer; and next
moment I was thinking intently and eagerly, not about the bones
protruding from the gnawed section of sandcliff, but about the subject
I had said I would not dwell upon. And like a flash it came upon me
why Harry had bidden me not think about it. Surely in order that I
should not come to the same conclusion as he had come to.

Now the whole question of "haunt"--haunted spots, haunted houses, and
so forth--has always seemed to me to be utterly unsolved, and to be
neither proved nor disproved to a satisfactory degree. From the
earliest times, certainly from the earliest known Egyptian records,
there has been a belief that the scene of a crime is often revisited,
sometimes by the spirit of him who has committed it--seeking rest, we
must suppose, and finding none; sometimes, and more inexplicably, by
the spirit of his victim, crying perhaps, like the blood of Abel, for
vengeance.

And though the stories of these village gossips in the alehouse about
noiseless visions and invisible noises were all as yet unsifted and
unreliable, yet I could not help wondering if they (such as they were)
pointed to something authentic and to be classed under this head of
appearances. But more striking than the yarns of the gaffers seemed to
me the questions of the lodge-keeper's children. How should children
have imagined the figure of a child that would not speak to them or
play with them? Perhaps it was a real child, a sulky child. Yes--
perhaps. But perhaps not. Then after this preliminary skirmish I found
myself settling down to the question that I had said I would not think
about; in other words, the possible origin of these phenomena
interested me more than the phenomena themselves. For what exactly had
Guy Elphinstone, that savage driver, done? Had or had not the death of
the child been entirely an accident, a thing (given he drove a motor
at all) outside his own control? Or had he, irritated beyond endurance
at the checks and delays of the day, not pulled up when it was just
possible he might have, but had run over the child as he would have
run over a rabbit or a hen, or even his own dog? And what, in any
case, poor wretched brute, must have been his thoughts in that
terrible instant that intervened between the child's death and his
own, when a moment later he smashed into the closed gates of his own
lodge? Was remorse his--bitter, despairing contrition? That could
hardly have been so; or else surely, knowing only for certain that he
had knocked a child down, he would have stopped; he would have done
his best, whatever that might be, to repair the irreparable harm. But
he had not stopped: he had gone on, it seemed, at full speed, for on
the collision the car had been smashed into matchwood and steel
shavings. Again, with double force, had this dreadful thing been a
complete accident, he would have stopped. So then--most terrible
question of all--had he, after making murder, rushed on to what proved
to be his own death, filled with some hellish glee at what he had
done? Indeed, as in the church-yard on the cliff, bones of the buried
stuck starkly out into the night.

The pale tired light of earliest morning had turned the window-blinds
into glimmering squares before I slept; and when I woke, the servant
who called me was already rattling them briskly up on their rollers,
and letting the calm serenity of the August day stream into the room.
Through the open windows poured in sunlight and sea-wind, the scent of
flowers and the song of birds; and each and all were wonderfully
reassuring, banishing the hooded forms that had haunted the night, and
I thought of the disquietude of the dark hours as a traveller may
think of the billows and tempests of the ocean over which he has
safely journeyed, unable, now that they belong to the limbo of the
past, to recall his qualms and tossings with any vivid uneasiness. Not
without a feeling of relief, too, did I dwell on the knowledge that I
was definitely not going to visit this equivocal spot. Our drive to-
day, as Harry had said, would not take us within thirty miles of it,
and to-morrow I but went to the station and away. Though a thorough-
paced seeker after truth might, no doubt, have regretted that the laws
of time and space did not permit him to visit Bircham after the
sinister dark had fallen, and test whether for him there was visible
or audible truth in the tales of the village gossips, I was conscious
of no such regret. Bircham and its fables had given me a very bad
night, and I was perfectly aware that I did not in the least want to
go near it, though yesterday I had quite truthfully said I should like
to do so. In this brightness, too, of sun and sea-wind I felt none of
the malaise at my waking moments which a sleepless night usually gives
me; I felt particularly well, particularly pleased to be alive, and
also, as I have said, particularly content not to be going to Bircham.
I was quite satisfied to leave my curiosity unsatisfied.

The motor came round about eleven, and we started at once, Harry and
Mrs. Morrison, a cousin of his, sitting behind in the big back seat,
large enough to hold a comfortable three, and I on the left of the
driver, in a sort of trance--I am not ashamed to confess it--of
expectancy and delight. For this was in the early days of motors, when
there was still the sense of romance and adventure round them. I did
not want to drive, any more than Harry wanted to; for driving, so I
hold, is too absorbing; it takes the attention in too firm a grip: the
mania of the true motorist is not consciously enjoyed. For the passion
for motors is a taste--I had almost said a gift--as distinct and as
keenly individual as the passion for music or mathematics. Those who
use motors most (merely as a means of getting rapidly from one place
to another) are often entirely without it, while those whom adverse
circumstances (over which they have no control) compel to use them
least may have it to a supreme degree. To those who have it, analysis
of their passion is perhaps superfluous; to those who have it not,
explanation is almost unintelligible. Pace, however, and the control
of pace, and above all the sensuous consciousness of pace, is at the
root of it; and pleasure in pace is common to most people, whether it
be in the form of a galloping horse, or the pace of the skate hissing
over smooth ice, or the pace of a free-wheel bicycle humming down-
hill, or, more impersonally, the pace of the smashed ball at lawn-
tennis, the driven ball at golf, or the low boundary hit at cricket.
But the sensuous consciousness of pace, as I have said, is needful:
one might experience it seated in front of the engine of an express
train, though not in a wadded, shut-windowed carriage, where the wind
of movement is not felt. Then add to this rapture of the rush through
riven air the knowledge that huge relentless force is controlled by a
little lever, and directed by a little wheel on which the hands of the
driver seem to lie so negligently. A great untamed devil has there his
bridle, and he answers to it, as Harry had said, like a horse with a
fine mouth. He has hunger and thirst, too, unslakeable, and greedily
he laps of his soup of petrol which turns to fire in his mouth;
electricity, the force that rends clouds asunder, and causes towers to
totter, is the spoon with which he feeds himself; and as he eats he
races onward, and the road opens like torn linen in front of him. Yet
how obedient, how amenable is he!--for with a touch on his snaffle his
speed is redoubled, or melts into thin air, so that before you know
you have touched the rein he has exchanged his swallow-flight for a
mere saunter through the lanes. But he ever loves to run; and knowing
this, you will bid him lift up his voice and tell those who are in his
path that he is coming, so that he will not need the touch that
checks. Hoarse and jovial is his voice, hooting to the wayfarer; and
if his hooting be not heard he has a great guttural falsetto scream
that leaps from octave to octave, and echoes from the hedges that are
passing in blurred lines of hanging green. And, as you go, the
romantic isolation of divers in deep seas is yours; masked and hooded
companions may be near you also, in their driving-dress for this
plunge through the swift tides of air; but you, like them, are alone
and isolated, conscious only of the ripped riband of road, the two
great lantern-eyes of the wonderful monster that look through drooped
eyelids by day, but gleam with fire by night, the two ear-laps of
splash-boards, and the long lean bonnet in front which is the skull
and brain-case of that swift untiring energy that feeds on fire, and
whirls its two tons of weight up hill and down dale, as if some new
law as ever-lasting as gravity, and like gravity making it go ever
swifter, was its sole control.

For the first hour the essence of these joys, any description of which
compared to the real thing is but as a stagnant pond compared to the
bright rushing of a mountain stream, was mine. A straight switchback
road lay in front of us, and the monster plunged silently down hill,
and said below his breath, "Ha-ha--ha-ha--ha-ha," as, without
diminution of speed, he breasted the opposing slope. In my control
were his great vocal cords (for in those days hooter and syren were
on the driver's left, and lay convenient to the hand of him who
occupied the box-seat), and it rejoiced me to let him hoot at a pony-
cart, three hundred yards ahead, with a hand on his falsetto scream if
his ordinary tones of conversation were unheard or disregarded. Then
came a road crossing ours at right angles, and the dear monster seemed
to say, "Yes, yes,--see how obedient and careful I am. I stroll with
my hands in my pockets." Then again a puppy from a farmhouse staggered
warlike into the road, and the monster said, "Poor little chap! get
home to your mother, or I'll talk to you in earnest." The poor little
chap did not take the hint, so the monster slackened speed and just
said "Whoof!" Then it chuckled to itself as the puppy scuttled into
the hedge, seriously alarmed; and next moment our self-made wind
screeched and whistled round us again.

Napoleon, I believe, said that the power of an army lay in its feet:
that is true also of the monster. There was a loud bang, and in thirty
seconds we were at a standstill. The monster's off fore-foot troubled
it, and the chauffeur said, "Yes, sir--burst."

So the burst boot was taken off and a new one put on, a boot that had
never been on foot before. The foot in question was held up on a jack
during this operation, and the new boot laced up with a pump. This
took exactly twenty-five minutes. Then the monster got his spoon going
again, and said, "Let me run: oh, let me run!"

And for fifteen miles on a straight and empty road it ran. I timed the
miles, but shall not produce their chronology for the benefit of a
forsworn constabulary.

But there were no more dithyrambics that morning. We should have
reached Hunstanton in time for lunch. Instead, we waited to repair our
fourth puncture at 1.45 p.m., twenty-five miles short of our
destination. This fourth puncture was caused by a spicule of flint
three-quarters of an inch long--sharp, it is true, but weighing
perhaps two pennyweights, while we weighed two tons. It seemed an
impertinence. So we lunched at a wayside inn, and during lunch the
pundits held a consultation, of which the upshot was this:

We had no more boots for our monster, for his off fore-foot had burst
once, and punctured once (thus necessitating two socks and one boot).
Similarly, but more so, his off hind-foot had burst twice (thus
necessitating two boots and two socks). Now, there was no certain
shoemaker's shop at Hunstanton, as far as we knew, but there was a
regular universal store at King's Lynn, which was about equidistant.

And, so said the chauffeur, there was something wrong with the
monster's spoon (ignition), and he didn't rightly know what, and
therefore it seemed the prudent part not to go to Hunstanton (lunch, a
thing of the preterite, having been the object), but to the well-
supplied King's Lynn.

And we all breathed a pious hope that we might get there.

Whizz: hoot: purr! The last boot held, the spoon went busily to the
monster's mouth, and we just flowed into King's Lynn. The return
journey, so I vaguely gathered, would be made by other roads; but
personally, intoxicated with air and movement, I neither asked nor
desired to know what those roads would be. This one small but rather
salient fact is necessary to record here, that as we waited at King's
Lynn, and as we buzzed homewards afterwards, no thought of Bircham
entered my head at all. The subsequent hallucination, if hallucination
it was, was not, as far as I know, self-suggested. That we had gone
out of our way for the sake of the garage, I knew, and that was all.
Harry also told me that he did not know where our road would take us.

The rest that follows is the baldest possible narrative of what
actually occurred. But it seems to me, a humble student of the occult,
to be curious.

While we waited we had tea in an hotel looking on to a big empty
square of houses, and after tea we waited a very long time for our
monster to pick us up. Then the telephone from the garage inquired for
"the gentleman on the motor," and since Harry had strolled out to get
a local evening paper with news of the last Test Match, I applied ear
and mouth to that elusive instrument. What I heard was not
encouraging: the ignition had gone very wrong indeed, and "perhaps" in
an hour we should be able to start. It was then about half-past six,
and we were just seventy-eight miles from Dunwich.

Harry came back soon after this, and I told him what the message from
the garage had been.

What he said was this: "Then we shan't get back till long after
dinner. We might just as well have camped out to see your ghost."

As I have already said, no notion of Bircham was in my mind, and I
mention this as evidence that, even if it had been, Harry's remark
would have implied that we were not going through Bircham.

The hour lengthened itself into an hour and a half. Then the monster,
quite well again, came hooting round the corner, and we got in.

"Whack her up, Jack," said Harry to the chauffeur. "The roads will be
empty. You had better light up at once."

The monster, with its eyes agleam, was whacked up, and never in my
life have I been carried so cautiously and yet so swiftly. Jack never
took a risk or the possibility of a risk, but when the road was clear
and open he let the monster run just as fast as it was able. Its eyes
made day of the road fifty yards ahead, and the romance of night was
fairyland round us. Hares started from the roadside, and raced in
front of us for a hundred yards, then just wheeled in time to avoid
the ear-flaps of the great triumphant brute that carried us. Moths
flitted across, struck sometimes by the lenses of its eyes, and the
miles peeled over our shoulders. When it occurred we were going top-
speed.

And this was It--quite unsensational, but to us quite inexplicable
unless my midnight imaginings happened to be true.

As I have said, I was in command of the hooter and of the syren. We
were flying along on a straight down-grade, as fast as ever we could
go, for the engines were working, though the decline was considerable.
Then quite suddenly I saw in front of us a thick cloud of dust, and
knew instinctively and on the instant, without thought or reasoning,
what that must mean.

Evidently something going very fast (or else so large a cloud could
not have been raised) was in front of us, and going in the same
direction as ourselves. Had it been something on the road coming to
meet us, we should of course have seen the vehicle first and run into
the dust-cloud afterwards. Had it, again, been something of low
speed--a horse and dog-cart, for instance--no such dust could have
been raised. But, as it was, I knew at once that there was a motor
travelling swiftly just ahead of us, also that it was not going as
fast as we were, or we should have run into its dust much more
gradually. But we went into it as into a suddenly lowered curtain.

Then I shouted to Jack. "Slow down, and put on the brake," I shrieked.
"There's something just ahead of us." As I spoke I wrought a wild
concerto on the hooter, and with my right hand groped for the syren,
but did not find it. Simultaneously I heard a wild, frightened shriek,
just as if I had sounded the syren myself. Jack had felt for it too,
and our hands fingered each other. Then we entered the dust-cloud.

We slowed down with extraordinary rapidity, and still peering ahead we
went dead-slow through it. I had not put on my goggles after leaving
King's Lynn, and the dust stung and smarted in my eyes. It was not,
therefore, a belt of fog, but real road-dust. And at the moment we
crept through it I felt Harry's hands on my shoulder.

"There's something just ahead," he said. "Look! don't you see the tail
light?"

As a matter of fact, I did not; and, still going very slow, we came
out of that dust-cloud. The broad empty road stretched in front of us;
a hedge was on each side, and there was no turning either to right or
left. Only, on the right, was a lodge, and gates which were closed.
The lodge had no lights in any window.

Then we came to a standstill; the air was dead-calm, not a leaf in the
hedgerow trees was moving, not a grain of dust was lifted from the
road. But behind, the dust-cloud still hung in the air, and stopped
dead-short at the closed lodge-gates. We had moved very slowly for the
last hundred yards: it was difficult to suppose that it was of our
making. Then Jack spoke, with a curious crack in his voice.

"It must have been a motor, sir," he said. "But where is it?"

I had no reply to this, and from behind another voice, Harry's voice,
spoke. For the moment I did not recognise it, for it was strained and
faltering.

"Did you open the syren?" he asked. "It didn't sound like our syren.
It sounded like, like--"

"I didn't open the syren," said I.

Then we went on again. Soon we came to scattered lights in houses by
the wayside.

"What's this place?" I asked Jack.

"Bircham, sir," said he.




THE CAT

Many people will doubtless, remember that exhibition at the Royal
Academy, not so many seasons ago which came to be known as Alingham's
year, when Dick Alingham vaulted, with one bound, as it were, out of
the crowd of strugglers and seated himself with admirably certain
poise on the very topmost pinnacle of contemporary fame. He exhibited
three portraits, each a masterpiece, which killed every picture within
range. But since that year nobody cared anything for pictures whether
in or out of range except those three, it did not signify so greatly.
The phenomenon of his appearance was as sudden as that of the meteor,
coming from nowhere and sliding large and luminous across the remote
and star-sown sky, as inexplicable as the bursting of a spring on some
dust-ridden rocky hillside. Some fairy godmother, one might
conjecture, had bethought herself of her forgotten godson, and with a
wave of her wand bestowed on him this transcendent gift. But, as the
Irish say, she held her wand in her left hand, for her gift had
another side to it. Or perhaps, again, Jim Merwick is right, and the
theory he propounds in his monograph, "On certain obscure lesions of
the nerve centres," says the final word on the subject.

Dick Alingham himself, as was indeed natural, was delighted with his
fairy godmother or his obscure lesion (whichever was responsible), and
(the monograph spoken of above was written after Dick's death)
confessed frankly to his friend Merwick, who was still struggling
through the crowd of rising young medical practitioners, that it was
all quite as inexplicable to himself as it was to anyone else.

"All I know about it," he said, "is that last autumn I went through
two months of mental depression so hideous that I thought again and
again that I must go off my head. For hours daily, I sat here, waiting
for something to crack, which as far as I am concerned would end
everything.

"Yes, there was a cause; you know it."

He paused a moment and poured into his glass a fairly liberal
allowance of whisky, filled it half up from a syphon, and lit a
cigarette. The cause, indeed, had no need to be enlarged on, for
Merwick quite well remembered how the girl Dick had been engaged to
threw him over with an abruptness that was almost superb, when a more
eligible suitor made his appearance. The latter was certainly very
eligible indeed with his good looks, his title, and his million of
money, and Lady Madingley--ex-future Mrs. Alingham--was perfectly
content with what she had done.

She was one of those blonde, lithe, silken girls, who, happily for the
peace of men's minds, are rather rare, and who remind one of some
humanised yet celestial and bestial cat.

"I needn't speak of the cause," Dick continued, "but, as I say, for
those two months I soberly thought that the only end to it would be
madness. Then one evening when I was sitting here alone--I was always
sitting alone--something did snap in my head. I know I wondered,
without caring at all, whether this was the madness which I had been
expecting, or whether (which would be preferable) some more fatal
breakage had happened. And even while I wondered, I was aware that I
was not depressed or unhappy any longer."

He paused for so long in a smiling retrospect that Merwick indicated
to him that he had a listener.

"Well?" he said.

"It was well indeed. I haven't been unhappy since. I have been
riotously happy instead. Some divine doctor, I suppose, just wiped off
that stain on my brain that hurt so. Heavens, how it hurt! Have a
drink, by the way?"

"No, thanks," said Merwick. "But what has all this got to do with your
painting?"

"Why, everything. For I had hardly realised the fact that I was happy
again, when I was aware that everything looked different. The colours
of all I saw were twice as vivid as they had been, shape and outline
were intensified too. The whole visible world had been dusty and
blurred before, and seen in a half-light. But now the lights were
turned up, and there was a new heaven and a new earth. And in the same
flash, I knew that I could paint things as I saw them. Which," he
concluded, "I have done."

There was something rather sublime about this, and Merwick laughed.

"I wish something would snap in my brain, if it kindles the
perceptions in that way," said he, "but it is just possible that the
snapping of things in one's brain does not always produce just that
effect."

"That is possible. Also, as I gather, things don't snap unless you
have gone through some such hideous period as I have been through. And
I tell you frankly that I wouldn't go through that again even to
ensure a snap that would make me see things like Titian."

"What did the snapping feel like?" asked Merwick.

Dick considered a moment.

"Do you know when a parcel comes, tied up with string, and you can't
find a knife," he said, "and therefore you burn the string through,
holding it taut? Well, it was like that: quite painless, only
something got weaker and weaker, and then parted, softly without
effort. Not very lucid, I'm afraid, but it was just like that. It had
been burning a couple of months, you see."

He turned away and hunted among the letters and papers which littered
his writing-table till he found an envelope with a coronet on it. He
chuckled to himself as he took it up.

"Commend me to Lady Madingley," he said, "for a brazen impudence in
comparison with which brass is softer than putty. She wrote to me
yesterday, asking me if I would finish the portrait I had begun of her
last year, and let her have it at my own price."

"Then I think you have had a lucky escape," remarked Merwick. "I
suppose you didn't even answer her."

"Oh, yes, I did: why not? I said the price would be two thousand
pounds, and I was ready to go on at once. She has agreed, and sent me
a cheque for a thousand this evening."

Merwick stared at him in blank astonishment. "Are you mad?" he asked.

"I hope not, though one can never be sure about little points like
that. Even doctors like you don't know exactly what constitutes
madness."

Merwick got up.

"But is it possible that you don't see what a terrible risk you run?"
he asked. "To see her again, to be with her like that, having to look
at her--I saw her this afternoon, by the way, hardly human--may not
that so easily revive again all that you felt before? It is too
dangerous: much too dangerous."

Dick shook his head.

"There is not the slightest risk," he said; "everything within me is
utterly and absolutely indifferent to her. I don't even hate her: if I
hated her there might be a possibility of my again loving her. As it
is, the thought of her does not arouse in me any emotion of any kind.
And really such stupendous calmness deserves to be rewarded. I respect
colossal things like that."

He finished his whisky as he spoke, and instantly poured himself out
another glass.

"That's the fourth," said his friend.

"Is it? I never count. It shows a sordid attention to uninteresting
detail. Funnily enough, too, alcohol does not have the smallest effect
on me now."

"Why drink then?"

"Because if I give it up this entrancing vividness of colour and
clarity of outline is a little diminished."

"Can't be good for you," said the doctor.

Dick laughed.

"My dear fellow, look at me carefully," he said, "and then if you can
conscientiously declare that I show any signs of indulging in
stimulants, I'll give them up altogether."

Certainly it would have been hard to find a point in which Dick did
not present the appearance of perfect health. He had paused, and stood
still a moment, his glass in one hand, the whisky-bottle in the other,
black against the front of his shirt, and not a tremor of unsteadiness
was there. His face of wholesome sun-burnt hue was neither puffy nor
emaciated, but firm of flesh and of a wonderful clearness of skin.
Clear too was his eye, with eyelids neither baggy nor puckered; he
looked indeed a model of condition, hard and fit, as if he was in
training for some athletic event. Lithe and active too was his figure,
his movements were quick and precise, and even Merwick, with his
doctor's eye trained to detect any symptom, however slight, in which
the drinker must betray himself, was bound to confess that no such was
here present. His appearance contradicted it authoritatively, so also
did his manner; he met the eye of the man he was talking to without
sideway glances; he showed no signs, however small, of any disorder of
the nerves. Yet Dick was altogether an abnormal fellow; the history he
had just been recounting was abnormal, those weeks of depression,
followed by the sudden snap in his brain which had apparently removed,
as a wet cloth removes a stain, all the memory of his love and of the
cruel bitterness that resulted from it. Abnormal too was his sudden
leap into high artistic achievement from a past of very mediocre
performance. Why should there then not be a similar abnormality here?

"Yes, I confess you show no sign of taking excessive stimulant," said
Merwick, "but if I attended you professionally--ah, I'm not touting--I
should make you give up all stimulant, and go to bed for a month."

"Why in the name of goodness?" asked Dick.

"Because, theoretically, it must be the best thing you could do. You
had a shock, how severe, the misery of those weeks of depression tells
you. Well, common sense says, 'Go slow after a shock; recoup.' Instead
of which you go very fast indeed and produce. I grant it seems to suit
you; you also became suddenly capable of feats which--oh, it's sheer
nonsense, man."

"What's sheer nonsense?"

"You are. Professionally, I detest you, because you appear to be an
exception to a theory that I am sure must be right. Therefore I have
got to explain you away, and at present I can't."

"What's the theory?" asked Dick.

"Well, the treatment of shock first of all. And secondly, that in
order to do good work, one ought to eat and drink very little and
sleep a lot. How long do you sleep, by the way?"

Dick considered.

"Oh, I go to bed about three usually," he said; "I suppose I sleep for
about four hours.

"And live on whisky, and eat like a Strasburg goose, and are prepared
to run a race to-morrow."

"Go away, or at least I will. Perhaps you'll break down, though. That
would satisfy me.

"But even if you don't, it still remains quite interesting."

Merwick found it more than quite interesting in fact, and when he got
home that night he searched in his shelves for a certain dusky volume
in which he turned up a chapter called "Shock." The book was a
treatise on obscure diseases and abnormal conditions of the nervous
system. He had often read it before, for in his profession he was a
special student of the rare and curious. And the following paragraph
which had interested him much before, interested him more than ever
this evening.

"The nervous system also can act in a way that must always even to the
most advanced student be totally unexpected. Cases are known, and
well-authenticated ones, when a paralytic person has jumped out of bed
on the cry of 'Fire.' Cases too are known when a great shock, which
produces depression so profound as to amount to lethargy, is followed
by abnormal activity, and the calling into use of powers which were
previously unknown to exist, or at any rate existed in a quite
ordinary degree. Such a hyper-sensitised state, especially since the
desire for sleep or rest is very often much diminished, demands much
stimulant in the way of food and alcohol. It would appear also that
the patient suffering from this rare form of the after-consequences of
shock has sooner or later some sudden and complete break-down. It is
impossible, however, to conjecture what form this will take. The
digestion, however, may become suddenly atrophied, delirium tremens
may, without warning, supervene, or he may go completely off his
head..."

But the weeks passed on, the July suns made London reel in a haze of
heat, and yet Alingham remained busy, brilliant, and altogether
exceptional. Merwick, unknown to him, was watching him closely, and at
present was completely puzzled. He held Dick to his word that if he
could detect the slightest sign of over-indulgence in stimulant, he
would cut it off altogether, but he could see absolutely none. Lady
Madingley meantime had given him several sittings, and in this
connection again Merwick was utterly mistaken in the view he had
expressed to Dick as to the risks he ran. For, strangely enough, the
two had become great friends. Yet Dick was quite right, all emotion
with regard to her on his part was dead, it might have been a piece of
still-life that he was painting, instead of a woman he had wildly
worshipped.

One morning in mid-July she had been sitting to him in his studio, and
contrary to custom he had been rather silent, biting the ends of his
brushes, frowning at his canvas, frowning too at her.

Suddenly he gave a little impatient exclamation.

"It's so like you," he said, "but it just isn't you. There's a lot of
difference! I can't help making you look as if you were listening to a
hymn, one of those in four sharps, don't you know, written by an
organist, probably after eating muffins. And that's not characteristic
of you!"

She laughed.

"You must be rather ingenious to put all that in," she said.

"I am."

"Where do I show it all?"

Dick sighed.

"Oh, in your eyes of course," he said. "You show everything by your
eyes, you know. It is entirely characteristic of you. You are a throw-
back; don't you remember we settled that ever so long ago, to the
brute creation, who likewise show everything by their eyes."

"Oh-h. I should have thought that dogs growled at you, and cats
scratched.

"Those are practical measures, but short of that you and animals use
their eyes only, whereas people use their mouths and foreheads and
other things. A pleased dog, an expectant dog, a hungry dog, a jealous
dog, a disappointed dog--one gathers all that from a dog's eyes. Their
mouths are comparatively immobile, and a cat's is even more so.

"You have often told me that I belong to the genus cat," said Lady
Madingley, with complete composure.

"By Jove, yes," said he. "Perhaps looking at the eyes of a cat would
help me to see what I miss. Many thanks for the hint."

He put down his palette and went to a side table on which stood
bottles and ice and syphons.

"No drink of any kind on this Sahara of a morning?" he asked.

"No, thanks. Now when will you give me the final sitting? You said you
only wanted one more."

Dick helped himself.

"Well, I go down to the country with this," he said, "to put in the
background I told you of.

"With luck it will take me three days' hard painting, without luck a
week or more. Oh, my mouth waters at the thought of the background. So
shall we say to-morrow week?"

Lady Madingley made a note of this in a minute gold and jewelled
memorandum book.

"And I am to be prepared to see cat's eyes painted there instead of my
own when I see it next?" she asked, passing by the canvas.

Dick laughed.

"Oh, you will hardly notice the difference," he said. "How odd it is
that I always have detested cats so--they make me feel actually faint,
although you always reminded me of a cat."

"You must ask your friend Mr. Merwick about these metaphysical
mysteries," said she.

The background to the picture was at present only indicated by a few
vague splashes close to the side of the head of brilliant purple and
brilliant green, and the artist's mouth might well water at the
thought of the few days painting that lay before him. For behind the
figure in the long panel-shaped canvas was to be painted a green
trellis, over which, almost hiding the woodwork, there was to sprawl a
great purple clematis in full flaunting glory of varnished leaf and
starry flower.

At the top would be just a strip of pale summer sky, at her feet just
a strip of grey-green grass, but all the rest of the background,
greatly daring, would be this diaper of green and purple. For the
purpose of putting this in, he was going down to a small cottage of
his near Godalming, where he had built in the garden a sort of outdoor
studio, an erection betwixt a room and a mere shelter, with the side
to the north entirely open, and flanked by this green trellis which
was now one immense constellation of purple stars. Framed in this, he
well knew how the strange pale beauty of his sitter would glow on the
canvas, how she would start out of the background, she and her huge
grey hat, and shining grey dress, and yellow hair and ivory white skin
and pale eyes, now blue, now grey, now green. This was indeed a thing
to look forward to, for there is probably no such unadulterated
rapture known to men as creation, and it was small wonder that Dick's
mood, as he travelled down to Godalming, was buoyant and effervescent.
For he was going, so to speak, to realise his creation: every purple
star of clematis, every green leaf and piece of trellis-work that he
put in, would cause what he had painted to live and shine, just as it
is the layers of dusk that fall over the sky at evening which make the
stars to sparkle there, jewel-like.

His scheme was assured, he had hung his constellation--the figure of
Lady Madingley--in the sky: and now he had to surround it with the
green and purple night, so that it might shine.

His garden was but a circumscribed plot, but walls of old brick
circumscribed it, and he had dealt with the space at his command with
a certain originality. At no time had his grass plot (you could
scarcely call it "lawn") been spacious; now the outdoor studio,
twenty-five feet by thirty, took up the greater part of it. He had a
solid wooden wall on one side and two trellis walls to the south and
east, which creepers were beginning to clothe and which were faced
internally by hangings of Syrian and Oriental work. Here in the summer
he passed the greater part of the day, painting or idling, and living
an outdoor existence. The floor, which had once been grass, which had
withered completely under the roof, was covered with Persian rugs; a
writing-table and a dining-table were there, a bookcase full of
familiar friends and a half-dozen of basket chairs. One corner, too,
was frankly given up to the affairs of the garden, and a mowing
machine, a hose for watering, shears, and spade stood there. For like
many excitable persons, Dick found that in gardening, that incessant
process of plannings and designings to suit the likings of plants, and
make them gorgeous in colour and high of growth, there was a wonderful
calm haven of refuge for the brain that had been tossing on emotional
seas. Plants, too, were receptive, so responsive to kindness; thought
given to them was never thought wasted, and to come back now after a
month's absence in London was to be assured of fresh surprise and
pleasure in each foot of garden-bed. And here, with how regal a
generosity was the purple clematis to repay him for the care lavished
on it. Every flower would show its practical gratitude by standing
model for the background of his picture.

The evening was very warm, warm not with any sultry premonition of
thunder, but with the clear, clean heat of summer, and he dined alone
in his shelter, with the after-flames of the sunset for his lamp.
These slowly faded into a sky of velvet blue, but he lingered long
over his coffee, looking northwards across the garden towards the row
of trees that screened him from the house beyond. These were acacias,
most graceful and feminine of all green things that grow, summer-
plumaged now, yet still fresh of leaf. Below them ran a little raised
terrace of turf and nearer the beds of the beloved garden; clumps of
sweet-peas made an inimitable fragrance, and the rose-beds were pink
with Baroness Rothschild and La France, and copper-coloured with
Beauté inconstante, and the Richardson rose. Then, nearer at hand, was
the green trellis foaming with purple.

He was sitting there, hardly looking, but unconsciously drinking in
this great festival of colour, when his eye was arrested by a dark
slinking form that appeared among the roses, and suddenly turned two
shining luminous orbs on him. At this he started up, but his movement
caused no perturbation in the animal, which continued with back arched
for stroking, and poker-like tail, to advance towards him, purring. As
it came closer Dick felt that shuddering faintness, which often
affected him in the presence of cats, come over him, and he stamped
and clapped his hands. At this it turned tail quickly: a sort of dark
shadow streaked the garden-wall for a moment, and it vanished. But its
appearance had spoiled for him the sweet spell of the evening, and he
went indoors.

The next morning was pellucid summer: a faint north wind blew, and a
sun worthy to illumine the isles of Greece flooded the sky. Dick's
dreamless and (for him) long sleep had banished from his mind that
rather disquieting incident of the cat, and he set up his canvas
facing the trellis-work and purple clematis with a huge sense of
imminent ecstasy. Also the garden, which at present he had only seen
in the magic of sunset, was gloriously rewarding, and glowed with
colour, and though life--this was present to his mind for the first
time for months--in the shape of Lady Madingley had not been very
propitious, yet a man, he argued to himself, must be a very poor hand
at living if, with a passion for plants and a passion for art, he
cannot fashion a life that shall be full of content. So breakfast
being finished, and his model ready and glowing with beauty, he
quickly sketched in the broad lines of flowers and foliage and began
to paint.

Purple and green, green and purple: was there ever such a feast for
the eye? Gourmet-like and greedy as well, he was utterly absorbed in
it. He was right too: as soon as he put on the first brush of colour
he knew he was right. It was just those divine and violent colours
which would cause his figure to step out from the picture, it was just
that pale strip of sky above which would focus her again, it was just
that strip of grey-green grass below her feet that would prevent her,
so it seemed, from actually leaving the canvas. And with swift eager
sweeps of the brush which never paused and never hurried, he lost
himself in his work.

He stopped at length with a sense of breathlessness, feeling too as if
he had been suddenly called back from some immense distance off. He
must have been working some three hours, for his man was already
laying the table for lunch, yet it seemed to him that the morning had
gone by in one flash. The progress he had made was extraordinary, and
he looked long at his picture.

Then his eye wandered from the brightness of the canvas to the
brightness of the garden-beds.

There, just in front of the bed of sweet-peas, not two yards from him,
stood a very large grey cat, watching him.

Now the presence of a cat was a thing that usually produced in Dick a
feeling of deadly faintness, yet, at this moment, as he looked at the
cat and the cat at him, he was conscious of no such feeling, and put
down the absence of it, in so far as he consciously thought about it,
to the fact that he was in the open air, not in the atmosphere of a
closed room. Yet, last night out here, the cat had made him feel
faint. But he hardly gave a thought to this, for what filled his mind
was that he saw in the rather friendly interested look of the beast
that expression in the eye which had so baffled him in his portrait of
Lady Madingley. So, slowly, and without any sudden movement that might
startle the cat, he reached out his hand for the palette he had just
put down, and in a corner of the canvas not yet painted over, recorded
in half a dozen swift intuitive touches, what he wanted. Even in the
broad sunlight where the animal stood, its eyes looked as if they were
internally smouldering as well as being lit from without: it was just
so that Lady Madingley looked. He would have to lay colour very thinly
over white ...

For five minutes or so he painted them with quiet eager strokes,
drawing the colour thinly over the background of white, and then
looked long at that sketch of the eye to see if he had got what he
wanted. Then he looked back at the cat which had stood so charmingly
for him. But there was no cat there. That, however, since he detested
them, and this one had served his purpose, was no matter for regret,
and he merely wondered a little at the suddenness of its
disappearance. But the legacy it had left on the canvas could not
vanish thus, it was his own, a possession, an achievement. Truly this
was to be a portrait which would altogether out-distance all he had
ever done before. A woman, real, alive, wearing her soul in her eyes,
should stand there, and summer riot round her.

An extraordinary clearness of vision was his all day, and towards
sunset an empty whisky-bottle.

But this evening he was conscious for the first time of two feelings,
one physical, one mental, altogether strange to him: the first an
impression that he had drunk as much as was good for him, the second a
sort of echo in his mind of those tortures he had undergone in the
autumn, when he had been tossed aside by the girl, to whom he had
given his soul, like a soiled glove.

Neither was at all acutely felt, but both were present to him.

The evening altogether belied the brilliance of the day, and about six
o'clock thick clouds had driven up over the sky, and the clear heat of
summer had given place to a heat no less intense, but full of the
menace of storm. A few big hot drops, too, of rain warned him further,
and he pulled his easel into shelter, and gave orders that he would
dine indoors. As was usual with him when he was at work, he shunned
the distracting influence of any companionship, and he dined alone.
Dinner finished, he went into his sitting-room prepared to enjoy his
solitary evening. His servant had brought him in the tray, and till he
went to bed he would be undisturbed. Outside the storm was moving
nearer, the reverberation of the thunder, though not yet close, kept
up a continual growl: any moment it might move up and burst above in
riot of fire and sound.

Dick read a book for a while, but his thoughts wandered. The poignancy
of his trouble last autumn, which he thought had passed away from him
for ever, grew suddenly and strangely more acute, also his head was
heavy, perhaps with the storm, but possibly with what he had drunk.
So, intending to go to bed and sleep off his disquietude, he closed
his book, and went across to the window to close that also. But, half-
way towards it, he stopped. There on the sofa below it sat a large
grey cat with yellow gleaming eyes. In its mouth it held a young
thrush, still alive.

Then horror woke in him: his feeling of sick-faintness was there, and
he loathed and was terrified at this dreadful feline glee in the
torture of its prey, a glee so great that it preferred the
postponement of its meal to a shortening of the other. More than all,
the resemblance of the eyes of this cat to those of his portrait
suddenly struck him as something hellish. For one moment this all held
him bound, as if with paralysis, the next his physical shuddering
could be withstood no longer, and he threw the glass he carried at the
cat, missing it. For one second the animal paused there glaring at him
with an intense and dreadful hostility, then it made one spring of it
out of the open window. Dick shut it with a bang that startled
himself, and then searched on the sofa and the floor for the bird
which he thought the cat had dropped. Once or twice he thought he
heard it feebly fluttering, but this must have been an illusion, for
he could not find it.

All this was rather shaky business, so before going to bed he steadied
himself, as his unspoken phrase ran, with a final drink. Outside the
thunder had ceased, but the rain beat hissing on to the grass. Then
another sound mingled with it the mewing of a cat, not the long-drawn
screeches and cries that are usual, but the plaintive calls of the
beast that wants to be admitted into its own home. The blind was down,
but after a while he could not resist peeping out. There on the
window-sill was seated the large grey cat. Though it was raining
heavily its fur seemed dry, for it was standing stiffly away from its
body. But when it saw him it spat at him, scratching angrily at the
glass, and vanished.

Lady Madingley ... heavens, how he had loved her! And, infernally as
she had treated him, how passionately he wanted her now! Was all his
trouble, then, to begin over again? Had that nightmare dawned anew on
him? It was the cat's fault: the eyes of the cat had done it. Yet just
now all his desire was blurred by this dullness of brain that was as
unaccountable as the re-awakening of his desire. For months now he had
drunk far more than he had drunk to-day, yet evening had seen him
clear-headed, acute, master of himself, and revelling in the liberty
that had come to him, and in the cool joy of creative vision. But to-
night he stumbled and groped across the room.

The neutral-coloured light of dawn awoke him, and he got up at once,
feeling still very drowsy, but in answer to some silent imperative
call. The storm had altogether passed away, and a jewel of a morning
star hung in a pale heaven. His room looked strangely unfamiliar to
him, his own sensations were unfamiliar, there was a vagueness about
things, a barrier between him and the world. One desire alone
possessed him, to finish the portrait. All else, so he felt, he left
to chance, or whatever laws regulate the world, those laws which
choose that a certain thrush shall be caught by a certain cat, and
choose one scapegoat out of a thousand, and let the rest go free.

Two hours later his servant called him, and found him gone from his
room. So as the morning was so fair, he went out to lay breakfast in
the shelter. The portrait was there, it had been dragged back into
position by the clematis, but it was covered with strange scratches,
as if the claws of some enraged animal or the nails perhaps of a man
had furiously attacked it. Dick Alingham was there, too, lying very
still in front of the disfigured canvas. Claws, also, or nails had
attacked him, his throat was horribly mangled by them. But his hands
were covered with paint, the nails of his fingers too were choked with
it.




THE GARDENER

Two friends of mine, Hugh Grainger and his wife, had taken for a month
of Christmas holiday the house in which we were to witness such
strange manifestations, and when I received an invitation from them to
spend a fortnight there I returned them an enthusiastic affirmative.
Well already did I know that pleasant heathery country-side, and most
intimate was my acquaintance with the subtle hazards of its most
charming golf-links. Golf, I was given to understand, was to occupy
the solid day for Hugh and me, so that Margaret should never be
obliged to set her hand to the implements with which the game, so
detestable to her, was conducted ...

I arrived there while yet the daylight lingered, and as my hosts were
out, I took a ramble round the place. The house and garden stood on a
plateau facing south; below it were a couple of acres of pasture that
sloped down to a vagrant stream crossed by a foot-bridge, by the side
of which stood a thatched cottage with a vegetable patch surrounding
it. A path ran close past this across the pasture from a wicket-gate
in the garden, conducted you over the foot-bridge, and, so my
remembered sense of geography told me, must constitute a short cut to
the links that lay not half a mile beyond. The cottage itself was
clearly on the land of the little estate, and I at once supposed it to
be the gardener's house. What went against so obvious and simple a
theory was that it appeared to be untenanted. No wreath of smoke,
though the evening was chilly, curled from its chimneys, and, coming
closer, I fancied it had that air of "waiting" about it which we so
often conjure into unused habitations. There it stood, with no sign of
life whatever about it, though ready, as its apparently perfect state
of repair seemed to warrant, for fresh tenants to put the breath of
life into it again. Its little garden, too, though the palings were
neat and newly painted, told the same tale; the beds were untended and
unweeded, and in the flower-border by the front door was a row of
chrysanthemums, which had withered on their stems. But all this was
but the impression of a moment, and I did not pause as I passed it,
but crossed the foot-bridge and went on up the heathery slope that lay
beyond. My geography was not at fault, for presently I saw the club-
house just in front of me. Hugh no doubt would be just about coming in
from his afternoon round, and so we would walk back together. On
reaching the club-house, however, the steward told me that not five
minutes before Mrs. Grainger had called in her car for her husband,
and I therefore retraced my steps by the path along which I had
already come. But I made a detour, as a golfer will, to walk up the
fairway of the seventeenth and eighteenth holes just for the pleasure
of recognition, and looked respectfully at the yawning sandpit which
so inexorably guards the eighteenth green, wondering in what
circumstances I should visit it next, whether with a step complacent
and superior, knowing that my ball reposed safely on the green beyond,
or with the heavy footfall of one who knows that laborious delving
lies before him.

The light of the winter evening had faded fast, and when I crossed the
foot-bridge on my return the dusk had gathered. To my right, just
beside the path, lay the cottage, the whitewashed walls of which
gleamed whitely in the gloaming; and as I turned my glance back from
it to the rather narrow plank which bridged the stream I thought I
caught out of the tail of my eye some light from one of its windows,
which thus disproved my theory that it was untenanted. But when I
looked directly at it again I saw that I was mistaken: some reflection
in the glass of the red lines of sunset in the west must have deceived
me, for in the inclement twilight it looked more desolate than ever.
Yet I lingered by the wicket gate in its low palings, for though all
exterior evidence bore witness to its emptiness, some inexplicable
feeling assured me, quite irrationally, that this was not so, and that
there was somebody there. Certainly there was nobody visible, but, so
this absurd idea informed me, he might be at the back of the cottage
concealed from me by the intervening structure, and, still oddly,
still unreasonably, it became a matter of importance to my mind to
ascertain whether this was so or not, so clearly had my perceptions
told me that the place was empty, and so firmly had some conviction
assured me that it was tenanted. To cover my inquisitiveness, in case
there was someone there, I could inquire whether this path was a short
cut to the house at which I was staying, and, rather rebelling at what
I was doing, I went through the small garden, and rapped at the door.
There was no answer, and, after waiting for a response to a second
summons, and having tried the door and found it locked, I made the
circuit of the house. Of course there was no one there, and I told
myself that I was just like a man who looks under his bed for a
burglar and would be beyond measure astonished if he found one.

My hosts were at the house when I arrived, and we spent a cheerful two
hours before dinner in such desultory and eager conversation as is
proper between friends who have not met for some time. Between Hugh
Grainger and his wife it is always impossible to light on a subject
which does not vividly interest one or other of them, and golf,
politics, the needs of Russia, cooking, ghosts, the possible victory
over Mount Everest, and the income tax were among the topics which we
passionately discussed. With all these plates spinning, it was easy to
whip up any one of them, and the subject of spooks generally was
lighted upon again and again.

"Margaret is on the high road to madness," remarked Hugh on one of
these occasions, "for she has begun using planchette. If you use
planchette for six months, I am told, most careful doctors will
conscientiously certify you as insane. She's got five months more
before she goes to Bedlam."

"Does it work?" I asked.

"Yes, it says most interesting things," said Margaret. "It says things
that never entered my head. We'll try it to-night."

"Oh, not to-night," said Hugh. "Let's have an evening off."

Margaret disregarded this.

"It's no use asking planchette questions," she went on, "because there
is in your mind some sort of answer to them. If I ask whether it will
be fine to-morrow, for instance, it is probably I--though indeed I
don't mean to push--who makes the pencil say 'yes.'"

"And then it usually rains," remarked Hugh.

"Not always: don't interrupt. The interesting thing is to let the
pencil write what it chooses."

"Very often it only makes loops and curves--though they may mean
something--and every now and then a word comes, of the significance of
which I have no idea whatever, so I clearly couldn't have suggested
it. Yesterday evening, for instance, it wrote 'gardener' over and over
again. Now what did that mean? The gardener here is a Methodist with a
chin-beard. Could it have meant him? Oh, it's time to dress. Please
don't be late, my cook is so sensitive about soup."

We rose, and some connection of ideas about "gardener" linked itself
up in my mind.

"By the way, what's that cottage in the field by the foot-bridge?" I
asked. "Is that the gardener's cottage?"

"It used to be," said Hugh. "But the chin-beard doesn't live there: in
fact nobody lives there."

"It's empty. If I was owner here, I should put the chin-beard into it,
and take the rent off his wages. Some people have no idea of economy.
Why did you ask?"

I saw Margaret was looking at me rather attentively.

"Curiosity," I said. "Idle curiosity."

"I don't believe it was," said she.

"But it was," I said. "It was idle curiosity to know whether the house
was inhabited. As I passed it, going down to the club-house, I felt
sure it was empty, but coming back I felt so sure that there was
someone there that I rapped at the door, and indeed walked round it."

Hugh had preceded us upstairs, as she lingered a little.

"And there was no one there?" she asked. "It's odd: I had just the
same feeling as you about it."

"That explains planchette writing 'gardener' over and over again,"
said I. "You had the gardener's cottage on your mind."

"How ingenious!" said Margaret. "Hurry up and dress."

A gleam of strong moonlight between my drawn curtains when I went up
to bed that night led me to look out. My room faced the garden and the
fields which I had traversed that afternoon, and all was vividly
illuminated by the full moon. The thatched cottage with its white
walls close by the stream was very distinct, and once more, I suppose,
the reflection of the light on the glass of one of its windows made it
appear that the room was lit within. It struck me as odd that twice
that day this illusion should have been presented to me, but now a yet
odder thing happened.

Even as I looked the light was extinguished.

The morning did not at all bear out the fine promise of the clear
night, for when I woke the wind was squealing, and sheets of rain from
the south-west were dashed against my panes. Golf was wholly out of
the question, and, though the violence of the storm abated a little in
the afternoon, the rain dripped with a steady sullenness. But I
wearied of indoors, and, since the two others entirely refused to set
foot outside, I went forth mackintoshed to get a breath of air. By way
of an object in my tramp, I took the road to the links in preference
to the muddy short cut through the fields, with the intention of
engaging a couple of caddies for Hugh and myself next morning, and
lingered awhile over illustrated papers in the smoking-room. I must
have read for longer than I knew, for a sudden beam of sunset light
suddenly illuminated my page, and looking up, I saw that the rain had
ceased, and that evening was fast coming on. So instead of taking the
long detour by the road again, I set forth homewards by the path
across the fields. That gleam of sunset was the last of the day, and
once again, just as twenty-four hours ago, I crossed the foot-bridge
in the gloaming. Till that moment, as far as I was aware, I had not
thought at all about the cottage there, but now in a flash the light I
had seen there last night, suddenly extinguished, recalled itself to
my mind, and at the same moment I felt that invincible conviction that
the cottage was tenanted. Simultaneously in these swift processes of
thought I looked towards it, and saw standing by the door the figure
of a man. In the dusk I could distinguish nothing of his face, if
indeed it was turned to me, and only got the impression of a tallish
fellow, thickly built. He opened the door, from which there came a dim
light as of a lamp, entered, and shut it after him.

So then my conviction was right. Yet I had been distinctly told that
the cottage was empty: who, then, was he that entered as if returning
home? Once more, this time with a certain qualm of fear, I rapped on
the door, intending to put some trivial question; and rapped again,
this time more drastically, so that there could be no question that my
summons was unheard. But still I got no reply, and finally I tried the
handle of the door. It was locked. Then, with difficulty mastering an
increasing terror, I made the circuit of the cottage, peering into
each unshuttered window. All was dark within, though but two minutes
ago I had seen the gleam of light escape from the opened door.

Just because some chain of conjecture was beginning to form itself in
my mind, I made no allusion to this odd adventure, and after dinner
Margaret, amid protests from Hugh, got out the planchette which had
persisted in writing "gardener." My surmise was, of course, utterly
fantastic, but I wanted to convey no suggestion of any sort to
Margaret... For a long time the pencil skated over her paper making
loops and curves and peaks like a temperature chart, and she had begun
to yawn and weary over her experiment before any coherent word
emerged. And then, in the oddest way, her head nodded forward and she
seemed to have fallen asleep.

Hugh looked up from his book and spoke in a whisper to me.

"She fell asleep the other night over it," he said.

Margaret's eyes were closed, and she breathed the long, quiet breaths
of slumber, and then her hand began to move with a curious firmness.
Right across the big sheet of paper went a level line of writing, and
at the end her hand stopped with a jerk, and she woke.

She looked at the paper.

"Hullo," she said. "Ah, one of you has been playing a trick on me!"

We assured her that this was not so, and she read what she had
written.

"Gardener, gardener," it ran. "I am the gardener. I want to come in. I
can't find her here."

"O Lord, that gardener again!" said Hugh.

Looking up from the paper, I saw Margaret's eyes fixed on mine, and
even before she spoke I knew what her thought was.

"Did you come home by the empty cottage?" she asked.

"Yes: why?"

"Still empty?" she said in a low voice. "Or--or anything else?"

I did not want to tell her just what I had seen--or what, at any rate,
I thought I had seen. If there was going to be anything odd, anything
worth observation, it was far better that our respective impressions
should not fortify each other.

"I tapped again, and there was no answer," I said.

Presently there was a move to bed: Margaret initiated it, and after
she had gone upstairs Hugh and I went to the front door to interrogate
the weather. Once more the moon shone in a clear sky, and we strolled
out along the flagged path that fronted the house. Suddenly Hugh
turned quickly and pointed to the angle of the house.

"Who on earth is that?" he sad. "Look! There! He has gone round the
corner."

I had but the glimpse of a tallish man of heavy build.

"Didn't you see him?" asked Hugh. "I'll just go round the house, and
find him; I don't want anyone prowling round us at night. Wait here,
will you, and if he comes round the other corner ask him what his
business is."

Hugh had left me, in our stroll, close by the front door which was
open, and there I waited until he should have made his circuit. He had
hardly disappeared when I heard, quite distinctly, a rather quick but
heavy footfall coming along the paved walk towards me from the
opposite direction. But there was absolutely no one to be seen who
made this sound of rapid walking.

Closer and closer to me came the steps of the invisible one, and then
with a shudder of horror I felt somebody unseen push by me as I stood
on the threshold. That shudder was not merely of the spirit, for the
touch of him was that of ice on my hand. I tried to seize this
impalpable intruder, but he slipped from me, and next moment I heard
his steps on the parquet of the floor inside. Some door within opened
and shut, and I heard no more of him. Next moment Hugh came running
round the corner of the house from which the sound of steps had
approached.

"But where is he?" he asked. "He was not twenty yards in front of me--
a big, tall fellow."

"I saw nobody," I said. "I heard his step along the walk, but there
was nothing to be seen."

"And then?" asked Hugh.

"Whatever it was seemed to brush by me, and go into the house," said
I.

There had certainly been no sound of steps on the bare oak stairs, and
we searched room after room through the ground floor of the house. The
dining-room door and that of the smoking-room were locked, that into
the drawing-room was open, and the only other door which could have
furnished the impression of an opening and a shutting was that into
the kitchen and servants' quarters. Here again our quest was
fruitless; through pantry and scullery and boot-room and servants'
hall we searched, but all was empty and quiet. Finally we came to the
kitchen, which too was empty. But by the fire there was set a rocking-
chair, and this was oscillating to and fro as if someone, lately
sitting there, had just quitted it. There it stood gently rocking, and
this seemed to convey the sense of a presence, invisible now, more
than even the sight of him who surely had been sitting there could
have done. I remember wanting to steady it and stop it, and yet my
hand refused to go forth to it.

What we had seen, and in especial what we had not seen, would have
been sufficient to furnish most people with a broken night, and
assuredly I was not among the strong-minded exceptions. Long I lay
wide-eyed and open-eared, and when at last I dozed I was plucked from
the border-land of sleep by the sound, muffled but unmistakable, of
someone moving about the house. It occurred to me that the steps might
be those of Hugh conducting a lonely exploration, but even while I
wondered a tap came at the door of communication between our rooms,
and, in answer to my response, it appeared that he had come to see
whether it was I thus uneasily wandering. Even as we spoke the step
passed my door, and the stairs leading to the floor above creaked to
its ascent. Next moment it sounded directly above our heads in some
attics in the roof.

"Those are not the servants' bedrooms," said Hugh. "No one sleeps
there. Let us look once more: it must be somebody."

With lit candles we made our stealthy way upstairs, and just when we
were at the top of the flight, Hugh, a step ahead of me, uttered a
sharp exclamation.

"But something is passing by me!" he said, and he clutched at the
empty air. Even as he spoke, I experienced the same sensation, and the
moment afterwards the stairs below us creaked again, as the unseen
passed down.

All night long that sound of steps moved about the passages, as if
someone was searching the house, and as I lay and listened that
message which had come through the pencil of the planchette to
Margaret's fingers occurred to me. "I want to come in. I cannot find
her here." ...

Indeed someone had come in, and was sedulous in his search. He was the
gardener, it would seem. But what gardener was this invisible seeker,
and for whom did he seek?

Even as when some bodily pain ceases it is difficult to recall with
any vividness what the pain was like, so next morning, as I dressed, I
found myself vainly trying to recapture the horror of the spirit which
had accompanied these nocturnal adventures. I remembered that
something within me had sickened as I watched the movements of the
rocking-chair the night before and as I heard the steps along the
paved way outside, and by that invisible pressure against me knew that
someone had entered the house. But now in the sane and tranquil
morning, and all day under the serene winter sun, I could not realise
what it had been. The presence, like the bodily pain, had to be there
for the realisation of it, and all day it was absent. Hugh felt the
same; he was even disposed to be humorous on the subject.

"Well, he's had a good look," he said, "whoever he is, and whomever he
was looking for. By the way, not a word to Margaret, please. She heard
nothing of these perambulations, nor of the entry of--of whatever it
was. Not gardener, anyhow: who ever heard of a gardener spending his
time walking about the house? If there were steps all over the potato-
patch, I might have been with you."

Margaret had arranged to drive over to have tea with some friends of
hers that afternoon, and in consequence Hugh and I refreshed ourselves
at the club-house after our game, and it was already dusk when for the
third day in succession I passed homewards by the whitewashed cottage.
But to-night I had no sense of it being subtly occupied; it stood
mournfully desolate, as is the way of untenanted houses, and no light
nor semblance of such gleamed from its windows.

Hugh, to whom I had told the odd impressions I had received there,
gave them a reception as flippant as that which he had accorded to the
memories of the night, and he was still being humorous about them when
we came to the door of the house.

"A psychic disturbance, old boy," he said. "Like a cold in the head.
Hullo, the door's locked."

He rang and rapped, and from inside came the noise of a turned key and
withdrawn bolts.

"What's the door locked for?" he asked his servant who opened it.

The man shifted from one foot to the other.

"The bell rang half an hour ago, sir," he said, "and when I came to
answer it there was a man standing outside, and--"

"Well?" asked Hugh.

"I didn't like the looks of him, sir," he said, "and I asked him his
business. He didn't say anything, and then he must have gone pretty
smartly away, for I never saw him go."

"Where did he seem to go?" asked Hugh, glancing at me.

"I can't rightly say, sir. He didn't seem to go at all. Something
seemed to brush by me."

"That'll do," said Hugh rather sharply.

Margaret had not come in from her visit, but when soon after the
crunch of the motor wheels was heard Hugh reiterated his wish that
nothing should be said to her about the impression which now,
apparently, a third person shared with us. She came in with a flush of
excitement on her face.

"Never laugh at my planchette again," she said. "I've heard the most
extraordinary story from Maud Ashfield--horrible, but so frightfully
interesting."

"Out with it," said Hugh.

"Well, there was a gardener here," she said. "He used to live at that
little cottage by the foot-bridge, and when the family were up in
London he and his wife used to be caretakers and live here."

Hugh's glance and mine met: then he turned away.

I knew, as certainly as if I was in his mind, that his thoughts were
identical with my own.

"He married a wife much younger than himself," continued Margaret,
"and gradually he became frightfully jealous of her. And one day in a
fit of passion he strangled her with his own hands. A little while
after someone came to the cottage, and found him sobbing over her,
trying to restore her. They went for the police, but before they came
he had cut his own throat. Isn't it all horrible? But surely it's
rather curious that the planchette said 'Gardener. I am the gardener.
I want to come in. I can't find her here.' You see I knew nothing
about it. I shall do planchette again to-night. Oh dear me, the post
goes in half an hour, and I have a whole budget to send. But respect
my planchette for the future, Hughie."

We talked the situation out when she had gone, but Hugh, unwillingly
convinced and yet unwilling to admit that something more than
coincidence lay behind that "planchette nonsense," still insisted that
Margaret should be told nothing of what we had heard and seen in the
house last night, and of the strange visitor who again this evening,
so we must conclude, had made his entry.

"She'll be frightened," he said, "and she'll begin imagining things.
As for the planchette, as likely as not it will do nothing but
scribble and make loops. What's that? Yes: come in!"

There had come from somewhere in the room one sharp, peremptory rap. I
did not think it came from the door, but Hugh, when no response
replied to his words of admittance, jumped up and opened it. He took a
few steps into the hall outside, and returned.

"Didn't you hear it?" he asked.

"Certainly. No one there?"

"Not a soul."

Hugh came back to the fireplace and rather irritably threw a cigarette
which he had just lit into the fender.

"That was rather a nasty jar," he observed; "and if you ask me whether
I feel comfortable, I can tell you I never felt less comfortable in my
life. I'm frightened, if you want to know, and I believe you are too."

I hadn't the smallest intention of denying this, and he went on.

"We've got to keep a hand on ourselves," he said. "There's nothing so
infectious as fear, and Margaret mustn't catch it from us. But there's
something more than our fear, you know."

"Something has got into the house and we're up against it. I never
believed in such things before."

"Let's face it for a minute. What is it anyhow?"

"If you want to know what I think it is," said I, "I believe it to be
the spirit of the man who strangled his wife and then cut his throat.
But I don't see how it can hurt us. We're afraid of our own fear
really."

"But we're up against it," said Hugh. "And what will it do? Good Lord,
if I only knew what it would do I shouldn't mind. It's the not
knowing... Well, it's time to dress."

Margaret was in her highest spirits at dinner. Knowing nothing of the
manifestations of that presence which had taken place in the last
twenty-four hours, she thought it absorbingly interesting that her
planchette should have "guessed" (so ran her phrase) about the
gardener, and from that topic she flitted to an equally interesting
form of patience for three which her friend had showed her, promising
to initiate us into it after dinner. This she did, and, not knowing
that we both above all things wanted to keep planchette at a distance,
she was delighted with the success of her game. But suddenly she
observed that the evening was burning rapidly away, and swept the
cards together at the conclusion of a hand.

"Now just half an hour of planchette," she said.

"Oh, mayn't we play one more hand?" asked Hugh. "It's the best game
I've seen for years."

"Planchette will be dismally slow after this."

"Darling, if the gardener will only communicate again, it won't be
slow," said she.

"But it is such drivel," said Hugh.

"How rude you are! Read your book, then."

Margaret had already got out her machine and a sheet of paper, when
Hugh rose.

"Please don't do it to-night, Margaret," he said.

"But why? You needn't attend."

"Well, I ask you not to, anyhow," said he.

Margaret looked at him closely.

"Hughie, you've got something on your mind," she said. "Out with it. I
believe you're nervous. You think there is something queer about. What
is it?"

I could see Hugh hesitating as to whether to tell her or not, and I
gathered that he chose the chance of her planchette inanely
scribbling.

"Go on, then," he said.

Margaret hesitated: she clearly did not want to vex Hugh, but his
insistence must have seemed to her most unreasonable.

"Well, just ten minutes," she said, "and I promise not to think of
gardeners."

She had hardly laid her hand on the board when her head fell forward,
and the machine began moving. I was sitting close to her, and as it
rolled steadily along the paper the writing became visible.

"I have come in," it ran, "but still I can't find her. Are you hiding
her? I will search the room where you are."

What else was written but still concealed underneath the planchette I
did not know, for at that moment a current of icy air swept round the
room, and at the door, this time unmistakably, came a loud, peremptory
knock. Hugh sprang to his feet.

"Margaret, wake up," he said, "something is coming!"

The door opened, and there moved in the figure of a man. He stood just
within the door, his head bent forward, and he turned it from side to
side, peering, it would seem, with eyes staring and infinitely sad,
into every corner of the room.

"Margaret, Margaret," cried Hugh again.

But Margaret's eyes were open too; they were fixed on this dreadful
visitor.

"Be quiet, Hughie," she said below her breath, rising as she spoke.
The ghost was now looking directly at her. Once the lips above the
thick, rust-coloured beard moved, but no sound came forth, the mouth
only moved and slavered. He raised his head, and, horror upon horror,
I saw that one side of his neck was laid open in a red, glistening
gash...

For how long that pause continued, when we all three stood stiff and
frozen in some deadly inhibition to move or speak, I have no idea: I
suppose that at the utmost it was a dozen seconds.

Then the spectre turned, and went out as it had come. We heard his
steps pass along the parqueted floor; there was the sound of bolts
withdrawn from the front door, and with a crash that shook the house
it slammed to.

"It's all over," said Margaret. "God have mercy on him!"

Now the reader may put precisely what construction he pleases on this
visitation from the dead.

He need not, indeed, consider it to have been a visitation from the
dead at all, but say that there had been impressed on the scene, where
this murder and suicide happened, some sort of emotional record, which
in certain circumstances could translate itself into images visible
and invisible. Waves of ether, or what not, may conceivably retain the
impress of such scenes; they may be held, so to speak, in solution,
ready to be precipitated. Or he may hold that the spirit of the dead
man indeed made itself manifest, revisiting in some sort of spiritual
penance and remorse the place where his crime was committed.
Naturally, no materialist will entertain such an explanation for an
instant, but then there is no one so obstinately unreasonable as the
materialist. Beyond doubt a dreadful deed was done there, and
Margaret's last utterance is not inapplicable.




THE CHINA BOWL

I had long been on the look-out for one of the small houses at the
south end of that delectable oblong called Barrett's Square, but for
many months there was never revealed to me that which I so much I
desired to see--namely, a notice-board advertising that one of these
charming little abodes was to be let.

At length, however, in the autumn of the current year, in one of my
constant passages through the square, I saw what my eye had so long
starved for, and within ten minutes I was in the office of the agent
in whose hands the disposal of No. 29 had been placed.

A communicative clerk informed me that the present lessee, Sir Arthur
Bassenthwaite, was anxious to get rid of the remainder of his lease as
soon as possible, for the house had painful associations for him,
owing to the death of his wife, which had taken place there not long
before.

He was a wealthy man, so I was informed, Lady Bassenthwaite having
been a considerable heiress, and was willing to take what is
professionally known as a ridiculously low price, in order to get the
house off his hand without delay. An order 'to view' was thereupon
given me, and a single visit next morning was sufficient to show that
this was precisely what I had been looking for.

Why Sir Arthur should be so suddenly anxious to get rid of it, at a
price which certainly was extremely moderate, was no concern of mine,
provided the drains were in good order, and within a week the
necessary business connected with the transference of the lease was
arranged. The house was in excellent repair, and less than a month
from the time I had first seen the notice-board up, I was ecstatically
established there.

I had not been in the house more than a week or two when, one
afternoon, I was told that Sir Arthur had called, and would like to
see me if I was disengaged. He was shown up, and I found myself in the
presence of one of the most charming men I have ever had the good
fortune to meet.

The motive of his call, it appeared, was of the politest nature, for
he wished to be assured that I found the house comfortable and that it
suited me. He intimated that it would be a pleasure to him to see
round, and together we went over the whole house, with the exception
of one room.

This was the front bedroom on the third floor, the largest of the two
spare rooms, and at the door, as I grasped the handle, he stopped me.

'You will excuse me,' he said, 'for not coming in here. The room, I
may tell you, has the most painful associations for me.'

This was sufficiently explicit; I made no doubt that it was in this
room that his wife had died.

It was a lovely October afternoon, and, having made the tour of the
house, we went out into the little garden with its tiled walk that lay
at the back, and was one of the most attractive features of the place.
Low brick walls enclosed it, separating it on each side from my
neighbours, and at the bottom from the pedestrian thoroughfare that
ran past the back of the row of houses.

Sir Arthur lingered here some little while, lost, I suppose, in
regretful memories of the days when perhaps he and his companion
planned and executed the decoration of the little plot.

Indeed, he hinted as much when, shortly after, he took his leave.

'There is so much here,' he said, 'that is very intimately bound up
with me. I thank you a thousand times for letting me see the little
garden again.' And once more, as he turned to go into the house, his
eyes looked steadfastly and wistfully down the bright borders.

The regulations about the lighting of houses in London had some little
while previously demanded a more drastic dusk, and a night or two
later, as I returned home after dinner through the impenetrable
obscurity of the streets, I was horrified to find a bright light
streaming cheerfully from the upper windows in my house, with no
blinds to obscure it.

It came from the front bedroom on the third floor, and, letting myself
in, I proceeded hurriedly upstairs to quench this forbidden glow. But
when I entered, I found the room in darkness, and, on turning up the
lights myself, I saw that the blinds were drawn down, so that even if
it had been lit, I could not have seen from outside the illumination
which had made me hasten upstairs.

An explanation easily occurred to me: no doubt the light I had seen
did not come from my house, but from windows of a house adjoining. I
had only given one glance at it, and with this demonstration that I
had been mistaken, I gave no further conscious thought to the matter.
But subconsciously I felt that I knew that I had made no mistake: I
had not in that hurried glance confused the windows of the house next
door with my own; it was this room that had been lit.

I had moved into the house, as I have said, with extraordinary
expedition, and for the next day or two I was somewhat busily engaged,
after my day's work was over, in sorting out and largely destroying
accumulations of old books and papers, which I had not had time to go
through before my move. Among them I came across an illustrated
magazine which I had kept for some forgotten reason, and turning over
the pages to try to ascertain why I had preserved it, I suddenly came
across a picture of my own back garden. The title at the top of the
page showed me that the article in question was an interview with Lady
Bassenthwaite, and her portrait and that of her husband made a
frontispiece to it.

The coincidence was a curious one, for here I read about the house
which I now occupied, and saw what it had been like in the reign of
its late owners. But I did not spend long over it, and added the
magazine to the pile of papers destined for destruction. This grew
steadily, and when I had finished turning out the cupboard which I had
resolved to empty before going to bed, I found it was already an hour
or more past midnight.

I had been so engrossed in my work that I had let the fire go out, and
myself get hungry, and went into the dining-room, which opened into
the little back-garden, to see if the fire still smouldered there, and
a biscuit could be found in the cupboard. In both respects I was in
luck, and whilst eating and warming myself, I suddenly thought I heard
a step on the tiled walk in the garden outside.

I quickly went to the window and drew aside the thick curtain, letting
all the light in the room pour out into the garden, and there, beyond
doubt, was a man bending over one of the beds.

Startled by this illumination, he rose, and without looking round, ran
to the end of the little yard and, with surprising agility, vaulted on
to the top of the wall and disappeared.

But at the last second, as he sat silhouetted there, I saw his face in
the shaded light of a gas-lamp outside, and, to my indescribable
astonishment, I recognized Sir Arthur Bassenthwaite. The glimpse was
instantaneous, but I was sure I was not mistaken, any more than I had
been mistaken about the light which came from the bedroom that looked
out on to the square.

But whatever tender associations Sir Arthur had with the garden that
had once been his, it was not seemly that he should adopt such means
of indulging them. Moreover, where Sir Arthur might so easily come,
there, too, might others whose intentions were less concerned with
sentiment than with burglary.

In any case, I did not choose that my garden should have such easy
access from outside, and next morning I ordered a pretty stiff barrier
of iron spikes to be erected along the outer wall. If Sir Arthur
wished to muse in the garden, I should be delighted to give him
permission, as, indeed, he must have known from the cordiality which I
was sure I showed him when he called, but this method of his seemed to
me irregular. And I observed next evening, without any regret at all,
that my order had been promptly executed. At the same time I felt an
invincible curiosity to know for certain if it was merely for the sake
of a solitary midnight vigil that he had come.

I was expecting the arrival of my friend Hugh Grainger the next week,
to stay a night or two with me, and since the front spare room, which
I proposed to give him, had not at present been slept in, I gave
orders that a bed should be made up there the next night for me, so
that I could test with my own vile body whether a guest would be
comfortable there.

This can only be proved by personal experience. Though there may be a
table apparently convenient to the head of the bed, though the
dressing-table may apparently be properly disposed, though it seem as
if the lighting was rightly placed for reading in bed, and for the
quenching of it afterwards without disturbance, yet practice and not
theory is the only method of settling such questions, and next night
accordingly I both dressed for dinner in this front spare room, and
went to bed there.

Everything seemed to work smoothly; the room itself had a pleasant and
restful air about it, and the bed exceedingly comfortable, I fell
asleep almost as soon as I had put out the electric light, which I had
found adequate for reading small print. To the best of my knowledge,
neither the thought of the last occupant of the room nor of the light
that I believed I had seen burning there one night entered my head at
all.

I fell asleep, as I say, at once, but instantly that theatre of the
brain, on the boards of which dreams are transacted, was brightly
illuminated for me, and the curtain went up on one of those appalling
nightmare-pieces which we can only vaguely remember afterwards.

There was the sense of flight--clogged, impotent flight from before
some hideous spiritual force--the sense of powerlessness to keep away
from the terror that gained on me, the strangling desire to scream,
and soon the blessed dawning consciousness that it was but with a
dream that I wrestled.

I began to know that I was lying in bed, and that my terrors were
imaginary, but the trouble was not over yet, for with all my efforts I
could not raise my head from the pillow nor open my eyes.

Then, as I drew nearer to the boundaries of waking, I became aware
that even when the spell of my dream was altogether broken I should
not be free. For through my eyelids, which I knew had closed in a
darkened room, there now streamed in a vivid light, and remembering
for the first time what I had seen from the square outside, I knew
that when I opened them they would look out on to a lit room, peopled
with who knew what phantoms of the dead or living.

I lay there for a few moments after I had recovered complete
consciousness, with eyes still closed, and felt the trickle of sweat
on my forehead. That horror I knew was not wholly due to the self-
coined nightmare of my brain; it was the horror of expectancy more
than of retrospect.

And then curiosity, sheer stark curiosity, to know what was happening
on the other side of the curtain of my eyelids prevailed, and I sat
and looked.

In the armchair just opposite the foot of my bed sat Lady
Bassenthwaite, whose picture I had seen in the illustrated magazine.
It simply was she; there could be no doubt whatever about it.

She was dressed in a bedgown, and in her hand was a small fluted china
bowl with a cover and a saucer. As I looked she took the cover off,
and began to feed herself with a spoon. She took some half-dozen
mouthfuls, and then replaced the cover again. As she did this she
turned full face towards where I lay, looking straight at me, and
already the shadow of death was fallen on her.

Then she rose feebly, wearily, and took a step towards the bed. As she
did this, the light in the room, from whatever source it came,
suddenly faded, and I found myself looking out into impenetrable
darkness.

My curiosity for the present was more than satisfied, and in a couple
of minutes I had transferred myself to the room below.

Hugh Grainger, the ruling passion of whose life is crime and ghosts,
arrived next day, and I poured into an eager ear the whole history of
the events here narrated.

'Of course, I'll sleep in the room,' he said at the conclusion. 'Put
another bed in it, can't you, and sleep there, too. A couple of
simultaneous witnesses of the same phenomena are ten times more
valuable than one. Or do you funk?' he added as a kind afterthought.

'I funk, but I will,' I said.

'And are you sure it wasn't all part of your dream?' he asked.

'Absolutely positive.'

Hugh's eye glowed with pleasure.

'I funk, too,' he said. 'I funk horribly. But that's part of the
allurement. It's so difficult to get frightened nowadays. All but a
few things are explained and accounted for. What one fears is the
unknown. No one knows yet what ghosts are, or why they appear, or to
whom.

He took a turn up and down the room.

'And what do you make of Sir Arthur creeping into your garden at
night?' he asked. 'Is there any possible connection?'

'Not as far as I can see. What connection could there be?'

'It isn't very obvious certainly. I really don't know why I asked. And
you liked him?'

'Immensely. But not enough to let him get over my garden wall at
midnight,' said I.

Hugh laughed.

'That would certainly imply a considerable degree of confidence and
affection,' he said.

I had caused another bed to be moved into Hugh's room, and that night,
after he had put out the light, we talked awhile and then relapsed
into silence. It was cold, and I watched the fire on the hearth die
down from flame into glowing coal, and from glow into clinkering ash,
while nothing disturbed the peaceful atmosphere of the quiet room.
Then it seemed to me as if something broke in, and instead of lying
tranquilly awake, I found a certain horror of expectancy, some note of
nightmare begin to hum through my waking consciousness. I heard Hugh
toss and turn and turn again, and at length he spoke.

'I say, I'm feeling fairly beastly,' he said, 'and yet there's nothing
to see or hear.'

'Same with me,' said I.

'Do you mind if I turn up the light a minute, and have a look round?'
he asked.

'Not a bit.'

He fumbled at the switch, the room leapt into light, and he sat up in
bed frowning. Everything was quite as usual, the bookcase, the chairs,
on one of which he had thrown his clothes; there was nothing that
differentiated this room from hundreds of others where the occupants
lay quietly sleeping.

'It's queer,' he said, and switched off the light again.

There is nothing harder than to measure time in the dark, but I do not
think it was long that I lay there with the sense of nightmare growing
momentarily on me before he spoke again in an odd, cracked voice.

'It's coming,' he said.

Almost as soon as he spoke I saw that the thick darkness of the room
was sensibly thinning.

The blackness was less complete, though I could hardly say that light
began to enter. Then by degrees I saw the shape of chairs, the lines
of the fireplace, the end of Hugh's bed begin to outline themselves,
and as I watched the darkness vanished altogether, as if a lamp had
been turned up.

And in the chair at the foot of Hugh's bed sat Lady Bassenthwaite, and
again putting aside the cover of her dish, she sipped the contents of
the bowl, and at the end rose feebly, wearily, as in mortal sickness.
She looked at Hugh, and turning, she looked at me, and through the
shadow of death that lay over her face, I thought that in her eyes was
a demand, or at least a statement of her case. They were not angry,
they did not cry for justice, but the calm inexorable gaze of justice
that must be done was there...Then the light faded and died out.

I heard a rustle from the other bed and the springs creaked.

'Good Lord,' said Hugh, 'where's the light?'

His fingers fumbled and found it, and I saw that he was already out of
bed, with streaming forehead and chattering teeth.

'I know now,' he said. 'I half guessed before. Come downstairs.'

Downstairs we went, and he turned up all the passage lights as we
passed. He led the way into the dining room, picking up the poker and
the shovel as he went by the fireplace, and he threw open the door
into the garden. I switched up the light, which threw a bright square
of illumination over the garden.

'Where did you see Sir Arthur?' he said. 'Where? Exactly where?'

Still not guessing what he sought, I pointed out to him the spot, and
loosening the earth with the poker, he dug into the bed. Once again he
plunged the poker down, and as he removed the earth I heard the shovel
grate on something hard. And then I guessed.

Already Hugh was at work with his fingers in the earth, and slowly and
carefully he drew out fragments of a broken china cover. Then, delving
again, he raised from the hole a fluted china bowl. And I knew I had
seen it before, once and twice.

We carried this indoors and cleaned the earth from it. All over the
bottom of the bowl was a layer of some thick porridge-like substance,
and a portion of this I sent next day to a chemist, asking him for his
analysis of it. The basis of it proved to be oatmeal, and in it was
mixed a considerable quantity of arsenic.

Hugh and I were together in my little sitting room close to the front
door, where on the table stood the china bowl with the fragments of
its cover and saucer, when this report was brought to us, and we read
it together. The afternoon was very dark and we stood close to the
window to decipher the minute handwriting, when there passed the
figure of Sir Arthur Bassenthwaite. He saw me, waved his hand, and a
moment afterwards the front door bell rang.

'Let him come in,' said Hugh. 'Let him see that on the table.'

Next moment my servant entered, and asked if the caller might see me.

'Let him see it,' repeated Hugh. 'The chances are that we shall know
if he sees it unexpectedly.'

There was a moment's pause while in the hall, I suppose, Sir Arthur
was taking off his coat.

Outside, some few doors off, a traction engine, which had passed a
minute before, stopped, and began slowly coming backwards again,
crunching the newly-laid stones. Sir Arthur entered.

'I ventured to call,' he began, and then his glance fell on the bowl.
In one second the very aspect of humanity was stripped from his face.
His mouth drooped open, his eyes grew monstrous and protruding, and
what had been the pleasant, neat-featured face of a man was a mask of
terror, a gargoyle, a nightmare countenance. Even before the door that
had been open to admit him was closed, he had turned and gone with a
crouching, stumbling run from the room, and I heard him at the latch
of the front door.

Whether what followed was design or accident, I shall never know, for
from the window I saw him fall forward, almost as if he threw himself
there, straight in front of the broad crunching wheels of the traction
engine, and before the driver could stop, or even think of stopping,
the iron roller had gone over his head.




GAVON'S EVE

It is only the largest kind of ordnance map that records the existence
of the village of Gavon, in the shire of Sutherland, and it is perhaps
surprising that any map on whatever scale should mark so small and
huddled a group of huts, set on a bare, bleak headland between moor
and sea, and, so one would have thought, of no import at all to any
who did not happen to live there. But the river Gavon, on the right
bank of which stand this half-dozen of chimneyless and wind-swept
habitations, is a geographical fact of far greater interest to
outsiders, for the salmon there are heavy fish, the mouth of the river
is clear of nets, and all the way up to Gavon Loch, some six miles
inland, the coffee-coloured water lies in pool after deep pool, which
verge, if the river is in order and the angler moderately sanguine, on
a fishing probability amounting almost to a certainty. In any case,
during the first fortnight of September last I had no blank day on
those delectable waters, and up till the 15th of that month there was
no day on which some one at the lodge in which I was stopping did not
land a fish out of the famous Picts' pool. But after the 15th that
pool was not fished again. The reason why is here set forward.

The river at this point, after some hundred yards of rapid, makes a
sudden turn round a rocky angle, and plunges madly into the pool
itself. Very deep water lies at the head of it, but deeper still
further down on the east side, where a portion of the stream flicks
back again in a swift dark backwater towards the top of the pool
again. It is fishable only from the western bank, for to the east,
above this backwater, a great wall of black and basaltic rock, heaved
up no doubt by some fault in strata, rises sheer from the river to the
height of some sixty feet. It is in fact nearly precipitous on both
sides, heavily serrated at the top, and of so curious a thinness, that
at about the middle of it where a fissure breaks its topmost edge, and
some twenty feet from the top, there exists a long hole, a sort of
lancet window, one would say, right through the rock, so that a slit
of daylight can be seen through it. Since, therefore, no one would
care to cast his line standing perched on that razor-edged eminence,
the pool must needs be fished from the western bank. A decent fly,
however, will cover it all.

It is on the western bank that there stand the remains of that which
gave its title to the pool, namely, the ruins of a Pict castle, built
out of rough and scarcely hewn masonry, unmortared but on a certain
large and impressive scale, and in a very well-preserved condition
considering its extreme antiquity. It is circular in shape and
measures some twenty yards of diameter in its internal span. A
staircase of large blocks with a rise of at least a foot leads up to
the main gate, and opposite this on the side towards the river is
another smaller postern through which down a rather hazardously steep
slope a scrambling path, where progress demands both caution and
activity, conducts to the head of the pool which lies immediately
beneath it. A gate-chamber still roofed over exists in the solid wall:
inside there are foundation indications of three rooms, and in the
centre of all a very deep hole, probably a well. Finally, just outside
the postern leading to the river is a small artificially levelled
platform, some twenty feet across, as if made to support some super-
incumbent edifice. Certain stone slabs and blocks are dispersed over
it.

Brora, the post-town of Gavon, lies some six miles to the south-west,
and from it a track over the moor leads to the rapids immediately
above the Picts' pool, across which by somewhat extravagant striding
from boulder to boulder a man can pass dry-foot when the river is low,
and make his way up a steep path to the north of the basaltic rock,
and so to the village. But this transit demands a steady head, and at
the best is a somewhat giddy passage. Otherwise the road between it
and Brora lies in a long detour higher up the moor, passing by the
gates of Gavon Lodge, where I was stopping. For some vague and ill-
defined reason the pool itself and the Picts' Castle had an uneasy
reputation on the countryside, and several times trudging back from a
day's fishing I have known my gillie take a longish circuit, though
heavy with fish, rather than make this short cut in the dusk by the
castle. On the first occasion when Sandy, a strapping yellow-bearded
viking of twenty-five, did this he gave as a reason that the ground
round about the castle was "mossy," though as a God-fearing man he
must have known he lied. But on another occasion he was more frank,
and said that the Picts' pool was "no canny" after sunset. I am now
inclined to agree with him, though, when he lied about it, I think it
was because as a God-fearing man he feared the devil also.

It was on the evening of September 14 that I was walking back with my
host, Hugh Graham, from the forest beyond the lodge. It had been a day
unseasonably hot for the time of year, and the hills were blanketed
with soft, furry clouds. Sandy, the gillie of whom I have spoken, was
behind with the ponies, and, idly enough, I told Hugh about his
strange distaste for the Picts' pool after sunset. He listened,
frowning a little.

"That's curious," he said. "I know there is some dim local
superstition about the place, but last year certainly Sandy used to
laugh at it. I remember asking him what ailed the place, and he said
he thought nothing about the rubbish folk talked. But this year you
say he avoids it."

"On several occasions with me he has done so."

Hugh smoked a while in silence, striding noiselessly over the dusky
fragrant heather.

"Poor chap," he said, "I don't know what to do about him. He's
becoming useless."

"Drink?" I asked.

"Yes, drink in a secondary manner. But trouble led to drink, and
trouble, I am afraid, is leading him to worse than drink."

"The only thing worse than drink is the devil," I remarked.

"Precisely. That's where he is going. He goes there often."

"What on earth do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, it's rather curious," said Hugh. "You know I dabble a bit in
folklore and local superstition, and I believe I am on the track of
something odder than odd. Just wait a moment."

We stood there in the gathering dusk till the ponies laboured up the
hillside to us, Sandy with his six feet of lithe strength strolling
easily beside them up the steep brae, as if his long day's trudging
had but served to half awaken his dormant powers of limb.

"Going to see Mistress Macpherson again tonight?" asked Hugh.

"Aye, puir body," said Sandy. "She's auld, and she's lone."

"Very kind of you, Sandy," said Hugh, and we walked on.

"What then?" I asked when the ponies had fallen behind again.

"Why, superstition lingers here," said Hugh, "and it's supposed she's
a witch. To be quite candid with you, the thing interests me a good
deal. Supposing you asked me, on oath, whether I believed in witches,
I should say 'No.' But if you asked me again, on oath, whether I
suspected I believed in them, I should, I think, say 'Yes.' And the
fifteenth of this month--to-morrow--is Gavon's Eve."

"And what in Heaven's name is that?" I asked. "And who is Gavon? And
what's the trouble?"

"Well, Gavon is the person, I suppose, not saint, who is what we
should call the eponymous hero of this district. And the trouble is
Sandy's trouble. Rather a long story. But there's a long mile in front
of us yet, if you care to be told." 

During that mile I heard. Sandy had been engaged a year ago to girl of Gavon who was in service at Inverness. In March last he had gone, without giving notice, to see
her, and as he walked up the street in which her mistress's house
stood, had met her suddenly face to face, in company with a man whose
clipped speech betrayed him English, whose manner a kind of gentleman.
He had a flourish of his hat for Sandy, pleasure to see him, and
scarcely any need of explanation as to how he came to be walking with
Catrine. It was the most natural thing possible, for a city like
Inverness boasted its innocent urbanities, and a girl could stroll
with a man. And for the time, since also Catrine was so frankly
pleased to see him, Sandy was satisfied. But after his return to
Gavon, suspicion, fungus-like, grew rank in his mind, with the result
that a month ago he had, with infinite pains and blottings, written a
letter to Catrine, urging her return and immediate marriage. Thereafter
it was known that she had left Inverness; it was known that she had
arrived by train at Brora. From Brora she had started to walked across
the moor by the path leading just above the Picts' Castle, crossing
the rapids to Gavon, leaving her box to be sent by the carrier. But at
Gavon she had never arrived. Also it was said that, although it was
hot afternoon, she wore a big cloak.

By this time we had come to the lodge, the lights of which showed dim
and blurred through the thick hill-mists that had streamed sullenly
down from the higher ground.

"And the rest," said Hugh, "which is as fantastic as this is sober
fact, I will tell you later."

Now, a fruit-bearing determination to go to bed is, to my mind, as
difficult to ripen as a fruit-bearing determination to get up, and in
spite of our long day, I was glad when Hugh (the rest of the men
having yawned themselves out of the smoking-room) came back from the
hospitable dispensing of bedroom candlesticks with a briskness that
denoted that, as far as he was concerned, the distressing
determination was not imminent.

"As regards Sandy," I suggested.

"Ah, I also was thinking of that," he said. "Well, Catrine Gordon left
Brora, and never arrived here. That is fact. Now for what remains.
Have you any remembrance of a woman always alone walking about the
moor by the loch? I think I once called your attention to her."

"Yes, I remember," I said. "Not Catrine, surely; a very old woman,
awful to look at.

"Moustache, whiskers, and muttering to herself. Always looking at the
ground, too."

"Yes, that is she--not Catrine. Catrine! My word, a May morning! But
the other--it is Mrs. Macpherson, reputed witch. Well, Sandy trudges
there, a mile and more away, every night to see her. You know Sandy:
Adonis of the north. Now, can you account by any natural explanation
for that fact? That he goes off after a long day to see an old hag in
the hills?"

"It would seem unlikely," said I.

"Unlikely! Well, yes, unlikely."

Hugh got up from his chair and crossed the room to where a bookcase of
rather fusty-looking volumes stood between windows. He took a small
morocco-backed book from a top shelf.

"Superstitions of Sutherlandshire," he said, as he handed it to me.
"Turn to page 128, and read."

"September 15 appears to have been the date of what we may call this
devil festival. On the night of that day the powers of darkness held
pre-eminent dominion, and over-rode for any who were abroad that night
and invoked their aid, the protective Providence of Almighty God.

"Witches, therefore, above all, were peculiarly potent. On this night
any witch could entice to herself the heart and the love of any young
man who consulted her on matters of philtre or love charm, with the
result that on any night in succeeding years of the same date, he,
though he was lawfully affianced and wedded, would for that night be
hers. If, however, he should call on the name of God through any
sudden grace of the Spirit, her charm would be of no avail. On this
night, too, all witches had the power by certain dreadful incantations
and indescribable profanities, to raise from the dead those who had
committed suicide."

"Top of the next page," said Hugh. "Leave out this next paragraph; it
does not bear on this last."

"Near a small village in this country," I read, "called Gavon, the
moon at midnight is said to shine through a certain gap or fissure in
a wall of rock close beside the river on to the ruins of a Pict
castle, so that the light of its beams falls on to a large flat stone
erected there near the gate, and supposed by some to be an ancient and
pagan altar. At that moment, so the superstition still lingers in the
countryside, the evil and malignant spirits which hold sway on Gavon's
Eve, are at the zenith of their powers, and those who invoke their aid
at this moment and in this place, will, though with infinite peril to
their immortal souls, get all that they desire of them."

The paragraph on the subject ended here, and I shut the book.

"Well?" I asked.

"Under favourable circumstances two and two make four," said Hugh.

"And four means--"

"This. Sandy is certainly in consultation with a woman who is supposed
to be a witch, whose path no crofter will cross after nightfall. He
wants to learn, at whatever cost, poor devil, what happened to
Catrine. Thus I think it more than possible that to-morrow, at
midnight, there will be folk by the Picts' pool. There is another
curious thing. I was fishing yesterday, and just opposite the river
gate of the castle, someone has set up a great flat stone, which has
been dragged (for I noticed the crushed grass) from the debris at the
bottom of the slope."

"You mean that the old hag is going to try to raise the body of
Catrine, if she is dead?"

"Yes, and I mean to see myself what happens. Come too."

The next day Hugh and I fished down the river from the lodge, taking
with us not Sandy, but another gillie, and ate our lunch on the slope
of the Picts' Castle after landing a couple of fish there. Even as
Hugh had said, a great flat slab of stone had been dragged on to the
platform outside the river gate of the castle, where it rested on
certain rude supports, which, now that it was in place, seemed
certainly designed to receive it. It was also exactly opposite that
lancet window in the basaltic rock across the pool, so that if the
moon at midnight did shine through it, the light would fall on the
stone. This, then, was the almost certain scene of the incantations.

Below the platform, as I have said, the ground fell rapidly away to
the level of the pool, which owing to rain on the hills was running
very high, and, streaked with lines of greyish bubbles, poured down in
amazing and ear-filling volume. But directly underneath the steep
escarpment of rock on the far side of the pool it lay foamless and
black, a still backwater of great depth. Above the altar-like erection
again the ground rose up seven rough-hewn steps to the gate itself, on
each side of which, to the height of about four feet, ran the circular
wall of the castle. Inside again were the remains of partition walls
between the three chambers, and it was in the one nearest to the river
gate that we determined to conceal ourselves that night. From there,
should the witch and Sandy keep tryst at the altar, any sound of
movement would reach us, and through the aperture of the gate itself
we could see, concealed in the shadow of the wall, whatever took place
at the altar or down below at the pool. The lodge, finally, was but a
short ten minutes away, if one went in the direct line, so that by
starting at a quarter to twelve that night, we could enter the Picts'
Castle by the gate away from the river, thus not betraying our
presence to those who might be waiting for the moment when the moon
should shine through the lancet window in the wall of rock on to the
altar in front of the river gate.

Night fell very still and windless, and when not long before midnight
we let ourselves silently out of the lodge, though to the east the sky
was clear, a black continent of cloud was creeping up from the west,
and had now nearly reached the zenith. Out of the remote fringes of it
occasional lightning winked, and the growl of very distant thunder
sounded drowsily at long intervals after.

But it seemed to me as if another storm hung over our heads, ready
every moment to burst, for the oppression in the air was of a far
heavier quality than so distant a disturbance could have accounted
for.

To the east, however, the sky was still luminously clear; the
curiously hard edges of the western cloud were star-embroidered, and
by the dove-coloured light in the east it was evident that the
moonrise over the moor was imminent. And though I did not in my heart
believe that our expedition would end in anything but yawns, I was
conscious of an extreme tension and rawness of nerves, which I set
down to the thunder-charged air.

For noiselessness of footstep we had both put on india-rubber-soled
shoes, and all the way down to the pool we heard nothing but the
distant thunder and our own padded tread. Very silently and cautiously
we ascended the steps of the gate away from the river, and keeping
close to the wall inside, sidled round to the river gate and peered
out. For the first moment I could see nothing, so black lay the shadow
of the rock-wall opposite across the pool, but by degrees I made out
the lumps and line of the glimmering foam which streaked the water.
High as the river was running this morning it was infinitely more
voluminous and turbulent now, and the sound of it filled and
bewildered the ear with its sonorous roaring. Only under the very base
of the rock opposite it ran quite black and unflecked by foam: there
lay the deep still surface of the backwater. Then suddenly I saw
something black move in the dimness in front of me, and against the
grey foam rose up first the head, then the shoulders, and finally the
whole figure of a woman coming towards us up the bank. Behind her
walked another, a man, and the two came to where the altar of stone
had been newly erected and stood there side by side silhouetted
against the churned white of the stream. Hugh had seen too, and
touched me on the arm to call my attention. So far then he was right:
there was no mistaking the stalwart proportions of Sandy.

Suddenly across the gloom shot a tiny spear of light, and momentarily
as we watched, it grew larger and longer, till a tall beam, as from
some window cut in the rock opposite, was shed on the bank below us.
It moved slowly, imperceptibly to the left till it struck full between
the two black figures standing there, and shone with a curious bluish
gleam on the flat stone in front of them.

Then the roar of the river was suddenly overscored by a dreadful
screaming voice, the voice of a woman, and from her side her arms shot
up and out as if in invocation of some power.

At first I could catch none of the words, but soon from repetition
they began to convey an intelligible message to my brain, and I was
listening as in paralytic horror of nightmare to a bellowing of the
most hideous and un-nameable profanity. What I heard I cannot bring
myself to record; suffice it to say that Satan was invoked by every
adoring and reverent name, that cursing and unspeakable malediction
was poured forth on Him whom we hold most holy. Then the yelling voice
ceased as suddenly as it had began, and for a moment there was silence
again, but for the reverberating river.

Then once more that horror of sound was uplifted.

"So, Catrine Gordon," it cried, "I bid ye in the name of my master and
yours to rise from where ye lie. Up with ye--up!"

Once more there was silence; then I heard Hugh at my elbow draw a
quick sobbing breath, and his finger pointed unsteadily to the dead
black water below the rock. And I too looked and saw.

Right under the rock there appeared a pale subaqueous light, which
waved and quivered in the stream. At first it was very small and dim,
but as we looked it seemed to swim upwards from remote depths and grew
larger till I suppose the space of some square yard was illuminated by
it.

Then the surface of the water was broken, and a head, the head of a
girl, dead-white and with long, flowing hair, appeared above the
stream. Her eyes were shut, the corners of her mouth drooped as in
sleep, and the moving water stood in a frill round her neck. Higher
and higher rose the figure out of the tide, till at last it stood,
luminous in itself, so it appeared, up to the middle.

The head was bent down over the breast, and the hands clasped
together. As it emerged from the water it seemed to get nearer, and
was by now half-way across the pool, moving quietly and steadily
against the great flood of the hurrying river.

Then I heard a man's voice crying out in a sort of strangled agony.

"Catrine!" it cried; "Catrine! In God's name; in God's name!"

In two strides Sandy had rushed down the steep bank, and hurled
himself out into that mad swirl of waters. For one moment I saw his
arms flung up into the sky, the next he had altogether gone. And on
the utterance of that name the unholy vision had vanished too, while
simultaneously there burst in front of us a light so blinding,
followed by a crack of thunder so appalling to the senses, that I know
I just hid my face in my hands. At once, as if the flood-gates of the
sky had been opened, the deluge was on us, not like rain, but like one
sheet of solid water, so that we cowered under it. Any hope or attempt
to rescue Sandy was out of the question; to dive into that whirlpool
of mad water meant instant death, and even had it been possible for
any swimmer to live there, in the blackness of the night there was
absolutely no chance of finding him. Besides, even if it had been
possible to save him, I doubt whether I was sufficiently master of my
flesh and blood as to endure to plunge where that apparition had
risen.

Then, as we lay there, another horror filled and possessed my mind.
Somewhere close to us in the darkness was that woman whose yelling
voice just now had made my blood run ice-cold, while it brought the
streaming sweat to my forehead. At that moment I turned to Hugh.

"I cannot stop here," I said. "I must run, run right away. Where is
she?"

"Did you not see?" he asked.

"No. What happened?"

"The lightning struck the stone within a few inches of where she was
standing. We--we must go and look for her."

I followed him down the slope, shaking as if I had the palsy, and
groping with my hands on the ground in front of me, in deadly terror
of encountering something human. The thunderclouds had in the last few
minutes spread over the moon, so that no ray from the window in the
rock guided our search. But up and down the bank from the stone that
lay shattered there to the edge of the pool we groped and stumbled,
but found nothing. At length we gave it up: it seemed morally certain
that she, too, had rolled down the bank after the lightning stroke,
and lay somewhere deep in the pool from which she had called the dead.

None fished the pool next day, but men with drag-nets came from Brora.
Right under the rock in the backwater lay two bodies, close together,
Sandy and the dead girl. Of the other they found nothing.

It would seem, then, that Catrine Gordon, in answer to Sandy's letter,
left Inverness in heavy trouble. What happened afterwards can only be
conjectured, but it seems likely she took the short cut to Gavon,
meaning to cross the river on the boulders above the Picts' pool. But
whether she slipped accidentally in her passage, and so was drawn down
by the hungry water, or whether unable to face the future, she had
thrown herself into the pool, we can only guess. In any case they
sleep together now in the bleak, wind-swept graveyard at Brora, in
obedience to the inscrutable designs of God.




THE HORROR-HORN

For the past ten days Alhubel had basked in the radiant midwinter
weather proper to its eminence of over 6,000 feet. From rising to
setting the sun (so surprising to those who have hitherto associated
it with a pale, tepid plate indistinctly shining through the murky air
of England) had blazed its way across the sparkling blue, and every
night the serene and windless frost had made the stars sparkle like
illuminated diamond dust. Sufficient snow had fallen before Christmas
to content the skiers, and the big rink, sprinkled every evening, had
given the skaters each morning a fresh surface on which to perform
their slippery antics. Bridge and dancing served to while away the
greater part of the night, and to me, now for the first time tasting
the joys of a winter in the Engadine, it seemed that a new heaven and
a new earth had been lighted, warmed, and refrigerated for the special
benefit of those who like myself had been wise enough to save up their
days of holiday for the winter.

But a break came in these ideal conditions: one afternoon the sun grew
vapour-veiled and up the valley from the north-west a wind frozen with
miles of travel over ice-bound hill-sides began scouting through the
calm halls of the heavens. Soon it grew dusted with snow, first in
small flakes driven almost horizontally before its congealing breath
and then in larger tufts as of swansdown. And though all day for a
fortnight before the fate of nations and life and death had seemed to
me of far less importance than to get certain tracings of the skate-
blades on the ice of proper shape and size, it now seemed that the one
paramount consideration was to hurry back to the hotel for shelter: it
was wiser to leave rocking-turns alone than to be frozen in their
quest.

I had come out here with my cousin, Professor Ingram, the celebrated
physiologist and Alpine climber. During the serenity of the last
fortnight he had made a couple of notable winter ascents, but this
morning his weather-wisdom had mistrusted the signs of the heavens,
and instead of attempting the ascent of the Piz Passug he had waited
to see whether his misgivings justified themselves. So there he sat
now in the hall of the admirable hotel with his feet on the hot-water
pipes and the latest delivery of the English post in his hands. This
contained a pamphlet concerning the result of the Mount Everest
expedition, of which he had just finished the perusal when I entered.

"A very interesting report," he said, passing it to me, "and they
certainly deserve to succeed next year. But who can tell, what that
final six thousand feet may entail? Six thousand feet more when you
have already accomplished twenty-three thousand does not seem much,
but at present no one knows whether the human frame can stand exertion
at such a height. It may affect not the lungs and heart only, but
possibly the brain. Delirious hallucinations may occur. In fact, if I
did not know better, I should have said that one such hallucination
had occurred to the climbers already."

"And what was that?" I asked.

"You will find that they thought they came across the tracks of some
naked human foot at a great altitude. That looks at first sight like
an hallucination. What more natural than that a brain excited and
exhilarated by the extreme height should have interpreted certain
marks in the snow as the footprints of a human being? Every bodily
organ at these altitudes is exerting itself to the utmost to do its
work, and the brain seizes on those marks in the snow and says 'Yes,
I'm all right, I'm doing my job, and I perceive marks in the snow
which I affirm are human footprints.' You know, even at this altitude,
how restless and eager the brain is, how vividly, as you told me, you
dream at night. Multiply that stimulus and that consequent eagerness
and restlessness by three, and how natural that the brain should
harbour illusions! What after all is the delirium which often
accompanies high fever but the effort of the brain to do its work
under the pressure of feverish conditions? It is so eager to continue
perceiving that it perceives things which have no existence!"

"And yet you don't think that these naked human footprints were
illusions," said I. "You told me you would have thought so, if you had
not known better."

He shifted in his chair and looked out of the window a moment. The air
was thick now with the density of the big snow-flakes that were driven
along by the squealing north-west gale.

"Quite so," he said. "In all probability the human footprints were
real human footprints. I expect that they were the footprints, anyhow,
of a being more nearly a man than anything else.

"My reason for saying so is that I know such beings exist. I have even
seen quite near at hand--and I assure you I did not wish to be nearer
in spite of my intense curiosity--the creature, shall we say, which
would make such footprints. And if the snow was not so dense, I could
show you the place where I saw him."

He pointed straight out of the window, where across the valley lies
the huge tower of the Ungeheuerhorn with the carved pinnacle of rock
at the top like some gigantic rhinoceros-horn.

On one side only, as I knew, was the mountain practicable, and that
for none but the finest climbers; on the other three a succession of
ledges and precipices rendered it unscalable. Two thousand feet of
sheer rock form the tower; below are five hundred feet of fallen
boulders, up to the edge of which grow dense woods of larch and pine.

"Upon the Ungeheuerhorn?" I asked.

"Yes. Up till twenty years ago it had never been ascended, and I, like
several others, spent a lot of time in trying to find a route up it.
My guide and I sometimes spent three nights together at the hut beside
the Blumen glacier, prowling round it, and it was by luck really that
we found the route, for the mountain looks even more impracticable
from the far side than it does from this.

"But one day we found a long, transverse fissure in the side which led
to a negotiable ledge; then there came a slanting ice couloir which
you could not see till you got to the foot of it. However, I need not
go into that."

The big room where we sat was filling up with cheerful groups driven
indoors by this sudden gale and snowfall, and the cackle of merry
tongues grew loud. The band, too, that invariable appanage of tea-time
at Swiss resorts, had begun to tune up for the usual potpourri from
the works of Puccini. Next moment the sugary, sentimental melodies
began.

"Strange contrast!" said Ingram. "Here are we sitting warm and cosy,
our ears pleasantly tickled with these little baby tunes and outside
is the great storm growing more violent every moment, and swirling
round the austere cliffs of the Ungeheuerhorn: the Horror-Horn, as
indeed it was to me."

"I want to hear all about it," I said. "Every detail: make a short
story long, if it's short. I want to know why it's your Horror-Horn?"

"Well, Chanton and I (he was my guide) used to spend days prowling
about the cliffs, making a little progress on one side and then being
stopped, and gaining perhaps five hundred feet on another side and
then being confronted by some insuperable obstacle, till the day when
by luck we found the route. Chanton never liked the job, for some
reason that I could not fathom.

"It was not because of the difficulty or danger of the climbing, for
he was the most fearless man I have ever met when dealing with rocks
and ice, but he was always insistent that we should get off the
mountain and back to the Blumen hut before sunset. He was scarcely
easy even when we had got back to shelter and locked and barred the
door, and I well remember one night when, as we ate our supper, we
heard some animal, a wolf probably, howling somewhere out in the
night.

"A positive panic seized him, and I don't think he closed his eyes
till morning. It struck me then that there might be some grisly legend
about the mountain, connected possibly with its name, and next day I
asked him why the peak was called the Horror-Horn. He put the question
off at first, and said that, like the Schreckhorn, its name was due to
its precipices and falling stones; but when I pressed him further he
acknowledged that there was a legend about it, which his father had
told him. There were creatures, so it was supposed, that lived in its
caves, things human in shape, and covered, except for the face and
hands, with long black hair. They were dwarfs in size, four feet high
or thereabouts, but of prodigious strength and agility, remnants of
some wild primeval race. It seemed that they were still in an upward
stage of evolution, or so I guessed, for the story ran that sometimes
girls had been carried off by them, not as prey, and not for any such
fate as for those captured by cannibals, but to be bred from. Young
men also had been raped by them, to be mated with the females of their
tribe. All this looked as if the creatures, as I said, were tending
towards humanity. But naturally I did not believe a word of it, as
applied to the conditions of the present day. Centuries ago,
conceivably, there may have been such beings, and, with the
extraordinary tenacity of tradition, the news of this had been handed
down and was still current round the hearths of the peasants. As for
their numbers, Chanton told me that three had been once seen together
by a man who owing to his swiftness on skis had escaped to tell the
tale.      

"This man, he averred, was no other than his grand-father, who had
been benighted one winter evening as he passed through the dense woods
below the Ungeheuerhorn, and Chanton supposed that they had been
driven down to these lower altitudes in search of food during severe
winter weather, for otherwise the recorded sights of them had always
taken place among the rocks of the peak itself. They had pursued his
grandfather, then a young man, at an extraordinarily swift canter,
running sometimes upright as men run, sometimes on all-fours in the
manner of beasts, and their howls were just such as that we had heard
that night in the Blumen hut. Such at any rate was the story Chanton
told me, and, like you, I regarded it as the very moonshine of
superstition.

"But the very next day I had reason to reconsider my judgment about
it.

"It was on that day that after a week of exploration we hit on the
only route at present known to the top of our peak. We started as soon
as there was light enough to climb by, for, as you may guess, on very
difficult rocks it is impossible to climb by lantern or moonlight. We
hit on the long fissure I have spoken of, we explored the ledge which
from below seemed to end in nothingness, and with an hour's
stepcutting ascended the couloir which led upwards from it.

"From there onwards it was a rock-climb, certainly of considerable
difficulty, but with no heart-breaking discoveries ahead, and it was
about nine in the morning that we stood on the top. We did not wait
there long, for that side of the mountain is raked by falling stones
loosened, when the sun grows hot, from the ice that holds them, and we
made haste to pass the ledge where the falls are most frequent. After
that there was the long fissure to descend, a matter of no great
difficulty, and we were at the end of our work by midday, both of us,
as you may imagine, in the state of the highest elation.

"A long and tiresome scramble among the huge boulders at the foot of
the cliff then lay before us. Here the hill-side is very porous and
great caves extend far into the mountain. We had unroped at the base
of the fissure, and were picking our way as seemed good to either of
us among these fallen rocks, many of them bigger than an ordinary
house, when, on coming round the corner of one of these, I saw that
which made it clear that the stories Chanton had told me were no
figment of traditional superstition.

"Not twenty yards in front of me lay one of the beings of which he had
spoken. There it sprawled naked and basking on its back with face
turned up to the sun, which its narrow eyes regarded unwinking. In
form it was completely human, but the growth of hair that covered
limbs and trunk alike almost completely hid the sun-tanned skin
beneath. But its face, save for the down on its cheeks and chin, was
hairless, and I looked on a countenance the sensual and malevolent
bestiality of which froze me with horror. Had the creature been an
animal, one would have felt scarcely a shudder at the gross animalism
of it; the horror lay in the fact that it was a man. There lay by it a
couple of gnawed bones, and, its meal finished, it was lazily licking
its protuberant lips, from which came a purring murmur of content.
With one hand it scratched the thick hair on its belly, in the other
it held one of these bones, which presently split in half beneath the
pressure of its finger and thumb. But my horror was not based on the
information of what happened to those men whom these creatures caught,
it was due only to my proximity to a thing so human and so infernal.
The peak, of which the ascent had a moment ago filled us with such
elated satisfaction, became to me an Ungeheuerhorn indeed, for it was
the home of beings more awful than the delirium of nightmare could
ever have conceived.

"Chanton was a dozen paces behind me, and with a backward wave of my
hand I caused him to halt. Then withdrawing myself with infinite
precaution, so as not to attract the gaze of that basking creature, I
slipped back round the rock, whispered to him what I had seen, and
with blanched faces we made a long detour, peering round every corner,
and crouching low, not knowing that at any step we might not come upon
another of these beings, or that from the mouth of one of these caves
in the mountain-side there might not appear another of those hairless
and dreadful faces, with perhaps this time the breasts and insignia of
womanhood. That would have been the worst of all.

"Luck favoured us, for we made our way among the boulders and shifting
stones, the rattle of which might at any moment have betrayed us,
without a repetition of my experience, and once among the trees we ran
as if the Furies themselves were in pursuit. Well now did I
understand, though I dare say I cannot convey, the qualms of Chanton's
mind when he spoke to me of these creatures. Their very humanity was
what made them so terrible, the fact that they were of the same race
as ourselves, but of a type so abysmally degraded that the most brutal
and inhuman of men would have seemed angelic in comparison."

The music of the small band was over before he had finished the
narrative, and the chattering groups round the tea-table had
dispersed. He paused a moment.

"There was a horror of the spirit," he said, "which I experienced
then, from which, I verily believe, I have never entirely recovered. I
saw then how terrible a living thing could be, and how terrible, in
consequence, was life itself. In us all I suppose lurks some inherited
germ of that ineffable bestiality, and who knows whether, sterile as
it has apparently become in the course of centuries, it might not
fructify again. When I saw that creature sun itself, I looked into the
abyss out of which we have crawled. And these creatures are trying to
crawl out of it now, if they exist any longer. Certainly for the last
twenty years there has been no record of their being seen, until we
come to this story of the footprint seen by the climbers on Everest.
If that is authentic, if the party did not mistake the footprint of
some bear, or what not, for a human tread, it seems as if still this
bestranded remnant of mankind is in existence."

Now, Ingram, had told his story well; but sitting in this warm and
civilised room, the horror which he had clearly felt had not
communicated itself to me in any very vivid manner.

Intellectually, I agreed, I could appreciate his horror, but certainly
my spirit felt no shudder of interior comprehension.

"But it is odd," I said, "that your keen interest in physiology did
not disperse your qualms.

"You were looking, so I take it, at some form of man more remote
probably than the earliest human remains. Did not something inside you
say 'This is of absorbing significance'?"

He shook his head.

"No: I only wanted to get away," said he. "It was not, as I have told
you, the terror of what according to Chanton's story, might--await us
if we were captured; it was sheer horror at the creature itself. I
quaked at it."

The snowstorm and the gale increased in violence that night, and I
slept uneasily, plucked again and again from slumber by the fierce
battling of the wind that shook my windows as if with an imperious
demand for admittance. It came in billowy gusts, with strange noises
intermingled with it as for a moment it abated, with flutings and
moanings that rose to shrieks as the fury of it returned. These
noises, no doubt, mingled themselves with my drowsed and sleepy
consciousness, and once I tore myself out of nightmare, imagining that
the creatures of the Horror-Horn had gained footing on my balcony and
were rattling at the window-bolts. But before morning the gale had
died away, and I awoke to see the snow falling dense and fast in a
windless air. For three days it continued, without intermission, and
with its cessation there came a frost such as I have never felt
before. Fifty degrees were registered one night, and more the next,
and what the cold must have been on the cliffs of the Ungeheuerborn I
cannot imagine. Sufficient, so I thought, to have made an end
altogether of its secret inhabitants: my cousin, on that day twenty
years ago, had missed an opportunity for study which would probably
never fall again either to him or another.

I received one morning a letter from a friend saying that he had
arrived at the neighbouring winter resort of St. Luigi, and proposing
that I should come over for a morning's skating and lunch afterwards.
The place was not more than a couple of miles off, if one took the
path over the low, pine-clad foot-hills above which lay the steep
woods below the first rocky slopes of the Ungeheuerhorn; and
accordingly, with a knapsack containing skates on my back, I went on
skis over the wooded slopes and down by an easy descent again on to
St. Luigi. The day was overcast, clouds entirely obscured the higher
peaks though the sun was visible, pale and unluminous, through the
mists. But as the morning went on, it gained the upper hand, and I
slid down into St. Luigi beneath a sparkling firmament. We skated and
lunched, and then, since it looked as if thick weather was coming up
again, I set out early about three o'clock for my return journey.

Hardly had I got into the woods when the clouds gathered thick above,
and streamers and skeins of them began to descend among the pines
through which my path threaded its way. In ten minutes more their
opacity had so increased that I could hardly see a couple of yards in
front of me. Very soon I became aware that I must have got off the
path, for snow-cowled shrubs lay directly in my way, and, casting back
to find it again, I got altogether confused as to direction.

But, though progress was difficult, I knew I had only to keep on the
ascent, and presently I should come to the brow of these low foot-
hills, and descend into the open valley where Alhubel stood. So on I
went, stumbling and sliding over obstacles, and unable, owing to the
thickness of the snow, to take off my skis, for I should have sunk
over the knees at each step. Still the ascent continued, and looking
at my watch I saw that I had already been near an hour on my way from
St. Luigi, a period more than sufficient to complete my whole journey.
But still I stuck to my idea that though I had certainly strayed far
from my proper route a few minutes more must surely see me over the
top of the upward way, and I should find the ground declining into the
next valley. About now, too, I noticed that the mists were growing
suffused with rose-colour, and, though the inference was that it must
be close on sunset, there was consolation in the fact that they were
there and might lift at any moment and disclose to me my whereabouts.
But the fact that night would soon be on me made it needful to bar my
mind against that despair of loneliness which so eats out the heart of
a man who is lost in woods or on mountain-side, that, though still
there is plenty of vigour in his limbs, his nervous force is sapped,
and he can do no more than lie down and abandon himself to whatever
fate may await him... And then I heard that which made the thought of
loneliness seem bliss indeed, for there was a worse fate than
loneliness. What I heard resembled the howl of a wolf, and it came
from not far in front of me where the ridge--was it a ridge?--still
rose higher in vestment of pines.

From behind me came a sudden puff of wind, which shook the frozen snow
from the drooping pine-branches, and swept away the mists as a broom
sweeps the dust from the floor.

Radiant above me were the unclouded skies, already charged with the
red of the sunset, and in front I saw that I had come to the very edge
of the wood through which I had wandered so long.

But it was no valley into which I had penetrated, for there right
ahead of me rose the steep slope of boulders and rocks soaring upwards
to the foot of the Ungeheuerhorn. What, then, was that cry of a wolf
which had made my heart stand still? I saw.

Not twenty yards from me was a fallen tree, and leaning against the
trunk of it was one of the denizens of the Horror-Horn, and it was a
woman. She was enveloped in a thick growth of hair grey and tufted,
and from her head it streamed down over her shoulders and her bosom,
from which hung withered and pendulous breasts. And looking on her
face I comprehended not with my mind alone, but with a shudder of my
spirit, what Ingram had felt. Never had nightmare fashioned so
terrible a countenance; the beauty of sun and stars and of the beasts
of the field and the kindly race of men could not atone for so hellish
an incarnation of the spirit of life. A fathomless bestiality modelled
the slavering mouth and the narrow eyes; I looked into the abyss
itself and knew that out of that abyss on the edge of which I leaned
the generations of men had climbed. What if that ledge crumbled in
front of me and pitched me headlong into its nethermost depths? ...

In one hand she held by the horns a chamois that kicked and struggled.
A blow from its hindleg caught her withered thigh, and with a grunt of
anger she seized the leg in her other hand, and, as a man may pull
from its sheath a stem of meadow-grass, she plucked it off the body,
leaving the torn skin hanging round the gaping wound. Then putting the
red, bleeding member to her mouth she sucked at it as a child sucks a
stick of sweetmeat. Through flesh and gristle her short, brown teeth
penetrated, and she licked her lips with a sound of purring. Then
dropping the leg by her side, she looked again at the body of the prey
now quivering in its death-convulsion, and with finger and thumb
gouged out one of its eyes. She snapped her teeth on it, and it
cracked like a soft-shelled nut.

It must have been but a few seconds that I stood watching her, in some
indescribable catalepsy of terror, while through my brain there pealed
the panic-command of my mind to my stricken limbs "Begone, begone,
while there is time." Then, recovering the power of my joints and
muscles, I tried to slip behind a tree and hide myself from this
apparition. But the woman--shall I say?--must have caught my stir of
movement, for she raised her eyes from her living feast and saw me.
She craned forward her neck, she dropped her prey, and half rising
began to move towards me. As she did this, she opened her mouth, and
gave forth a howl such as I had heard a moment before. It was answered
by another, but faintly and distantly.

Sliding and slipping, with the toes of my skis tripping in the
obstacles below the snow, I plunged forward down the hill between the
pine-trunks. The low sun already sinking behind some rampart of
mountain in the west reddened the snow and the pines with its ultimate
rays. My knapsack with the skates in it swung to and fro on my back,
one ski-stick had already been twitched out of my hand by a fallen
branch of pine, but not a second's pause could I allow myself to
recover it. I gave no glance behind, and I knew not at what pace my
pursuer was on my track, or indeed whether any pursued at all, for my
whole mind and energy, now working at full power again under the
stress of my panic, was devoted to getting away down the hill and out
of the wood as swiftly as my limbs could bear me. For a little while I
heard nothing but the hissing snow of my headlong passage, and the
rustle of the covered undergrowth beneath my feet, and then, from
close at hand behind me, once more the wolf-howl sounded and I heard
the plunging of footsteps other than my own.

The strap of my knapsack had shifted, and as my skates swung to and
fro on my back it chafed and pressed on my throat, hindering free
passage of air, of which, God knew, my labouring lungs were in dire
need, and without pausing I slipped it free from my neck, and held it
in the hand from which my ski-stick had been jerked. I seemed to go a
little more easily for this adjustment, and now, not so far distant, I
could see below me the path from which I had strayed.

If only I could reach that, the smoother going would surely enable me
to outdistance my pursuer, who even on the rougher ground was but
slowly overhauling me, and at the sight of that riband stretching
unimpeded downhill, a ray of hope pierced the black panic of my soul.
With that came the desire, keen and insistent, to see who or what it
was that was on my tracks, and I spared a backward glance. It was she,
the hag whom I had seen at her gruesome meal; her long grey hair flew
out behind her, her mouth chattered and gibbered, her fingers made
grabbing movements, as if already they closed on me.

But the path was now at hand, and the nearness of it I suppose made me
incautious. A hump of snow-covered bush lay in my path, and, thinking
I could jump over it, I tripped and fell, smothering myself in snow. I
heard a maniac noise, half scream, half laugh, from close behind, and
before I could recover myself the grabbing fingers were at my neck, as
if a steel vice had closed there. But my right hand in which I held my
knapsack of skates was free, and with a blind back-handed movement I
whirled it behind me at the full length of its strap, and knew that my
desperate blow had found its billet somewhere. Even before I could
look round I felt the grip on my neck relax, and something subsided
into the very bush which had entangled me. I recovered my feet and
turned.

There she lay, twitching and quivering. The heel of one of my skates
piercing the thin alpaca of the knapsack had hit her full on the
temple, from which the blood was pouring, but a hundred yards away I
could see another such figure coming downwards on my tracks, leaping
and bounding. At that panic rose again within me, and I sped off down
the white smooth path that led to the lights of the village already
beckoning. Never once did I pause in my headlong going: there was no
safety until I was back among the haunts of men. I flung myself
against the door of the hotel, and screamed for admittance, though I
had but to turn the handle and enter; and once more as when Ingram had
told his tale, there was the sound of the band, and the chatter of
voices, and there, too, was he himself, who looked up and then rose
swiftly to his feet as I made my clattering entrance.

"I have seen them too," I cried. "Look at my knapsack. Is there not
blood on it? It is the blood of one of them, a woman, a hag, who tore
off the leg of a chamois as I looked, and pursued me through the
accursed wood. I--".Whether it was I who spun round, or the room which
seemed to spin round me, I knew not, but I heard myself falling,
collapsed on the floor, and the next time that I was conscious at all
I was in bed. There was Ingram there, who told me that I was quite
safe, and another man, a stranger, who pricked my arm with the nozzle
of a syringe, and reassured me ...

A day or two later I gave a coherent account of my adventure, and
three or four men, armed with guns, went over my traces. They found
the bush in which I had stumbled, with a pool of blood which had
soaked into the snow, and, still following my ski-tracks, they came on
the body of a chamois, from which had been torn one of its hindlegs
and one eye-socket was empty. That is all the corroboration of my
story that I can give the reader, and for myself I imagine that the
creature which pursued me was either not killed by my blow or that her
fellows removed her body ... Anyhow, it is open to the incredulous to
prowl about the caves of the Ungeheuerhorn, and see if anything occurs
that may convince them.




IN THE TUBE

"It's a convention," said Anthony Carling cheerfully, "and not a very
convincing one. Time, indeed! There's no such thing as Time really; it
has no actual existence. Time is nothing more than an infinitesimal
point in eternity, just as space is an infinitesimal point in
infinity. At the most, Time is a sort of tunnel through which we are
accustomed to believe that we are travelling.

"There's a roar in our ears and a darkness in our eyes which makes it
seem real to us. But before we came into the tunnel we existed for
ever in an infinite sunlight, and after we have got through it we
shall exist in an infinite sunlight again. So why should we bother
ourselves about the confusion and noise and darkness which only
encompass us for a moment?"

For a firm-rooted believer in such immeasurable ideas as these, which
he punctuated with brisk application of the poker to the brave sparkle
and glow of the fire, Anthony has a very pleasant appreciation of the
measurable and the finite, and nobody with whom I have acquaintance
has so keen a zest for life and its enjoyments as he. He had given us
this evening an admirable dinner, had passed round a port beyond
praise, and had illuminated the jolly hours with the light of his
infectious optimism. Now the small company had melted away, and I was
left with him over the fire in his study. Outside the tattoo of wind-
driven sleet was audible on the window-panes, over-scoring now and
again the flap of the flames on the open hearth, and the thought of
the chilly blasts and the snow-covered pavement in Brompton Square,
across which, to skidding taxicabs, the last of his other guests had
scurried, made my position, resident here till to-morrow morning, the
more delicately delightful. Above all there was this stimulating and
suggestive companion, who, whether he talked of the great abstractions
which were so intensely real and practical to him, or of the very
remarkable experiences which he had encountered among these
conventions of time and space, was equally fascinating to the
listener.

"I adore life," he said. "I find it the most entrancing plaything.
It's a delightful game, and, as you know very well, the only
conceivable way to play a game is to treat it extremely seriously. If
you say to yourself, 'It's only a game,' you cease to take the
slightest interest in it. You have to know that it's only a game, and
behave as if it was the one object of existence. I should like it to
go on for many years yet. But all the time one has to be living on the
true plane as well, which is eternity and infinity. If you come to
think of it, the one thing which the human mind cannot grasp is the
finite, not the infinite, the temporary, not the eternal."

"That sounds rather paradoxical," said I.

"Only because you've made a habit of thinking about things that seem
bounded and limited.

"Look it in the face for a minute. Try to imagine finite Time and
Space, and you find you can't.

"Go back a million years, and multiply that million of years by
another million, and you find that you can't conceive of a beginning.
What happened before that beginning? Another beginning and another
beginning? And before that? Look at it like that, and you find that
the only solution comprehensible to you is the existence of an
eternity, something that never began and will never end. It's the same
about space. Project yourself to the farthest star, and what comes
beyond that?

"Emptiness? Go on through the emptiness, and you can't imagine it
being finite and having an end. It must needs go on for ever: that's
the only thing you can understand. There's no such thing as before or
after, or beginning or end, and what a comfort that is! I should
fidget myself to death if there wasn't the huge soft cushion of
eternity to lean one's head against. Some people say--I believe I've
heard you say it yourself--that the idea of eternity is so tiring; you
feel that you want to stop. But that's because you are thinking of
eternity in terms of Time, and mumbling in your brain, 'And after
that, and after that?' Don't you grasp the idea that in eternity there
isn't any 'after,' any more than there is any 'before'? It's all one.
Eternity isn't a quantity: it's a quality."

Sometimes, when Anthony talks in this manner, I seem to get a glimpse
of that which to his mind is so transparently clear and solidly real,
at other times (not having a brain that readily envisages
abstractions) I feel as though he was pushing me over a precipice, and
my intellectual faculties grasp wildly at anything tangible or
comprehensible. This was the case now, and I hastily interrupted.

"But there is a 'before' and 'after,'" I said. "A few hours ago you
gave us an admirable dinner, and after that--yes, after--we played
bridge. And now you are going to explain things a little more clearly
to me, and after that I shall go to bed--"

He laughed.

"You shall do exactly as you like," he said, "and you shan't be a
slave to Time either to-night or to-morrow morning. We won't even
mention an hour for breakfast, but you shall have it in eternity
whenever you awake. And as I see it is not midnight yet, we'll slip
the bonds of Time, and talk quite infinitely. I will stop the clock,
if that will assist you in getting rid of your illusion, and then I'll
tell you a story, which to my mind, shows how unreal so-called
realities are; or, at any rate, how fallacious are our senses as
judges of what is real and what is not."

"Something occult, something spookish?" I asked, pricking up my ears,
for Anthony has the strangest clairvoyances and visions of things
unseen by the normal eye.

"I suppose you might call some of it occult," he said, "though there's
a certain amount of rather grim reality mixed up in it."

"Go on; excellent mixture," said I.

He threw a fresh log on the fire.

"It's a longish story," he said. "You may stop me as soon as you ye
had enough. But there will come a point for which I claim your
consideration. You, who cling to your 'before' and 'after,' has it
ever occurred to you how difficult it is to say when an incident takes
place? Say that a man commits some crime of violence, can we not, with
a good deal of truth, say that he really commits that crime when he
definitely plans and determines upon it, dwelling on it with gusto?
The actual commission of it, I think we can reasonably argue, is the
mere material sequel of his resolve: he is guilty of it when he makes
that determination. When, therefore, in the term of 'before' and
'after,' does the crime truly take place? There is also in my story a
further point for your consideration. For it seems certain that the
spirit of a man, after the death of his body, is obliged to re-enact
such a crime, with a view, I suppose we may guess, to his remorse and
his eventual redemption. Those who have second sight have seen such
re-enactments. Perhaps he may have done his deed blindly in this life;
but then his spirit re-commits it with its spiritual eyes open, and
able to comprehend its enormity. So, shall we view the man's original
determination and the material commission of his crime only as
preludes to the real commission of it, when with eyes unsealed he does
it and repents of it?... That all sounds very obscure when I speak in
the abstract, but I think you will see what I mean, if you follow my
tale. Comfortable? Got everything you want? Here goes, then."

He leaned back in his chair, concentrating his mind, and then spoke:

"The story that I am about to tell you," he said, "had its beginning a
month ago, when you were away in Switzerland. It reached its
conclusion, so I imagine, last night. I do not, at any rate expect to
experience any more of it. Well, a month ago I was returning late on a
very wet night from dining out. There was not a taxi to be had, and I
hurried through the pouring rain to the tube-station at Piccadilly
Circus, and thought myself very lucky to catch the last train in this
direction. The carriage into which I stepped was quite empty except
for one other passenger, who sat next the door immediately opposite to
me. I had never, to my knowledge, seen him before, but I found my
attention vividly fixed on him, as if he somehow concerned me. He was
a man of middle age, in dress-clothes, and his face wore an expression
of intense thought, as if in his mind he was pondering some very
significant matter, and his hand which was resting on his knee
clenched and unclenched itself. Suddenly he looked up and stared me in
the face, and I saw there suspicion and fear, as if I had surprised
him in some secret deed.

"At that moment we stopped at Dover Street, and the conductor threw
open the doors, announced the station and added, 'Change here for Hyde
Park Corner and Gloucester Road.' That was all right for me since it
meant that the train would stop at Brompton Road, which was my
destination. It was all right apparently, too, for my companion, for
he certainly did not get out, and after a moment's stop, during which
no one else got in, we went on. I saw him, I must insist, after the
doors were closed and the train had started. But when I looked again,
as we rattled on, I saw that there was no one there. I was quite alone
in the carriage.

"Now you may think that I had had one of those swift momentary dreams
which flash in and out of the mind in the space of a second, but I did
not believe it was so myself, for I felt that I had experienced some
sort of premonition or clairvoyant vision. A man, the semblance of
whom, astral body or whatever you may choose to call it, I had just
seen, would sometime sit in that seat opposite to me, pondering and
planning."

"But why?" I asked. "Why should it have been the astral body of a
living man which you thought you had seen? Why not the ghost of a dead
one?"

"Because of my own sensations. The sight of the spirit of someone
dead, which has occurred to me two or three times in my life, has
always been accompanied by a physical shrinking and fear, and by the
sensation of cold and of loneliness. I believed, at any rate, that I
had seen a phantom of the living, and that impression was confirmed, I
might say proved, the next day. For I met the man himself. And the
next night, as you shall hear, I met the phantom again. We will take
them in order.

"I was lunching, then, the next day with my neighbour Mrs. Stanley:
there was a small party, and when I arrived we waited but for the
final guest. He entered while I was talking to some friend, and
presently at my elbow I heard Mrs. Stanley's voice--'Let me
introduce you to Sir Henry Payle,' she said.

"I turned and saw my vis-à-vis of the night before. It was quite
unmistakably he, and as we shook hands he looked at me I thought with
vague and puzzled recognition.

"'Haven't we met before, Mr. Carling?' he said. 'I seem to recollect--’

"For the moment I forgot the strange manner of his disappearance from
the carriage, and thought that it had been the man himself whom I had
seen last night.

"‘Surely, and not so long ago,' I said. 'For we sat opposite each other
in the last tube-train from Piccadilly Circus yesterday night.'

"He still looked at me, frowning, puzzled, and shook his head.

"'That can hardly be,' he said. 'I only came up from the country this
morning.'

"Now this interested me profoundly, for the astral body, we are told,
abides in some half-conscious region of the mind or spirit, and has
recollections of what has happened to it, which it can convey only
very vaguely and dimly to the conscious mind. All lunch-time I could
see his eyes again and again directed to me with the same puzzled and
perplexed air, and as I was taking my departure he came up to me.

"'I shall recollect some day,' he said, 'where we met before, and I
hope we may meet again. Was it not--?'--and he stopped. 'No: it has
gone from me,' he added."

The log that Anthony had thrown on the fire was burning bravely now,
and its high-flickering flame lit up his face.

"Now, I don't know whether you believe in coincidences as chance
things," he said, "but if you do, get rid of the notion. Or if you
can't at once, call it a coincidence that that very night I again
caught the last train on the tube going westwards. This time, so far
from my being a solitary passenger, there was a considerable crowd
waiting at Dover Street, where I entered, and just as the noise of the
approaching train began to reverberate in the tunnel I caught sight of
Sir Henry Payle standing near the opening from which the train would
presently emerge, apart from the rest of the crowd. And I thought to
myself how odd it was that I should have seen the phantom of him at
this very hour last night and the man himself now, and I began walking
towards him with the idea of saying, 'Anyhow, it is in the tube that
we meet to-night.' ... And then a terrible and awful thing happened.
Just as the train emerged from the tunnel he jumped down on to the
line in front of it, and the train swept along over him up the
platform.

"For a moment I was stricken with horror at the sight, and I remember
covering my eyes against the dreadful tragedy. But then I perceived
that, though it had taken place in full sight of those who were
waiting, no one seemed to have seen it except myself. The driver,
looking out from his window, had not applied his brakes, there was no
jolt from the advancing train, no scream, no cry, and the rest of the
passengers began boarding the train with perfect nonchalance.

"I must have staggered, for I felt sick and faint with what I had
seen, and some kindly soul put his arm round me and supported me into
the train. He was a doctor, he told me, and asked if I was in pain, or
what ailed me. I told him what I thought I had seen, and he assured me
that no such accident had taken place.

"It was clear then to my own mind that I had seen the second act, so
to speak, in this psychical drama, and I pondered next morning over
the problem as to what I should do. Already I had glanced at the
morning paper, which, as I knew would be the case, contained no
mention whatever of what I had seen. The thing had certainly not
happened, but I knew in myself that it would happen. The flimsy veil
of Time had been withdrawn from my eyes, and I had seen into what you
would call the future. In terms of Time of course it was the future,
but from my point of view the thing was just as much in the past as it
was in the future. It existed, and waited only for its material
fulfilment. The more I thought about it, the more I saw that I could
do nothing."

I interrupted his narrative.

"You did nothing?" I exclaimed. "Surely you might have taken some step
in order to try to avert the tragedy."

He shook his head.

"What step precisely?" he said. "Was I to go to Sir Henry and tell him
that once more I had seen him in the tube in the act of committing
suicide? Look at it like this. Either what I had seen was pure
illusion, pure imagination, in which case it had no existence or
significance at all, or it was actual and real, and essentially it had
happened. Or take it, though not very logically, somewhere between the
two. Say that the idea of suicide, for some cause of which I knew
nothing, had occurred to him or would occur. Should I not, if that was
the case, be doing a very dangerous thing, by making such a suggestion
to him? Might not the fact of my telling him what I had seen put the
idea into his mind, or, if it was already there, confirm it and
strengthen it? 'It's a ticklish matter to play with souls,' as
Browning says."

"But it seems so inhuman not to interfere in any way," said I, "not to
make any attempt."

"What interference?" asked he. "What attempt?"

The human instinct in me still seemed to cry aloud at the thought of
doing nothing to avert such a tragedy, but it seemed to be beating
itself against something austere and inexorable. And cudgel my brain
as I would, I could not combat the sense of what he had said. I had no
answer for him, and he went on.

"You must recollect, too," he said, "that I believed then and believe
now that the thing had happened. The cause of it, whatever that was,
had begun to work, and the effect, in this material sphere, was
inevitable. That is what I alluded to when, at the beginning of my
story, I asked you to consider how difficult it was to say when an
action took place. You still hold that this particular action, this
suicide of Sir Henry, had not yet taken place, because he had not yet
thrown himself under the advancing train. To me that seems a
materialistic view. I hold that in all but the endorsement of it, so
to speak, it had taken place. I fancy that Sir Henry, for instance,
now free from the material dusks, knows that himself."

Exactly as he spoke there swept through the warm lit room a current of
ice-cold air, ruffling my hair as it passed me, and making the wood
flames on the hearth to dwindle and flare. I looked round to see if
the door at my back had opened, but nothing stirred there, and over
the closed window the curtains were fully drawn. As it reached
Anthony, he sat up quickly in his chair and directed his glance this
way and that about the room.

"Did you feel that?" he asked.

"Yes: a sudden draught," I said. "Ice-cold."

"Anything else?" he asked. "Any other sensation?"

I paused before I answered, for at the moment there occurred to me
Anthony's differentiation of the effects produced on the beholder by a
phantasm of the living and the apparition of the dead. It was the
latter which accurately described my sensations now, a certain
physical shrinking, a fear, a feeling of desolation. But yet I had
seen nothing. "I felt rather creepy," I said.

As I spoke I drew my chair rather closer to the fire, and sent a swift
and, I confess, a somewhat apprehensive scrutiny round the walls of
the brightly lit room. I noticed at the same time that Anthony was
peering across to the chimney-piece, on which, just below a sconce
holding two electric lights, stood the clock which at the beginning of
our talk he had offered to stop. The hands I noticed pointed to
twenty-five minutes to one.

"But you saw nothing?" he asked.

"Nothing whatever," I said. "Why should I? What was there to see? Or
did you--"

"I don't think so," he said.

Somehow this answer got on my nerves, for the queer feeling which had
accompanied that cold current of air had not left me. If anything it
had become more acute.

"But surely you know whether you saw anything or not?" I said.

"One can't always be certain," said he. "I say that I don't think I
saw anything. But I'm not sure, either, whether the story I am telling
you was quite concluded last night. I think there may be a further
incident. If you prefer it, I will leave the rest of it, as far as I
know it, unfinished till to-morrow morning, and you can go off to bed
now."

His complete calmness and tranquillity reassured me.

"But why should I do that?" I asked.

Again he looked round on the bright walls.

"Well, I think something entered the room just now," he said, "and it
may develop. If you don't like the notion, you had better go. Of
course there's nothing to be alarmed at; whatever it is, it can't hurt
us. But it is close on the hour when on two successive nights I saw
what I have already told you, and an apparition usually occurs at the
same time. Why that is so, I cannot say, but certainly it looks as if
a spirit that is earth-bound is still subject to certain conventions,
the conventions of time for instance. I think that personally I shall
see something before long, but most likely you won't. You're not such
a sufferer as I from these--these delusions--"

I was frightened and knew it, but I was also intensely interested, and
some perverse pride wriggled within me at his last words. Why, so I
asked myself, shouldn't I see whatever was to be seen? ...

"I don't want to go in the least," I said. "I want to hear the rest of
your story."

"Where was I, then? Ah, yes: you were wondering why I didn't do
something after I saw the train move up to the platform, and I said
that there was nothing to be done. If you think it over, I fancy you
will agree with me ... A couple of days passed, and on the third
morning I saw in the paper that there had come fulfilment to my
vision. Sir Henry Payle, who had been waiting on the platform of Dover
Street Station for the last train to South Kensington, had thrown
himself in front of it as it came into the station. The train had been
pulled up in a couple of yards, but a wheel had passed over his chest,
crushing it in and instantly killing him.

"An inquest was held, and there emerged at it one of those dark
stories which, on occasions like these, sometimes fall like a midnight
shadow across a life that the world perhaps had thought prosperous. He
had long been on bad terms with his wife, from whom he had lived
apart, and it appeared that not long before this he had fallen
desperately in love with another woman. The night before his suicide
he had appeared very late at his wife's house, and had a long and
angry scene with her in which he entreated her to divorce him,
threatening otherwise to make her life a hell to her. She refused, and
in an ungovernable fit of passion he attempted to strangle her. There
was a struggle and the noise of it caused her manservant to come up,
who succeeded in overmastering him. Lady Payle threatened to proceed
against him for assault with the intention to murder her. With this
hanging over his head, the next night, as I have already told you, he
committed suicide."

He glanced at the clock again, and I saw that the hands now pointed to
ten minutes to one.

The fire was beginning to burn low and the room surely was growing
strangely cold.

"That's not quite all," said Anthony, again looking round. "Are you
sure you wouldn't prefer to hear it to-morrow?"

The mixture of shame and pride and curiosity again prevailed.

"No: tell me the rest of it at once," I said.

Before speaking, he peered suddenly at some point behind my chair,
shading his eyes. I followed his glance, and knew what he meant by
saying that sometimes one could not be sure whether one saw something
or not. But was that an outlined shadow that intervened between me and
the wall? It was difficult to focus; I did not know whether it was
near the wall or near my chair. It seemed to clear away, anyhow, as I
looked more closely at it.

"You see nothing?" asked Anthony.

"No: I don't think so," said I. "And you?"

"I think I do," he said, and his eyes followed something which was
invisible to mine. They came to rest between him and the chimney-
piece. Looking steadily there, he spoke again.

"All this happened some weeks ago," he said, "when you were out in
Switzerland, and since then, up till last night, I saw nothing
further. But all the time I was expecting something further. I felt
that, as far as I was concerned, it was not all over yet, and last
night, with the intention of assisting any communication to come
through to me from--from beyond, I went into the Dover Street tube-
station at a few minutes before one o'clock, the hour at which both
the assault and the suicide had taken place. The platform when I
arrived on it was absolutely empty, or appeared to be so, but
presently, just as I began to hear the roar of the approaching train,
I saw there was the figure of a man standing some twenty yards from
me, looking into the tunnel. He had not come down with me in the lift,
and the moment before he had not been there. He began moving towards
me, and then I saw who it was, and I felt a stir of wind icy-cold
coming towards me as he approached. It was not the draught that
heralds the approach of a train, for it came from the opposite
direction. He came close up to me, and I saw there was recognition in
his eyes. He raised his face towards me and I saw his lips move, but,
perhaps in the increasing noise from the tunnel, I heard nothing come
from them. He put out his hand, as if entreating me to do something,
and with a cowardice for which I cannot forgive myself, I shrank from
him, for I knew, by the sign that I have told you, that this was one
from the dead, and my flesh quaked before him, drowning for the moment
all pity and all desire to help him, if that was possible.

"Certainly he had something which he wanted of me, but I recoiled from
him. And by now the train was emerging from the tunnel, and next
moment, with a dreadful gesture of despair, he threw himself in front
of it."

As he finished speaking he got up quickly from his chair, still
looking fixedly in front of him.

I saw his pupils dilate, and his mouth worked.

"It is coming," he said. "I am to be given a chance of atoning for my
cowardice. There is nothing to be afraid of: I must remember that
myself..."

As he spoke there came from the panelling above the chimney-piece one
loud shattering crack, and the cold wind again circled about my head.
I found myself shrinking back in my chair with my hands held in front
of me as instinctively I screened myself against something which I
knew was there but which I could not see. Every sense told me that
there was a presence in the room other than mine and Anthony's, and
the horror of it was that I could not see it. Any vision, however
terrible, would, I felt, be more tolerable than this clear certain
knowledge that close to me was this invisible thing. And yet what
horror might not be disclosed of the face of the dead and the crushed
chest ... But all I could see, as I shuddered in this cold wind, was
the familiar walls of the room, and Anthony standing in front of me
stiff and firm, making, as I knew, a call on his courage. His eyes
were focused on something quite close to him, and some semblance of a
smile quivered on his mouth. And then he spoke again.

"Yes, I know you," he said. "And you want something of me. Tell me,
then, what it is."

There was absolute silence, but what was silence to my ears could not
have been so to his, for once or twice he nodded, and once he said,
"Yes: I see. I will do it." And with the knowledge that, even as there
was someone here whom I could not see, so there was speech going on
which I could not hear, this terror of the dead and of the unknown
rose in me with the sense of powerlessness to move that accompanies
nightmare. I could not stir, I could not speak. I could only strain my
ears for the inaudible and my eyes for the unseen, while the cold wind
from the very valley of the shadow of death streamed over me. It was
not that the presence of death itself was terrible; it was that from
its tranquillity and serene keeping there had been driven some unquiet
soul unable to rest in peace for whatever ultimate awakening rouses
the countless generations of those who have passed away, driven, no
less, from whatever activities are theirs, back into the material
world from which it should have been delivered. Never, until the gulf
between the living and the dead was thus bridged, had it seemed so
immense and so unnatural. It is possible that the dead may have
communication with the living, and it was not that exactly that so
terrified me, for such communication, as we know it, comes voluntarily
from them. But here was something icy-cold and crime-laden, that was
chased back from the peace that would not pacify it.

And then, most horrible of all, there came a change in these unseen
conditions. Anthony was silent now, and from looking straight and
fixedly in front of him, he began to glance sideways to where I sat
and back again, and with that I felt that the unseen presence had
turned its attention from him to me. And now, too, gradually and by
awful degrees I began to see ...

There came an outline of shadow across the chimney-piece and the
panels above it. It took shape: it fashioned itself into the outline
of a man. Within the shape of the shadow details began to form
themselves, and I saw wavering in the air, like something concealed by
haze, the semblance of a face, stricken and tragic, and burdened with
such a weight of woe as no human face had ever worn. Next, the
shoulders outlined themselves, and a stain livid and red spread out
below them, and suddenly the vision leaped into clearness. There he
stood, the chest crushed in and drowned in the red stain, from which
broken ribs, like the bones of a wrecked ship, protruded. The
mournful, terrible eyes were fixed on me, and it was from them, so I
knew, that the bitter wind proceeded ...

Then, quick as the switching off of a lamp, the spectre vanished, and
the bitter wind was still, and opposite to me stood Anthony, in a
quiet, bright-lit room. There was no sense of an unseen presence any
more; he and I were then alone, with an interrupted conversation still
dangling between us in the warm air. I came round to that, as one
comes round after an anesthetic. It all swam into sight again, unreal
at first, and gradually assuming the texture of actuality.

"You were talking to somebody, not to me," I said. "Who was it? What
was it?"

He passed the back of his hand over his forehead, which glistened in
the light.

"A soul in hell," he said.

Now it is hard ever to recall mere physical sensations, when they have
passed. If you have been cold and are warmed, it is difficult to
remember what cold was like: if you have been hot and have got cool,
it is difficult to realise what the oppression of heat really meant.
Just so, with the passing of that presence, I found myself unable to
recapture the sense of the terror with which, a few moments ago only,
it had invaded and inspired me.

"A soul in hell?" I said. "What are you talking about?"

He moved about the room for a minute or so, and then came and sat on
the arm of my chair.

"I don't know what you saw," he said, "or what you felt, but there has
never in all my life happened to me anything more real than what these
last few minutes have brought. I have talked to a soul in the hell of
remorse, which is the only possible hell. He knew, from what happened
last night, that he could perhaps establish communication through me
with the world he had quitted, and he sought me and found me. I am
charged with a mission to a woman I have never seen, a message from
the contrite ... You can guess who it is..."

He got up with a sudden briskness.

"Let's verify it anyhow," he said. "He gave me the street and the
number. Ah, there's the telephone book! Would it be a coincidence
merely if I found that at No. 20 in Chasemore Street, South
Kensington, there lived a Lady Payle?"

He turned over the leaves of the bulky volume.

"Yes, that's right," he said.




THE CONFESSION OF CHARLES LINKWORTH

Dr. Teesdale had occasion to attend the condemned man once or twice
during the week before his execution, and found him, as is often the
case, when his last hope of life has vanished, quiet and perfectly
resigned to his fate, and not seeming to look forward with any dread
to the morning that each hour that passed brought nearer and nearer.
The bitterness of death appeared to be over for him: it was done with
when he was told that his appeal was refused. But for those days while
hope was not yet quite abandoned, the wretched man had drunk of death
daily. In all his experience the doctor had never seen a man so wildly
and passionately tenacious of life, nor one so strongly knit to this
material world by the sheer animal lust of living. Then the news that
hope could no longer be entertained was told him, and his spirit
passed out of the grip of that agony of torture and suspense, and
accepted the inevitable with indifference. Yet the change was so
extraordinary that it seemed to the doctor rather that the news had
completely stunned his powers of feeling, and he was below the numbed
surface, still knit into material things as strongly as ever. He had
fainted when the result was told him, and Dr. Teesdale had been called
in to attend him. But the fit was but transient, and he came out of it
into full consciousness of what had happened.

The murder had been a deed of peculiar horror, and there was nothing
of sympathy in the mind of the public towards the perpetrator. Charles
Linkworth, who now lay under capital sentence, was the keeper of a
small stationery store in Sheffield, and there lived with him his wife
and mother. The latter was the victim of his atrocious crime; the
motive of it being to get possession of the sum of five hundred
pounds, which was this woman's property. Linkworth, as came out at the
trial, was in debt to the extent of a hundred pounds at the time, and
during his wife's absence from home on a visit to relations, he
strangled his mother, and during the night buried the body in the
small back-garden of his house. On his wife's return, he had a
sufficiently plausible tale to account for the elder Mrs. Linkworth's
disappearance, for there had been constant jarrings and bickerings
between him and his mother for the last year or two, and she had more
than once threatened to withdraw herself and the eight shillings a
week which she contributed to household expenses, and purchase an
annuity with her money. It was true, also, that during the younger
Mrs. Linkworth's absence from home, mother and son had had a violent
quarrel arising originally from some trivial point in household
management, and that in consequence of this, she had actually drawn
her money out of the bank, intending to leave Sheffield next day and
settle in London, where she had friends. That evening she told him
this, and during the night he killed her.

His next step, before his wife's return, was logical and sound. He
packed up all his mother's possessions and took them to the station,
from which he saw them despatched to town by passenger train, and in
the evening he asked several friends in to supper, and told them of
his mother's departure. He did not (logically also, and in accordance
with what they probably already knew) feign regret, but said that he
and she had never got on well together, and that the cause of peace
and quietness was furthered by her going. He told the same story to
his wife on her return, identical in every detail, adding, however,
that the quarrel had been a violent one, and that his mother had not
even left him her address. This again was wisely thought of: it would
prevent his wife from writing to her. She appeared to accept his story
completely: indeed there was nothing strange or suspicious about it.

For a while he behaved with the composure and astuteness which most
criminals possess up to a certain point, the lack of which, after
that, is generally the cause of their detection. He did not, for
instance, immediately pay off his debts, but took into his house a
young man as lodger, who occupied his mother's room, and he dismissed
the assistant in his shop, and did the entire serving himself. This
gave the impression of economy, and at the same time he openly spoke
of the great improvement in his trade, and not till a month had passed
did he cash any of the bank-notes which he had found in a locked
drawer in his mother's room. Then he changed two notes of fifty pounds
and paid off his creditors.

At that point his astuteness and composure failed him. He opened a
deposit account at a local bank with four more fifty-pound notes,
instead of being patient, and increasing his balance at the savings
bank pound by pound, and he got uneasy about that which he had buried
deep enough for security in the back-garden. Thinking to render
himself safer in this regard, he ordered a cartload of slag and stone
fragments, and with the help of his lodger employed the summer
evenings when work was over in building a sort of rockery over the
spot. Then came the chance circumstance which really set match to this
dangerous train. There was a fire in the lost luggage office at King's
Cross Station (from which he ought to have claimed his mother's
property) and one of the two boxes was partially burned. The company
was liable for compensation, and his mother's name on her linen, and a
letter with the Sheffield address on it, led to the arrival of a
purely official and formal notice, stating that the company were
prepared to consider claims. It was directed to Mrs. Linkworth's and
Charles Linkworth's wife received and read it.

It seemed a sufficiently harmless document, but it was endorsed with
his death-warrant. For he could give no explanation at all of the fact
of the boxes still lying at King's Cross Station, beyond suggesting
that some accident had happened to his mother. Clearly he had to put
the matter in the hands of the police, with a view to tracing her
movements, and if it proved that she was dead, claiming her property,
which she had already drawn out of the bank. Such at least was the
course urged on him by his wife and lodger, in whose presence the
communication from the railway officials was read out, and it was
impossible to refuse to take it. Then the silent, uncreaking machinery
of justice, characteristic of England, began to move forward. Quiet
men lounged about Smith Street, visited banks, observed the supposed
increase in trade, and from a house near by looked into the garden
where ferns were already flourishing on the rockery. Then came the
arrest and the trial, which did not last very long, and on a certain
Saturday night the verdict. Smart women in large hats had made the
court bright with colour, and in all the crowd there was not one who
felt any sympathy with the young athletic-looking man who was
condemned. Many of the audience were elderly and respectable mothers,
and the crime had been an outrage on motherhood, and they listened to
the unfolding of the flawless evidence with strong approval. They
thrilled a little when the judge put on the awful and ludicrous little
black cap, and spoke the sentence appointed by God.

Linkworth went to pay the penalty for the atrocious deed, which no one
who had heard the evidence could possibly doubt that he had done with
the same indifference as had marked his entire demeanour since he knew
his appeal had failed. The prison chaplain who had attended him had
done his utmost to get him to confess, but his efforts had been quite
ineffectual, and to the last he asserted, though without protestation,
his innocence. On a bright September morning, when the sun shone warm
on the terrible little procession that crossed the prison yard to the
shed where was erected the apparatus of death, justice was done, and
Dr. Teesdale was satisfied that life was immediately extinct. He had
been present on the scaffold, had watched the bolt drawn, and the
hooded and pinioned figure drop into the pit. He had heard the chunk
and creak of the rope as the sudden weight came on to it, and looking
down he had seen the queer twitchings of the hanged body. They had
lasted but a second for the execution had been perfectly satisfactory.

An hour later he made the post-mortem examination and found that his
view had been correct: the vertebrae of the spine had been broken at
the neck, and death must have been absolutely instantaneous. It was
hardly necessary even to make that little piece of dissection that
proved this, but for the sake of form he did so. And at that moment he
had a very curious and vivid mental impression that the spirit of the
dead man was close beside him, as if it still dwelt in the broken
habitation of its body. But there was no question at all that the body
was dead: it had been dead an hour. Then followed another little
circumstance that at the first seemed insignificant though curious
also. One of the warders entered, and asked if the rope which had been
used an hour ago, and was the hangman's perquisite, had by mistake
been brought into the mortuary with the body. But there was no trace
of it, and it seemed to have vanished altogether, though it a singular
thing to be lost: it was not here; it was not on the scaffold. And
though the disappearance was of no particular moment it was quite
inexplicable.

Dr. Teesdale was a bachelor and a man of independent means, and lived
in a tall-windowed and commodious house in Bedford Square, where a
plain cook of surpassing excellence looked after his food, and her
husband his person. There was no need for him to practise a profession
at all, and he performed his work at the prison for the sake of the
study of the minds of criminals.

Most crime--the transgression, that is, of the rule of conduct which
the human race has framed for the sake of its own preservation--he
held to be either the result of some abnormality, of the brain or of
starvation. Crimes of theft, for instance, he would by no means refer
to one head; often it is true they were the result of actual want, but
more often dictated by some obscure disease of the brain. In marked
cases it was labelled as kleptomania, but he was convinced there were
many others which did not fall directly under the dictation of
physical need. More especially was this the case where the crime in
question involved also some deed of violence, and he mentally placed
underneath this heading, as he went home that evening, the criminal at
whose last moments he had been present that morning. The crime had
been abominable, the need of money not so very pressing, and the very
abomination and unnaturalness of the murder inclined him to consider
the murderer as lunatic rather than criminal. He had been, as far as
was known, a man of quiet and kindly disposition, a good husband, a
sociable neighbour. And then he had committed a crime, just one, which
put him outside all pales. So monstrous a deed, whether perpetrated by
a sane man or a mad one, was intolerable; there was no use for the
doer of it on this planet at all. But somehow the doctor felt that he
would have been more at one with the execution of justice, if the dead
man had confessed. It was morally certain that he was guilty, but he
wished that when there was no longer any hope for him he had endorsed
the verdict himself.

He dined alone that evening, and after dinner sat in his study which
adjoined the dining-room, and feeling disinclined to read, sat in his
great red chair opposite the fireplace, and let his mind graze where
it would. At once almost, it went back to the curious sensation he had
experienced that morning, of feeling that the spirit of Linkworth was
present in the mortuary, though life had been extinct for an hour. It
was not the first time, especially in cases of sudden death, that he
had felt a similar conviction, though perhaps it had never been quite
so unmistakable as it had been to-day. Yet the feeling, to his mind,
was quite probably formed on a natural and psychical truth.

The spirit--it may be remarked that he was a believer in the doctrine
of future life, and the non-extinction of the soul with the death of
the body--was very likely unable or unwilling to quit at once and
altogether the earthly habitation, very likely it lingered there,
earth-bound, for a while.

In his leisure hours Dr. Teesdale was a considerable student of the
occult, for like most advanced and proficient physicians, he clearly
recognised how narrow was the boundary of separation between soul and
body, how tremendous the influence of the intangible was over material
things, and it presented no difficulty to his mind that a disembodied
spirit should be able to communicate directly with those who still
were bounded by the finite and material.

His meditations, which were beginning to group themselves into
definite sequence, were interrupted at this moment. On his desk near
at hand stood his telephone, and the bell rang, not with its usual
metallic insistence, but very faintly, as if the current was weak, or
the mechanism impaired. However, it certainly was ringing, and he got
up and took the combined ear and mouth-piece off its hook.

"Yes, yes," he said, "who is it?"

There was a whisper in reply almost inaudible, and quite
unintelligible.

"I can't hear you," he said.

Again the whisper sounded, but with no greater distinctness. Then it
ceased altogether.

He stood there, for some half minute or so, waiting for it to be
renewed, but beyond the usual chuckling and croaking, which showed,
however, that he was in communication with some other instrument,
there was silence. Then he replaced the receiver, rang up the
Exchange, and gave his number.

"Can you tell me what number rang me up just now?" he asked.

There was a short pause, then it was given him. It was the number of
the prison, where he was doctor.

"Put me on to it, please," he said.

This was done.

"You rang me up just now," he said down the tube. "Yes; I am Doctor
Teesdale. What is it? I could not hear what you said."

The voice came back quite clear and intelligible.

"Some mistake, sir," it said. "We haven't rung you up."

"But the Exchange tells me you did, three minutes ago."

"Mistake at the Exchange, sir," said the voice.

"Very odd. Well, good-night. Warder Draycott, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir; good-night, sir."

Dr. Teesdale went back to his big arm-chair, still less inclined to
read. He let his thoughts wander on for a while, without giving them
definite direction, but ever and again his mind kept coming back to
that strange little incident of the telephone. Often and often he had
been rung up by some mistake, often and often he had been put on to
the wrong number by the Exchange, but there was something in this very
subdued ringing of the telephone bell, and the unintelligible
whisperings at the other end that suggested a very curious train of
reflection to his mind, and soon he found himself pacing up and down
his room, with his thoughts eagerly feeding on a most unusual pasture.

"But it's impossible," he said, aloud.

He went down as usual to the prison next morning, and once again he
was strangely beset with the feeling that there was some unseen
presence there. He had before now had some odd psychical experiences,
and knew that he was a "sensitive"--one, that is, who is capable,
under certain circumstances, of receiving supernormal impressions, and
of having glimpses of the unseen world that lies about us. And this
morning the presence of which he was conscious was that of the man who
had been executed yesterday morning. It was local, and he felt it most
strongly in the little prison yard, and as he passed the door of the
condemned cell. So strong was it there that he would not have been
surprised if the figure of the man had been visible to him, and as he
passed through the door at the end of the passage, he turned round,
actually expecting to see it. All the time, too, he was aware of a
profound horror at his heart; this unseen presence strangely disturbed
him. And the poor soul, he felt, wanted something done for it. Not for
a moment did he doubt that this impression of his was objective, it
was no imaginative phantom of his own invention that made itself so
real. The spirit of Linkworth was there.

He passed into the infirmary, and for a couple of hours busied himself
with his work. But all the time he was aware that the same invisible
presence was near him, though its force was manifestly less here than
in those places which had been more intimately associated with the
man. Finally, before he left, in order to test his theory he looked
into the execution shed. But next moment with a face suddenly stricken
pale, he came out again, closing the door hastily. At the top of the
steps stood a figure hooded and pinioned, but hazy of outline and only
faintly visible.

But it was visible, there was no mistake about it.

Dr. Teesdale was a man of good nerve, and he recovered himself almost
immediately, ashamed of his temporary panic. The terror that had
blanched his face was chiefly the effect of startled nerves, not of
terrified heart, and yet deeply interested as he was in psychical
phenomena, he could not command himself sufficiently to go back there.
Or rather he commanded himself, but his muscles refused to act on the
message. If this poor earth-bound spirit had any communication to make
to him, he certainly much preferred that it should be made at a
distance. As far as he could understand, its range was circumscribed.
It haunted the prison yard, the condemned cell, the execution shed, it
was more faintly felt in the infirmary. Then a further point suggested
itself to his mind, and he went back to his room and sent for Warder
Draycott, who had answered him on the telephone last night.

"You are quite sure," he asked, "that nobody rang me up last night,
just before I rang you up?"

There was a certain hesitation in the man's manner which the doctor
noticed.

"I don't see how it could be possible, sir," he said. "I had been
sitting close by the telephone for half an hour before, and again
before that. I must have seen him, if anyone had been to the
instrument."

"And you saw no one?" said the doctor with a slight emphasis.

The man became more markedly ill at ease.

"No, sir, I saw no one," he said, with the same emphasis.

Dr. Teesdale looked away from him.

"But you had perhaps the impression that there was some one there?" he
asked, carelessly, as if it was a point of no interest.

Clearly Warder Draycott had something on his mind, which he found it
hard to speak of.

"Well, sir, if you put it like that," he began. "But you would tell me
I was half asleep, or had eaten something that disagreed with me at my
supper."

The doctor dropped his careless manner.

"I should do nothing of the kind," he said, "any more than you would
tell me that I had dropped asleep last night, when I heard my
telephone bell ring. Mind you, Draycott, it did not ring as usual, I
could only just hear it ringing, though it was close to me. And I
could only hear a whisper when I put my ear to it. But when you spoke
I heard you quite distinctly. Now I believe there was something--
somebody--at this end of the telephone. You were here, and though you
saw no one, you, too, felt there was someone there."

The man nodded.

"I'm not a nervous man, sir," he said, "and I don't deal in fancies.
But there was something there. It was hovering about the instrument,
and it wasn't the wind, because there wasn't a breath of wind
stirring, and the night was warm. And I shut the window to make
certain. But it went about the room, sir, for an hour or more. It
rustled the leaves of the telephone book, and it ruffled my hair when
it came close to me. And it was bitter cold, sir."

The doctor looked him straight in the face.

"Did it remind you of what had been done yesterday morning?" he asked
suddenly.

Again the man hesitated.

"Yes, sir," he said at length. "Convict Charles Linkworth."

Dr. Teesdale nodded reassuringly.

"That's it," he said. "Now, are you on duty to-night?"

"Yes, sir, I wish I wasn't."

"I know how you feel, I have felt exactly the same myself. Now
whatever this is, it seems to want to communicate with me. By the way,
did you have any disturbance in the prison last night?"

"Yes, sir, there was half a dozen men who had the nightmare. Yelling
and screaming they were, and quiet men too, usually. It happens
sometimes the night after an execution. I've known it before, though
nothing like what it was last night."

"I see. Now, if this--this thing you can't see wants to get at the
telephone again to-night, give it every chance. It will probably come
about the same time. I can't tell you why, but that usually happens.
So unless you must, don't be in this room where the telephone is, just
for an hour to give it plenty of time between half-past nine and half-
past ten. I will be ready for it at the other end. Supposing I am rung
up, I will, when it has finished, ring you up to make sure that I was
not being called in--in the usual way."

"And there is nothing to be afraid of, sir!" asked the man.

Dr. Teesdale remembered his own moment of terror this morning, but he
spoke quite sincerely.

"I am sure there is nothing to be afraid of," he said, reassuringly.

Dr. Teesdale had a dinner engagement that night, which he broke, and
was sitting alone in his study by half past-nine. In the present state
of human ignorance as to the law which governs the movements of
spirits severed from the body, he could not tell the warder why it was
that their visits are so often periodic, timed to punctuality
according to our scheme of hours, but in scenes of tabulated instances
of the appearance of revenants, especially if the soul was in sore
need of help, as might be the case here, he found that they came at
the same hour of day or night. As a rule, too, their power of making
themselves seen or heard or felt grew greater for some little while
after death, subsequently growing weaker as they became less earth-
bound, or often after that ceasing altogether, and he was prepared to-
night for a less indistinct impression. The spirit apparently for the
early hours of its disembodiment is weak, like a moth newly broken out
from its chrysalis--and then suddenly the telephone bell rang, not so
faintly as the night before, but still not with its ordinary
imperative tone.

Dr. Teesdale instantly got up, put the receiver to his ear. And what
he heard was heartbroken sobbing, strong spasms that seemed to tear
the weeper.

He waited for a little before speaking, himself cold with some
nameless fear, and yet profoundly moved to help, if he was able.

"Yes, yes," he said at length, hearing his own voice tremble. "I am
Dr. Teesdale. What can I do for you? And who are you?" he added,
though he felt that it was a needless question.

Slowly the sobbing died down, the whispers took its place, still
broken by crying.

"I want to tell, sir--I want to tell--I must tell."

"Yes, tell me, what is it?" said the doctor.

"No, not you--another gentleman, who used to come to see me. Will you
speak to him what I say to you?--I can't make him hear me or see me."

"Who are you?" asked Dr. Teesdale suddenly.

"Charles Linkworth. I thought you knew. I am very miserable. I can't
leave the prison--and it is cold. Will you send for the other
gentleman?"

"Do you mean the chaplain?" asked Dr. Teesdale.

"Yes, the chaplain. He read the service when I went across the yard
yesterday. I shan't be so miserable when I have told."

The doctor hesitated a moment. This was a strange story that he would
have to tell Mr. Dawkins, the prison chaplain, that at the other end of the telephone
was the spirit of the man executed yesterday. And yet he soberly
believed that it was so, that this unhappy spirit was in misery and
wanted to "tell." There was no need to ask what he wanted to tell.

"Yes, I will ask him to come here," he said at length.

"Thank you, sir, a thousand times. You will make him come, won't you?"

The voice was growing fainter.

"It must be to-morrow night," it said. "I can't speak longer now. I
have to go to see--oh, my God, my God."

The sobs broke out afresh, sounding fainter and fainter. But it was in
a frenzy of terrified interest that Dr. Teesdale spoke.

"To see what?" he cried. "Tell me what you are doing, what is
happening to you?"

"I can't tell you; I mayn't tell you," said the voice very faint.
"That is part--" and it died away altogether.

Dr. Teesdale waited a little, but there was no further sound of any
kind, except the chuckling and croaking of the instrument. He put the
receiver on to its hook again, and then became aware for the first
time that his forehead was streaming with some cold dew of horror. His
ears sang; his heart beat very quick and faint, and he sat down to
recover himself. Once or twice he asked himself if it was possible
that some terrible joke was being played on him, but he knew that
could not be so; he felt perfectly sure that he had been speaking with
a soul in torment of contrition for the terrible and irremediable act
it had committed. It was no delusion of his senses, either; here in
this comfortable room of his in Bedford Square, with London cheerfully
roaring round him, he had spoken with the spirit of Charles Linkworth.

But he had no time (nor indeed inclination, for somehow his soul sat
shuddering within him) to indulge in meditation. First of all he rang
up the prison.

"Warder Draycott?" he asked.

There was a perceptible tremor in the man's voice as he answered.

"Yes, sir. Is it Dr. Teesdale?"

"Yes. Has anything happened here with you?"

Twice it seemed that the man tried to speak and could not. At the
third attempt the words came "Yes, sir. He has been here. I saw him go
into the room where the telephone is."

"Ah! Did you speak to him?"

"No, sir: I sweated and prayed. And there's half a dozen men as have
been screaming in their sleep to-night. But it's quiet again now. I
think he has gone into the execution shed."

"Yes. Well, I think there will be no more disturbance now. By the way,
please give me Mr. Dawkins's home address."

This was given him, and Dr. Teesdale proceeded to write to the
chaplain, asking him to dine with him on the following night. But
suddenly he found that he could not write at his accustomed desk, with
the telephone standing close to him, and he went upstairs to the
drawing-room which he seldom used, except when he entertained his
friends. There he recaptured the serenity of his nerves, and could
control his hand. The note simply asked Mr. Dawkins to dine with him
next night, when he wished to tell him a very strange history and ask
his help. "Even if you have any other engagement," he concluded, "I
seriously request you to give it up. To-night, I did the same.

"I should bitterly have regretted it if I had not."

Next night accordingly, the two sat at their dinner in the doctor's
dining-room, and when they were left to their cigarettes and coffee
the doctor spoke.

"You must not think me mad, my dear Dawkins," he said, "when you hear
what I have got to tell you."

Mr. Dawkins laughed.

"I will certainly promise not to do that," he said.

"Good. Last night and the night before, a little later in the evening
than this, I spoke through the telephone with the spirit of the man we
saw executed two days ago. Charles Linkworth."

The chaplain did not laugh. He pushed back his chair, looking annoyed.

"Teesdale," he said, "is it to tell me this--I don't want to be
rude--but this bogey-tale that you have brought me here this
evening?"

"Yes. You have not heard half of it. He asked me last night to get
hold of you. He wants to tell you something. We can guess, I think,
what it is."

Dawkins got up.

"Please let me hear no more of it," he said. "The dead do not return.
In what state or under what condition they exist has not been revealed
to us. But they have done with all material things."

"But I must tell you more," said the doctor. "Two nights ago I was
rung up, but very faintly, and could only hear whispers. I instantly
inquired where the call came from and was told it came from the
prison. I rang up the prison, and Warder Draycott told me that nobody
had rung me up. He, too, was conscious of a presence."

"I think that man drinks," said Dawkins, sharply.

The doctor paused a moment.

"My dear fellow, you should not say that sort of thing," he said. "He
is one of the steadiest men we have got. And if he drinks, why not I
also?"

The chaplain sat down again.

"You must forgive me," he said, "but I can't go into this. These are
dangerous matters to meddle with. Besides, how do you know it is not a
hoax?"

"Played by whom?" asked the doctor. "Hark!"

The telephone bell suddenly rang. It was clearly audible to the
doctor.

"Don't you hear it?" he said.

"Hear what?"

"The telephone bell ringing."

"I hear no bell," said the chaplain, rather angrily. "There is no bell
ringing."

The doctor did not answer, but went through into his study, and turned
on the lights. Then he took the receiver and mouthpiece off its hook.

"Yes?" he said, in a voice that trembled. "Who is it? Yes: Mr. Dawkins
is here. I will try and get him to speak to you." He went back into
the other room.

"Dawkins," he said, "there is a soul in agony. I pray you to listen.
For God's sake come and listen."

The chaplain hesitated a moment.

"As you will," he said.

He took up the receiver and put it to his ear.

"I am Mr. Dawkins," he said.

He waited.

"I can hear nothing whatever," he said at length. "Ah, there was
something there. The faintest whisper."

"Ah, try to hear, try to hear!" said the doctor.

Again the chaplain listened. Suddenly he laid the instrument down,
frowning.

"Something--somebody said, 'I killed her, I confess it. I want to be
forgiven.' It's a hoax, my dear Teesdale. Somebody knowing your
spiritualistic leanings is playing a very grim joke on you. I can't
believe it."

Dr. Teesdale took up the receiver.

"I am Dr. Teesdale," he said. "Can you give Mr. Dawkins some sign that
it is you?"

Then he laid it down again.

"He says he thinks he can," he said. "We must wait."

The evening was again very warm, and the window into the paved yard at
the back of the house was open. For five minutes or so the two men
stood in silence, waiting, and nothing happened. Then the chaplain
spoke.

"I think that is sufficiently conclusive," he said.

Even as he spoke a very cold draught of air suddenly blew into the
room, making the papers on the desk rustle. Dr. Teesdale went to the
window and closed it.

"Did you feel that?" he asked.

"Yes, a breath of air. Chilly."

Once again in the closed room it stirred again.

"And did you feel that?" asked the doctor.

The chaplain nodded. He felt his heart hammering in his throat
suddenly.

"Defend us from all peril and danger of this coming night," he
exclaimed.

"Something is coming!" said the doctor.

As he spoke it came. In the centre of the room not three yards away
from them stood the figure of a man with his head bent over on to his
shoulder, so that the face was not visible. Then he took his head in
both his hands and raised it like a weight, and looked them in the
face. The eyes and tongue protruded, a livid mark was round the neck.
Then there came a sharp rattle on the boards of the floor, and the
figure was no longer there. But on the floor there lay a new rope.

For a long while neither spoke. The sweat poured off the doctor's
face, and the chaplain's white lips whispered prayers. Then by a huge
effort the doctor pulled himself together. He pointed at the rope.

"It has been missing since the execution," he said.

Then again the telephone bell rang. This time the chaplain needed no
prompting. He went to it at once and the ringing ceased. For a while
he listened in silence.

"Charles Linkworth," he said at length, "in the sight of God, in whose
presence you stand, are you truly sorry for your sin?"

Some answer inaudible to the doctor came, and the chaplain closed his
eyes. And Dr. Teesdale knelt as he heard the words of the Absolution.

At the close there was silence again.

"I can hear nothing more," said the chaplain, replacing the receiver.

Presently the doctor's man-servant came in with the tray of spirits
and syphon. Dr. Teesdale pointed without looking to where the
apparition had been.

"Take the rope that is there and burn it, Parker," he said.

There was a moment's silence.

"There is no rope, sir," said Parker.




NEGOTIUM PERAMBULANS

The casual tourist in West Cornwall may just possibly have noticed, as
he bowled along over the bare high plateau between Penzance and the
Land's End, a dilapidated signpost pointing down a steep lane and
bearing on its battered finger the faded inscription "Polearn 2
miles," but probably very few have had the curiosity to traverse those
two miles in order to see a place to which their guide-books award so
cursory a notice. It is described there, in a couple of unattractive
lines, as a small fishing village with a church of no particular
interest except for certain carved and painted wooden panels
(originally belonging to an earlier edifice) which form an altar-rail.
But the church at St. Creed (the tourist is reminded) has a similar
decoration far superior in point of preservation and interest, and
thus even the ecclesiastically disposed are not lured to Polearn. So
meagre a bait is scarce worth swallowing, and a glance at the very
steep lane which in dry weather presents a carpet of sharp-pointed
stones, and after rain a muddy watercourse, will almost certainly
decide him not to expose his motor or his bicycle to risks like these
in so sparsely populated a district. Hardly a house has met his eye
since he left Penzance, and the possible trundling of a punctured
bicycle for half a dozen weary miles seems a high price to pay for the
sight of a few painted panels.

Polearn, therefore, even in the high noon of the tourist season, is
little liable to invasion, and for the rest of the year I do not
suppose that a couple of folk a day traverse those two miles (long
ones at that) of steep and stony gradient. I am not forgetting the
postman in this exiguous estimate, for the days are few when, leaving
his pony and cart at the top of the hill, he goes as far as the
village, since but a few hundred yards down the lane there stands a
large white box, like a sea-trunk, by the side of the road, with a
slit for letters and a locked door. Should he have in his wallet a
registered letter or be the bearer of a parcel too large for insertion
in the square lips of the sea-trunk, he must needs trudge down the
hill and deliver the troublesome missive, leaving it in person on the
owner, and receiving some small reward of coin or refreshment for his
kindness.

But such occasions are rare, and his general routine is to take out of
the box such letters as may have been deposited there, and insert in
their place such letters as he has brought. These will be called for,
perhaps that day or perhaps the next, by an emissary from the Polearn
post-office.

As for the fishermen of the place, who, in their export trade,
constitute the chief link of movement between Polearn and the outside
world, they would not dream of taking their catch up the steep lane
and so, with six miles farther of travel, to the market at Penzance.
The sea route is shorter and easier, and they deliver their wares to
the pier-head. Thus, though the sole industry of Polearn is sea-
fishing, you will get no fish there unless you have bespoken your
requirements to one of the fishermen. Back come the trawlers as empty
as a haunted house, while their spoils are in the fish-train that is
speeding to London.

Such isolation of a little community, continued, as it has been, for
centuries, produces isolation in the individual as well, and nowhere
will you find greater independence of character than among the people
of Polearn. But they are linked together, so it has always seemed to
me, by some mysterious comprehension: it is as if they had all been
initiated into some ancient rite, inspired and framed by forces
visible and invisible. The winter storms that batter the coast, the
vernal spell of the spring, the hot, still summers, the season of
rains and autumnal decay, have made a spell which, line by line, has
been communicated to them, concerning the powers, evil and good, that
rule the world, and manifest themselves in ways benignant or
terrible...

I came to Polearn first at the age of ten, a small boy, weak and
sickly, and threatened with pulmonary trouble. My father's business
kept him in London, while for me abundance of fresh air and a mild
climate were considered essential conditions if I was to grow to
manhood. His sister had married the vicar of Polearn, Richard Bolitho,
himself native to the place, and so it came about that I spent three
years, as a paying guest, with my relations. Richard Bolitho owned a
fine house in the place, which he inhabited in preference to the
vicarage, which he let to a young artist, John Evans, on whom the
spell of Polearn had fallen for from year's beginning to year's end he
never left it. There was a solid roofed shelter, open on one side to
the air, built for me in the garden, and here I lived and slept,
passing scarcely one hour out of the twenty-four behind walls and
windows. I was out on the bay with the fisher-folk, or wandering along
the gorse-clad cliffs that climbed steeply to right and left of the
deep combe where the village lay, or pottering about on the pier-head,
or bird's-nesting in the bushes with the boys of the village.

Except on Sunday and for the few daily hours of my lessons, I might do
what I pleased so long as I remained in the open air. About the
lessons there was nothing formidable; my uncle conducted me through
flowering bypaths among the thickets of arithmetic, and made pleasant
excursions into the elements of Latin grammar, and above all, he made
me daily give him an account, in clear and grammatical sentences, of
what had been occupying my mind or my movements. Should I select to
tell him about a walk along the cliffs, my speech must be orderly, not
vague, slip-shod notes of what I had observed. In this way, too, he
trained my observation, for he would bid me tell him what flowers were
in bloom, and what birds hovered fishing over the sea or were building
in the bushes. For that I owe him a perennial gratitude, for to
observe and to express my thoughts in the clear spoken word became my
life's profession.

But far more formidable than my weekday tasks was the prescribed
routine for Sunday.

Some dark embers compounded of Calvinism and mysticism smouldered in
my uncle's soul, and made it a day of terror. His sermon in the
morning scorched us with a foretaste of the eternal fires reserved for
unrepentant sinners, and he was hardly less terrifying at the
children's service in the afternoon. Well do I remember his exposition
of the doctrine of guardian angels. A child, he said, might think
himself secure in such angelic care, but let him beware of committing
any of those numerous offences which would cause his guardian to turn
his face from him, for as sure as there were angels to protect us,
there were also evil and awful presences which were ready to pounce;
and on them he dwelt with peculiar gusto. Well, too, do I remember in
the morning sermon his commentary on the carved panels of the altar-
rails to which I have already alluded.

There was the angel of the Annunciation there, and the angel of the
Resurrection, but not less was there the witch of Endor, and, on the
fourth panel, a scene that concerned me most of all.

This fourth panel (he came down from his pulpit to trace its time-worn
features) represented the lych-gate of the church-yard at Polearn
itself, and indeed the resemblance when thus pointed out was
remarkable. In the entry stood the figure of a robed priest holding up
a Cross, with which he faced a terrible creature like a gigantic slug,
that reared itself up in front of him. That, so ran my uncle's
interpretation, was some evil agency, such as he had spoken about to
us children, of almost infinite malignity and power, which could alone
be combated by firm faith and a pure heart. Below ran the legend
"Negotium perambulans in tenebris" from the ninety-first Psalm. We
should find it translated there, "the pestilence that walketh in
darkness," which but feebly rendered the Latin. It was more deadly to
the soul than any pestilence that can only kill the body: it was the
Thing, the Creature, the Business that trafficked in the outer
Darkness, a minister of God's wrath on the unrighteous...I could see,
as he spoke, the looks which the congregation exchanged with each
other, and knew that his words were evoking a surmise, a remembrance.
Nods and whispers passed between them, they understood to what he
alluded, and with the inquisitiveness of boyhood I could not rest till
I had wormed the story out of my friends among the fisher-boys, as,
next morning, we sat basking and naked in the sun after our bathe. One
knew one bit of it, one another, but it pieced together into a truly
alarming legend. In bald outline it was as follows:

A church far more ancient than that in which my uncle terrified us
every Sunday had once stood not three hundred yards away, on the shelf
of level ground below the quarry from which its stones were hewn. The
owner of the land had pulled this down, and erected for himself a
house on the same site out of these materials, keeping, in a very
ecstasy of wickedness, the altar, and on this he dined and played dice
afterwards. But as he grew old some black melancholy seized him, and
he would have lights burning there all night, for he had deadly fear
of the darkness. On one winter evening there sprang up such a gale as
was never before known, which broke in the windows of the room where
he had supped, and extinguished the lamps. Yells of terror brought in
his servants, who found him lying on the floor with the blood
streaming from his throat. As they entered some huge black shadow
seemed to move away from him, crawled across the floor and up the wall
and out of the broken window.

"There he lay a-dying," said the last of my informants, "and him that
had been a great burly man was withered to a bag o' skin, for the
critter had drained all the blood from him. His last breath was a
scream, and he hollered out the same words as passon read off the
screen."

"Negotium perambulans in tenebris," I suggested eagerly.

"Thereabouts. Latin anyhow."

"And after that?" I asked.

"Nobody would go near the place, and the old house rotted and fell in
ruins till three years ago, when along comes Mr. Dooliss from
Penzance, and built the half of it up again. But he don't care much
about such critters, nor about Latin neither. He takes his bottle of
whisky a day and gets drunk's a lord in the evening. Eh, I'm gwine
home to my dinner."

Whatever the authenticity of the legend, I had certainly heard the
truth about Mr. Dooliss from Penzance, who from that day became an
object of keen curiosity on my part, the more so because the quarry-
house adjoined my uncle's garden. The Thing that walked in the dark
failed to stir my imagination, and already I was so used to sleeping
alone in my shelter that the night had no terrors for me. But it would
be intensely exciting to wake at some timeless hour and hear Mr.
Dooliss yelling, and conjecture that the Thing had got him.

But by degrees the whole story faded from my mind, overscored by the
more vivid interests of the day, and, for the last two years of my
out-door life in the vicarage garden, I seldom thought about Mr.
Dooliss and the possible fate that might await him for his temerity in
living in the place where that Thing of darkness had done business.
Occasionally I saw him over the garden fence, a great yellow lump of a
man, with slow and staggering gait, but never did I set eyes on him
outside his gate, either in the village street or down on the beach.
He interfered with none, and no one interfered with him. If he wanted
to run the risk of being the prey of the legendary nocturnal monster,
or quietly drink himself to death, it was his affair. My uncle, so I
gathered, had made several attempts to see him when first he came to
live at Polearn, but Mr. Dooliss appeared to have no use for parsons, but 
said he was not at home and never returned the call.

After three years of sun, wind, and rain, I had completely outgrown my
early symptoms and had become a tough, strapping youngster of
thirteen. I was sent to Eton and Cambridge, and in due course ate my
dinners and became a barrister. In twenty years from that time I was
earning a yearly income of five figures, and had already laid by in
sound securities a sum that brought me dividends which would, for one
of my simple tastes and frugal habits, supply me with all the material
comforts I needed on this side of the grave. The great prizes of my
profession were already within my reach, but I had no ambition
beckoning me on, nor did I want a wife and children, being, I must
suppose, a natural celibate. In fact there was only one ambition which
through these busy years had held the lure of blue and far-off hills
to me, and that was to get back to Polearn, and live once more
isolated from the world with the sea and the gorse-clad hills for
play-fellows, and the secrets that lurked there for exploration. The
spell of it had been woven about my heart, and I can truly say that
there had hardly passed a day in all those years in which the thought
of it and the desire for it had been wholly absent from my mind.
Though I had been in frequent communication with my uncle there during
his lifetime, and, after his death, with his widow who still lived
there, I had never been back to it since I embarked on my profession,
for I knew that if I went there, it would be a wrench beyond my power
to tear myself away again. But I had made up my mind that when once I
had provided for my own independence, I would go back there not to
leave it again. And yet I did leave it again, and now nothing in the
world would induce me to turn down the lane from the road that leads
from Penzance to the Land's End, and see the sides of the combe rise
steep above the roofs of the village and hear the gulls chiding as
they fish in the bay. One of the things invisible, of the dark powers,
leaped into light, and I saw it with my eyes.

The house where I had spent those three years of boyhood had been left
for life to my aunt, and when I made known to her my intention of
coming back to Polearn, she suggested that, till I found a suitable
house or found her proposal unsuitable, I should come to live with
her.

"The house is too big for a lone old woman," she wrote, "and I have
often thought of quitting and taking a little cottage sufficient for
me and my requirements. But come and share it, my dear, and if you
find me troublesome, you or I can go. You may want solitude--most
people in Polearn do--and will leave me. Or else I will leave you: one
of the main reasons of my stopping here all these years was a feeling
that I must not let the old house starve. Houses starve, you know, if
they are not lived in. They die a lingering death; the spirit in them
grows weaker and weaker, and at last fades out of them. Isn't this
nonsense to your London notions?..."

Naturally I accepted with warmth this tentative arrangement, and on an
evening in June found myself at the head of the lane leading down to
Polearn, and once more I descended into the steep valley between the
hills. Time had stood still apparently for the combe, the dilapidated
signpost (or its successor) pointed a rickety finger down the lane,
and a few hundred yards farther on was the white box for the exchange
of letters. Point after remembered point met my eye, and what I saw
was not shrunk, as is often the case with the revisited scenes of
childhood, into a smaller scale. There stood the post-office, and
there the church and close beside it the vicarage, and beyond, the
tall shrubberies which separated the house for which I was bound from
the road, and beyond that again the grey roofs of the quarry-house
damp and shining with the moist evening wind from the sea. All was
exactly as I remembered it, and, above all, that sense of seclusion
and isolation. Somewhere above the tree-tops climbed the lane which
joined the main road to Penzance, but all that had become immeasurably
distant. The years that had passed since last I turned in at the well-
known gate faded like a frosty breath, and vanished in this warm, soft
air. There were law-courts somewhere in memory's dull book which, if I
cared to turn the pages, would tell me that I had made a name and a
great income there. But the dull book was closed now, for I was back
in Polearn, and the spell was woven around me again.

And if Polearn was unchanged, so too was Aunt Hester, who met me at
the door. Dainty and china-white she had always been, and the years
had not aged but only refined her. As we sat and talked after dinner
she spoke of all that had happened in Polearn in that score of years,
and yet somehow the changes of which she spoke seemed but to confirm
the immutability of it all. As the recollection of names came back to
me, I asked her about the quarry-house and Mr. Dooliss, and her face
gloomed a little as with the shadow of a cloud on a spring day.

"Yes, Mr. Dooliss," she said, "poor Mr. Dooliss, how well I remember
him, though it must be ten years and more since he died. I never wrote
to you about it, for it was all very dreadful, my dear, and I did not
want to darken your memories of Polearn. Your uncle always thought
that something of the sort might happen if he went on in his wicked,
drunken ways, and worse than that, and though nobody knew exactly what
took place, it was the sort of thing that might have been
anticipated."

"But what more or less happened, Aunt Hester?" I asked.

"Well, of course I can't tell you everything, for no one knew it. But
he was a very sinful man, and the scandal about him at Newlyn was
shocking. And then he lived, too, in the quarry-house...

"I wonder if by any chance you remember a sermon of your uncle's when
he got out of the pulpit and explained that panel in the altar-rails,
the one, I mean, with the horrible creature rearing itself up outside
the lych-gate?"

"Yes, I remember perfectly," said I.

"Ah. It made an impression on you, I suppose, and so it did on all who
heard him, and that impression got stamped and branded on us all when
the catastrophe occurred. Somehow Mr. Dooliss got to hear about your
uncle's sermon, and in some drunken fit he broke into the church and
smashed the panel to atoms. He seems to have thought that there was
some magic in it, and that if he destroyed that he would get rid of
the terrible fate that was threatening him. For I must tell you that
before he committed that dreadful sacrilege he had been a haunted man:
he hated and feared darkness, for he thought that the creature on the
panel was on his track, but that as long as he kept lights burning it
could not touch him. But the panel, to his disordered mind, was the
root of his terror, and so, as I said, he broke into the church and
attempted--you will see why I said 'attempted'--to destroy it. It
certainly was found in splinters next morning, when your uncle went
into church for matins, and knowing Mr. Dooliss's fear of the panel,
he went across to the quarry-house afterwards and taxed him with its
destruction. The man never denied it; he boasted of what he had done.
There he sat, though it was early morning, drinking his whisky.

"'I've settled your Thing for you,' he said, 'and your sermon too. A
fig for such superstitions.'

"Your uncle left him without answering his blasphemy, meaning to go
straight into Penzance and give information to the police about this
outrage to the church, but on his way back from the quarry-house he
went into the church again, in order to be able to give details about
the damage, and there in the screen was the panel, untouched and
uninjured. And yet he had himself seen it smashed, and Mr. Dooliss had
confessed that the destruction of it was his work. But there it was,
and whether the power of God had mended it or some other power, who
knows?"

This was Polearn indeed, and it was the spirit of Polearn that made me
accept all Aunt Hester was telling me as attested fact. It had
happened like that. She went on in her quiet voice.

"Your uncle recognised that some power beyond police was at work, and
he did not go to Penzance or give informations about the outrage, for
the evidence of it had vanished." A sudden spate of scepticism swept
over me.

"There must have been some mistake," I said. "It hadn't been
broken..."

She smiled.

"Yes, my dear, but you have been in London so long," she said. "Let
me, anyhow, tell you the rest of my story. That night, for some
reason, I could not sleep. It was very hot and airless; I dare say you
will think that the sultry conditions accounted for my wakefulness.
Once and again, as I went to the window to see if I could not admit
more air, I could see from it the quarry-house, and I noticed the
first time that I left my bed that it was blazing with lights. But the
second time I saw that it was all in darkness, and as I wondered at
that, I heard a terrible scream, and the moment afterwards the steps
of someone coming at full speed down the road outside the gate. He
yelled as he ran; 'Light, light!' he called out. 'Give me light, or it
will catch me!' It was very terrible to hear that, and I went to rouse
my husband, who was sleeping in the dressing-room across the passage.
He wasted no time, but by now the whole village was aroused by the
screams, and when he got down to the pier he found that all was over.
The tide was low, and on the rocks at its foot was lying the body of
Mr. Dooliss. He must have cut some artery when he fell on those sharp
edges of stone, for he had bled to death, they thought, and though he
was a big burly man, his corpse was but skin and bones. Yet there was
no pool of blood round him, such as you would have expected. Just skin
and bones as if every drop of blood in his body had been sucked out of
him!"

She leaned forward.

"You and I, my dear, know what happened," she said, "or at least can
guess. God has His instruments of vengeance on those who bring
wickedness into places that have been holy. Dark and mysterious are
His ways."

Now what I should have thought of such a story if it had been told me
in London I can easily imagine. There was such an obvious explanation:
the man in question had been a drunkard, what wonder if the demons of
delirium pursued him? But here in Polearn it was different.

"And who is in the quarry-house now?" I asked. "Years ago the fisher-
boys told me the story of the man who first built it and of his
horrible end. And now again it has happened. Surely no one has
ventured to inhabit it once more?"

I saw in her face, even before I asked that question, that somebody
had done so.

"Yes, it is lived in again," said she, "for there is no end to the
blindness... I don't know if you remember him. He was tenant of the
vicarage many years ago."

"John Evans," said I.

"Yes. Such a nice fellow he was too. Your uncle was pleased to get so
good a tenant. And now--" She rose.

"Aunt Hester, you shouldn't leave your sentences unfinished," I said.

She shook her head.

"My dear, that sentence will finish itself," she said. "But what a
time of night! I must go to bed, and you too, or they will think we
have to keep lights burning here through the dark hours."

Before getting into bed I drew my curtains wide and opened all the
windows to the warm tide of the sea air that flowed softly in. Looking
out into the garden I could see in the moonlight the roof of the
shelter, in which for three years I had lived, gleaming with dew.
That, as much as anything, brought back the old days to which I had
now returned, and they seemed of one piece with the present, as if no
gap of more than twenty years sundered them. The two flowed into one,
like globules of mercury uniting into a softly shining globe, of
mysterious lights and reflections.

Then, raising my eyes a little, I saw against the black hill-side the
windows of the quarry-house still alight.

Morning, as is so often the case, brought no shattering of my
illusion. As I began to regain consciousness, I fancied that I was a
boy again waking up in the shelter in the garden, and though, as I
grew more widely awake, I smiled at the impression, that on which it
was based I found to be indeed true. It was sufficient now as then to
be here, to wander again on the cliffs, and hear the popping of the
ripened seed-pods on the gorse-bushes; to stray along the shore to the
bathing-cove, to float and drift and swim in the warm tide, and bask
on the sand, and watch the gulls fishing, to lounge on the pier-head
with the fisher-folk, to see in their eyes and hear in their quiet
speech the evidence of secret things not so much known to them as part
of their instincts and their very being. There were powers and
presences about me; the white poplars that stood by the stream that
babbled down the valley knew of them, and showed a glimpse of their
knowledge sometimes, like the gleam of their white underleaves; the
very cobbles that paved the street were soaked in it All that I wanted
was to lie there and grow soaked in it too; unconsciously, as a boy, I
had done that, but now the process must be conscious. I must know what
stir of forces, fruitful and mysterious, seethed along the hill-side
at noon, and sparkled at night on the sea. They could be known, they
could even be controlled by those who were masters of the spell, but
never could they be spoken of, for they were dwellers in the
innermost, grafted into the eternal life of the world. There were dark
secrets as well as these clear, kindly powers, and to these no doubt
belonged the negotium perambulans in tenebris which, though of deadly
malignity, might be regarded not only as evil, but as the avenger of
sacrilegious and impious deeds... All this was part of the spell of
Polearn, of which the seeds had long lain dormant in me. But now they
were sprouting, and who knew what strange flower would unfold on their
stems?

It was not long before I came across John Evans. One morning, as I lay
on the beach, there came shambling across the sand a man stout and
middle-aged with the face of Silenus. He paused as he drew near and
regarded me from narrow eyes.

"Why, you're the little chap that used to live in the parson's
garden," he said. "Don't you recognise me?"

I saw who it was when he spoke: his voice, I think, instructed me, and
recognising it, I could see the features of the strong, alert young
man in this gross caricature.

"Yes, you're John Evans," I said. "You used to be very kind to me: you
used to draw pictures for me."

"So I did, and I'll draw you some more. Been bathing? That's a risky
performance. You never know what lives in the sea, nor what lives on
the land for that matter. Not that I heed them.

"I stick to work and whisky. God! I've learned to paint since I saw
you, and drink too for that matter. I live in the quarry-house, you
know, and it's a powerful thirsty place. Come and have a look at my
things if you're passing. Staying with your aunt, are you? I could do
a wonderful portrait of her. Interesting face; she knows a lot. People
who live at Polearn get to know a lot, though I don't take much stock
in that sort of knowledge myself."

I do not know when I have been at once so repelled and interested.
Behind the mere grossness of his face there lurked something which,
while it appalled, yet fascinated me. His thick lisping speech had the
same quality. And his paintings, what would they be like?...

"I was just going home," I said. "I'll gladly come in, if you'll allow
me."

He took me through the untended and overgrown garden into the house
which I had never yet entered. A great grey cat was sunning itself in
the window, and an old woman was laying lunch in a corner of the cool
hall into which the door opened. It was built of stone, and the carved
mouldings let into the walls, the fragments of gargoyles and
sculptured images, bore testimony to the truth of its having been
built out of the demolished church. In one corner was an oblong and
carved wooden table littered with a painter's apparatus and stacks of
canvases leaned against the walls.

He jerked his thumb towards a head of an angel that was built into the
mantelpiece and giggled.

"Quite a sanctified air," he said, "so we tone it down for the
purposes of ordinary life by a different sort of art. Have a drink?
No? Well, turn over some of my pictures while I put myself to rights."

He was justified in his own estimate of his skill: he could paint (and
apparently he could paint anything), but never have I seen pictures so
inexplicably hellish. There were exquisite studies of trees, and you
knew that something lurked in the flickering shadows. There was a
drawing of his cat sunning itself in the window, even as I had just
now seen it, and yet it was no cat but some beast of awful malignity.
There was a boy stretched naked on the sands, not human, but some evil
thing which had come out of the sea. Above all there were pictures of
his garden overgrown and jungle-like, and you knew that in the bushes
were presences ready to spring out on you ...

"Well, do you like my style?" he said as he came up, glass in hand.
(The tumbler of spirits that he held had not been diluted.) "I try to
paint the essence of what I see, not the mere husk and skin of it, but
its nature, where it comes from and what gave it birth. There's much
in common between a cat and a fuchsia-bush if you look at them closely
enough. Everything came out of the slime of the pit, and it's all
going back there. I should like to do a picture of you some day. I'd
hold the mirror up to Nature, as that old lunatic said."

After this first meeting I saw him occasionally throughout the months
of that wonderful summer. Often he kept to his house and to his
painting for days together, and then perhaps some evening I would find
him lounging on the pier, always alone, and every time we met thus the
repulsion and interest grew, for every time he seemed to have gone
farther along a path of secret knowledge towards some evil shrine
where complete initiation awaited him... And then suddenly the end
came.

I had met him thus one evening on the cliffs while the October sunset
still burned in the sky, but over it with amazing rapidity there
spread from the west a great blackness of cloud such as I have never
seen for denseness. The light was sucked from the sky, the dusk fell
in ever thicker layers. He suddenly became conscious of this.

"I must get back as quick as I can," he said. "It will be dark in a
few minutes, and my servant is out. The lamps will not be lit."

He stepped out with extraordinary briskness for one who shambled and
could scarcely lift his feet, and soon broke out into a stumbling run.
In the gathering darkness I could see that his face was moist with the
dew of some unspoken terror.

"You must come with me," he panted, "for so we shall get the lights
burning the sooner. I cannot do without light."

I had to exert myself to the full to keep up with him, for terror
winged him, and even so I fell behind, so that when I came to the
garden gate, he was already half-way up the path to the house.

I saw him enter, leaving the door wide, and found him fumbling with
matches. But his hand so trembled that he could not transfer the light
to the wick of the lamp..."But what's the hurry about?" I asked.

Suddenly his eyes focused themselves on the open door behind me, and
he jumped from his seat beside the table which had once been the altar
of God, with a gasp and a scream.

"No, no!" he cried. "Keep it off! ..."

I turned and saw what he had seen. The Thing had entered and now was
swiftly sliding across the floor towards him, like some gigantic
caterpillar. A stale phosphorescent light came from it, for though the
dusk had grown to blackness outside, I could see it quite distinctly
in the awful light of its own presence. From it too there came an
odour of corruption and decay, as from slime that has long lain below
water. It seemed to have no head, but on the front of it was an
orifice of puckered skin which opened and shut and slavered at the
edges. It was hairless, and slug-like in shape and in texture. As it
advanced its fore-part reared itself from the ground, like a snake
about to strike, and it fastened on him ...

At that sight, and with the yells of his agony in my ears, the panic
which had struck me relaxed into a hopeless courage, and with palsied,
impotent hands I tried to lay hold of the Thing.

But I could not: though something material was there, it was
impossible to grasp it; my hands sunk in it as in thick mud. It was
like wrestling with a nightmare.

I think that but a few seconds elapsed before all was over. The
screams of the wretched man sank to moans and mutterings as the Thing
fell on him: he panted once or twice and was still. For a moment
longer there came gurglings and sucking noises, and then it slid out
even as it had entered. I lit the lamp which he had fumbled with, and
there on the floor he lay, no more than a rind of skin in loose folds
over projecting bones.




THE OTHER BED

I had gone out to Switzerland just before Christmas, expecting, from
experience, a month of divinely renovating weather, of skating all day
in brilliant sun, and basking in the hot frost of that windless
atmosphere. Occasionally, as I knew, there might be a snowfall, which
would last perhaps for forty-eight hours at the outside, and would be
succeeded by another ten days of cloudless perfection, cold even to
zero at night, but irradiated all day long by the unflecked splendour
of the sun.

Instead the climatic conditions were horrible. Day after day a gale
screamed through this upland valley that should have been so windless
and serene, bringing with it a tornado of sleet that changed to snow
by night. For ten days there was no abatement of it, and evening after
evening, as I consulted my barometer, feeling sure that the black
finger would show that we were coming to the end of these
abominations, I found that it had sunk a little lower yet, till it
stayed, like a homing pigeon, on the S of storm. I mention these
things in depredation of the story that follows, in order that the
intelligent reader may say at once, if he wishes, that all that
occurred was merely a result of the malaise of nerves and digestion
that perhaps arose from those storm-bound and disturbing conditions.
And now to go back to the beginning again.

I had written to engage a room at the Hotel Beau Site, and had been
agreeably surprised on arrival to find that for the modest sum of
twelve francs a day I was allotted a room on the first floor with two
beds in it. Otherwise the hotel was quite full. Fearing to be billeted
in a twenty-two franc room, by mistake, I instantly confirmed my
arrangements at the bureau. There was no mistake: I had ordered a
twelve-franc room and had been given one. The very civil clerk hoped
that I was satisfied with it, for otherwise there was nothing vacant.
I hastened to say that I was more than satisfied, fearing the fate of
Esau.

I arrived about three in the afternoon of a cloudless and glorious
day, the last of the series. I hurried down to the rink, having had
the prudence to put skates in the forefront of my luggage, and spent a
divine but struggling hour or two, coming up to the hotel about
sunset. I had letters to write, and after ordering tea to be sent up
to my gorgeous apartment, No. 23, on the first floor, I went straight
up there.

The door was ajar and--I feel certain I should not even remember this
now except in the light of what followed--just as I got close to it, I
heard some faint movement inside the room and instinctively knew that
my servant was there unpacking. Next moment I was in the room myself,
and it was empty. The unpacking had been finished, and everything was
neat, orderly, and comfortable. My barometer was on the table, and I
observed with dismay that it had gone down nearly half an inch. I did
not give another thought to the movement I thought I had heard from
outside.

Certainly I had a delightful room for my twelve francs a day. There
were, as I have said, two beds in it, on one of which were already
laid out my dress-clothes, while night-things were disposed on the
other. There were two windows, between which stood a large washing-
stand, with plenty of room on it; a sofa with its back to the light
stood conveniently near the pipes of central heating, there were a
couple of good arm-chairs, a writing table, and, rarest of luxuries,
another table, so that every time one had breakfast it was not
necessary to pile up a drift of books and papers to make room for the
tray. My window looked east, and sunset still flamed on the western
faces of the virgin snows, while above, in spite of the dejected
barometer, the sky was bare of clouds, and a thin slip of pale
crescent moon was swung high among the stars that still burned dimly
in these first moments of their kindling. Tea came up for me without
delay, and, as I ate, I regarded my surroundings with extreme
complacency.

Then, quite suddenly and without cause, I saw that the disposition of
the beds would never do; I could not possibly sleep in the bed that my
servant had chosen for me, and without pause I jumped up, transferred
my dress clothes to the other bed, and put my night things where they
had been. It was done breathlessly almost, and not till then did I ask
myself why I had done it. I found I had not the slightest idea. I had
merely felt that I could not sleep in the other bed. But having made
the change I felt perfectly content.

My letters took me an hour or so to finish, and I had yawned and
blinked considerably over the last one or two, in part from their
inherent dullness, in part from quite natural sleepiness. For I had
been in the train for twenty-four hours, and was fresh to these
bracing airs which so conduce to appetite, activity, and sleep, and as
there was still an hour before I need dress, I lay down on my sofa
with a book for excuse, but the intention to slumber as reason. And
consciousness ceased as if a tap had been turned off.

Then--I dreamed. I dreamed that my servant came very quietly into the
room, to tell me no doubt that it was time to dress. I supposed there
were a few minutes to spare yet, and that he saw I was dozing, for,
instead of rousing me, he moved quietly about the room, setting things
in order. The light appeared to me to be very dim, for I could not see
him with any distinctness, indeed, I only knew it was he because it
could not be any body else. Then he paused by my washing-stand, which
had a shelf for brushes and razors above it, and I saw him take a
razor from its case and begin stropping it; the light was strongly
reflected on the blade of the razor. He tried the edge once or twice
on his thumb-nail, and then to my horror I saw him trying it on his
throat. Instantaneously one of those deafening dream-crashes awoke me,
and I saw the door half open, and my servant in the very act of coming
in. No doubt the opening of the door had constituted the crash.

I had joined a previously-arrived party of five, all of us old
friends, and accustomed to see each other often; and at dinner, and
afterwards in intervals of bridge, the conversation roamed agreeably
over a variety of topics, rocking-turns and the prospects of weather
(a thing of vast importance in Switzerland, and not a commonplace
subject) and the performances at the opera, and under what
circumstances as revealed in dummy's hand, is it justifiable for a
player to refuse to return his partner's original lead in no trumps.
Then over whisky and soda and the repeated "last cigarette," it veered
back via the Zantzigs to thought transference and the transference of
emotion. Here one of the party, Harry Lambert, put forward the much
discussed explanation of haunted houses based on this principle. He
put it very concisely.

"Everything that happens," he said, "whether it is a step we take, or
a thought that crosses our mind, makes some change in it, immediate
material world. Now the most violent and concentrated emotion we can
imagine is the emotion that leads a man to take so extreme a step as
killing himself or somebody else. I can easily imagine such a deed so
eating into the material scene, the room or the haunted heath, where
it happens, that its mark lasts an enormous time. The air rings with
the cry of the slain and still drips with his blood. It is not
everybody who will perceive it, but sensitives will. By the way, I am
sure that man who waits on us at dinner is a sensitive."

It was already late, and I rose.

"Let us hurry him to the scene of a crime," I said. "For myself I
shall hurry to the scene of sleep."

Outside the threatening promise of the barometer was already finding
fulfilment, and a cold ugly wind was complaining among the pines, and
hooting round the peaks, and snow had begun to fall. The night was
thickly overcast, and it seemed as if uneasy presences were going to
and fro in the darkness. But there was no use in ill augury, and
certainly if we were to be house-bound for a few days I was lucky in
having so commodious a lodging. I had plenty to occupy myself with
indoors, though I should vastly have preferred to be engaged outside,
and in the immediate present how good it was to lie free in a proper
bed after a cramped night in the train.

I was half-undressed when there came a tap at my door, and the waiter
who had served us at dinner came in carrying a bottle of whisky. He
was a tall young fellow, and though I had not noticed him at dinner, I
saw at once now, as he stood in the glare of the electric light, what
Harry had meant when he said he was sure he was a sensitive. There is
no mistaking that look: it is exhibited in a peculiar "inlooking" of
the eye. Those eyes, one knows, see further than the surface ...

"The bottle of whisky for monsieur," he said putting it down on the
table.

"But I ordered no whisky," said I. He looked puzzled.

"Number twenty-three?" he said. Then he glanced at the other bed.

"Ah, for the other gentleman, without doubt," he said.

"But there is no other gentleman," said I.

"I am alone here."

He took up the bottle again.

"Pardon, monsieur," he said. "There must be a mistake. I am new here;
I only came today."

"But I thought--"

"Yes?" said I.

"I thought that number twenty-three had ordered a bottle of whisky,"
he repeated.

"Goodnight, monsieur, and pardon."

I got into bed, extinguished the light, and feeling very sleepy and
heavy with the oppression, no doubt, of the snow that was coming,
expected to fall asleep at once. Instead my mind would not quite go to
roost, but kept sleepily stumbling about among the little events of
the day, as some tired pedestrian in the dark stumbles over stones
instead of lifting his feet. And as I got sleepier it seemed to me
that my mind kept moving in a tiny little circle. At one moment it
drowsily recollected how I had thought I had heard movement inside my
room, at the next it remembered my dream of some figure going
stealthily about and stropping a razor, at a third it wondered why
this Swiss waiter with the eyes of a "sensitive" thought that number
twenty-three had ordered a bottle of whisky. But at the time I made no
guess as to any coherence between these little isolated facts; I only
dwelt on them with drowsy persistence. Then a fourth fact came to join
the sleepy circle, and I wondered why I had felt a repugnance against
using the other bed.

But there was no explanation of this forthcoming, either, and the
outlines of thought grew more blurred and hazy, until I lost
consciousness altogether.

Next morning began the series of awful days, sleet and snow falling
relentlessly with gusts of chilly wind, making any out-of-door
amusement next to impossible. The snow was too soft for tobogganing,
it balled on the skis, and as for the rink it was but a series of
pools of slushy snow.

This in itself, of course, was quite enough to account for any
ordinary depression and heaviness of spirit, but all the time I felt
there was something more than that to which I owed the utter blackness
that hung over those days. I was beset too by fear that at first was
only vague, but which gradually became more definite, until it
resolved itself into a fear of number twenty-three and in particular a
terror of the other bed. I had no notion why or how I was afraid of
it, the thing was perfectly causeless, but the shape and the outline
of it grew slowly clearer, as detail after detail of ordinary life,
each minute and trivial in itself, carved and moulded this fear, till
it became definite. Yet the whole thing was so causeless and childish
that I could speak to no one of it; I could but assure myself that it
was all a figment of nerves disordered by this unseemly weather.

However, as to the details, there were plenty of them. Once I woke up
from strangling nightmare, unable at first to move, but in a panic of
terror, believing that I was sleeping in the other bed. More than
once, too, awaking before I was called, and getting out of bed to look
at the aspect of the morning, I saw with a sense of dreadful misgiving
that the bed-clothes on the other bed were strangely disarranged, as
if some one had slept there, and smoothed them down afterwards, but
not so well as not to give notice of the occupation. So one night I
laid a trap, so to speak, for the intruder of which the real object
was to calm my own nervousness (for I still told myself that I was
frightened of nothing), and tucked in the sheet very carefully, laying
the pillow on the top of it. But in the morning it seemed as if my
interference had not been to the taste of the occupant, for there was
more impatient disorder than usual in the bed-clothes, and on the
pillow was an indentation, round and rather deep, such as we may see
any morning in our own beds. Yet by day these things did not frighten
me, but it was when I went to bed at night that I quaked at the
thought of further developments.

It happened also from time to time that I wanted something brought me,
or wanted my servant. On three or four of these occasions my bell was
answered by the "Sensitive," as we called him, but the Sensitive, I
noticed, never came into the room. He would open the door a chink to
receive my order and on returning would again open it a chink to say
that my boots, or whatever it was, were at the door. Once I made him
come in, but I saw him cross himself as, with a face of icy terror, he
stepped into the room, and the sight somehow did not reassure me.
Twice also he came up in the evening, when I had not rung at all, even
as he came up the first night, and opened the door a chink to say that
my bottle of whisky was outside. But the poor fellow was in a state of
such bewilderment when I went out and told him that I had not ordered
whisky, that I did not press for an explanation. He begged my pardon
profusely; he thought a bottle of whisky had been ordered for number
twenty-three. It was his mistake, entirely--I should not be charged
for it; it must have been the other gentleman. Pardon again; he
remembered there was no other gentleman, the other bed was unoccupied.

It was on the night when this happened for the second time that I
definitely began to wish that I too was quite certain that the other
bed was unoccupied. The ten days of snow and sleet were at an end, and
to-night the moon once more, grown from a mere slip to a shining
shield, swung serenely among the stars. But though at dinner everyone
exhibited an extraordinary change of spirit, with the rising of the
barometer and the discharge of this huge snow-fall, the intolerable
gloom which had been mine so long but deepened and blackened. The fear
was to me now like some statue, nearly finished, modelled by the
carving hands of these details, and though it still stood below its
moistened sheet, any moment, I felt, the sheet might be twitched away,
and I be confronted with it. Twice that evening I had started to go to
the bureau, to ask to have a bed made up for me, anywhere, in the
billiard-room or the smoking-room, since the hotel was full, but the
intolerable childishness of the proceeding revolted me. What was I
afraid of? A dream of my own, a mere nightmare? Some fortuitous
disarrangement of bed linen? The fact that a Swiss waiter made
mistakes about bottles of whisky? It was an impossible cowardice.

But equally impossible that night were billiards or bridge, or any
form of diversion. My only salvation seemed to lie in downright hard
work, and soon after dinner I went to my room (in order to make my
first real counter-move against fear) and sat down solidly to several
hours of proof-correcting, a menial and monotonous employment, but one
which is necessary, and engages the entire attention. But first I
looked thoroughly round the room, to reassure myself, and found all
modern and solid; a bright paper of daisies on the wall, a floor
parquetted, the hot-water pipes chuckling to themselves in the corner,
my bed-clothes turned down for the night, the other bed--The electric
light was burning brightly, and there seemed to me to be a curious
stain, as of a shadow, on the lower part of the pillow and the top of
the sheet, definite and suggestive, and for a moment I stood there
again throttled by a nameless terror. Then taking my courage in my
hands I went closer and looked at it. Then I touched it; the sheet,
where the stain or shadow was, seemed damp to the hand, so also was
the pillow. And then I remembered; I had thrown some wet clothes on
the bed before dinner. No doubt that was the reason. And fortified by
this extremely simple dissipation of my fear, I sat down and began on
my proofs. But my fear had been this, that the stain had not in that
first moment looked like the mere greyness of water-moistened linen.

From below, at first came the sound of music, for they were dancing
to-night, but I grew absorbed in my work, and only recorded the fact
that after a time there was no more music. Steps went along the
passages, and I heard the buzz of conversation on landings, and the
closing of doors till by degrees the silence became noticeable. The
loneliness of night had come.

It was after the silence had become lonely that I made the first pause
in my work, and by the watch on my table saw that it was already past
midnight. But I had little more to do; another half-hour would see the
end of the business, but there were certain notes I had to make for
future reference, and my stock of paper was already exhausted.
However, I had bought some in the village that afternoon, and it was
in the bureau downstairs, where I had left it, when I came in and had
subsequently forgotten to bring it upstairs. It would be the work of a
minute only to get it.

The electric light had brightened considerably during the last hour,
owing no doubt to many burners being put out in the hotel, and as I
left the room I saw again the stain on the pillow and sheet of the
other bed. I had really forgotten all about it for the last hour, and
its presence there came as an unwelcome surprise. Then I remembered
the explanation of it, which had struck me before, and for purposes of
self-reassurement I again touched it. It was still damp, but--Had I
got chilly with my work? For it was warm to the hand. Warm, and surely
rather sticky. It did not seem like the touch of the water-damp. And
at the same moment I knew I was not alone in the room. There was
something there, something silent as yet, and as yet invisible. But it
was there.

Now for the consolation of persons who are inclined to be fearful, I
may say at once that I am in no way brave, but that terror which, God
knows, was real enough, was yet so interesting, that interest
overruled it. I stood for a moment by the other bed, and, half-
consciously only, wiped the hand that had felt the stain, for the
touch of it, though all the time I told myself that it was but the
touch of the melted snow on the coat I had put there, was unpleasant
and unclean. More than that I did not feel, because in the presence of
the unknown and the perhaps awful, the sense of curiosity, one of the
strongest instincts we have, came to the fore. So, rather eager to get
back to my room again, I ran downstairs to get the packet of paper.
There was still a light in the bureau, and the Sensitive, on night-
duty, I suppose, was sitting there dozing. My entrance did not disturb
him, for I had on noiseless felt slippers, and seeing at once the
package I was in search of, I took it, and left him still unawakened.
That was somehow of a fortifying nature. The Sensitive anyhow could
sleep in his hard chair; the occupant of the unoccupied bed was not
calling to him to-night.

I closed my door quietly, as one does at night when the house is
silent, and sat down at once to open my packet of paper and finish my
work. It was wrapped up in an old news-sheet, and struggling with the
last of the string that bound it, certain words caught my eye. Also
the date at the top of the paper caught my eye, a date nearly a year
old, or, to be quite accurate, a date fifty-one weeks old. It was an
American paper and what it recorded was this:

"The body of Mr. Silas R. Hume, who committed suicide last week at the
Hotel Beau Site, Moulin sur Chalons, is to be buried at his house in
Boston, Mass. The inquest held in Switzerland showed that he cut his
throat with a razor, in an attack of delirium tremens induced by
drink. In the cupboard of his room were found three dozen empty
bottles of Scotch whisky..."

So far I had read when without warning the electric light went out,
and I was left in, what seemed for the moment, absolute darkness. And
again I knew I was not alone, and I knew now who it was who was with
me in the room.

Then the absolute paralysis of fear seized me. As if a wind had blown
over my head, I felt the hair of it stir and rise a little. My eyes
also, I suppose, became accustomed to the sudden darkness, for they
could now perceive the shape of the furniture in the room from the
light of the starlit sky outside. They saw more too than the mere
furniture. There was standing by the wash-stand between the two
windows a figure, clothed only in night-garments, and its hands moved
among the objects on the shelf above the basin. Then with two steps it
made a sort of dive for the other bed, which was in shadow. And then
the sweat poured on to my forehead.

Though the other bed stood in shadow I could still see dimly, but
sufficiently, what was there. The shape of a head lay on the pillow,
the shape of an arm lifted its hand to the electric bell that was
close by on the wall, and I fancied I could hear it distantly ringing.
Then a moment later came hurrying feet up the stairs and along the
passage outside, and a quick rapping at my door.

"Monsieur's whisky, monsieur's whisky," said a voice just outside.
"Pardon, monsieur, I brought it as quickly as I could."

The impotent paralysis of cold terror was still on me. Once I tried to
speak and failed, and still the gentle tapping went on at the door,
and the voice telling some one that his whisky was there. Then at a
second attempt, I heard a voice which was mine saying hoarsely:

"For God's sake come in; I am alone with it."

There was the click of a turned door-handle, and as suddenly as it had
gone out a few seconds before, the electric light came back again, and
the room was in full illumination. I saw a face peer round the corner
of the door, but it was at another face I looked, the face of a man
sallow and shrunken, who lay in the other bed, staring at me with
glazed eyes. He lay high in bed, and his throat was cut from ear to
ear; and the lower part of the pillow was soaked in blood, and the
sheet streamed with it.

Then suddenly that hideous vision vanished, and there was only a
sleepy-eyed waiter looking into the room. But below the sleepiness
terror was awake, and his voice shook when he spoke.

"Monsieur rang?" he asked.

No, monsieur had not rung. But monsieur made himself a couch in the
billiard-room.




OUTSIDE THE DOOR

The rest of the small party staying with my friend Geoffrey Aldwych in
the charming old house which he had lately bought at a little village
north of Sheringham on the Norfolk coast had drifted away soon after
dinner to bridge and billiards, and Mrs. Aldwych and myself had for
the time been left alone in the drawing-room, seated one on each side
of a small round table which we had very patiently and unsuccessfully
been trying to turn. But such pressure, psychical or physical, as we
had put upon it, though of the friendliest and most encouraging
nature, had not overcome in the smallest degree the very slight
inertia which so small an object might have been supposed to possess,
and it had remained as fixed as the most constant of the stars. No
tremor even had passed through its slight and spindle-like legs. In
consequence we had, after a really considerable period of patient
endeavour, left it to its wooden repose, and proceeded to theorise
about psychical matters instead, with no stupid table to contradict in
practice all our ideas on the subject.

This I had added with a certain bitterness born of failure, for if we
could not move so insignificant an object, we might as well give up
all idea of moving anything. But hardly were the words out of my mouth
when there came from the abandoned table a single peremptory rap, loud
and rather startling.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Only a rap," said she. "I thought something would happen before
long."

"And do you really think that is a spirit rapping?" I asked.

"Oh dear no. I don't think it has anything whatever to do with
spirits."

"More perhaps with the very dry weather we have been having. Furniture
often cracks like that in the summer."

Now this, in point of fact, was not quite the case. Neither in summer
nor in winter have I ever heard furniture crack as the table had
cracked, for the sound, whatever it was, did not at all resemble the
husky creak of contracting wood. It was a loud sharp crack like the
smart concussion of one hard object with another.

"No, I don't think it had much to do with dry weather either," said
she, smiling. "I think, if you wish to know, that it was the direct
result of our attempt to turn the table. Does that sound nonsense?"

"At present, yes," said I, "though I have no doubt that if you tried
you could make it sound sense. There is, I notice, a certain
plausibility about you and your theories--"

"Now you are being merely personal," she observed.

"For the good motive, to goad you into explanations and enlargements.
Please go on."

"Let us stroll outside, then," said she, "and sit in the garden, if
you are sure you prefer my plausibilities to bridge. It is deliciously
warm, and--"

"And the darkness will be more suitable for the propagation of
psychical phenomena. As at séances," said I.

"Oh, there is nothing psychical about my plausibilities," said she.
"The phenomena I mean are purely physical, according to my theory."

So we wandered out into the transparent half light of multitudinous
stars. The last crimson feather of sunset, which had hovered long in
the West, had been blown away with the breath of the night wind, and
the moon, which would presently rise, had not yet cut the dim horizon
of the sea, which lay very quiet, breathing gently in its sleep with
stir of whispering ripples. Across the dark velvet of the close-
cropped lawn, which stretched seawards from the house, blew a little
breeze full of the savour of salt and the freshness of night, with,
every now and then, a hint so subtly conveyed as to be scarcely
perceptible of its travel across the sleeping fragrance of drowsy
garden-beds, over which the white moths hovered seeking their night-
honey. The house itself, with its two battlemented towers of
Elizabethan times, gleamed with many windows, and we passed out of
sight of it, and into the shadow of a box-hedge, clipped into shapes
and monstrous fantasies, and found chairs by the striped tent at the
top of the sheltered bowling-alley.

"And this is all very plausible," said I. "Theories, if you please, at
length, and, if possible, a full length illustration also."

"By which you mean a ghost-story, or something to that effect?"

"Precisely: and, without presuming to dictate, if possible,
firsthand."

"Oddly enough, I can supply that also," said she. "So first I will
tell you my general theory, and follow it by a story that seems to
bear it out. It happened to me, and it happened here."

"I am sure it will fill the bill," said I.

She paused a moment while I lit a cigarette, and then began in her
very clear, pleasant voice.

She has the most lucid voice I know, and to me sitting there in the
deep-dyed dusk, the words seemed the very incarnation of clarity, for
they dropped into the still quiet of the darkness, undisturbed by
impressions conveyed to other senses.

"We are only just beginning to conjecture," she said, "how
inextricable is the interweaving between mind, soul, life--call it
what you will--and the purely material part of the created world. That
such interweaving existed has, of course, been known for centuries;
doctors, for instance, knew that a cheerful optimistic spirit on the
part of their patients conduced towards recovery; that fear, the mere
emotion, had a definite effect on the beat of the heart, that anger
produced chemical changes in the blood, that anxiety led to
indigestion, that under the influence of strong passion a man can do
things which in his normal state he is physically incapable of
performing. Here we have mind, in a simple and familiar manner,
producing changes and effects in tissue, in that which is purely
material. By an extension of this--though, indeed, it is scarcely an
extension--we may expect to find that mind can have an effect, not
only on what we call living tissue, but on dead things, on pieces of
wood or stone. At least it is hard to see why that should not be so."

"Table-turning, for instance?" I asked.

"That is one instance of how some force, out of that innumerable
cohort of obscure mysterious forces with which we human beings are
garrisoned, can pass, as it is constantly doing, into material things.
The laws of its passing we do not know; sometimes we wish it to pass
and it does not. Just now, for instance, when you and I tried to turn
the table, there was some impediment in the path, though I put down
that rap which followed as an effect of our efforts. But nothing seems
more natural to my mind than that these forces should be transmissible
to inanimate things. Of the manner of its passing we know next to
nothing, any more than we know the manner of the actual process by
which fear accelerates the beating of the heart, but as surely as a
Marconi message leaps along the air by no visible or tangible bridge,
so through some subtle gateway of the body these forces can march from
the citadel of the spirit into material forms, whether that material
is a living part of ourselves or that which we choose to call
inanimate nature." She paused a moment.

"Under certain circumstances," she went on, "it seems that the force
which has passed from us into inanimate things can manifest its
presence there. The force that passes into a table can show itself in
movements or in noises coming from the table. The table has been
charged with physical energy. Often and often I have seen a table or a
chair move apparently of its own accord, but only when some outpouring
of force, animal magnetism--call it what you will--has been received
by it. A parallel phenomenon to my mind is exhibited in what we know
as haunted houses, houses in which, as a rule, some crime or act of
extreme emotion or passion has been committed, and in which some echo
or re-enactment of the deed is periodically made visible or audible. A
murder has been committed, let us say, and the room where it took
place is haunted. The figure of the murdered, or less commonly of the
murderer, is seen there by sensitives, and cries are heard, or steps
run to and fro. The atmosphere has somehow been charged with the
scene, and the scene in whole or part repeats itself, though under
what laws we do not know, just as a phonograph will repeat, when
properly handled, what has been said into it."

"This is all theory," I remarked.

"But it appears to me to cover a curious set of facts, which is all we
ask of a theory.

"Otherwise, we must frankly state our disbelief in haunted houses
altogether, or suppose that the spirit of the murdered, poor, wretch,
is bound under certain circumstances to re-enact the horror of its
body's tragedy. It was not enough that its body was killed there, its
soul has to be dragged back and live through it all again with such
vividness that its anguish becomes visible or audible to the eyes or
ears of the sensitive. That to me is unthinkable, whereas my theory is
not. Do I make it at all clear?"

"It is clear enough," said I, "but I want support for it, the full-
sized illustration."

"I promised you that, a ghost-story of my own experience."

Mrs. Aldwych paused again, and then began the story which was to
illustrate her theory.

"It is just a year," she said, "since Jack bought this house from old
Mrs. Denison. We had both heard, both he and I, that it was supposed
to be haunted, but neither of us knew any particulars of the haunt
whatever. A month ago I heard what I believe to have been the ghost,
and, when Mrs. Denison was staying with us last week, I asked her
exactly what it was, and found it tallied completely with my
experience. I will tell you my experience first, and give her account
of the haunt afterwards.

"A month ago Jack was away for a few days and I remained here alone.
One Sunday evening I, in my usual health and spirits, as far as I am
aware, both of which are serenely excellent, went up to bed about
eleven. My room is on the first floor, just at the foot of the
staircase that leads to the floor above. There are four more rooms on
my passage, all of which that night were empty, and at the far end of
it a door leads into the landing at the top of the front staircase. On
the other side of that, as you know, are more bedrooms, all of which
that night were also unoccupied; I, in fact, was the only sleeper on
the first floor.

"The head of my bed is close behind my door, and there is an electric
light over it. This is controlled by a switch at the bed-head, and
another switch there turns on a light in the passage just outside my
room. That was Jack's plan: if by chance you want to leave your room
when the house is dark, you can light up the passage before you go
out, and not grope blindly for a switch outside.

"Usually I sleep solidly: it is very rarely indeed that I wake, when
once I have gone to sleep, before I am called. But that night I woke,
which was rare; what was rarer was that I woke in a state of
shuddering and unaccountable terror; I tried to localise my panic, to
run it to earth and reason it away, but without any success. Terror of
something I could not guess at stared me in the face, white, shaking
terror. So, as there was no use in lying quaking in the dark, I lit my
lamp, and, with the view of composing this strange disorder of my
fear, began to read again in the book I had brought up with me. The
volume happened to be 'The Green Carnation,' a work one would have
thought to be full of tonic to twittering nerves. But it failed of
success, even as my reasoning had done, and after reading a few pages,
and finding that the heart-hammer in my throat grew no quieter, and
that the grip of terror was in no way relaxed, I put out my light and
lay down again. I looked at my watch, however, before doing this, and
remember that the time was ten minutes to two.

"Still matters did not mend: terror, that was slowly becoming a little
more definite, terror of some dark and violent deed that was momently
drawing nearer to me held me in its vice.

"Something was coming, the advent of which was perceived by the sub-
conscious sense, and was already conveyed to my conscious mind. And
then the clock struck two jingling chimes, and the stable-clock
outside clanged the hour more sonorously.

"I still lay there, abject and palpitating. Then I heard a sound just
outside my room on the stairs that lead, as I have said, to the second
story, a sound which was perfectly commonplace and unmistakable. Feet
feeling their way in the dark were coming downstairs to my passage: I
could hear also the groping hand slip and slide along the bannisters.
The footfalls came along the few yards of passage between the bottom
of the stairs and my door, and then against my door itself came the
brush of drapery, and on the panels the blind groping of fingers. The
handle rattled as they passed over it, and my terror nearly rose to
screaming point.

"Then a sensible hope struck me. The midnight wanderer might be one of
the servants, ill or in want of something, and yet--why the shuffling
feet and the groping hand? But on the instant of the dawning of that
hope (for I knew that it was of the step and that which was moving in
the dark passage of which I was afraid) I turned on both the light at
my bed-head, and the light of the passage outside, and, opening the
door, looked out. The passage was quite bright from end to end, but it
was perfectly empty. Yet as I looked, seeing nothing of the walker, I
still heard. Down the bright boards I heard the shuffle growing
fainter as it receded, until, judging by the ear, it turned into the
gallery at the end and died away. And with it there died also all my
sense of terror. It was It of which I had been afraid: now It and my
terror had passed. And I went back to bed and slept till morning."

Again Mrs. Aldwych paused, and I was silent. Somehow it was in the
extreme simplicity of her experience that the horror lay. She went on
almost immediately.

"Now for the sequel," she said, "of what I choose to call the
explanation. Mrs. Denison, as I told you, came down to stay with us
not long ago, and I mentioned that we had heard, though only vaguely,
that the house was supposed to be haunted, and asked for an account of
it. This is what she told me:

"'In the year 1610 the heiress to the property was a girl Helen
Denison, who was engaged to be married to young Lord Southern. In case
therefore of her having children, the property would pass away from
Denisons. In case of her death, childless, it would pass to her first
cousin. A week before the marriage took place, he and a brother of his
entered the house, riding here from thirty miles away, after dark, and
made their way to her room on the second story. There they gagged her
and attempted to kill her, but she escaped from them, groped her way
along this passage, and into the room at the end of the gallery. They
followed her there, and killed her. The facts were known by the
younger brother turning king's evidence.'

"Now Mrs. Denison told me that the ghost had never been seen, but
that it was occasionally heard coming downstairs or going along the
passage. She told me that it was never heard except between the hours
of two and three in the morning, the hour during which the murder took
place."

"And since then have you heard it again?" I asked.

"Yes, more than once. But it has never frightened me again. I feared,
as we all do, what was unknown."

"I feel that I should fear the known, if I knew it was that," said I.

"I don't think you would for long. Whatever theory you adopt about it,
the sounds of the steps and the groping hand, I cannot see that there
is anything to shock or frighten one. My own theory you know--"

"Please apply it to what you heard," I asked.

"Simply enough. The poor girl felt her way along this passage in the
despair of her agonised terror, hearing no doubt the soft footsteps of
her murderers gaining on her, as she groped along her lost way. The
waves of that terrible brainstorm raging within her, impressed
themselves in some subtle yet physical manner on the place. It would
only be by those people whom we call sensitives that the wrinkles, so
to speak, made by those breaking waves on the sands would be
perceived, and by them not always. But they are there, even as when a
Marconi apparatus is working the waves are there, though they can only
be perceived by a receiver that is in tune. If you believe in brain-
waves at all, the explanation is not so difficult."

"Then the brain-wave is permanent?"

"Every wave of whatever kind leaves its mark, does it not? If you
disbelieve the whole thing, shall I give you a room on the route of
that poor murdered harmless walker?"

I got up.

"I am very comfortable, thanks, where I am," I said.




THE ROOM IN THE TOWER

It is probable that everybody who is at all a constant dreamer has had
at least one experience of an event or a sequence of circumstances
which have come to his mind in sleep being subsequently realized in
the material world. But, in my opinion, so far from this being a
strange thing, it would be far odder if this fulfilment did not
occasionally happen, since our dreams are, as a rule, concerned with
people whom we know and places with which we are familiar, such as
might very naturally occur in the awake and daylit world. True, these
dreams are often broken into by some absurd and fantastic incident,
which puts them out of court in regard to their subsequent fulfilment,
but on the mere calculation of chances, it does not appear in the
least unlikely that a dream imagined by anyone who dreams constantly
should occasionally come true. Not long ago, for instance, I
experienced such a fulfilment of a dream which seems to me in no way
remarkable and to have no kind of psychical significance. The manner
of it was as follows.

A certain friend of mine, living abroad, is amiable enough to write to
me about once in a fortnight. Thus, when fourteen days or thereabouts
have elapsed since I last heard from him, my mind, probably, either
consciously or subconsciously, is expectant of a letter from him. One
night last week I dreamed that as I was going upstairs to dress for
dinner I heard, as I often heard, the sound of the postman's knock on
my front door, and diverted my direction downstairs instead. There,
among other correspondence, was a letter from him. Thereafter the
fantastic entered, for on opening it I found inside the ace of
diamonds, and scribbled across it in his well-known handwriting, "I am
sending you this for safe custody, as you know it is running an
unreasonable risk to keep aces in Italy." The next evening I was just
preparing to go upstairs to dress when I heard the postman's knock,
and did precisely as I had done in my dream. There, among other
letters, was one from my friend. Only it did not contain the ace of
diamonds. Had it done so, I should have attached more weight to the
matter, which, as it stands, seems to me a perfectly ordinary
coincidence. No doubt I consciously or subconsciously expected a
letter from him, and this suggested to me my dream. Similarly, the
fact that my friend had not written to me for a fortnight suggested to
him that he should do so. But occasionally it is not so easy to find
such an explanation, and for the following story I can find no
explanation at all. It came out of the dark, and into the dark it has
gone again.

All my life I have been a habitual dreamer: the nights are few, that
is to say, when I do not find on awaking in the morning that some
mental experience has been mine, and sometimes, all night long,
apparently, a series of the most dazzling adventures befall me. Almost
without exception these adventures are pleasant, though often merely
trivial. It is of an exception that I am going to speak.

It was when I was about sixteen that a certain dream first came to me,
and this is how it befell. It opened with my being set down at the
door of a big red-brick house, where, I understood, I was going to
stay. The servant who opened the door told me that tea was being
served in the garden, and led me through a low dark-panelled hall,
with a large open fireplace, on to a cheerful green lawn set round
with flower beds. There were grouped about the tea-table a small party
of people, but they were all strangers to me except one, who was a
schoolfellow called Jack Stone, clearly the son of the house, and he
introduced me to his mother and father and a couple of sisters. I was,
I remember, somewhat astonished to find myself here, for the boy in
question was scarcely known to me, and I rather disliked what I knew
of him; moreover, he had left school nearly a year before. The
afternoon was very hot, and an intolerable oppression reigned. On the
far side of the lawn ran a red-brick wall, with an iron gate in its
center, outside which stood a walnut tree. We sat in the shadow of the
house opposite a row of long windows, inside which I could see a table
with cloth laid, glimmering with glass and silver. This garden front
of the house was very long, and at one end of it stood a tower of
three stories, which looked to me much older than the rest of the
building.

Before long, Mrs. Stone, who, like the rest of the party, had sat in
absolute silence, said to me, "Jack will show you your room: I have
given you the room in the tower."

Quite inexplicably my heart sank at her words. I felt as if I had
known that I should have the room in the tower, and that it contained
something dreadful and significant. Jack instantly got up, and I
understood that I had to follow him. In silence we passed through the
hall, and mounted a great oak staircase with many corners, and arrived
at a small landing with two doors set in it. He pushed one of these
open for me to enter, and without coming in himself, closed it after
me. Then I knew that my conjecture had been right: there was something
awful in the room, and with the terror of nightmare growing swiftly
and enveloping me, I awoke in a spasm of terror.

Now that dream or variations on it occurred to me intermittently for
fifteen years. Most often it came in exactly this form, the arrival,
the tea laid out on the lawn, the deadly silence succeeded by that one
deadly sentence, the mounting with Jack Stone up to the room in the
tower where horror dwelt, and it always came to a close in the
nightmare of terror at that which was in the room, though I never saw
what it was. At other times I experienced variations on this same
theme. Occasionally, for instance, we would be sitting at dinner in
the dining-room, into the windows of which I had looked on the first
night when the dream of this house visited me, but wherever we were,
there was the same silence, the same sense of dreadful oppression and
foreboding. And the silence I knew would always be broken by Mrs.
Stone saying to me, "Jack will show you your room: I have given you
the room in the tower." Upon which (this was invariable) I had to
follow him up the oak staircase with many corners, and enter the place
that I dreaded more and more each time that I visited it in sleep. Or,
again, I would find myself playing cards still in silence in a
drawing-room lit with immense chandeliers, that gave a blinding
illumination. What the game was I have no idea; what I remember, with
a sense of miserable anticipation, was that soon Mrs. Stone would get
up and say to me, "Jack will show you your room: I have given you the
room in the tower." This drawing-room where we played cards was next
to the dining-room, and, as I have said, was always brilliantly
illuminated, whereas the rest of the house was full of dusk and
shadows. And yet, how often, in spite of those bouquets of lights,
have I not pored over the cards that were dealt me, scarcely able for
some reason to see them. Their designs, too, were strange: there were
no red suits, but all were black, and among them there were certain
cards which were black all over. I hated and dreaded those.

As this dream continued to recur, I got to know the greater part of
the house. There was a smoking-room beyond the drawing-room, at the
end of a passage with a green baize door. It was always very dark
there, and as often as I went there I passed somebody whom I could not
see in the doorway coming out. Curious developments, too, took place
in the characters that peopled the dream as might happen to living
persons. Mrs. Stone, for instance, who, when I first saw her, had been
black-haired, became gray, and instead of rising briskly, as she had
done at first when she said, "Jack will show you your room: I have
given you the room in the tower," got up very feebly, as if the
strength was leaving her limbs. Jack also grew up, and became a rather
ill-looking young man, with a brown moustache, while one of the
sisters ceased to appear, and I understood she was married.

Then it so happened that I was not visited by this dream for six
months or more, and I began to hope, in such inexplicable dread did I
hold it, that it had passed away for good. But one night after this
interval I again found myself being shown out onto the lawn for tea,
and Mrs. Stone was not there, while the others were all dressed in
black. At once I guessed the reason, and my heart leaped at the
thought that perhaps this time I should not have to sleep in the room
in the tower, and though we usually all sat in silence, on this
occasion the sense of relief made me talk and laugh as I had never yet
done. But even then matters were not altogether comfortable, for no
one else spoke, but they all looked secretly at each other. And soon
the foolish stream of my talk ran dry, and gradually an apprehension
worse than anything I had previously known gained on me as the light
slowly faded.

Suddenly a voice which I knew well broke the stillness, the voice of
Mrs. Stone, saying, "Jack will show you your room: I have given you
the room in the tower." It seemed to come from near the gate in the
red-brick wall that bounded the lawn, and looking up, I saw that the
grass outside was sown thick with gravestones. A curious greyish light
shone from them, and I could read the lettering on the grave nearest
me, and it was, "In evil memory of Julia Stone." And as usual Jack got
up, and again I followed him through the hall and up the staircase
with many corners. On this occasion it was darker than usual, and when
I passed into the room in the tower I could only just see the
furniture, the position of which was already familiar to me. Also
there was a dreadful odor of decay in the room, and I woke screaming.

The dream, with such variations and developments as I have mentioned,
went on at intervals for fifteen years. Sometimes I would dream it two
or three nights in succession; once, as I have said, there was an
intermission of six months, but taking a reasonable average, I should
say that I dreamed it quite as often as once in a month. It had, as is
plain, something of nightmare about it, since it always ended in the
same appalling terror, which so far from getting less, seemed to me to
gather fresh fear every time that I experienced it. There was, too, a
strange and dreadful consistency about it. The characters in it, as I
have mentioned, got regularly older, death and marriage visited this
silent family, and I never in the dream, after Mrs. Stone had died,
set eyes on her again. But it was always her voice that told me that
the room in the tower was prepared for me, and whether we had tea out
on the lawn, or the scene was laid in one of the rooms overlooking it,
I could always see her gravestone standing just outside the iron gate.
It was the same, too, with the married daughter; usually she was not
present, but once or twice she returned again, in company with a man,
whom I took to be her husband. He, too, like the rest of them, was
always silent. But, owing to the constant repetition of the dream, I
had ceased to attach, in my waking hours, any significance to it. I
never met Jack Stone again during all those years, nor did I ever see
a house that resembled this dark house of my dream. And then something
happened.

I had been in London in this year, up till the end of the July, and
during the first week in August went down to stay with a friend in a
house he had taken for the summer months, in the Ashdown Forest
district of Sussex. I left London early, for John Clinton was to meet
me at Forest Row Station, and we were going to spend the day golfing,
and go to his house in the evening. He had his motor with him, and we
set off, about five of the afternoon, after a thoroughly delightful
day, for the drive, the distance being some ten miles. As it was still
so early we did not have tea at the club house, but waited till we
should get home. As we drove, the weather, which up till then had
been, though hot, deliciously fresh, seemed to me to alter in quality,
and become very stagnant and oppressive, and I felt that indefinable
sense of ominous apprehension that I am accustomed to before thunder.
John, however, did not share my views, attributing my loss of
lightness to the fact that I had lost both my matches. Events proved,
however, that I was right, though I do not think that the thunderstorm
that broke that night was the sole cause of my depression.

Our way lay through deep high-banked lanes, and before we had gone
very far I fell asleep, and was only awakened by the stopping of the
motor. And with a sudden thrill, partly of fear but chiefly of
curiosity, I found myself standing in the doorway of my house of
dream. We went, I half wondering whether or not I was dreaming still,
through a low oak-panelled hall, and out onto the lawn, where tea was
laid in the shadow of the house. It was set in flower beds, a red-
brick wall, with a gate in it, bounded one side, and out beyond that
was a space of rough grass with a walnut tree. The facade of the house
was very long, and at one end stood a three-storied tower, markedly
older than the rest.

Here for the moment all resemblance to the repeated dream ceased.
There was no silent and somehow terrible family, but a large assembly
of exceedingly cheerful persons, all of whom were known to me. And in
spite of the horror with which the dream itself had always filled me,
I felt nothing of it now that the scene of it was thus reproduced
before me. But I felt intensest curiosity as to what was going to
happen.

Tea pursued its cheerful course, and before long Mrs. Clinton got up.
And at that moment I think I knew what she was going to say. She spoke
to me, and what she said was:

"Jack will show you your room: I have given you the room in the
tower."

At that, for half a second, the horror of the dream took hold of me
again. But it quickly passed, and again I felt nothing more than the
most intense curiosity. It was not very long before it was amply
satisfied.

John turned to me.

"Right up at the top of the house," he said, "but I think you'll be
comfortable. We're absolutely full up. Would you like to go and see it
now? By Jove, I believe that you are right, and that we are going to
have a thunderstorm. How dark it has become."

I got up and followed him. We passed through the hall, and up the
perfectly familiar staircase. Then he opened the door, and I went in.
And at that moment sheer unreasoning terror again possessed me. I did
not know what I feared: I simply feared. Then like a sudden
recollection, when one remembers a name which has long escaped the
memory, I knew what I feared. I feared Mrs. Stone, whose grave with
the sinister inscription, "In evil memory," I had so often seen in my
dream, just beyond the lawn which lay below my window. And then once
more the fear passed so completely that I wondered what there was to
fear, and I found myself, sober and quiet and sane, in the room in the
tower, the name of which I had so often heard in my dream, and the
scene of which was so familiar.

I looked around it with a certain sense of proprietorship, and found
that nothing had been changed from the dreaming nights in which I knew
it so well. Just to the left of the door was the bed, lengthways along
the wall, with the head of it in the angle. In a line with it was the
fireplace and a small bookcase; opposite the door the outer wall was
pierced by two lattice-paned windows, between which stood the
dressing-table, while ranged along the fourth wall was the washing-
stand and a big cupboard. My luggage had already been unpacked, for
the furniture of dressing and undressing lay orderly on the wash-stand
and toilet-table, while my dinner clothes were spread out on the
coverlet of the bed. And then, with a sudden start of unexplained
dismay, I saw that there were two rather conspicuous objects which I
had not seen before in my dreams: one a life-sized oil painting of
Mrs. Stone, the other a black-and-white sketch of Jack Stone,
representing him as he had appeared to me only a week before in the
last of the series of these repeated dreams, a rather secret and evil-
looking man of about thirty. His picture hung between the windows,
looking straight across the room to the other portrait, which hung at
the side of the bed. At that I looked next, and as I looked I felt
once more the horror of nightmare seize me.

It represented Mrs. Stone as I had seen her last in my dreams: old and
withered and white-haired. But in spite of the evident feebleness of
body, a dreadful exuberance and vitality shone through the envelope of
flesh, an exuberance wholly malign, a vitality that foamed and frothed
with unimaginable evil. Evil beamed from the narrow, leering eyes; it
laughed in the demon-like mouth. The whole face was instinct with some
secret and appalling mirth; the hands, clasped together on the knee,
seemed shaking with suppressed and nameless glee. Then I saw also that
it was signed in the left-hand bottom corner, and wondering who the
artist could be, I looked more closely, and read the inscription,
"Julia Stone by Julia Stone."

There came a tap at the door, and John Clinton entered.

"Got everything you want?" he asked.

"Rather more than I want," said I, pointing to the picture.

He laughed.

"Hard-featured old lady," he said. "By herself, too, I remember.
Anyhow she can't have flattered herself much."

"But don't you see?" said I. "It's scarcely a human face at all. It's
the face of some witch, of some devil."

He looked at it more closely.

"Yes; it isn't very pleasant," he said. "Scarcely a bedside manner,
eh? Yes; I can imagine getting the nightmare if I went to sleep with
that close by my bed. I'll have it taken down if you like."

"I really wish you would," I said. He rang the bell, and with the help
of a servant we detached the picture and carried it out onto the
landing, and put it with its face to the wall.

"By Jove, the old lady is a weight," said John, mopping his forehead.
"I wonder if she had something on her mind."

The extraordinary weight of the picture had struck me too. I was about
to reply, when I caught sight of my own hand. There was blood on it,
in considerable quantities, covering the whole palm.

"I've cut myself somehow," said I.

John gave a little startled exclamation.

"Why, I have too," he said.

Simultaneously the footman took out his handkerchief and wiped his
hand with it. I saw that there was blood also on his handkerchief.

John and I went back into the tower room and washed the blood off; but
neither on his hand nor on mine was there the slightest trace of a
scratch or cut. It seemed to me that, having ascertained this, we
both, by a sort of tacit consent, did not allude to it again.
Something in my case had dimly occurred to me that I did not wish to
think about. It was but a conjecture, but I fancied that I knew the
same thing had occurred to him.

The heat and oppression of the air, for the storm we had expected was
still undischarged, increased very much after dinner, and for some
time most of the party, among whom were John Clinton and myself, sat
outside on the path bounding the lawn, where we had had tea. The night
was absolutely dark, and no twinkle of star or moon ray could
penetrate the pall of cloud that overset the sky. By degrees our
assembly thinned, the women went up to bed, men dispersed to the
smoking or billiard room, and by eleven o'clock my host and I were the
only two left. All the evening I thought that he had something on his
mind, and as soon as we were alone he spoke.

"The man who helped us with the picture had blood on his hand, too,
did you notice?" he said.

"I asked him just now if he had cut himself, and he said he supposed
he had, but that he could find no mark of it. Now where did that blood
come from?"

By dint of telling myself that I was not going to think about it, I
had succeeded in not doing so, and I did not want, especially just at
bedtime, to be reminded of it.

"I don't know," said I, "and I don't really care so long as the
picture of Mrs. Stone is not by my bed."

He got up.

"But it's odd," he said. "Ha! Now you'll see another odd thing."

A dog of his, an Irish terrier by breed, had come out of the house as
we talked. The door behind us into the hall was open, and a bright
oblong of light shone across the lawn to the iron gate which led on to
the rough grass outside, where the walnut tree stood. I saw that the
dog had all his hackles up, bristling with rage and fright; his lips
were curled back from his teeth, as if he was ready to spring at
something, and he was growling to himself. He took not the slightest
notice of his master or me, but stiffly and tensely walked across the
grass to the iron gate. There he stood for a moment, looking through
the bars and still growling. Then of a sudden his courage seemed to
desert him: he gave one long howl, and scuttled back to the house with
a curious crouching sort of movement.

"He does that half-a-dozen times a day." said John. "He sees something
which he both hates and fears."

I walked to the gate and looked over it. Something was moving on the
grass outside, and soon a sound which I could not instantly identify
came to my ears. Then I remembered what it was: it was the purring of
a cat. I lit a match, and saw the purrer, a big blue Persian, walking
round and round in a little circle just outside the gate, stepping
high and ecstatically, with tail carried aloft like a banner. Its eyes
were bright and shining, and every now and then it put its head down
and sniffed at the grass.

I laughed.

"The end of that mystery, I am afraid." I said. "Here's a large cat
having Walpurgis night all alone."

"Yes, that's Darius," said John. "He spends half the day and all night
there. But that's not the end of the dog mystery, for Toby and he are
the best of friends, but the beginning of the cat mystery. What's the
cat doing there? And why is Darius pleased, while Toby is terror-
stricken?"

At that moment I remembered the rather horrible detail of my dreams
when I saw through the gate, just where the cat was now, the white
tombstone with the sinister inscription. But before I could answer the
rain began, as suddenly and heavily as if a tap had been turned on,
and simultaneously the big cat squeezed through the bars of the gate,
and came leaping across the lawn to the house for shelter. Then it sat
in the doorway, looking out eagerly into the dark. It spat and struck
at John with its paw, as he pushed it in, in order to close the door.

Somehow, with the portrait of Julia Stone in the passage outside, the
room in the tower had absolutely no alarm for me, and as I went to
bed, feeling very sleepy and heavy, I had nothing more than interest
for the curious incident about our bleeding hands, and the conduct of
the cat and dog. The last thing I looked at before I put out my light
was the square empty space by my bed where the portrait had been. Here
the paper was of its original full tint of dark red: over the rest of
the walls it had faded. Then I blew out my candle and instantly fell
asleep.

My awaking was equally instantaneous, and I sat bolt upright in bed
under the impression that some bright light had been flashed in my
face, though it was now absolutely pitch dark. I knew exactly where I
was, in the room which I had dreaded in dreams, but no horror that I
ever felt when asleep approached the fear that now invaded and froze
my brain. Immediately after a peal of thunder crackled just above the
house, but the probability that it was only a flash of lightning which
awoke me gave no reassurance to my galloping heart. Something I knew
was in the room with me, and instinctively I put out my right hand,
which was nearest the wall, to keep it away. And my hand touched the
edge of a picture-frame hanging close to me.

I sprang out of bed, upsetting the small table that stood by it, and I
heard my watch, candle, and matches clatter onto the floor. But for
the moment there was no need of light, for a blinding flash leaped out
of the clouds, and showed me that by my bed again hung the picture of
Mrs. Stone. And instantly the room went into blackness again. But in
that flash I saw another thing also, namely a figure that leaned over
the end of my bed, watching me. It was dressed in some close-clinging
white garment, spotted and stained with mold, and the face was that of
the portrait.

Overhead the thunder cracked and roared, and when it ceased and the
deathly stillness succeeded, I heard the rustle of movement coming
nearer me, and, more horrible yet, perceived an odor of corruption and
decay. And then a hand was laid on the side of my neck, and close
beside my ear I heard quick-taken, eager breathing. Yet I knew that
this thing, though it could be perceived by touch, by smell, by eye
and by ear, was still not of this earth, but something that had passed
out of the body and had power to make itself manifest. Then a voice,
already familiar to me, spoke.

"I knew you would come to the room in the tower," it said. "I have
been long waiting for you. At last you have come. Tonight I shall
feast; before long we will feast together."

And the quick breathing came closer to me; I could feel it on my neck.

At that the terror, which I think had paralyzed me for the moment,
gave way to the wild instinct of self-preservation. I hit wildly with
both arms, kicking out at the same moment, and heard a little animal-
squeal, and something soft dropped with a thud beside me. I took a
couple of steps forward, nearly tripping up over whatever it was that
lay there, and by the merest good-luck found the handle of the door.
In another second I ran out on the landing, and had banged the door
behind me. Almost at the same moment I heard a door open somewhere
below, and John Clinton, candle in hand, came running upstairs.

"What is it?" he said. "I sleep just below you, and heard a noise as
if--Good heavens, there's blood on your shoulder."

I stood there, so he told me afterwards, swaying from side to side,
white as a sheet, with the mark on my shoulder as if a hand covered
with blood had been laid there.

"It's in there," I said, pointing. "She, you know. The portrait is in
there, too, hanging up on the place we took it from."

At that he laughed.

"My dear fellow, this is mere nightmare," he said.

He pushed by me, and opened the door, I standing there simply inert
with terror, unable to stop him, unable to move.

"Phew! What an awful smell," he said.

Then there was silence; he had passed out of my sight behind the open
door. Next moment he came out again, as white as myself, and instantly
shut it.

"Yes, the portrait's there," he said, "and on the floor is a thing--a
thing spotted with earth, like what they bury people in. Come away,
quick, come away."

How I got downstairs I hardly know. An awful shuddering and nausea of
the spirit rather than of the flesh had seized me, and more than once
he had to place my feet upon the steps, while every now and then he
cast glances of terror and apprehension up the stairs. But in time we
came to his dressing-room on the floor below, and there I told him
what I have here described.

The sequel can be made short; indeed, some of my readers have perhaps
already guessed what it was, if they remember that inexplicable affair
of the churchyard at West Fawley, some eight years ago, where an
attempt was made three times to bury the body of a certain woman who
had committed suicide. On each occasion the coffin was found in the
course of a few days again protruding from the ground. After the third
attempt, in order that the thing should not be talked about, the body
was buried elsewhere in unconsecrated ground. Where it was buried was
just outside the iron gate of the garden belonging to the house where
this woman had lived. She had committed suicide in a room at the top
of the tower in that house. Her name was Julia Stone.

Subsequently the body was again secretly dug up, and the coffin was
found to be full of blood.




THE SHOOTINGS OF ACHNALEISH

The dining-room windows, both front and back, the one looking into
Oakley Street, the other into a small back-yard with three sooty
shrubs in it (known as the garden), were all open, so that the table
stood in mid-stream of such air as there was. But in spite of this the
heat was stifling, since, for once in a way, July had remembered that
it was the duty of good little summers to be hot. Hot in consequence
it had been: heat reverberated from the house-walls, it rose through
the boot from the paving-stones, it poured down from a large
superheated sun that walked the sky all day long in a benignant and
golden manner. Dinner was over, but the small party of four who had
eaten it still lingered.

Mabel Armytage--it was she who had laid down the duty of good little
summers--spoke first.

"Oh, Jim, it sounds too heavenly," she said. "It makes me feel cool to
think of it. Just fancy, in a fortnight's time we shall all four of us
be there, in our own shooting-lodge--"

"Farm-house," said Jim.

"Well, I didn't suppose it was Balmoral, with our own coffee-coloured
salmon river roaring down to join the waters of our own loch."

Jim lit a cigarette.

"Mabel, you mustn't think of shooting-lodges and salmon rivers and
lochs," he said. "It's a farm-house, rather a big one, though I'm sure
we shall find it hard enough to fit in. The salmon river you speak of
is a big burn, no more, though it appears that salmon have been caught
there."

"But when I saw it, it would have required as much cleverness on the
part of a salmon to fit into it as it will require on our parts to fit
into our farm-house. And the loch is a tarn."

Mabel snatched the "Guide to Highland Shootings" out of my hand with a
rudeness that even a sister should not show her elder brother, and
pointed a withering finger at her husband.

"'Achnaleish,'" she declaimed, "'is situated in one of the grandest
and most remote parts of Sutherlandshire. To be let from August 12
till the end of October, the lodge with shooting and fishing
belonging. Proprietor supplies two keepers, fishing-gillie, boat on
loch, and dogs. Tenant should secure about 500 head of grouse, and 500
head of mixed game, including partridge, black-game, woodcock, snipe,
roe deer; also rabbits in very large number, especially by ferreting.
Large baskets of brown trout can be taken from the loch, and whenever
the water is high sea-trout and occasional salmon. Lodge contains'--I
can't go on; it's too hot, and you know the rest. Rent only £350!"

Jim listened patiently.

"Well?" he said. "What then?"

Mabel rose with dignity.

"It is a shooting-lodge with a salmon river and a loch, just as I have
said. Come, Madge, let's go out. It is too hot to sit in the house."

"You'll be calling Buxton 'the major-domo' next," remarked Jim, as his
wife passed him.

I had picked up the "Guide to Highland Shootings" again which my
sister had so unceremoniously plucked from me, and idly compared the
rent and attractions of Achnaleish with other places that were to let.

"Seems cheap, too," I said. "Why, here's another place, just the same
sort of size and bag, for which they ask £500; here's another at
£550."

Jim helped himself to coffee.

"Yes, it does seem cheap," he said. "But, of course, it's very remote;
it took me a good three hours from Lairg, and I don't suppose I was
driving very noticeably below the legal limit. But it's cheap, as you
say."

Now, Madge (who is my wife) has her prejudices. One of them--an
extremely expensive one--is that anything cheap has always some hidden
and subtle drawback, which you discover when it is too late. And the
drawback to cheap houses is drains or offices--the presence, so to
speak, of the former, and the absence of the latter. So I hazarded
these.

"No, the drains are all right," said Jim, "because I got the
certificate of the inspector, and as for offices, really I think the
servants' parts are better than ours. No--why it's so cheap, I can't
imagine."

"Perhaps the bag is overstated," I suggested.

Jim again shook his head.

"No, that's the funny thing about it," he said. "The bag, I am sure,
is understated. At least, I walked over the moor for a couple of
hours, and the whole place is simply crawling with hares.
Why, you could shoot five hundred hares alone on it."

"Hares?" I asked. "That's rather queer, so far up, isn't it?"

Jim laughed.

"So I thought. And the hares are queer, too; big beasts, very dark in
colour. Let's join the others outside. Jove! what a hot night!"

Even as Mabel had said, that day fortnight found us all four, the four
who had stifled and sweltered in Chelsea, flying through the cool and
invigorating winds of the North. The road was in admirable condition,
and I should not wonder if for the second time Jim's big Napier went
not noticeably below the legal limit. The servants had gone straight
up, starting the same day as we, while we had got out at Perth,
motored to Inverness, and were now, on the second day, nearing our
goal. Never have I seen so depopulated a road. I do not suppose there
was a man to a mile of it.

We had left Lairg about five that afternoon expecting to arrive at
Achnaleish by eight, but one disaster after another overtook us. Now
it was the engine, and now a tyre that delayed us, till finally we
stopped some eight miles short of our destination, to light up, for
with evening had come a huge wrack of cloud out of the West, so that
we were cheated of the clear post-sunset twilight of the North. Then
on again, till, with a little dancing of the car over a bridge, Jim
said:

"That's the bridge of our salmon river; so look out for the turning up
to the lodge. It is to the right, and only a narrow track. You can
send her along, Sefton," he called to the chauffeur; "we shan't meet a
soul."

I was sitting in front, finding the speed and the darkness
extraordinarily exhilarating. A bright circle of light was cast by our
lamps, fading into darkness in front, while at the sides, cut off by
the casing of the lamps, the transition into blackness was sharp and
sudden. Every now and then, across this circle of illumination some
wild thing would pass: now a bird, with hurried flutter of wings when
it saw the speed of the luminous monster, would just save itself from
being knocked over; now a rabbit feeding by the side of the road would
dash on to it and then bounce back again; but more frequently it would
be a hare that sprang up from its feeding and raced in front of us.
They seemed dazed and scared by the light, unable to wheel into the
darkness again, until time and again I thought we must run over one,
so narrowly, in giving a sort of desperate sideways leap, did it miss
our wheels. Then it seemed that one started up almost from under us,
and I saw, to my surprise, it was enormous in size, and in colour
apparently quite black. For some hundred yards it raced in front of
us, fascinated by the bright light pursuing it, then, like the rest,
it dashed for the darkness. But it was too late, and with a horrid
jolt we ran over it. At once Sefton slowed down and stopped, for Jim's
rule is to go back always and make sure that any poor run-over is
dead. So, when we stopped, the chauffeur jumped down and ran back.

"What was it?" Jim asked me, as we waited. "A hare."

Sefton came running back.

"Yes, sir, quite dead," he said. "I picked it up, sir."

"What for!"

"Thought you might like to see it, sir. It's the biggest hare I ever
see, and it's quite black."

It was immediately after this that we came to the track up to the
house, and in a few minutes we were within doors. There we found that
if "shooting-lodge" was a term unsuitable, so also was "farm-house,"
so roomy, excellently proportioned, and well furnished was our
dwelling, while the contentment that beamed from Buxton's face was
sufficient testimonial for the offices.

In the hall, too, with its big open fireplace, were a couple of big
solemn bookcases, full of serious works, such as some educated
minister might have left, and, coming down dressed for dinner before
the others, I dipped into the shelves. Then--something must long have
been vaguely simmering in my brain, for I pounced on the book as soon
as I saw it--I came upon Elwes's "Folklore of the North-West
Highlands," and looked out "Hare" in the index. Then I read:

"Nor is it only witches that are believed to have the power of
changing themselves into animals... Men and women on whom no suspicion
of the sort lies are thought to be able to do this, and to don the
bodies of certain animals, notably hares... Such, according to local
superstition, are easily distinguishable by their size and colour,
which approaches jet black."

I was up and out early next morning, prey to the vivid desire that
attacks many folk in new places--namely, to look on the fresh country
and the new horizons--and, on going out, certainly the surprise was
great. For I had imagined an utterly lonely and solitary habitation;
instead, scarce half a mile away, down the steep brae-side at the top
of which stood our commodious farm-house, ran a typically Scotch
village street, the hamlet no doubt of Achnaleish.

So steep was this hill-side that the village was really remote; if it
was half a mile away in crow-flying measurement, it must have been a
couple of hundred yards below us. But its existence was the odd thing
to me: there were some four dozen houses, at the least, while we had
not seen half that number since leaving Lairg. A mile away, perhaps,
lay the shining shield of the western sea; to the other side, away
from the village, I had no difficulty in recognising the river and the
loch.

The house, in fact, was set on a hog's back; from all sides it must
needs be climbed to. But, as is the custom of the Scots, no house,
however small, should be without its due brightness of flowers, and
the walls of this were purple with clematis and orange with tropæolum.
It all looked very placid and serene and home-like.

I continued my tour of exploration, and came back rather late for
breakfast. A slight check in the day's arrangements had occurred, for
the head keeper, Maclaren, had not come up, and the second, Sandie
Ross, reported that the reason for this had been the sudden death of
his mother the evening before. She was not known to be ill, but just
as she was going to bed she had thrown up her arms, screamed suddenly
as if with fright, and was found to be dead. Sandie, who repeated this
news to me after breakfast, was just a slow, polite Scotchman, rather
shy, rather awkward. Just as he finished--we were standing about
outside the back-door--there came up from the stables the smart, very
English-looking Sefton. In one hand he carried the black hare.

He touched his hat to me as he went in.

"Just to show it to Mr. Armytage, sir," he said. "She's as black as a
boot."

He turned into the door, but not before Sandie Ross had seen what he
carried, and the slow, polite Scotchman was instantly turned into some
furtive, frightened-looking man.

"And where might it be that you found that, sir?" he asked.

Now, the black-hare superstition had already begun to intrigue me.

"Why does that interest you?" I asked.

The slow Scotch look was resumed with an effort.

"It'll no interest me," he said. "I just asked. There are unco many
black hares in Achnaleish."

Then his curiosity got the better of him.

"She'd have been nigh to where the road passes by and on to
Achnaleish?" he asked.

"The hare? Yes, we found her on the road there."

Sandie turned away.

"She aye sat there," he said.

There were a number of little plantations climbing up the steep hill-
side from Achnaleish to the moor above, and we had a pleasant slack
sort of morning shooting there, walking through and round them with a
nondescript tribe of beaters, among whom the serious Buxton figured.
We had fair enough sport, but of the hares which Jim had seen in such
profusion none that morning came to the gun, till at last, just before
lunch, there came out of the apex of one of these plantations, some
thirty yards from where Jim was standing, a very large, dark-coloured
hare. For one moment I saw him hesitate--for he holds the correct
view about long or doubtful shots at hares--then he put up his gun to
fire. Sandie, who had walked round outside, after giving the beaters
their instructions, was at this moment close to him, and with
incredible quickness rushed upon him and with his stick struck up the
barrels of the gun before he could fire.

"Black hare!" he cried. "Ye'd shoot a black hare? There's no shooting
of hares at all in Achnaleish, and mark that."

Never have I seen so sudden and extraordinary a change in a man's
face: it was as if he had just prevented some blackguard of the street
from murdering his wife.

"An' the sickness about an' all," he added indignantly. "When the puir
folk escape from their peching fevered bodies an hour or two, to the
caller muirs."

Then he seemed to recover himself.

"I ask your pardon, sir," he said to Jim. "I was upset with ane thing
an' anither, an' the black hare ye found deid last night--eh, I'm
blatherin' again. But there's no a hare shot on Achnaleish, that's
sure."

Jim was still looking in mere speechless astonishment at Sandie when I
came up. And, though shooting is dear to me, so too is folk-lore.

"But we've taken the shooting of Achnaleish, Sandie," I said. "There
was nothing there about not shooting hares."

Sandie suddenly boiled up again for a minute.

"An' mebbe there was nothing there about shooting the bairns and the
weemen!" he cried.

I looked round, and saw that by now the beaters had all come through
the wood: of them Buxton and Jim's valet, who was also among them,
stood apart: all the rest were standing round us two with gleaming
eyes and open mouths, hanging on the debate, and forced, so I
imagined, from their imperfect knowledge of English to attend closely
in order to catch the drift of what went on. Every now and then a
murmur of Gaelic passed between them, and this somehow I found
peculiarly disconcerting.

"But what have the hares to do with the children or women of
Achnaleish?" I asked.

There was no reply to this beyond the reiterated sentence: "There's na
shooting of hares in Achnaleish whatever," and then Sandie turned to
Jim.

"That's the end of the bit wood, sir," he said. "We've been a'roound."

Certainly the beat had been very satisfactory. A roe had fallen to Jim
(one ought also to have fallen to me, but remained, if not standing,
at any rate running away). We had a dozen of black-game, four pigeons,
six brace of grouse (these were, of course, but outliers, as we had
not gone on to the moor proper at all), some thirty rabbits, and four
couple of woodcock. This, it must be understood, was just from the
fringe of plantations about the house, but this was all we meant to do
to-day, making only a morning of it, since our ladies had expressly
desired first lessons in the art of angling in the afternoon, so that
they too could be busy. Excellently too had Sandie worked the beat,
leaving us now, after going, as he said, all round, a couple of
hundred yards only from the house, at a few minutes to two.

So, after a little private signalling from Jim to me, he spoke to
Sandie, dropping the hare-question altogether.

"Well, the beat has gone excellently," he said, "and this afternoon
we'll be fishing. Please settle with the beaters every evening, and
tell me what you have paid out. Good morning to you all."

We walked back to the house, but the moment we had turned a hum of
confabulation began behind us, and, looking back, I saw Sandie and all
the beaters in close whispering conclave. Then Jim spoke.

"More in your line than mine," he said; "I prefer shooting a hare to
routing out some cock-and--bull story as to why I shouldn't. What does
it all mean?"

I mentioned what I had found in Elwes last night.

"Then do they think it was we who killed the old lady on the road, and
that I was going to kill somebody else this morning?" he asked. "How
does one know that they won't say that rabbits are their aunts, and
woodcock their uncles, and grouse their children? I never heard such
rot, and to-morrow we'll have a hare drive. Blow the grouse! We'll
settle this hare-question first."

Jim by this time was in the frame of mind typical of the English when
their rights are threatened. He had the shooting of Achnaleish, on
which were hares, sir, hares. And if he chose to shoot hares, neither
papal bull nor royal charter could stop him.

"Then there'll be a row," said I, and Jim sniffed scornfully.

At lunch Sandie's remark about the "sickness," which I had forgotten
till that moment, was explained.

"Fancy that horrible influenza getting here," said Madge. "Mabel and I
went down to the village this morning, and, oh, Ted, you can get all
sorts of things, from mackintoshes to peppermints, at the most
heavenly shop, and there was a child there looking awfully ill and
feverish. So we inquired: it was the 'sickness'--that was all they
knew. But, from what the woman said, it's clearly influenza. Sudden
fever, and all the rest of it."

"Bad type?" I asked.

"Yes; there have been several deaths already among the old people from
pneumonia following it."

Now, I hope that as an Englishman I too have a notion of my rights,
and attempt anyhow to enforce them, as a general rule, if they are
wantonly threatened. But if a mad bull wishes to prevent my going
across a certain field, I do not insist on my rights, but go round
instead, since I see no reasonable hope of convincing the bull that
according to the constitution of my country I may walk in this field
unmolested. And that afternoon, as Madge and I drifted about the loch,
while I was not employed in disentangling her flies from each other or
her hair or my coat, I pondered over our position with regard to the
hares and men of Achnaleish, and thought that the question of the bull
and the field represented our standpoint pretty accurately. Jim had
the shooting of Achnaleish, and that undoubtedly included the right to
shoot hares: so too he might have the right to walk over a field in
which was a mad bull. But it seemed to me not more futile to argue
with the bull than to hope to convince these folk of Achnaleish that
the hares were--as was assuredly the case--only hares, and not the
embodiments of their friends and relations. For that, beyond all
doubt, was their belief, and it would take, not half an hour's talk,
but perhaps a couple of generations of education to kill that belief,
or even to reduce it to the level of a superstition. At present it was
no superstition--the terror and incredulous horror on Sandie's face
when Jim raised his gun to fire at the hare told me that--it was a
belief as sober and commonplace as our own belief that the hares were
not incarnations of living folk in Achnaleish.

Also, virulent influenza was raging in the place, and Jim proposed to
have a hare-drive to-morrow! What would happen?

That evening Jim raved about it in the smoking-room.

"But, good gracious, man, what can they do?" he cried. "What's the use
of an old gaffer from Achnaleish saying I've shot his grand-daughter
and, when he is asked to produce the corpse, telling the jury that
we've eaten it, but that he has got the skin as evidence? What skin? A
hare-skin! Oh, folklore is all very well in its way, a nice subject
for discussion when topics are scarce, but don't tell me it can enter
into practical life. What can they do?"

"They can shoot us," I remarked.

"The canny, God-fearing Scotchmen shoot us for shooting hares?" he
asked.

"Well, it's a possibility. However, I don't think you'll have much of
a hare-drive in any case."

"Why not?"

"Because you won't get a single native beater, and you won't get a
keeper to come either."

"You'll have to go with Buxton and your man."

"Then I'll discharge Sandie," snapped Jim.

"That would be a pity: he knows his work."

Jim got up.

"Well, his work to-morrow will be to drive hares for you and me,"
said Jim. "Or do you funk?"

"I funk," I replied.

The scene next morning was extremely short. Jim and I went out before
breakfast, and found Sandie at the back door, silent and respectful.
In the yard were a dozen young Highlanders, who had beaten for us the
day before.

"Morning, Sandie," said Jim shortly. "We'll drive hares to-day. We
ought to get a lot in those narrow gorges up above. Get a dozen
beaters more, can you?"

"There will be na hare-drive here," said Sandie quietly.

"I have given you your orders," said Jim.

Sandie turned to the group of beaters outside and spoke half a dozen
words in Gaelic. Next moment the yard was empty, and they were all
running down the hillside towards Achnaleish.

One stood on the skyline a moment, waving his arms, making some
signal, as I supposed, to the village below. Then Sandie turned again.

"An' whaur are your beaters, sir?" he asked.

For the moment I was afraid Jim was going to strike him. But he
controlled himself.

"You are discharged," he said.

The hare-drive, therefore, since there were neither beaters nor
keeper--Maclaren, the head-keeper, having been given this "dayoff" to
bury his mother--was clearly out of the question, and Jim, still
blustering rather, but a good bit taken aback at the sudden
disciplined defection of the beaters, was in betting humour that they
would all return by to-morrow morning. Meanwhile the post which should
have arrived before now had not come, though Mabel from her bedroom
window had seen the post-cart on its way up the drive a quarter of an
hour ago. At that a sudden idea struck me, and I ran to the edge of
the hog's back on which the house was set. It was even as I thought:
the post-cart was just striking the high-road below, going away from
the house and back to the village, without having left our letters.

I went back to the dining-room. Everything apparently was going wrong
this morning: the bread was stale, the milk was not fresh, and the
bell was rung for Buxton. Quite so: neither milkman nor baker had
called.

From the point of view of folk-lore this was admirable.

"There's another cock-and-bull story called 'taboo,'" I said. "It
means that nobody will supply you with anything."

"My dear fellow, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," said Jim,
helping himself to marmalade.

I laughed.

"You are irritated," I said, "because you are beginning to be afraid
that there is something in it."

"Yes, that's quite true," he said. "But who could have supposed there
was anything in it? Ah, dash it! there can't be. A hare is a hare."

"Except when it is your first cousin," said I.

"Then I shall go out and shoot first cousins by myself," he said.
That, I am glad to say, in the light of what followed, we dissuaded
him from doing, and instead he went off with Madge down the burn. And
I, I may confess, occupied myself the whole morning, ensconced in a
thick piece of scrub on the edge of the steep brae above Achnaleish,
in watching through a field-glass what went on there. One could see as
from a balloon almost: the street with its houses was spread like a
map below.

First, then, there was a funeral--the funeral, I suppose, of the
mother of Maclaren, attended, I should say, by the whole village. But
after that there was no dispersal of the folk to their work: it was as
if it was the Sabbath; they hung about the street talking. Now one
group would break up, but it would only go to swell another, and no
one went either to his house or to the fields.

Then, shortly before lunch, another idea occurred to me, and I ran
down the hill-side, appearing suddenly in the street, to put it to the
test. Sandie was there, but he turned his back square on me, as did
everybody else, and as I approached any group talk fell dead. But a
certain movement seemed to be going on; where they stood and talked
before, they now moved and were silent.

Soon I saw what that meant. None would remain in the street with me:
every man was going to his house.

The end house of the street was clearly the "heavenly shop" we had
been told of yesterday.

The door was open and a small child was looking round it as I
approached, for my plan was to go in, order something, and try to get
into conversation. But, while I was still a yard or two off, I saw
through the glass of the door a man inside come quickly up and pull
the child roughly away, banging the door and locking it. I knocked and
rang, but there was no response: only from inside came the crying of
the child.

The street which had been so busy and populous was now completely
empty; it might have been the street of some long-deserted place, but
that thin smoke curled here and there above the houses. It was as
silent, too, as the grave, but, for all that, I knew it was watching.
From every house, I felt sure, I was being watched by eyes of mistrust
and hate, yet no sign of living being could I see. There was to me
something rather eerie about this: to know one is watched by invisible
eyes is never, I suppose, quite a comfortable sensation; to know that
those eyes are all hostile does not increase the sense of security. So
I just climbed back up the hillside again, and from my thicket above
the brae again I peered down. Once more the street was full.

Now, all this made me uneasy: the taboo had been started, and--since
not a soul had been near us since Sandie gave the word, whatever it
was, that morning--was in excellent working order. Then what was the
purport of these meetings and colloquies? What else threatened? The
afternoon told me.

It was about two o'clock when these meetings finally broke up, and at
once the whole village left the street for the hill-sides, much as if
they were all returning to work. The only odd thing indeed was that no
one remained behind: women and children alike went out, all in little
parties of two and three. Some of these I watched rather idly, for I
had formed the hasty conclusion that they were all going back to their
usual employments, and saw that here a woman and girl were cutting
dead bracken and heather. That was reasonable enough, and I turned my
glass on others.

Group after group I examined; all were doing the same thing, cutting
fuel ... fuel.

Then vaguely, with a sense of impossibility, a thought flashed across
me; again it flashed, more vividly. This time I left my hiding-place
with considerable alacrity and went to find Jim down by the burn. I
told him exactly what I had seen and what I believed it meant, and I
fancy that his belief in the possibility of folk-lore entering the
domain of practical life was very considerably quickened. In any case,
it was not a quarter of an hour afterwards that the chauffeur and I
were going, precisely as fast as the Napier was able, along the road
to Lairg. We had not told the women what my conjecture was, because we
believed that, making the dispositions we were making, there was no
cause for alarm-sounding. One private signal only existed between Jim
within the house that night and me outside. If my conjecture proved to
be correct, he was to place a light in the window of my room, which I
should see returning after dark from Lairg. My ostensible reason for
going was to get some local fishing-flies.

As we flowed--there is no other word for the movement of these big
cars but that--over the road to Lairg, I ran over everything in my
mind. I felt no doubt whatever that all the brushwood and kindling I
had seen being gathered in was to be piled after nightfall round our
walls and set on fire. This certainly would not be done till after
dark; indeed, we both felt sure that it would not be done till it was
supposed that we were all abed. It remained to see whether the police
at Lairg agreed with my conjecture, and it was to ascertain this that
I was now flowing there.

I told my story to the chief constable as soon as I got there,
omitting nothing and, I think, exaggerating nothing. His face got
graver and graver as I proceeded.

"Yes, sir, you did right to come," he said. "The folk at Achnaleish
are the dourest and the most savage in all Scotland. You'll have to
give up this hare-hunting, though, whatever," he added.

He rang up his telephone.

"I'll get five men," he said, "and I'll be with you in ten minutes."

Our plan of campaign was simple. We were to leave the car well out of
sight of Achnaleish, and--supposing the signal was in my window--steal
up from all sides to command the house from every direction. It would
not be difficult to make our way unseen through the plantations that
ran up close to the house, and hidden at their margins we could see
whether the brushwood and heather were piled up round the lodge. There
we should wait to see if anybody attempted to fire it. That somebody,
whenever he showed his light, would be instantly covered by a rifle
and challenged.

It was about ten when we dismounted and stalked our way up to the
house. The light burned in my window; all else was quiet. Personally,
I was unarmed, and so, when I had planted the men in places of
advantageous concealment round the house, my work was over. Then I
returned to Sergeant Duncan, the chief constable, at the corner of the
hedge by the garden, and waited.

How long we waited I do not know, but it seemed as if æons slipped by
over us. Now and then an owl would hoot, now and then a rabbit ran out
from cover and nibbled the short sweet grass of the lawn. The night
was thickly overcast with clouds, and the house seemed no more than a
black dot, with slits of light where windows were lit within. By and
by even these slits of illumination were extinguished, and other
lights appeared in the top story. After a while they, too, vanished;
no sign of life appeared on the quiet house. Then suddenly the end
came: I heard a foot grate on the gravel; I saw the gleam of a
lantern, and heard Duncan's voice.

"Man," he shouted, "if you move hand or foot I fire. My rifle-bead is
dead on you."

Then I blew the whistle; the others ran up, and in less than a minute
it was all over. The man we closed in on was Maclaren.

"They killed my mither with that hell-carriage," he said, "as she
juist sat on the road, puir body, who had niver hurt them."

And that seemed to him an excellent reason for attempting to burn us
all to death.

But it took time to get into the house: their preparations had been
singularly workmanlike, for every window and door on the ground floor
was wired up.

Now, we had Achnaleish for two months, but we had no wish to be burned
or otherwise murdered. What we wanted was not a prosecution of our
head-keeper, but peace, the necessaries of life, and beaters. For that
we were willing to shoot no hares, and release Maclaren. An hour's
conclave next morning settled these things; the ensuing two months
were most enjoyable, and relations were the friendliest.

But if anybody wants to test how far what Jim still calls cock-and-
bull stories can enter into practical life, I should suggest to him to
go a-shooting hares at Achnaleish.




THE TERROR BY NIGHT

The transference of emotion is a phenomenon so common, so constantly
witnessed, that mankind in general have long ceased to be conscious of
its existence, as a thing worth our wonder or consideration, regarding
it as being as natural and commonplace as the transference of things
that act by the ascertained laws of matter. Nobody, for instance, is
surprised, if when the room is too hot, the opening of a window causes
the cold fresh air of outside to be transferred into the room, and in
the same way no one is surprised when into the same room, perhaps,
which we will imagine as being peopled with dull and gloomy persons,
there enters some one of fresh and sunny mind, who instantly brings
into the stuffy mental atmosphere a change analogous to that of the
opened windows. Exactly how this infection is conveyed we do not know;
considering the wireless wonders (that act by material laws) which are
already beginning to lose their wonder now that we have our newspaper
brought as a matter of course every morning in mid-Atlantic, it would
not perhaps be rash to conjecture that in some subtle and occult way
the transference of emotion is in reality material too. Certainly (to
take another instance) the sight of definitely material things, like
writing on a page, conveys emotion apparently direct to our minds, as
when our pleasure or pity is stirred by a book, and it is therefore
possible that mind may act on mind by means as material as that.

Occasionally, however, we come across phenomena which, though they may
easily be as material as any of these things, are rarer, and therefore
more astounding. Some people call them ghosts, some conjuring tricks,
and some nonsense. It seems simpler to group them under the head of
transferred emotions, and they may appeal to any of the senses. Some
ghosts are seen, some heard, some felt, and though I know of no
instance of a ghost being tasted, yet it will seem in the following
pages that these occult phenomena may appeal at any rate to the senses
that perceive heat, cold, or smell. For, to take the analogy of
wireless telegraphy, we are all of us probably "receivers" to some
extent, and catch now and then a message or part of a message that the
eternal waves of emotion are ceaselessly shouting aloud to those who
have ears to hear, and materialising themselves for those who have
eyes to see. Not being, as a rule, perfectly tuned, we grasp but
pieces and fragments of such messages, a few coherent words it may be,
or a few words which seem to have no sense. The following story,
however, to my mind, is interesting, because it shows how different
pieces of what no doubt was one message were received and recorded by
several different people simultaneously. Ten years have elapsed since
the events recorded took place, but they were written down at the
time.

Jack Lorimer and I were very old friends before he married, and his
marriage to a first cousin of mine did not make, as so often happens,
a slackening in our intimacy. Within a few months after, it was found
out that his wife had consumption, and, without any loss of time, she
was sent off to Davos, with her sister to look after her. The disease
had evidently been detected at a very early stage, and there was
excellent ground for hoping that with proper care and strict regime
she would be cured by the life-giving frosts of that wonderful valley.

The two had gone out in the November of which I am speaking, and Jack
and I joined them for a month at Christmas, and found that week after
week she was steadily and quickly gaining ground. We had to be back in
town by the end of January, but it was settled that Ida should remain
out with her sister for a week or two more. They both, I remember,
came down to the station to see us off, and I am not likely to forget
the last words that passed:

"Oh, don't look so woebegone, Jack," his wife had said; "you'll see me
again before long."

Then the fussy little mountain engine squeaked, as a puppy squeaks
when its toe is trodden on, and we puffed our way up the pass.

London was in its usual desperate February plight when we got back,
full of fogs and still-born frosts that seemed to produce a cold far
more bitter than the piercing temperature of those sunny altitudes
from which we had come. We both, I think, felt rather lonely, and even
before we had got to our journey's end we had settled that for the
present it was ridiculous that we should keep open two houses when one
would suffice, and would also be far more cheerful for us both.

So, as we both lived in almost identical houses in the same street in
Chelsea, we decided to "toss," live in the house which the coin
indicated (heads mine, tails his), share expenses, attempt to let the
other house, and, if successful, share the proceeds. A French five-
franc piece of the Second Empire told us it was "heads."

We had been back some ten days, receiving every day the most excellent
accounts from Davos, when, first on him, then on me, there descended,
like some tropical storm, a feeling of indefinable fear. Very possibly
this sense of apprehension (for there is nothing in the world so
virulently infectious) reached me through him: on the other hand both
these attacks of vague foreboding may have come from the same source.
But it is true that it did not attack me till he spoke of it, so the
possibility perhaps inclines to my having caught it from him. He spoke
of it first, I remember, one evening when we had met for a good-night
talk, after having come back from separate houses where we had dined.

"I have felt most awfully down all day," he said; "and just after
receiving this splendid account from Daisy, I can't think what is the
matter."

He poured himself out some whisky and soda as he spoke.

"Oh, touch of liver," I said. "I shouldn't drink that if I were you.
Give it me instead."

"I was never better in my life," he said.

I was opening letters, as we talked, and came across one from the
house agent, which, with trembling eagerness, I read.

"Hurrah," I cried, "offer of five gu as--why can't he write it in
proper English--five guineas a week till Easter for number 31. We
shall roll in guineas!"

"Oh, but I can't stop here till Easter," he said.

"I don't see why not. Nor by the way does Daisy. I heard from her this
morning, and she told me to persuade you to stop. That's to say, if
you like. It really is more cheerful for you here. I forgot, you were
telling me something."

The glorious news about the weekly guineas did not cheer him up in the
least.

"Thanks awfully. Of course I'll stop."

He moved up and down the room once or twice.

"No, it's not me that is wrong," he said, "it's It, whatever It is.
The terror by night."

"Which you are commanded not to be afraid of," I remarked.

"I know; it's easy commanding. I'm frightened: something's coming."

"Five guineas a week are coming," I said. "I shan't sit up and be
infected by your fears. All that matters, Davos, is going as well as
it can. What was the last report? Incredibly better. Take that to bed
with you."

The infection--if infection it was--did not take hold of me then, for
I remember going to sleep feeling quite cheerful, but I awoke in some
dark still house and It, the terror by night, had come while I slept.
Fear and misgiving, blind, unreasonable, and paralysing, had taken and
gripped me. What was it? Just as by an aneroid we can foretell the
approach of storm, so by this sinking of the spirit, unlike anything I
had ever felt before, I felt sure that disaster of some sort was
presaged.

Jack saw it at once when we met at breakfast next morning, in the
brown haggard light of a foggy day, not dark enough for candles, but
dismal beyond all telling.

"So it has come to you too," he said.

And I had not even the fighting-power left to tell him that I was
merely slightly unwell.

Besides, never in my life had I felt better.

All next day, all the day after that fear lay like a black cloak over
my mind; I did not know what I dreaded, but it was something very
acute, something that was very near. It was coming nearer every
moment, spreading like a pall of clouds over the sky; but on the third
day, after miserably cowering under it, I suppose some sort of courage
came back to me: either this was pure imagination, some trick of
disordered nerves or what not, in which case we were both "disquieting
ourselves in vain," or from the immeasurable waves of emotion that
beat upon the minds of men, something within both of us had caught a
current, a pressure. In either case it was infinitely better to try,
however ineffectively, to stand up against it. For these two days I
had neither worked nor played; I had only shrunk and shuddered; I
planned for myself a busy day, with diversion for us both in the
evening.

"We will dine early," I said, "and go to the 'Man from Blankley's.' I
have already asked Philip to come, and he is coming, and I have
telephoned for tickets. Dinner at seven."

Philip, I may remark, is an old friend of ours, neighbour in this
street, and by profession a much-respected doctor.

Jack laid down his paper.

"Yes, I expect you're right," he said. "It's no use doing nothing, it
doesn't help things. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, beautifully," I said rather snappishly, for I was all on edge
with the added burden of an almost sleepless night.

"I wish I had," said he.

This would not do at all.

"We have got to play up!" I said. "Here are we two strong and stalwart
persons, with as much cause for satisfaction with life as any you can
mention, letting ourselves behave like worms. Our fear may be over
things imaginary or over things that are real, but it is the fact of
being afraid that is so despicable. There is nothing in the world to
fear except fear. You know that as well as I do. Now let's read our
papers with interest. Which do you back, Mr. Druce, or the Duke of
Portland, or the Times Book Club?"

That day, therefore, passed very busily for me; and there were enough
events moving in front of that black background, which I was conscious
was there all the time, to enable me to keep my eyes away from it, and
I was detained rather late at the office, and had to drive back to
Chelsea, in order to be in time to dress for dinner instead of walking
back as I had intended.

Then the message, which for these three days had been twittering in
our minds, the receivers, just making them quiver and rattle, came
through.

I found Jack already dressed, since it was within a minute or two of
seven when I got in, and sitting in the drawing-room. The day had been
warm and muggy, but when I looked in on the way up to my room, it
seemed to me to have grown suddenly and bitterly cold, not with the
dampness of English frost, but with the clear and stinging
exhilaration of such days as we had recently spent in Switzerland.
Fire was laid in the grate but not lit, and I went down on my knees on
the hearth-rug to light it.

"Why, it's freezing in here," I said. "What donkeys servants are! It
never occurs to them that you want fires in cold weather, and no fires
in hot weather."

"Oh, for heaven's sake don't light the fire," said he, "it's the
warmest muggiest evening I ever remember."

I stared at him in astonishment. My hands were shaking with the cold.
He saw this.

"Why, you are shivering!" he said. "Have you caught a chill? But as to
the room being cold let us look at the thermometer."

There was one on the writing-table.

"Sixty-five," he said.

There was no disputing that, nor did I want to, for at that moment it
suddenly struck us, dimly and distantly, that It was "coming through."
I felt it like some curious internal vibration.

"Hot or cold, I must go and dress," I said.

Still shivering, but feeling as if I was breathing some rarefied
exhilarating air, I went up to my room. My clothes were already laid
out, but, by an oversight, no hot water had been brought up, and I
rang for my man. He came up almost at once, but he looked scared, or,
to my already-startled senses, he appeared so.

"What's the matter?" I said.

"Nothing, sir," he said, and he could hardly articulate the words. "I
thought you rang."

"Yes. Hot water. But what's the matter?"

He shifted from one foot to the other.

"I thought I saw a lady on the stairs," he said, "coming up close
behind me. And the front door bell hadn't rung that I heard."

"Where did you think you saw her?" I asked.

"On the stairs. Then on the landing outside the drawing-room door,
sir," he said. "She stood there as if she didn't know whether to go in
or not."

"One--one of the servants," I said. But again I felt that It was
coming through.

"No, sir. It was none of the servants," he said.

"Who was it then?"

"Couldn't see distinctly, sir, it was dim-like. But I thought it was
Mrs. Lorimer."

"Oh, go and get me some hot water," I said.

But he lingered; he was quite clearly frightened.

At this moment the front-door bell rang. It was just seven, and
already Philip had come with brutal punctuality while I was not yet
half dressed.

"That's Dr. Enderly," I said. "Perhaps if he is on the stairs you may
be able to pass the place where you saw the lady."

Then quite suddenly there rang through the house a scream, so
terrible, so appalling in its agony and supreme terror, that I simply
stood still and shuddered, unable to move. Then by an effort so
violent that I felt as if something must break, I recalled the power
of motion, and ran downstairs, my man at my heels, to meet Philip who
was running up from the ground floor. He had heard it too.

"What's the matter?" he said. "What was that?"

Together we went into the drawing-room. Jack was lying in front of the
fireplace, with the chair in which he had been sitting a few minutes
before overturned. Philip went straight to him and bent over him,
tearing open his white shirt.

"Open all the windows," he said, "the place reeks."

We flung open the windows, and there poured in so it seemed to me, a
stream of hot air into the bitter cold. Eventually Philip got up.

"He is dead," he said. "Keep the windows open. The place is still
thick with chloroform."

Gradually to my sense the room got warmer, to Philip's the drug-laden
atmosphere dispersed.

But neither my servant nor I had smelt anything at all.

A couple of hours later there came a telegram from Davos for me. It
was to tell me to break the news of Daisy's death to Jack, and was
sent by her sister. She supposed he would come out immediately. But he
had been gone two hours now.

I left for Davos next day, and learned what had happened. Daisy had
been suffering for three days from a little abscess which had to be
opened, and, though the operation was of the slightest, she had been
so nervous about it that the doctor gave her chloroform. She made a
good recovery from the anesthetic, but an hour later had a sudden
attack of syncope, and had died that night at a few minutes before
eight, by Central European time, corresponding to seven in English
time. She had insisted that Jack should be told nothing about this
little operation till it was over, since the matter was quite
unconnected with her general health, and she did not wish to cause him
needless anxiety.

And there the story ends. To my servant there came the sight of a
woman outside the drawing-room door, where Jack was, hesitating about
her entrance, at the moment when Daisy's soul hovered between the two
worlds; to me there came--I do not think it is fanciful to suppose
this--the keen exhilarating cold of Davos; to Philip there came the
fumes of chloroform. And to Jack, I must suppose, came his wife. So he
joined her.




MR. TILLY'S SEANCE

Mr. Tilly had only the briefest moment for reflection, when, as he
slipped and fell on the greasy wood pavement at Hyde Park Corner,
which he was crossing at a smart trot, he saw the huge traction-engine
with its grooved ponderous wheels towering high above him.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" he said petulantly, "it will certainly crush me
quite flat, and I shan't be able to be at Mrs. Cumberbatch's séance!
Most provoking! A-ow!"

The words were hardly out of his mouth, when the first half of his
horrid anticipations was thoroughly fulfilled. The heavy wheels passed
over him from head to foot and flattened him completely out. Then the
driver (too late) reversed his engine and passed over him again, and
finally lost his head, whistled loudly and stopped. The policeman on
duty at the corner turned quite faint at the sight of the catastrophe,
but presently recovered sufficiently to hold up the traffic, and ran
to see what on earth could be done. It was all so much "up" with Mr.
Tilly that the only thing possible was to get the hysterical engine-
driver to move clear. Then the ambulance from the hospital was sent
for, and Mr. Tilly's remains, detached with great difficulty from the
road (so firmly had they been pressed into it), were reverently
carried away into the mortuary Mr. Tilly during this had experienced
one moment's excruciating pain, resembling the severest neuralgia as
his head was ground beneath the wheel, but almost before he realised
it, the pain was past, and he found himself, still rather dazed,
floating or standing (he did no know which) in the middle of the road.
There had been no break in his consciousness; he perfectly recollected
slipping, and wondered how he had managed to save himself. He saw the
arrested traffic, the policeman with white wan face making suggestions
to the gibbering engine-driver, and he received the very puzzling
impression that the traction engine was all mixed up with him.

He had a sensation of red-hot coals and boiling water and rivets all
around him, but yet no feeling of scalding or burning or confinement.
He was, on the contrary, extremely comfortable, and had the most
pleasant consciousness of buoyancy and freedom. Then the engine puffed
and the wheels went round, and immediately, to his immense surprise,
he perceived his own crushed remains, flat as a biscuit, lying on the
roadway. He identified them for certain by his clothes, which he had
put on for the first time that morning, and one patent leather boot
which had escaped demolition.

"But what on earth has happened?" he said. "Here am I, and yet that
poor pressed flower of arms and legs is me--or rather I--also. And how
terribly upset the driver looks. Why, I do believe that I've been run
over! It did hurt for a moment, now I come to think of it ... My good
man, where are you shoving to? Don't you see me?"

He addressed these two questions to the policeman, who appeared to
walk right through him.

But the man took no notice, and calmly came out on the other side: it
was quite evident that he did not see him, or apprehend him in any
way.

Mr. Tilly was still feeling rather at sea amid these unusual
occurrences, and there began to steal into his mind a glimpse of the
fact which was so obvious to the crowd which formed an interested but
respectful ring round his body. Men stood with bared heads; women
screamed and looked away and looked back again.

"I really believe I'm dead," said he. "That's the only hypothesis
which will cover the facts."

"But I must feel more certain of it before I do anything. Ah! Here
they come with the ambulance to look at me. I must be terribly hurt,
and yet I don't feel hurt. I should feel hurt surely if I was hurt. I
must be dead."

Certainly it seemed the only thing for him to be, but he was far from
realising it yet. A lane had been made through the crowd for the
stretcher-bearers, and he found himself wincing when they began to
detach him from the road.

"Oh, do take care!" he said. "That's the sciatic nerve protruding
there surely, isn't it? A-ow!

"No, it didn't hurt after all. My new clothes, too: I put them on to-
day for the first time. What bad luck! Now you're holding my leg
upside down. Of course all my money comes out of my trouser pocket.
And there's my ticket for the séance; I must have that: I may use it
after all."

He tweaked it out of the fingers of the man who had picked it up, and
laughed to see the expression of amazement on his face as the card
suddenly vanished. That gave him something fresh to think about, and
he pondered for a moment over some touch of association set up by it.

"I have it," he thought. "It is clear that the moment I came into
connection with that card, it became invisible. I'm invisible myself
(of course to the grosser sense), and everything I hold becomes
invisible. Most interesting! That accounts for the sudden appearances
of small objects at a séance. The spirit has been holding them, and as
long as he holds them they are invisible.

"Then he lets go, and there's the flower or the spirit-photograph on
the table. It accounts, too, for the sudden disappearances of such
objects. The spirit has taken them, though the scoffers say that the
medium has secreted them about his person. It is true that when
searched he sometimes appears to have done so; but, after all, that
may be a joke on the part of the spirit. Now, what am I to do with
myself. Let me see, there's the clock. It's just half-past ten. All
this has happened in a few minutes, for it was a quarter past when I
left my house. Half-past ten now: what does that mean exactly? I used
to know what it meant, but now it seems nonsense. Ten what? Hours, is
it? What's an hour?"

This was very puzzling. He felt that he used to know what an hour and
a minute meant, but the perception of that, naturally enough, had
ceased with his emergence from time and space into eternity. The
conception of time was like some memory which, refusing to record
itself on the consciousness, lies perdu in some dark corner of the
brain, laughing at the efforts of the owner to ferret it out. While he
still interrogated his mind over this lapsed perception, he found that
space as well as time, had similarly grown obsolete for him, for he
caught sight of his friend Miss Ida Soulsby, who he knew was to be
present at the séance for which he was bound, hurrying with bird-like
steps down the pavement opposite. Forgetting for the moment that he
was a disembodied spirit, he made the effort of will which in his past
human existence would have set his legs in pursuit of her, and found
that the effort of will alone was enough to place him at her side.

"My dear Miss Soulsby," he said, "I was on my way to Mrs.
Cumberbatch's house when I was knocked down and killed. It was far
from unpleasant, a moment's headache--"

So far his natural volubility had carried him before he recollected
that he was invisible and inaudible to those still closed in by the
muddy vesture of decay, and stopped short. But though it was clear
that what he said was inaudible to Miss Soulsby's rather large
intelligent-looking ears, it seemed that some consciousness of his
presence was conveyed to her finer sense, for she looked suddenly
startled, a flush rose to her face, and he heard her murmur, "Very
odd. I wonder why I received so vivid an impression of dear Teddy."

That gave Mr. Tilly a pleasant shock. He had long admired the lady,
and here she was alluding to him in her supposed privacy as "dear
Teddy." That was followed by a momentary regret that he had been
killed: he would have liked to have been possessed of this information
before, and have pursued the primrose path of dalliance down which it
seemed to lead. (His intentions, of course, would, as always, have
been strictly honourable: the path of dalliance would have conducted
them both, if she consented, to the altar, where the primroses would
have been exchanged for orange blossom.) But his regret was quite
short-lived; though the altar seemed inaccessible, the primrose path
might still be open, for many of the spiritualistic circle in which he
lived were on most affectionate terms with their spiritual guides and
friends who, like himself, had passed over. From a human point of view
these innocent and even elevating flirtations had always seemed to him
rather bloodless; but now, looking on them from the far side, he saw
how charming they were, for they gave him the sense of still having a
place and an identity in the world he had just quitted. He pressed
Miss Ida's hand (or rather put himself into the spiritual condition of
so doing), and could vaguely feel that it had some hint of warmth and
solidity about it. This was gratifying, for it showed that though he
had passed out of the material plane, he could still be in touch with
it. Still more gratifying was it to observe that a pleased and secret
smile overspread Miss Ida's fine features as he gave this token of his
presence: perhaps she only smiled at her own thoughts, but in any case
it was he who had inspired them.

Encouraged by this, he indulged in a slightly more intimate token of
affection, and permitted himself a respectful salute, and saw that he
had gone too far, for she said to herself, "Hush, hush!" and quickened
her pace, as if to leave these amorous thoughts behind.

He felt that he was beginning to adjust himself to the new conditions
in which he would now live or, at any rate, was getting some sort of
inkling as to what they were. Time existed no more for him, nor yet
did space, since the wish to be at Miss Ida's side had instantly
transported him there, and with a view to testing this further he
wished himself back in his flat. As swiftly as the change of scene in
a cinematograph show he found himself there, and perceived that the
news of his death must have reached his servants, for his cook and
parlour-maid with excited faces, were talking over the event.

"Poor little gentleman," said his cook. "It seems a shame it does. He
never hurt a fly, and to think of one of those great engines laying
him out flat. I hope they'll take him to the cemetery from the
hospital: I never could bear a corpse in the house."

The great strapping parlour-maid tossed her head.

"Well, I'm not sure that it doesn't serve him right," she observed.
"Always messing about with spirits he was, and the knockings and
concertinas was awful sometimes when I've been laying out supper in
the dining-room. Now perhaps he'll come himself and visit the rest of
the loonies. But I'm sorry all the same. A less troublesome little
gentleman never stepped. Always pleasant, too, and wages paid to the
day."

These regretful comments and encomiums were something of a shock to
Mr. Tilly. He had imagined that his excellent servants regarded him
with a respectful affection, as befitted some sort of demigod, and the
role of the poor little gentleman was not at all to his mind. This
revelation of their true estimate of him, although what they thought
of him could no longer have the smallest significance irritated him
profoundly.

"I never heard such impertinence," he said (so he thought) quite out
loud, and still intensely earth-bound, was astonished to see that they
had no perception whatever of his presence. He raised his voice,
replete with extreme irony, and addressed his cook.

"You may reserve your criticism on my character for your saucepans,"
he said. "They will no doubt appreciate them. As regards the
arrangements for my funeral, I have already provided for them in my
will, and do not propose to consult your convenience. At present--"

"Lor'!" said Mrs. Inglis, "I declare I can almost hear his voice, poor
little fellow. Husky it was, as if he would do better by clearing his
throat. I suppose I'd best be making a black bow to my cap. His
lawyers and what not will be here presently."

Mr. Tilly had no sympathy with this suggestion. He was immensely
conscious of being quite alive, and the idea of his servants behaving
as if he were dead, especially after the way in which they had spoken
about him, was very vexing. He wanted to give them some striking
evidence of his presence and his activity, and he banged his hand
angrily on the dining-room table, from which the breakfast equipage
had not yet been cleared. Three tremendous blows he gave it, and was
rejoiced to see that his parlour-maid looked startled. Mrs. Inglis's
face remained perfectly placid.

"Why, if I didn't hear a sort of rapping sound," said Miss Talton.
"Where did it come from?"

"Nonsense! You've the jumps, dear," said Mrs. Inglis, picking up a
remaining rasher of bacon on a fork, and putting it into her capacious
mouth.

Mr. Tilly was delighted at making any impression at all on either of
these impercipient females.

"Talton!" he called at the top of his voice.

"Why, what's that?" said Talton. "Almost hear his voice, do you say,
Mrs. Inglis? I declare I did hear his voice then."

"A pack o' nonsense, dear," said Mrs. Inglis placidly. "That's a prime
bit of bacon, and there's a good cut of it left. Why, you're all of a
tremble! It's your imagination."

Suddenly it struck Mr. Tilly that he might be employing himself much
better than, with such extreme exertion, managing to convey so slight
a hint of his presence to his parlour-maid, and that the séance at the
house of the medium, Mrs. Cumberbatch, would afford him much easier
opportunities of getting through to the earth-plane again. He gave a
couple more thumps to the table and, wishing himself at Mrs.
Cumberbatch's nearly a mile away, scarcely heard the faint scream of
Talton at the sound of his blows before he found himself in West
Norfolk Street.

He knew the house well, and went straight to the drawing-room, which
was the scene of the séances he had so often and so eagerly attended.
Mrs. Cumberbatch who had a long spoon-shaped face, had already pulled
down the blinds, leaving the room in total darkness except for the
glimmer of the night-light which, under a shade of ruby-glass, stood
on the chimneypiece in front of the coloured photograph of Cardinal
Newman. Round the table were seated Miss Ida Soulsby, Mr. and Mrs.
Meriott (who paid their guineas at least twice a week in order to
consult their spiritual guide Abibel and received mysterious advice
about their indigestion and investments), and Sir John Plaice, who
was much interested in learning the details of his previous
incarnation as a Chaldean priest, completed the circle. His guide, who
resealed to him his sacerdotal career, was playfully called Mespot.
Naturally many other spirits visited them, for Miss Soulsby had no
less than three guides in her spiritual household, Sapphire,
Semiramis, and Sweet William, while Napoleon and Plato were not
infrequent guests. Cardinal Newman, too, was a great favourite, and
they encouraged his presence by the singing in unison of "Lead, kindly
Light": he could hardly ever resist that...

Mr. Tilly observed with pleasure that there was a vacant seat by the
table which no doubt had been placed there for him. As he entered,
Mrs. Cumberbatch peered at her watch.

"Eleven o'clock already," she said, "and Mr. Tilly is not here yet. I
wonder what can have kept him. What shall we do, dear friends? Abibel
gets very impatient sometimes if we keep him waiting."

Mr. and Mrs. Meriott were getting impatient too, for he terribly
wanted to ask about Mexican oils, and she had a very vexing heartburn.

"And Mespot doesn't like waiting either," said Sir John, jealous for
the prestige of his protector, "not to mention Sweet William."

Miss Soulsby gave a little silvery laugh.

"Oh, but my Sweet William's so good and kind," she said; "besides, I
have a feeling, quite a psychic feeling, Mrs. Cumberbatch, that Mr.
Tilly is very close."

"So I am," said Mr. Tilly.

"Indeed, as I walked here," continued Miss Soulsby, "I felt that Mr.
Tilly was somewhere quite close to me. Dear me, what's that?"

Mr. Tilly was so delighted at being sensed, that he could not resist
giving a tremendous rap on the table, in a sort of pleased applause.
Mrs. Cumberbatch heard it too.

"I'm sure that's Abibel come to tell us that he is ready," she said.
"I know Abibel's knock. A little patience, Abibel. Let's give Mr.
Tilly three minutes more and then begin. Perhaps, if we put up the
blinds, Abibel will understand we haven't begun."

This was done, and Miss Soulsby glided to the window, in order to make
known Mr. Tilly's approach, for he always came along the opposite
pavement and crossed over by the little island in the river of
traffic. There was evidently some lately published news, for the
readers of early editions were busy, and she caught sight of one of
the advertisement boards bearing in large letters the announcement of
a terrible accident at Hyde Park Corner. She drew in her breath with a
hissing sound and turned away, unwilling to have her psychic
tranquillity upset by the intrusion of painful incidents. But Mr.
Tilly, who had followed her to the window and saw what she had seen,
could hardly restrain a spiritual whoop of exultation.

"Why, it's all about me!" he said. "Such large letters, too. Very
gratifying. Subsequent editions will no doubt contain my name."

He gave another loud rap to call attention to himself, and Mrs.
Cumberbatch, sitting down in her antique chair which had once belonged
to Madame Blavatsky, again heard.

"Well, if that isn't Abibel again," she said. "Be quiet, naughty.
Perhaps we had better begin."

She recited the usual invocation to guides and angels, and leaned back
in her chair. Presently she began to twitch and mutter, and shortly
afterwards with several loud snorts, relapsed into cataleptic
immobility. There she lay, stiff as a poker, a port of call, so to
speak, for any voyaging intelligence. With pleased anticipation Mr.
Tilly awaited their coming. How gratifying if Napoleon, with whom he
had so often talked, recognised him and said, "Pleased to see you, Mr.
Tilly. I perceive you have joined us ..." The room was dark except for
the ruby-shaded lamp in front of Cardinal Newman, but to Mr. Tilly's
emancipated perceptions the withdrawal of mere material light made no
difference, and he idly wondered why it was generally supposed that
disembodied spirits like himself produced their most powerful effects
in the dark. He could not imagine the reason for that, and, what
puzzled him still more, there was not to his spiritual perception any
sign of those colleagues of his (for so he might now call them) who
usually attended Mrs. Cumberbatch's séances in such gratifying
numbers. Though she had been moaning and muttering a long time now,
Mr. Tilly was in no way conscious of the presence of Abibel and Sweet
William and Sapphire and Napoleon: "They ought to be here by now," he
said to himself.

But while he still wondered at their absence, he saw to his amazed
disgust that the medium's hand, now covered with a black glove, and
thus invisible to ordinary human vision in the darkness, was groping
about the table and clearly searching for the megaphone-trumpet which
lay there. He found that he could read her mind with the same ease,
though far less satisfaction, as he had read Miss Ida's half an hour
ago, and knew that she was intending to apply the trumpet to her own
mouth and pretend to be Abibel or Semiramis or somebody, whereas she
affirmed that she never touched the trumpet herself. Much shocked at
this, he snatched up the trumpet himself, and observed that she was
not in trance at all, for she opened her sharp black eyes, which
always reminded him of buttons covered with American cloth, and gave a
great gasp.

"Why, Mr. Tilly!" she said. "On the spiritual plane too!"

The rest of the circle was now singing "Lead, kindly Light" in order
to encourage Cardinal Newman, and this conversation was conducted
under cover of the hoarse crooning voices. But Mr. Tilly had the
feeling that though Mrs. Cumberbatch saw and heard him as clearly as
he saw her, he was quite imperceptible to the others.

"Yes, I've been killed," he said, "and I want to get into touch with
the material world. That's why I came here. But I want to get into
touch with other spirits too, and surely Abibel or Mespot ought to be
here by this time."

He received no answer, and her eyes fell before his like those of a
detected charlatan. A terrible suspicion invaded his mind.

"What? Are you a fraud, Mrs. Cumberbatch?" he asked. "Oh, for shame!
Think of all the guineas I have paid you."

"You shall have them all back," said Mrs. Cumberbatch. "But don't tell
of me."

She began to whimper, and he remembered that she often made that sort
of sniffling noise when Abibel was taking possession of her.

"That usually means that Abibel is coming," he said, with withering
sarcasm. "Come along, Abibel: we're waiting."

"Give me the trumpet," whispered the miserable medium. "Oh, please
give me the trumpet!"

"I shall do nothing of the kind," said Mr. Tilly indignantly. "I would
sooner use it myself."

She gave a sob of relief.

"Oh do, Mr. Tilly!" she said. "What a wonderful idea! It will be most
interesting to everybody to hear you talk just after you've been
killed and before they know. It would be the making of me! And I'm not
a fraud, at least not altogether. I do have spiritual perceptions
sometimes; spirits do communicate through me. And when they won't come
through it's a dreadful temptation to a poor woman to--to supplement
them by human agency. And how could I be seeing and hearing you now,
and be able to talk to you--so pleasantly, I'm sure--if I hadn't
super-normal powers? You've been killed, so you assure me, and yet I
can see and hear you quite plainly. Where did it happen, may I ask, if
it's not a painful subject?"

"Hyde Park Corner, half an hour ago," said Mr. Tilly. "No, it only
hurt for a moment, thanks."

"But about your other suggestion--"

While the third verse of "Lead, kindly Light" was going on, Mr. Tilly
applied his mind to this difficult situation. It was quite true that
if Mrs. Cumberbatch had no power of communication with the unseen she
could not possibly have seen him. But she evidently had, and had heard
him too, for their conversation had certainly been conducted on the
spirit-plane, with perfect lucidity.

Naturally, now that he was a genuine spirit, he did not want to be
mixed up in fraudulent mediumship, for he felt that such a thing would
seriously compromise him on the other side, where, probably, it was
widely known that Mrs. Cumberbatch was a person to be avoided. But, on
the other hand, having so soon found a medium through whom he could
communicate with his friends, it was hard to take a high moral view,
and say that he would have nothing whatever to do with her.

"I don't know if I trust you," he said. "I shouldn't have a moment's
peace if I thought that you would be sending all sorts of bogus
messages from me to the circle, which I wasn't responsible for at all.
You've done it with Abibel and Mespot. How can I know that when I
don't choose to communicate through you, you won't make up all sorts
of piffle on your own account?"

She positively squirmed in her chair.

"Oh, I'll turn over a new leaf," she said. "I will leave all that sort
of thing behind me. And I am a medium. Look at me! Aren't I more real
to you than any of the others? Don't I belong to your plane in a way
that none of the others do? I may be occasionally fraudulent, and I
can no more get Napoleon here than I can fly, but I'm genuine as well.
Oh, Mr. Tilly, be indulgent to us poor human creatures! It isn't so
long since you were one of us yourself."

The mention of Napoleon, with the information that Mrs. Cumberbatch
had never been controlled by that great creature, wounded Mr. Tilly
again. Often in this darkened room he had held long colloquies with
him, and Napoleon had given him most interesting details of his life
on St. Helena, which, so Mr. Tilly had found, were often borne out by
Lord Rosebery's pleasant volume The Last Phase. But now the whole
thing wore a more sinister aspect, and suspicion as solid as certainty
bumped against his mind.

"Confess!" he said. "Where did you get all that Napoleon talk from?
You told us you had never read Lord Rosebery's book, and allowed us to
look through your library to see that it wasn't there. Be honest for
once, Mrs. Cumberbatch."

She suppressed a sob.

"I will," she said. "The book was there all the time. I put it into an
old cover called 'Elegant Extracts ...' But I'm not wholly a fraud.
We're talking together, you a spirit and I a mortal female. They can't
hear us talk. But only look at me, and you'll see ... You can talk to
them through me, if you'll only be so kind. I don't often get in touch
with a genuine spirit like yourself."

Mr. Tilly glanced at the other sitters and then back to the medium,
who, to keep the others interested, was making weird gurgling noises
like an undervitalised siphon. Certainly she was far clearer to him
than were the others, and her argument that she was able to see and
hear him had great weight. And then a new and curious perception came
to him. Her mind seemed spread out before him like a pool of slightly
muddy water, and he figured himself as standing on a header-board
above it, perfectly able, if he chose, to immerse himself in it. The
objection to so doing was its muddiness, its materiality; the reason
for so doing was that he felt that then he would be able to be heard
by the others, possibly to be seen by them, certainly to come into
touch with them. As it was, the loudest bangs on the table were only
faintly perceptible.

"I'm beginning to understand," he said.

"Oh, Mr. Tilly! Just jump in like a kind good spirit," she said. "Make
your own test-conditions.

"Put your hand over my mouth to make sure that I'm not speaking, and
keep hold of the trumpet."

"And you'll promise not to cheat any more?" he asked.

"Never!"

He made up his mind.

"All right then," he said, and, so to speak, dived into her mind.

He experienced the oddest sensation. It was like passing out of some
fine, sunny air into the stuffiest of unventilated rooms. Space and
time closed over him again: his head swam, his eyes were heavy. Then,
with the trumpet in one hand, he laid the other firmly over her mouth.

Looking round, he saw that the room seemed almost completely dark, but
that the outline of the figures sitting round the table had vastly
gained in solidity.

"Here I am!" he said briskly.

Miss Soulsby gave a startled exclamation.

"That's Mr. Tilly's voice!" she whispered.

"Why, of course it is," said Mr. Tilly. "I've just passed over at Hyde
Park Corner under a traction engine..."

He felt the dead weight of the medium's mind, her conventional
conceptions, her mild, unreal piety pressing in on him from all sides,
stifling and confusing him. Whatever he said had to pass through muddy
water...

"There's a wonderful feeling of joy and lightness," he said. "I can't
tell you of the sunshine and happiness. We're all very busy and
active, helping others. And it's such a pleasure, dear friends, to be
able to get into touch with you all again. Death is not death: it is
the gate of life..."

He broke off suddenly.

"Oh, I can't stand this," he said to the medium. "You make me talk
such twaddle. Do get your stupid mind out of the way. Can't we do
anything in which you won't interfere with me so much?"

"Can you give us some spirit lights round the room?" suggested Mrs.
Cumberbatch in a sleepy voice. "You have come through beautifully, Mr.
Tilly. It's too dear of you!"

"You're sure you haven't arranged some phosphorescent patches
already?" asked Mr. Tilly suspiciously.

"Yes, there are one or two near the chimney-piece," said Mrs.
Cumberbatch, "but none anywhere else. Dear Mr. Tilly, I swear there
are not. Just give us a nice star with long rays on the ceiling!"

Mr. Tilly was the most good-natured of men, always willing to help an
unattractive female in distress, and whispering to her, "I shall
require the phosphorescent patches to be given into my hands after the
séance," he proceeded, by the mere effort of his imagination, to light
a beautiful big star with red and violet rays on the ceiling. Of
course it was not nearly as brilliant as his own conception of it, for
its light had to pass through the opacity of the medium's mind, but it
was still a most striking object, and elicited gasps of applause from
the company. To enhance the effect of it he intoned a few very pretty
lines about a star by Adelaide Anne Procter, whose poems had always
seemed to him to emanate from the topmost peak of Parnassus.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Tilly!" whispered the medium. "It was lovely!
Would a photograph of it be permitted on some future occasion, if you
would be so kind as to reproduce it again?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Mr. Tilly irritably. "I want to get out. I'm
very hot and uncomfortable. And it's all so cheap."

"Cheap?" ejaculated Mrs. Cumberbatch. "Why, there's not a medium in
London whose future wouldn't be made by a real genuine star like that,
say, twice a week."

"But I wasn't run over in order that I might make the fortune of
mediums," said Mr. Tilly. "I want to go: it's all rather degrading.
And I want to see something of my new world. I don't know what it's
like yet."

"Oh, but, Mr. Tilly," said she. "You told us lovely things about it,
how busy and happy you were."

"No, I didn't. It was you who said that, at least it was you who put
it into my head."

Even as he wished, he found himself emerging from the dull waters of
Mrs. Cumberbatch's mind.

"There's the whole new world waiting for me," he said. "I must go and
see it. I'll come back and tell you, for it must be full of marvellous
revelations..."

Suddenly he felt the hopelessness of it. There was that thick fluid of
materiality to pierce, and, as it dripped off him again, he began to
see that nothing of that fine rare quality of life which he had just
begun to experience, could penetrate these opacities. That was why,
perhaps, all that thus came across from the spirit-world, was so
stupid, so banal. They, of whom he now was one, could tap on
furniture, could light stars, could abound with commonplace, could
read as in a book the mind of medium or sitters, but nothing more.
They had to pass into the region of gross perceptions, in order to be
seen of blind eyes and be heard of deaf ears.

Mrs. Cumberbatch stirred.

"The power is failing," she said, in a deep voice, which Mr. Tilly
felt was meant to imitate his own. "I must leave you now, dear
friends--"

He felt much exasperated.

"The power isn't failing," he shouted. "It wasn't I who said that."

Besides, I have got to see if it's true. Good-bye: don't cheat any
more.

He dropped his card of admittance to the seance on the table and heard
murmurs of excitement as he floated off.

The news of the wonderful star, and the presence of Mr. Tilly at the
séance within half an hour of his death, which at the time was unknown
to any of the sitters, spread swiftly through spiritualistic circles.
The Psychical Research Society sent investigators to take independent
evidence from all those present, but were inclined to attribute the
occurrence to a subtle mixture of thought-transference and unconscious
visual impression, when they heard that Miss Soulsby had, a few
minutes previously, seen a news-board in the street outside recording
the accident at Hyde Park Corner. This explanation was rather
elaborate, for it postulated that Miss Soulsby, thinking of Mr.
Tilly's non-arrival, had combined that with the accident at Hyde Park
Corner, and had probably (though unconsciously) seen the name of the
victim on another news-board and had transferred the whole by
telepathy to the mind of the medium. As for the star on the ceiling,
though they could not account for it, they certainly found remains of
phosphorescent paint on the panels of the wall above the chimney-
piece, and came to the conclusion that the star had been produced by
some similar contrivance. So they rejected the whole thing, which was
a pity, since, for once, the phenomena were absolutely genuine.

Miss Soulsby continued to be a constant attendant at Mrs.
Cumberbatch's séances, but never experienced the presence of Mr. Tilly
again. On that the reader may put any interpretation he pleases. It
looks to me somewhat as if he had found something else to do.

But he had emerged too far, and perceived that nobody except the
medium heard him.

"Oh, don't be vexed, Mr. Tilly," she said. "That's only a formula. But
you're leaving us very soon. Not time for just one materialisation?
They are more convincing than anything to most inquirers."

"Not one," said he. "You don't understand how stifling it is even to
speak through you and make stars. But I'll come back as soon as I find
there's anything new that I can get through to you. What's the use of
my repeating all that stale stuff about being busy and happy? They've
been told that often enough already."



THE END




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