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Title: Collected Ghost Stories
Author: M R James
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0800911.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: August 2008
Date most recently updated: February 2010


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Title: Collected Ghost Stories
Author: M R James

(A Project Gutenberg Australia Compilation)

* * *

CONTENTS

 1. A Neighbour's Landmark
 2. A School Story
 3. A View from a Hill
 4. A Vignette
 5. A Warning to the Curious
 6. After Dark in the Playing Fields
 7. An Episode of Cathedral History
 8. An Evening's Entertainment
 9. Canon Alberic's Scrapbook
10. Casting the Runes
11. Count Magnus
12. Lost Hearts
13. Martin's Close
14. Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance
15. Number 13
16. Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad
17. Rats
18. The Ash Tree
19. The Diary of Mr Poynter
20. The Experiment
21. The Haunted Dolls' House
22. The Malice of Inanimate Objects
23. The Mezzotint
24. The Residence at Whitminster
25. The Rose Garden
26. The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral
27. The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance
28. The Tractate Middoth
29. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas
30. The Uncommon Prayer-Book
31. There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard
32. Two Doctors
33. Wailing Well

APPENDIX: M R JAMES ON GHOST STORIES

* * *

1. A NEIGHBOUR'S LANDMARK


Those who spend the greater part of their time in reading or writing
books are, of course, apt to take rather particular notice of
accumulations of books when they come across them. They will not pass a
stall, a shop, or even a bedroom-shelf without reading some title, and if
they find themselves in an unfamiliar library, no host need trouble
himself further about their entertainment. The putting of dispersed sets
of volumes together, or the turning right way up of those which the
dusting housemaid has left in an apoplectic condition, appeals to them as
one of the lesser Works of Mercy. Happy in these employments, and in
occasionally opening an eighteenth-century octavo, to see 'what it is all
about', and to conclude after five minutes that it deserves the seclusion
it now enjoys, I had reached the middle of a wet August afternoon at
Betton Court--

'You begin in a deeply Victorian manner,' I said; 'is this to continue?'

'Remember, if you please,' said my friend, looking at me over his
spectacles, 'that I am a Victorian by birth and education, and that the
Victorian tree may not unreasonably be expected to bear Victorian fruit.
Further, remember that an immense quantity of clever and thoughtful
rubbish is now being written about the Victorian age. Now,' he went on,
laying his papers on his knee, 'that article, "The Stricken Years", in
The Times Literary Supplement the other day,--able? of course it is able;
but, oh! my soul and body, do just hand it over here, will you? it's on
the table by you.'

'I thought you were to read me something you had written,' I said,
without moving, 'but, of course--'

'Yes, I know,' he said. 'Very well, then, I'll do that first. But I
should like to show you afterwards what I mean. However--' And he lifted
the sheets of paper and adjusted his spectacles.

--at Betton Court, where, generations back, two country-house libraries
had been fused together, and no descendant of either stock had ever faced
the task of picking them over or getting rid of duplicates. Now I am not
setting out to tell of rarities I may have discovered, of Shakespeare
quartos bound up in volumes of political tracts, or anything of that
kind, but of an experience which befell me in the course of my search--an
experience which I cannot either explain away or fit into the scheme of
my ordinary life.

It was, I said, a wet August afternoon, rather windy, rather warm.
Outside the window great trees were stirring and weeping. Between them
were stretches of green and yellow country (for the Court stands high on
a hill-side), and blue hills far off, veiled with rain. Up above was a
very restless and hopeless movement of low clouds travelling northwest. I
had suspended my work--if you call it work--for some minutes to stand at
the window and look at these things, and at the greenhouse roof on the
right with the water sliding off it, and the Church tower that rose
behind that. It was all in favour of my going steadily on; no likelihood
of a clearing up for hours to come. I, therefore, returned to the
shelves, lifted out a set of eight or nine volumes, lettered Tracts, and
conveyed them to the table for closer examination.

They were for the most part of the reign of Anne. There was a good deal
of The Late Peace, The Late War, The Conduct of the Allies: there were
also Letters to a Convocation Man; Sermons preached at St Michael's,
Queen hithe; Enquiries in to a late Charge of the Rt. Rev. the Lord
Bishop of Winchester (or more probably Winton) to his Clergy: things all
very lively once, and indeed still keeping so much of their old sting
that I was tempted to betake myself into an arm-chair in the window, and
give them more time than I had intended. Besides, I was somewhat tired by
the day. The Church clock struck four, and it really was four, for in
1889 there was no saving of daylight.

So I settled myself. And first I glanced over some of the War pamphlets,
and pleased myself by trying to pick out Swift by his style from among
the undistinguished. But the War pamphlets needed more knowledge of the
geography of the Low Countries than I had. I turned to the Church, and
read several pages of what the Dean of Canterbury said to the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge on the occasion of their anniversary
meeting in 1711. When I turned over to a Letter from a Beneficed
Clergyman in the Country to the Bishop of C----r, I was becoming languid,
and I gazed for some moments at the following sentence without surprise:

'This Abuse (for I think myself justified in calling it by that name) is
one which I am persuaded Your Lordship would (if 'twere known to you)
exert your utmost efforts to do away. But I am also persuaded that you
know no more of its existence than (in the words of the Country Song)

That which walks in Betton Wood
Knows why it walks or why it cries.'

Then indeed I did sit up in my chair, and run my finger along the lines
to make sure that I had read them right. There was no mistake. Nothing
more was to be gathered from the rest of the pamphlet. The next paragraph
definitely changed the subject: 'But I have said enough upon this Topick'
were its opening words. So discreet, too, was the namelessness of the
Beneficed Clergyman that he refrained even from initials, and had his
letter printed in London.

The riddle was of a kind that might faintly interest anyone: to me, who
have dabbled a good deal in works of folk-lore, it was really exciting. I
was set upon solving it--on finding out, I mean, what story lay behind
it; and, at least, I felt myself lucky in one point, that, whereas I
might have come on the paragraph in some College Library far away, here I
was at Betton, on the very scene of action.

The Church clock struck five, and a single stroke on a gong followed.
This, I knew, meant tea. I heaved myself out of the deep chair, and
obeyed the summons.

My host and I were alone at the Court. He came in soon, wet from a round
of landlord's errands, and with pieces of local news which had to be
passed on before I could make an opportunity of asking whether there was
a particular place in the parish that was still known as Betton Wood.

'Betton Wood,' he said, 'was a short mile away, just on the crest of
Betton Hill, and my father stubbed up the last bit of it when it paid
better to grow corn than scrub oaks. Why do you want to know about Betton
Wood?'

'Because,' I said, 'in an old pamphlet I was reading just now, there are
two lines of a country song which mention it, and they sound as if there
was a story belonging to them. Someone says that someone else knows no
more of whatever it may be--

Than that which walks in Betton Wood
Knows why it walks or why it cries.'

'Goodness,' said Philipson, 'I wonder whether that was why...I must ask
old Mitchell.' He muttered something else to himself, and took some more
tea, thoughtfully.

'Whether that was why--?' I said.

'Yes, I was going to say, whether that was why my father had the Wood
stubbed up. I said just now it was to get more plough-land, but I don't
really know if it was. I don't believe he ever broke it up: it's rough
pasture at this moment. But there's one old chap at least who'd remember
something of it--old Mitchell.' He looked at his watch. 'Blest if I don't
go down there and ask him. I don't think I'll take you,' he went on;
'he's not so likely to tell anything he thinks is odd if there's a
stranger by.'

'Well, mind you remember every single thing he does tell. As for me, if
it clears up, I shall go out, and if it doesn't, I shall go on with the
books.'

It did clear up, sufficiently at least to make me think it worth while to
walk up the nearest hill and look over the country. I did not know the
lie of the land; it was the first visit I had paid to Philipson, and this
was the first day of it. So I went down the garden and through the wet
shrubberies with a very open mind, and offered no resistance to the
indistinct impulse--was it, however, so very indistinct?--which kept
urging me to bear to the left whenever there was a forking of the path.
The result was that after ten minutes or more of dark going between
dripping rows of box and laurel and privet, I was confronted by a stone
arch in the Gothic style set in the stone wall which encircled the whole
demesne. The door was fastened by a spring-lock, and I took the
precaution of leaving this on the jar as I passed out into the road. That
road I crossed, and entered a narrow lane between hedges which led
upward; and that lane I pursued at a leisurely pace for as much as half a
mile, and went on to the field to which it led. I was now on a good point
of vantage for taking in the situation of the Court, the village, and the
environment; and I leant upon a gate and gazed westward and downward.

I think we must all know the landscapes--are they by Birket Foster, or
somewhat earlier?--which, in the form of wood-cuts, decorate the volumes
of poetry that lay on the drawing-room tables of our fathers and
grandfathers--volumes in 'Art Cloth, embossed bindings'; that strikes me
as being the right phrase. I confess myself an admirer of them, and
especially of those which show the peasant leaning over a gate in a hedge
and surveying, at the bottom of a downward slope, the village church
spire--embosomed amid venerable trees, and a fertile plain intersected by
hedgerows, and bounded by distant hills, behind which the orb of day is
sinking (or it may be rising) amid level clouds illumined by his dying
(or nascent) ray. The expressions employed here are those which seem
appropriate to the pictures I have in mind; and were there opportunity, I
would try to work in the Vale, the Grove, the Cot, and the Flood. Anyhow,
they are beautiful to me, these landscapes, and it was just such a one
that I was now surveying. It might have come straight out of Gems of
Sacred Song, selected by a Lady and given as a birthday present to
Eleanor Philipson in 1852 by her attached friend Millicent Graves. All at
once I turned as if I had been stung. There thrilled into my right ear
and pierced my head a note of incredible sharpness, like the shriek of a
bat, only ten times intensified--the kind of thing that makes one wonder
if something has not given way in one's brain. I held my breath, and
covered my ear, and shivered. Something in the circulation: another
minute or two, I thought, and I return home. But I must fix the view a
little more firmly in my mind. Only, when I turned to it again, the taste
was gone out of it. The sun was down behind the hill, and the light was
off the fields, and when the clock bell in the Church tower struck seven,
I thought no longer of kind mellow evening hours of rest, and scents of
flowers and woods on evening air; and of how someone on a farm a mile or
two off would be saying 'How clear Betton bell sounds tonight after the
rain!'; but instead images came to me of dusty beams and creeping spiders
and savage owls up in the tower, and forgotten graves and their ugly
contents below, and of flying Time and all it had taken out of my life.
And just then into my left ear--close as if lips had been put within an
inch of my head, the frightful scream came thrilling again.

There was no mistake possible now. It was from outside. 'With no language
but a cry' was the thought that flashed into my mind. Hideous it was
beyond anything I had heard or have heard since, but I could read no
emotion in it, and doubted if I could read any intelligence. All its
effect was to take away every vestige, every possibility, of enjoyment,
and make this no place to stay in one moment more. Of course there was
nothing to be seen: but I was convinced that, if I waited, the thing
would pass me again on its aimless, endless beat, and I could not bear
the notion of a third repetition. I hurried back to the lane and down the
hill. But when I came to the arch in the wall I stopped. Could I be sure
of my way among those dank alleys, which would be danker and darker now!
No, I confessed to myself that I was afraid: so jarred were all my nerves
with the cry on the hill that I really felt I could not afford to be
startled even by a little bird in a bush, or a rabbit. I followed the
road which followed the wall, and I was not sorry when I came to the gate
and the lodge, and descried Philipson coming up towards it from the
direction of the village.

'And where have you been?' said he.

'I took that lane that goes up the hill opposite the stone arch in the
wall.'

'Oh! did you? Then you've been very near where Betton Wood used to be: at
least, if you followed it up to the top, and out into the field.'

And if the reader will believe it, that was the first time that I put two
and two together. Did I at once tell Philipson what had happened to me? I
did not. I have not had other experiences of the kind which are called
super-natural, or -normal, or -physical, but, though I knew very well I
must speak of this one before long, I was not at all anxious to do so;
and I think I have read that this is a common case.

So all I said was: 'Did you see the old man you meant to?'

'Old Mitchell? Yes, I did; and got something of a story out of him. I'll
keep it till after dinner. It really is rather odd.'

So when we were settled after dinner he began to report, faithfully, as
he said, the dialogue that had taken place. Mitchell, not far off eighty
years old, was in his elbow-chair. The married daughter with whom he
lived was in and out preparing for tea.

After the usual salutations: 'Mitchell, I want you to tell me something
about the Wood.'

'What Wood's that, Master Reginald?'

'Betton Wood. Do you remember it?'

Mitchell slowly raised his hand and pointed an accusing forefinger. 'It
were your father done away with Betton Wood, Master Reginald, I can tell
you that much.'

'Well, I know it was, Mitchell. You needn't look at me as if it were my
fault.'

'Your fault? No, I says it were your father done it, before your time.'

'Yes, and I dare say if the truth was known, it was your father that
advised him to do it, and I want to know why.' Mitchell seemed a little
amused. 'Well,' he said, 'my father were woodman to your father and your
grandfather before him, and if he didn't know what belonged to his
business, he'd oughter done. And if he did give advice that way, I
suppose he might have had his reasons, mightn't he now?'

'Of course he might, and I want you to tell me what they were.'

'Well now, Master Reginald, whatever makes you think as I know what
his reasons might 'a been I don't know how many year ago?'

'Well, to be sure, it is a long time, and you might easily have
forgotten, if ever you knew. I suppose the only thing is for me
to go and ask old Ellis what he can recollect about it.'

That had the effect I hoped for.

'Old Ellis!' he growled. 'First time ever I hear anyone say old Ellis
were any use for any purpose. I should 'a thought you know'd better than
that yourself, Master Reginald. What do you suppose old Ellis can tell
you better'n what I can about Betton Wood, and what call have he got to
be put afore me, I should like to know. His father warn't woodman on the
place: he were ploughman--that's what he was, and so anyone could tell
you what knows; anyone could tell you that, I says.'

'Just so, Mitchell, but if you know all about Betton Wood and won't tell
me, why, I must do the next best I can, and try and get it out of
somebody else; and old Ellis has been on the place very nearly as long as
you have.'

'That he ain't, not by eighteen months! Who says I wouldn't tell you
nothing about the Wood? I ain't no objection; only it's a funny kind of a
tale, and 'taint right to my thinkin' it should be all about the parish.
You, Lizzie, do you keep in your kitchen a bit. Me and Master Reginald
wants to have a word or two private. But one thing I'd like to know,
Master Reginald, what come to put you upon asking about it today?'

'Oh! well, I happened to hear of an old saying about something that walks
in Betton Wood. And I wondered if that had anything to do with its being
cleared away: that's all.'

'Well, you was in the right, Master Reginald, however you come to hear of
it, and I believe I can tell you the rights of it better than anyone in
this parish, let alone old Ellis. You see it came about this way: that
the shortest road to Allen's Farm laid through the Wood, and when we was
little my poor mother she used to go so many times in the week to the
farm to fetch a quart of milk, because Mr Allen what had the farm then
under your father, he was a good man, and anyone that had a young family
to bring up, he was willing to allow 'em so much in the week. But never
you mind about that now. And my poor mother she never liked to go through
the Wood, because there was a lot of talk in the place, and sayings like
what you spoke about just now. But every now and again, when she happened
to be late with her work, she'd have to take the short road through the
Wood, and as sure as ever she did, she'd come home in a rare state. I
remember her and my father talking about it, and he'd say, "Well, but it
can't do you no harm, Emma," and she'd say, "Oh! but you haven't an idear
of it, George. Why, it went right through my head," she says, "and I came
over all bewildered-like, and as if I didn't know where I was. You see,
George," she says, "it ain't as if you was about there in the dusk. You
always goes there in the daytime, now don't you?" and he says: "Why, to
be sure I do; do you take me for a fool?" And so they'd go on. And time
passed by, and I think it wore her out, because, you understand, it
warn't no use to go for the milk not till the afternoon, and she wouldn't
never send none of us children instead, for fear we should get a fright.
Nor she wouldn't tell us about it herself. "No," she says, "it's bad
enough for me. I don't want no one else to go through it, nor yet hear
talk about it." But one time I recollect she says, "Well, first it's a
rustling-like all along in the bushes, coming very quick, either towards
me or after me according to the time, and then there comes this scream as
appears to pierce right through from the one ear to the other, and the
later I am coming through, the more like I am to hear it twice over; but
thanks be, I never yet heard it the three times." And then I asked her,
and I says: "Why, that seems like someone walking to and fro all the
time, don't it?" and she says, "Yes, it do, and whatever it is she wants,
I can't think": and I says, "Is it a woman, mother?" and she says, "Yes,
I've heard it is a woman."

'Anyway, the end of it was my father he spoke to your father, and told
him the Wood was a bad wood. "There's never a bit of game in it, and
there's never a bird's nest there," he says, "and it ain't no manner of
use to you." And after a lot of talk, your father he come and see my
mother about it, and he see she warn't one of these silly women as gets
nervish about nothink at all, and he made up his mind there was somethink
in it, and after that he asked about in the neighbourhood, and I believe
he made out somethink, and wrote it down in a paper what very like you've
got up at the Court, Master Reginald. And then he gave the order, and the
Wood was stubbed up. They done all the work in the daytime, I recollect,
and was never there after three o'clock.' 'Didn't they find anything to
explain it, Mitchell? No bones or anything of that kind?'

'Nothink at all, Master Reginald, only the mark of a hedge and ditch
along the middle, much about where the quickset hedge run now; and with
all the work they done, if there had been anyone put away there, they was
bound to find 'em. But I don't know whether it done much good, after all.
People here don't seem to like the place no better than they did afore.'

'That's about what I got out of Mitchell,' said Philipson, 'and as far as
any explanation goes, it leaves us very much where we were. I must see if
I can't find that paper.'

'Why didn't your father ever tell you about the business?' I said.

'He died before I went to school, you know, and I imagine he didn't want
to frighten us children by any such story. I can remember being shaken
and slapped by my nurse for running up that lane towards the Wood when we
were coming back rather late one winter afternoon: but in the daytime no
one interfered with our going into the Wood if we wanted to--only we
never did want.'

'Hm!' I said, and then, 'Do you you think you'll be able to find that
paper that your father wrote?'

'Yes,' he said, 'I do. I expect it's no farther away than that cupboard
behind you. There's a bundle or two of things specially put aside, most
of which I've looked through at various times, and I know there's one
envelope labelled Betton Wood: but as there was no Betton Wood any more,
I never thought it would be worth while to open it, and I never have.
We'll do it now, though.'

'Before you do,' I said (I was still reluctant, but I thought this was
perhaps the moment for my disclosure), 'I'd better tell you I think
Mitchell was right when he doubted if clearing away the Wood had put
things straight.' And I gave the account you have heard already: I need
not say Philipson was interested. 'Still there?' he said. 'It's amazing.
Look here, will you come out there with me now, and see what happens?'

'I will do no such thing,' I said, 'and if you knew the feeling, you'd be
glad to walk ten miles in the opposite direction. Don't talk of it. Open
your envelope, and let's hear what your father made out.'

He did so, and read me the three or four pages of jottings which it
contained. At the top was written a motto from Scott's Glenfinlas, which
seemed to me well-chosen:

Where walks, they say, the shrieking ghost.

Then there were notes of his talk with Mitchell's mother, from which I
extract only this much. 'I asked her if she never thought she saw
anything to account for the sounds she heard. She told me, no more than
once, on the darkest evening she ever came through the Wood; and then she
seemed forced to look behind her as the rustling came in the bushes, and
she thought she saw something all in tatters with the two arms held out
in front of it coming on very fast, and at that she ran for the stile,
and tore her gown all to finders getting over it.'

Then he had gone to two other people whom he found very shy of talking.
They seemed to think, among other things, that it reflected discredit on
the parish. However, one, Mrs Emma Frost, was prevailed upon to repeat
what her mother had told her. 'They say it was a lady of title that
married twice over, and her first husband went by the name of Brown, or
it might have been Bryan ['Yes, there were Bryans at the Court before it
came into our family,' Philipson put in], and she removed her neighbour's
landmark: leastways she took in a fair piece of the best pasture in
Betton parish what belonged by rights to two children as hadn't no one to
speak for them, and they say years after she went from bad to worse, and
made out false papers to gain thousands of pounds up in London, and at
last they was proved in law to be false, and she would have been tried
and put to death very like, only she escaped away for the time. But no
one can't avoid the curse that's laid on them that removes the landmark,
and so we take it she can't leave Betton before someone take and put it
right again.'

At the end of the paper there was a note to this effect. 'I regret that I
cannot find any clue to previous owners of the fields adjoining the Wood.
I do not hesitate to say that if I could discover their representatives,
I should do my best to indemnify them for the wrong done to them in years
now long past: for it is undeniable that the Wood is very curiously
disturbed in the manner described by the people of the place. In my
present ignorance alike of the extent of the land wrongly appropriated,
and of the rightful owners, I am reduced to keeping a separate note of
the profits derived from this part of the estate, and my custom has been
to apply the sum that would represent the annual yield of about five
acres to the common benefit of the parish and to charitable uses: and I
hope that those who succeed me may see fit to continue this practice.'

So much for the elder Mr Philipson's paper. To those who, like myself,
are readers of the State Trials it will have gone far to illuminate the
situation. They will remember how between the years 1678 and 1684 the
Lady Ivy, formerly Theodosia Bryan, was alternately Plaintiff and
Defendant in a series of trials in which she was trying to establish a
claim against the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's for a considerable and
very valuable tract of land in Shadwell: how in the last of those trials,
presided over by L. C. J. Jeffreys, it was proved up to the hilt that the
deeds upon which she based her claim were forgeries executed under her
orders: and how, after an information for perjury and forgery was issued
against her, she disappeared completely--so completely, indeed, that no
expert has ever been able to tell me what became of her.

Does not the story I have told suggest that she may still be heard of on
the scene of one of her earlier and more successful exploits?

* * * * *

'That,' said my friend, as he folded up his papers, 'is a very faithful
record of my one extraordinary experience. And now--'

But I had so many questions to ask him, as for instance, whether his
friend had found the proper owner of the land, whether he had done
anything about the hedge, whether the sounds were ever heard now, what
was the exact title and date of his pamphlet, etc., etc., that bed-time
came and passed, without his having an opportunity to revert to the
Literary Supplement of The Times.


[Thanks to the researches of Sir John Fox, in his book on The Lady Ivie's
Trial (Oxford, 1929), we now know that my heroine died in her bed in
1695, having--heaven knows how--been acquitted of the forgery, for which
she had undoubtedly been responsible.]



2. A SCHOOL STORY


Two men in a smoking-room were talking of their private-school days. 'At
_our_ school,' said A., 'we had a ghost's footmark on the staircase. What
was it like? Oh, very unconvincing. Just the shape of a shoe, with a
square toe, if I remember right. The staircase was a stone one. I never
heard any story about the thing. That seems odd, when you come to think
of it. Why didn't somebody invent one, I wonder?'

'You never can tell with little boys. They have a mythology of their own.
There's a subject for you, by the way--"The Folklore of Private
Schools".'

'Yes; the crop is rather scanty, though. I imagine, if you were to
investigate the cycle of ghost stories, for instance, which the boys at
private schools tell each other, they would all turn out to be
highly-compressed versions of stories out of books.'

'Nowadays the _Strand_ and _Pearson's_, and so on, would be extensively
drawn upon.'

'No doubt: they weren't born or thought of in _my_ time. Let's see. I
wonder if I can remember the staple ones that I was told. First, there
was the house with a room in which a series of people insisted on passing
a night; and each of them in the morning was found kneeling in a corner,
and had just time to say, "I've seen it," and died.'

'Wasn't that the house in Berkeley Square?'

'I dare say it was. Then there was the man who heard a noise in the
passage at night, opened his door, and saw someone crawling towards him
on all fours with his eye hanging out on his cheek. There was besides,
let me think--Yes! the room where a man was found dead in bed with a
horseshoe mark on his forehead, and the floor under the bed was covered
with marks of horseshoes also; I don't know why. Also there was the lady
who, on locking her bedroom door in a strange house, heard a thin voice
among the bed-curtains say, "Now we're shut in for the night." None of
those had any explanation or sequel. I wonder if they go on still, those
stories.'

'Oh, likely enough--with additions from the magazines, as I said. You
never heard, did you, of a real ghost at a private school? I thought not;
nobody has that ever I came across.'

'From the way in which you said that, I gather that _you_ have.'

'I really don't know; but this is what was in my mind. It happened at my
private school thirty odd years ago, and I haven't any explanation of it.

'The school I mean was near London. It was established in a large and
fairly old house--a great white building with very fine grounds about it;
there were large cedars in the garden, as there are in so many of the
older gardens in the Thames valley, and ancient elms in the three or four
fields which we used for our games. I think probably it was quite an
attractive place, but boys seldom allow that their schools possess any
tolerable features.

'I came to the school in a September, soon after the year 1870; and among
the boys who arrived on the same day was one whom I took to: a Highland
boy, whom I will call McLeod. I needn't spend time in describing him: the
main thing is that I got to know him very well. He was not an exceptional
boy in any way--not particularly good at books or games--but he suited
me.

'The school was a large one: there must have been from 120 to 130 boys
there as a rule, and so a considerable staff of masters was required, and
there were rather frequent changes among them.

'One term--perhaps it was my third or fourth--a new master made his
appearance. His name was Sampson. He was a tallish, stoutish, pale,
black-bearded man. I think we liked him: he had travelled a good deal,
and had stories which amused us on our school walks, so that there was
some competition among us to get within earshot of him. I remember
too--dear me, I have hardly thought of it since then!--that he had a
charm on his watch-chain that attracted my attention one day, and he let
me examine it. It was, I now suppose, a gold Byzantine coin; there was an
effigy of some absurd emperor on one side; the other side had been worn
practically smooth, and he had had cut on it--rather barbarously--his own
initials, G.W.S., and a date, 24 July, 1865. Yes, I can see it now: he
told me he had picked it up in Constantinople: it was about the size of a
florin, perhaps rather smaller.

'Well, the first odd thing that happened was this. Sampson was doing
Latin grammar with us. One of his favourite methods--perhaps it is rather
a good one--was to make us construct sentences out of our own heads to
illustrate the rules he was trying to make us learn. Of course that is a
thing which gives a silly boy a chance of being impertinent: there are
lots of school stories in which that happens--or anyhow there might be.
But Sampson was too good a disciplinarian for us to think of trying that
on with him. Now, on this occasion he was telling us how to express
_remembering_ in Latin: and he ordered us each to make a sentence
bringing in the verb _memini_, "I remember." Well, most of us made up
some ordinary sentence such as "I remember my father," or "He remembers
his book," or something equally uninteresting: and I dare say a good many
put down _memino librum meum_, and so forth: but the boy I
mentioned--McLeod--was evidently thinking of something more elaborate
than that. The rest of us wanted to have our sentences passed, and get on
to something else, so some kicked him under the desk, and I, who was next
to him, poked him and whispered to him to look sharp. But he didn't seem
to attend. I looked at his paper and saw he had put down nothing at all.
So I jogged him again harder than before and upbraided him sharply for
keeping us all waiting. That did have some effect. He started and seemed
to wake up, and then very quickly he scribbled about a couple of lines on
his paper, and showed it up with the rest. As it was the last, or nearly
the last, to come in, and as Sampson had a good deal to say to the boys
who had written _meminiscimus patri meo_ and the rest of it, it turned
out that the clock struck twelve before he had got to McLeod, and McLeod
had to wait afterwards to have his sentence corrected. There was nothing
much going on outside when I got out, so I waited for him to come. He
came very slowly when he did arrive, and I guessed there had been some
sort of trouble. "Well," I said, "what did you get?" "Oh, I don't know,"
said McLeod, "nothing much: but I think Sampson's rather sick with me."
"Why, did you show him up some rot?" "No fear," he said. "It was all
right as far as I could see: it was like this: _Memento_--that's right
enough for remember, and it takes a genitive,--_memento putei inter
quatuor taxos_." "What silly rot!" I said. "What made you shove that
down? What does it mean?" "That's the funny part," said McLeod. "I'm not
quite sure what it does mean. All I know is, it just came into my head
and I corked it down. I know what I _think_ it means, because just before
I wrote it down I had a sort of picture of it in my head: I believe it
means 'Remember the well among the four'--what are those dark sort of
trees that have red berries on them?" "Mountain ashes, I s'pose you
mean." "I never heard of them," said McLeod; "no, _I'll_ tell you--yews."
"Well, and what did Sampson say?" "Why, he was jolly odd about it. When
he read it he got up and went to the mantelpiece and stopped quite a long
time without saying anything, with his back to me. And then he said,
without turning round, and rather quiet, 'What do you suppose that
means?' I told him what I thought; only I couldn't remember the name of
the silly tree: and then he wanted to know why I put it down, and I had
to say something or other. And after that he left off talking about it,
and asked me how long I'd been here, and where my people lived, and
things like that: and then I came away: but he wasn't looking a bit
well."

'I don't remember any more that was said by either of us about this. Next
day McLeod took to his bed with a chill or something of the kind, and it
was a week or more before he was in school again. And as much as a month
went by without anything happening that was noticeable. Whether or not Mr
Sampson was really startled, as McLeod had thought, he didn't show it. I
am pretty sure, of course, now, that there was something very curious in
his past history, but I'm not going to pretend that we boys were sharp
enough to guess any such thing.

'There was one other incident of the same kind as the last which I told
you. Several times since that day we had had to make up examples in
school to illustrate different rules, but there had never been any row
except when we did them wrong. At last there came a day when we were
going through those dismal things which people call Conditional
Sentences, and we were told to make a conditional sentence, expressing a
future consequence. We did it, right or wrong, and showed up our bits of
paper, and Sampson began looking through them. All at once he got up,
made some odd sort of noise in his throat, and rushed out by a door that
was just by his desk. We sat there for a minute or two, and then--I
suppose it was incorrect--but we went up, I and one or two others, to
look at the papers on his desk. Of course I thought someone must have put
down some nonsense or other, and Sampson had gone off to report him. All
the same, I noticed that he hadn't taken any of the papers with him when
he ran out. Well, the top paper on the desk was written in red ink--which
no one used--and it wasn't in anyone's hand who was in the class. They
all looked at it--McLeod and all--and took their dying oaths that it
wasn't theirs. Then I thought of counting the bits of paper. And of this
I made quite certain: that there were seventeen bits of paper on the
desk, and sixteen boys in the form. Well, I bagged the extra paper, and
kept it, and I believe I have it now. And now you will want to know what
was written on it. It was simple enough, and harmless enough, I should
have said.

'"_Si tu non veneris ad me, ego veniam ad te_," which means, I suppose,
"If you don't come to me, I'll come to you."'

'Could you show me the paper?' interrupted the listener.

'Yes, I could: but there's another odd thing about it. That same
afternoon I took it out of my locker--I know for certain it was the same
bit, for I made a finger-mark on it--and no single trace of writing of
any kind was there on it. I kept it, as I said, and since that time I
have tried various experiments to see whether sympathetic ink had been
used, but absolutely without result.

'So much for that. After about half an hour Sampson looked in again: said
he had felt very unwell, and told us we might go. He came rather gingerly
to his desk and gave just one look at the uppermost paper: and I suppose
he thought he must have been dreaming: anyhow, he asked no questions.

'That day was a half-holiday, and next day Sampson was in school again,
much as usual. That night the third and last incident in my story
happened.

'We--McLeod and I--slept in a dormitory at right angles to the main
building. Sampson slept in the main building on the first floor. There
was a very bright full moon. At an hour which I can't tell exactly, but
some time between one and two, I was woken up by somebody shaking me. It
was McLeod; and a nice state of mind he seemed to be in. "Come," he
said,--"come! there's a burglar getting in through Sampson's window." As
soon as I could speak, I said, "Well, why not call out and wake everybody
up?" "No, no," he said, "I'm not sure who it is: don't make a row: come
and look." Naturally I came and looked, and naturally there was no one
there. I was cross enough, and should have called McLeod plenty of names:
only--I couldn't tell why--it seemed to me that there _was_ something
wrong--something that made me very glad I wasn't alone to face it. We
were still at the window looking out, and as soon as I could, I asked him
what he had heard or seen. "I didn't _hear_ anything at all," he said,
"but about five minutes before I woke you, I found myself looking out of
this window here, and there was a man sitting or kneeling on Sampson's
window-sill, and looking in, and I thought he was beckoning." "What sort
of man?" McLeod wriggled. "I don't know," he said, "but I can tell you
one thing--he was beastly thin: and he looked as if he was wet all over:
and," he said, looking round and whispering as if he hardly liked to hear
himself, "I'm not at all sure that he was alive."

'We went on talking in whispers some time longer, and eventually crept
back to bed. No one else in the room woke or stirred the whole time. I
believe we did sleep a bit afterwards, but we were very cheap next day.

'And next day Mr Sampson was gone: not to be found: and I believe no
trace of him has ever come to light since. In thinking it over, one of
the oddest things about it all has seemed to me to be the fact that
neither McLeod nor I ever mentioned what we had seen to any third person
whatever. Of course no questions were asked on the subject, and if they
had been, I am inclined to believe that we could not have made any
answer: we seemed unable to speak about it.

'That is my story,' said the narrator. 'The only approach to a ghost
story connected with a school that I know, but still, I think, an
approach to such a thing.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The sequel to this may perhaps be reckoned highly conventional; but a
sequel there is, and so it must be produced. There had been more than one
listener to the story, and, in the latter part of that same year, or of
the next, one such listener was staying at a country house in Ireland.

One evening his host was turning over a drawer full of odds and ends in
the smoking-room. Suddenly he put his hand upon a little box. 'Now,' he
said, 'you know about old things; tell me what that is.' My friend opened
the little box, and found in it a thin gold chain with an object attached
to it. He glanced at the object and then took off his spectacles to
examine it more narrowly. 'What's the history of this?' he asked. 'Odd
enough,' was the answer. 'You know the yew thicket in the shrubbery:
well, a year or two back we were cleaning out the old well that used to
be in the clearing here, and what do you suppose we found?'

'Is it possible that you found a body?' said the visitor, with an odd
feeling of nervousness.

'We did that: but what's more, in every sense of the word, we found two.'

'Good Heavens! Two? Was there anything to show how they got there? Was
this thing found with them?'

'It was. Amongst the rags of the clothes that were on one of the bodies.
A bad business, whatever the story of it may have been. One body had the
arms tight round the other. They must have been there thirty years or
more--long enough before we came to this place. You may judge we filled
the well up fast enough. Do you make anything of what's cut on that gold
coin you have there?'

'I think I can,' said my friend, holding it to the light (but he read it
without much difficulty); 'it seems to be G.W.S., 24 July, 1865.'



3. A View From a Hill


How pleasant it can be, alone in a first-class railway carriage, on the
first day of a holiday that is to be fairly long, to dawdle through a
bit of English country that is unfamiliar, stopping at every station.
You have a map open on your knee, and you pick out the villages that lie
to right and left by their church towers. You marvel at the complete
stillness that attends your stoppage at the stations, broken only by a
footstep crunching the gravel. Yet perhaps that is best experienced
after sundown, and the traveler I have in mind was making his leisurely
progress on a sunny afternoon in the latter half of June.

He was in the depths of the country. I need not particularise further
than to say that if you divided the map of England into four quarters,
he would have been found in the south-western of them.

He was a man of academic pursuits, and his term was just over. He was on
his way to meet a new friend, older than himself. The two of them had
met first on an official inquiry in town, had found that they had many
tastes and habits in common, liked each other, and the result was an
invitation from Squire Richards to Mr. Fanshawe which was now taking
effect.

The journey ended about five o'clock. Fanshawe was told by a cheerful
country porter that the car from the Hall had been up to the station and
left a message that something had to be fetched from half a mile farther
on, and would the gentleman please to wait a few minutes till it came
back? 'But I see,' continued the porter, 'as you've got your bystile,
and very like you'd find it pleasanter to ride up to the 'all yourself.
Straight up the road 'ere, and then first turn to the left--it ain't
above two mile--and I'll see as your things is put in the car for you.

You'll excuse me mentioning it, only I though it were a nice evening for
a ride. Yes, sir, very seasonable weather for the haymakers: met me see,
I have your bike ticket. Thank you, sir; much obliged: you can't miss
your road, etc., etc.'

The two miles to the Hall were just what was needed, after the day in
the train, to dispel somnolence and impart a wish for tea. The Hall,
when sighted, also promised just what was needed in the way of a quiet
resting-place after days of sitting on committees and college-meetings.
It was neither excitingly old nor depressingly new. Plastered walls,
sash-windows, old trees, smooth lawns, were the features which Fanshawe
noticed as he came up the drive. Squire Richards, a burly man of sixty
odd, was awaiting him in the porch with evident pleasure 'Tea first,' he
said, 'or would you like a longer drink? No? All right, tea's ready in
the garden. Come along, they'll put your machine away. I always have tea
under the lime-tree by the stream on a day like this.' Nor could you ask
for a better place. Midsummer afternoon, shade and scent of a vast
lime-tree, cool, swirling water within five yards. It was long before
either of them suggested a move. But about six, Mr. Richards sat up,
knocked out his pipe, and said: 'Look here, it's cool enough now to
think of a stroll, if you're inclined? All right: then what I suggest is
that we walk up the park and get on to the hill-side, where we can look
over the country. We'll have a map, and I'll show you where things are;
and you can go off on your machine, or we can take the car, according as
you want exercise or not. If you're ready, we can start now and be back
well before eight, taking it very easy.'

'I'm ready. I should like my stick, though, and have you got any
field-glasses? I lent mine to a man a week ago, and he's gone off Lord
knows where and taken them with him.'

Mr. Richards pondered. 'Yes,' he said, 'I have, but they're not things I
use myself, and I don't know whether the ones I have will suit you.
They're old-fashioned, and about twice as heavy as they make 'em now.
You're welcome to have them, but I won't carry them. By the way, what do
you want to drink after dinner?'

Protestations that anything would do were overruled, and a satisfactory
settlement was reached on the way to the front hall, where Mr. Fanshawe
found his stick, and Mr. Richards, after thoughtful pinching of his
lower lip, resorted to a drawer in the hall-table, extracted a key,
crossed to a cupboard in the panelling, opened it, took a box from the
shelf, and put it on the table. 'The glasses are in there,' he said,
'and there's some dodge of opening it, but I've forgotten what it is.
You try.' Mr. Fanshawe accordingly tried. There was no keyhole, and the
box was solid, heavy and smooth: it seemed obvious that some part of it
would have to be pressed before anything could happen. 'The corners,'
said he to himself, 'are the likely places; and infernally sharp corners
they are too,' he added, as he put his thumb in his mouth after exerting
force on a lower corner.

'What's the matter?' said the Squire.

'Why, your disgusting Borgia box has scratched me, drat it,' said
Fanshawe. The Squire chuckled unfeelingly. 'Well, you've got it open,
anyway,' he said.

'So I have! Well, I don't begrudge a drop of blood in a good cause, and
here are the glasses. They are pretty heavy, as you said, but I think
I'm equal to carrying them.'

'Ready?' said the Squire. 'Come on then; we go out by the garden.'

So they did, and passed out into the park, which sloped decidedly
upwards to the hill which, as Fanshawe had seen from the train,
dominated the country. It was a spur of a larger range that lay behind.
On the way, the Squire, who was great on earthworks, pointed out various
spots where he detected or imagined traces of war-ditches and the like.
'And here,' he said, stopping on a more or less level plot with a ring
of large trees, 'is Baxter's Roman villa.' 'Baxter?' said Mr. Fanshawe.

'I forgot; you don't know about him. He was the old chap I got those
glasses from. I believe he made them. He was an old watch-maker down in
the village, a great antiquary. My father gave him leave to grub about
where he liked; and when he made a find he used to lend him a man or two
to help him with the digging. He got a surprising lot of things
together, and when he died--I dare say it's ten or fifteen years ago--I
bought the whole lot and gave them to the town museum. We'll run in one
of these days, and look over them. The glasses came to me with the rest,
but of course I kept them. If you look at them, you'll see they're more
or less amateur work--the body of them; naturally the lenses weren't his
making.'

'Yes, I see they are just the sort of thing that a clever workman in a
different line of business might turn out. But I don't see why he made
them so heavy. And did Baxter actually find a Roman villa here?'

'Yes, there's a pavement turfed over, where we're standing: it was too
rough and plain to be worth taking up, but of course there are drawings
of it: and the small things and pottery that turned up were quite good
of their kind. An ingenious chap, old Baxter: he seemed to have a quite
out-of-the-way instinct for these things. He was invaluable to our
archaeologists. He used to shut up his shop for days at a time, and
wander off over the district, marking down places, where he scented
anything, on the ordnance map; and he kept a book with fuller notes of
the places. Since his death, a good many of them have been sampled, and
there's always been something to justify him.'

'What a good man!' said Mr. Fanshawe.

'Good?' said the Squire, pulling up brusquely.

'I meant useful to have about the place,' said Mr. Fanshawe. 'But was he
a villain?'

'I don't know about that either,' said the Squire; 'but all I can say
is, if he was good, he wasn't lucky. And he wasn't liked: I didn't like
him,' he added, after a moment.

'Oh?' said Fanshawe interrogatively.

'No, I didn't; but that's enough about Baxter: besides, this is the
stiffest bit, and I don't want to talk and walk as well.'

Indeed it was hot, climbing a slippery grass slope that evening. 'I told
you I should take you the short way,' panted the Squire, 'and I wish I
hadn't. However, a bath won't do us any harm when we get back. Here we
are, and there's the seat.'

A small clump of old Scotch firs crowned the top of the hill; and, at
the edge of it, commanding the cream of the view, was a wide and solid
seat, on which the two disposed themselves, and wiped their brows, and
regained breath.

'Now, then,' said the Squire, as soon as he was in a condition to talk
connectedly, 'this is where your glasses come in. But you'd better take
a general look round first. My word! I've never seen the view look
better.'

Writing as I am now with a winter wind flapping against dark windows and
a rushing, tumbling sea within a hundred yards, I find it hard to summon
up the feelings and words which will put my reader in possession of the
June evening and the lovely English landscape of which the Squire was
speaking.

Across a broad level plain they looked upon ranges of great hills, whose
uplands--some green, some furred with woods--caught the light of a sun,
westering but not yet low. And all the plain was fertile, though the
river which traversed it was nowhere seen. 'There were copses, green
wheat, hedges and pasture-land: the little compact white moving cloud
marked the evening train. Then the eye picked out red farms and grey
houses, and nearer home scattered cottages, and then the Hall, nestled
under the hill. The smoke of chimneys was very blue and straight. There
was a smell of hay in the air: there were wild roses on bushes hard by.
It was the acme of summer.

After some minutes of silent contemplation, the Squire began to point
out the leading features, the hills and valleys, and told where the
towns and villages lay. 'Now,' he said, 'with the glasses you'll be able
to pick out Fulnaker Abbey. Take a line across that big green field,
then over the wood beyond it, then over the farm on the knoll.'

'Yes, yes,' said Fanshawe. 'I've got it. What a fine tower!'

'You must have got the wrong direction,' said the Squire; 'there's not
much of a tower about there that I remember, unless it's Oldbourne
Church that you've got hold of. And if you call that a fine tower,
you're easily pleased.'

'Well, I do call it a fine tower,' said Fanshawe, the glasses still at
his eyes, 'whether it's Oldbourne or any other. And it must belong to a
largish church; it looks to me like a central tower--four big pinnacles a
the corners, and four smaller ones between. I must certainly go over
there. How far is it?'

'Oldbourne's about nine miles, or less,' said the Squire. 'It's a long
time since I've been there, but I don't remember thinking much of it.
Now I'll show you another thing.'

Fanshawe had lowered the glasses, and was still gazing in the Oldbourne
direction. 'No,' he said, 'I can't make out anything with the naked eye.
What was it you were going to show me?'

'A good deal more to the left--it oughtn't to be difficult to find. Do
you see a rather sudden knob of a hill with a thick wood on top of it?
It's in a dead line with that single tree on the top of the big ridge.'

'I do,' said Fanshawe, 'and I believe I could tell you without much
difficulty what it's called.'

'Could you now?' said the Squire. 'Say on.'

'Why, Gallows Hill,' was the answer.

'How did you guess that?'

'Well, if you don't want it guessed, you shouldn't put up a dummy gibbet
and a man hanging on it.'

'What's that?' said the Squire abruptly. 'There's nothing on that hill
but wood.'

'On the contrary,' said Fanshawe, 'there's a largish expanse of grass on
the top and your dummy gibbet in the middle; and I thought there was
something on it when I looked first. But I see there's nothing--or is
there? I can't be sure.'

'Nonsense, nonsense, Fanshawe, there's no such thing as a dummy gibbet,
or any other sort, on that hill. And it's thick wood--a fairly young
plantation. I was in it myself not a year ago. Hand me the glasses,
though I don't suppose I can see anything.' After a pause: 'No, I
thought not: they won't show a thing.'

Meanwhile Fanshawe was scanning the hill--it might be only two or three
miles away. 'Well, it's very odd,' he said, 'it does look exactly like a
wood without the glass.' He took it again. 'That is one of the oddest
effects. The gibbet is perfectly plain, and the grass field, and there
even seem to be people on it, and carts, or a cart, with men in it. And
yet when I take the glass away, there's nothing. It must be something in
the way this afternoon light falls: I shall come up earlier in the day
when the sun's full on it.'

'Did you say you saw people and a cart on that hill?' said the Squire
incredulously. 'What should they be doing there at this time of day,
even if the trees have been felled? Do talk sense--look again.'

'Well, I certainly thought I saw them. Yes, I should say there were a
few, just clearing off. And now--by Jove, it does look like something
hanging on the gibbet. But these glasses are so beastly heavy I can't
hold them steady for long. Anyhow, you can take it from me there's no
wood. And if you'll show me the road on the map, I'll go there
tomorrow.'

The Squire remained brooding for some little time. At last he rose and
said, 'Well, I suppose that will be the best way to settle it. And now
we'd better be getting back. Bath and dinner is my idea.' And on the way
back he was not very communicative.

They returned through the garden, and went into the front hall to leave
sticks, etc., in their due place. And here they found the aged butler
Patten evidently in a state of some anxiety. 'Beg pardon, Master Henry,'
he began at once, 'but someone's been up to mischief here, I'm much
afraid.' He pointed to the open box which had contained the glasses.

'Nothing worse than that, Patten?' said the Squire. 'Mayn't I take out
my own glasses and lend them to a friend? Bought with my own money, you
recollect? At old Baxter's sale, eh?'

Patten bowed, unconvinced. 'Oh, very well, Master Henry, as long as you
know who it was. Only I thought proper to name it, for I didn't think
that box'd been off its shelf since you first put it there; and, if
you'll excuse me, after what happened...' The voice was lowered, and
the rest was not audible to Fanshawe. The Squire replied with a few
words and a gruff laugh, and called on Fanshawe to come and be shown his
room. And I do not think that anything else happened that night which
bears on my story.

Except, perhaps, the sensation which invaded Fanshawe in the small hours
that something had been let out which ought not to have been let out. It
came into his dreams. He was walking in a garden which he seemed half to
know, and stopped in front of a rockery made of old wrought stones,
pieces of window tracery from a church, and even bits of figures. One of
these moved his curiosity: it seemed to be a sculptured capital with
scenes carved on it. He felt he must pull it out, and worked away, and,
with an ease that surprised him, moved the stones that obscured it
aside, and pulled out the block. As he did so, a tin label fell down by
his feet with a little clatter. He picked it up and read on it: 'On no
account move this stone. Yours sincerely, J. Patten.' As often happens
in dreams, he felt that this injunction was of extreme importance; and
with an anxiety that amounted to anguish he looked to see if the stone
had really been shifted. Indeed it had; in fact, he could not see it
anywhere. The removal had disclosed the mouth of a burrow, and he bent
down to look into it. Something stirred in the blackness, and then, to
his intense horror, a hand emerged--a clean right hand in a neat cull and
coat-sleeve, just in the attitude of a hand that means to shake yours.
He wondered whether it would not be rude to let it alone. But, as he
looked at it, it began to grow hairy and dirty and thin, and also to
change its pose and stretch out as if to take hold of his leg. At that
he dropped all thought of politeness, decided to run, screamed and woke
himself up.

This was the dream he remembered; but it seemed to him (as, again, it
often does) that there had been others of the same import before, but
not so insistent. He lay awake for some little time, fixing the details
of the last dream in his mind, and wondering in particular what the
figures had been which he had seen or half seen on the carved capital.
Something quite incongruous, he felt sure; but that was the most he
could recall.

Whether because of the dream, or because it was the first day of his
holiday, he did not get up very early; nor did he at once plunge into
the exploration of the country. He spent a morning, half lazy, half
instructive, in looking over the volumes of the County Archaeological
Society's transactions, in which were many contributions from Mr. Baxter
on finds of flint implements, Roman sites, ruins of monastic
establishments--in fact, most departments of archaeology. They were
written in an odd, pompous, only half-educated style. If the man had had
more early schooling, thought Fanshawe, he would have been a very
distinguished antiquary; or he might have been (he thus qualified his
opinion a little later), but for a certain love of opposition and
controversy, and, yes, a patronising tone as of one possessing superior
knowledge, which left an unpleasant taste. He might have been a very
respectable artist. There was an imaginary restoration and elevation of
a priory church which was very well conceived. A fine pinnacled central
tower was a conspicuous feature of this; it reminded Fanshawe of that
which he had seen from the hill, and which the Squire had told him must
be Oldbourne. But it was not Oldbourne; it was Fulnaker Priory. 'Oh,
well,' he said to himself, 'I suppose Oldbourne Church may have been
built by Fulnaker monks, and Baxter has copied Oldbourne tower. Anything
about it in the letterpress? Ah, I see it was published after his
death--found among his papers.'

After lunch the Squire asked Fanshawe what he meant to do.

'Well,' said Fanshawe, 'I think I shall go out on my bike about four as
far as Oldbourne and back by Gallows Hill. That ought to be a round of
about fifteen miles, oughtn't it?'

'About that,' said the Squire, 'and you'll pass Lambsfield and Wanstone,
both of which are worth looking at. There's a little glass at Lambsfield
and the stone at Wanstone.'

'Good,' said Fanshawe, 'I'll get tea somewhere, and may I take the
glasses? I'll strap them on my bike, on the carrier.'

'Of course, if you like,' said the Squire. 'I really ought to have some
better ones. If I go into the town today, I'll see if I can pick up
some.' 'Why should you trouble to do that if you can't use them
yourself?' said Fanshawe.

'Oh, I don't know; one ought to have a decent pair; and--well, old Patten
doesn't think those are fit to use.'

'Is he a judge?'

'He's got some tale: I don't know: something about old Baxter. I've
promised to let him tell me about it. It seems very much on his mind
since last night.'

'Why that? Did he have a nightmare like me?'

'He had something: he was looking an old man this morning, and he said
he hadn't closed an eye.'

'Well, let him save up his tale till I come back.'

'Very well, I will if I can. Look here, are you going to be late? If you
get a puncture eight miles off and have to walk home, what then? I don't
trust these bicycles: I shall tell them to give us cold things to eat.'

'I shan't mind that, whether I'm late or early. But I've got things to
mend punctures with. And now I'm off.'

It was just as well that the Squire had made that arrangement about a
cold supper, Fanshawe thought, and not for the first time, as he wheeled
his bicycle up the drive about nine o'clock. So also the Squire thought
and said, several times, as he met him in the hall, rather pleased at
the confirmation of his want of faith in bicycles than sympathetic with
his hot, weary, thirsty, and indeed haggard, friend. In fact, the
kindest thing he found to say was: 'You'll want a long drink tonight?
Cider-cup do? All right. Hear that, Patten? Cider-cup, iced, lots of
it.' Then to Fanshawe, 'Don't be all night over your bath.'

By half-past nine they were at dinner, and Fanshawe was reporting
progress, if progress it might be called.

'I got to Lambsfield very smoothly, and saw the glass. It is very
interesting stuff, but there's a lot of lettering I couldn't read.' 'Not
with glasses?' said the Squire.

'Those glasses of yours are no manner of use inside a church--or inside
anywhere, I suppose, for that matter. But the only places I took 'em
into were churches.'

'H'm! Well, go on,' said the Squire.

'However, I took some sort of a photograph of the window, and I dare say
an enlargement would show what I want. Then Wanstone; I should think
that stone was a very out-of-the-way thing, only I don't know about that
class of antiquities. Has anybody opened the mound it stands on?'

'Baxter wanted to, but the farmer wouldn't let him.'

'Oh, well, I should think it would be worth doing. Anyhow, the next
thing was Fulnaker and Oldbourne. You know, it's very odd about that
tower I saw from the hill. Oldbourne Church is nothing like it, and of
course there's nothing over thirty feet high at Fulnaker, though you can
see it had a central tower. I didn't tell you, did I? that Baxter's
fancy drawing of Fulnaker shows a tower exactly like the one I saw.'

'So you thought, I dare say,' put in the Squire.

'No, it wasn't a case of thinking. The picture actually reminded me of
what I'd seen, and I made sure it was Oldbourne, well before I looked at
the title.'

'Well, Baxter had a very fair idea of architecture. I dare say what's
left made it easy for him to draw the right sort of tower.'

'That may be it, of course, but I'm doubtful if even a professional
could have got it so exactly right. There's absolutely nothing left at
Fulnaker but the bases of the piers which supported it. However, that
isn't the oddest thing.'

'What about Gallows Hill?' said the Squire. 'Here, Patten, listen to
this. I told you what Mr. Fanshawe said he saw from the hill.'

'Yes, Master Henry, you did; and I can't say I was so much surprised,
considering.'

'All right, all right. You keep that till afterwards. We want to hear
what Mr. Fanshawe saw today. Go on, Fanshawe. You turned to come back by
Ackford and Thorfield, I suppose?'

'Yes, and I looked into both the churches. Then I got to the turning
which goes to the top of Gallows Hill; I saw that if I wheeled my
machine over the field at the top of the hill I could join the home road
on this side. It was about half-past six when I got to the top of the
hill, and there was a gate on my right, where it ought to be, leading
into the belt of plantation.'

'You hear that, Patten? A belt, he says.'

'So I thought it was--a belt. But it wasn't. You were quite right, and I
was hopelessly wrong. I cannot understand it. The whole top is planted
quite thick. Well, I went on into this wood, wheeling and dragging my
bike, expecting every minute to come to a clearing, and then my
misfortunes began. Thorns, I suppose; first I realised that the front
tyre was slack, then the back. I couldn't stop to do more than try to
find the punctures and mark them; but even that was hopeless. So I
ploughed on, and the farther I went, the less I liked the place.'

'Not much poaching in that cover, eh, Patten?' said the Squire. 'No,
indeed, Master Henry: there's very few cares to go--' 'No, I know: never
mind that now. Go on, Fanshawe.' 'I don't blame anybody for not caring
to go there. I know I had all the fancies one least likes: steps
crackling over twigs behind me, indistinct people stepping behind trees
in front of me, yes, and even a hand laid on my shoulder. I pulled up
very sharp at that and looked round, but there really was no branch or
bush that could have done it. Then, when I was just about at the middle
of the plot, I was convinced that there was someone looking down on me
from above--and not with any pleasant intent. I stopped again, or at
least slackened my pace, to look up. And as I did, down I came, and
barked my shins abominably on, what do you think? a block of stone with
a big square hole in the top of it. And within a few paces there were
two others just like it. The three were set in a triangle. Now, do you
make out what they were put there for?'

'I think I can,' said the Squire, who was now very grave and absorbed in
the story. 'Sit down, Patten.'

It was time, for the old man was supporting himself by one hand, and
leaning heavily on it. He dropped into a chair, and said in a very
tremulous voice, 'You didn't go between them stones, did you, sir?'

'I did not,' said Fanshawe, emphatically. 'I dare say I was an ass, but
as soon as it dawned on me where I was, I just shouldered my machine and
did my best to run. It seemed to me as if I was in an unholy evil sort
of graveyard, and I was most profoundly thankful that it was one of the
longest days and still sunlight. Well, I had a horrid run, even if it
was only a few hundred yards. Everything caught on everything: handles
and spokes and carrier and pedals--caught in them viciously, or I fancied
so. I fell over at least five times. At last I saw the hedge, and I
couldn't trouble to hunt for the gate.'

'There is no gate on my side,' the Squire interpolated.

'Just as well I didn't waste time, then. I dropped the machine over
somehow and went into the road pretty near head-first; some branch or
something got my ankle at the last moment. Anyhow, there I was out of
the wood, and seldom more thankful or more generally sore. Then came the
job of mending my punctures. I had a good outfit and I'm not at all bad
at the business; but this was an absolutely hopeless case. It was seven
when I got out of the wood, and I spent fifty minutes over one tyre. As
fast as I found a hole and put on a patch, and blew it up, it went flat
again. So I made up my mind to walk. That hill isn't three miles away,
is it?'

Not more across country, but nearer six by road.'

'I thought it must be. I thought I couldn't have taken well over the
hour over less than five miles, even leading a bike. Well, there's my
story: where's yours and Patten's?'

'Mine? I've no story,' said the Squire. 'But you weren't very far out
when you thought you were in a graveyard. There must be a good few of
them up there, Patten, don't you think? They left 'em there when they
fell to bits, I fancy.'

Patten nodded, too much interested to speak. 'Don't,' said Fanshawe.
'Now then, Patten,' said the Squire, 'you've heard what sort of a time
Mr. Fanshawe's been having. What do you make of it? Anything to do with
Mr. Baxter? Fill yourself a glass of port, and tell us.'

'Ah, that done me good, Master Henry,' said Patten, after absorbing what
was before him. 'If you really wish to know what were in my thoughts, my
answer would be clear in the affirmative. Yes,' he went on, warming to
his work, 'I should say as Mr. Fanshawe's experience of today were very
largely doo to the person you named. And I think, Master Henry, as I
have some title to speak, in view of me 'axing been many years on
speaking terms with him, and swore in to be jury on the Coroner's
inquest near this time ten years ago, you being then, if you carry your
mind back, Master Henry, travelling abroad, and no one 'ere to represent
the family.'

'Inquest?' said Fanshawe. 'An inquest on Mr. Baxter, was there?'

'Yes, sir, on--on that very person. The facts as led up to that
occurrence was these. The deceased was, as you may have gathered, a very
peculiar individual in 'is 'abits--in my idear, at least, but all must
speak as they find. He lived very much to himself, without neither chick
nor child, as the saying is. And how he passed away his time was what
very few could orfer a guess at.'

'He lived unknown, and few could know when Baxter ceased to be,' said
the Squire to his pipe.

'I beg pardon, Master Henry, I was just coming to that. But when I say
how he passed away his time--to be sure we know 'ow intent he was in
rummaging and ransacking out all the 'istry of the neighbourhood and the
number of things he'd managed to collect together--well, it was spoke of
for miles round as Baxter's Museum, and many a time when he might be in
the mood, and I might have an hour to spare, have he showed me his
pieces of pots and what not, going back by his account to the times of
the ancient Romans. However, you know more about that than what I do,
Master Henry: only what I was a-going to say was this, as know what he
might and interesting as he might be in his talk, there was something
about the man--well, for one thing, no one ever remember to see him in
church nor yet chapel at service-time. And that made talk. Our rector he
never come in the house but once. "Never ask me what the man said"; that
was all anybody could ever get out of him. Then how did he spend his
nights, particularly about this season of the year? Time and again the
labouring men'd meet him coming back as they went out to their work, and
he'd pass 'em by without a word, looking, they says, like someone
straight out of the asylum. They see the whites of his eyes all round.
He'd have a fish-basket with him, that they noticed, and he always come
the same road. And the talk got to be that he'd made himself some
business, and that not the best kind--well, not so far from where you was
at seven o'clock this evening, sir.

'Well, now, after such a night as that, Mr. Baxter he'd shut up the
shop, and the old lady that did for him had orders not to come in; and
knowing what she did about his language, she took care to obey them
orders. But one day it so happened, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, the house being shut up as I said, there come a most fearful
to-do inside, and smoke out of the windows, and Baxter crying out
seemingly in an agony. So the man as lived next door he run round to the
back premises and burst the door in, and several others come too. Well,
he tell me he never in all his life smelt such a fearfu--well, odour, as
what there was in that kitchen-place. It seem as if Baxter had been
boiling something in a pot and overset it on his leg. There he laid on
the floor, trying to keep back the cries, but it was more than he could
manage, and when he seen the people come in--oh, he was in a nice
condition: if his tongue warn't blistered worse than his leg it warn't
his fault. Well, they picked him up, and got him into a chair, and run
for the medical man, and one of 'em was going to pick up the pot, and
Baxter, he screams out to let it alone. So he did, but he couldn't see
as there was anything in the pot but a few old brown bones. Then they
says "Dr. Lawrence'll be here in a minute, Mr. Baxter; he'll soon put
you to rights." And then he was off again. He must be got up to his
room, he couldn't have the doctor come in there and see all that
mess--they must throw a cloth over it--anything--the tablecloth out of the
parlour; well, so they did. But that must have been poisonous stuff in
that pot, for it was pretty near on two months afore Baxter were about
agin. Beg pardon, Master Henry, was you going to say something?'

'Yes, I was,' said the Squire. 'I wonder you haven't told me all this
before. However, I was going to say I remember old Lawrence telling me
he'd attended Baxter. He was a queer card, he said. Lawrence was up in
the bedroom one day, and picked up a little mask covered with black
velvet, and put it on in fun and went to look at himself in the glass.
He hadn't time for a proper look, for old Baxter shouted out to him from
the bed: "Put it down, you fool! Do you want to look through a dead
man's eyes?" and it startled him so that he did put it down, and then he
asked Baxter what he meant. And Baxter insisted on him handing it over,
and said the man he bought it from was dead, or some such nonsense. But
Lawrence felt it as he handed it over, and he declared he was sure it
was made out of the front of a skull. He bought a distilling apparatus
at Baxter's sale, he told me, but he could never use it: it seemed to
taint everything, however much he cleaned it. But go on, Patten.'

'Yes, Master Henry, I'm nearly done now, and time, too, for I don't know
what they'll think about me in the servants' 'all. Well, this business
of the scalding was some few years before Mr. Baxter was took, and he
got about again, and went on just as he'd used. And one of the last jobs
he done was finishing up them actual glasses what you took out last
night. You see he'd made the body of them some long time, and got the
pieces of glass for them, but there was somethink wanted to finish 'em,
whatever it was, I don't know, but I picked up the frame one day, and I
says: "Mr. Baxter, why don't you make a job of this?" And he says, "Ah,
when I've done that, you'll hear news, you will: there's going to be no
such pair of glasses as mine when they're filled and sealed," and there
he stopped, and I says: "Why, Mr. Baxter, you talk as if they was wine
bottles: filled and sealed--why, where's the necessity for that?" "Did I
say filled and sealed?" he says. "O, well, I was suiting my conversation
to my company." Well, then come round this time of year, and one fine
evening, I was passing his shop on my way home, and he was standing on
the step, very pleased with hisself, and he says: "All right and tight
now: my best bit of work's finished, and I'll be out with 'em tomorrow."
"What, finished them glasses?" I says, "might I have a look at them?"
"No, no," he says, "I've put 'em to bed for tonight, and when I do show
'em you, you'll have to pay for peepin', so I tell you." And that,
gentlemen, were the last words I heard that man say.

'That were the 17th of June, and just a week after, there was a funny
thing happened, and it was doo to that as we brought in "unsound mind"
at the inquest, for barring that, no one as knew Baxter in business
could anyways have laid that against him. But George Williams, as lived
in the next house, and do now, he was woke up that same night with a
stumbling and tumbling about in Mr. Baxter's premises, and he got out o'
bed, and went to the front window on the street to see if there was any
rough customers about. And ft being a very light night, he could make
sure as there was not. Then he stood and listened, and he hear Mr.
Baxter coming down his front stair one step after another very slow, and
he got the idear as it was like someone bein' pushed or pulled down and
holdin' on to everythin' he could. Next thing he hear the street door
come open, and out come Mr. Baxter into the street in his day-clothes,
'at and all, with his arms straight down by his sides, and talking to
hisself, and shakin' his head from one side to the other, and walking in
that peculiar way that he appeared to be going as it were against his
own will. George Williams put up the window, and hear him say: "O mercy,
gentlemen!" and then he shut up sudden as if, he said, someone clapped
his hand over his mouth, and Mr. Baxter threw his head back, and his hat
fell off. And Williams see his face looking something pitiful, so as he
couldn't keep from calling out to him: "Why, Mr. Baxter, ain't you
well?" and he was goin' to offer to fetch Dr. Lawrence to him, only he
heard the answer: "'Tis best you mind your own business. Put in your
head." But whether it were Mr. Baxter said it so hoarse-like and faint,
he never could be sure. Still there weren't no one but him in the
street, and yet Williams was that upset by the way he spoke that he
shrank back from the window and went and sat on the bed. And he heard
Mr. Baxter's step go on and up the road, and after a minute or more he
couldn't help but look out once more and he see him going along the same
curious way as before. And one thing he recollected was that Mr. Baxter
never stopped to pick up his 'at when it fell off, and yet there it was
on his head. Well, Master Henry, that was the last anybody see of Mr.
Baxter, leastways for a week or more. There was a lot of people said he
was called off on business, or made off because he'd got into some
scrape, but he was well known for miles round, and none of the railway
people nor the public-house people hadn't seen him; and then ponds was
looked into and nothink found; and at last one evening Fakes the keeper
come down from over the hill to the village, and he says he seen the
Gallows Hill planting black with birds, and that were a funny thing,
because he never see no sign of a creature there in his time. So they
looked at each other a bit, and first one says: "I'm game to go up," and
another says: "So am I, if you are," and half a dozen of 'em set out in
the evening time, and took Dr. Lawrence with them, and you know, Master
Henry, there he was between them three stones with his neck broke.'

Useless to imagine the talk which this story set going. It is not
remembered. But before Patten left them, he said to Fanshawe: 'Excuse
me, sir, but did I understand as you took out them glasses with you
today? I thought you did; and might I ask, did you make use of them at
all?'

'Yes. Only to look at something in a church.'

'Oh, indeed, you took 'em into the church, did you, sir?'

'Yes, I did; it was Lambsfield church. By the way, I left them strapped
on to my bicycle, I'm afraid, in the stable-yard.'

'No matter for that, sir. I can bring them in the first thing tomorrow,
and perhaps you'll be so good as to look at 'em then.'

Accordingly, before breakfast, after a tranquil and well-earned sleep,
Fanshawe took the glasses into the garden and directed them to a distant
hill. He lowered them instantly, and looked at top and bottom, worked
the screws, tried them again and yet again, shrugged his shoulders and
replaced them on the hall-table.

'Patten,' he said, 'they're absolutely useless. I can't see a thing:
it's as if someone had stuck a black wafer over the lens.'

'Spoilt my glasses, have you?' said the Squire. 'Thank you: the only
ones I've got.'

'You try them yourself,' said Fanshawe, 'I've done nothing to them.'

So after breakfast the Squire took them out to the terrace and stood on
the steps. After a few ineffectual attempts, 'Lord, how heavy they are!'
he said impatiently, and in the same instant dropped them on to the
stones, and the lens splintered and the barrel cracked: a little pool of
liquid formed on the stone slab. It was inky black, and the odour that
rose from it is not to be described.

'Filled and sealed, eh?' said the Squire. 'If I could bring myself to
touch it, I dare say we should find the seal. So that's what came of his
boiling and distilling, is it? Old Ghoul!'

'What in the world do you mean?'

'Don't you see, my good man? Remember what he said to the doctor about
looking through dead men's eyes? Well, this was another way of it. But
they didn't like having their bones boiled, I take it, and the end of it
was they carried him off whither he would not. Well, I'll get a spade,
and we'll bury this thing decently.'

As they smoothed the turf over it, the Squire, handing the spade to
Patten, who had been a reverential spectator, remarked to Fanshawe:
'It's almost a pity you took that thing into the church: you might have
seen more than you did. Baxter had them for a week, I make out, but I
don't see that he did much in the time.'

'I'm not sure,' said Fanshawe, 'there is that picture of Fulnaker Priory
Church.'



4. A VIGNETTE


You are asked to think of the spacious garden of a country rectory,
adjacent to a park of many acres, and separated therefrom by a belt of
trees of some age which we knew as the Plantation. It is but about thirty
or forty yards broad. A close gate of split oak leads to it from the path
encircling the garden, and when you enter it from that side you put your
hand through a square hole cut in it and lift the hook to pass along to
the iron gate which admits to the park from the Plantation. It has
further to be added that from some windows of the rectory, which stands
on a somewhat lower level than the Plantation, parts of the path leading
thereto, and the oak gate itself can be seen. Some of the trees, Scotch
firs and others, which form a backing and a surrounding, are of
considerable size, but there is nothing that diffuses a mysterious gloom
or imparts a sinister flavour--nothing of melancholy or funereal
associations. The place is well clad, and there are secret nooks and
retreats among the bushes, but there is neither offensive bleakness nor
oppressive darkness. It is, indeed, a matter for some surprise when one
thinks it over, that any cause for misgivings of a nervous sort have
attached itself to so normal and cheerful a spot, the more so, since
neither our childish mind when we lived there nor the more inquisitive
years that came later ever nosed out any legend or reminiscence of old or
recent unhappy things.

Yet to me they came, even to me, leading an exceptionally happy wholesome
existence, and guarded--not strictly but as carefully as was any way
necessary--from uncanny fancies and fear. Not that such guarding avails
to close up all gates. I should be puzzled to fix the date at which any
sort of misgiving about the Plantation gate first visited me. Possibly it
was in the years just before I went to school, possibly on one later
summer afternoon of which I have a faint memory, when I was coming back
after solitary roaming in the park, or, as I bethink me, from tea at the
Hall: anyhow, alone, and fell in with one of the villagers also homeward
bound just as I was about to turn off the road on to the track leading to
the Plantation. We broke off our talk with 'good nights', and when I
looked back at him after a minute or so I was just a little surprised to
see him standing still and looking after me. But no remark passed, and on
I went. By the time I was within the iron gate and outside the park, dusk
had undoubtedly come on; but there was no lack yet of light, and I could
not account to myself for the questionings which certainly did rise as to
the presence of anyone else among the trees, questionings to which I
could not very certainly say 'No', nor, I was glad to feel, 'Yes',
because if there were anyone they could not well have any business there.
To be sure, it is difficult, in anything like a grove, to be quite
certain that nobody is making a screen out of a tree trunk and keeping it
between you and him as he moves round it and you walk on. All I can say
is that if such an one was there he was no neighbour or acquaintance of
mine, and there was some indication about him of being cloaked or hooded.
But I think I may have moved at a rather quicker pace than before, and
have been particular about shutting the gate. I think, too, that after
that evening something of what Hamlet calls a 'gain-giving' may have been
present in my mind when I thought of the Plantation, I do seem to
remember looking out of a window which gave in that direction, and
questioning whether there was or was not any appearance of a moving form
among the trees. If I did, and perhaps I did, hint a suspicion to the
nurse the only answer to it will have been 'the hidea of such a thing!'
and an injunction to make haste and get into my bed.

Whether it was on that night or a later one that I seem to see myself
again in the small hours gazing out of the window across moonlit grass
and hoping I was mistaken in fancying any movement in that half-hidden
corner of the garden, I cannot now be sure. But it was certainly within a
short while that I began to be visited by dreams which I would much
rather not have had--which, in fact, I came to dread acutely; and the
point round which they centred was the Plantation gate.

As years go on it but seldom happens that a dream is disturbing. Awkward
it may be, as when, while I am drying myself after a bath, I open the
bedroom door and step out on to a populous railway platform and have to
invent rapid and flimsy excuses for the deplorable deshabille. But such a
vision is not alarming, though it may make one despair of ever holding up
one's head again. But in the times of which I am thinking, it did happen,
not often, but oftener than I liked, that the moment a dream set in I
knew that it was going to turn out ill, and that there was nothing I
could do to keep it on cheerful lines.

Ellis the gardener might be wholesomely employed with rake and spade as I
watched at the window; other familiar figures might pass and repass on
harmless errands; but I was not deceived. I could see that the time was
coming when the gardener and the rest would be gathering up their
properties and setting off on paths that led homeward or into some safe
outer world, and the garden would be left--to itself, shall we say, or to
denizens who did not desire quite ordinary company and were only waiting
for the word 'all clear' to slip into their posts of vantage.

Now, too, was the moment near when the surroundings began to take on a
threatening look; that the sunlight lost power and a quality of light
replaced it which, though I did not know it at the time my memory years
after told me was the lifeless pallor of an eclipse. The effect of all
this was to intensify the foreboding that had begun to possess me, and to
make me look anxiously about, dreading that in some quarter my fear would
take a visible shape. I had not much doubt which way to look. Surely
behind those bushes, among those trees, there was motion, yes, and
surely--and more quickly than seemed possible--there was motion, not now
among the trees, but on the very path towards the house. I was still at
the window, and before I could adjust myself to the new fear there came
the impression of a tread on the stairs and a hand on the door. That was
as far as the dream got, at first; and for me it was far enough. I had no
notion what would have been the next development, more than that it was
bound to be horrifying.

That is enough in all conscience about the beginning of my dreams. A
beginning it was only, for something like it came again and again; how
often I can't tell, but often enough to give me an acute distaste for
being left alone in that region of the garden. I came to fancy that I
could see in the behaviour of the village people whose work took them
that way an anxiety to be past a certain point, and moreover a welcoming
of company as they approached that corner of the park. But on this it
will not do to lay overmuch stress, for, as I have said, I could never
glean any kind of story bound up with the place.

However, the strong probability that there had been one once I cannot
deny.

I must not by the way give the impression that the whole of the
Plantation was haunted ground. There were trees there most admirably
devised for climbing and reading in; there was a wall, along the top of
which you could walk for many hundred yards and reach a frequented road,
passing farmyard and familiar houses; and once in the park, which had its
own delights of wood and water, you were well out of range of anything
suspicious--or, if that is too much to say, of anything that suggested
the Plantation gate.

But I am reminded, as I look on these pages, that so far we have had only
preamble, and that there is very little in the way of actual incident to
come, and that the criticism attributed to the devil when he sheared the
sow is like to be justified. What, after all, was the outcome of the
dreams to which without saying a word about them I was liable during a
good space of time? Well, it presents itself to me thus. One
afternoon--the day being neither overcast nor threatening--I was at my
window in the upper floor of the house. All the family were out. From
some obscure shelf in a disused room I had worried out a book, not very
recondite: it was, in fact, a bound volume of a magazine in which were
contained parts of a novel. I know now what novel it was, but I did not
then, and a sentence struck and arrested me. Someone was walking at dusk
up a solitary lane by an old mansion in Ireland, and being a man of
imagination he was suddenly forcibly impressed by what he calls 'the
aerial image of the old house, with its peculiar malign, scared, and
skulking aspect' peering out of the shade of its neglected old trees. The
words were quite enough to set my own fancy on a bleak track. Inevitably
I looked and looked with apprehension, to the Plantation gate. As was but
right it was shut, and nobody was upon the path that led to it or from
it. But as I said a while ago, there was in it a square hole giving
access to the fastening; and through that hole, I could see--and it
struck like a blow on the diaphragm--something white or partly white. Now
this I could not bear, and with an access of something like courage--only
it was more like desperation, like determining that I must know the
worst--I did steal down and, quite uselessly, of course, taking cover
behind bushes as I went, I made progress until I was within range of the
gate and the hole. Things were, alas! worse than I had feared; through
that hole a face was looking my way. It was not monstrous, not pale,
fleshless, spectral. Malevolent I thought and think it was; at any rate
the eyes were large and open and fixed. It was pink and, I thought, hot,
and just above the eyes the border of a white linen drapery hung down
from the brows.

There is something horrifying in the sight of a face looking at one out
of a frame as this did; more particularly if its gaze is unmistakably
fixed upon you. Nor does it make the matter any better if the expression
gives no clue to what is to come next. I said just now that I took this
face to be malevolent, and so I did, but not in regard of any positive
dislike or fierceness which it expressed. It was, indeed, quite without
emotion: I was only conscious that I could see the whites of the eyes all
round the pupil, and that, we know, has a glamour of madness about it.
The immovable face was enough for me. I fled, but at what I thought must
be a safe distance inside my own precincts I could not but halt and look
back. There was no white thing framed in the hole of the gate, but there
was a draped form shambling away among the trees.

Do not press me with questions as to how I bore myself when it became
necessary to face my family again. That I was upset by something I had
seen must have been pretty clear, but I am very sure that I fought off
all attempts to describe it. Why I make a lame effort to do it now I
cannot very well explain: it undoubtedly has had some formidable power of
clinging through many years to my imagination. I feel that even now I
should be circumspect in passing that Plantation gate; and every now and
again the query haunts me: Are there here and there sequestered places
which some curious creatures still frequent, whom once on a time anybody
could see and speak to as they went about on their daily occasions,
whereas now only at rare intervals in a series of years does one cross
their paths and become aware of them; and perhaps that is just as well
for the peace of mind of simple people.

5. A Warning to the Curious

The place on the east coast which the reader is asked to consider is
Seaburgh. It is not very different now from what I remember it to have
been when I was a child. Marshes intersected by dykes to the south,
recalling the early chapters of Great Expectations; flat fields to the
north, merging into heath; heath, fir woods, and, above all, gorse,
inland. A long sea-front and a street: behind that a spacious church of
flint, with a broad, solid western tower and a peal of six bells. How
well I remember their sound on a hot Sunday in August, as our party went
slowly up the white, dusty slope of road towards them, for the church
stands at the top of a short, steep incline. They rang with a flat
clacking sort of sound on those hot days, but when the air was softer
they were mellower too. The railway ran down to its little terminus
farther along the same road. There was a gay white windmill just before
you came to the station, and another down near the shingle at the south
end the town, and yet others on higher ground to the north. There were
cottages of bright red brick with slate roofs...but why do I encumber
you with these commonplace details? The fact is that they come crowding
to the point of the pencil when it begins to write of Seaburgh. I should
like to be sure that I had allowed the right ones to get on to the
paper. But I forgot. I have not quite done with the word-painting
business yet.

Walk away from the sea and the town, pass the station, and turn up the
road on the right. It is a sandy road, parallel with the railway, and if
you follow it, it climbs to somewhat higher ground. On your left (you
are now going northward) is heath, on your right (the side towards the
sea) is a belt of old firs, wind-beaten, thick at the top, with the
slope that old seaside trees have; seen on the skyline from the train
they would tell you in an instant, if you did not know it, that you were
approaching a windy coast. Well, at the top of my little hill, a line of
these firs strikes out and runs towards the sea, for there is a ridge
that goes that way; and the ridge ends in a rather well-defined mound
commanding the level fields of rough grass, and a little knot of fir
trees crowns it. And here you may sit on a hot spring day, very well
content to look at blue sea, white windmills, red cottages, bright green
grass, church tower, and distant martello tower on the south.

As I have said, I began to know Seaburgh as a child; but a gap of a good
many years separates my early knowledge from that which is more recent.
Still it keeps its place in my affections, and any tales of it that I
pick up have an interest for me. One such tale is this: it came to me in
a place very remote from Seaburgh, and quite accidentally, from a man
whom I had been able to oblige--enough in his opinion to justify his
making me his confidant to this extent.

I know all that country more or less (he said). I used to go to
Scaburgh pretty regularly for golf in the spring. I generally put
up at the 'Bear', with a friend--Henry Long it was, you knew him
perhaps--('Slightly,' I said) and we used to take a sitting-room and be
very happy there. Since he died I haven't cared to go there. And I don't
know that I should anyhow after the particular thing that happened on
our last visit.

It was in April, 19--, we were there, and by some chance we were almost
the only people in the hotel. So the ordinary public rooms were
practically empty, and we were the more surprised when, after dinner,
our sitting-room door opened, and a young man put his head in. We were
aware of this young man. He was rather a rabbity anaemic subject--light
hair and light eyes--but not unpleasing. So when he said: 'I beg your
pardon, is this a private room?' we did not growl and say: 'Yes, it is,'
but Long said, or I did--no matter which: 'Please come in.' 'Oh, may I?'
he said, and seemed relieved. Of course it was obvious that he wanted
company; and as he was a reasonable kind of person--not the sort to
bestow his whole family history on you--we urged him to make himself at
home. 'I dare say you find the other rooms rather bleak,' I said. Yes,
he did: but it was really too good of us, and so on. That being got
over, he made some pretence of reading a book. Long was playing
Patience, I was writing. It became plain to me after a few minutes that
this visitor of ours was in rather a state of fidgets or nerves, which
communicated itself to me, and so I put away my writing and turned to at
engaging him in talk.

After some remarks, which I forget, he became rather confidential.
'You'll think it very odd of me' (this was the sort of way he began),
'but the fact is I've had something of a shock.' Well, I recommended a
drink of some cheering kind, and we had it. The waiter coming in made an
interruption (and I thought our young man seemed very jumpy when the
door opened), but after a while he got back to his woes again. There was
nobody he knew in the place, and he did happen to know who we both were
(it turned out there was some common acquaintance in town), and really
he did want a word of advice, if we didn't mind. Of course we both said:
'By all means,' or 'Not at all,' and Long put away his cards. And we
settled down to hear what his difficulty was.

'It began,' he said, 'more than a week ago, when I bicycled over to
Froston, only about five or six miles, to see the church; I'm very much
interested in architecture, and it's got one of those pretty porches
with niches and shields. I took a photograph of it, and then an old man
who was tidying up in the churchyard came and asked if I'd care to look
into the church. I said yes, and he produced a key and let me in. There
wasn't much inside, but I told him it was a nice little church, and he
kept it very clean, "But," I said, "the porch is the best part of it."
We were just outside the porch then, and he said, "Ah, yes, that is a
nice porch; and do you know, sir, what's the meanin' of that coat of
arms there?"

'It was the one with the three crowns, and though. I'm not much of a
herald, I was able to say yes, I thought it was the old arms of the
kingdom of East Anglia.

"'That's right, sir," he said, "and do you know the meanin' of them
three crowns that's on it?"

'I said I'd no doubt it was known, but I couldn't recollect to have
heard it myself.

'"Well, then," he said, "for all you're a scholard, I can tell you
something you don't know. Them's the three 'oly crowns what was buried
in the ground near by the coast to keep the Germans from landing--ah, I
can see you don't believe that. But I tell you, if it hadn't have been
for one of them 'oly crowns bein' there still, them Germans would a
landed here time and again, they would. Landed with their ships, and
killed man, woman and child in their beds. Now then, that's the truth
what I'm telling you, that is; and if you don't believe me, you ast the
rector. There he comes: you ast him, I says."

'I looked round, and there was the rector, a nice-looking old man,
coming up the path; and before I could begin assuring my old man, who
was getting quite excited, that I didn't disbelieve him, the rector
struck in, and said:

"'What's all this about, John? Good day to you, sir. Have you been
looking at our little church?"'

'So then there was a little talk which allowed the old man to calm down,
and then the rector asked him again what was the matter.

"'Oh," he said, "it warn't nothink, only I was telling this gentleman
he'd ought to ast you about them 'oly crowns."

'"Ah, yes, to be sure," said the rector, "that's a very curious matter,
isn't it? But I don't know whether the gentleman is interested in our
old stories, eh?"

'"Oh, he'll be interested fast enough," says the old man, "he'll put his
confidence in what you tells him, sir; why, you known William Ager
yoursell, father and son too."

'Then I put in a word to say how much I should like to hear all about
it, and before many minutes I was walking up the village street with the
rector, who had one or two words to say to parishioners, and then to the
rectory, where he took me into his study. He had made out, on the way,
that I really was capable of taking an intelligent interest in a piece
of folklore, and not quite the ordinary tripper. So he was very willing
to talk, and it is rather surprising to me that the particular legend he
told me has not made its way into print before. His account of it was
this: "There has always been a belief in these parts in the three holy
crowns. The old people say they were buried in different places near the
coast to keep off the Danes or the French or the Germans. And they say
that one of the three was dug up a long time ago, and another has
disappeared by the encroaching of the sea, and one's still left doing
its work, keeping off invaders. Well, now, if you have read the ordinary
guides and histories of this county, you will remember perhaps that in
1687 a crown, which was said to be the crown of Redwald, King of the
East Angles, was dug up at Rendlesham, and alas! alas! melted down
before it was even properly described or drawn. Well, Rendlesham isn't
on the coast, but it isn't so very far inland, and it's on a very
important line of access. And I believe that is the crown which the
people mean when they say that one has been dug up. Then on the south
you don't want me to tell you where there was a Saxon royal palace which
is now under the sea, eh? Well, there was the second crown, I take it.
And up beyond these two, they say, lies the third."

'"Do they say where it is?" of course I asked.

'He said, "Yes, indeed, they do, but they don't tell," and his manner
did not encourage me to put the obvious question. Instead of that I
waited a moment, and said: "What did the old man mean when he said you
knew William Ager, as if that had something to do with the crowns?"

'"To be sure," he said, "now that's another curious story. These Agers
it's a very old name in these parts, but I can't find that they were
ever people of quality or big owners these Agers say, or said, that
their branch of the family were the guardians of the last crown. A
certain old Nathaniel Ager was the first one I knew--I was born and
brought up quite near here--and he, I believe, camped out at the place
during the whole of the war of 1870. William, his son, did the same, I
know, during the South African War. And young William, his son, who has
only died fairly recently, took lodgings at the cottage nearest the
spot; and I've no doubt hastened his end, for he was a consumptive, by
exposure and night watching. And he was the last of that branch. It was
a dreadful grief to him to think that he was the last, but he could do
nothing, the only relations at all near to him were in the colonies. I
wrote letters for him to them imploring them to come over on business
very important to the family, but there has been no answer. So the last
of the holy crowns, if it's there, has no guardian now."

'That was what the rector told me, and you can fancy how interesting I
found it. The only thing I could think of when I left him was how to hit
upon the spot where the crown was supposed to be. I wish I'd left it
alone.

'But there was a sort of fate in it, for as I bicycled back past the
churchyard wall my eye caught a fairly new gravestone, and on it was the
name of William Ager. Of course I got off and read it. It said "of this
parish, died at Seaburgh, 19--, aged 28."'There it was, you see. A
little judicious questioning in the right place, and I should at least
find the cottage nearest the spot. Only I didn't quite know what was the
right place to begin my questioning at. Again there was fate: it took me
to the curiosity-shop down that way--you know--and I turned over some
old books, and, if you please, one was a prayer-book of 1740 odd, in a
rather handsome binding--I'll just go and get it, it's in my room.'

He left us in a state of some surprise, but we had hardly time to
exchange any remarks when he was back, panting, and handed us the book
opened at the fly-leaf, on which was, in a straggly hand:

'Nathaniel Ager is my name and England is my nation,

Seaburgh is my dwelling-place and Christ is my Salvation,

When I am dead and in my Grave, and all my bones are rotton,

I hope the Lord will think on me when I am quite forgotton.'

This poem was dated 1754, and there were many more entries of Agers,
Nathaniel, Frederick, William, and so on, ending with William, 19--.

'You see,' he said, 'anybody would call it the greatest bit of luck. I
did, but I don't now. Of course I asked the shopman about William Ager,
and of course he happened to remember that he lodged in a cottage in the
North Field and died there. This was just chalking the road for me. I
knew which the cottage must be: there is only one sizable one about
there. The next thing was to scrape some sort of acquaintance with the
people, and I took a walk that way at once. A dog did the business for
me: he made at me so fiercely that they had to run out and beat him off,
and then naturally begged my pardon, and we got into talk. I had only to
bring up Ager's name, and pretend I knew, or thought I knew something of
him, and then the woman said how sad it was him dying so young, and she
was sure it came of him spending the night out of doors in the cold
weather. Then I had to say: "Did he go out on the sea at night?" and she
said: "Oh, no, it was on the hillock yonder with the trees on it." And
there I was.

'I know something about digging in these barrows: I've opened many of
them in the down country. But that was with owner's leave, and in broad
daylight and with men to help. I had to prospect very carefully here
before I put a spade in: I couldn't trench across the mound, and with
those old firs growing there I knew there would be awkward tree roots.
Still the soil was very light and sandy and easy, and there was a rabbit
hole or so that might be developed into a sort of tunnel. The going out
and coming back at odd hours to the hotel was going to be the awkward
part. When I made up my mind about the way to excavate I told the people
that I was called away for a night, and I spent it out there. I made my
tunnel: I won't bore you with the details of how I supported it and
filled it in when I'd done, but the main thing is that I got the crown.'

Naturally we both broke out into exclamations of surprise and interest.
I for one had long known about the finding of the crown at Rendlesham
and had often lamented its fate. No one has ever seen an Anglo-Saxon
crown--at least no one had. But our man gazed at us with a rueful eye.
'Yes,' he said, 'and the worst of it is I don't know how to put it
back.'

'Put it back?' we cried out. 'Why, my dear sir, you've made one of the
most exciting finds ever heard of in this country. Of course it ought to
go to the Jewel Houise at the Tower. What's your difficulty? If you're
thinking about the owner of the land, and treasure-trove, and all that,
we can certainly help you through. Nobody's going to make a fuss about
technicalities in a case of this kind.'

Probably more was said, but all he did was to put his face in his hands,
and mutter: 'I don't know how to put it back.'

At last Long said: 'You'll forgive me, I hope, if I seem impertinent,
but are you quite sure you've got it?' I was wanting to ask much the
same question myself, for of course the story did seem a lunatic's dream
when one thought over it. But I hadn't quite dared to say what might
hurt the poor young man's feelings. However, he took it quite
calmly--really, with the calm of despair, you might say. He sat up and
said: 'Oh, yes, there's no doubt of that: I have it here, in my room,
locked up in my bag. You can come and look at it if you like: I won't
offer to bring it here.'

We were not likely to let the chance slip. We went with him; his room
was only a few doors off. The boots was just collecting shoes in the
passage: or so we thought: afterwards we were not sure. Our visitor--
his name was Parton--was in a worse state of shivers than before, and
went hurriedly into the room, and beckoned us after him, turned on the
light, and shut the door carefully. Then he unlocked his kit-bag, and
produced a bundle of clean pocket-handkerchiefs in which something was
wrapped, laid it on the bed, and undid it. I can now say I have seen an
actual Anglo-Saxon crown. It was of silver--as the Rendlesham one is
always said to have been--it was set with some gems, mostly antique
intaglios and cameos, and was of rather plain, almost rough workmanship.
In fact, it was like those you see on the coins and in the manuscripts.
I found no reason to think it was later than the ninth century. I was
intensely interested, of course, and I wanted to turn it over in my
hands, but Paxton prevented me. 'Don't you touch it,' he said, 'I'll do
that.' And with a sigh that was, I declare to you, dreadful to hear, he
took it up and turned it about so that we could see every part of it.
'Seen enough?' he said at last, and we nodded. He wrapped it up and
locked it in his bag, and stood looking at us dumbly. 'Come back to our
room,' Long said, 'and tell us what the trouble is.' He thanked us, and
said: 'Will you go first and see if--if the coast is clear?' That wasn't
very intelligible, for our proceedings hadn't been, after all, very
suspicious, and the hotel, as I said, was practically empty. However, we
were beginning to have inklings of--we didn't know what, and anyhow
nerves are infectious. So we did go, first peering out as we opened the
door, and fancying (I found we both had the fancy) that a shadow, or
more than a shadow--but it made no sound--passed from before us to one
side as we came out into the passage. 'It's all right,' we whispered to
Paxton--whispering seemed the proper tone--and we went, with him between
us, back to our sitting-room. I was preparing, when we got there, to be
ecstatic about the unique interest of what we had seen, but when I
looked at Paxton I saw that would be terribly out of place, and I left
it to him to begin.

'What is to be done?' was his opening. Long thought it right (as he
explained to me afterwards) to be obtuse, and said: 'Why not find out
who the owner of the land is, and inform--' Oh, no, no!' Paxton broke in
impatiently, 'I beg your pardon: you've been very kind, but don't you
see it's got to go back, and I daren't be there at night, and daytime's
impossible. Perhaps, though, you don't see: well, then, the truth is
that I've never been alone since I touched it.' I was beginning some
fairly stupid comment, but Long caught my eye, and I stopped. Long said:
'I think I do see, perhaps: but wouldn't it be a relief--to tell us a
little more clearly what the situation is?'

Then it all came out: Paxton looked over his shoulder and beckoned to us
to come nearer to him, and began speaking in a low voice: we listened
most intently, of course, and compared notes afterwards, and I wrote
down our version, so I am confident I have what he told us almost word
for word. He said: 'It began when I was first prospecting, and put me
off again and again. There was always somebody--a man--standing by one
of the firs. This was in daylight, you know. He was never in front of
me. I always saw him with the tail of my eye on the left or the right,
and he was never there when I looked straight for him. I would lie down
for quite a long time and take careful observations, and make sure there
was no one, and then when I got up and began prospecting again, there he
was. And he began to give me hints, besides; for wherever I put that
prayer-book--short of locking it up, which I did at last--when I came
back to my loom it was always out on my table open at the fly-leaf where
the names are, and one of my razors across it to keep it open. I'm sure
he just can't open my bag, or something more would have happened. You
see, he's light and weak, but all the same I daren't face him. Well,
then, when I was making the tunnel, of course it was worse, and if I
hadn't been so keen I should have dropped the whole thing and run. It
was like someone scraping at my back all the time: I thought for a long
time it was only soil dropping on me, but as I got nearer the--the
crown, it was unmistakable. And when I actually laid it bare and got my
fingers into the ring of it and pulled it out, there came a sort of cry
behind me--oh, I can't tell you how desolate it was! And horribly
threatening too. It spoilt all my pleasure in my find--cut it off that
moment. And if I hadn't been the wretched fool I am, I should have put
the thing back and left it. But I didn't. The rest of the time was just
awful. I had hours to get through before I could decently come back to
the hotel. First I spent time filling up my tunnel and covering my
tracks, and all the while he was there trying to thwart me. Sometimes,
you know, you see him, and sometimes you don't, just as he pleases, I
think: he's there, but he has some power over your eyes. Well, I wasn't
off the spot very long before sunrise, and then I had to get to the
junction for Seaburgh, and take a train back. And though it was daylight
fairly soon, I don't know if that made it much better. There were always
hedges, or gorse-bushes, or park fences along the road--some sort of
cover, I mean--and I was never easy for a second. And then when I began
to meet people going to work, they always looked behind me very
strangely: it might have been that they were surprised at seeing anyone
so early; but I didn't think it was only that, and I don't now: they
didn't look exactly at me. And the porter at the train was like that
too. And the guard held open the door after I'd got into the
carriage--just as he would if there was somebody else coming, you know.
Oh, you may be very sure it isn't my fancy,' he said with a dull sort of
laugh. Then he went on: 'And even if I do get it put back, he won't
forgive me: I can tell that. And I was so happy a fortnight ago.' He
dropped into a chair, and I believe he began to cry.

We didn't know what to say, but we felt we must come to the rescue
somehow, and so--it really seemed the only thing--we said if he was so
set on putting the crown back in its place, we would help him. And I
must say that after what we had heard it did seem the right thing. If
these horrid consequences had come on this poor man, might there not
really be something in the original idea of the crown having some
curious power bound up with it, to guard the coast? At least, that was
my feeling, and I think it was Long's too. Our offer was very welcome to
Paxton, anyhow. When could we do it? It was nearing half-past ten. Could
we contrive to make a late walk plausible to the hotel people that very
night? We looked out of the window: there was a brilliant full moon--the
Paschal moon. Long undertook to tackle the boots and propitiate him. He
was to say that we should not be much over the hour, and if we did find
it so pleasant that we stopped out a bit longer we would see that he
didn't lose by sitting up. Well, we were pretty regular customers of the
hotel, and did not give much trouble, and were considered by the
servants to be not under the mark in the way of tips; and so the boots
was propitiated, and let us out on to the sea-front, and remained, as we
heard later, looking after us. Paxton had a large coat over his arm,
under which was the wrapped-up crown.

So we were off on this strange errand before we had time to think how
very much out of the way it was. I have told this part quite shortly on
purpose, for it really does represent the haste with which we settled
our plan and took action. 'The shortest way is up the hill and through
the churchyard,' Paxton said, as we stood a moment before, the hotel
looking up and down the front. There was nobody about--nobody at all.
Seaburgh out of the season is an early, quiet place. 'We can't go along
the dyke by the cottage, because of the dog,' Paxton also said, when I
pointed to what I thought a shorter way along the front and across two
fields. The reason he gave was good enough. We went up the road to the
church, and turned in at the churchyard gate. I confess to having
thought that there might be some one lying there who might be conscious
of our business: but if it was so, they were also conscious that one who
was on their side, so to say, had us under surveillance, and we saw no
sign of them. But under observation we felt we were, as I have never
felt it at another time. Specially was it so when we passed out of the
churchyard into a narrow path with close high hedges, through which we
hurried as Christian did through that Valley; and so got out into open
fields. Then along hedges, though I world sooner have been in the open,
where I could see if anyone was visible behind me; over a gate or two,
and then a swerve to the left, taking us up on to the ridge which ended
in that mound.

As we neared it, Henry Long felt, and I felt too, that there were what I
can only call dim presences waiting for us, as well as a far more actual
one attending us. Of Paxton's agitation all this time I can give you no
adequate picture: he breathed like a hunted beast, and we could not
either of us look at his face. How he would manage when we got to the
very place we had not troubled to think: he had seemed so sure that that
would not be difficult. Nor was it. I never saw anything like the dash
with which he flung himself at a particular spot in the side of the
mound, and tore at it, so that in a very few minutes the greater part of
his body was out of sight. We stood holding the coat and that bundle of
handkerchiefs, and looking, very fearfully, I must admit, about us.
There was nothing to be seen: a line of dark firs behind us made one
skyline, more trees and the church tower half a mile off on the right,
cottages and a windmill on the horizon on the left, calm sea dead in
front, faint barking of a dog at a cottage on a gleaming dyke between us
and it: full moon making that path we know across the sea: the eternal
whisper of the Scotch firs just above us, and of the sea in front. Yet,
in all this quiet, an acute, an acrid consciousness of a restrained
hostility very near us, like a dog on a leash that might be let go at
any moment.

Paxton pulled himself out of the hole, and stretched a hand back to us.
'Give it to me,' he whispered, 'unwrapped.' We pulled off the
handkerchiefs, and he took the crown. The moonlight just fell on it as
he snatched it. We had not ourselves touched that bit of metal, and I
have thought since that it was just as well. In another moment Paxton
was out of the hole again and busy shovelling back the soil with hands
that were already bleeding He would have none of our help though It was
much the longest part of the job to get the place to look undisturbed
yet--I don't know how--he made a wonderful success of it. At last he was
satisfied and we turned back.

We were a couple of hundred yards from the hill when Long suddenly said
to him: 'I say you've left your coat there. That won't do. See?' And I
certainly did see it--the long dark overcoat lying where the tunnel had
been. Paxton had not stopped, however: he only shook his head, and held
up the coat on his arm. And when we joined him, he said, without any
excitement, but as if nothing mattered any more: 'That wasn't my coat.'
And, indeed, when we looked back again, that dark thing was not to be
seen.

Well, we got out on to the road, and came rapidly back that way. It was
well before twelve when we got in, trying to put a good face on it, and
saying--Long and I--what a lovely night it was for a walk. The boots was
on the look-out for us, and we made remarks like that for his
edification as we entered the hotel. He gave another look up and down
the sea-front before he locked the front door, and said: 'You didn't
meet many people about, I s'pose, sir?' 'No, indeed, not a soul,' I
said; at which I remember Paxton looked oddly at me. 'Only I thought I
see someone turn up the station road after you gentlemen,' said the
boots. 'Still, you was three together, and I don't suppose he meant
mischief.' I didn't know what to say; Long merely said 'Good night,' and
we went off upstairs, promising to turn out all lights, and to go to bed
in a few minutes.

Back in our room, we did our very best to make Paxton take a cheerful
view. There's the crown safe back,' we said; 'very likely you'd have
done better not to touch it' (and he heavily assented to that), 'but no
real harm has been done, and we shall never give this away to anyone who
would be so mad as to go near it. Besides, don't you feel better
yourself? I don't mind confessing,' I said, 'that on the way there I was
very much inclined to take your view about--well, about being followed;
but going back, it wasn't at all the same thing, was it?' No, it
wouldn't do: 'You've nothing to trouble yourselves about,' he said, 'but
I'm not forgiven. I've got to pay for that miserable sacrilege still. I
know what you are going to say. The Church might help. Yes, but it's the
body that has to suffer. It's true I'm not feeling that he's waiting
outside for me just now. But--' Then he stopped. Then he turned to
thanking us, and we put him off as soon as we could. And naturally we
pressed him to use our sitting-room next day, and said we should be glad
to go out with him. Or did he play golf, perhaps? Yes, he did, but he
didn't think he should care about that tomorrow. Well, we recommended
him to get up late and sit in our room in the morning while we were
playing, and we would have a walk later in the day. He was very
submissive and piano about it all: ready to do just what we thought
best, but clearly quite certain in his own mind that what was coming
could not be averted or palliated. You'll wonder why we didn't insist on
accompanying him to his home and seeing him safe into the care of
brothers or someone. The fact was he had nobody. He had had a flat in
town, but lately he had made up his mind to settle for a time in Sweden,
and he had dismantled his flat and shipped off his belongings, and was
whiling away a fortnight or three weeks before he made a start. Anyhow,
we didn't see what we could do better than sleep on it--or not sleep
very much, as was my case and see what we felt like tomorrow morning.

We felt very different, Long and I, on as beautiful an April morning as
you could desire; and Paxton also looked very different when we saw him
at breakfast. 'The first approach to a decent night I seem ever to have
had,' was what he said. But he was going to do as we had settled: stay
in probably all the morning, and come out with us later. We went to the
links; we met some other men and played with them in the morning, and
had lunch there rather early, so as not to be late back. All the same,
the snares of death overtook him.

Whether it could have been prevented, I don't know. I think he would
have been got at somehow, do what we might. Anyhow, this is what
happened.

We went straight up to our room. Paxton was there, reading quite
peaceably. 'Ready to come out shortly?' said Long, 'say in half an
hour's time?' 'Certainly,' he said: and I said we would change first,
and perhaps have baths, and call for him in half an hour. I had my bath
first, and went and lay down on my bed, and slept for about ten minutes.
We came out of our rooms at the same time, and went together to the
sitting-room. Paxton wasn't there--only his book. Nor was he in his
room, nor in the downstair rooms. We shouted for him. A servant came out
and said: 'Why, I thought you gentlemen was gone out already, and so did
the other gentleman. He heard you a-calling from the path there, and run
out in a hurry, and I looked out of the coffee-room window, but I didn't
see you. 'Owever, he run off down the beach that way.'

Without a word we ran that way too--it was the opposite direction to
that of last night's expedition. It wasn't quite four o'clock, and the
day was fair, though not so fair as it had been, so that was really no
reason, you'd say, for anxiety: with people about, surely a man couldn't
come to much harm.

But something in our look as we ran out must have struck the servant,
for she came out on the steps, and pointed, and said, 'Yes, that's the
way he went.' We ran on as far as the top of the shingle bank, and there
pulled up. There was a choice of ways: past the houses on the sea-front,
or along the sand at the bottom of the beach, which, the tide being now
out, was fairly broad. Or of course we might keep along the shingle
between these two tracks and have some view of both of them; only that
was heavy going. We chose the sand, for that was the loneliest, and
someone might come to harm there without being seen from the public
path.

Long said he saw Paxton some distance ahead, running and waving his
stick, as if he wanted to signal to people who were on ahead of him. I
couldn't be sure: one of these sea-mists was coming up very quickly from
the south. There was someone, that's all I could say. And there were
tracks on the sand as of someone running who wore shoes; and there were
other tracks made before those--for the shoes sometimes trod in them and
interfered with them--of someone not in shoes. Oh, of course, it's only
my word you've got to take for all this: Long's dead, we'd no time or
means to make sketches or take casts, and the next tide washed
everything away. All we could do was to notice these marks as we hurried
on. But there they were over and over again, and we had no doubt
whatever that what we saw was the track of a bare foot, and one that
showed more bones than flesh.

The notion of Paxton running after--after anything like this, and
supposing it to be the friends he was looking for, was very dreadful to
us. You can guess what we fancied: how the thing he was following might
stop suddenly and turn round on him, and what sort of face it would
show, half-seen at first in the mist--which all the while was getting
thicker and thicker. And as I ran on wondering how the poor wretch could
have been lured into mistaking that other thing for us, I remembered his
saying, 'He has some power over your eyes.' And then I wondered what the
end would be, for I had no hope now that the end could be averted,
and--well, there is no need to tell all the dismal and horrid thoughts
that flitted through my head as we ran on into the mist. It was uncanny,
too, that the sun should still be bright in the sky and we could see
nothing. We could only tell that we were now past the houses and had
reached that gap there is between them and the old martello tower. When
you are past the tower, you know, there is nothing but shingle for a
long way--not a house, not a human creature; just that spit of land, or
rather shingle, with the river on your right and the sea on your left.

But just before that, just by the martello tower, you remember there is
the old battery, close to the sea. I believe there are only a few blocks
of concrete left now: the rest has all been washed away, but at this
time there was a lot more, though the place was a ruin. Well, when we
got there, we clambered to the top as quick as we could to take breath
and look over the shingle in front if by chance the mist would let us
see anything. But a moment's rest we must have. We had run a mile at
least. Nothing whatever was visible ahead of us, and we were just
turning by common consent to get down and run hopelessly on, when we
heard what I can only call a laugh: and if you can understand what I
mean by a breathless, a lungless laugh, you have it: but I don't suppose
you can. It came from below, and swerved away into the mist. That was
enough. We bent over the wall. Paxton was there at the bottom.

You don't need to be told that he was dead. His tracks showed that he
had run along the side of the battery, had turned sharp round the corner
of it, and, small doubt of it, must have dashed straight irito the open
arms of someone who was waiting there. His mouth was full of sand and
stones, and his teeth and jaws were broken to bits. I only glanced once
at his face.

At the same moment, just as we were scrambling down from the battery to
get to the body, we heard a shout, and saw a man running down the bank
of the martello tower. He was the caretaker stationed there, and his
keen old eyes had managed to descry through the mist that something was
wrong. He had seen Paxton fall, and had seen us a moment after, running
up--fortunate this, for otherwise we could hardly have escaped suspicion
of being concerned in the dreadful business. Had he, we asked, caught
sight of anybody attacking our friend? He could not be sure.

We sent him off for help, and stayed by the dead man till they came with
the stretcher. It was then that we traced out how he had come, on the
narrow fringe of sand under the battery wall. The rest was shingle, and
it was hopelessly impossible to tell whither the other had gone.

What were we to say at the inquest? It was a duty, we felt, not to give
up, there and then, the secret of the crown, to be published in every
paper. I don't know how much you would have told; but what we did agree
upon was this: to say that we had only made acquaintance with Paxton the
day before, and that he had told us he was under some apprehension of
danger at the hands of a man called William Ager. Also that we had seen
some other tracks besides Paxton's when we followed him along the beach.
But of course by that time everything was gone from the sands.

No one had any knowledge, fortunately, of any William Ager living in the
district. The evidence of the man at the martello tower freed us from
all suspicion. All that could be done was to return a verdict of wilful
murder by some person or persons unknowtn.

Paxton was so totally without connections that all the inquiries that
were subsequently made ended in a No Thoroughfare. And I have never been
at Seaburgh, or even near it, since.



6. AFTER DARK IN THE PLAYING FIELDS


The hour was late and the night was fair. I had halted not far from
Sheeps' Bridge and was thinking about the stillness, only broken by the
sound of the weir, when a loud tremulous hoot just above me made me
jump. It is always annoying to be startled, but I have a kindness for
owls. This one was evidently very near: I looked about for it. There it
was, sitting plumply on a branch about twelve feet up. I pointed my
stick at it and said, 'Was that you?' 'Drop it,' said the owl. I know it
ain't only a stick, but I don't like it. Yes, of course it was me: who
do you suppose it would be if it warn't?'

We will take as read the sentences about my surprise. I lowered the
stick. 'Well,' said the owl, 'what about it? If you will come out here
of a Midsummer evening like what this is what do you expect?' 'I beg
your pardon,' I said, 'I should have remembered. May I say that I think
myself very lucky to have met you tonight? I hope you have time for a
little talk?' 'Well.' said the owl ungraciously, 'I don't know as it
matters so particular tonight. I've had me supper as it happens, and if
you ain't too long over it--ah-h-h!' Suddenly it broke into a loud
scream, flapped its wings furiously, bent forward and clutched its perch
tightly, continuing to scream. Plainly something was pulling hard at it
from behind. The strain relaxed abruptly, the owl nearly fell over, and
then whipped round, ruffling up all over, and made a vicious dab at
something unseen by me. 'Oh, I _am_ sorry,' said a small dear voice in a
solicitous tone. 'I made sure it was loose. I do hope I didn't hurt
you.' 'Didn't 'urt me?' said the owl bitterly. 'Of course you 'urt me,
and well you know it, you young infidel. That feather was no more loose
than--oh, if I could git at you! Now I shouldn't wonder but what you've
throwed me all out of balance. Why can't you let a person set quiet for
two minutes at a time without you must come creeping up and--well,
you've done it this time, anyway. I shall go straight to 'eadquarters
and--' (finding it was now addressing the empty air)--'why, where have
you got to now? Oh, it is too bad, that it is!'

'Dear me!' I said, 'I'm afraid this isn't the first time you've been
annoyed in this way. May I ask exactly what happened?'

'Yes, you may ask,' said the owl, still looking narrowly about as it
spoke, 'but it 'ud take me till the latter end of next week to tell you.
Fancy coming and pulling out anyone's tail feather! 'Urt me something
crool, it did. And what for, I should like to know? Answer me that!
Where's the _reason_ of it'

All that occurred to me was to murmur, 'The clamorous owl that nightly
hoots and wonders at our quaint spirits.' I hardly thought the point
would he taken, but the owl said sharply; 'What's that: Yes, you needn't
to repeat it. I 'eard. And I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it, and
you mark my words.' It bent towards me and whispered, with many nods of
its round head. 'Pride! standoffishness! that's what it is! _Come not
near our fairy queen_' (this in a tone of bitter contempt). Oh, dear no!
we ain't good enough for the likes of them. Us that's been noted time
out of mind for the best singers in the Fields: now, ain't that so?'

'Well,' I said, doubtfully enough, '_I_ like to hear you very much: but,
you know, some people think a lot of the thrushes and nightingales and
so on; you must have heard of that, haven't you? And then, perhaps--of
course I don't know--perhaps your style of singing isn't exactly what
they think suitable to accompany their dancing, eh?

'I should kindly 'ope not,' said the owl, drawing itself up. 'Our
family's never give into dancing, nor never won't neither. Why, what
ever are you thinkin' of!' it went on with rising temper. 'A pretty
thing it would be for me to set there hiccuppin' at them'--it stopped
and looked cautiously all round it and up and down and then continued in
a louder voice--'them little ladies and gentlemen. If it ain't sootable
for them, I'm very sure it ain't sootable for me. And' (temper rising
again) 'if they expect me never to say a word just because they're
dancin' and carryin' on with their Mulishness, they're very much
mistook, and so I tell 'em.'

From what had passed before I was afraid this was an imprudent line to
take, and I was right. Hardly had the owl given its last emphatic nod
when four small slim forms dropped from a bough above, and in a
twinkling some some sort of grass rope was thrown round the body of the
unhappy bird, and it was borne off through the air, loudly protesting,
in the direction of Fellows' Pond. Splashes and gurgles and shrieks of
unfeeling laughter were heard as I hurried up. Something darted away
over my head, and as I stood peering over the bank of the pond, which
was all in commotion, a very angry and dishevelled owl scrambled heavily
up the bank, and stopping near my feet shook itself and flapped and
hissed for several minutes without saying anything I should care to
repeat.

Glaring at me, it eventually said--and the grim suppressed rage in its
voice was such that I hastily drew back a step or two--''Ear that?' Said
they was very sorry, but they'd mistook me for a duck. Oh, if it ain't
enough to make anyone go reg'lar distracted in their mind and tear
everythink to flinders for miles round.' So carried away was it by
passion, that it began the process at once by rooting up a large
beakfull of grass, which, alas, got into its throat, and the choking
which resulted made me really afraid that it would break a vessel, but
the paroxysm was mastered and the owl sat up, winking and breathless,
but intact.

Some expression of sympathy seemed to be required. Yet I was chary of
offering it, for in its present state of mind I felt that the bird might
interpret the best meant phrase as a fresh insult. So we stood looking
at each other, without speech, for a very awkward minute. Then came a
diversion. First, the thin voice of the pavillon clock, then the deeper
sound from the Castle quadrangle, then Lupton's tower, drowning the
curfew tower by its nearness.

'What's that?' said the owl, suddenly and hoarsely.

'Midnight, I should think,' said I, and had recourse to my watch.

'Midnight!' Cried the owl, evidently much startled. 'And me too wet to
fly a yard. 'Ere, you pick me up and put me in the tree. If you don't,
I'll climb up your leg, and you won't ask me to do that twice. Quick,
now!'

I obeyed.

'Which tree do you want?'

'Why, my tree, to be sure. Over there!'

He nodded toward the wall.

'All right, Bad Count's tree do you mean?' I said, beginning to run in
that direction.

'How should I know what silly names you call it. The one what 'as like a
door in it. Go faster! They'll be comin' in another minute.'

'Who? What's the matter?' I asked as I ran, clutching the wet creature,
and much afraid of stumbling and coming over with it in the long grass.

'You'll see fast enough,' said this selfish bird. 'You just let me get
on the tree. I shall be all right.'

And I suppose it was, for it straddled very quickly up the trunk with
its wings straight and disappeared in a hollow without a word of thanks.
I looked round, not very comfortably. The Curfew Tower was still playing
St. David's tune and the little chime that follows, for the third and
last time, but the other bells had finished what they had to say and now
there was silence. And, again, the restless change in the air was the
only thing that broke--no, that emphasised it.

Why had the owl been so anxious to get into hiding? That, of course, was
what now exercised me. Whatever, and whoever, was coming, I was sure
that this was no time for me cross the open field. I should do my best
to dissemble my presence by staying on the darker side of the tree, and
that is what I did.

All this took place some years ago before summertime came in. I do
sometimes go into the Playing Fields at night still, but I come in
before true midnight and I find that I do not like a crowd after dark.
For example at the fourth of June fireworks. You see--no, you do not.
But I see--such curious faces and the people to whom they belong flit
about so oddly, often at your elbow when you least expect it, and
looking close into your face, as if they were searching for someone--who
may be thankful, I think, if they do not find him 'Where do they come
from?' Why, some, I think, out of the water, and some out of the ground.
They look like that. But I am sure it is best to take no notice of them,
and not to touch them.

Yes, I certainty prefer the daylight population of the Playing Fields to
that which comes there after dark.



7. AN EPISODE OF CATHEDRAL HISTORY


There was once a learned gentleman who was deputed to examine and report
upon the archives of the Cathedral of Southminster. The examination of
these records demanded a very considerable expenditure of time: hence it
became advisable for him to engage lodgings in the city: for though the
Cathedral body were profuse in their offers of hospitality, Mr. Lake
felt that he would prefer to be master of his day. This was recognized
as reasonable. The Dean eventually wrote advising Mr. Lake, if he were
not already suited, to communicate with Mr. Worby, the principal Verger,
who occupied a house convenient to the church and was prepared to take
in a quiet lodger for three or four weeks. Such an arrangement was
precisely what Mr. Lake desired. Terms were easily agreed upon, and
early in December, like another Mr. Datchery (as he remarked to
himself), the investigator found himself in the occupation of a very
comfortable room in an ancient and "cathedraly" house.

One so familiar with the customs of Cathedral churches, and treated with
such obvious consideration by the Dean and Chapter of this Cathedral in
particular, could not fail to command the respect of the Head Verger.
Mr. Worby even acquiesced in certain modifications of statements he had
been accustomed to offer for years to parties of visitors. Mr. Lake, on
his part, found the Verger a very cheery companion, and took advantage
of any occasion that presented itself for enjoying his conversation when
the day's work was over.

One evening, about nine o'clock, Mr. Worby knocked at his lodger's door.
"I've occasion," he said, "to go across to the Cathedral, Mr. Lake, and
I think I made you a promise when I did so next I would give you the
opportunity to see what it looks like at night time. It is quite fine
and dry outside, if you care to come."

"To be sure I will; very much obliged to you, Mr. Worby, for thinking of
it, but let me get my coat."

"Here it is, sir, and I've another lantern here that you'll find
advisable for the steps, as there's no moon."

"Any one might think we were Jasper and Durdles, over again, mightn't
they," said Lake, as they crossed the close, for he had ascertained that
the Verger had read _Edwin Drood_.

"Well, so they might," said Mr. Worby, with a short laugh, "though I
don't know whether we ought to take it as a compliment. Odd ways, I
often think, they had at that Cathedral, don't it seem so to you, sir?
Full choral matins at seven o'clock in the morning all the year round.
Wouldn't suit our boys' voices nowadays, and I think there's one or
two of the men would be applying for a rise if the Chapter was to
bring it in--particular the alltoes."

They were now at the south-west door. As Mr. Worby was unlocking it,
Lake said, "Did you ever find anybody locked in here by accident?"

"Twice I did. One was a drunk sailor; however he got in I don't know.
I s'pose he went to sleep in the service, but by the time I got to him
he was praying fit to bring the roof in. Lor'! what a noise that man
did make! said it was the first time he'd been inside a church for ten
years, and blest if ever he'd try it again. The other was an old
sheep: them boys it was, up to their games. That was the last time
they tried it on, though. There, sir, now you see what we look like;
our late Dean used now and again to bring parties in, but he preferred
a moonlight night, and there was a piece of verse he'd coat to 'em,
relating to a Scotch cathedral, I understand; but I don't know; I
almost think the effect's better when it's all dark-like. Seems to add
to the size and heighth. Now if you won't mind stopping somewhere in
the nave while I go up into the choir where my business lays, you'll
see what I mean."

Accordingly Lake waited, leaning against a pillar, and watched the
light wavering along the length of the church, and up the steps into
the choir, until it was intercepted by some screen or other furniture,
which only allowed the reflection to be seen on the piers and roof.
Not many minutes had passed before Worby reappeared at the door of the
choir and by waving his lantern signalled to Lake to rejoin him.

"I suppose it _is_ Worby, and not a substitute," thought Lake to
himself, as he walked up the nave. There was, in fact, nothing
untoward. Worby showed him the papers which he had come to fetch out
of the Dean's stall, and asked him what he thought of the spectacle:
Lake agreed that it was well worth seeing. "I suppose," he said, as
they walked towards the altar-steps together, "that you're too much
used to going about here at night to feel nervous--but you must get a
start every now and then, don't you, when a book falls down or a door
swings to."

"No, Mr. Lake, I can't say I think much about noises, not nowadays:
I'm much more afraid of finding an escape of gas or a burst in the
stove pipes than anything else. Still there have been times, years
ago. Did you notice that plain altar-tomb there--fifteenth century we
say it is, I don't know if you agree to that? Well, if you didn't look
at it, just come back and give it a glance, if you'd be so good." It
was on the north side of the choir, and rather awkwardly placed: only
about three feet from the enclosing stone screen. Quite plain, as the
Verger had said, but for some ordinary stone panelling. A metal cross
of some size on the northern side (that next to the screen) was the
solitary feature of any interest.

Lake agreed that it was not earlier than the Perpendicular period:
"but," he said, "unless it's the tomb of some remarkable person,
you'll forgive me for saying that I don't think it's particularly
noteworthy."

"Well, I can't say as it is the tomb of anybody noted in 'istory,"
said Worby, who had a dry smile on his face, "for we don't own any
record whatsoever of who it was put up to. For all that, if you've
half an hour to spare, sir, when we get back to the house, Mr. Lake, I
could tell you a tale about that tomb. I won't begin on it now; it
strikes cold here, and we don't want to be dawdling about all night."

"Of course I should like to hear it immensely."

"Very well, sir, you shall. Now if I might put a question to you," he
went on, as they passed down the choir aisle, "in our little local
guide--and not only there, but in the little book on our Cathedral in
the series--you'll find it stated that this portion of the building
was erected previous to the twelfth century. Now of course I should be
glad enough to take that view, but--mind the step, sir--but, I put it
to you--does the lay of the stone 'ere in this portion of the wall
(which he tapped with his key) does it to your eye carry the flavour
of what you might call Saxon masonry? No? I thought not; no more it
does to me: now, if you'll believe me, I've said as much to those
men--one's the librarian of our Free Libry here, and the other came
down from London on purpose--fifty times, if I have once, but I might
just as well have talked to that bit of stonework. But there it is, I
suppose every one's got their opinions."

The discussion of this peculiar trait of human nature occupied Mr.
Worby almost up to the moment when he and Lake re-entered the former's
house. The condition of the fire in Lake's sitting-room led to a
suggestion from Mr. Worby that they should finish the evening in his
own parlour. We find them accordingly settled there some short time
afterwards.

Mr. Worby made his story a long one, and I will not undertake to tell
it wholly in his own words, or in his own order. Lake committed the
substance of it to paper immediately after hearing it, together with
some few passages of the narrative which had fixed themselves
_verbatim_ in his mind; I shall probably find it expedient to condense
Lake's record to some extent.

Mr. Worby was born, it appeared, about the year 1828. His father
before him had been connected with the Cathedral, and likewise his
grandfather. One or both had been choristers, and in later life both
had done work as mason and carpenter respectively about the fabric.
Worby himself, though possessed, as he frankly acknowledged, of an
indifferent voice, had been drafted into the choir at about ten years
of age.

It was in 1840 that the wave of the Gothic revival smote the Cathedral
of Southminster. "There was a lot of lovely stuff went then, sir,"
said Worby, with a sigh. "My father couldn't hardly believe it when he
got his orders to clear out the choir. There was a new dean just come
in--Dean Burscough it was--and my father had been 'prenticed to a good
firm of joiners in the city, and knew what good work was when he saw
it. Crool it was, he used to say: all that beautiful wainscot oak, as
good as the day it was put up, and garlands-like of foliage and fruit,
and lovely old gilding work on the coats of arms and the organ pipes.
All went to the timber yard--every bit except some little pieces
worked up in the Lady Chapel, and 'ere in this overmantel. Well--I may
be mistook, but I say our choir never looked as well since. Still
there was a lot found out about the history of the church, and no
doubt but what it did stand in need of repair. There were very few
winters passed but what we'd lose a pinnicle." Mr. Lake expressed his
concurrence with Worby's views of restoration, but owns to a fear
about this point lest the story proper should never be reached.
Possibly this was perceptible in his manner.

Worby hastened to reassure him, "Not but what I could carry on about
that topic for hours at a time, and do do when I see my opportunity.
But Dean Burscough he was very set on the Gothic period, and nothing
would serve him but everything must be made agreeable to that. And one
morning after service he appointed for my father to meet him in the
choir, and he came back after he'd taken off his robes in the vestry,
and he'd got a roll of paper with him, and the verger that was then
brought in a table, and they begun spreading it out on the table with
prayer books to keep it down, and my father helped 'em, and he saw it
was a picture of the inside of a choir in a Cathedral; and the
Dean--he was a quick spoken gentleman--he says, 'Well, Worby, what do
you think of that?' 'Why', says my father, 'I don't think I 'ave the
pleasure of knowing that view. Would that be Hereford Cathedral, Mr.
Dean?' 'No, Worby,' says the Dean, 'that's Southminster Cathedral as
we hope to see it before many years.' 'In-deed, sir,' says my father,
and that was all he did say--leastways to the Dean--but he used to
tell me he felt really faint in himself when he looked round our
choir as I can remember it, all comfortable and furnished-like, and
then see this nasty little dry picter, as he called it, drawn out by
some London architect. Well, there I am again. But you'll see what I
mean if you look at this old view."

Worby reached down a framed print from the wall. "Well, the long and
the short of it was that the Dean he handed over to my father a copy
of an order of the Chapter that he was to clear out every bit of the
choir--make a clean sweep--ready for the new work that was being
designed up in town, and he was to put it in hand as soon as ever he
could get the breakers together. Now then, sir, if you look at that
view, you'll see where the pulpit used to stand: that's what I want
you to notice, if you please." It was, indeed, easily seen; an
unusually large structure of timber with a domed sounding-board,
standing at the east end of the stalls on the north side of the choir,
facing the bishop's throne. Worby proceeded to explain that during the
alterations, services were held in the nave, the members of the choir
being thereby disappointed of an anticipated holiday, and the organist
in particular incurring the suspicion of having wilfully damaged the
mechanism of the temporary organ that was hired at considerable
expense from London.

The work of demolition began with the choir screen and organ loft, and
proceeded gradually eastwards, disclosing, as Worby said, many
interesting features of older work. While this was going on, the
members of the Chapter were, naturally, in and about the choir a great
deal, and it soon became apparent to the elder Worby--who could not
help overhearing some of their talk--that, on the part of the senior
Canons especially, there must have been a good deal of disagreement
before the policy now being carried out had been adopted. Some were of
opinion that they should catch their deaths of cold in the
return-stalls, unprotected by a screen from the draughts in the nave:
others objected to being exposed to the view of persons in the choir
aisles, especially, they said, during the sermons, when they found it
helpful to listen in a posture which was liable to misconstruction.
The strongest opposition, however, came from the oldest of the body,
who up to the last moment objected to the removal of the pulpit. "You
ought not to touch it, Mr. Dean," he said with great emphasis one
morning, when the two were standing before it: "you don't know what
mischief you may do." "Mischief? it's not a work of any particular
merit, Canon." "Don't call me Canon," said the old man with great
asperity, "that is, for thirty years I've been known as Dr. Ayloff,
and I shall be obliged, Mr. Dean, if you would kindly humour me in
that matter. And as to the pulpit (which I've preached from for thirty
years, though I don't insist on that) all I'll say is, I _know_ you're
doing wrong in moving it." "But what sense could there be, my dear
Doctor, in leaving it where it is, when we're fitting up the rest of
the choir in a totally different _style_? What reason could be
given--apart from the look of the thing?" "Reason! reason!" said old
Dr. Ayloff; "if you young men--if I may say so without any disrespect,
Mr. Dean--if you'd only listen to reason a little, and not be always
asking for it, we should get on better. But there, I've said my say."
The old gentleman hobbled off, and as it proved, never entered the
Cathedral again. The season--it was a hot summer--turned sickly on a
sudden. Dr. Ayloff was one of the first to go, with some affection of
the muscles of the thorax, which took him painfully at night. And at
many services the number of choirmen and boys was very thin.

Meanwhile the pulpit had been done away with. In fact, the
sounding-board (part of which still exists as a table in a
summer-house in the palace garden) was taken down within an hour or
two of Dr. Ayloff's protest. The removal of the base--not effected
without considerable trouble--disclosed to view, greatly to the
exultation of the restoring party, an altar-tomb--the tomb, of course,
to which Worby had attracted Lake's attention that same evening. Much
fruitless research was expended in attempts to identify the occupant;
from that day to this he has never had a name put to him. The
structure had been most carefully boxed in under the pulpit-base, so
that such slight ornament as it possessed was not defaced; only on the
north side of it there was what looked like an injury; a gap between
two of the slabs composing the side. It might be two or three inches
across. Palmer, the mason, was directed to fill it up in a week's
time, when he came to do some other small jobs near that part of the
choir.

The season was undoubtedly a very trying one. Whether the church was
built on a site that had once been a marsh, as was suggested, or for
whatever reason, the residents in its immediate neighbourhood had,
many of them, but little enjoyment of the exquisite sunny days and
the calm nights of August and September. To several of the older
people--Dr. Ayloff, among others, as we have seen--the summer proved
downright fatal, but even among the younger, few escaped either a
sojourn in bed for a matter of weeks, or at the least, a brooding
sense of oppression, accompanied by hateful nightmares. Gradually
there formulated itself a suspicion--which grew into a conviction--that
the alterations in the Cathedral had something to say in the matter.
The widow of a former old verger, a pensioner of the Chapter of
Southminster, was visited by dreams, which she retailed to her
friends, of a shape that slipped out of the little door of the south
transept as the dark fell in, and flitted--taking a fresh direction
every night--about the close, disappearing for a while in house after
house, and finally emerging again when the night sky was paling. She
could see nothing of it, she said, but that it was a moving form: only
she had an impression that when it returned to the church, as it
seemed to do in the end of the dream, it turned its head: and then,
she could not tell why, but she thought it had red eyes. Worby
remembered hearing the old lady tell this dream at a tea-party in the
house of the chapter clerk. Its recurrence might, perhaps, he said, be
taken as a symptom of approaching illness; at any rate before the end
of September the old lady was in her grave.

The interest excited by the restoration of this great church was not
confined to its own county. One day that summer an F.S.A., of some
celebrity, visited the place. His business was to write an account of
the discoveries that had been made, for the Society of Antiquaries,
and his wife, who accompanied him, was to make a series of
illustrative drawings for his report. In the morning she employed
herself in making a general sketch of the choir; in the afternoon she
devoted herself to details. She first drew the newly exposed
altar-tomb, and when that was finished, she called her husband's
attention to a beautiful piece of diaper-ornament on the screen just
behind it, which had, like the tomb itself, been completely concealed
by the pulpit. Of course, he said, an illustration of that must be
made; so she seated herself on the tomb and began a careful drawing
which occupied her till dusk.

Her husband had by this time finished his work of measuring and
description, and they agreed that it was time to be getting back to
their hotel. "You may as well brush my skirt, Frank," said the lady,
"it must have got covered with dust, I'm sure." He obeyed dutifully;
but, after a moment, he said, "I don't know whether you value this
dress particularly, my dear, but I'm inclined to think it's seen its
best days. There's a great bit of it gone." "Gone? Where?" said she.
"I don't know where it's gone, but it's off at the bottom edge behind
here." She pulled it hastily into sight, and was horrified to find a
jagged tear extending some way into the substance of the stuff; very
much, she said, as if a dog had rent it away. The dress was, in any
case, hopelessly spoilt, to her great vexation, and though they looked
everywhere, the missing piece could not be found. There were many
ways, they concluded, in which the injury might have come about, for
the choir was full of old bits of woodwork with nails sticking out of
them. Finally, they could only suppose that one of these had caused
the mischief, and that the workmen, who had been about all day, had
carried off the particular piece with the fragment of dress still
attached to it.

It was about this time, Worby thought, that his little dog began to
wear an anxious expression when the hour for it to be put into the
shed in the back yard approached. (For his mother had ordained that it
must not sleep in the house.) One evening, he said, when he was just
going to pick it up and carry it out, it looked at him "like a
Christian, and waved its 'and, I was going to say--well, you know 'ow
they do carry on sometimes, and the end of it was I put it under my
coat, and 'uddled it upstairs--and I'm afraid I as good as deceived my
poor mother on the subject. After that the dog acted very artful with
'iding itself under the bed for half-an-hour or more before bed-time
came, and we worked it so as my mother never found out what we'd
done." Of course Worby was glad of its company anyhow, but more
particularly when the nuisance that is still remembered in
Southminster as "the crying" set in.

"Night after night," said Worby, "that dog seemed to know it was
coming; he'd creep out, he would, and snuggle into the bed and cuddle
right up to me shivering, and when the crying come he'd be like a wild
thing, shoving his head under my arm, and I was fully near as bad. Six
or seven times we'd hear it, not more, and when he'd dror out his 'ed
again I'd know it was over for that night. What was it like, sir?
Well, I never heard but one thing that seemed to hit it off. I
happened to be playing about in the Close, and there was two of the
Canons met and said 'Good morning' one to another. 'Sleep well last
night?' says one--it was Mr. Henslow that one, and Mr. Lyall was the
other--'Can't say I did,' says Mr. Lyall, 'rather too much of Isaiah
34. 14 for me.' '34. 14,' says Mr. Henslow, 'what's that?' 'You call
yourself a Bible reader!' says Mr. Lyall. (Mr. Henslow, you must know,
he was one of what used to be termed Simeon's lot--pretty much what we
should call the Evangelical party.) 'You go and look it up.' I wanted
to know what he was getting at myself, and so off I ran home and got
out my own Bible, and there it was: 'the satyr shall cry to his
fellow.' Well, I thought, is that what we've been listening to these
past nights? and I tell you it made me look over my shoulder a time or
two. Of course I'd asked my father and mother about what it could be
before that, but they both said it was most likely cats: but they
spoke very short, and I could see they was troubled. My word! that was
a noise--'ungry-like, as if it was calling after some one that
wouldn't come. If ever you felt you wanted company, it would be when
you was waiting for it to begin again. I believe two or three nights
there was men put on to watch in different parts of the Close; but
they all used to get together in one corner, the nearest they could to
the High Street, and nothing came of it.

"Well, the next thing was this. Me and another of the boys--he's in
business in the city now as a grocer, like his father before him--we'd
gone up in the Close after morning service was over, and we heard old
Palmer the mason bellowing to some of his men. So we went up nearer,
because we knew he was a rusty old chap and there might be some fun
going. It appears Palmer'd told this man to stop up the chink in that
old tomb. Well, there was this man keeping on saying he'd done it the
best he could, and there was Palmer carrying on like all possessed
about it. 'Call that making a job of it?' he says. 'If you had your
rights you'd get the sack for this. What do you suppose I pay you your
wages for? What do you suppose I'm going to say to the Dean and
Chapter when they come round, as come they may do any time, and see
where you've been bungling about covering the 'ole place with mess
and plaster and Lord knows what?' 'Well, master, I done the best I
could,' says the man; 'I don't know no more than what you do 'ow it
come to fall out this way. I tamped it right in the 'ole,' he says,
'and now it's fell out,' he says, 'I never see.'

"'Fell out?' says old Palmer, 'why it's nowhere near the place. Blowed
out, you mean,' and he picked up a bit of plaster, and so did I, that
was laying up against the screen, three or four feet off, and not dry
yet; and old Palmer he looked at it curious-like, and then he turned
round on me and he says, 'Now then, you boys, have you been up to some
of your games here?' 'No,' I says, 'I haven't, Mr. Palmer; there's
none of us been about here till just this minute,' and while I was
talking the other boy, Evans, he got looking in through the chink, and
I heard him draw in his breath, and he came away sharp and up to us,
and says he, 'I believe there's something in there. I saw something
shiny.' 'What! I daresay,' says old Palmer; 'Well, I ain't got time to
stop about there. You, William, you go off and get some more stuff and
make a job of it this time; if not, there'll be trouble in my yard,'
he says.

"So the man he went off, and Palmer too, and us boys stopped behind,
and I says to Evans, 'Did you really see anything in there?' 'Yes,' he
says, 'I did indeed.' So then I says, 'Let's shove something in and
stir it up.' And we tried several of the bits of wood that was laying
about, but they were all too big. Then Evans he had a sheet of music
he'd brought with him, an anthem or a service, I forget which it was
now, and he rolled it up small and shoved it in the chink; two or
three times he did it, and nothing happened. 'Give it me, boy,' I
said, and I had a try. No, nothing happened. Then, I don't know why I
thought of it, I'm sure, but I stooped down just opposite the chink
and put my two fingers in my mouth and whistled--you know the way--and
at that I seemed to think I heard something stirring, and I says to
Evans, 'Come away,' I says; 'I don't like this.' 'Oh, rot,' he says,
'Give me that roll,' and he took it and shoved it in. And I don't
think ever I see any one go so pale as he did. 'I say, Worby,' he
says, 'it's caught, or else some one's got hold of it.' 'Pull it out
or leave it,' I says, 'Come and let's get off.' So he gave a good
pull, and it came away. Leastways most of it did, but the end was
gone. Torn off it was, and Evans looked at it for a second and then he
gave a sort of a croak and let it drop, and we both made off out of
there as quick as ever we could. When we got outside Evans says to me,
'Did you see the end of that paper.' 'No,' I says, 'only it was torn.'
'Yes, it was,' he says, 'but it was wet too, and black!' Well, partly
because of the fright we had, and partly because that music was wanted
in a day or two, and we knew there'd be a set-out about it with the
organist, we didn't say nothing to any one else, and I suppose the
workmen they swept up the bit that was left along with the rest of the
rubbish. But Evans, if you were to ask him this very day about it,
he'd stick to it he saw that paper wet and black at the end where it
was torn."

After that the boys gave the choir a wide berth, so that Worby was not
sure what was the result of the mason's renewed mending of the tomb.
Only he made out from fragments of conversation dropped by the workmen
passing through the choir that some difficulty had been met with, and
that the governor--Mr. Palmer to wit--had tried his own hand at the
job. A little later, he happened to see Mr. Palmer himself knocking at
the door of the Deanery and being admitted by the butler. A day or so
after that, he gathered from a remark his father let fall at breakfast
that something a little out of the common was to be done in the
Cathedral after morning service on the morrow. "And I'd just as soon
it was to-day," his father added, "I don't see the use of running
risks." "'Father,' I says, 'what are you going to do in the Cathedral
to-morrow?' and he turned on me as savage as I ever see him--he was a
wonderful good-tempered man as a general thing, my poor father was.
'My lad,' he says, 'I'll trouble you not to go picking up your elders'
and betters' talk: it's not manners and it's not straight. What I'm
going to do or not going to do in the Cathedral to-morrow is none of
your business: and if I catch sight of you hanging about the place
to-morrow after your work's done, I'll send you home with a flea in
your ear. Now you mind that.' Of course I said I was very sorry and
that, and equally of course I went off and laid my plans with Evans.
We knew there was a stair up in the corner of the transept which you
can get up to the triforium, and in them days the door to it was
pretty well always open, and even if it wasn't we knew the key usually
laid under a bit of matting hard by. So we made up our minds we'd be
putting away music and that, next morning while the rest of the boys
was clearing off, and then slip up the stairs and watch from the
triforium if there was any signs of work going on.

"Well, that same night I dropped off asleep as sound as a boy does,
and all of a sudden the dog woke me up, coming into the bed, and
thought I, now we're going to get it sharp, for he seemed more
frightened than usual. After about five minutes sure enough came this
cry. I can't give you no idea what it was like; and so near
too--nearer than I'd heard it yet--and a funny thing, Mr. Lake, you
know what a place this Close is for an echo, and particular if you
stand this side of it. Well, this crying never made no sign of an echo
at all. But, as I said, it was dreadful near this night; and on the
top of the start I got with hearing it, I got another fright; for I
heard something rustling outside in the passage. Now to be sure I
thought I was done; but I noticed the dog seemed to perk up a bit, and
next there was some one whispered outside the door, and I very near
laughed out loud, for I knew it was my father and mother that had got
out of bed with the noise. 'Whatever is it?' says my mother. 'Hush! I
don't know,' says my father, excited-like, 'don't disturb the boy. I
hope he didn't hear nothing.'

"So, me knowing they were just outside, it made me bolder, and I
slipped out of bed across to my little window--giving on the
Close--but the dog he bored right down to the bottom of the bed--and I
looked out. First go off I couldn't see anything. Then right down in
the shadow under a buttress I made out what I shall always say was two
spots of red--a dull red it was--nothing like a lamp or a fire, but
just so as you could pick 'em out of the black shadow. I hadn't but
just sighted 'em when it seemed we wasn't the only people that had
been disturbed, because I see a window in a house on the left-hand
side become lighted up, and the light moving. I just turned my head to
make sure of it, and then looked back into the shadow for those two
red things, and they were gone, and for all I peered about and stared,
there was not a sign more of them. Then come my last fright that
night--something come against my bare leg--but that was all right:
that was my little dog had come out of bed, and prancing about, making
a great to-do, only holding his tongue, and me seeing he was quite in
spirits again, I took him back to bed and we slept the night out!

"Next morning I made out to tell my mother I'd had the dog in my room,
and I was surprised, after all she'd said about it before, how quiet
she took it. 'Did you?' she says. 'Well, by good rights you ought to
go without your breakfast for doing such a thing behind my back: but I
don't know as there's any great harm done, only another time you ask
my permission, do you hear?' A bit after that I said something to my
father about having heard the cats again. '_Cats_,' he says, and he
looked over at my poor mother, and she coughed and he says, 'Oh! ah!
yes, cats. I believe I heard 'em myself.'

"That was a funny morning altogether: nothing seemed to go right. The
organist he stopped in bed, and the minor Canon he forgot it was the
19th day and waited for the _Venite_; and after a bit the deputy he
set off playing the chant for evensong, which was a minor; and then
the Decani boys were laughing so much they couldn't sing, and when it
came to the anthem the solo boy he got took with the giggles, and made
out his nose was bleeding, and shoved the book at me what hadn't
practised the verse and wasn't much of a singer if I had known it.
Well, things was rougher, you see, fifty years ago, and I got a nip
from the counter-tenor behind me that I remembered.

"So we got through somehow, and neither the men nor the boys weren't
by way of waiting to see whether the Canon in residence--Mr. Henslow
it was--would come to the vestries and fine 'em, but I don't believe
he did: for one thing I fancy he'd read the wrong lesson for the first
time in his life, and knew it. Anyhow Evans and me didn't find no
difficulty in slipping up the stairs as I told you, and when we got up
we laid ourselves down flat on our stomachs where we could just
stretch our heads out over the old tomb, and we hadn't but just done
so when we heard the verger that was then, first shutting the iron
porch-gates and locking the south-west door, and then the transept
door, so we knew there was something up, and they meant to keep the
public out for a bit.

"Next thing was, the Dean and the Canon come in by their door on the
north, and then I see my father, and old Palmer, and a couple of their
best men, and Palmer stood a talking for a bit with the Dean in the
middle of the choir. He had a coil of rope and the men had crows. All
of 'em looked a bit nervous. So there they stood talking, and at last
I heard the Dean say, 'Well, I've no time to waste, Palmer. If you
think this'll satisfy Southminster people, I'll permit it to be done;
but I must say this, that never in the whole course of my life have I
heard such arrant nonsense from a practical man as I have from you.
Don't you agree with me, Henslow?' As far as I could hear Mr. Henslow
said something like 'Oh! well we're told, aren't we, Mr. Dean, not to
judge others?' and the Dean he gave a kind of sniff, and walked
straight up to the tomb, and took his stand behind it with his back to
the screen, and the others they come edging up rather gingerly.
Henslow, he stopped on the south side and scratched on his chin, he
did. Then the Dean spoke up: 'Palmer,' he says, 'which can you do
easiest, get the slab off the top, or shift one of the side slabs?'

"Old Palmer and his men they pottered about a bit looking round the
edge of the top slab and sounding the sides on the south and east and
west and everywhere but the north. Henslow said something about it
being better to have a try at the south side, because there was more
light and more room to move about in. Then my father, who'd been
watching of them, went round to the north side, and knelt down and
felt of the slab by the chink, and he got up and dusted his knees and
says to the Dean: 'Beg pardon, Mr. Dean, but I think if Mr. Palmer'll
try this here slab he'll find it'll come out easy enough. Seems to me
one of the men could prize it out with his crow by means of this
chink.' 'Ah! thank you, Worby,' says the Dean; 'that's a good
suggestion. Palmer, let one of your men do that, will you?'

"So the man come round, and put his bar in and bore on it, and just
that minute when they were all bending over, and we boys got our heads
well out over the edge of the triforium, there come a most fearful
crash down at the west end of the choir, as if a whole stack of big
timber had fallen down a flight of stairs. Well, you can't expect me
to tell you everything that happened all in a minute. Of course there
was a terrible commotion. I heard the slab fall out, and the crowbar
on the floor, and I heard the Dean say 'Good God!'

"When I looked down again I saw the Dean tumbled over on the floor,
the men was making off down the choir, Henslow was just going to help
the Dean up, Palmer was going to stop the men, as he said afterwards,
and my father was sitting on the altar step with his face in his
hands. The Dean he was very cross. 'I wish to goodness you'd look
where you're coming to, Henslow,' he says. 'Why you should all take
to your heels when a stick of wood tumbles down I cannot imagine,' and
all Henslow could do, explaining he was right away on the other side
of the tomb, would not satisfy him.

"Then Palmer came back and reported there was nothing to account for
this noise and nothing seemingly fallen down, and when the Dean
finished feeling of himself they gathered round--except my father, he
sat where he was--and some one lighted up a bit of candle and they
looked into the tomb. 'Nothing there,' says the Dean, 'what did I tell
you? Stay! here's something. What's this: a bit of music paper, and a
piece of torn stuff--part of a dress it looks like. Both quite
modern--no interest whatever. Another time perhaps you'll take the
advice of an educated man'--or something like that, and off he went,
limping a bit, and out through the north door, only as he went he
called back angry to Palmer for leaving the door standing open. Palmer
called out 'Very sorry, sir,' but he shrugged his shoulders, and
Henslow says, 'I fancy Mr. Dean's mistaken. I closed the door behind
me, but he's a little upset.' Then Palmer says, 'Why, where's Worby?'
and they saw him sitting on the step and went up to him. He was
recovering himself, it seemed, and wiping his forehead, and Palmer
helped him up on to his legs, as I was glad to see.

"They were too far off for me to hear what they said, but my father
pointed to the north door in the aisle, and Palmer and Henslow both of
them looked very surprised and scared. After a bit, my father and
Henslow went out of the church, and the others made what haste they
could to put the slab back and plaster it in. And about as the clock
struck twelve the Cathedral was opened again and us boys made the best
of our way home.

"I was in a great taking to know what it was had given my poor father
such a turn, and when I got in and found him sitting in his chair
taking a glass of spirits, and my mother standing looking anxious at
him, I couldn't keep from bursting out and making confession where I'd
been. But he didn't seem to take on, not in the way of losing his
temper. 'You was there, was you? Well did you see it?' 'I see
everything, father,' I said, 'except when the noise came.' 'Did you
see what it was knocked the Dean over?' he says, 'that what come out
of the monument? You didn't? Well, that's a mercy.' 'Why, what was it,
father?' I said. 'Come, you must have seen it,' he says. '_Didn't_
you see? A thing like a man, all over hair, and two great eyes to it?'

"Well, that was all I could get out of him that time, and later on he
seemed as if he was ashamed of being so frightened, and he used to put
me off when I asked him about it. But years after, when I was got to
be a grown man, we had more talk now and again on the matter, and he
always said the same thing. 'Black it was,' he'd say, 'and a mass of
hair, and two legs, and the light caught on its eyes.'

"Well, that's the tale of that tomb, Mr. Lake; it's one we don't tell
to our visitors, and I should be obliged to you not to make any use of
it till I'm out of the way. I doubt Mr. Evans'll feel the same as I
do, if you ask him."

This proved to be the case. But over twenty years have passed by, and
the grass is growing over both Worby and Evans; so Mr. Lake felt no
difficulty about communicating his notes--taken in 1890--to me. He
accompanied them with a sketch of the tomb and a copy of the short
inscription on the metal cross which was affixed at the expense of Dr.
Lyall to the centre of the northern side. It was from the Vulgate of
Isaiah xxxiv., and consisted merely of the three words--

IBI CUBAVIT LAMIA.



8. An Evening's Entertainment


Nothing is more common form in old-fashioned books than the description
of the winter fireside, where the aged grandam narrates to the circle of
children that hangs on her lips story after story of ghosts and fairies,
and inspires her audience with a pleasing terror. But we are never
allowed to know what the stories were. We hear, indeed, of sheeted
spectres with saucer eyes, and--still more intriguing--of 'Rawhead and
Bloody Bones' (an expression which the Oxford Dictionary traces back to
1550), but the context of these striking images eludes us.

Here, then, is a problem which has long obsessed me; but I see no means
of solving it finally. The aged grandams are gone, and the collectors of
folk-lore began their work in England too late to save most of the
actual stories which the grandams told. Yet such things do not easily
die quite out, and imagination, working on scattered hints, may be able
to devise a picture of an evening's entertainment, such an one as Mrs.
Marcet's Evening Conversations, Mr. Joyce's Dialogues on Chemistry and
somebody else's Philosophy in Sport made Science in Earnest aimed at
extinguishing by substituting for Error and Superstition the light of
Utility and Truth; in some such terms as these:

Charles: I think, papa, that I now understand the properties of the
lever, which you so kindly explained to me on Saturday; but I have been
very much puzzled since then in thinking about the pendulum, and have
wondered why it is that, when you stop it, the clock does not go on any
more.

Papa: (You young sinner, have you been meddling with the clock in the
hall? Come here to me! No, this must be a gloss that has somehow crept
into the text.) Well, my boy, though I do not wholly approve of your
conducting without my supervision experiments which may possibly impair
the usefulness of a valuable scientific instrument, I will do my best to
explain the principles of the pendulum to you. Fetch me a piece of stout
whipcord from the drawer in my study, and ask cook to be so good as to
lend you one of the weights which she uses in her kitchen.

And so we are off.

How different the scene in a household to which the beams of Science
have not yet penetrated! The Squire, exhausted by a long day after the
partridges, and replete with food and drink, is snoring on one side of
the fireplace. His old mother sits opposite to him knitting, and the
children (Charles and Fanny, not Harry and Lucy: they would never have
stood it) are gathered about her knee.

Grandmother: Now, my dears, you must be very good and quiet, or you'll
wake your father, and you know what'll happen then.

Charles: Yes, I know: he'll be woundy cross-tempered and send us off to
bed.

Grandmother (stops knitting and speaks with severity): What's that? Fie
upon you, Charles! that's not a way to speak. Now I was going to have
told you a story, but if you use such-like words, I shan't. (Suppressed
outcry: 'Oh, granny!') Hush! hush! Now I believe you have woke your
father!

Squire (thickly): Look here, mother, if you can't keep them brats quiet

Grandmother: Yes, John, yes! it's too bad. I've been telling them if it
happens again, off to bed they shall go.

Squire relapses.

Grandmother: There, now, you see, children, what did I tell you? you
must be good and sit still. And I'll tell you what: tomorrow you shall
go a-blackberrying, and if you bring home a nice basketful, I'll make
you some jam.

Charles: Oh yes, granny, do! and I know where the best blackberries are:
I saw 'em today.

Grandmother: And where's that, Charles?

Charles: Why, in the little lane that goes up past Collins's cottage.

Grandmother (laying down her knitting): Charles! whatever you do, don't
you dare to pick one single blackberry in that lane. Don't you know--but
there, how should you--what was I thinking of? Well, anyway, you mind
what I say.

Charles and Fanny: But why, granny? Why shouldn't we pick 'em there?

Grandmother: Hush! hush! Very well then, I'll tell you all about it,
only you mustn't interrupt. Now let me see. When I was quite a little
girl that lane had a bad name, though it seems people don't remember
about it now. And one day--dear me, just as it might be tonight--I told
my poor mother when I came home to my supper--a summer evening it was--I
told her where I'd been for my walk, and how I'd come back down that
lane, and I asked her how it was that there were currant and gooseberry
bushes growing in a little patch at the top of the lane. And oh, dear
me, such a taking as she was in! She shook me and she slapped me, and
says she, 'You naughty, naughty child, haven't I forbid you twenty times
over to set foot in that lane? and here you go dawdling down it at
night-time,' and so forth, and when she'd finished I was lonely place
like that in the middle of the night.' And Mr. Davis smiled, and the
young man, who'd been listening, said, 'Oh, we don't want for company at
such times,' and my father said he couldn't help thinking Mr. Davis made
some kind of sign, and the young man went on quick, as if to mend his
words, and said, 'That's to say, Mr. Davis and me's company enough for
each other, ain't we, master? and then there's a beautiful air there of
a summer night, and you can see all the country round under the moon,
and it looks so different, seemingly, to what it do in the daytime. Why,
all them harrows on the down--'

And then Mr. Davis cut in, seeming to be out of temper with the lad, and
said, 'Ah yes, they're old-fashioned places, ain't they, sir? Now, what
would you think was the purpose of them?' And my father said (now, dear
me, it seems funny, doesn't it, that I should recollect all this: but it
took my fancy at the time, and though it's dull perhaps for you, I can't
help finishing it out now), well, he said, 'Why, I've heard, Mr. Davis,
that they're all graves, and I know, when I've had occasion to plough up
one, there's always been some old bones and pots turned up. But whose
graves they are, I don't know: people say the ancient Romans were all
about this country at one time, but whether they buried their people
like that I can't tell.' And Mr. Davis shook his head, thinking, and
said, 'Ah, to be sure: well they look to me to be older-like than the
ancient Romans, and dressed different--that's to say, according to the
pictures the Romans was in armour, and you didn't never find no armour,
did you, sir, by what you said?' And my father was rather surprised and
said, 'I don't know that I mentioned anything about armour, but it's
true I don't remember to have found any. But you talk as if you'd seen
'em, Mr. Davis,' and they both of them laughed, Mr. Davis and the young
man, and Mr. Davis said, 'Seen 'em, sir? that would be a difficult
matter after all these years. Not but what I should like well enough to
know more about them old times and people, and what they worshipped and
all.' And my father said, 'Worshipped? Well, I dare say they worshipped
the old man on the hill.' 'Ah, indeed!' Mr. Davis said, 'well, I
shouldn't wonder,' and my father went on and told them what he'd heard
and read about the heathens and their sacrifices: what you'll learn some
day for yourself, Charles, when you go to school and begin your Latin.
And they seemed to be very much interested, both of them; but my father
said he couldn't help thinking the most of what he was saying was no
news to them. That was the only time he ever had much talk with Mr.
Davis, and it stuck in his mind, particularly, he said, the young man's
word about not wanting for company: because in those days there was a
lot of talk in the villages round about--why, but for my father
interfering, the almost too much taken aback to say anything: but I did
make her believe that was the first I'd ever heard of it; and that was
no more than the truth. And then, to be sure, she was sorry she'd been
so short with me, and to make up she told me the whole story after my
supper. And since then I've often heard the same from the old people in
the place, and had my own reasons besides for thinking there was
something in it.

Now, up at the far end of that lane--let me see, is it on the right or
the left-hand side as you go up?--the left-hand side--you'll find a
little patch of bushes and rough ground in the field, and something like
a broken old hedge round about, and you'll notice there's some old
gooseberry and currant bushes growing among it--or there used to be,
for it's years now since I've been up that way. Well, that means there
was a cottage stood there, of course; and in that cottage, before I was
born or thought of, there lived a man named Davis. I've heard that he
wasn't born in the parish, and it's true there's nobody of that name
been living about here since I've known the place. But however that may
be, this Mr. Davis lived very much to himself and very seldom went to
the public-house, and he didn't work for any of the farmers, having as
it seemed enough money of his own to get along. But he'd go to the town
on market-days and take up his letters at the post-house where the mails
called. And one day he came back from market, and brought a young man
with him; and this young man and he lived together for some long time,
and went about together, and whether he just did the work of the house
for Mr. Davis, or whether Mr. Davis was his teacher in some way, nobody
seemed to know. I've heard he was a pale, ugly young fellow and hadn't
much to say for himself. Well, now, what did those two men do with
themselves? Of course I can't tell you half the foolish things that the
people got into their heads, and we know, don't we, that you mustn't
speak evil when you aren't sure it's true, even when people are dead and
gone. But as I said, those two were always about together, late and
early, up on the downland and below in the woods: and there was one walk
in particular that they'd take regularly once a month, to the place
where you've seen that old figure cut out in the hill-side; and it was
noticed that in the summer time when they took that walk, they'd camp
out all night, either there or somewhere near by. I remember once my
father--that's your great-grandfather--told me he had spoken to Mr.
Davis about it (for it's his land he lived on) and asked him why he was
so fond of going there, but he only said: 'Oh, it's a wonderful old
place, sir, and I've always been fond of the old-fashioned things, and
when him (that was his man he meant) and me are together there, it seems
to bring back the old times so plain.' And my father said, 'Well,' he
said, 'it may suit you, but I shouldn't like a people here would have
ducked an old lady for a witch.

Charles: What does that mean, granny, ducked an old lady for a witch?
Are there witches here now?

Grandmother: No, no, dear! why, what ever made me stray off like that?
No, no, that's quite another affair. What I was going to say was that
the people in other places round about believed that some sort of
meetings went on at night-time on that hill where the man is, and that
those who went there were up to no good. But don't you interrupt me now,
for it's getting late. Well, I suppose it was a matter of three years
that Mr. Davis and this young man went on living together: and then all
of a sudden, a dreadful thing happened. I don't know if I ought to tell
you. (Outcries of 'Oh yes! yes, granny, you must,' etc.). Well, then,
you must promise not to get frightened and go screaming out in the
middle of the night. (No, no, we won't, of course not!') One morning
very early towards the turn of the year, I think it was in September,
one of the woodmen had to go up to his work at the top of the long
covert just as it was getting light; and just where there were some few
big oaks in a sort of clearing deep in the wood he saw at a distance a
white thing that looked like a man through the mist, and he was in two
minds about going on, but go on he did, and made out as he came near
that it was a man, and more than that, it was Mr. Davis's young man:
dressed in a sort of white gown he was, and hanging by his neck to the
limb of the biggest oak, quite, quite dead: and near his feet there lay
on the ground a hatchet all in a gore of blood. Well, what a terrible
sight that was for anyone to come upon in that lonely place! This poor
man was nearly out of his wits: he dropped everything he was carrying
and ran as hard as ever he could straight down to the Parsonage, and
woke them up and told what he'd seen. And old Mr. White, who was the
parson then, sent him off to get two or three of the best men, the
blacksmith and the churchwardens and what not, while he dressed himself,
and all of them went up to this dreadful place with a horse to lay the
poor body on and take it to the house. When they got there, everything
was just as the woodman had said: but it was a terrible shock to them
all to see how the corpse was dressed, specially to old Mr. White, for
it seemed to him to be like a mockery of the church surplice that was on
it, only, he told my father, not the same in the fashion of it. And when
they came to take down the body from the oak tree they found there was a
chain of some metal round the neck and a little ornament like a wheel
hanging to it on the front, and it was very old looking, they said. Now
in the meantime they had sent off a boy to run to Mr. Davis's house and
see whether he was at home; for of course they couldn't but have their
suspicions. And Mr. White said they must send too to the constable of
the next parish, and get a message to another magistrate (he was a
magistrate himself), and so there was running hither and thither. But my
father as it happened was away from home that night, otherwise they
would have fetched him first. So then they laid the body across the
horse, and they say it was all they could manage to keep the beast from
bolting away from the time they were in sight of the tree, for it seemed
to be mad with fright. However, they managed to bind the eyes and lead
it down through the wood and back into the village street; and there,
just by the big tree where the stocks are, they found a lot of the women
gathered together, and this boy whom they'd sent to Mr. Davis's house
lying in the middle, as white as paper, and not a word could they get
out of him, good or bad. So they saw there was something worse yet to
come, and they made the best of their way up the lane to Mr. Davis's
house. And when they got near that, the horse they were leading seemed
to go mad again with fear, and reared up and screamed, and struck out
with its fore-feet and the man that was leading it was as near as
possible being killed, and the dead body fell off its back. So Mr. White
bid them get the horse away as quick as might be, and they carried the
body straight into the living-room, for the door stood open. And then
they saw what it was that had given the poor boy such a fright, and they
guessed why the horse went mad, for you know horses can't bear the smell
of dead blood.

There was a long table in the room, more than the length of a man, and
on it there lay the body of Mr. Davis. The eyes were bound over with a
linen band and the arms were tied across the back, and the feet were
bound together with another band. But the fearful thing was that the
breast being quite bare, the bone of it was split through from the top
downwards with an axe! Oh, it was a terrible sight; not one there but
turned faint and ill with it, and had to go out into the fresh air. Even
Mr. White, who was what you might call a hard nature of a man, was quite
overcome and said a prayer for strength in the garden.

At last they laid out the other body as best they could in the room, and
searched about to see if they could find out how such a frightful thing
had come to pass. And in the cupboards they found a quantity of herbs
and jars with liquors, and it came out, when people that understood such
matters had looked into it, that some of these liquors were drinks to
put a person asleep. And they had little doubt that that wicked young
man had put some of this into Mr. Davis's drink, and then used him as he
did, and, after that, the sense of his sin had come upon him and he had
cast himself away.

Well now, you couldn't understand all the law business that had to be
done by the coroner and the magistrates; but there was a great coming
and going of people over it for the next day or two, and then the people
of the parish got together and agreed that they couldn't bear the
thought of those two being buried in die churchyard alongside of
Christian people; for I must tell you there were papers and writings
found in the drawers and cupboards that Mr. White and some other
clergymen looked into; and they put their names to a paper that said
these men were guilty, by their own allowing, of the dreadful sin of
idolatry; and they feared there were some in the neighbouring places
that were not free from that wickedness, and called upon them to repent,
lest the same fearful thing that was come to these men should befall
them also; and then they burnt those writings. So then, Mr. White was of
the same mind as the parishioners, and late one evening twelve men that
were chosen went with him to that evil house, and with them they took
two biers made very roughly for the purpose and two pieces of black
cloth, and down at the cross-road, where you take the turn for Bascombe
and Wilcombe, there were other men waiting with torches, and a pit dug,
and a great crowd of people gathered together from all round about. And
the men that went to the cottage went in with their hats on their heads,
and four of them took the two bodies and laid them on the biers and
covered them over with the black cloths, and no one said a word, but
they bore them down the lane, and they were cast into the pit and
covered over with stones and earth, and then Mr. White spoke to the
people that were gathered together. My father was there, for he had come
back when he heard the news, and he said he never should forget the
strangeness of the sight, with the torches burning and those two black
things huddled together in the pit, and not a sound from any of the
people, except it might be a child or a woman whimpering with the
fright. And so, when Mr. White had finished speaking, they all turned
away and left them lying there.

They say horses don't like the spot even now, and I've heard there was
something of a mist or a light hung about for a long time after, but I
don't know the truth of that. But this I do know, that next day my
father's business took him past the opening of the lane, and he saw
three or four little knots of people standing at different places along
it, seemingly in a state of mind about something; and he rode up to
them, and asked what was the matter. And they ran up to him and said,
'Oh, Squire, it's the blood! Look at the blood!' and kept on like that.
So he got off his horse and they showed him, and there, in four places,
I think it was, he saw great patches in the road, of blood: but he could
hardly see it was blood, for almost every spot of it was covered with
great black flies, that never changed their place or moved. And that
blood was what had fallen out of Mr. Davis's body as they bore it down
the lane. Well, my father couldn't bear to do more than just take in the
nasty sight so as to be sure of it, and then he said to one of those men
that was there, 'Do you make haste and fetch a basket or a barrow full
of clean earth out of the churchyard and spread it over these places,
and I'll wait here till you come back.' And very soon he came back, and
the old man that was sexton with him, with a shovel and the earth in a
hand-barrow: and they set it down at the first of the places and made
ready to cast the earth upon it; and as as ever they did that, what do
you think? the flies that were on it rose up in the air in a kind of a
solid cloud and moved off up the lane towards the house, and the sexton
(he was parish clerk as well) stopped and looked at them and said to my
father, 'Lord of flies, sir,' and no more would he say. And just the
same it was at the other places, every one of them.

Charles: But what did he mean, granny?

Grandmother: Well, dear, you remember to ask Mr. Lucas when you go to
him for your lesson tomorrow. I can't stop now to talk about it: it's
long past bed-time for you already. The next thing was, my father made
up his mind no one was going to live in that cottage again, or yet use
any of the things that were in it: so, though it was one of the best in
the place, he sent round word to the people that it was to be done away
with, and anyone that wished could bring a faggot to the burning of it;
and that's what was done. They built a pile of wood in the living-room
and loosened the thatch so as the fire could take good hold, and then
set it alight; and as there was no brick, only the chimney-stack and the
oven, it wasn't long before it was all gone. I seem to remember seeing
the chimney when I was a little girl, but that fell down of itself at
last.

Now this that I've got to is the last bit of all. You may be sure that
for a long time the people said Mr. Davis and that young man were seen
about, the one of them in the wood and both of them where the house had
been, or passing together down the lane, particularly in the spring of
the year and at autumn-time. I can't speak to that, though if we were
sure there are such things as ghosts, it would seem likely that people
like that wouldn't rest quiet. But I can tell you this, that one evening
in the month of March, just before your grandfather and I were married,
we'd been taking a long walk in the woods together and picking flowers
and talking as young people will that are courting; and so much taken up
with each other that we never took any particular notice where we were
going. And on a sudden I cried out, and your grandfather asked what was
the matter. The matter was that I'd felt a sharp prick on the back of my
hand, and I snatched it to me and saw a black thing on it, and struck it
with the other hand and killed it. And I showed it him, and he was a man
who took notice of all such things, and he said, 'Well, I've never seen
ought like that fly before,' and though to my own eye it didn't seem
very much out of the common, I've no doubt he was right.

And then we looked about us, and 10 and behold if we weren't in the very
lane, just in front of the place where that house had stood, and, as
they told me after, just where the men set down the biers a minute when
they bore them out of the garden gate. You may be sure we made haste
away from there; at least, I made your grandfather come away quick, for
I was wholly upset at finding myself there; but he would have lingered
about out of curiosity if I'd have let him. Whether there was anything
about there more than we could see I shall never be sure: perhaps it was
partly the venom of that horrid fly's bite that was working in me that
made me feel so strange; for, dear me, how that poor arm and hand of
mine did swell up, to be sure! I'm afraid to tell you how large it was
round! and the pain of it, too! Nothing my mother could put on it had
any power over it at all, and it wasn't till she was persuaded by our
old nurse to get the wise man over at Bascombe to come and look at it,
that I got any peace at all. But he seemed to know all about it, and
said I wasn't the first that had been taken that way. 'When the sun's
gathering his strength,' he said, 'and when he's in the height of it,
and when he's beginning to lose his hold, and when he's in his weakness,
them that haunts about that lane had best to sake heed to themselves.'
But what it was he bound on my arm and what he said over it, he wouldn't
tell us. After that I soon got well again, but since then I've heard
often enough of people suffering much the same as I did; only of late
years it doesn't seem to happen but very seldom: and maybe things like
that do die out in the course of time.

But that's the reason, Charles, why I say to you that I won't have you
gathering me blackberries, no, nor eating them either, in that lane; and
now you know all about it, I don't fancy you'll want to yourself. There!
Off to bed you go this minute. What's that, Fanny? A light in your room?
The idea of such a thing! You get yourself undressed at once and say
your prayers, and perhaps if your father doesn't want me when he wakes
up, I'll come and say good-night to you. And you, Charles, if I hear
anything of you frightening your little sister on the way up to your
bed, I shall tell your father that very moment, and you know what
happened to you the last time.

The door closes, and granny, after listening intently for a minute or
two, resumes her knitting. The Squire still slumbers.




9. CANON ALBERIC'S SCRAP-BOOK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the doorstep they fell into conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrived on his doorstep, the sacristan paused a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'How much do you ask for it?'

'I will take two hundred and fifty francs.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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




10. CASTING THE RUNES


_April 15th, 190-_

Dear Sir,

I am requested by the Council of the ---- Association to return to you
the draft of a paper on _The Truth of Alchemy_, which you have been good
enough to offer to read at our forthcoming meeting, and to inform you
that the Council do not see their way to including it in the programme.

I am,

Yours faithfully,

_Secretary._

       *       *       *       *       *

_April 18th_

Dear Sir,

I am sorry to say that my engagements do not permit of my affording you
an interview on the subject of your proposed paper. Nor do our laws allow
of your discussing the matter with a Committee of our Council, as you
suggest. Please allow me to assure you that the fullest consideration was
given to the draft which you submitted, and that it was not declined
without having been referred to the judgement of a most competent
authority. No personal question (it can hardly be necessary for me to
add) can have had the slightest influence on the decision of the Council.

Believe me (_ut supra_).

       *       *       *       *       *

_April 20th_

The Secretary of the ---- Association begs respectfully to inform Mr
Karswell that it is impossible for him to communicate the name of any
person or persons to whom the draft of Mr Karswell's paper may have been
submitted; and further desires to intimate that he cannot undertake to
reply to any further letters on this subject.

       *       *       *       *       *

'And who _is_ Mr Karswell?' inquired the Secretary's wife. She had called
at his office, and (perhaps unwarrantably) had picked up the last of
these three letters, which the typist had just brought in.

'Why, my dear, just at present Mr Karswell is a very angry man. But I
don't know much about him otherwise, except that he is a person of
wealth, his address is Lufford Abbey, Warwickshire, and he's an
alchemist, apparently, and wants to tell us all about it; and that's
about all--except that I don't want to meet him for the next week or two.
Now, if you're ready to leave this place, I am.'

'What have you been doing to make him angry?' asked Mrs Secretary.

'The usual thing, my dear, the usual thing: he sent in a draft of a paper
he wanted to read at the next meeting, and we referred it to Edward
Dunning--almost the only man in England who knows about these things--and
he said it was perfectly hopeless, so we declined it. So Karswell has
been pelting me with letters ever since. The last thing he wanted was the
name of the man we referred his nonsense to; you saw my answer to that.
But don't you say anything about it, for goodness' sake.'

'I should think not, indeed. Did I ever do such a thing? I do hope,
though, he won't get to know that it was poor Mr Dunning.'

'Poor Mr Dunning? I don't know why you call him that; he's a very happy
man, is Dunning. Lots of hobbies and a comfortable home, and all his time
to himself.'

'I only meant I should be sorry for him if this man got hold of his name,
and came and bothered him.'

'Oh, ah! yes. I dare say he would be poor Mr Dunning then.'

The Secretary and his wife were lunching out, and the friends to whose
house they were bound were Warwickshire people. So Mrs Secretary had
already settled it in her own mind that she would question them
judiciously about Mr Karswell. But she was saved the trouble of leading
up to the subject, for the hostess said to the host, before many minutes
had passed, 'I saw the Abbot of Lufford this morning.' The host whistled.
'_Did_ you? What in the world brings him up to town?' 'Goodness knows; he
was coming out of the British Museum gate as I drove past.' It was not
unnatural that Mrs Secretary should inquire whether this was a real Abbot
who was being spoken of. 'Oh no, my dear: only a neighbour of ours in the
country who bought Lufford Abbey a few years ago. His real name is
Karswell.' 'Is he a friend of yours?' asked Mr Secretary, with a private
wink to his wife. The question let loose a torrent of declamation. There
was really nothing to be said for Mr Karswell. Nobody knew what he did
with himself: his servants were a horrible set of people; he had invented
a new religion for himself, and practised no one could tell what
appalling rites; he was very easily offended, and never forgave anybody;
he had a dreadful face (so the lady insisted, her husband somewhat
demurring); he never did a kind action, and whatever influence he did
exert was mischievous. 'Do the poor man justice, dear,' the husband
interrupted. 'You forget the treat he gave the school children.' 'Forget
it, indeed! But I'm glad you mentioned it, because it gives an idea of
the man. Now, Florence, listen to this. The first winter he was at
Lufford this delightful neighbour of ours wrote to the clergyman of his
parish (he's not ours, but we know him very well) and offered to show the
school children some magic-lantern slides. He said he had some new kinds,
which he thought would interest them. Well, the clergyman was rather
surprised, because Mr Karswell had shown himself inclined to be
unpleasant to the children--complaining of their trespassing, or
something of the sort; but of course he accepted, and the evening was
fixed, and our friend went himself to see that everything went right. He
said he never had been so thankful for anything as that his own children
were all prevented from being there: they were at a children's party at
our house, as a matter of fact. Because this Mr Karswell had evidently
set out with the intention of frightening these poor village children out
of their wits, and I do believe, if he had been allowed to go on, he
would actually have done so. He began with some comparatively mild
things. Red Riding Hood was one, and even then, Mr Farrer said, the wolf
was so dreadful that several of the smaller children had to be taken out:
and he said Mr Karswell began the story by producing a noise like a wolf
howling in the distance, which was the most gruesome thing he had ever
heard. All the slides he showed, Mr Farrer said, were most clever; they
were absolutely realistic, and where he had got them or how he worked
them he could not imagine. Well, the show went on, and the stories kept
on becoming a little more terrifying each time, and the children were
mesmerized into complete silence. At last he produced a series which
represented a little boy passing through his own park--Lufford, I
mean--in the evening. Every child in the room could recognize the place
from the pictures. And this poor boy was followed, and at last pursued
and overtaken, and either torn to pieces or somehow made away with, by a
horrible hopping creature in white, which you saw first dodging about
among the trees, and gradually it appeared more and more plainly. Mr
Farrer said it gave him one of the worst nightmares he ever remembered,
and what it must have meant to the children doesn't bear thinking of. Of
course this was too much, and he spoke very sharply indeed to Mr
Karswell, and said it couldn't go on. All _he_ said was: "Oh, you think
it's time to bring our little show to an end and send them home to their
beds? _Very_ well!" And then, if you please, he switched on another
slide, which showed a great mass of snakes, centipedes, and disgusting
creatures with wings, and somehow or other he made it seem as if they
were climbing out of the picture and getting in amongst the audience; and
this was accompanied by a sort of dry rustling noise which sent the
children nearly mad, and of course they stampeded. A good many of them
were rather hurt in getting out of the room, and I don't suppose one of
them closed an eye that night. There was the most dreadful trouble in the
village afterwards. Of course the mothers threw a good part of the blame
on poor Mr Farrer, and, if they could have got past the gates, I believe
the fathers would have broken every window in the Abbey. Well, now,
that's Mr Karswell: that's the Abbot of Lufford, my dear, and you can
imagine how we covet _his_ society.'

'Yes, I think he has all the possibilities of a distinguished criminal,
has Karswell,' said the host. 'I should be sorry for anyone who got into
his bad books.'

'Is he the man, or am I mixing him up with someone else?' asked the
Secretary (who for some minutes had been wearing the frown of the man who
is trying to recollect something). 'Is he the man who brought out a
_History of Witchcraft_ some time back--ten years or more?'

'That's the man; do you remember the reviews of it?'

'Certainly I do; and what's equally to the point, I knew the author of
the most incisive of the lot. So did you: you must remember John
Harrington; he was at John's in our time.'

'Oh, very well indeed, though I don't think I saw or heard anything of
him between the time I went down and the day I read the account of the
inquest on him.'

'Inquest?' said one of the ladies. 'What has happened to him?'

'Why, what happened was that he fell out of a tree and broke his neck.
But the puzzle was, what could have induced him to get up there. It was a
mysterious business, I must say. Here was this man--not an athletic
fellow, was he? and with no eccentric twist about him that was ever
noticed--walking home along a country road late in the evening--no tramps
about--well known and liked in the place--and he suddenly begins to run
like mad, loses his hat and stick, and finally shins up a tree--quite a
difficult tree--growing in the hedgerow: a dead branch gives way, and he
comes down with it and breaks his neck, and there he's found next morning
with the most dreadful face of fear on him that could be imagined. It was
pretty evident, of course, that he had been chased by something, and
people talked of savage dogs, and beasts escaped out of menageries; but
there was nothing to be made of that. That was in '89, and I believe his
brother Henry (whom I remember as well at Cambridge, but _you_ probably
don't) has been trying to get on the track of an explanation ever since.
He, of course, insists there was malice in it, but I don't know. It's
difficult to see how it could have come in.'

After a time the talk reverted to the _History of Witchcraft_. 'Did you
ever look into it?' asked the host.

'Yes, I did,' said the Secretary. 'I went so far as to read it.'

'Was it as bad as it was made out to be?'

'Oh, in point of style and form, quite hopeless. It deserved all the
pulverizing it got. But, besides that, it was an evil book. The man
believed every word of what he was saying, and I'm very much mistaken if
he hadn't tried the greater part of his receipts.'

'Well, I only remember Harrington's review of it, and I must say if I'd
been the author it would have quenched my literary ambition for good. I
should never have held up my head again.'

'It hasn't had that effect in the present case. But come, it's half-past
three; I must be off.'

On the way home the Secretary's wife said, 'I do hope that horrible man
won't find out that Mr Dunning had anything to do with the rejection of
his paper.' 'I don't think there's much chance of that,' said the
Secretary. 'Dunning won't mention it himself, for these matters are
confidential, and none of us will for the same reason. Karswell won't
know his name, for Dunning hasn't published anything on the same subject
yet. The only danger is that Karswell might find out, if he was to ask
the British Museum people who was in the habit of consulting alchemical
manuscripts: I can't very well tell them not to mention Dunning, can I?
It would set them talking at once. Let's hope it won't occur to him.'

However, Mr Karswell was an astute man.

       *       *       *       *       *

This much is in the way of prologue. On an evening rather later in the
same week, Mr Edward Dunning was returning from the British Museum, where
he had been engaged in research, to the comfortable house in a suburb
where he lived alone, tended by two excellent women who had been long
with him. There is nothing to be added by way of description of him to
what we have heard already. Let us follow him as he takes his sober
course homewards.

       *       *       *       *       *

A train took him to within a mile or two of his house, and an electric
tram a stage farther. The line ended at a point some three hundred yards
from his front door. He had had enough of reading when he got into the
car, and indeed the light was not such as to allow him to do more than
study the advertisements on the panes of glass that faced him as he sat.
As was not unnatural, the advertisements in this particular line of cars
were objects of his frequent contemplation, and, with the possible
exception of the brilliant and convincing dialogue between Mr Lamplough
and an eminent K.C. on the subject of Pyretic Saline, none of them
afforded much scope to his imagination. I am wrong: there was one at the
corner of the car farthest from him which did not seem familiar. It was
in blue letters on a yellow ground, and all that he could read of it was
a name--John Harrington--and something like a date. It could be of no
interest to him to know more; but for all that, as the car emptied, he
was just curious enough to move along the seat until he could read it
well. He felt to a slight extent repaid for his trouble; the
advertisement was _not_ of the usual type. It ran thus: 'In memory of
John Harrington, F.S.A., of The Laurels, Ashbrooke. Died Sept. 18th,
1889. Three months were allowed.'

The car stopped. Mr Dunning, still contemplating the blue letters on the
yellow ground, had to be stimulated to rise by a word from the conductor.
'I beg your pardon,' he said, 'I was looking at that advertisement; it's
a very odd one, isn't it?' The conductor read it slowly. 'Well, my word,'
he said, 'I never see that one before. Well, that is a cure, ain't it?
Someone bin up to their jokes 'ere, I should think.' He got out a duster
and applied it, not without saliva, to the pane and then to the outside.
'No,' he said, returning, 'that ain't no transfer; seems to me as if it
was reg'lar _in_ the glass, what I mean in the substance, as you may say.
Don't you think so, sir?' Mr Dunning examined it and rubbed it with his
glove, and agreed. 'Who looks after these advertisements, and gives leave
for them to be put up? I wish you would inquire. I will just take a note
of the words.' At this moment there came a call from the driver: 'Look
alive, George, time's up.' 'All right, all right; there's something else
what's up at this end. You come and look at this 'ere glass.' 'What's
gorn with the glass?' said the driver, approaching. 'Well, and oo's
'Arrington? What's it all about?' 'I was just asking who was responsible
for putting the advertisements up in your cars, and saying it would be as
well to make some inquiry about this one.' 'Well, sir, that's all done at
the Company's office, that work is: it's our Mr Timms, I believe, looks
into that. When we put up tonight I'll leave word, and per'aps I'll be
able to tell you tomorrer if you 'appen to be coming this way.'

This was all that passed that evening. Mr Dunning did just go to the
trouble of looking up Ashbrooke, and found that it was in Warwickshire.

Next day he went to town again. The car (it was the same car) was too
full in the morning to allow of his getting a word with the conductor: he
could only be sure that the curious advertisement had been made away
with. The close of the day brought a further element of mystery into the
transaction. He had missed the tram, or else preferred walking home, but
at a rather late hour, while he was at work in his study, one of the
maids came to say that two men from the tramways was very anxious to
speak to him. This was a reminder of the advertisement, which he had, he
says, nearly forgotten. He had the men in--they were the conductor and
driver of the car--and when the matter of refreshment had been attended
to, asked what Mr Timms had had to say about the advertisement. 'Well,
sir, that's what we took the liberty to step round about,' said the
conductor. 'Mr Timms 'e give William 'ere the rough side of his tongue
about that: 'cordin' to 'im there warn't no advertisement of that
description sent in, nor ordered, nor paid for, nor put up, nor nothink,
let alone not bein' there, and we was playing the fool takin' up his
time. "Well," I says, "if that's the case, all I ask of you, Mr Timms," I
says, "is to take and look at it for yourself," I says. "Of course if it
ain't there," I says, "you may take and call me what you like." "Right,"
he says, "I will": and we went straight off. Now, I leave it to you, sir,
if that ad., as we term 'em, with 'Arrington on it warn't as plain as
ever you see anythink--blue letters on yeller glass, and as I says at the
time, and you borne me out, reg'lar _in_ the glass, because, if you
remember, you recollect of me swabbing it with my duster.' 'To be sure I
do, quite clearly--well?' 'You may say well, I don't think. Mr Timms he
gets in that car with a light--no, he telled William to 'old the light
outside. "Now," he says, "where's your precious ad. what we've 'eard so
much about?" "'Ere it is," I says, "Mr Timms," and I laid my 'and on it.'
The conductor paused.

'Well,' said Mr Dunning, 'it was gone, I suppose. Broken?'

'Broke!--not it. There warn't, if you'll believe me, no more trace of
them letters--blue letters they was--on that piece o' glass, than--well,
it's no good _me_ talkin'. _I_ never see such a thing. I leave it to
William here if--but there, as I says, where's the benefit in me going on
about it?'

'And what did Mr Timms say?'

'Why 'e did what I give 'im leave to--called us pretty much anythink he
liked, and I don't know as I blame him so much neither. But what we
thought, William and me did, was as we seen you take down a bit of a note
about that--well, that letterin'--'

'I certainly did that, and I have it now. Did you wish me to speak to Mr
Timms myself, and show it to him? Was that what you came in about?'

'There, didn't I say as much?' said William. 'Deal with a gent if you can
get on the track of one, that's my word. Now perhaps, George, you'll
allow as I ain't took you very far wrong tonight.'

'Very well, William, very well; no need for you to go on as if you'd 'ad
to frog's-march me 'ere. I come quiet, didn't I? All the same for that,
we 'adn't ought to take up your time this way, sir; but if it so 'appened
you could find time to step round to the Company orfice in the morning
and tell Mr Timms what you seen for yourself, we should lay under a very
'igh obligation to you for the trouble. You see it ain't bein'
called--well, one thing and another, as we mind, but if they got it into
their 'ead at the orfice as we seen things as warn't there, why, one
thing leads to another, and where we should be a twelvemunce 'ence--well,
you can understand what I mean.'

Amid further elucidations of the proposition, George, conducted by
William, left the room.

The incredulity of Mr Timms (who had a nodding acquaintance with Mr
Dunning) was greatly modified on the following day by what the latter
could tell and show him; and any bad mark that might have been attached
to the names of William and George was not suffered to remain on the
Company's books; but explanation there was none.

Mr Dunning's interest in the matter was kept alive by an incident of the
following afternoon. He was walking from his club to the train, and he
noticed some way ahead a man with a handful of leaflets such as are
distributed to passers-by by agents of enterprising firms. This agent had
not chosen a very crowded street for his operations: in fact, Mr Dunning
did not see him get rid of a single leaflet before he himself reached the
spot. One was thrust into his hand as he passed: the hand that gave it
touched his, and he experienced a sort of little shock as it did so. It
seemed unnaturally rough and hot. He looked in passing at the giver, but
the impression he got was so unclear that, however much he tried to
reckon it up subsequently, nothing would come. He was walking quickly,
and as he went on glanced at the paper. It was a blue one. The name of
Harrington in large capitals caught his eye. He stopped, startled, and
felt for his glasses. The next instant the leaflet was twitched out of
his hand by a man who hurried past, and was irrecoverably gone. He ran
back a few paces, but where was the passer-by? and where the distributor?

It was in a somewhat pensive frame of mind that Mr Dunning passed on the
following day into the Select Manuscript Room of the British Museum, and
filled up tickets for Harley 3586, and some other volumes. After a few
minutes they were brought to him, and he was settling the one he wanted
first upon the desk, when he thought he heard his own name whispered
behind him. He turned round hastily, and in doing so, brushed his little
portfolio of loose papers on to the floor. He saw no one he recognized
except one of the staff in charge of the room, who nodded to him, and he
proceeded to pick up his papers. He thought he had them all, and was
turning to begin work, when a stout gentleman at the table behind him,
who was just rising to leave, and had collected his own belongings,
touched him on the shoulder, saying, 'May I give you this? I think it
should be yours,' and handed him a missing quire. 'It is mine, thank
you,' said Mr Dunning. In another moment the man had left the room. Upon
finishing his work for the afternoon, Mr Dunning had some conversation
with the assistant in charge, and took occasion to ask who the stout
gentleman was. 'Oh, he's a man named Karswell,' said the assistant; 'he
was asking me a week ago who were the great authorities on alchemy, and
of course I told him you were the only one in the country. I'll see if I
can catch him: he'd like to meet you, I'm sure.'

'For heaven's sake don't dream of it!' said Mr Dunning, 'I'm particularly
anxious to avoid him.'

'Oh! very well,' said the assistant, 'he doesn't come here often: I dare
say you won't meet him.'

More than once on the way home that day Mr Dunning confessed to himself
that he did not look forward with his usual cheerfulness to a solitary
evening. It seemed to him that something ill-defined and impalpable had
stepped in between him and his fellow-men--had taken him in charge, as it
were. He wanted to sit close up to his neighbours in the train and in the
tram, but as luck would have it both train and car were markedly empty.
The conductor George was thoughtful, and appeared to be absorbed in
calculations as to the number of passengers. On arriving at his house he
found Dr Watson, his medical man, on his doorstep. 'I've had to upset
your household arrangements, I'm sorry to say, Dunning. Both your
servants _hors de combat_. In fact, I've had to send them to the Nursing
Home.'

'Good heavens! what's the matter?'

'It's something like ptomaine poisoning, I should think: you've not
suffered yourself, I can see, or you wouldn't be walking about. I think
they'll pull through all right.'

'Dear, dear! Have you any idea what brought it on?' 'Well, they tell me
they bought some shell-fish from a hawker at their dinner-time. It's odd.
I've made inquiries, but I can't find that any hawker has been to other
houses in the street. I couldn't send word to you; they won't be back for
a bit yet. You come and dine with me tonight, anyhow, and we can make
arrangements for going on. Eight o'clock. Don't be too anxious.' The
solitary evening was thus obviated; at the expense of some distress and
inconvenience, it is true. Mr Dunning spent the time pleasantly enough
with the doctor (a rather recent settler), and returned to his lonely
home at about 11.30. The night he passed is not one on which he looks
back with any satisfaction. He was in bed and the light was out. He was
wondering if the charwoman would come early enough to get him hot water
next morning, when he heard the unmistakable sound of his study door
opening. No step followed it on the passage floor, but the sound must
mean mischief, for he knew that he had shut the door that evening after
putting his papers away in his desk. It was rather shame than courage
that induced him to slip out into the passage and lean over the banister
in his nightgown, listening. No light was visible; no further sound came:
only a gust of warm, or even hot air played for an instant round his
shins. He went back and decided to lock himself into his room. There was
more unpleasantness, however. Either an economical suburban company had
decided that their light would not be required in the small hours, and
had stopped working, or else something was wrong with the meter; the
effect was in any case that the electric light was off. The obvious
course was to find a match, and also to consult his watch: he might as
well know how many hours of discomfort awaited him. So he put his hand
into the well-known nook under the pillow: only, it did not get so far.
What he touched was, according to his account, a mouth, with teeth, and
with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being. I
do not think it is any use to guess what he said or did; but he was in a
spare room with the door locked and his ear to it before he was clearly
conscious again. And there he spent the rest of a most miserable night,
looking every moment for some fumbling at the door: but nothing came.

The venturing back to his own room in the morning was attended with many
listenings and quiverings. The door stood open, fortunately, and the
blinds were up (the servants had been out of the house before the hour of
drawing them down); there was, to be short, no trace of an inhabitant.
The watch, too, was in its usual place; nothing was disturbed, only the
wardrobe door had swung open, in accordance with its confirmed habit. A
ring at the back door now announced the charwoman, who had been ordered
the night before, and nerved Mr Dunning, after letting her in, to
continue his search in other parts of the house. It was equally
fruitless.

The day thus begun went on dismally enough. He dared not go to the
Museum: in spite of what the assistant had said, Karswell might turn up
there, and Dunning felt he could not cope with a probably hostile
stranger. His own house was odious; he hated sponging on the doctor. He
spent some little time in a call at the Nursing Home, where he was
slightly cheered by a good report of his housekeeper and maid. Towards
lunch-time he betook himself to his club, again experiencing a gleam of
satisfaction at seeing the Secretary of the Association. At luncheon
Dunning told his friend the more material of his woes, but could not
bring himself to speak of those that weighed most heavily on his spirits.
'My poor dear man,' said the Secretary, 'what an upset! Look here: we're
alone at home, absolutely. You must put up with us. Yes! no excuse: send
your things in this afternoon.' Dunning was unable to stand out: he was,
in truth, becoming acutely anxious, as the hours went on, as to what that
night might have waiting for him. He was almost happy as he hurried home
to pack up.

His friends, when they had time to take stock of him, were rather shocked
at his lorn appearance, and did their best to keep him up to the mark.
Not altogether without success: but, when the two men were smoking alone
later, Dunning became dull again. Suddenly he said, 'Gayton, I believe
that alchemist man knows it was I who got his paper rejected.' Gayton
whistled. 'What makes you think that?' he said. Dunning told of his
conversation with the Museum assistant, and Gayton could only agree that
the guess seemed likely to be correct. 'Not that I care much,' Dunning
went on, 'only it might be a nuisance if we were to meet. He's a
bad-tempered party, I imagine.' Conversation dropped again; Gayton became
more and more strongly impressed with the desolateness that came over
Dunning's face and bearing, and finally--though with a considerable
effort--he asked him point-blank whether something serious was not
bothering him. Dunning gave an exclamation of relief. 'I was perishing to
get it off my mind,' he said. 'Do you know anything about a man named
John Harrington?' Gayton was thoroughly startled, and at the moment could
only ask why. Then the complete story of Dunning's experiences came
out--what had happened in the tramcar, in his own house, and in the
street, the troubling of spirit that had crept over him, and still held
him; and he ended with the question he had begun with. Gayton was at a
loss how to answer him. To tell the story of Harrington's end would
perhaps be right; only, Dunning was in a nervous state, the story was a
grim one, and he could not help asking himself whether there were not a
connecting link between these two cases, in the person of Karswell. It
was a difficult concession for a scientific man, but it could be eased by
the phrase 'hypnotic suggestion'. In the end he decided that his answer
tonight should be guarded; he would talk the situation over with his
wife. So he said that he had known Harrington at Cambridge, and believed
he had died suddenly in 1889, adding a few details about the man and his
published work. He did talk over the matter with Mrs Gayton, and, as he
had anticipated, she leapt at once to the conclusion which had been
hovering before him. It was she who reminded him of the surviving
brother, Henry Harrington, and she also who suggested that he might be
got hold of by means of their hosts of the day before. 'He might be a
hopeless crank,' objected Gayton. 'That could be ascertained from the
Bennetts, who knew him,' Mrs Gayton retorted; and she undertook to see
the Bennetts the very next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not necessary to tell in further detail the steps by which Henry
Harrington and Dunning were brought together.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next scene that does require to be narrated is a conversation that
took place between the two. Dunning had told Harrington of the strange
ways in which the dead man's name had been brought before him, and had
said something, besides, of his own subsequent experiences. Then he had
asked if Harrington was disposed, in return, to recall any of the
circumstances connected with his brother's death. Harrington's surprise
at what he heard can be imagined: but his reply was readily given.

'John,' he said, 'was in a very odd state, undeniably, from time to time,
during some weeks before, though not immediately before, the catastrophe.
There were several things; the principal notion he had was that he
thought he was being followed. No doubt he was an impressionable man, but
he never had had such fancies as this before. I cannot get it out of my
mind that there was ill-will at work, and what you tell me about yourself
reminds me very much of my brother. Can you think of any possible
connecting link?'

'There is just one that has been taking shape vaguely in my mind. I've
been told that your brother reviewed a book very severely not long before
he died, and just lately I have happened to cross the path of the man who
wrote that book in a way he would resent.'

'Don't tell me the man was called Karswell.'

'Why not? that is exactly his name.'

Henry Harrington leant back. 'That is final to my mind. Now I must
explain further. From something he said, I feel sure that my brother John
was beginning to believe--very much against his will--that Karswell was
at the bottom of his trouble. I want to tell you what seems to me to have
a bearing on the situation. My brother was a great musician, and used to
run up to concerts in town. He came back, three months before he died,
from one of these, and gave me his programme to look at--an analytical
programme: he always kept them. "I nearly missed this one," he said. "I
suppose I must have dropped it: anyhow, I was looking for it under my
seat and in my pockets and so on, and my neighbour offered me his, said
'might he give it me, he had no further use for it,' and he went away
just afterwards. I don't know who he was--a stout, clean-shaven man. I
should have been sorry to miss it; of course I could have bought another,
but this cost me nothing." At another time he told me that he had been
very uncomfortable both on the way to his hotel and during the night. I
piece things together now in thinking it over. Then, not very long after,
he was going over these programmes, putting them in order to have them
bound up, and in this particular one (which by the way I had hardly
glanced at), he found quite near the beginning a strip of paper with some
very odd writing on it in red and black--most carefully done--it looked
to me more like Runic letters than anything else. "Why," he said, "this
must belong to my fat neighbour. It looks as if it might be worth
returning to him; it may be a copy of something; evidently someone has
taken trouble over it. How can I find his address?" We talked it over for
a little and agreed that it wasn't worth advertising about, and that my
brother had better look out for the man at the next concert, to which he
was going very soon. The paper was lying on the book and we were both by
the fire; it was a cold, windy summer evening. I suppose the door blew
open, though I didn't notice it: at any rate a gust--a warm gust it
was--came quite suddenly between us, took the paper and blew it straight
into the fire: it was light, thin paper, and flared and went up the
chimney in a single ash. "Well," I said, "you can't give it back now." He
said nothing for a minute: then rather crossly, "No, I can't; but why you
should keep on saying so I don't know." I remarked that I didn't say it
more than once. "Not more than four times, you mean," was all he said. I
remember all that very clearly, without any good reason; and now to come
to the point. I don't know if you looked at that book of Karswell's which
my unfortunate brother reviewed. It's not likely that you should: but I
did, both before his death and after it. The first time we made game of
it together. It was written in no style at all--split infinitives, and
every sort of thing that makes an Oxford gorge rise. Then there was
nothing that the man didn't swallow: mixing up classical myths, and
stories out of the _Golden Legend_ with reports of savage customs of
today--all very proper, no doubt, if you know how to use them, but he
didn't: he seemed to put the _Golden Legend_ and the _Golden Bough_
exactly on a par, and to believe both: a pitiable exhibition, in short.
Well, after the misfortune, I looked over the book again. It was no
better than before, but the impression which it left this time on my mind
was different. I suspected--as I told you--that Karswell had borne
ill-will to my brother, even that he was in some way responsible for what
had happened; and now his book seemed to me to be a very sinister
performance indeed. One chapter in particular struck me, in which he
spoke of "casting the Runes" on people, either for the purpose of gaining
their affection or of getting them out of the way--perhaps more
especially the latter: he spoke of all this in a way that really seemed
to me to imply actual knowledge. I've not time to go into details, but
the upshot is that I am pretty sure from information received that the
civil man at the concert was Karswell: I suspect--I more than
suspect--that the paper was of importance: and I do believe that if my
brother had been able to give it back, he might have been alive now.
Therefore, it occurs to me to ask you whether you have anything to put
beside what I have told you.'

By way of answer, Dunning had the episode in the Manuscript Room at the
British Museum to relate.

'Then he did actually hand you some papers; have you examined them? No?
because we must, if you'll allow it, look at them at once, and very
carefully.'

They went to the still empty house--empty, for the two servants were not
yet able to return to work. Dunning's portfolio of papers was gathering
dust on the writing-table. In it were the quires of small-sized
scribbling paper which he used for his transcripts: and from one of
these, as he took it up, there slipped and fluttered out into the room
with uncanny quickness, a strip of thin light paper. The window was open,
but Harrington slammed it to, just in time to intercept the paper, which
he caught. 'I thought so,' he said; 'it might be the identical thing that
was given to my brother. You'll have to look out, Dunning; this may mean
something quite serious for you.'

A long consultation took place. The paper was narrowly examined. As
Harrington had said, the characters on it were more like Runes than
anything else, but not decipherable by either man, and both hesitated to
copy them, for fear, as they confessed, of perpetuating whatever evil
purpose they might conceal. So it has remained impossible (if I may
anticipate a little) to ascertain what was conveyed in this curious
message or commission. Both Dunning and Harrington are firmly convinced
that it had the effect of bringing its possessors into very undesirable
company. That it must be returned to the source whence it came they were
agreed, and further, that the only safe and certain way was that of
personal service; and here contrivance would be necessary, for Dunning
was known by sight to Karswell. He must, for one thing, alter his
appearance by shaving his beard. But then might not the blow fall first?
Harrington thought they could time it. He knew the date of the concert at
which the 'black spot' had been put on his brother: it was June 18th. The
death had followed on Sept. 18th. Dunning reminded him that three months
had been mentioned on the inscription on the car-window. 'Perhaps,' he
added, with a cheerless laugh, 'mine may be a bill at three months too. I
believe I can fix it by my diary. Yes, April 23rd was the day at the
Museum; that brings us to July 23rd. Now, you know, it becomes extremely
important to me to know anything you will tell me about the progress of
your brother's trouble, if it is possible for you to speak of it.' 'Of
course. Well, the sense of being watched whenever he was alone was the
most distressing thing to him. After a time I took to sleeping in his
room, and he was the better for that: still, he talked a great deal in
his sleep. What about? Is it wise to dwell on that, at least before
things are straightened out? I think not, but I can tell you this: two
things came for him by post during those weeks, both with a London
postmark, and addressed in a commercial hand. One was a woodcut of
Bewick's, roughly torn out of the page: one which shows a moonlit road
and a man walking along it, followed by an awful demon creature. Under it
were written the lines out of the "Ancient Mariner" (which I suppose the
cut illustrates) about one who, having once looked round--

walks on,
And turns no more his head,
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

The other was a calendar, such as tradesmen often send. My brother paid
no attention to this, but I looked at it after his death, and found that
everything after Sept. 18 had been torn out. You may be surprised at his
having gone out alone the evening he was killed, but the fact is that
during the last ten days or so of his life he had been quite free from
the sense of being followed or watched.'

The end of the consultation was this. Harrington, who knew a neighbour of
Karswell's, thought he saw a way of keeping a watch on his movements. It
would be Dunning's part to be in readiness to try to cross Karswell's
path at any moment, to keep the paper safe and in a place of ready
access.

They parted. The next weeks were no doubt a severe strain upon Dunning's
nerves: the intangible barrier which had seemed to rise about him on the
day when he received the paper, gradually developed into a brooding
blackness that cut him off from the means of escape to which one might
have thought he might resort. No one was at hand who was likely to
suggest them to him, and he seemed robbed of all initiative. He waited
with inexpressible anxiety as May, June, and early July passed on, for a
mandate from Harrington. But all this time Karswell remained immovable at
Lufford.

At last, in less than a week before the date he had come to look upon as
the end of his earthly activities, came a telegram: 'Leaves Victoria by
boat train Thursday night. Do not miss. I come to you to-night.
Harrington.'

He arrived accordingly, and they concocted plans. The train left Victoria
at nine and its last stop before Dover was Croydon West. Harrington would
mark down Karswell at Victoria, and look out for Dunning at Croydon,
calling to him if need were by a name agreed upon. Dunning, disguised as
far as might be, was to have no label or initials on any hand luggage,
and must at all costs have the paper with him.

Dunning's suspense as he waited on the Croydon platform I need not
attempt to describe. His sense of danger during the last days had only
been sharpened by the fact that the cloud about him had perceptibly been
lighter; but relief was an ominous symptom, and, if Karswell eluded him
now, hope was gone: and there were so many chances of that. The rumour of
the journey might be itself a device. The twenty minutes in which he
paced the platform and persecuted every porter with inquiries as to the
boat train were as bitter as any he had spent. Still, the train came, and
Harrington was at the window. It was important, of course, that there
should be no recognition: so Dunning got in at the farther end of the
corridor carriage, and only gradually made his way to the compartment
where Harrington and Karswell were. He was pleased, on the whole, to see
that the train was far from full.

Karswell was on the alert, but gave no sign of recognition. Dunning took
the seat not immediately facing him, and attempted, vainly at first, then
with increasing command of his faculties, to reckon the possibilities of
making the desired transfer. Opposite to Karswell, and next to Dunning,
was a heap of Karswell's coats on the seat. It would be of no use to slip
the paper into these--he would not be safe, or would not feel so, unless
in some way it could be proffered by him and accepted by the other. There
was a handbag, open, and with papers in it. Could he manage to conceal
this (so that perhaps Karswell might leave the carriage without it), and
then find and give it to him? This was the plan that suggested itself. If
he could only have counselled with Harrington! but that could not be. The
minutes went on. More than once Karswell rose and went out into the
corridor. The second time Dunning was on the point of attempting to make
the bag fall off the seat, but he caught Harrington's eye, and read in it
a warning.

Karswell, from the corridor, was watching: probably to see if the two men
recognized each other. He returned, but was evidently restless: and, when
he rose the third time, hope dawned, for something did slip off his seat
and fall with hardly a sound to the floor. Karswell went out once more,
and passed out of range of the corridor window. Dunning picked up what
had fallen, and saw that the key was in his hands in the form of one of
Cook's ticket-cases, with tickets in it. These cases have a pocket in the
cover, and within very few seconds the paper of which we have heard was
in the pocket of this one. To make the operation more secure, Harrington
stood in the doorway of the compartment and fiddled with the blind. It
was done, and done at the right time, for the train was now slowing down
towards Dover.

In a moment more Karswell re-entered the compartment. As he did so,
Dunning, managing, he knew not how, to suppress the tremble in his voice,
handed him the ticket-case, saying, 'May I give you this, sir? I believe
it is yours.' After a brief glance at the ticket inside, Karswell uttered
the hoped-for response, 'Yes, it is; much obliged to you, sir,' and he
placed it in his breast pocket.

Even in the few moments that remained--moments of tense anxiety, for they
knew not to what a premature finding of the paper might lead--both men
noticed that the carriage seemed to darken about them and to grow warmer;
that Karswell was fidgety and oppressed; that he drew the heap of loose
coats near to him and cast it back as if it repelled him; and that he
then sat upright and glanced anxiously at both. They, with sickening
anxiety, busied themselves in collecting their belongings; but they both
thought that Karswell was on the point of speaking when the train stopped
at Dover Town. It was natural that in the short space between town and
pier they should both go into the corridor.

At the pier they got out, but so empty was the train that they were
forced to linger on the platform until Karswell should have passed ahead
of them with his porter on the way to the boat, and only then was it safe
for them to exchange a pressure of the hand and a word of concentrated
congratulation. The effect upon Dunning was to make him almost faint.
Harrington made him lean up against the wall, while he himself went
forward a few yards within sight of the gangway to the boat, at which
Karswell had now arrived. The man at the head of it examined his ticket,
and, laden with coats he passed down into the boat. Suddenly the official
called after him, 'You, sir, beg pardon, did the other gentleman show his
ticket?' 'What the devil do you mean by the other gentleman?' Karswell's
snarling voice called back from the deck. The man bent over and looked at
him. 'The devil? Well, I don't know, I'm sure,' Harrington heard him say
to himself, and then aloud, 'My mistake, sir; must have been your rugs!
ask your pardon.' And then, to a subordinate near him, ''Ad he got a dog
with him, or what? Funny thing: I could 'a' swore 'e wasn't alone. Well,
whatever it was, they'll 'ave to see to it aboard. She's off now. Another
week and we shall be gettin' the 'oliday customers.' In five minutes more
there was nothing but the lessening lights of the boat, the long line of
the Dover lamps, the night breeze, and the moon.

Long and long the two sat in their room at the 'Lord Warden'. In spite of
the removal of their greatest anxiety, they were oppressed with a doubt,
not of the lightest. Had they been justified in sending a man to his
death, as they believed they had? Ought they not to warn him, at least?
'No,' said Harrington; 'if he is the murderer I think him, we have done
no more than is just. Still, if you think it better--but how and where
can you warn him?' 'He was booked to Abbeville only,' said Dunning. 'I
saw that. If I wired to the hotels there in Joanne's Guide, "Examine your
ticket-case, Dunning," I should feel happier. This is the 21st: he will
have a day. But I am afraid he has gone into the dark.' So telegrams were
left at the hotel office.

It is not clear whether these reached their destination, or whether, if
they did, they were understood. All that is known is that, on the
afternoon of the 23rd, an English traveller, examining the front of St
Wulfram's Church at Abbeville, then under extensive repair, was struck on
the head and instantly killed by a stone falling from the scaffold
erected round the north-western tower, there being, as was clearly
proved, no workman on the scaffold at that moment: and the traveller's
papers identified him as Mr Karswell.

Only one detail shall be added. At Karswell's sale a set of Bewick, sold
with all faults, was acquired by Harrington. The page with the woodcut of
the traveller and the demon was, as he had expected, mutilated. Also,
after a judicious interval, Harrington repeated to Dunning something of
what he had heard his brother say in his sleep: but it was not long
before Dunning stopped him.


11. COUNT MAGNUS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



12. LOST HEARTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes, quite sure, sir.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following evening Mrs Bunch was occupying herself in mending his
nightgown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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


13. MARTIN'S CLOSE

Some few years back I was staying with the rector of a parish in the
West, where the society to which I belong owns property. I was to go over
some of this land: and, on the first morning of my visit, soon after
breakfast, the estate carpenter and general handyman, John Hill, was
announced as in readiness to accompany us. The rector asked which part of
the parish we were to visit that morning. The estate map was produced,
and when we had showed him our round, he put his finger on a particular
spot. 'Don't forget,' he said, 'to ask John Hill about Martin's Close
when you get there. I should like to hear what he tells you.' 'What ought
he to tell us?' I said. 'I haven't the slightest idea,' said the rector,
'or, if that is not exactly true, it will do till lunch-time.' And here
he was called away.

We set out; John Hill is not a man to withhold such information as he
possesses on any point, and you may gather from him much that is of
interest about the people of the place and their talk. An unfamiliar
word, or one that he thinks ought to be unfamiliar to you, he will
usually spell--as c-o-b cob, and the like. It is not, however, relevant
to my purpose to record his conversation before the moment when we
reached Martin's Close. The bit of land is noticeable, for it is one of
the smallest enclosures you are likely to see--a very few square yards,
hedged in with quickset on all sides, and without any gate or gap leading
into it. You might take it for a small cottage garden long deserted, but
that it lies away from the village and bears no trace of cultivation. It
is at no great distance from the road, and is part of what is there
called a moor, in other words, a rough upland pasture cut up into largish
fields.

'Why is this little bit hedged off so?' I asked, and John Hill (whose
answer I cannot represent as perfectly as I should like) was not at
fault. 'That's what we call Martin's Close, sir: 'tes a curious thing
'bout that bit of land, sir: goes by the name of Martin's Close, sir.
M-a-r-t-i-n Martin. Beg pardon, sir, did Rector tell you to make inquiry
of me 'bout that, sir?' 'Yes, he did.' 'Ah, I thought so much, sir. I was
tell'n Rector 'bout that last week, and he was very much interested. It
'pears there's a murderer buried there, sir, by the name of Martin. Old
Samuel Saunders, that formerly lived yurr at what we call South-town,
sir, he had a long tale 'bout that, sir: terrible murder done 'pon a
young woman, sir. Cut her throat and cast her in the water down yurr.'
'Was he hung for it?' 'Yes, sir, he was hung just up yurr on the roadway,
by what I've 'eard, on the Holy Innocents' Day, many 'undred years ago,
by the man that went by the name of the bloody judge: terrible red and
bloody, I've 'eard.' 'Was his name Jeffreys, do you think?' 'Might be
possible 'twas--Jeffreys--J-e-f--Jeffreys. I reckon 'twas, and the tale
I've 'eard many times from Mr Saunders,--how this young man
Martin--George Martin--was troubled before his crule action come to light
by the young woman's sperit.' 'How was that, do you know?' 'No, sir, I
don't exactly know how 'twas with it: but by what I've 'eard he was
fairly tormented; and rightly tu. Old Mr Saunders, he told a history
regarding a cupboard down yurr in the New Inn. According to what he
related, this young woman's sperit come out of this cupboard: but I don't
racollact the matter.'

This was the sum of John Hill's information. We passed on, and in due
time I reported what I had heard to the Rector. He was able to show me
from the parish account-books that a gibbet had been paid for in 1684,
and a grave dug in the following year, both for the benefit of George
Martin; but he was unable to suggest anyone in the parish, Saunders being
now gone, who was likely to throw any further light on the story.

Naturally, upon my return to the neighbourhood of libraries, I made
search in the more obvious places. The trial seemed to be nowhere
reported. A newspaper of the time, and one or more news-letters, however,
had some short notices, from which I learnt that, on the ground of local
prejudice against the prisoner (he was described as a young gentleman of
a good estate), the venue had been moved from Exeter to London; that
Jeffreys had been the judge, and death the sentence, and that there had
been some 'singular passages' in the evidence. Nothing further transpired
till September of this year. A friend who knew me to be interested in
Jeffreys then sent me a leaf torn out of a second-hand bookseller's
catalogue with the entry: JEFFREYS, JUDGE: _Interesting old MS. trial for
murder_, and so forth, from which I gathered, to my delight, that I could
become possessed, for a very few shillings, of what seemed to be a
verbatim report, in shorthand, of the Martin trial. I telegraphed for the
manuscript and got it. It was a thin bound volume, provided with a title
written in longhand by someone in the eighteenth century, who had also
added this note: 'My father, who took these notes in court, told me that
the prisoner's friends had made interest with Judge Jeffreys that no
report should be put out: he had intended doing this himself when times
were better, and had shew'd it to the Revd Mr Glanvil, who incourag'd his
design very warmly, but death surpriz'd them both before it could be
brought to an accomplishment.'

The initials W. G. are appended; I am advised that the original reporter
may have been T. Gurney, who appears in that capacity in more than one
State trial.

This was all that I could read for myself. After no long delay I heard of
someone who was capable of deciphering the shorthand of the seventeenth
century, and a little time ago the typewritten copy of the whole
manuscript was laid before me. The portions which I shall communicate
here help to fill in the very imperfect outline which subsists in the
memories of John Hill and, I suppose, one or two others who live on the
scene of the events.

The report begins with a species of preface, the general effect of which
is that the copy is not that actually taken in court, though it is a true
copy in regard to the notes of what was said; but that the writer has
added to it some 'remarkable passages' that took place during the trial,
and has made this present fair copy of the whole, intending at some
favourable time to publish it; but has not put it into longhand, lest it
should fall into the possession of unauthorized persons, and he or his
family be deprived of the profit.

The report then begins:

This case came on to be tried on Wednesday, the 19th of November, between
our sovereign lord the King, and George Martin Esquire, of (I take leave
to omit some of the place-names), at a sessions of oyer and terminer and
gaol delivery, at the Old Bailey, and the prisoner, being in Newgate, was
brought to the bar.

_Clerk of the Crown._ George Martin, hold up thy hand (which he did).

Then the indictment was read, which set forth that the prisoner, 'not
having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by
the instigation of the devil, upon the 15th day of May, in the 36th year
of our sovereign lord King Charles the Second, with force and arms in the
parish aforesaid, in and upon Ann Clark, spinster, of the same place, in
the peace of God and of our said sovereign lord the King then and there
being, feloniously, wilfully, and of your malice aforethought did make an
assault and with a certain knife value a penny the throat of the said Ann
Clark then and there did cut, of the which wound the said Ann Clark then
and there did die, and the body of the said Ann Clark did cast into a
certain pond of water situate in the same parish (with more that is not
material to our purpose) against the peace of our sovereign lord the
King, his crown and dignity.'

Then the prisoner prayed a copy of the indictment.

_L.C.J._ (Sir George Jeffreys). What is this? Sure you know that is never
allowed. Besides, here is as plain indictment as ever I heard; you have
nothing to do but to plead to it.

_Pris._ My lord, I apprehend there may be matter of law arising out of
the indictment, and I would humbly beg the court to assign me counsel to
consider of it. Besides, my lord, I believe it was done in another case:
copy of the indictment was allowed.

_L.C.J._ What case was that?

_Pris._ Truly, my lord, I have been kept close prisoner ever since I came
up from Exeter Castle, and no one allowed to come at me and no one to
advise with.

_L.C.J._ But I say, what was that case you allege?

_Pris._ My lord, I cannot tell your lordship precisely the name of the
case, but it is in my mind that there was such an one, and I would humbly
desire--

_L.C.J._ All this is nothing. Name your case, and we will tell you
whether there be any matter for you in it. God forbid but you should have
anything that may be allowed you by law: but this is against law, and we
must keep the course of the court.

_Att.-Gen._ (Sir Robert Sawyer). My lord, we pray for the King that he
may be asked to plead.

_Cl. of Ct._ Are you guilty of the murder whereof you stand indicted, or
not guilty?

_Pris._ My lord, I would humbly offer this to the court. If I plead now,
shall I have an opportunity after to except against the indictment?

_L.C.J._ Yes, yes, that comes after verdict: that will be saved to you,
and counsel assigned if there be matter of law, but that which you have
now to do is to plead.

Then after some little parleying with the court (which seemed strange
upon such a plain indictment) the prisoner pleaded _Not Guilty_.

_Cl. of Ct._ Culprit.  How wilt thou be tried?

_Pris._ By God and my country.

_Cl. of Ct._ God send thee a good deliverance.

_L.C.J._ Why, how is this? Here has been a great to-do that you should
not be tried at Exeter by your country, but be brought here to London,
and now you ask to be tried by your country. Must we send you to Exeter
again?

_Pris._ My lord, I understood it was the form.

_L.C.J._ So it is, man: we spoke only in the way of pleasantness. Well,
go on and swear the jury.

So they were sworn. I omit the names. There was no challenging on the
prisoner's part, for, as he said, he did not know any of the persons
called. Thereupon the prisoner asked for the use of pen, ink, and paper,
to which the L. C. J. replied: 'Ay, ay, in God's name let him have it.'
Then the usual charge was delivered to the jury, and the case opened by
the junior counsel for the King, Mr Dolben.

The Attorney-General followed:

May it please your lordship, and you gentlemen of the jury, I am of
counsel for the King against the prisoner at the bar. You have heard that
he stands indicted for a murder done upon the person of a young girl.
Such crimes as this you may perhaps reckon to be not uncommon, and,
indeed, in these times, I am sorry to say it, there is scarce any fact so
barbarous and unnatural but what we may hear almost daily instances of
it. But I must confess that in this murder that is charged upon the
prisoner there are some particular features that mark it out to be such
as I hope has but seldom if ever been perpetrated upon English ground.
For as we shall make it appear, the person murdered was a poor country
girl (whereas the prisoner is a gentleman of a proper estate) and,
besides that, was one to whom Providence had not given the full use of
her intellects, but was what is termed among us commonly an innocent or
natural: such an one, therefore, as one would have supposed a gentleman
of the prisoner's quality more likely to overlook, or, if he did notice
her, to be moved to compassion for her unhappy condition, than to lift up
his hand against her in the very horrid and barbarous manner which we
shall show you he used.

Now to begin at the beginning and open the matter to you orderly: About
Christmas of last year, that is the year 1683, this gentleman, Mr Martin,
having newly come back into his own country from the University of
Cambridge, some of his neighbours, to show him what civility they could
(for his family is one that stands in very good repute all over that
country), entertained him here and there at their Christmas merrymakings,
so that he was constantly riding to and fro, from one house to another,
and sometimes, when the place of his destination was distant, or for
other reason, as the unsafeness of the roads, he would be constrained to
lie the night at an inn. In this way it happened that he came, a day or
two after the Christmas, to the place where this young girl lived with
her parents, and put up at the inn there, called the New Inn, which is,
as I am informed, a house of good repute. Here was some dancing going on
among the people of the place, and Ann Clark had been brought in, it
seems, by her elder sister to look on; but being, as I have said, of weak
understanding, and, besides that, very uncomely in her appearance, it was
not likely she should take much part in the merriment; and accordingly
was but standing by in a corner of the room. The prisoner at the bar,
seeing her, one must suppose by way of a jest, asked her would she dance
with him. And in spite of what her sister and others could say to prevent
it and to dissuade her--

_L.C.J._ Come, Mr Attorney, we are not set here to listen to tales of
Christmas parties in taverns. I would not interrupt you, but sure you
have more weighty matters than this. You will be telling us next what
tune they danced to.

_Att._ My lord, I would not take up the time of the court with what is
not material: but we reckon it to be material to show how this unlikely
acquaintance begun: and as for the tune, I believe, indeed, our evidence
will show that even that hath a bearing on the matter in hand.

_L.C.J._ Go on, go on, in God's name: but give us nothing that is
impertinent.

_Att._ Indeed, my lord, I will keep to my matter. But, gentlemen, having
now shown you, as I think, enough of this first meeting between the
murdered person and the prisoner, I will shorten my tale so far as to say
that from then on there were frequent meetings of the two: for the young
woman was greatly tickled with having got hold (as she conceived it) of
so likely a sweetheart, and he being once a week at least in the habit of
passing through the street where she lived, she would be always on the
watch for him; and it seems they had a signal arranged: he should whistle
the tune that was played at the tavern: it is a tune, as I am informed,
well known in that country, and has a burden, '_Madam, will you walk,
will you talk with me?_'

_L.C.J._ Ay, I remember it in my own country, in Shropshire. It runs
somehow thus, doth it not? [Here his lordship whistled a part of a tune,
which was very observable, and seemed below the dignity of the court. And
it appears he felt it so himself, for he said:] But this is by the mark,
and I doubt it is the first time we have had dance-tunes in this court.
The most part of the dancing we give occasion for is done at Tyburn.
[Looking at the prisoner, who appeared very much disordered.] You said
the tune was material to your case, Mr Attorney, and upon my life I think
Mr Martin agrees with you. What ails you, man? staring like a player that
sees a ghost!

_Pris._ My lord, I was amazed at hearing such trivial, foolish things as
they bring against me.

_L.C.J._ Well, well, it lies upon Mr Attorney to show whether they be
trivial or not: but I must say, if he has nothing worse than this he has
said, you have no great cause to be in amaze. Doth it not lie something
deeper? But go on, Mr Attorney.

_Att._ My lord and gentlemen--all that I have said so far you may indeed
very reasonably reckon as having an appearance of triviality. And, to be
sure, had the matter gone no further than the humouring of a poor silly
girl by a young gentleman of quality, it had been very well. But to
proceed. We shall make it appear that after three or four weeks the
prisoner became contracted to a young gentlewoman of that country, one
suitable every way to his own condition, and such an arrangement was on
foot that seemed to promise him a happy and a reputable living. But
within no very long time it seems that this young gentlewoman, hearing of
the jest that was going about that countryside with regard to the
prisoner and Ann Clark, conceived that it was not only an unworthy
carriage on the part of her lover, but a derogation to herself that he
should suffer his name to be sport for tavern company: and so without
more ado she, with the consent of her parents, signified to the prisoner
that the match between them was at an end. We shall show you that upon
the receipt of this intelligence the prisoner was greatly enraged against
Ann Clark as being the cause of his misfortune (though indeed there was
nobody answerable for it but himself), and that he made use of many
outrageous expressions and threatenings against her, and subsequently
upon meeting with her both abused her and struck at her with his whip:
but she, being but a poor innocent, could not be persuaded to desist from
her attachment to him, but would often run after him testifying with
gestures and broken words the affection she had to him: until she was
become, as he said, the very plague of his life. Yet, being that affairs
in which he was now engaged necessarily took him by the house in which
she lived, he could not (as I am willing to believe he would otherwise
have done) avoid meeting with her from time to time. We shall further
show you that this was the posture of things up to the 15th day of May in
this present year. Upon that day the prisoner comes riding through the
village, as of custom, and met with the young woman: but in place of
passing her by, as he had lately done, he stopped, and said some words to
her with which she appeared wonderfully pleased, and so left her; and
after that day she was nowhere to be found, notwithstanding a strict
search was made for her. The next time of the prisoner's passing through
the place, her relations inquired of him whether he should know anything
of her whereabouts; which he totally denied. They expressed to him their
fears lest her weak intellects should have been upset by the attention he
had showed her, and so she might have committed some rash act against her
own life, calling him to witness the same time how often they had
beseeched him to desist from taking notice of her, as fearing trouble
might come of it: but this, too, he easily laughed away. But in spite of
this light behaviour, it was noticeable in him that about this time his
carriage and demeanour changed, and it was said of him that he seemed a
troubled man. And here I come to a passage to which I should not dare to
ask your attention, but that it appears to me to be founded in truth, and
is supported by testimony deserving of credit. And, gentlemen, to my
judgement it doth afford a great instance of God's revenge against
murder, and that He will require the blood of the innocent.

[Here Mr Attorney made a pause, and shifted with his papers: and it was
thought remarkable by me and others, because he was a man not easily
dashed.]

_L.C.J._ Well, Mr Attorney, what is your instance?

_Att._ My lord, it is a strange one, and the truth is that, of all the
cases I have been concerned in, I cannot call to mind the like of it. But
to be short, gentlemen, we shall bring you testimony that Ann Clark was
seen after this 15th of May, and that, at such time as she was so seen,
it was impossible she could have been a living person.

[Here the people made a hum, and a good deal of laughter, and the Court
called for silence, and when it was made]--

_L.C.J._ Why, Mr Attorney, you might save up this tale for a week; it
will be Christmas by that time, and you can frighten your cook-maids with
it [at which the people laughed again, and the prisoner also, as it
seemed]. God, man, what are you prating of--ghosts and Christmas jigs and
tavern company--and here is a man's life at stake! [To the prisoner]: And
you, sir, I would have you know there is not so much occasion for you to
make merry neither. You were not brought here for that, and if I know Mr
Attorney, he has more in his brief than he has shown yet. Go on, Mr
Attorney. I need not, mayhap, have spoken so sharply, but you must
confess your course is something unusual.

_Att._ Nobody knows it better than I, my lord: but I shall bring it to an
end with a round turn. I shall show you, gentlemen, that Ann Clark's body
was found in the month of June, in a pond of water, with the throat cut:
that a knife belonging to the prisoner was found in the same water: that
he made efforts to recover the said knife from the water: that the
coroner's quest brought in a verdict against the prisoner at the bar, and
that therefore he should by course have been tried at Exeter: but that,
suit being made on his behalf, on account that an impartial jury could
not be found to try him in his own country, he hath had that singular
favour shown him that he should be tried here in London. And so we will
proceed to call our evidence.

Then the facts of the acquaintance between the prisoner and Ann Clark
were proved, and also the coroner's inquest. I pass over this portion of
the trial, for it offers nothing of special interest.

Sarah Arscott was next called and sworn.

_Att._ What is your occupation?

_S._ I keep the New Inn at--.

_Att._ Do you know the prisoner at the bar?

_S._ Yes: he was often at our house since he come first at Christmas of
last year.

_Att._ Did you know Ann Clark?

_S._ Yes, very well.

_Att._ Pray, what manner of person was she in her appearance?

_S._ She was a very short thick-made woman: I do not know what else you
would have me say.

_Att._ Was she comely?

_S._ No, not by no manner of means: she was very uncomely, poor child!
She had a great face and hanging chops and a very bad colour like a
puddock.

_L.C.J._ What is that, mistress? What say you she was like?

_S._ My lord, I ask pardon; I heard Esquire Martin say she looked like a
puddock in the face; and so she did.

_L.C.J._ Did you that? Can you interpret her, Mr Attorney?

_Att._ My lord, I apprehend it is the country word for a toad.

_L.C.J._ Oh, a hop-toad! Ay, go on.

_Att._ Will you give an account to the jury of what passed between you
and the prisoner at the bar in May last?

_S._ Sir, it was this. It was about nine o'clock the evening after that
Ann did not come home, and I was about my work in the house; there was no
company there only Thomas Snell, and it was foul weather. Esquire Martin
came in and called for some drink, and I, by way of pleasantry, I said to
him, "Squire, have you been looking after your sweetheart?" and he flew
out at me in a passion and desired I would not use such expressions. I
was amazed at that, because we were accustomed to joke with him about
her.

_L.C.J._ Who, her?

_S._ Ann Clark, my lord. And we had not heard the news of his being
contracted to a young gentlewoman elsewhere, or I am sure I should have
used better manners. So I said nothing, but being I was a little put out,
I begun singing, to myself as it were, the song they danced to the first
time they met, for I thought it would prick him. It was the same that he
was used to sing when he came down the street; I have heard it very
often: '_Madam, will you walk, will you talk with me?_' And it fell out
that I needed something that was in the kitchen. So I went out to get it,
and all the time I went on singing, something louder and more bold-like.
And as I was there all of a sudden I thought I heard someone answering
outside the house, but I could not be sure because of the wind blowing so
high. So then I stopped singing, and now I heard it plain, saying, '_Yes,
sir, I will walk, I will talk with you_,' and I knew the voice for Ann
Clark's voice.

_Att._ How did you know it to be her voice?

_S._ It was impossible I could be mistaken. She had a dreadful voice, a
kind of a squalling voice, in particular if she tried to sing. And there
was nobody in the village that could counterfeit it, for they often
tried. So, hearing that, I was glad, because we were all in an anxiety to
know what was gone with her: for though she was a natural, she had a good
disposition and was very tractable: and says I to myself, 'What, child!
are you returned, then?' and I ran into the front room, and said to
Squire Martin as I passed by, 'Squire, here is your sweetheart back
again: shall I call her in?' and with that I went to open the door; but
Squire Martin he caught hold of me, and it seemed to me he was out of his
wits, or near upon. 'Hold, woman,' says he, 'in God's name!' and I know
not what else: he was all of a shake. Then I was angry, and said I,
'What! are you not glad that poor child is found?' and I called to Thomas
Snell and said, 'If the Squire will not let me, do you open the door and
call her in.' So Thomas Snell went and opened the door, and the wind
setting that way blew in and overset the two candles that was all we had
lighted: and Esquire Martin fell away from holding me; I think he fell
down on the floor, but we were wholly in the dark, and it was a minute or
two before I got a light again: and while I was feeling for the fire-box,
I am not certain but I heard someone step 'cross the floor, and I am sure
I heard the door of the great cupboard that stands in the room open and
shut to. Then, when I had a light again, I see Esquire Martin on the
settle, all white and sweaty as if he had swounded away, and his arms
hanging down; and I was going to help him; but just then it caught my eye
that there was something like a bit of a dress shut into the cupboard
door, and it came to my mind I had heard that door shut. So I thought it
might be some person had run in when the light was quenched, and was
hiding in the cupboard. So I went up closer and looked: and there was a
bit of a black stuff cloak, and just below it an edge of a brown stuff
dress, both sticking out of the shut of the door: and both of them was
low down, as if the person that had them on might be crouched down
inside.

_Att._ What did you take it to be?

_S._ I took it to be a woman's dress.

_Att._ Could you make any guess whom it belonged to? Did you know anyone
who wore such a dress?

_S._ It was a common stuff, by what I could see. I have seen many women
wearing such a stuff in our parish.

_Att._ Was it like Ann Clark's dress?

_S._ She used to wear just such a dress: but I could not say on my oath
it was hers.

_Att._ Did you observe anything else about it?

_S_. I did notice that it looked very wet: but it was foul weather
outside.

_L.C.J._ Did you feel of it, mistress?

_S._ No, my lord, I did not like to touch it.

_L.C.J._ Not like? Why that? Are you so nice that you scruple to feel of
a wet dress?

_S._ Indeed, my lord, I cannot very well tell why: only it had a nasty
ugly look about it.

_L.C.J._ Well, go on.

_S_. Then I called again to Thomas Snell, and bid him come to me and
catch anyone that come out when I should open the cupboard door, 'for,'
says I, 'there is someone hiding within, and I would know what she
wants.' And with that Squire Martin gave a sort of a cry or a shout and
ran out of the house into the dark, and I felt the cupboard door pushed
out against me while I held it, and Thomas Snell helped me: but for all
we pressed to keep it shut as hard as we could, it was forced out against
us, and we had to fall back.

_L.C.J._ And pray what came out--a mouse?

_S._ No, my lord, it was greater than a mouse, but I could not see what
it was: it fleeted very swift over the floor and out at the door.

_L.C.J._ But come; what did it look like? Was it a person?

_S._ My lord, I cannot tell what it was, but it ran very low, and it was
of a dark colour. We were both daunted by it, Thomas Snell and I, but we
made all the haste we could after it to the door that stood open. And we
looked out, but it was dark and we could see nothing.

_L.C.J._ Was there no tracks of it on the floor? What floor have you
there?

_S._ It is a flagged floor and sanded, my lord, and there was an
appearance of a wet track on the floor, but we could make nothing of it,
neither Thomas Snell nor me, and besides, as I said, it was a foul night.

_L.C.J._ Well, for my part, I see not--though to be sure it is an odd
tale she tells--what you would do with this evidence.

_Att._ My lord, we bring it to show the suspicious carriage of the
prisoner immediately after the disappearance of the murdered person: and
we ask the jury's consideration of that; and also to the matter of the
voice heard without the house.

Then the prisoner asked some questions not very material, and Thomas
Snell was next called, who gave evidence to the same effect as Mrs
Arscott, and added the following:

_Att._ Did anything pass between you and the prisoner during the time Mrs
Arscott was out of the room?

_Th._ I had a piece of twist in my pocket.

_Att._ Twist of what?

_Th._ Twist of tobacco, sir, and I felt a disposition to take a pipe of
tobacco. So I found a pipe on the chimney-piece, and being it was twist,
and in regard of me having by an oversight left my knife at my house, and
me not having over many teeth to pluck at it, as your lordship or anyone
else may have a view by their own eyesight--

_L.C.J._ What is the man talking about? Come to the matter, fellow! Do
you think we sit here to look at your teeth?

_Th._ No, my lord, nor I would not you should do, God forbid! I know your
honours have better employment, and better teeth, I would not wonder.

_L.C.J._ Good God, what a man is this! Yes, I _have_ better teeth, and
that you shall find if you keep not to the purpose.

_Th._ I humbly ask pardon, my lord, but so it was. And I took upon me,
thinking no harm, to ask Squire Martin to lend me his knife to cut my
tobacco. And he felt first of one pocket and then of another and it was
not there at all. And says I, 'What! have you lost your knife, Squire?'
And up he gets and feels again and he sat down, and such a groan as he
gave. 'Good God!' he says, 'I must have left it there.' 'But,' says I,
'Squire, by all appearance it is _not_ there. Did you set a value on it,'
says I, 'you might have it cried.' But he sat there and put his head
between his hands and seemed to take no notice to what I said. And then
it was Mistress Arscott come tracking back out of the kitchen place.

Asked if he heard the voice singing outside the house, he said 'No,' but
the door into the kitchen was shut, and there was a high wind: but says
that no one could mistake Ann Clark's voice.

Then a boy, William Reddaway, about thirteen years of age, was called,
and by the usual questions, put by the Lord Chief Justice, it was
ascertained that he knew the nature of an oath. And so he was sworn. His
evidence referred to a time about a week later.

_Att._ Now, child, don't be frighted: there is no one here will hurt you
if you speak the truth.

_L.C.J._ Ay, if he speak the truth. But remember, child, thou art in the
presence of the great God of heaven and earth, that hath the keys of
hell, and of us that are the king's officers, and have the keys of
Newgate; and remember, too, there is a man's life in question; and if
thou tellest a lie, and by that means he comes to an ill end, thou art no
better than his murderer; and so speak the truth.

_Att._ Tell the jury what you know, and speak out. Where were you on the
evening of the 23rd of May last?

_L.C.J._ Why, what does such a boy as this know of days. Can you mark the
day, boy?

_W._ Yes, my lord, it was the day before our feast, and I was to spend
sixpence there, and that falls a month before Midsummer Day.

_One of the Jury._ My lord, we cannot hear what he says.

_L.C.J._ He says he remembers the day because it was the day before the
feast they had there, and he had sixpence to lay out. Set him up on the
table there. Well, child, and where wast thou then?

_W._ Keeping cows on the moor, my lord.

But, the boy using the country speech, my lord could not well apprehend
him, and so asked if there was anyone that could interpret him, and it
was answered the parson of the parish was there, and he was accordingly
sworn and so the evidence given. The boy said:

'I was on the moor about six o'clock, and sitting behind a bush of furze
near a pond of water: and the prisoner came very cautiously and looking
about him, having something like a long pole in his hand, and stopped a
good while as if he would be listening, and then began to feel in the
water with the pole: and I being very near the water--not above five
yards--heard as if the pole struck up against something that made a
wallowing sound, and the prisoner dropped the pole and threw himself on
the ground, and rolled himself about very strangely with his hands to his
ears, and so after a while got up and went creeping away.'

Asked if he had had any communication with the prisoner, 'Yes, a day or
two before, the prisoner, hearing I was used to be on the moor, he asked
me if I had seen a knife laying about, and said he would give sixpence to
find it. And I said I had not seen any such thing, but I would ask about.
Then he said he would give me sixpence to say nothing, and so he did.'

_L.C.J._ And was that the sixpence you were to lay out at the feast?

_W._ Yes, if you please, my lord.

Asked if he had observed anything particular as to the pond of water, he
said, 'No, except that it begun to have a very ill smell and the cows
would not drink of it for some days before.'

Asked if he had ever seen the prisoner and Ann Clark in company together,
he began to cry very much, and it was a long time before they could get
him to speak intelligibly. At last the parson of the parish, Mr Matthews,
got him to be quiet, and the question being put to him again, he said he
had seen Ann Clark waiting on the moor for the prisoner at some way off,
several times since last Christmas.

_Att._ Did you see her close, so as to be sure it was she?

_W._ Yes, quite sure.

_L.C.J._ How quite sure, child?

_W._ Because she would stand and jump up and down and clap her arms like
a goose [which he called by some country name: but the parson explained
it to be a goose]. And then she was of such a shape that it could not be
no one else.

_Att._ What was the last time that you so saw her?

Then the witness began to cry again and clung very much to Mr Matthews,
who bid him not be frightened.

And so at last he told his story: that on the day before their feast
(being the same evening that he had before spoken of) after the prisoner
had gone away, it being then twilight and he very desirous to get home,
but afraid for the present to stir from where he was lest the prisoner
should see him, remained some few minutes behind the bush, looking on the
pond, and saw something dark come up out of the water at the edge of the
pond farthest away from him, and so up the bank. And when it got to the
top where he could see it plain against the sky, it stood up and flapped
the arms up and down, and then run off very swiftly in the same direction
the prisoner had taken: and being asked very strictly who he took it to
be, he said upon his oath that it could be nobody but Ann Clark.

Thereafter his master was called, and gave evidence that the boy had come
home very late that evening and been chided for it, and that he seemed
very much amazed, but could give no account of the reason.

_Att._ My lord, we have done with our evidence for the King.

Then the Lord Chief Justice called upon the prisoner to make his defence;
which he did, though at no great length, and in a very halting way,
saying that he hoped the jury would not go about to take his life on the
evidence of a parcel of country people and children that would believe
any idle tale; and that he had been very much prejudiced in his trial; at
which the L.C.J. interrupted him, saying that he had had singular favour
shown to him in having his trial removed from Exeter, which the prisoner
acknowledging, said that he meant rather that since he was brought to
London there had not been care taken to keep him secured from
interruption and disturbance. Upon which the L.C.J. ordered the Marshal
to be called, and questioned him about the safe keeping of the prisoner,
but could find nothing: except the Marshal said that he had been informed
by the underkeeper that they had seen a person outside his door or going
up the stairs to it: but there was no possibility the person should have
got in. And it being inquired further what sort of person this might be,
the Marshal could not speak to it save by hearsay, which was not allowed.
And the prisoner, being asked if this was what he meant, said no, he knew
nothing of that, but it was very hard that a man should not be suffered
to be at quiet when his life stood on it. But it was observed he was very
hasty in his denial. And so he said no more, and called no witnesses.
Whereupon the Attorney-General spoke to the jury. [A full report of what
he said is given, and, if time allowed, I would extract that portion in
which he dwells on the alleged appearance of the murdered person: he
quotes some authorities of ancient date, as St Augustine _de cura pro
mortuis gerenda_ (a favourite book of reference with the old writers on
the supernatural) and also cites some cases which may be seen in
Glanvil's, but more conveniently in Mr Lang's books. He does not,
however, tell us more of those cases than is to be found in print.]

The Lord Chief Justice then summed up the evidence for the jury. His
speech, again, contains nothing that I find worth copying out: but he was
naturally impressed with the singular character of the evidence, saying
that he had never heard such given in his experience; but that there was
nothing in law to set it aside, and that the jury must consider whether
they believed these witnesses or not.

And the jury after a very short consultation brought the prisoner in
Guilty.

So he was asked whether he had anything to say in arrest of judgement,
and pleaded that his name was spelt wrong in the indictment, being Martin
with an I, whereas it should be with a Y. But this was overruled as not
material, Mr Attorney saying, moreover, that he could bring evidence to
show that the prisoner by times wrote it as it was laid in the
indictment. And, the prisoner having nothing further to offer, sentence
of death was passed upon him, and that he should be hanged in chains upon
a gibbet near the place where the fact was committed, and that execution
should take place upon the 28th December next ensuing, being Innocents'
Day.

Thereafter the prisoner being to all appearance in a state of
desperation, made shift to ask the L.C.J. that his relations might be
allowed to come to him during the short time he had to live.

_L.C.J._ Ay, with all my heart, so it be in the presence of the keeper;
and Ann Clark may come to you as well, for what I care.

At which the prisoner broke out and cried to his lordship not to use such
words to him, and his lordship very angrily told him he deserved no
tenderness at any man's hands for a cowardly butcherly murderer that had
not the stomach to take the reward of his deeds: 'and I hope to God,'
said he, 'that she _will_ be with you by day and by night till an end is
made of you.' Then the prisoner was removed, and, so far as I saw, he was
in a swound, and the Court broke up.

I cannot refrain from observing that the prisoner during all the time of
the trial seemed to be more uneasy than is commonly the case even in
capital causes: that, for example, he was looking narrowly among the
people and often turning round very sharply, as if some person might be
at his ear. It was also very noticeable at this trial what a silence the
people kept, and further (though this might not be otherwise than natural
in that season of the year), what a darkness and obscurity there was in
the court room, lights being brought in not long after two o'clock in the
day, and yet no fog in the town.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not without interest that I heard lately from some young men who
had been giving a concert in the village I speak of, that a very cold
reception was accorded to the song which has been mentioned in this
narrative: '_Madam, will you walk?_' It came out in some talk they had
next morning with some of the local people that that song was regarded
with an invincible repugnance; it was not so, they believed, at North
Tawton, but here it was reckoned to be unlucky. However, why that view
was taken no one had the shadow of an idea.


14. MR HUMPHREYS AND HIS INHERITANCE


About fifteen years ago, on a date late in August or early in September,
a train drew up at Wilsthorpe, a country station in Eastern England. Out
of it stepped (with other passengers) a rather tall and reasonably
good-looking young man, carrying a handbag and some papers tied up in a
packet. He was expecting to be met, one would say, from the way in which
he looked about him: and he was, as obviously, expected. The
stationmaster ran forward a step or two, and then, seeming to recollect
himself, turned and beckoned to a stout and consequential person with a
short round beard who was scanning the train with some appearance of
bewilderment. 'Mr Cooper,' he called out,--'Mr Cooper, I think this is
your gentleman'; and then to the passenger who had just alighted, 'Mr
Humphreys, sir? Glad to bid you welcome to Wilsthorpe. There's a cart
from the Hall for your luggage, and here's Mr Cooper, what I think you
know.' Mr Cooper had hurried up, and now raised his hat and shook hands.
'Very pleased, I'm sure,' he said, 'to give the echo to Mr Palmer's kind
words. I should have been the first to render expression to them but for
the face not being familiar to me, Mr Humphreys. May your residence among
us be marked as a red-letter day, sir.' 'Thank you very much, Mr Cooper,'
said Humphreys, 'for your good wishes, and Mr Palmer also. I do hope very
much that this change of--er--tenancy--which you must all regret, I am
sure--will not be to the detriment of those with whom I shall be brought
in contact.' He stopped, feeling that the words were not fitting
themselves together in the happiest way, and Mr Cooper cut in, 'Oh, you
may rest satisfied of that, Mr Humphreys. I'll take it upon myself to
assure you, sir, that a warm welcome awaits you on all sides. And as to
any change of propriety turning out detrimental to the neighbourhood,
well, your late uncle--' And here Mr Cooper also stopped, possibly in
obedience to an inner monitor, possibly because Mr Palmer, clearing his
throat loudly, asked Humphreys for his ticket. The two men left the
little station, and--at Humphreys' suggestion--decided to walk to Mr
Cooper's house, where luncheon was awaiting them.

The relation in which these personages stood to each other can be
explained in a very few lines. Humphreys had inherited--quite
unexpectedly--a property from an uncle: neither the property nor the
uncle had he ever seen. He was alone in the world--a man of good ability
and kindly nature, whose employment in a Government office for the last
four or five years had not gone far to fit him for the life of a country
gentleman. He was studious and rather diffident, and had few out-of-door
pursuits except golf and gardening. To-day he had come down for the first
time to visit Wilsthorpe and confer with Mr Cooper, the bailiff, as to
the matters which needed immediate attention. It may be asked how this
came to be his first visit? Ought he not in decency to have attended his
uncle's funeral? The answer is not far to seek: he had been abroad at the
time of the death, and his address had not been at once procurable. So he
had put off coming to Wilsthorpe till he heard that all things were ready
for him. And now we find him arrived at Mr Cooper's comfortable house,
facing the parsonage, and having just shaken hands with the smiling Mrs
and Miss Cooper.

During the minutes that preceded the announcement of luncheon the party
settled themselves on elaborate chairs in the drawing-room, Humphreys,
for his part, perspiring quietly in the consciousness that stock was
being taken of him.

'I was just saying to Mr Humphreys, my dear,' said Mr Cooper, 'that I
hope and trust that his residence among us here in Wilsthorpe will be
marked as a red-letter day.'

'Yes, indeed, I'm sure,' said Mrs Cooper heartily, 'and many, many of
them.'

Miss Cooper murmured words to the same effect, and Humphreys attempted a
pleasantry about painting the whole calendar red, which, though greeted
with shrill laughter, was evidently not fully understood. At this point
they proceeded to luncheon.

'Do you know this part of the country at all, Mr Humphreys?' said Mrs
Cooper, after a short interval. This was a better opening.

'No, I'm sorry to say I do _not_,' said Humphreys. 'It seems very
pleasant, what I could see of it coming down in the train.'

'Oh, it _is_ a pleasant part. Really, I sometimes say I don't know a
nicer district, for the country; and the people round, too: such a
quantity always going on. But I'm afraid you've come a little late for
some of the better garden parties, Mr Humphreys.'

'I suppose I have; dear me, what a pity!' said Humphreys, with a gleam of
relief; and then, feeling that something more could be got out of this
topic, 'But after all, you see, Mrs Cooper, even if I could have been
here earlier, I should have been cut off from them, should I not? My poor
uncle's recent death, you know--'

'Oh dear, Mr Humphreys, to be sure; what a dreadful thing of me to say!'
(And Mr and Miss Cooper seconded the proposition inarticulately.) 'What
must you have thought? I _am_ sorry: you must really forgive me.'

'Not at all, Mrs Cooper, I assure you. I can't honestly assert that my
uncle's death was a great grief to me, for I had never seen him. All I
meant was that I supposed I shouldn't be expected to take part for some
little time in festivities of that kind.'

'Now, really it's very kind of you to take it in that way, Mr Humphreys,
isn't it, George? And you _do_ forgive me? But only fancy! You never saw
poor old Mr Wilson!'

'Never in my life; nor did I ever have a letter from him. But, by the
way, you have something to forgive _me_ for. I've never thanked you,
except by letter, for all the trouble you've taken to find people to look
after me at the Hall.'

'Oh, I'm sure that was nothing, Mr Humphreys; but I really do think that
you'll find them give satisfaction. The man and his wife whom we've got
for the butler and housekeeper we've known for a number of years: such a
nice respectable couple, and Mr Cooper, I'm sure, can answer for the men
in the stables and gardens.'

'Yes, Mr Humphreys, they're a good lot. The head gardener's the only one
who's stopped on from Mr Wilson's time. The major part of the employees,
as you no doubt saw by the will, received legacies from the old gentleman
and retired from their posts, and as the wife says, your housekeeper and
butler are calculated to render you every satisfaction.'

'So everything, Mr Humphreys, is ready for you to step in this very day,
according to what I understood you to wish,' said Mrs Cooper.
'Everything, that is, except company, and there I'm afraid you'll find
yourself quite at a standstill. Only we did understand it was your
intention to move in at once. If not, I'm sure you know we should have
been only too pleased for you to stay here.'

'I'm quite sure you would, Mrs Cooper, and I'm very grateful to you. But
I thought I had really better make the plunge at once. I'm accustomed to
living alone, and there will be quite enough to occupy my
evenings--looking over papers and books and so on--for some time to come,
I thought if Mr Cooper could spare the time this afternoon to go over the
house and grounds with me--'

'Certainly, certainly, Mr Humphreys. My time is your own, up to any hour
you please.'

'Till dinner-time, father, you mean,' said Miss Cooper. 'Don't forget
we're going over to the Brasnetts'. And have you got all the garden
keys?'

'Are you a great gardener, Miss Cooper?' said Mr Humphreys. 'I wish you
would tell me what I'm to expect at the Hall.'

'Oh, I don't know about a _great_ gardener, Mr Humphreys: I'm very fond
of flowers--but the Hall garden might be made quite lovely, I often say.
It's very old-fashioned as it is: and a great deal of shrubbery. There's
an old temple, besides, and a maze.'

'Really? Have you explored it ever?'

'No-o,' said Miss Cooper, drawing in her lips and shaking her head. 'I've
often longed to try, but old Mr Wilson always kept it locked. He wouldn't
even let Lady Wardrop into it. (She lives near here, at Bentley, you
know, and she's a _great_ gardener, if you like.) That's why I asked
father if he had all the keys.'

'I see. Well, I must evidently look into that, and show you over it when
I've learnt the way.'

'Oh, thank you so much, Mr Humphreys! Now I shall have the laugh of Miss
Foster (that's our rector's daughter, you know; they're away on their
holiday now--such nice people). We always had a joke between us which
should be the first to get into the maze.'

'I think the garden keys must be up at the house,' said Mr Cooper, who
had been looking over a large bunch. 'There is a number there in the
library. Now, Mr Humphreys, if you're prepared, we might bid goodbye to
these ladies and set forward on our little tour of exploration.'

       *       *       *       *       *

As they came out of Mr Cooper's front gate, Humphreys had to run the
gauntlet--not of an organized demonstration, but of a good deal of
touching of hats and careful contemplation from the men and women who had
gathered in somewhat unusual numbers in the village street. He had,
further, to exchange some remarks with the wife of the lodge-keeper as
they passed the park gates, and with the lodge-keeper himself, who was
attending to the park road. I cannot, however, spare the time to report
the progress fully. As they traversed the half-mile or so between the
lodge and the house, Humphreys took occasion to ask his companion some
question which brought up the topic of his late uncle, and it did not
take long before Mr Cooper was embarked upon a disquisition.

'It is singular to think, as the wife was saying just now, that you
should never have seen the old gentleman. And yet--you won't
misunderstand me, Mr Humphreys, I feel confident, when I say that in my
opinion there would have been but little congeniality betwixt yourself
and him. Not that I have a word to say in deprecation--not a single word.
I can tell you what he was,' said Mr Cooper, pulling up suddenly and
fixing Humphreys with his eye. 'Can tell you what he was in a nutshell,
as the saying goes. He was a complete, thorough valentudinarian. That
describes him to a T. That's what he was, sir, a complete
valentudinarian. No participation in what went on around him. I did
venture, I think, to send you a few words of cutting from our local
paper, which I took the occasion to contribute on his decease. If I
recollect myself aright, such is very much the gist of them. But don't,
Mr Humphreys,' continued Cooper, tapping him impressively on the
chest,--'don't you run away with the impression that I wish to say aught
but what is most creditable--_most_ creditable--of your respected uncle
and my late employer. Upright, Mr Humphreys--open as the day; liberal to
all in his dealings. He had the heart to feel and the hand to
accommodate. But there it was: there was the stumbling-block--his
unfortunate health--or, as I might more truly phrase it, his _want_ of
health.'

'Yes, poor man. Did he suffer from any special disorder before his last
illness--which, I take it, was little more than old age?'

'Just that, Mr Humphreys--just that. The flash flickering slowly away in
the pan,' said Cooper, with what he considered an appropriate
gesture,--'the golden bowl gradually ceasing to vibrate. But as to your
other question I should return a negative answer. General absence of
vitality? yes: special complaint? no, unless you reckon a nasty cough he
had with him. Why, here we are pretty much at the house. A handsome
mansion, Mr Humphreys, don't you consider?'

It deserved the epithet, on the whole: but it was oddly proportioned--a
very tall red-brick house, with a plain parapet concealing the roof
almost entirely. It gave the impression of a town house set down in the
country; there was a basement, and a rather imposing flight of steps
leading up to the front door. It seemed also, owing to its height, to
desiderate wings, but there were none. The stables and other offices were
concealed by trees. Humphreys guessed its probable date as 1770 or
thereabouts.

The mature couple who had been engaged to act as butler and
cook-housekeeper were waiting inside the front door, and opened it as
their new master approached. Their name, Humphreys already knew, was
Calton; of their appearance and manner he formed a favourable impression
in the few minutes' talk he had with them. It was agreed that he should
go through the plate and the cellar next day with Mr Calton, and that Mrs
C. should have a talk with him about linen, bedding, and so on--what
there was, and what there ought to be. Then he and Cooper, dismissing the
Caltons for the present, began their view of the house. Its topography is
not of importance to this story. The large rooms on the ground floor were
satisfactory, especially the library, which was as large as the
dining-room, and had three tall windows facing east. The bedroom prepared
for Humphreys was immediately above it. There were many pleasant, and a
few really interesting, old pictures. None of the furniture was new, and
hardly any of the books were later than the seventies. After hearing of
and seeing the few changes his uncle had made in the house, and
contemplating a shiny portrait of him which adorned the drawing-room,
Humphreys was forced to agree with Cooper that in all probability there
would have been little to attract him in his predecessor. It made him
rather sad that he could not be sorry--_dolebat se dolere non posse_--for
the man who, whether with or without some feeling of kindliness towards
his unknown nephew, had contributed so much to his well-being; for he
felt that Wilsthorpe was a place in which he could be happy, and
especially happy, it might be, in its library.

And now it was time to go over the garden: the empty stables could wait,
and so could the laundry. So to the garden they addressed themselves, and
it was soon evident that Miss Cooper had been right in thinking that
there were possibilities. Also that Mr Cooper had done well in keeping on
the gardener. The deceased Mr Wilson might not have, indeed plainly had
not, been imbued with the latest views on gardening, but whatever had
been done here had been done under the eye of a knowledgeable man, and
the equipment and stock were excellent. Cooper was delighted with the
pleasure Humphreys showed, and with the suggestions he let fall from time
to time. 'I can see,' he said, 'that you've found your meatear here, Mr
Humphreys: you'll make this place a regular signosier before very many
seasons have passed over our heads. I wish Clutterham had been
here--that's the head gardener--and here he would have been of course,
as I told you, but for his son's being horse doover with a fever, poor
fellow! I should like him to have heard how the place strikes you.'

'Yes, you told me he couldn't be here today, and I was very sorry to hear
the reason, but it will be time enough tomorrow. What is that white
building on the mound at the end of the grass ride? Is it the temple Miss
Cooper mentioned?'

'That it is, Mr Humphreys--the Temple of Friendship. Constructed of
marble brought out of Italy for the purpose, by your late uncle's
grandfather. Would it interest you perhaps to take a turn there? You get
a very sweet prospect of the park.'

The general lines of the temple were those of the Sibyl's Temple at
Tivoli, helped out by a dome, only the whole was a good deal smaller.
Some ancient sepulchral reliefs were built into the wall, and about it
all was a pleasant flavour of the grand tour. Cooper produced the key,
and with some difficulty opened the heavy door. Inside there was a
handsome ceiling, but little furniture. Most of the floor was occupied by
a pile of thick circular blocks of stone, each of which had a single
letter deeply cut on its slightly convex upper surface. 'What is the
meaning of these?' Humphreys inquired.

'Meaning? Well, all things, we're told, have their purpose, Mr Humphreys,
and I suppose these blocks have had theirs as well as another. But what
that purpose is or was [Mr Cooper assumed a didactic attitude here], I,
for one, should be at a loss to point out to you, sir. All I know of
them--and it's summed up in a very few words--is just this: that they're
stated to have been removed by your late uncle, at a period before I
entered on the scene, from the maze. That, Mr Humphreys, is--'

'Oh, the maze!' exclaimed Humphreys. 'I'd forgotten that: we must have a
look at it. Where is it?'

Cooper drew him to the door of the temple, and pointed with his stick.
'Guide your eye,' he said, somewhat in the manner of the Second Elder in
Handel's _Susanna_--

Far to the west direct your straining eyes
Where yon tall holm-tree rises to the skies

'Guide your eye by my stick here, and follow out the line directly
opposite to the spot where we're standing now, and I'll engage, Mr
Humphreys, that you'll catch the archway over the entrance. You'll see it
just at the end of the walk answering to the one that leads up to this
very building. Did you think of going there at once? because if that be
the case, I must go to the house and procure the key. If you would walk
on there, I'll rejoin you in a few moments' time.'

Accordingly Humphreys strolled down the ride leading to the temple, past
the garden-front of the house, and up the turfy approach to the archway
which Cooper had pointed out to him. He was surprised to find that the
whole maze was surrounded by a high wall, and that the archway was
provided with a padlocked iron gate; but then he remembered that Miss
Cooper had spoken of his uncle's objection to letting anyone enter this
part of the garden. He was now at the gate, and still Cooper came not.
For a few minutes he occupied himself in reading the motto cut over the
entrance, _Secretum meum mihi et filiis domus meae_, and in trying to
recollect the source of it. Then he became impatient and considered the
possibility of scaling the wall. This was clearly not worth while; it
might have been done if he had been wearing an older suit: or could the
padlock--a very old one--be forced? No, apparently not: and yet, as he
gave a final irritated kick at the gate, something gave way, and the lock
fell at his feet. He pushed the gate open inconveniencing a number of
nettles as he did so, and stepped into the enclosure.

It was a yew maze, of circular form, and the hedges, long untrimmed, had
grown out and upwards to a most unorthodox breadth and height. The walks,
too, were next door to impassable. Only by entirely disregarding
scratches, nettle-stings, and wet, could Humphreys force his way along
them; but at any rate this condition of things, he reflected, would make
it easier for him to find his way out again, for he left a very visible
track. So far as he could remember, he had never been in a maze before,
nor did it seem to him now that he had missed much. The dankness and
darkness, and smell of crushed goosegrass and nettles were anything but
cheerful. Still, it did not seem to be a very intricate specimen of its
kind. Here he was (by the way, was that Cooper arrived at last? No!) very
nearly at the heart of it, without having taken much thought as to what
path he was following. Ah! there at last was the centre, easily gained.
And there was something to reward him. His first impression was that the
central ornament was a sundial; but when he had switched away some
portion of the thick growth of brambles and bindweed that had formed over
it, he saw that it was a less ordinary decoration. A stone column about
four feet high, and on the top of it a metal globe--copper, to judge by
the green patina--engraved, and finely engraved too, with figures in
outline, and letters. That was what Humphreys saw, and a brief glance at
the figures convinced him that it was one of those mysterious things
called celestial globes, from which, one would suppose, no one ever yet
derived any information about the heavens. However, it was too dark--at
least in the maze--for him to examine this curiosity at all closely, and
besides, he now heard Cooper's voice, and sounds as of an elephant in the
jungle. Humphreys called to him to follow the track he had beaten out,
and soon Cooper emerged panting into the central circle. He was full of
apologies for his delay; he had not been able, after all, to find the
key. 'But there!' he said, 'you've penetrated into the heart of the
mystery unaided and unannealed, as the saying goes. Well! I suppose it's
a matter of thirty to forty years since any human foot has trod these
precincts. Certain it is that I've never set foot in them before. Well,
well! what's the old proverb about angels fearing to tread? It's proved
true once again in this case.' Humphreys' acquaintance with Cooper,
though it had been short, was sufficient to assure him that there was no
guile in this allusion, and he forbore the obvious remark, merely
suggesting that it was fully time to get back to the house for a late cup
of tea, and to release Cooper for his evening engagement. They left the
maze accordingly, experiencing well-nigh the same ease in retracing their
path as they had in coming in.

'Have you any idea,' Humphreys asked, as they went towards the house,
'why my uncle kept that place so carefully locked?'

Cooper pulled up, and Humphreys felt that he must be on the brink of a
revelation.

'I should merely be deceiving you, Mr Humphreys, and that to no good
purpose, if I laid claim to possess any information whatsoever on that
topic. When I first entered upon my duties here, some eighteen years
back, that maze was word for word in the condition you see it now, and
the one and only occasion on which the question ever arose within my
knowledge was that of which my girl made mention in your hearing. Lady
Wardrop--I've not a word to say against her--wrote applying for admission
to the maze. Your uncle showed me the note--a most civil note--everything
that could be expected from such a quarter. "Cooper," he said, "I wish
you'd reply to that note on my behalf." "Certainly Mr Wilson," I said,
for I was quite inured to acting as his secretary, "what answer shall I
return to it?" "Well," he said, "give Lady Wardrop my compliments, and
tell her that if ever that portion of the grounds is taken in hand I
shall be happy to give her the first opportunity of viewing it, but that
it has been shut up now for a number of years, and I shall be grateful to
her if she kindly won't press the matter." That, Mr Humphreys, was your
good uncle's last word on the subject, and I don't think I can add
anything to it. Unless,' added Cooper, after a pause, 'it might be just
this: that, so far as I could form a judgement, he had a dislike (as
people often will for one reason or another) to the memory of his
grandfather, who, as I mentioned to you, had that maze laid out. A man of
peculiar teenets, Mr Humphreys, and a great traveller. You'll have the
opportunity, on the coming Sabbath, of seeing the tablet to him in our
little parish church; put up it was some long time after his death.'

'Oh! I should have expected a man who had such a taste for building to
have designed a mausoleum for himself.'

'Well, I've never noticed anything of the kind you mention; and, in fact,
come to think of it, I'm not at all sure that his resting-place is within
our boundaries at all: that he lays in the vault I'm pretty confident is
not the case. Curious now that I shouldn't be in a position to inform you
on that heading! Still, after all, we can't say, can we, Mr Humphreys,
that it's a point of crucial importance where the pore mortal coils are
bestowed?'

At this point they entered the house, and Cooper's speculations were
interrupted.

Tea was laid in the library, where Mr Cooper fell upon subjects
appropriate to the scene. 'A fine collection of books! One of the finest,
I've understood from connoisseurs, in this part of the country; splendid
plates, too, in some of these works. I recollect your uncle showing me
one with views of foreign towns--most absorbing it was: got up in
first-rate style. And another all done by hand, with the ink as fresh as
if it had been laid on yesterday, and yet, he told me, it was the work of
some old monk hundreds of years back. I've always taken a keen interest
in literature myself. Hardly anything to my mind can compare with a good
hour's reading after a hard day's work; far better than wasting the whole
evening at a friend's house--and that reminds me, to be sure. I shall be
getting into trouble with the wife if I don't make the best of my way
home and get ready to squander away one of these same evenings! I must be
off, Mr Humphreys.'

'And that reminds _me_,' said Humphreys, 'if I'm to show Miss Cooper the
maze tomorrow we must have it cleared out a bit. Could you say a word
about that to the proper person?'

'Why, to be sure. A couple of men with scythes could cut out a track
tomorrow morning. I'll leave word as I pass the lodge, and I'll tell
them, what'll save you the trouble, perhaps, Mr Humphreys, of having to
go up and extract them yourself: that they'd better have some sticks or a
tape to mark out their way with as they go on.'

'A very good idea! Yes, do that; and I'll expect Mrs and Miss Cooper in
the afternoon, and yourself about half-past ten in the morning.'

'It'll be a pleasure, I'm sure, both to them and to myself, Mr Humphreys.
Good night!'

       *       *       *       *       *

Humphreys dined at eight. But for the fact that it was his first evening,
and that Calton was evidently inclined for occasional conversation, he
would have finished the novel he had bought for his journey. As it was,
he had to listen and reply to some of Calton's impressions of the
neighbourhood and the season: the latter, it appeared, was seasonable,
and the former had changed considerably--and not altogether for the
worse--since Calton's boyhood (which had been spent there). The village
shop in particular had greatly improved since the year 1870. It was now
possible to procure there pretty much anything you liked in reason: which
was a conveniency, because suppose anythink was required of a suddent
(and he had known such things before now), he (Calton) could step down
there (supposing the shop to be still open), and order it in, without he
borrered it of the Rectory, whereas in earlier days it would have been
useless to pursue such a course in respect of anything but candles, or
soap, or treacle, or perhaps a penny child's picture-book, and nine times
out of ten it'd be something more in the nature of a bottle of whisky
_you'd_ be requiring; leastways--On the whole Humphreys thought he would
be prepared with a book in future.

The library was the obvious place for the after-dinner hours. Candle in
hand and pipe in mouth, he moved round the room for some time, taking
stock of the titles of the books. He had all the predisposition to take
interest in an old library, and there was every opportunity for him here
to make systematic acquaintance with one, for he had learned from Cooper
that there was no catalogue save the very superficial one made for
purposes of probate. The drawing up of a _catalogue raisonné_ would be a
delicious occupation for winter. There were probably treasures to be
found, too: even manuscripts, if Cooper might be trusted.

As he pursued his round the sense came upon him (as it does upon most of
us in similar places) of the extreme unreadableness of a great portion of
the collection. 'Editions of Classics and Fathers, and Picart's
_Religious Ceremonies_, and the _Harleian Miscellany_, I suppose are all
very well, but who is ever going to read Tostatus Abulensis, or Pineda on
Job, or a book like this?' He picked out a small quarto, loose in the
binding, and from which the lettered label had fallen off; and observing
that coffee was waiting for him, retired to a chair. Eventually he opened
the book. It will be observed that his condemnation of it rested wholly
on external grounds. For all he knew it might have been a collection of
unique plays, but undeniably the outside was blank and forbidding. As a
matter of fact, it was a collection of sermons or meditations, and
mutilated at that, for the first sheet was gone. It seemed to belong to
the latter end of the seventeenth century. He turned over the pages till
his eye was caught by a marginal note: '_A Parable of this Unhappy
Condition_,' and he thought he would see what aptitudes the author might
have for imaginative composition. 'I have heard or read,' so ran the
passage, 'whether in the way of _Parable_ or true _Relation_ I leave my
Reader to judge, of a Man who, like _Theseus_, in the _Attick Tale_,
should adventure himself, into a _Labyrinth_ or _Maze_: and such an one
indeed as was not laid out in the Fashion of our _Topiary_ artists of
this Age, but of a wide compass, in which, moreover, such unknown
Pitfalls and Snares, nay, such ill-omened Inhabitants were commonly
thought to lurk as could only be encountered at the Hazard of one's very
life. Now you may be sure that in such a Case the Disswasions of Friends
were not wanting. "Consider of such-an-one" says a Brother "how he went
the way you wot of, and was never seen more." "Or of such another" says
the Mother "that adventured himself but a little way in, and from that
day forth is so troubled in his Wits that he cannot tell what he saw, nor
hath passed one good Night." "And have you never heard" cries a Neighbour
"of what Faces have been seen to look out over the _Palisadoes_ and
betwixt the Bars of the Gate?" But all would not do: the Man was set upon
his Purpose: for it seems it was the common fireside Talk of that Country
that at the Heart and Centre of this _Labyrinth_ there was a Jewel of
such Price and Rarity that would enrich the Finder thereof for his life:
and this should be his by right that could persever to come at it. What
then? _Quid multa?_ The Adventurer pass'd the Gates, and for a whole
day's space his Friends without had no news of him, except it might be by
some indistinct Cries heard afar off in the Night, such as made them turn
in their restless Beds and sweat for very Fear, not doubting but that
their Son and Brother had put one more to the _Catalogue_ of those
unfortunates that had suffer'd shipwreck on that Voyage. So the next day
they went with weeping Tears to the Clark of the Parish to order the Bell
to be toll'd. And their Way took them hard by the gate of the
_Labyrinth_: which they would have hastened by, from the Horrour they had
of it, but that they caught sight of a sudden of a Man's Body lying in
the Roadway, and going up to it (with what Anticipations may be easily
figured) found it to be him whom they reckoned as lost: and not dead,
though he were in a Swound most like Death. They then, who had gone forth
as Mourners came back rejoycing, and set to by all means to revive their
Prodigal. Who, being come to himself, and hearing of their Anxieties and
their Errand of that Morning, "Ay" says he "you may as well finish what
you were about: for, for all I have brought back the Jewel (which he
shew'd them, and 'twas indeed a rare Piece) I have brought back that with
it that will leave me neither Rest at Night nor Pleasure by Day."
Whereupon they were instant with him to learn his Meaning, and where his
Company should be that went so sore against his Stomach. "O" says he
"'tis here in my Breast: I cannot flee from it, do what I may." So it
needed no Wizard to help them to a guess that it was the Recollection of
what he had seen that troubled him so wonderfully. But they could get no
more of him for a long Time but by Fits and Starts. However at long and
at last they made shift to collect somewhat of this kind: that at first,
while the Sun was bright, he went merrily on, and without any Difficulty
reached the Heart of the _Labyrinth_ and got the Jewel, and so set out on
his way back rejoycing: but as the Night fell, _wherein all the Beasts of
the Forest do move_, he begun to be sensible of some Creature keeping
Pace with him and, as he thought, _peering and looking upon him_ from the
next Alley to that he was in; and that when he should stop, this
Companion should stop also, which put him in some Disorder of his
Spirits. And, indeed, as the Darkness increas'd, it seemed to him that
there was more than one, and, it might be, even a whole Band of such
Followers: at least so he judg'd by the Rustling and Cracking that they
kept among the Thickets; besides that there would be at a Time a Sound of
Whispering, which seem'd to import a Conference among them. But in regard
of who they were or what Form they were of, he would not be persuaded to
say what he thought. Upon his Hearers asking him what the Cries were
which they heard in the Night (as was observ'd above) he gave them this
Account: That about Midnight (so far as he could judge) he heard his Name
call'd from a long way off, and he would have been sworn it was his
Brother that so call'd him. So he stood still and hilloo'd at the Pitch
of his Voice, and he suppos'd that the _Echo_, or the Noyse of his
Shouting, disguis'd for the Moment any lesser sound; because, when there
fell a Stillness again, he distinguish'd a Trampling (not loud) of
running Feet coming very close behind him, wherewith he was so daunted
that himself set off to run, and that he continued till the Dawn broke.
Sometimes when his Breath fail'd him, he would cast himself flat on his
Face, and hope that his Pursuers might over-run him in the Darkness, but
at such a Time they would regularly make a Pause, and he could hear them
pant and snuff as it had been a Hound at Fault: which wrought in him so
extream an Horrour of mind, that he would be forc'd to betake himself
again to turning and doubling, if by any Means he might throw them off
the Scent. And, as if this Exertion was in itself not terrible enough, he
had before him the constant Fear of falling into some Pit or Trap, of
which he had heard, and indeed seen with his own Eyes that there were
several, some at the sides and other in the Midst of the Alleys. So that
in fine (he said) a more dreadful Night was never spent by Mortal
Creature than that he had endur'd in that _Labyrinth_; and not that Jewel
which he had in his Wallet, nor the richest that was ever brought out of
the _Indies_, could be a sufficient Recompence to him for the Pains he
had suffered.

'I will spare to set down the further Recital of this Man's Troubles,
inasmuch as I am confident my Reader's Intelligence will hit the
_Parallel_ I desire to draw. For is not this Jewel a just Emblem of the
Satisfaction which a Man may bring back with him from a Course of this
World's Pleasures? and will not the _Labyrinth_ serve for an Image of the
World itself wherein such a Treasure (if we may believe the common Voice)
is stored up?'

At about this point Humphreys thought that a little Patience would be an
agreeable change, and that the writer's 'improvement' of his Parable
might be left to itself. So he put the book back in its former place,
wondering as he did so whether his uncle had ever stumbled across that
passage; and if so, whether it had worked on his fancy so much as to make
him dislike the idea of a maze, and determine to shut up the one in the
garden. Not long afterwards he went to bed.

The next day brought a morning's hard work with Mr Cooper, who, if
exuberant in language, had the business of the estate at his fingers'
ends. He was very breezy this morning, Mr Cooper was: had not forgotten
the order to clear out the maze--the work was going on at that moment:
his girl was on the tentacles of expectation about it. He also hoped that
Humphreys had slept the sleep of the just, and that we should be favoured
with a continuance of this congenial weather. At luncheon he enlarged on
the pictures in the dining-room, and pointed out the portrait of the
constructor of the temple and the maze. Humphreys examined this with
considerable interest. It was the work of an Italian, and had been
painted when old Mr Wilson was visiting Rome as a young man. (There was,
indeed, a view of the Colosseum in the background.) A pale thin face and
large eyes were the characteristic features. In the hand was a partially
unfolded roll of paper, on which could be distinguished the plan of a
circular building, very probably the temple, and also part of that of a
labyrinth. Humphreys got up on a chair to examine it, but it was not
painted with sufficient clearness to be worth copying. It suggested to
him, however, that he might as well make a plan of his own maze and hang
it in the hall for the use of visitors.

This determination of his was confirmed that same afternoon; for when Mrs
and Miss Cooper arrived, eager to be inducted into the maze, he found
that he was wholly unable to lead them to the centre. The gardeners had
removed the guide-marks they had been using, and even Clutterham, when
summoned to assist, was as helpless as the rest. 'The point is, you see,
Mr Wilson--I should say 'Umphreys--these mazes is purposely constructed
so much alike, with a view to mislead. Still, if you'll foller me, I
think I can put you right. I'll just put my 'at down 'ere as a
starting-point.' He stumped off, and after five minutes brought the party
safe to the hat again. 'Now that's a very peculiar thing,' he said, with
a sheepish laugh. 'I made sure I'd left that 'at just over against a
bramble-bush, and you can see for yourself there ain't no bramble-bush
not in this walk at all. If you'll allow me, Mr Humphreys--that's the
name, ain't it, sir?--I'll just call one of the men in to mark the place
like.'

William Crack arrived, in answer to repeated shouts. He had some
difficulty in making his way to the party. First he was seen or heard in
an inside alley, then, almost at the same moment, in an outer one.
However, he joined them at last, and was first consulted without effect
and then stationed by the hat, which Clutterham still considered it
necessary to leave on the ground. In spite of this strategy, they spent
the best part of three-quarters of an hour in quite fruitless wanderings,
and Humphreys was obliged at last, seeing how tired Mrs Cooper was
becoming, to suggest a retreat to tea, with profuse apologies to Miss
Cooper. 'At any rate you've won your bet with Miss Foster,' he said; 'you
have been inside the maze; and I promise you the first thing I do shall
be to make a proper plan of it with the lines marked out for you to go
by.' 'That's what's wanted, sir,' said Clutterham, 'someone to draw out a
plan and keep it by them. It might be very awkward, you see, anyone
getting into that place and a shower of rain come on, and them not able
to find their way out again; it might be hours before they could be got
out, without you'd permit of me makin' a short cut to the middle: what my
meanin' is, takin' down a couple of trees in each 'edge in a straight
line so as you could git a clear view right through. Of course that'd do
away with it as a maze, but I don't know as you'd approve of that.'

'No, I won't have that done yet: I'll make a plan first, and let you have
a copy. Later on, if we find occasion, I'll think of what you say.'

Humphreys was vexed and ashamed at the fiasco of the afternoon, and could
not be satisfied without making another effort that evening to reach the
centre of the maze. His irritation was increased by finding it without a
single false step. He had thoughts of beginning his plan at once; but the
light was fading, and he felt that by the time he had got the necessary
materials together, work would be impossible.

Next morning accordingly, carrying a drawing-board, pencils, compasses,
cartridge paper, and so forth (some of which had been borrowed from the
Coopers and some found in the library cupboards), he went to the middle
of the maze (again without any hesitation), and set out his materials. He
was, however, delayed in making a start. The brambles and weeds that had
obscured the column and globe were now all cleared away, and it was for
the first time possible to see clearly what these were like. The column
was featureless, resembling those on which sundials are usually placed.
Not so the globe. I have said that it was finely engraved with figures
and inscriptions, and that on a first glance Humphreys had taken it for a
celestial globe: but he soon found that it did not answer to his
recollection of such things. One feature seemed familiar; a winged
serpent--_Draco_--encircled it about the place which, on a terrestrial
globe, is occupied by the equator: but on the other hand, a good part of
the upper hemisphere was covered by the outspread wings of a large figure
whose head was concealed by a ring at the pole or summit of the whole.
Around the place of the head the words _princeps tenebrarum_ could be
deciphered. In the lower hemisphere there was a space hatched all over
with cross-lines and marked as _umbra mortis_. Near it was a range of
mountains, and among them a valley with flames rising from it. This was
lettered (will you be surprised to learn it?) _vallis filiorum Hinnom_.
Above and below _Draco_ were outlined various figures not unlike the
pictures of the ordinary constellations, but not the same. Thus, a nude
man with a raised club was described, not as _Hercules_ but as _Cain_.
Another, plunged up to his middle in earth and stretching out despairing
arms, was _Chore_, not _Ophiuchus_, and a third, hung by his hair to a
snaky tree, was _Absolon_. Near the last, a man in long robes and high
cap, standing in a circle and addressing two shaggy demons who hovered
outside, was described as _Hostanes magus_ (a character unfamiliar to
Humphreys). The scheme of the whole, indeed, seemed to be an assemblage
of the patriarchs of evil, perhaps not uninfluenced by a study of Dante.
Humphreys thought it an unusual exhibition of his great-grandfather's
taste, but reflected that he had probably picked it up in Italy and had
never taken the trouble to examine it closely: certainly, had he set much
store by it, he would not have exposed it to wind and weather. He tapped
the metal--it seemed hollow and not very thick--and, turning from it,
addressed himself to his plan. After half an hour's work he found it was
impossible to get on without using a clue: so he procured a roll of twine
from Clutterham, and laid it out along the alleys from the entrance to
the centre, tying the end to the ring at the top of the globe. This
expedient helped him to set out a rough plan before luncheon, and in the
afternoon he was able to draw it in more neatly. Towards tea-time Mr
Cooper joined him, and was much interested in his progress. 'Now this--'
said Mr Cooper, laying his hand on the globe, and then drawing it away
hastily. 'Whew! Holds the heat, doesn't it, to a surprising degree, Mr
Humphreys. I suppose this metal--copper, isn't it?--would be an insulator
or conductor, or whatever they call it.'

'The sun has been pretty strong this afternoon,' said Humphreys, evading
the scientific point, 'but I didn't notice the globe had got hot. No--it
doesn't seem very hot to me,' he added.

'Odd!' said Mr Cooper. 'Now I can't hardly bear my hand on it. Something
in the difference of temperament between us, I suppose. I dare say you're
a chilly subject, Mr Humphreys: I'm not: and there's where the
distinction lies. All this summer I've slept, if you'll believe me,
practically _in statu quo_, and had my morning tub as cold as I could get
it. Day out and day in--let me assist you with that string.'

'It's all right, thanks; but if you'll collect some of these pencils and
things that are lying about I shall be much obliged. Now I think we've
got everything, and we might get back to the house.'

They left the maze, Humphreys rolling up the clue as they went.

The night was rainy.

Most unfortunately it turned out that, whether by Cooper's fault or not,
the plan had been the one thing forgotten the evening before. As was to
be expected, it was ruined by the wet. There was nothing for it but to
begin again (the job would not be a long one this time). The clue
therefore was put in place once more and a fresh start made. But
Humphreys had not done much before an interruption came in the shape of
Calton with a telegram. His late chief in London wanted to consult him.
Only a brief interview was wanted, but the summons was urgent. This was
annoying, yet it was not really upsetting; there was a train available in
half an hour, and, unless things went very cross, he could be back,
possibly by five o'clock, certainly by eight. He gave the plan to Calton
to take to the house, but it was not worth while to remove the clue.

All went as he had hoped. He spent a rather exciting evening in the
library, for he lighted tonight upon a cupboard where some of the rarer
books were kept. When he went up to bed he was glad to find that the
servant had remembered to leave his curtains undrawn and his windows
open. He put down his light, and went to the window which commanded a
view of the garden and the park. It was a brilliant moonlight night. In a
few weeks' time the sonorous winds of autumn would break up all this
calm. But now the distant woods were in a deep stillness; the slopes of
the lawns were shining with dew; the colours of some of the flowers could
almost be guessed. The light of the moon just caught the cornice of the
temple and the curve of its leaden dome, and Humphreys had to own that,
so seen, these conceits of a past age have a real beauty. In short, the
light, the perfume of the woods, and the absolute quiet called up such
kind old associations in his mind that he went on ruminating them for a
long, long time. As he turned from the window he felt he had never seen
anything more complete of its sort. The one feature that struck him with
a sense of incongruity was a small Irish yew, thin and black, which stood
out like an outpost of the shrubbery, through which the maze was
approached. That, he thought, might as well be away: the wonder was that
anyone should have thought it would look well in that position.

       *       *       *       *       *

However, next morning, in the press of answering letters and going over
books with Mr Cooper, the Irish yew was forgotten. One letter, by the
way, arrived this day which has to be mentioned. It was from that Lady
Wardrop whom Miss Cooper had mentioned, and it renewed the application
which she had addressed to Mr Wilson. She pleaded, in the first place,
that she was about to publish a Book of Mazes, and earnestly desired to
include the plan of the Wilsthorpe Maze, and also that it would be a
great kindness if Mr Humphreys could let her see it (if at all) at an
early date, since she would soon have to go abroad for the winter months.
Her house at Bentley was not far distant, so Humphreys was able to send a
note by hand to her suggesting the very next day or the day after for her
visit; it may be said at once that the messenger brought back a most
grateful answer, to the effect that the morrow would suit her admirably.

The only other event of the day was that the plan of the maze was
successfully finished.

This night again was fair and brilliant and calm, and Humphreys lingered
almost as long at his window. The Irish yew came to his mind again as he
was on the point of drawing his curtains: but either he had been misled
by a shadow the night before, or else the shrub was not really so
obtrusive as he had fancied. Anyhow, he saw no reason for interfering
with it. What he _would_ do away with, however, was a clump of dark
growth which had usurped a place against the house wall, and was
threatening to obscure one of the lower range of windows. It did not look
as if it could possibly be worth keeping; he fancied it dank and
unhealthy, little as he could see of it.

Next day (it was a Friday--he had arrived at Wilsthorpe on a Monday) Lady
Wardrop came over in her car soon after luncheon. She was a stout elderly
person, very full of talk of all sorts and particularly inclined to make
herself agreeable to Humphreys, who had gratified her very much by his
ready granting of her request. They made a thorough exploration of the
place together; and Lady Wardrop's opinion of her host obviously rose
sky-high when she found that he really knew something of gardening. She
entered enthusiastically into all his plans for improvement, but agreed
that it would be a vandalism to interfere with the characteristic
laying-out of the ground near the house. With the temple she was
particularly delighted, and, said she, 'Do you know, Mr Humphreys, I
think your bailiff must be right about those lettered blocks of stone.
One of my mazes--I'm sorry to say the stupid people have destroyed it
now--it was at a place in Hampshire--had the track marked out in that
way. They were tiles there, but lettered just like yours, and the
letters, taken in the right order, formed an inscription--what it was I
forget--something about Theseus and Ariadne. I have a copy of it, as well
as the plan of the maze where it was. How people can do such things! I
shall never forgive you if you injure _your_ maze. Do you know, they're
becoming very uncommon? Almost every year I hear of one being grubbed up.
Now, do let's get straight to it: or, if you're too busy, I know my way
there perfectly, and I'm not afraid of getting lost in it; I know too
much about mazes for that. Though I remember missing my lunch--not so
very long ago either--through getting entangled in the one at Busbury.
Well, of course, if you _can_ manage to come with me, that will be all
the nicer.'

After this confident prelude justice would seem to require that Lady
Wardrop should have been hopelessly muddled by the Wilsthorpe maze.
Nothing of that kind happened: yet it is to be doubted whether she got
all the enjoyment from her new specimen that she expected. She was
interested--keenly interested--to be sure, and pointed out to Humphreys a
series of little depressions in the ground which, she thought, marked the
places of the lettered blocks. She told him, too, what other mazes
resembled his most closely in arrangement, and explained how it was
usually possible to date a maze to within twenty years by means of its
plan. This one, she already knew, must be about as old as 1780, and its
features were just what might be expected. The globe, furthermore,
completely absorbed her. It was unique in her experience, and she pored
over it for long. 'I should like a rubbing of that,' she said, 'if it
could possibly be made. Yes, I am sure you would be most kind about it,
Mr Humphreys, but I trust you won't attempt it on my account, I do
indeed; I shouldn't like to take any liberties here. I have the feeling
that it might be resented. Now, confess,' she went on, turning and facing
Humphreys, 'don't you feel--haven't you felt ever since you came in
here--that a watch is being kept on us, and that if we overstepped the
mark in any way there would be a--well, a pounce? No? _I_ do; and I don't
care how soon we are outside the gate.'

'After all,' she said, when they were once more on their way to the
house, 'it may have been only the airlessness and the dull heat of that
place that pressed on my brain. Still, I'll take back one thing I said.
I'm not sure that I shan't forgive you after all, if I find next spring
that that maze has been grubbed up.'

'Whether or no that's done, you shall have the plan, Lady Wardrop. I have
made one, and no later than tonight I can trace you a copy.'

'Admirable: a pencil tracing will be all I want, with an indication of
the scale. I can easily have it brought into line with the rest of my
plates. Many, many thanks.'

'Very well, you shall have that tomorrow. I wish you could help me to a
solution of my block-puzzle.'

'What, those stones in the summer-house? That _is_ a puzzle; they are in
no sort of order? Of course not. But the men who put them down must have
had some directions--perhaps you'll find a paper about it among your
uncle's things. If not, you'll have to call in somebody who's an expert
in ciphers.'

'Advise me about something else, please,' said Humphreys. 'That
bush-thing under the library window: you would have that away, wouldn't
you?'

'Which? That? Oh, I think not,' said Lady Wardrop. 'I can't see it very
well from this distance, but it's not unsightly.'

'Perhaps you're right; only, looking out of my window, just above it,
last night, I thought it took up too much room. It doesn't seem to, as
one sees it from here, certainly. Very well, I'll leave it alone for a
bit.'

Tea was the next business, soon after which Lady Wardrop drove off; but,
half-way down the drive, she stopped the car and beckoned to Humphreys,
who was still on the front-door steps. He ran to glean her parting words,
which were: 'It just occurs to me, it might be worth your while to look
at the underside of those stones. They _must_ have been numbered, mustn't
they? _Good_-bye again. Home, please.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The main occupation of this evening at any rate was settled. The tracing
of the plan for Lady Wardrop and the careful collation of it with the
original meant a couple of hours' work at least. Accordingly, soon after
nine Humphreys had his materials put out in the library and began. It was
a still, stuffy evening; windows had to stand open, and he had more than
one grisly encounter with a bat. These unnerving episodes made him keep
the tail of his eye on the window. Once or twice it was a question
whether there was--not a bat, but something more considerable--that had a
mind to join him. How unpleasant it would be if someone had slipped
noiselessly over the sill and was crouching on the floor!

The tracing of the plan was done: it remained to compare it with the
original, and to see whether any paths had been wrongly closed or left
open. With one finger on each paper, he traced out the course that must
be followed from the entrance. There were one or two slight mistakes, but
here, near the centre, was a bad confusion, probably due to the entry of
the Second or Third Bat. Before correcting the copy he followed out
carefully the last turnings of the path on the original. These, at least,
were right; they led without a hitch to the middle space. Here was a
feature which need not be repeated on the copy--an ugly black spot about
the size of a shilling. Ink? No. It resembled a hole, but how should a
hole be there? He stared at it with tired eyes: the work of tracing had
been very laborious, and he was drowsy and oppressed...But surely this
was a very odd hole. It seemed to go not only through the paper, but
through the table on which it lay. Yes, and through the floor below that,
down, and still down, even into infinite depths. He craned over it,
utterly bewildered. Just as, when you were a child, you may have pored
over a square inch of counterpane until it became a landscape with wooded
hills, and perhaps even churches and houses, and you lost all thought of
the true size of yourself and it, so this hole seemed to Humphreys for
the moment the only thing in the world. For some reason it was hateful to
him from the first, but he had gazed at it for some moments before any
feeling of anxiety came upon him; and then it did come, stronger and
stronger--a horror lest something might emerge from it, and a really
agonizing conviction that a terror was on its way, from the sight of
which he would not be able to escape. Oh yes, far, far down there was a
movement, and the movement was upwards--towards the surface. Nearer and
nearer it came, and it was of a blackish-grey colour with more than one
dark hole. It took shape as a face--a human face--a _burnt_ human face:
and with the odious writhings of a wasp creeping out of a rotten apple
there clambered forth an appearance of a form, waving black arms prepared
to clasp the head that was bending over them. With a convulsion of
despair Humphreys threw himself back, struck his head against a hanging
lamp, and fell.

There was concussion of the brain, shock to the system, and a long
confinement to bed. The doctor was badly puzzled, not by the symptoms,
but by a request which Humphreys made to him as soon as he was able to
say anything. 'I wish you would open the ball in the maze.' 'Hardly room
enough there, I should have thought,' was the best answer he could summon
up; 'but it's more in your way than mine; my dancing days are over.' At
which Humphreys muttered and turned over to sleep, and the doctor
intimated to the nurses that the patient was not out of the wood yet.
When he was better able to express his views, Humphreys made his meaning
clear, and received a promise that the thing should be done at once. He
was so anxious to learn the result that the doctor, who seemed a little
pensive next morning, saw that more harm than good would be done by
saving up his report. 'Well,' he said, 'I am afraid the ball is done for;
the metal must have worn thin, I suppose. Anyhow, it went all to bits
with the first blow of the chisel.' 'Well? go on, do!' said Humphreys
impatiently. 'Oh! you want to know what we found in it, of course. Well,
it was half full of stuff like ashes.' 'Ashes? What did you make of them?'
'I haven't thoroughly examined them yet; there's hardly been time: but
Cooper's made up his mind--I dare say from something I said--that it's a
case of cremation...Now don't excite yourself, my good sir: yes, I must
allow I think he's probably right.'

The maze is gone, and Lady Wardrop has forgiven Humphreys; in fact, I
believe he married her niece. She was right, too, in her conjecture that
the stones in the temple were numbered. There had been a numeral painted
on the bottom of each. Some few of these had rubbed off, but enough
remained to enable Humphreys to reconstruct the inscription. It ran thus:

    PENETRANS AD INTERIORA MORTIS

Grateful as Humphreys was to the memory of his uncle, he could not quite
forgive him for having burnt the journals and letters of the James Wilson
who had gifted Wilsthorpe with the maze and the temple. As to the
circumstances of that ancestor's death and burial no tradition survived;
but his will, which was almost the only record of him accessible,
assigned an unusually generous legacy to a servant who bore an Italian
name.

Mr Cooper's view is that, humanly speaking, all these many solemn events
have a meaning for us, if our limited intelligence permitted of our
disintegrating it, while Mr Calton has been reminded of an aunt now gone
from us, who, about the year 1866, had been lost for upwards of an hour
and a half in the maze at Covent Gardens, or it might be Hampton Court.

One of the oddest things in the whole series of transactions is that the
book which contained the Parable has entirely disappeared. Humphreys has
never been able to find it since he copied out the passage to send to
Lady Wardrop.


15. NUMBER 13


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At supper he found himself next to the landlord.

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

The landlord seemed amused.

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

Here he plunged into reminiscence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  When I return to my hotel,
   At ten o'clock p.m.,
  The waiters think I am unwell;
   I do not care for them.
  But when I've locked my chamber door,
   And put my boots outside,
  I dance all night upon the floor.

  And even if my neighbours swore,
  I'd go on dancing all the more,
  For I'm acquainted with the law,
  And in despite of all their jaw,
    Their protests I deride.

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

The landlord sat open-mouthed.

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

'Is he mad?' said Anderson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Perhaps,' said the landlord, with hesitation, 'you gentlemen would like
another room for tonight--a double-bedded one?'

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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




16. 'OH, WHISTLE, AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD'


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogers laughed loudly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          FLA
    FUR         BIS
          FLE

The other:

    QUIS EST ISTE QUI VENIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Except your bed,' put in the Colonel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



17. RATS


'And if you was to walk through the bedrooms now, you'd see the ragged,
mouldy bedclothes a-heaving and a-heaving like seas.' 'And a-heaving and
a-heaving with what?' he says. 'Why, with the rats under 'em.'


But was it with the rats? I ask, because in another case it was not. I
cannot put a date to the story, but I was young when I heard it, and the
teller was old. It is an ill-proportioned tale, but that is my fault, not
his.

It happened in Suffolk, near the coast. In a place where the road makes a
sudden dip and then a sudden rise; as you go northward, at the top of
that rise, stands a house on the left of the road. It is a tall red-brick
house, narrow for its height; perhaps it was built about 1770. The top of
the front has a low triangular pediment with a round window in the
centre. Behind it are stables and offices, and such garden as it has is
behind them. Scraggy Scotch firs are near it: an expanse of gorse-covered
land stretches away from it. It commands a view of the distant sea from
the upper windows of the front. A sign on a post stands before the door;
or did so stand, for though it was an inn of repute once, I believe it is
so no longer.

To this inn came my acquaintance, Mr Thomson, when he was a young man, on
a fine spring day, coming from the University of Cambridge, and desirous
of solitude in tolerable quarters and time for reading. These he found,
for the landlord and his wife had been in service and could make a
visitor comfortable, and there was no one else staying in the inn. He had
a large room on the first floor commanding the road and the view, and if
it faced east, why, that could not be helped; the house was well built
and warm.

He spent very tranquil and uneventful days: work all the morning, an
afternoon perambulation of the country round, a little conversation with
country company or the people of the inn in the evening over the then
fashionable drink of brandy and water, a little more reading and writing,
and bed; and he would have been content that this should continue for the
full month he had at disposal, so well was his work progressing, and so
fine was the April of that year--which I have reason to believe was that
which Orlando Whistlecraft chronicles in his weather record as the
'Charming Year'.

One of his walks took him along the northern road, which stands high and
traverses a wide common, called a heath. On the bright afternoon when he
first chose this direction his eye caught a white object some hundreds of
yards to the left of the road, and he felt it necessary to make sure what
this might be. It was not long before he was standing by it, and found
himself looking at a square block of white stone fashioned somewhat like
the base of a pillar, with a square hole in the upper surface. Just such
another you may see at this day on Thetford Heath. After taking stock of
it he contemplated for a few minutes the view, which offered a church
tower or two, some red roofs of cottages and windows winking in the sun,
and the expanse of sea--also with an occasional wink and gleam upon
it--and so pursued his way.

In the desultory evening talk in the bar, he asked why the white stone
was there on the common.

'A old-fashioned thing, that is,' said the landlord (Mr Betts), 'we was
none of us alive when that was put there.' 'That's right,' said another.
'It stands pretty high,' said Mr Thomson, 'I dare say a sea-mark was on
it some time back.' 'Ah! yes,' Mr Betts agreed, 'I 'ave 'eard they could
see it from the boats; but whatever there was, it's fell to bits this
long time.' 'Good job too,' said a third, ''twarn't a lucky mark, by what
the old men used to say; not lucky for the fishin', I mean to say.' 'Why
ever not?' said Thomson. 'Well, I never see it myself,' was the answer,
'but they 'ad some funny ideas, what I mean, peculiar, them old chaps,
and I shouldn't wonder but what they made away with it theirselves.'

It was impossible to get anything clearer than this: the company, never
very voluble, fell silent, and when next someone spoke it was of village
affairs and crops. Mr Betts was the speaker.

Not every day did Thomson consult his health by taking a country walk.
One very fine afternoon found him busily writing at three o'clock. Then
he stretched himself and rose, and walked out of his room into the
passage. Facing him was another room, then the stair-head, then two more
rooms, one looking out to the back, the other to the south. At the south
end of the passage was a window, to which he went, considering with
himself that it was rather a shame to waste such a fine afternoon.
However, work was paramount just at the moment; he thought he would just
take five minutes off and go back to it, and those five minutes he would
employ--the Bettses could not possibly object--to looking at the other
rooms in the passage, which he had never seen. Nobody at all, it seemed,
was indoors; probably, as it was market day, they were all gone to the
town, except perhaps a maid in the bar. Very still the house was, and the
sun shone really hot; early flies buzzed in the window-panes. So he
explored. The room facing his own was undistinguished except for an old
print of Bury St Edmunds; the two next him on his side of the passage
were gay and clean, with one window apiece, whereas his had two. Remained
the south-west room, opposite to the last which he had entered. This was
locked; but Thomson was in a mood of quite indefensible curiosity, and
feeling confident that there could be no damaging secrets in a place so
easily got at, he proceeded to fetch the key of his own room, and when
that did not answer, to collect the keys of the other three. One of them
fitted, and he opened the door. The room had two windows looking south
and west, so it was as bright and the sun as hot upon it as could be.
Here there was no carpet, but bare boards; no pictures, no washing-stand,
only a bed, in the farther corner: an iron bed, with mattress and
bolster, covered with a bluish check counterpane. As featureless a room
as you can well imagine, and yet there was something that made Thomson
close the door very quickly and yet quietly behind him and lean against
the window-sill in the passage, actually quivering all over. It was this,
that under the counterpane someone lay, and not only lay, but stirred.
That it was some one and not some thing was certain, because the shape of
a head was unmistakable on the bolster; and yet it was all covered, and
no one lies with covered head but a dead person; and this was not dead,
not truly dead, for it heaved and shivered. If he had seen these things
in dusk or by the light of a flickering candle, Thomson could have
comforted himself and talked of fancy. On this bright day that was
impossible. What was to be done? First, lock the door at all costs. Very
gingerly he approached it and bending down listened, holding his breath;
perhaps there might be a sound of heavy breathing, and a prosaic
explanation. There was absolute silence. But as, with a rather tremulous
hand, he put the key into its hole and turned it, it rattled, and on the
instant a stumbling padding tread was heard coming towards the door.
Thomson fled like a rabbit to his room and locked himself in: futile
enough, he knew it was; would doors and locks be any obstacle to what he
suspected? but it was all he could think of at the moment, and in fact
nothing happened; only there was a time of acute suspense--followed by a
misery of doubt as to what to do. The impulse, of course, was to slip
away as soon as possible from a house which contained such an inmate. But
only the day before he had said he should be staying for at least a week
more, and how if he changed plans could he avoid the suspicion of having
pried into places where he certainly had no business? Moreover, either
the Bettses knew all about the inmate, and yet did not leave the house,
or knew nothing, which equally meant that there was nothing to be afraid
of, or knew just enough to make them shut up the room, but not enough to
weigh on their spirits: in any of these cases it seemed that not much was
to be feared, and certainly so far as he had had no sort of ugly
experience. On the whole the line of least resistance was to stay.

Well, he stayed out his week. Nothing took him past that door, and, often
as he would pause in a quiet hour of day or night in the passage and
listen, and listen, no sound whatever issued from that direction. You
might have thought that Thomson would have made some attempt at ferreting
out stories connected with the inn--hardly perhaps from Betts, but from
the parson of the parish, or old people in the village; but no, the
reticence which commonly falls on people who have had strange
experiences, and believe in them, was upon him. Nevertheless, as the end
of his stay drew near, his yearning after some kind of explanation grew
more and more acute. On his solitary walks he persisted in planning out
some way, the least obtrusive, of getting another daylight glimpse into
that room, and eventually arrived at this scheme. He would leave by an
afternoon train--about four o'clock. When his fly was waiting, and his
luggage on it, he would make one last expedition upstairs to look round
his own room and see if anything was left unpacked, and then, with that
key, which he had contrived to oil (as if that made any difference!), the
door should once more be opened, for a moment, and shut.

So it worked out. The bill was paid, the consequent small talk gone
through while the fly was loaded: 'pleasant part of the country--been
very comfortable, thanks to you and Mrs Betts--hope to come back some
time', on one side: on the other, 'very glad you've found satisfaction,
sir, done our best--always glad to 'ave your good word--very much
favoured we've been with the weather, to be sure.' Then, 'I'll just take
a look upstairs in case I've left a book or something out--no, don't
trouble, I'll be back in a minute.' And as noiselessly as possible he
stole to the door and opened it. The shattering of the illusion! He
almost laughed aloud. Propped, or you might say sitting, on the edge of
the bed was--nothing in the round world but a scarecrow! A scarecrow out
of the garden, of course, dumped into the deserted room...Yes; but here
amusement ceased. Have scarecrows bare bony feet? Do their heads loll on
to their shoulders? Have they iron collars and links of chain about their
necks? Can they get up and move, if never so stiffly, across a floor,
with wagging head and arms close at their sides? and shiver?

The slam of the door, the dash to the stair-head, the leap downstairs,
were followed by a faint. Awakening, Thomson saw Betts standing over him
with the brandy bottle and a very reproachful face. 'You shouldn't a done
so, sir, really you shouldn't. It ain't a kind way to act by persons as
done the best they could for you.' Thomson heard words of this kind, but
what he said in reply he did not know. Mr Betts, and perhaps even more
Mrs Betts, found it hard to accept his apologies and his assurances that
he would say no word that could damage the good name of the house.
However, they were accepted. Since the train could not now be caught, it
was arranged that Thomson should be driven to the town to sleep there.
Before he went the Bettses told him what little they knew. 'They says he
was landlord 'ere a long time back, and was in with the 'ighwaymen that
'ad their beat about the 'eath. That's how he come by his end: 'ung in
chains, they say, up where you see that stone what the gallus stood in.
Yes, the fishermen made away with that, I believe, because they see it
out at sea and it kep' the fish off, according to their idea. Yes, we 'ad
the account from the people that 'ad the 'ouse before we come. "You keep
that room shut up," they says, "but don't move the bed out, and you'll
find there won't be no trouble." And no more there 'as been; not once he
haven't come out into the 'ouse, though what he may do now there ain't no
sayin'. Anyway, you're the first I know on that's seen him since we've
been 'ere: I never set eyes on him myself, nor don't want. And ever since
we've made the servants' rooms in the stablin', we ain't 'ad no
difficulty that way. Only I do 'ope, sir, as you'll keep a close tongue,
considerin' 'ow an 'ouse do get talked about': with more to this effect.

The promise of silence was kept for many years. The occasion of my
hearing the story at last was this: that when Mr Thomson came to stay
with my father it fell to me to show him to his room, and instead of
letting me open the door for him, he stepped forward and threw it open
himself, and then for some moments stood in the doorway holding up his
candle and looking narrowly into the interior. Then he seemed to
recollect himself and said: 'I beg your pardon. Very absurd, but I can't
help doing that, for a particular reason.' What that reason was I heard
some days afterwards, and you have heard now.




18. THE ASH-TREE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

'Which may that be?' said Sir Richard.

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

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

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

Thus she spoke, and rustled after him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Richard looked up from the paper to the bookcase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


19. THE DIARY OF MR. POYNTER


The sale-room of an old and famous firm of book auctioneers in London
is, of course, a great meeting-place for collectors, librarians,
dealers: not only when an auction is in progress, but perhaps even
more notably when books that are coming on for sale are upon view. It
was in such a sale-room that the remarkable series of events began
which were detailed to me not many months ago by the person whom they
principally affected, namely, Mr. James Denton, M.A., F.S.A., etc.,
etc., some time of Trinity Hall, now, or lately, of Rendcomb Manor in
the county of Warwick.

He, on a certain spring day not many years since, was in London for a
few days upon business connected principally with the furnishing of
the house which he had just finished building at Rendcomb. It may be a
disappointment to you to learn that Rendcomb Manor was new; that I
cannot help. There had, no doubt, been an old house; but it was not
remarkable for beauty or interest. Even had it been, neither beauty
nor interest would have enabled it to resist the disastrous fire which
about a couple of years before the date of my story had razed it to
the ground. I am glad to say that all that was most valuable in it had
been saved, and that it was fully insured. So that it was with a
comparatively light heart that Mr. Denton was able to face the task of
building a new and considerably more convenient dwelling for himself
and his aunt who constituted his whole _ménage_.

Being in London, with time on his hands, and not far from the
sale-room at which I have obscurely hinted, Mr. Denton thought that he
would spend an hour there upon the chance of finding, among that
portion of the famous Thomas collection of MSS., which he knew to be
then on view, something bearing upon the history or topography of his
part of Warwickshire.

He turned in accordingly, purchased a catalogue and ascended to the
sale-room, where, as usual, the books were disposed in cases and some
laid out upon the long tables. At the shelves, or sitting about at the
tables, were figures, many of whom were familiar to him. He exchanged
nods and greetings with several, and then settled down to examine his
catalogue and note likely items. He had made good progress through
about two hundred of the five hundred lots--every now and then rising
to take a volume from the shelf and give it a cursory glance--when a
hand was laid on his shoulder, and he looked up. His interrupter was
one of those intelligent men with a pointed beard and a flannel shirt,
of whom the last quarter of the nineteenth century was, it seems to
me, very prolific.

It is no part of my plan to repeat the whole conversation which ensued
between the two. I must content myself with stating that it largely
referred to common acquaintances, e.g., to the nephew of Mr. Denton's
friend who had recently married and settled in Chelsea, to the
sister-in-law of Mr. Denton's friend who had been seriously
indisposed, but was now better, and to a piece of china which Mr.
Denton's friend had purchased some months before at a price much below
its true value. From which you will rightly infer that the
conversation was rather in the nature of a monologue. In due time,
however, the friend bethought himself that Mr. Denton was there for a
purpose, and said he, "What are you looking out for in particular? I
don't think there's much in this lot." "Why, I thought there might be
some Warwickshire collections, but I don't see anything under Warwick
in the catalogue." "No, apparently not," said the friend. "All the
same, I believe I noticed something like a Warwickshire diary. What
was the name again? Drayton? Potter? Painter--either a P or a D, I
feel sure." He turned over the leaves quickly. "Yes, here it is.
Poynter. Lot 486. That might interest you. There are the books, I
think: out on the table. Some one has been looking at them. Well, I
must be getting on. Good-bye, you'll look us up, won't you? Couldn't
you come this afternoon? We've got a little music about four. Well,
then, when you're next in town." He went off. Mr. Denton looked at his
watch and found to his confusion that he could spare no more than a
moment before retrieving his luggage and going for the train. The
moment was just enough to show him that there were four largish
volumes of the diary--that it concerned the years about 1710, and that
there seemed to be a good many insertions in it of various kinds. It
seemed quite worth while to leave a commission of five and twenty
pounds for it, and this he was able to do, for his usual agent entered
the room as he was on the point of leaving it.

That evening he rejoined his aunt at their temporary abode, which was
a small dower-house not many hundred yards from the Manor. On the
following morning the two resumed a discussion that had now lasted for
some weeks as to the equipment of the new house. Mr. Denton laid
before his relative a statement of the results of his visit to
town--particulars of carpets, of chairs, of wardrobes, and of bedroom
china. "Yes, dear," said his aunt, "but I don't see any chintzes here.
Did you go to ----?" Mr. Denton stamped on the floor (where else,
indeed, could he have stamped?). "Oh dear, oh dear," he said, "the one
thing I missed. I _am_ sorry. The fact is I was on my way there and I
happened to be passing Robins's." His aunt threw up her hands.
"Robins's! Then the next thing will be another parcel of horrible old
books at some outrageous price. I do think, James, when I am taking
all this trouble for you, you might contrive to remember the one or
two things which I specially begged you to see after. It's not as if I
was asking it for myself. I don't know whether you think I get any
pleasure out of it, but if so I can assure you it's very much the
reverse. The thought and worry and trouble I have over it you have no
idea of, and _you_ have simply to go to the shops and order the
things." Mr. Denton interposed a moan of penitence. "Oh, aunt----"
"Yes, that's all very well, dear, and I don't want to speak sharply,
but you _must_ know how very annoying it is: particularly as it delays
the whole of our business for I can't tell how long: here is
Wednesday--the Simpsons come to-morrow, and you can't leave them. Then
on Saturday we have friends, as you know, coming for tennis. Yes,
indeed, you spoke of asking them yourself, but, of course, I had to
write the notes, and it is ridiculous, James, to look like that. We
must occasionally be civil to our neighbours: you wouldn't like to
have it said we were perfect bears. What was I saying? Well, anyhow it
comes to this, that it must be Thursday in next week at least, before
you can go to town again, and until we have decided upon the chintzes
it is impossible to settle upon one single other thing."

Mr. Denton ventured to suggest that as the paint and wallpapers had
been dealt with, this was too severe a view: but this his aunt was
not prepared to admit at the moment. Nor, indeed, was there any
proposition he could have advanced which she would have found herself
able to accept. However, as the day went on, she receded a little from
this position: examined with lessening disfavour the samples and price
lists submitted by her nephew, and even in some cases gave a qualified
approval to his choice.

As for him, he was naturally somewhat dashed by the consciousness of
duty unfulfilled, but more so by the prospect of a lawn-tennis party,
which, though an inevitable evil in August, he had thought there was
no occasion to fear in May. But he was to some extent cheered by the
arrival on the Friday morning of an intimation that he had secured at
the price of £12 10s. the four volumes of Poynter's manuscript diary,
and still more by the arrival on the next morning of the diary itself.

The necessity of taking Mr. and Mrs. Simpson for a drive in the car on
Saturday morning and of attending to his neighbours and guests that
afternoon prevented him from doing more than open the parcel until the
party had retired to bed on the Saturday night. It was then that he
made certain of the fact, which he had before only suspected, that he
had indeed acquired the diary of Mr. William Poynter, Squire of
Acrington (about four miles from his own parish)--that same Poynter
who was for a time a member of the circle of Oxford antiquaries, the
centre of which was Thomas Hearne, and with whom Hearne seems
ultimately to have quarrelled--a not uncommon episode in the career of
that excellent man. As is the case with Hearne's own collections, the
diary of Poynter contained a good many notes from printed books,
descriptions of coins and other antiquities that had been brought to
his notice, and drafts of letters on these subjects, besides the
chronicle of everyday events. The description in the sale-catalogue
had given Mr. Denton no idea of the amount of interest which seemed to
lie in the book, and he sat up reading in the first of the four
volumes until a reprehensibly late hour.

On the Sunday morning, after church, his aunt came into the study and
was diverted from what she had been going to say to him by the sight
of the four brown leather quartos on the table. "What are these?" she
said suspiciously. "New, aren't they? Oh! are these the things that
made you forget my chintzes? I thought so. Disgusting. What did you
give for them, I should like to know? Over Ten Pounds? James, it is
really sinful. Well, if you have money to throw away on this kind of
thing, there _can_ be no reason why you should not subscribe--and
subscribe handsomely--to my anti-Vivisection League. There is not,
indeed, James, and I shall be very seriously annoyed if----. Who did
you say wrote them? Old Mr. Poynter, of Acrington? Well, of course,
there is some interest in getting together old papers about this
neighbourhood. But Ten Pounds!" She picked up one of the volumes--not
that which her nephew had been reading--and opened it at random,
dashing it to the floor the next instant with a cry of disgust as a
earwig fell from between the pages. Mr. Denton picked it up with a
smothered expletive and said, "Poor book! I think you're rather hard
on Mr. Poynter." "Was I, my dear? I beg his pardon, but you know I
cannot abide those horrid creatures. Let me see if I've done any
mischief." "No, I think all's well: but look here what you've opened
him on." "Dear me, yes, to be sure! how very interesting. Do unpin it,
James, and let me look at it."

It was a piece of patterned stuff about the size of the quarto page,
to which it was fastened by an old-fashioned pin. James detached it
and handed it to his aunt, carefully replacing the pin in the paper.

Now, I do not know exactly what the fabric was; but it had a design
printed upon it, which completely fascinated Miss Denton. She went
into raptures over it, held it against the wall, made James do the
same, that she might retire to contemplate it from a distance: then
pored over it at close quarters, and ended her examination by
expressing in the warmest terms her appreciation of the taste of the
ancient Mr. Poynter who had had the happy idea of preserving this
sample in his diary. "It is a most charming pattern," she said, "and
remarkable too. Look, James, how delightfully the lines ripple. It
reminds one of hair, very much, doesn't it. And then these knots of
ribbon at intervals. They give just the relief of colour that is
wanted. I wonder----" "I was going to say," said James with deference,
"I wonder if it would cost much to have it copied for our curtains."
"Copied? how could you have it copied, James?" "Well, I don't know the
details, but I suppose that is a printed pattern, and that you could
have a block cut from it in wood or metal." "Now, really, that is a
capital idea, James. I am almost inclined to be glad that you were
so--that you forgot the chintzes on Monday. At any rate, I'll promise
to forgive and forget if you get this _lovely_ old thing copied. No
one will have anything in the least like it, and mind, James, we won't
allow it to be sold. Now I _must_ go, and I've totally forgotten what
it was I came in to say: never mind, it'll keep."

After his aunt had gone James Denton devoted a few minutes to
examining the pattern more closely than he had yet had a chance of
doing. He was puzzled to think why it should have struck Miss Benton
so forcibly. It seemed to him not specially remarkable or pretty. No
doubt it was suitable enough for a curtain pattern: it ran in vertical
bands, and there was some indication that these were intended to
converge at the top. She was right, too, in thinking that these main
bands resembled rippling--almost curling--tresses of hair. Well, the
main thing was to find out by means of trade directories, or
otherwise, what firm would undertake the reproduction of an old
pattern of this kind. Not to delay the reader over this portion of
the story, a list of likely names was made out, and Mr. Denton fixed a
day for calling on them, or some of them, with his sample.

The first two visits which he paid were unsuccessful: but there is
luck in odd numbers. The firm in Bermondsey which was third on his
list was accustomed to handling this line. The evidence they were able
to produce justified their being entrusted with the job. "Our Mr.
Cattell" took a fervent personal interest in it. "It's 'eartrending,
isn't it, sir," he said, "to picture the quantity of reelly lovely
medeevial stuff of this kind that lays well-nigh unnoticed in many of
our residential country 'ouses: much of it in peril, I take it, of
being cast aside as so much rubbish. What is it Shakespeare
says--unconsidered trifles. Ah, I often say he 'as a word for us all,
sir. I say Shakespeare, but I'm well aware all don't 'old with me
there--I 'ad something of an upset the other day when a gentleman came
in--a titled man, too, he was, and I think he told me he'd wrote on
the topic, and I 'appened to cite out something about 'Ercules and the
painted cloth. Dear me, you never see such a pother. But as to this,
what you've kindly confided to us, it's a piece of work we shall take
a reel enthusiasm in achieving it out to the very best of our ability.
What man 'as done, as I was observing only a few weeks back to another
esteemed client, man can do, and in three to four weeks' time, all
being well, we shall 'ope to lay before you evidence to that effect,
sir. Take the address, Mr. 'Iggins, if you please."

Such was the general drift of Mr. Cattell's observations on the
occasion of his first interview with Mr. Denton. About a month later,
being advised that some samples were ready for his inspection, Mr.
Denton met him again, and had, it seems, reason to be satisfied with
the faithfulness of the reproduction of the design. It had been
finished off at the top in accordance with the indication I mentioned,
so that the vertical bands joined. But something still needed to be
done in the way of matching the colour of the original. Mr. Cattell
had suggestions of a technical kind to offer, with which I need not
trouble you. He had also views as to the general desirability of the
pattern which were vaguely adverse. "You say you don't wish this to be
supplied excepting to personal friends equipped with a authorization
from yourself, sir. It shall be done. I quite understand your wish to
keep it exclusive: lends it a catchit, does it not, to the suite?
What's every man's, it's been said, is no man's."

"Do you think it would be popular if it were generally obtainable?"
asked Mr. Denton.

"I 'ardly think it, sir," said Cattell, pensively clasping his beard.
"I 'ardly think it. Not popular: it wasn't popular with the man that
cut the block, was it, Mr. 'Iggins?"

"Did he find it a difficult job?"

"He'd no call to do so, sir; but the fact is that the artistic
temperament--and our men are artists, sir, every man of them--true
artists as much as many that the world styles by that term--it's apt
to take some strange 'ardly accountable likes or dislikes, and here
was an example. The twice or thrice that I went to inspect his
progress: language I could understand, for that's 'abitual to him, but
reel distaste for what I should call a dainty enough thing, I did not,
nor am I now able to fathom. It seemed," said Mr. Cattell, looking
narrowly upon Mr. Denton, "as if the man scented something almost
Hevil in the design."

"Indeed? did he tell you so? I can't say I see anything sinister in it
myself."

"Neether can I, sir. In fact I said as much. 'Come, Gatwick,' I said,
'what's to do here? What's the reason of your prejudice--for I can
call it no more than that?' But, no! no explanation was forthcoming.
And I was merely reduced, as I am now, to a shrug of the shoulders,
and a _cui bono_. However, here it is," and with that the technical
side of the question came to the front again.

The matching of the colours for the background, the hem, and the knots
of ribbon was by far the longest part of the business, and
necessitated many sendings to and fro of the original pattern and of
new samples. During part of August and September, too, the Dentons
were away from the Manor. So that it was not until October was well in
that a sufficient quantity of the stuff had been manufactured to
furnish curtains for the three or four bedrooms which were to be
fitted up with it.

On the feast of Simon and Jude the aunt and nephew returned from a
short visit to find all completed, and their satisfaction at the
general effect was great. The new curtains, in particular, agreed to
admiration with their surroundings. When Mr. Denton was dressing for
dinner, and took stock of his room, in which there was a large amount
of the chintz displayed, he congratulated himself over and over again
on the luck which had first made him forget his aunt's commission and
had then put into his hands this extremely effective means of
remedying his mistake. The pattern was, as he said at dinner, so
restful and yet so far from being dull. And Miss Denton--who, by the
way, had none of the stuff in her own room--was much disposed to agree
with him.

At breakfast next morning he was induced to qualify his satisfaction
to some extent--but very slightly. "There is one thing I rather
regret," he said, "that we allowed them to join up the vertical bands
of the pattern at the top. I think it would have been better to leave
that alone."

"Oh?" said his aunt interrogatively.

"Yes: as I was reading in bed last night they kept catching my eye
rather. That is, I found myself looking across at them every now and
then. There was an effect as if some one kept peeping out between the
curtains in one place or another, where there was no edge, and I think
that was due to the joining up of the bands at the top. The only other
thing that troubled me was the wind."

"Why, I thought it was a perfectly still night."

"Perhaps it was only on my side of the house, but there was enough to
sway my curtains and rustle them more than I wanted."

That night a bachelor friend of James Denton's came to stay, and was
lodged in a room on the same floor as his host, but at the end of a
long passage, halfway down which was a red baize door, put there to
cut off the draught and intercept noise.

The party of three had separated. Miss Denton a good first, the two
men at about eleven. James Denton, not yet inclined for bed, sat him
down in an arm-chair and read for a time. Then he dozed, and then he
woke, and bethought himself that his brown spaniel, which ordinarily
slept in his room, had not come upstairs with him. Then he thought he
was mistaken: for happening to move his hand which hung down over the
arm of the chair within a few inches of the floor, he felt on the back
of it just the slightest touch of a surface of hair, and stretching it
out in that direction he stroked and patted a rounded something. But
the feel of it, and still more the fact that instead of a responsive
movement, absolute stillness greeted his touch, made him look over
the arm. What he had been touching rose to meet him. It was in the
attitude of one that had crept along the floor on its belly, and it
was, so far as could be collected, a human figure. But of the face
which was now rising to within a few inches of his own no feature was
discernible, only hair. Shapeless as it was, there was about it so
horrible an air of menace that as he bounded from his chair and rushed
from the room he heard himself moaning with fear: and doubtless he did
right to fly. As he dashed into the baize door that cut the passage in
two, and--forgetting that it opened towards him--beat against it with
all the force in him, he felt a soft ineffectual tearing at his back
which, all the same, seemed to be growing in power, as if the hand, or
whatever worse than a hand was there, were becoming more material as
the pursuer's rage was more concentrated. Then he remembered the trick
of the door--he got it open--he shut it behind him--he gained his
friend's room, and that is all we need know.

It seems curious that, during all the time that had elapsed since the
purchase of Poynter's diary, James Denton should not have sought an
explanation of the presence of the pattern that had been pinned into
it. Well, he had read the diary through without finding it mentioned,
and had concluded that there was nothing to be said. But, on leaving
Rendcomb Manor (he did not know whether for good), as he naturally
insisted upon doing on the day after experiencing the horror I have
tried to put into words, he took the diary with him. And at his
seaside lodgings he examined more narrowly the portion whence the
pattern had been taken. What he remembered having suspected about it
turned out to be correct. Two or three leaves were pasted together,
but written upon, as was patent when they were held up to the light.
They yielded easily to steaming, for the paste had lost much of its
strength, and they contained something relevant to the pattern.

The entry was made in 1707.

     "Old Mr. Casbury, of Acrington, told me this day much of
     young Sir Everard Charlett, whom he remember'd Commoner of
     University College, and thought was of the same Family as
     Dr. Arthur Charlett, now master of ye Coll. This Charlett
     was a personable young gent., but a loose atheistical
     companion, and a great Lifter, as they then call'd the hard
     drinkers, and for what I know do so now. He was noted, and
     subject to severall censures at different times for his
     extravagancies: and if the full history of his debaucheries
     had bin known, no doubt would have been expell'd ye Coll.,
     supposing that no interest had been imploy'd on his behalf,
     of which Mr. Casbury had some suspicion. He was a very
     beautiful person, and constantly wore his own Hair, which
     was very abundant, from which, and his loose way of living,
     the cant name for him was Absalom, and he was accustom'd to
     say that indeed he believ'd he had shortened old David's
     days, meaning his father, Sir Job Charlett, an old worthy
     cavalier.

     "Note that Mr. Casbury said that he remembers not the year
     of Sir Everard Charlett's death, but it was 1692 or 3. He
     died suddenly in October. [Several lines describing his
     unpleasant habits and reputed delinquencies are omitted.]
     Having seen him in such topping spirits the night before,
     Mr. Casbury was amaz'd when he learn'd the death. He was
     found in the town ditch, the hair as was said pluck'd clean
     off his head. Most bells in Oxford rung out for him, being a
     nobleman, and he was buried next night in St. Peter's in the
     East. But two years after, being to be moved to his country
     estate by his successor, it was said the coffin, breaking by
     mischance, proved quite full of Hair: which sounds fabulous,
     but yet I believe precedents are upon record, as in Dr.
     Plot's _History of Staffordshire_.

     "His chambers being afterwards stripp'd, Mr. Casbury came by
     part of the hangings of it, which 'twas said this Charlett
     had design'd expressly for a memorial of his Hair, giving
     the Fellow that drew it a lock to work by, and the piece
     which I have fasten'd in here was parcel of the same, which
     Mr. Casbury gave to me. He said he believ'd there was a
     subtlety in the drawing, but had never discover'd it
     himself, nor much liked to pore upon it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The money spent upon the curtains might as well have been thrown into
the fire, as they were. Mr. Cattell's comment upon what he heard of
the story took the form of a quotation from Shakespeare. You may guess
it without difficulty. It began with the words "There are more
things."



20. THE EXPERIMENT


A NEW YEAR'S EVE GHOST STORY
(Full Directions will be found at the End)


The Reverend Dr Hall was in his study making up the entries for the year
in the parish register: it being his custom to note baptisms, weddings
and burials in a paper book as they occurred, and in the last days of
December to write them out fairly in the vellum book that was kept in the
parish chest.

To him entered his housekeeper, in evident agitation. 'Oh, sir,' said
she, 'whatever do you think? The poor Squire's gone!'

'The Squire? Squire Bowles? What are you talking about, woman? Why, only
yesterday--.'

'Yes, I know, sir, but it's the truth. Wickem, the clerk, just left word
on his way down to toll the bell--you'll hear it yourself in a minute.
There now, just listen.'

Sure enough the sound broke on the still night--not loud, for the Rectory
did not immediately adjoin the churchyard. Dr Hall rose hastily.

'Terrible, terrible,' he said. 'I must see them at the Hall at once. He
seemed so greatly better yesterday.' He paused. 'Did you hear any word of
the sickness having come this way at all? There was nothing said in
Norwich. It seems so sudden.'

'No, indeed, sir, no such thing. Just caught away with a choking in his
throat, Wickem says. It do make one feel--well, I'm sure I had to set
down as much as a minute or more, I come over that queer when I heard the
words--and by what I could understand they'll be asking for the burial
very quick. There's some can't bear the thought of the cold corpse laying
in the house, and--.'

'Yes: well, I must find out from Madam Bowles herself or Mr Joseph. Get
me my cloak, will you? Ah, and could you let Wickem know that I desire to
see him when the tolling is over?' He hurried off.


'In an hour's time he was back and found Wickem waiting for him. 'There
is work for you, Wickem,' he said, as he threw off his cloak, 'and not
overmuch time to do it in.'

'Yes, sir,' said Wickem, 'the vault to be opened to be sure--.'

'No, no, that's not the message I have. The poor Squire, they tell me,
charged them before now not to lay him in the chancel. It was to be an
earth grave in the yard, on the north side.' He stopped at an
inarticulate exclamation from the clerk. 'Well?' he said.

'I ask pardon, sir,' said Wickem in a shocked voice, 'but did I
understand you right? No vault, you say, and on the north side? Tt-tt-!
Why the poor gentleman must a been wandering.'

'Yes, it does seem strange to me, too,' said Dr Hall, 'but no, Mr Joseph
tells me it was his father's--I should say stepfather's--clear wish,
expressed more than once, and when he was in good health. Clean earth and
open air. You know, of course, the poor Squire had his fancies, though he
never spoke of this one to me. And there's another thing, Wickem. No
coffin.'

'Oh dear, dear, sir,' said Wickem, yet more shocked. 'Oh, but that'll
make sad talk, that will, and what a disappointment for Wright, too! I
know he'd looked out some beautiful wood for the Squire, and had it by
him years past.'

'Well, well, perhaps the family will make it up to Wright in some way,'
said the Rector, rather impatiently, 'but what you have to do is to get
the grave dug and all things in a readiness--torches from Wright you must
not forget--by ten o'clock tomorrow night. I don't doubt but there will
be somewhat coming to you for your pains and hurry.'

'Very well, sir, if those be the orders, I must do my best to carry them
out. And should I call in on my way down and send the women up to the
Hall to lay out the body, sir?'

'No: that, I think--I am sure--was not spoken of. Mr Joseph will send, no
doubt, if they are needed. No, you have enough without that. Good-night,
Wickem. I was making up the registers when this doleful news came. Little
had I thought to add such an entry to them as I must now.'


All things had been done in decent order. The torchlighted cortege had
passed from the Hall through the park, up the lime avenue to the top of
the knoll on which the church stood. All the village had been there, and
such neighbours as could be warned in the few hours available. There was
no great surprise at the hurry.

Formalities of law there were none then, and no one blamed the stricken
widow for hastening to lay her dead to rest. Nor did anyone look to see
her following in the funeral train. Her son Joseph--only issue of her
first marriage with a Calvert of Yorkshire--was the chief mourner.

There were, indeed, no kinsfolk on Squire Bowles's side who could have
been bidden. The will, executed at the time of the Squire's second
marriage, left everything to the widow.

And what was 'everything'? Land, house, furniture, pictures, plate were
all obvious. But there should have been accumulations in coin, and beyond
a few hundreds in the hands of agents--honest men and no embezzlers--cash
there was none. Yet Francis Bowles had for years received good rents and
paid little out. Nor was he a reputed miser; he kept a good table, and
money was always forthcoming for the moderate spendings of his wife and
stepson. Joseph Calvert had been maintained ungrudgingly at school and
college.


What, then, had he done with it all? No ransacking of the house brought
any secret hoard to light; no servant, old or young, had any tale to tell
of meeting the Squire in unexpected places at strange hours. No, Madam
Bowles and her son were fairly non-plussed. As they sat one evening in
the parlour discussing the problem for the twentieth time:

'You have been at his books and papers, Joseph, again today, haven't
you?'

'Yes, mother, and no forwarder.'

'What was it he would be writing at, and why was he always sending
letters to Mr Fowler at Gloucester?'

'Why, you know he had a maggot about the Middle State of the Soul. 'Twas
over that he and that other were always busy. The last thing he wrote
would be a letter that he never finished. I'll fetch it...Yes, the same
song over again.

'"Honoured friend,--I make some slow advance in our studies, but I know
not well how far to trust our authors. Here is one lately come my way who
will have it that for a time after death the soul is under control of
certain spirits, as Raphael, and another whom I doubtfully read as Nares;
but still so near to this state of life that on prayer to them he may be
free to come and disclose matters to the living. Come, indeed, he must,
if he be rightly called, the manner of which is set forth in an
experiment. But having come, and once opened his mouth, it may chance
that his summoner shall see and hear more than of the hid treasure which
it is likely he bargained for; since the experiment puts this in the
forefront of things to be enquired. But the eftest way is to send you the
whole, which herewith I do; copied from a book of recipes which I had of
good Bishop Moore."'

Here Joseph stopped, and made no comment, gazing on the paper. For more
than a minute nothing was said, then Madam Bowles, drawing her needle
through her work and looking at it, coughed and said, 'There was no more
written?'

'No, nothing, mother.'

'No? Well, it is strange stuff. Did ever you meet this Mr Fowler?'

'Yes, it might be once or twice, in Oxford, a civil gentleman enough.'

'Now I think of it,' said she, 'it would be but right to acquaint him
with--with what has happened: they were close friends. Yes, Joseph, you
should do that: you will know what should be said. And the letter is his,
after all.

'You are in the right, mother, and I'll not delay it.' And forthwith he
sat down to write.

From Norfolk to Gloucester was no quick transit. But a letter went, and a
larger packet came in answer; and there were more evening talks in the
panelled parlour at the Hall. At the close of one, these words were said:
'Tonight, then, if you are certain of yourself, go round by the field
path. Ay, and here is a cloth will serve.'

'What cloth is that, mother? A napkin?'

'Yes, of a kind: what matter?' So he went out by the way of the garden,
and she stood in the door, musing, with her hand on her mouth. Then the
hand dropped and she said half aloud: 'If only I had not been so hurried!
But it was the face cloth, sure enough.'

It was a very dark night, and the spring wind blew loud over the black
fields: loud enough to drown all sounds of shouting or calling. If
calling there was, there was no voice, nor any that answered, nor any
that regarded--yet.

Next morning, Joseph's mother was early in his chamber. 'Give me the
cloth,' she said, 'the maids must not find it. And tell me, tell me,
quick!'

Joseph, seated on the side of the bed with his head in his hands, looked
up at her with bloodshot eyes. 'We have opened his mouth,' he said. 'Why
in God's name did you leave his face bare?'

'How could I help it? You know how I was hurried that day? But do you
mean you saw it?'

Joseph only groaned and sunk his head in his hands again. Then, in a low
voice, 'He said you should see it, too.'

With a dreadful gasp she clutched at the bedpost and clung to it. 'Oh,
but he's angry,' Joseph went on. 'He was only biding his time, I'm sure.
The words were scarce out of my mouth when I heard like the snarl of a
dog in under there.' He got up and paced the room. 'And what can we do?
He's free! And I daren't meet him! I daren't take the drink and go where
he is! I daren't lie here another night. Oh, why did you do it? We could
have waited.'

'Hush,' said his mother: her lips were dry. ''Twas you, you know it, as
much as I. Besides, what use in talking? Listen to me: 'tis but six
o'clock. There's money to cross the water: such as they can't follow.
Yarmouth's not so far, and most night boats sail for Holland, I've
heard. See you to the horses. I can be ready.'

Joseph stared at her. 'What will they say here?'

'What? Why, cannot you tell the parson we have wind of property lying in
Amsterdam which we must claim or lose? Go, go; or if you are not man
enough for that, lie here again tonight.' He shivered and went.


That evening after dark a boatman lumbered into an inn on Yarmouth Quay,
where a man and a woman sat, with saddle-bags on the floor by them.

'Ready, are you, mistress and gentleman?' he said. 'She sails before the
hour, and my other passenger he's waitin' on the quay. Be there all your
baggage?' and he picked up the bags.

'Yes, we travel light,' said Joseph. 'And you have more company bound for
Holland?'

'Just the one,' said the boatman, 'and he seem to travel lighter yet.'

'Do you know him?' said Madam Bowles: she laid her hand on Joseph's arm,
and they both paused in the doorway.

'Why no, but for all he's hooded I'd know him again fast enough, he have
such a cur'ous way of speakin', and I doubt you'll find he know you, by
what he said. "Go you and fetch 'em out," he say, "and I'll wait on 'em
here," he say, and sure enough he's a-comin' this way now.'

Poisoning of a husband was petty treason then, and women guilty of it
were strangled at the stake and burnt. The Assize records of Norwich tell
of a woman so dealt with and of her son hanged thereafter, convict on
their own confession, made before the Rector of their parish, the name of
which I withhold, for there is still hid treasure to be found there.

Bishop Moore's book of recipes is now in the University Library at
Cambridge, marked Dd 11, 45, and on the leaf numbered 144 this is
written:

An experiment most ofte proved true, to find out tresure hidden in the
ground, theft, manslaughter, or anie other thynge. Go to the grave of a
ded man, and three tymes call hym by his nam at the hed of the grave, and
say. Thou, N., N., N., I coniure the, I require the, and I charge the, by
thi Christendome that thou takest leave of the Lord Raffael and Nares and
then askest leave this night to come and tell me trewlie of the tresure
that lyith hid in such a place. Then take of the earth of the grave at
the dead bodyes hed and knitt it in a lynnen clothe and put itt under thi
right eare and sleape theruppon: and wheresoever thou lyest or slepest,
that night he will come and tell thee trewlie in waking or sleping.



21. The Haunted Dolls' House


"I suppose you get stuff of that kind through your hands pretty often?"
said Mr. Dillet, as he pointed with his stick to an object which shall
be described when the time comes: and when he said it, he lied in his
throat, and knew that he lied. Not once in twenty years--perhaps not
once in a lifetime--could Mr. Chittenden, skilled as he was in ferreting
out the forgotten treasures of half a dozen counties, expect to handle
such a specimen. It was collectors' palaver, and Mr. Chittenden
recognized it as such.

"Stuff of that kind, Mr. Dillet! It's a museum piece, that is."

"Well, I suppose there are museums that'll take anything."

"I've seen one, not as good as that, years back," said Mr. Chittenden
thoughtfully. "But that's not likely to come into the market: and I'm
told they 'ave some fine ones of the period over the water. No: I'm only
telling you the truth, Mr. Dillet, when I was to say that if you was to
place an unlimited order with me for the very best that could be
got--and you know I 'ave facilities for getting to know of such things,
and a reputation to maintain--well, all I can say is, I should lead you
straight up to that one and say, 'I can't do no better for you than
that, sir.'"

"Hear, hear!" said Mr. Dillet, applauding ironically with the end of his
stick on the floor of the shop. "How much are you sticking the innocent
American buyer for it, eh?"

"Oh, I shan't be over hard on the buyer, American or otherwise. You see,
it stands this way, Mr. Dillet--if I knew just a bit more about the
pedigree--"

"Or just a bit less," Mr. Dillet put in.

"Ha, ha! you will have your joke, sir. No, but as I was saying, if I
knew just a little more than what I do about the piece--though anyone
can see for themselves it's a genuine thing, every last corner of it,
and there's not been one of my men allowed to so much as touch it since
it came into the shop--there'd be another figure in the price I'm
asking."

"And what's that: five and twenty?"

"Multiply that by three and you've got it, sir. Seventy-five's my
price."

"And fifty's mine," said Mr. Dillet. The point of agreement was, of
course, somewhere between the two, it does not matter exactly where--I
think sixty guineas. But half an hour later the object was being packed,
and within an hour Mr. Dillet had called for it in his car and driven
away. Mr. Chittenden, holding the cheque in his hand, saw him off from
the door with smiles, and returned, still smiling, into the parlour
where his wife was making the tea. He stopped at the door.

"It's gone," he said. "Thank God for that!" said Mrs. Chittenden,
putting down the teapot. "Mr. Dillet, was it?"

"Yes, it was."

"Well, I'd sooner it was him than another." "Oh, I don't know; he ain't
a bad feller, my dear."

"Maybe not, but in my opinion he'd be none the worse for a bit of a
shake up."

"Well, if that's your opinion, it's my opinion he's put himself into the
way of getting one. Anyhow, we shan't have no more of it, and that's
something to be thankful for." And so Mr. and Mrs. Chittenden sat down
to tea.

And what of Mr. Dillet and his new acquisition? What it was, the title
of this story will have told you. What it was like, I shall have to
indicate as well as I can.

There was only just enough room for it in the car, and Mr. Dillet had to
sit with the driver: he had also to go slow, for though the rooms of the
Dolls' House had all been stuffed carefully with soft cottonwool,
jolting was to be avoided, in view of the immense number of small
objects which thronged them; and the ten-mile drive was an anxious time
for him, in spite of all the precautions he insisted upon. At last his
front door was reached, and Collins, the butler, came out.

"Look here, Collins, you must help me with this thing--it's a delicate
job. We must get it out upright, see? It's full of little things that
mustn't be displaced more than we can help. Let's see, where shall we
have it? (After a pause for consideration.) Really, I think I shall have
to put it in my own room, to begin with at any rate. On the big
table--that's it."

It was conveyed--with much talking--to Mr. Dillet's spacious room on the
first floor, looking out on the drive. The sheeting was unwound from it,
and the front thrown open, and for the next hour or two Mr.. Dillet was
fully occupied in extracting the padding and setting in order the
contents of the rooms.

When this thoroughly congenial task was finished, I must say that it
would have been difficult to find a more perfect and attractive specimen
of a Dolls' House in Strawberry Hill Gothic than that which now stood on
Mr. Dillet's large kneehole table, lighted up by the evening sun which
came slanting through three tall slash-windows.

It was quite six feet long, including the Chapel or Oratory which
flanked the front on the left as you faced it, and the stable on the
right. The main block of the house was, as I have said, in the Gothic
manner: that is to say, the windows had pointed arches and were
surmounted by what are called ogival hoods, with crockets and finials
such as we see on the canopies of tombs built into church walls. At the
angles were absurd turrets covered with arched panels. The Chapel had
pinnacles and buttresses, and a bell in the turret and coloured glass in
the windows. When the front of the house was open you saw four large
rooms, bedroom, dining-room, drawing-room and kitchen, each with its
appropriate furniture in a very complete state.

The stable on the right was in two storeys, with its proper complement
of horses, coaches and grooms, and with its clock and Gothic cupola for
the clock bell.

Pages, of course, might be written on the outfit of the mansion--how
many frying-pans, how many gilt chairs, what pictures, carpets,
chandeliers, four-posters, table linen, glass, crockery and plate it
possessed; but all this must be left to the imagination. I will only say
that the base or plinth on which the house stood (for it was fitted with
one of some depth which allowed of a flight of steps to the front door
and a terrace, partly balustraded) contained a shallow drawer or drawers
in which were neatly stored sets of embroidered curtains, changes of
raiment for the inmates, and, in short, all the materials for an
infinite series of variations and refittings of the most absorbing and
delightful kind.

"Quintessence of Horace Walpole, that's what it is: he must have had
something to do with the making of it." Such was Mr. Dillet's murmured
reflection as he knelt before it in a reverent ecstasy. "Simply
wonderful! this is my day and no mistake. Five hundred pounds coming in
this morning for that cabinet which I never cared about, and now this
tumbling into my hands for a tenth, at the very most, of what it would
fetch in town. Well, well! It almost makes one afraid something'll
happen to counter it. Let's have a look at the population, anyhow."

Accordingly, he set them before him in a row. Again, here is an
opportunity, which some would snatch at, of making an inventory of
costume: I am incapable of it.

There were a gentleman and lady, in blue satin and brocade respectively.
There were two children, a boy and a girl. There was a cook, a nurse, a
footman, and there were the stable servants, two postilions, a coachman,
two grooms.

"Anyone else? Yes, possibly."

The curtains of the four-poster in the bedroom were closely drawn round
all four sides of it, and he put his finger in between them and felt in
the bed. He drew the finger back hastily, for it almost seemed to him as
if something had--not stirred, perhaps, but yielded--in an odd live way
as he pressed it. Then he put back the curtains, which ran on rods in
the proper manner, and extracted from the bed a white-haired old
gentleman in a long linen night-dress and cap, and laid him down by the
rest. The tale was complete.

Dinner-time was now near, so Mr. Dillet spent but five minutes in
putting the lady and children into the drawing-room, the gentleman into
the dining-room, the servants into the kitchen and stables, and the old
man back into his bed. He retired into his dressing-room next door, and
we see and hear no more of him until something like eleven o'clock at
night.

His whim was to sleep surrounded by some of the gems of his collection..The
big room in which we have seen him contained his bed: bath,
wardrobe, and all the appliances of dressing were in a commodious room
adjoining: but his four-poster, which itself was a valued treasure,
stood in the large room where he sometimes wrote, and often sat, and
even received visitors. To-night he repaired to it in a highly
complacent frame of mind.

There was no striking clock within earshot--none on the staircase, none
in the stable, none in the distant church tower. Yet it is indubitable
that Mr. Dillet was started out of a very pleasant slumber by a bell
tolling One.

He was so much startled that he did not merely lie breathless with
wide-open eyes, but actually sat up in his bed.

He never asked himself, till the morning hours, how it was that, though
there was no light at all in the room, the Dolls' House on the kneehole
table stood out with complete clearness. But it was so. The effect was
that of a bright harvest moon shining full on the front of a big white
stone mansion--a quarter of a mile away it might be, and yet every
detail was photographically sharp. There were trees about it, too--trees
rising behind the chapel and the house. He seemed to be conscious of the
scent of a cool still September night. He thought he could hear an
occasional stamp and clink from the stables, as of horses stirring. And
with another shock he realized that, above the house, he was looking,
not at the wall of his room with its pictures, but into the profound
blue of a night sky.

There were lights, more than one, in the windows, and he quickly saw
that this was no four-roomed house with a movable front, but one of many
rooms and staircases--a real house, but seen as if through the wrong end
of a telescope.

"You mean to show me something," he muttered to himself, and he gazed
earnestly on the lighted windows. They would in real life have been
shuttered or curtained, no doubt, he thought; but, as it was, there was
nothing to intercept his view of what was being transacted inside the
rooms.

Two rooms were lighted--one on the ground floor to the right of the
door, one upstairs, on the left--the first brightly enough, the other
rather dimly. The lower room was the dining-room: a table was laid, but
the meal was over, and only wine and glasses were left on the table. The
man of the blue satin and the woman of the brocade were alone in the
room, and they were talking very earnestly, seated close together at the
table, their elbows on it: every now and again stopping to listen, as it
seemed.. Once he rose, came to the window and opened it and put his head
out and his hand to his ear. There was a lighted taper in a silver
candlestick on a sideboard.. When the man left the window he seemed to
leave the room also; and the lady, taper in hand, remained standing and
listening. The expression on her face was that of one striving her
utmost to keep down a fear that threatened to master her--and
succeeding. It was a hateful face, too; broad, flat and sly. Now the man
came back and she took some small thing from him and hurried out of the
room. He, too, disappeared, but only for a moment or two. The front door
slowly opened and he stepped out and stood on the top of the perron,
looking this way and that; then turned towards the upper window that was
lighted, and shook his fist.

It was time to look at that upper window. Through it was seen a
four-post bed: a nurse or other servant in an arm-chair, evidently sound
asleep; in the bed an old man lying: awake, and, one would say, anxious,
from the way in which he shifted about and moved his fingers, beating
tunes on the coverlet. Beyond the bed a door opened. Light was seen on
the ceiling, and the lady came in: she set down her candle on a table,
came to the fireside and roused the nurse. In her hand she had an
old-fashioned wine bottle, ready uncorked. The nurse took it, poured
some of the contents into a little silver saucepan, added some spice and
sugar from casters on the table, and set it to warm on the fire.
Meanwhile the old man in the bed beckoned feebly to the lady, who came
to him, smiling, took his wrist as if to feel his pulse, and bit her lip
as if in consternation. He looked at her anxiously, and then pointed to
the window, and spoke. She nodded, and did as the man below had done;
opened the casement and listened--perhaps rather ostentatiously: then
drew in her head and shook it, looking at the old man, who seemed to
sigh.

By this time the posset on the fire was steaming, and the nurse poured
it into a small two-handled silver bowl and brought it to the bedside.
The old man seemed disinclined for it and was waving it away, but the
lady and the nurse together bent over him and evidently pressed it upon
him. He must have yielded, for they supported him into a sitting
position, and put it to his lips. He drank most of it, in several
draughts, and they laid him down. The lady left the room, smiling good
night to him, and took the bowl, the bottle and the silver saucepan with
her. The nurse returned to the chair, and there was an interval of
complete quiet.

Suddenly the old man started up in his bed--and he must have uttered
some cry, for the nurse started out of her chair and made but one step
of it to the bedside. He was a sad and terrible sight--flushed in the
face, almost to blackness, the eyes glaring whitely, both hands
clutching at his heart, foam at his lips. For a moment the nurse left
him, ran to the door, flung it wide open, and, one supposes, screamed
aloud for help, then darted back to the bed and seemed to try feverishly
to soothe him--to lay him down--anything. But as the lady, her husband,
and several servants, rushed into the room with horrified faces, the old
man collapsed under the nurse's hands and lay back, and his features,
contorted with agony and rage, relaxed slowly into calm.

A few moments later, lights showed out to the left of the house, and a
coach with flambeaux drove up to the door. A white-wigged man in black
got nimbly out and ran up the steps, carrying a small leather
trunk-shaped box. He was met in the doorway by the man and his wife, she
with her handkerchief clutched between her hands, he with a tragic face,
but retaining his self-control. They led the new-comer into the
dining-room, where he set his box of papers on the table, and, turning
to them, listened with a face of consternation at what they had to tell.
He nodded his head again and again, threw out his hands slightly,
declined, it seemed, offers of refreshment and lodging for the night,
and within a few minutes came slowly down the steps, entering the coach
and driving off the way he had come. As the man in blue watched him from
the top of the steps, a smile not pleasant to see stole slowly over his
fat white face. Darkness fell over the whole scene as the lights of the
coach disappeared.

But Mr. Dillet remained sitting up in the bed: he had rightly guessed
that there would be a sequel. The house front glimmered out again before
long. But now there was a difference. The lights were in other windows,
one at the top of the house, the other illuminating the range of
coloured windows of the chapel. How he saw through these is not quite
obvious, but he did. The interior was as carefully furnished as the rest
of the establishment, with its minute red cushions on the desks, its
Gothic stall-canopies, and its western gallery and pinnacled organ with
gold pipes. On the centre of the black and white pavement was a bier:
four tall candles burned at the corners. On the bier was a coffin
covered with a pall of black velvet.

As he looked the folds of the pall stirred. It seemed to rise at one
end: it slid downwards: it fell away, exposing the black coffin with its
silver handles and name-plate. One of the tall candlesticks swayed and
toppled over. Ask no more, but turn, as Mr. Dillet hastily did, and look
in at the lighted window at the top of the house, where a boy and girl
lay in two truckle-beds, and a four-poster for the nurse rose above
them. The nurse was not visible for the moment; but the father and
mother were there, dressed now in mourning, but with very little sign of
mourning in their demeanour. Indeed, they were laughing and talking with
a good deal of animation, sometimes to each other, and sometimes
throwing a remark to one or other of the children, and again laughing at
the answers. Then the father was seen to go on tiptoe out of the room,
taking with him as he went a white garment that hung on a peg near the
door. He shut the door after him. A minute or two later it was slowly
opened again, and a muffled head poked round it. A bent form of sinister
shape stepped across to the truckle-beds, and suddenly stopped, threw up
its arms and revealed, of course, the father, laughing. The children
were in agonies of terror, the boy with the bedclothes over his head,
the girl throwing herself out of bed into her mother's arms. Attempts at
consolation followed--the parents took the children on their laps,
patted them, picked up the white gown and showed there was no harm in
it, and so forth; and at last putting the children back into bed, left
the room with encouraging waves of the hand. As they left it, the nurse
came in, and soon the light died down.

Still Mr. Dillet watched immovable.

A new sort of light--not of lamp or candle--a pale ugly light, began to
dawn around the door-case at the back of the room. The door was opening
again. The seer does not like to dwell upon what he saw entering the
room: he says it might be described as a frog--the size of a man--but it
had scanty white hair about its head. It was busy about the
truckle-beds, but not for long. The sound of cries--faint, as if coming
out of a vast distance--but, even so, infinitely appalling, reached the
ear.

There were signs of a hideous commotion all over the house: lights moved
along and up, and doors opened and shut, and running figures passed
within the windows. The clock in the stable turret tolled one, and
darkness fell again.

It was only dispelled once more, to show the house front. At the bottom
of the steps dark figures were drawn up in two lines, holding flaming
torches. More dark figures came down the steps, bearing, first one, then
another small coffin. And the lines of torch-bearers with the coffins
between them moved silently onward to the left.

The hours of night passed on--never so slowly, Mr. Dillet thought.
Gradually he sank down from sitting to lying in his bed--but he did not
close an eye: and early next morning he sent for the doctor.

The doctor found him in a disquieting state of nerves, and recommended
sea-air. To a quiet place on the East Coast he accordingly repaired by
easy stages in his car.

One of the first people he met on the sea front was Mr. Chittenden, who,
it appeared, had likewise been advised to take his wife away for a bit
of a change.

Mr. Chittenden looked somewhat askance upon him when they met: and not
without cause.

"Well, I don't wonder at you being a bit upset, Mr. Dillet. What? yes,
well, I might say 'orrible upset, to be sure, seeing what me and my poor
wife went through ourselves. But I put it to you, Mr. Dillet, one of two
things: was I going to scrap a lovely piece like that on the one 'and,
or was I going to tell customers: 'I'm selling you a regular
picture-palace-dramar in reel life of the olden time, billed to perform
regular at one o'clock a.m.'? Why, what would you 'ave said yourself?
And next thing you know, two Justices of the Peace in the back parlour,
and pore Mr. and Mrs. Chittenden off in a spring cart to the County
Asylum and everyone in the street saying, 'Ah, I thought it 'ud come to
that. Look at the way the man drank!'--and me next door, or next door
but one, to a total abstainer, as you know. Well, there was my position.
What? Me 'ave it back in the shop? Well, what do you think? No, but I'll
tell you what I will do. You shall have your money back, bar the ten
pound I paid for it, and you make what you can."

Later in the day, in what is offensively called the "smoke-room" of the
hotel, a murmured conversation between the two went on for some time.

"How much do you really know about that thing, and where it came from?"

"Honest, Mr. Dillet, I don't know the 'ouse. Of course, it came out of
the lumber room of a country 'ouse--that anyone could guess. But I'll go
as far as say this, that I believe it's not a hundred miles from this
place. Which direction and how far I've no notion. I'm only judging by
guess-work. The man as I actually paid the cheque to ain't one of my
regular men, and I've lost sight of him; but I 'ave the idea that this
part of the country was his beat, and that's every word I can tell you.
But now, Mr. Dillet, there's one thing that rather physicks me. That old
chap--I suppose you saw him drive up to the door--I thought so: now,
would he have been the medical man, do you take it? My wife would have
it so, but I stuck to it that was the lawyer, because he had papers with
him, and one he took out was folded up."

"I agree," said Mr. Dillet. "Thinking it over, I came to the conclusion
that was the old man's will, ready to be signed."

"Just what I thought," said Mr. Chittenden, "and I took it that will
would have cut out the young people, eh? Well, well! It's been a lesson
to me, I know that. I shan't buy no more dolls' houses, nor waste no
more money on the pictures--and as to this business of poisonin'
grandpa, well, if I know myself, I never 'ad much of a turn for that.
Live and let live: that's bin my motto throughout life, and I ain't
found it a bad one."

Filled with these elevated sentiments, Mr. Chittenden retired to his
lodgings. Mr. Dillet next day repaired to the local Institute, where he
hoped to find some clue to the riddle that absorbed him. He gazed in
despair at a long file of the Canterbury and York Society's publications
of the Parish Registers of the District. No print resembling the house
of his nightmare was among those that hung on the staircase and in the
passages. Disconsolate, he found himself at last in a derelict room,
staring at a dusty model of a church in a dusty glass case: Model of St.
Stephen's Church, Coxham. Presented by J. Merewether, Esq., of Ilbridge
House, 1877. The work of his ancestor James Merewether, d.. 1786. There
was something in the fashion of it that reminded him dimly of his
horror. He retraced his steps to a wall map he had noticed, and made out
that Ilbridge House was in Coxham Parish. Coxham was, as it happened,
one of the parishes of which he had retained the name when he glanced
over the file of printed registers, and it was not long before he found
in them the record of the burial of Roger Milford, aged 76, on the 11th
of September, 1757, and of Roger and Elizabeth Merewether, aged 9 and 7,
on the 19th of the same month. It seemed worth while to follow up this
clue, frail as it was; and in the afternoon he drove out to Coxham. The
east end of the north aisle of the church is a Milford chapel, and on
its north wall are tablets to the same persons; Roger, the elder, it
seems, was distinguished by all the qualities which adorn "the Father,
the Magistrate and the Man": the memorial was erected by his attached
daughter Elizabeth, "who did not long survive the loss of a parent ever
solicitous for her welfare, and of two amiable children." The last
sentence was plainly an addition to the original inscription.

A yet later slab told of James Merewether, husband of Elizabeth, "who in
the dawn of life practised, not without success, those arts which, had
he continued their exercise, might in the opinion of the most competent
judges have earned for him the name of the British Vitruvius: but who,
overwhelmed by the visitation which deprived him of an affectionate
partner and a blooming offspring, passed his Prime and Age in a secluded
yet elegant Retirement: his grateful Nephew and Heir indulges a pious
sorrow by this too brief recital of his excellences."

The children were more simply commemorated. Both died on the night of
the 12th of September.

Mr. Dillet felt sure that in Ilbridge House he had found the scene of
his drama. In some old sketchbook, possibly in some old print, he may
yet find convincing evidence that he is right. But the Ilbridge House of
today is not that which he sought; it is an Elizabethan erection of the
forties, in red brick with stone quoins and dressings. A quarter of a
mile from it, in a low part of the park, backed by ancient, staghorned,
ivy-strangled trees and thick undergrowth, are marks of a terraced
platform overgrown with rough grass. A few stone balusters lie here and
there, and a heap or two, covered with nettles and ivy, of wrought
stones with badly-carved crockets. This, someone told Mr. Dillet, was
the site of an older house.

As he drove out of the village, the hall clock struck four, and Mr.
Dillet started up and clapped his hands to his ears. It was not the
first time he had heard that bell.

Awaiting an offer from the other side of the Atlantic, the dolls' house
still reposes, carefully sheeted, in a loft over Mr. Dillet's stables,
whither Collins conveyed it on the day when Mr. Dillet started for the
sea coast.

[It will be said, perhaps, and not unjustly, that this is no more than a
variation on a former story of mine called The Mezzotint. I can only
hope that there is enough of variation in the setting to make the
repetition of the motif tolerable.]




22. THE MALICE OF INANIMATE OBJECTS


The Malice of Inanimate Objects is a subject upon which an old friend of
mine was fond of dilating, and not without justification. In the lives
of all of us, short or long, there have been days, dreadful days, on
which we have had to acknowledge with gloomy resignation that our world
has turned against us. I do not mean the human world of our relations
and friends: to enlarge on that is the province of nearly every modern
novelist. In their books it is called 'Life' and an odd enough harsh it
is as they portray it. No, it is the world of things that do not speak
or work or hold congresses and conferences. It includes such beings as
the collar stud, the inkstand, the fire, the razor, and, as age
increases, the extra step on the staircase which leads you either to
expect or not to expect it. By these and such as these (for I have named
but the merest fraction of them) the word is passed round, and the day
of misery arranged. Is the tale still remembered of how the Cock and Hen
went to pay a visit to Squire Korbes? How on the journey they met with
and picked up a number of associates, encouraging each with the
announcement:

To Squire Korbes we are going For a visit is owing.

Thus they secured the company of the Needle, the Egg, the Duck, the Cat,
possibly--for memory is a little treacherous here--and finally the
Millstone: and when it was discovered that Squire Korbes was for the
moment out, they took up positions in his mansion and awaited his
return. He did return, wearied no doubt by a day's work among his
extensive properties. His nerves were first jarred by the raucous cry of
the Cock. He threw himself into his armchair and was lacerated by the
Needle. He went to the sink for a refreshing wash and was splashed all
over by the Duck. Attempting to dry himself with the towel he broke the
Egg upon his face.

He suffered other indignities from the Hen and her accomplices, which I
cannot now recollect, and finally, maddened with pain and fear, rushed
out by the back door and had his brains dashed out by the Millstone that
had perched itself in the appropriate place. 'Truly,' in the concluding
words of the story, 'this Squire Korbes must have been either a very
wicked or a very unfortunate man.' It is the latter alternative which I
incline to accept. There is nothing in the preliminaries to show that
any slur rested on his name, or that his visitors had any injury to
avenge. And will not this narrative serve as a striking example of that
Malice of which I have taken upon me to treat? It is, I know, the fact
that Squire Korbes's visitors were not all of them, strictly speaking,
inanimate. But are we sure that the perpetrators of this Malice are
really inanimate either? There are tales which seem to justify a doubt.


Two men of mature years were seated in a pleasant garden after
breakfast. One was reading the day's paper, the other sat with folded
arms, plunged in thought, and on his face were a piece of sticking
plaster and lines of care. His companion lowered his paper. 'What,' said
he, 'is the matter with you? The morning is bright, the birds are
singing, I can hear no aeroplanes or motor bikes.'

'No,' replied Mr Burton, 'it is nice enough, I agree, but I have a bad
day before me. I cut myself shaving and spilt my tooth powder.'

'Ah,' said Mr Manners, 'some people have all the luck,' and with this
expression of sympathy he reverted to his paper. 'Hullo,' he exclaimed,
after a moment, 'here's George Wilkins dead! You won't have any more
bother with him, anyhow.'

'George Wilkins?' said Mr Burton, more than a little excitedly, 'Why, I
didn't even know he was ill.'

'No more he was, poor chap. Seems to have thrown up the sponge and put
an end to himself. Yes,' he went on, 'it's some days back: this is the
inquest. Seemed very much worried and depressed, they say. What about, I
wonder?

'Could it have been that will you and he were having a row about?'

'Row?' said Mr Burton angrily, 'there was no row: he hadn't a leg to
stand on: he couldn't bring a scrap of evidence. No, it may have been
half-a-dozen things: but Lord! I never imagined he'd take anything so
hard as that.'

'I don't know,' said Mr Manners, 'he was a man, I thought, who did take
things hard: they rankled. Well, I'm sorry, though I never saw much of
him. He must have gone through a lot to make him cut his throat. Not the
way I should choose, by a long sight. Ugh! Lucky he hadn't a family,
anyhow. Look here, what about a walk round before lunch? I've an errand
in the village.'

Mr Burton assented rather heavily. He was perhaps reluctant to give the
inanimate objects of the district a chance of getting at him. If so, he
was right. He just escaped a nasty purl over the scraper at the top of
the steps: a thorny branch swept off his hat and scratched his fingers,
and as they climbed a grassy slope he fairly leapt into the air with a
cry and came down flat on his face. 'What in the world?' said his friend
coming up. 'A great string, of all things! What business--Oh, I
see--belongs to that kite' (which lay on the grass a little farther up).
'Now if I can find out what little beast has left that kicking about,
I'll let him have it--or rather I won't, for he shan't see his kite
again. It's rather a good one, too.' As they approached, a puff of wind
raised the kite and it seemed to sit up on its end and look at them with
two large round eyes painted red, and, below them, three large printed
red letters, I.C.U. Mr Manners was amused and scanned the device with
care. 'Ingenious,' he said, 'it's a bit off a poster, of course: I see!
Full Particulars, the word was.' Mr Burton on the other hand was not
amused, but thrust his stick through the kite. Mr Manners was inclined to
regret this. 'I dare say it serves him right,' he said, 'but he'd taken a
lot of trouble to make it.'

'Who had?' said Mr Burton sharply. 'Oh, I see, you mean the boy.'

'Yes, to be sure, who else? But come on down now: I want to leave a
message before lunch.' As they turned a corner into the main street, a
rather muffled and choky voice was heard to say 'Look out! I'm coming.'
They both stopped as if they had been shot.

'Who was that?' said Manners. 'Blest if I didn't think I knew'--then,
with almost a yell of laughter he pointed with his stick. A cage with a
grey parrot in it was hanging in an open window across the way. 'I was
startled, by George: it gave you a bit of a turn, too, didn't it?' Burton
was inaudible. 'Well, I shan't be a minute: you can go and make friends
with the bird.' But when he rejoined Burton, that unfortunate was not, it
seemed, in trim for talking with either birds or men; he was some way
ahead and going rather quickly. Manners paused for an instant at the
parrot window and then hurried on laughing more than ever. 'Have a good
talk with Polly?' said he, as he came up.

'No, of course not,' said Burton, testily. 'I didn't bother about the
beastly thing.'

'Well, you wouldn't have got much out of her if you'd tried,' said
Manners. 'I remembered after a bit; they've had her in the window for
years: she's stuffed.' Burton seemed about to make a remark, but
suppressed it.

Decidedly this was not Burton's day out. He choked at lunch, he broke a
pipe, he tripped in the carpet, he dropped his book in the pond in the
garden. Later on he had or professed to have a telephone call summoning
him back to town next day and cutting short what should have been a
week's visit. And so glum was he all the evening that Manners'
disappointment in losing an ordinarily cheerful companion was not very
sharp.

At breakfast Mr Burton said little about his night: but he did intimate
that he thought of looking in on his doctor. 'My hand's so shaky,' he
said, 'I really daren't shave this morning.'

'Oh, I'm sorry,' said Mr Manners, 'my man could have managed that for
you: but they'll put you right in no time.'

Farewells were said. By some means and for some reason Mr Burton
contrived to reserve a compartment to himself. (The train was not of the
corridor type.) But these precautions avail little against the angry
dead.

I will not put dots or stars, for I dislike them, but I will say that
apparently someone tried to shave Mr Burton in the train, and did not
succeed overly well. He was however satisfied with what he had done, if
we may judge from the fact that on a once white napkin spread on Mr
Burton's chest was an inscription in red letters: GEO. W. FECI.

Do not these facts--if facts they are--bear out my suggestion that there
is something not inanimate behind the Malice of Inanimate Objects? Do
they not further suggest that when this malice begins to show itself we
should be very particular to examine and if possible rectify any
obliquities in our recent conduct? And do they not, finally, almost force
upon us the conclusion that, like Squire Korbes, Mr Burton must have been
either a very wicked or a singularly unfortunate man?






23. THE MEZZOTINT


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

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

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

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

    Dear Sir,

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

    Yours faithfully,

    J. W. Britnell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What's this place, Williams?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Williams had not noticed it before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Moonlight? You're sure of that?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Not a thing.'

'You'll swear to that?'

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

'What?'

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

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

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

'What can it all mean?' said Nisbet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



24. THE RESIDENCE AT WHITMINSTER


Dr. Ashton--Thomas Ashton, Doctor of Divinity--sat in his study,
habited in a dressing-gown, and with a silk cap on his shaven
head--his wig being for the time taken off and placed on its block on
a side table. He was a man of some fifty-five years, strongly made, of
a sanguine complexion, an angry eye, and a long upper lip. Face and
eye were lighted up at the moment when I picture him by the level ray
of an afternoon sun that shone in upon him through a tall sash window,
giving on the west. The room into which it shone was also tall, lined
with book-cases, and, where the wall showed between them, panelled. On
the table near the doctor's elbow was a green cloth, and upon it what
he would have called a silver standish--a tray with inkstands--quill
pens, a calf-bound book or two, some papers, a churchwarden pipe and
brass tobacco-box, a flask cased in plaited straw, and a liqueur
glass. The year was 1730, the month December, the hour somewhat past
three in the afternoon.

I have described in these lines pretty much all that a superficial
observer would have noted when he looked into the room. What met Dr.
Ashton's eye when he looked out of it, sitting in his leather
arm-chair? Little more than the tops of the shrubs and fruit-trees of
his garden could be seen from that point, but the red brick wall of it
was visible in almost all the length of its western side. In the
middle of that was a gate--a double gate of rather elaborate iron
scroll-work, which allowed something of a view beyond. Through it he
could see that the ground sloped away almost at once to a bottom,
along which a stream must run, and rose steeply from it on the other
side, up to a field that was park-like in character, and thickly
studded with oaks, now, of course, leafless. They did not stand so
thick together but that some glimpse of sky and horizon could be seen
between their stems. The sky was now golden and the horizon, a horizon
of distant woods, it seemed, was purple.

But all that Dr. Ashton could find to say, after contemplating this
prospect for many minutes, was: "Abominable!"

A listener would have been aware, immediately upon this, of the sound
of footsteps coming somewhat hurriedly in the direction of the study:
by the resonance he could have told that they were traversing a much
larger room. Dr. Ashton turned round in his chair as the door opened,
and looked expectant. The incomer was a lady--a stout lady in the
dress of the time: though I have made some attempt at indicating the
doctor's costume, I will not enterprise that of his wife--for it was
Mrs. Ashton who now entered. She had an anxious, even a sorely
distracted, look, and it was in a very disturbed voice that she almost
whispered to Dr. Ashton, putting her head close to his, "He's in a
very sad way, love, worse, I'm afraid." "Tt--tt, is he really?" and he
leaned back and looked in her face. She nodded. Two solemn bells, high
up, and not far away, rang out the half-hour at this moment. Mrs.
Ashton started. "Oh, do you think you can give order that the minster
clock be stopped chiming to-night? 'Tis just over his chamber, and
will keep him from sleeping, and to sleep is the only chance for him,
that's certain." "Why, to be sure, if there were need, real need, it
could be done, but not upon any light occasion. This Frank, now, do
you assure me that his recovery stands upon it?" said Dr. Ashton: his
voice was loud and rather hard. "I do verily believe it," said his
wife. "Then, if it must be, bid Molly run across to Simpkins and say
on my authority that he is to stop the clock chimes at sunset:
and--yes--she is after that to say to my lord Saul that I wish to see
him presently in this room." Mrs. Ashton hurried off.

Before any other visitor enters, it will be well to explain the
situation.

Dr. Ashton was the holder, among other preferments, of a prebend in
the rich collegiate church of Whitminster, one of the foundations
which, though not a cathedral, survived dissolution and reformation,
and retained its constitution and endowments for a hundred years after
the time of which I write. The great church, the residences of the
dean and the two prebendaries, the choir and its appurtenances, were
all intact and in working order. A dean who flourished soon after 1500
had been a great builder, and had erected a spacious quadrangle of red
brick adjoining the church for the residence of the officials. Some of
these persons were no longer required: their offices had dwindled
down to mere titles, borne by clergy or lawyers in the town and
neighbourhood; and so the houses that had been meant to accommodate
eight or ten people were now shared among three, the dean and the two
prebendaries. Dr. Ashton's included what had been the common parlour
and the dining-hall of the whole body. It occupied a whole side of the
court, and at one end had a private door into the minster. The other
end, as we have seen, looked out over the country.

So much for the house. As for the inmates, Dr. Ashton was a wealthy
man and childless, and he had adopted, or rather undertaken to bring
up, the orphan son of his wife's sister. Frank Sydall was the lad's
name: he had been a good many months in the house. Then one day came a
letter from an Irish peer, the Earl of Kildonan (who had known Dr.
Ashton at college), putting it to the doctor whether he would consider
taking into his family the Viscount Saul, the Earl's heir, and acting
in some sort as his tutor. Lord Kildonan was shortly to take up a post
in the Lisbon Embassy, and the boy was unfit to make the voyage: "not
that he is sickly," the Earl wrote, "though you'll find him whimsical,
or of late I've thought him so, and to confirm this, 'twas only
to-day his old nurse came expressly to tell me he was possess'd: but
let that pass; I'll warrant you can find a spell to make all straight.
Your arm was stout enough in old days, and I give you plenary
authority to use it as you see fit. The truth is, he has here no boys
of his age or quality to consort with, and is given to moping about in
our raths and graveyards: and he brings home romances that fright my
servants out of their wits. So there are you and your lady
forewarned." It was perhaps with half an eye open to the possibility
of an Irish bishopric (at which another sentence in the Earl's letter
seemed to hint) that Dr. Ashton accepted the charge of my Lord
Viscount Saul and of the 200 guineas a year that were to come with
him.

So he came, one night in September. When he got out of the chaise that
brought him, he went first and spoke to the postboy and gave him some
money, and patted the neck of his horse. Whether he made some movement
that scared it or not, there was very nearly a nasty accident, for the
beast started violently, and the postilion being unready was thrown
and lost his fee, as he found afterwards, and the chaise lost some
paint on the gateposts, and the wheel went over the man's foot who was
taking out the baggage. When Lord Saul came up the steps into the
light of the lamp in the porch to be greeted by Dr. Ashton, he was
seen to be a thin youth of, say, sixteen years old, with straight
black hair and the pale colouring that is common to such a figure. He
took the accident and commotion calmly enough, and expressed a proper
anxiety for the people who had been, or might have been, hurt: his
voice was smooth and pleasant, and without any trace, curiously, of an
Irish brogue.

Frank Sydall was a younger boy, perhaps of eleven or twelve, but Lord
Saul did not for that reject his company. Frank was able to teach him
various games he had not known in Ireland, and he was apt at learning
them; apt, too, at his books, though he had had little or no regular
teaching at home. It was not long before he was making a shift to
puzzle out the inscriptions on the tombs in the minster, and he would
often put a question to the doctor about the old books in the library
that required some thought to answer. It is to be supposed that he
made himself very agreeable to the servants, for within ten days of
his coming they were almost falling over each other in their efforts
to oblige him. At the same time, Mrs. Ashton was rather put to it to
find new maidservants; for there were several changes, and some of the
families in the town from which she had been accustomed to draw seemed
to have no one available. She was forced to go further afield than was
usual.

These generalities I gather from the doctor's notes in his diary and
from letters. They are generalities, and we should like, in view of
what has to be told, something sharper and more detailed. We get it in
entries which begin late in the year, and, I think, were posted up all
together after the final incident; but they cover so few days in all
that there is no need to doubt that the writer could remember the
course of things accurately.

On a Friday morning it was that a fox, or perhaps a cat, made away
with Mrs. Ashton's most prized black cockerel, a bird without a single
white feather on its body. Her husband had told her often enough that
it would make a suitable sacrifice to Aesculapius; that had discomfited
her much, and now she would hardly be consoled. The boys looked
everywhere for traces of it: Lord Saul brought in a few feathers,
which seemed to have been partially burnt on the garden rubbish-heap.
It was on the same day that Dr. Ashton, looking out of an upper
window, saw the two boys playing in the corner of the garden at a game
he did not understand. Frank was looking earnestly at something in the
palm of his hand. Saul stood behind him and seemed to be listening.
After some minutes he very gently laid his hand on Frank's head, and
almost instantly thereupon, Frank suddenly dropped whatever it was
that he was holding, clapped his hands to his eyes, and sank down on
the grass. Saul, whose face expressed great anger, hastily picked the
object up, of which it could only be seen that it was glittering, put
it in his pocket, and turned away, leaving Frank huddled up on the
grass. Dr. Ashton rapped on the window to attract their attention, and
Saul looked up as if in alarm, and then springing to Frank, pulled him
up by the arm and led him away. When they came in to dinner, Saul
explained that they had been acting a part of the tragedy of
Radamistus, in which the heroine reads the future fate of her father's
kingdom by means of a glass ball held in her hand, and is overcome by
the terrible events she has seen. During this explanation Frank said
nothing, only looked rather bewilderedly at Saul. He must, Mrs. Ashton
thought, have contracted a chill from the wet of the grass, for that
evening he was certainly feverish and disordered; and the disorder was
of the mind as well as the body, for he seemed to have something he
wished to say to Mrs. Ashton, only a press of household affairs
prevented her from paying attention to him; and when she went,
according to her habit, to see that the light in the boys' chamber had
been taken away, and to bid them good-night, he seemed to be sleeping,
though his face was unnaturally flushed, to her thinking: Lord Saul,
however, was pale and quiet, and smiling in his slumber.

Next morning it happened that Dr. Ashton was occupied in church and
other business, and unable to take the boys' lessons. He therefore set
them tasks to be written and brought to him. Three times, if not
oftener, Frank knocked at the study door, and each time the doctor
chanced to be engaged with some visitor, and sent the boy off rather
roughly, which he later regretted. Two clergymen were at dinner this
day, and both remarked--being fathers of families--that the lad seemed
sickening for a fever, in which they were too near the truth, and it
had been better if he had been put to bed forthwith: for a couple of
hours later in the afternoon he came running into the house, crying
out in a way that was really terrifying, and rushing to Mrs. Ashton,
clung about her, begging her to protect him, and saying, "Keep them
off! keep them off!" without intermission. And it was now evident that
some sickness had taken strong hold of him. He was therefore got to
bed in another chamber from that in which he commonly lay, and the
physician brought to him: who pronounced the disorder to be grave and
affecting the lad's brain, and prognosticated a fatal end to it if
strict quiet were not observed, and those sedative remedies used which
he should prescribe.

We are now come by another way to the point we had reached before. The
minster clock has been stopped from striking, and Lord Saul is on the
threshold of the study.

"What account can you give of this poor lad's state?" was Dr. Ashton's
first question. "Why, sir, little more than you know already, I fancy.
I must blame myself, though, for giving him a fright yesterday when we
were acting that foolish play you saw. I fear I made him take it more
to heart than I meant." "How so?" "Well, by telling him foolish tales
I had picked up in Ireland of what we call the second sight."
"_Second_ sight! What kind of sight might that be?" "Why, you know our
ignorant people pretend that some are able to foresee what is to
come--sometimes in a glass, or in the air, maybe, and at Kildonan we
had an old woman that pretended to such a power. And I daresay I
coloured the matter more highly than I should: but I never dreamed
Frank would take it so near as he did." "You were wrong, my lord, very
wrong, in meddling with such superstitious matters at all, and you
should have considered whose house you were in, and how little
becoming such actions are to my character and person or to your own:
but pray how came it that you, acting, as you say, a play, should fall
upon anything that could so alarm Frank?" "That is what I can hardly
tell, sir: he passed all in a moment from rant about battles and
lovers and Cleodora and Antigenes to something I could not follow at
all, and then dropped down as you saw." "Yes: was that at the moment
when you laid your hand on the top of his head?" Lord Saul gave a
quick look at his questioner--quick and spiteful--and for the first
time seemed unready with an answer. "About that time it may have
been," he said. "I have tried to recollect myself, but I am not sure.
There was, at any rate, no significance in what I did then." "Ah!"
said Dr. Ashton, "well, my lord, I should do wrong were I not to tell
you that this fright of my poor nephew may have very ill consequences
to him. The doctor speaks very despondingly of his state." Lord Saul
pressed his hands together and looked earnestly upon Dr. Ashton. "I am
willing to believe you had no bad intention, as assuredly you could
have no reason to bear the poor boy malice: but I cannot wholly free
you from blame in the affair." As he spoke, the hurrying steps were
heard again, and Mrs. Ashton came quickly into the room, carrying a
candle, for the evening had by this time closed in. She was greatly
agitated. "O come!" she cried, "come directly. I'm sure he is going."
"Going? Frank? Is it possible? Already?" With some such incoherent
words the doctor caught up a book of prayers from the table and ran
out after his wife. Lord Saul stopped for a moment where he was.
Molly, the maid, saw him bend over and put both hands to his face. If
it were the last words she had to speak, she said afterwards, he was
striving to keep back a fit of laughing. Then he went out softly,
following the others.

Mrs. Ashton was sadly right in her forecast. I have no inclination to
imagine the last scene in detail. What Dr. Ashton records is, or may
be taken to be, important to the story. They asked Frank if he would
like to see his companion, Lord Saul, once again. The boy was quite
collected, it appears, in these moments. "No," he said, "I do not want
to see him; but you should tell him I am afraid he will be very cold."
"What do you mean, my dear?" said Mrs. Ashton. "Only that;" said
Frank, "but say to him besides that I am free of them now, but he
should take care. And I am sorry about your black cockerel, Aunt
Ashton; but he said we must use it so, if we were to see all that
could be seen."

Not many minutes after, he was gone. Both the Ashtons were grieved,
she naturally most; but the doctor, though not an emotional man, felt
the pathos of the early death: and, besides, there was the growing
suspicion that all had not been told him by Saul, and that there was
something here which was out of his beaten track. When he left the
chamber of death, it was to walk across the quadrangle of the
residence to the sexton's house. A passing bell, the greatest of the
minster bells, must be rung, a grave must be dug in the minster yard,
and there was now no need to silence the chiming of the minster clock.
As he came slowly back in the dark, he thought he must see Lord Saul
again. That matter of the black cockerel--trifling as it might
seem--would have to be cleared up. It might be merely a fancy of the
sick boy, but if not, was there not a witch-trial he had read, in
which some grim little rite of sacrifice had played a part? Yes, he
must see Saul.

I rather guess these thoughts of his than find written authority for
them. That there was another interview is certain: certain also that
Saul would (or, as he said, could) throw no light on Frank's words:
though the message, or some part of it, appeared to affect him
horribly. But there is no record of the talk in detail. It is only
said that Saul sat all that evening in the study, and when he bid
good-night, which he did most reluctantly, asked for the doctor's
prayers.

The month of January was near its end when Lord Kildonan, in the
Embassy at Lisbon, received a letter that for once gravely disturbed
that vain man and neglectful father. Saul was dead. The scene at
Frank's burial had been very distressing. The day was awful in
blackness and wind: the bearers, staggering blindly along under the
flapping black pall, found it a hard job, when they emerged from the
porch of the minster, to make their way to the grave. Mrs. Ashton was
in her room--women did not then go to their kinsfolk's funerals--but
Saul was there, draped in the mourning cloak of the time, and his face
was white and fixed as that of one dead, except when, as was noticed
three or four times, he suddenly turned his head to the left and
looked over his shoulder. It was then alive with a terrible expression
of listening fear. No one saw him go away: and no one could find him
that evening. All night the gale buffeted the high windows of the
church, and howled over the upland and roared through the woodland. It
was useless to search in the open: no voice of shouting or cry for
help could possibly be heard. All that Dr. Ashton could do was to warn
the people about the college, and the town constables, and to sit up,
on the alert for any news, and this he did. News came early next
morning, brought by the sexton, whose business it was to open the
church for early prayers at seven, and who sent the maid rushing
upstairs with wild eyes and flying hair to summon her master. The two
men dashed across to the south door of the minster, there to find Lord
Saul clinging desperately to the great ring of the door, his head sunk
between his shoulders, his stockings in rags, his shoes gone, his legs
torn and bloody.

This was what had to be told to Lord Kildonan, and this really ends
the first part of the story. The tomb of Frank Sydall and of the Lord
Viscount Saul, only child and heir to William Earl of Kildonan, is
one: a stone altar tomb in Whitminster churchyard.

Dr. Ashton lived on for over thirty years in his prebendal house, I do
not know how quietly, but without visible disturbance. His successor
preferred a house he already owned in the town, and left that of the
senior prebendary vacant. Between them these two men saw the
eighteenth century out and the nineteenth in; for Mr. Hindes, the
successor of Ashton, became prebendary at nine-and-twenty and died at
nine-and-eighty. So that it was not till 1823 or 1824 that any one
succeeded to the post who intended to make the house his home. The man
who did was Dr. Henry Oldys, whose name may be known to some of my
readers as that of the author of a row of volumes labelled _Oldys's
Works_, which occupy a place that must be honoured, since it is so
rarely touched, upon the shelves of many a substantial library.

Dr. Oldys, his niece, and his servants took some months to transfer
furniture and books from his Dorsetshire parsonage to the quadrangle
of Whitminster, and to get everything into place. But eventually the
work was done, and the house (which, though untenanted, had always
been kept sound and weather-tight) woke up, and like Monte Cristo's
mansion at Auteuil, lived, sang, and bloomed once more. On a certain
morning in June it looked especially fair, as Dr. Oldys strolled in
his garden before breakfast and gazed over the red roof at the minster
tower with its four gold vanes, backed by a very blue sky, and very
white little clouds.

"Mary," he said, as he seated himself at the breakfast table and laid
down something hard and shiny on the cloth, "here's a find which the
boy made just now. You'll be sharper than I if you can guess what it's
meant for." It was a round and perfectly smooth tablet--as much as an
inch thick--of what seemed clear glass. "It is rather attractive at
all events," said Mary: she was a fair woman, with light hair and
large eyes, rather a devotee of literature. "Yes," said her uncle, "I
thought you'd be pleased with it. I presume it came from the house: it
turned up in the rubbish-heap in the corner." "I'm not sure that I do
like it, after all," said Mary, some minutes later. "Why in the world
not, my dear?" "I don't know, I'm sure. Perhaps it's only fancy."
"Yes, only fancy and romance, of course. What's that book, now--the
name of that book, I mean, that you had your head in all yesterday?"
"_The Talisman_, Uncle. Oh, if this should turn out to be a talisman,
how enchanting it would be!" "Yes, _The Talisman_: ah, well, you're
welcome to it, whatever it is: I must be off about my business. Is all
well in the house? Does it suit you? Any complaints from the servants'
hall?" "No, indeed, nothing could be more charming. The only _soupçon_
of a complaint besides the lock of the linen closet, which I told you
of, is that Mrs. Maple says she cannot get rid of the sawflies out of
that room you pass through at the other end of the hall. By the way,
are you sure you like your bedroom? It is a long way off from any one
else, you know." "Like it? To be sure I do; the further off from you,
my dear, the better. There, don't think it necessary to beat me:
accept my apologies. But what are sawflies? will they eat my coats? If
not, they may have the room to themselves for what I care. We are not
likely to be using it." "No, of course not. Well, what she calls
sawflies are those reddish things like a daddy-longlegs, but
smaller,[1] and there are a great many of them perching about that
room, certainly. I don't like them, but I don't fancy they are
mischievous." "There seem to be several things you don't like this
fine morning," said her uncle, as he closed the door. Miss Oldys
remained in her chair looking at the tablet, which she was holding in
the palm of her hand. The smile that had been on her face faded slowly
from it and gave place to an expression of curiosity and almost
strained attention. Her reverie was broken by the entrance of Mrs.
Maple, and her invariable opening, "Oh, Miss, could I speak to you a
minute?"

[1. Apparently the ichneumon fly (_Ophion obscurum_), and not the true
sawfly, is meant.]

A letter from Miss Oldys to a friend in Lichfield, begun a day or two
before, is the next source for this story. It is not devoid of traces
of the influence of that leader of female thought in her day, Miss
Anna Seward, known to some as the Swan of Lichfield.

"My sweetest Emily will be rejoiced to hear that we are at length--my
beloved uncle and myself--settled in the house that now calls us
master--nay, master and mistress--as in past ages it has called so
many others. Here we taste a mingling of modern elegance and hoary
antiquity, such as has never ere now graced life for either of us. The
town, small as it is, affords us some reflection, pale indeed, but
veritable, of the sweets of polite intercourse: the adjacent country
numbers amid the occupants of its scattered mansions some whose polish
is annually refreshed by contact with metropolitan splendour, and
others whose robust and homely geniality is, at times, and by way of
contrast, not less cheering and acceptable. Tired of the parlours and
drawing-rooms of our friends, we have ready to hand a refuge from the
clash of wits or the small talk of the day amid the solemn beauties of
our venerable minster, whose silvern chimes daily 'knoll us to
prayer,' and in the shady walks of whose tranquil graveyard we muse
with softened heart, and ever and anon with moistened eye, upon the
memorials of the young, the beautiful, the aged, the wise, and the
good."

Here there is an abrupt break both in the writing and the style.

"But my dearest Emily, I can no longer write with the care which you
deserve, and in which we both take pleasure. What I have to tell you
is wholly foreign to what has gone before. This morning my uncle
brought in to breakfast an object which had been found in the garden;
it was a glass or crystal tablet of this shape (a little sketch is
given), which he handed to me, and which, after he left the room,
remained on the table by me. I gazed at it, I know not why, for some
minutes, till called away by the day's duties; and you will smile
incredulously when I say that I seemed to myself to begin to descry
reflected in it objects and scenes which were not in the room where I
was. You will not, however, be surprised that after such an experience
I took the first opportunity to seclude myself in my room with what I
now half believed to be a talisman of mickle might. I was not
disappointed. I assure you, Emily, by that memory which is dearest to
both of us, that what I went through this afternoon transcends the
limits of what I had before deemed credible. In brief, what I saw,
seated in my bedroom, in the broad daylight of summer, and looking
into the crystal depth of that small round tablet, was this. First, a
prospect, strange to me, of an enclosure of rough and hillocky grass,
with a grey stone ruin in the midst, and a wall of rough stones about
it. In this stood an old, and very ugly, woman in a red cloak and
ragged skirt, talking to a boy dressed in the fashion of maybe a
hundred years ago. She put something which glittered into his hand,
and he something into hers, which I saw to be money, for a single coin
fell from her trembling hand into the grass. The scene passed--I
should have remarked, by the way, that on the rough walls of the
enclosure I could distinguish bones, and even a skull, lying in a
disorderly fashion. Next, I was looking upon two boys; one the figure
of the former vision, the other younger. They were in a plot of
garden, walled round, and this garden, in spite of the difference in
arrangement, and the small size of the trees, I could clearly
recognize as being that upon which I now look from my window. The boys
were engaged in some curious play, it seemed. Something was
smouldering on the ground. The elder placed his hands upon it, and
then raised them in what I took to be an attitude of prayer: and I
saw, and started at seeing, that on them were deep stains of blood.
The sky above was overcast. The same boy now turned his face towards
the wall of the garden, and beckoned with both his raised hands, and
as he did so I was conscious that some moving objects were becoming
visible over the top of the wall--whether heads or other parts of some
animal or human forms I could not tell. Upon the instant the elder boy
turned sharply, seized the arm of the younger (who all this time had
been poring over what lay on the ground), and both hurried off. I then
saw blood upon the grass, a little pile of bricks, and what I thought
were black feathers scattered about. That scene closed, and the next
was so dark that perhaps the full meaning of it escaped me. But what I
seemed to see was a form, at first crouching low among trees or bushes
that were being threshed by a violent wind, then running very swiftly,
and constantly turning a pale face to look behind him, as if he feared
a pursuer: and, indeed, pursuers were following hard after him. Their
shapes were but dimly seen, their number--three or four, perhaps,
only guessed. I suppose they were on the whole more like dogs than
anything else, but dogs such as we have seen they assuredly were not.
Could I have closed my eyes to this horror, I would have done so at
once, but I was helpless. The last I saw was the victim darting
beneath an arch and clutching at some object to which he clung: and
those that were pursuing him overtook him, and I seemed to hear the
echo of a cry of despair. It may be that I became unconscious:
certainly I had the sensation of awaking to the light of day after an
interval of darkness. Such, in literal truth, Emily, was my vision--I
can call it by no other name--of this afternoon. Tell me, have I not
been the unwilling witness of some episode of a tragedy connected with
this very house?"

The letter is continued next day. "The tale of yesterday was not
completed when I laid down my pen. I said nothing of my experiences to
my uncle--you know, yourself, how little his robust common-sense would
be prepared to allow of them, and how in his eyes the specific remedy
would be a black draught or a glass of port. After a silent evening,
then--silent, not sullen--I retired to rest. Judge of my terror,
when, not yet in bed, I heard what I can only describe as a distant
bellow, and knew it for my uncle's voice, though never in my hearing
so exerted before. His sleeping-room is at the further extremity of
this large house, and to gain access to it one must traverse an
antique hall some eighty feet long and a lofty panelled chamber, and
two unoccupied bedrooms. In the second of these--a room almost devoid
of furniture--I found him, in the dark, his candle lying smashed on
the floor. As I ran in, bearing a light, he clasped me in arms that
trembled for the first time since I have known him, thanked God, and
hurried me out of the room. He would say nothing of what had alarmed
him. 'To-morrow, to-morrow,' was all I could get from him. A bed was
hastily improvised for him in the room next to my own. I doubt if his
night was more restful than mine. I could only get to sleep in the
small hours, when daylight was already strong, and then my dreams were
of the grimmest--particularly one which stamped itself on my brain,
and which I must set down on the chance of dispersing the impression
it has made. It was that I came up to my room with a heavy foreboding
of evil oppressing me, and went with a hesitation and reluctance I
could not explain to my chest of drawers. I opened the top drawer, in
which was nothing but ribbons and handkerchiefs, and then the second,
where was as little to alarm, and then, O heavens, the third and last:
and there was a mass of linen neatly folded: upon which, as I looked
with curiosity that began to be tinged with horror, I perceived a
movement in it, and a pink hand was thrust out of the folds and began
to grope feebly in the air. I could bear it no more, and rushed from
the room, clapping the door after me, and strove with all my force to
lock it. But the key would not turn in the wards, and from within the
room came a sound of rustling and bumping, drawing nearer and nearer
to the door. Why I did not flee down the stairs I know not. I
continued grasping the handle, and mercifully, as the door was plucked
from my hand with an irresistible force, I awoke. You may not think
this very alarming, but I assure you it was so to me.

"At breakfast to-day my uncle was very uncommunicative, and I think
ashamed of the fright he had given us; but afterwards he inquired of
me whether Mr. Spearman was still in town, adding that he thought that
was a young man who had some sense left in his head. I think you
know, my dear Emily, that I am not inclined to disagree with him
there, and also that I was not unlikely to be able to answer his
question. To Mr. Spearman he accordingly went, and I have not seen him
since. I must send this strange budget of news to you now, or it may
have to wait over more than one post."

The reader will not be far out if he guesses that Miss Mary and Mr.
Spearman made a match of it not very long after this month of June.
Mr. Spearman was a young spark, who had a good property in the
neighbourhood of Whitminster, and not unfrequently about this time
spent a few days at the "King's Head," ostensibly on business. But he
must have had some leisure, for his diary is copious, especially for
the days of which I am telling the story. It is probable to me that he
wrote this episode as fully as he could at the bidding of Miss Mary.

"Uncle Oldys (how I hope I may have the right to call him so before
long!) called this morning. After throwing out a good many short
remarks on indifferent topics, he said 'I wish, Spearman, you'd listen
to an odd story and keep a close tongue about it just for a bit, till
I get more light on it.' 'To be sure,' said I, 'you may count on me.'
'I don't know what to make of it,' he said. 'You know my bedroom. It
is well away from every one else's, and I pass through the great hall
and two or three other rooms to get to it.' 'Is it at the end next the
minster, then?' I asked. 'Yes, it is: well, now, yesterday morning my
Mary told me that the room next before it was infested with some sort
of fly that the housekeeper couldn't get rid of. That may be the
explanation, or it may not. What do you think?' 'Why,' said I, 'you've
not yet told me what has to be explained.' 'True enough, I don't
believe I have; but by-the-by, what are these sawflies? What's the
size of them?' I began to wonder if he was touched in the head. 'What
I call a sawfly,' I said very patiently, 'is a red animal, like a
daddy-longlegs, but not so big, perhaps an inch long, perhaps less. It
is very hard in the body, and to me'--I was going to say 'particularly
offensive,' but he broke in, 'Come, come; an inch or less. That won't
do.' 'I can only tell you,' I said, 'what I know. Would it not be
better if you told me from first to last what it is that has puzzled
you, and then I may be able to give you some kind of an opinion.' He
gazed at me meditatively. 'Perhaps it would,' he said. 'I told Mary
only to-day that I thought you had some vestiges of sense in your
head.' (I bowed my acknowledgements.) 'The thing is, I've an odd kind
of shyness about talking of it. Nothing of the sort has happened to me
before. Well, about eleven o'clock last night, or after, I took my
candle and set out for my room. I had a book in my other hand--I
always read something for a few minutes before I drop off to sleep. A
dangerous habit: I don't recommend it: but I know how to manage my
light and my bed curtains. Now then, first, as I stepped out of my
study into the great half that's next to it, and shut the door, my
candle went out. I supposed I had clapped the door behind me too
quick, and made a draught, and I was annoyed, for I'd no tinder-box
nearer than my bedroom. But I knew my way well enough, and went on.
The next thing was that my book was struck out of my hand in the dark:
if I said twitched out of my hand it would better express the
sensation. It fell on the floor. I picked it up, and went on, more
annoyed than before, and a little startled. But as you know, that hall
has many windows without curtains, and in summer nights like these it
is easy to see not only where the furniture is, but whether there's
any one or anything moving, and there was no one--nothing of the kind.
So on I went through the hall and through the audit chamber next to
it, which also has big windows, and then into the bedrooms which lead
to my own, where the curtains were drawn, and I had to go slower
because of steps here and there. It was in the second of those rooms
that I nearly got my _quietus_. The moment I opened the door of it I
felt there was something wrong. I thought twice, I confess, whether I
shouldn't turn back and find another way there is to my room rather
than go through that one. Then I was ashamed of myself, and thought
what people call better of it, though I don't know about "better" in
this case. If I was to describe my experience exactly, I should say
this: there was a dry, light, rustling sound all over the room as I
went in, and then (you remember it was perfectly dark) something
seemed to rush at me, and there was--I don't know how to put it--a
sensation of long thin arms, or legs, or feelers, all about my face,
and neck, and body. Very little strength in them, there seemed to be,
but Spearman, I don't think I was ever more horrified or disgusted in
all my life, that I remember: and it does take something to put me
out. I roared out as loud as I could, and flung away my candle at
random, and, knowing I was near the window, I tore at the curtain and
somehow let in enough light to be able to see something waving which I
knew was an insect's leg, by the shape of it: but, Lord, what a size!
Why the beast must have been as tall as I am. And now you tell me
sawflies are an inch long or less. What do you make of it, Spearman?'

"'For goodness sake finish your story first,' I said. 'I never heard
anything like it.' 'Oh,' said he, 'there's no more to tell. Mary ran
in with a light, and there was nothing there. I didn't tell her what
was the matter. I changed my room for last night, and I expect for
good.' 'Have you searched this odd room of yours?' I said. 'What do
you keep in it?' 'We don't use it,' he answered. 'There's an old press
there, and some little other furniture.' 'And in the press?' said I.
'I don't know; I never saw it opened, but I do know that it's locked.'
'Well, I should have it looked into, and, if you had time, I own to
having some curiosity to see the place myself.' 'I didn't exactly like
to ask you, but that's rather what I hoped you'd say. Name your time
and I'll take you there.' 'No time like the present,' I said at once,
for I saw he would never settle down to anything while this affair was
in suspense. He got up with great alacrity, and looked at me, I am
tempted to think, with marked approval. 'Come along,' was all he said,
however; and was pretty silent all the way to his house. My Mary (as
he calls her in public, and I in private) was summoned, and we
proceeded to the room. The Doctor had gone so far as to tell her that
he had had something of a fright there last night, of what nature he
had not yet divulged; but now he pointed out and described, very
briefly, the incidents of his progress. When we were near the
important spot, he pulled up, and allowed me to pass on. 'There's the
room,' he said. 'Go in, Spearman, and tell us what you find.' Whatever
I might have felt at midnight, noonday I was sure would keep back
anything sinister, and I flung the door open with an air and stepped
in. It was a well-lighted room, with its large window on the right,
though not, I thought, a very airy one. The principal piece of
furniture was the gaunt old press of dark wood. There was, too, a
four-post bedstead, a mere skeleton which could hide nothing, and
there was a chest of drawers. On the window-sill and the floor near it
were the dead bodies of many hundred sawflies, and one torpid one
which I had some satisfaction in killing. I tried the door of the
press, but could not open it: the drawers, too, were locked.
Somewhere, I was conscious, there was a faint rustling sound, but I
could not locate it, and when I made my report to those outside, I
said nothing of it. But, I said, clearly the next thing was to see
what was in those locked receptacles. Uncle Oldys turned to Mary.
'Mrs. Maple,' he said, and Mary ran off--no one, I am sure, steps like
her--and soon came back at a soberer pace, with an elderly lady of
discreet aspect.

"'Have you the keys of these things, Mrs. Maple?' said Uncle Oldys.
His simple words let loose a torrent (not violent, but copious) of
speech: had she been a shade or two higher in the social scale, Mrs.
Maple might have stood as the model for Miss Bates.

"'Oh, Doctor, and Miss, and you too, sir,' she said, acknowledging my
presence with a bend, 'them keys! who was that again that come when
first we took over things in this house--a gentleman in business it
was, and I gave him his luncheon in the small parlour on account of us
not having everything as we should like to see it in the large
one--chicken, and apple-pie, and a glass of madeira--dear, dear,
you'll say I'm running on, Miss Mary; but I only mention it to bring
back my recollection; and there it comes--Gardner, just the same as it
did last week with the artichokes and the text of the sermon. Now that
Mr. Gardner, every key I got from him were labelled to itself, and
each and every one was a key of some door or another in this house,
and sometimes two; and when I say door, my meaning is door of a room,
not like such a press as this is. Yes, Miss Mary, I know full well,
and I'm just making it clear to your uncle and you too, sir. But now
there _was_ a box which this same gentleman he give over into my
charge, and thinking no harm after he was gone I took the liberty,
knowing it was your uncle's property, to rattle it: and unless I'm
most surprisingly deceived, in that box there was keys, but what keys,
that, Doctor, is known Elsewhere, for open the box, no that I would
not do.'

"I wondered that Uncle Oldys remained as quiet as he did under this
address. Mary, I knew, was amused by it, and he probably had been
taught by experience that it was useless to break in upon it. At any
rate he did not, but merely said at the end, 'Have you that box handy,
Mrs. Maple? If so, you might bring it here.' Mrs. Maple pointed her
finger at him, either in accusation or in gloomy triumph. 'There,' she
said, 'was I to choose out the very words out of your mouth, Doctor,
them would be the ones. And if I've took it to my own rebuke one
half-a-dozen times, it's been nearer fifty. Laid awake I have in my
bed, sat down in my chair I have, the same you and Miss Mary gave me
the day I was twenty year in your service, and no person could desire
a better--yes, Miss Mary, but it _is_ the truth, and well we know who
it is would have it different if he could. "All very well," says I to
myself, "but pray, when the Doctor calls you to account for that box,
what are you going to say?" No, Doctor, if you was some masters I've
heard of and I was some servants I could name, I should have an easy
task before me, but things being, humanly speaking, what they are, the
one course open to me is just to say to you that without Miss Mary
comes to my room and helps me to my recollection, which her wits
_may_ manage what's slipped beyond mine, no such box as that, small
though it be, will cross your eyes this many a day to come.'

"'Why, dear Mrs. Maple, why didn't you tell me before that you wanted
me to help you to find it?' said my Mary. 'No, never mind telling me
why it was: let us come at once and look for it.' They hastened off
together. I could hear Mrs. Maple beginning an explanation which, I
doubt not, lasted into the furthest recesses of the housekeeper's
department. Uncle Oldys and I were left alone. 'A valuable servant,'
he said, nodding towards the door. 'Nothing goes wrong under her: the
speeches are seldom over three minutes.' 'How will Miss Oldys manage
to make her remember about the box?' I asked.

"'Mary? Oh, she'll make her sit down and ask her about her aunt's last
illness, or who gave her the china dog on the mantel-piece--something
quite off the point. Then, as Maple says, one thing brings up another,
and the right one will come round sooner than you could suppose.
There! I believe I hear them coming back already.'

"It was indeed so, and Mrs. Maple was hurrying on ahead of Mary with
the box in her outstretched hand, and a beaming face. 'What was it,'
she cried as she drew near, 'what was it as I said, before ever I come
out of Dorsetshire to this place? Not that I'm a Dorset woman myself,
nor had need to be. "Safe bind, safe find," and there it was in the
place where I'd put it--what?--two months back, I daresay.' She handed
it to Uncle Oldys, and he and I examined it with some interest, so
that I ceased to pay attention to Mrs. Ann Maple for the moment,
though I know that she went on to expound exactly where the box had
been, and in what way Mary had helped to refresh her memory on the
subject.

"It was an oldish box, tied with pink tape and sealed, and on the lid
was pasted a label inscribed in old ink, 'The Senior Prebendary's
House, Whitminster.' On being opened it was found to contain two keys
of moderate size, and a paper, on which, in the same hand as the
label, was 'Keys of the Press and Box of Drawers standing in the
disused Chamber.' Also this: 'The Effects in this Press and Box are
held by me, and to be held by my successors in the Residence, in trust
for the noble Family of Kildonan, if claim be made by any survivor of
it. I having made all the Enquiry possible to myself am of the
opinion that that noble House is wholly extinct: the last Earl having
been, as is notorious, cast away at sea, and his only Child and Heire
deceas'd in my House (the Papers as to which melancholy Casualty were
by me repos'd in the same Press in this year of our Lord 1753, 21
March). I am further of opinion that unless grave discomfort arise,
such persons, not being of the Family of Kildonan, as shall become
possess'd of these keys, will be well advised to leave matters as they
are: which opinion I do not express without weighty and sufficient
reason; and am Happy to have my Judgment confirm'd by the other
Members of this College and Church who are conversant with the Events
referr'd to in this Paper. Tho. Ashton, _S.T.P._, _Praeb. senr._ Will.
Blake, _S.T.P._, _Decanus_. Hen. Goodman, _S.T.B._, _Praeb. junr._'

"'Ah!' said Uncle Oldys, 'grave discomfort! So he thought there might
be something. I suspect it was that young man,' he went on, pointing
with the key to the line about the 'only Child and Heire.' 'Eh, Mary?
The viscounty of Kildonan was Saul.' 'How _do_ you know that, Uncle?'
said Mary. 'Oh, why not? it's all in Debrett--two little fat books.
But I meant the tomb by the lime walk. He's there. What's the story, I
wonder? Do you know it, Mrs. Maple? and, by the way, look at your
sawflies by the window there.'

"Mrs. Maple, thus confronted with two subjects at once, was a little
put to it to do justice to both. It was no doubt rash in Uncle Oldys
to give her the opportunity. I could only guess that he had some
slight hesitation about using the key he held in his hand.

"'Oh them flies, how bad they was, Doctor and Miss, this three or four
days: and you, too, sir, you wouldn't guess, none of you! And how they
come, too! First we took the room in hand, the shutters was up, and
had been, I daresay, years upon years, and not a fly to be seen. Then
we got the shutter bars down with a deal of trouble and left it so for
the day, and next day I sent Susan in with the broom to sweep about,
and not two minutes hadn't passed when out she come into the hall like
a blind thing, and we had regular to beat them off her. Why her cap
and her hair, you couldn't see the colour of it, I do assure you, and
all clustering round her eyes, too. Fortunate enough she's not a girl
with fancies, else if it had been me, why only the tickling of the
nasty things would have drove me out of my wits. And now there they
lay like so many dead things. Well, they was lively enough on the
Monday, and now here's Thursday, is it, or no, Friday. Only to come
near the door and you'd hear them pattering up against it, and once
you opened it, dash at you, they would, as if they'd eat you. I
couldn't help thinking to myself, "If you was bats, where should we be
this night?" Nor you can't cresh 'em, not like a usual kind of a fly.
Well, there's something to be thankful for, if we could but learn by
it. And then this tomb, too,' she said, hastening on to her second
point to elude any chance of interruption, 'of them two poor young
lads. I say poor, and yet when I recollect myself, I was at tea with
Mrs. Simpkins, the sexton's wife, before you come, Doctor and Miss
Mary, and that's a family has been in the place, what? I daresay a
hundred years in that very house, and could put their hand on any tomb
or yet grave in all the yard and give you name and age. And his
account of that young man, Mr. Simpkins's I mean to say--_well_!' She
compressed her lips and nodded several times. 'Tell us, Mrs. Maple,'
said Mary. 'Go on,' said Uncle Oldys. 'What about him?' said I.
'Never was such a thing seen in this place, not since Queen Mary's
times and the Pope and all,' said Mrs. Maple. 'Why, do you know he
lived in this very house, him and them that was with him, and for all
I can tell in this identical room' (she shifted her feet uneasily on
the floor). 'Who was with him? Do you mean the people of the house?'
said Uncle Oldys suspiciously. 'Not to call people, Doctor, dear no,'
was the answer; 'more what he brought with him from Ireland, I believe
it was. No, the people in the house was the last to hear anything of
his goings-on. But in the town not a family but knew how he stopped
out at night: and them that was with him, why they were such as would
strip the skin from the child in its grave; and a withered heart makes
an ugly thin ghost, says Mr. Simpkins. But they turned on him at the
last, he says, and there's the mark still to be seen on the minster
door where they run him down. And that's no more than the truth, for I
got him to show it to myself, and that's what he said. A lord he was,
with a Bible name of a wicked king, whatever his godfathers could have
been thinking of.' 'Saul was the name,' said Uncle Oldys. 'To be sure
it was Saul, Doctor, and thank you; and now isn't it King Saul that we
read of raising up the dead ghost that was slumbering in its tomb till
he disturbed it, and isn't that a strange thing, this young lord to
have such a name, and Mr. Simpkins's grandfather to see him out of his
window of a dark night going about from one grave to another in the
yard with a candle, and them that was with him following through the
grass at his heels: and one night him to come right up to old Mr.
Simpkins's window that gives on the yard and press his face up against
it to find out if there was any one in the room that could see him:
and only just time there was for old Mr. Simpkins to drop down like,
quiet, just under the window and hold his breath, and not stir till he
heard him stepping away again, and this rustling-like in the grass
after him as he went, and then when he looked out of his window in the
morning there was treadings in the grass and a dead man's bone. Oh, he
was a cruel child for certain, but he had to pay in the end, and
after.' 'After?' said Uncle Oldys, with a frown. 'Oh yes, Doctor,
night after night in old Mr. Simpkins's time, and his son, that's our
Mr. Simpkins's father, yes, and our own Mr. Simpkins too. Up against
that same window, particular when they've had a fire of a chilly
evening, with his face right on the panes, and his hands fluttering
out, and his mouth open and shut, open and shut, for a minute or more,
and then gone off in the dark yard. But open the window at such times,
no, that they dare not do, though they could find it in their heart to
pity the poor thing, that pinched up with the cold, and seemingly
fading away to a nothink as the years passed on. Well, indeed, I
believe it is no more than the truth what our Mr. Simpkins says on his
own grandfather's word, "A withered heart makes an ugly thin ghost."'
'I daresay,' said Uncle Oldys suddenly: so suddenly that Mrs. Maple
stopped short. 'Thank you. Come away, all of you.' 'Why, _Uncle_,'
said Mary, 'are you not going to open the press after all?' Uncle
Oldys blushed, actually blushed. 'My dear,' he said, 'you are at
liberty to call me a coward, or applaud me as a prudent man, whichever
you please. But I am neither going to open that press nor that chest
of drawers myself, nor am I going to hand over the keys to you or to
any other person. Mrs. Maple, will you kindly see about getting a man
or two to move those pieces of furniture into the garret?' 'And when
they do it, Mrs. Maple,' said Mary, who seemed to me--I did not then
know why--more relieved than disappointed by her uncle's decision, 'I
have something that I want put with the rest; only quite a small
packet.'

"We left that curious room not unwillingly, I think. Uncle Oldys's
orders were carried out that same day. And so," concludes Mr.
Spearman, "Whitminster has a Bluebeard's chamber, and, I am rather
inclined to suspect, a Jack-in-the-box, awaiting some future occupant
of the residence of the senior prebendary."



25. THE ROSE GARDEN


Mr and Mrs Anstruther were at breakfast in the parlour of Westfield Hall,
in the county of Essex. They were arranging plans for the day.

'George,' said Mrs Anstruther, 'I think you had better take the car to
Maldon and see if you can get any of those knitted things I was speaking
about which would do for my stall at the bazaar.'

'Oh well, if you wish it, Mary, of course I can do that, but I had half
arranged to play a round with Geoffrey Williamson this morning. The
bazaar isn't till Thursday of next week, is it?'

'What has that to do with it, George? I should have thought you would
have guessed that if I can't get the things I want in Maldon I shall have
to write to all manner of shops in town: and they are certain to send
something quite unsuitable in price or quality the first time. If you
have actually made an appointment with Mr Williamson, you had better keep
it, but I must say I think you might have let me know.'

'Oh no, no, it wasn't really an appointment. I quite see what you mean.
I'll go. And what shall you do yourself?'

'Why, when the work of the house is arranged for, I must see about laying
out my new rose garden. By the way, before you start for Maldon I wish
you would just take Collins to look at the place I fixed upon. You know
it, of course.'

'Well, I'm not quite sure that I do, Mary. Is it at the upper end,
towards the village?'

'Good gracious no, my dear George; I thought I had made that quite clear.
No, it's that small clearing just off the shrubbery path that goes
towards the church.'

'Oh yes, where we were saying there must have been a summer-house once:
the place with the old seat and the posts. But do you think there's
enough sun there?'

'My dear George, do allow me _some_ common sense, and don't credit me
with all your ideas about summer-houses. Yes, there will be plenty of sun
when we have got rid of some of those box-bushes. I know what you are
going to say, and I have as little wish as you to strip the place bare.
All I want Collins to do is to clear away the old seats and the posts and
things before I come out in an hour's time. And I hope you will manage to
get off fairly soon. After luncheon I think I shall go on with my sketch
of the church; and if you please you can go over to the links, or--'

'Ah, a good idea--very good! Yes, you finish that sketch, Mary, and I
should be glad of a round.'

'I was going to say, you might call on the Bishop; but I suppose it is no
use my making _any_ suggestion. And now do be getting ready, or half the
morning will be gone.'

Mr Anstruther's face, which had shown symptoms of lengthening, shortened
itself again, and he hurried from the room, and was soon heard giving
orders in the passage. Mrs Anstruther, a stately dame of some fifty
summers, proceeded, after a second consideration of the morning's
letters, to her housekeeping.

Within a few minutes Mr Anstruther had discovered Collins in the
greenhouse, and they were on their way to the site of the projected rose
garden. I do not know much about the conditions most suitable to these
nurseries, but I am inclined to believe that Mrs Anstruther, though in
the habit of describing herself as 'a great gardener', had not been well
advised in the selection of a spot for the purpose. It was a small, dank
clearing, bounded on one side by a path, and on the other by thick
box-bushes, laurels, and other evergreens. The ground was almost bare of
grass and dark of aspect. Remains of rustic seats and an old and
corrugated oak post somewhere near the middle of the clearing had given
rise to Mr Anstruther's conjecture that a summer-house had once stood
there.

Clearly Collins had not been put in possession of his mistress's
intentions with regard to this plot of ground: and when he learnt them
from Mr Anstruther he displayed no enthusiasm.

'Of course I could clear them seats away soon enough,' he said. 'They
aren't no ornament to the place, Mr Anstruther, and rotten too. Look
'ere, sir,'--and he broke off a large piece--'rotten right through. Yes,
clear them away, to be sure we can do that.'

'And the post,' said Mr Anstruther, 'that's got to go too.'

Collins advanced, and shook the post with both hands: then he rubbed his
chin.

'That's firm in the ground, that post is,' he said. 'That's been there a
number of years, Mr Anstruther. I doubt I shan't get that up not quite so
soon as what I can do with them seats.'

'But your mistress specially wishes it to be got out of the way in an
hour's time,' said Mr Anstruther.

Collins smiled and shook his head slowly. 'You'll excuse me, sir, but you
feel of it for yourself. No, sir, no one can't do what's impossible to
'em, can they, sir? I could git that post up by after tea-time, sir, but
that'll want a lot of digging. What you require, you see, sir, if you'll
excuse me naming of it, you want the soil loosening round this post 'ere,
and me and the boy we shall take a little time doing of that. But now,
these 'ere seats,' said Collins, appearing to appropriate this portion of
the scheme as due to his own resourcefulness, 'why, I can get the barrer
round and 'ave them cleared away in, why less than an hour's time from
now, if you'll permit of it. Only--'

'Only what, Collins?'

'Well now, ain't for me to go against orders no more than what it is for
you yourself--or anyone else' (this was added somewhat hurriedly), 'but
if you'll pardon me, sir, this ain't the place I should have picked out
for no rose garden myself. Why look at them box and laurestinus, 'ow they
reg'lar preclude the light from--'

'Ah yes, but we've got to get rid of some of them, of course.'

'Oh, indeed, get rid of them! Yes, to be sure, but--I beg your pardon, Mr
Anstruther--'

'I'm sorry, Collins, but I must be getting on now. I hear the car at the
door. Your mistress will explain exactly what she wishes. I'll tell her,
then, that you can see your way to clearing away the seats at once, and
the post this afternoon. Good morning.'

Collins was left rubbing his chin. Mrs Anstruther received the report
with some discontent, but did not insist upon any change of plan.

By four o'clock that afternoon she had dismissed her husband to his golf,
had dealt faithfully with Collins and with the other duties of the day,
and, having sent a campstool and umbrella to the proper spot, had just
settled down to her sketch of the church as seen from the shrubbery, when
a maid came hurrying down the path to report that Miss Wilkins had
called.

Miss Wilkins was one of the few remaining members of the family from whom
the Anstruthers had bought the Westfield estate some few years back. She
had been staying in the neighbourhood, and this was probably a farewell
visit. 'Perhaps you could ask Miss Wilkins to join me here,' said Mrs
Anstruther, and soon Miss Wilkins, a person of mature years, approached.

'Yes, I'm leaving the Ashes to-morrow, and I shall be able to tell my
brother how tremendously you have improved the place. Of course he can't
help regretting the old house just a little--as I do myself--but the
garden is really delightful now.'

'I am so glad you can say so. But you mustn't think we've finished our
improvements. Let me show you where I mean to put a rose garden. It's
close by here.'

The details of the project were laid before Miss Wilkins at some length;
but her thoughts were evidently elsewhere.

'Yes, delightful,' she said at last rather absently. 'But do you know,
Mrs Anstruther, I'm afraid I was thinking of old times. I'm _very_ glad
to have seen just this spot again before you altered it. Frank and I had
quite a romance about this place.'

'Yes?' said Mrs Anstruther smilingly; 'do tell me what it was. Something
quaint and charming, I'm sure.'

'Not so very charming, but it has always seemed to me curious. Neither of
us would ever be here alone when we were children, and I'm not sure that
I should care about it now in certain moods. It is one of those things
that can hardly be put into words--by me at least--and that sound rather
foolish if they are not properly expressed. I can tell you after a
fashion what it was that gave us--well, almost a horror of the place when
we were alone. It was towards the evening of one very hot autumn day,
when Frank had disappeared mysteriously about the grounds, and I was
looking for him to fetch him to tea, and going down this path I suddenly
saw him, not hiding in the bushes, as I rather expected, but sitting on
the bench in the old summer-house--there was a wooden summer-house here,
you know--up in the corner, asleep, but with such a dreadful look on his
face that I really thought he must be ill or even dead. I rushed at him
and shook him, and told him to wake up; and wake up he did, with a
scream. I assure you the poor boy seemed almost beside himself with
fright. He hurried me away to the house, and was in a terrible state all
that night, hardly sleeping. Someone had to sit up with him, as far as I
remember. He was better very soon, but for days I couldn't get him to say
why he had been in such a condition. It came out at last that he had
really been asleep and had had a very odd disjointed sort of dream. He
never _saw_ much of what was around him, but he _felt_ the scenes most
vividly. First he made out that he was standing in a large room with a
number of people in it, and that someone was opposite to him who was
"very powerful", and he was being asked questions which he felt to be
very important, and, whenever he answered them, someone--either the
person opposite to him, or someone else in the room--seemed to be, as he
said, making something up against him. All the voices sounded to him very
distant, but he remembered bits of the things that were said: "Where were
you on the 19th of October?" and "Is this your handwriting?" and so on. I
can see now, of course, that he was dreaming of some trial: but we were
never allowed to see the papers, and it was odd that a boy of eight
should have such a vivid idea of what went on in a court. All the time he
felt, he said, the most intense anxiety and oppression and hopelessness
(though I don't suppose he used such words as that to me). Then, after
that, there was an interval in which he remembered being dreadfully
restless and miserable, and then there came another sort of picture, when
he was aware that he had come out of doors on a dark raw morning with a
little snow about. It was in a street, or at any rate among houses, and
he felt that there were numbers and numbers of people there too, and that
he was taken up some creaking wooden steps and stood on a sort of
platform, but the only thing he could actually see was a small fire
burning somewhere near him. Someone who had been holding his arm left
hold of it and went towards this fire, and then he said the fright he was
in was worse than at any other part of his dream, and if I had not
wakened him up he didn't know what would have become of him. A curious
dream for a child to have, wasn't it? Well, so much for that. It must
have been later in the year that Frank and I were here, and I was sitting
in the arbour just about sunset. I noticed the sun was going down, and
told Frank to run in and see if tea was ready while I finished a chapter
in the book I was reading. Frank was away longer than I expected, and the
light was going so fast that I had to bend over my book to make it out.
All at once I became conscious that someone was whispering to me inside
the arbour. The only words I could distinguish, or thought I could, were
something like "Pull, pull. I'll push, you pull."

'I started up in something of a fright. The voice--it was little more
than a whisper--sounded so hoarse and angry, and yet as if it came from a
long, long way off--just as it had done in Frank's dream. But, though I
was startled, I had enough courage to look round and try to make out
where the sound came from. And--this sounds very foolish, I know, but
still it is the fact--I made sure that it was strongest when I put my ear
to an old post which was part of the end of the seat. I was so certain of
this that I remember making some marks on the post--as deep as I could
with the scissors out of my work-basket. I don't know why. I wonder, by
the way, whether that isn't the very post itself...Well, yes, it might
be: there _are_ marks and scratches on it--but one can't be sure. Anyhow,
it was just like that post you have there. My father got to know that
both of us had had a fright in the arbour, and he went down there himself
one evening after dinner, and the arbour was pulled down at very short
notice. I recollect hearing my father talking about it to an old man who
used to do odd jobs in the place, and the old man saying, "Don't you fear
for that, sir: he's fast enough in there without no one don't take and
let him out." But when I asked who it was, I could get no satisfactory
answer. Possibly my father or mother might have told me more about it
when I grew up, but, as you know, they both died when we were still quite
children. I must say it has always seemed very odd to me, and I've often
asked the older people in the village whether they knew of anything
strange: but either they knew nothing or they wouldn't tell me. Dear,
dear, how I have been boring you with my childish remembrances! but
indeed that arbour did absorb our thoughts quite remarkably for a time.
You can fancy, can't you, the kind of stories that we made up for
ourselves. Well, dear Mrs Anstruther, I must be leaving you now. We shall
meet in town this winter, I hope, shan't we?' etc., etc.

The seats and the post were cleared away and uprooted respectively by
that evening. Late summer weather is proverbially treacherous, and during
dinner-time Mrs Collins sent up to ask for a little brandy, because her
husband had took a nasty chill and she was afraid he would not be able to
do much next day.

Mrs Anstruther's morning reflections were not wholly placid. She was sure
some roughs had got into the plantation during the night. 'And another
thing, George: the moment that Collins is about again, you must tell him
to do something about the owls. I never heard anything like them, and I'm
positive one came and perched somewhere just outside our window. If it
had come in I should have been out of my wits: it must have been a very
large bird, from its voice. Didn't you hear it? No, of course not, you
were sound asleep as usual. Still, I must say, George, you don't look as
if your night had done you much good.'

'My dear, I feel as if another of the same would turn me silly. You have
no idea of the dreams I had. I couldn't speak of them when I woke up, and
if this room wasn't so bright and sunny I shouldn't care to think of them
even now.'

'Well, really, George, that isn't very common with you, I must say. You
must have--no, you only had what I had yesterday--unless you had tea at
that wretched club house: did you?'

'No, no; nothing but a cup of tea and some bread and butter. I should
really like to know how I came to put my dream together--as I suppose one
does put one's dreams together from a lot of little things one has been
seeing or reading. Look here, Mary, it was like this--if I shan't be
boring you--'

'I _wish_ to hear what it was, George. I will tell you when I have had
enough.'

'All right. I must tell you that it wasn't like other nightmares in one
way, because I didn't really _see_ anyone who spoke to me or touched me,
and yet I was most fearfully impressed with the reality of it all. First
I was sitting, no, moving about, in an old-fashioned sort of panelled
room. I remember there was a fireplace and a lot of burnt papers in it,
and I was in a great state of anxiety about something. There was someone
else--a servant, I suppose, because I remember saying to him, "Horses, as
quick as you can," and then waiting a bit: and next I heard several
people coming upstairs and a noise like spurs on a boarded floor, and
then the door opened and whatever it was that I was expecting happened.'

'Yes, but what was that?'

'You see, I couldn't tell: it was the sort of shock that upsets you in a
dream. You either wake up or else everything goes black. That was what
happened to me. Then I was in a big dark-walled room, panelled, I think,
like the other, and a number of people, and I was evidently--'

'Standing your trial, I suppose, George.'

'Goodness! yes, Mary, I was; but did you dream that too? How very odd!'

'No, no; I didn't get enough sleep for that. Go on, George, and I will
tell you afterwards.'

'Yes; well, I _was_ being tried, for my life, I've no doubt, from the
state I was in. I had no one speaking for me, and somewhere there was a
most fearful fellow--on the bench I should have said, only that he seemed
to be pitching into me most unfairly, and twisting everything I said, and
asking most abominable questions.'

'What about?'

'Why, dates when I was at particular places, and letters I was supposed
to have written, and why I had destroyed some papers; and I recollect his
laughing at answers I made in a way that quite daunted me. It doesn't
sound much, but I can tell you, Mary, it was really appalling at the
time. I am quite certain there was such a man once, and a most horrible
villain he must have been. The things he said--'

'Thank you, I have no wish to hear them. I can go to the links any day
myself. How did it end?'

'Oh, against me; _he_ saw to that. I do wish, Mary, I could give you a
notion of the strain that came after that, and seemed to me to last for
days: waiting and waiting, and sometimes writing things I knew to be
enormously important to me, and waiting for answers and none coming, and
after that I came out--'

'Ah!'

'What makes you say that? Do you know what sort of thing I saw?'

'Was it a dark cold day, and snow in the streets, and a fire burning
somewhere near you?'

'By George, it was! You _have_ had the same nightmare! Really not? Well,
it is the oddest thing! Yes; I've no doubt it was an execution for high
treason. I know I was laid on straw and jolted along most wretchedly, and
then had to go up some steps, and someone was holding my arm, and I
remember seeing a bit of a ladder and hearing a sound of a lot of people.
I really don't think I could bear now to go into a crowd of people and
hear the noise they make talking. However, mercifully, I didn't get to
the real business. The dream passed off with a sort of thunder inside my
head. But, Mary--'

'I know what you are going to ask. I suppose this is an instance of a
kind of thought-reading. Miss Wilkins called yesterday and told me of a
dream her brother had as a child when they lived here, and something did
no doubt make me think of that when I was awake last night listening to
those horrible owls and those men talking and laughing in the shrubbery
(by the way, I wish you would see if they have done any damage, and speak
to the police about it); and so, I suppose, from my brain it must have
got into yours while you were asleep. Curious, no doubt, and I am sorry
it gave you such a bad night. You had better be as much in the fresh air
as you can to-day.'

'Oh, it's all right now; but I think I _will_ go over to the Lodge and
see if I can get a game with any of them. And you?'

'I have enough to do for this morning; and this afternoon, if I am not
interrupted, there is my drawing.'

'To be sure--I want to see that finished very much.'

No damage was discoverable in the shrubbery. Mr Anstruther surveyed with
faint interest the site of the rose garden, where the uprooted post still
lay, and the hole it had occupied remained unfilled. Collins, upon
inquiry made, proved to be better, but quite unable to come to his work.
He expressed, by the mouth of his wife, a hope that he hadn't done
nothing wrong clearing away them things. Mrs Collins added that there was
a lot of talking people in Westfield, and the hold ones was the worst:
seemed to think everything of them having been in the parish longer than
what other people had. But as to what they said no more could then be
ascertained than that it had quite upset Collins, and was a lot of
nonsense.

       *       *       *       *       *

Recruited by lunch and a brief period of slumber, Mrs Anstruther settled
herself comfortably upon her sketching chair in the path leading through
the shrubbery to the side-gate of the churchyard. Trees and buildings
were among her favourite subjects, and here she had good studies of both.
She worked hard, and the drawing was becoming a really pleasant thing to
look upon by the time that the wooded hills to the west had shut off the
sun. Still she would have persevered, but the light changed rapidly, and
it became obvious that the last touches must be added on the morrow. She
rose and turned towards the house, pausing for a time to take delight in
the limpid green western sky. Then she passed on between the dark
box-bushes, and, at a point just before the path debouched on the lawn,
she stopped once again and considered the quiet evening landscape, and
made a mental note that that must be the tower of one of the Roothing
churches that one caught on the sky-line. Then a bird (perhaps) rustled
in the box-bush on her left, and she turned and started at seeing what at
first she took to be a Fifth of November mask peeping out among the
branches. She looked closer.

It was not a mask. It was a face--large, smooth, and pink. She remembers
the minute drops of perspiration which were starting from its forehead:
she remembers how the jaws were clean-shaven and the eyes shut. She
remembers also, and with an accuracy which makes the thought intolerable
to her, how the mouth was open and a single tooth appeared below the
upper lip. As she looked the face receded into the darkness of the bush.
The shelter of the house was gained and the door shut before she
collapsed.

Mr and Mrs Anstruther had been for a week or more recruiting at Brighton
before they received a circular from the Essex Archaeological Society,
and a query as to whether they possessed certain historical portraits
which it was desired to include in the forthcoming work on Essex
Portraits, to be published under the Society's auspices. There was an
accompanying letter from the Secretary which contained the following
passage: 'We are specially anxious to know whether you possess the
original of the engraving of which I enclose a photograph. It represents
Sir ---- ----, Lord Chief Justice under Charles II, who, as you doubtless
know, retired after his disgrace to Westfield, and is supposed to have
died there of remorse. It may interest you to hear that a curious entry
has recently been found in the registers, not of Westfield but of Priors
Roothing to the effect that the parish was so much troubled after his
death that the rector of Westfield summoned the parsons of all the
Roothings to come and lay him; which they did. The entry ends by saying:
"The stake is in a field adjoining to the churchyard of Westfield, on the
west side." Perhaps you can let us know if any tradition to this effect
is current in your parish.'

The incidents which the 'enclosed photograph' recalled were productive of
a severe shock to Mrs Anstruther. It was decided that she must spend the
winter abroad.

Mr Anstruther, when he went down to Westfield to make the necessary
arrangements, not unnaturally told his story to the rector (an old
gentleman), who showed little surprise.

'Really I had managed to piece out for myself very much what must have
happened, partly from old people's talk and partly from what I saw in
your grounds. Of course we have suffered to some extent also. Yes, it was
bad at first: like owls, as you say, and men talking sometimes. One night
it was in this garden, and at other times about several of the cottages.
But lately there has been very little: I think it will die out. There is
nothing in our registers except the entry of the burial, and what I for a
long time took to be the family motto: but last time I looked at it I
noticed that it was added in a later hand and had the initials of one of
our rectors quite late in the seventeenth century, A. C.--Augustine
Crompton. Here it is, you see--_quieta non movere_. I suppose--Well, it
is rather hard to say exactly what I do suppose.'



26. THE STALLS OF BARCHESTER CATHEDRAL


This matter began, as far as I am concerned, with the reading of a notice
in the obituary section of the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for an early year
in the nineteenth century:

    On February 26th, at his residence in the Cathedral Close of
    Barchester, the Venerable John Benwell Haynes, D.D., aged 57,
    Archdeacon of Sowerbridge and Rector of Pickhill and Candley. He was
    of ---- College, Cambridge, and where, by talent and assiduity, he
    commanded the esteem of his seniors; when, at the usual time, he took
    his first degree, his name stood high in the list of _wranglers_.
    These academical honours procured for him within a short time a
    Fellowship of his College. In the year 1783 he received Holy Orders,
    and was shortly afterwards presented to the perpetual Curacy of
    Ranxton-sub-Ashe by his friend and patron the late truly venerable
    Bishop of Lichfield...His speedy preferments, first to a Prebend,
    and subsequently to the dignity of Precentor in the Cathedral of
    Barchester, form an eloquent testimony to the respect in which he was
    held and to his eminent qualifications. He succeeded to the
    Archdeaconry upon the sudden decease of Archdeacon Pulteney in 1810.
    His sermons, ever conformable to the principles of the religion and
    Church which he adorned, displayed in no ordinary degree, without the
    least trace of enthusiasm, the refinement of the scholar united with
    the graces of the Christian. Free from sectarian violence, and
    informed by the spirit of the truest charity, they will long dwell in
    the memories of his hearers. [Here a further omission.] The
    productions of his pen include an able defence of Episcopacy, which,
    though often perused by the author of this tribute to his memory,
    affords but one additional instance of the want of liberality and
    enterprise which is a too common characteristic of the publishers of
    our generation. His published works are, indeed, confined to a
    spirited and elegant version of the _Argonautica_ of Valerius Flacus,
    a volume of _Discourses upon the Several Events in the Life of
    Joshua_, delivered in his Cathedral, and a number of the charges
    which he pronounced at various visitations to the clergy of his
    Archdeaconry. These are distinguished by etc., etc. The urbanity and
    hospitality of the subject of these lines will not readily be
    forgotten by those who enjoyed his acquaintance. His interest in the
    venerable and awful pile under whose hoary vault he was so punctual
    an attendant, and particularly in the musical portion of its rites,
    might be termed filial, and formed a strong and delightful contrast
    to the polite indifference displayed by too many of our Cathedral
    dignitaries at the present time.

The final paragraph, after informing us that Dr Haynes died a bachelor,
says:

    It might have been augured that an existence so placid and benevolent
    would have been terminated in a ripe old age by a dissolution equally
    gradual and calm. But how unsearchable are the workings of
    Providence! The peaceful and retired seclusion amid which the
    honoured evening of Dr Haynes' life was mellowing to its close was
    destined to be disturbed, nay, shattered, by a tragedy as appalling
    as it was unexpected. The morning of the 26th of February--

But perhaps I shall do better to keep back the remainder of the narrative
until I have told the circumstances which led up to it. These, as far as
they are now accessible, I have derived from another source.

I had read the obituary notice which I have been quoting, quite by
chance, along with a great many others of the same period. It had excited
some little speculation in my mind, but, beyond thinking that, if I ever
had an opportunity of examining the local records of the period
indicated, I would try to remember Dr Haynes, I made no effort to pursue
his case.

Quite lately I was cataloguing the manuscripts in the library of the
college to which he belonged. I had reached the end of the numbered
volumes on the shelves, and I proceeded to ask the librarian whether
there were any more books which he thought I ought to include in my
description. 'I don't think there are,' he said, 'but we had better come
and look at the manuscript class and make sure. Have you time to do that
now?' I had time. We went to the library, checked off the manuscripts,
and, at the end of our survey, arrived at a shelf of which I had seen
nothing. Its contents consisted for the most part of sermons, bundles of
fragmentary papers, college exercises, _Cyrus_, an epic poem in several
cantos, the product of a country clergyman's leisure, mathematical tracts
by a deceased professor, and other similar material of a kind with which
I am only too familiar. I took brief notes of these. Lastly, there was a
tin box, which was pulled out and dusted. Its label, much faded, was thus
inscribed: 'Papers of the Ven. Archdeacon Haynes. Bequeathed in 1834 by
his sister, Miss Letitia Haynes.'

I knew at once that the name was one which I had somewhere encountered,
and could very soon locate it. 'That must be the Archdeacon Haynes who
came to a very odd end at Barchester. I've read his obituary in the
_Gentleman's Magazine_. May I take the box home? Do you know if there is
anything interesting in it?'

The librarian was very willing that I should take the box and examine it
at leisure. 'I never looked inside it myself,' he said, 'but I've always
been meaning to. I am pretty sure that is the box which our old Master
once said ought never to have been accepted by the college. He said that
to Martin years ago; and he said also that as long as he had control over
the library it should never be opened. Martin told me about it, and said
that he wanted terribly to know what was in it; but the Master was
librarian, and always kept the box in the lodge, so there was no getting
at it in his time, and when he died it was taken away by mistake by his
heirs, and only returned a few years ago. I can't think why I haven't
opened it; but, as I have to go away from Cambridge this afternoon, you
had better have first go at it. I think I can trust you not to publish
anything undesirable in our catalogue.'

I took the box home and examined its contents, and thereafter consulted
the librarian as to what should be done about publication, and, since I
have his leave to make a story out of it, provided I disguised the
identity of the people concerned, I will try what can be done.

The materials are, of course, mainly journals and letters. How much I
shall quote and how much epitomize must be determined by considerations
of space. The proper understanding of the situation has necessitated a
little--not very arduous--research, which has been greatly facilitated by
the excellent illustrations and text of the Barchester volume in Bell's
_Cathedral Series_.

When you enter the choir of Barchester Cathedral now, you pass through a
screen of metal and coloured marbles, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and
find yourself in what I must call a very bare and odiously furnished
place. The stalls are modern, without canopies. The places of the
dignitaries and the names of the prebends have fortunately been allowed
to survive, and are inscribed on small brass plates affixed to the
stalls. The organ is in the triforium, and what is seen of the case is
Gothic. The reredos and its surroundings are like every other.

Careful engravings of a hundred years ago show a very different state of
things. The organ is on a massive classical screen. The stalls are also
classical and very massive. There is a baldacchino of wood over the
altar, with urns upon its corners. Farther east is a solid altar screen,
classical in design, of wood, with a pediment, in which is a triangle
surrounded by rays, enclosing certain Hebrew letters in gold. Cherubs
contemplate these. There is a pulpit with a great sounding-board at the
eastern end of the stalls on the north side, and there is a black and
white marble pavement. Two ladies and a gentleman are admiring the
general effect. From other sources I gather that the archdeacon's stall
then, as now, was next to the bishop's throne at the south-eastern end of
the stalls. His house almost faces the west front of the church, and is a
fine red-brick building of William the Third's time.

Here Dr Haynes, already a mature man, took up his abode with his sister
in the year 1810. The dignity had long been the object of his wishes, but
his predecessor refused to depart until he had attained the age of
ninety-two. About a week after he had held a modest festival in
celebration of that ninety-second birthday, there came a morning, late in
the year, when Dr Haynes, hurrying cheerfully into his breakfast-room,
rubbing his hands and humming a tune, was greeted, and checked in his
genial flow of spirits, by the sight of his sister, seated, indeed, in
her usual place behind the tea-urn, but bowed forward and sobbing
unrestrainedly into her handkerchief. 'What--what is the matter? What bad
news?' he began. 'Oh, Johnny, you've not heard? The poor dear
archdeacon!' 'The archdeacon, yes? What is it--ill, is he?' 'No, no; they
found him on the staircase this morning; it is so shocking.' 'Is it
possible! Dear, dear, poor Pulteney! Had there been any seizure?' 'They
don't think so, and that is almost the worst thing about it. It seems to
have been all the fault of that stupid maid of theirs, Jane.' Dr Haynes
paused. 'I don't quite understand, Letitia. How was the maid at fault?'
'Why, as far as I can make out, there was a stair-rod missing, and she
never mentioned it, and the poor archdeacon set his foot quite on the
edge of the step--you know how slippery that oak is--and it seems he must
have fallen almost the whole flight and broken his neck. It _is_ so sad
for poor Miss Pulteney. Of course, they will get rid of the girl at once.
I never liked her.' Miss Haynes's grief resumed its sway, but eventually
relaxed so far as to permit of her taking some breakfast. Not so her
brother, who, after standing in silence before the window for some
minutes, left the room, and did not appear again that morning.

I need only add that the careless maid-servant was dismissed forthwith,
but that the missing stair-rod was very shortly afterwards found _under_
the stair-carpet--an additional proof, if any were needed, of extreme
stupidity and carelessness on her part.

For a good many years Dr Haynes had been marked out by his ability, which
seems to have been really considerable, as the likely successor of
Archdeacon Pulteney, and no disappointment was in store for him. He was
duly installed, and entered with zeal upon the discharge of those
functions which are appropriate to one in his position. A considerable
space in his journals is occupied with exclamations upon the confusion in
which Archdeacon Pulteney had left the business of his office and the
documents appertaining to it. Dues upon Wringham and Barnswood have been
uncollected for something like twelve years, and are largely
irrecoverable; no visitation has been held for seven years; four chancels
are almost past mending. The persons deputized by the archdeacon have
been nearly as incapable as himself. It was almost a matter for
thankfulness that this state of things had not been permitted to
continue, and a letter from a friend confirms this view. '[Greek: ho
katechôn],' it says (in rather cruel allusion to the Second Epistle to
the Thessalonians), 'is removed at last. My poor friend! Upon what a
scene of confusion will you be entering! I give you my word that, on the
last occasion of my crossing his threshold, there was no single paper
that he could lay hands upon, no syllable of mine that he could hear, and
no fact in connexion with my business that he could remember. But now,
thanks to a negligent maid and a loose stair-carpet, there is some
prospect that necessary business will be transacted without a complete
loss alike of voice and temper.' This letter was tucked into a pocket in
the cover of one of the diaries.

There can be no doubt of the new archdeacon's zeal and enthusiasm. 'Give
me but time to reduce to some semblance of order the innumerable errors
and complications with which I am confronted, and I shall gladly and
sincerely join with the aged Israelite in the canticle which too many, I
fear, pronounce but with their lips.' This reflection I find, not in a
diary, but a letter; the doctor's friends seem to have returned his
correspondence to his surviving sister. He does not confine himself,
however, to reflections. His investigation of the rights and duties of
his office are very searching and business-like, and there is a
calculation in one place that a period of three years will just suffice
to set the business of the Archdeaconry upon a proper footing. The
estimate appears to have been an exact one. For just three years he is
occupied in reforms; but I look in vain at the end of that time for the
promised _Nunc dimittis_. He has now found a new sphere of activity.
Hitherto his duties have precluded him from more than an occasional
attendance at the Cathedral services. Now he begins to take an interest
in the fabric and the music. Upon his struggles with the organist, an old
gentleman who had been in office since 1786, I have no time to dwell;
they were not attended with any marked success. More to the purpose is
his sudden growth of enthusiasm for the Cathedral itself and its
furniture. There is a draft of a letter to Sylvanus Urban (which I do not
think was ever sent) describing the stalls in the choir. As I have said,
these were of fairly late date--of about the year 1700, in fact.

'The archdeacon's stall, situated at the south-east end, west of the
episcopal throne (now so worthily occupied by the truly excellent prelate
who adorns the See of Barchester), is distinguished by some curious
ornamentation. In addition to the arms of Dean West, by whose efforts the
whole of the internal furniture of the choir was completed, the
prayer-desk is terminated at the eastern extremity by three small but
remarkable statuettes in the grotesque manner. One is an exquisitely
modelled figure of a cat, whose crouching posture suggests with admirable
spirit the suppleness, vigilance, and craft of the redoubted adversary of
the genus _Mus_. Opposite to this is a figure seated upon a throne and
invested with the attributes of royalty; but it is no earthly monarch
whom the carver has sought to portray. His feet are studiously concealed
by the long robe in which he is draped: but neither the crown nor the cap
which he wears suffice to hide the prick-ears and curving horns which
betray his Tartarean origin; and the hand which rests upon his knee, is
armed with talons of horrifying length and sharpness. Between these two
figures stands a shape muffled in a long mantle. This might at first
sight be mistaken for a monk or "friar of orders gray", for the head is
cowled and a knotted cord depends from somewhere about the waist. A
slight inspection, however, will lead to a very different conclusion. The
knotted cord is quickly seen to be a halter, held by a hand all but
concealed within the draperies; while the sunken features and, horrid to
relate, the rent flesh upon the cheek-bones, proclaim the King of
Terrors. These figures are evidently the production of no unskilled
chisel; and should it chance that any of your correspondents are able to
throw light upon their origin and significance, my obligations to your
valuable miscellany will be largely increased.'

There is more description in the paper, and, seeing that the woodwork in
question has now disappeared, it has a considerable interest. A paragraph
at the end is worth quoting:

'Some late researches among the Chapter accounts have shown me that the
carving of the stalls was not as was very usually reported, the work of
Dutch artists, but was executed by a native of this city or district
named Austin. The timber was procured from an oak copse in the vicinity,
the property of the Dean and Chapter, known as Holywood. Upon a recent
visit to the parish within whose boundaries it is situated, I learned
from the aged and truly respectable incumbent that traditions still
lingered amongst the inhabitants of the great size and age of the oaks
employed to furnish the materials of the stately structure which has
been, however imperfectly, described in the above lines. Of one in
particular, which stood near the centre of the grove, it is remembered
that it was known as the Hanging Oak. The propriety of that title is
confirmed by the fact that a quantity of human bones was found in the
soil about its roots, and that at certain times of the year it was the
custom for those who wished to secure a successful issue to their
affairs, whether of love or the ordinary business of life, to suspend
from its boughs small images or puppets rudely fashioned of straw, twigs,
or the like rustic materials.'

So much for the archdeacon's archaeological investigations. To return to
his career as it is to be gathered from his diaries. Those of his first
three years of hard and careful work show him throughout in high spirits,
and, doubtless, during this time, that reputation for hospitality and
urbanity which is mentioned in his obituary notice was well deserved.
After that, as time goes on, I see a shadow coming over him--destined to
develop into utter blackness--which I cannot but think must have been
reflected in his outward demeanour. He commits a good deal of his fears
and troubles to his diary; there was no other outlet for them. He was
unmarried and his sister was not always with him. But I am much mistaken
if he has told all that he might have told. A series of extracts shall be
given:

    _Aug. 30th 1816_--The days begin to draw in more perceptibly than
    ever. Now that the Archdeaconry papers are reduced to order, I must
    find some further employment for the evening hours of autumn and
    winter. It is a great blow that Letitia's health will not allow her
    to stay through these months. Why not go on with my _Defence of
    Episcopacy_? It may be useful.

    _Sept. 15._--Letitia has left me for Brighton.

    _Oct. 11._--Candles lit in the choir for the first time at evening
    prayers. It came as a shock: I find that I absolutely shrink from the
    dark season.

    _Nov. 17_--Much struck by the character of the carving on my desk: I
    do not know that I had ever carefully noticed it before. My attention
    was called to it by an accident. During the _Magnificat_ I was, I
    regret to say, almost overcome with sleep. My hand was resting on the
    back of the carved figure of a cat which is the nearest to me of the
    three figures on the end of my stall. I was not aware of this, for I
    was not looking in that direction, until I was startled by what
    seemed a softness, a feeling as of rather rough and coarse fur, and a
    sudden movement, as if the creature were twisting round its head to
    bite me. I regained complete consciousness in an instant, and I have
    some idea that I must have uttered a suppressed exclamation, for I
    noticed that Mr Treasurer turned his head quickly in my direction.
    The impression of the unpleasant feeling was so strong that I found
    myself rubbing my hand upon my surplice. This accident led me to
    examine the figures after prayers more carefully than I had done
    before, and I realized for the first time with what skill they are
    executed.

    _Dec. 6_--I do indeed miss Letitia's company. The evenings, after I
    have worked as long as I can at my _Defence_, are very trying. The
    house is too large for a lonely man, and visitors of any kind are too
    rare. I get an uncomfortable impression when going to my room that
    there _is_ company of some kind. The fact is (I may as well formulate
    it to myself) that I hear voices. This, I am well aware, is a common
    symptom of incipient decay of the brain--and I believe that I should
    be less disquieted than I am if I had any suspicion that this was the
    cause. I have none--none whatever, nor is there anything in my family
    history to give colour to such an idea. Work, diligent work, and a
    punctual attention to the duties which fall to me is my best remedy,
    and I have little doubt that it will prove efficacious.

    _Jan. 1_--My trouble is, I must confess it, increasing upon me. Last
    night, upon my return after midnight from the Deanery, I lit my
    candle to go upstairs. I was nearly at the top when something
    whispered to me, 'Let me wish you a happy New Year.' I could not be
    mistaken: it spoke distinctly and with a peculiar emphasis. Had I
    dropped my candle, as I all but did, I tremble to think what the
    consequences must have been. As it was, I managed to get up the last
    flight, and was quickly in my room with the door locked, and
    experienced no other disturbance.

    _Jan. 15_--I had occasion to come downstairs last night to my
    workroom for my watch, which I had inadvertently left on my table
    when I went up to bed. I think I was at the top of the last flight
    when I had a sudden impression of a sharp whisper in my ear '_Take
    care_.' I clutched the balusters and naturally looked round at once.
    Of course, there was nothing. After a moment I went on--it was no
    good turning back--but I had as nearly as possible fallen: a cat--a
    large one by the feel of it--slipped between my feet, but again, of
    course, I saw nothing. It _may_ have been the kitchen cat, but I do
    not think it was.

    _Feb. 27_--A curious thing last night, which I should like to forget.
    Perhaps if I put it down here I may see it in its true proportion. I
    worked in the library from about 9 to 10. The hall and staircase
    seemed to be unusually full of what I can only call movement without
    sound: by this I mean that there seemed to be continuous going and
    coming, and that whenever I ceased writing to listen, or looked out
    into the hall, the stillness was absolutely unbroken. Nor, in going
    to my room at an earlier hour than usual--about half-past ten--was I
    conscious of anything that I could call a noise. It so happened that
    I had told John to come to my room for the letter to the bishop which
    I wished to have delivered early in the morning at the Palace. He was
    to sit up, therefore, and come for it when he heard me retire. This I
    had for the moment forgotten, though I had remembered to carry the
    letter with me to my room. But when, as I was winding up my watch, I
    heard a light tap at the door, and a low voice saying, 'May I come
    in?' (which I most undoubtedly did hear), I recollected the fact, and
    took up the letter from my dressing-table, saying 'Certainly: come
    in.' No one, however, answered my summons, and it was now that, as I
    strongly suspect, I committed an error: for I opened the door and
    held the letter out. There was certainly no one at that moment in the
    passage, but, in the instant of my standing there, the door at the
    end opened and John appeared carrying a candle. I asked him whether
    he had come to the door earlier; but am satisfied that he had not. I
    do not like the situation; but although my senses were very much on
    the alert, and though it was some time before I could sleep, I must
    allow that I perceived nothing further of an untoward character.

With the return of spring, when his sister came to live with him for some
months, Dr Haynes's entries become more cheerful, and, indeed, no symptom
of depression is discernible until the early part of September when he
was again left alone. And now, indeed, there is evidence that he was
incommoded again, and that more pressingly. To this matter I will return
in a moment, but I digress to put in a document which, rightly or
wrongly, I believe to have a bearing on the thread of the story.

The account-books of Dr Haynes, preserved along with his other papers,
show, from a date but little later than that of his institution as
archdeacon, a quarterly payment of £25 to J. L. Nothing could have been
made of this, had it stood by itself. But I connect with it a very dirty
and ill-written letter, which, like another that I have quoted, was in a
pocket in the cover of a diary. Of date or postmark there is no vestige,
and the decipherment was not easy. It appears to run:

    Dr Sr.

    I have bin expctin to her off you theis last wicks, and not Haveing
    done so must supose you have not got mine witch was saying how me and
    my man had met in with bad times this season all seems to go cross
    with us on the farm and which way to look for the rent we have no
    knowledge of it this been the sad case with us if you would have the
    great [liberality _probably, but the exact spelling defies
    reproduction_] to send fourty pounds otherwise steps will have to be
    took which I should not wish. Has you was the Means of me losing my
    place with Dr Pulteney I think it is only just what I am asking and
    you know best what I could say if I was Put to it but I do not wish
    anything of that unpleasant Nature being one that always wish to have
    everything Pleasant about me.

    Your obedt Servt,

    Jane Lee.

About the time at which I suppose this letter to have been written there
is, in fact, a payment of £40 to J.L.

We return to the diary:

    _Oct. 22_--At evening prayers, during the Psalms, I had that same
    experience which I recollect from last year. I was resting my hand on
    one of the carved figures, as before (I usually avoid that of the cat
    now), and--I was going to have said--a change came over it, but that
    seems attributing too much importance to what must, after all, be due
    to some physical affection in myself: at any rate, the wood seemed to
    become chilly and soft as if made of wet linen. I can assign the
    moment at which I became sensible of this. The choir were singing the
    words (_Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him and let Satan
    stand at his right hand_.)

    The whispering in my house was more persistent tonight. I seemed not
    to be rid of it in my room. I have not noticed this before. A nervous
    man, which I am not, and hope I am not becoming, would have been much
    annoyed, if not alarmed, by it. The cat was on the stairs tonight. I
    think it sits there always. There _is_ no kitchen cat.

    _Nov. 15_--Here again I must note a matter I do not understand. I am
    much troubled in sleep. No definite image presented itself, but I was
    pursued by the very vivid impression that wet lips were whispering
    into my ear with great rapidity and emphasis for some time together.
    After this, I suppose, I fell asleep, but was awakened with a start
    by a feeling as if a hand were laid on my shoulder. To my intense
    alarm I found myself standing at the top of the lowest flight of the
    first staircase. The moon was shining brightly enough through the
    large window to let me see that there was a large cat on the second
    or third step. I can make no comment. I crept up to bed again, I do
    not know how. Yes, mine is a heavy burden. [Then follows a line or
    two which has been scratched out. I fancy I read something like
    'acted for the best'.]

Not long after this it is evident to me that the archdeacon's firmness
began to give way under the pressure of these phenomena. I omit as
unnecessarily painful and distressing the ejaculations and prayers which,
in the months of December and January, appear for the first time and
become increasingly frequent. Throughout this time, however, he is
obstinate in clinging to his post. Why he did not plead ill-health and
take refuge at Bath or Brighton I cannot tell; my impression is that it
would have done him no good; that he was a man who, if he had confessed
himself beaten by the annoyances, would have succumbed at once, and that
he was conscious of this. He did seek to palliate them by inviting
visitors to his house. The result he has noted in this fashion:

    _Jan. 7_--I have prevailed on my cousin Allen to give me a few days,
    and he is to occupy the chamber next to mine.

    _Jan. 8_--A still night. Allen slept well, but complained of the
    wind. My own experiences were as before: still whispering and
    whispering: what is it that he wants to say?

    _Jan. 9_--Allen thinks this a very noisy house. He thinks, too, that
    my cat is an unusually large and fine specimen, but very wild.

    _Jan. 10_--Allen and I in the library until 11. He left me twice to
    see what the maids were doing in the hall: returning the second time
    he told me he had seen one of them passing through the door at the
    end of the passage, and said if his wife were here she would soon get
    them into better order. I asked him what coloured dress the maid
    wore; he said grey or white. I supposed it would be so.

    _Jan. 11_--Allen left me today. I must be firm.

These words, _I must be firm_, occur again and again on subsequent days;
sometimes they are the only entry. In these cases they are in an
unusually large hand, and dug into the paper in a way which must have
broken the pen that wrote them.

Apparently the archdeacon's friends did not remark any change in his
behaviour, and this gives me a high idea of his courage and
determination. The diary tells us nothing more than I have indicated of
the last days of his life. The end of it all must be told in the polished
language of the obituary notice:

    The morning of the 26th of February was cold and tempestuous. At an
    early hour the servants had occasion to go into the front hall of the
    residence occupied by the lamented subject of these lines. What was
    their horror upon observing the form of their beloved and respected
    master lying upon the landing of the principal staircase in an
    attitude which inspired the gravest fears. Assistance was procured,
    and an universal consternation was experienced upon the discovery
    that he had been the object of a brutal and a murderous attack. The
    vertebral column was fractured in more than one place. This might
    have been the result of a fall: it appeared that the stair-carpet was
    loosened at one point. But, in addition to this, there were injuries
    inflicted upon the eyes, nose and mouth, as if by the agency of some
    savage animal, which, dreadful to relate, rendered those features
    unrecognizable. The vital spark was, it is needless to add,
    completely extinct, and had been so, upon the testimony of
    respectable medical authorities, for several hours. The author or
    authors of this mysterious outrage are alike buried in mystery, and
    the most active conjecture has hitherto failed to suggest a solution
    of the melancholy problem afforded by this appalling occurrence.

The writer goes on to reflect upon the probability that the writings of
Mr Shelley, Lord Byron, and M. Voltaire may have been instrumental in
bringing about the disaster, and concludes by hoping, somewhat vaguely,
that this event may 'operate as an example to the rising generation'; but
this portion of his remarks need not be quoted in full.

I had already formed the conclusion that Dr Haynes was responsible for
the death of Dr Pulteney. But the incident connected with the carved
figure of death upon the archdeacon's stall was a very perplexing
feature. The conjecture that it had been cut out of the wood of the
Hanging Oak was not difficult, but seemed impossible to substantiate.
However, I paid a visit to Barchester, partly with the view of finding
out whether there were any relics of the woodwork to be heard of. I was
introduced by one of the canons to the curator of the local museum, who
was, my friend said, more likely to be able to give me information on the
point than anyone else. I told this gentleman of the description of
certain carved figures and arms formerly on the stalls, and asked whether
any had survived. He was able to show me the arms of Dean West and some
other fragments. These, he said, had been got from an old resident, who
had also once owned a figure--perhaps one of those which I was inquiring
for. There was a very odd thing about that figure, he said. 'The old man
who had it told me that he picked it up in a woodyard, whence he had
obtained the still extant pieces, and had taken it home for his children.
On the way home he was fiddling about with it and it came in two in his
hands, and a bit of paper dropped out. This he picked up and, just
noticing that there was writing on it, put it into his pocket, and
subsequently into a vase on his mantelpiece. I was at his house not very
long ago, and happened to pick up the vase and turn it over to see
whether there were any marks on it, and the paper fell into my hand. The
old man, on my handing it to him, told me the story I have told you, and
said I might keep the paper. It was crumpled and rather torn, so I have
mounted it on a card, which I have here. If you can tell me what it means
I shall be very glad, and also, I may say, a good deal surprised.'

He gave me the card. The paper was quite legibly inscribed in an old
hand, and this is what was on it:

  When I grew in the Wood
  I was water'd with Blood
  Now in the Church I stand
  Who that touches me with his Hand
  If a Bloody hand he bear
  I councell him to be ware
  Lest he be fetcht away
  Whether by night or day,
  But chiefly when the wind blows high
  In a night of February.
This I drempt, 26 Febr. Anno 1699. JOHN AUSTIN.

'I suppose it is a charm or a spell: wouldn't you call it something of
that kind?' said the curator.

'Yes,' I said, 'I suppose one might. What became of the figure in which
it was concealed?'

'Oh, I forgot,' said he. 'The old man told me it was so ugly and
frightened his children so much that he burnt it.'



27. THE STORY OF A DISAPPEARANCE AND AN APPEARANCE


The letters which I now publish were sent to me recently by a person
who knows me to be interested in ghost stories. There is no doubt
about their authenticity. The paper on which they are written, the
ink, and the whole external aspect put their date beyond the reach of
question.

The only point which they do not make clear is the identity of the
writer. He signs with initials only, and as none of the envelopes of
the letters are preserved, the surname of his correspondent--obviously
a married brother--is as obscure as his own. No further preliminary
explanation is needed, I think. Luckily the first letter supplies all
that could be expected.


LETTER I

            GREAT CHRISHALL, _Dec. 22, 1837_.

MY DEAR ROBERT,--It is with great regret for the enjoyment I am
losing, and for a reason which you will deplore equally with myself,
that I write to inform you that I am unable to join your circle for
this Christmas: but you will agree with me that it is unavoidable when
I say that I have within these few hours received a letter from Mrs.
Hunt at B----, to the effect that our Uncle Henry has suddenly and
mysteriously disappeared, and begging me to go down there immediately
and join the search that is being made for him. Little as I, or you
either, I think, have ever seen of Uncle, I naturally feel that this
is not a request that can be regarded lightly, and accordingly I
propose to go to B---- by this afternoon's mail, reaching it late in
the evening. I shall not go to the Rectory, but put up at the King's
Head, and to which you may address letters. I enclose a small draft,
which you will please make use of for the benefit of the young people.
I shall write you daily (supposing me to be detained more than a
single day) what goes on, and you may be sure, should the business be
cleared up in time to permit of my coming to the Manor after all, I
shall present myself. I have but a few minutes at disposal. With
cordial greetings to you all, and many regrets, believe me, your
affectionate Bro.,

W. R.


LETTER II

            KING'S HEAD, _Dec. 23, '37_.

MY DEAR ROBERT,--In the first place, there is as yet no news of Uncle
H., and I think you may finally dismiss any idea--I won't say
hope--that I might after all "turn up" for Xmas. However, my thoughts
will be with you, and you have my best wishes for a really festive
day. Mind that none of my nephews or nieces expend any fraction of
their guineas on presents for me.

Since I got here I have been blaming myself for taking this affair of
Uncle H. too easily. From what people here say, I gather that there is
very little hope that he can still be alive; but whether it is
accident or design that carried him off I cannot judge. The facts are
these. On Friday the 19th, he went as usual shortly before five
o'clock to read evening prayers at the Church; and when they were over
the clerk brought him a message, in response to which he set off to
pay a visit to a sick person at an outlying cottage the better part of
two miles away. He paid the visit, and started on his return journey
at about half-past six. This is the last that is known of him. The
people here are very much grieved at his loss; he had been here many
years, as you know, and though, as you also know, he was not the most
genial of men, and had more than a little of the _martinet_ in his
composition, he seems to have been active in good works, and unsparing
of trouble to himself.

Poor Mrs. Hunt, who has been his housekeeper ever since she left
Woodley, is quite overcome: it seems like the end of the world to her.
I am glad that I did not entertain the idea of taking quarters at the
Rectory; and I have declined several kindly offers of hospitality from
people in the place, preferring as I do to be independent, and finding
myself very comfortable here.

You will, of course, wish to know what has been done in the way of
inquiry and search. First, nothing was to be expected from
investigation at the Rectory; and to be brief, nothing has transpired.
I asked Mrs. Hunt--as others had done before--whether there was either
any unfavourable symptom in her master such as might portend a sudden
stroke, or attack of illness, or whether he had ever had reason to
apprehend any such thing: but both she, and also his medical man, were
clear that this was not the case. He was quite in his usual health.
In the second place, naturally, ponds and streams have been dragged,
and fields in the neighbourhood which he is known to have visited
last, have been searched--without result. I have myself talked to the
parish clerk and--more important--have been to the house where he paid
his visit.

There can be no question of any foul play on these people's part. The
one man in the house is ill in bed and very weak: the wife and the
children of course could do nothing themselves, nor is there the
shadow of a probability that they or any of them should have agreed to
decoy poor Uncle H. out in order that he might be attacked on the way
back. They had told what they knew to several other inquirers already,
but the woman repeated it to me. The Rector was looking just as usual:
he wasn't very long with the sick man--"He ain't," she said, "like
some what has a gift in prayer; but there, if we was all that way,
'owever would the chapel people get their living?" He left some money
when he went away, and one of the children saw him cross the stile
into the next field. He was dressed as he always was: wore his
bands--I gather he is nearly the last man remaining who does so--at
any rate in this district.

You see I am putting down everything. The fact is that I have nothing
else to do, having brought no business papers with me; and, moreover,
it serves to clear my own mind, and may suggest points which have been
overlooked. So I shall continue to write all that passes, even to
conversations if need be--you may read or not as you please, but pray
keep the letters. I have another reason for writing so fully, but it
is not a very tangible one.

You may ask if I have myself made any search in the fields near the
cottage. Something--a good deal--has been done by others, as I
mentioned; but I hope to go over the ground to-morrow. Bow Street has
now been informed, and will send down by to-night's coach, but I do
not think they will make much of the job. There is no snow, which
might have helped us. The fields are all grass. Of course I was on the
_qui vive_ for any indication to-day both going and returning; but
there was a thick mist on the way back, and I was not in trim for
wandering about unknown pastures, especially on an evening when bushes
looked like men, and a cow lowing in the distance might have been the
last trump. I assure you, if Uncle Henry had stepped out from among
the trees in a little copse which borders the path at one place,
carrying his head under his arm, I should have been very little more
uncomfortable than I was. To tell you the truth, I was rather
expecting something of the kind. But I must drop my pen for the
moment: Mr. Lucas, the curate, is announced.

_Later._ Mr. Lucas has been, and gone, and there is not much beyond
the decencies of ordinary sentiment to be got from him. I can see that
he has given up any idea that the Rector can be alive, and that, so
far as he can be, he is truly sorry. I can also discern that even in a
more emotional person than Mr. Lucas, Uncle Henry was not likely to
inspire strong attachment.

Besides Mr. Lucas, I have had another visitor in the shape of my
Boniface--mine host of the "King's Head"--who came to see whether I
had everything I wished, and who really requires the pen of a Boz to
do him justice. He was very solemn and weighty at first. "Well, sir,"
he said, "I suppose we must bow our 'ead beneath the blow, as my poor
wife had used to say. So far as I can gather there's been neither
hide nor yet hair of our late respected incumbent scented out as yet;
not that he was what the Scripture terms a hairy man in any sense of
the word."

I said--as well as I could--that I supposed not, but could not help
adding that I had heard he was sometimes a little difficult to deal
with. Mr. Bowman looked at me sharply for a moment, and then passed in
a flash from solemn sympathy to impassioned declamation. "When I
think," he said, "of the language that man see fit to employ to me in
this here parlour over no more a matter than a cask of beer--such a
thing as I told him might happen any day of the week to a man with a
family--though as it turned out he was quite under a mistake, and that
I knew at the time, only I was that shocked to hear him I couldn't lay
my tongue to the right expression."

He stopped abruptly and eyed me with some embarrassment. I only said,
"Dear me, I'm sorry to hear you had any little differences; I suppose
my uncle will be a good deal missed in the parish?" Mr. Bowman drew a
long breath. "Ah, yes!" he said; "your uncle! You'll understand me
when I say that for the moment it had slipped my remembrance that he
was a relative; and natural enough, I must say, as it should, for as
to you bearing any resemblance to--to him, the notion of any such a
thing is clean ridiculous. All the same, 'ad I 'ave bore it in my
mind, you'll be among the first to feel, I'm sure, as I should have
abstained my lips, or rather I should _not_ have abstained my lips
with no such reflections."

I assured him that I quite understood, and was going to have asked him
some further questions, but he was called away to see after some
business. By the way, you need not take it into your head that he has
anything to fear from the inquiry into poor Uncle Henry's
disappearance--though, no doubt, in the watches of the night it will
occur to him that _I_ think he has, and I may expect explanations
to-morrow.

I must close this letter: it has to go by the late coach.


LETTER III

            _Dec. 25, '37_.

MY DEAR ROBERT,--This is a curious letter to be writing on Christmas
Day, and yet after all there is nothing much in it. Or there may
be--you shall be the judge. At least, nothing decisive. The Bow
Street men practically say that they have no clue. The length of time
and the weather conditions have made all tracks so faint as to be
quite useless: nothing that belonged to the dead man--I'm afraid no
other word will do--has been picked up.

As I expected, Mr. Bowman was uneasy in his mind this morning; quite
early I heard him holding forth in a very distinct voice--purposely
so, I thought--to the Bow Street officers in the bar, as to the loss
that the town had sustained in their Rector, and as to the necessity
of leaving no stone unturned (he was very great on this phrase) in
order to come at the truth. I suspect him of being an orator of repute
at convivial meetings.

When I was at breakfast he came to wait on me, and took an opportunity
when handing a muffin to say in a low tone, "I 'ope, sir, you reconize
as my feelings towards your relative is not actuated by any taint of
what you may call melignity--you can leave the room, Eliza, I will see
the gentleman 'as all he requires with my own hands--I ask your
pardon, sir, but you must be well aware a man is not always master of
himself: and when that man has been 'urt in his mind by the
application of expressions which I will go so far as to say 'ad not
ought to have been made use of (his voice was rising all this time and
his face growing redder); no, sir; and 'ere, if you will permit of it,
I should like to explain to you in a very few words the exact state of
the bone of contention. This cask--I might more truly call it a
firkin--of beer--"

I felt it was time to interpose, and said that I did not see that it
would help us very much to go into that matter in detail. Mr. Bowman
acquiesced, and resumed more calmly:

"Well, sir, I bow to your ruling, and as you say, be that here or be
it there, it don't contribute a great deal, perhaps, to the present
question. All I wish you to understand is that I am prepared as you
are yourself to lend every hand to the business we have afore us,
and--as I took the opportunity to say as much to the Orficers not
three-quarters of an hour ago--to leave no stone unturned as may throw
even a spark of light on this painful matter."

In fact, Mr. Bowman did accompany us on our exploration, but though I
am sure his genuine wish was to be helpful, I am afraid he did not
contribute to the serious side of it. He appeared to be under the
impression that we were likely to meet either Uncle Henry or the
person responsible for his disappearance, walking about the
fields--and did a great deal of shading his eyes with his hand and
calling our attention, by pointing with his stick, to distant cattle
and labourers. He held several long conversations with old women whom
we met, and was very strict and severe in his manner--but on each
occasion returned to our party saying, "Well, I find she don't seem to
'ave no connexion with this sad affair. I think you may take it from
me, sir, as there's little or no light to be looked for from that
quarter; not without she's keeping somethink back intentional."

We gained no appreciable result, as I told you at starting; the Bow
Street men have left the town, whether for London or not, I am not
sure.

This evening I had company in the shape of a bagman, a smartish
fellow. He knew what was going forward, but though he has been on the
roads for some days about here, he had nothing to tell of suspicious
characters--tramps, wandering sailors or gipsies. He was very full of
a capital Punch and Judy Show he had seen this same day at W----, and
asked if it had been here yet, and advised me by no means to miss it
if it does come. The best Punch and the best Toby dog, he said, he had
ever come across. Toby dogs, you know, are the last new thing in the
shows. I have only seen one myself, but before long all the men will
have them.

Now why, you will want to know, do I trouble to write all this to you?
I am obliged to do it, because it has something to do with another
absurd trifle (as you will inevitably say), which in my present state
of rather unquiet fancy--nothing more, perhaps--I have to put down. It
is a dream, sir, which I am going to record, and I must say it is one
of the oddest I have had. Is there anything in it beyond what the
bagman's talk and Uncle Henry's disappearance could have suggested?
You, I repeat, shall judge: I am not in a sufficiently cool and
judicial frame to do so.

It began with what I can only describe as a pulling aside of curtains:
and I found myself seated in a place--I don't know whether in doors or
out. There were people--only a few--on either side of me, but I did
not recognize them, or indeed think much about them. They never spoke,
but, so far as I remember, were all grave and pale-faced and looked
fixedly before them. Facing me there was a Punch and Judy Show,
perhaps rather larger than the ordinary ones, painted with black
figures on a reddish-yellow ground. Behind it and on each side was
only darkness, but in front there was a sufficiency of light. I was
"strung up" to a high degree of expectation and listened every moment
to hear the panpipes and the Roo-too-too-it. Instead of that there
came suddenly an enormous--I can use no other word--an enormous single
toll of a bell, I don't know from how far off--somewhere behind. The
little curtain flew up and the drama began.

I believe someone once tried to re-write Punch as a serious tragedy;
but whoever he may have been, this performance would have suited him
exactly. There was something Satanic about the hero. He varied his
methods of attack: for some of his victims he lay in wait, and to see
his horrible face--it was yellowish white, I may remark--peering round
the wings made me think of the Vampyre in Fuseli's foul sketch. To
others he was polite and carneying--particularly to the unfortunate
alien who can only say _Shallabalah_--though what Punch said I never
could catch. But with all of them I came to dread the moment of death.
The crack of the stick on their skulls, which in the ordinary way
delights me, had here a crushing sound as if the bone was giving way,
and the victims quivered and kicked as they lay. The baby--it sounds
more ridiculous as I go on--the baby, I am sure, was alive. Punch
wrung its neck, and if the choke or squeak which it gave were not
real, I know nothing of reality.

The stage got perceptibly darker as each crime was consummated, and at
last there was one murder which was done quite in the dark, so that I
could see nothing of the victim, and took some time to effect. It was
accompanied by hard breathing and horrid muffled sounds, and after it
Punch came and sat on the foot-board and fanned himself and looked at
his shoes, which were bloody, and hung his head on one side, and
sniggered in so deadly a fashion that I saw some of those beside me
cover their faces, and I would gladly have done the same. But in the
meantime the scene behind Punch was clearing, and showed, not the
usual house front, but something more ambitious--a grove of trees and
the gentle slope of a hill, with a very natural--in fact, I should say
a real--moon shining on it. Over this there rose slowly an object
which I soon perceived to be a human figure with something peculiar
about the head--what, I was unable at first to see. It did not stand
on its feet, but began creeping or dragging itself across the middle
distance towards Punch, who still sat back to it; and by this time, I
may remark (though it did not occur to me at the moment) that all
pretence of this being a puppet show had vanished. Punch was still
Punch, it is true, but, like the others, was in some sense a live
creature, and both moved themselves at their own will.

When I next glanced at him he was sitting in malignant reflection; but
in another instant something seemed to attract his attention, and he
first sat up sharply and then turned round, and evidently caught sight
of the person that was approaching him and was in fact now very near.
Then, indeed, did he show unmistakable signs of terror: catching up
his stick, he rushed towards the wood, only just eluding the arm of
his pursuer, which was suddenly flung out to intercept him. It was
with a revulsion which I cannot easily express that I now saw more or
less clearly what this pursuer was like. He was a sturdy figure clad
in black, and, as I thought, wearing bands: his head was covered with
a whitish bag.

The chase which now began lasted I do not know how long, now among the
trees, now along the slope of the field, sometimes both figures
disappearing wholly for a few seconds, and only some uncertain sounds
letting one know that they were still afoot. At length there came a
moment when Punch, evidently exhausted, staggered in from the left and
threw himself down among the trees. His pursuer was not long after
him, and came looking uncertainly from side to side. Then, catching
sight of the figure on the ground, he too threw himself down--his back
was turned to the audience--with a swift motion twitched the covering
from his head, and thrust his face into that of Punch. Everything on
the instant grew dark.

There was one long, loud, shuddering scream, and I awoke to find
myself looking straight into the face of--what in all the world do you
think?--but a large owl, which was seated on my window-sill
immediately opposite my bed-foot, holding up its wings like two
shrouded arms. I caught the fierce glance of its yellow eyes, and then
it was gone. I heard the single enormous bell again--very likely, as
you are saying to yourself, the church clock; but I do not think
so--and then I was broad awake.

All this, I may say, happened within the last half-hour. There was no
probability of my getting to sleep again, so I got up, put on clothes
enough to keep me warm, and am writing this rigmarole in the first
hours of Christmas Day. Have I left out anything? Yes, there was no
Toby dog, and the names over the front of the Punch and Judy booth
were Kidman and Gallop, which were certainly not what the bagman told
me to look out for.

By this time, I feel a little more as if I could sleep, so this shall
be sealed and wafered.


LETTER IV

            _Dec. 26, '37._

MY DEAR ROBERT,--All is over. The body has been found. I do not make
excuses for not having sent off my news by last night's mail, for the
simple reason that I was incapable of putting pen to paper. The events
that attended the discovery bewildered me so completely that I needed
what I could get of a night's rest to enable me to face the situation
at all. Now I can give you my journal of the day, certainly the
strangest Christmas Day that ever I spent or am likely to spend.

The first incident was not very serious. Mr. Bowman had, I think, been
keeping Christmas Eve, and was a little inclined to be captious: at
least, he was not on foot very early, and to judge from what I could
hear, neither men or maids could do anything to please him. The latter
were certainly reduced to tears; nor am I sure that Mr. Bowman
succeeded in preserving a manly composure. At any rate, when I came
downstairs, it was in a broken voice that he wished me the compliments
of the season, and a little later on, when he paid his visit of
ceremony at breakfast, he was far from cheerful: even Byronic, I might
almost say, in his outlook on life.

"I don't know," he said, "if you think with me, sir; but every
Christmas as comes round the world seems a hollerer thing to me. Why,
take an example now from what lays under my own eye. There's my
servant Eliza--been with me now for going on fifteen years. I thought
I could have placed my confidence in Elizar, and yet this very
morning--Christmas morning too, of all the blessed days in the
year--with the bells a ringing and--and--all like that--I say, this
very morning, had it not have been for Providence watching over us
all, that girl would have put--indeed I may go so far to say, 'ad put
the cheese on your breakfast table----" He saw I was about to speak,
and waved his hand at me. "It's all very well for you to say, 'Yes,
Mr. Bowman, but you took away the cheese and locked it up in the
cupboard,' which I did, and have the key here, or if not the actual
key one very much about the same size. That's true enough, sir, but
what do you think is the effect of that action on me? Why it's no
exaggeration for me to say that the ground is cut from under my feet.
And yet when I said as much to Eliza, not nasty, mind you, but just
firm like, what was my return? 'Oh,' she says: 'Well,' she says,
'there wasn't no bones broke, I suppose.' Well, sir, it 'urt me,
that's all I can say: it 'urt me, and I don't like to think of it
now."

There was an ominous pause here, in which I ventured to say something
like, "Yes, very trying," and then asked at what hour the church
service was to be. "Eleven o'clock," Mr. Bowman said with a heavy
sigh. "Ah, you won't have no such discourse from poor Mr. Lucas as
what you would have done from our late Rector. Him and me may have
had our little differences, and did do, more's the pity."

I could see that a powerful effort was needed to keep him off the
vexed question of the cask of beer, but he made it. "But I will say
this, that a better preacher, nor yet one to stand faster by his
rights, or what he considered to be his rights--however, that's not
the question now--I for one, never set under. Some might say, 'Was he
a eloquent man?' and to that my answer would be: 'Well, there you've a
better right per'aps to speak of your own uncle than what I have.'
Others might ask, 'Did he keep a hold of his congregation?' and there
again I should reply, 'That depends.' But as I say--Yes, Eliza, my
girl, I'm coming--eleven o'clock, sir, and you inquire for the King's
Head pew." I believe Eliza had been very near the door, and shall
consider it in my vail.

The next episode was church: I felt Mr. Lucas had a difficult task in
doing justice to Christmas sentiments, and also to the feeling of
disquiet and regret which, whatever Mr. Bowman might say, was clearly
prevalent. I do not think he rose to the occasion. I was
uncomfortable. The organ wolved--you know what I mean: the wind
died--twice in the Christmas Hymn, and the tenor bell, I suppose owing
to some negligence on the part of the ringers, kept sounding faintly
about once in a minute during the sermon. The clerk sent up a man to
see to it, but he seemed unable to do much. I was glad when it was
over. There was an odd incident, too, before the service. I went in
rather early, and came upon two men carrying the parish bier back to
its place under the tower. From what I overheard them saying, it
appeared that it had been put out by mistake, by some one who was not
there. I also saw the clerk busy folding up a moth-eaten velvet
pall--not a sight for Christmas Day.

I dined soon after this, and then, feeling disinclined to go out, took
my seat by the fire in the parlour, with the last number of
_Pickwick_, which I had been saving up for some days. I thought I
could be sure of keeping awake over this, but I turned out as bad as
our friend Smith. I suppose it was half-past two when I was roused by
a piercing whistle and laughing and talking voices outside in the
market-place. It was a Punch and Judy--I had no doubt the one that my
bagman had seen at W----. I was half delighted, half not--the latter
because my unpleasant dream came back to me so vividly; but, anyhow, I
determined to see it through, and I sent Eliza out with a crown-piece
to the performers and a request that they would face my window if they
could manage it.

The show was a very smart new one; the names of the proprietors, I
need hardly tell you, were Italian, Foresta and Calpigi. The Toby dog
was there, as I had been led to expect. All B---- turned out, but did
not obstruct my view, for I was at the large first-floor window and
not ten yards away.

The play began on the stroke of a quarter to three by the church
clock. Certainly it was very good; and I was soon relieved to find
that the disgust my dream had given me for Punch's onslaughts on his
ill-starred visitors was only transient. I laughed at the demise of
the Turncock, the Foreigner, the Beadle, and even the baby. The only
drawback was the Toby dog's developing a tendency to howl in the wrong
place. Something had occurred, I suppose, to upset him, and something
considerable: for, I forget exactly at what point, he gave a most
lamentable cry, leapt off the foot board, and shot away across the
market-place and down a side street. There was a stage-wait, but only
a brief one. I suppose the men decided that it was no good going after
him, and that he was likely to turn up again at night.

We went on. Punch dealt faithfully with Judy, and in fact with all
comers; and then came the moment when the gallows was erected, and the
great scene with Mr. Ketch was to be enacted. It was now that
something happened of which I can certainly not yet see the import
fully. You have witnessed an execution, and know what the criminal's
head looks like with the cap on. If you are like me, you never wish to
think of it again, and I do not willingly remind you of it. It was
just such a head as that, that I, from my somewhat higher post, saw in
the inside of the show-box; but at first the audience did not see it.
I expected it to emerge into their view, but instead of that there
slowly rose for a few seconds an uncovered face, with an expression of
terror upon it, of which I have never imagined the like. It seemed as
if the man, whoever he was, was being forcibly lifted, with his arms
somehow pinioned or held back, towards the little gibbet on the
stage. I could just see the nightcapped head behind him. Then there
was a cry and a crash. The whole show-box fell over backwards; kicking
legs were seen among the ruins, and then two figures--as some said; I
can only answer for one--were visible running at top speed across the
square and disappearing in a lane which leads to the fields.

Of course everybody gave chase. I followed; but the pace was killing,
and very few were in, literally, at the death. It happened in a chalk
pit: the man went over the edge quite blindly and broke his neck. They
searched everywhere for the other, until it occurred to me to ask
whether he had ever left the market-place. At first everyone was sure
that he had; but when we came to look, he was there, under the
show-box, dead too.

But in the chalk pit it was that poor Uncle Henry's body was found,
with a sack over the head, the throat horribly mangled. It was a
peaked corner of the sack sticking out of the soil that attracted
attention. I cannot bring myself to write in greater detail.

I forgot to say the men's real names were Kidman and Gallop. I feel
sure I have heard them, but no one here seems to know anything about
them.

I am coming to you as soon as I can after the funeral. I must tell you
when we meet what I think of it all.



28. THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH


Towards the end of an autumn afternoon an elderly man with a thin face
and grey Piccadilly weepers pushed open the swing-door leading into the
vestibule of a certain famous library, and addressing himself to an
attendant, stated that he believed he was entitled to use the library,
and inquired if he might take a book out. Yes, if he were on the list of
those to whom that privilege was given. He produced his card--Mr John
Eldred--and, the register being consulted, a favourable answer was given.
'Now, another point,' said he. 'It is a long time since I was here, and I
do not know my way about your building; besides, it is near closing-time,
and it is bad for me to hurry up and down stairs. I have here the title
of the book I want: is there anyone at liberty who could go and find it
for me?' After a moment's thought the doorkeeper beckoned to a young man
who was passing. 'Mr Garrett,' he said, 'have you a minute to assist this
gentleman?' 'With pleasure,' was Mr Garrett's answer. The slip with the
title was handed to him. 'I think I can put my hand on this; it happens
to be in the class I inspected last quarter, but I'll just look it up in
the catalogue to make sure. I suppose it is that particular edition that
you require, sir?' 'Yes, if you please; that, and no other,' said Mr
Eldred; 'I am exceedingly obliged to you.' 'Don't mention it I beg, sir,'
said Mr Garrett, and hurried off.

'I thought so,' he said to himself, when his finger, travelling down the
pages of the catalogue, stopped at a particular entry. 'Talmud: Tractate
Middoth, with the commentary of Nachmanides, Amsterdam, 1707. 11.3.34.
Hebrew class, of course. Not a very difficult job this.'

Mr Eldred, accommodated with a chair in the vestibule, awaited anxiously
the return of his messenger--and his disappointment at seeing an
empty-handed Mr Garrett running down the staircase was very evident. 'I'm
sorry to disappoint you, sir,' said the young man, 'but the book is out.'
'Oh dear!' said Mr Eldred, 'is that so? You are sure there can be no
mistake?' 'I don't think there is much chance of it, sir: but it's
possible, if you like to wait a minute, that you might meet the very
gentleman that's got it. He must be leaving the library soon, and I
_think_ I saw him take that particular book out of the shelf.' 'Indeed!
You didn't recognize him, I suppose? Would it be one of the professors or
one of the students?' 'I don't think so: certainly not a professor. I
should have known him; but the light isn't very good in that part of the
library at this time of day, and I didn't see his face. I should have
said he was a shortish old gentleman, perhaps a clergyman, in a cloak. If
you could wait, I can easily find out whether he wants the book very
particularly.'

'No, no,' said Mr Eldred, 'I won't--I can't wait now, thank you--no. I
must be off. But I'll call again to-morrow if I may, and perhaps you
could find out who has it.'

'Certainly, sir, and I'll have the book ready for you if we--' But Mr
Eldred was already off, and hurrying more than one would have thought
wholesome for him.

Garrett had a few moments to spare; and, thought he, 'I'll go back to
that case and see if I can find the old man. Most likely he could put off
using the book for a few days. I dare say the other one doesn't want to
keep it for long.' So off with him to the Hebrew class. But when he got
there it was unoccupied, and the volume marked 11.3.34 was in its place
on the shelf. It was vexatious to Garrett's self-respect to have
disappointed an inquirer with so little reason: and he would have liked,
had it not been against library rules, to take the book down to the
vestibule then and there, so that it might be ready for Mr Eldred when he
called. However, next morning he would be on the look out for him, and he
begged the doorkeeper to send and let him know when the moment came. As a
matter of fact, he was himself in the vestibule when Mr Eldred arrived,
very soon after the library opened and when hardly anyone besides the
staff were in the building.

'I'm very sorry,' he said; 'it's not often that I make such a stupid
mistake, but I did feel sure that the old gentleman I saw took out that
very book and kept it in his hand without opening it, just as people do,
you know, sir, when they mean to take a book out of the library and not
merely refer to it. But, however, I'll run up now at once and get it for
you this time.'

And here intervened a pause. Mr Eldred paced the entry, read all the
notices, consulted his watch, sat and gazed up the staircase, did all
that a very impatient man could, until some twenty minutes had run out.
At last he addressed himself to the doorkeeper and inquired if it was a
very long way to that part of the library to which Mr Garrett had gone.

'Well, I was thinking it was funny, sir: he's a quick man as a rule, but
to be sure he might have been sent for by the librarian, but even so I
think he'd have mentioned to him that you was waiting. I'll just speak
him up on the toob and see.' And to the tube he addressed himself. As he
absorbed the reply to his question his face changed, and he made one or
two supplementary inquiries which were shortly answered. Then he came
forward to his counter and spoke in a lower tone. 'I'm sorry to hear,
sir, that something seems to have 'appened a little awkward. Mr Garrett
has been took poorly, it appears, and the librarian sent him 'ome in a
cab the other way. Something of an attack, by what I can hear.' 'What,
really? Do you mean that someone has injured him?' 'No, sir, not violence
'ere, but, as I should judge, attacked with an attack, what you might
term it, of illness. Not a strong constitootion, Mr Garrett. But as to
your book, sir, perhaps you might be able to find it for yourself. It's
too bad you should be disappointed this way twice over--' 'Er--well, but
I'm so sorry that Mr Garrett should have been taken ill in this way while
he was obliging me. I think I must leave the book, and call and inquire
after him. You can give me his address, I suppose.' That was easily done:
Mr Garrett, it appeared, lodged in rooms not far from the station. 'And
one other question. Did you happen to notice if an old gentleman, perhaps
a clergyman, in a--yes--in a black cloak, left the library after I did
yesterday. I think he may have been a--I think, that is, that he may be
staying--or rather that I may have known him.'

'Not in a black cloak, sir; no. There were only two gentlemen left later
than what you done, sir, both of them youngish men. There was Mr Carter
took out a music-book and one of the prefessors with a couple o' novels.
That's the lot, sir; and then I went off to me tea, and glad to get it.
Thank you, sir, much obliged.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr Eldred, still a prey to anxiety, betook himself in a cab to Mr
Garrett's address, but the young man was not yet in a condition to
receive visitors. He was better, but his landlady considered that he must
have had a severe shock. She thought most likely from what the doctor
said that he would be able to see Mr Eldred to-morrow. Mr Eldred returned
to his hotel at dusk and spent, I fear, but a dull evening.

On the next day he was able to see Mr Garrett. When in health Mr Garrett
was a cheerful and pleasant-looking young man. Now he was a very white
and shaky being, propped up in an arm-chair by the fire, and inclined to
shiver and keep an eye on the door. If however, there were visitors whom
he was not prepared to welcome, Mr Eldred was not among them. 'It really
is I who owe you an apology, and I was despairing of being able to pay
it, for I didn't know your address. But I am very glad you have called. I
do dislike and regret giving all this trouble, but you know I could not
have foreseen this--this attack which I had.'

'Of course not; but now, I am something of a doctor. You'll excuse my
asking; you have had, I am sure, good advice. Was it a fall you had?'

'No. I did fall on the floor--but not from any height. It was, really, a
shock.'

'You mean something startled you. Was it anything you thought you saw?'

'Not much _thinking_ in the case, I'm afraid. Yes, it was something I
saw. You remember when you called the first time at the library?'

'Yes, of course. Well, now, let me beg you not to try to describe it--it
will not be good for you to recall it, I'm sure.'

'But indeed it would be a relief to me to tell anyone like yourself: you
might be able to explain it away. It was just when I was going into the
class where your book is--'

'Indeed, Mr Garrett, I insist; besides, my watch tells me I have but very
little time left in which to get my things together and take the train.
No--not another word--it would be more distressing to you than you
imagine, perhaps. Now there is just one thing I want to say. I feel that
I am really indirectly responsible for this illness of yours, and I think
I ought to defray the expense which it has--eh?'

But this offer was quite distinctly declined. Mr Eldred, not pressing it,
left almost at once: not, however, before Mr Garrett had insisted upon
his taking a note of the class-mark of the Tractate Middoth, which, as he
said, Mr Eldred could at leisure get for himself. But Mr Eldred did not
reappear at the library.

       *       *       *       *       *

William Garrett had another visitor that day in the person of a
contemporary and colleague from the library, one George Earle. Earle had
been one of those who found Garrett lying insensible on the floor just
inside the 'class' or cubicle (opening upon the central alley of a
spacious gallery) in which the Hebrew books were placed, and Earle had
naturally been very anxious about his friend's condition. So as soon as
library hours were over he appeared at the lodgings. 'Well,' he said
(after other conversation), 'I've no notion what it was that put you
wrong, but I've got the idea that there's something wrong in the
atmosphere of the library. I know this, that just before we found you I
was coming along the gallery with Davis, and I said to him, "Did ever you
know such a musty smell anywhere as there is about here? It can't be
wholesome." Well now, if one goes on living a long time with a smell of
that kind (I tell you it was worse than I ever knew it) it must get into
the system and break out some time, don't you think?'

Garrett shook his head. 'That's all very well about the smell--but it
isn't always there, though I've noticed it the last day or two--a sort of
unnaturally strong smell of dust. But no--that's not what did for me. It
was something I _saw_. And I want to tell you about it. I went into that
Hebrew class to get a book for a man that was inquiring for it down
below. Now that same book I'd made a mistake about the day before. I'd
been for it, for the same man, and made sure that I saw an old parson in
a cloak taking it out. I told my man it was out: off he went, to call
again next day. I went back to see if I could get it out of the parson:
no parson there, and the book on the shelf. Well, yesterday, as I say, I
went again. This time, if you please--ten o'clock in the morning,
remember, and as much light as ever you get in those classes, and there
was my parson again, back to me, looking at the books on the shelf I
wanted. His hat was on the table, and he had a bald head. I waited a
second or two looking at him rather particularly. I tell you, he had a
very nasty bald head. It looked to me dry, and it looked dusty, and the
streaks of hair across it were much less like hair than cobwebs. Well, I
made a bit of a noise on purpose, coughed and moved my feet. He turned
round and let me see his face--which I hadn't seen before. I tell you
again, I'm not mistaken. Though, for one reason or another I didn't take
in the lower part of his face, I did see the upper part; and it was
perfectly dry, and the eyes were very deep-sunk; and over them, from the
eyebrows to the cheek-bone, there were _cobwebs_--thick. Now that closed
me up, as they say, and I can't tell you anything more.'

       *       *       *       *       *

What explanations were furnished by Earle of this phenomenon it does not
very much concern us to inquire; at all events they did not convince
Garrett that he had not seen what he had seen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before William Garrett returned to work at the library, the librarian
insisted upon his taking a week's rest and change of air. Within a few
days' time, therefore, he was at the station with his bag, looking for a
desirable smoking compartment in which to travel to Burnstow-on-Sea,
which he had not previously visited. One compartment and one only seemed
to be suitable. But, just as he approached it, he saw, standing in front
of the door, a figure so like one bound up with recent unpleasant
associations that, with a sickening qualm, and hardly knowing what he
did, he tore open the door of the next compartment and pulled himself
into it as quickly as if death were at his heels. The train moved off,
and he must have turned quite faint, for he was next conscious of a
smelling-bottle being put to his nose. His physician was a nice-looking
old lady, who, with her daughter, was the only passenger in the carriage.

But for this incident it is not very likely that he would have made any
overtures to his fellow-travellers. As it was, thanks and inquiries and
general conversation supervened inevitably; and Garrett found himself
provided before the journey's end not only with a physician, but with a
landlady: for Mrs Simpson had apartments to let at Burnstow, which seemed
in all ways suitable. The place was empty at that season, so that Garrett
was thrown a good deal into the society of the mother and daughter. He
found them very acceptable company. On the third evening of his stay he
was on such terms with them as to be asked to spend the evening in their
private sitting-room.

During their talk it transpired that Garrett's work lay in a library.
'Ah, libraries are fine places,' said Mrs Simpson, putting down her work
with a sigh; 'but for all that, books have played me a sad turn, or
rather _a_ book has.'

'Well, books give me my living, Mrs Simpson, and I should be sorry to say
a word against them: I don't like to hear that they have been bad for
you.'

'Perhaps Mr Garrett could help us to solve our puzzle, mother,' said Miss
Simpson.

'I don't want to set Mr Garrett off on a hunt that might waste a
lifetime, my dear, nor yet to trouble him with our private affairs.'

'But if you think it in the least likely that I could be of use, I do beg
you to tell me what the puzzle is, Mrs Simpson. If it is finding out
anything about a book, you see, I am in rather a good position to do it.'

'Yes, I do see that, but the worst of it is that we don't know the name
of the book.'

'Nor what it is about?'

'No, nor that either.'

'Except that we don't think it's in English, mother--and that is not much
of a clue.'

'Well, Mr Garrett,' said Mrs Simpson, who had not yet resumed her work,
and was looking at the fire thoughtfully, 'I shall tell you the story.
You will please keep it to yourself, if you don't mind? Thank you. Now it
is just this. I had an old uncle, a Dr Rant. Perhaps you may have heard
of him. Not that he was a distinguished man, but from the odd way he
chose to be buried.'

'I rather think I have seen the name in some guidebook.'

'That would be it,' said Miss Simpson. 'He left directions--horrid old
man!--that he was to be put, sitting at a table in his ordinary clothes,
in a brick room that he'd had made underground in a field near his house.
Of course the country people say he's been seen about there in his old
black cloak.'

'Well, dear, I don't know much about such things,' Mrs Simpson went on,
'but anyhow he is dead, these twenty years and more. He was a clergyman,
though I'm sure I can't imagine how he got to be one: but he did no duty
for the last part of his life, which I think was a good thing; and he
lived on his own property: a very nice estate not a great way from here.
He had no wife or family; only one niece, who was myself, and one nephew,
and he had no particular liking for either of us--nor for anyone else, as
far as that goes. If anything, he liked my cousin better than he did
me--for John was much more like him in his temper, and, I'm afraid I must
say, his very mean sharp ways. It might have been different if I had not
married; but I did, and that he very much resented. Very well: here he
was with this estate and a good deal of money, as it turned out, of which
he had the absolute disposal, and it was understood that we--my cousin
and I--would share it equally at his death. In a certain winter, over
twenty years back, as I said, he was taken ill, and I was sent for to
nurse him. My husband was alive then, but the old man would not hear of
_his_ coming. As I drove up to the house I saw my cousin John driving
away from it in an open fly and looking, I noticed, in very good spirits.
I went up and did what I could for my uncle, but I was very soon sure
that this would be his last illness; and he was convinced of it too.
During the day before he died he got me to sit by him all the time, and I
could see there was something, and probably something unpleasant, that he
was saving up to tell me, and putting it off as long as he felt he could
afford the strength--I'm afraid purposely in order to keep me on the
stretch. But, at last, out it came. "Mary," he said,--"Mary, I've made my
will in John's favour: he has everything, Mary." Well, of course that
came as a bitter shock to me, for we--my husband and I--were not rich
people, and if he could have managed to live a little easier than he was
obliged to do, I felt it might be the prolonging of his life. But I said
little or nothing to my uncle, except that he had a right to do what he
pleased: partly because I couldn't think of anything to say, and partly
because I was sure there was more to come: and so there was. "But, Mary,"
he said, "I'm not very fond of John, and I've made another will in _your_
favour. _You_ can have everything. Only you've got to find the will, you
see: and I don't mean to tell you where it is." Then he chuckled to
himself, and I waited, for again I was sure he hadn't finished. "That's a
good girl," he said after a time,--"you wait, and I'll tell you as much
as I told John. But just let me remind you, you can't go into court with
what I'm saying to you, for _you_ won't be able to produce any collateral
evidence beyond your own word, and John's a man that can do a little hard
swearing if necessary. Very well then, that's understood. Now, I had the
fancy that I wouldn't write this will quite in the common way, so I wrote
it in a book, Mary, a printed book. And there's several thousand books in
this house. But there! you needn't trouble yourself with them, for it
isn't one of them. It's in safe keeping elsewhere: in a place where John
can go and find it any day, if he only knew, and you can't. A good will
it is: properly signed and witnessed, but I don't think you'll find the
witnesses in a hurry."

'Still I said nothing: if I had moved at all I must have taken hold of
the old wretch and shaken him. He lay there laughing to himself, and at
last he said:

'"Well, well, you've taken it very quietly, and as I want to start you
both on equal terms, and John has a bit of a purchase in being able to go
where the book is, I'll tell you just two other things which I didn't
tell him. The will's in English, but you won't know that if ever you see
it. That's one thing, and another is that when I'm gone you'll find an
envelope in my desk directed to you, and inside it something that would
help you to find it, if only you have the wits to use it."

'In a few hours from that he was gone, and though I made an appeal to
John Eldred about it--'

'John Eldred? I beg your pardon, Mrs Simpson--I think I've seen a Mr John
Eldred. What is he like to look at?'

'It must be ten years since I saw him: he would be a thin elderly man
now, and unless he has shaved them off, he has that sort of whiskers
which people used to call Dundreary or Piccadilly something.'

'--Weepers. Yes, that _is_ the man.'

'Where did you come across him, Mr Garrett?'

'I don't know if I could tell you,' said Garrett mendaciously, 'in some
public place. But you hadn't finished.'

'Really I had nothing much to add, only that John Eldred, of course, paid
no attention whatever to my letters, and has enjoyed the estate ever
since, while my daughter and I have had to take to the lodging-house
business here, which I must say has not turned out by any means so
unpleasant as I feared it might.'

'But about the envelope.'

'To be sure! Why, the puzzle turns on that. Give Mr Garrett the paper out
of my desk.'

It was a small slip, with nothing whatever on it but five numerals, not
divided or punctuated in any way: 11334.

Mr Garrett pondered, but there was a light in his eye. Suddenly he 'made
a face', and then asked, 'Do you suppose that Mr Eldred can have any more
clue than you have to the title of the book?'

'I have sometimes thought he must,' said Mrs Simpson, 'and in this way:
that my uncle must have made the will not very long before he died (that,
I think, he said himself), and got rid of the book immediately
afterwards. But all his books were very carefully catalogued: and John
has the catalogue: and John was most particular that no books whatever
should be sold out of the house. And I'm told that he is always
journeying about to booksellers and libraries; so I fancy that he must
have found out just which books are missing from my uncle's library of
those which are entered in the catalogue, and must be hunting for them.'

'Just so, just so,' said Mr Garrett, and relapsed into thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

No later than next day he received a letter which, as he told Mrs Simpson
with great regret, made it absolutely necessary for him to cut short his
stay at Burnstow.

Sorry as he was to leave them (and they were at least as sorry to part
with him), he had begun to feel that a crisis, all-important to Mrs (and
shall we add, Miss?) Simpson, was very possibly supervening.

In the train Garrett was uneasy and excited. He racked his brains to
think whether the press mark of the book which Mr Eldred had been
inquiring after was one in any way corresponding to the numbers on Mrs
Simpson's little bit of paper. But he found to his dismay that the shock
of the previous week had really so upset him that he could neither
remember any vestige of the title or nature of the book, or even of the
locality to which he had gone to seek it. And yet all other parts of
library topography and work were clear as ever in his mind.

And another thing--he stamped with annoyance as he thought of it--he had
at first hesitated, and then had forgotten, to ask Mrs Simpson for the
name of the place where Eldred lived. That, however, he could write
about.

At least he had his clue in the figures on the paper. If they referred to
a press mark in his library, they were only susceptible of a limited
number of interpretations. They might be divided into 1.13.34, 11.33.4,
or 11.3.34. He could try all these in the space of a few minutes, and if
any one were missing he had every means of tracing it. He got very
quickly to work, though a few minutes had to be spent in explaining his
early return to his landlady and his colleagues. 1.13.34. was in place
and contained no extraneous writing. As he drew near to Class 11 in the
same gallery, its association struck him like a chill. But he _must_ go
on. After a cursory glance at 11.33.4 (which first confronted him, and
was a perfectly new book) he ran his eye along the line of quartos which
fills 11.3. The gap he feared was there: 34 was out. A moment was spent
in making sure that it had not been misplaced, and then he was off to the
vestibule.

'Has 11.3.34 gone out? Do you recollect noticing that number?'

'Notice the number? What do you take me for, Mr Garrett? There, take and
look over the tickets for yourself, if you've got a free day before you.'

'Well then, has a Mr Eldred called again?--the old gentleman who came the
day I was taken ill. Come! you'd remember him.'

'What do you suppose? Of course I recollect of him: no, he haven't been
in again, not since you went off for your 'oliday. And yet I seem
to--there now. Roberts'll know. Roberts, do you recollect of the name of
Heldred?'

'Not arf,' said Roberts. 'You mean the man that sent a bob over the price
for the parcel, and I wish they all did.'

'Do you mean to say you've been sending books to Mr Eldred? Come, do
speak up! Have you?'

'Well now, Mr Garrett, if a gentleman sends the ticket all wrote correct
and the secketry says this book may go and the box ready addressed sent
with the note, and a sum of money sufficient to deefray the railway
charges, what would be _your_ action in the matter, Mr Garrett, if I may
take the liberty to ask such a question? Would you or would you not have
taken the trouble to oblige, or would you have chucked the 'ole thing
under the counter and--'

'You were perfectly right, of course, Hodgson--perfectly right: only,
would you kindly oblige me by showing me the ticket Mr Eldred sent, and
letting me know his address?'

'To be sure, Mr Garrett; so long as I'm not 'ectored about and informed
that I don't know my duty, I'm willing to oblige in every way feasible to
my power. There is the ticket on the file. J. Eldred, 11.3.34. Title of
work: T-a-l-m--well, there, you can make what you like of it--not a
novel, I should 'azard the guess. And here is Mr Heldred's note applying
for the book in question, which I see he terms it a track.'

'Thanks, thanks: but the address? There's none on the note.'

'Ah, indeed; well, now...stay now, Mr Garrett, I 'ave it. Why, that
note come inside of the parcel, which was directed very thoughtful to
save all trouble, ready to be sent back with the book inside; and if I
_have_ made any mistake in this 'ole transaction, it lays just in the one
point that I neglected to enter the address in my little book here what I
keep. Not but what I dare say there was good reasons for me not entering
of it: but there, I haven't the time, neither have you, I dare say, to go
into 'em just now. And--no, Mr Garrett, I do _not_ carry it in my 'ed,
else what would be the use of me keeping this little book here--just a
ordinary common notebook, you see, which I make a practice of entering
all such names and addresses in it as I see fit to do?'

'Admirable arrangement, to be sure--but--all right, thank you. When did
the parcel go off?'

'Half-past ten, this morning.'

'Oh, good; and it's just one now.'

Garrett went upstairs in deep thought. How was he to get the address? A
telegram to Mrs Simpson: he might miss a train by waiting for the answer.
Yes, there was one other way. She had said that Eldred lived on his
uncle's estate. If this were so, he might find that place entered in the
donation-book. That he could run through quickly, now that he knew the
title of the book. The register was soon before him, and, knowing that
the old man had died more than twenty years ago, he gave him a good
margin, and turned back to 1870. There was but one entry possible. 1875,
August 14th. _Talmud: Tractatus Middoth cum comm. R. Nachmanidae._
Amstelod. 1707. Given by J. Rant, D.D., of Bretfield Manor.

A gazetteer showed Bretfield to be three miles from a small station on
the main line. Now to ask the doorkeeper whether he recollected if the
name on the parcel had been anything like Bretfield.

'No, nothing like. It was, now you mention it, Mr Garrett, either
Bredfield or Britfield, but nothing like that other name what you
coated.'

So far well. Next, a time-table. A train could be got in twenty
minutes--taking two hours over the journey. The only chance, but one not
to be missed; and the train was taken.

If he had been fidgety on the journey up, he was almost distracted on the
journey down. If he found Eldred, what could he say? That it had been
discovered that the book was a rarity and must be recalled? An obvious
untruth. Or that it was believed to contain important manuscript notes?
Eldred would of course show him the book, from which the leaf would
already have been removed. He might, perhaps, find traces of the
removal--a torn edge of a fly-leaf probably--and who could disprove, what
Eldred was certain to say, that he too had noticed and regretted the
mutilation? Altogether the chase seemed very hopeless. The one chance was
this. The book had left the library at 10.30: it might not have been put
into the first possible train, at 11.20. Granted that, then he might be
lucky enough to arrive simultaneously with it and patch up some story
which would induce Eldred to give it up.

It was drawing towards evening when he got out upon the platform of his
station, and, like most country stations, this one seemed unnaturally
quiet. He waited about till the one or two passengers who got out with
him had drifted off, and then inquired of the station-master whether Mr
Eldred was in the neighbourhood.

'Yes, and pretty near too, I believe. I fancy he means calling here for a
parcel he expects. Called for it once to-day already, didn't he, Bob?'
(to the porter).

'Yes, sir, he did; and appeared to think it was all along of me that it
didn't come by the two o'clock. Anyhow, I've got it for him now,' and the
porter flourished a square parcel, which--a glance assured Garrett--
contained all that was of any importance to him at that particular
moment.

'Bretfield, sir? Yes--three miles just about. Short cut across these
three fields brings it down by half a mile. There: there's Mr Eldred's
trap.'

A dog-cart drove up with two men in it, of whom Garrett, gazing back as
he crossed the little station yard, easily recognized one. The fact that
Eldred was driving was slightly in his favour--for most likely he would
not open the parcel in the presence of his servant. On the other hand, he
would get home quickly, and unless Garrett were there within a very few
minutes of his arrival, all would be over. He must hurry; and that he
did. His short cut took him along one side of a triangle, while the cart
had two sides to traverse; and it was delayed a little at the station, so
that Garrett was in the third of the three fields when he heard the
wheels fairly near. He had made the best progress possible, but the pace
at which the cart was coming made him despair. At this rate it _must_
reach home ten minutes before him, and ten minutes would more than
suffice for the fulfilment of Mr Eldred's project.

It was just at this time that the luck fairly turned. The evening was
still, and sounds came clearly. Seldom has any sound given greater relief
than that which he now heard: that of the cart pulling up. A few words
were exchanged, and it drove on. Garrett, halting in the utmost anxiety,
was able to see as it drove past the stile (near which he now stood) that
it contained only the servant and not Eldred; further, he made out that
Eldred was following on foot. From behind the tall hedge by the stile
leading into the road he watched the thin wiry figure pass quickly by
with the parcel beneath its arm, and feeling in its pockets. Just as he
passed the stile something fell out of a pocket upon the grass, but with
so little sound that Eldred was not conscious of it. In a moment more it
was safe for Garrett to cross the stile into the road and pick up--a box
of matches. Eldred went on, and, as he went, his arms made hasty
movements, difficult to interpret in the shadow of the trees that
overhung the road. But, as Garrett followed cautiously, he found at
various points the key to them--a piece of string, and then the wrapper
of the parcel--meant to be thrown over the hedge, but sticking in it.

Now Eldred was walking slower, and it could just be made out that he had
opened the book and was turning over the leaves. He stopped, evidently
troubled by the failing light. Garrett slipped into a gate-opening, but
still watched. Eldred, hastily looking around, sat down on a felled
tree-trunk by the roadside and held the open book up close to his eyes.
Suddenly he laid it, still open, on his knee, and felt in all his
pockets: clearly in vain, and clearly to his annoyance. 'You would be
glad of your matches now,' thought Garrett. Then he took hold of a leaf,
and was carefully tearing it out, when two things happened. First,
something black seemed to drop upon the white leaf and run down it, and
then as Eldred started and was turning to look behind him, a little dark
form appeared to rise out of the shadow behind the tree-trunk and from it
two arms enclosing a mass of blackness came before Eldred's face and
covered his head and neck. His legs and arms were wildly flourished, but
no sound came. Then, there was no more movement. Eldred was alone. He had
fallen back into the grass behind the tree-trunk. The book was cast into
the roadway. Garrett, his anger and suspicion gone for the moment at the
sight of this horrid struggle, rushed up with loud cries of 'Help!' and
so too, to his enormous relief, did a labourer who had just emerged from
a field opposite. Together they bent over and supported Eldred, but to no
purpose. The conclusion that he was dead was inevitable. 'Poor
gentleman!' said Garrett to the labourer, when they had laid him down,
'what happened to him, do you think?' 'I wasn't two hundred yards away,'
said the man, 'when I see Squire Eldred setting reading in his book, and
to my thinking he was took with one of these fits--face seemed to go all
over black.' 'Just so,' said Garrett. 'You didn't see anyone near him? It
couldn't have been an assault?' 'Not possible--no one couldn't have got
away without you or me seeing them.' 'So I thought. Well, we must get
some help, and the doctor and the policeman; and perhaps I had better
give them this book.'

It was obviously a case for an inquest, and obvious also that Garrett
must stay at Bretfield and give his evidence. The medical inspection
showed that, though some black dust was found on the face and in the
mouth of the deceased, the cause of death was a shock to a weak heart,
and not asphyxiation. The fateful book was produced, a respectable quarto
printed wholly in Hebrew, and not of an aspect likely to excite even the
most sensitive.

'You say, Mr Garrett, that the deceased gentleman appeared at the moment
before his attack to be tearing a leaf out of this book?'

'Yes; I think one of the fly-leaves.'

'There is here a fly-leaf partially torn through. It has Hebrew writing
on it. Will you kindly inspect it?'

'There are three names in English, sir, also, and a date. But I am sorry
to say I cannot read Hebrew writing.'

'Thank you. The names have the appearance of being signatures. They are
John Rant, Walter Gibson, and James Frost, and the date is 20 July, 1875.
Does anyone here know any of these names?'

The Rector, who was present, volunteered a statement that the uncle of
the deceased, from whom he inherited, had been named Rant.

The book being handed to him, he shook a puzzled head. 'This is not like
any Hebrew I ever learnt.'

'You are sure that it is Hebrew?'

'What? Yes--I suppose...No--my dear sir, you are perfectly right--that
is, your suggestion is exactly to the point. Of course--it is not Hebrew
at all. It is English, and it is a will.'

It did not take many minutes to show that here was indeed a will of Dr
John Rant, bequeathing the whole of the property lately held by John
Eldred to Mrs Mary Simpson. Clearly the discovery of such a document
would amply justify Mr Eldred's agitation. As to the partial tearing of
the leaf, the coroner pointed out that no useful purpose could be
attained by speculations whose correctness it would never be possible to
establish.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Tractate Middoth was naturally taken in charge by the coroner for
further investigation, and Mr Garrett explained privately to him the
history of it, and the position of events so far as he knew or guessed
them.

He returned to his work next day, and on his walk to the station passed
the scene of Mr Eldred's catastrophe. He could hardly leave it without
another look, though the recollection of what he had seen there made him
shiver, even on that bright morning. He walked round, with some
misgivings, behind the felled tree. Something dark that still lay there
made him start back for a moment: but it hardly stirred. Looking closer,
he saw that it was a thick black mass of cobwebs; and, as he stirred it
gingerly with his stick, several large spiders ran out of it into the
grass.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no great difficulty in imagining the steps by which William
Garrett, from being an assistant in a great library, attained to his
present position of prospective owner of Bretfield Manor, now in the
occupation of his mother-in-law, Mrs Mary Simpson.



29. THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS


I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [8] Upon one stone are seven eyes.

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

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

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


II

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

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

    Honoured Sir,

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

    I am Sir

    Your obed't Serv't

    William Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Shall I go?' interjected Mr Gregory.

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

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

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

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


III

This was Mr Somerton's story:

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

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

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

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

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

    _Job_.       DREVICIOPEDMOOMSMVIVLISLCAV
                 IBASBATAOVT

    _St John_.   RDIIEAMRLESIPVSPODSEEIRSETTA
                 AESGIAVNNR

    _Zechariah_. FTEEAILNQDPVAIVMTLEEATTOHIOO
                 NVMCAAT.H.Q.E.

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

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

    [D]R[E]VI[C]IOP[E]D[M]OO[M]SMV[I]V[L]IS[L]CAV
    [I]B[A]SB[A]TAO[V]T
    [R]DI[I]EAM[R]L[E]SI[P]VSP[O]D[S]EE[I]RSE[T]T[A]
    AE[S]GIA[V]N[N]R
    F[T]EEA[I]L[N]QD[P]VAI[V]M[T]LE[E]ATT[O]H[I]OO
    [N]VMC[A]A[T].H.Q.E.

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

    RVIIOPDOOSMVVISCAVBSBTAOTDIE
    AMLSIVSPDEERSETAEGIANRFEEALQD
    VAIMLEATTHOOVMCA.H.Q.E.

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

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

'So the whole secret was out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



30. THE UNCOMMON PRAYER-BOOK


Mr Davidson was spending the first week in January alone in a country
town. A combination of circumstances had driven him to that drastic
course: his nearest relations were enjoying winter sports abroad, and the
friends who had been kindly anxious to replace them had an infectious
complaint in the house. Doubtless he might have found someone else to
take pity on him; 'but,' he reflected, 'most of them have made up their
parties, and after all it is only for three or four days at most that I
have to fend for myself, and it will be just as well if I can get a move
on with my introduction to the Leventhorp Papers. I might use the time by
going down as near as I can to Gaulsford and making acquaintance with the
neighbourhood. I ought to see the remains of the Leventhorp house, and
the tombs in the church.'

The first day after his arrival at the Swan Hotel at Longbridge was so
stormy that he got no farther than the tobacconist's. The next,
comparatively bright, he used for his visit to Gaulsford, which
interested him more than a little, but had no ulterior consequences. The
third, which was really a pearl of a day for early January, was too fine
to be spent indoors. He gathered from the landlord that a favourite
practice of visitors in the summer was to take a morning train to a
couple of stations westward and walk back down the valley of the Tent,
through Stanford St Thomas and Stanford Magdalene, both of which were
accounted highly picturesque villages. He closed with this plan, and we
now find him seated in a third-class carriage at 9.45 a.m., on his way to
Kingsbourne Junction, and studying the map of the district.

One old man was his only fellow-traveller, a piping old man, who seemed
inclined for conversation. So Mr Davidson, after going through the
necessary versicles and responses about the weather, inquired whether he
was going far.

'No, sir, not far, not this morning, sir,' said the old man. 'I ain't
only goin' so far as what they call Kingsbourne Junction. There isn't but
two stations betwixt here and there. Yes, they calls it Kingsbourne
Junction.'

'I'm going there, too,' said Mr Davidson.

'Oh indeed, sir! do you know that part?'

'No, I'm only going for the sake of taking a walk back to Longbridge, and
seeing a bit of the country.'

'Oh indeed, sir! Well, 'tis a beautiful day for a gentleman as enjoys a
bit of a walk.'

'Yes, to be sure. Have you got far to go when you get to Kingsbourne?'

'No, sir, I ain't got far to go, once I get to Kingsbourne Junction. I'm
agoin' to see my daughter, sir. She live at Brockstone. That's about two
mile across the fields from what they call Kingsbourne Junction, that is.
You've got that marked down on your map, I expect, sir.'

'I expect I have. Let me see, Brockstone, did you say? Here's
Kingsbourne, yes; and which way is Brockstone toward the Stanfords? Ah, I
see it: Brockstone Court, in a park. I don't see the village, though.'

'No, sir, you wouldn't see no village of Brockstone. There ain't only the
Court and the chapel at Brockstone.'

'Chapel? Oh yes, that's marked here too. The chapel; close by the Court,
it seems to be. Does it belong to the Court?'

'Yes, sir, that's close up to the Court, only a step. Yes, that belong to
the Court. My daughter, you see, sir, she's the keeper's wife now, and
she live at the Court and look after things now the family's away.'

'No one living there now, then?'

'No, sir, not for a number of years. The old gentleman he lived there
when I was a lad, and the lady she lived on after him to very near upon
ninety years of age. And then she died, and them that have it now,
they've got this other place, in Warwickshire I believe it is, and they
don't do nothin' about lettin' the Court out; but Colonel Wildman he have
the shooting, and young Mr Clark, he's the agent, he come over once in so
many weeks to see to things, and my daughter's husband he's the keeper.'

'And who uses the chapel? just the people round about, I suppose.'

'Oh no, no one don't use the chapel. Why, there ain't no one to go. All
the people about, they go to Stanford St Thomas Church; but my son-in-law
he go to Kingsbourne Church now, because the gentleman at Stanford he
have this Gregory singin', and my son-in-law he don't like that; he say
he can hear the old donkey brayin' any day of the week, and he like
something a little cheerful on the Sunday.' The old man drew his hand
across his mouth and laughed. 'That's what my son-in-law say: he say he
can hear the old donkey [etc., do copo].'

Mr Davidson also laughed as honestly as he could, thinking meanwhile that
Brockstone Court and chapel would probably be worth including in his
walk, for the map showed that from Brockstone he could strike the Tent
Valley quite as easily as by following the main Kingsbourne-Longbridge
road. So, when the mirth excited by the remembrance of the son-in-law's
bon mot had died down, he returned to the charge, and ascertained that
both the Court and the chapel were of the class known as 'old-fashioned
places', and that the old man would be very willing to take him thither,
and his daughter would be happy to show him whatever she could.

'But that ain't a lot, sir, not as if the family was livin' there; all
the lookin'-glasses is covered up, and the paintin's, and the curtains
and carpets folded away: not but what I dare say she could show you a
pair just to look at, because she go over them to see as the morth
shouldn't get into 'em.'

'I shan't mind about that, thank you: if she can show me the inside of
the chapel, that's what I'd like best to see.'

'Oh, she can show you that right enough, sir. She have the key of the
door, you see, and most weeks she go in and dust about. That's a nice
chapel, that is. My son-in-law he say he'll be bound they didn't have
none of this Gregory singin' there. Dear! I can't help but smile when I
think of him sayin' that about th' old donkey. "I can hear him bray," he
say, "any day of the week"; and so he can, sir, that's true, anyway.'

The walk across the fields from Kingsbourne to Brockstone was very
pleasant. It lay for the most part on the top of the country, and
commanded wide views over a succession of ridges, plough and pasture, or
covered with dark-blue woods--all ending, more or less abruptly, on the
right, in headlands that overlooked the wide valley of a great western
river. The last field they crossed was bounded by a close copse, and no
sooner were they in it than the path turned downwards very sharply, and
it became evident that Brockstone was neatly fitted into a sudden and
very narrow valley. It was not long before they had glimpses of groups of
smokeless stone chimneys, and stone-tiled roofs, close beneath their
feet; and not many minutes after that, they were wiping their shoes at
the back door of Brockstone Court, while the keeper's dogs barked very
loudly in unseen places, and Mrs Porter in quick succession screamed at
them to be quiet, greeted her father, and begged both her visitors to
step in.

It was not to be expected that Mr Davidson should escape being taken
through the principal rooms of the Court, in spite of the fact that the
house was entirely out of commission. Pictures, carpets, curtains,
furniture, were all covered up or put away, as old Mr Avery had said, and
the admiration which our friend was very ready to bestow had to be
lavished on the proportions of the rooms, and on the one painted ceiling,
upon which an artist who had fled from London in the Plague-year had
depicted the Triumph of Loyalty and Defeat of Sedition. In this Mr
Davidson could show an unfeigned interest. The portraits of Cromwell,
Ireton, Bradshaw, Peters, and the rest, writhing in carefully-devised
torments, were evidently the part of the design to which most pains had
been devoted.

'That were the old Lady Sadleir had that paintin' done, same as the one
what put up the chapel. They say she were the first that went up to
London to dance on Oliver Cromwell's grave.' So said Mr Avery, and
continued musingly: 'Well, I suppose she got some satisfaction to 'er
mind, but I don't know as I should want to pay the fare to London and
back just for that, and my son-in-law he say the same: he say he don't
know as he should have cared to pay all that money only for that. I was
tellin' the gentleman as we come along in the train, Mary, what your
'Arry says about this Gregory singin' down at Stanford here. We 'ad a bit
of a laugh over that, sir, didn't us?'

'Yes, to be sure we did; ha! ha!' Once again Mr Davidson strove to do
justice to the pleasantry of the keeper. 'But,' he said, 'if Mrs Porter
can show me the chapel, I think it should be now, for the days aren't
long, and I want to get back to Longbridge before it falls quite dark.'

Even if Brockstone Court has not been illustrated in Rural Life (and I
think it has not) I do not propose to point out its excellences here; but
of the chapel a word must be said. It stands about a hundred yards from
the house, and has its own little graveyard and trees about it. It is a
stone building about seventy feet long, and in the gothic style, as that
style was understood in the middle of the seventeenth century. On the
whole it resembles some of the Oxford college chapels as much as
anything, save that it has a distinct chancel, like a parish church, and
a fanciful domed bell-turret at the south-west angle.

When the west door was thrown open, Mr Davidson could not repress an
exclamation of pleased surprise at the completeness and richness of the
interior. Screen-work, pulpit, seating, and glass--all were of the same
period; and as he advanced into the nave and sighted the organ-case with
its gold embossed pipes in the western gallery, his cup of satisfaction
was filled. The glass in the nave windows was chiefly armorial; in the
chancel were figure-subjects, of the kind that may be seen at Abbey Dore,
of Lord Scudamore's work. But this is not an archaeological review.

While Mr Davidson was still busy examining the remains of the organ
(attributed to one of the Dallams, I believe) old Mr Avery had stumped up
into the chancel and was lifting the dust-cloths from the blue velvet
cushions of the stall-desks--evidently it was here that the family sat. Mr
Davidson heard him say in a rather hushed tone of surprise, 'Why, Mary,
here's all the books open agin!'

The reply was in a voice that sounded peevish rather than surprised.
'Tt-tt-tt, well, there, I never!'

Mrs Porter went over to where her father was standing, and they continued
talking in a lower key. Mr Davidson saw plainly that something not quite
in the common run was under discussion: so he came down the gallery
stairs and joined them. There was no sign of disorder in the chancel any
more than in the rest of the chapel, which was beautifully clean, but the
eight folio Prayer-Books on the cushions of the stall-desks were
indubitably open.

Mrs Porter was inclined to be fretful over it. 'Whoever can it be as does
it?' she said, 'for there's no key but mine, nor yet door but the one we
come in by, and the winders is barred, every one of 'em: I don't like it,
father, that I don't.'

'What is it, Mrs Porter? Anything wrong?' said Mr Davidson.

'No, sir, nothing reely wrong, only these books. Every time pretty near
that I come in to do up the place, I shuts 'em and spreads the cloths
over 'em to keep off the dust, ever since Mr Clark spoke about it when I
first come; and yet there they are again, and always the same page--and
as I says, whoever it can be as does it with the door and winders shut;
and as I says, it makes anyone feel queer comin' in here alone as I 'ave
to do, not as I'm given that way myself, not to be frightened easy, I
mean to say; and there's not a rat in the place--not as no rat wouldn't
trouble to do a thing like that, do you think, sir?'

'Hardly, I should say; but it sounds very queer. Are they always open at
the same place, did you say?'

'Always the same place, sir, one of the psalms it is, and I didn't
particular notice it the first time or two, till I see a little red line
of printing, and it's always caught my eye since.'

Mr Davidson walked along the stalls and looked at the open books. Sure
enough, they all stood at the same page: Psalm cix, and at the head of
it, just between the number and the Dens Iaudem, was a rubric, 'For the
25th day of April'. Without pretending to minute knowledge of the
history of the Book of Common Prayer, he knew enough to be sure that
this was a very odd and wholly unauthorized addition to its text; and
though he remembered that April is St Mark's Day, he could not imagine
what appropriateness this very savage psalm could have to that festival.
With slight misgivings, he ventured to turn over the leaves to examine
the title-page, and knowing the need for particular accuracy in these
matters, he devoted some ten minutes to making a line-for-line
transcript of it. The date was 1653; the printer called himself Anthony
Cadman. He turned to the list of Proper Psalms for certain days: yes,
added to it was that same inexplicable entry: For the 25th day of April:
the moth Psalm. An expert would no doubt have thought of many other
points to inquire into, but this antiquary, as I have said, was no
expert. He took stock, however, of the binding, a handsome one of tooled
blue leather, bearing the arms that figured in several of the nave
windows in various combinations.

'How often,' he said at last to Mrs Porter, 'have you found these books
lying open like this?'

'Reely I couldn't say, sir, but it's a great many times now. Do you
recollect, father, me telling you about it the first time I noticed it?'

'That I do, my dear: you was in a rare taking, and I don't so much wonder
at it; that was five year ago I was paying you a visit at Michaelmas
time, and you come in at tea-time, and says you, "Father, there's the
books layin' open under the cloths agin"; and I didn't know what my
daughter was speakin' about, you see, sir, and I says, "Books?" just like
that, I says; and then it all came out. But as Harry says,--that's my
son-in-law, sir,--"whoever it can be," he says, "as does it, because
there ain't only the one door, and we keeps the key locked up," he says,
"and the winders is barred, every one on 'em. Well," he says, "I lay once
I could catch 'em at it they wouldn't do it a second time," he says. And
no more they wouldn't, I don't believe, sir. Well that was five year ago,
and it's been happenin' constant ever since by your account, my dear.
Young Mr Clark he don't seem to think much to it, but then he don't live
here, you see, and 'tisn't his business to come and clean up here of a
dark afternoon, is it?'

'I suppose you never notice anything else odd when you are at work here,
Mrs Porter?' said Mr Davidson.

'No, sir, I do not,' said Mrs Porter, 'and it's a funny thing to me I
don't, with the feeling I have as there's someone settin' here--no, it's
the other side, just within the screen--and lookin' at me all the time
I'm dustin' in the gallery and pews. But I never yet see nothin' worse
than myself, as the sayin' goes, and I kindly hope I never may.'

In the conversation that followed (there was not much of it) nothing was
added to the statement of the case. Having parted on good terms with Mr
Avery and his daughter, Mr Davidson addressed himself to his eight-mile
walk. The little valley of Brockstone soon led him down into the broader
one of the Tent, and on to Stanford St Thomas, where he found
refreshment.

We need not accompany him all the way to Longbridge. But as he was
changing his socks before dinner, he suddenly paused and said half-aloud,
'By Jove, that is a rum thing!' It had not occurred to him before how
strange it was that any edition of the Prayer-Book should have been
issued in 1653, seven years before the Restoration, five years before
Cromwell's death, and when the use of the book, let alone the printing of
it, was penal. He must have been a bold man who put his name and a date
on that title-page. Only, Mr Davidson reflected, it probably was not his
name at all, for the ways of printers in difficult times were devious.

As he was in the front hall of the Swan that evening, making some
investigations about trains, a small motor stopped in front of the door,
and out of it came a small man in a fur coat, who stood on the steps and
gave directions in a rather yapping foreign accent to his chauffeur. When
he came into the hotel, he was seen to be black-haired and pale-faced,
with a little pointed beard, and gold pince-nez; altogether, very neatly
turned out.

He went to his room, and Mr Davidson saw no more of him till dinner-time.
As they were the only two dining that night, it was not difficult for the
newcomer to find an excuse for falling into talk; he was evidently
wishing to make out what brought Mr Davidson into that neighbourhood at
that season.

'Can you tell me how far it is from here to Arlingworth?' was one of his
early questions, and it was one which threw some light on his own plans,
for Mr Davidson recollected having seen at the station an advertisement
of a sale at Arlingworth Hall, comprising old furniture, pictures, and
books. This, then, was a London dealer.

'No,' he said, 'I've never been there. I believe it lies out by
Kingsbourne--it can't be less than twelve miles. I see there's a sale
there shortly.'

The other looked at him inquisitively, and he laughed. 'No,' he said, as
if answering a question, 'you needn't be afraid of my competing; I'm
leaving this place tomorrow.'

This cleared the air, and the dealer, whose name was Homberger, admitted
that he was interested in books, and thought there might be in these old
country-house libraries something to repay a journey. 'For,' said he, 'we
English have always this marvellous talent for accumulating rarities in
the most unexpected places, ain't it?'

And in the course of the evening he was most interesting on the subject
of finds made by himself and others. 'I shall take the occasion after
this sale to look round the district a bit: perhaps you could inform me
of some likely spots, Mr Davidson?' But Davidson, though he had seen some
very tempting locked-up bookcases at Brockstone Court, kept his counsel.
He did not really like Mr Homberger.

Next day, as he sat in the train, a little ray of light came to
illuminate one of yesterday's puzzles. He happened to take out an
almanac-diary that he had bought for the new year, and it occurred to him
to look at the remarkable events for April 25. There it was: 'St Mark.
Oliver Cromwell born, 1599.'

That, coupled with the painted ceiling, seemed to explain a good deal.
The figure of old Lady Sadleir became more substantial to his
imagination, as of one in whom love for Church and King had gradually
given place to intense hate of the power that had silenced the one and
slaughtered the other. What curious evil service was that which she and a
few like her had been wont to celebrate year by year in that remote
valley? and how in the world had she managed to elude authority? And
again, did not this persistent opening of the books agree oddly with the
other traits of her portrait known to him?

It would be interesting for anyone who chanced to be near Brockstone on
the twenty-fifth of April to look in at the chapel and see if anything
exceptional happened. When he came to think of it, there seemed to be no
reason why he should not be that person himself: he, and if possible,
some congenial friend. He resolved that so it should be.

Knowing that he knew really nothing about the printing of Prayer-Books,
he realized that he must make it his business to get the best light on
the matter without divulging his reasons. I may say at once that his
search was entirely fruitless. One writer of the early part of the
nineteenth century, a writer of rather windy and rhapsodical chat about
books, professed to have heard of a special anti-Cromwellian issue of the
Prayer-Book in the very midst of the Commonwealth period. But he did not
claim to have seen a copy, and no one had believed him. Looking into this
matter, Mr Davidson found that the statement was based on letters from a
correspondent who had lived near Longbridge: so he was inclined to think
that the Brockstone Prayer-Books were at the bottom of it, and had
excited a momentary interest.

Months went on, and St Mark's Day came near. Nothing interfered with Mr
Davidson's plans of visiting Brockstone, or with those of the friend whom
he had persuaded to go with him, and to whom alone he had confided the
puzzle. The same 9.45 train which had taken him in January took them now
to Kingsbourne; the same field-path led them to Brockstone. But today
they stopped more than once to pick a cowslip; the distant woods and
ploughed uplands were of another colour, and in the copse there was, as
Mrs Porter said, 'a regular charm of birds; why you couldn't hardly
collect your mind sometimes with it.'

She recognized Mr Davidson at once and was very ready to do the honours
of the chapel. The new visitor, Mr Witham, was as much struck by the
completeness of it as Mr Davidson had been. 'There can't be such another
in England,' he said.

'Books open again, Mrs Porter?' said Davidson, as they walked up to the
chancel.

'Dear, yes, I expect so, sir,' said Mrs Porter, as she drew off the
cloths. 'Well, there!' she exclaimed the next moment, 'if they ain't
shut! That's the first time ever I've found 'em so. But it's not for want
of care on my part, I do assure you, gentlemen, if they wasn't, for I
felt the cloths the last thing before I shut up last week, when the
gentleman had done photografting the heast winder, and every one was
shut, and where there was ribbons left I tied 'em. Now I think of it, I
don't remember ever to 'ave done that before, and per'aps, whoever it is
it just made the difference to 'em. Well, it only shows, don't it? If at
first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.'

Meanwhile the two men had been examining the books, and now Davidson
spoke.

'I'm sorry to say I'm afraid there's something wrong here, Mrs Porter.
These are not the same books.'

It would make too long a business to detail all Mrs Porter's outcries,
and the questionings that followed. The upshot was this. Early in January
the gentleman had come to see over the chapel and thought a great deal of
it and said he must come back in the spring weather and take some
photografts. And only a week ago he had drove up in his motoring car, and
a very 'eavy box with the slides in it, and she had locked him in because
he said something about a long explosion, and she was afraid of some
damage happening: and he says, no, not explosion, but it appeared the
lantern what they take the slides with worked very slow, and so he was in
there the best part of an hour and she come and let him out, and he drove
off with his box and all and gave her his visiting-card, and oh, dear,
dear, to think of such a thing! he must have changed the books and took
the old ones away with him in his box.

'What sort of man was he?'

'Oh, dear, he was a small-made gentleman, if you can call him so after
the way he've behaved, with black hair, that is if it was hair, and gold
eye-glasses, if they was gold: reely, one don't know what to believe.
Sometimes I doubt he weren't a reel Englishman at all, and yet he seemed
to know the language, and had the name on his visiting-card like anybody
else might.

'Just so; might we see the card? Yes: T. W. Henderson, and an address
somewhere near Bristol. Well, Mrs Porter, it's quite plain this Mr
Henderson, as he calls himself, has walked off with your eight
Prayer-Books and put eight others about the same size in place of them.
Now listen to me. I suppose you must tell your husband about this, but
neither you nor he must say one word about it to anyone else. If you'll
give me the address of the agent--Mr Clark, isn't it?--I will write to
him and tell him exactly what has happened, and that it really is no
fault of yours. But, you understand, we must keep it very quiet: and why?
Because this man who has stolen the books will of course try to sell them
one at a time--for I may tell you they are worth a good deal of
money--and the only way we can bring it home to him is by keeping a sharp
look out and saying nothing.'

By dint of repeating the same advice in various forms they succeeded in
impressing Mrs Porter with the real need for silence, and were forced to
make a concession only in the case of Mr Avery, who was expected on a
visit shortly: 'But you may be safe with father, sir,' said Mrs Porter.
'Father ain't a talkin' man.'

It was not quite Mr Davidson's experience of him; still, there were no
neighbours at Brockstone, and even Mr Avery must be aware that gossip
with anybody on such a subject would be likely to end in the Porters
having to look out for another situation.

A last question was whether Mr Henderson, so-called, had anyone with him.

'No, sir, not when he come he hadn't: he was working his own motoring car
himself, and what luggage he had, let me see: there was his lantern and
this box of slides inside the carriage, which I helped him into the
chapel and out of it myself with it, if only I'd knowed! And as he drove
away under the big yew tree by the monument I see the long white bundle
laying on the top of the coach, what I didn't notice when he drove up.
But he set in front, sir, and only the boxes inside behind him. And do
you reely think, sir, as his name weren't Henderson at all? Oh dear me,
what a dreadful thing! Why fancy what trouble it might bring to a
innocent person that might never have set foot in the place but for
that!'

They left Mrs Porter in tears. On the way home there was much discussion
as to the best means of keeping watch upon possible sales. What
Henderson-Homberger (for there could be no real doubt of the identity)
had done was, obviously, to bring down the requisite number of folio
Prayer-Books--disused copies from college chapels and the like, bought
ostensibly for the sake of the bindings, which were superficially like
enough to the old ones--and to substitute them at his leisure for the
genuine articles. A week had now passed without any public notice being
taken of the theft. He would take a little time himself to find out about
the rarity of the books, and would ultimately, no doubt, 'place' them
cautiously. Between them, Davidson and Witham were in a position to know
a good deal of what was passing in the book-world, and they could map out
the ground pretty completely. A weak point with them at the moment was
that neither of them knew under what other name or names
Henderson-Homberger carried on business. But there are ways of solving
these problems.

And yet all this planning proved unnecessary.

* * * * *

We are transported to a London office on this same 25th of April. We find
there, within closed doors, late in the day, two police inspectors, a
commissionaire, and a youthful clerk. The two latter, both rather pale
and agitated in appearance, are sitting on chairs and being questioned.

'How long do you say you've been in this Mr Poschwitz's employment? Six
months? And what was his business? Attended sales in various parts and
brought home parcels of books. Did he keep a shop anywhere? No? Disposed
of 'em here and there, and sometimes to private collectors. Right. Now
then, when did he go out last? Rather better than a week ago. Tell you
where he was going? No? Said he was going to start next day from his
private residence, and shouldn't be at the office--that's here,
eh?--before two days: you was to attend as usual. Where is his private
residence? Oh, that's the address, Norwood way; I see. Any family? Not in
this country? Now, then, what account do you give of what's happened
since he came back? Came back on the Tuesday, did he? and this is the
Saturday. Bring any books? One package: where is it? In the safe: you got
the key? No, to be sure, it's open, of course. How did he seem when he
got back--cheerful? Well, but how do you mean curious? Thought he might
be in for an illness: he said that, did he? Odd smell got in his nose,
couldn't get rid of it: told you to let him know who wanted to see him
before you let 'em in? That wasn't usual with him? Much the same all
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Out a good deal; said he was going to the
British Museum. Often went there to make inquiries in the way of his
business. Walked up and down a lot in the office when he was in? Anyone
call in on those days? Mostly when he was out. Anyone find him in? Oh, Mr
Collinson? Who's Mr Collinson? An old customer: know his address? All
right, give it us afterwards. Well, now, what about this morning? You
left Mr Poschwitz's here at twelve and went home. Anybody see you?
Commissionaire, you did? Remained at home till summoned here. Very well.

'Now commissionaire; we have your name--Watkins. eh? Very well, make your
statement: don't go too quick, so as we can get it down.'

'I was on duty 'ere later than usual, Mr Potwitch 'axing asked me to
remain on, and ordered his lunching to be sent in, which come as ordered.
I was in the lobby from eleven-thirty on, and see Mr Bligh [the clerk]
leave at about twelve. After that no one come in at all except Mr
Potwitch's lunching come at one o'clock and the man left in five minutes'
time. Towards the afternoon I became tired of waitin' and I come upstairs
to this first floor. The outer door what lead to the orfice stood open,
and I come up to the plate-glass door here. Mr Potwitch he was standing
behind the table smoking a cigar, and he laid it down on the mantelpiece
and felt in his trouser pockets and took out a key and went across to the
safe. And I knocked on the glass, thinkin' to see if he wanted me to come
and take away his tray, but he didn't take no notice, bein' engaged with
the safe door. Then he got it open and stooped down and seemed to be
lifting up a package off of the floor of the safe. And then, sir, I see
what looked to be like a great roll of old shabby white flannel about
four to five feet high fall for'ards out of the inside of the safe right
against Mr Potwitch's shoulder as he was stooping over: and Mr Porwitch
he raised himself up as it were, resting his hands on the package, and
give a exclamation. And I can't hardly expect you should take what I
says, but as true as I stand here I see this roll had a kind of a face in
the upper end of it, sir. You can't be more surprised than what I was, I
can assure you, and I've seen a lot in me time...Yes, I can describe it
if you wish it, sir: it was very much the same as this wall here in
colour [the wall had an earth-coloured distemper] and it had a bit of a
band tied round underneath, and the eyes, well they was dry-like, and
much as if there was two big spiders' bodies in the holes...Hair? no, I
don't know as there was much hair to be seen: the flannel-stuff was over
the top of the 'ead...I'm very sure it warn' t what it should have been.
No, I only see it in a flash, but I took it in like a photograft--wish I
hadn't...Yest, sir, it fell right over on to Mr Potwitch's shoulder, and
this face hid in his neck--yes, sir, about where the injury was--more
like a ferret goin' for a rabbit than anythink else, and he rolled over,
and of course I tried to get in at the door, but as you know, sir, it
were locked on the inside, and all I could do, I rung up everyone, and
the surgeon come, and the police and you gentlemen, and you know as much
as what I do. If you won't be requirin' me any more today I'd be glad to
be gettin' off home: it's shook me up more than I thought for.'

'Well.' said one of the inspectors, when they were left alone, and
'Well?' said the other inspector: and, after a pause, 'What's the
surgeon's report again? You've got it there. Yes. Effect on the blood
like the worst kind of snake-bite: death almost instantaneous. I'm glad
of that for his sake; he was a nasty sight. No case for detaining this
man Watkins, anyway; we know all about him. And what about this safe,
now? We'd better go over it again, and, by the way, we haven't opened
that package he was busy with when he died.'

'Well, handle it careful,' said the other. 'There might be this snake in
it, for what you know. Get a light into the corners of the place, too.
Well: there's room for a shortish person to stand up in; but what about
ventilation?'

'Perhaps,' said the other slowly, as he explored the safe with an
electric torch, 'perhaps they didn't require much of that. My word! it
strikes warm coming out of that place! like a vault, it is. But here,
what's this bank-like of dust all spread out into the room? That must
have come there since the door was opened; it would sweep it all away if
you moved it--see? Now what do you make of that?'

'Make of it? About as much as I make of anything else in this case. One
of London's mysteries this is going to be, by what I can see, and I don't
believe a photographer's box full of large-size old fashioned
Prayer-Books is going to take us much further. For that's just what your
package is.'

It was a natural but hasty utterance. The preceding narrative shows that
there was in fact plenty of material for constructing a case; and when
once Messrs. Davidson and Witham had brought their end to Scotland Yard,
the join-up was soon made, and the circle completed.

To the relief of Mrs Porter, the owners of Brockstone decided not to
replace the books in the chapel: they repose, I believe, in a
safe-deposit in town. The police have their own methods of keeping
certain matters out of the newspapers: otherwise it can hardly be
supposed that Watkins's evidence about Mr Poschwitz's death could have
failed to furnish a good many headlines of a startling character to the
press.



31. THERE WAS A MAN DWELT BY A CHURCHYARD


This, you know, is the beginning of the story about sprites and goblins
which Mamilius, the best child in Shakespeare, was telling to his mother
the queen, and the court ladies, when the king came in with his guards
and hurried her off to prison. There is no more of the story; Mamilius
died soon after without having a chance of finishing it. Now what was it
going to have been? Shakespeare knew, no doubt, and I will be bold to
say that I do. It was not going to be a new story: it was to be one
which you have most likely heard, and even told. Everybody may set it in
what frame he likes best. This is mine:

There was a man dwelt by a churchyard. His house had a lower story of
stone and an upper one of timber. The front windows looked out on the
street and the back ones on the churchyard. It had once belonged to the
parish priest, but (this was in Queen Elizabeth's days) the priest was a
married man and wanted more room; besides, his wife disliked seeing the
churchyard at night out of her bedroom window. She said she saw--but
never mind what she said; anyhow, she gave her husband no peace till he
agreed to move into a larger house in the village street, and the old
one was taken by John Poole, who was a widower, and lived there alone.
He was an elderly man who kept very much to himself, and people said he
was something of a miser.

It was very likely true: he was morbid in other ways, certainly. In
those days it was common to bury people at night and by torchlight: and
it was noticed that whenever a funeral was toward, John Poole was always
at his window, either on the ground floor or upstairs, according as he
could get the better view from one or the other.

There came a night when an old woman was to be buried. She was fairly
well to do, but she was not liked in the place. The usual thing was said
of her, that she was no Christian, and that on such nights as Midsummer
Eve and All Hallows, she was not to be found in her house. She was
red-eyed and dreadful to look at, and no beggar ever knocked at her
door. Yet when she died she left a purse of money to the Church.

There was no storm on the night of her burial; it was fair and calm. But
there was some difficulty about getting bearers, and men to carry the
torches, in spite of the fact that she had left larger fees than common
for such as did that work. She was buried in woollen, without a coffin.
No one was there but those who were actually needed--and John Poole,
watching from his window. Just before the grave was filled in, the
parson stooped down and cast something upon the body--something that
clinked--and in a low voice he said words that sounded like 'Thy money
perish with thee.' Then he walked quickly away, and so did the other
men, leaving only one torch-bearer to light the sexton and his boy while
they shovelled the earth in. They made no very neat job of it, and next
day, which was a Sunday, the churchgoers were rather sharp with the
sexton, saying it was the untidiest grave in the yard. And indeed, when
he came to look at it himself, he thought it was worse than he had left
it.

Meanwhile John Poole went about with a curious air, half exulting, as it
were, and half nervous. More than once he spent an evening at the inn,
which was clean contrary to his usual habit, and to those who fell into
talk with him there he hinted that he had come into a little bit of
money and was looking out for a somewhat better house. 'Well, I don't
wonder,' said the smith one night, 'I shouldn't care for that place of
yours. I should be fancying things all night.' The landlord asked him
what sort of things.

'Well, maybe somebody climbing up to the chamber window, or the like of
that,' said the smith. 'I don't know--old mother Wilkins that was buried
a week ago today, eh?'

'Come, I think you might consider of a person's feelings,' said the
landlord. 'It ain't so pleasant for Master Poole, is it now?'

'Master Poole don't mind,' said the smith. 'He's been there long enough
to know. I only says it wouldn't be my choice. What with the passing
bell, and the torches when there's a burial, and all them graves laying
so quiet when there's no one about: only they say there's lights--don't
you never see no lights, Master Poole?'

'No, I don't never see no lights,' said Master Poole sulkily, and called
for another drink, and went home late.

That night, as he lay in his bed upstairs, a moaning wind began to play
about the house, and he could not go to sleep. He got up and crossed the
room to a little cupboard in the wall: he took out of it something that
clinked, and put it in the breast of his bedgown. Then he went to the
window and looked out into the churchyard.

Have you ever seen an old brass in a church with a figure of a person in
a shroud? It is bunched together at the top of the head in a curious
way. Something like that was sticking up out of the earth in a spot of
the churchyard which John Poole knew very well. He darted into his bed
and lay there very still indeed.

Presently something made a very faint rattling at the casement. With a
dreadful reluctance John Poole turned his eyes that way. Alas!

Between him and the moonlight was the black outline of the curious
bunched head...Then there was a figure in the room. Dry earth rattled on
the floor. A low cracked voice said 'Where is it?' and steps went hither
and thither, faltering steps as of one walking with difficulty. It could
be seen now and again, peering into corners, stooping to look under
chairs; finally it could be heard fumbling at the doors of the cupboard
in the wall, throwing them open. There was a scratching of long nails on
the empty shelves. The figure whipped round, stood for an instant at the
side of the bed, raised its arms, and with a hoarse scream of 'YOU'VE
GOT IT!'

At this point H. R. H. Prince Mamilius (who would, I think, have made
the story a good deal shorter than this) flung himself with a loud yell
upon the youngest of the court ladies present, who responded with an
equally piercing cry. He was instantly seized upon by H. M. Queen
Hermione, who, repressing an inclination to laugh, shook and slapped him
very severely. Much flushed, and rather inclined to cry, he was about to
be sent to bed: but, on the intercession of his victim, who had now
recovered from the shock, he was eventually permitted to remain until
his usual hour for retiring; by which time he too had so far recovered
as to assert, in bidding good-night to the company, that he knew another
story quite three times as dreadful as that one, and would tell it on
the first opportunity that offered.




32. TWO DOCTORS


It is a very common thing, in my experience, to find papers shut up in
old books; but one of the rarest things to come across any such that
are at all interesting. Still it does happen, and one should never
destroy them unlooked at. Now it was a practice of mine before the war
occasionally to buy old ledgers of which the paper was good, and which
possessed a good many blank leaves, and to extract these and use them
for my own notes and writings. One such I purchased for a small sum in
1911. It was tightly clasped, and its boards were warped by having for
years been obliged to embrace a number of extraneous sheets.
Three-quarters of this inserted matter had lost all vestige of
importance for any living human being: one bundle had not. That it
belonged to a lawyer is certain, for it is endorsed: _The strangest
case I have yet met_, and bears initials, and an address in Gray's
Inn. It is only materials for a case, and consists of statements by
possible witnesses. The man who would have been the defendant or
prisoner seems never to have appeared. The _dossier_ is not complete,
but, such as it is, it furnishes a riddle in which the supernatural
appears to play a part. You must see what you can make of it.

The following is the setting and the tale as I elicit it.

Dr. Abell was walking in his garden one afternoon waiting for his
horse to be brought round that he might set out on his visits for the
day. As the place was Islington, the month June, and the year 1718, we
conceive the surroundings as being countrified and pleasant. To him
entered his confidential servant, Luke Jennett, who had been with him
twenty years.

"I said I wished to speak to him, and what I had to say might take
some quarter of an hour. He accordingly bade me go into his study,
which was a room opening on the terrace path where he was walking, and
came in himself and sat down. I told him that, much against my will, I
must look out for another place. He inquired what was my reason, in
consideration I had been so long with him. I said if he would excuse
me he would do me a great kindness, because (this appears to have
been common form even in 1718) I was one that always liked to have
everything pleasant about me. As well as I can remember, he said that
was his case likewise, but he would wish to know why I should change
my mind after so many years, and, says he, 'you know there can be no
talk of a remembrance of you in my will if you leave my service now.'
I said I had made my reckoning of that.

"'Then,' says he, 'you must have some complaint to make, and if I
could I would willingly set it right.' And at that I told him, not
seeing how I could keep it back, the matter of my former affidavit and
of the bedstaff in the dispensing-room, and said that a house where
such things happened was no place for me. At which he, looking very
black upon me, said no more, but called me fool, and said he would pay
what was owing me in the morning; and so, his horse being waiting,
went out. So for that night I lodged with my sister's husband near
Battle Bridge and came early next morning to my late master, who then
made a great matter that I had not lain in his house and stopped a
crown out of my wages owing.

"After that I took service here and there, not for long at a time,
and saw no more of him till I came to be Dr. Quinn's man at Dodds Hall
in Islington."

There is one very obscure part in this statement, namely, the
reference to the former affidavit and the matter of the bedstaff. The
former affidavit is not in the bundle of papers. It is to be feared
that it was taken out to be read because of its special oddity, and
not put back. Of what nature the story was may be guessed later, but
as yet no clue has been put into our hands.

The Rector of Islington, Jonathan Pratt, is the next to step forward.
He furnishes particulars of the standing and reputation of Dr. Abell
and Dr. Quinn, both of whom lived and practised in his parish.

"It is not to be supposed," he says, "that a physician should be a
regular attendant at morning and evening prayers, or at the Wednesday
lectures, but within the measure of their ability I would say that
both these persons fulfilled their obligations as loyal members of the
Church of England. At the same time (as you desire my private mind) I
must say, in the language of the schools, _distinguo_. Dr. A. was to
me a source of perplexity, Dr. Q. to my eye a plain, honest believer,
not inquiring over closely into points of belief, but squaring his
practice to what lights he had. The other interested himself in
questions to which Providence, as I hold, designs no answer to be
given us in this state: he would ask me, for example, what place I
believed those beings now to hold in the scheme of creation which by
some are thought neither to have stood fast when the rebel angels
fell, nor to have joined with them to the full pitch of their
transgression.

"As was suitable, my first answer to him was a question, What warrant
he had for supposing any such beings to exist? for that there was none
in Scripture I took it he was aware. It appeared--for as I am on the
subject, the whole tale may be given--that he grounded himself on such
passages as that of the satyr which Jerome tells us conversed with
Antony; but thought too that some parts of Scripture might be cited in
support. 'And besides,' said he, 'you know 'tis the universal belief
among those that spend their days and nights abroad, and I would add
that if your calling took you so continuously as it does me about the
country lanes by night, you might not be so surprised as I see you to
be by my suggestion.' 'You are then of John Milton's mind,' I said,
'and hold that

   Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
   Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.'

"'I do not know,' he said, 'why Milton should take upon himself to say
"unseen"; though to be sure he was blind when he wrote that. But for
the rest, why, yes, I think he was in the right.' 'Well,' I said,
'though not so often as you, I am not seldom called abroad pretty
late; but I have no mind of meeting a satyr in our Islington lanes in
all the years I have been here; and if you have had the better luck, I
am sure the Royal Society would be glad to know of it.'

"I am reminded of these trifling expressions because Dr. A. took them
so ill, stamping out of the room in a huff with some such word as that
these high and dry parsons had no eyes but for a prayerbook or a pint
of wine.

"But this was not the only time that our conversation took a
remarkable turn. There was an evening when he came in, at first
seeming gay and in good spirits, but afterwards as he sat and smoked
by the fire falling into a musing way; out of which to rouse him I
said pleasantly that I supposed he had had no meetings of late with
his odd friends. A question which did effectually arouse him, for he
looked most wildly, and as if scared, upon me, and said, '_You_ were
never there? I did not see you. Who brought you?' And then in a more
collected tone, 'What was this about a meeting? I believe I must have
been in a doze.' To which I answered that I was thinking of fauns and
centaurs in the dark lane, and not of a witches' Sabbath; but it
seemed he took it differently.

"'Well,' said he, 'I can plead guilty to neither; but I find you very
much more of a sceptic than becomes your cloth. If you care to know
about the dark lane you might do worse than ask my housekeeper that
lived at the other end of it when she was a child.' 'Yes,' said I,
'and the old women in the almshouse and the children in the kennel. If
I were you, I would send to your brother Quinn for a bolus to clear
your brain.' 'Damn Quinn,' says he; 'talk no more of him: he has
embezzled four of my best patients this month; I believe it is that
cursed man of his, Jennett, that used to be with me, his tongue is
never still; it should be nailed to the pillory if he had his
deserts.' This, I may say, was the only time of his showing me that he
had any grudge against either Dr. Quinn or Jennett, and as was my
business, I did my best to persuade him he was mistaken in them. Yet
it could not be denied that some respectable families in the parish
had given him the cold shoulder, and for no reason that they were
willing to allege. The end was that he said he had not done so ill at
Islington but that he could afford to live at ease elsewhere when he
chose, and anyhow he bore Dr. Quinn no malice. I think I now remember
what observation of mine drew him into the train of thought which he
next pursued. It was, I believe, my mentioning some juggling tricks
which my brother in the East Indies had seen at the court of the Rajah
of Mysore. 'A convenient thing enough,' said Dr. Abell to me, 'if by
some arrangement a man could get the power of communicating motion and
energy to inanimate objects.' 'As if the axe should move itself
against him that lifts it; something of that kind?' 'Well, I don't
know that that was in my mind so much; but if you could summon such a
volume from your shelf or even order it to open at the right page.'

"He was sitting by the fire--it was a cold evening--and stretched out
his hand that way, and just then the fire-irons, or at least the
poker, fell over towards him with a great clatter, and I did not hear
what else he said. But I told him that I could not easily conceive of
an arrangement, as he called it, of such a kind that would not include
as one of its conditions a heavier payment than any Christian would
care to make; to which he assented. 'But,' he said, 'I have no doubt
these bargains can be made very tempting, very persuasive. Still, you
would not favour them, eh, Doctor? No, I suppose not.'

"This is as much as I know of Dr. Abell's mind, and the feeling
between these men. Dr. Quinn, as I said, was a plain, honest creature,
and a man to whom I would have gone--indeed I have before now gone to
him for advice on matters of business. He was, however, every now and
again, and particularly of late, not exempt from troublesome fancies.
There was certainly a time when he was so much harassed by his dreams
that he could not keep them to himself, but would tell them to his
acquaintances and among them to me. I was at supper at his house, and
he was not inclined to let me leave him at my usual time. 'If you
go,' he said, 'there will be nothing for it but I must go to bed and
dream of the chrysalis.' 'You might be worse off,' said I. 'I do not
think it,' he said, and he shook himself like a man who is displeased
with the complexion of his thoughts. 'I only meant,' said I, 'that a
chrysalis is an innocent thing.' 'This one is not,' he said, 'and I do
not care to think of it.'

"However, sooner than lose my company he was fain to tell me (for I
pressed him) that this was a dream which had come to him several times
of late, and even more than once in a night. It was to this effect,
that he seemed to himself to wake under an extreme compulsion to rise
and go out of doors. So he would dress himself and go down to his
garden door. By the door there stood a spade which he must take, and
go out into the garden, and at a particular place in the shrubbery
somewhat clear and upon which the moon shone, for there was always in
his dream a full moon, he would feel himself forced to dig. And after
some time the spade would uncover something light-coloured, which he
would perceive to be a stuff, linen or woollen, and this he must clear
with his hands. It was always the same: of the size of a man and
shaped like the chrysalis of a moth, with the folds showing a promise
of an opening at one end.

"He could not describe how gladly he would have left all at this stage
and run to the house, but he must not escape so easily. So with many
groans, and knowing only too well what to expect, he parted these
folds of stuff, or, as it sometimes seemed to be, membrane, and
disclosed a head covered with a smooth pink skin, which breaking as
the creature stirred, showed him his own face in a state of death. The
telling of this so much disturbed him that I was forced out of mere
compassion to sit with him the greater part of the night and talk with
him upon indifferent subjects. He said that upon every recurrence of
this dream he woke and found himself, as it were, fighting for his
breath."

Another extract from Luke Jennett's long continuous statement comes in
at this point.

"I never told tales of my master, Dr. Abell, to anybody in the
neighbourhood. When I was in another service I remember to have spoken
to my fellow-servants about the matter of the bedstaff, but I am sure
I never said either I or he were the persons concerned, and it met
with so little credit that I was affronted and thought best to keep it
to myself. And when I came back to Islington and found Dr. Abell still
there, who I was told had left the parish, I was clear that it behoved
me to use great discretion, for indeed I was afraid of the man, and it
is certain I was no party to spreading any ill report of him. My
master, Dr. Quinn, was a very just, honest man, and no maker of
mischief. I am sure he never stirred a finger nor said a word by way
of inducement to a soul to make them leave going to Dr. Abell and come
to him; nay, he would hardly be persuaded to attend them that came,
until he was convinced that if he did not they would send into the
town for a physician rather than do as they had hitherto done.

"I believe it may be proved that Dr. Abell came into my master's house
more than once. We had a new chambermaid out of Hertfordshire, and she
asked me who was the gentleman that was looking after the master, that
is Dr. Quinn, when he was out, and seemed so disappointed that he was
out. She said whoever he was he knew the way of the house well,
running at once into the study and then into the dispensing-room, and
last into the bed-chamber. I made her tell me what he was like, and
what she said was suitable enough to Dr. Abell; but besides she told
me she saw the same man at church and some one told her that was the
Doctor.

"It was just after this that my master began to have his bad nights,
and complained to me and other persons, and in particular what
discomfort he suffered from his pillow and bedclothes. He said he must
buy some to suit him, and should do his own marketing. And accordingly
brought home a parcel which he said was of the right quality, but
where he bought it we had then no knowledge, only they were marked in
thread with a coronet and a bird. The women said they were of a sort
not commonly met with and very fine, and my master said they were the
comfortablest he ever used, and he slept now both soft and deep. Also
the feather pillows were the best sorted and his head would sink into
them as if they were a cloud: which I have myself remarked several
times when I came to wake him of a morning, his face being almost hid
by the pillow closing over it.

"I had never any communication with Dr. Abell after I came back to
Islington, but one day when he passed me in the street and asked me
whether I was not looking for another service, to which I answered I
was very well suited where I was, but he said I was a tickle-minded
fellow and he doubted not he should soon hear I was on the world
again, which indeed proved true."

Dr. Pratt is next taken up where he left off.

"On the 16th I was called up out of my bed soon after it was
light--that is about five--with a message that Dr. Quinn was dead or
dying. Making my way to his house I found there was no doubt which was
the truth. All the persons in the house except the one that let me in
were already in his chamber and standing about his bed, but none
touching him. He was stretched in the midst of the bed, on his back,
without any disorder, and indeed had the appearance of one ready laid
out for burial. His hands, I think, were even crossed on his breast.
The only thing not usual was that nothing was to be seen of his face,
the two ends of the pillow or bolster appearing to be closed quite
over it. These I immediately pulled apart, at the same time rebuking
those present, and especially the man, for not at once coming to the
assistance of his master. He, however, only looked at me and shook
his head, having evidently no more hope than myself that there was
anything but a corpse before us.

"Indeed it was plain to any one possessed of the least experience that
he was not only dead, but had died of suffocation. Nor could it be
conceived that his death was accidentally caused by the mere folding
of the pillow over his face. How should he not, feeling the
oppression, have lifted his hands to put it away? whereas not a fold
of the sheet which was closely gathered about him, as I now observed,
was disordered. The next thing was to procure a physician. I had
bethought me of this on leaving my house, and sent on the messenger
who had come to me to Dr. Abell; but I now heard that he was away from
home, and the nearest surgeon was got, who however could tell no more,
at least without opening the body, than we already knew.

"As to any person entering the room with evil purpose (which was the
next point to be cleared), it was visible that the bolts of the door
were burst from their stanchions, and the stanchions broken away from
the door-post by main force; and there was a sufficient body of
witness, the smith among them, to testify that this had been done but
a few minutes before I came. The chamber being moreover at the top of
the house, the window was neither easy of access nor did it show any
sign of an exit made that way, either by marks upon the sill or
footprints below upon soft mould."

The surgeon's evidence forms of course part of the report of the
inquest, but since it has nothing but remarks upon the healthy state
of the larger organs and the coagulation of blood in various parts of
the body, it need not be reproduced. The verdict was "Death by the
visitation of God."

Annexed to the other papers is one which I was at first inclined to
suppose had made its way among them by mistake. Upon further
consideration I think I can divine a reason for its presence.

It relates to the rifling of a mausoleum in Middlesex which stood in a
park (now broken up), the property of a noble family which I will not
name. The outrage was not that of an ordinary resurrection man. The
object, it seemed likely, was theft. The account is blunt and
terrible. I shall not quote it. A dealer in the North of London
suffered heavy penalties as a receiver of stolen goods in connexion
with the affair.



33. WAILING WELL


IN the year 19-- there were two members of the Troop of Scouts attached
to a famous school, named respectively Arthur Wilcox and Stanley
Judkins. They were the same age, boarded in the same house, were in the
same division, and naturally were members of the same patrol. They were
so much alike in appearance as to cause anxiety and trouble, and even
irritation, to the masters who came in contact with them. But oh how
different were they in their inward man, or boy!

It was to Arthur Wilcox that the Head Master said, looking up with a
smile as the boy entered chambers, "Why, Wilcox, there will be a deficit
in the prize fund if you stay here much longer! Here, take this
handsomely bound copy of the _Life and Works of Bishop Ken_, and with it
my hearty congratulations to yourself and your excellent parents." It
was Wilcox again, whom the Provost noticed as he passed through the
playing fields, and, pausing for a moment, observed to the Vice-Provost,
"That lad has a remarkable brow!" "Indeed, yes," said the Vice-Provost.
"It denotes either genius or water on the brain."

As a Scout, Wilcox secured every badge and distinction for which he
competed. The Cookery Badge, the Map-making Badge, the Life-saving
Badge, the Badge for picking up bits of newspaper, the Badge for not
slamming the door when leaving pupil-room, and many others. Of the
Life-saving Badge I may have a word to say when we come to treat of
Stanley Judkins.

You cannot be surprised to hear that Mr. Hope Jones added a special
verse to each of his songs, in commendation of Arthur Wilcox, or that
the Lower Master burst into tears when handing him the Good Conduct
Medal in its handsome claret-coloured case: the medal which had been
unanimously voted to him by the whole of Third Form. Unanimously, did I
say? I am wrong. There was one dissentient, Judkins _mi._, who said that
he had excellent reasons for acting as he did. He shared, it seems, a
room with his major. You cannot, again, wonder that in after years
Arthur Wilcox was the first, and so far the only boy, to become Captain
of both the School and of the Oppidans, or that the strain of carrying
out the duties of both positions, coupled with the ordinary work of the
school, was so severe that a complete rest for six months, followed by a
voyage round the world, was pronounced an absolute necessity by the
family doctor.

It would be a pleasant task to trace the steps by which he attained the
giddy eminence he now occupies; but for the moment enough of Arthur
Wilcox. Time presses, and we must turn to a very different matter: the
career of Stanley Judkins--Judkins _ma._

Stanley Judkins, like Arthur Wilcox, attracted the attention of the
authorities; but in quite another fashion. It was to him that the Lower
Master said, with no cheerful smile, "What, again, Judkins? A very
little persistence in this course of conduct, my boy, and you will have
cause to regret that you ever entered this academy. There, take that,
and that, and think yourself very lucky you don't get that and that!" It
was Judkins, again, whom the Provost had cause to notice as he passed
through the playing fields, when a cricket ball struck him with
considerable force on the ankle, and a voice from a short way off cried,
"Thank you, cut-over!" "I think," said the Provost, pausing for a moment
to rub his ankle, "that that boy had better fetch his cricket ball for
himself!" "Indeed, yes," said the Vice-Provost, "and if he comes within
reach, I will do my best to fetch him something else."

As a Scout, Stanley Judkins secured no badge save those which he was
able to abstract from members of other patrols. In the cookery
competition he was detected trying to introduce squibs into the Dutch
oven of the next-door competitors. In the tailoring competition he
succeeded in sewing two boys together very firmly, with disastrous
effect when they tried to get up. For the Tidiness Badge he was
disqualified, because, in the Midsummer schooltime, which chanced to be
hot, he could not be dissuaded from sitting with his fingers in the ink:
as he said, for coolness' sake. For one piece of paper which he picked
up, he must have dropped at least six banana skins or orange peels. Aged
women seeing him approaching would beg him with tears in their eyes not
to carry their pails of water across the road. They knew too well what
the result would inevitably be. But it was in the life-saving
competition that Stanley Judkins's conduct was most blameable and had
the most far-reaching effects. The practice, as you know, was to throw a
selected lower boy, of suitable dimensions, fully dressed, with his
hands and feet tied together, into the deepest part of Cuckoo Weir, and
to time the Scout whose turn it was to rescue him. On every occasion
when he was entered for this competition Stanley Judkins was seized, at
the critical moment, with a severe fit of cramp, which caused him to
roll on the ground and utter alarming cries. This naturally distracted
the attention of those present from the boy in the water, and had it not
been for the presence of Arthur Wilcox the death-roll would have been a
heavy one. As it was, the Lower Master found it necessary to take a firm
line and say that the competition must be discontinued. It was in vain
that Mr. Beasley Robinson represented to him that in five competitions
only four lower boys had actually succumbed. The Lower Master said that
he would be the last to interfere in any way with the work of the
Scouts; but that three of these boys had been valued members of his
choir, and both he and Dr. Ley felt that the inconvenience caused by the
losses outweighed the advantages of the competitions. Besides, the
correspondence with the parents of these boys had become annoying, and
even distressing: they were no longer satisfied with the printed form
which he was in the habit of sending out, and more than one of them had
actually visited Eton and taken up much of his valuable time with
complaints. So the life-saving competition is now a thing of the past.

In short, Stanley Judkins was no credit to the Scouts, and, there was
talk on more than one occasion of informing him that his services were
no longer required. This course was strongly advocated by Mr. Lambart:
but in the end milder counsels prevailed, and it was decided to give him
another chance.

So it is that we find him at the beginning of the Midsummer Holidays of
19-- at the Scouts' camp in the beautiful district of W (or X) in the
county of D (or Y).

It was a lovely morning, and Stanley Judkins and one or two of his
friends--for he still had friends--lay basking on the top of the
down. Stanley was lying on his stomach with his chin propped on his
hands, staring into the distance.

"I wonder what that place is," he said.

"Which place?" said one of the others.

"That sort of clump in the middle of the field down there."

"Oh, ah! How should I know what it is?"

"What do you want to know for?" said another.

"I don't know: I like the look of it. What's it called? Nobody got a
map?" said Stanley. "Call yourselves Scouts!"

"Here's a map all right," said Wilfred Pipsqueak, ever resourceful, "and
there's the place marked on it. But it's inside the red ring. We can't
go there."

"Who cares about a red ring?" said Stanley. "But it's got no name on
your silly map."

"Well, you can ask this old chap what it's called if you're so keen to
find out." "This old chap" was an old shepherd who had come up and was
standing behind them.

"Good morning, young gents," he said, "you've got a fine day for your
doin's, ain't you?"

"Yes, thank you," said Algernon de Montmorency, with native politeness.
"Can you tell us what that clump over there's called? And what's that
thing inside it?"

"Course I can tell you," said the shepherd. "That's Wailin' Well, that
is. But you ain't got no call to worry about that."

"Is it a well in there?" said Algernon. "Who uses it?"

The shepherd laughed. "Bless you," he said, "there ain't from a man to a
sheep in these parts uses Wailin' Well, nor haven't done all the years
I've lived here."

"Well, there'll be a record broken to-day, then," said Stanley Judkins,
"because I shall go and get some water out of it for tea!"

"Sakes alive, young gentleman!" said the shepherd in a startled voice,
"don't you get to talkin' that way! Why, ain't your masters give you
notice not to go by there? They'd ought to have done."

"Yes, they have," said Wilfred Pipsqueak

"Shut up, you ass!" said Stanley Judkins. "What's the matter with it?
Isn't the water good? Anyhow, if it was boiled, it would be all right."

"I don't know as there's anything much wrong with the water," said the
shepherd. "All I know is, my old dog wouldn't go through that field, let
alone me or anyone else that's got a morsel of brains in their heads."

"More fool them," said Stanley Judkins, at once rudely and
ungrammatically. "Who ever took any harm going there?" he added.

"Three women and a man," said the shepherd gravely. "Now just you listen
to me. I know these 'ere parts and you don't, and I can tell you this
much: for these ten years last past there ain't been a sheep fed in that
field, nor a crop raised off of it--and it's good land, too. You can
pretty well see from here what a state it's got into with brambles and
suckers and trash of all kinds. _You've_ got a glass, young gentleman," he
said to Wilfred Pipsqueak, "you can tell with that anyway."

"Yes," said Wilfred, "but I see there's tracks in it. Someone must go
through it sometimes."

"Tracks!" said the shepherd. "I believe you I Four tracks: three women
and a man."

"What d'you mean, three women and a man?" said Stanley, turning over for
the first time and looking at the shepherd (he had been talking with his
back to him till this moment: he was an ill-mannered boy).

"Mean? Why, what I says: three women and a man."

"Who are they?" asked Algernon. "Why do they go there?"

"There's some p'r'aps could tell you who they _was,_" said the shepherd,
"but it was afore my time they come by their end. And why they goes
there still is more than the children of men can tell: except I've heard
they was all bad 'uns when they was alive."

"By George, what a rum thing!" Algernon and Wilfred muttered: but
Stanley was scornful and bitter.

"Why, you don't mean they're deaders? What rot! You must be a lot of
fools to believe that. Who's ever seen them, I'd like to know?"

"_I've_ seen 'em, young gentleman!" said the shepherd, "seen 'em from near
by on that bit of down: and my old dog, if he could speak, he'd tell you
he've seen 'em, same time. About four o'clock of the day it was, much
such a day as this. I see 'em, each one of 'em, come peerin' out of the
bushes and stand up, and work their way slow by them tracks towards the
trees in the middle where the well is."

"And what were they like? Do tell us!" said Algernon and Wilfred
eagerly.

"Rags and bones, young gentlemen: all four of 'em: flutterin' rags and
whity bones. It seemed to me as if I could hear 'em clackin' as they got
along. Very slow they went, and lookin' from side to side."

"What were their faces like? Could you see?"

"They hadn't much to call faces," said the shepherd, "but I could seem
to see as they had teeth."

"Lor'!" said Wilfred, "and what did they do when they got to the trees?"

"I can't tell you that, sir," said the shepherd. "I wasn't for stayin'
in that place, and if I had been, I was bound to look to my old dog:
he'd gone! Such a thing he never done before as leave me; but gone he
had, and when I came up with him in the end, he was in that state he
didn't know me, and was fit to fly at my throat. But I kep' talkin' to
him, and after a bit he remembered my voice and came creepin' up like a
child askin' pardon. I never want to see him like that again, nor yet no
other dog."

The dog, who had come up and was making friends all round, looked up at
his master, and expressed agreement with what he was saying very fully.

The boys pondered for some moments on what they had heard: after which
Wilfred said: "And why's it called Wailing Well?"

"If you was round here at dusk of a winter's evening, you wouldn't want
to ask why," was all the shepherd said.

"Well, I don't believe a word of it," said Stanley Judkins, "and I'll go
there next chance I get: blowed if I don't!"

"Then you won't be ruled by me?" said the shepherd. "Nor yet by your
masters as warned you off? Come now, young gentleman, you don't want for
sense, I should say. What should I want tellin' you a pack of lies? It
ain't sixpence to me anyone goin' in that field: but I wouldn't like to
see a young chap snuffed out like in his prime."

"I expect it's a lot more than sixpence to you," said Stanley. "I expect
you've got a whisky still or something in there, and want to keep other
people away. Rot I call it. Come on back, you boys."

So they turned away. The two others said, "Good evening" and "Thank you"
to the shepherd, but Stanley said nothing. The shepherd shrugged his
shoulders and stood where he was, looking after them rather sadly.

On the way back to the camp there was great argument about it all, and
Stanley was told as plainly as he could be told all the sorts of fools
he would be if he went to the Wailing Well.

That evening, among other notices, Mr. Beasley Robinson asked if all
maps had got the red ring marked on them. "Be particular," he said, "not
to trespass inside it."

Several voices--among them the sulky one of Stanley Judkins--said,
"Why not, sir?"

"Because not," said Mr. Beasley Robinson, "and if that isn't enough for
you, I can't help it." He turned and spoke to Mr. Lambart in a low
voice, and then said, "I'll tell you this much: we've been asked to warn
Scouts off that field. It's very good of the people to let us camp here
at all, and the least we can do is to oblige them--I'm sure you'll
agree to that."

Everybody said, "Yes, sir!" except Stanley Judkins, who was heard to
mutter, "Oblige them be blowed!"

Early in the afternoon of the next day, the following dialogue was
heard. "Wilcox, is all your tent there?"

"No, sir, Judkins isn't!"

"That boy is the most infernal nuisance ever invented! Where do you
suppose he is?"

"I haven't an idea, sir."

"Does anybody else know?"

"Sir, I shouldn't wonder if he'd gone to the Wailing Well."

"Who's that? Pipsqueak? What's the Wailing Well?"

"Sir, it's that place in the field by--well, sir, it's in a clump of
trees in a rough field."

"D'you mean inside the red ring? Good heavens! What makes you think he's
gone there?"

"Why, he was terribly keen to know about it yesterday, and we were
talking to a shepherd man, and he told us a lot about it and advised us
not to go there: but Judkins didn't believe him, and said he meant to
go."

"Young ass!" said Mr. Hope Jones, "did he take anything with him?"

"Yes, I think he took some rope and a can. We did tell him he'd be a
fool to go."

"Little brute! What the deuce does he mean by pinching stores like that!
Well, come along, you three, we must see after him. Why can't people
keep the simplest orders? What was it the man told you? No, don't wait,
let's have it as we go along."

And off they started--Algernon and Wilfred talking rapidly and the
other two listening with growing concern. At last they reached that spur
of down overlooking the field of which the shepherd had spoken the day
before. It commanded the place completely; the well inside the dump of
bent and gnarled Scotch firs was plainly visible, and so were the four
tracks winding about among the thorns and rough growth.

It was a wonderful day of shimmering heat. The sea looked like a floor
of metal. There was no breath of wind. They were all exhausted when they
got to the top, and flung themselves down on the hot grass.

"Nothing to be seen of him yet," said Mr. Hope Jones, "but we must stop
here a bit. You're done up--not to speak of me. Keep a sharp
look-out," he went on after a moment, "I thought I saw the bushes stir."

"Yes," said Wilcox, "so did I. Look...no, that can't be him. It's
somebody though, putting their head up, isn't it?"

"I thought it was, but I'm not sure."

Silence for a moment. Then:

"That's him, sure enough," said Wilcox, "getting over the hedge on the
far side. Don't you see? With a shiny thing. That's the can you said he
had."

"Yes, it's him, and he's making straight for the trees," said Wilfred.

At this moment Algernon, who had been staring with all his might, broke
into a scream.

"What's that on the track? On all fours--O, it's the woman. O, don't
let me look at her! Don't let it happen!" And he rolled over, clutching
at the grass and trying to bury his head in it.

"Stop that!" said Mr. Hope Jones loudly--but it was no use. "Look
here," he said, "I must go down there. You stop here, Wilfred, and look
after that boy. Wilcox, you run as hard as you can to the camp and get
some help."

They ran off, both of them. Wilfred was left alone with Algernon, and
did his best to calm him, but indeed he was not much happier himself.
From time to time he glanced down the hill and into the held. He saw Mr.
Hope Jones drawing nearer at a swift pace, and then, to his great
surprise, he saw him stop, look up and round about him, and turn quickly
off at an angle! What could be the reason? He looked at the field, and
there he saw a terrible figure--something in ragged black--with
whitish patches breaking out of it: the head, perched on a long thin
neck, half hidden by a shapeless sort of blackened sun-bonnet. The
creature was waving thin arms in the direction of the rescuer who was
approaching, as if to ward him off: and between the two figures the air
seemed to shake and shimmer as he had never seen it: and as he looked,
he began himself to feel something of a waviness and confusion in his
brain, which made him guess what might be the effect on someone within
closer range of the influence. He looked away hastily, to see Stanley
Judkins making his way pretty quickly towards the clump, and in proper
Scout fashion; evidently picking his steps with care to avoid treading
on snapping sticks or being caught by arms of brambles. Evidently,
though he saw nothing, he suspected some sort of ambush, and was trying
to go noiselessly. Wilfred saw all that, and he saw more, too. With a
sudden and dreadful sinking at the heart, he caught sight of someone
among the trees, waiting: and again of someone--another of the hideous
black figures--working slowly along the track from another side of the
held, looking from side to side, as the shepherd had described it. Worst
of all, he saw a fourth--unmistakably a man this time--rising out of
the bushes a few yards behind the wretched Stanley, and painfully, as it
seemed, crawling into the track. On all sides the miserable victim was
cut off.

Wilfred was at his wits' end. He rushed at Algernon and shook him. "Get
up," he said. "Yell! Yell as loud as you can. Oh, if we'd got a
whistle!"

Algernon pulled himself together. "There's one," he said, "Wilcox's: he
must have dropped it."

So one whistled, the other screamed. In the still air the sound carried.
Stanley heard: he stopped: he turned round: and then indeed a cry was
heard more piercing and dreadful than any that the boys on the hill
could raise. It was too late. The crouched figure behind Stanley sprang
at him and caught him about the waist. The dreadful one that was
standing waving her arms waved them again, but in exultation. The one
that was lurking among the trees shuffled forward, and she too stretched
out her arms as if to clutch at something coming her way; and the other,
farthest off, quickened her pace and came on, nodding gleefully. The
boys took it all in in an instant of terrible silence, and hardly could
they breathe as they watched the horrid struggle between the man and his
victim. Stanley struck with his can, the only weapon he had. The rim of
a broken black hat fell off the creature's head and showed a white skull
with stains that might be wisps of hair. By this time one of the women
had reached the pair, and was pulling at the rope that was coiled about
Stanley's neck. Between them they overpowered him in a moment: the awful
screaming ceased, and then the three passed within the circle of the
clump of firs.

Yet for a moment it seemed as if rescue might come. Mr. Hope Jones,
striding quickly along, suddenly stopped, turned, seemed to rub his
eyes, and then started running _towards_ the field. More: the boys glanced
behind them, and saw not only a troop of figures from the camp coming
over the top of the next down, but the shepherd running up the slope of
their own hill. They beckoned, they shouted, they ran a few yards
towards him and then back again. He mended his pace.

Once more the boys looked towards the field. There was nothing. Or, was
there something among the trees? Why was there a mist about the trees?
Mr. Hope Jones had scrambled over the hedge, and was plunging through
the bushes.

The shepherd stood beside them, panting. They ran to him and clung to
his arms. "They've got him! In the trees!" was as much as they could
say, over and over again.

"What? Do you tell me he've gone in there after all I said to him
yesterday? Poor young thing! Poor young thing!" He would have said more,
but other voices broke in. The rescuers from the camp had arrived. A few
hasty words, and all were dashing down the hill.

They had just entered the field when they met Mr. Hope Jones. Over his
shoulder hung the corpse of Stanley Judkins. He had cut it from the
branch to which he found it hanging, waving to and fro. There was not a
drop of blood in the body.

On the following day Mr. Hope Jones sallied forth with an axe and with
the expressed intention of cutting down every tree in the clump, and of
burning every bush in the field. He returned with a nasty cut in his leg
and a broken axe-helve. Not a spark of fire could he light, and on no
single tree could he make the least impression.

I have heard that the present population of the Wailing Well field
consists of three women, a man, and a boy.

The shock experienced by Algernon de Montmorency and Wilfred Pipsqueak
was severe. Both of them left the camp at once; and the occurrence
undoubtedly cast a gloom--if but a passing one--on those who
remained. One of the first to recover his spirits was Judkins _mi._

Such, gentlemen, is the story of the career of Stanley Judkins, and of a
portion of the career of Arthur Wilcox. It has, I believe, never been
told before. If it has a moral, that moral is, I trust, obvious: if it
has none, I do not well know how to help it.



APPENDIX: M R JAMES ON GHOST STORIES

(i) from the Preface to Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904)

I WROTE these stories at long intervals, and most of them were read to
patient friends, usually at the season of Christmas. One of these
friends [James McBryde] offered to illustrate them, and it was agreed
that, if he would do that, I would consider the question of publishing
them. Four pictures he completed, which will be found in this volume,
and then, very quickly and unexpectedly, he was taken away. This is the
reason why the greater part of the stories are not provided with
illustrations. Those who knew the artist will understand how much I
wished to give a permanent form even to a fragment of his work; others
will appreciate the fact that here a remembrance is made of one in whom
many friendships centred. The stories themselves do not make any very
exalted claim. If any of them succeed in causing their readers to feel
pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at
nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose
in writing them will have been attained.

(ii) from the Preface to More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911)

Some years ago I promised to publish a second volume of ghost stories
when a sufficient number of them should have been accumulated. That time
has arrived, and here is the volume. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to warn
the critic that in evolving the stories I have not been possessed by
that austere sense of the responsibility of authorship which is demanded
of the writer of fiction in this generation; or that I have not sought
to embody in them any well-considered scheme of 'psychical' theory. To
be sure, I have my ideas as to how a ghost story ought to be laid out if
it is to 'be effective.' I think that, as a rule, the setting should be
fairly familiar and the majority of the characters and their talk such
as you may meet or hear any day. A ghost story of which the scene is
laid in the twelfth or thirteenth century may succeed in being romantic
or poetical: it will never put the reader into the position of saying to
himself, 'If I'm not very careful, something of this kind may happen to
me!' Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be
malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well
in fairy tales or in local legends, but I have no use for them in a
fictitious ghost story. Again, I feel that the technical terms of
'occultism', if they are not very carefully handled, tend to put the
mere ghost story (which is all that I am attempting) upon a
quasi-scientific plane, and to call into play faculties quite other than
the imaginative. I am well aware that mine is a nineteenth-(and not a
twentieth-) century conception of this class of tale; but were not the
prototypes of all the best ghost stories written in the sixties and
seventies?

However, I cannot claim to have been guided by any very strict rules. My
stories have been produced (with one exception) at successive Christmas
seasons. If they serve to amuse some readers at the Christmas-time that
is coming--or at any time whatever--they will justify my action in
publishing them.

(iii) from the Prologue to J. S. Le Fanu, Madam Crowl's Ghost (1923)

[Le Fanu] stands absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost
stories. That is my deliberate verdict, after reading all the
supernatural tales I have been able to get hold of. Nobody sets the
scene better than he, nobody touches in the effective detail more
deftly. I do not think it is merely the fact of my being past middle age
that leads me to regard the leisureliness of his style as a merit; for I
am by no means inappreciative of the more modern efforts in this branch
of fiction. No, it has to be recognized, I am sure, that the ghost story
is in itself a slightly old-fashioned form; it needs some deliberateness
in the telling: we listen to it the more readily if the narrator poses
as elderly, or throws back his experience to 'some thirty years ago'.

(iv) from the Introduction to V. H. Collins (ed.), Ghosts and Marvels
(Oxford, 1924)

Often have I been asked to formulate my views about ghost stories and
tales of the marvellous, the mysterious, the supernatural. Never have I
been able to find out whether I had any views that could be formulated.
The truth is, I suspect, that the genre is too small and special to bear
the imposition of far reaching principles. Widen the question, and ask
what governs the construction of short stories in general, and a great
deal might be said, and has been said. There are, of course, instances
of whole novels in which the supernatural governs the plot; but among
them are few successes. The ghost story is, at its best, only a
particular sort of short story, and is subject to the same broad rules
as the whole mass of them. Those rules, I imagine, no writer ever
consciously follows. In fact, it is absurd to talk of them as rules;
they are qualities which have been observed to accompany success.

Some such qualities I have noted, and while I cannot undertake to write
about broad principles, something more concrete is capable of being
recorded. Well, then: two ingredients most valuable in the concocting of
a ghost story are, to me, the atmosphere and the nicely managed
crescendo. I assume, of course, that the writer will have got his
central idea before he undertakes the story at all. Let us, then, be
introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about
their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their
surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put
out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until
it holds the stage. It is not amiss sometimes to leave a loophole for a
natural explanation; but, I would say, let the loophole be so narrow as
not to be quite practicable. Then, for the setting. The detective story
cannot be too much up-to-date: the motor, the telephone, the aeroplane,
the newest slang, are all in place there. For the ghost story a slight
haze of distance is desirable. 'Thirty years ago', 'Not long before the
war', are very proper openings. If a really remote date be chosen, there
is more than one way of bringing the reader in contact with it. The
finding of documents about it can be made plausible; or you may begin
with your apparition and go back over the years to tell the cause of it;
or (as in 'Schalken the Painter') you may set the scene directly in the
desired epoch, which I think is hardest to do with success. On the whole
(though not a few instances might be quoted against me) I think that a
setting so modern that the ordinary reader can judge of its naturalness
for himself is preferable to anything antique. For some degree of
actuality is the charm of the best ghost stories; not a very insistent
actuality, but one strong enough to allow the reader to identify himself
with the patient; while it is almost inevitable that the reader of an
antique story should fall into the position of the mere spectator.

(v) 'Stories I Have Tried to Write', first published in The Touchstone,
2 (30 Nov. 1929), 46-7; reprinted in The Collected Ghost Stories of M.
R. James (1931), 643-7

I have neither much experience nor much perseverance in the writing of
stories--I am thinking exclusively of ghost stories, for I never cared
to try any other kind--and it has amused me sometimes to think of the
stories which have crossed my mind from time to time and never
materialized properly. Never properly: for some of them I have actually
written down, and they repose in a drawer somewhere. To borrow Sir
Walter Scott's most frequent quotation, 'Look on (them) again I dare
not.' They were not good enough. Yet some of them had ideas in them
which refused to blossom in the surroundings I had devised for them, but
perhaps came up in other forms in stories that did get as far as print.
Let me recall them for the benefit (so to style it) of somebody else.

There was the story of a man travelling in a train in France. Facing him
sat a typical Frenchwoman of mature years, with the usual moustache and
a very confirmed countenance. He had nothing to read but an antiquated
novel he had bought for its binding--Madame de Lichtenstein it was
called. Tired of looking out of the window and studying his vis-a-vis,
he began drowsily turning the pages, and paused at a conversation
between two of the characters. They were discussing an acquaintance, a
woman who lived in a largish house at Marcilly-le-Hayer. The house was
described, and--here we were coming to a point--the mysterious
disappearance of the woman's husband. Her name was mentioned, and my
reader couldn't help thinking he knew it in some other connexion. Just
then the train stopped at a country station, the traveller, with a
start, woke up from a doze--the book open in his hand--the woman
opposite him got out, and on the label of her bag he read the name that
had seemed to be in his novel. Well, he went on to Troyes, and from
there he made excursions, and one of these took him--at
lunch-time--to--yes, to Marcilly-le-Hayer. The hotel in the Grande Place
faced a three-gabled house of some pretensions. Out of it came a
well-dressed woman whom he had seen before. Conversation with the
waiter. Yes, the lady was a widow, or so it was believed. At any rate
nobody knew what had become of her husband. Here I think we broke down.
Of course, there was no such conversation in the novel as the traveller
thought he had read.

Then there was quite a long one about two undergraduates spending
Christmas in a country house that belonged to one of them. An uncle,
next heir to the estate, lived near. Plausible and learned Roman priest,
living with the uncle, makes himself agreeable to the young men. Dark
walks home at night after dining with the uncle. Curious disturbances as
they pass through the shrubberies. Strange, shapeless tracks in the snow
round the house, observed in the morning. Efforts to lure away the
companion and isolate the proprietor and get him to come out after dark.
Ultimate defeat and death of the priest, upon whom the Familiar, baulked
of another victim, turns.

Also the story of two students of King's College, Cambridge, in the
sixteenth century (who were, in fact, expelled thence for magical
practices), and their nocturnal expedition to a witch at Fenstanton, and
of how, at the turning to Lolworth, on the Huntingdon road, they met a
company leading an unwilling figure whom they seemed to know. And of
how, on arriving at Fenstanton, they learned of the witch's death, and
of what they saw seated upon her newly-dug grave.

These were some of the tales which got as far as the stage of being
written down, at least in part. There were others that flitted across
the mind from time to time, but never really took shape. The man, for
instance (naturally a man with something on his mind), who, sitting in
his study one evening, was startled by a slight sound, turned hastily,
and saw a certain dead face looking out from between the window
curtains: a dead face, but with living eyes. He made a dash at the
curtains and tore them apart. A pasteboard mask fell to the floor. But
there was no one there, and the eyes of the mask were but eyeholes. What
was to be done about that?

There is the touch on the shoulder that comes when you are walking
quickly homewards in the dark hours, full of anticipation of the warm
room and bright fire, and when you pull up, startled, what face or
no-face do you see?

Similarly, when Mr Badman had decided to settle the hash of Mr Goodman
and had picked out, just the right thicket by the roadside from which to
fire at him, how came it exactly that when Mr Goodman and his unexpected
friend actually did pass, they found Mr Badman weltering in the road? He
was able to tell them something of what he had found waiting for
him--even beckoning to him--in the thicket: enough to prevent them from
looking into it themselves. There are possibilities here, but the labour
of constructing the proper setting has been beyond me.

There may be possibilities, too, in the Christmas cracker, if the right
people pull it, and if the motto which they find inside has the right
message on it. They will probably leave the party early, pleading
indisposition; but very likely a previous engagement of long standing
would be the more truthful excuse.

In parenthesis, many common objects may be made the vehicles of
retribution, and where retribution is not called for, of malice. Be
careful how you handle the packet you pick up in the carriage-drive,
particularly if it contains nail-parings and hair. Do not, in any case,
bring it into the house. It may not be alone...(Dots are believed by many
writers of our day to be a good substitute for effective writing. They
are certainly an easy one. Let us have a few more....)

Late on Monday night a toad came into my study: and, though nothing has
so far seemed to link itself with this appearance, I feel that it may not
be quite prudent to brood over topics which may open the interior eye to
the presence of more formidable visitants. Enough said.

(vi) 'Some Remarks on Ghost Stories', The Bookman (December 1929),
169-172

Very nearly all the ghost stories of old times claim to be true
narratives of remarkable occurrences. At the outset I must make it clear
that with these--be they ancient, medieval or post medieval--I have
nothing to do, any more than I have with those chronicled in our own
days. I am concerned with a branch of fiction; not a large branch, if you
look at the rest of the tree, but one which has been astonishingly
fertile in the last thirty years. The avowedly fictitious ghost story is
my subject, and that being understood I can proceed.

In the year 1854 George Borrow narrated to an audience of Welshmen, 'in
the tavern of Gutter Vawr, in the county of Glamorgan', what he asserted
to be 'decidedly the best ghost story in the world'. You may read this
story either in English, in Knapp's notes to Wild Wales, or in Spanish,
in a recent edition with excellent pictures (Las Aventuras de Pánfilo).
The source is Lope de Vega's El Peregrino en so patria published in 1604.
You will find it a remarkably interesting specimen of a tale of terror
written in Shakespeare's lifetime, but I shall be surprised if you agree
with Borrow's estimate of it. It is nothing but an account of a series of
nightmares experienced by a wanderer who lodges for a night in a
'hospital', which had been deserted because of hauntings. The ghosts come
in crowds and play tricks with the victim's bed. They quarrel over cards,
they squirt water at the man, they throw torches about the room. Finally
they steal his clothes and disappear; but next morning the clothes are
where he put them when he went to bed. In fact they are rather goblins
than ghosts.

Still, here you have a story written with the sole object of inspiring a
pleasing terror in the reader; and as I think, that is the true aim of
the ghost story.

As far as I know, nearly two hundred years pass before you find the
literary ghost story attempted again. Ghosts of course figure on the
stage, but we must leave them out of consideration. Ghosts are the
subject of quasi-scientific research in this country at the hands of
Glanville, Beaumont and others; but these collectors are out to prove
theories of the future life and the spiritual world. Improving treatises,
with illustrative instances, are written on the Continent, as by Lavater.
All these, if they do afford what our ancestors called amusement (Dr
Johnson decreed that Coriolanius was 'amusing'), do so by a side-wind.
The Castle of Otranto is perhaps the progenitor of the ghost story as a
literary genre, and I fear that it is merely amusing in the modern sense.
Then we come to Mrs Radcliffe, whose ghosts are far better of their kind,
but with exasperating timidity are all explained away; and to Monk Lewis,
who in the book which gives him his nickname is odious and horrible
without being impressive. But Monk Lewis was responsible for better
things than he could produce himself. It was under his auspices that
Scott's verse first saw the light: among the Tales of Terror and Wonder
are not only some of his translations, but 'Glenfinlas' and the 'Eve of
St John', which must always rank as fine ghost stories. The form into
which he cast them was that of the ballads which he loved and collected.
and we must not forget that the ballad is in the direct line of ancestry
of the ghost story. Think of 'Clerk Saunders', 'Young Benjie,' the 'Wife
of Usher's Well'. I am tempted to enlarge on the Tales of Terror, for the
most part supremely absurd, where Lewis holds the pen, and jigs along
with such stanzas as:


All present then uttered a terrified shout;
All turned with disgust from the scene.
The worms they crept in, and the worms they crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
While the spectre addressed Imogene.


But proportion must be observed.

If I were writing generally of horrific books which include supernatural
appearances, I should be obliged to include Maturin's Melmoth, and
doubtless imitations of it which I know nothing of. But Melmoth is a
long--a cruelly long--book, and we must keep our eye on the short prose
ghost story in the first place. If Scott is not the creator of this, it
is to him that we owe two classical specimens--'Wandering Willie's Tale'
and the 'Tapestried Chamber'. The former we know is an episode in a
novel; anyone who searches the novels of succeeding years will certainly
find (as we, alas, find in Pickwick and Nicholas Nickleby!) stories of
this type foisted in; and possibly some of them may be good enough to
deserve reprinting. But the real happy hunting ground, the proper habitat
of our game is the magazine, the annual, the periodical publication
destined to amuse the family circle. They came up thick and fast, the
magazines, in the thirties and forties, and many died young. I do not,
having myself sampled the task, envy the devoted one who sets out to
examine the files, but it is not rash to promise him a measure of
success. He will find ghost stories; but of what sort? Charles Dickens
will tell us. In a paper from Household Words, which will be found among
Christmas Stories under the name of 'A Christmas Tree' (I reckon it among
the best of Dickens's occasional writings), that great man takes occasion
to run through the plots of the typical ghost stories of his time. As he
remarks, they are 'reducible to a very few general types and classes; for
ghosts have little originality, and "walk" in a beaten track.' He gives
us at some length the experience of the nobleman and the ghost of the
beautiful young housekeeper who drowned herself in the park two hundred
years before; and, more cursorily, the indelible bloodstain, the door
that will not shut, the clock that strikes thirteen, the phantom coach,
the compact to appear after death, the girl who meets her double, the
cousin who is seen at the moment of his death far away in India, the
maiden lady who 'really did see the Orphan Boy'. With such things as
these we arc still familiar. But we have rather forgotten--and I for my
part have seldom met--those with which he ends his survey: 'Legion is the
name of the German castles where we sit up alone to meet the
spectre--where we are shown into a room made comparatively cheerful for
our reception' (more detail, excellent of its kind, follows), 'and where,
about the small hours of the night, we come into the knowledge of divers
supernatural mysteries. Legion is the name of the haunted German
students, in whose society we draw yet nearer to the fire, while the
schoolboy in the corner opens his eyes wide and round, and flies off the
footstool he has chosen for his seat, when the door accidentally blows
open.'

As I have said, this German stratum of ghost stories is one of which I
know little; but I am confident that the searcher of magazines will
penetrate to it. Examples of the other types will accrue, especially when
he reaches the era of Christmas Numbers, inaugurated by Dickens himself.
His Christmas Numbers are not to be confused with his Christmas Books,
though the latter led on to the former. Ghosts are not absent from these,
but I do not call the Christmas Carol a ghost story proper; while I do
assign that name to the stories of the Signalman and the Juryman (in
'Mugby Junction' and 'Dr Marigold').

These were written in 1865 and 1866, and nobody can deny that they
conform to the modern idea of the ghost story. The setting and the
personages are those of the writer's own day; they have nothing antique
about them. Now this mode is not absolutely essential to success, but it
is characteristic of the majority of successful stories: the belted
knight who meets the spectre in the vaulted chamber and has to say 'By
my halidom', or words to that effect, has little actuality about him.
Anything, we feel, might have happened in the fifteenth century. No; the
seer of ghosts must talk something like me, and be dressed, if not in my
fashion, yet not too much like a man in a pageant, if he is to enlist my
sympathy. Wardour Street has no business, here.

If Dickens's ghost stories are good and of the right complexion, they are
not the best that were written in his day. The palm must I think be
assigned to J. S. Le Fanu, whose stories of The Watcher' (or 'The
Familiar'), 'Mr Justice Harbottle', 'Carmilla', are unsurpassed, while
'Schalken the Painter'. 'Squire Toby's Will', the haunted house in 'The
House by the Churchyard', 'Dickon the Devil', 'Madam Crowl's Ghost', run
them very close. Is it the blend of French and Irish in Le Fanu's descent
and surroundings that gives him the knack of infusing ominousness into
his atmosphere? He is anyhow an artist in words; who else could have hit
on the epithets in this sentence: The aerial image of the old house for a
moment stood before her, with its peculiar malign, scared and skulking
aspect.' Other famous stories of Le Fanu there are which are not quite
ghost stories--'Green Tea' and 'The Room in the Dragon Volant'; and yet
another, 'The Haunted Baronet', not famous, not even known but to a few,
contains some admirable touches, but somehow lacks proportion. Upon
mature consideration, I do not think that there are better ghost stories
anywhere than the best of Le Fanu's; and among these I should give the
first place to 'The Familiar' (alias 'The Watcher').

Other famous novelists of those days tried their hand--Bulwer Lytton for
one. Nobody is permitted to write about ghost stories without mentioning
'The Haunters and the Haunted'. To my mind it is spoilt by the
conclusion; the Cagliostro element (forgive an inaccuracy) is alien. It
comes in with far better effect (though in a burlesque guise) in
Thackeray's one attempt in this direction--'The Notch in the Axe', in the
Roundabout Papers. This to be sure begins by being a skit partly on
Dumas, partly on Lytton; but as Thackeray warmed to his work he got
interested in the story and, as he says, was quite sorry to part with
Pinto in the end. We have to reckon too with Wilkie Collins. The Haunted
Hotel, a short novel, is by no means ineffective; grisly enough, almost,
for the modern American taste.

Rhoda Broughton, Mrs Riddell, Mrs Henry Wood, Mrs Oliphant--all these
have some sufficiently absorbing stories to their credit. I own to
reading not infrequently 'Featherston's Story' in the fifth series of
Johnny Ludlow, to delighting in its domestic flavour and finding its
ghost very convincing. (Johnny Ludlow, some young persons may not know,
is by Mrs Henry Wood.) The religious ghost story, as it may be called,
was never done better than by Mrs Oliphant in 'The Open Door' and 'A
Beleaguered City'; though there is a competitor, and a strong one, in Le
Fanu's 'Mysterious Lodger'.

Here I am conscious of a gap; my readers will have been conscious of many
previous gaps. My memory does in fact slip on from Mrs Oliphant to Marion
Crawford and his horrid story of 'The Upper Berth', which (with The
Screaming Skull' some distance behind) is the best in his collection of
Uncanny Tales, and stands high among ghost stories in general.

That was I believe written in the late eighties. In the early nineties
comes the deluge, the deluge of the illustrated monthly magazines, and it
is no longer possible to keep pace with the output either of single
stories or of volumes of collected ones. Never was the flow more copious
than it is today, and it is only by chance that one comes across any
given example. So nothing beyond scattering and general remarks can be
offered. Some whole novels there have been which depend for all or part
of their interest on ghostly matter. There is Dracula, which suffers by
excess. (I fancy, by the way, that it must be based on a story in the
fourth volume of Chambers's Repository, issued in the fifties.) There is
Alice-for-Short [by W. de Morgan, 1907], in which I never cease to admire
the skill with which the ghost is woven into the web of the tale. But
that is a very rare feat.

Among the collections of short stories, E. F. Benson's three volumes rank
high, though to my mind he sins occasionally by stepping over the line of
legitimate horridness. He is however blameless in this aspect as compared
with some Americans, who compile volumes called Not At Night and the
like. These are merely nauseating, and it is very easy to be nauseating.
I, mot qui vous parle, could undertake to make a reader physically sick,
if I chose to think and write in terms of the Grand Guignol. The authors
of the stories I have in mind tread, as they believe, in the steps of
Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce (himself sometimes unpardonable), but
they do not possess the force of either.

Reticence may be an elderly doctrine to preach, yet from the artistic
point of view I am sure it is a sound one. Reticence conduces to effect,
blatancy ruins it, and there is much blatancy in a lot of recent stories.
They drag in sex too, which is a fatal mistake; sex is tiresome enough in
the novels; in a ghost story, or as the backbone of a ghost story, I have
no patience with it.

At the same time don't let us be mild and drab. Malevolence and terror,
the glare of evil faces, 'the stony grin of unearthly malice', pursuing
forms in darkness, and 'long-drawn, distant screams', are all in place,
and so is a modicum of blood, shed with deliberation and carefully
husbanded; the weltering and wallowing that I too often encounter merely
recall the methods of M. G. Lewis.

Clearly it is out of the question for me to begin upon a series of 'short
notices' of recent collections; but an illustrative instance or two will
be to the point. A. M. Burrage, in Sonic Ghost Stories, keeps on the
right side of the line, and if about half of his ghosts are amiable, the
rest have their terrors, and no mean ones. H. R. Wakefield, in They
Return at Evening (a good title) gives us a mixed bag, from which I
should remove one or two that leave a nasty taste. Among the residue are
some admirable pieces, very inventive. Going back a few years I light on
Mrs Everett's The Death Mask, of a rather quieter tone on the whole, but
with some excellently conceived stories. Hugh Benson's Light Invisible
and Mirror of Shalott are too ecclesiastical. K. and Hesketh Prichard's
'Flaxman Low' is most ingenious and successful, but rather
over-technically 'occult'. It seems impertinent to apply the same
criticism to Algernon Blackwood, but 'John Silence' is surely open to it.
Mr Elliott O'Donnell's multitudinous volumes I do not know whether to
class as narratives of fact or exercises in fiction. I hope they may be
of the latter sort, for life in a world managed by his gods and infested
by his demons seems a risky business.

So I might go on through a long list of authors; but the remarks one can
make in an article of this compass can hardly be illuminating. The
reading of many ghost stories has shown me that the greatest successes
have been scored by the authors who can make us envisage a definite time
and place, and give us plenty of clear-cut and matter-of-fact detail, but
who, when the climax is reached, allow us to be just a little in the dark
as to the working of their machinery. We do not want to see the bones of
their theory about the supernatural.

All this while I have confined myself almost entirely to the English
ghost story. The fact is that either there are not many good stories by
foreign writers, or (more probably) my ignorance has veiled them from me.
But I should feel myself ungrateful if I did not pay a tribute to the
supernatural tales of Erckmann-Chatrian. The blend of French with German
in them, comparable to the French-Irish blend in Le Fanu, has produced
some quite first-class romance of this kind. Among longer stories, 'La
Maison Forestière' (and, if you will, 'Hugues le Loup'); among shorter
ones 'Le Blanc et le Noir', 'Le Rêvedu Cousin Elof' and L'Oeil Invisible'
have for years delighted and alarmed me. It is high time that they were
made more accessible than they are.

There need not be any peroration to a series of rather disjointed
reflections. I will only ask the reader to believe that, though I have
not hitherto mentioned it, I have read The Turn of the Screw.

(vii) 'Ghosts--Treat Them Gently!', Evening News (17 April 1931)

What first interested me in ghosts? This I can tell you quite definitely.
In my childhood I chanced to see a toy Punch and Judy set, with figures
cut out in cardboard. One of these was The Ghost. It was a tall figure
habited in white with an unnaturally long and narrow head, also
surrounded with white, and a dismal visage.

Upon this my conceptions of a ghost were based, and for years it
permeated my dreams.

Other questions--why I like ghost stories, or what are the best, or why
they are the best, or a recipe for writing such things--I have never
found it easy to be so positive about. Clearly, however, the public likes
them. The recrudescence of ghost stories in recent years is notable: it
corresponds, of course, with the vogue of the detective tale.

The ghost story can be supremely excellent in its kind, or it may be
deplorable. Like other things, it may err by excess or defect. Bram
Stoker's Dracula is a book with very good ideas in it, but--to be
vulgar--the butter is spread far too thick. Excess is the fault here: to
give an example of erring by defect is difficult, because the stories
that err in that way leave no impression on the memory.

I am speaking of the literary ghost story here. The story that claims to
be 'veridical' (in the language of the Society of Psychical Research) is
a very different affair. It will probably be quite brief, and will
conform to some one of several familiar types. This is but reasonable,
for, if there be ghosts--as I am quite prepared to believe--the true
ghost story need do no more than illustrate their normal habits (if
normal is the right word), and may be as mild as milk.

The literary ghost, on the other hand, has to justify his existence by
some startling demonstration, or, short of that must be furnished with a
background that will throw him into full relief and make him the central
feature.

Since the things which the ghost can effectively do are very limited in
number, ranging about death and madness and the discovery of secrets, the
setting seems to me all-important, since in it there is the greatest
opportunity for variety.

It is upon this and upon the first glimmer of the appearance of the
supernatural that pains must be lavished. But we need not, we should not,
use all the colours in the box. In the infancy of the art we needed the
haunted castle on a beetling rock to put us in the right frame: the
tendency is not yet extinct, for I have but just read a story with a
mysterious mansion on a desolate height in Cornwall and a gentleman
practising the worst sort of magic. How often, too, have ruinous old
houses been described or shown to me as fit scenes for stories!

'Can't you imagine some old monk or friar wandering about this long
gallery?' No, I can't.

I know Harrison Ainsworth could: The Lancashire Witches teems with
Cistercians and what he calls votaresses in mouldering vestments, who
glide about passages to very little purpose. But these fail to impress.
Not that I have not a soft corner in my heart for The Lancashire Witches,
which--ridiculous as much of it is--has distinct merits as a story.

It cannot be said too often that the more remote in time the ghost is the
harder it is to make him effective, always supposing him to be the ghost
of a dead person. Elementals and such-like do not come under this rule.

Roughly speaking, the ghost should be a contemporary of the seer. Such
was the elder Hamlet and such Jacob Marley. The latter I cite with
confidence and in despite of critics, for, whatever may be urged against
some parts of A Christmas Carol, it is, I hold, undeniable that the
introduction, the advent, of Jacob Marley is tremendously effective.

And be it observed that the setting in both these classic examples is
contemporary and even ordinary. The ramparts of the Kronborg and the
chambers of Ebenezer Scrooge were, to those who frequented them, features
of every-day life.

But there are exceptions to every rule. An ancient haunting can be made
terrible and can be invested with actuality, but it will tax your best
endeavours to forge the links between past and present in a satisfying
way. And in any case there must be ordinary level-headed modern
persons--Horatios--on the scene, such as the detective needs his Watson
or his Hastings to play the part of the lay observer.

Setting or environment, then, is to me a principal point, and the more
readily appreciable the setting is to the ordinary reader the better. The
other essential is that our ghost should make himself felt by gradual
stirrings diffusing an atmosphere of uneasiness before the final flash or
stab of horror.

Must there be horror? you ask. I think so. There are but two really good
ghost stories I know in the language wherein the elements of beauty and
pity dominate terror. They are Lanoe Falconer's 'Cecilia de Noel' and Mrs
Oliphant's 'The Open Door'. In both there are moments of horror; but in
both we end by saying with Hamlet: 'Alas, poor ghost!' Perhaps my limit
of two stories is overstrict; but that these two are by very much the
best of their kind I do not doubt.

On the whole, then, I say you must have horror and also malevolence. Not
less necessary, however, is reticence. There is a series of books I have
read, I think American in origin, called Not at Night (and with other
like titles), which sin glaringly against this law. They have no other
aim than that of Mr Wardle's Fat Boy.

Of course, all writers of ghost stories do desire to make their readers'
flesh creep; but these are shameless in their attempts. They are
unbelievably crude and sudden, and they wallow in corruption. And if
there is a theme that ought to be kept out of the ghost story, it is that
of the charnel house. That and sex, wherein I do not say that these Not
at Night books deal, but certainly other recent writers do, and in so
doing spoil the whole business.

To return from the faults of ghost stories to their excellence. Who, do I
think, has best realized their possibilities? I have no hesitation in
saying that it is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. In the volume called In a
Glass Darkly are four stories of paramount excellence, 'Green Tea', 'The
Familiar', 'Mr Justice Harbottle', and 'Carmilla'. All of these conform
to my requirements: the settings are quite different, but all seen by the
writer; the approaches of the supernatural nicely graduated; the climax
adequate. Le Fanu was a scholar and poet, and these tales show him as
such. It is true that he died as long ago as 1873, but there is
wonderfully little that is obsolete in his manner.

Of living writers I have some hesitation in speaking, but on any list
that I was forced to compile the names of E. F. Benson. Blackwood,
Burrage, De la Mare and Wakefield would find a place.

But, although the subject has its fascinations. I see no use in being
pontifical about it. These stories are meant to please and amuse us. If
they do so, well; but, if not, let us relegate them to the top shelf and
say no more about it.



THE END



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