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Title: The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James
Author: M R James
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James
Author: M R James


*

First Published 1931


*


PREFACE


In accordance with a fashion which has recently become common, I am
issuing my four volumes of ghost stories under one cover, and appending
to them some matter of the same kind.

I am told they have given pleasure of a certain sort to my readers: if
so, my whole object in writing them has been attained, and there does
not seem to be much reason for prefacing them by a disquisition upon how
I came to write them. Still, a preface is demanded by my publishers, and
it may as well be devoted to answering questions which I have been
asked.

First, whether the stories are based on my own experience? To this the
answer is No: except in one case, specified in the text, where a dream
furnished a suggestion. Or again, whether they are versions of other
people's experiences? No. Or suggested by books? This is more difficult
to answer concisely. Other people have written of dreadful spiders--for
instance, Erckmann-Chatrian in an admirable story called _L'Araignée
Crabe_--and of pictures which came alive: the State Trials give the
language of Judge Jeffreys and the courts at the end of the seventeenth
century: and so on. Places have been more prolific in suggestion: if
anyone is curious about my local settings, let it be recorded that S.
Bertrand de Comminges and Viborg are real places: that in _Oh, Whistle,
and I'll come to you_, I had Felixstowe in mind; in _A School Story_,
Temple Grove, East Sheen; in _The Tractate Middoth_, Cambridge
University Library; in _Martin's Close_, Sampford Courtenay in Devon:
that the cathedrals of Barchester and Southminster were blends of
Canterbury, Salisbury, and Hereford: that Herefordshire was the imagined
scene of _A View from a Hill_, and Seaburgh in _A Warning to the
Curious_ is Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

I am not conscious of other obligations to literature or local legend,
written or oral, except in so far as I have tried to make my ghosts act
in ways not inconsistent with the rules of folklore. As for the
fragments of ostensible erudition which are scattered about my pages,
hardly anything in them is not pure invention; there never was,
naturally, any such book as that which I quote in the _Treasure of Abbot
Thomas_.

Other questioners ask if I have any theories as to the writing of ghost
stories. None that are worthy of the name or need to be repeated here:
some thoughts on the subject are in a preface to _Ghosts and Marvels_.
[_The World's Classics_, Oxford, 1924.] There is no receipt for success
in this form of fiction more than in any other. The public, as Dr.
Johnson said, are the ultimate judges: if they are pleased, it is well;
if not, it is no use to tell them why they ought to have been pleased.

Supplementary questions are: Do I believe in ghosts? To which I answer
that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies
me. And lastly, Am I going to write any more ghost stories? To which I
fear I must answer, Probably not.

       *       *       *       *       *

Since we are nothing if not bibliographical nowadays, I add a paragraph
or two setting forth the facts about the several collections and their
contents.

"Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" was published (like the rest) by Messrs.
Arnold in 1904. The first issue had four illustrations by the late James
McBryde. In this volume _Canon Alberic's Scrap-book_ was written in 1894
and printed soon after in the _National Review: Lost Hearts_ appeared in
the _Pall Mall Magazine_. Of the next five stories, most of which were
read to friends at Christmas-time at King's College, Cambridge, I only
recollect that I wrote _Number 13_ in 1899, while _The Treasure of Abbot
Thomas_ was composed in summer 1904.

The second volume, "More Ghost Stories," appeared in 1911. The first six
of the seven tales it contains were Christmas productions, the very
first (_A School Story_) having been made up for the benefit of the
King's College Choir School. _The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral_ was
printed in the _Contemporary Review: Mr. Humphreys and his Inheritance_
was written to fill up the volume.

"A Thin Ghost and Others" was the third collection, containing five
stories and published in 1919. In it, _An Episode of Cathedral History_
and _The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance_ were contributed to
the _Cambridge Review_.

Of six stories in "A Warning to the Curious," published in 1925, the
first, _The Haunted Dolls' House_, was written for the library of Her
Majesty the Queen's Dolls' House, and subsequently appeared in the
_Empire Review_. _The Uncommon Prayer-book_ saw the light in the
_Atlantic Monthly_, the title-story in the _London Mercury_, and
another, I think _A Neighbour's Landmark_, in an ephemeral called _The
Eton Chronic_. Similar ephemerals were responsible for all but one of
the appended pieces (not all of them strictly stories), whereof one,
_Rats_, composed for _At Random_, was included by Lady Cynthia Asquith
in a collection entitled _Shudders_. The exception, _Wailing Well_, was
written for the Eton College troop of Boy Scouts, and read at their
camp-fire at Worbarrow Bay in August, 1927. It was then printed by
itself in a limited edition by Robert Gathorne Hardy and Kyrle Leng at
the Mill House Press, Stanford Dingley.

Four or five of the stories have appeared in collections of such things
in recent years, and a Norse version of four from my first volume, by
Ragnhild Undset, was issued in 1919 under the title of _Aander og
Trolddom_.


M. R. JAMES.


*


CONTENTS

CANON ALBERIC'S SCRAP-BOOK
LOST HEARTS
THE MEZZOTINT
THE ASH-TREE
NUMBER 13
COUNT MAGNUS
"OH, WHISTLE, AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"
THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS
A SCHOOL STORY
THE ROSE GARDEN
THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH
CASTING THE RUNES
THE STALLS OF BARCHESTER CATHEDRAL
MARTIN'S CLOSE
MR. HUMPHREYS AND HIS INHERITANCE
THE RESIDENCE AT WHITMINSTER
THE DIARY OF MR. POYNTER
AN EPISODE OF CATHEDRAL HISTORY
THE STORY OF A DISAPPEARANCE AND AN APPEARANCE
TWO DOCTORS
THE HAUNTED DOLLS' HOUSE
THE UNCOMMON PRAYER-BOOK
A NEIGHBOUR'S LANDMARK
A VIEW FROM A HILL
A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS
AN EVENING'S ENTERTAINMENT
THERE WAS A MAN DWELT BY A CHURCHYARD
RATS
AFTER DARK IN THE PLAYING FIELDS
WAILING WELL
STORIES I HAVE TRIED TO WRITE


* * *


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 archæologists 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 notebook 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 notebook 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 wellnigh 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 notebook 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 to-morrow. 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 Nîmes?[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.

[Footnote 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 yet seen, 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, lions 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
will 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 eyeballs
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 this 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]

[Footnote 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 Mauleone 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]

[Footnote 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.




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 even 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 in 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 possess
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 dream 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 night-dress 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 to-night, 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 to-night
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 moonlit 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. The door
was not locked, he felt sure, for the key was on the outside of it 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.




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 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 2_s._"

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 2_s._ 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 judgment 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 neatly drop the candle on the
floor, and he declares now that 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 9.30. 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? 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 to-day. 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
unspotted; but in a moment it was remembered that on Sunday the skips
came for orders an hour or so earlier than on week-days. 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
came into 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 again 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:

"16½ miles, _Anningley_. The church has been an interesting building of
Norman date, but was extensively classicized in the last century. It
contains the tombs 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 of the D'Urbervilles_?" 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: land 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.




                        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 wellnigh 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 powers 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 mere 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 park 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 was 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 to-night 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 Persons 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 which 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 Dreadful 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 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 to-night," 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 to-day, 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 here 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 Polyænus--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 Biblicæ_ 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 fly-leaf the inscription: "To Matthew Fell, from his Loving
God-mother, 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 to-morrow, 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 shalt 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."




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
"cage-work" in 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, "1 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 greatcoat, 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, 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 woke 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 sight 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
judgment 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 to-night. 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 deshabille 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 to-night?"

"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 to-night--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
palæographer) 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.




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 unfamiliar 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 lighted 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 _herrgård_, 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 Dablenberg's _Suecia antiqua et moderna_, engraved in
1694, shows it very much as the tourist may see it to-day. 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 Judgment,"
full of lurid flames, falling cities, burning ships, crying souls, and
brown and smiling demons. Handsome brass coronæ 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 those 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 suppressing the trouble, and there was reference to
executions of ringleaders 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 to-night 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 off 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 1705-1710.
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 nigræ 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 _aëris_ ("of the air"). But there was no more of the text copied,
only a line in Latin: "Quære 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 to-night 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 forest-men to keep the wood, because no one wished to hunt
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.
To-night, 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 Count's sarcophagus was unfastened; I see to-night 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 several small notebooks 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 Skåne. 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 the other 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 remembered 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.




"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 to-morrow."

"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."

[Footnote 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
hen-like, 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 _ancient 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 to-night 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 _feræ naturæ_. 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 archæology. 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 groynes, 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 groynes 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 a-brushing your coat just now there
was somethink 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 UENIT

"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 sea-bird'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's 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 toward 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, over-worked 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 Parkins. "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:

"Apropos 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 fisher-folk 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 no 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 good night 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
archæologists 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 to-night 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 for 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 the possibilities; then he
turned over sharply, and with all 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. To-morrow 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 over and felt 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 bed-clothes of which it had made itself a body. The Colonel,
who remembered a not very dissimilar occurrence in India, was of 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.




THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS


I

"Verum usque in præsentem diem multa garriunt inter se Canonici de
abscondito quodam istius Abbatis Thomæ thesauro, quem sæpe, quanquam
adhuc incassum, quæsiverunt Steinfeldenses. Ipsum enim Thomam adhuc
florida in ætate 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 præcipue dignum
iudico quod fenestram magnam in orientali parte alæ 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 cælatis exornato. Decessit autem, morte
aliquantulum subitanea perculsus, ætatis suæ anno lxxii^{do},
incarnationis vero Dominicæ 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:

[Footnote 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.]

"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."

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 of
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 possessions (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).

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

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

[Footnote 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 connection 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 was 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:

     HONOURD SIR,--

     Has I am in a great anxeity 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 Villiage 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 Coblentz 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 Coblentz 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 to-morrow 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 to-morrow
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. To-morrow 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 Coblentz
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 connection 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._ DREVICIOPEDMOOMSMVIVLISLCAVIBASBATAOVT

     _St. John._ RDIIEAMRLESIPVSPODSEEIRSETTAAESGIAVNNR

     _Zechariah._ FTEEAILNQDPVAIVMTLEEATTOHIOONVMCAAT.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 '_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 numeral 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:

     DREVICIOPEDMOOMSMVIVLISLCAVIBASBATAOVT
     - -  -   - -  -   - -  -   - -  -   -

     RDIIEAMRLESIPVSPODSEEIRSETTAAESGIAVNNR
     -  -   - -  -   - -  -   - -  -   - -

     FTEEAILNQDPVAIVMTLEEATTOHIOONVMCAAT.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 letter of the inscription, omitting those
I had already used. That gave what you will see on this slip:

     RVIIOPDOOSMVVISCAVBSBTAOTDIEAMLSIVSPDEERSETAEGIANRFEEALQDVAIMLEATTH
     OOVMCA.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, is this:

     '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 touche._'

"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 crossbars 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]

[Footnote 9: "Keep that which is committed to thee."]




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."




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 house-keeping.

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, it 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 skyline. 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 Archæological
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."




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 libarian, 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
libarian 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,
attacted 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 guide-book."

"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--mwell, 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. _Nachmanidæ_. 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
stationmaster 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.




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 judgment 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 he 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 in 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 somethink 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 orfice, that work is: it's our Mr. Timms, I believe,
looks into that. When we put up to-night I'll leave word, and per'aps
I'll be able to tell you to-morrer 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. Timm's '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 to-night."

"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's 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't
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
to-night, 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 to-night 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 to-day--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.




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, afford 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 Flaccus, 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
disguise 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 kategôn]," 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 connection 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 archæological 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. 30, 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
     to-night. 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 to-night. 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 to-day. 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 wood-yard, 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 w^{th} 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. A^o 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."


[Transcriber's Note: The notation ^x or ^{xx} signifies that the
following letter(s) are superscript.]




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 handy man, 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 a
      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._ Cul-prit. 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 judgment 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.

      _Tb._ 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 this
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 mortinis 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 judgment,
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.




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_ so 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
good-bye 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 ghist 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 to-day, and I was very sorry to
hear the reason, but it will be time enough to-morrow. 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 wellnigh 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 judgment, 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 to-morrow 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
to-morrow 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 to-night 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 over-stepped 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 to-night 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 to-morrow. 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 cyphers."

"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 Bar. 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.




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 church-warden 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
fore-warned." 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 farther 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 Æsculapius; 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 silly 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 dare say 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 anyone
succeeded to the post who intended to make the house his home. The man
who did so 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 anyone else, you know." "Like it? To be sure I do; the
farther 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-long-legs, but smaller,[10] 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?"

[Footnote 10: 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 silver 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, think it strange 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 farther extremity of this
large house, and to gain access to it one must traverse an antique
hall some eighty feet long, 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 a 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 everyone 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
saw flies? 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-long-legs, 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 acknowledgments.) '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 hall 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's easy to see not only where the furniture is, but whether
there's anyone 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 farthest 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 mantelpiece--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 dare say.' 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._, _Præb. senr._ Will.
Blake, _S.T.P._, _Decanus_. Hen. Goodman, _S.T.B._, _Præb. 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 dare say, 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 dare say 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 god-fathers 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 anyone 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 dare say,' 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."




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, and
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., sometime of Trinity Hall, now, or lately, of Rendcomb Manor in
the county of Warwick.

He, on a certain spring day in a recent year, 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. Someone 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 10_s._ 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 an
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 Wednesday. 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 Denton
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 wellnigh 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 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 one 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 someone 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, half-way 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 recollected, 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 y^e 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 y^e 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 memoriall 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."




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's
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."

"Anyone 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 height. 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
was 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 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 reelly 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
xxxiv. 14 for me.' 'xxxiv. 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 someone 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 choir 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 dare say!' 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 anyone go so pale as he did. 'I say, Worby,' he says,
'it's caught, or else someone'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 anyone 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 someone 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 prise 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 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 someone 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.




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, Elizar, 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 as 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 indoors 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 looked every moment to
hear the pan-pipes 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 footboard 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 someone 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 footboard, 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 showbox; 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 showbox 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
showbox, 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.




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.

The scene is Islington in 1718, and the time the month of June: a
countrified place, therefore, and a pleasant season. 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. 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 prayer-book 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 bedchamber. 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 someone 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 bed-clothes. 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 tickleminded
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 anyone 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.




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 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 of 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 room enough 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
cotton-wool, 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 sash-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 pound 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 startled 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 the 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 bed-clothes 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 to-day 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, stag-horned, 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.]




THE UNCOMMON PRAYER-BOOK


I

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 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., _da capo_.

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 downward
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.


II

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 her
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; and 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 archæological 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 _Deus laudum_, 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 25 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 109th 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 laying 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."


III

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 new-comer 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 to-morrow."

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 Mr. Davidson, though he had seen some very tempting locked-up
book-cases 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 to-day 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.


IV

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 'aving asked me to
remain on, and ordered his lunching to be sent in, which came 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. Potwitch, he
raised himself up as it were, resting his hands on the package, and
gave 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. Yes, 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 going 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 to-day I'd be glad to be getting 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 head-lines of a startling character
to the press.




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 on
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
north-west. 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, Queenhithe_; _Enquiries into 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 folklore, 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 woodcuts, 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 to-night 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
to-day?"

"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 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 flinders 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.]




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 traveller 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 particularize 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
bysticle, 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 thought it
were a nice evening for a ride. Yes, sir, very seasonable weather for
the haymakers: let 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 archæologists. 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 at 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
to-morrow."

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 cuff and coatsleeve, 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 Archæological
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 archæology. 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 patronizing 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 to-day, 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 to-night? 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 to-day. 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 realized 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
to-day 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 'aving 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
fearful--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 to-morrow.' 'What, finished
them glasses?' I says, 'might I have a look at them ?' 'No, no,' he
says, 'I've put 'em to bed for to-night, 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 it 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
to-day? 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
to-morrow, 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."




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 of 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
Seaburgh 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 anæmic 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
yourself, 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 House 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 Paxton--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 room 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 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 would 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 to-morrow. 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 to-morrow 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 there 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 into 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 unknown.

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.




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
folklore 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: to-morrow 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 to-day.

_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 to-night--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 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 summertime 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 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 barrows 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 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 church-wardens 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 the 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 soon 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 to-morrow. 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 lo 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 take 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.




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 church-goers 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 to-day, 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.




RATS


     "And if you was to walk through the bedrooms now, you'd see the
     ragged, mouldy bed-clothes 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 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. Awaking, 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.




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 to-night? I hope you have time for a
little talk?" "Well," said the owl ungraciously, "I don't know as it
matters so particular to-night. 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 clear
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
creepin' 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 be 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! stand-offishness! 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 in to 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 foolishness, 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 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 beakful
of grass, which alas! got into its throat; and the choking that 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, and then came a
diversion. First the thin voice of the pavilion 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! Here, you pick
me up and put me in the tree; 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!" It nodded towards the
Wall. "All right. Bad-calx tree do you mean?" I said, beginning to run
in that direction. "'Ow should I know what silly names you call it? The
one what 'as like a door in it. Go faster! They'll be coming 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 git on the tree, _I_ shall be all right."

And I suppose it was, for it scrabbled very quickly up the trunk with
its wings spread 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 changing weir" was the
only thing that broke--no, that emphasized 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 to cross the open field: I should do 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 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 certainly prefer the daylight population of the Playing Fields to
that which comes there after dark.




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! 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 over-looking the field of which the shepherd had spoken the day
before. It commanded the place completely; the well inside the clump 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 field. 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 field,
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.




STORIES I HAVE TRIED TO WRITE


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-à-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 eye-holes.
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: but 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.

THE END


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