Friday, April 15, 2022

Where are J.D. Salinger's New Books - Novels - Stories?

 

What's in Salinger's Closet (Year 12)

J.D. Salinger—The Great Uncommunicator. The only thing more frustrating than the self-imposed seclusion of one of America’s greatest writers has been the intolerable silence of Salinger’s estate in the years following his death. During this time there has been no words, no sentences, paragraphs, short stories, novellas, or novels—about the works left by Salinger after his death. Keep in mind he was writing for half a century in seclusion. Oddly, we have learned that a few of his words scrawled on a note were offered for $50,000, but nothing from his relatives as to what literary works he gifted the world at his death. We have read article upon article of his toilet being offered for $1 million, yet where are his unpublished manuscripts?

Is Salinger's son up to the job? “[My father] wanted me to pull it together, and because of the scope of the job, he knew it would take a long time,” Matt Salinger says. “This was somebody who was writing for 50 years without publishing, so that’s a lot of material. ... [But] there’s not a reluctance or a protectiveness: When it’s ready, we’re going to share it.”

The world is waiting. The world wants to know. To the day, it has been a dozen long silent years since his death on January 27, 2010. That’s 4,457 days of stillness and longing from a literary world adrift in mediocrity; 106,968 hours and 6,418,080 minutes of hope and emptiness.

Salinger had a wealth of literary gifts at his disposal, perhaps more than some of the greatest writers that ever lived. He decided to only let us open a few of those gifts, the largest of which he called The Catcher in the Rye. The others he kept us from opening. That was his choice as artist and literary gift giver. In reference to his privacy Salinger wrote: “It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years.” (“People,” Time, 1961-08-04) In a 1974 interview he confessed: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing .... I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” (“JD Salinger Speaks About His Silence,” Lacey Fosburgh, The New York Times, 11-03-1974)

Did Salinger actually write after his final publication of “Hapworth 16, 1924” in The New Yorker on June 19, 1965? Fortunately, thankfully, what scant historical record we have to date tells us he did. Ray Bradbury stated in Zen in the Art of Writing that “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Salinger knew this better than anyone. He continued to write so the world would not destroy him. What evidence we have regarding his continued writing habits is telling. The most direct comes from Salinger himself. In a 1994 letter addressed to Michael Mitchell, the dust jacket artist for the first edition of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger revealed that he continued to “work on” in a methodical fashion where he kept the “[s]ame old hours, pretty much.” His confession that he kept writing some thirty years after the publication of “Hapworth 16, 1924” gives us bright hope that a treasure trove of manuscripts was found upon his death.

Salinger’s only daughter, Margaret, presented further evidence in her memoir of not only manuscripts, but a color-coded system for future publication: “A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this ‘as is,’ blue meant publish but edit first, and so on.” (Dream Catcher: A Memoir, Margaret Salinger, 2000) Then there is Joyce Maynard who lived with Salinger for 10 months while she was 18 and he was 53. She recounted that he continued to write each morning and that by 1972 he had completed two new novels. (At Home in the WorldJoyce Maynard, 1998)

And let’s not overlook Salinger’s protective neighbors in Cornish. One stated that Salinger told him he had written 15 unpublished novels. (“JD Salinger’s Death Sparks Speculation Over Unpublished Manuscripts,” The Telegraph, 01-29-2010) If thoughts of having a new Salinger novel published each of the next 15 years doesn’t send literary chills down your spine, your back is broke.

On September 15, 1961, Time magazine featured Salinger on its cover and reported that he intended to write a Glass trilogy. (“Sonny: An Introduction,” Time, John Skow, 09-15-1961)  “Hapworth 16, 1924”, a long letter from his character Seymour Glass while at summer camp, was the only novella from the trilogy published. It is clear Salinger continued to write all these years in his remote cinderblock bunker with its fireplace and writing desk and filing cabinet and packed lunch.  (“Sonny: An Introduction,” Time, John Skow, 09-15-1961,) This leaves five possible scenarios for his unpublished manuscripts.

Suppose they were destroyed. This may have happened before his death by his own hand in a fit of public defiance. Salinger did state that he wrote for his own pleasure. Yet he had tagged various manuscripts for publishing, making destruction by his own devices unlikely. Perhaps the 1992 fire where “damage to the house was extensive” torched them. (“Fire Fails to Shake Salinger’s Seclusion,” New York Times, 10-24-1992) There is no evidence this occurred and it would have been contrary to observances by Margaret Salinger and statements to his neighbor that the manuscripts were piling up. In Salinger’s 1994 letter to Michael Mitchell, dated nearly two years post-fire, he stated he continued to write each morning in his normal fashion. It is also reported that Salinger’s writing studio was removed from the hilltop house perched on the 90 acre compound, which likely preserved his manuscripts when the 1992 fire occurred.

There is the possibility that his manuscripts were stolen, yet there is no evidence of a break-in while Salinger was alive or after his death. This is one of the most unlikely scenarios.

A more plausible explanation for the silence (Excuse me. I once again meant to say “intolerable silence.”) and muted responses of his agent and family is that his will gave pointed instructions not to publish his manuscripts for a certain period of time. Perhaps Salinger went so far as to demand that no word be spoken to the public about what writings he left for three or five or ten years. If breached, all heirs would be cut off from the will and the certain high royalty stream the new novels would bring. Or suppose his manuscripts are in no shape for public consumption and not to be published. That would be quite extraordinary, Nabokov-esq even.  

This leaves us with the most hopeful postulation for lovers of all things Salinger—The Great Uncommunicator has left too many manuscripts for his estate to shift through in two years. What if there are squabbling over which book should be published first and in what order? The literary world is holding its collective breath that is the case. It is in the realm of possibility that inner-circle squabbles could have erupted between his children and wife over which novel to publish first. Matt Salinger publicly disagreed with some of the childhood accounts Margaret wrote about in Dream Catcher: A Memoir. Salinger left a tabbed system of publication, right? Can’t everyone just get along for literature’s sake? Puh-leeese!

To date the media has made Salinger out to be a one-hit wonder who, unable to pen another work of prominence, slunk into a life of seclusion as a bitter and frustrated artist. Nothing is further from the truth. Salinger published two novellas, over thirty short stories (some residing in the Princeton and University of Texas libraries). He accomplished all this some fifty years ago and has been writing ever since. Imagine what he has accomplished over the last half century with modern word processors. Imagine what they found Salinger’s closet.

Salinger was anything but a literary hack. He may be the finest example of the opposite. Salinger wrote for the pure love it; not for the supposed glory of publication. He practiced at the very highest level that any true artist can obtain, one without interference from outside influence; and as Holden would put it—far removed from a bunch of morons who sought to destroy him.

In truth, J.D. Salinger never needed the world. It’s always been the world that has needed J.D. Salinger.

And perhaps now is when the world needs him most.


Andrew Barger
4-15-2022
AndrewBarger.com

#JDSalinger #SalingerDeath #NewSalingerNovels #NewSalingerWorks #NewSalingerStories #JDSalingerNewNovels #JDSalingerNewStories #NewSalingerBooks #JDSalingerNewBooks

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Did Poe Write a Werewolf Story? by Andrew Barger

 

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote scary stories in a number of supernatural genres. He did not invent the horror short story, but he took it to unbelievable heights. Poe penned ghost stories. He was the first to invent a closed room murder mystery (The Murders in the Rue Morgue of 1841) and a founding father of science fiction short stories. Poe also was the first to take us inside the head of a crazy man in The Tell-Tale Heart of 1843.

Yet Edgar Allan Poe failed to cover a few crucial genres in his short stories. For instance, he did not write a vampire or monster story. I have blogged on the former in the past. That is unfortunate as I am convinced that no one could have written a vampire story like Poe. What's more, zombie's had not been created in Poe's time. Unfortunately, Poe also did not write a werewolf story. If Poe did, it would certainly have risen to the level of one of the best werewolf short stories in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Below is a list of werewolf stories originally published in the English language during Poe's lifetime, which he may have read. They are found in the were anthology I edited: Transformation: The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849:

1831 The Man-Wolf by Leitch Ritche (1800-1865)
1846 A Story of a Weir-Wolf by Catherine Crowe (1790-1872)
1828 The Wehr-Wolf: A Legend of the Limousin by Richard Thomson (1794-1865)
1839 The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)
1838 Hugues the Wer-Wolf: A Kentish Legend of the Middle Ages by Sutherland Menzies [Mrs. Elizabeth Stone] (1806-1883)

#WerewolfStories #BestWerewolfStories #ClassicWerewolfTales #BestTransformationStories #Werewolves #LycanStories #WerewolfTales

Friday, April 1, 2022

Madame Crowl's Ghost by Joseph Le Fanu - Full Text

  

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
(1814-1873)

For lovers of a good scary short story, let’s all tip our top hats to Charles Dickens, the author of "A Christmas Carol." He was so fixated with ghost stories that he wrote nearly twenty of them among his short stories and novels. His “No. 1 Branch Line, The Signal Man” of 1866 rises to the level of the Top Ten stories found in Best Ghost Short Stories 1850-1899: A Phantasmal Ghost Anthology. As if his many ghost stories weren’t enough for the genre, Dickens fostered the literary careers of many talented supernatural authors by publishing them in his weekly magazine—All the Year Round, including supernatural authors Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Elizabeth Gaskell.

The best ghost story writer Dickens took under his wing, however, was Joseph Le Fanu. To say that Le Fanu was a fantastic ghost story writer is an understatement. No author had a bigger impact during the middle part of the 19th century on supernatural fiction than Irishman Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu. His female vampire story “Carmilla” (1872) highly influenced Bram Stoker when chiseling the foundations of Dracula and it is still a literary force to be reckoned with today.

His ghost stories influenced M. R. James who unabashedly placed Le Fanu “in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories.” James acknowledged how well Le Fanu set the scene of the story, which is a key component of any frightening ghost story. Montague Summers called Le Fanu “the supreme master of the supernatural.”

He was such an excellent supernatural story writer that Le Fanu is the only author to have stories in four of the best supernatural collections during the nineteenth century: A “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” (1839) in BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849,  “Green Tea” (1872) in Best Horror Short Stories 1850-1899: A 6a66le Horror Anthology,  “Camilla” (1872), and “The Familiar” (1872) in Best Ghost Short Stories 1850-1899: A Phantasmal Ghost Anthology. Although the latter is his best ghost story, "Madame Crowl's Ghost" is, perhaps, his second best due to its chilling narrative and characters.

Dickens published it anonymously on New Year's Eve, 1870 in All the Year Round. He certainly knew it was another excellent scary story by Le Fanu. Enjoy!



Madame Crowl's Ghost
1870

Twenty years have passed since you last saw Mrs. Jolliffe's tall slim figure. She is now past seventy, and can't have many mile-stones more to count on the journey that will bring her to her long home. The hair has grown white as snow, that is parted under her cap, over her shrewd, but kindly face. But her figure is still straight, and her step light and active.

She has taken of late years to the care of adult invalids, having surrendered to younger hands the little people who inhabit cradles, and crawl on all-fours. Those who remember that good-natured face among the earliest that emerge from the darkness of non-entity, and who owe to their first lessons in the accomplishment of walking, and a delighted appreciation of their first babblings and earliest teeth, have "spired up" into tall lads and lasses, now. Some of them shew streaks of white by this time, in brown locks, "the bonny gouden" hair, that she was so proud to brush and shew to admiring mothers, who are seen no more on the green of Golden Friars, and whose names are traced now on the flat grey stones in the church-yard.

So the time is ripening some, and searing others; and the saddening and tender sunset hour has come; and it is evening with the kind old north-country dame, who nursed pretty Laura Mildmay, who now stepping into the room, smiles so gladly, and throws her arms round the old woman's neck, and kisses her twice.

"Now, this is so lucky!" said Mrs. Jenner, "you have just come in time to hear a story."

"Really! That's delightful."

"Na, na, od wite it! no story, ouer true for that, I sid it a wi my aan eyen. But the barn here, would not like, at these hours, just goin' to her bed, to hear tell of freets and boggarts."

"Ghosts? The very thing of all others I should most likely to hear of."

"Well, dear," said Mrs. Jenner, "if you are not afraid, sit ye down here, with us."

"She was just going to tell me all about her first engagement to attend a dying old woman," says Mrs. Jenner, "and of the ghost she saw there. Now, Mrs. Jolliffe, make your tea first, and then begin."

The good woman obeyed, and having prepared a cup of that companionable nectar, she sipped a little, drew her brows slightly together to collect her thoughts, and then looked up with a wondrous solemn face to begin.

Good Mrs. Jenner, and the pretty girl, each gazed with eyes of solemn expectation in the face of the old woman, who seemed to gather awe from the recollections she was summoning.

The old room was a good scene for such a narrative, with the oak-wainscoting, quaint, and clumsy furniture, the heavy beams that crossed its ceiling, and the tall four-post bed, with dark curtains, within which you might imagine what shadows you please.

Mrs. Jolliffe cleared her voice, rolled her eyes slowly round, and began her tale in these words:--

MADAM CROWL'S GHOST

"I'm an ald woman now, and I was but thirteen, my last birthday, the night I came to Applewale House. My aunt was the housekeeper there, and a sort o' one-horse carriage was down at Lexhoe waitin' to take me and my box up to Applewale.

"I was a bit frightened by the time I got to Lexhoe, and when I saw the carriage and horse, I wished myself back again with my mother at Hazelden. I was crying when I got into the 'shay'--that's what we used to call it--and old John Mulbery that drove it, and was a good-natured fellow, bought me a handful of apples at the Golden Lion to cheer me up a bit; and he told me that there was a currant-cake, and tea, and pork-chops, waiting for me, all hot, in my aunt's room at the great house. It was a fine moonlight night, and I eat the apples, lookin' out o' the shay winda.

"It's a shame for gentlemen to frighten a poor foolish child like I was. I sometimes think it might be tricks. There was two on 'em on the tap o' the coach beside me. And they began to question me after nightfall, when the moon rose, where I was going to. Well, I told them it was to wait on Dame Arabella Crowl, of Applewale House, near by Lexhoe.

"'Ho, then,' says one of them, 'you'll not be long there!'

"And I looked at him as much as to say 'Why not?' for I had spoken out when I told them where I was goin', as if 'twas something clever I hed to say.

"'Because,' says he, 'and don't you for your life tell no one, only watch her and see--she's possessed by the devil, and more an half a ghost. Have you got a Bible?'

"'Yes, sir,' says I. For my mother put my little Bible in my box, and I knew it was there: and by the same token, though the print's too small for my ald eyes, I have it in my press to this hour.

"As I looked up at him saying 'Yes, sir,' I thought I saw him winkin' at his friend; but I could not be sure.

"'Well,' says he, 'be sure you put it under your bolster every night, it will keep the ald girl's claws aff ye.'

"And I got such a fright when he said that, you wouldn't fancy! And I'd a liked to ask him a lot about the ald lady, but I was too shy, and he and his friend began talkin' together about their own consarns, and dowly enough I got down, as I told ye, at Lexhoe. My heart sank as I drove into the dark avenue. The trees stand very thick and big, as ald as the ald house almost, and four people, with their arms out and finger-tips touchin', barely girds round some of them.

"Well my neck was stretched out o' the winda, looking for the first view o' the great house; and all at once we pulled up in front of it.

"A great white-and-black house it is, wi' great black beams across and right up it, and gables lookin' out, as white as a sheet, to the moon, and the shadows o' the trees, two or three up and down in front, you could count the leaves on them, and all the little diamond-shaped winda-panes, glimmering on the great hall winda, and great shutters, in the old fashion, hinged on the wall outside, boulted across all the rest o' the windas in front, for there was but three or four servants, and the old lady in the house, and most o' t' rooms was locked up.

"My heart was in my mouth when I sid the journey was over, and this the great house afoore me, and I sa near my aunt that I never sid till noo, and Dame Crowl, that I was come to wait upon, and was afeard on already.

"My aunt kissed me in the hall, and brought me to her room. She was tall and thin, wi' a pale face and black eyes, and long thin hands wi' black mittins on. She was past fifty, and her word was short; but her word was law. I hev no complaints to make of her; but she was a hard woman, and I think she would hev bin kinder to me if I had bin her sister's child in place of her brother's. But all that's o' no consequence noo.

"The squire--his name was Mr. Chevenix Crowl, he was Dame Crowl's grandson--came down there, by way of seeing that the old lady was well treated, about twice or thrice in the year. I sid him but twice all the time I was at Applewale House.

"I can't say but she was well taken care of, notwithstanding; but that was because my aunt and Meg Wyvern, that was her maid, had a conscience, and did their duty by her.

"Mrs. Wyvern--Meg Wyvern my aunt called her to herself, and Mrs. Wyvern to me--was a fat, jolly lass of fifty, a good height and a good breadth, always good-humoured and walked slow. She had fine wages, but she was a bit stingy, and kept all her fine clothes under lock and key, and wore, mostly, a twilled chocolate cotton, wi' red, and yellow, and green sprigs and balls on it, and it lasted wonderful.

"She never gave me nout, not the vally o' a brass thimble, all the time I was there; but she was good-humoured, and always laughin', and she talked no end o' proas over her tea; and, seeing me sa sackless and dowly, she roused me up wi' her laughin' and stories; and I think I liked her better than my aunt--children is so taken wi' a bit o' fun or a story--though my aunt was very good to me, but a hard woman about some things, and silent always.

"My aunt took me into her bed-chamber, that I might rest myself a bit while she was settin' the tea in her room. But first, she patted me on the shouther, and said I was a tall lass o' my years, and had spired up well, and asked me if I could do plain work and stitchin'; and she looked in my face, and said I was like my father, her brother, that was dead and gone, and she hoped I was a better Christian, and wad na du a' that lids (would not do anything of that sort).

"It was a hard sayin' the first time I set foot in her room, I thought.

"When I went into the next room, the housekeeper's room--very comfortable, yak (oak) all round--there was a fine fire blazin' away, wi' coal, and peat, and wood, all in a low together, and tea on the table, and hot cake, and smokin' meat; and there was Mrs. Wyvern, fat, jolly, and talkin' away, more in an hour than my aunt would in a year.

"While I was still at my tea my aunt went up-stairs to see Madam Crowl.

"'She's agone up to see that old Judith Squailes is awake,' says Mrs. Wyvern. 'Judith sits with Madam Crowl when me and Mrs. Shutters'--that was my aunt's name--'is away. She's a troublesome old lady. Ye'll hev to be sharp wi' her, or she'll be into the fire, or out o' t' winda. She goes on wires, she does, old though she be.'

"'How old, ma'am?' says I.

"'Ninety-three her last birthday, and that's eight months gone,' says she; and she laughed. 'And don't be askin' questions about her before your aunt--mind, I tell ye; just take her as you find her, and that's all.'

"'And what's to be my business about her, please, ma'am?' says I.

"'About the old lady? Well,' says she, 'your aunt, Mrs. Shutters, will tell you that; but I suppose you'll hev to sit in the room with your work, and see she's at no mischief, and let her amuse herself with her things on the table, and get her her food or drink as she calls for it, and keep her out o' mischief, and ring the bell hard if she's troublesome.'

"'Is she deaf, ma'am?'

"'No, nor blind,' says she; 'as sharp as a needle, but she's gone quite aupy, and can't remember nout rightly; and Jack the Giant Killer, or Goody Twoshoes will please her as well as the king's court, or the affairs of the nation.'

"'And what did the little girl go away for, ma'am, that went on Friday last? My aunt wrote to my mother she was to go.'

"'Yes; she's gone.'

"'What for?' says I again.

"'She didn't answer Mrs. Shutters, I do suppose,' says she. 'I don't know. Don't be talkin'; your aunt can't abide a talkin' child.'

"'And please, ma'am, is the old lady well in health?' says I.

"'It ain't no harm to ask that,' says she. 'She's torflin a bit lately, but better this week past, and I dare say she'll last out her hundred years yet. Hish! Here's your aunt coming down the passage.'

"In comes my aunt, and begins talkin' to Mrs. Wyvern, and I, beginnin' to feel more comfortable and at home like, was walkin' about the room lookin' at this thing and at that. There was pretty old china things on the cupboard, and pictures again the wall; and there was a door open in the wainscot, and I sees a queer old leathern jacket, wi' straps and buckles to it, and sleeves as long as the bed-post hangin' up inside.

"'What's that you're at, child?' says my aunt, sharp enough, turning about when I thought she least minded. 'What's that in your hand?'

"'This, ma'am?' says I, turning about with the leathern jacket. 'I don't know what it is, ma'am.'

"Pale as she was, the red came up in her cheeks, and her eyes flashed wi' anger, and I think only she had half a dozen steps to take, between her and me, she'd a gev me a sizzup. But she did gie me a shake by the shouther, and she plucked the thing out o' my hand, and says she, 'While ever you stay here, don't ye meddle wi' nout that don't belong to ye', and she hung it up on the pin that was there, and shut the door wi' a bang and locked it fast.

"Mrs. Wyvern was liftin' up her hands and laughin' all this time, quietly, in her chair, rolling herself a bit in it, as she used when she was kinkin'.

"The tears was in my eyes, and she winked at my aunt, and says she, dryin' her own eyes that was wet wi' the laughin', 'Tut, the child meant no harm--come here to me, child. It's only a pair o' crutches for lame ducks, and ask us no questions mind, and we'll tell ye no lies; and come here and sit down, and drink a mug o' beer before ye go to your bed.'

"My room, mind ye, was upstairs, next to the old lady's, and Mrs. Wyvern's bed was near hers in her room, and I was to be ready at call, if need should be.

"The old lady was in one of her tantrums that night and part of the day before. She used to take fits o' the sulks. Sometimes she would not let them dress her, and at other times she would not let them take her clothes off. She was a great beauty, they said, in her day. But there was no one about Applewale that remembered her in her prime. And she was dreadful fond o' dress, and had thick silks, and stiff satins, and velvets, and laces, and all sorts, enough to set up seven shops at the least. All her dresses was old-fashioned and queer, but worth a fortune.

"Well, I went to my bed. I lay for a while awake; for a' things was new to me; and I think the tea was in my nerves, too, for I wasn't used to it, except now and then on a holiday, or the like. And I heard Mrs. Wyvern talkin', and I listened with my hand to my ear; but I could not hear Mrs. Crowl, and I don't think she said a word.

"There was great care took of her. The people at Applewale knew that when she died they would every one get the sack; and their situations was well paid and easy.

"The doctor came twice a week to see the old lady, and you may be sure they all did as he bid them. One thing was the same every time; they were never to cross or frump her, any way, but to humour and please her in everything.

"So she lay in her clothes all that night, and next day, not a word she said, and I was at my needlework all that day, in my own room, except when I went down to my dinner.

"I would a liked to see the ald lady, and even to hear her speak. But she might as well a' bin in Lunnon a' the time for me.

"When I had my dinner my aunt sent me out for a walk for an hour. I was glad when I came back, the trees was so big, and the place so dark and lonesome, and 'twas a cloudy day, and I cried a deal, thinkin' of home, while I was walkin' alone there. That evening, the candles bein' alight, I was sittin' in my room, and the door was open into Madam Crowl's chamber, where my aunt was. It was, then, for the first time I heard what I suppose was the ald lady talking.

"It was a queer noise like, I couldn't well say which, a bird, or a beast, only it had a bleatin' sound in it, and was very small.

"I pricked my ears to hear all I could. But I could not make out one word she said. And my aunt answered:

"'The evil one can't hurt no one, ma'am, bout the Lord permits.'

"Then the same queer voice from the bed says something more that I couldn't make head nor tail on.

"And my aunt med answer again: 'Let them pull faces, ma'am, and say what they will; if the Lord be for us, who can be against us?'

"I kept listenin' with my ear turned to the door, holdin' my breath, but not another word or sound came in from the room. In about twenty minutes, as I was sittin' by the table, lookin' at the pictures in the old Aesop's Fables, I was aware o' something moving at the door, and lookin' up I sid my aunt's face lookin' in at the door, and her hand raised.

"'Hish!' says she, very soft, and comes over to me on tiptoe, and she says in a whisper: 'Thank God, she's asleep at last, and don't ye make no noise till I come back, for I'm goin' down to take my cup o' tea, and I'll be back i' noo--me and Mrs. Wyvern, and she'll be sleepin' in the room, and you can run down when we come up, and Judith will gie ye yaur supper in my room.'

"And with that she goes.

"I kep' looking at the picture-book, as before, listenin' every noo and then, but there was no sound, not a breath, that I could hear; an' I began whisperin' to the pictures and talkin' to myself to keep my heart up, for I was growin' feared in that big room.

"And at last up I got, and began walkin' about the room, lookin' at this and peepin' at that, to amuse my mind, ye'll understand. And at last what sud I do but peeps into Madam Crowl's bedchamber.

"A grand chamber it was, wi' a great four-poster, wi' flowered silk curtains as tall as the ceilin', and foldin' down on the floor, and drawn close all round. There was a lookin'-glass, the biggest I ever sid before, and the room was a blaze o' light. I counted twenty-two wax candles, all alight. Such was her fancy, and no one dared say her nay.

"I listened at the door, and gaped and wondered all round. When I heard there was not a breath, and did not see so much as a stir in the curtains, I took heart, and walked into the room on tiptoe, and looked round again. Then I takes a keek at myself in the big glass; and at last it came in my head, 'Why couldn't I ha' a keek at the ald lady herself in the bed?

"Ye'd think me a fule if ye knew half how I longed to see Dame Crowl, and I thought to myself if I didn't peep now I might wait many a day before I got so gude a chance again.

"Well, my dear, I came to the side o' the bed, the curtains bein' close, and my heart a'most failed me. But I took courage, and I slips my finger in between the thick curtains, and then my hand. So I waits a bit, but all was still as death. So, softly, softly I draws the curtain, and there, sure enough, I sid before me, stretched out like the painted lady on the tomb-stean in Lexhoe Church, the famous Dame Crowl, of Applewale House. There she was, dressed out. You never sid the like in they days. Satin and silk, and scarlet and green, and gold and pint lace; by Jen! 'twas a sight! A big powdered wig, half as high as herself, was a-top o' her head, and, wow!--was ever such wrinkles?--and her old baggy throat all powdered white, and her cheeks rouged, and mouse-skin eyebrows, that Mrs. Wyvern used to stick on, and there she lay proud and stark, wi' a pair o' clocked silk hose on, and heels to her shoon as tall as nine-pins. Lawk! But her nose was crooked and thin, and half the whites o' her eyes was open. She used to stand, dressed as she was, gigglin' and dribblin' before the lookin'-glass, wi' a fan in her hand and a big nosegay in her bodice. Her wrinkled little hands was stretched down by her sides, and such long nails, all cut into points, I never sid in my days. Could it even a bin the fashion for grit fowk to wear their fingernails so?

"Well, I think ye'd a-bin frightened yourself if ye'd a sid such a sight. I couldn't let go the curtain, nor move an inch, nor take my eyes off her; my very heart stood still. And in an instant she opens her eyes and up she sits, and spins herself round, and down wi' her, wi' a clack on her two tall heels on the floor, facin' me, ogglin' in my face wi' her two great glassy eyes, and a wicked simper wi' her wrinkled lips, and lang fause teeth.

"Well, a corpse is a natural thing; but this was the dreadfullest sight I ever sid. She had her fingers straight out pointin' at me, and her back was crooked, round again wi' age. Says she:

"'Ye little limb! what for did ye say I killed the boy? I'll tickle ye till ye're stiff!'

"If I'd a thought an instant, I'd a turned about and run. But I couldn't take my eyes off her, and I backed from her as soon as I could; and she came clatterin' after like a thing on wires, with her fingers pointing to my throat, and she makin' all the time a sound with her tongue like zizz-zizz-zizz.

"I kept backin' and backin' as quick as I could, and her fingers was only a few inches away from my throat, and I felt I'd lose my wits if she touched me.

"I went back this way, right into the corner, and I gev a yellock, ye'd think saul and body was partin', and that minute my aunt, from the door, calls out wi' a blare, and the ald lady turns round on her, and I turns about, and ran through my room, and down the stairs, as hard as my legs could carry me.

"I cried hearty, I can tell you, when I got down to the housekeeper's room. Mrs. Wyvern laughed a deal when I told her what happened. But she changed her key when she heard the ald lady's words.

"'Say them again,' says she.

"So I told her.

"'Ye little limb! What for did ye say I killed the boy? I'll tickle ye till ye're stiff.'

"'And did ye say she killed a boy?' says she.

"'Not I, ma'am,' says I.

"Judith was always up with me, after that, when the two elder women was away from her. I would a jumped out at winda, rather than stay alone in the same room wi' her.

"It was about a week after, as well as I can remember, Mrs. Wyvern, one day when me and her was alone, told me a thing about Madam Crowl that I did not know before.

"She being young and a great beauty, full seventy year before, had married Squire Crowl, of Applewale. But he was a widower, and had a son about nine years old.

"There never was tale or tidings of this boy after one mornin'. No one could say where he went to. He was allowed too much liberty, and used to be off in the morning, one day, to the keeper's cottage and breakfast wi' him, and away to the warren, and not home, mayhap, till evening; and another time down to the lake, and bathe there, and spend the day fishin' there, or paddlin' about in the boat. Well, no one could say what was gone wi' him; only this, that his hat was found by the lake, under a haathorn that grows thar to this day, and 'twas thought he was drowned bathin'. And the squire's son, by his second marriage, with this Madam Crowl that lived sa dreadful lang, came in far the estates. It was his son, the ald lady's grandson, Squire Chevenix Crowl, that owned the estates at the time I came to Applewale.

"There was a deal o' talk lang before my aunt's time about it; and 'twas said the step-mother knew more than she was like to let out. And she managed her husband, the ald squire, wi' her white-heft and flatteries. And as the boy was never seen more, in course of time the thing died out of fowks' minds.

"I'm goin' to tell ye noo about what I sid wi' my own een.

"I was not there six months, and it was winter time, when the ald lady took her last sickness.

"The doctor was afeard she might a took a fit o' madness, as she did fifteen years befoore, and was buckled up, many a time, in a strait-waistcoat, which was the very leathern jerkin I sid in the closet, off my aunt's room.

"Well, she didn't. She pined, and windered, and went off, torflin', torflin', quiet enough, till a day or two before her flittin', and then she took to rabblin', and sometimes skirlin' in the bed, ye'd think a robber had a knife to her throat, and she used to work out o' the bed, and not being strong enough, then, to walk or stand, she'd fall on the flure, wi' her ald wizened hands stretched before her face, and skirlin' still for mercy.

"Ye may guess I didn't go into the room, and I used to be shiverin' in my bed wi' fear, at her skirlin' and scrafflin' on the flure, and blarin' out words that id make your skin turn blue.

"My aunt, and Mrs. Wyvern, and Judith Squailes, and a woman from Lexhoe, was always about her. At last she took fits, and they wore her out.

"T' sir was there, and prayed for her; but she was past praying with. I suppose it was right, but none could think there was much good in it, and sa at lang last she made her flittin', and a' was over, and old Dame Crowl was shrouded and coffined, and Squire Chevenix was wrote for. But he was away in France, and the delay was sa lang, that t' sir and doctor both agreed it would not du to keep her langer out o' her place, and no one cared but just them two, and my aunt and the rest o' us, from Applewale, to go to the buryin'. So the old lady of Applewale was laid in the vault under Lexhoe Church; and we lived up at the great house till such time as the squire should come to tell his will about us, and pay off such as he chose to discharge.

"I was put into another room, two doors away from what was Dame Crowl's chamber, after her death, and this thing happened the night before Squire Chevenix came to Applewale.

"The room I was in now was a large square chamber, covered wi' yak pannels, but unfurnished except for my bed, which had no curtains to it, and a chair and a table, or so, that looked nothing at all in such a big room. And the big looking-glass, that the old lady used to keek into and admire herself from head to heel, now that there was na mair o' that wark, was put out of the way, and stood against the wall in my room, for there was shiftin' o' many things in her chamber ye may suppose, when she came to be coffined.

"The news had come that day that the squire was to be down next morning at Applewale; and not sorry was I, for I thought I was sure to be sent home again to my mother. And right glad was I, and I was thinkin' of a' at hame, and my sister Janet, and the kitten and the pymag, and Trimmer the tike, and all the rest, and I got sa fidgetty, I couldn't sleep, and the clock struck twelve, and me wide awake, and the room as dark as pick. My back was turned to the door, and my eyes toward the wall opposite.

"Well, it could na be a full quarter past twelve, when I sees a lightin' on the wall befoore me, as if something took fire behind, and the shadas o' the bed, and the chair, and my gown, that was hangin' from the wall, was dancin' up and down on the ceilin' beams and the yak pannels; and I turns my head ower my shouther quick, thinkin' something must a gone a' fire.

"And what sud I see, by Jen! but the likeness o' the ald beldame, bedizened out in her satins and velvets, on her dead body, simperin', wi' her eyes as wide as saucers, and her face like the fiend himself. 'Twas a red light that rose about her in a fuffin low, as if her dress round her feet was blazin'. She was drivin' on right for me, wi' her ald shrivelled hands crooked as if she was goin' to claw me. I could not stir, but she passed me straight by, wi' a blast o' cald air, and I sid her, at the wall, in the alcove as my aunt used to call it, which was a recess where the state bed used to stand in ald times wi' a door open wide, and her hands gropin' in at somethin' was there. I never sid that door befoore. And she turned round to me, like a thing on a pivot, flyrin', and all at once the room was dark, and I standin' at the far side o' the bed; I don't know how I got there, and I found my tongue at last, and if I did na blare a yellock, rennin' down the gallery and almost pulled Mrs. Wyvern's door off t' hooks, and frighted her half out o' wits.

"Ye may guess I did na sleep that night; and wi' the first light, down wi' me to my aunt, as fast as my two legs cud carry me.

"Well my aunt did na frump or flite me, as I thought she would, but she held me by the hand, and looked hard in my face all the time. And she telt me not to be feared; and says she:

"'Hed the appearance a key in its hand?'

"'Yes,' says I, bringin' it to mind, 'a big key in a queer brass handle.'

"'Stop a bit,' says she, lettin' go ma hand, and openin' the cupboard-door. 'Was it like this?' says she, takin' one out in her fingers, and showing it to me, with a dark look in my face.

"'That was it,' says I, quick enough.

"'Are ye sure?' she says, turnin' it round.

"'Sart,' says I, and I felt like I was gain' to faint when I sid it.

"'Well, that will do, child,' says she, saftly thinkin', and she locked it up again.

"'The squire himself will be here today, before twelve o'clock, and ye must tell him all about it,' says she, thinkin', 'and I suppose I'll be leavin' soon, and so the best thing for the present is, that ye should go home this afternoon, and I'll look out another place for you when I can.'

"Fain was I, ye may guess, at that word.

"My aunt packed up my things for me, and the three pounds that was due to me, to bring home, and Squire Crowl himself came down to Applewale that day, a handsome man, about thirty years ald. It was the second time I sid him. But this was the first time he spoke to me.

"My aunt talked wi' him in the housekeeper's room, and I don't know what they said. I was a bit feared on the squire, he bein' a great gentleman down in Lexhoe, and I darn't go near till I was called. And says he, smilin':

"'What's a' this ye a sen, child? it mun be a dream, for ye know there's na sic a thing as a bo or a freet in a' the world. But whatever it was, ma little maid, sit ye down and tell all about it from first to last.'

"Well, so soon as I made an end, he thought a bit, and says he to my aunt:

"'I mind the place well. In old Sir Olivur's time lame Wyndel told me there was a door in that recess, to the left, where the lassie dreamed she saw my grandmother open it. He was past eighty when he told me that, and I but a boy. It's twenty year sen. The plate and jewels used to be kept there, long ago, before the iron closet was made in the arras chamber, and he told me the key had a brass handle, and this ye say was found in the bottom o' the kist where she kept her old fans. Now, would not it be a queer thing if we found some spoons or diamonds forgot there? Ye mun come up wi' us, lassie, and point to the very spot.'

"Loth was I, and my heart in my mouth, and fast I held by my aunt's hand as I stept into that awsome room, and showed them both how she came and passed me by, and the spot where she stood, and where the door seemed to open.

"There was an ald empty press against the wall then, and shoving it aside, sure enough there was the tracing of a door in the wainscot, and a keyhole stopped with wood, and planed across as smooth as the rest, and the joining of the door all stopped wi' putty the colour o' yak, and, but for the hinges that showed a bit when the press was shoved aside, ye would not consayt there was a door there at all.

"'Ha!' says he, wi' a queer smile, 'this looks like it.'

"It took some minutes wi' a small chisel and hammer to pick the bit o' wood out o' the keyhole. The key fitted, sure enough, and, wi' a strang twist and a lang skreak, the boult went back and he pulled the door open.

"There was another door inside, stranger than the first, but the lacks was gone, and it opened easy. Inside was a narrow floor and walls and vault o' brick; we could not see what was in it, for 'twas dark as pick.

"When my aunt had lighted the candle, the squire held it up and stept in.

"My aunt stood on tiptoe tryin' to look over his shouther, and I did na see nout.

"'Ha! ha!' says the squire, steppin' backward. 'What's that? Gi' ma the poker--quick!' says he to my aunt. And as she went to the hearth I peeps beside his arm, and I sid squat down in the far corner a monkey or a flayin' on the chest, or else the maist shrivelled up, wizzened ald wife that ever was sen on yearth.

"'By Jen!' says my aunt, as puttin' the poker in his hand, she keeked by his shouther, and sid the ill-favoured thing, 'hae a care, sir, what ye're doin'. Back wi' ye, and shut to the door!'

"But in place o' that he steps in saftly, wi' the poker pointed like a swoord, and he gies it a poke, and down it a' tumbles together, head and a', in a heap o' bayans and dust, little meyar an' a hatful.

"'Twas the bayans o' a child; a' the rest went to dust at a touch. They said nout for a while, but he turns round the skull, as it lay on the floor.

"Young as I was, I consayted I knew well enough what they was thinkin' on.

"'A dead cat!' says he, pushin' back and blowin' out the can'le, and shuttin' to the door. 'We'll come back, you and me, Mrs. Shutters, and look on the shelves by-and-bye. I've other matters first to speak to ye about; and this little girl's goin' hame, ye say. She has her wages, and I mun mak' her a present,' says he, pattin' my shouther wi' his hand.

"And he did gimma a goud pound and I went aff to Lexhoe about an hour after, and sa hame by the stage-coach, and fain was I to be at hame again; and I never sid Dame Crowl o' Applewale, God be thanked, either in appearance or in dream, at-efter. But when I was grown to be a woman, my aunt spent a day and night wi' me at Littleham, and she telt me there was no doubt it was the poor little boy that was missing sa lang sen, that was shut up to die thar in the dark by that wicked beldame, whar his skirls, or his prayers, or his thumpin' cud na be heard, and his hat was left by the water's edge, whoever did it, to mak' belief he was drowned. The clothes, at the first touch, a' ran into a snuff o' dust in the cell whar the bayans was found. But there was a handful o' jet buttons, and a knife with a green heft, together wi' a couple o' pennies the poor little fella had in his pocket, I suppose, when he was decoyed in thar, and sid his last o' the light. And there was, amang the squire's papers, a copy o' the notice that was prented after he was lost, when the ald squire thought he might 'a run away, or bin took by gipsies, and it said he had a green-hefted knife wi' him, and that his buttons were o' cut jet. Sa that is a' I hev to say consarnin' ald Dame Crowl, o' Applewale House."




#MadameCrowlsGhost #JosephLeFanu #ClassicGhostStories #BestGhostStories #VictorianGhostStories #FanuGhostStory

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Early Gothic Novels - My Top Ten List

 Top Ten Early Gothic Novels


In chronological order, this is my list of the top ten Gothic novels, published before 1850. Let's get started.

1. The Castle of Otranto (1764)

2. The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

3. The Monk (1796)

4. Frankenstein (1818)

5. The Vampyre (1819)

6. Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)

7. The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh (1838)

8. The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)

9. Strange Event in the Life of Schalke the Painter (1839)

10. Wuthering Heights (1847)




#GothicNovels #EarlyGothicNovels #TopTenGothicNovels #EarlyGothicStories #FirstGothicNovel #ClassicGothicNovels #ClassicGothicStories





Thursday, February 24, 2022

Andrew Barger's Review of "A Descent into the Maelstrom" by Edgar Allan Poe

 


A Descent Into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is one of the best horror short stories originally published in the English language (or later translated into English) from 1800-1849. The story is considered as one of Poe's best science fiction tales, yet it contains many horror elements that are original in design and implementation. The story was first published in the May 1841 issue of Graham's Magazine. This is what Robert Armistead Stewart, a professor at Richmond College, had to say about it in 1911:
"A Descent into the Maelstrom" is the most enthralling of that trio of tales of pseudo-science that demonstrate Poe's wizard power of sweeping the reader from the solid basis of human experience into an acceptance of fancies repugnant to all physical laws. In verisimilitude and compelling interest it excels both the MS. Found in a Bottle and Hans Pfaal, and displays its supernatural element in the products of the subtle faculty of exaggeration which Poe may have developed under the stimulus of opium. . . . . The commencement of the tale is abrupt and succinct, in accordance with Poe's dictum in 'Marginalia': 'It is far better that we commence irregularly—immethodically—than that we fail to arrest attention; but the two points, method and pungency, may always be combined.' At all risks, let there be a few vivid sentences imprimis, by way of the electric bell to the telegraph. The vividness of the old man's story is wonderfully enhanced by being told with the localities under review, and the wild welter of wind and water sustains the narrative like some great orchestral accompaniment. The final sentence, allowing for incredulity on the part of the reader, is an artistic touch, and fully worthy of Poe's ingenuity."
Following is one of the most haunting passages of a shipwreck and maelstrom one will find in the literature for this time period:
Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on which we were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below us were visible fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber and trunks of trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of house furniture, broken boxes, barrels, and staves. I have already described the unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors. It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the numerous things that floated in our company. I must have been delirious, for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below. "This fir-tree," I found myself at one time saying, "will certainly be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disappears;" and then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship overtook it and went down before.
I find it hard to believe that the protagonist of the horror story would have uttered the words as Poe has presented them, but this is a minor flaw in a major tale with a transitioning plot, terror, and characters that incite emotion to the end.




#besthorrorstories #bestclassichorror #besthorrorshortstories #DescentintotheMaelstrom #edgarallanpoe

Friday, February 11, 2022

Leo Tolstoy's 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated is at a Library Near You

 



The number of libraries purchasing a copy of Tolstoy's short stories that I edited is growing by leaps and bounds. Follow this link to see if Leo Tolstoy's 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated is at a library near you: http://www.worldcat.org/title/leo-tolstoys-20-greatest-short-stories-annotated/oclc/457080394

One of the most surprising is in Abu Dhabi. You can get a copy of the Tolstoy ebook for less than $8 on Google Books. The paperback can be had for $14.98 on Amazon. Enjoy!

391 pages : illustrations

A candle --
After the dance --
Albert --
Alyosha the pot --
An old acquaintance --
Does a man need much land? --
If you neglect the fire, you don't put it out --
Khodinka: an incident of the coronation of Nicholas II --
Lucerne --
Memoirs of a lunatic --
My dream --
Recollections of a scorer --
The empty drum --
The long exile --
The posthumous papers of the Hermit, Fedor Kusmich --
The young Tsar --
There are no guilty people --
Three deaths --
Two old men --
What men live by.




#TolstoyShortStories #TolstoyAnnotated #TolstoyStories #BestTolstoyTales #BestTolstoyShortStories

Saturday, January 29, 2022

A Sonnet by Robert Smith of The Cure from the Disintegration Album



 It is well known that Robert Smith writes the lyrics for Cure songs. In my view, he is one of our greatest modern poets given his depth of feeling, artistry, and what Edgar Allan Poe would call "versification." There is little to no didacticism, or moralism, in Smith's lyrics.

One song from The Cure's Disintegration album jumps out at me as Smith's greatest sonnet. It is the first song on the 1989 album and titled "Plainsong." I believe it a song that quotes his wife, Mary, when the two are standing in a cold wind that makes her feel like she is dead. Smith provides nothing about the setting of "Plainsong." The song is the cheeriest on the classic album.

Smith certainly intended it to be a sonnet, which has 14 lines of verse. The first two stanzas are quatrains. The third stanza has three lines and the last is a singular line. Of course there are no rules in poetry and Smith broke the standard English rule that each of the line of sonnet must contain 10 syllables.

You can read the lyrics to "Plainsong" on The Cure's official website. Note that the last line is not separated below the third stanza as it is on the album cover.



#RobertSmith #RobertSmithPoetry #RobertSmithLyrics #CureLyrics #PlainsongTheCure #Sonnet #ModernSonnets #DisintegrationLyrics #DisintegrtationPoetry #AndrewBarger.com #TheCureBand

Thursday, December 30, 2021

RoomSpook.com - A website About Hotel Deaths

 


For those of you who are interested in paranormal, I wanted to let you know about a website that tracks hotel deaths. You can find it at RoomSpook.com and the site can tell you if a death has occurred in your hotel room. While most people try to avoid staying in a room where there has been a death, such as a suicide, others specifically want to stay in rooms where there might be paranormal activity. You know who you are.

The Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City has recorded the most hotel suicides, currently at 32, in the RoomSpook database. One of the earliest suicides happened on June 15, 1921. On that date Kirk Moore jumped from the hotel to his death. He landed on the 7th avenue sidewalk curb, just missing a taxi cab. He was to stand trial the next day on child molestation charges after being caught inviting children into his car. Moore left a note to his wife that said in part: "Something broke in my head and I feel myself going." He was 28 years old and a graduate of Princeton University.

But wait, there's more! "RoomSpook tracks many undesirable events that, unfortunately, happen in hotels. They include: accidents, accidental deaths, assaults, bed bugs, communicable diseases, deaths by natural causes, murders, rapes, shootings by police, and suicides." This is what the site says about its current markets:

"RoomSpook.com, which allows travelers to search for unwanted “events” for free in their hotel such as bed bugs, deaths and communicable diseases like Covid-19, now has data covering 450,000+ hotel rooms, 1,200+ hotels and 3,940+ events in Anaheim, Brooklyn, Lake Buena Vista, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando. The company is rapidly expanding to other markets."

If you are interested in ghosts, or even ghost stories, this is the site for you. Boo!


#RoomSpook #HotelDeaths #HotelBedBugs #HotelSuicides #GhostStories #HotelDeathNewYork #HotelDeathOrlando #HotelDeathLasVegas #HotelDeathLosAngeles

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Horror: A True Tale by John Harwood 1861



Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine was very popular in its day. Edgar Allan Poe even lampooned some of its over-the-top stories in his How to Write a Blackwood's Article. It should be pointed out, however, that Poe was never published in the British magazine.

The magazine was not afraid to publish scary horror short stories. Its January 1861 article was no exception. That issue brought the world "Horror: A True Tale" by John Berwick Harwood (1828-1899), a British author known for his horror and supernatural tales. Harwood was known in popular English writing circles of his day and even collaborated with Charles Dickens on the short story Picking Up a Pocketbook.

"Horror: A True Tale" was published anonymously in Blackwood's perhaps because of its subject matter. It is, after all, Harwood's most horrific story. Given its story backgrounds and character generation, I am placing it at position 15 in my countdown of the best horror short stories from 1850-1899 in the English language. The top ten are contained in my latest classic horror anthology for which the cover is shown below the story.


Horror: A True Tale
by
John Harwood


I WAS BUT nineteen years of age when the incident occurred which has thrown a shadow over my life: and, ah me! how many and many a weary year has dragged by since then! Young, happy, and beloved I was in those long-departed days. They said that I was beautiful. The mirror now reflects a haggard old woman, with ashen lips and face of deadly pallor. But do not fancy that you are listening to a mere puling lament. It is not the flight of years that has brought me to be this wreck of my former self: had it been so, I could have borne the loss cheerfully, patiently, as the common lot of all; but it was no natural progress of decay which has robbed me of bloom? of youth, of the hopes and joys that belong to youth, snapped the link that bound my heart to another's, and doomed me to a lone old age.

I try to be patient, but my cross has been heavy, and my heart is empty and weary, and I long for the death that comes so slowly to those who pray to die. I will try and relate, exactly as it happened, the event which blighted my life. Though it occurred many years ago, there is no fear that I should have forgotten any of the minutest circumstances: they were stamped on my brain too clearly and burningly, like the brand of a red-hot iron. I see them written in the wrinkles of my brow, in the dead whiteness of my hair, which was a glossy brown once, and has known no gradual change from dark to grey, from grey to white, as with those happy ones who were the companions of my girlhood, and whose honoured age is soothed by the love of children and grand-children. But I must not envy them. I only meant to say that the difficulty of my task has no connection with want of memory--I remember but too well. But as I take the pen, by hand trembles, my head swims, the old rushing faintness and Horror comes over me again, and the well-remembered fear is upon me. Yet I will go on.

This, briefly, is my story: I was a great heiress, I believe, though I cared little for the fact, but so it was. My father had great possessions, and no son to inherit after him. His three daughters, of whom I was the youngest, were to share the broad acres among them. I have said, and truly, that I cared little for this circumstance; and, indeed, I was so rich then in health and youth and love, that I felt myself quite indifferent to all else. The possession of all the treasures of earth could never have made up for what I then had--and lost? as I am about to relate.

Of course, we girls knew that we were heiresses, but I do not think Lucy and Minnie were any the prouder or the happier on that account. I know I was not. Reginald did not court me for my money. Of that I felt assured. He proved it, Heaven be praised! when he shrank from my side after the change. Yes, in all my lonely age, I can still be thankful that he did not keep his word, as some would have done, did not clasp at the altar a hand he had learned to loathe and shudder at, because it was full of gold--much gold! At least, he spared me that. And I know that I was loved, and the knowledge has kept me from going mad through many a weary day and restless night, when my hot eyeballs had not a tear to shed and even to weep was a luxury denied me.

Our house was an old Tudor mansion. My father was very particular in keeping the smallest peculiarities of his home unaltered. Thus the many peaks and gables, the numerous turrets, and the mullioned windows with their quaint lozenge panes set in lead, remained very nearly as they had been three centuries back. Over and above the quaint melancholy of our dwelling, with the deep woods of its park and the sullen waters of the mere, our neighbourhood was thinly peopled and primitive, and the people round us were ignorant, and tenacious of ancient ideas and traditions. Thus it was a superstitious atmosphere that we children were reared in, and we heard, from our infancy, countless tales of horror, some mere fables doubtless, others legends of dark deeds of the olden time exaggerated by credulity and the love of the marvellous. Our mother had died when we were young, and our other parent being, though a kind father, much absorbed in affairs of various kinds, as an active magistrate and landlord, there was no one to check the unwholesome stream of tradition with which our plastic minds were inundated in the company of nurses and servants. As years went on, however, the old ghostly tales partially lost their effects, and our undisciplined minds were turned more towards balls dress, and partners, and other matters airy and trivial, more welcome to our riper age.

It was at a county assembly that Reginald and I first met--met and loved. Yes, I am sure that he loved me with all his heart. It was not as deep a heart as some, I have thought in my grief and anger; but I never doubted its truth and honesty. Reginald's father and mine approved of our growing attachment; and as for myself, I know I was so happy then, that I look back upon those fleeting moments as on some delicious dream. I now come to the change. I have lingered on my childish reminiscences, my bright and happy youth, and now I must tell the rest--the blight and the sorrow. It was Christmas, always a joyful and a hospitable time in the country, especially in such an old hall as our home, where quaint customs and frolics were much clung to, as part and parcel of the very dwelling itself. The hall was full of guests--so full, indeed, that there was great difficulty in providing sleeping accommodation for all. Several narrow and dark chambers in the turrets--mere pigeon-holes, as we irreverently called what had been thought good enough for the stately gentlemen of Elizabeth's reign--were now allotted to bachelor visitors, after having been empty for a century. All the spare rooms in the body and wings of the hall were occupied, of course; and the servants who had been brought down were lodged at the farm and at the keeper's, so great was the demand for space. At last the unexpected arrival of an elderly relative, who had been asked months before, but scarcely expected, caused great commotion.

My aunts went about wringing their hands distractedly. Lady Speldhurst was a personage of some consequence; she was a distant cousin, and had been for years on cool terms with us all, on account of some fancied affront or slight when she had paid her last visit, about the time of my christening. She was seventy years old; she was infirm, rich, and testy; moreover, she was my godmother, though I had forgotten the fact, but it seems that though I had formed no expectations of a legacy in my favour, my aunts had done so for me.

Aunt Margaret was especially eloquent on the subject. "There isn't a room left," she said; "was ever anything so unfortunate? We cannot put Lady Speldhurst into the turrets, and yet where is she to sleep? And Rosa's godmother, too! poor dear child! how dreadful! After all these years of estrangement, and with a hundred thousand in the funds, and no comfortable warm room at her own unlimited disposal--and Christmas, of all times in the year!" What was to be done? My aunts could not resign their own chambers to Lady Speldhurst, because they had already given them up to some of the married guests. My father was the most hospitable of men, but he was rheumatic, gouty, and methodical. His sisters-in-law dared not propose to shift his quarters, and indeed he would have far sooner dined on prison fare than have been translated to a strange bed. The matter ended in my giving up my room. I had a strange reluctance to making the offer, which surprised myself. Was it a boding of evil to come? I cannot say.

We are strangely and wonderfully made. It may have been. At any rate, I do not think it was any selfish unwillingness to make an old and infirm lady comfortable by a trifling sacrifice. I was perfectly healthy and strong. The weather was not cold for the time of year. It was a dark moist Yule--not a snowy one, though snow brooded overhead in the darkling clouds. I did make the offer, which became me, I said with a laugh, as youngest. My sisters laughed too, and made a jest of my evident wish to propitiate my godmother. "She is a fairy godmother, Rosa," said Minnie; "and you know she was affronted at your christening, and went away muttering vengeance. Here she is coming back to see you; I hope she brings golden gifts with her." I thought little of Lady Speldhurst and her possible golden gifts. I cared nothing for the wonderful fortune in the funds that my aunts whispered and nodded about so mysteriously. But, since then, I have wondered whether, had I then shown myself peevish or obstinate, had I refused to give up my room for the expected kinswoman, it would not have altered the whole of my life? But then Lucy or Minnie would have offered in my stead, and been sacrificed--what do I say?--better that the blow should have fallen as it did, than on those dear ones.

The chamber to which I removed was a dim little triangular room in the western wing, and was only to be reached by traversing the picture-gallery, or by mounting a little flight of stone stairs which led directly upwards from the low-browed arch of a door that opened into the garden. There was one more room on the same landing-place, and this was a mere receptacle for broken furniture, shattered toys, and all the lumber that will accumulate in a country-house. The room I was to inhabit for a few nights was a tapestry-hung apartment, with faded green curt ins of some costly stuff, contrasting oddly with a new carpet and the bright fresh hangings of the bed, which had been hurriedly erected.

The furniture was half old, half new, and on the dressing-table stood a very quaint oval mirror, in a frame of black wood--unpolished ebony, I think. I can remember the very pattern of the carpet, the number of chairs, the situation of the bed, the figures on the tapestry. Nay, I can recollect not only the colour of the dress I wore on that fatal evening, but the arrangement of every scrap of lace and ribbon, of every flower, every jewel, with a memory but too perfect. Scarcely had my maid finished spreading out my various articles of attire for the evening (when there was to be a great dinner-party), when the rumble of a carriage announced that Lady Speldhurst had arrived. The short winter's day drew to a close, and a large number of guests were gathered together in the ample drawing-room, around the blaze of the wood fire, after dinner. My father, I recollect, was not with us at first. There were some squires of the old hard-riding, hard-drinking stamp still lingering over their port in the dining-room, and the host, of course, could not leave them. But the ladies and all the younger gentlemen--both those who slept under our roof, and those who would have a dozen miles of fog and mire to encounter on their road home--were all together. Need I say that Reginald was there? He sat near me--my accepted lover, my plighted future husband. We were to be married in the spring. My sisters were not far off; they, too, had found eyes that sparkled and softened in meeting theirs, had found hearts that beat responsive to their own. And, in their cases, no rude frost nipped the blossom ere it became the fruit; there was no canker in their flowerets of young hope, no cloud in their sky. Innocent and loving, they were beloved by men worthy their esteem.

 The room, a large and lofty one, with an arched roof, had somewhat of a sombre character from being wainscoted and ceiled with polished black oak of a great age. There were mirrors, and there were pictures on the walls, and handsome furniture, and marble chimney-pieces, and a gay Tournay carpet; but these merely appeared as bright spots on the dark background of the Elizabethan woodwork. Many lights were burning, but the blackness of the walls and roof seemed absolutely to swallow up their rays, like the mouth of a cavern. A hundred candles could not have given that apartment the cheerful lightness of a modern drawing-room. But the gloomy richness of the panels matched well with the ruddy gleam from the enormous wood fire, in which, crackling and glowing, now lay the mighty Yule log. Quite a blood-red lustre poured forth from the fire, and quivered on the walls and the groined roof. We had gathered round the vast antique hearth in a wide circle. The quivering light of the fire and candles fell upon us all, but not equally, for some were in shadow. I remember still how tall and manly and handsome Reginald looked that night, taller by the head than any there, and full of high spirits and gaiety. I, too, was in the highest spirits; never had my bosom felt lighter, and I believe it was my mirth which gradually gained the rest, for I recollect what a blithe, joyous company we seemed. All save one.

Lady Speldhurst, dressed in grey silk and wearing a quaint head-dress, sat in her armchair, facing the fire, very silent, with her hands and her sharp chin propped on a sort of ivory-handled crutch that she walked with (for she was lame), peering at me with half-shut eyes. She was a little spare old woman, with very keen delicate features of the French type. Her grey silk dress, her spotless lace, old-fashioned jewels, and prim neatness of array, were well suited to the intelligence of her face, with its thin lips, and eyes of a piercing black, undimmed by age. Those eyes made me uncomfortable, in spite of my gaiety, as they followed my every movement with curious scrutiny. Still I was very merry and gay; my sisters even wondered at my ever-ready mirth, which was almost wild in its excess. I have heard since then of the Scottish belief that those doomed to some great calamity become fey, and are never so disposed for merriment and laughter as just before the blow falls. If ever mortal was fey, then, I was so on that evening. Still, though I strove to shake it off, the pertinacious observation of old Lady Speldhurst's eyes did make an impression on me of a vaguely disagreeable nature. Others, too, noticed her scrutiny of me, but set it down as a mere eccentricity of a person always reputed whimsical, to say the least of it.

 However, this disagreeable sensation lasted but a few moments. After a short pause my aunt took her part in the conversation, and we found ourselves listening to a weird legend which the old lady told exceedingly well. One tale led to another. Every one was called on in turn to contribute to the public entertainment, and story after story, always relating to demonology and witchcraft, succeeded. It was Christmas, the season for such tales; and the old room, with its dusky walls and pictures, and vaulted roof, drinking up the light so greedily, seemed just fitted to give effect to such legendary lore. The huge logs crackled and burnt with glowing warmth; the blood-red glare of the Yule log flashed on the faces of the listeners and narrator, on the portraits, and the holly wreathed about their frames, and the upright old dame in her antiquated dress and trinkets, like one of the originals of the pictures stepped from the canvas to join our circle. It threw a shimmering lustre of an ominously ruddy hue upon the oaken panels.

No wonder that the ghost and goblin stories had a new zest. No wonder that the blood of the more timid grew chilI and curdled, that their flesh crept, and their hearts beat irregularly, and the girls peeped fearfully over their shoulders, and huddled close together like frightened sheep, and half-fancied they beheld some impish and malignant face gibbering at them from the darkling corners of the old room. By degrees my high spirits died out, and I felt the childish tremors, long latent, long forgotten, coming over me. I followed each story with painful interest; I did not ask myself if I believed the dismal tales. I listened, and fear grew upon me--the blind, irrational fear of our nursery days. I am sure most of the other ladies present, young or middle-aged, were affected by the circumstances under which these traditions were heard, no less than by the wild and fantastic character of them. But with them the impression would die out next morning, when the bright sun should shine on the frosted boughs, and the rime on the grass, and the scarlet berries and green spikelets of the holly; and with me--but, ah! what was to happen ere another day dawn? Before we had made an end of this talk, my father and the other squires came in, and we ceased our ghost stories, ashamed to speak of such matters before these newcomers--hard-headed, unimaginative men, who had no sympathy with idle legends. There was now a stir and bustle.

  Servants were handing round tea and coffee, and other refreshments. Then there was a little music and singing. I sang a duet with Reginald, who had a fine voice and good musical skill. I remember that my singing was much praised, and indeed I was surprised at the power and pathos of my own voice, doubtless due to my excited nerves and mind. Then I heard some one say to another that I was by far the cleverest of the Squire's daughters, as well as the prettiest. It did not make me vain. I had no rivalry with Lucy and Minnie. But Reginald whispered some soft fond words in my ear, a little before he mounted his horse to set off homewards, which did make me happy and proud. And to think that the next time we met--but I forgave him long ago. Poor Reginald! And now shawls and cloaks were in request, and carriages rolled up to the porch, and the guests gradually departed. At last no one was left but those visitors staying in the house. Then my father, who had been called out to speak with the bailiff of the estate, came back with a look of annoyance on his face. "A strange story I have just been told," said he; "here has been my bailiff to inform me of the loss of four of the choicest ewes out of that little flock of Southdowns I set such store by, and which arrived in the north but two months since. And the poor creatures have been destroyed in so strange a manner, for their carcasses are horribly mangled."

Most of us uttered some expression of pity or surprise, and some suggested that a vicious dog was probably the culprit. "It would seem so," said my father; "it certainly seems the work of a dog; and yet all the men agree that no dog of such habits exists near us, where, indeed, dogs are scarce, excepting the shepherds' collies and the sporting dogs secured in yards. Yet the sheep are gnawed and bitten, for they show the marks of teeth. Something has done this, and has torn their bodies wolfishly; but apparently it has been only to suck the blood, for little or no flesh is gone." "How strange!" cried several voices. Then some of the gentlemen remembered to have heard of cases when dogs addicted to sheep-killing had destroyed whole flocks, as if in sheer wantonness, scarcely deigning to taste a morsel of each slain wether. My father shook his head. "I have heard of such cases, too?" he said; "but in this instance I am tempted to think the malice of some unknown enemy has been at work. The teeth of a dog have been busy no doubt, but the poor sheep have been mutilated in a fantastic manner, as strange as horrible; their hearts, in especial, have been torn out, and left at some paces off, half-gnawed. Also, the men persist that they found the print of a naked human foot in the soft mud of the ditch, and near it--this." And he held up what seemed a broken link of a rusted iron chain.

Many were the ejaculations of wonder and alarm, and many and shrewd the conjectures, but none seemed exactly to suit the bearings of the case. And when my father went on to say that two lambs of the same valuable breed had perished in the same singular manner three days previously, and that they also were found mangled and gore-stained, the amazement reached a higher pitch. Old Lady Speldhurst listened with calm intelligent attention, but joined in none of our exclamations. At length she said to my father, "Try and recollect--have you no enemy among your neighbours?" My father started, and knit his brows. "Not one that I know of," he replied; and indeed he was a popular man and a kind landlord. "The more lucky you," said the old dame, with one of her grim smiles. It was now late, and we retired to rest before long. One by one the guests dropped off. I was the member of the family selected to escort old Lady Speldhurst to her room--the room I had vacated in her favour. I did not much like the office. I felt a remarkable repugnance to my godmother, but my worthy aunts insisted so much that I should ingratiate myself with one who had so much to leave, that I could not but comply. The visitor hobbled up the broad oaken stairs actively enough, propped on my arm and her ivory crutch.

The room never had looked more genial and pretty, with its brisk fire, modern furniture, and the gay French paper on the walls. "A nice room, my dear, and I ought to be much obliged to you for it, since my maid tells me it is yours," said her ladyship; "but I am pretty sure you repent your generosity to me, after all those ghost stories, and tremble to think of a strange bed and chamber, eh?" I made some commonplace reply. The old lady arched her eyebrows. "Where have they put you, child?" she asked; "in some cockloft of the turrets, eh? or in a lumber-room--a regular ghost-trap? I can hear your heart beating with fear this moment. You are not fit to be alone."

I tried to call up my pride, and laugh off the accusation against my courage, all the more, perhaps, because I felt its truth. "Do you want anything more that I can get you, Lady Speldhurst?" I asked, trying to feign a yawn of sleepiness. The old dame's keen eyes were upon me. "I rather like you, my dear," she said, "and I liked your mamma well enough before she treated me so shamefully about the christening dinner. Now, I know you are frightened and fearful, and if an owl should but flap your window tonight, it might drive you into fits. There is a nice little sofa-bed in this dressing-closet--call your maid to arrange it for you, and you can sleep there snugly, under the old witch's protection, and then no goblin dare harm you, and nobody will be a bit the wiser, or quiz you for being afraid."

How little I knew what hung in the balance of my refusal or acceptance of that trivial proffer! Had the veil of the future been lifted for one instant! but that veil is impenetrable to our gaze. Yet, perhaps, she had a glimpse of the dim vista beyond, she who made the offer; for when I declined, with an affected laugh, she said, in a thoughtful, half abstracted manner, "Well, well! we must all take our own way through life. Good night, child--pleasant dreams!"

And I softly closed the door. As I did so, she looked round at me rapidly, with a glance I have never forgotten, half malicious, half sad, as if she had divined the yawning gulf that was to devour my young hopes. It may have been mere eccentricity, the odd phantasy of a crooked mind, the whimsical conduct of a cynical person, triumphant in the power of affrighting youth and beauty. Or, I have since thought, it may have been that this singular guest possessed some such gift as the Highland "second-sight", a gift vague, sad, and useless to the possessor, but still sufficient to convey a dim sense of coming evil and boding doom. And yet, had she really known what was in store for me, what lurked behind the veil of the future, not even that arid heart could have remained impassive to the cry of humanity. She would, she must have snatched me back, even from the edge of the black pit of misery. But, doubtless, she had not the power. Doubtless she had but a shadowy presentiment, at any rate of some harm to happen, and could not see, save darkly, into the viewless void where the wisest stumble. I left her door. As I crossed the landing a bright gleam came from another room, whose door was left ajar; it (the light) fell like a bar of golden sheen across my path. As I approached, the door opened, and my sister Lucy who had been watching for me came out. She was already in a white cashmere wrapper, over which her loosened hair hung darkly and heavily, like tangles of silk. "Rosa, love," she whispered, "Minnie and I can't bear the idea of your sleeping out there, all alone, in that solitary room--the very room, too, nurse Sherrard used to talk about! So, as you know Minnie has given up her room, and come to sleep in mine, still we should so wish you to stop with us tonight at any rate, and I could make up a bed on the sofa for myself, or you--and--" I stopped Lucy's mouth with a kiss. I declined her offer. I would not listen to it. In fact, my pride was up in arms, and I felt I would rather pass the night in the churchyard itself than accept a proposal dictated, I felt sure, by the notion that my nerves were shaken by the ghostly lore we had been raking up, that I was a weak, superstitious creature, unable to pass a night in a strange chamber. So I would not listen to Lucy, but kissed her, bad her good night, and went on my way laughing, to show my light heart. Yet, as I looked back in the dark corridor, and saw the friendly door still ajar, the yellow bar of light still crossing from wall to wall, the sweet kind face still peering after me from amid its clustering curls, I felt a thrill of sympathy, a wish to return, a yearning after human love and companionship. False shame was strongest, and conquered. I waved a gay adieu. I turned the corner, and, peeping over my shoulder, I saw the door close; the bar of yellow light was there no longer in the darkness of the passage. I thought, at that instant, that I heard a heavy sigh. I looked sharply round.

No one was there. No door was open, yet I fancied, and fancied with a wonderful vividness, that I did hear an actual sigh breathed not far off, and plainly distinguishable from the groan of the sycamore branches, as the wind tossed them to and fro in the outer blackness. If ever a mortal's good angel had cause to sigh for sorrow, not sin, mine had cause to mourn that night. But imagination plays us strange tricks, and my nervous system was not over-composed, or very fitted for judicial analysis. I had to go through the picture-gallery. I had never entered this apartment by candle-light before, and I was struck by the gloomy array of the tall portraits, gazing moodily from the canvas on the lozenge-paned or painted windows, which rattled to the blast as it swept howling by. Many of the faces looked stern, and very different from their daylight expression.

In others, a furtive flickering smile seemed to mock me, as my candle illumined them; and in all, the eyes, as usual with artistic portraits, seemed to follow my motions with a scrutiny and an interest the more marked for the apathetic immovability of the other features. I felt ill at ease under this stony gaze, though conscious how absurd were my apprehensions, and I called up a smile and an air of mirth, more as if acting a part under the eyes of human beings, than of their mere shadows on the wall. I even laughed as I confronted them. No echo had my short-lived laughter but from the hollow armour and arching roof, and I continued on my way in silence. I have spoken of the armour. Indeed, there was a fine collection of plate and mail, for my father was an enthusiastic antiquary, In especial there were two suits of black armour, erect, and surmounted by helmets with closed visors, which stood as if two mailed champions were guarding the gallery and its treasures. I had often seen these, of course, but never by night, and never when my whole organization was so over wrought and tremulous as it then was. As I approached the Black Knights, as we had dubbed them, a wild notion seized on me that the figures moved, that men were concealed in the hollow shells which had once been borne in battle and tourney. I knew the idea was childish, yet I approached in irrational alarm, and fancied I absolutely beheld eyes glaring on me from the eyelet-holes in the visors. I passed them by, and then my excited fancy told me that the figures were following me with stealthy strides. I heard a clatter of steel, caused, I am sure, by some more violent gust of wind sweeping the gallery through the crevices of the old windows, and with a smothered shriek I rushed to the door, opened it, darted out, and clapped it to with a bang that re-echoed through the whole wing of the house. Then by a sudden and not uncommon revulsion of feeling, I shook off my aimless terrors, blushed at my weakness, and sought my chamber only too glad that I had been the only witness of my late tremors.

As I entered my chamber, I thought I heard some thing stir in the neglected lumber-room, which was the only neighbouring apartment. But I was determined to have no more panics, and resolutely shut my ears to this slight and transient noise, which had nothing unnatural in it; for surely, between rats and wind, an old manor-house on a stormy night needs no sprites to disturb it. So I entered my room, and rang for my maid. As I did so, I looked around me, and a most unaccountable repugnance to my temporary abode came over me, in spite of my efforts. It was no more to be shaken off than a chill is to be shaken off when we enter some damp cave. And, rely upon it, the feeling of dislike and apprehension with which we regard, at first sight, certain places and people, was not implanted in us without some wholesome purpose. I grant it is irrational--mere animal instinct--but is not instinct God's gift, and is it for us to despise it? It is by instinct that children know their friends from their enemies--that they distinguish with such unerring accuracy between those who like them and those who only flatter and hate them. Dogs do the same; they will fawn on one person, they slink snarling from another. Show me a man whom children and dogs shrink from, and I will show you a false, bad man--lies on his lips, and murder at his heart. No, let none despise the heaven-sent gift of innate antipathy, which makes the horse quail when the lion crouches in the thicket--which makes the cattle scent the shambles from afar, and low in terror and disgust as their nostrils snuff the blood-polluted air.

I felt this antipathy strongly as I looked around me in my new sleeping-room, and yet I could find no reasonable pretext for my dislike. A very good room it was, after all, now that the green damask curtains were drawn, the fire burning bright and clear, candles burning on the mantelpiece, and the various familiar articles of toilet arranged as usual. The bed, too, looked peaceful and inviting--a pretty little white bed, not at all the gaunt funereal sort of couch which haunted apartments generally contain. My maid entered, and assisted me to lay aside the dress and ornaments I had worn, and arranged my hair, as usual, prattling the while, in Abigail fashion. I seldom cared to converse with servants; but on that night a sort of dread of being left alone--a longing to keep some human being near me--possessed me, and I encouraged the girl to gossip, so that her duties took her half an hour longer to get through than usual. At last, however, she had done all that could be done, and all my questions were answered, and my orders for the morrow reiterated and vowed obedience to, and the clock on the turret struck one. Then Mary, yawning to answer No, for very shame's sake; and she went. The shutting of the door, gently as it was closed, affected me unpleasantly. I took a dislike to the curtains, the tapestry, the dingy pictures--everything. I hated the room. I felt a temptation to put on a cloak, run, half-dressed, to my sisters' chamber, and say I had changed my mind, and come for shelter. But they must be asleep, I thought, and I could not be so unkind as to wake them. I said my prayers with unusual earnestness and a heavy heart.

I extinguished the candles, and was just about to lay my head on my pillow, when the idea seized me that I would fasten the door. The candles were extinguished, but the fire-light was amply sufficient to guide me. I gained the door. There was a lock, but it was rusty or hampered; my utmost strength could not turn the key. The bolt was broken and worthless. Baulked of my intention, I consoled myself by remembering that I had never had need of fastenings yet, and returned to my bed. I lay awake for a good while, watching the red glow of the burning coals in the grate. I was quiet now, and more composed. Even the light gossip of the maid, full of petty human cares and joys, had done me good--diverted my thoughts from brooding. I was on the point of dropping asleep, when I was twice disturbed. Once, by an owl, hooting in the ivy outside--no unaccustomed sound, but harsh and melancholy; once, by a long and mournful howling set up by the mastiff, chained in the yard beyond the wing. I occupied. A long-drawn lugubrious howling, was this latter, and much such a note as the vulgar declare to herald a death in the family. This was a fancy I had never shared; but yet I could not help feeling that the dog's mournful moans were sad, and expressive of terror, not at all like his fierce, honest bark of anger, but rather as if something evil and unwonted were abroad. But soon I fell asleep. How long I slept, I never knew. I awoke at once, with that abrupt start which we all know well and which carries us in a second from utter unconsciousness to the full use of our faculties. The fire was still burning but was very low, and half the room or more was in deep shadow. I knew, I felt, that some person or thing was in the room, although nothing unusual was to be seen by the feeble light.

Yet it was a sense of danger that had aroused me from slumber. I experienced, while yet asleep, the chill and shock of sudden alarm, and I knew, even in the act of throwing off sleep like a mantle, why I awoke, and that some intruder was present. Yet, though I listened intently, no sound was audible, except the faint murmur of the fire,--the dropping of a cinder from the bars--the loud irregular beatings of my own heart. Notwithstanding this silence, by some intuition I knew that I had not been deceived by a dream, and felt certain that I was not alone. I waited. My heart beat on; quicker, more sudden grew its pulsations, as a bird in a cage might flutter in presence of the hawk. And then I heard a sound, faint, but quite distinct, the clank of iron, the rattling of a chain! I ventured to lift my head from the pillow. Dim and uncertain as the light was, I saw the curtains of my bed shake, and caught a glimpse of something beyond, a darker spot in the darkness. This confirmation of my fears did not surprise me so much as it shocked me. I strove to cry aloud, but could not utter a word. The chain rattled again, and this time the noise was louder and clearer. But though I strained my eyes, they could not penetrate the obscurity that shrouded the other end of the chamber, whence came the sullen clanking. In a moment several distinct trains of thought, like many-coloured strands of thread twining into one, became palpable to my mental vision. Was it a robber? could it be a supernatural visitant? or was I the victim of a cruel trick, such as I had heard of, and which some thoughtless persons love to practise on the timid, reckless of its dangerous results?

And then a new idea, with some ray of comfort in it, suggested itself. There was a fine young dog of the Newfoundland breed, a favourite of my father's, which was usually chained by night in an outhouse. Neptune might have broken loose, found his way to my room, and, finding the door imperfectly closed, have pushed it open and entered. I breathed more freely as this harmless interpretation of the noise forced itself upon me. It was--it must be--the dog, and I was distressing myself uselessly. I resolved to call to him; I strove to utter his name--"Neptune, Neptune!" but a secret apprehension restrained me, and I was mute. Then the chain clanked nearer and nearer to the bed, and presently I saw a dusky shapeless mass appear between the curtains on the opposite side to where I was lying. How I longed to hear the whine of the poor animal that I hoped might be the cause of my alarm. But no; I heard no sound save the rustle of the curtains and the clash of the iron chain. Just then the dying flame of the fire leaped up, and with one sweeping hurried glance I saw that the door was shut, and, horror! it is not the dog! it is the semblance of a human form that now throws itself heavily on the bed, outside the clothes, and lies there, huge and swart, in the red gleam that treacherously dies away after showing so much to affright, and sinks into dull darkness. There was now no light left, though the red cinders yet glowed with a ruddy gleam, like the eyes of wild beasts. The chain rattled no more.

I tried to speak, to scream wildly for help; my mouth was parched, my tongue refused to obey. I could not utter a cry, and indeed, who could have heard me, alone as I was in that solitary chamber, with no living neighbour, and the picture-gallery between me and any aid that even the loudest, most piercing shriek could summon. And the storm that howled without would have drowned my voice, even if help had been at hand. To call aloud--to demand who was there--alas! how useless, how perilous! If the intruder were a robber, my outcries would but goad him to fury; but what robber would act thus? As for a trick, that seemed impossible. And yet, what lay by my side, now wholly unseen? I strove to pray aloud, as there rushed on my memory a flood of weird legends--the dreaded yet fascinating lore of my childhood. I had heard and read of the spirits of wicked men forced to revisit the scenes of their earthly crimes---of demons that lurked in certain accursed spots--of the ghoul and vampire of the East, stealing amid the graves they rifled for their ghostly banquets; and I shuddered as I gazed on the blank darkness where I knew it lay. It stirred--it moaned hoarsely; and again I heard the chain clank close beside me--so close that it must almost have touched me. I drew myself from it, shrinking away in loathing and terror of the evil thing--what, I knew not, but felt that something malignant was near. And yet, in the extremity of my fear, I dared not speak; I was strangely cautious to be silent, even in moving farther off; for I had a wild hope that it--the phantom, the creature, whichever it was--had not discovered my presence in the room. And then I remembered all the events of the night--Lady Speldhurst's ill-omened vaticinations, her half-warnings, her singular look as we parted, my sister's persuasions, my terror in the gallery, the remark that "this was the room nurse Sherrard used to talk of".

And then memory stimulated by fear, recalled the long forgotten past, the ill-repute of this disused chamber, the sins it had witnessed, the blood spilled, the poison administered by unnatural hate within its walls, and the tradition which called it haunted. The green room--I remembered now how fearfully the servants avoided it--how it was mentioned rarely, and in whispers, when we were children, and how we had regarded it as a mysterious region, unfit for mortal habitation. Was It--the dark form with the chain--a creature of this world, or a spectre? And again--more dreadful still--could it be that the corpses of wicked men were forced to rise, and haunt in the body the places when they had wrought their evil deeds? And was such as these my grisly neighbour? The chain faintly rattled. My hair bristled; my eyeballs seemed starting from their sockets; the damps of a great anguish were on my brow. My heart laboured as if I were crushed beneath some vast weight. Sometimes it appeared to stop its frenzied beatings, sometimes its pulsations were fierce and hurried; my breath came short and with extreme difficulty, and I shivered as if with cold; yet I feared to stir. It moved, it moaned, its fetters clanked dismally, the couch creaked and shook. This was no phantom, then--no air-drawn spectre. But its very solidity, its palpable presence, were a thousand times more terrible. I felt that I was in the very grasp of what could not only affright, but harm; of something whose contact sickened the soul with deathly fear. I made a desperate resolve: I glided from the bed, I seized a warm wrapper, threw it around me, and tried to grope, with extended hands, my way to the door. My heart beat high at the hope of escape. But I had scarcely taken one step, before the moaning was renewed, it changed into a threatening growl that would have suited a wolf's throat, and a hand clutched at my sleeve.

I stood motionless. The muttering growl sank to a moan again, the chain sounded no more, but still the hand held its grip of my garment, and I feared to move. It knew of my presence, then. My brain reeled, the blood boiled in my ears, and my knees lost all strength, while my heart panted like that of a deer in the wolf's jaws. I sank back, and the benumbing influence of excessive terror reduced me to a state of stupor. When my full consciousness returned, I was sitting on the edge of the bed, shivering with cold, and bare-footed. All was silent, but I felt that my sleeve was still clutched by my unearthly visitant. The silence lasted a long time. Then followed a chuckling laugh, that froze my very marrow, and the gnashing of teeth as in demoniac frenzy; and then a wailing moan, and this was succeeded by silence. Hours may have passed--nay, though the tumult of my own heart prevented my hearing the clock strike, must have passed--but they seemed ages to me. And how were they spent? Hideous visions passed before the aching eyes that I dared not close, but which gazed ever into the dumb darkness where It lay--my dread companion through the watches of the night. I pictured It in every abhorrent form which an excited fancy could summon up: now as a skeleton, with hollow eye-holes and grinning fleshless jaws; now as a vampire, with livid face and bloated form, and dripping mouth wet with blood. Would it never be light! And yet, when day should dawn, I should be forced to see It face to face. I had heard that spectre and fiend are compelled to fade as morning brightened, but this creature was too real, too foul a thing of earth, to vanish at cock-crow. No! I should see it--the horror--face to face! And then the cold prevailed, and my teeth chattered, and shiverings ran through me, and yet there was the damp of agony on my bursting brow. Some instinct made me snatch at a shawl or cloak that lay on a chair within reach, and wrap it round me. The moan was renewed, and the chain just stirred. Then I sank into apathy, like an Indian at the stake, in the intervals of torture. Hours fled by, and I remained like a statue of ice, rigid and mute.

I even slept, for I remember that I started to find the cold grey light of an early winter's day was on my face, and stealing around the room from between the heavy curtains of the window. Shuddering, but urged by the impulse that rivets the gaze of the bird upon the snake, I turned to see the Horror of the night. Yes, it was no fevered dream, no hallucination of sickness, no airy phantom unable to face the dawn. In the sickly light I saw it lying on the bed, with its grim head on the pillow. A man? Or a corpse arisen from its unhallowed grave, and awaiting the demon that animated it? There it lay--a gaunt gigantic form, wasted to a skeleton, half clad, foul with dust and clotted gore, its huge limbs flung upon the couch as if at random, its shaggy hair streaming over the pillows like a lion's mane. Its face was towards me.

Oh, the wild hideousness of that face, even in sleep! In features it was human, even through its horrid mask of mud and half-dried bloody gouts, but the expression was brutish and savagely fierce; the white teeth were visible between the parted lips, in a malignant grin; the tangled hair and beard were mixed in leonine confusion, and there were scars disfiguring the brow. Round the creature's waist was a ring of iron, to which was attached a heavy but broken chain--the chain I had heard clanking. With a second glance I noted that part of the chain was wrapped in straw, to prevent its galling the wearer. The creature--I cannot call it a man--had the marks of fetters on its wrists, the bony arm that protruded through one tattered sleeve was scarred and bruised, the feet were bare, and lacerated by pebbles and briers, and one of them was wounded, and wrapped in a morsel of rag. And the lean hands, one of which held my sleeve, were armed with talons like an eagle's. In an instant the horrid truth flashed upon me--I was in the grasp of a madman. Better the phantom that scares the sight than the wild beast that rends and tears the quivering flesh--the pitiless human brute that has no heart to be softened, no reason at whose bar to plead, no compassion, nought of man save the form and the cunning. I gasped in terror. Ah! the mystery of those ensanguined fingers, those gory wolfish jaws! that face, all besmeared with blackening blood, is revealed!

 The slain sheep, so mangled and rent-the fantastic butchery--the print of the naked foot--all, all were explained; and the chain the broken link of which was found near the slaughtered animals--it came from his broken chain--the chain he had snapped, doubtless, in his escape from the asylum where his raging frenzy had been fettered and bound. In vain! in vain! Ah, me! how had this grisly Samson broken manacles and prison bars--how had he eluded guardian and keeper and a hostile world, and come hither on his wild way, hunted like a beast of prey, and snatching his hideous banquet like a beast of prey, too?

Yet, through the tatters of his mean and ragged garb I could see the marks of the severities, cruel and foolish, with which men in that time tried to tame the might of madness. The scourge--its marks were there; and the scars of the hard iron fetters, and many a cicatrice and welt, that told a dismal tale of harsh usage. But now he was loose, free to play the brute--the baited, tortured brute that they had made him--now without the cage, and ready to gloat over the victims his strength should overpower. Horror! Horror! I was the prey--the victim--already in the tiger's clutch; and a deadly sickness came over me, and the iron entered into my soul, and I longed to scream, and was dumb! I died a thousand deaths as that awful morning wore on. I dared not faint. But words cannot paint what I suffered as I waited--waited till the moment when he should open his eyes and be aware of my presence; for I was assured he knew it not. He had entered the chamber as a lair, when weary and gorged with his horrid orgie; and he had flung himself down to sleep without a suspicion that he was not alone. Even his grasping my sleeve was doubtless an act done betwixt sleeping and waking, like his unconscious moans and laughter, in some frightful dream.

Hours went on; then I trembled as I thought that soon the house would be astir, that my maid would come to call me as usual, and awake that ghastly sleeper. And might he not have time to tear me, as he tore the sheep, before any aid could arrive? At last what I dreaded came to pass--a light footstep on the landing--there is a tap at the door. A pause succeeds, and then the tapping is renewed, and this time more loudly. Then the madman stretched his limbs and uttered his moaning cry, and his eyes slowly opened--very slowly opened, and met mine. The girl waited awhile ere she knocked for the third time. I trembled lest she should open the door unbidden--see that grim thing, and by her idle screams and terror bring about the worst. Long before strong men could arrive I knew that I should be dead--and what a death! The maid waited, no doubt surprised at my unusually sound slumbers, for I was in general a light sleeper and an early riser, but reluctant to deviate from habit by entering without permission. I was still alone with the thing in man's shape, but he was awake now. I saw the wondering surprise in his haggard bloodshot eyes; I saw him stare at me half vacantly, then with a crafty yet wondering look; and then I saw the devil of murder begin to peep forth from those hideous eyes, and the lips to part as in a sneer, and the wolfish teeth to bare themselves.

But I was not what I had been. Fear gave me a new and a desperate composure--a courage foreign to my nature. I had heard of the best method of managing the insane; I could but try; I did try. Calmly, wondering at my own feigned calm, I fronted the glare of those terrible eyes. Steady and undaunted was my gaze--motionless my attitude. I marvelled at myself, but in that agony of sickening terror I was outwardly firm. They sink, they quail abashed, those dreadful eyes, before the gaze of a helpless girl; and the shame that is never absent from insanity bears down the pride of strength, the bloody cravings of the wild beast. The lunatic moaned and drooped his shaggy head between his gaunt squalid hands. I lost not an instant. I rose, and with one spring reached the door, tore it open, and, with a shriek, rushed through, caught the wondering girl by the arm, and, crying to her to run for her life, rushed like the wind along the gallery, down the corridor, down the stairs. Mary's screams filled the house as she fled beside me. I heard a long-drawn, raging cry, the roar of a wild animal mocked of its prey, and I knew what was behind me. I never turned my head--I flew rather than ran. I was in the hall already; there was a rush of many feet, an outcry of many voices, a sound of scuffling feet, and brutal yells, and oaths, and heavy blows, and I fell to the ground, crying, "Save me!" and lay in a swoon. I awoke from a delirious trance.

Kind faces were around my bed, loving looks were bent on me by all, by my dear father and dear sisters, but I scarcely saw them before I swooned again.... When I recovered from that long illness, through which I had been nursed so tenderly, the pitying looks I met made me tremble. I asked for a looking-glass. It was long denied me, but my importunity prevailed at last--a mirror was brought. My youth was gone at one fell swoop. The glass showed me a livid and haggard face, blanched and bloodless as of one who sees a spectre; and in the ashen lips, and wrinkled brow, and dim eyes, I could trace nothing of my old self. The hair, too, jetty and rich before, was now as white as snow, and in one night the ravages of half a century had passed over my face. Nor have my nerves ever recovered their tone after that dire shock. Can you wonder that my life was blighted, that my lover shrank from me, so sad a wreck was I? I am old now--old and alone. My sisters would have had me to live with them, but I chose not to sadden their genial homes with my phantom face and dead eyes. Reginald married another.

He has been dead many years. I never ceased to pray for him, though he left me when I was bereft of all. The sad weird is nearly over now. I am old, and near the end, and wishful for it. I have not been bitter or hard, but I cannot bear to see many people, and am best alone. I try to do what good I can with the worthless wealth Lady Speldhurst left me, for at my wish my portion was shared between my sisters.

What need had I of inheritances?--I, the shattered wreck made by that one night of horror!

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Best Horror Short Stories 1850-1899 Annotated
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