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V

May Day Eve
The Inmost Light
The Man With The Pale Eyes
The Rival Ghosts
The Secret Of Goresthorpe Grange

Masterpieces Of Mystery

A Ghost[1]
A Terribly Strange Bed
Chan Tow The Highrob
May Day Eve
Mr Bloke's Item
My Fascinating Friend
The Birth-mark
The Box With The Iron Clamps
The Diamond Lens
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Inmost Light
The Lost Room
The Man Who Went Too Far
The Man With The Pale Eyes
The Mummy's Foot
The Mysterious Card
The Oblong Box
The Rival Ghosts
The Secret Of Goresthorpe Grange
The Torture By Hope



The Secret Of Goresthorpe Grange








I am sure that Nature never intended me to be a self-made man. There
are times when I can hardly bring myself to realize that twenty years
of my life were spent behind the counter of a grocer's shop in the East
End of London, and that it was through such an avenue that I reached a
wealthy independence and the possession of Goresthorpe Grange. My
habits are Conservative, and my tastes refined and aristocratic. I have
a soul which spurns the vulgar herd. Our family, the D'Odds, date back
to a prehistoric era, as is to be inferred from the fact that their
advent into British history is not commented on by any trustworthy
historian. Some instinct tells me that the blood of a Crusader runs in
my veins. Even now, after the lapse of so many years, such exclamations
as "By'r Lady!" rise naturally to my lips, and I feel that, should
circumstances require it, I am capable of rising in my stirrups and
dealing an infidel a blow--say with a mace--which would considerably
astonish him.

Goresthorpe Grange is a feudal mansion--or so it was termed in the
advertisement which originally brought it under my notice. Its right to
this adjective had a most remarkable effect upon its price, and the
advantages gained may possibly be more sentimental than real. Still, it
is soothing to me to know that I have slits in my staircase through
which I can discharge arrows: and there is a sense of power in the fact
of possessing a complicated apparatus by means of which I am enabled to
pour molten lead upon the head of the casual visitor. These things
chime in with my peculiar humour, and I do not grudge to pay for them.
I am proud of my battlements and of the circular uncovered sewer which
girds me round. I am proud of my portcullis and donjon and keep. There
is but one thing wanting to round off the mediaevalism of my abode, and
to render it symmetrically and completely antique. Goresthorpe Grange
is not provided with a ghost.

Any man with old-fashioned tastes and ideas as to how such
establishments should be conducted would have been disappointed at the
omission. In my case it was particularly unfortunate. From my childhood
I had been an earnest student of the supernatural, and a firm believer
in it. I have revelled in ghostly literature until there is hardly a
tale bearing upon the subject which I have not perused. I learned the
German language for the sole purpose of mastering a book upon
demonology. When an infant I have secreted myself in dark rooms in the
hope of seeing some of those bogies with which my nurse used to
threaten me; and the same feeling is as strong in me now as then. It
was a proud moment when I felt that a ghost was one of the luxuries
which my money might command.

It is true that there was no mention of an apparition in the
advertisement. On reviewing the mildewed walls, however, and the
shadowy corridors, I had taken it for granted that there was such a
thing on the premises. As the presence of a kennel pre-supposes that of
a dog, so I imagined that it was impossible that such desirable
quarters should be untenanted by one or more restless shades. Good
heavens, what can the noble family from whom I purchased it have been
doing during these hundreds of years! Was there no member of it
spirited enough to make away with his sweetheart, or take some other
steps calculated to establish a hereditary spectre? Even now I can
hardly write with patience upon the subject.

For a long time I hoped against hope. Never did a rat squeak behind the
wainscot, or rain drip upon the attic-floor, without a wild thrill
shooting through me as I thought that at last I had come upon traces of
some unquiet soul. I felt no touch of fear upon these occasions. If it
occurred in the night-time, I would send Mrs. D'Odd--who is a
strong-minded woman--to investigate the matter while I covered up my
head with the bed-clothes and indulged in an ecstasy of expectation.
Alas, the result was always the same! The suspicious sound would be
traced to some cause so absurdly natural and commonplace that the most
fervid imagination could not clothe it with any of the glamour of
romance.

I might have reconciled myself to this state of things had it not been
for Jorrocks of Havistock Farm. Jorrocks is a coarse, burly,
matter-of-fact fellow whom I only happen to know through the accidental
circumstance of his fields adjoining my demesne. Yet this man, though
utterly devoid of all appreciation of archaeological unities, is in
possession of a well authenticated and undeniable spectre. Its
existence only dates back, I believe, to the reign of the Second
George, when a young lady cut her throat upon hearing of the death of
her lover at the battle of Dettingen. Still, even that gives the house
an air of respectability, especially when coupled with bloodstains upon
the floor. Jorrocks is densely unconscious of his good fortune; and his
language when he reverts to the apparition is painful to listen to. He
little dreams how I covet every one of those moans and nocturnal wails
which he describes with unnecessary objurgation. Things are indeed
coming to a pretty pass when democratic spectres are allowed to desert
the landed proprietors and annul every social distinction by taking
refuge in the houses of the great unrecognized.

I have a large amount of perseverance. Nothing else could have raised
me into my rightful sphere, considering the uncongenial atmosphere in
which I spent the earlier part of my life. I felt now that a ghost must
be secured, but how to set about securing one was more than either Mrs.
D'Odd or myself was able to determine. My reading taught me that such
phenomena are usually the outcome of crime. What crime was to be done,
then, and who was to do it? A wild idea entered my mind that Watkins,
the house-steward, might be prevailed upon--for a consideration--to
immolate himself or someone else in the interests of the establishment.
I put the matter to him in a half jesting manner; but it did not seem
to strike him in a favourable light. The other servants sympathized
with him in his opinion--at least, I cannot account in any other way
for their having left the house in a body the same afternoon.

"My dear," Mrs. D'Odd remarked to me one day after dinner as I sat
moodily sipping a cup of sack--I love the good old names--"my dear,
that odious ghost of Jorrocks' has been gibbering again."

"Let it gibber!" I answered recklessly.

Mrs. D'Odd struck a few chords on her virginal and looked thoughtfully
into the fire.

"I'll tell you what it is, Argentine," she said at last, using the pet
name which we usually substituted for Silas, "we must have a ghost sent
down from London."

"How can you be so idiotic, Matilda?" I remarked severely. "Who could
get us such a thing?"

"My cousin, Jack Brocket, could," she answered confidently.

Now, this cousin of Matilda's was rather a sore subject between us. He
was a rakish clever young fellow, who had tried his hand at many
things, but wanted perseverance to succeed at any. He was, at that
time, in chambers in London, professing to be a general agent, and
really living, to a great extent, upon his wits. Matilda managed so
that most of our business should pass through his hands, which
certainly saved me a great deal of trouble, but I found that Jack's
commission was generally considerably larger than all the other items
of the bill put together. It was this fact which made me feel inclined
to rebel against any further negotiations with the young gentleman.

"O yes, he could," insisted Mrs. D., seeing the look of disapprobation
upon my face. "You remember how well he managed that business about the
crest?"

"It was only a resuscitation of the old family coat-of-arms, my dear,"
I protested.

Matilda smiled in an irritating manner. "There was a resuscitation of
the family portraits, too, dear," she remarked. "You must allow that
Jack selected them very judiciously."

I thought of the long line of faces which adorned the walls of my
banqueting-hall, from the burly Norman robber, through every gradation
of casque, plume, and ruff, to the sombre Chesterfieldian individual
who appears to have staggered against a pillar in his agony at the
return of a maiden MS. which he grips convulsively in his right hand. I
was fain to confess that in that instance he had done his work well,
and that it was only fair to give him an order--with the usual
commission--for a family spectre, should such a thing be attainable.

It is one of my maxims to act promptly when once my mind is made up.
Noon of the next day found me ascending the spiral stone staircase
which leads to Mr. Brocket's chambers, and admiring the succession of
arrows and fingers upon the whitewashed wall, all indicating the
direction of that gentleman's sanctum. As it happened, artificial aids
of the sort were entirely unnecessary, as an animated flap-dance
overhead could proceed from no other quarter, though it was replaced by
a deathly silence as I groped my way up the stair. The door was opened
by a youth evidently astounded at the appearance of a client, and I was
ushered into the presence of my young friend, who was writing furiously
in a large ledger--upside down, as I afterwards discovered.

After the first greetings, I plunged into business at once.

"Look here, Jack," I said, "I want you to get me a spirit, if you can."

"Spirits you mean!" shouted my wife's cousin, plunging his hand into
the waste-paper basket and producing a bottle with the celerity of a
conjuring trick. "Let's have a drink!"

I held up my hand as a mute appeal against such a proceeding so early
in the day; but on lowering it again I found that I had almost
involuntarily closed my fingers round the tumbler which my adviser had
pressed upon me. I drank the contents hastily off, lest anyone should
come in upon us and set me down as a toper. After all there was
something very amusing about the young fellow's eccentricities.

"Not spirits," I explained smilingly; "an apparition--a ghost. If such
a thing is to be had, I should be very willing to negotiate."

"A ghost for Goresthorpe Grange?" inquired Mr. Brocket, with as much
coolness as if I had asked for a drawing-room suite.

"Quite so," I answered.

"Easiest thing in the world," said my companion, filling up my glass
again in spite of my remonstrance. "Let us see!" Here he took down a
large red notebook, with all the letters of the alphabet in a fringe
down the edge. "A ghost you said, didn't you? That's G.
G--gems--gimlets--gaspipes--gauntlets--guns--galleys. Ah, here we are.
Ghosts. Volume nine, section six, page forty-one. Excuse me!" And Jack
ran up a ladder and began rummaging among a pile of ledgers on a high
shelf. I felt half inclined to empty my glass into the spittoon when
his back was turned; but on second thoughts I disposed of it in a
legitimate way.

"Here it is!" cried my London agent, jumping off the ladder with a
crash, and depositing an enormous volume of manuscript upon the table.
"I have all these things tabulated, so that I may lay my hands upon
them in a moment. It's all right--it's quite weak" (here he filled our
glasses again). "What were we looking up, again?"

"Ghosts," I suggested.

"Of course; page 41. Here we are. 'J. H. Fowler & Son, Dunkel Street,
suppliers of mediums to the nobility and gentry; charms
sold--love-philtres--mummies--horoscopes cast.' Nothing in your line
there, I suppose?"

I shook my head despondingly.

"Frederick Tabb," continued my wife's cousin, "solo channel of
communication between the living and dead. Proprietor of the spirits of
Byron, Kirke White, Grimaldi, Tom Cribb, and Inigo Jones. That's about
the figure!"

"Nothing romantic enough there," I objected. "Good heavens! Fancy a
ghost with a black eye and a handkerchief tied round its waist, or
turning summersaults, and saying, 'How are you to-morrow?'" The very
idea made me so warm that I emptied my glass and filled it again.

"Here is another," said my companion, "Christopher McCarthy; bi-weekly
seances--attended by all the eminent spirits of ancient and modern
times. Nativities--charms--abracadabras, messages from the dead. He
might be able to help us. However, I shall have a hunt round myself
to-morrow, and see some of these fellows. I know their haunts, and it's
odd if I can't pick up something cheap. So there's an end of business,"
he concluded, hurling the ledger into the corner, "and now we'll have
something to drink."

We had several things to drink--so many that my inventive faculties
were dulled next morning, and I had some little difficulty in
explaining to Mrs. D'Odd why it was that I hung my boots and spectacles
upon a peg along with my other garments before retiring to rest. The
new hopes excited by the confident manner in which my agent had
undertaken the commission caused me to rise superior to alcoholic
reaction, and I paced about the rambling corridors and old-fashoned
rooms, picturing to myself the appearance of my expected acquisition,
and deciding what part of the building would harmonize best with its
presence. After much consideration, I pitched upon the banqueting-hall
as being, on the whole, most suitable for its reception. It was a long
low room, hung round with valuable tapestry and interesting relics of
the old family to whom it had belonged. Coats of mail and implements of
war glimmered fitfully as the light of the fire played over them, and
the wind crept under the door, moving the hangings to and fro with a
ghastly rustling. At one end there was the raised dais, on which in
ancient times the host and his guests used to spread their table, while
a descent of a couple of steps led to the lower part of the hall, where
the vassals and retainers held wassail. The floor was uncovered by any
sort of carpet, but a layer of rushes had been scattered over it by my
direction. In the whole room there was nothing to remind one of the
nineteenth century; except, indeed, my own solid silver plate, stamped
with the resuscitated family arms, which was laid out upon an oak table
in the centre. This, I determined, should be the haunted room,
supposing my wife's cousin to succeed in his negotiation with the
spirit mongers. There was nothing for it now but to wait patiently
until I heard some news of the result of his inquiries.

A letter came in the course of a few days, which, if it was short, was
at least encouraging. It was scribbled in pencil on the back of a
playbill, and sealed apparently with a tobacco-stopper. "Am on the
track," it said. "Nothing of the sort to be had from any professional
spiritualist, but picked up a fellow in a pub yesterday who says he can
manage it for you. Will send him down unless you wire to the contrary.
Abrahams is his name, and he has done one or two of these jobs before."
The letter wound up with some incoherent allusions to a cheque, and was
signed by my affectionate cousin, John Brocket.

I need hardly say that I did not wire, but awaited the arrival of Mr.
Abrahams with all impatience. In spite of my belief in the
supernatural, I could scarcely credit the fact that any mortal could
have such a command over the spirit-world as to deal in them and barter
them against mere earthly gold. Still, I had Jack's word for it that
such a trade existed; and here was a gentleman with a Judaical name
ready to demonstrate it by proof positive. How vulgar and commonplace
Jorrock's eighteenth-century ghost would appear should I succeed in
securing a real mediaeval apparition! I almost thought that one had been
sent down in advance, for, as I walked down the moat that night before
retiring to rest, I came upon a dark figure engaged in surveying the
machinery of my portcullis and drawbridge. His start of surprise,
however, and the manner in which he hurried off into the darkness,
speedily convinced me of his earthly origin, and I put him down as some
admirer of one of my female retainers mourning over the muddy
Hellespont which divided him from his love. Whoever he may have been,
he disappeared and did not return, though I loitered about for some
time in the hope of catching a glimpse of him and exercising my feudal
rights upon his person.

Jack Brocket was as good as his word. The shades of another evening
were beginning to darken round Goresthorpe Grange, when a peal at the
outer bell, and the sound of a fly pulling up, announced the arrival of
Mr. Abrahams. I hurried down to meet him, half expecting to see a
choice assortment of ghosts crowding in at his rear. Instead, however,
of being the sallow-faced, melancholy-eyed man that I had pictured to
myself, the ghost-dealer was a sturdy little podgy fellow, with a pair
of wonderfully keen sparkling eyes and a mouth which was constantly
stretched in a good-humoured, if somewhat artificial, grin. His sole
stock-in-trade seemed to consist of a small leather bag jealously
locked and strapped, which emitted a metallic chink upon being placed
on the stone flags of the hall.

"And 'ow are you, sir?" he asked, wringing my hand with the utmost
effusion. "And the missis, 'ow is she? And all the others--'ow's all
their 'ealth?"

I intimated that we were all as well as could reasonably be expected;
but Mr. Abrahams happened to catch a glimpse of Mrs. D'Odd in the
distance, and at once plunged at her with another string of inquiries
as to her health, delivered so volubly and with such an intense
earnestness that I half expected to see him terminate his
cross-examination by feeling her pulse and demanding a sight of her
tongue. All this time his little eyes rolled round and round, shifting
perpetually from the floor to the ceiling, and from the ceiling to the
walls, taking in apparently every article of furniture in a single
comprehensive glance.

Having satisfied himself that neither of us was in a pathological
condition, Mr. Abrahams suffered me to lead him upstairs, where a
repast had been laid out for him to which he did ample justice. The
mysterious little bag he carried along with him, and deposited it under
his chair during the meal. It was not until the table had been cleared
and we were left together that he broached the matter on which he had
come down.

"I hunderstand," he remarked, puffing at a trichinopoly, "that you want
my 'elp in fitting up this 'ere 'ouse with a happarition."

I acknowledged the correctness of his surmise, while mentally wondering
at those restless eyes of his, which still danced about the room as if
he were making an inventory of the contents.

"And you won't find a better man for the job, though I says it as
shouldn't," continued my companion. "Wot did I say to the young gent
wot spoke to me in the bar of the Lame Dog? 'Can you do it?' says he.
'Try me,' says I, 'me and my bag. Just try me.' I couldn't say fairer
than that."

My respect for Jack Brocket's business capacities began to go up very
considerably. He certainly seemed to have managed the matter
wonderfully well. "You don't mean to say that you carry ghosts about in
bags?" I remarked, with diffidence.

Mr. Abrahams smiled a smile of superior knowledge. "You wait," he said;
"give me the right place and the right hour, with a little of the
essence of Lucoptolycus"--here he produced a small bottle from his
waistcoat-pocket--"and you won't find no ghost that I ain't up to.
You'll see them yourself, and pick your own, and I can't say fairer
than that."

As all Mr. Abraham's protestations of fairness were accompanied by a
cunning leer and a wink from one or other of his wicked little eyes,
the impression of candour was somewhat weakened.

"When are you going to do it?" I asked reverentially.

"Ten minutes to one in the morning," said Mr. Abrahams, with decision.
"Some says midnight, but I says ten to one, when there ain't such a
crowd, and you can pick your own ghost. And now," he continued, rising
to his feet, "suppose you trot me round the premises, and let me see
where you wants it; for there's some places as attracts 'em, and some
as they won't hear of--not if there was no other place in the world."

Mr. Abrahams inspected our corridors and chambers with a most critical
and observant eye, fingering the old tapestry with the air of a
connoisseur, and remarking in an undertone that it would "match
uncommon nice." It was not until he reached the banqueting-hall,
however, which I had myself picked out, that his admiration reached the
pitch of enthusiasm. "'Ere's the place!" he shouted, dancing, bag in
hand, round the table on which my plate was lying, and looking not
unlike some quaint little goblin himself. "'Ere's the place; we won't
get nothin' to beat this! A fine room--noble, solid, none of your
electro-plate trash! That's the way as things ought to be done, sir.
Plenty of room for 'em to glide here. Send up some brandy and the box
of weeds; I'll sit here by the fire and do the preliminaries, which is
more trouble than you think; for them ghosts carries on hawful at
times, before they finds out who they've got to deal with. If you was
in the room they'd tear you to pieces as like as not. You leave me
alone to tackle them, and at half-past twelve come in, and I'll lay
they'll be quiet enough by then."

Mr. Abraham's request struck me as a reasonable one, so I left him with
his feet upon the mantelpiece, and his chair in front of the fire,
fortifying himself with stimulants against his refractory visitors.
From the room beneath, in which I sat with Mrs. D'Odd, I could hear
that after sitting for some time he rose up, and paced about the hall
with quick impatient steps. We then heard him try the lock of the door,
and afterwards drag some heavy article of furniture in the direction of
the window, on which, apparently, he mounted, for I heard the creaking
of the rusty hinges as the diamond-paned casement folded backwards, and
I knew it to be situated several feet above the little man's reach.
Mrs. D'Odd says that she could distinguish his voice speaking in low
and rapid whispers after this, but that may have been her imagination.
I confess that I began to feel more impressed than I had deemed it
possible to be. There was something awesome in the thought of the
solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the
gloom outside the spirits of the nether world. It was with a
trepidation which I could hardly disguise from Matilda that I observed
that the clock was pointing to half-past twelve, and that the time had
come for me to share the vigil of my visitor.

He was sitting in his old position when I entered, and there were no
signs of the mysterious movements which I had overheard, though his
chubby face was flushed as with recent exertion.

"Are you succeeding all right?" I asked as I came in, putting on as
careless an air as possible, but glancing involuntarily round the room
to see if we were alone.

"Only your help is needed to complete the matter," said Mr. Abrahams,
in a solemn voice. "You shall sit by me and partake of the essence of
Lucoptolycus, which removes the scales from our earthly eyes. Whatever
you may chance to see, speak not and make no movement, lest you break
the spell." His manner was subdued, and his usual cockney vulgarity had
entirely disappeared. I took the chair which he indicated, and awaited
the result.

My companion cleared the rushes from the floor in our neighbourhood,
and going down upon his hands and knees, described a half circle with
chalk, which enclosed the fireplace and ourselves. Round the edge of
this half circle he drew several hieroglyphics, not unlike the signs of
the zodiac. He then stood up and uttered a long invocation, delivered
so rapidly that it sounded like a single gigantic word in some uncouth
guttural language. Having finished this prayer, if prayer it was, he
pulled out the small bottle which he had produced before, and poured a
couple of teaspoonfuls of clear transparent fluid into a phial, which
he handed to me with an intimation that I should drink it.

The liquid had a faintly sweet odour, not unlike the aroma of certain
sorts of apples. I hesitated a moment before applying it to my lips,
but an impatient gesture from my companion overcame my scruples, and I
tossed it off. The taste was not unpleasant; and, as it gave rise to no
immediate effects, I leaned back in my chair and composed myself for
what was to come. Mr. Abrahams seated himself beside me, and I felt
that he was watching my face from time to time while repeating some
more of the invocations in which he had indulged before.

A sense of delicious warmth and languor began gradually to steal over
me, partly, perhaps, from the heat of the fire, and partly from some
unexplained cause. An uncontrollable impulse to sleep weighed down my
eyelids, while, at the same time, my brain worked actively, and a
hundred beautiful and pleasing ideas flitted through it. So utterly
lethargic did I feel that, though I was aware that my companion put his
hand over the region of my heart, as if to feel how it were beating, I
did not attempt to prevent him, nor did I even ask him for the reason
of his action. Everything in the room appeared to be reeling slowly
round in a drowsy dance, of which I was the centre. The great elk's
head at the far end wagged solemnly backward and forward, while the
massive salvers on the tables performed cotillons with the claret
cooler and the epergne. My head fell upon my breast from sheer
heaviness, and I should have become unconscious had I not been recalled
to myself by the opening of the door at the other end of the hall.

This door led on to the raised dais, which, as I have mentioned, the
heads of the house used to reserve for their own use. As it swung
slowly back upon its hinges, I sat up in my chair, clutching at the
arms, and staring with a horrified glare at the dark passage outside.
Something was coming down it--something unformed and intangible, but
still a something. Dim and shadowy, I saw it flit across the
threshold, while a blast of ice-cold air swept down the room, which
seemed to blow through me, chilling my very heart. I was aware of the
mysterious presence, and then I heard it speak in a voice like the
sighing of an east wind among pine-trees on the banks of a desolate
sea.

It said: "I am the invisible nonentity. I have affinities and am
subtle. I am electric, magnetic, and spiritualistic. I am the great
ethereal sigh-heaver. I kill dogs. Mortal, wilt thou choose me?"

I was about to speak, but the words seemed to be choked in my throat;
and, before I could get them out, the shadow flitted across the hall
and vanished in the darkness at the other side, while a long-drawn
melancholy sigh quivered through the apartment.

I turned my eyes toward the door once more, and beheld, to my
astonishment, a very small old woman, who hobbled along the corridor
and into the hall. She passed backward and forward several times, and
then, crouching down at the very edge of the circle upon the floor, she
disclosed a face the horrible malignity of which shall never be
banished from my recollection. Every foul passion appeared to have left
its mark upon that hideous countenance.

"Ha! ha!" she screamed, holding out her wizened hands like the talons
of an unclean bird. "You see what I am. I am the fiendish old woman. I
wear snuff-coloured silks. My curse descends on people. Sir Walter was
partial to me. Shall I be thine, mortal?"

I endeavoured to shake my head in horror; on which she aimed a blow at
me with her crutch, and vanished with an eldritch scream.

By this time my eyes turned naturally toward the open door, and I was
hardly surprised to see a man walk in of tall and noble stature. His
face was deadly pale, but was surmounted by a fringe of dark hair which
fell in ringlets down his back. A short pointed beard covered his chin.
He was dressed in loose-fitting clothes, made apparently of yellow
satin, and a large white ruff surrounded his neck. He paced across the
room with slow and majestic strides. Then turning, he addressed me in a
sweet, exquisitely-modulated voice.

"I am the cavalier," he remarked. "I pierce and am pierced. Here is my
rapier. I clink steel. This is a blood-stain over my heart. I can emit
hollow groans. I am patronized by many old Conservative families. I am
the original manor-house apparition. I work alone, or in company with
shrieking damsels."

He bent his head courteously, as though awaiting my reply, but the same
choking sensation prevented me from speaking; and, with a deep bow, he
disappeared.

He had hardly gone before a feeling of intense horror stole over me,
and I was aware of the presence of a ghastly creature in the room of
dim outlines and uncertain proportions. One moment it seemed to pervade
the entire apartment, while at another it would become invisible, but
always leaving behind it a distinct consciousness of its presence. Its
voice, when it spoke, was quavering and gusty. It said, "I am the
leaver of footsteps and the spiller of gouts of blood. I tramp upon
corridors. Charles Dickens has alluded to me. I make strange and
disagreeable noises. I snatch letters and place invisible hands on
people's wrists. I am cheerful. I burst into peals of hideous laughter.
Shall I do one now?" I raised my hand in a deprecating way, but too
late to prevent one discordant outbreak which echoed through the room.
Before I could lower it the apparition was gone.

I turned my head toward the door in time to see a man come hastily and
stealthily into the chamber. He was a sunburned powerfully-built
fellow, with earrings in his ears and a Barcelona handkerchief tied
loosely round his neck. His head was bent upon his chest, and his whole
aspect was that of one afflicted by intolerable remorse. He paced
rapidly backward and forward like a caged tiger, and I observed that a
drawn knife glittered in one of his hands, while he grasped what
appeared to be a piece of parchment in the other. His voice, when he
spoke, was deep and sonorous. He said, "I am a murderer. I am a
ruffian. I crouch when I walk. I step noiselessly. I know something of
the Spanish Main. I can do the lost treasure business. I have charts.
Am able-bodied and a good walker. Capable of haunting a large park." He
looked toward me beseechingly, but before I could make a sign I was
paralyzed by the horrible sight which appeared at the door.

It was a very tall man, if, indeed, it might be called a man, for the
gaunt bones were protruding through the corroding flesh, and the
features of a leaden hue. A winding sheet was wrapped round the figure,
and formed a hood over the head, from under the shadow of which two
fiendish eyes, deep-set in their grisly sockets, blazed and sparkled
like red-hot coals. The lower jaw had fallen upon the breast,
disclosing a withered, shrivelled tongue and two lines of black and
jagged fangs. I shuddered and drew back as this fearful apparition
advanced to the edge of the circle.

"I am the American blood-curdler," it said, in a voice which seemed to
come in a hollow murmur from the earth beneath it. "None other is
genuine. I am the embodiment of Edgar Allan Poe. I am circumstantial
and horrible. I am a low-caste spirit-subduing spectre. Observe my
blood and my bones. I am grisly and nauseous. No depending on
artificial aid. Work with grave-clothes, a coffin-lid, and a galvanic
battery. Turn hair white in a night." The creature stretched out its
fleshless arms to me as if in entreaty, but I shook my head; and it
vanished, leaving a low sickening repulsive odour behind it. I sank
back in my chair, so overcome by terror and disgust that I would have
very willingly resigned myself to dispensing with a ghost altogether,
could I have been sure that this was the last of the hideous
procession.

A faint sound of trailing garments warned me that it was not so. I
looked up, and beheld a white figure emerging from the corridor into
the right. As it stepped across the threshold I saw that it was that of
a young and beautiful woman dressed in the fashion of a bygone day. Her
hands were clasped in front of her, and her pale proud face bore traces
of passion and of suffering. She crossed the hall with a gentle sound,
like the rustling of autumn leaves, and then, turning her lovely and
unutterably sad eyes upon me, she said,

"I am the plaintive and sentimental, the beautiful and ill-used. I have
been forsaken and betrayed. I shriek in the night-time and glide down
passages. My antecedents are highly respectable and generally
aristocratic. My tastes are aesthetic. Old oak furniture like this would
do, with a few more coats of mail and plenty of tapestry. Will you not
take me?"

Her voice died away in a beautiful cadence as she concluded, and she
held out her hands as in supplication. I am always sensitive to female
influences. Besides, what would Jorrocks' ghost be to this? Could
anything be in better taste? Would I not be exposing myself to the
chance of injuring my nervous system by interviews with such creatures
as my last visitor, unless I decided at once? She gave me a seraphic
smile, as if she knew what was passing in my mind. That smile settled
the matter. "She will do!" I cried; "I choose this one;" and as, in my
enthusiasm, I took a step toward her, I passed over the magic circle
which had girdled me round.

"Argentine, we have been robbed!"

I had an indistinct consciousness of these words being spoken, or
rather screamed, in my ear a great number of times without my being
able to grasp their meaning. A violent throbbing in my head seemed to
adapt itself to their rhythm, and I closed my eyes to the lullaby of
"Robbed, robbed, robbed." A vigorous shake caused me to open them
again, however, and the sight of Mrs. D'Odd in the scantiest of
costumes and most furious of tempers was sufficiently impressive to
recall all my scattered thoughts, and make me realize that I was lying
on my back on the floor, with my head among the ashes which had fallen
from last night's fire, and a small glass phial in my hand.

I staggered to my feet, but felt so weak and giddy that I was compelled
to fall back into a chair. As my brain became clearer, stimulated by
the exclamations of Matilda, I began gradually to recollect the events
of the night. There was the door through which my supernatural visitors
had filed. There was the circle of chalk with the hieroglyphics round
the edge. There was the cigar-box and brandy bottle which had been
honoured by the attentions of Mr. Abrahams. But the seer himself--where
was he? and what was this open window with a rope running out of it?
And where, O where, was the pride of Goresthorpe Grange, the glorious
plate which was to have been the delectation of generations of D'Odds?
And why was Mrs. D. standing in the gray light of dawn, wringing her
hands and repeating her monotonous refrain? It was only very gradually
that my misty brain took these things in, and grasped the connection
between them.

Reader, I have never seen Mr. Abrahams since; I have never seen the
plate stamped with the resuscitated family crest; hardest of all, I
have never caught a glimpse of the melancholy spectre with the trailing
garments, nor do I expect that I ever shall. In fact my night's
experiences have cured me of my mania for the supernatural, and quite
reconciled me to inhabiting the humdrum nineteenth century edifice on
the outskirts of London which Mrs. D. has long had in her mind's eye.

As to the explanation of all that occurred--that is a matter which is
open to several surmises. That Mr. Abrahams, the ghost-hunter, was
identical with Jemmy Wilson, alias the Nottingham crackster, is
considered more than probable at Scotland Yard, and certainly the
description of that remarkable burglar tallied very well with the
appearance of my visitor. The small bag which I have described was
picked up in a neighbouring field next day, and found to contain a
choice assortment of jimmies and centrebits. Footmarks deeply imprinted
in the mud on either side of the moat showed that an accomplice from
below had received the sack of precious metals which had been let down
through the open window. No doubt the pair of scoundrels, while looking
round for a job, had overheard Jack Brocket's indiscreet inquiries, and
had promptly availed themselves of the tempting opening.

And now as to my less substantial visitors, and the curious grotesque
vision which I had enjoyed--am I to lay it down to any real power over
occult matters possessed by my Nottingham friend? For a long time I was
doubtful upon the point, and eventually endeavoured to solve it by
consulting a well-known analyst and medical man, sending him the few
drops of the so-called essence of Lucoptolycus which remained in my
phial. I append the letter which I received from him, only too happy to
have the opportunity of winding up my little narrative by the weighty
words of a man of learning.

"Arundel Street.

"Dear Sir,--Your very singular case has interested me extremely.
The bottle which you sent contained a strong solution of chloral,
and the quantity which you describe yourself as having swallowed
must have amounted to at least eighty grains of the pure hydrate.
This would of course have reduced you to a partial state of
insensibility, gradually going on to complete coma. In this
semi-unconscious state of chloralism it is not unusual for
circumstantial and bizarre visions to present themselves--more
especially to individuals unaccustomed to the use of the drug. You
tell me in your note that your mind was saturated with ghostly
literature, and that you had long taken a morbid interest in
classifying and recalling the various forms in which apparitions
have been said to appear. You must also remember that you were
expecting to see something of that very nature, and that your
nervous system was worked up to an unnatural state of tension.
Under the circumstances, I think that, far from the sequel being an
astonishing one, it would have been very surprising indeed to
anyone versed in narcotics had you not experienced some such
effects.--I remain, dear sir, sincerely yours,

"T. E. STUBE, M.D.

"Argentine D'Odd, Esq.,
The Elms, Brixton."





Next: The Man With The Pale Eyes

Previous: The Inmost Light



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