The Horla Or Modern Ghosts





_May 8th._ What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying in the

grass in front of my house, under the enormous plantain tree which

covers it, and shades and shelters the whole of it. I like this part of

the country and I am fond of living here because I am attached to it by

deep roots, profound and delicate roots which attach a man to the soil

on which his ancestors were born and died, which attach him to what

people think and what they eat, to the usages as well as to the food,

local expressions, the peculiar language of the peasants, to the smell

of the soil, of the villages and of the atmosphere itself.



I love my house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see the Seine

which flows by the side of my garden, on the other side of the road,

almost through my grounds, the great and wide Seine, which goes to

Rouen and Havre, and which is covered with boats passing to and fro.



On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, that large town with its blue

roofs, under its pointed Gothic towers. They are innumerable, delicate

or broad, dominated by the spire of the cathedral, and full of bells

which sound through the blue air on fine mornings, sending their sweet

and distant iron clang to me; their metallic sound which the breeze

wafts in my direction, now stronger and now weaker, according as the

wind is stronger or lighter.



What a delicious morning it was!



About eleven o'clock, a long line of boats drawn by a steam tug, as big

as a fly, and which scarcely puffed while emitting its thick smoke,

passed my gate.



After two English schooners, whose red flag fluttered toward the sky,

there came a magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was perfectly white

and wonderfully clean and shining. I saluted it, I hardly know why,

except that the sight of the vessel gave me great pleasure.



_May 12th._ I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few days,

and I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited.



Whence do these mysterious influences come, which change our happiness

into discouragement, and our self-confidence into diffidence? One might

almost say that the air, the invisible air is full of unknowable

Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to endure. I wake up in the

best spirits, with an inclination to sing in my throat. Why? I go down

by the side of the water, and suddenly, after walking a short distance,

I return home wretched, as if some misfortune were awaiting me there.

Why? Is it a cold shiver which, passing over my skin, has upset my

nerves and given me low spirits? Is it the form of the clouds, or the

color of the sky, or the color of the surrounding objects which is so

changeable, which have troubled my thoughts as they passed before my

eyes? Who can tell? Everything that surrounds us, everything that we

see without looking at it, everything that we touch without knowing it,

everything that we handle without feeling it, all that we meet without

clearly distinguishing it, has a rapid, surprising and inexplicable

effect upon us and upon our organs, and through them on our ideas and

on our heart itself.



How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with

our miserable senses, with our eyes which are unable to perceive what

is either too small or too great, too near to, or too far from us;

neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water ... with our

ears that deceive us, for they transmit to us the vibrations of the air

in sonorous notes. They are fairies who work the miracle of changing

that movement into noise, and by that metamorphosis give birth to

music, which makes the mute agitation of nature musical ... with our

sense of smell which is smaller than that of a dog ... with our sense

of taste which can scarcely distinguish the age of a wine!



Oh! If we only had other organs which would work other miracles in our

favor, what a number of fresh things we might discover around us!



_May 16th._ I am ill, decidedly! I was so well last month! I am

feverish, horribly feverish, or rather I am in a state of feverish

enervation, which makes my mind suffer as much as my body. I have

without ceasing that horrible sensation of some danger threatening me,

that apprehension of some coming misfortune or of approaching death,

that presentiment which is, no doubt, an attack of some illness which

is still unknown, which germinates in the flesh and in the blood.



_May 18th._ I have just come from consulting my medical man, for I

could no longer get any sleep. He found that my pulse was high, my eyes

dilated, my nerves highly strung, but no alarming symptoms. I must have

a course of shower-baths and of bromide of potassium.



_May 25th._ No change! My state is really very peculiar. As the evening

comes on, an incomprehensible feeling of disquietude seizes me, just as

if night concealed some terrible menace toward me. I dine quickly, and

then try to read, but I do not understand the words, and can scarcely

distinguish the letters. Then I walk up and down my drawing-room,

oppressed by a feeling of confused and irresistible fear, the fear of

sleep and fear of my bed.



About ten o'clock I go up to my room. As soon as I have got in I double

lock, and bolt it: I am frightened--of what? Up till the present time I

have been frightened of nothing--I open my cupboards, and look under my

bed; I listen--I listen--to what? How strange it is that a simple

feeling of discomfort, impeded or heightened circulation, perhaps the

irritation of a nervous thread, a slight congestion, a small disturbance

in the imperfect and delicate functions of our living machinery, can

turn the most lighthearted of men into a melancholy one, and make a

coward of the bravest! Then, I go to bed, and I wait for sleep as a man

might wait for the executioner. I wait for its coming with dread, and

my heart beats and my legs tremble, while my whole body shivers beneath

the warmth of the bedclothes, until the moment when I suddenly fall

asleep, as one would throw oneself into a pool of stagnant water in

order to drown oneself. I do not feel coming over me, as I used to do

formerly, this perfidious sleep which is close to me and watching me,

which is going to seize me by the head, to close my eyes and annihilate

me.



I sleep--a long time--two or three hours perhaps--then a dream--no--a

nightmare lays hold on me. I feel that I am in bed and asleep--I feel

it and I know it--and I feel also that somebody is coming close to me,

is looking at me, touching me, is getting on to my bed, is kneeling on

my chest, is taking my neck between his hands and squeezing

it--squeezing it with all his might in order to strangle me.



I struggle, bound by that terrible powerlessness which paralyzes us in

our dreams; I try to cry out--but I cannot; I want to move--I cannot; I

try, with the most violent efforts and out of breath, to turn over and

throw off this being which is crushing and suffocating me--I cannot!



And then, suddenly, I wake up, shaken and bathed in perspiration; I

light a candle and find that I am alone, and after that crisis, which

occurs every night, I at length fall asleep and slumber tranquilly till

morning.



_June 2d._ My state has grown worse. What is the matter with me? The

bromide does me no good, and the shower-baths have no effect whatever.

Sometimes, in order to tire myself out, though I am fatigued enough

already, I go for a walk in the forest of Roumare. I used to think at

first that the fresh light and soft air, impregnated with the odor of

herbs and leaves, would instill new blood into my veins and impart

fresh energy to my heart. I turned into a broad ride in the wood, and

then I turned toward La Bouille, through a narrow path, between two

rows of exceedingly tall trees, which placed a thick, green, almost

black roof between the sky and me.



A sudden shiver ran through me, not a cold shiver, but a shiver of

agony, and so I hastened my steps, uneasy at being alone in the wood,

frightened stupidly and without reason, at the profound solitude.

Suddenly it seemed to me as if I were being followed, that somebody was

walking at my heels, close, quite close to me, near enough to touch me.



I turned round suddenly, but I was alone. I saw nothing behind me

except the straight, broad ride, empty and bordered by high trees,

horribly empty; on the other side it also extended until it was lost in

the distance, and looked just the same, terrible.



I closed my eyes. Why? And then I began to turn round on one heel very

quickly, just like a top. I nearly fell down, and opened my eyes; the

trees were dancing round me and the earth heaved; I was obliged to sit

down. Then, ah! I no longer remembered how I had come! What a strange

idea! What a strange, strange idea! I did not the least know. I started

off to the right, and got back into the avenue which had led me into

the middle of the forest.



_June 3d._ I have had a terrible night. I shall go away for a few

weeks, for no doubt a journey will set me up again.



_July 2d._ I have come back, quite cured, and have had a most

delightful trip into the bargain. I have been to Mont Saint-Michel,

which I had not seen before.



What a sight, when one arrives as I did, at Avranches toward the end of

the day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken into the public

garden at the extremity of the town. I uttered a cry of astonishment.

An extraordinarily large bay lay extended before me, as far as my eyes

could reach, between two hills which were lost to sight in the mist;

and in the middle of this immense yellow bay, under a clear, golden

sky, a peculiar hill rose up, somber and pointed in the midst of the

sand. The sun had just disappeared, and under the still flaming sky the

outline of that fantastic rock stood out, which bears on its summit a

fantastic monument.



At daybreak I went to it. The tide was low as it had been the night

before, and I saw that wonderful abbey rise up before me as I

approached it. After several hours' walking, I reached the enormous

mass of rocks which supports the little town, dominated by the great

church. Having climbed the steep and narrow street, I entered the most

wonderful Gothic building that has ever been built to God on earth, as

large as a town, full of low rooms which seem buried beneath vaulted

roofs, and lofty galleries supported by delicate columns.



I entered this gigantic granite jewel which is as light as a bit of

lace, covered with towers, with slender belfries to which spiral

staircases ascend, and which raise their strange heads that bristle

with chimeras, with devils, with fantastic animals, with monstrous

flowers, and which are joined together by finely carved arches, to the

blue sky by day, and to the black sky by night.



When I had reached the summit, I said to the monk who accompanied me:

"Father, how happy you must be here!" And he replied: "It is very

windy, Monsieur;" and so we began to talk while watching the rising

tide, which ran over the sand and covered it with a steel cuirass.



And then the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging to the

place, legends, nothing but legends.



One of them struck me forcibly. The country people, those belonging to

the Mornet, declare that at night one can hear talking going on in the

sand, and then that one hears two goats bleat, one with a strong, the

other with a weak voice. Incredulous people declare that it is nothing

but the cry of the sea birds, which occasionally resembles bleatings,

and occasionally human lamentations; but belated fishermen swear that

they have met an old shepherd, whose head, which is covered by his

cloak, they can never see, wandering on the downs, between two tides,

round the little town placed so far out of the world, and who is

guiding and walking before them, a he-goat with a man's face, and a

she-goat with a woman's face, and both of them with white hair; and

talking incessantly, quarreling in a strange language, and then

suddenly ceasing to talk in order to bleat with all their might.



"Do you believe it?" I asked the monk. "I scarcely know," he replied,

and I continued: "If there are other beings besides ourselves on this

earth, how comes it that we have not known it for so long a time, or

why have you not seen them? How is it that I have not seen them?" He

replied: "Do we see the hundred thousandth part of what exists? Look

here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature, which

knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the

sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto

the breakers; the wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which

roars--have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all

that, however."



I was silent before this simple reasoning. That man was a philosopher,

or perhaps a fool; I could not say which exactly, so I held my tongue.

What he had said, had often been in my own thoughts.



_July 3d._ I have slept badly; certainly there is some feverish

influence here, for my coachman is suffering in the same way as I am.

When I went back home yesterday, I noticed his singular paleness, and I

asked him: "What is the matter with you, Jean?" "The matter is that I

never get any rest, and my nights devour my days. Since your departure,

monsieur, there has been a spell over me."



However, the other servants are all well, but I am very frightened of

having another attack, myself.



_July 4th._ I am decidedly taken again; for my old nightmares have

returned. Last night I felt somebody leaning on me who was sucking my

life from between my lips with his mouth. Yes, he was sucking it out of

my neck, like a leech would have done. Then he got up, satiated, and I

woke up, so beaten, crushed and annihilated that I could not move. If

this continues for a few days, I shall certainly go away again.



_July 5th._ Have I lost my reason? What has happened, what I saw last

night, is so strange, that my head wanders when I think of it!



As I do now every evening, I had locked my door, and then, being

thirsty, I drank half a glass of water, and I accidentally noticed that

the water bottle was full up to the cut-glass stopper.



Then I went to bed and fell into one of my terrible sleeps, from which

I was aroused in about two hours by a still more terrible shock.



Picture to yourself a sleeping man who is being murdered and who wakes

up with a knife in his chest, and who is rattling in his throat,

covered with blood, and who can no longer breathe, and is going to die,

and does not understand anything at all about it--there it is.



Having recovered my senses, I was thirsty again, so I lit a candle and

went to the table on which my water bottle was. I lifted it up and

tilted it over my glass, but nothing came out. It was empty! It was

completely empty! At first I could not understand it at all, and then

suddenly I was seized by such a terrible feeling that I had to sit

down, or rather I fell into a chair! Then I sprang up with a bound to

look about me, and then I sat down again, overcome by astonishment and

fear, in front of the transparent crystal bottle! I looked at it with

fixed eyes, trying to conjecture, and my hands trembled! Somebody had

drunk the water, but who? I? I without any doubt. It could surely only

be I? In that case I was a somnambulist. I lived, without knowing it,

that double mysterious life which makes us doubt whether there are not

two beings in us, or whether a strange, unknowable and invisible being

does not at such moments, when our soul is in a state of torpor,

animate our captive body which obeys this other being, as it does us

ourselves, and more than it does ourselves.



Oh! Who will understand my horrible agony? Who will understand the

emotion of a man who is sound in mind, wide awake, full of sound sense,

and who looks in horror at the remains of a little water that has

disappeared while he was asleep, through the glass of a water bottle?

And I remained there until it was daylight, without venturing to go to

bed again.



_July 6th._ I am going mad. Again all the contents of my water bottle

have been drunk during the night--or rather, I have drunk it!



But is it I? Is it I? Who could it be? Who? Oh! God! Am I going mad?

Who will save me?



_July 10th._ I have just been through some surprising ordeals.

Decidedly I am mad! And yet!--



On July 6th, before going to bed, I put some wine, milk, water, bread

and strawberries on my table. Somebody drank--I drank--all the water

and a little of the milk, but neither the wine, bread nor the

strawberries were touched.



On the seventh of July I renewed the same experiment, with the same

results, and on July 8th, I left out the water and the milk and nothing

was touched.



Lastly, on July 9th I put only water and milk on my table, taking care

to wrap up the bottles in white muslin and to tie down the stoppers.

Then I rubbed my lips, my beard and my hands with pencil lead, and went

to bed.



Irresistible sleep seized me, which was soon followed by a terrible

awakening. I had not moved, and my sheets were not marked. I rushed to

the table. The muslin round the bottles remained intact; I undid the

string, trembling with fear. All the water had been drunk, and so had

the milk! Ah! Great God!--



I must start for Paris immediately.



_July 12th._ Paris. I must have lost my head during the last few days!

I must be the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless I am really

a somnambulist, or that I have been brought under the power of one of

those influences which have been proved to exist, but which have

hitherto been inexplicable, which are called suggestions. In any case,

my mental state bordered on madness, and twenty-four hours of Paris

sufficed to restore me to my equilibrium.



Yesterday after doing some business and paying some visits which

instilled fresh and invigorating mental air into me, I wound up my

evening at the _Theatre Francais_. A play by Alexandre Dumas the

Younger was being acted, and his active and powerful mind completed my

cure. Certainly solitude is dangerous for active minds. We require men

who can think and can talk, around us. When we are alone for a long

time we people space with phantoms.



I returned along the boulevards to my hotel in excellent spirits. Amid

the jostling of the crowd I thought, not without irony, of my terrors

and surmises of the previous week, because I believed, yes, I believed,

that an invisible being lived beneath my roof. How weak our head is,

and how quickly it is terrified and goes astray, as soon, as we are

struck by a small, incomprehensible fact.



Instead of concluding with these simple words: "I do not understand

because the cause escapes me," we immediately imagine terrible

mysteries and supernatural powers.



_July 14th._ _Fete_ of the Republic. I walked through the streets, and

the crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still it is very foolish

to be merry on a fixed date, by a Government decree. The populace is an

imbecile flock of sheep, now steadily patient, and now in ferocious

revolt. Say to it: "Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to it:

"Go and fight with your neighbor," and it goes and fights. Say to it:

"Vote for the Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor, and then say to

it: "Vote for the Republic," and it votes for the Republic.



Those who direct it are also stupid; but instead of obeying men they

obey principles, which can only be stupid, sterile, and false, for the

very reason that they are principles, that is to say, ideas which are

considered as certain and unchangeable, in this world where one is

certain of nothing, since light is an illusion and noise is an

illusion.



_July 16th._ I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much.



I was dining at my cousin's Madame Sable, whose husband is colonel of

the 76th Chasseurs at Limoges. There were two young women there, one of

whom had married a medical man, Dr. Parent, who devotes himself a great

deal to nervous diseases and the extraordinary manifestations to which

at this moment experiments in hypnotism and suggestion give rise.



He related to us at some length, the enormous results obtained by

English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at Nancy, and

the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange, that I declared

that I was altogether incredulous.



"We are," he declared, "on the point of discovering one of the most

important secrets of nature, I mean to say, one of its most important

secrets on this earth, for there are certainly some which are of a

different kind of importance up in the stars, yonder. Ever since man

has thought, since he has been able to express and write down his

thoughts, he has felt himself close to a mystery which is impenetrable

to his coarse and imperfect senses, and he endeavors to supplement the

want of power of his organs by the efforts of his intellect. As long as

that intellect still remained in its elementary stage, this intercourse

with invisible spirits assumed forms which were commonplace though

terrifying. Thence sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the

legends of wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, ghosts, I might

even say the legend of God, for our conceptions of the workman-creator,

from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are certainly the

most mediocre, the stupidest and the most unacceptable inventions that

ever sprang from the frightened brain of any human creatures. Nothing

is truer than what Voltaire says: 'God made man in His own image, but

man has certainly paid Him back again.'



"But for rather more than a century, men seem to have had a

presentiment of something new. Mesmer and some others have put us on an

unexpected track, and especially within the last two or three years, we

have arrived at really surprising results."



My cousin, who is also very incredulous, smiled, and Dr. Parent said to

her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep, Madame?" "Yes,

certainly."



She sat down in an easy-chair, and he began to look at her fixedly, so

as to fascinate her. I suddenly felt myself somewhat uncomfortable,

with a beating heart and a choking feeling in my throat. I saw that

Madame Sable's eyes were growing heavy, her mouth twitched and her

bosom heaved, and at the end of ten minutes she was asleep.



"Stand behind her," the doctor said to me, and so I took a seat behind

her. He put a visiting card into her hands, and said to her: "This is a

looking-glass; what do you see in it?" And she replied: "I see my

cousin." "What is he doing?" "He is twisting his mustache." "And now?"

"He is taking a photograph out of his pocket." "Whose photograph is

it?" "His own."



That was true, and that photograph had been given me that same evening

at the hotel.



"What is his attitude in this portrait?" "He is standing up with his

hat in his hand."



So she saw on that card, on that piece of white pasteboard, as if she

had seen it in a looking glass.



The young women were frightened, and exclaimed: "That is quite enough!

Quite, quite enough!"



But the doctor said to her authoritatively: "You will get up at eight

o'clock to-morrow morning; then you will go and call on your cousin at

his hotel and ask him to lend you five thousand francs which your

husband demands of you, and which he will ask for when he sets out on

his coming journey."



Then he woke her up.



On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious _seance_ and I

was assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and undoubted

good faith, for I had known her as well as if she had been my own

sister ever since she was a child, but as to a possible trick on the

doctor's part. Had not he, perhaps, kept a glass hidden in his hand,

which he showed to the young woman in her sleep, at the same time as he

did the card? Professional conjurers do things which are just as

singular.



So I went home and to bed, and this morning, at about half-past eight,

I was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame Sable has asked

to see you immediately, Monsieur," so I dressed hastily and went to

her.



She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and without

raising her veil she said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going to ask a

great favor of you." "What is it, cousin?" "I do not like to tell you,

and yet I must. I am in absolute want of five thousand francs." "What,

you?" "Yes, I, or rather my husband, who has asked me to procure them

for him."



I was so stupefied that I stammered out my answers. I asked myself

whether she had not really been making fun of me with Doctor Parent,

if it were not merely a very well-acted farce which had been got up

beforehand. On looking at her attentively, however, my doubts

disappeared. She was trembling with grief, so painful was this step

to her, and I was sure that her throat was full of sobs.



I knew that she was very rich and so I continued: "What! Has not your

husband five thousand francs at his disposal! Come, think. Are you sure

that he commissioned you to ask me for them?"



She hesitated for a few seconds, as if she were making a great effort

to search her memory, and then she replied: "Yes ... yes, I am quite

sure of it." "He has written to you?"



She hesitated again and reflected, and I guessed the torture of her

thoughts. She did not know. She only knew that she was to borrow five

thousand francs of me for her husband. So she told a lie. "Yes, he has

written to me." "When, pray? You did not mention it to me yesterday."

"I received his letter this morning." "Can you show it me?" "No; no ...

no ... it contained private matters ... things too personal to

ourselves.... I burnt it." "So your husband runs into debt?"



She hesitated again, and then murmured: "I do not know." Thereupon I

said bluntly: "I have not five thousand francs at my disposal at this

moment, my dear cousin."



She uttered a kind of cry as if she were in pain and said: "Oh! oh! I

beseech you, I beseech you to get them for me...."



She got excited and clasped her hands as if she were praying to me! I

heard her voice change its tone; she wept and stammered, harassed and

dominated by the irresistible order that she had received.



"Oh! oh! I beg you to ... if you knew what I am suffering.... I want

them to-day."



I had pity on her: "You shall have them by and by, I swear to you."

"Oh! thank you! thank you! How kind you are!"



I continued: "Do you remember what took place at your house last

night?" "Yes." "Do you remember that Doctor Parent sent you to sleep?"

"Yes." "Oh! Very well then; he ordered you to come to me this morning

to borrow five thousand francs, and at this moment you are obeying that

suggestion."



She considered for a few moments, and then replied:



"But as it is my husband who wants them...."



For a whole hour I tried to convince her, but could not succeed, and

when she had gone I went to the doctor. He was just going out, and he

listened to me with a smile, and said: "Do you believe now?" "Yes, I

cannot help it." "Let us go to your cousin's."



She was already dozing on a couch, overcome with fatigue. The doctor

felt her pulse, looked at her for some time with one hand raised toward

her eyes which she closed by degrees under the irresistible power of

this magnetic influence, and when she was asleep, he said:



"Your husband does not require the five thousand francs any longer! You

must, therefore, forget that you asked your cousin to lend them to you,

and, if he speaks to you about it, you will not understand him."



Then he woke her up, and I took out a pocketbook and said: "Here is

what you asked me for this morning, my dear cousin." But she was so

surprised that I did not venture to persist; nevertheless, I tried to

recall the circumstance to her, but she denied it vigorously, thought

that I was making fun of her, and in the end very nearly lost her

temper.



* * * * *



There! I have just come back, and I have not been able to eat any

lunch, for this experiment has altogether upset me.



_July 19th._ Many people to whom I have told the adventure have laughed

at me. I no longer know what to think. The wise man says: Perhaps?



_July 21st._ I dined at Bougival, and then I spent the evening at

a boatmen's ball. Decidedly everything depends on place and

surroundings. It would be the height of folly to believe in the

supernatural on the _ile de la Grenouilliere ... but on the top

of Mont Saint-Michel? ... and in India? We are terribly under the

influence of our surroundings. I shall return home next week.







_July 30th._ I came back to my own house yesterday. Everything is going

on well.



_August 2d._ Nothing fresh; it is splendid weather, and I spend my days

in watching the Seine flow past.



_August 4th._ Quarrels among my servants. They declare that the glasses

are broken in the cupboards at night. The footman accuses the cook, who

accuses the needlewoman, who accuses the other two. Who is the culprit?

A clever person, to be able to tell.



_August 6th._ This time I am not mad. I have seen ... I have seen ... I

have seen!... I can doubt no longer ... I have seen it!...



I was walking at two o'clock among my rose trees, in the full sunlight ...

in the walk bordered by autumn roses which are beginning to fall. As I

stopped to look at a _Geant de Bataille_, which had three splendid

blooms, I distinctly saw the stalk of one of the roses bend, close to

me, as if an invisible hand had bent it, and then break, as if that

hand had picked it! Then the flower raised itself, following the curve

which a hand would have described in carrying it toward a mouth, and it

remained suspended in the transparent air, all alone and motionless, a

terrible red spot, three yards from my eyes. In desperation I rushed at

it to take it! I found nothing; it had disappeared. Then I was seized

with furious rage against myself, for it is not allowable for a

reasonable and serious man to have such hallucinations.



But was it a hallucination? I turned round to look for the stalk, and I

found it immediately under the bush, freshly broken, between two other

roses which remained on the branch, and I returned home then, with a

much disturbed mind; for I am certain now, as certain as I am of the

alternation of day and night, that there exists close to me an

invisible being that lives on milk and on water, which can touch

objects, take them and change their places; which is, consequently,

endowed with a material nature, although it is imperceptible to our

senses, and which lives as I do, under my roof....



_August 7th_. I slept tranquilly. He drank the water out of my

decanter, but did not disturb my sleep.



I ask myself whether I am mad. As I was walking just now in the sun by

the riverside, doubts as to my own sanity arose in me; not vague doubts

such as I have had hitherto, but precise and absolute doubts. I have

seen mad people, and I have known some who have been quite intelligent,

lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one

point. They spoke clearly, readily, profoundly on everything, when

suddenly their thoughts struck upon the breakers of their madness and

broke to pieces there, and were dispersed and foundered in that furious

and terrible sea, full of bounding waves, fogs and squalls, which is

called _madness_.



I certainly should think that I was mad, absolutely mad, if I were not

conscious, did not perfectly know my state, if I did fathom it by

analyzing it with the most complete lucidity. I should, in fact, be a

reasonable man who was laboring under a hallucination. Some unknown

disturbance must have been excited in my brain, one of those

disturbances which physiologists of the present day try to note and to

fix precisely, and that disturbance must have caused a profound gulf in

my mind and in the order and logic of my ideas. Similar phenomena occur

in the dreams which lead us through the most unlikely phantasmagoria,

without causing us any surprise, because our verifying apparatus and

our sense of control has gone to sleep, while our imaginative faculty

wakes and works. Is it not possible that one of the imperceptible keys

of the cerebral finger-board has been paralyzed in me? Some men lose

the recollection of proper names, or of verbs or of numbers or merely

of dates, in consequence of an accident. The localization of all the

particles of thought has been proved nowadays; what then would there be

surprising in the fact that my faculty of controlling the unreality of

certain hallucinations should be destroyed for the time being!



I thought of all this as I walked by the side of the water. The sun was

shining brightly on the river and made earth delightful, while it

filled my looks with love for life, for the swallows, whose agility is

always delightful in my eyes, for the plants by the riverside, whose

rustling is a pleasure to my ears.



By degrees, however, an inexplicable feeling of discomfort seized me.

It seemed to me as if some unknown force were numbing and stopping me,

were preventing me from going farther and were calling me back. I felt

that painful wish to return which oppresses you when you have left a

beloved invalid at home, and when you are seized by a presentiment that

he is worse.



I, therefore, returned in spite of myself, feeling certain that I

should find some bad news awaiting me, a letter or a telegram. There

was nothing, however, and I was more surprised and uneasy than if I had

had another fantastic vision.



_August 8th._ I spent a terrible evening yesterday. He does not show

himself any more, but I feel that he is near me, watching me, looking

at me, penetrating me, dominating me and more redoubtable when he hides

himself thus, than if he were to manifest his constant and invisible

presence by supernatural phenomena. However, I slept.



_August 9th._ Nothing, but I am afraid.



_August 10th._ Nothing; what will happen to-morrow?



_August 11th._ Still nothing; I cannot stop at home with this fear

hanging over me and these thoughts in my mind; I shall go away.



_August 12th._ Ten o'clock at night. All day long I have been trying to

get away, and have not been able. I wished to accomplish this simple

and easy act of liberty--go out--get into my carriage in order to go to

Rouen--and I have not been able to do it. What is the reason?



_August 13th._ When one is attacked by certain maladies, all the

springs of our physical being appear to be broken, all our energies

destroyed, all our muscles relaxed, our bones to have become as soft as

our flesh, and our blood as liquid as water. I am experiencing that in

my moral being in a strange and distressing manner. I have no longer

any strength, any courage, any self-control, nor even any power to set

my own will in motion. I have no power left to _will_ anything, but

some one does it for me and I obey.



_August 14th._ I am lost! Somebody possesses my soul and governs it!

Somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts. I am no

longer anything in myself, nothing except an enslaved and terrified

spectator of all the things which I do. I wish to go out; I cannot. He

does not wish to, and so I remain, trembling and distracted in the

armchair in which he keeps me sitting. I merely wish to get up and to

rouse myself, so as to think that I am still master of myself: I

cannot! I am riveted to my chair, and my chair adheres to the ground in

such a manner that no force could move us.



Then suddenly, I must, I must go to the bottom of my garden to pick

some strawberries and eat them, and I go there. I pick the strawberries

and I eat them! Oh! my God! my God! Is there a God? If there be one,

deliver me! save me! succor me! Pardon! Pity! Mercy! Save me! Oh! what

sufferings! what torture! what horror!



_August 15th._ Certainly this is the way in which my poor cousin was

possessed and swayed, when she came to borrow five thousand francs of

me. She was under the power of a strange will which had entered into

her, like another soul, like another parasitic and ruling soul. Is the

world coming to an end?



But who is he, this invisible being that rules me? This unknowable

being, this rover of a supernatural race?



Invisible beings exist, then! How is it then that since the beginning

of the world they have never manifested themselves in such a manner

precisely as they do to me? I have never read anything which resembles

what goes on in my house. Oh! If I could only leave it, if I could only

go away and flee, so as never to return, I should be saved; but I

cannot.



_August 16th_. I managed to escape to-day for two hours, like a

prisoner who finds the door of his dungeon accidentally open. I

suddenly felt that I was free and that he was far away, and so I gave

orders to put the horses in as quickly as possible, and I drove to

Rouen. Oh! How delightful to be able to say to a man who obeyed you:

"Go to Rouen!"



I made him pull up before the library, and I begged them to lend me Dr.

Herrmann Herestauss's treatise on the unknown inhabitants of the

ancient and modern world.



Then, as I was getting into my carriage, I intended to say: "To the

railway station!" but instead of this I shouted--I did not say, but I

shouted--in such a loud voice that all the passers-by turned round:

"Home!" and I fell back onto the cushion of my carriage, overcome by

mental agony. He had found me out and regained possession of me.



_August 17th_. Oh! What a night! what a night! And yet it seems to me

that I ought to rejoice. I read until one o'clock in the morning!

Herestauss, Doctor of Philosophy and Theogony, wrote the history and

the manifestation of all those invisible beings which hover around man,

or of whom he dreams. He describes their origin, their domains, their

power; but none of them resembles the one which haunts me. One might

say that man, ever since he has thought, has had a foreboding of, and

feared a new being, stronger than himself, his successor in this world,

and that, feeling him near, and not being able to foretell the nature

of that master, he has, in his terror, created the whole race of hidden

beings, of vague phantoms born of fear.



Having, therefore, read until one o'clock in the morning, I went and

sat down at the open window, in order to cool my forehead and my

thoughts, in the calm night air. It was very pleasant and warm! How I

should have enjoyed such a night formerly!



There was no moon, but the stars darted out their rays in the dark

heavens. Who inhabits those worlds? What forms, what living beings,

what animals are there yonder? What do those who are thinkers in those

distant worlds know more than we do? What can they do more than we can?

What do they see which we do not know? Will not one of them, some day

or other, traversing space, appear on our earth to conquer it, just as

the Norsemen formerly crossed the sea in order to subjugate nations

more feeble than themselves?



We are so weak, so unarmed, so ignorant, so small, we who live on this

particle of mud which turns round in a drop of water.



I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then, having

slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my eyes without

moving, awakened by I know not what confused and strange sensation. At

first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it appeared to me as if a page

of a book which had remained open on my table, turned over of its own

accord. Not a breath of air had come in at my window, and I was

surprised and waited. In about four minutes, I saw, I saw, yes I saw

with my own eyes another page lift itself up and fall down on the

others, as if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty,

appeared empty, but I knew that he was there, he, and sitting in my

place, and that he was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an

enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed my

room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him!... But before I could

reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away from me ... my

table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my window closed as if

some thief had been surprised and had fled out into the night, shutting

it behind him.



So he had run away: he had been afraid; he, afraid of me!



So ... so ... to-morrow ... or later ... some day or other ... I should

be able to hold him in my clutches and crush him against the ground! Do

not dogs occasionally bite and strangle their masters?



_August 18th._ I have been thinking the whole day long. Oh! yes, I will

obey him, follow his impulses, fulfill all his wishes, show myself

humble, submissive, a coward. He is the stronger; but an hour will

come....



_August 19th_. I know, ... I know ... I know all! I have just read the

following in the _Revue du Monde Scientifique_: "A curious piece of

news comes to us from Rio de Janeiro. Madness, an epidemic of madness,

which may be compared to that contagious madness which attacked the

people of Europe in the Middle Ages, is at this moment raging in the

Province of San-Paulo. The frightened inhabitants are leaving their

houses, deserting their villages, abandoning their land, saying that

they are pursued, possessed, governed like human cattle by invisible,

though tangible beings, a species of vampire, which feed on their life

while they are asleep, and who, besides, drink water and milk without

appearing to touch any other nourishment.



"Professor Dom Pedro Henriques, accompanied by several medical savants,

has gone to the Province of San-Paulo, in order to study the origin and

the manifestations of this surprising madness on the spot, and to

propose such measures to the Emperor as may appear to him to be most

fitted to restore the mad population to reason."



Ah! Ah! I remember now that fine Brazilian three-master which passed in

front of my windows as it was going up the Seine, on the 8th of last

May! I thought it looked so pretty, so white and bright! That Being was

on board of her, coming from there, where its race sprang from. And it

saw me! It saw my house which was also white, and it sprang from the

ship onto the land. Oh! Good heavens!



Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has come.

He whom disquieted priests exorcised, whom sorcerers evoked on dark

nights, without yet seeing him appear, to whom the presentiments of

the transient masters of the world lent all the monstrous or graceful

forms of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies, and familiar spirits. After

the coarse conceptions of primitive fear, more clear-sighted men

foresaw it more clearly. Mesmer divined him, and ten years ago physicians

accurately discovered the nature of his power, even before he exercised

it himself. They played with that weapon of their new Lord, the sway

of a mysterious will over the human soul, which had become enslaved.

They called it magnetism, hypnotism, suggestion ... what do I know? I

have seen them amusing themselves like impudent children with this

horrible power! Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come, the ... the ...

what does he call himself ... the ... I fancy that he is shouting

out his name to me and I do not hear him ... the ... yes ... he is

shouting it out ... I am listening ... I cannot ... repeat ... it ...

Horla ... I have heard ... the Horla ... it is he ... the Horla ...

he has come!...



Ah! the vulture has eaten the pigeon, the wolf has eaten the lamb; the

lion has devoured the buffalo with sharp horns; man has killed the lion

with an arrow, with a sword, with gunpowder; but the Horla will make of

man what we have made of the horse and of the ox: his chattel, his

slave and his food, by the mere power of his will. Woe to us!



But, nevertheless, the animal sometimes revolts and kills the man who

has subjugated it.... I should also like ... I shall be able to ... but

I must know him, touch him, see him! Learned men say that beasts' eyes,

as they differ from ours, do not distinguish like ours do ... And my

eye cannot distinguish this newcomer who is oppressing me.



Why? Oh! Now I remember the words of the monk at Mont Saint-Michel:

"Can we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists? Look here;

there is the wind which is the strongest force in nature, which knocks

men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into

mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto the

breakers; the wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which

roars--have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all

that, however!"



And I went on thinking: my eyes are so weak, so imperfect, that they

do not even distinguish hard bodies, if they are as transparent as

glass!... If a glass without tinfoil behind it were to bar my way, I

should run into it, just as a bird which has flown into a room breaks

its head against the window panes. A thousand things, moreover, deceive

him and lead him astray. How should it then be surprising that he

cannot perceive a fresh body which is traversed by the light?



A new being! Why not? It was assuredly bound to come! Why should we be

the last? We do not distinguish it, like all the others created before

us. The reason is, that its nature is more perfect, its body finer and

more finished than ours, that ours is so weak, so awkwardly conceived,

encumbered with organs that are always tired, always on the strain like

locks that are too complicated, which lives like a plant and like a

beast, nourishing itself with difficulty on air, herbs and flesh, an

animal machine which is a prey to maladies, to malformations, to decay;

broken-winded, badly regulated, simple and eccentric, ingeniously badly

made, a coarse and a delicate work, the outline of a being which might

become intelligent and grand.



We are only a few, so few in this world, from the oyster up to man. Why

should there not be one more, when once that period is accomplished

which separates the successive apparitions from all the different

species?



Why not one more? Why not, also, other trees with immense, splendid

flowers, perfuming whole regions? Why not other elements besides fire,

air, earth and water? There are four, only four, those nursing fathers

of various beings! What a pity! Why are they not forty, four hundred,

four thousand! How poor everything is, how mean and wretched!

grudgingly given, dryly invented, clumsily made! Ah! the elephant and

the hippopotamus, what grace! And the camel, what elegance!



But, the butterfly you will say, a flying flower! I dream of one that

should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose shape, beauty,

colors, and motion I cannot even express. But I see it ... it flutters

from star to star, refreshing them and perfuming them with the light

and harmonious breath of its flight!... And the people up there look

at it as it passes in an ecstasy of delight!...



* * * * *



What is the matter with me? It is he, the Horla who haunts me, and who

makes me think of these foolish things! He is within me, he is becoming

my soul; I shall kill him!



_August 19th._ I shall kill him. I have seen him! Yesterday I sat down

at my table and pretended to write very assiduously. I knew quite well

that he would come prowling round me, quite close to me, so close that

I might perhaps be able to touch him, to seize him. And then!... then

I should have the strength of desperation; I should have my hands, my

knees, my chest, my forehead, my teeth to strangle him, to crush him,

to bite him, to tear him to pieces. And I watched for him with all my

overexcited organs.



I had lighted my two lamps and the eight wax candles on my mantelpiece,

as if by this light I could have discovered him.



My bed, my old oak bed with its columns, was opposite to me; on my

right was the fireplace; on my left the door which was carefully

closed, after I had left it open for some time, in order to attract

him; behind me was a very high wardrobe with a looking-glass in it,

which served me to make my toilet every day, and in which I was in the

habit of looking at myself from head to foot every time I passed it.



So I pretended to be writing in order to deceive him, for he also was

watching me, and suddenly I felt, I was certain that he was reading

over my shoulder, that he was there, almost touching my ear.



I got up so quickly, with my hands extended, that I almost fell. Eh!

well?... It was as bright as at midday, but I did not see myself in

the glass!... It was empty, clear, profound, full of light! But my

figure was not reflected in it ... and I, I was opposite to it! I saw

the large, clear glass from top to bottom, and I looked at it with

unsteady eyes; and I did not dare to advance; I did not venture to make

a movement, nevertheless, feeling perfectly that he was there, but that

he would escape me again, he whose imperceptible body had absorbed my

reflection.



How frightened I was! And then suddenly I began to see myself through a

mist in the depths of the looking-glass, in a mist as it were through a

sheet of water; and it seemed to me as if this water were flowing

slowly from left to right, and making my figure clearer every moment.

It was like the end of an eclipse. Whatever it was that hid me, did not

appear to possess any clearly defined outlines, but a sort of opaque

transparency, which gradually grew clearer.



At last I was able to distinguish myself completely, as I do every day

when I look at myself.



I had seen it! And the horror of it remained with me and makes me

shudder even now.



_August 20th_. How could I kill it, as I could not get hold of it?

Poison? But it would see me mix it with the water; and then, would our

poisons have any effect on its impalpable body? No ... no ... no doubt

about the matter.... Then?... then?...



_August 21st_. I sent for a blacksmith from Rouen, and ordered iron

shutters of him for my room, such as some private hotels in Paris have

on the ground floor, for fear of thieves, and he is going to make me a

similar door as well. I have made myself out as a coward, but I do not

care about that!...



_September 10th_. Rouen, Hotel Continental. It is done; ... it is

done ... but is he dead? My mind is thoroughly upset by what I have

seen.



Well, then, yesterday the locksmith having put on the iron shutters and

door, I left everything open until midnight, although it was getting

cold.



Suddenly I felt that he was there, and joy, mad joy, took possession of

me. I got up softly, and I walked to the right and left for some time,

so that he might not guess anything; then I took off my boots and put

on my slippers carelessly; then I fastened the iron shutters and going

back to the door quickly I double-locked it with a padlock, putting the

key into my pocket.



Suddenly I noticed that he was moving restlessly round me, that in his

turn he was frightened and was ordering me to let him out. I nearly

yielded, though I did not yet, but putting my back to the door I half

opened it, just enough to allow me to go out backward, and as I am very

tall, my head touched the lintel. I was sure that he had not been able

to escape, and I shut him up quite alone, quite alone. What happiness!

I had him fast. Then I ran downstairs; in the drawing-room, which was

under my bedroom, I took the two lamps and I poured all the oil onto

the carpet, the furniture, everywhere; then I set fire to it and made

my escape, after having carefully double-locked the door.



I went and hid myself at the bottom of the garden in a clump of laurel

bushes. How long it was! how long it was! Everything was dark, silent,

motionless, not a breath of air and not a star, but heavy banks of

clouds which one could not see, but which weighed, oh! so heavily on my

soul.



I looked at my house and waited. How long it was! I already began to

think that the fire had gone out of its own accord, or that he had

extinguished it, when one of the lower windows gave way under the

violence of the flames, and a long, soft, caressing sheet of red flame

mounted up the white wall and kissed it as high as the roof. The light

fell onto the trees, the branches, and the leaves, and a shiver of fear

pervaded them also! The birds awoke; a dog began to howl, and it seemed

to me as if the day were breaking! Almost immediately two other windows

flew into fragments, and I saw that the whole of the lower part of my

house was nothing but a terrible furnace. But a cry, a horrible,

shrill, heartrending cry, a woman's cry, sounded through the night, and

two garret windows were opened! I had forgotten the servants! I saw the

terrorstruck faces, and their frantically waving arms!...



Then, overwhelmed with horror, I set off to run to the village,

shouting: "Help! help! fire! fire!" I met some people who were already

coming onto the scene, and I went back with them to see!



By this time the house was nothing but a horrible and magnificent

funeral pile, a monstrous funeral pile which lit up the whole country,

a funeral pile where men were burning, and where he was burning also,

He, He, my prisoner, that new Being, the new master, the Horla!



Suddenly the whole roof fell in between the walls, and a volcano of

flames darted up to the sky. Through all the windows which opened onto

that furnace I saw the flames darting, and I thought that he was there,

in that kiln, dead.



Dead? perhaps?... His body? Was not his body, which was transparent,

indestructible by such means as would kill ours?



If he was not dead?... Perhaps time alone has power over that

Invisible and Redoubtable Being. Why this transparent, unrecognizable

body, this body belonging to a spirit, if it also had to fear ills,

infirmities and premature destruction?



Premature destruction? All human terror springs from that! After man

the Horla. After him who can die every day, at any hour, at any moment,

by any accident, he came who was only to die at his own proper hour and

minute, because he had touched the limits of his existence!



No ... no ... without any doubt ... he is not dead. Then ... then ... I

suppose I must kill myself!





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