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."





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