« VorigeDoorgaan »
The suggestion made me laugh too, easily explained as that I should have though I bad little inclination for it. “ I'm strayed from the path in the darkness ? sorry you have so little spirit, Jarvis,” I This brought me back to common existsaid. “I must find some one else, I sup- ence, as if I had been shaken by a wise pose."
hand out of all the silliness of superstiJarvis, touched by this, began to remon- tion. How silly it was, after all ! What strate, but I cut him short. My butler did it matter which path I took ? I. was a soldier who had been with me in laughed again, this time with better heart India, and was not supposed to fear any. - when suddenly, in a moment, the blood thing — man or devil, – certainly not the was chilled in my veins, a shiver stole former; and I felt that I was losing time. along my spine, my faculties seemed to The Jarvises were too thankful to get rid forsake me. Close by me at my side, at of me. They attended me to the door my feet, there was a sigh. No, not a with the most anxious courtesies. Out- groan, not a moaning, not anything so side, the two grooms stood close by, a tangible a perfectly soft, faint, inarticulittle confused by my sudden exit. I late sigh. I sprang back, and my heart don't know if perhaps they had been lis- stopped beating. Mistaken! no, mistake tening — at least standing as
was impossible. I heard it as clearly as possible, to catch any scrap of the con- I hear myself speak; a long, soft, weary versation. I waved my hand to them as sigh, as if drawn to the utmost, and empI went past, in answer to their salutations, tying out a load of sadness that filled the and it was very apparent to me that they breast. To hear this in the solitude, in also were glad to see me go.
the dark, in the night (though it was still And it will be thought very strange, early), had an effect which I cannot debut it would be weak not to add, that i scribe. I feel it now — something cold myself, though bent on the investigation creeping over me, up into my hair, and I have spoken of, pledged to Roland to down to my feet, which refused to move. carry it out, and feeling that my boy's I cried out, with a trembling voice, “Who health, perhaps his life, depended on the is there?” as I had done before — but result of my inquiry, - I felt the most there was no reply. unaccountable reluctance to pass these I got home I don't quite know how; ruins on my way hom My curiosity but in my mind there was no longer any was intense; and yet it was all my mind indifference as to the thing, whatever it could do to pull my body along. I dare was, that haunted these ruins. My scepsay the scientific people would describe itticism disappeared like a mist. I was as the other way, and attribute my coward- firmly determined that there was some. ice to the state of my stomach. I went thing as Roland was. I did not for a on; but if I had followed my impulse 1 moment pretend to myself that it was should not have gone on, I should have possible I could be deceived; there were turned and bolted. Everything in me movements and noises which I understood seemed to cry out against it; my heart all about, cracklings of small branches in thumped, my pulses all began, like sledge the frost, and little rolls of gravel on the hammers, beating against my ears and path, such as have a very eerie sound every sensitive part. It was very dark, sometimes, and perplex you with wonder as I have said; the old house, with its as to who has done it, when there is 110 shapeless tower, loomed a heavy mass real mystery; but I assure you all these through the darkness, which was only not little movements of nature don't affect you entirely so solid as itself. On the other one bit when there is something. hand, the great, dark cedars of which wederstood them. I did not understand the were so proud seemed to fill up the night. sigh. That was not simple nature; there My foot strayed out of the path in my was meaning in it — feeling, the soul of confusion and the gloom together, and I a creature invisible. This is the thing brought myself up with a cry as I felt that human nature trembles at - a creamyself knock against something solid. ture invisible, yet with sensations, feelWhat was it? The contact with hardings, a power somehow of expressing stone and lime, and prickly bramble itself. I had not the same sense of unbushes, restored me a little to myself. willingness to turn my back upon the “Oh, it's only the old gable," I said a loud, scene of the mystery which I had experia with a little laugh to reassure myself. enced in going to the stables; but I alThe rough feeling of the stones recon- mosi ran home, impelled by eagerness to ciled me.
As ! groped about thus, I get everything done that had to be done, shook off my visionary folly. What so in order to apply myself to finding it out.
Bagley was in the hall as usual when I thing, man
Don't hurt, but went in. He was always there in the seize - anything, you see.” Colonel," afternoon, always with the appearance of said Bagley, with a little tremor in his perfect occupation, yet, so far as I know, breath, they do say there's things there never doing anything. The door was as is neither man nor woman." There open, so that I hurried in without any was no time for words.
“ Are you game pause, breathless; but the sight of his to follow me, my man? that's the quescalm regard, as he came to help me off tion,” I said. Bagley fell in without a with my overcoat, subdued me in a mo- word, and saluted. I knew then I had ment. Anything out of the way, anything nothing to fear. incomprehensible, faded to nothing in the We went, so far as I could guess, expresence of Bagley. You saw and won-actly as I had come, when I heard that dered how he was made: the parting of sigh. The darkness, however, was so bis hair, the tie of his white neckcloth, complete that all marks, as of trees or the fit of bis trousers, all perfect as works paths, disappeared. One moment we felt of art; but you could see how they were our feet on the gravel, another sinking done, which makes all the difference. Inoiselessly into the slippery grass, that Aung myself upon him, so to speak, with was all. I had shut up my lantern, not out waiting to note the extreme unlike wishing to scare any one, whoever it might ness of the man to anything of the kind be. Bayley followed, it seemed to me, I meant. Bagley,” I said, "I want you exactly in my footsteps as I made my to come out with me to-night to watch way, as I supposed, towards the mass of for
the ruined house. We seemed to take a “Poachers, colonel," he said, a gleam long time groping along seeking this; the of pleasure running all over him.
squash of the wet soil under our feet was No, Bagley; a great deal worse," I the only thing that marked our progress. cried.
After a while I stood still to see, or rather • Yes, colonel ; at what hour, sir?” feel, where we were. The darkness was the man said; but then I had not told very still, but no stiller than is usual in a bim what it was.
winter's night. The sounds I have menIt was ten o'clock when we set out. tioned the crackling of twigs, the roll All was perfectly quiet in-doors. My wife of a pebble, the sound of some rustle in was with Roland, who had been quite the dead leaves, or creeping creature on calm, she said, and who (though the fever the grass were audible when you lis. of course must run its course) had been tened, all mysterious enough when your better ever since I came. I told Bagley to mind is disengaged, but to me cheering put on a thick great-coat over his evening now as signs of the livingness of nature, coat, and did the same myself — with even in the death of the frost. As we strong boots; for the soil was like a stood still there came up from the trees sponge, or worse. Talking to him, I al. in the glen the prolonged hoot of an owl. most forgot what we were going to do. Bagley started with alarm, being in a state It was darker even than it had been be- of general nervousness, and not knowing fore, and Bagley kept very close to me as what he was afraid of. But to me the we went along. I had a small lantern in sound was encouraging and pleasant, be. my hand, which gave us a partial guiding so comprehensible. “An owl," I
We had come to the corner where said, under my breath. “Y-es, colonel,” the path turns. On one side was the said Bagley, his teeth chattering. We bowling-green, which the girls had taken stood still about five minutes, while it possession of for their croquet-ground- broke into the still brooding of the air, a wonderful enclosure surrounded by high the sound widening out in circles, dying hedges of holly, three hundred years old upon the darkness. This sound, which is and more; on the other, the ruins. Both not a cheerful one, made me almost gay. were black as night; but before we got so It was natural, and relieved the tension far, there was a little opening in which of the mind. I moved on with new courwe could just discern the trees and the age, my nervous excitement calming lighter line of the road. I thought it best down. to pause there and take breath. Bag- When all at once, quite suddenly, close ley,” I said, "there is something about to us, at our feet, there broke out a cry. these ruins I don't understand. It is I made a spring backwards in the first there I am going. Keep your eyes open moment of surprise and horror, and in and your wits about you. Be ready to doing so came sharply against the same pounce upon any stranger you see — any. I rough masonry and brambles that had
struck me before. This new sound came huddled in a beap by the side of it? I upwards from the ground- a low, moan- pushed forward across the light in the ing, wailing voice, full of suffering and doorway, and fell upon it with my hands ; pain. The contrast between it and the but it was only a juniper-bush growing hoot of the owl was indescribable; the close against the wall. Meanwhile, the one with a wholesome wildness and nat- sight of my figure crossing the doorway uralness that hurt nobody — the other, a had brought Bagley's nervous excitement sound that made one's blood curdle, full to a height: he flew at me, gripping my of human misery. With a great deal of shoulder. “I've got him, colonel! I've got fumbling for in spite of everything I him!” he cried, with a voice of sudden could do to keep up my courage my hands exultation. He thought it was a man, shook — I managed to remove the slide of and was at once relieved. But at that my lantern.
The light leaped out like moment the voice burst forth again besomething living, and made the place vis. tween us, at our feet - more close to us ible in a moment. We were what would than any separate being could be. He have been inside the ruined building had dropped off from me, and fell against the anything remained but the gable-wall wall, lis jaw dropping as if he were dy. which I have described. It was close to ing. I suppose, at the same moment, he us, the vacant doorway in it going out saw that it was me whom he had clutched. straight into the blackness outside. The 1, for my part, had scarcely more command light showed the bit of wall, the ivy glis. of myself. I snatched the light out of his tening upon it in clouds of dark green, hand, and flashed it all about ine wildly, the bramble branches waving, and below, Nothing, the juniper-bush, which 'I the open door a door that led to noth- thought I had never seen before, the ing. It was from this the voice came heavy growth of the glistening ivy, the which died out just as the light flashed brambles waving. It was close to my upon this strange scene. There was a
ears now, crying, crying, pleading as if moment's silence, and then it broke forth for life. Either I heard the same words again. The sound was so near, so pene. Roland had heard, or else, in my excite. trating, so pitiful, that, in the nervous start ment, his imagination got possession of I gave, the light fell out of my hand. As mine. The voice went on, growing into I groped for it in the dark my hand was distinct articulation, but waving about, clutched by Bagley, who I think must now from one point, now from another, as have dropped upon his knees; but I was if the owner of it were moving slowly too much perturbed myself to think much back and forward. “Mother! mother !!! of this. He clutched at me in the confu- and then an outburst of wailing. As my sion of his terror, forgetting all his usual mind steadied, getting accustomed (as decorum. “For God's sake, what is it, one's mind gets accustomed to anything), sir?” he gasped. If I yielded, there was it seemed to me as if some uneasy, misevidently an end of both of us. “ I can't erable creature was pacing up and down tell,” I said, “any more than you ; that's before a closed door. Sometimes – but what we've got to find out: up, man, up!” that must have been excitement – I I pulled him to his feet, “Will you go thought I heard a sound like knocking, round and examine the other side, or will. and then another burst, “Oh, mother! you stay here with the lantern ?" Bagley mother!” All this close, close to the gasped at me with a face of horror. space where I was standing with my lan* Can't we stay together, colonel ?” he tern now before me, now behind me : said — his knees were trembling under a creature restless, unhappy, moaning, him. I pushed him against the corner of crying, before the vacant doorway, which the wall, and put the light into his hands. no one could either shut or open more. “ Stand fast till I come back; shake your
hear it, Bagley? do you hear self together, man ; let nothing pass you,” what it is saying?” I cried, stepping in I said. The voice was within two or through the doorway. He was lying three feet of us, of that there could be against the wall — his eyes glazed, half no doubt.
dead with terror. He made a motion of I went myself to the other side of the his lips as if to answer me, but no sounds wall, keeping close to it. The light shook came; then lifted his hand with a curious in Bagley's hand, but, tremulous though imperative movement as if ordering me to it was, shone out through the vacant door, be silent and listen. And how long I did one oblong block of light marking all the so I cannot tell. It began to have an incrumbling corners and hanging masses terest, an exciting hold upon me, which I of foliage. Was that something dark could not describe. It seemed to call up
- Do you
visibly a scene any one could understand was some time before I brought him to. - a something shut out, restlessly wan. It must have been a strange scene; the dering to and fro; sometimes the voice lantern making a luminous spot in the dropped, as if throwing itself down- darkness, the man's white face lying on sometimes wandered off a few paces, the black earth, I over him, doing what I growing sharp and clear. “Oh, mother, could for him. Probably I should have let me in ! oh, mother, mother, let me in! been thought to be murdering him bad oh, let me in!” every word was clear to any one seen us.
When at last I sucNo wonder the boy had gone wild ceeded in pouring a little brandy down with pity. I tried to steady my mind his throat, he sat up and looked about upon Roland, upon his conviction that I him wildly. “What's up ?” he said; then could do something, but my head swam recognizing me, tried to struggle to his with the excitement, even when I partially feet with a faint “Beg your pardon, overcame the terror. At last the words colonel." I got him home as best I died away, and there was a sound of sobs could, making him lean upon my arm. and moaning. I cried out, In the name The great fellow was as weak as a child. of God who are you?" with a kind of Fortunately he did not for some time re. feeling in my mind that to use the name member what had happened. From the of God was profane, seeing that I did not time Bagley fell the voice had stopped, believe in ghosts or anything supernat- and all was still. ural; but I did it all the same, and waited, my heart giving a leap of terror lest there should be a reply.
“You've got an epidemic in your house, should have been I cannot tell, but I had colonel,” Simson said to me next morna feeling that if there was an answer it ing. “What's the meaning of it all? would be more than I could bear. But Here's your butler raving about a voice. there was no answer; the moaning went This will never do, you know; and so far on, and then, as if it had been real, the as I can make out, you are in it too."'. voice rose a little higher again, the words Yes, I am in it, doctor. I thought I recommenced, “Oh, mother, let me in! had better speak to you. Of course you oh, mother, let me in!” with an expres are treating Roland all right — but the sion that was heart-breaking to hear. boy is not raving, he is as sane as you or
As if it had been real? What do I me. It's all true.” mean by that? I suppose I got less “As sane as -I - or you. I never alarmed as the thing went on. I began thought the boy insane. He's got cere. to recover the use of my senses — Ibral excitement, fever. I don't know seemed to explain it all to myself by say. what you've got. There's something ing that this had once happened, that it very queer about the look of your eyes.”. was a recollection of a real scene. Why " Come," said I, " you can't put us all there should have seemed something to bed, you know. You had better listen quite satisfactory and composing in this and hear the symptoms in full.” explanation I cannot tell, but so it was. The doctor shrugged his shoulders, but I began to listen almost as if it had been he listened to me patiently. He did not a play, forgetting Bagley, who, I almost believe a word of the story, that was think, had fainted, leaning against the clear; but he heard it all from beginning wall. I was startled out of this strange to end. "My dear fellow,” he said, "the spectatorship that had fallen upon me by boy told me just the same. It's an epithe sudden rush of something which made demic. When one person falls a victim my heart jump once more, a large black to this sort of thing, it's as safe as can be figure in the doorway waving its arms. – there's always two or three.” " Come in ! come in ! come in !" it shouted “Then how do you account for it?" out hoarsely at the top of a deep bass I said. voice, and then poor Bagley fell down Oh, account for it! – that's a differ. senseless across the threshold. He was ent matter; there's no accounting for the Jess sophisticated than 1, – he had not freaks our brains are subject to. If it's been able to bear it any longer. I took delusion; if it's some trick of the echoes him for something supernatural, as he or the winds -some phonetic disturbtook me, and it was some time before Iance or other awoke to the necessities of the moment. " Come with me to-night, and judge for I remembered only after, that from the yourself," I said. time I began to give my attention to the Upon this he laughed aloud, then said, man, I heard the other voice no more. It " That's not such a bad idea; but it would
ruin me forever if it were known that earth, and his health my first thought; but John Simson was ghost-hunting.” yet somehow, in the excitement of this
“ There it is,” said I ; "you dart down other subject, I put it aside, and preferred on us who are unlearned with your pho- not to dwell upon Roland, which was the netic disturbances, but you daren't ex: most curious part of it all. amine what the thing really is for fear of That night at eleven I met Simson at being laughed at. That's science ! the gate. He had come by train, and I
“It's not science -- it's common sense,” | let him in gently myself. I had been so said the doctor. “The thing has delusion | much absorbed in the coming experiment on the front of it. It is encouraging an that I passed the ruins in going to meet unwholesome tendency even to examine. him, almost without thought, if you can What good could come of it? Even if understand that. I had my lantern; and I am convinced, I shouldn't believe.” he showed me a coil of taper which he had
I should have said so yesterday ; and ready for use. “There is nothing like I don't want you to be convinced or to light,” he said, in his scoffing tone. It believe,” said Í. “ If you prove it to be was a very still night, scarcely a sound, a delusion, I shall be very much obliged but not so dark. We could keep the path too, for one. Come; somebody must go without difficulty as we went along. As with me.”
we approached the spot we could hear a are cool,” said the doctor. low moaning, broken occasionally by a “ You've disabled this poor fellow of bitter cry: Perhaps that is your voice,” yours, and made him
- on that point -a said the doctor; “I thought it must be lunatic for life; and now you want to dis- something of the kind. That's a poor able me.
But for once, l'll do it. To brute caught in some of these infernal save appearance, if you'll give me a bed, traps of yours; you'll find it among the I'll come over after my last rounds." bushes somewhere." I said nothing. I
It was agreed that I should meet him at felt no particular fear, but a triumphant the gate, and that we should visit the satisfaction in what was to follow. I led scene of last night's occurrences before him to the spot where Bagley and I had we came to the house, so that nobody stood on the previous night.
All was might be the wiser. It was scarcely pos- silent as a winter night could be sible to hope that the cause of Bagley's lent that we heard far off the sound of the sudden illness should not somehow steal borses in the stables, the shutting of a into the knowledge of the servants at window at the house. Simson lighted his least, and it was better that all should be taper and went peering about, poking into done as quietly as possible. The day all the corners. We looked like two conseemed to me a very long one. I had to spirators lying in wait for some unfortuspend a certain part of it with Roland, nate traveller; but not a sound broke the which was a terrible ordeal for me — for quiet. The moaning had stopped before what could I say to the boy? The in- we came up; a star or two shone over us provement continued, but he was still in a in the sky, looking down as if surprised very precarious state, and the trembling at our strange proceedings. Dr. Simson vehemence with which he turned to me did nothing but utter subdued laughs unwhen his mother left the room, filled me der his breath. “I thought as much,” he with alarm. “ Father?” he said quietly. said. “It is just the same with tables “Yes, my boy; I am giving my best at- and all other kinds of ghostly apparatus; tention to it -all is being done that I can a sceptic's presence stops everything. do. I have not come to any conclusion When I am present nothing ever comes
vet. I am neglecting nothing you off. How long do you think it will be said,” I cried. Wliat I could not do was necessary to stay here? Oh, I don't comto give his active mind any encourage plain ; only, when you are satisfied, I am ment to dwell upon the mystery. It was - quite.” a hard predicament, for some satisfaction I will not deny that I was disappointed had to be given him. He looked at me beyond measure by this result. It made very wistfully, with the great blue eyes me look like a credulous fool. It gave the which gazed so large and brilliant out doctor such a pull over me as nothing else of his white and worn face. “ You must could. I should point all his morals for trust me," I said. “ Yes, father. Father years to come, and his materialisin, his koows father knows,” he said to him- scepticism would be increased beyond enself, as if to soothe some inward doubt. I durance. “It seems, indeed," I said, left him as soon as I could. He was " that there is to be no
"'« Manifes. about the most precious thing I had on | tation,” he said, laughing; "that is what