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The Frightful Fifty: 50 Dreadful Singles

The Frightful Fifty: 50 Dreadful Singles

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The Frightful Fifty: 50 Dreadful Singles

Longitud:
1106 páginas
19 horas
Publicado:
30 nov 2015
ISBN:
9781311770554
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Horror and suspense are not new topics in classic literature. While many are familiar with titles such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, there is a plethora of older and lesser known tales of terror.

These short stories (and some poems) contain all of the elements that are still popular with modern horror and suspense: vampires, ghosts, killers, and the supernatural. While some of the titles give away what each piece of literature is about topically, some aren't as clear. I feel that not knowing what you are about to read will be more of a surprise. This is not unlike watching a film without reading the synopsis.

1. Bram Stoker----A Dream of Red Hands
2. S. Baring-Gould---The Red-Haired Girl: A Wife's Story
3. Mark Twain----A Ghost Story
4. Guy de Maupassant--Ghosts
5. M.R. James----A School Story
6. Shirley Jackson---The Lottery
7. Arthur Conan Doyle---Lot No. 249
8. Jan Neruda----The Vampire
9. Edgar Allan Poe---The Black Cat
10. Algernon Blackwood--The Empty House
11. Louisa Baldwin---How He Left the Hotel
12. Charles Dickens---The Haunted House
13. Rudyard Kipling---At the End of the Passage
14. Elizabeth Gaskell---The Old Nurse's Story
15. Robert Louis Stevenson--The Body Snatcher
16. Jerome K. Jerome---The Man of Science
17. Vincent O'Sullivan---When I Was Dead
18. William Harrison Ainsworth-The Spectre Bride
19. Ambrose Bierce---The Damned Thing
20. John William Polidori--The Vampyre: A Tale
21. Mary Elizabeth Counselman-Witch-Burning
22. E.F. Benson----A Tale of an Empty House
23. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik-The Last House in C. Street
24. Aleksandr Sergeyevich PushkinThe Queen of Spades
25. W.W. Jacobs---The Toll-House
26. Amelia B. Edwards--The Phantom Coach
27. Samuel Taylor Coleridge-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
28. Joyce Carol Oates---Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly
29. Henry James----The Way It Came
30. Victoria Glad----Each Man Kills
31. Vernon Lee----A Wicked Voice
32. Honoré de Balzac---La Grande Breteche
33. Robert W. Chambers--The Messenger
34. Sir Walter Scott---The Tapestried Chamber
35. Théophile Gautier---Clarimonde
36. Lord Lytton----The Haunted and the Haunters
37. F. Marion Crawford--The Upper Berth
38. Sheridan Le Fanu---The Murdered Cousin
39. John Kendrick Bangs--The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall
40. Mary Eleanor Wilkins FreemanThe Lost Ghost
41. Gertrude Atherton---The Bell in the Fog
42. Guy de Maupassant--The Horla
43. William F. Harvey---The Beast with Five Fingers
44. Nathaniel Hawthorne--Young Goodman Brown
45. George MacDonald--Uncle Cornelius: His Story
46. M.E. Braddon---The Cold Embrace
47. H.P. Lovecraft---Dagon
48. Edith Wharton---Afterward
49. Peter de Niverville---The Petting Zoo
50. Steve Dustcircle---Girl Bastard

Publicado:
30 nov 2015
ISBN:
9781311770554
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Originally from Chicago, Steve Dustcircle comes from a background in religious ministry and music performance, but now has his hand in many forms of activism, mostly focused on free thought and human rights. There is not much he hasn't done; there is little that he hasn't read about. Steve authored or edited several books: Reflections on Occupy, Leaving Worship, The Frightful Fifty, and several others. All can be purchased from aLife Beyond Books. Steve contributes to The Good Men Project, OpEd News, Counter Currents, and Ex-ChristianNet. He lives in Columbus, OH with his frugal-blogger wife, and loves good coffee, cold lager, and stimulating conversation. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/dustcircle Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/dustcircle


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The Frightful Fifty - Steve Dustcircle

INTRODUCTION

Horror and suspense are not new topics in classic literature. While many are familiar with titles such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, there is a plethora of older and lesser known tales of terror.

[Regarding the PAPERBACK edition:]

This collection of scary and creepy tales is broken into two volumes, primarily because I could not bind all of the pages into one paperback. It'd just be too thick to handle. So, out of necessity, I had to go through the work of making two publications, doing further editing to bring one volume into two, and knocking the price down to accommodate one's pocketbook as much as I can without sacrificing my own. Each volume has popular authors, as well as some unknowns.

A few of the stories you might be familiar with, but the goal of my putting together these volumes was to expose lovers of modern horror with the stories of those who came before authors like Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Anne Rice, and Joe Hill. In a science fiction vein, you could include Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Richard Matheson, as they too wrote in a thriller and suspense mindset.

These short stories (and some poems) contain all of the elements that are still popular with modern horror and suspense: vampires, ghosts, killers, and the supernatural. While some of the titles give away what each piece of literature is about topically, some aren't as clear. I feel that not knowing what you are about to read will be more of a surprise. This is not unlike watching a film without reading the synopsis.

These stories are public domain, with exception of a couple that are covered by the Creative Commons copyright, and I took very little liberty at editing any of the text itself, leaving the stories in their integrity.

I hope you enjoy this compilation and that it gives you a fresh appreciation of older suspense and horror, and maybe expose you to new favorite authors.

Steve

P.S. My website will contain FREE downloads of some of the individual stories as downloads: http://www.stevedustcircle.us

A DREAM OF RED HANDS

Bram Stoker

The first opinion given to me regarding Jacob Settle was a simple descriptive statement, 'He's a down-in-the-mouth chap': but I found that it embodied the thoughts and ideas of all his fellow-workmen. There was in the phrase a certain easy tolerance, an absence of positive feeling of any kind, rather than any complete opinion, which marked pretty accurately the man's place in public esteem. Still, there was some dissimilarity between this and his appearance which unconsciously set me thinking, and by degrees, as I saw more of the place and the workmen, I came to have a special interest in him. He was, I found, for ever doing kindnesses, not involving money expenses beyond his humble means, but in the manifold ways of forethought and forbearance and self-repression which are of the truer charities of life. Women and children trusted him implicitly, though, strangely enough, he rather shunned them, except when anyone was sick, and then he made his appearance to help if he could, timidly and awkwardly. He led a very solitary life, keeping house by himself in a tiny cottage, or rather hut, of one room, far on the edge of the moorland. His existence seemed so sad and solitary that I wished to cheer it up, and for the purpose took the occasion when we had both been sitting up with a child, injured by me through accident, to offer to lend him books. He gladly accepted, and as we parted in the grey of the dawn I felt that something of mutual confidence had been established between us.

The books were always most carefully and punctually returned, and in time Jacob Settle and I became quite friends. Once or twice as I crossed the moorland on Sundays I looked in on him; but on such occasions he was shy and ill at ease so that I felt diffident about calling to see him. He would never under any circumstances come into my own lodgings.

One Sunday afternoon, I was coming back from a long walk beyond the moor, and as I passed Settle's cottage stopped at the door to say 'How do you do?' to him. As the door was shut, I thought that he was out, and merely knocked for form's sake, or through habit, not expecting to get any answer. To my surprise, I heard a feeble voice from within, though what was said I could not hear. I entered at once, and found Jacob lying half-dressed upon his bed. He was as pale as death, and the sweat was simply rolling off his face. His hands were unconsciously gripping the bedclothes as a drowning man holds on to whatever he may grasp. As I came in he half arose, with a wild, hunted look in his eyes, which were wide open and staring, as though something of horror had come before him; but when he recognised me he sank back on the couch with a smothered sob of relief and closed his eyes. I stood by him for a while, quite a minute or two, while he gasped. Then he opened his eyes and looked at me, but with such a despairing, woeful expression that, as I am a living man, I would have rather seen that frozen look of horror. I sat down beside him and asked after his health. For a while he would not answer me except to say that he was not ill; but then, after scrutinising me closely, he half arose on his elbow and said:

'I thank you kindly, sir, but I'm simply telling you the truth. I am not ill, as men call it, though God knows whether there be not worse sicknesses than doctors know of. I'll tell you, as you are so kind, but I trust that you won't even mention such a thing to a living soul, for it might work me more and greater woe. I am suffering from a bad dream.'

'A bad dream!' I said, hoping to cheer him; 'but dreams pass away with the light--even with waking.' There I stopped, for before he spoke I saw the answer in his desolate look round the little place.

'No! no! that's all well for people that live in comfort and with those they love around them. It is a thousand times worse for those who live alone and have to do so. What cheer is there for me, waking here in the silence of the night, with the wide moor around me full of voices and full of faces that make my waking a worse dream than my sleep? Ah, young sir, you have no past that can send its legions to people the darkness and the empty space, and I pray the good God that you may never have!' As he spoke, there was such an almost irresistible gravity of conviction in his manner that I abandoned my remonstrance about his solitary life. I felt that I was in the presence of some secret influence which I could not fathom. To my relief, for I knew not what to say, he went on:

'Two nights past have I dreamed it. It was hard enough the first night, but I came through it. Last night the expectation was in itself almost worse than the dream--until the dream came, and then it swept away every remembrance of lesser pain. I stayed awake till just before the dawn, and then it came again, and ever since I have been in such an agony as I am sure the dying feel, and with it all the dread of tonight.' Before he had got to the end of the sentence my mind was made up, and I felt that I could speak to him more cheerfully.

'Try and get to sleep early tonight--in fact, before the evening has passed away. The sleep will refresh you, and I promise you there will not be any bad dreams after tonight.' He shook his head hopelessly, so I sat a little longer and then left him.

When I got home I made my arrangements for the night, for I had made up my mind to share Jacob Settle's lonely vigil in his cottage on the moor. I judged that if he got to sleep before sunset he would wake well before midnight, and so, just as the bells of the city were striking eleven, I stood opposite his door armed with a bag, in which were my supper, an extra large flask, a couple of candles, and a book. The moonlight was bright, and flooded the whole moor, till it was almost as light as day; but ever and anon black clouds drove across the sky, and made a darkness which by comparison seemed almost tangible. I opened the door softly, and entered without waking Jacob, who lay asleep with his white face upward. He was still, and again bathed in sweat. I tried to imagine what visions were passing before those closed eyes which could bring with them the misery and woe which were stamped on the face, but fancy failed me, and I waited for the awakening. It came suddenly, and in a fashion which touched me to the quick, for the hollow groan that broke from the man's white lips as he half arose and sank back was manifestly the realisation or completion of some train of thought which had gone before.

'If this be dreaming,' said I to myself, 'then it must be based on some very terrible reality. What can have been that unhappy fact that he spoke of?'

While I thus spoke, he realised that I was with him. It struck me as strange that he had no period of that doubt as to whether dream or reality surrounded him which commonly marks an expected environment of waking men. With a positive cry of joy, he seized my hand and held it in his two wet, trembling hands, as a frightened child clings on to someone whom it loves. I tried to soothe him:

'There, there! it is all right. I have come to stay with you tonight, and together we will try to fight this evil dream.' He let go my hand suddenly, and sank back on his bed and covered his eyes with his hands.

'Fight it?--the evil dream! Ah! no, sir, no! No mortal power can fight that dream, for it comes from God--and is burned in here;' and he beat upon his forehead. Then he went on:

'It is the same dream, ever the same, and yet it grows in its power to torture me every time it comes.'

'What is the dream?' I asked, thinking that the speaking of it might give him some relief, but he shrank away from me, and after a long pause said:

'No, I had better not tell it. It may not come again.'

There was manifestly something to conceal from me--something that lay behind the dream, so I answered:

'All right. I hope you have seen the last of it. But if it should come again, you will tell me, will you not? I ask, not out of curiosity, but because I think it may relieve you to speak.' He answered with what I thought was almost an undue amount of solemnity:

'If it comes again, I shall tell you all.'

Then I tried to get his mind away from the subject to more mundane things, so I produced supper, and made him share it with me, including the contents of the flask. After a little he braced up, and when I lit my cigar, having given him another, we smoked a full hour, and talked of many things. Little by little the comfort of his body stole over his mind, and I could see sleep laying her gentle hands on his eyelids. He felt it, too, and told me that now he felt all right, and I might safely leave him; but I told him that, right or wrong, I was going to see in the daylight. So I lit my other candle, and began to read as he fell asleep.

By degrees I got interested in my book, so interested that presently I was startled by its dropping out of my hands. I looked and saw that Jacob was still asleep, and I was rejoiced to see that there was on his face a look of unwonted happiness, while his lips seemed to move with unspoken words. Then I turned to my work again, and again woke, but this time to feel chilled to my very marrow by hearing the voice from the bed beside me:

'Not with those red hands! Never! never!' On looking at him, I found that he was still asleep. He woke, however, in an instant, and did not seem surprised to see me; there was again that strange apathy as to his surroundings. Then I said:

'Settle, tell me your dream. You may speak freely, for I shall hold your confidence sacred. While we both live I shall never mention what you may choose to tell me.'

He replied:

'I said I would; but I had better tell you first what goes before the dream, that you may understand. I was a schoolmaster when I was a very young man; it was only a parish school in a little village in the West Country. No need to mention any names. Better not. I was engaged to be married to a young girl whom I loved and almost reverenced. It was the old story. While we were waiting for the time when we could afford to set up house together, another man came along. He was nearly as young as I was, and handsome, and a gentleman, with all a gentleman's attractive ways for a woman of our class. He would go fishing, and she would meet him while I was at my work in school. I reasoned with her and implored her to give him up. I offered to get married at once and go away and begin the world in a strange country; but she would not listen to anything I could say, and I could see that she was infatuated with him. Then I took it on myself to meet the man and ask him to deal well with the girl, for I thought he might mean honestly by her, so that there might be no talk or chance of talk on the part of others. I went where I should meet him with none by, and we met!' Here Jacob Settle had to pause, for something seemed to rise in his throat, and he almost gasped for breath. Then he went on:

'Sir, as God is above us, there was no selfish thought in my heart that day, I loved my pretty Mabel too well to be content with a part of her love, and I had thought of my own unhappiness too often not to have come to realise that, whatever might come to her, my hope was gone. He was insolent to me--you, sir, who are a gentleman, cannot know, perhaps, how galling can be the insolence of one who is above you in station--but I bore with that. I implored him to deal well with the girl, for what might be only a pastime of an idle hour with him might be the breaking of her heart. For I never had a thought of her truth, or that the worst of harm could come to her--it was only the unhappiness to her heart I feared. But when I asked him when he intended to marry her his laughter galled me so that I lost my temper and told him that I would not stand by and see her life made unhappy. Then he grew angry too, and in his anger said such cruel things of her that then and there I swore he should not live to do her harm. God knows how it came about, for in such moments of passion it is hard to remember the steps from a word to a blow, but I found myself standing over his dead body, with my hands crimson with the blood that welled from his torn throat. We were alone and he was a stranger, with none of his kin to seek for him and murder does not always out--not all at once. His bones may be whitening still, for all I know, in the pool of the river where I left him. No one suspected his absence, or why it was, except my poor Mabel, and she dared not speak. But it was all in vain, for when I came back again after an absence of months--for I could not live in the place--I learned that her shame had come and that she had died in it. Hitherto I had been borne up by the thought that my ill deed had saved her future, but now, when I learned that I had been too late, and that my poor love was smirched with that man's sin, I fled away with the sense of my useless guilt upon me more heavily than I could bear. Ah! sir, you that have not done such a sin don't know what it is to carry it with you. You may think that custom makes it easy to you, but it is not so. It grows and grows with every hour, till it becomes intolerable, and with it growing, too, the feeling that you must for ever stand outside Heaven. You don't know what that means, and I pray God that you never may. Ordinary men, to whom all things are possible, don't often, if ever, think of Heaven. It is a name, and nothing more, and they are content to wait and let things be, but to those who are doomed to be shut out for ever you cannot think what it means, you cannot guess or measure the terrible endless longing to see the gates opened, and to be able to join the white figures within.

'And this brings me to my dream. It seemed that the portal was before me, with great gates of massive steel with bars of the thickness of a mast, rising to the very clouds, and so close that between them was just a glimpse of a crystal grotto, on whose shining walls were figured many white-clad forms with faces radiant with joy. When I stood before the gate my heart and my soul were so full of rapture and longing that I forgot. And there stood at the gate two mighty angels with sweeping wings, and, oh! so stern of countenance. They held each in one hand a flaming sword, and in the other the latchet, which moved to and fro at their lightest touch. Nearer were figures all draped in black, with heads covered so that only the eyes were seen, and they handed to each who came white garments such as the angels wear. A low murmur came that told that all should put on their own robes, and without soil, or the angels would not pass them in, but would smite them down with the flaming swords. I was eager to don my own garment, and hurriedly threw it over me and stepped swiftly to the gate; but it moved not, and the angels, loosing the latchet, pointed to my dress, I looked down, and was aghast, for the whole robe was smeared with blood. My hands were red; they glittered with the blood that dripped from them as on that day by the river bank. And then the angels raised their flaming swords to smite me down, and the horror was complete--I awoke. Again, and again, and again, that awful dream comes to me. I never learn from the experience, I never remember, but at the beginning the hope is ever there to make the end more appalling; and I know that the dream does not come out of the common darkness where the dreams abide, but that it is sent from God as a punishment! Never, never shall I be able to pass the gate, for the soil on the angel garments must ever come from these bloody hands!'

I listened as in a spell as Jacob Settle spoke. There was something so far away in the tone of his voice--something so dreamy and mystic in the eyes that looked as if through me at some spirit beyond--something so lofty in his very diction and in such marked contrast to his workworn clothes and his poor surroundings that I wondered if the whole thing were not a dream.

We were both silent for a long time. I kept looking at the man before me in growing wonderment. Now that his confession had been made, his soul, which had been crushed to the very earth, seemed to leap back again to uprightness with some resilient force. I suppose I ought to have been horrified with his story, but, strange to say, I was not. It certainly is not pleasant to be made the recipient of the confidence of a murderer, but this poor fellow seemed to have had, not only so much provocation, but so much self-denying purpose in his deed of blood that I did not feel called upon to pass judgment upon him. My purpose was to comfort, so I spoke out with what calmness I could, for my heart was beating fast and heavily:

'You need not despair, Jacob Settle. God is very good, and His mercy is great. Live on and work on in the hope that some day you may feel that you have atoned for the past.' Here I paused, for I could see that deep, natural sleep this time, was creeping upon him. 'Go to sleep,' I said; 'I shall watch with you here and we shall have no more evil dreams tonight.'

He made an effort to pull himself together, and answered:

'I don't know how to thank you for your goodness to me this night, but I think you had best leave me now. I'll try and sleep this out; I feel a weight off my mind since I have told you all. If there's anything of the man left in me, I must try and fight out life alone.'

'I'll go tonight, as you wish it,' I said; 'but take my advice, and do not live in such a solitary way. Go among men and women; live among them. Share their joys and sorrows, and it will help you to forget. This solitude will make you melancholy mad.'

'I will!' he answered, half unconsciously, for sleep was overmastering him.

I turned to go, and he looked after me. When I had touched the latch I dropped it, and, coming back to the bed, held out my hand. He grasped it with both his as he rose to a sitting posture, and I said my goodnight, trying to cheer him:

'Heart, man, heart! There is work in the world for you to do, Jacob Settle. You can wear those white robes yet and pass through that gate of steel!'

Then I left him.

A week after I found his cottage deserted, and on asking at the works was told that he had 'gone north', no one exactly knew whither.

Two years afterwards, I was staying for a few days with my friend Dr. Munro in Glasgow. He was a busy man, and could not spare much time for going about with me, so I spent my days in excursions to the Trossachs and Loch Katrine and down the Clyde. On the second last evening of my stay I came back somewhat later than I had arranged, but found that my host was late too. The maid told me that he had been sent for to the hospital--a case of accident at the gas-works, and the dinner was postponed an hour; so telling her I would stroll down to find her master and walk back with him, I went out. At the hospital I found him washing his hands preparatory to starting for home. Casually, I asked him what his case was.

'Oh, the usual thing! A rotten rope and men's lives of no account. Two men were working in a gasometer, when the rope that held their scaffolding broke. It must have occurred just before the dinner hour, for no one noticed their absence till the men had returned. There was about seven feet of water in the gasometer, so they had a hard fight for it, poor fellows. However, one of them was alive, just alive, but we have had a hard job to pull him through. It seems that he owes his life to his mate, for I have never heard of greater heroism. They swam together while their strength lasted, but at the end they were so done up that even the lights above, and the men slung with ropes, coming down to help them, could not keep them up. But one of them stood on the bottom and held up his comrade over his head, and those few breaths made all the difference between life and death. They were a shocking sight when they were taken out, for that water is like a purple dye with the gas and the tar. The man upstairs looked as if he had been washed in blood. Ugh!'

'And the other?'

'Oh, he's worse still. But he must have been a very noble fellow. That struggle under the water must have been fearful; one can see that by the way the blood has been drawn from the extremities. It makes the idea of the _Stigmata_ possible to look at him. Resolution like this could, you would think, do anything in the world. Ay! it might almost unbar the gates of Heaven. Look here, old man, it is not a very pleasant sight, especially just before dinner, but you are a writer, and this is an odd case. Here is something you would not like to miss, for in all human probability you will never see anything like it again.' While he was speaking he had brought me into the mortuary of the hospital.

On the bier lay a body covered with a white sheet, which was wrapped close round it.

'Looks like a chrysalis, don't it? I say, Jack, if there be anything in the old myth that a soul is typified by a butterfly, well, then the one that this chrysalis sent forth was a very noble specimen and took all the sunlight on its wings. See here!' He uncovered the face. Horrible, indeed, it looked, as though stained with blood. But I knew him at once, Jacob Settle! My friend pulled the winding sheet further down.

The hands were crossed on the purple breast as they had been reverently placed by some tender-hearted person. As I saw them my heart throbbed with a great exultation, for the memory of his harrowing dream rushed across my mind. There was no stain now on those poor, brave hands, for they were blanched white as snow.

And somehow as I looked I felt that the evil dream was all over. That noble soul had won a way through the gate at last. The white robe had now no stain from the hands that had put it on.

A GHOST STORY

Mark Twain

I took a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper stories had been wholly unoccupied for years until I came. The place had long been given up to dust and cobwebs, to solitude and silence. I seemed groping among the tombs and invading the privacy of the dead, that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For the first time in my life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.

I was glad enough when I reached my room and locked out the mold and the darkness. A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there, thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning half-forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy, to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar songs that nobody sings now. And as my reverie softened down to a sadder and sadder pathos, the shrieking of the winds outside softened to a wail, the angry beating of the rain against the panes diminished to a tranquil patter, and one by one the noises in the street subsided, until the hurrying footsteps of the last belated straggler died away in the distance and left no sound behind.

The fire had burned low. A sense of loneliness crept over me. I arose and undressed, moving on tiptoe about the room, doing stealthily what I had to do, as if I were environed by sleeping enemies whose slumbers it would be fatal to break. I covered up in bed, and lay listening to the rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters, till they lulled me to sleep.

I slept profoundly, but how long I do not know. All at once I found myself awake, and filled with a shuddering expectancy. All was still. All but my own heart--I could hear it beat. Presently the bedclothes began to slip away slowly toward the foot of the bed, as if some one were pulling them! I could not stir; I could not speak. Still the blankets slipped deliberately away, till my breast was uncovered. Then with a great effort I seized them and drew them over my head. I waited, listened, waited. Once more that steady pull began, and once more I lay torpid a century of dragging seconds till my breast was naked again. At last I roused my energies and snatched the covers back to their place and held them with a strong grip. I waited. By and by I felt a faint tug, and took a fresh grip. The tug strengthened to a steady strain--it grew stronger and stronger. My hold parted, and for the third time the blankets slid away. I groaned. An answering groan came from the foot of the bed! Beaded drops of sweat stood upon my forehead. I was more dead than alive. Presently I heard a heavy footstep in my room--the step of an elephant, it seemed to me--it was not like anything human. But it was moving from me--there was relief in that. I heard it approach the door--pass out without moving bolt or lock--and wander away among the dismal corridors, straining the floors and joists till they creaked again as it passed--and then silence reigned once more.

When my excitement had calmed, I said to myself, This is a dream--simply a hideous dream. And so I lay thinking it over until I convinced myself that it was a dream, and then a comforting laugh relaxed my lips and I was happy again. I got up and struck a light; and when I found that the locks and bolts were just as I had left them, another soothing laugh welled in my heart and rippled from my lips. I took my pipe and lit it, and was just sitting down before the fire, when--down went the pipe out of my nerveless fingers, the blood forsook my cheeks, and my placid breathing was cut short with a gasp! In the ashes on the hearth, side by side with my own bare footprint, was another, so vast that in comparison mine was but an infant's! Then I had had a visitor, and the elephant tread was explained.

I put out the light and returned to bed, palsied with fear. I lay a long time, peering into the darkness, and listening. Then I heard a grating noise overhead, like the dragging of a heavy body across the floor; then the throwing down of the body, and the shaking of my windows in response to the concussion. In distant parts of the building I heard the muffled slamming of doors. I heard, at intervals, stealthy footsteps creeping in and out among the corridors, and up and down the stairs. Sometimes these noises approached my door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard the clanking of chains faintly, in remote passages, and listened while the clanking grew nearer--while it wearily climbed the stairways, marking each move by the loose surplus of chain that fell with an accented rattle upon each succeeding step as the goblin that bore it advanced. I heard muttered sentences; half-uttered screams that seemed smothered violently; and the swish of invisible garments, the rush of invisible wings. Then I became conscious that my chamber was invaded--that I was not alone. I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings. Three little spheres of soft phosphorescent light appeared on the ceiling directly over my head, clung and glowed there a moment, and then dropped--two of them upon my face and one upon the pillow. They spattered, liquidly, and felt warm. Intuition told me they had turned to gouts of blood as they fell--I needed no light to satisfy myself of that. Then I saw pallid faces, dimly luminous, and white uplifted hands, floating bodiless in the air--floating a moment and then disappearing. The whispering ceased, and the voices and the sounds, and a solemn stillness followed. I waited and listened. I felt that I must have light or die. I was weak with fear. I slowly raised myself toward a sitting posture, and my face came in contact with a clammy hand! All strength went from me apparently, and I fell back like a stricken invalid. Then I heard the rustle of a garment--it seemed to pass to the door and go out.

When everything was still once more, I crept out of bed, sick and feeble, and lit the gas with a hand that trembled as if it were aged with a hundred years. The light brought some little cheer to my spirits. I sat down and fell into a dreamy contemplation of that great footprint in the ashes. By and by its outlines began to waver and grow dim. I glanced up and the broad gas-flame was slowly wilting away. In the same moment I heard that elephantine tread again. I noted its approach, nearer and nearer, along the musty halls, and dimmer and dimmer the light waned. The tread reached my very door and paused--the light had dwindled to a sickly blue, and all things about me lay in a spectral twilight. The door did not open, and yet I felt a faint gust of air fan my cheek, and presently was conscious of a huge, cloudy presence before me. I watched it with fascinated eyes. A pale glow stole over the Thing; gradually its cloudy folds took shape--an arm appeared, then legs, then a body, and last a great sad face looked out of the vapor. Stripped of its filmy housings, naked, muscular and comely, the majestic Cardiff Giant loomed above me!

All my misery vanished--for a child might know that no harm could come with that benignant countenance. My cheerful spirits returned at once, and in sympathy with them the gas flamed up brightly again. Never a lonely outcast was so glad to welcome company as I was to greet the friendly giant. I said:

Why, is it nobody but you? Do you know, I have been scared to death for the last two or three hours? I am most honestly glad to see you. I wish I had a chair--Here, here, don't try to sit down in that thing--

But it was too late. He was in it before I could stop him and down he went--I never saw a chair shivered so in my life.

Stop, stop, you'll ruin ev--

Too late again. There was another crash, and another chair was resolved into its original elements.

Confound it, haven't you got any judgment at all? Do you want to ruin all the furniture on the place? Here, here, you petrified fool--

But it was no use. Before I could arrest him he had sat down on the bed, and it was a melancholy ruin.

Now what sort of a way is that to do? First you come lumbering about the place bringing a legion of vagabond goblins along with you to worry me to death, and then when I overlook an indelicacy of costume which would not be tolerated anywhere by cultivated people except in a respectable theater, and not even there if the nudity were of your sex, you repay me by wrecking all the furniture you can find to sit down on. And why will you? You damage yourself as much as you do me. You have broken off the end of your spinal column, and littered up the floor with chips of your hams till the place looks like a marble yard. You ought to be ashamed of yourself--you are big enough to know better.

Well, I will not break any more furniture. But what am I to do? I have not had a chance to sit down for a century. And the tears came into his eyes.

Poor devil, I said, I should not have been so harsh with you. And you are an orphan, too, no doubt. But sit down on the floor here--nothing else can stand your weight--and besides, we cannot be sociable with you away up there above me; I want you down where I can perch on this high counting-house stool and gossip with you face to face. So he sat down on the floor, and lit a pipe which I gave him, threw one of my red blankets over his shoulders, inverted my sitz-bath on his head, helmet fashion, and made himself picturesque and comfortable. Then he crossed his ankles, while I renewed the fire, and exposed the flat, honeycombed bottoms of his prodigious feet to the grateful warmth.

What is the matter with the bottom of your feet and the back of your legs, that they are gouged up so?

Infernal chilblains--I caught them clear up to the back of my head, roosting out there under Newell's farm. But I love the place; I love it as one loves his old home. There is no peace for me like the peace I feel when I am there.

We talked along for half an hour, and then I noticed that he looked tired, and spoke of it.

Tired? he said. Well, I should think so. And now I will tell you all about it, since you have treated me so well. I am the spirit of the Petrified Man that lies across the street there in the museum. I am the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. I can have no rest, no peace, till they have given that poor body burial again. Now what was the most natural thing for me to do, to make men satisfy this wish? Terrify them into it!-- haunt the place where the body lay! So I haunted the museum night after night. I even got other spirits to help me. But it did no good, for nobody ever came to the museum at midnight. Then it occurred to me to come over the way and haunt this place a little. I felt that if I ever got a hearing I must succeed, for I had the most efficient company that perdition could furnish. Night after night we have shivered around through these mildewed halls, dragging chains, groaning, whispering, tramping up and down stairs, till, to tell you the truth, I am almost worn out. But when I saw a light in your room to-night I roused my energies again and went at it with a deal of the old freshness. But I am tired out--entirely fagged out. Give me, I beseech you, give me some hope!

I lit off my perch in a burst of excitement, and exclaimed:

This transcends everything! everything that ever did occur! Why you poor blundering old fossil, you have had all your trouble for nothing--you have been haunting a plaster cast of yourself--the real Cardiff Giant is in Albany!--[A fact. The original fraud was ingeniously and fraudfully duplicated, and exhibited in New York as the only genuine Cardiff Giant (to the unspeakable disgust of the owners of the real colossus) at the very same time that the latter was drawing crowds at a museum in Albany,]--Confound it, don't you know your own remains?

I never saw such an eloquent look of shame, of pitiable humiliation, overspread a countenance before.

The Petrified Man rose slowly to his feet, and said:

Honestly, is that true?

As true as I am sitting here.

He took the pipe from his mouth and laid it on the mantel, then stood irresolute a moment (unconsciously, from old habit, thrusting his hands where his pantaloons pockets should have been, and meditatively dropping his chin on his breast), and finally said:

Well-I never felt so absurd before. The Petrified Man has sold everybody else, and now the mean fraud has ended by selling its own ghost! My son, if there is any charity left in your heart for a poor friendless phantom like me, don't let this get out. Think how you would feel if you had made such an ass of yourself.

I heard his stately tramp die away, step by step down the stairs and out into the deserted street, and felt sorry that he was gone, poor fellow--and sorrier still that he had carried off my red blanket and my bath-tub.

THE RED-HAIRED GIRL: A WIFE'S STORY

S. Baring-Gould

In 1876 we took a house in one of the best streets and parts of B----. I do not give the name of the street or the number of the house, because the circumstances that occurred in that place were such as to make people nervous, and shy--unreasonably so--of taking those lodgings, after reading our experiences therein.

We were a small family--my husband, a grown-up daughter, and myself; and we had two maids--a cook, and the other was house- and parlour-maid in one. We had not been a fortnight in the house before my daughter said to me one morning: Mamma, I do not like Jane--that was our house-parlourmaid.

Why so? I asked. She seems respectable, and she does her work systematically. I have no fault to find with her, none whatever.

She may do her work, said Bessie, my daughter, but I dislike inquisitiveness.

Inquisitiveness! I exclaimed. What do you mean? Has she been looking into your drawers?

No, mamma, but she watches me. It is hot weather now, and when I am in my room, occasionally, I leave my door open whilst writing a letter, or doing any little bit of needlework, and then I am almost certain to hear her outside. If I turn sharply round, I see her slipping out of sight. It is most annoying. I really was unaware that I was such an interesting personage as to make it worth anyone's while to spy out my proceedings.

Nonsense, my dear. You are sure it is Jane?

Well--I suppose so. There was a slight hesitation in her voice. If not Jane, who can it be?

Are you sure it is not cook?

Oh, no, it is not cook; she is busy in the kitchen. I have heard her there, when I have gone outside my room upon the landing, after having caught that girl watching me.

If you have caught her, said I, I suppose you spoke to her about the impropriety of her conduct.

Well, caught is the wrong word. I have not actually _caught_ her at it. Only to-day I distinctly heard her at my door, and I saw her back as she turned to run away, when I went towards her.

But you followed her, of course?

Yes, but I did not find her on the landing when I got outside.

Where was she, then?

I don't know.

But did you not go and see?

She slipped away with astonishing celerity, said Bessie.

I can take no steps in the matter. If she does it again, speak to her and remonstrate.

But I never have a chance. She is gone in a moment.

She cannot get away so quickly as all that.

Somehow she does.

And you are sure it is Jane? again I asked; and again she replied: If not Jane, who else can it be? There is no one else in the house.

So this unpleasant matter ended, for the time. The next intimation of something of the sort proceeded from another quarter--in fact, from Jane herself. She came to me some days later and said, with some embarrassment in her tone--

If you please, ma'am, if I do not give satisfaction, I would rather leave the situation.

Leave! I exclaimed. "Why, I have not given you the slightest cause. I have not found fault with you for anything as yet, have I, Jane? On the contrary, I have been much pleased with the thoroughness of your work.

And you are always tidy and obliging."

It isn't that, ma'am; but I don't like being watched whatever I do.

Watched! I repeated. What do you mean? You surely do not suppose that I am running after you when you are engaged on your occupations. I assure you I have other and more important things to do.

No, ma'am, I don't suppose you do.

Then who watches you?

I think it must be Miss Bessie.

Miss Bessie! I could say no more, I was so astounded.

Yes, ma'am. When I am sweeping out a room, and my back is turned, I hear her at the door; and when I turn myself about, I just catch a glimpse of her running away. I see her skirts----

Miss Bessie is above doing anything of the sort.

If it is not Miss Bessie, who is it, ma'am?

There was a tone of indecision in her voice.

My good Jane, said I, set your mind at rest. Miss Bessie could not act as you suppose. Have you seen her on these occasions and assured yourself that it is she?

No, ma'am, I've not, so to speak, seen her face; but I know it ain't cook, and I'm sure it ain't you, ma'am; so who else can it be?

I considered for some moments, and the maid stood before me in dubious mood.

You say you saw her skirts. Did you recognise the gown? What did she wear?

It was a light cotton print--more like a maid's morning dress.

Well, set your mind at ease; Miss Bessie has not got such a frock as you describe.

I don't think she has, said Jane; but there was someone at the door, watching me, who ran away when I turned myself about.

Did she run upstairs or down?

I don't know. I did go out on the landing, but there was no one there. I'm sure it wasn't cook, for I heard her clattering the dishes down in the kitchen at the time.

Well, Jane, there is some mystery in this. I will not accept your notice; we will let matters stand over till we can look into this complaint of yours and discover the rights of it.

Thank you, ma'am. I'm very comfortable here, but it is unpleasant to suppose that one is not trusted, and is spied on wherever one goes and whatever one is about.

A week later, after dinner one evening, when Bessie and I had quitted the table and left my husband to his smoke, Bessie said to me, when we were in the drawing-room together: Mamma, it is not Jane.

What is not Jane? I asked.

It is not Jane who watches me.

Who can it be, then?

I don't know.

And how is it that you are confident that you are not being observed by Jane?

Because I have seen her--that is to say, her head.

When? where?

Whilst dressing for dinner, I was before the glass doing my hair, when I saw in the mirror someone behind me. I had only the two candles lighted on the table, and the room was otherwise dark. I thought I heard someone stirring--just the sort of stealthy step I have come to recognise as having troubled me so often. I did not turn, but looked steadily before me into the glass, and I could see reflected therein someone--a woman with red hair. Then I moved from my place quickly. I heard steps of some person hurrying away, but I saw no one then.

The door was open?

No, it was shut.

But where did she go?

I do not know, mamma. I looked everywhere in the room and could find no one. I have been quite upset. I cannot tell what to think of this. I feel utterly unhinged.

I noticed at table that you did not appear well, but I said nothing about it. Your father gets so alarmed, and fidgets and fusses, if he thinks that there is anything the matter with you. But this is a most extraordinary story.

It is an extraordinary fact, said Bessie.

You have searched your room thoroughly?

I have looked into every corner.

And there is no one there?

No one. Would you mind, mamma, sleeping with me to-night? I am so frightened. Do you think it can be a ghost?

Ghost? Fiddlesticks!

I made some excuse to my husband and spent the night in Bessie's room. There was no disturbance that night of any sort, and although my daughter was excited and unable to sleep till long after midnight, she did fall into refreshing slumber at last, and in the morning said to me: Mamma, I think I must have fancied that I saw something in the glass. I dare say my nerves were over-wrought.

I was greatly relieved to hear this, and I arrived at much the same conclusion as did Bessie, but was again bewildered, and my mind unsettled by Jane, who came to me just before lunch, when I was alone, and said--

Please, ma'am, it's only fair to say, but it's not Miss Bessie.

What is not Miss Bessie? I mean, who is not Miss Bessie?

Her as is spying on me.

I told you it could not be she. Who is it?

Please, ma'am, I don't know. It's a red-haired girl.

But, Jane, be serious. There is no red-haired girl in the house.

I know there ain't, ma'am. But for all that, she spies on me.

Be reasonable, Jane, I said, disguising the shock her words produced on me. If there be no red-haired girl in the house, how can you have one watching you?

I don't know; but one does.

How do you know that she is red-haired?

Because I have seen her.

When?

This morning.

Indeed?

Yes, ma'am. I was going upstairs, when I heard steps coming softly after me--the backstairs, ma'am; they're rather dark and steep, and there's no carpet on them, as on the front stairs, and I was sure I heard someone following me; so I twisted about, thinking it might be cook, but it wasn't. I saw a young woman in a print dress, and the light as came from the window at the side fell on her head, and it was carrots--reg'lar carrots.

Did you see her face?

No, ma'am; she put her arm up and turned and ran downstairs, and I went after her, but I never found her.

You followed her--how far?

To the kitchen. Cook was there. And I said to cook, says I: 'Did you see a girl come this way?' And she said, short-like: 'No.'

And cook saw nothing at all?

Nothing. She didn't seem best pleased at my axing. I suppose I frightened her, as I'd been telling her about how I was followed and spied on.

I mused a moment only, and then said solemnly--

Jane, what you want is a _pill_. You are suffering from hallucinations. I know a case very much like yours; and take my word for it that, in your condition of liver or digestion, a pill is a sovereign remedy. Set your mind at rest; this is a mere delusion, caused by pressure on the optic nerve. I will give you a pill to-night when you go to bed, another to-morrow, a third on the day after, and that will settle the red-haired girl. You will see no more of her.

You think so, ma'am?

I am sure of it.

On consideration, I thought it as well to mention the matter to the cook, a strange, reserved woman, not given to talking, who did her work admirably, but whom, for some inexplicable reason, I did not like. If I had considered a little further as to how to broach the subject, I should perhaps have proved more successful; but by not doing so I rushed the question and obtained no satisfaction.

I had gone down to the kitchen to order dinner, and the difficult question had arisen how to dispose of the scraps from yesterday's joint.

Rissoles, ma'am?

No, said I, not rissoles. Your master objects to them.

Then perhaps croquettes?

They are only rissoles in disguise.

Perhaps cottage pie?

No; that is inorganic rissole, a sort of protoplasm out of which rissoles are developed.

Then, ma'am, I might make a hash.

Not an ordinary, barefaced, rudimentary hash?

No, ma'am, with French mushrooms, or truffles, or tomatoes.

Well--yes--perhaps. By the way, talking of tomatoes, who is that red-haired girl who has been about the house?

Can't say, ma'am.

I noticed at once that the eyes of the cook contracted, her lips tightened, and her face assumed a half-defiant, half-terrified look.

You have not many friends in this place, have you, cook?

No, ma'am, none.

Then who can she be?

Can't say, ma'am.

You can throw no light on the matter? It is very unsatisfactory having a person about the house--and she has been seen upstairs--of whom one knows nothing.

No doubt, ma'am.

And you cannot enlighten me?

She is no friend of mine.

Nor is she of Jane's. Jane spoke to me about her. Has she remarked concerning this girl to you?

Can't say, ma'am, as I notice all Jane says. She talks a good deal.

You see, there must be someone who is a stranger and who has access to this house. It is most awkward.

Very so, ma'am.

I could get nothing more from the cook. I might as well have talked to a log; and, indeed, her face assumed a wooden look as I continued to speak to her on the matter. So I sighed, and said--

Very well, hash with tomato, and went upstairs.

A few days later the house-parlourmaid said to me, Please, ma'am, may I have another pill?

Pill! I exclaimed. Why?

Because I have seen her again. She was behind the curtains, and I caught her putting out her red head to look at me.

Did you see her face?

No; she up with her arm over it and scuttled away.

This is strange. I do not think I have more than two podophyllin pills left in the box, but to those you are welcome. Only I should recommend a different treatment. Instead of taking them yourself, the moment you see, or fancy that you see, the red-haired girl, go at her with the box and threaten to administer the pills to her. That will rout her, if anything will.

But she will not stop for the pills.

The threat of having them forced on her every time she shows herself will disconcert her. Conceive, I am supposing, that on each occasion Miss Bessie, or I, were to meet you on the stairs, in a room, on the landing, in the hall, we were to rush on you and force, let us say, castor-oil globules between your lips. You would give notice at once.

Yes; so I should, ma'am.

Well, try this upon the red-haired girl. It will prove infallible.

Thank you, ma'am; what you say seems reasonable.

Whether Bessie saw more of the puzzling apparition, I cannot say. She spoke no further on the matter to me; but that may have been so as to cause me no further uneasiness. I was unable to resolve the question to my own satisfaction--whether what had been seen was a real person, who obtained access to the house in some unaccountable manner, or whether it was, what I have called it, an apparition.

As far as I could ascertain, nothing had been taken away. The movements of the red-haired girl were not those of one who sought to pilfer. They seemed to me rather those of one not in her right mind; and on this supposition I made inquiries in the neighbourhood as to the existence in our street, in any of the adjoining houses, of a person wanting in her wits, who was suffered to run about at will. But I could obtain no information that at all threw light on a point to me so perplexing.

Hitherto I had not mentioned the topic to my husband. I knew so well that I should obtain no help from him, that I made no effort to seek it. He would Pish! and Pshaw! and make some slighting reference to women's intellects, and not further trouble himself about the matter.

But one day, to my great astonishment, he referred to it himself.

Julia, said he, do you observe how I have cut myself in shaving?

Yes, dear, I replied. You have cotton-wool sticking to your jaw, as if you were growing a white whisker on one side.

It bled a great deal, said he.

I am sorry to hear it.

And I mopped up the blood with the new toilet-cover.

Never! I exclaimed. You haven't been so foolish as to do that?

Yes. And that is just like you. You are much more concerned about your toilet-cover being stained than about my poor cheek which is gashed.

You were very clumsy to do it, was all I could say. Married people are not always careful to preserve the amenities in private life. It is a pity, but it is so.

It was due to no clumsiness on my part, said he; though I do allow my nerves have been so shaken, broken, by married life, that I cannot always command my hand, as was the case when I was a bachelor. But this time it was due to that new, stupid, red-haired servant you have introduced into the house without consulting me or my pocket.

Red-haired servant! I echoed.

Yes, that red-haired girl I have seen about. She thrusts herself into my study in a most offensive and objectionable way. But the climax of all was this morning, when I was shaving. I stood in my shirt before the glass, and had lathered my face, and was engaged on my right jaw, when that red-haired girl rushed between me and the mirror with both her elbows up, screening her face with her arms, and her head bowed. I started back, and in so doing cut myself.

Where did she come from?

How can I tell? I did not expect to see anyone.

"Then

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