Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 35 of Halloween: Home Decor Ideas, Pet Spider


NO...they are not real!  Heh...just decorations.  If you want to make your halloween decor really scary with some creepy crawlies, why not create your own pet spider?  I've done this already with my daughter and she loved it!



Try wrapping some cotton or fake spider we around a mason jar and then gluing your spider to the outside.


 In this picture, someone has used the squishy bath sponges inside mason and empty candle jars, then added the spiders.  The mason jar on the left side looks as if a huge toy spider has been hot glued to the inside!
 

For a really creepy look, pour some dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent (clear, green, or orange) into a mason jar/glass and then place the spider to float there.  


For a more realistic and simple look, take your fake toy spider and place it inside some cookware that has a lid...looks just like you've captured a spider!


Day 36 of Halloween: "The Lost Ghost" by Mary Wilkins

http://www.weeklyuniverse.com/2005/The%20Lost%20Ghost.jpg



Mrs. John Emerson, sitting with her needlework beside the window, looked out and saw Mrs. Rhoda Meserve coming down the street, and knew at once by the trend of her steps and the cant of her head that she meditated turning in at her gate. She also knew by a certain something about her general carriage–a thrusting forward of the neck, a bustling hitch of the shoulders–that she had important news. Rhoda Meserve always had the news as soon as the news was in being, and generally Mrs. John Emerson was the first to whom she imparted it. The two women had been friends ever since Mrs. Meserve had married Simon Meserve and come to the village to live.
Mrs. Meserve was a pretty woman, moving with graceful flirts of ruffling skirts; her clear-cut, nervous face, as delicately tinted as a shell, looked brightly from the plumy brim of a black hat at Mrs. Emerson in the window. Mrs. Emerson was glad to see her coming. She returned the greeting with enthusiasm, then rose hurriedly, ran into the cold parlour and brought out one of the best rocking-chairs. She was just in time, after drawing it up beside the opposite window, to greet her friend at the door.

“Good-afternoon,” said she. “I declare, I’m real glad to see you. I’ve been alone all day. John went to the city this morning. I thought of coming over to your house this afternoon, but I couldn’t bring my sewing very well. I am putting the ruffles on my new black dress skirt.”

“Well, I didn’t have a thing on hand except my crochet work,” responded Mrs. Meserve, “and I thought I’d just run over a few minutes.”

“I’m real glad you did,” repeated Mrs. Emerson. “Take your things right off. Here, I’ll put them on my bed in the bedroom. Take the rocking-chair.”

Mrs. Meserve settled herself in the parlour rocking-chair, while Mrs. Emerson carried her shawl and hat into the little adjoining bedroom. When she returned Mrs. Meserve was rocking peacefully and was already at work hooking blue wool in and out.

“That’s real pretty,” said Mrs. Emerson.

“Yes, I think it’s pretty,” replied Mrs. Meserve.

“I suppose it’s for the church fair?”

“Yes. I don’t suppose it’ll bring enough to pay for the worsted, let alone the work, but I suppose I’ve got to make something.”

“How much did that one you made for the fair last year bring?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“It’s wicked, ain’t it?”

“I rather guess it is. It takes me a week every minute I can get to make one. I wish those that bought such things for twenty-five cents had to make them. Guess they’d sing another song. Well, I suppose I oughtn’t to complain as long as it is for the Lord, but sometimes it does seem as if the Lord didn’t get much out of it.”

“Well, it’s pretty work,” said Mrs. Emerson, sitting down at the opposite window and taking up her dress skirt.

“Yes, it is real pretty work. I just LOVE to crochet.”

The two women rocked and sewed and crocheted in silence for two or three minutes. They were both waiting. Mrs. Meserve waited for the other’s curiosity to develop in order that her news might have, as it were, a befitting stage entrance. Mrs. Emerson waited for the news. Finally she could wait no longer.
“Well, what’s the news?” said she.

“Well, I don’t know as there’s anything very particular,” hedged the other woman, prolonging the situation.

“Yes, there is; you can’t cheat me,” replied Mrs. Emerson.

“Now, how do you know?”

“By the way you look.”

Mrs. Meserve laughed consciously and rather vainly.

“Well, Simon says my face is so expressive I can’t hide anything more than five minutes no matter how hard I try,” said she. “Well, there is some news. Simon came home with it this noon. He heard it in South Dayton. He had some business over there this morning. The old Sargent place is let.”

Mrs. Emerson dropped her sewing and stared.

“You don’t say so!”

“Yes, it is.”

“Who to?”

“Why, some folks from Boston that moved to South Dayton last year. They haven’t been satisfied with the house they had there–it wasn’t large enough. The man has got considerable property and can afford to live pretty well. He’s got a wife and his unmarried sister in the family. The sister’s got money, too. He does business in Boston and it’s just as easy to get to Boston from here as from South Dayton, and so they’re coming here. You know the old Sargent house is a splendid place.”

“Yes, it’s the handsomest house in town, but–”

“Oh, Simon said they told him about that and he just laughed. Said he wasn’t afraid and neither was his wife and sister. Said he’d risk ghosts rather than little tucked-up sleeping-rooms without any sun, like they’ve had in the Dayton house. Said he’d rather risk SEEING ghosts, than risk being ghosts themselves. Simon said they said he was a great hand to joke.”

“Oh, well,” said Mrs. Emerson, “it is a beautiful house, and maybe there isn’t anything in those stories. It never seemed to me they came very straight anyway. I never took much stock in them. All I thought was–if his wife was nervous.”

“Nothing in creation would hire me to go into a house that I’d ever heard a word against of that kind,” declared Mrs. Meserve with emphasis. “I wouldn’t go into that house if they would give me the rent. I’ve seen enough of haunted houses to last me as long as I live.”

Mrs. Emerson’s face acquired the expression of a hunting hound.

“Have you?” she asked in an intense whisper.

“Yes, I have. I don’t want any more of it.”

“Before you came here?”

“Yes; before I was married–when I was quite a girl.”

Mrs. Meserve had not married young. Mrs. Emerson had mental calculations when she heard that.

“Did you really live in a house that was–” she whispered fearfully.

Mrs. Meserve nodded solemnly.

“Did you really ever–see–anything–”

Mrs. Meserve nodded.

“You didn’t see anything that did you any harm?”

“No, I didn’t see anything that did me harm looking at it in one way, but it don’t do anybody in this world any good to see things that haven’t any business to be seen in it. You never get over it.”

There was a moment’s silence. Mrs. Emerson’s features seemed to sharpen.

“Well, of course I don’t want to urge you,” said she, “if you don’t feel like talking about it; but maybe it might do you good to tell it out, if it’s on your mind, worrying you.”

“I try to put it out of my mind,” said Mrs. Meserve.

“Well, it’s just as you feel.”

“I never told anybody but Simon,” said Mrs. Meserve. “I never felt as if it was wise perhaps. I didn’t know what folks might think. So many don’t believe in anything they can’t understand, that they might think my mind wasn’t right. Simon advised me not to talk about it. He said he didn’t believe it was anything supernatural, but he had to own up that he couldn’t give any explanation for it to save his life. He had to own up that he didn’t believe anybody could. Then he said he wouldn’t talk about it. He said lots of folks would sooner tell folks my head wasn’t right than to own up they couldn’t see through it.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t say so,” returned Mrs. Emerson reproachfully. “You know better than that, I hope.”

“Yes, I do,” replied Mrs. Meserve. “I know you wouldn’t say so.”

“And I wouldn’t tell it to a soul if you didn’t want me to.”

“Well, I’d rather you wouldn’t.”

“I won’t speak of it even to Mr. Emerson.”

“I’d rather you wouldn’t even to him.”

“I won’t.”

Mrs. Emerson took up her dress skirt again; Mrs. Meserve hooked up another loop of blue wool. Then she begun:

“Of course,” said she, “I ain’t going to say positively that I believe or disbelieve in ghosts, but all I tell you is what I saw. I can’t explain it. I don’t pretend I can, for I can’t. If you can, well and good; I shall be glad, for it will stop tormenting me as it has done and always will otherwise. There hasn’t been a day nor a night since it happened that I haven’t thought of it, and always I have felt the shivers go down my back when I did.”

“That’s an awful feeling,” Mrs. Emerson said.

“Ain’t it? Well, it happened before I was married, when I was a girl and lived in East Wilmington. It was the first year I lived there. You know my family all died five years before that. I told you.”
Mrs. Emerson nodded.

“Well, I went there to teach school, and I went to board with a Mrs. Amelia Dennison and her sister, Mrs. Bird. Abby, her name was–Abby Bird. She was a widow; she had never had any children. She had a little money–Mrs. Dennison didn’t have any–and she had come to East Wilmington and bought the house they lived in. It was a real pretty house, though it was very old and run down. It had cost Mrs. Bird a good deal to put it in order. I guess that was the reason they took me to board. I guess they thought it would help along a little. I guess what I paid for my board about kept us all in victuals. Mrs. Bird had enough to live on if they were careful, but she had spent so much fixing up the old house that they must have been a little pinched for awhile.

“Anyhow, they took me to board, and I thought I was pretty lucky to get in there. I had a nice room, big and sunny and furnished pretty, the paper and paint all new, and everything as neat as wax. Mrs. Dennison was one of the best cooks I ever saw, and I had a little stove in my room, and there was always a nice fire there when I got home from school. I thought I hadn’t been in such a nice place since I lost my own home, until I had been there about three weeks.

“I had been there about three weeks before I found it out, though I guess it had been going on ever since they had been in the house, and that was most four months. They hadn’t said anything about it, and I didn’t wonder, for there they had just bought the house and been to so much expense and trouble fixing it up.

“Well, I went there in September. I begun my school the first Monday. I remember it was a real cold fall, there was a frost the middle of September, and I had to put on my winter coat. I remember when I came home that night (let me see, I began school on a Monday, and that was two weeks from the next Thursday), I took off my coat downstairs and laid it on the table in the front entry. It was a real nice coat–heavy black broadcloth trimmed with fur; I had had it the winter before. Mrs. Bird called after me as I went upstairs that I ought not to leave it in the front entry for fear somebody might come in and take it, but I only laughed and called back to her that I wasn’t afraid. I never was much afraid of burglars.

“Well, though it was hardly the middle of September, it was a real cold night. I remember my room faced west, and the sun was getting low, and the sky was a pale yellow and purple, just as you see it sometimes in the winter when there is going to be a cold snap. I rather think that was the night the frost came the first time. I know Mrs. Dennison covered up some flowers she had in the front yard, anyhow. I remember looking out and seeing an old green plaid shawl of hers over the verbena bed. There was a fire in my little wood-stove. Mrs. Bird made it, I know. She was a real motherly sort of woman; she always seemed to be the happiest when she was doing something to make other folks happy and comfortable. Mrs. Dennison told me she had always been so. She said she had coddled her husband within an inch of his life. ‘It’s lucky Abby never had any children,’ she said, ‘for she would have spoilt them.’

“Well, that night I sat down beside my nice little fire and ate an apple. There was a plate of nice apples on my table. Mrs. Bird put them there. I was always very fond of apples. Well, I sat down and ate an apple, and was having a beautiful time, and thinking how lucky I was to have got board in such a place with such nice folks, when I heard a queer little sound at my door. It was such a little hesitating sort of sound that it sounded more like a fumble than a knock, as if some one very timid, with very little hands, was feeling along the door, not quite daring to knock. For a minute I thought it was a mouse. But I waited and it came again, and then I made up my mind it was a knock, but a very little scared one, so I said, ‘Come in.’

“But nobody came in, and then presently I heard the knock again. Then I got up and opened the door, thinking it was very queer, and I had a frightened feeling without knowing why.

“Well, I opened the door, and the first thing I noticed was a draught of cold air, as if the front door downstairs was open, but there was a strange close smell about the cold draught. It smelled more like a cellar that had been shut up for years, than out-of- doors. Then I saw something. I saw my coat first. The thing that held it was so small that I couldn’t see much of anything else. Then I saw a little white face with eyes so scared and wishful that they seemed as if they might eat a hole in anybody’s heart. It was a dreadful little face, with something about it which made it different from any other face on earth, but it was so pitiful that somehow it did away a good deal with the dreadfulness. And there were two little hands spotted purple with the cold, holding up my winter coat, and a strange little far-away voice said: ‘I can’t find my mother.’

“‘For Heaven’s sake,’ I said, ‘who are you?’

“Then the little voice said again: ‘I can’t find my mother.’

“All the time I could smell the cold and I saw that it was about the child; that cold was clinging to her as if she had come out of some deadly cold place. Well, I took my coat, I did not know what else to do, and the cold was clinging to that. It was as cold as if it had come off ice. When I had the coat I could see the child more plainly. She was dressed in one little white garment made very simply. It was a nightgown, only very long, quite covering her feet, and I could see dimly through it her little thin body mottled purple with the cold. Her face did not look so cold; that was a clear waxen white. Her hair was dark, but it looked as if it might be dark only because it was so damp, almost wet, and might really be light hair. It clung very close to her forehead, which was round and white. She would have been very beautiful if she had not been so dreadful.

“‘Who are you?’ says I again, looking at her.

“She looked at me with her terrible pleading eyes and did not say anything.

“‘What are you?’ says I. Then she went away. She did not seem to run or walk like other children. She flitted, like one of those little filmy white butterflies, that don’t seem like real ones they are so light, and move as if they had no weight. But she looked back from the head of the stairs. ‘I can’t find my mother,’ said she, and I never heard such a voice.

“‘Who is your mother?’ says I, but she was gone.

“Well, I thought for a moment I should faint away. The room got dark and I heard a singing in my ears. Then I flung my coat onto the bed. My hands were as cold as ice from holding it, and I stood in my door, and called first Mrs. Bird and then Mrs. Dennison. I didn’t dare go down over the stairs where that had gone. It seemed to me I should go mad if I didn’t see somebody or something like other folks on the face of the earth. I thought I should never make anybody hear, but I could hear them stepping about downstairs, and I could smell biscuits baking for supper. Somehow the smell of those biscuits seemed the only natural thing left to keep me in my right mind. I didn’t dare go over those stairs. I just stood there and called, and finally I heard the entry door open and Mrs. Bird called back:

“‘What is it? Did you call, Miss Arms?’

“‘Come up here; come up here as quick as you can, both of you,’ I screamed out; ‘quick, quick, quick!’
“I heard Mrs. Bird tell Mrs. Dennison: ‘Come quick, Amelia, something is the matter in Miss Arms’ room.’ It struck me even then that she expressed herself rather queerly, and it struck me as very queer, indeed, when they both got upstairs and I saw that they knew what had happened, or that they knew of what nature the happening was.

“‘What is it, dear?’ asked Mrs. Bird, and her pretty, loving voice had a strained sound. I saw her look at Mrs. Dennison and I saw Mrs. Dennison look back at her.

“‘For God’s sake,’ says I, and I never spoke so before–’for God’s sake, what was it brought my coat upstairs?’

“‘What was it like?’ asked Mrs. Dennison in a sort of failing voice, and she looked at her sister again and her sister looked back at her.

“‘It was a child I have never seen here before. It looked like a child,’ says I, ‘but I never saw a child so dreadful, and it had on a nightgown, and said she couldn’t find her mother. Who was it? What was it?’
“I thought for a minute Mrs. Dennison was going to faint, but Mrs. Bird hung onto her and rubbed her hands, and whispered in her ear (she had the cooingest kind of voice), and I ran and got her a glass of cold water. I tell you it took considerable courage to go downstairs alone, but they had set a lamp on the entry table so I could see. I don’t believe I could have spunked up enough to have gone downstairs in the dark, thinking every second that child might be close to me. The lamp and the smell of the biscuits baking seemed to sort of keep my courage up, but I tell you I didn’t waste much time going down those stairs and out into the kitchen for a glass of water. I pumped as if the house was afire, and I grabbed the first thing I came across in the shape of a tumbler: it was a painted one that Mrs. Dennison’s Sunday school class gave her, and it was meant for a flower vase.

“Well, I filled it and then ran upstairs. I felt every minute as if something would catch my feet, and I held the glass to Mrs. Dennison’s lips, while Mrs. Bird held her head up, and she took a good long swallow, then she looked hard at the tumbler.

“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘I know I got this one, but I took the first I came across, and it isn’t hurt a mite.’

“‘Don’t get the painted flowers wet,’ says Mrs. Dennison very feebly, ‘they’ll wash off if you do.’

“‘I’ll be real careful,’ says I. I knew she set a sight by that painted tumbler.

“The water seemed to do Mrs. Dennison good, for presently she pushed Mrs. Bird away and sat up. She had been laying down on my bed.

“‘I’m all over it now,’ says she, but she was terribly white, and her eyes looked as if they saw something outside things. Mrs. Bird wasn’t much better, but she always had a sort of settled sweet, good look that nothing could disturb to any great extent. I knew I looked dreadful, for I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass, and I would hardly have known who it was.

“Mrs. Dennison, she slid off the bed and walked sort of tottery to a chair. ‘I was silly to give way so,’ says she.

“‘No, you wasn’t silly, sister,’ says Mrs. Bird. ‘I don’t know what this means any more than you do, but whatever it is, no one ought to be called silly for being overcome by anything so different from other things which we have known all our lives.’

“Mrs. Dennison looked at her sister, then she looked at me, then back at her sister again, and Mrs. Bird spoke as if she had been asked a question.

“‘Yes,’ says she, ‘I do think Miss Arms ought to be told–that is, I think she ought to be told all we know ourselves.’

“‘That isn’t much,’ said Mrs. Dennison with a dying-away sort of sigh. She looked as if she might faint away again any minute. She was a real delicate-looking woman, but it turned out she was a good deal stronger than poor Mrs. Bird.

“‘No, there isn’t much we do know,’ says Mrs. Bird, ‘but what little there is she ought to know. I felt as if she ought to when she first came here.’

“‘Well, I didn’t feel quite right about it,’ said Mrs. Dennison, ‘but I kept hoping it might stop, and any way, that it might never trouble her, and you had put so much in the house, and we needed the money, and I didn’t know but she might be nervous and think she couldn’t come, and I didn’t want to take a man boarder.’

“‘And aside from the money, we were very anxious to have you come, my dear,’ says Mrs. Bird.

“‘Yes,’ says Mrs. Dennison, ‘we wanted the young company in the house; we were lonesome, and we both of us took a great liking to you the minute we set eyes on you.’

“And I guess they meant what they said, both of them. They were beautiful women, and nobody could be any kinder to me than they were, and I never blamed them for not telling me before, and, as they said, there wasn’t really much to tell.

“They hadn’t any sooner fairly bought the house, and moved into it, than they began to see and hear things. Mrs. Bird said they were sitting together in the sitting-room one evening when they heard it the first time. She said her sister was knitting lace (Mrs. Dennison made beautiful knitted lace) and she was reading the Missionary Herald (Mrs. Bird was very much interested in mission work), when all of a sudden they heard something. She heard it first and she laid down her Missionary Herald and listened, and then Mrs. Dennison she saw her listening and she drops her lace. ‘What is it you are listening to, Abby?’ says she. Then it came again and they both heard, and the cold shivers went down their backs to hear it, though they didn’t know why. ‘It’s the cat, isn’t it?’ says Mrs. Bird.

“‘It isn’t any cat,’ says Mrs. Dennison.

“‘Oh, I guess it MUST be the cat; maybe she’s got a mouse,’ says Mrs. Bird, real cheerful, to calm down Mrs. Dennison, for she saw she was ‘most scared to death, and she was always afraid of her fainting away. Then she opens the door and calls, ‘Kitty, kitty, kitty!’ They had brought their cat with them in a basket when they came to East Wilmington to live. It was a real handsome tiger cat, a tommy, and he knew a lot.

“Well, she called ‘Kitty, kitty, kitty!’ and sure enough the kitty came, and when he came in the door he gave a big yawl that didn’t sound unlike what they had heard.

“‘There, sister, here he is; you see it was the cat,’ says Mrs. Bird. ‘Poor kitty!’

“But Mrs. Dennison she eyed the cat, and she give a great screech.

“‘What’s that? What’s that?’ says she.

“‘What’s what?’ says Mrs. Bird, pretending to herself that she didn’t see what her sister meant.

“‘Somethin’s got hold of that cat’s tail,’ says Mrs. Dennison. ‘Somethin’s got hold of his tail. It’s pulled straight out, an’ he can’t get away. Just hear him yawl!’

“‘It isn’t anything,’ says Mrs. Bird, but even as she said that she could see a little hand holding fast to that cat’s tail, and then the child seemed to sort of clear out of the dimness behind the hand, and the child was sort of laughing then, instead of looking sad, and she said that was a great deal worse. She said that laugh was the most awful and the saddest thing she ever heard.

“Well, she was so dumfounded that she didn’t know what to do, and she couldn’t sense at first that it was anything supernatural. She thought it must be one of the neighbour’s children who had run away and was making free of their house, and was teasing their cat, and that they must be just nervous to feel so upset by it. So she speaks up sort of sharp.

“‘Don’t you know that you mustn’t pull the kitty’s tail?’ says she. ‘Don’t you know you hurt the poor kitty, and she’ll scratch you if you don’t take care. Poor kitty, you mustn’t hurt her.’

“And with that she said the child stopped pulling that cat’s tail and went to stroking her just as soft and pitiful, and the cat put his back up and rubbed and purred as if he liked it. The cat never seemed a mite afraid, and that seemed queer, for I had always heard that animals were dreadfully afraid of ghosts; but then, that was a pretty harmless little sort of ghost.

“Well, Mrs. Bird said the child stroked that cat, while she and Mrs. Dennison stood watching it, and holding onto each other, for, no matter how hard they tried to think it was all right, it didn’t look right. Finally Mrs. Dennison she spoke.

“‘What’s your name, little girl?’ says she.

“Then the child looks up and stops stroking the cat, and says she can’t find her mother, just the way she said it to me. Then Mrs. Dennison she gave such a gasp that Mrs. Bird thought she was going to faint away, but she didn’t. ‘Well, who is your mother?’ says she. But the child just says again ‘I can’t find my mother–I can’t find my mother.’

“‘Where do you live, dear?’ says Mrs. Bird.

“‘I can’t find my mother,’ says the child.

“Well, that was the way it was. Nothing happened. Those two women stood there hanging onto each other, and the child stood in front of them, and they asked her questions, and everything she would say was: ‘I can’t find my mother.’

“Then Mrs. Bird tried to catch hold of the child, for she thought in spite of what she saw that perhaps she was nervous and it was a real child, only perhaps not quite right in its head, that had run away in her little nightgown after she had been put to bed.

“She tried to catch the child. She had an idea of putting a shawl around it and going out–she was such a little thing she could have carried her easy enough–and trying to find out to which of the neighbours she belonged. But the minute she moved toward the child there wasn’t any child there; there was only that little voice seeming to come from nothing, saying ‘I can’t find my mother,’ and presently that died away.

“Well, that same thing kept happening, or something very much the same. Once in awhile Mrs. Bird would be washing dishes, and all at once the child would be standing beside her with the dish-towel, wiping them. Of course, that was terrible. Mrs. Bird would wash the dishes all over. Sometimes she didn’t tell Mrs. Dennison, it made her so nervous. Sometimes when they were making cake they would find the raisins all picked over, and sometimes little sticks of kindling-wood would be found laying beside the kitchen stove. They never knew when they would come across that child, and always she kept saying over and over that she couldn’t find her mother. They never tried talking to her, except once in awhile Mrs. Bird would get desperate and ask her something, but the child never seemed to hear it; she always kept right on saying that she couldn’t find her mother.

“After they had told me all they had to tell about their experience with the child, they told me about the house and the people that had lived there before they did. It seemed something dreadful had happened in that house. And the land agent had never let on to them. I don’t think they would have bought it if he had, no matter how cheap it was, for even if folks aren’t really afraid of anything, they don’t want to live in houses where such dreadful things have happened that you keep thinking about them. I know after they told me I should never have stayed there another night, if I hadn’t thought so much of them, no matter how comfortable I was made; and I never was nervous, either. But I stayed. Of course, it didn’t happen in my room. If it had I could not have stayed.”

“What was it?” asked Mrs. Emerson in an awed voice.

“It was an awful thing. That child had lived in the house with her father and mother two years before. They had come–or the father had–from a real good family. He had a good situation: he was a drummer for a big leather house in the city, and they lived real pretty, with plenty to do with. But the mother was a real wicked woman. She was as handsome as a picture, and they said she came from good sort of people enough in Boston, but she was bad clean through, though she was real pretty spoken and most everybody liked her. She used to dress out and make a great show, and she never seemed to take much interest in the child, and folks began to say she wasn’t treated right.

“The woman had a hard time keeping a girl. For some reason one wouldn’t stay. They would leave and then talk about her awfully, telling all kinds of things. People didn’t believe it at first; then they began to. They said that the woman made that little thing, though she wasn’t much over five years old, and small and babyish for her age, do most of the work, what there was done; they said the house used to look like a pig-sty when she didn’t have help. They said the little thing used to stand on a chair and wash dishes, and they’d seen her carrying in sticks of wood most as big as she was many a time, and they’d heard her mother scolding her. The woman was a fine singer, and had a voice like a screech-owl when she scolded.

“The father was away most of the time, and when that happened he had been away out West for some weeks. There had been a married man hanging about the mother for some time, and folks had talked some; but they weren’t sure there was anything wrong, and he was a man very high up, with money, so they kept pretty still for fear he would hear of it and make trouble for them, and of course nobody was sure, though folks did say afterward that the father of the child had ought to have been told.

“But that was very easy to say; it wouldn’t have been so easy to find anybody who would have been willing to tell him such a thing as that, especially when they weren’t any too sure. He set his eyes by his wife, too. They said all he seemed to think of was to earn money to buy things to deck her out in. And he about worshiped the child, too. They said he was a real nice man. The men that are treated so bad mostly are real nice men. I’ve always noticed that.

“Well, one morning that man that there had been whispers about was missing. He had been gone quite a while, though, before they really knew that he was missing, because he had gone away and told his wife that he had to go to New York on business and might be gone a week, and not to worry if he didn’t get home, and not to worry if he didn’t write, because he should be thinking from day to day that he might take the next train home and there would be no use in writing. So the wife waited, and she tried not to worry until it was two days over the week, then she run into a neighbour’s and fainted dead away on the floor; and then they made inquiries and found out that he had skipped–with some money that didn’t belong to him, too.

“Then folks began to ask where was that woman, and they found out by comparing notes that nobody had seen her since the man went away; but three or four women remembered that she had told them that she thought of taking the child and going to Boston to visit her folks, so when they hadn’t seen her around, and the house shut, they jumped to the conclusion that was where she was. They were the neighbours that lived right around her, but they didn’t have much to do with her, and she’d gone out of her way to tell them about her Boston plan, and they didn’t make much reply when she did.

“Well, there was this house shut up, and the man and woman missing and the child. Then all of a sudden one of the women that lived the nearest remembered something. She remembered that she had waked up three nights running, thinking she heard a child crying somewhere, and once she waked up her husband, but he said it must be the Bisbees’ little girl, and she thought it must be. The child wasn’t well and was always crying. It used to have colic spells, especially at night. So she didn’t think any more about it until this came up, then all of a sudden she did think of it. She told what she had heard, and finally folks began to think they had better enter that house and see if there was anything wrong.
“Well, they did enter it, and they found that child dead, locked in one of the rooms. (Mrs. Dennison and Mrs. Bird never used that room; it was a back bedroom on the second floor.)

“Yes, they found that poor child there, starved to death, and frozen, though they weren’t sure she had frozen to death, for she was in bed with clothes enough to keep her pretty warm when she was alive. But she had been there a week, and she was nothing but skin and bone. It looked as if the mother had locked her into the house when she went away, and told her not to make any noise for fear the neighbours would hear her and find out that she herself had gone.

“Mrs. Dennison said she couldn’t really believe that the woman had meant to have her own child starved to death. Probably she thought the little thing would raise somebody, or folks would try to get in the house and find her. Well, whatever she thought, there the child was, dead.

“But that wasn’t all. The father came home, right in the midst of it; the child was just buried, and he was beside himself. And–he went on the track of his wife, and he found her, and he shot her dead; it was in all the papers at the time; then he disappeared. Nothing had been seen of him since. Mrs. Dennison said that she thought he had either made way with himself or got out of the country, nobody knew, but they did know there was something wrong with the house.

“‘I knew folks acted queer when they asked me how I liked it when we first came here,’ says Mrs. Dennison, ‘but I never dreamed why till we saw the child that night.’

“I never heard anything like it in my life,” said Mrs. Emerson, staring at the other woman with awestruck eyes.

“I thought you’d say so,” said Mrs. Meserve. “You don’t wonder that I ain’t disposed to speak light when I hear there is anything queer about a house, do you?”

“No, I don’t, after that,” Mrs. Emerson said.

“But that ain’t all,” said Mrs. Meserve.

“Did you see it again?” Mrs. Emerson asked.

“Yes, I saw it a number of times before the last time. It was lucky I wasn’t nervous, or I never could have stayed there, much as I liked the place and much as I thought of those two women; they were beautiful women, and no mistake. I loved those women. I hope Mrs. Dennison will come and see me sometime.

“Well, I stayed, and I never knew when I’d see that child. I got so I was very careful to bring everything of mine upstairs, and not leave any little thing in my room that needed doing, for fear she would come lugging up my coat or hat or gloves or I’d find things done when there’d been no live being in the room to do them. I can’t tell you how I dreaded seeing her; and worse than the seeing her was the hearing her say, ‘I can’t find my mother.’ It was enough to make your blood run cold. I never heard a living child cry for its mother that was anything so pitiful as that dead one. It was enough to break your heart.

“She used to come and say that to Mrs. Bird oftener than to any one else. Once I heard Mrs. Bird say she wondered if it was possible that the poor little thing couldn’t really find her mother in the other world, she had been such a wicked woman.

“But Mrs. Dennison told her she didn’t think she ought to speak so nor even think so, and Mrs. Bird said she shouldn’t wonder if she was right. Mrs. Bird was always very easy to put in the wrong. She was a good woman, and one that couldn’t do things enough for other folks. It seemed as if that was what she lived on. I don’t think she was ever so scared by that poor little ghost, as much as she pitied it, and she was ‘most heartbroken because she couldn’t do anything for it, as she could have done for a live child.

“‘It seems to me sometimes as if I should die if I can’t get that awful little white robe off that child and get her in some clothes and feed her and stop her looking for her mother,’ I heard her say once, and she was in earnest. She cried when she said it. That wasn’t long before she died.
“Now I am coming to the strangest part of it all. Mrs. Bird died very sudden. One morning–it was Saturday, and there wasn’t any school–I went downstairs to breakfast, and Mrs. Bird wasn’t there; there was nobody but Mrs. Dennison. She was pouring out the coffee when I came in. ‘Why, where’s Mrs. Bird?’ says I.

“‘Abby ain’t feeling very well this morning,’ says she; ‘there isn’t much the matter, I guess, but she didn’t sleep very well, and her head aches, and she’s sort of chilly, and I told her I thought she’d better stay in bed till the house gets warm.’ It was a very cold morning.

“‘Maybe she’s got cold,’ says I.

“‘Yes, I guess she has,’ says Mrs. Dennison. ‘I guess she’s got cold. She’ll be up before long. Abby ain’t one to stay in bed a minute longer than she can help.’

“Well, we went on eating our breakfast, and all at once a shadow flickered across one wall of the room and over the ceiling the way a shadow will sometimes when somebody passes the window outside. Mrs. Dennison and I both looked up, then out of the window; then Mrs. Dennison she gives a scream.
“‘Why, Abby’s crazy!’ says she. ‘There she is out this bitter cold morning, and–and–’ She didn’t finish, but she meant the child. For we were both looking out, and we saw, as plain as we ever saw anything in our lives, Mrs. Abby Bird walking off over the white snow-path with that child holding fast to her hand, nestling close to her as if she had found her own mother.

“‘She’s dead,’ says Mrs. Dennison, clutching hold of me hard. ‘She’s dead; my sister is dead!’
“She was. We hurried upstairs as fast as we could go, and she was dead in her bed, and smiling as if she was dreaming, and one arm and hand was stretched out as if something had hold of it; and it couldn’t be straightened even at the last–it lay out over her casket at the funeral.”

“Was the child ever seen again?” asked Mrs. Emerson in a shaking voice.

“No,” replied Mrs. Meserve; “that child was never seen again after she went out of the yard with Mrs. Bird.”

Day 37 of Halloween: "The Raven" By Edgar Allen Poe

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
                Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
                Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
                This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
                Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
                Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
                'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
                Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
                Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
                She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Halloween Day 38: "The Empty House" by Algernon Blackwood

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Certain houses, like certain persons, manage somehow to proclaim at once their character for evil. In the case of the latter, no particular feature need betray them; they may boast an open countenance and an ingenuous smile; and yet a little of their company leaves the unalterable conviction that there is something radically amiss with their being: that they are evil. Willy nilly, they seem to communicate an atmosphere of secret and wicked thoughts which makes those in their immediate neighbourhood shrink from them as from a thing diseased.

And, perhaps, with houses the same principle is operative, and it is the aroma of evil deeds committed under a particular roof, long after the actual doers have passed away, that makes the gooseflesh come and the hair rise. Something of the original passion of the evil-doer, and of the horror felt by his victim, enters the heart of the innocent watcher, and he becomes suddenly conscious of tingling nerves, creeping skin, and a chilling of the blood. He is terror-stricken without apparent cause.

There was manifestly nothing in the external appearance of this particular house to bear out the tales of the horror that was said to reign within. It was neither lonely nor unkempt. It stood, crowded into a corner of the square, and looked exactly like the houses on either side of it. It had the same number of windows as its neighbours; the same balcony overlooking the gardens; the same white steps leading up to the heavy black front door; and, in the rear, there was the same narrow strip of green, with neat box borders, running up to the wall that divided it from the backs of the adjoining houses. Apparently, too, the number of chimney pots on the roof was the same; the breadth and angle of the eaves; and even the height of the dirty area railings.

And yet this house in the square, that seemed precisely similar to its fifty ugly neighbours, was as a matter of fact entirely different—horribly different.

Wherein lay this marked, invisible difference is impossible to say. It cannot be ascribed wholly to the imagination, because persons who had spent some time in the house, knowing nothing of the facts, had declared positively that certain rooms were so disagreeable they would rather die than enter them again, and that the atmosphere of the whole house produced in them symptoms of a genuine terror; while the series of innocent tenants who had tried to live in it and been forced to decamp at the shortest possible notice, was indeed little less than a scandal in the town.

When Shorthouse arrived to pay a “week-end” visit to his Aunt Julia in her little house on the sea-front at the other end of the town, he found her charged to the brim with mystery and excitement. He had only received her telegram that morning, and he had come anticipating boredom; but the moment he touched her hand and kissed her apple-skin wrinkled cheek, he caught the first wave of her electrical condition. The impression deepened when he learned that there were to be no other visitors, and that he had been telegraphed for with a very special object.

Something was in the wind, and the “something” would doubtless bear fruit; for this elderly spinster aunt, with a mania for psychical research, had brains as well as will power, and by hook or by crook she usually managed to accomplish her ends. The revelation was made soon after tea, when she sidled close up to him as they paced slowly along the sea-front in the dusk.

“I’ve got the keys,” she announced in a delighted, yet half awesome voice. “Got them till Monday!”
“The keys of the bathing-machine, or?” he asked innocently, looking from the sea to the town. Nothing brought her so quickly to the point as feigning stupidity.

“Neither,” she whispered. “I’ve got the keys of the haunted house in the square—and I’m going there to-night.”

Shorthouse was conscious of the slightest possible tremor down his back. He dropped his teasing tone. Something in her voice and manner thrilled him. She was in earnest.

“But you can’t go alone”” he began.

“That’s why I wired for you,” she said with decision.

He turned to look at her. The ugly, lined, enigmatical face was alive with excitement. There was the glow of genuine enthusiasm round it like a halo. The eyes shone. He caught another wave of her excitement, and a second tremor, more marked than the first, accompanied it.

“Thanks, Aunt Julia,” he said politely; “thanks awfully.”

“I should not dare to go quite alone,” she went on, raising her voice; “but with you I should enjoy it immensely. You’re afraid of nothing, I know.”

“Thanks so much,” he said again. “is anything likely to happen?”

“A great deal has happened,” she whispered, “though it’s been most cleverly hushed up. Three tenants have come and gone in the last few months, and the house is said to be empty for good now.”
In spite of himself Shorthouse became interested. His aunt was so very much in earnest.

“The house is very old indeed,” she went on, “and the storyan unpleasant one dates a long way back. It has to do with a murder committed by a jealous stableman who had some affair with a servant in the house. One night he managed to secrete himself in the cellar, and when everyone was asleep, he crept upstairs to the servants’ quarters, chased the girl down to the next landing, and before anyone could come to the rescue threw her bodily over the banisters into the hall below.”

“And the stableman?”

“Was caught, I believe, and hanged for murder; but it all happened a century ago, and I’ve not been able to get more details of the story.”

Shorthouse now felt his interest thoroughly aroused; but, though he was not particularly nervous for himself, he hesitated a little on his aunt’s account.

“On one condition,” he said at length.

“Nothing will prevent my going,” she said firmly; “but I may as well hear your condition.”

“That you guarantee your power of self-control if anything really horrible happens. I mean that you are sure you won’t get too frightened.”

“Jim,” she said scornfully, “I’m not young, I know, nor are my nerves; but with you I should be afraid of nothing in the world!”

This, of course, settled it, for Shorthouse had no pretensions to being other than a very ordinary young man, and an appeal to his vanity was irresistible. He agreed to go.

Instinctively, by a sort of sub-conscious preparation, he kept himself and his forces well in hand the whole evening, compelling an accumulative reserve of control by that nameless inward process of gradually putting all the emotions away and turning the key upon them a process difficult to describe, but wonderfully effective, as all men who have lived through severe trials of the inner man well understand. Later, it stood him in good stead.

But it was not until half-past ten, when they stood in the hall, well in the glare of friendly lamps and still surrounded by comforting human influences, that he had to make the first call upon this store of collected strength. For, once the door was closed, and he saw the deserted silent street stretching away white in the moonlight before them, it came to him clearly that the real test that night would be in dealing with two fears instead of one. He would have to carry his aunt’s fear as well as his own. And, as he glanced down at her sphinx-like countenance and realised that it might assume no pleasant aspect in a rush of real terror, he felt satisfied with only one thing in the whole adventure that he had confidence in his own will and power to stand against any shock that might come.

Slowly they walked along the empty streets of the town; a bright autumn moon silvered the roofs, casting deep shadows; there was no breath of wind; and the trees in the formal gardens by the sea-front watched them silently as they passed along. To his aunt’s occasional remarks Shorthouse made no reply, realising that she was simply surrounding herself with mental buffers saying ordinary things to prevent herself thinking of extra-ordinary things. Few windows showed lights, and from scarcely a single chimney came smoke or sparks. Shorthouse had already begun to notice everything, even the smallest details. Presently they stopped at the street corner and looked up at the name on the side of the house full in the moonlight, and with one accord, but without remark, turned into the square and crossed over to the side of it that lay in shadow.

“The number of the house is thirteen,” whispered a voice at his side; and neither of them made the obvious reference, but passed across the broad sheet of moonlight and began to march up the pavement in silence.

It was about half-way up the square that Shorthouse felt an arm slipped quietly but significantly into his own, and knew then that their adventure had begun in earnest, and that his companion was already yielding imperceptibly to the influences against them. She needed support.

A few minutes later they stopped before a tall, narrow house that rose before them into the night, ugly in shape and painted a dingy white. Shutterless windows, without blinds, stared down upon them, shining here and there in the moonlight. There were weather streaks in the wall and cracks in the paint, and the balcony bulged out from the first floor a little unnaturally. But, beyond this generally forlorn appearance of an unoccupied house, there was nothing at first sight to single out this particular mansion for the evil character it had most certainly acquired.

Taking a look over their shoulders to make sure they had not been followed, they went boldly up the steps and stood against the huge black door that fronted them forbiddingly. But the first wave of nervousness was now upon them, and Shorthouse fumbled a long time with the key before he could fit it into the lock at all. For a moment, if truth were told, they both hoped it would not open, for they were a prey to various unpleasant emotions as they stood there on the threshold of their ghostly adventure. Shorthouse, shuffling with the key and hampered by the steady weight on his arm, certainly felt the solemnity of the moment. It was as if the whole world for all experience seemed at that instant concentrated in his own consciousness were listening to the grating noise of that key. A stray puff of wind wandering down the empty street woke a momentary rustling in the trees behind them, but otherwise this rattling of the key was the only sound audible; and at last it turned in the lock and the heavy door swung open and revealed a yawning gulf of darkness beyond.

With a last glance at the moonlit square, they passed quickly in, and the door slammed behind them with a roar that echoed prodigiously through empty halls and passages. But, instantly, with the echoes, another sound made itself heard, and Aunt Julia leaned suddenly so heavily upon him that he had to take a step backwards to save himself from falling.

A man had coughed close beside them so close that it seemed they must have been actually by his side in the darkness.

With the possibility of practical jokes in his mind, Shorthouse at once swung his heavy stick in the direction of the sound; but it met nothing more solid than air. He heard his aunt give a little gasp beside him.

“There’s someone here,” she whispered; “I heard him.”

“Be quiet!” he said sternly. “It was nothing but the noise of the front door.”

“Oh! get a light quick!” she added, as her nephew, fumbling with a box of matches, opened it upside down and let them all fall with a rattle on to the stone floor.

The sound, however, was not repeated; and there was no evidence of retreating footsteps. In another minute they had a candle burning, using an empty end of a cigar case as a holder; and when the first flare had died down he held the impromptu lamp aloft and surveyed the scene. And it was dreary enough in all conscience, for there is nothing more desolate in all the abodes of men than an unfurnished house dimly lit, silent, and forsaken, and yet tenanted by rumour with the memories of evil and violent histories.

They were standing in a wide hall-way; on their left was the open door of a spacious dining-room, and in front the hall ran, ever narrowing, into a long, dark passage that led apparently to the top of the kitchen stairs. The broad uncarpeted staircase rose in a sweep before them, everywhere draped in shadows, except for a single spot about half-way up where the moonlight came in through the window and fell on a bright patch on the boards. This shaft of light shed a faint radiance above and below it, lending to the objects within its reach a misty outline that was infinitely more suggestive and ghostly than complete darkness. Filtered moonlight always seems to paint faces on the surrounding gloom, and as Shorthouse peered up into the well of darkness and thought of the countless empty rooms and passages in the upper part of the old house, he caught himself longing again for the safety of the moonlit square, or the cosy, bright drawing-room they had left an hour before. Then realising that these thoughts were dangerous, he thrust them away again and summoned all his energy for concentration on the present.

“Aunt Julia,” he said aloud, severely, “we must now go through the house from top to bottom and make a thorough search.”

The echoes of his voice died away slowly all over the building, and in the intense silence that followed he turned to look at her. In the candle-light he saw that her face was already ghastly pale; but she dropped his arm for a moment and said in a whisper, stepping close in front of him
“I agree. We must be sure there’s no one hiding. That’s the first thing.”

She spoke with evident effort, and he looked at her with admiration.

“You feel quite sure of yourself? It’s not too late—”

“I think so,” she whispered, her eyes shifting nervously toward the shadows behind. “Quite sure, only one thing”

“What’s that?”

“You must never leave me alone for an instant.”

“As long as you understand that any sound or appearance must be investigated at once, for to hesitate means to admit fear. That is fatal.”

“Agreed,” she said, a little shakily, after a moment’s hesitation. “I’ll try”

Arm in arm, Shorthouse holding the dripping candle and the stick, while his aunt carried the cloak over her shoulders, figures of utter comedy to all but themselves, they began a systematic search.
Stealthily, walking on tip-toe and shading the candle lest it should betray their presence through the shutterless windows, they went first into the big dining-room. There was not a stick of furniture to be seen. Bare walls, ugly mantel-pieces and empty grates stared at them. Everything, they felt, resented their intrusion, watching them, as it were, with veiled eyes; whispers followed them; shadows flitted noiselessly to right and left; something seemed ever at their back, watching, waiting an opportunity to do them injury. There was the inevitable sense that operations which went on when the room was empty had been temporarily suspended till they were well out of the way again. The whole dark interior of the old building seemed to become a malignant Presence that rose up, warning them to desist and mind their own business; every moment the strain on the nerves increased.

Out of the gloomy dining-room they passed through large folding doors into a sort of library or smoking-room, wrapt equally in silence, darkness, and dust; and from this they regained the hall near the top of the back stairs.

Here a pitch black tunnel opened before them into the lower regions, and it must be confessed they hesitated. But only for a minute. With the worst of the night still to come it was essential to turn from nothing. Aunt Julia stumbled at the top step of the dark descent, ill lit by the flickering candle, and even Shorthouse felt at least half the decision go out of his legs.

“Come on!” he said peremptorily, and his voice ran on and lost itself in the dark, empty spaces below.
“I’m coming,” she faltered, catching his arm with unnecessary violence.

They went a little unsteadily down the stone steps, a cold, damp air meeting them in the face, close and mal-odorous. The kitchen, into which the stairs led along a narrow passage, was large, with a lofty ceiling. Several doors opened out of it—some into cupboards with empty jars still standing on the shelves, and others into horrible little ghostly back offices, each colder and less inviting than the last. Black beetles scurried over the floor, and once, when they knocked against a deal table standing in a corner, something about the size of a cat jumped down with a rush and fled, scampering across the stone floor into the darkness. Everywhere there was a sense of recent occupation, an impression of sadness and gloom.

Leaving the main kitchen, they next went towards the scullery. The door was standing ajar, and as they pushed it open to its full extent Aunt Julia uttered a piercing scream, which she instantly tried to stifle by placing her hand over her mouth. For a second Shorthouse stood stock-still, catching his breath. He felt as if his spine had suddenly become hollow and someone had filled it with particles of ice.

Facing them, directly in their way between the doorposts, stood the figure of a woman. She had dishevelled hair and wildly staring eyes, and her face was terrified and white as death.
She stood there motionless for the space of a single second. Then the candle flickered and she was gone—gone utterly—and the door framed nothing but empty darkness.

“Only the beastly jumping candle-light,” he said quickly, in a voice that sounded like someone else’s and was only half under control. “Come on, aunt. There’s nothing there.”

He dragged her forward. With a clattering of feet and a great appearance of boldness they went on, but over his body the skin moved as if crawling ants covered it, and he knew by the weight on his arm that he was supplying the force of locomotion for two. The scullery was cold, bare, and empty; more like a large prison cell than anything else. They went round it, tried the door into the yard, and the windows, but found them all fastened securely.His aunt moved beside him like a person in a dream. Her eyes were tightly shut, and she seemed merely to follow the pressure of his arm. Her courage filled him with amazement. At the same time he noticed that a certain odd change had come over her face, a change which somehow evaded his power of analysis.

“There’s nothing here, aunty,” he repeated aloud quickly. “Let’s go upstairs and see the rest of the house. Then we’ll choose a room to wait up in.”

She followed him obediently, keeping close to his side, and they locked the kitchen door behind them. It was a relief to get up again. In the hall there was more light than before, for the moon had travelled a little further down the stairs. Cautiously they began to go up into the dark vault of the upper house, the boards creaking under their weight.

On the first floor they found the large double drawing-rooms, a search of which revealed nothing. Here also was no sign of furniture or recent occupancy; nothing but dust and neglect and shadows. They opened the big folding doors between front and back drawing-rooms and then came out again to the landing and went on upstairs.

They had not gone up more than a dozen steps when they both simultaneously stopped to listen, looking into each other’s eyes with a new apprehension across the flickering candle flame. From the room they had left hardly ten seconds before came the sound of doors quietly closing. It was beyond all question; they heard the booming noise that accompanies the shutting of heavy doors, followed by the sharp catching of the latch.

“We must go back and see,” said Shorthouse briefly, in a low tone, and turning to go downstairs again.

Somehow she managed to drag after him, her feet catching in her dress, her face livid.
When they entered the front drawing-room it was plain that the folding doors had been closed half a minute before. Without hesitation Shorthouse opened them. He almost expected to see someone facing him in the back room; but only darkness and cold air met him. They went through both rooms, finding nothing unusual. They tried in every way to make the doors close of themselves, but there was not wind enough even to set the candle flame flickering. The doors would not move without strong pressure. All was silent as the grave. Undeniably the rooms were utterly empty, and the house utterly still.

“It’s beginning,” whispered a voice at his elbow which he hardly recognised as his aunt’s.

He nodded acquiescence, taking out his watch to note the time. It was fifteen minutes before midnight; he made the entry of exactly what had occurred in his notebook, setting the candle in its case upon the floor in order to do so. It took a moment or two to balance it safely against the wall.
Aunt Julia always declared that at this moment she was not actually watching him, but had turned her head towards the inner room, where she fancied she heard something moving; but, at any rate, both positively agreed that there came a sound of rushing feet, heavy and very swift—and the next instant the candle was out!

But to Shorthouse himself had come more than this, and he has always thanked his fortunate stars that it came to him alone and not to his aunt too. For, as he rose from the stooping position of balancing the candle, and before it was actually extinguished, a face thrust itself forward so close to his own that he could almost have touched it with his lips. It was a face working with passion; a man’s face, dark, with thick features, and angry, savage eyes. It belonged to a common man, and it was evil in its ordinary normal expression, no doubt, but as he saw it, alive with intense, aggressive emotion, it was a malignant and terrible human countenance.

There was no movement of the air; nothing but the sound of rushing feet stockinged or muffled feet; the apparition of the face; and the almost simultaneous extinguishing of the candle.

In spite of himself, Shorthouse uttered a little cry, nearly losing his balance as his aunt clung to him with her whole weight in one moment of real, uncontrollable terror. She made no sound, but simply seized him bodily. Fortunately, however, she had seen nothing, but had only heard the rushing feet, for her control returned almost at once, and he was able to disentangle himself and strike a match.
The shadows ran away on all sides before the glare, and his aunt stooped down and groped for the cigar case with the precious candle. Then they discovered that the candle had not been blown out at all; it had been crushedout. The wick was pressed down into the wax, which was flattened as if by some smooth, heavy instrument.

How his companion so quickly overcame her terror, Shorthouse never properly understood; but his admiration for her self-control increased tenfold, and at the same time served to feed his own dying flame—for which he was undeniably grateful. Equally inexplicable to him was the evidence of physical force they had just witnessed. He at once suppressed the memory of stories he had heard of “physical mediums” and their dangerous phenomena; for if these were true, and either his aunt or himself was unwittingly a physical medium, it meant that they were simply aiding to focus the forces of a haunted house already charged to the brim. It was like walking with unprotected lamps among uncovered stores of gun-powder.
 
So, with as little reflection as possible, he simply relit the candle and went up to the next floor. The arm in his trembled, it is true, and his own tread was often uncertain, but they went on with thoroughness, and after a search revealing nothing they climbed the last flight of stairs to the top floor of all.

Here they found a perfect nest of small servants’ rooms, with broken pieces of furniture, dirty cane-bottomed chairs, chests of drawers, cracked mirrors, and decrepit bedsteads. The rooms had low sloping ceilings already hung here and there with cobwebs, small windows, and badly plastered walls a depressing and dismal region which they were glad to leave behind.

It was on the stroke of midnight when they entered a small room on the third floor, close to the top of the stairs, and arranged to make themselves comfortable for the remainder of their adventure. It was absolutely bare, and was said to be the room then used as a clothes closet into which the infuriated groom had chased his victim and finally caught her. Outside, across the narrow landing, began the stairs leading up to the floor above, and the servants’ quarters where they had just searched.

In spite of the chilliness of the night there was something in the air of this room that cried for an open window. But there was more than this. Shorthouse could only describe it by saying that he felt less master of himself here than in any other part of the house. There was something that acted directly on the nerves, tiring the resolution, enfeebling the will. He was conscious of this result before he had been in the room five minutes, and it was in the short time they stayed there that he suffered the wholesale depletion of his vital forces, which was, for himself, the chief horror of the whole experience.

They put the candle on the floor of the cupboard, leaving the door a few inches ajar, so that there was no glare to confuse the eyes, and no shadow to shift about on walls and ceiling. Then they spread the cloak on the floor and sat down to wait, with their backs against the wall.

Shorthouse was within two feet of the door on to the landing; his position commanded a good view of the main staircase leading down into the darkness, and also of the beginning of the servants’ stairs going to the floor above; the heavy stick lay beside him within easy reach.

The moon was now high above the house. Through the open window they could see the comforting stars like friendly eyes watching in the sky. One by one the clocks of the town struck midnight, and when the sounds died away the deep silence of a windless night fell again over everything. Only the boom of the sea, far away and lugubrious, filled the air with hollow murmurs.

Inside the house the silence became awful; awful, he thought, because any minute now it might be broken by sounds portending terror. The strain of waiting told more and more severely on the nerves; they talked in whispers when they talked at all, for their voices aloud sounded queer and unnatural. A chilliness, not altogether due to the night air, invaded the room, and made them cold. The influences against them, whatever these might be, were slowly robbing them of self-confidence, and the power of decisive action; their forces were on the wane, and the possibility of real fear took on a new and terrible meaning. He began to tremble for the elderly woman by his side, whose pluck could hardly save her beyond a certain extent.

He heard the blood singing in his veins. It sometimes seemed so loud that he fancied it prevented his hearing properly certain other sounds that were beginning very faintly to make themselves audible in the depths of the house. Every time he fastened his attention on these sounds, they instantly ceased. They certainly came no nearer. Yet he could not rid himself of the idea that movement was going on somewhere in the lower regions of the house. The drawing-room floor, where the doors had been so strangely closed, seemed too near; the sounds were further off than that. He thought of the great kitchen, with the scurrying black-beetles, and of the dismal littlescullery; but, somehow or other, they did not seem to come from there either. Surely they were not outside the house!

Then, suddenly, the truth flashed into his mind, and for the space of a minute he felt as if his blood had stopped flowing and turned to ice.

The sounds were not downstairs at all; they were upstairsupstairs, somewhere among those horrid gloomy little servants’ rooms with their bits of broken furniture, low ceilings, and cramped windows upstairs where the victim had first been disturbed and stalked to her death.
And the moment he discovered where the sounds were, he began to hear them more clearly. It was the sound of feet, moving stealthily along the passage overhead, in and out among the rooms, and past the furniture.

He turned quickly to steal a glance at the motionless figure seated beside him, to note whether she had shared his discovery. The faint candle-light coming through the crack in the cupboard door, threw her strongly-marked face into vivid relief against the white of the wall. But it was something else that made him catch his breath and stare again. An extraordinary something had come into her face and seemed to spread over her features like a mask; it smoothed out the deep lines and drew the skin everywhere a little tighter so that the wrinkles disappeared; it brought into the face—with the sole exception of the old eyes—an appearance of youth and almost of childhood.

He stared in speechless amazement—amazement that was dangerously near to horror. It was his aunt’s face indeed, but it was her face of forty years ago, the vacant innocent face of a girl. He had heard stories of that strange effect of terror which could wipe a human countenance clean of other emotions, obliterating all previous expressions; but he had never realised that it could be literally true, or could mean anything so simply horrible as what he now saw. For the dreadful signature of overmastering fear was written plainly in that utter vacancy of the girlish face beside him; and when, feeling his intense gaze, she turned to look at him, he instinctively closed his eyes tightly to shut out the sight.

Yet, when he turned a minute later, his feelings well in hand, he saw to his intense relief another expression; his aunt was smiling, and though the face was deathly white, the awful veil had lifted and the normal look was returning.

“Anything wrong?” was all he could think of to say at the moment. And the answer was eloquent, coming from such a woman.

“I feel cold and a little frightened,” she whispered.

He offered to close the window, but she seized hold of him and begged him not to leave her side even for an instant.

“It’s upstairs, I know,” she whispered, with an odd half laugh; “but I can’t possibly go up.”

But Shorthouse thought otherwise, knowing that in action lay their best hope of self-control.

He took the brandy flask and poured out a glass of neat spirit, stiff enough to help anybody over anything. She swallowed it with a little shiver. His only idea now was to get out of the house before her collapse became inevitable; but this could not safely be done by turning tail and running from the enemy. Inaction was no longer possible; every minute he was growing less master of himself, and desperate, aggressive measures were imperative without further delay. Moreover, the action must be taken towards the enemy, not away from it; the climax, if necessary and unavoidable, would have to be faced boldly. He could do it now; but in ten minutes he might not have the force left to act for himself, much less for both!

Upstairs, the sounds were meanwhile becoming louder and closer, accompanied by occasional creaking of the boards. Someone was moving stealthily about, stumbling now and then awkwardly against the furniture.

Waiting a few moments to allow the tremendous dose of spirits to produce its effect, and knowing this would last but a short time under the circumstances, Shorthouse then quietly got on his feet, saying in a determined voice.

“Now, Aunt Julia, we’ll go upstairs and find out what all this noise is about. You must come too. It’s what we agreed.”

He picked up his stick and went to the cupboard for the candle. A limp form rose shakily beside him breathing hard, and he heard a voice say very faintly something about being “ready to come.” The woman’s courage amazed him; it was so much greater than his own; and, as they advanced, holding aloft the dripping candle, some subtle force exhaled from this trembling, white-faced old woman at his side that was the true source of his inspiration. It held something really great that shamed him and gave him the support without which he would have proved far less equal to the occasion.

They crossed the dark landing, avoiding with their eyes the deep black space over the banisters. Then they began to mount the narrow staircase to meet the sounds which, minute by minute, grew louder and nearer. About half-way up the stairs Aunt Julia stumbled and Shorthouse turned to catch her by the arm, and just at that moment there came a terrific crash in the servants’ corridor overhead. It was instantly followed by a shrill, agonised scream that was a cry of terror and a cry for help melted into one.

Before they could move aside, or go down a single step, someone came rushing along the passage overhead, blundering horribly, racing madly, at full speed, three steps at a time, down the very staircase where they stood. The steps were light and uncertain; but close behind them sounded the heavier tread of another person, and the staircase seemed to shake.

Shorthouse and his companion just had time to flatten themselves against the wall when the jumble of flying steps was upon them, and two persons, with the slightest possible interval between them, dashed past at full speed. It was a perfect whirlwind of sound breaking in upon the midnight silence of the empty building.

The two runners, pursuer and pursued, had passed clean through them where they stood, and already with a thud the boards below had received first one, then the other. Yet they had seen absolutely nothing—not a hand, or arm, or face, or even a shred of flying clothing.

There came a second’s pause. Then the first one, the lighter of the two, obviously the pursued one, ran with uncertain footsteps into the little room which Shorthouse and his aunt had just left. The heavier one followed. There was a sound of scuffling, gasping, and smothered screaming; and then out on to the landing came the step—of a single person treading weightily.

A dead silence followed for the space of half a minute, and then was heard a rushing sound through the air. It was followed by a dull, crashing thud in the depths of the house below on the stone floor of the hall.

Utter silence reigned after. Nothing moved. The flame of the candle was steady. It had been steady the whole time, and the air had been undisturbed by any movement whatsoever. Palsied with terror, Aunt Julia, without waiting for her companion, began fumbling her way downstairs; she was crying gently to herself, and when Shorthouse put his arm round her and half carried her he felt that she was trembling like a leaf. He went into the little room and picked up the cloak from the floor, and, arm in arm, walking very slowly, without speaking a word or looking once behind them, they marched down the three flights into the hall.

In the hall they saw nothing, but the whole way down the stairs they were conscious that someone followed them; step by step; when they went faster IT was left behind, and when they went more slowly IT caught them up. But never once did they look behind to see; and at each turning of the staircase they lowered their eyes for fear of the following horror they might see upon the stairs above.
With trembling hands Shorthouse opened the front door, and they walked out into the moonlight and drew a deep breath of the cool night air blowing in from the sea.


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