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Croglin Grange






"Fisher," said the Captain, "may sound a very plebeian name, but this
family is of very ancient lineage, and for many hundreds of years they
have possessed a very curious old place in Cumberland, which bears the
weird name of Croglin Grange. The great characteristic of the house is
that never at any period of its very long existence has it been more
than one story high, but it has a terrace from which large grounds sweep
away towards the church in the hollow, and a fine distant view.

"When, in lapse of years, the Fishers outgrew Croglin Grange in family
and fortune, they were wise enough not to destroy the long-standing
characteristic of the place by adding another story to the house, but
they went away to the south, to reside at Thorncombe near Guildford, and
they let Croglin Grange.

"They were extremely fortunate in their tenants, two brothers and a
sister. They heard their praises from all quarters. To their poorer
neighbours they were all that is most kind and beneficent, and their
neighbours of a higher class spoke of them as a welcome addition to the
little society of the neighbourhood. On their part the tenants were
greatly delighted with their new residence. The arrangement of the
house, which would have been a trial to many, was not so to them. In
every respect Croglin Grange was exactly suited to them.

"The winter was spent most happily by the new inmates of Croglin
Grange, who shared in all the little social pleasures of the district,
and made themselves very popular. In the following summer there was one
day which was dreadfully, annihilatingly hot. The brothers lay under the
trees with their books, for it was too hot for any active occupation.
The sister sat in the verandah and worked, or tried to work, for in the
intense sultriness of that summer day work was next to impossible. They
dined early, and after dinner they still sat out in the verandah,
enjoying the cool air which came with evening, and they watched the sun
set, and the moon rise over the belt of trees which separated the
grounds from the churchyard, seeing it mount the heavens till the whole
lawn was bathed in silver light, across which the long shadows from the
shrubbery fell as if embossed, so vivid and distinct were they.

"When they separated for the night, all retiring to their rooms on the
ground-floor (for, as I said, there was no upstairs in that house), the
sister felt that the heat was still so great that she could not sleep,
and having fastened her window, she did not close the shutters--in that
very quiet place it was not necessary--and, propped against the pillows,
she still watched the wonderful, the marvellous beauty of that summer
night. Gradually she became aware of two lights, two lights which
flickered in and out in the belt of trees which separated the lawn from
the churchyard; and, as her gaze became fixed upon them, she saw them
emerge, fixed in a dark substance, a definite ghastly _something_, which
seemed every moment to become nearer, increasing in size and substance
as it approached. Every now and then it was lost for a moment in the
long shadows which stretched across the lawn from the trees, and then it
emerged larger than ever, and still coming on--on. As she watched it,
the most uncontrollable horror seized her. She longed to get away, but
the door was close to the window and the door was locked on the inside,
and while she was unlocking it, she must be for an instant nearer to
_it_. She longed to scream, but her voice seemed paralysed, her tongue
glued to the roof of her mouth.

"Suddenly, she never could explain why afterwards, the terrible object
seemed to turn to one side, seemed to be going round the house, not to
be coming to her at all, and immediately she jumped out of bed and
rushed to the door; but as she was unlocking it, she heard scratch,
scratch, scratch upon the window, and saw a hideous brown face with
flaming eyes glaring in at her. She rushed back to the bed, but the
creature continued to scratch, scratch, scratch upon the window. She
felt a sort of mental comfort in the knowledge that the window was
securely fastened on the inside. Suddenly the scratching sound ceased,
and a kind of pecking sound took its place. Then, in her agony, she
became aware that the creature was unpicking the lead! The noise
continued, and a diamond pane of glass fell into the room. Then a long
bony finger of the creature came in and turned the handle of the window,
and the window opened, and the creature came in; and it came across the
room, and her terror was so great that she could not scream, and it came
up to the bed, and it twisted its long, bony fingers into her hair, and
it dragged her head over the side of the bed, and--it bit her violently
in the throat.

"As it bit her, her voice was released, and she screamed with all her
might and main. Her brothers rushed out of their rooms, but the door was
locked on the inside. A moment was lost while they got a poker and broke
it open. Then the creature had already escaped through the window, and
the sister, bleeding violently from a wound in the throat, was lying
unconscious over the side of the bed. One brother pursued the creature,
which fled before him through the moonlight with gigantic strides, and
eventually seemed to disappear over the wall into the churchyard. Then
he rejoined his brother by the sister's bedside. She was dreadfully
hurt, and her wound was a very definite one; but she was of strong
disposition, not either given to romance or superstition, and when she
came to herself she said, 'What has happened is most extraordinary, and
I am very much hurt. It seems inexplicable, but of course there is an
explanation, and we must wait for it. It will turn out that a lunatic
has escaped from some asylum and found his way here.' The wound healed,
and she appeared to get well, but the doctor who was sent for would not
believe that she could bear so terrible a shock so easily, and insisted
that she must have change, mental and physical; so her brothers took her
to Switzerland.

"Being a sensible girl, when she went abroad she threw herself at once
into the interests of the country she was in. She dried plants, she made
sketches, she went up mountains, and, as autumn came on, she was the
person who urged that they should return to Croglin Grange. 'We have
taken it,' she said, 'for seven years, and we have only been there one;
and we shall always find it difficult to let a house which is only one
story high, so we had better return there; lunatics do not escape every
day.' As she urged it, her brothers wished nothing better, and the
family returned to Cumberland. From there being no upstairs to the house
it was impossible to make any great change in their arrangements. The
sister occupied the same room, but it is unnecessary to say she always
closed her shutters, which, however, as in many old houses, always left
one top pane of the window uncovered. The brothers moved, and occupied a
room together, exactly opposite that of their sister, and they always
kept loaded pistols in their room.

"The winter passed most peacefully and happily. In the following March
the sister was suddenly awakened by a sound she remembered only too
well--scratch, scratch, scratch upon the window, and, looking up, she
saw quite clearly in the topmost pane of the window the same hideous
brown shrivelled face, with glaring eyes, looking in at her. This time
she screamed as loud as she could. Her brothers rushed out of their room
with pistols, and out of the front door. The creature was already
scudding away across the lawn. One of the brothers fired and hit it in
the leg, but still with the other leg it continued to make way,
scrambled over the wall into the churchyard, and seemed to disappear
into a vault which belonged to a family long extinct.

"The next day the brothers summoned all the tenants of Croglin Grange,
and in their presence the vault was opened. A horrible scene revealed
itself. The vault was full of coffins; they had been broken open, and
their contents, horribly mangled and distorted, were scattered over the
floor. One coffin alone remained intact. Of that the lid had been
lifted, but still lay loose upon the coffin. They raised it, and there,
brown, withered, shrivelled, mummified, but quite entire, was the same
hideous figure which had looked in at the windows of Croglin Grange,
with the marks of a recent pistol-shot in the leg; and they did--the
only thing that can lay a vampire--they burnt it."





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Previous: Powys Castle



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