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House Near Blythswood Square Glasgow The Haunted Bath

When Captain W. de S. Smythe went to look over ---- House, in the
neighbourhood of Blythswood Square, Glasgow, the only thing about the
house he did not like was the bathroom--it struck him as excessively
grim. The secret of the grimness did not lie, he thought, in any one
particular feature--in the tall, gaunt geyser, for example (though
there was always something in the look of a geyser when it was old and
dilapidated, as was the case with this one, that repelled him), or in
the dark drying-cupboard, or in the narrow, slit-like window; but in
the room as a whole, in its atmosphere and general appearance. He
could not diagnose it; he could not associate it with anything else he
had ever experienced; it was a grimness that he could only specify as
grim--grim with a grimness that made him feel he should not like to
be alone there in the dead of night. It was a nuisance, because the
rest of the house pleased him; moreover, the locality was convenient,
and the rent moderate, very moderate for such a neighbourhood. He
thought the matter well over as he leaned in the doorway of the
bathroom. He could, of course, have the room completely renovated--new
paper, new paint, and a fresh bath. Hot-water pipes! The geyser should
be done away with. Geysers were hideous, dangerous, and--pshaw, what
nonsense!--Ghostly! Ghostly! What absurd rot! How his wife would
laugh! That decided the question. His wife! She had expressed a very
ardent wish that he should take a house in or near Blythswood Square,
if he could get one on anything like reasonable terms, and here was
his chance. He would accompany the agent of the property to the
latter's office, and the preliminaries should be forthwith settled.

Six weeks later, he and his family were installed in the house, which
still reeked with the smell of fresh paint and paper. The first thing
the Captain did when he got there was to steal away slyly to the
bathroom, and as soon as he opened the door his heart sank. Despite
the many alterations the room had undergone, the grimness was still
there--there, everywhere. In the fine new six-foot bath, with its
glistening, gleaming, wooden framework; in the newly papered, newly
painted cupboard; in the walls, with their bright, fresh paper; in
the snowy surface of the whitewashed ceiling; in the air,--the very
air itself was full of it. The Captain was, as a rule, very fond of
his bath, but in his new quarters he firmly resolved that some one
else should use the bath before he made the experiment. In a very few
days the family had all settled down, and every one, with the
exception of the Captain, had had a bath, but no matter how many and
how bitter were his wife's complaints, try how he would, he could
not, he positively could not, bring himself to wash in the
bathroom--alone. It was all right so long as the door was open, but
his wife resolutely refused to allow him to keep it open, and the
moment it was shut his abject terror returned--a terror produced by
nothing that he could in any way analyse or define. At last, ashamed
of his cowardice, he screwed up courage, and, with a look of
determined desperation in his eyes and mouth--an expression which
sent his wife into fits of laughter--set out one night from his
bedroom, candle in hand, and entered the bathroom. Shutting and
locking the door, he lighted another candle, and, after placing them
both on the mantelshelf, turned on the bath water, and began to

I may as well have a peep in the cupboard, he said, just to satisfy
myself no one is hiding there--for every one in the house knows how I
hate this beastly bathroom--with the intention of playing me a
practical joke. Supposing one of the maids--Polly, for example, I'm
sure she'd be quite capable--took it into her pretty head to--but
here the Captain was obliged to stop; he really was not equal to
facing, even in his mind's eye, the situation such a supposition
involved, and at the bare idea of such a thing his countenance assumed
a deeper hue, and--I am loth to admit--an amused grin. The grin,
however, died out as he cautiously opened the door and peered
furtively in; no one--nothing was there! With a breath of relief he
closed the door again, placed a chair against it, and, sitting down,
proceeded to pull off his clothes. Coat, vest, under-garments, he
placed them all tenderly in an untidy heap on the floor, and then,
with a last lingering, affectionate look at them, walked sedately
towards the bath. But this sedateness was only momentary. The first
few steps he walked, but, a noise in the grate startling him, he
suddenly assumed an air of the greatest gaiety, and, bowing with mock
gallantry to his trousers, he now waltzed coquettishly to the bath. It
was grim, horribly grim, and horribly hot too, for, when he felt the
temperature with one of his squat, podgy toes, it made him swear quite
involuntarily. Turning on the cold water, and slapping his thighs
playfully, he felt again. Too hot yet, far too hot even for him! He
loved heat. More cold! and he was hoisting one chubby leg to feel
again, when, a repetition of the noise in the grate making him swing
round, he lost his balance, and descended on the floor with a hard, a
very hard, bump. For some seconds he lay still, too sulky and
aggrieved even to get up, but, the draught from under the ill-fitting
door tickling his bare flesh in the most immodest fashion, he roused
himself from this lethargy, and was about to raise himself from the
floor, when the lights went out--went out without a moment's warning,
and he found himself engulfed in the most funereal darkness. To say he
was startled is to put it very mildly--he was absolutely
terror-stricken--far too terror-stricken to think of moving now, and
least of all of getting up and groping for the matches. Indeed, when
he came to think of it, he had not seen any matches in the room, and
he had not brought any with him, his wife had flurried him so much.
The moment the candles were extinguished the grimness sensibly
increased, and he could feel all around him, thickly amalgamated with
the ether, a superphysical presence, at once hostile and horrible.
Then, to bring his terror to a climax, there issued from the bath a
loud rubbing and splashing, as if some one, some very heavy person,
was vigorously washing. The water rose and fell, squished and bubbled
as it does when one is lying at full length in it, raising and
lowering oneself, kicking and plunging first on one side and then on
the other. Whilst, to add to the realism, Captain Smythe distinctly
heard gasping and puffing; and the soft, greasy sound of a well-soaped
flannel. He could indeed follow every movement of the occupant of the
bath as graphically as if he had seen him--from the brisk scrubbing of
body and legs to the finicky process of cleaning the ears and toes.

It was whilst the bather was occupied thus that the cupboard door
began to open very quietly and stealthily, and Captain de Smythe heard
the chair he had so carefully placed against it being gradually
propelled across the floor.

Then something, he would have given anything to tell what, came out
and began to steal towards him. He tried to crawl out of its way, but
could not; his limbs no longer acted conjointly with his brain, and
when he opened his mouth to shout at it, his voice withered away in
his throat. It came up to him, and directly it touched his naked skin
he knew it was a woman--a woman with a much-beflounced silk skirt and
silk petticoats--a woman whose person was perfumed with violets (a
scent for which the Captain had a particular weakness), and without
doubt, loaded with jewellery. Her behaviour did not betray any
symptoms of embarrassment when she encountered the Captain lying on
the floor, but, planting one icy-cold high-heeled shoe on his chest
and the other on his cheek, she stepped on him as if he had been an
orthodox cushion or footstool, purposely placed there for her
convenience. A hollow exclamation, which died away in a gasp, issued
from the bath, as the woman, with a swift movement of her arms, threw
something over it. What followed, the Captain could only surmise, but
from the muttered imprecations and splashes in the water, it seemed to
him that nothing short of murder was taking place. After a while the
noises in the bath grew feebler and feebler, and when they finally
ceased, the woman, with a sigh of relief, shook the water from her
arms, and, stepping off the Captain, moved towards the fireplace. The
spell which had, up to the present, enthralled the unfortunate
Captain, was now broken, and, thinking that his ghostly visitor had
betaken herself right away, he sat up. He had hardly done so before
the darkness was rudely dissipated, and, to his horror, he saw
looking at him, from a distance of only a few feet, a white, luminous
face, presumably that of a woman. But what a woman! What a
devil!--what a match for the most lurid of any of Satan's male
retainers. Yet she was not without beauty--beauty of the richest
sensual order; beauty that, had it been flesh and blood, would have
sent men mad. Her hair, jet black, wavy, and parted in the centre, was
looped over her shell-like ears, which were set unusually low and far
back on her head; her nose was of that rare and matchless shape termed
Grecian; and her mouth--in form, a triumph of all things heavenly, in
expression, a triumph of all things hellish. The magnificent turn of
its short upper lip, and the soft voluptuous line of its under lip;
its sportive dimples and ripe red colour; its even rows of dazzling,
pearly teeth were adorable; but they appealed to the senses, and in no
sense or shape to the soul. Her brows, slightly irregular in outline,
met over the nose; her eyelashes were of great length, and her
eyes--slightly, ever so slightly, obliquely set, and larger than those
of living human beings--were black, black as her hair; and the pupils
sparkled and shone with the most damnable expression of satanical
hatred and glee. The whole thing, the face and the light that emanated
from it, was so entirely awful and devilish, that Captain Smythe sat
like one turned to stone, and it was not until long after it had
vanished that he groped his way to the door, and in Adam's costume,
for he dared not stay to put on his clothes, fled down the passage to
his bedroom.

From his wife he got little sympathy; her sarcasm was too deep for
words, and she merely ordered her husband on no account to breathe a
word of his silliness before either the children or the servants.
The injunction, however, which was naturally carried out to the
letter, was futile as a precaution, for, on running into the bathroom
one morning when every one else was downstairs, the eldest boy,
Ronald, saw, floating in the bath, the body of a hoary-headed old man.
It was bloated and purplish blue, and had big, glassy eyes that stared
at him in such a hideous, meaningless manner that he uttered a scream
of terror and fled. Alarmed at the noise, most of the household ran to
see what had happened. Only the Captain remained behind. He knew only
too well, and he hid, letting his wife and the servants go upstairs
alone. They entered the bathroom--there was nothing in the bath, not
even water, but, as they were leaving, they ran into a dark, handsome,
evil-eyed woman, clad in the most costly of dresses, and sparkling
with jewellery. She glided past them with sly, silent footsteps, and
vanished by the cupboard. Cured of scepticism, and throwing dignity to
the wind, the Captain's wife raced downstairs, and, bursting into the
drawing-room, flung herself on the sofa in hysterics.

Within a week the house was once again empty, and the rumour getting
about that it was haunted, the landlord threatened the Smythes with an
action for slander of title. But I do not think the case was taken to
court, the Smythes agreeing to contradict the report they had
originated. Astute inquiries, however, eventually led them to discover
that a lady, answering to the description of the ghost they had seen,
had once lived at ---- House. Of Spanish descent, she was young,
beautiful, and gay; and was married to a man, an extremely wealthy man
(people remembered how rich he was after he died), old enough to be
her grandfather. They had nothing in common, the husband only wanting
to be quiet, the wife to flirt and be admired. Their neighbours often
heard them quarrel, and it was declared that the wife possessed the
temper of a fiend. The man was eventually found dead in his bath, and
there being no indications of violence, it was generally supposed that
he had fainted, (his wife having been previously heard to declare that
he often had fainting fits), and had thus been accidentally drowned.
The beautiful young widow, who inherited all his money, left the house
immediately and went abroad, and the neighbours, when questioned by
the Smythes as to whether anything had been seen of her since, shook
their heads dubiously, but refused to commit themselves.

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