Scary Books: Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary
: Montague Rhodes James
Among the towns of Jutland, Viborg justly holds a high place. It is the
seat of a bishopric; it has a handsome but almost entirely new cathedral,
a charming garden, a lake of great beauty, and many storks. Near it is
Hald, accounted one of the prettiest things in Denmark; and hard by is
Finderup, where Marsk Stig murdered King Erik Glipping on St Cecilia's
Day, in the year 1286. Fifty-six blows of square-headed iron maces were
traced on Erik's skull when his tomb was opened in the seventeenth
century. But I am not writing a guide-book.
There are good hotels in Viborg--Preisler's and the Phoenix are all that
can be desired. But my cousin, whose experiences I have to tell you now,
went to the Golden Lion the first time that he visited Viborg. He has not
been there since, and the following pages will, perhaps, explain the
reason of his abstention.
The Golden Lion is one of the very few houses in the town that were not
destroyed in the great fire of 1726, which practically demolished the
cathedral, the Sognekirke, the Raadhuus, and so much else that was old
and interesting. It is a great red-brick house--that is, the front is of
brick, with corbie steps on the gables and a text over the door; but the
courtyard into which the omnibus drives is of black and white wood and
The sun was declining in the heavens when my cousin walked up to the
door, and the light smote full upon the imposing facade of the house. He
was delighted with the old-fashioned aspect of the place, and promised
himself a thoroughly satisfactory and amusing stay in an inn so typical
of old Jutland.
It was not business in the ordinary sense of the word that had brought Mr
Anderson to Viborg. He was engaged upon some researches into the Church
history of Denmark, and it had come to his knowledge that in the
Rigsarkiv of Viborg there were papers, saved from the fire, relating to
the last days of Roman Catholicism in the country. He proposed,
therefore, to spend a considerable time--perhaps as much as a fortnight
or three weeks--in examining and copying these, and he hoped that the
Golden Lion would be able to give him a room of sufficient size to serve
alike as a bedroom and a study. His wishes were explained to the
landlord, and, after a certain amount of thought, the latter suggested
that perhaps it might be the best way for the gentleman to look at one or
two of the larger rooms and pick one for himself. It seemed a good idea.
The top floor was soon rejected as entailing too much getting upstairs
after the day's work; the second floor contained no room of exactly the
dimensions required; but on the first floor there was a choice of two or
three rooms which would, so far as size went, suit admirably.
The landlord was strongly in favour of Number 17, but Mr Anderson pointed
out that its windows commanded only the blank wall of the next house, and
that it would be very dark in the afternoon. Either Number 12 or Number
14 would be better, for both of them looked on the street, and the bright
evening light and the pretty view would more than compensate him for the
additional amount of noise.
Eventually Number 12 was selected. Like its neighbours, it had three
windows, all on one side of the room; it was fairly high and unusually
long. There was, of course, no fireplace, but the stove was handsome and
rather old--a cast-iron erection, on the side of which was a
representation of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the inscription, 'I Bog
Mose, Cap. 22,' above. Nothing else in the room was remarkable; the only
interesting picture was an old coloured print of the town, date about
Supper-time was approaching, but when Anderson, refreshed by the ordinary
ablutions, descended the staircase, there were still a few minutes before
the bell rang. He devoted them to examining the list of his
fellow-lodgers. As is usual in Denmark, their names were displayed on a
large blackboard, divided into columns and lines, the numbers of the
rooms being painted in at the beginning of each line. The list was not
exciting. There was an advocate, or Sagfoerer, a German, and some bagmen
from Copenhagen. The one and only point which suggested any food for
thought was the absence of any Number 13 from the tale of the rooms, and
even this was a thing which Anderson had already noticed half a dozen
times in his experience of Danish hotels. He could not help wondering
whether the objection to that particular number, common as it is, was so
widespread and so strong as to make it difficult to let a room so
ticketed, and he resolved to ask the landlord if he and his colleagues in
the profession had actually met with many clients who refused to be
accommodated in the thirteenth room.
He had nothing to tell me (I am giving the story as I heard it from him)
about what passed at supper, and the evening, which was spent in
unpacking and arranging his clothes, books, and papers, was not more
eventful. Towards eleven o'clock he resolved to go to bed, but with him,
as with a good many other people nowadays, an almost necessary
preliminary to bed, if he meant to sleep, was the reading of a few pages
of print, and he now remembered that the particular book which he had
been reading in the train, and which alone would satisfy him at that
present moment, was in the pocket of his great-coat, then hanging on a
peg outside the dining-room.
To run down and secure it was the work of a moment, and, as the passages
were by no means dark, it was not difficult for him to find his way back
to his own door. So, at least, he thought; but when he arrived there, and
turned the handle, the door entirely refused to open, and he caught the
sound of a hasty movement towards it from within. He had tried the wrong
door, of course. Was his own room to the right or to the left? He glanced
at the number: it was 13. His room would be on the left; and so it was.
And not before he had been in bed for some minutes, had read his wonted
three or four pages of his book, blown out his light, and turned over to
go to sleep, did it occur to him that, whereas on the blackboard of the
hotel there had been no Number 13, there was undoubtedly a room numbered
13 in the hotel. He felt rather sorry he had not chosen it for his own.
Perhaps he might have done the landlord a little service by occupying it,
and given him the chance of saying that a well-born English gentleman had
lived in it for three weeks and liked it very much. But probably it was
used as a servant's room or something of the kind. After all, it was most
likely not so large or good a room as his own. And he looked drowsily
about the room, which was fairly perceptible in the half-light from the
street-lamp. It was a curious effect, he thought. Rooms usually look
larger in a dim light than a full one, but this seemed to have contracted
in length and grown proportionately higher. Well, well! sleep was more
important than these vague ruminations--and to sleep he went.
On the day after his arrival Anderson attacked the Rigsarkiv of Viborg.
He was, as one might expect in Denmark, kindly received, and access to
all that he wished to see was made as easy for him as possible. The
documents laid before him were far more numerous and interesting than he
had at all anticipated. Besides official papers, there was a large bundle
of correspondence relating to Bishop Joergen Friis, the last Roman
Catholic who held the see, and in these there cropped up many amusing and
what are called 'intimate' details of private life and individual
character. There was much talk of a house owned by the Bishop, but not
inhabited by him, in the town. Its tenant was apparently somewhat of a
scandal and a stumbling-block to the reforming party. He was a disgrace,
they wrote, to the city; he practised secret and wicked arts, and had
sold his soul to the enemy. It was of a piece with the gross corruption
and superstition of the Babylonish Church that such a viper and
blood-sucking _Troldmand_ should be patronized and harboured by the
Bishop. The Bishop met these reproaches boldly; he protested his own
abhorrence of all such things as secret arts, and required his
antagonists to bring the matter before the proper court--of course, the
spiritual court--and sift it to the bottom. No one could be more ready
and willing than himself to condemn Mag Nicolas Francken if the evidence
showed him to have been guilty of any of the crimes informally alleged
Anderson had not time to do more than glance at the next letter of the
Protestant leader, Rasmus Nielsen, before the record office was closed
for the day, but he gathered its general tenor, which was to the effect
that Christian men were now no longer bound by the decisions of Bishops
of Rome, and that the Bishop's Court was not, and could not be, a fit or
competent tribunal to judge so grave and weighty a cause.
On leaving the office, Mr Anderson was accompanied by the old gentleman
who presided over it, and, as they walked, the conversation very
naturally turned to the papers of which I have just been speaking.
Herr Scavenius, the Archivist of Viborg, though very well informed as to
the general run of the documents under his charge, was not a specialist
in those of the Reformation period. He was much interested in what
Anderson had to tell him about them. He looked forward with great
pleasure, he said, to seeing the publication in which Mr Anderson spoke
of embodying their contents. 'This house of the Bishop Friis,' he added,
'it is a great puzzle to me where it can have stood. I have studied
carefully the topography of old Viborg, but it is most unlucky--of the
old terrier of the Bishop's property which was made in 1560, and of which
we have the greater part in the Arkiv--just the piece which had the list
of the town property is missing. Never mind. Perhaps I shall some day
succeed to find him.'
After taking some exercise--I forget exactly how or where--Anderson went
back to the Golden Lion, his supper, his game of patience, and his bed.
On the way to his room it occurred to him that he had forgotten to talk
to the landlord about the omission of Number 13 from the hotel board, and
also that he might as well make sure that Number 13 did actually exist
before he made any reference to the matter.
The decision was not difficult to arrive at. There was the door with its
number as plain as could be, and work of some kind was evidently going on
inside it, for as he neared the door he could hear footsteps and voices,
or a voice, within. During the few seconds in which he halted to make
sure of the number, the footsteps ceased, seemingly very near the door,
and he was a little startled at hearing a quick hissing breathing as of a
person in strong excitement. He went on to his own room, and again he was
surprised to find how much smaller it seemed now than it had when he
selected it. It was a slight disappointment, but only slight. If he found
it really not large enough, he could very easily shift to another. In the
meantime he wanted something--as far as I remember it was a
pocket-handkerchief--out of his portmanteau, which had been placed by the
porter on a very inadequate trestle or stool against the wall at the
farthest end of the room from his bed. Here was a very curious thing: the
portmanteau was not to be seen. It had been moved by officious servants;
doubtless the contents had been put in the wardrobe. No, none of them
were there. This was vexatious. The idea of a theft he dismissed at once.
Such things rarely happen in Denmark, but some piece of stupidity had
certainly been performed (which is not so uncommon), and the _stuepige_
must be severely spoken to. Whatever it was that he wanted, it was not so
necessary to his comfort that he could not wait till the morning for it,
and he therefore settled not to ring the bell and disturb the servants.
He went to the window--the right-hand window it was--and looked out on
the quiet street. There was a tall building opposite, with large spaces
of dead wall; no passers-by; a dark night; and very little to be seen of
The light was behind him, and he could see his own shadow clearly cast on
the wall opposite. Also the shadow of the bearded man in Number 11 on the
left, who passed to and fro in shirtsleeves once or twice, and was seen
first brushing his hair, and later on in a nightgown. Also the shadow of
the occupant of Number 13 on the right. This might be more interesting.
Number 13 was, like himself, leaning on his elbows on the window-sill
looking out into the street. He seemed to be a tall thin man--or was it
by any chance a woman?--at least, it was someone who covered his or her
head with some kind of drapery before going to bed, and, he thought, must
be possessed of a red lamp-shade--and the lamp must be flickering very
much. There was a distinct playing up and down of a dull red light on the
opposite wall. He craned out a little to see if he could make any more of
the figure, but beyond a fold of some light, perhaps white, material on
the window-sill he could see nothing.
Now came a distant step in the street, and its approach seemed to recall
Number 13 to a sense of his exposed position, for very swiftly and
suddenly he swept aside from the window, and his red light went out.
Anderson, who had been smoking a cigarette, laid the end of it on the
window-sill and went to bed.
Next morning he was woken by the _stuepige_ with hot water, etc. He
roused himself, and after thinking out the correct Danish words, said as
distinctly as he could:
'You must not move my portmanteau. Where is it?'
As is not uncommon, the maid laughed, and went away without making any
Anderson, rather irritated, sat up in bed, intending to call her back,
but he remained sitting up, staring straight in front of him. There was
his portmanteau on its trestle, exactly where he had seen the porter put
it when he first arrived. This was a rude shock for a man who prided
himself on his accuracy of observation. How it could possibly have
escaped him the night before he did not pretend to understand; at any
rate, there it was now.
The daylight showed more than the portmanteau; it let the true
proportions of the room with its three windows appear, and satisfied its
tenant that his choice after all had not been a bad one. When he was
almost dressed he walked to the middle one of the three windows to look
out at the weather. Another shock awaited him. Strangely unobservant he
must have been last night. He could have sworn ten times over that he had
been smoking at the right-hand window the last thing before he went to
bed, and here was his cigarette-end on the sill of the middle window.
He started to go down to breakfast. Rather late, but Number 13 was later:
here were his boots still outside his door--a gentleman's boots. So then
Number 13 was a man, not a woman. Just then he caught sight of the number
on the door. It was 14. He thought he must have passed Number 13 without
noticing it. Three stupid mistakes in twelve hours were too much for a
methodical, accurate-minded man, so he turned back to make sure. The next
number to 14 was number 12, his own room. There was no Number 13 at all.
After some minutes devoted to a careful consideration of everything he
had had to eat and drink during the last twenty-four hours, Anderson
decided to give the question up. If his eyes or his brain were giving way
he would have plenty of opportunities for ascertaining that fact; if not,
then he was evidently being treated to a very interesting experience. In
either case the development of events would certainly be worth watching.
During the day he continued his examination of the episcopal
correspondence which I have already summarized. To his disappointment, it
was incomplete. Only one other letter could be found which referred to
the affair of Mag Nicolas Francken. It was from the Bishop Joergen Friis
to Rasmus Nielsen. He said:
'Although we are not in the least degree inclined to assent to your
judgement concerning our court, and shall be prepared if need be to
withstand you to the uttermost in that behalf, yet forasmuch as our
trusty and well-beloved Mag Nicolas Francken, against whom you have dared
to allege certain false and malicious charges, hath been suddenly removed
from among us, it is apparent that the question for this time falls. But
forasmuch as you further allege that the Apostle and Evangelist St John
in his heavenly Apocalypse describes the Holy Roman Church under the
guise and symbol of the Scarlet Woman, be it known to you,' etc.
Search as he might, Anderson could find no sequel to this letter nor any
clue to the cause or manner of the 'removal' of the _casus belli_. He
could only suppose that Francken had died suddenly; and as there were
only two days between the date of Nielsen's last letter--when Francken
was evidently still in being--and that of the Bishop's letter, the death
must have been completely unexpected.
In the afternoon he paid a short visit to Hald, and took his tea at
Baekkelund; nor could he notice, though he was in a somewhat nervous
frame of mind, that there was any indication of such a failure of eye or
brain as his experiences of the morning had led him to fear.
At supper he found himself next to the landlord.
'What,' he asked him, after some indifferent conversation, 'is the reason
why in most of the hotels one visits in this country the number thirteen
is left out of the list of rooms? I see you have none here.'
The landlord seemed amused.
'To think that you should have noticed a thing like that! I've thought
about it once or twice myself, to tell the truth. An educated man, I've
said, has no business with these superstitious notions. I was brought up
myself here in the high school of Viborg, and our old master was always a
man to set his face against anything of that kind. He's been dead now
this many years--a fine upstanding man he was, and ready with his hands
as well as his head. I recollect us boys, one snowy day--'
Here he plunged into reminiscence.
'Then you don't think there is any particular objection to having a
Number 13?' said Anderson.
'Ah! to be sure. Well, you understand, I was brought up to the business
by my poor old father. He kept an hotel in Aarhuus first, and then, when
we were born, he moved to Viborg here, which was his native place, and
had the Phoenix here until he died. That was in 1876. Then I started
business in Silkeborg, and only the year before last I moved into this
Then followed more details as to the state of the house and business when
first taken over.
'And when you came here, was there a Number 13?'
'No, no. I was going to tell you about that. You see, in a place like
this, the commercial class--the travellers--are what we have to provide
for in general. And put them in Number 13? Why, they'd as soon sleep in
the street, or sooner. As far as I'm concerned myself, it wouldn't make a
penny difference to me what the number of my room was, and so I've often
said to them; but they stick to it that it brings them bad luck.
Quantities of stories they have among them of men that have slept in a
Number 13 and never been the same again, or lost their best customers,
or--one thing and another,' said the landlord, after searching for a more
'Then what do you use your Number 13 for?' said Anderson, conscious as he
said the words of a curious anxiety quite disproportionate to the
importance of the question.
'My Number 13? Why, don't I tell you that there isn't such a thing in the
house? I thought you might have noticed that. If there was it would be
next door to your own room.'
'Well, yes; only I happened to think--that is, I fancied last night that
I had seen a door numbered thirteen in that passage; and, really, I am
almost certain I must have been right, for I saw it the night before as
Of course, Herr Kristensen laughed this notion to scorn, as Anderson had
expected, and emphasized with much iteration the fact that no Number 13
existed or had existed before him in that hotel.
Anderson was in some ways relieved by his certainty, but still puzzled,
and he began to think that the best way to make sure whether he had
indeed been subject to an illusion or not was to invite the landlord to
his room to smoke a cigar later on in the evening. Some photographs of
English towns which he had with him formed a sufficiently good excuse.
Herr Kristensen was flattered by the invitation, and most willingly
accepted it. At about ten o'clock he was to make his appearance, but
before that Anderson had some letters to write, and retired for the
purpose of writing them. He almost blushed to himself at confessing it,
but he could not deny that it was the fact that he was becoming quite
nervous about the question of the existence of Number 13; so much so that
he approached his room by way of Number 11, in order that he might not be
obliged to pass the door, or the place where the door ought to be. He
looked quickly and suspiciously about the room when he entered it, but
there was nothing, beyond that indefinable air of being smaller than
usual, to warrant any misgivings. There was no question of the presence
or absence of his portmanteau tonight. He had himself emptied it of its
contents and lodged it under his bed. With a certain effort he dismissed
the thought of Number 13 from his mind, and sat down to his writing.
His neighbours were quiet enough. Occasionally a door opened in the
passage and a pair of boots was thrown out, or a bagman walked past
humming to himself, and outside, from time to time, a cart thundered over
the atrocious cobble-stones, or a quick step hurried along the flags.
Anderson finished his letters, ordered in whisky and soda, and then went
to the window and studied the dead wall opposite and the shadows upon it.
As far as he could remember, Number 14 had been occupied by the lawyer, a
staid man, who said little at meals, being generally engaged in studying
a small bundle of papers beside his plate. Apparently, however, he was in
the habit of giving vent to his animal spirits when alone. Why else
should he be dancing? The shadow from the next room evidently showed that
he was. Again and again his thin form crossed the window, his arms waved,
and a gaunt leg was kicked up with surprising agility. He seemed to be
barefooted, and the floor must be well laid, for no sound betrayed his
movements. Sagfoerer Herr Anders Jensen, dancing at ten o'clock at night
in a hotel bedroom, seemed a fitting subject for a historical painting in
the grand style; and Anderson's thoughts, like those of Emily in the
'Mysteries of Udolpho', began to 'arrange themselves in the following
When I return to my hotel,
At ten o'clock p.m.,
The waiters think I am unwell;
I do not care for them.
But when I've locked my chamber door,
And put my boots outside,
I dance all night upon the floor.
And even if my neighbours swore,
I'd go on dancing all the more,
For I'm acquainted with the law,
And in despite of all their jaw,
Their protests I deride.
Had not the landlord at this moment knocked at the door, it is probable
that quite a long poem might have been laid before the reader. To judge
from his look of surprise when he found himself in the room, Herr
Kristensen was struck, as Anderson had been, by something unusual in its
aspect. But he made no remark. Anderson's photographs interested him
mightily, and formed the text of many autobiographical discourses. Nor is
it quite clear how the conversation could have been diverted into the
desired channel of Number 13, had not the lawyer at this moment begun to
sing, and to sing in a manner which could leave no doubt in anyone's mind
that he was either exceedingly drunk or raving mad. It was a high, thin
voice that they heard, and it seemed dry, as if from long disuse. Of
words or tune there was no question. It went sailing up to a surprising
height, and was carried down with a despairing moan as of a winter wind
in a hollow chimney, or an organ whose wind fails suddenly. It was a
really horrible sound, and Anderson felt that if he had been alone he
must have fled for refuge and society to some neighbour bagman's room.
The landlord sat open-mouthed.
'I don't understand it,' he said at last, wiping his forehead. 'It is
dreadful. I have heard it once before, but I made sure it was a cat.'
'Is he mad?' said Anderson.
'He must be; and what a sad thing! Such a good customer, too, and so
successful in his business, by what I hear, and a young family to bring
Just then came an impatient knock at the door, and the knocker entered,
without waiting to be asked. It was the lawyer, in _deshabille_ and very
rough-haired; and very angry he looked.
'I beg pardon, sir,' he said, 'but I should be much obliged if you would
Here he stopped, for it was evident that neither of the persons before
him was responsible for the disturbance; and after a moment's lull it
swelled forth again more wildly than before.
'But what in the name of Heaven does it mean?' broke out the lawyer.
'Where is it? Who is it? Am I going out of my mind?'
'Surely, Herr Jensen, it comes from your room next door? Isn't there a
cat or something stuck in the chimney?'
This was the best that occurred to Anderson to say and he realized its
futility as he spoke; but anything was better than to stand and listen to
that horrible voice, and look at the broad, white face of the landlord,
all perspiring and quivering as he clutched the arms of his chair.
'Impossible,' said the lawyer, 'impossible. There is no chimney. I came
here because I was convinced the noise was going on here. It was
certainly in the next room to mine.'
'Was there no door between yours and mine?' said Anderson eagerly.
'No, sir,' said Herr Jensen, rather sharply. 'At least, not this
'Ah!' said Anderson. 'Nor tonight?'
'I am not sure,' said the lawyer with some hesitation.
Suddenly the crying or singing voice in the next room died away, and the
singer was heard seemingly to laugh to himself in a crooning manner. The
three men actually shivered at the sound. Then there was a silence.
'Come,' said the lawyer, 'what have you to say, Herr Kristensen? What
does this mean?'
'Good Heaven!' said Kristensen. 'How should I tell! I know no more than
you, gentlemen. I pray I may never hear such a noise again.'
'So do I,' said Herr Jensen, and he added something under his breath.
Anderson thought it sounded like the last words of the Psalter, '_omnis
spiritus laudet Dominum_,' but he could not be sure.
'But we must do something,' said Anderson--'the three of us. Shall we go
and investigate in the next room?'
'But that is Herr Jensen's room,' wailed the landlord. 'It is no use; he
has come from there himself.'
'I am not so sure,' said Jensen. 'I think this gentleman is right: we
must go and see.'
The only weapons of defence that could be mustered on the spot were a
stick and umbrella. The expedition went out into the passage, not without
quakings. There was a deadly quiet outside, but a light shone from under
the next door. Anderson and Jensen approached it. The latter turned the
handle, and gave a sudden vigorous push. No use. The door stood fast.
'Herr Kristensen,' said Jensen, 'will you go and fetch the strongest
servant you have in the place? We must see this through.'
The landlord nodded, and hurried off, glad to be away from the scene of
action. Jensen and Anderson remained outside looking at the door.
'It _is_ Number 13, you see,' said the latter.
'Yes; there is your door, and there is mine,' said Jensen.
'My room has three windows in the daytime,' said Anderson with
difficulty, suppressing a nervous laugh.
'By George, so has mine!' said the lawyer, turning and looking at
Anderson. His back was now to the door. In that moment the door opened,
and an arm came out and clawed at his shoulder. It was clad in ragged,
yellowish linen, and the bare skin, where it could be seen, had long grey
hair upon it.
Anderson was just in time to pull Jensen out of its reach with a cry of
disgust and fright, when the door shut again, and a low laugh was heard.
Jensen had seen nothing, but when Anderson hurriedly told him what a risk
he had run, he fell into a great state of agitation, and suggested that
they should retire from the enterprise and lock themselves up in one or
other of their rooms.
However, while he was developing this plan, the landlord and two
able-bodied men arrived on the scene, all looking rather serious and
alarmed. Jensen met them with a torrent of description and explanation,
which did not at all tend to encourage them for the fray.
The men dropped the crowbars they had brought, and said flatly that they
were not going to risk their throats in that devil's den. The landlord
was miserably nervous and undecided, conscious that if the danger were
not faced his hotel was ruined, and very loth to face it himself. Luckily
Anderson hit upon a way of rallying the demoralized force.
'Is this,' he said, 'the Danish courage I have heard so much of? It isn't
a German in there, and if it was, we are five to one.'
The two servants and Jensen were stung into action by this, and made a
dash at the door.
'Stop!' said Anderson. 'Don't lose your heads. You stay out here with the
light, landlord, and one of you two men break in the door, and don't go
in when it gives way.'
The men nodded, and the younger stepped forward, raised his crowbar, and
dealt a tremendous blow on the upper panel. The result was not in the
least what any of them anticipated. There was no cracking or rending of
wood--only a dull sound, as if the solid wall had been struck. The man
dropped his tool with a shout, and began rubbing his elbow. His cry drew
their eyes upon him for a moment; then Anderson looked at the door again.
It was gone; the plaster wall of the passage stared him in the face, with
a considerable gash in it where the crowbar had struck it. Number 13 had
passed out of existence.
For a brief space they stood perfectly still, gazing at the blank wall.
An early cock in the yard beneath was heard to crow; and as Anderson
glanced in the direction of the sound, he saw through the window at the
end of the long passage that the eastern sky was paling to the dawn.
'Perhaps,' said the landlord, with hesitation, 'you gentlemen would like
another room for tonight--a double-bedded one?'
Neither Jensen nor Anderson was averse to the suggestion. They felt
inclined to hunt in couples after their late experience. It was found
convenient, when each of them went to his room to collect the articles he
wanted for the night, that the other should go with him and hold the
candle. They noticed that both Number 12 and Number 14 had _three_
Next morning the same party reassembled in Number 12. The landlord was
naturally anxious to avoid engaging outside help, and yet it was
imperative that the mystery attaching to that part of the house should be
cleared up. Accordingly the two servants had been induced to take upon
them the function of carpenters. The furniture was cleared away, and, at
the cost of a good many irretrievably damaged planks, that portion of the
floor was taken up which lay nearest to Number 14.
You will naturally suppose that a skeleton--say that of Mag Nicolas
Francken--was discovered. That was not so. What they did find lying
between the beams which supported the flooring was a small copper box. In
it was a neatly-folded vellum document, with about twenty lines of
writing. Both Anderson and Jensen (who proved to be something of a
palaeographer) were much excited by this discovery, which promised to
afford the key to these extraordinary phenomena.
I possess a copy of an astrological work which I have never read. It has,
by way of frontispiece, a woodcut by Hans Sebald Beham, representing a
number of sages seated round a table. This detail may enable connoisseurs
to identify the book. I cannot myself recollect its title, and it is not
at this moment within reach; but the fly-leaves of it are covered with
writing, and, during the ten years in which I have owned the volume, I
have not been able to determine which way up this writing ought to be
read, much less in what language it is. Not dissimilar was the position
of Anderson and Jensen after the protracted examination to which they
submitted the document in the copper box.
After two days' contemplation of it, Jensen, who was the bolder spirit of
the two, hazarded the conjecture that the language was either Latin or
Anderson ventured upon no surmises, and was very willing to surrender the
box and the parchment to the Historical Society of Viborg to be placed in
I had the whole story from him a few months later, as we sat in a wood
near Upsala, after a visit to the library there, where we--or, rather,
I--had laughed over the contract by which Daniel Salthenius (in later
life Professor of Hebrew at Koenigsberg) sold himself to Satan. Anderson
was not really amused.
'Young idiot!' he said, meaning Salthenius, who was only an undergraduate
when he committed that indiscretion, 'how did he know what company he was
And when I suggested the usual considerations he only grunted. That same
afternoon he told me what you have read; but he refused to draw any
inferences from it, and to assent to any that I drew for him.