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The Open Door

Scary Books: Great Ghost Stories


I took the house of Brentwood on my return from India in 18--, for the

temporary accommodation of my family, until I could find a permanent

home for them. It had many advantages which made it peculiarly

appropriate. It was within reach of Edinburgh; and my boy Roland, whose

education had been considerably neglected, could ride in and out to

school; which was thought to
be better for him than either leaving home

altogether or staying there always with a tutor. The lad was doubly

precious to us, being the only one left to us of many; and he was

fragile in body, we believed, and deeply sensitive in mind. The two

girls also found at Brentwood everything they wanted. They were near

enough to Edinburgh to have masters and lessons as many as they required

for completing that never-ending education which the young people seem

to require nowadays.

Brentwood stands on that fine and wealthy slope of country--one of the

richest in Scotland--which lies between the Pentland Hills and the

Firth. In clear weather you could see the blue gleam of the great

estuary on one side of you; and on the other the blue heights.

Edinburgh--with its two lesser heights, the Castle and the Calton Hill,

its spires and towers piercing through the smoke, and Arthur's Seat

lying crouched behind, like a guardian no longer very needful, taking

his repose beside the well-beloved charge, which is now, so to speak,

able to take care of itself without him--lay at our right hand.

The village of Brentwood, with its prosaic houses, lay in a hollow

almost under our house. Village architecture does not flourish in

Scotland. Still a cluster of houses on different elevations, with scraps

of garden coming in between, a hedgerow with clothes laid out to dry,

the opening of a street with its rural sociability, the women at their

doors, the slow wagon lumbering along, gives a centre to the landscape.

In the park which surrounded the house were the ruins of the former

mansion of Brentwood,--a much smaller and less important house than the

solid Georgian edifice which we inhabited. The ruins were picturesque,

however, and gave importance to the place. Even we, who were but

temporary tenants, felt a vague pride in them, as if they somehow

reflected a certain consequence upon ourselves. The old building had the

remains of a tower,--an indistinguishable mass of masonwork, overgrown

with ivy; and the shells of the walls attached to this were half filled

up with soil. At a little distance were some very commonplace and

disjointed fragments of buildings, one of them suggesting a certain

pathos by its very commonness and the complete wreck which it showed.

This was the end of a low gable, a bit of grey wall, all incrusted with

lichens, in which was a common door-way. Probably it had been a

servants' entrance, a backdoor, or opening into what are called "the

offices" in Scotland. No offices remained to be entered,--pantry and

kitchen had all been swept out of being; but there stood the door-way

open and vacant, free to all the winds, to the rabbits, and every wild

creature. It struck my eye, the first time I went to Brentwood, like a

melancholy comment upon a life that was over. A door that led to

nothing,--closed once, perhaps, with anxious care, bolted and guarded,

now void of any meaning. It impressed me, I remember, from the first; so

perhaps it may be said that my mind was prepared to attach to it an

importance which nothing justified.

The summer was a very happy period of repose for us all; and it was when

the family had settled down for the winter, when the days were short and

dark, and the rigorous reign of frost upon us, that the incidents

occurred which alone could justify me in intruding upon the world my

private affairs.

I was absent in London when these events began. In London an old Indian

plunges back into the interests with which all his previous life has

been associated, and meets old friends at every step. I had been

circulating among some half-dozen of these and had missed some of my

home letters. It is never safe to miss one's letters. In this transitory

life, as the Prayer-book says, how can one ever be certain what is going

to happen? All was well at home. I knew exactly (I thought) what they

would have to say to me: "The weather has been so fine, that Roland has

not once gone by train, and he enjoys the ride beyond anything." "Dear

papa, be sure that you don't forget anything, but bring us so-and-so,

and so-and-so,"--a list as long as my arm. Dear girls and dearer mother!

I would not for the world have forgotten their commissions, or lost

their little letters!

When I got back to my club, however, three or four letters were lying

for me, upon some of which I noticed the "immediate," "urgent," which

old-fashioned people and anxious people still believe will influence the

post-office and quicken the speed of the mails. I was about to open one

of these, when the club porter brought me two telegrams, one of which,

he said, had arrived the night before. I opened, as was to be expected,

the last first, and this was what I read: "Why don't you come or answer?

For God's sake, come. He is much worse." This was a thunderbolt to fall

upon a man's head who had one only son, and he the light of his eyes!

The other telegram, which I opened with hands trembling so much that I

lost time by my haste, was to much the same purpose: "No better; doctor

afraid of brain-fever. Calls for you day and night. Let nothing detain

you." The first thing I did was to look up the time-tables to see if

there was any way of getting off sooner than by the night-train, though

I knew well enough there was not; and then I read the letters, which

furnished, alas! too clearly, all the details. They told me that the boy

had been pale for some time, with a scared look. His mother had noticed

it before I left home, but would not say anything to alarm me. This look

had increased day by day; and soon it was observed that Roland came home

at a wild gallop through the park, his pony panting and in foam, himself

"as white as a sheet," but with the perspiration streaming from his

forehead. For a long time he had resisted all questioning, but at length

had developed such strange changes of mood, showing a reluctance to go

to school, a desire to be fetched in the carriage at night,--which was a

ridiculous piece of luxury,--an unwillingness to go out into the

grounds, and nervous start at every sound, that his mother had insisted

upon an explanation. When the boy--our boy Roland, who had never known

what fear was--began to talk to her of voices he had heard in the park,

and shadows that had appeared to him among the ruins, my wife promptly

put him to bed and sent for Dr. Simson, which, of course, was the only

thing to do.

I hurried off that evening, as may be supposed, with an anxious heart.

How I got through the hours before the starting of the train, I cannot

tell. We must all be thankful for the quickness of the railway when in

anxiety; but to have thrown myself into a post-chaise as soon as horses

could be put to, would have been a relief. I got to Edinburgh very early

in the blackness of the winter morning, and scarcely dared look the man

in the face, at whom I gasped, "What news?" My wife had sent the

brougham for me, which I concluded, before the man spoke, was a bad

sign. His answer was that stereotyped answer which leaves the

imagination so wildly free,--"Just the same." Just the same! What might

that mean? The horses seemed to me to creep along the long dark country

road. As we dashed through the park, I thought I heard some one moaning

among the trees, and clenched my fist at him (whoever he might be) with

fury. Why had the fool of a woman at the gate allowed any one to come in

to disturb the quiet of the place? If I had not been in such hot haste

to get home, I think I should have stopped the carriage and got out to

see what tramp it was that had made an entrance, and chosen my grounds,

of all places in the world,--when my boy was ill!--to grumble and groan

in. But I had no reason to complain of our slow pace here. The horses

flew like lightning along the intervening path, and drew up at the door

all panting, as if they had run a race. My wife stood waiting to receive

me, with a pale face, and a candle in her hand, which made her look

paler still as the wind blew the flame about. "He is sleeping," she said

in a whisper, as if her voice might wake him. And I replied, when I

could find my voice, also in a whisper, as though the jingling of the

horses' furniture and the sound of their hoofs must not have been more

dangerous. I stood on the steps with her a moment, almost afraid to go

in, now that I was here; and it seemed to me that I saw without

observing, if I may so say, that the horses were unwilling to turn

round, though their stables lay that way, or that the men were

unwilling. These things occurred to me afterwards, though at the moment

I was not capable of anything but to ask questions and to hear of the

condition of the boy.

I looked at him from the door of his room, for we were afraid to go

near, lest we should disturb that blessed sleep. It looked like actual

sleep, not the lethargy into which my wife told me he would sometimes

fall. She told me everything in the next room, which communicated with

his, rising now and then and going to the door of the communication; and

in this there was much that was very startling and confusing to the

mind. It appeared that ever since the winter began--since it was early

dark, and night had fallen before his return from school--he had been

hearing voices among the ruins; at first only a groaning, he said, at

which his pony was as much alarmed as he was, but by degrees a voice.

The tears ran down my wife's cheeks as she described to me how he would

start up in the night and cry out. "Oh, mother, let me in! oh, mother,

let me in!" with a pathos which rent her heart. And she sitting there

all the time, only longing to do everything his heart could desire! But

though she would try to soothe him, crying, "You are at home, my

darling. I am here. Don't you know me? Your mother is here!" he would

only stare at her, and after a while spring up again with the same cry.

At other times he would be quite reasonable, she said, asking eagerly

when I was coming, but declaring that he must go with me as soon as I

did so, "to let them in." "The doctor thinks his nervous system must

have received a shock," my wife said. "Oh, Henry, can it be that we

have pushed him on too much with his work--a delicate boy like Roland?

And what is his work in comparison with his health? Even you would think

little of honours or prizes if it hurt the boy's health." Even I!--as if

I were an inhuman father sacrificing my child to my ambition. But I

would not increase her trouble by taking any notice.

There was just daylight enough to see his face when I went to him; and

what a change in a fortnight! He was paler and more worn, I thought,

than even in those dreadful days in the plains before we left India. His

hair seemed to me to have grown long and lank; his eyes were like

blazing lights projecting out of his white face. He got hold of my hand

in a cold and tremulous clutch, and waved to everybody to go away. "Go

away--even mother," he said; "go away." This went to her heart; for she

did not like that even I should have more of the boy's confidence than

herself; but my wife has never been a woman to think of herself, and she

left us alone. "Are they all gone?" he said eagerly. "They would not let

me speak. The doctor treated me as if I were a fool. You know I am not a

fool, papa."

"Yes, yes, my boy, I know. But you are ill, and quiet is so necessary.

You are not only not a fool, Roland, but you are reasonable and

understand. When you are ill you must deny yourself; you must not do

everything that you might do being well."

He waved his thin hand with a sort of indignation. "Then, father, I am

not ill," he cried. "Oh, I thought when you came you would not stop

me,--you would see the sense of it! What do you think is the matter with

me, all of you? Simson is well enough; but he is only a doctor. What do

you think is the matter with me? I am no more ill than you are. A

doctor, of course, he thinks you are ill the moment he looks at

you--that's what he's there for--and claps you into bed."

"Which is the best place for you at present, my dear boy."

"I made up my mind," cried the little fellow, "that I would stand it

till you came home. I said to myself, I won't frighten mother and the

girls. But now, father," he cried, half jumping out of bed, "it's not

illness: it's a secret."

His eyes shone so wildly, his face was so swept with strong feeling,

that my heart sank within me. It could be nothing but fever that did it,

and fever had been so fatal. I got him into my arms to put him back into

bed. "Roland," I said, humouring the poor child, which I knew was the

only way, "if you are going to tell me this secret to do any good, you

know you must be quite quiet, and not excite yourself. If you excite

yourself, I must not let you speak."

"Yes, father," said the boy. He was quiet directly, like a man, as if he

quite understood. When I had laid him back on his pillow, he looked up

at me with that grateful, sweet look with which children, when they are

ill, break one's heart, the water coming into his eyes in his weakness.

"I was sure as soon as you were here you would know what to do," he


"To be sure, my boy. Now keep quiet, and tell it all out like a man." To

think I was telling lies to my own child! for I did it only to humour

him, thinking, poor little fellow, his brain was wrong.

"Yes, father. Father, there is some one in the park,--some one that has

been badly used."

"Hush, my dear; you remember there is to be no excitement. Well, who is

this somebody, and who has been ill-using him? We will soon put a stop

to that."

"Ah," cried Roland, "but it is not so easy as you think. I don't know

who it is. It is just a cry. Oh, if you could hear it! It gets into my

head in my sleep. I heard it as clear--as clear; and they think that I

am dreaming, or raving perhaps," the boy said, with a sort of disdainful


This look of his perplexed me; it was less like fever than I thought.

"Are you quite sure you have not dreamed it, Roland?" I said.

"Dreamed?--that!" He was springing up again when he suddenly bethought

himself, and lay down flat, with the same sort of smile on his face.

"The pony heard it, too," he said. "She jumped as if she had been shot.

If I had not grasped at the reins--for I was frightened, father----"

"No shame to you, my boy," said I, though I scarcely knew why.

"If I hadn't held to her like a leech, she'd have pitched me over her

head, and never drew breath till we were at the door. Did the pony

dream it?" he said, with a soft disdain, yet indulgence for my

foolishness. Then he added slowly, "It was only a cry the first time,

and all the time before you went away. I wouldn't tell you, for it was

so wretched to be frightened. I thought it might be a hare or a rabbit

snared, and I went in the morning and looked; but there was nothing. It

was after you went I heard it really first; and this is what he says."

He raised himself on his elbow close to me, and looked me in the face:

"Oh, mother, let me in! oh, mother, let me in!" As he said the words a

mist came over his face, the mouth quivered, the soft features all

melted and changed, and when he had ended these pitiful words, dissolved

in a shower of heavy tears.

Was it a hallucination? Was it the fever of the brain? Was it the

disordered fancy caused by great bodily weakness? How could I tell? I

thought it wisest to accept it as if it were all true.

"This is very touching, Roland," I said.

"Oh, if you had just heard it, father! I said to myself, if father heard

it he would do something; but mamma, you know, she's given over to

Simson, and that fellow's a doctor, and never thinks of anything but

clapping you into bed."

"We must not blame Simson for being a doctor, Roland."

"No, no," said my boy, with delightful toleration and indulgence; "oh,

no: that's the good of him; that's what he's for; I know that. But

you--you are different; you are just father; and you'll do

something--directly, papa, directly; this very night."

"Surely," I said. "No doubt it is some little lost child."

He gave me a sudden, swift look, investigating my face as though to see

whether, after all, this was everything my eminence as "father" came

to,--no more than that. Then he got hold of my shoulder, clutching it

with his thin hand: "Look here," he said, with a quiver in his voice:

"suppose it wasn't--living at all!"

"My dear boy, how then could you have heard it?" I said.

He turned away from me with a pettish exclamation,--"As if you didn't

know better than that!"

"Do you want to tell me it is a ghost?" I said.

Roland withdrew his hand; his countenance assumed an aspect of great

dignity and gravity; a slight quiver remained about his lips. "Whatever

it was--you always said we were not to call names. It was something--in

trouble. Oh, father, in terrible trouble!"

"But, my boy," I said (I was at my wits' end), "if it was a child that

was lost, or any poor human creature--but, Roland, what do you want me

to do?"

"I should know if I was you," said the child eagerly. "That is what I

always said to myself,--Father will know. Oh, papa, papa, to have to

face it night after night, in such terrible, terrible trouble, and never

to be able to do it any good! I don't want to cry; it's like a baby, I

know; but what can I do else? Out there all by itself in the ruin, and

nobody to help it! I can't bear it!" cried my generous boy. And in his

weakness he burst out, after many attempts to restrain it, into a great

childish fit of sobbing and tears.

I do not know that I was ever in a greater perplexity in my life; and

afterwards, when I thought of it, there was something comic in it too.

It is bad enough to find your child's mind possessed with the conviction

that he had seen, or heard, a ghost; but that he should require you to

go instantly and help that ghost was the most bewildering experience

that had ever come my way. I did my best to console my boy without

giving any promise of this astonishing kind; but he was too sharp for

me; he would have none of my caresses. With sobs breaking in at

intervals upon his voice, and the rain-drops hanging on his eyelids, he

yet returned to the charge.

"It will be there now!--it will be there all the night! Oh, think,

papa,--think if it was me! I can't rest for thinking of it. Don't!" he

cried, putting away my hand,--"don't! You go and help it, and mother can

take care of me."

"But, Roland, what can I do?"

My boy opened his eyes, which were large with weakness and fever, and

gave me a smile such, I think, as sick children only know the secret of.

"I was sure you would know as soon as you came. I always said, 'Father

will know.' And mother," he cried, with a softening of repose upon his

face, his limbs relaxing, his form sinking with a luxurious ease in his

bed,--"mother can come and take care of me."

I called her, and saw him turn to her with the complete dependence of a

child; and then I went away and left them, as perplexed a man as any in

Scotland. I must say, however, I had this consolation, that my mind was

greatly eased about Roland. He might be under a hallucination; but his

head was clear enough, and I did not think him so ill as everybody else

did. The girls were astonished even at the ease with which I took it.

"How do you think he is?" they said in a breath, coming round me, laying

hold of me. "Not half so ill as I expected," I said; "not very bad at

all." "Oh, papa, you are a darling!" cried Agatha, kissing me, and

crying upon my shoulder; while little Jeanie, who was as pale as Roland,

clasped both her arms round mine, and could not speak at all. I knew

nothing about it, not half so much as Simson; but they believed in me:

they had a feeling that all would go right now. God is very good to you

when your children look to you like that. It makes one humble, not

proud. I was not worthy of it; and then I recollected that I had to act

the part of a father to Roland's ghost,--which made me almost laugh,

though I might just as well have cried. It was the strangest mission

that ever was intrusted to mortal man.

It was then I remembered suddenly the looks of the men when they turned

to take the brougham to the stables in the dark that morning. They had

not liked it, and the horses had not liked it. I remembered that even

in my anxiety about Roland I had heard them tearing along the avenue

back to the stables, and had made a memorandum mentally that I must

speak of it. It seemed to me that the best thing I could do was to go to

the stables now and make a few inquiries. The coachman was the head of

this little colony, and it was to his house I went to pursue my

investigations. He was a native of the district, and had taken care of

the place in the absence of the family for years; it was impossible but

that he must know everything that was going on, and all the traditions

of the place. The men, I could see, eyed me anxiously when I thus

appeared at such an hour among them, and followed me with their eyes to

Jarvis's house, where he lived alone with his old wife, their children

being all married and out in the world. Mrs. Jarvis met me with anxious

questions. How was the poor young gentleman? But the others knew, I

could see by their faces, that not even this was the foremost thing in

my mind.

After a while I elicited without much difficulty the whole story. In the

opinion of the Jarvises, and of everybody about, the certainty that the

place was haunted was beyond all doubt. As Sandy and his wife warmed to

the tale, one tripping up another in their eagerness to tell everything,

it gradually developed as distinct a superstition as I ever heard, and

not without poetry and pathos. How long it was since the voice had been

heard first, nobody could tell with certainty. Jarvis's opinion was that

his father, who had been coachman at Brentwood before him, had never

heard anything about it, and that the whole thing had arisen within the

last ten years, since the complete dismantling of the old house; which

was a wonderfully modern date for a tale so well authenticated.

According to these witnesses, and to several whom I questioned

afterwards, and who were all in perfect agreement, it was only in the

months of November and December that "the visitation" occurred. During

these months, the darkest of the year, scarcely a night passed without

the recurrence of these inexplicable cries. Nothing, it was said, had

ever been seen,--at least, nothing that could be identified. Some

people, bolder or more imaginative than the others, had seen the

darkness moving, Mrs. Jarvis said, with unconscious poetry. It began

when night fell, and continued at intervals till day broke. Very often

it was only an inarticulate cry and moaning, but sometimes the words

which had taken possession of my poor boy's fancy had been distinctly

audible,--"Oh, mother, let me in!" The Jarvises were not aware that

there had ever been any investigation into it. The estate of Brentwood

had lapsed into the hands of a distant branch of the family, who had

lived but little there; and of the many people who had taken it, as I

had done, few had remained through two Decembers. And nobody had taken

the trouble to make a very close examination into the facts. "No, no,"

Jarvis said, shaking his head, "No, no, Cornel. Wha wad set themsels up

for a laughin'-stock to a' the country-side, making a wark about a

ghost? Naebody believes in ghosts. It bid to be the wind in the trees,

the last gentleman said, or some effec' o' the water wrastlin' among the

rocks. He said it was a' quite easy explained; but he gave up the hoose.

And when you cam, Cornel, we were awfu' anxious you should never hear.

What for should I have spoiled the bargain and hairmed the property for


"Do you call my child's life nothing?" I said in the trouble of the

moment, unable to restrain myself. "And instead of telling this all to

me, you have told it to him,--to a delicate boy, a child unable to sift

evidence or judge for himself, a tender-hearted young creature----"

I was walking about the room with an anger all the hotter that I felt it

to be most likely quite unjust. My heart was full of bitterness against

the stolid retainers of a family who were content to risk other people's

children and comfort rather than let a house lie empty. If I had been

warned I might have taken precautions, or left the place, or sent Roland

away, a hundred things which now I could not do; and here I was with my

boy in a brain-fever, and his life, the most precious life on earth,

hanging in the balance, dependent on whether or not I could get to the

reason of a commonplace ghost-story!

"Cornel," said Jarvis solemnly, "and she'll bear me witness,--the

young gentleman never heard a word from me--no, nor from either groom or

gardner; I'll gie ye my word for that. In the first place, he's no a lad

that invites ye to talk. There are some that are, and that arena. Some

will draw ye on, till ye've tellt them a' the clatter of the toun, and

a' ye ken, and whiles mair. But Maister Roland, his mind's fu' of his

books. He's aye civil and kind, and a fine lad; but no that sort. And ye

see it's for a' our interest, Cornel, that you should stay at Brentwood.

I took it upon me mysel to pass the word,--'No a syllable to Maister

Roland, nor to the young leddies--no a syllable.' The women-servants,

that have little reason to be out at night, ken little or nothing about

it. And some think it grand to have a ghost so long as they're no in the

way of coming across it. If you had been tellt the story to begin with,

maybe ye would have thought so yourself."

This was true enough. I should not have been above the idea of a ghost

myself! Oh, yes, I claim no exemption. The girls would have been

delighted. I could fancy their eagerness, their interest, and

excitement. No; if we had been told, it would have done no good,--we

should have made the bargain all the more eagerly, the fools that we


"Come with me, Jarvis," I said hastily, "and we'll make an attempt at

least to investigate. Say nothing to the men or to anybody. Be ready for

me about ten o'clock."

"Me, Cornel!" Jarvis said, in a faint voice. I had not been looking at

him in my own preoccupation, but when I did so, I found that the

greatest change had come over the fat and ruddy coachman. "Me, Cornel!"

he repeated, wiping the perspiration from his brow. "There's nothin' I

wouldna do to pleasure ye, Cornel, but if ye'll reflect that I am no

used to my feet. With a horse atween my legs, or the reins in my hand,

I'm maybe nae worse than other men; but on fit, Cornel--it's no

the--bogles;--but I've been cavalry, ye see," with a little hoarse

laugh, "a' my life. To face a thing ye dinna understan'--on your feet,


"He believes in it, Cornel, and you dinna believe in it," the woman


"Will you come with me?" I said, turning to her.

She jumped back, upsetting her chair in her bewilderment. "Me!" with a

scream, and then fell into a sort of hysterical laugh. "I wouldna say

but what I would go; but what would the folk say to hear of Cornel

Mortimer with an auld silly woman at his heels?"

The suggestion made me laugh too, though I had little inclination for

it. "I'm sorry you have so little spirit, Jarvis," I said. "I must find

some one else, I suppose."

Jarvis, touched by this, began to remonstrate, but I cut him short. My

butler was a soldier who had been with me in India, and was not supposed

to fear anything,--man or devil,--certainly not the former; and I felt

that I was losing time. The Jarvises were too thankful to get rid of me.

They attended me to the door with the most anxious courtesies. Outside,

the two grooms stood close by, a little confused by my sudden exit. I

don't know if perhaps they had been listening,--at least standing as

near as possible, to catch any scrap of the conversation. I waved my

hand to them as I went past, in answer to their salutations, and it was

very apparent to me that they also were glad to see me go.

And it will be thought very strange, but it would be weak not to add,

that I myself, though bent on the investigation I have spoken of,

pledged to Roland to carry it out, and feeling that my boy's health,

perhaps his life, depended on the result of my inquiry,--I felt the most

unaccountable reluctance, now that it was dark, to pass the ruins on my

way home. My curiosity was intense; and yet it was all my mind could do

to pull my body along. I dare say the scientific people would describe

it the other way, and attribute my cowardice to the state of my stomach.

I went on; but if I had followed my impulse, I should have turned and

bolted. Everything in me seemed to cry out against it; my heart thumped,

my pulses all began, like sledge-hammers, beating against my ears and

every sensitive part. It was very dark, as I have said; the old house,

with its shapeless tower, loomed a heavy mass through the darkness,

which was only not entirely so solid as itself. On the other hand, the

great dark cedars of which we were so proud seemed to fill up the night.

My foot strayed out of the path in my confusion and the gloom together,

and I brought myself up with a cry as I felt myself knocked against

something solid. What was it? The contact with hard stone and lime and

prickly bramble-bushes restored me a little to myself. "Oh, it's only

the old gable," I said aloud, with a little laugh to reassure myself.

The rough feeling of the stones reconciled me. As I groped about thus, I

shook off my visionary folly. What so easily explained as that I should

have strayed from the path in the darkness? This brought me back to

common existence, as if I had been shaken by a wise hand out of all the

silliness of superstition. How silly it was, after all! What did it

matter which path I took? I laughed again, this time with better heart,

when suddenly, in a moment, the blood was chilled in my veins, a shiver

stole along my spine, my faculties seemed to forsake me. Close by me, at

my side, at my feet, there was a sigh. No, not a groan, not a moaning,

not anything so tangible,--a perfectly soft, faint, inarticulate sigh. I

sprang back, and my heart stopped beating. Mistaken! no, mistake was

impossible. I heard it as clearly as I hear myself speak; a long, soft,

weary sigh, as if drawn to the utmost, and emptying out a load of

sadness that filled the breast. To hear this in the solitude, in the

dark, in the night (though it was still early), had an effect which I

cannot describe. I feel it now,--something cold creeping over me up into

my hair, and down to my feet, which refused to move. I cried out, with a

trembling voice, "Who is there?" as I had done before; but there was no


I got home I don't quite know how; but in my mind there was no longer

any indifference as to the thing, whatever it was, that haunted these

ruins. My scepticism disappeared like a mist. I was as firmly

determined that there was something as Roland was. I did not for a

moment pretend to myself that it was possible I could be deceived; there

were movements and noises which I understood all about,--cracklings of

small branches in the frost, and little rolls of gravel on the path,

such as have a very eerie sound sometimes, and perplex you with wonder

as to who has done it, when there is no real mystery; but I assure you

all these little movements of nature don't affect you one bit when

there is something. I understood them. I did not understand the sigh.

That was not simple nature; there was meaning in it, feeling, the soul

of a creature invisible. This is the thing that human nature trembles

at,--a creature invisible, yet with sensations, feelings, a power

somehow of expressing itself. Bagley was in the hall as usual when I

went in. He was always there in the afternoon, always with the

appearance of perfect occupation, yet, so far as I know, never doing

anything. The door was open, so that I hurried in without any pause,

breathless; but the sight of his calm regard, as he came to help me off

with my overcoat, subdued me in a moment. Anything out of the way,

anything incomprehensible, faded to nothing in the presence of Bagley.

You saw and wondered how he was made: the parting of his hair, the tie

of his white neckcloth, the fit of his trousers, all perfect as works of

art: but you could see how they were done, which makes all the

difference. I flung myself upon him, so to speak, without waiting to

note the extreme unlikeness of the man to anything of the kind I meant.

"Bagley," I said, "I want you to come out with me tonight to watch


"Poachers, Colonel?" he said, a gleam of pleasure running all over him.

"No, Bagley; a great deal worse," I cried.

"Yes, Colonel; at what hour, sir?" the man said; but then I had not told

him what it was.

It was ten o'clock when we set out. All was perfectly quiet indoors. My

wife was with Roland, who had been quite calm, she said, and who

(though, no doubt, the fever must run its course) had been better ever

since I came. I told Bagley to put on a thick greatcoat over his evening

coat, and did the same myself, with strong boots; for the soil was like

a sponge, or worse. Talking to him, I almost forgot what we were going

to do. It was darker even than it had been before, and Bagley kept very

close to me as we went along. I had a small lantern in my hand, which

gave us a partial guidance. We had come to the corner where the path

turns. On one side was the bowling-green, which the girls had taken

possession of for their croquet-ground,--a wonderful enclosure

surrounded by high hedges of holly, three hundred years old and more; on

the other, the ruins. Both were black as night; but before we got so

far, there was a little opening in which we could just discern the trees

and the lighter line of the road. I thought it best to pause there and

take breath. "Bagley," I said, "there is something about these ruins I

don't understand. It is there I am going. Keep your eyes open and your

wits about you. Be ready to pounce upon any stranger you see,--anything,

man or woman. Don't hurt, but seize--anything you see." "Colonel," said

Bagley, with a little tremor in his breath, "they do say there's things

there--as is neither man nor woman." There was no time for words. "Are

you game to follow me, my man? that's the question," I said. Bagley fell

in without a word, and saluted. I knew then I had nothing to fear.

We went, so far as I could guess, exactly as I had come, when I heard

that sigh. The darkness, however, was so complete that all marks, as of

trees or paths, disappeared. One moment we felt our feet on the gravel,

another sinking noiselessly into the slippery grass, that was all. I had

shut up my lantern, not wishing to scare any one, whoever it might be.

Bagley followed, it seemed to me, exactly in my footsteps as I made my

way, as I supposed, towards the mass of the ruined house. We seemed to

take a long time groping along seeking this; the squash of the wet soil

under our feet was the only thing that marked our progress. After a

while I stood still to see, or rather feel, where we were. The darkness

was very still, but no stiller than is usual in a winter's night. The

sounds I have mentioned--the crackling of twigs, the roll of a pebble,

the sound of some rustle in the dead leaves, or creeping creature on the

grass--were audible when you listened, all mysterious enough when your

mind is disengaged, but to me cheering now as signs of the livingness of

nature, even in the death of the frost. As we stood still there came up

from the trees in the glen the prolonged hoot of an owl. Bagley started

with alarm, being in a state of general nervousness, and not knowing

what he was afraid of. But to me the sound was encouraging and pleasant,

being so comprehensible. "An owl," I said, under my breath. "Y--es,

Colonel," said Bagley, his teeth chattering. We stood still about five

minutes, while it broke into the still brooding of the air, the sound

widening out in circles, dying upon the darkness. This sound, which is

not a cheerful one, made me almost gay. It was natural, and relieved the

tension of the mind. I moved on with new courage, my nervous excitement

calming down.

When all at once, quite suddenly, close to us, at our feet, there broke

out a cry. I made a spring backwards in the first moment of surprise and

horror, and in doing so came sharply against the same rough masonry and

brambles that had struck me before. This new sound came upwards from the

ground,--a low, moaning, wailing voice, full of suffering and pain. The

contrast between it and the hoot of the owl was indescribable,--the one

with a wholesome wildness and naturalness that hurt nobody; the other, a

sound that made one's blood curdle, full of human misery. With a great

deal of fumbling,--for in spite of everything I could do to keep up my

courage my hands shook,--I managed to remove the slide of my lantern.

The light leaped out like something living, and made the place visible

in a moment. We were what would have been inside the ruined building had

anything remained but the gable-wall which I have described. It was

close to us, the vacant door-way in it going out straight into the

blackness outside. The light showed the bit of wall, the ivy glistening

upon it in clouds of dark green, the bramble-branches waving, and below,

the open door,--a door that led to nothing. It was from this the voice

came which died out just as the light flashed upon this strange scene.

There was a moment's silence, and then it broke forth again. The sound

was so near, so penetrating, so pitiful, that, in the nervous start I

gave, the light fell out of my hand. As I groped for it in the dark my

hand was clutched by Bagley, who, I think, must have dropped upon his

knees; but I was too much perturbed myself to think much of this. He

clutched at me in the confusion of his terror, forgetting all his usual

decorum. "For God's sake, what is it, sir?" he gasped. If I yielded,

there was evidently an end of both of us. "I can't tell," I said, "any

more than you; that's what we've got to find out. Up, man, up!" I pulled

him to his feet. "Will you go round and examine the other side, or will

you stay here with the lantern?" Bagley gasped at me with a face of

horror. "Can't we stay together, Colonel?" he said; his knees were

trembling under him. I pushed him against the corner of the wall, and

put the light into his hands. "Stand fast till I come back; shake

yourself together, man; let nothing pass you," I said. The voice was

within two or three feet of us; of that there could be no doubt.

I went myself to the other side of the wall, keeping close to it. The

light shook in Bagley's hand, but, tremulous though it was, shone out

through the vacant door, one oblong block of light marking all the

crumbling corners and hanging masses of foliage. Was that something dark

huddled in a heap by the side of it? I pushed forward across the light

in the door-way, and fell upon it with my hands; but it was only a

juniper-bush growing close against the wall. Meanwhile, the sight of my

figure crossing the door-way had brought Bagley's nervous excitement to

a height; he flew at me, gripping my shoulder. "I've got him, Colonel!

I've got him!" he cried, with a voice of sudden exultation. He thought

it was a man, and was at once relieved. But at the moment the voice

burst forth again between us, at our feet,--more close to us than any

separate being could be. He dropped off from me, and fell against the

wall, his jaw dropping as if he were dying. I suppose, at the same

moment, he saw that it was me whom he had clutched. I for my part, had

scarcely more command of myself. I snatched the light out of his hand,

and flashed it all about me wildly. Nothing,--the juniper-bush which I

thought I had never seen before, the heavy growth of the glistening ivy,

the brambles waving. It was close to my ears now, crying, crying,

pleading as if for life. Either I heard the same words Roland had heard,

or else, in my excitement, his imagination got possession of mine. The

voice went on, growing into distinct articulation, but wavering about,

now from one point, now from another, as if the owner of it were moving

slowly back and forward. "Mother! mother!" and then an outburst of

wailing. As my mind steadied, getting accustomed (as one's mind gets

accustomed to anything), it seemed to me as if some uneasy, miserable

creature was pacing up and down before a closed door. Sometimes--but

that must have been excitement--I thought I heard a sound like knocking,

and then another burst, "Oh, mother! mother!" All this close, close to

the space where I was standing with my lantern, now before me, now

behind me: a creature restless, unhappy, moaning, crying, before the

vacant door-way, which no one could either shut or open more.

"Do you hear it, Bagley? do you hear what it is saying?" I cried,

stepping in through the door-way. He was lying against the wall, his

eyes glazed, half dead with terror. He made a motion of his lips as if

to answer me, but no sounds came; then lifted his hand with a curious

imperative movement as if ordering me to be silent and listen. And how

long I did so I cannot tell. It began to have an interest, an exciting

hold upon me, which I could not describe. It seemed to call up visibly a

scene any one could understand,--a something shut out, restlessly

wandering to and fro; sometimes the voice dropped, as if throwing itself

down, sometimes wandered off a few paces, growing sharp and clear. "Oh,

mother, let me in! oh, mother, mother, let me in! oh, let me in." Every

word was clear to me. No wonder the boy had gone wild with pity. I tried

to steady my mind upon Roland, upon his conviction that I could do

something, but my head swam with the excitement, even when I partially

overcame the terror. At last the words died away, and there was a sound

of sobs and moaning. I cried out, "In the name of God who are you?" with

a kind of feeling in my mind that to use the name of God was profane,

seeing that I did not believe in ghosts or anything supernatural; but I

did it all the same, and waited, my heart giving a leap of terror lest

there should be a reply. Why this should have been I cannot tell, but I

had a feeling that if there was an answer it would be more than I could

bear. But there was no answer, the moaning went on, and then, as if it

had been real, the voice rose a little higher again, the words

recommenced, "Oh, mother, let me in! oh, mother, let me in!" with an

expression that was heart-breaking to hear.

As if it had been real! What do I mean by that? I suppose I got less

alarmed as the thing went on. I began to recover the use of my

senses,--I seemed to explain it all to myself by saying that this had

once happened, that it was a recollection of a real scene. Why there

should have seemed something quite satisfactory and composing in this

explanation I cannot tell, but so it was. I began to listen almost as if

it had been a play, forgetting Bagley, who, I almost think, had fainted,

leaning against the wall. I was started out of this strange

spectatorship that had fallen upon me by the sudden rush of something

which made my heart jump once more, a large black figure in the door-way

waving its arms. "Come in! come in! come in!" it shouted out hoarsely

at the top of a deep bass voice, and then poor Bagley fell down

senseless across the threshold. He was less sophisticated than I,--he

had not been able to bear it any longer. I took him for something

supernatural, as he took me, and it was some time before I awoke to the

necessities of the moment. I remembered only after, that from the time I

began to give my attention to the man, I heard the other voice no more.

It was some time before I brought him to. It must have been a strange

scene: the lantern making a luminous spot in the darkness, the man's

white face lying on the black earth, I over him, doing what I could for

him. Probably I should have been thought to be murdering him had any one

seen us. When at last I succeeded in pouring a little brandy down his

throat, he sat up and looked about him wildly. "What's up?" he said;

then recognizing me, tried to struggle to his feet with a faint "Beg

your pardon, Colonel." I got him home as best I could, making him lean

upon my arm. The great fellow was as weak as a child. Fortunately he did

not for some time remember what had happened. From the time Bagley fell

the voice had stopped, and all was still.

* * * * *

"You've got an epidemic in your house, Colonel," Simson said to me next

morning. "What's the meaning of it all? Here's your butler raving about

a voice. This will never do, you know; and so far as I can make out, you

are in it too."

"Yes, I am in it, Doctor. I thought I had better speak to you. Of

course you are treating Roland all right, but the boy is not raving, he

is as sane as you or me. It's all true."

"As sane as--I--or you. I never thought the boy insane. He's got

cerebral excitement, fever. I don't know what you've got. There's

something very queer about the look of your eyes."

"Come," said I, "you can't put us all to bed, you know. You had better

listen and hear the symptoms in full."

The Doctor shrugged his shoulders, but he listened to me patiently. He

did not believe a word of the story, that was clear; but he heard it all

from beginning to end. "My dear fellow," he said, "the boy told me just

the same. It's an epidemic. When one person falls a victim to this sort

of thing, it's as safe as can be,--there's always two or three."

"Then how do you account for it?" I said.

"Oh, account for it!--that's a different matter; there's no accounting

for the freaks our brains are subject to. If it's delusion, if it's some

trick of the echoes or the winds,--some phonetic disturbance or


"Come with me tonight and judge for yourself," I said.

Upon this he laughed aloud, then said, "That's not such a bad idea; but

it would ruin me forever if it were known that John Simson was


"There it is," said I; "you dart down on us who are unlearned with your

phonetic disturbances, but you daren't examine what the thing really is

for fear of being laughed at. That's science!"

"It's not science,--it's common-sense," said the Doctor. "The thing has

delusion on the front of it. It is encouraging an unwholesome tendency

even to examine. What good could come of it? Even if I am convinced, I

shouldn't believe."

"I should have said so yesterday; and I don't want you to be convinced

or to believe," said I. "If you prove it to be a delusion, I shall be

very much obliged to you for one. Come; somebody must go with me."

"You are cool," said the Doctor. "You've disabled this poor fellow of

yours, and made him--on that point--a lunatic for life; and now you want

to disable me. But, for once, I'll do it. To save appearance, if you'll

give me a bed, I'll come over after my last rounds."

It was agreed that I should meet him at the gate, and that we should

visit the scene of last night's occurrences before we came to the house,

so that nobody might be the wiser. It was scarcely possible to hope that

the cause of Bagley's sudden illness should not somehow steal into the

knowledge of the servants at least, and it was better that all should be

done as quietly as possible. The day seemed to me a very long one. I had

to spend a certain part of it with Roland, which was a terrible ordeal

for me, for what could I say to the boy? The improvement continued, but

he was still in a very precarious state, and the trembling vehemence

with which he turned to me when his mother left the room filled me with

alarm. "Father?" he said quietly. "Yes, my boy, I am giving my best

attention to it; all is being done that I can do. I have not come to any

conclusion--yet. I am neglecting nothing you said," I cried. What I

could not do was to give his active mind any encouragement to dwell upon

the mystery. It was a hard predicament, for some satisfaction had to be

given him. He looked at me very wistfully, with the great blue eyes

which shone so large and brilliant out of his white and worn face. "You

must trust me," I said. "Yes, father. Father understands," he said to

himself, as if to soothe some inward doubt. I left him as soon as I

could. He was about the most precious thing I had on earth, and his

health my first thought; but yet somehow, in the excitement of this

other subject, I put that aside, and preferred not to dwell upon Roland,

which was the most curious part of it all.

That night at eleven I met Simson at the gate. He had come by train, and

I let him in gently myself. I had been so much absorbed in the coming

experiment that I passed the ruins in going to meet him, almost without

thought, if you can understand that. I had my lantern; and he showed me

a coil of taper which he had ready for use. "There is nothing like

light," he said in his scoffing tone. It was a very still night,

scarcely a sound, but not so dark. We could keep the path without

difficulty as we went along. As we approached the spot we could hear a

low moaning, broken occasionally by a bitter cry. "Perhaps that is your

voice," said the Doctor; "I thought it must be something of the kind.

That's a poor brute caught in some of these infernal traps of yours;

you'll find it among the bushes somewhere." I said nothing. I felt no

particular fear, but a triumphant satisfaction in what was to follow. I

led him to the spot where Bagley and I had stood on the previous night.

All was silent as a winter night could be,--so silent that we heard far

off the sound of the horses in the stables, the shutting of a window at

the house. Simson lighted his taper and went peering about, poking into

all the corners. We looked like two conspirators lying in wait for some

unfortunate traveller; but not a sound broke the quiet. The moaning had

stopped before we came up; a star or two shone over us in the sky,

looking down as if surprised at our strange proceedings. Dr. Simson did

nothing but utter subdued laughs under his breath. "I thought as much,"

he said. "It is just the same with tables and all other kinds of ghostly

apparatus; a sceptic's presence stops everything. When I am present

nothing ever comes off. How long do you think it will be necessary to

stay here? Oh, I don't complain; only when you are satisfied I


I will not deny that I was disappointed beyond measure by this result.

It made me look like a credulous fool. It gave the Doctor such a pull

over me as nothing else could. I should point all his morals for years

to come; and his materialism, his scepticism, would be increased beyond

endurance. "It seems, indeed," I said, "that there is to be no----"

"Manifestation," he said, laughing; "that is what all the mediums say.

No manifestations, in consequence of the presence of an unbeliever." His

laugh sounded very uncomfortable to me in the silence; and it was now

near midnight. But that laugh seemed the signal; before it died away the

moaning we had heard before was resumed. It started from some distance

off, and came towards us, nearer and nearer, like some one walking along

and moaning to himself. There could be no idea now that it was a hare

caught in a trap. The approach was slow, like that of a weak person,

with little halts and pauses. We heard it coming along the grass

straight towards the vacant door-way. Simson had been a little startled

by the first sound. He said hastily, "That child has no business to be

out so late." But he felt, as well as I, that this was no child's voice.

As it came nearer, he grew silent, and, going to the door-way with his

taper, stood looking out towards the sound. The taper being unprotected

blew about in the night air, though there was scarcely any wind. I threw

the light of my lantern steady and white across the same space. It was

in a blaze of light in the midst of the blackness. A little icy thrill

had gone over me at the first sound, but as it came close, I confess

that my only feeling was satisfaction. The scoffer could scoff no more.

The light touched his own face, and showed a very perplexed countenance.

If he was afraid, he concealed it with great success, but he was

perplexed. And then all that had happened on the previous night was

enacted once more. It fell strangely upon me with a sense of

repetition. Every cry, every sob seemed the same as before. I listened

almost without any emotion at all in my own person, thinking of its

effect upon Simson. He maintained a very bold front, on the whole. All

that coming and going of the voice was, if our ears could be trusted,

exactly in front of the vacant, blank door-way, blazing full of light,

which caught and shone in the glistening leaves of the great hollies at

a little distance. Not a rabbit could have crossed the turf without

being seen; but there was nothing. After a time, Simson, with a certain

caution and bodily reluctance, as it seemed to me, went out with his

roll of taper into this space. His figure showed against the holly in

full outline. Just at this moment the voice sank, as was its custom, and

seemed to fling itself down at the door. Simson recoiled violently, as

if some one had come up against him, then turned, and held his taper

low, as if examining something. "Do you see anybody?" I cried in a

whisper, feeling the chill of nervous panic steal over me at this

action. "It's nothing but a--confounded juniper-bush," he said. This I

knew very well to be nonsense, for the juniper-bush was on the other

side. He went about after this, round and round, poking his taper

everywhere, then returned to me on the inner side of the wall. He

scoffed no longer; his face was contracted and pale. "How long does this

go on?" he whispered to me, like a man who does not wish to interrupt

some one who is speaking. I had become too much perturbed myself to

remark whether the successions and changes of the voice were the same

as last night. It suddenly went out in the air almost as he was

speaking, with a soft reiterated sob dying away. If there had been

anything to be seen, I should have said that the person was at that

moment crouching on the ground close to that door.

We walked home very silent afterwards. It was only when we were in sight

of the house that I said, "What do you think of it?" "I can't tell what

to think of it," he said quickly. He took--though he was a very

temperate man--not the claret I was going to offer him, but some brandy

from the tray, and swallowed it almost undiluted. "Mind you, I don't

believe a word of it," he said, when he had lighted his candle; "but I

can't tell what to think," he turned round to add, when he was half-way


All of this, however, did me no good with the solution of my problem. I

was to help this weeping, sobbing thing, which was already to me as

distinct a personality as anything I knew; or what should I say to

Roland? It was on my heart that my boy would die if I could not find

some way of helping this creature. You may be surprised that I should

speak of it in this way. I did not know if it was man or woman; but I no

more doubted that it was a soul in pain than I doubted my own being; and

it was my business to soothe this pain,--to deliver it, if that was

possible. Was ever such a task given to an anxious father trembling for

his only boy? I felt in my heart, fantastic as it may appear, that I

must fulfil this somehow, or part with my child; and you may conceive

that rather than do that I was ready to die. But even my dying would

not have advanced me, unless by bringing me into the same world with

that seeker at the door.

* * * * *

Next morning Simson was out before breakfast, and came in with evident

signs of the damp grass on his boots, and a look of worry and weariness,

which did not say much for the night he had passed. He improved a little

after breakfast, and visited his two patients,--for Bagley was still an

invalid. I went out with him on his way to the train, to hear what he

had to say about the boy. "He is going on very well," he said; "there

are no complications as yet. But mind you, that's not a boy to be

trifled with, Mortimer. Not a word to him about last night." I had to

tell him then of my last interview with Roland, and of the impossible

demand he had made upon me, by which, though he tried to laugh, he was

much discomposed, as I could see. "We must just perjure ourselves all

round," he said, "and swear you exorcised it"; but the man was too

kind-hearted to be satisfied with that. "It's frightfully serious for

you, Mortimer. I can't laugh as I should like to. I wish I saw a way out

of it, for your sake. By the way," he added shortly, "didn't you notice

that juniper-bush on the left-hand side?" "There was one on the right

hand of the door. I noticed you made that mistake last night."

"Mistake!" he cried, with a curious low laugh, pulling up the collar of

his coat as though he felt the cold,--"there's no juniper there this

morning, left or right. Just go and see." As he stepped into the train

a few minutes after, he looked back upon me and beckoned me for a

parting word. "I'm coming back tonight," he said.

I don't think I had any feeling about this as I turned away from that

common bustle of the railway which made my private preoccupations feel

so strangely out of date. There had been a distinct satisfaction in my

mind before, that his scepticism had been so entirely defeated. But the

more serious part of the matter pressed upon me now. I went straight

from the railway to the manse, which stood on a little plateau on the

side of the river opposite to the woods of Brentwood. The minister was

one of a class which is not so common in Scotland as it used to be. He

was a man of good family, well educated in the Scotch way, strong in

philosophy, not so strong in Greek, strongest of all in experience,--a

man who had "come across," in the course of his life, most people of

note that had ever been in Scotland, and who was said to be very sound

in doctrine, without infringing the toleration with which old men, who

are good men, are generally endowed. He was old-fashioned; perhaps he

did not think so much about the troublous problems of theology as many

of the young men, nor ask himself any hard questions about the

Confession of Faith; but he understood human nature, which is perhaps

better. He received me with a cordial welcome. "Come away, Colonel

Mortimer," he said; "I'm all the more glad to see you, that I feel it's

a good sign for the boy. He's doing well?--God be praised,--and the

Lord bless him and keep him. He has many a poor body's prayers, and that

can do nobody harm."

"He will need them all, Dr. Moncrieff," I said, "and your counsel, too."

And I told him the story,--more than I had told Simson. The old

clergyman listened to me with many suppressed exclamations, and at the

end the water stood in his eyes.

"That's just beautiful," he said. "I do not mind to have heard anything

like it; it's as fine as Burns when he wished deliverance to one--that

is prayed for in no kirk. Ay, ay! so he would have you console the poor

lost spirit? God bless the boy! There's something more than common in

that, Colonel Mortimer. And also the faith of him in his father!--I

would like to put that into a sermon." Then the old gentleman gave me an

alarmed look, and said, "No, no; I was not meaning a sermon; but I must

write it down for the 'Children's Record.'" I saw the thought that

passed through his mind. Either he thought, or he feared I would think,

of a funeral sermon. You may believe this did not make me more cheerful.

I can scarcely say that Dr. Moncrieff gave me any advice. How could any

one advise on such a subject? But he said, "I think I'll come too. I'm

an old man; I'm less liable to be frightened than those that are further

off the world unseen. It behooves me to think of my own journey there.

I've no cut-and-dry beliefs on the subject. I'll come too; and maybe at

the moment the Lord will put into our heads what to do."

This gave me a little comfort,--more than Simson had given me. To be

clear about the cause of it was not my grand desire. It was another

thing that was in my mind,--my boy. As for the poor soul at the open

door, I had no more doubt, as I have said, of its existence than I had

of my own. It was no ghost to me. I knew the creature, and it was in

trouble. That was my feeling about it, as it was Roland's. To hear it

first was a great shock to my nerves, but not now; a man will get

accustomed to anything. But to do something for it was the great

problem; how was I to be serviceable to a being that was invisible, that

was mortal no longer? "Maybe at the moment the Lord will put it into our

heads." This is very old-fashioned phraseology, and a week before, most

likely, I should have smiled (though always with kindness) at Dr.

Moncrieff's credulity; but there was a great comfort, whether rational

or otherwise I cannot say, in the mere sound of the words.

The road to the station and the village lay through the glen, not by the

ruins; but though the sunshine and the fresh air, and the beauty of the

trees, and the sound of the water were all very soothing to the spirits,

my mind was so full of my own subject that I could not refrain from

turning to the right hand as I got to the top of the glen, and going

straight to the place which I may call the scene of all my thoughts. It

was lying full in the sunshine, like all the rest of the world. The

ruined gable looked due east, and in the present aspect of the sun the

light streamed down through the door-way as our lantern had done,

throwing a flood of light upon the damp grass beyond. There was a

strange suggestion in the open door,--so futile, a kind of emblem of

vanity: all free around, so that you could go where you pleased, and yet

that semblance of an enclosure,--that way of entrance, unnecessary,

leading to nothing. And why any creature should pray and weep to get

in--to nothing, or be kept out--by nothing! You could not dwell upon it,

or it made your brain go round. I remembered, however, what Simson said

about the juniper, with a little smile on my own mind as to the

inaccuracy of recollection which even a scientific man will be guilty

of. I could see now the light of my lantern gleaming upon the wet

glistening surface of the spiky leaves at the right hand,--and he ready

to go to the stake for it that it was the left! I went round to make

sure. And then I saw what he had said. Right or left there was no

juniper at all! I was confounded by this, though it was entirely a

matter of detail: nothing at all,--a bush of brambles waving, the grass

growing up to the very walls. But after all, though it gave me a shock

for a moment, what did that matter? There were marks as if a number of

footsteps had been up and down in front of the door, but these might

have been our steps; and all was bright and peaceful and still. I poked

about the other ruin--the larger ruins of the old house--for some time,

as I had done before. There were marks upon the grass here and there--I

could not call them footsteps--all about; but that told for nothing one

way or another. I had examined the ruined rooms closely the first day.

They were half-filled up with soil and debris, withered brackens and

bramble,--no refuge for any one there. It vexed me that Jarvis should

see me coming from that spot when he came up to me for his orders. I

don't know whether my nocturnal expeditions had got wind among the

servants. But there was a significant look in his face. Something in it

I felt was like my own sensation when Simson in the midst of his

scepticism was struck dumb. Jarvis felt satisfied that his veracity had

been put beyond question. I never spoke to a servant of mine in such a

peremptory tone before. I sent him away "with a flea in his lug," as the

man described it afterwards. Interference of any kind was intolerable to

me at such a moment.

But what was strangest of all was, that I could not face Roland. I did

not go up to