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The Stalls Of Barchester Cathedral

Scary Books: Great Ghost Stories


This matter began, as far as I am concerned, with the reading of a

notice in the obituary section of the Gentleman's Magazine for an

early year in the nineteenth century:

"On February 26th, at his residence in the Cathedral Close of

Barchester, the Venerable John Benwell Haynes, D.D., aged 57,

Archdeacon of Sowerbridge and Rector of Pickhill
and Candley. He

was of ---- College, Cambridge, and where, by talent and assiduity,

he commanded the esteem of his seniors; when, at the usual time, he

took his first degree, his name stood high in the list of

wranglers. These academical honours procured for him within a

short time a Fellowship of his College. In the year 1873 he

received Holy Orders, and was shortly afterwards presented to the

perpetual Curacy of Ranxton-sub-Ashe by his friend and patron the

late truly venerable Bishop of Lichfield.... His speedy

preferments, first to a Prebend, and subsequently to the dignity of

Precentor in the Cathedral of Barchester, form an eloquent

testimony to the respect in which he was held and to his eminent

qualifications. He succeeded to the Archdeaconry upon the sudden

decease of Archdeacon Pulteney in 1810. His sermons, ever

conformable to the principles of the religion and Church which he

adorned, displayed in no ordinary degree, without the least trace

of enthusiasm, the refinement of the scholar united with the graces

of the Christian. Free from sectarian violence, and informed by the

spirit of the truest charity, they will long dwell in the memories

of his hearers. (Here a further omission.) The productions of his

pen include an able defence of Episcopacy, which, though often

perused by the author of this tribute to his memory, afford but one

additional instance of the want of liberality and enterprise which

is a too common characteristic of the publishers of our generation.

His published works are, indeed, confined to a spirited and elegant

version of the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus, a volume of

Discourses upon the Several Events in the Life of Joshua,

delivered in his Cathedral, and a number of the charges which he

pronounced at various visitations to the clergy of his

Archdeaconry. These are distinguished by etc., etc. The urbanity

and hospitality of the subject of these lines will not readily be

forgotten by those who enjoyed his acquaintance. His interest in

the venerable and awful pile under whose hoary vault he was so

punctual an attendant, and particularly in the musical portion of

its rites, might be termed filial, and formed a strong and

delightful contrast to the polite indifference displayed by too

many of our Cathedral dignitaries at the present time."

The final paragraph, after informing us that Dr. Haynes died a bachelor,


"It might have been augured that an existence so placid and

benevolent would have been terminated in a ripe old age by a

dissolution equally gradual and calm. But how unsearchable are the

workings of Providence! The peaceful and retired seclusion amid

which the honoured evening of Dr. Haynes' life was mellowing to its

close was destined to be disturbed, nay, shattered, by a tragedy as

appalling as it was unexpected. The morning of the 26th of


But perhaps I shall do better to keep back the remainder of the

narrative until I have told the circumstances which led up to it. These,

as far as they are now accessible, I have derived from another source.

I had read the obituary notice which I have been quoting, quite by

chance, along with a great many others of the same period. It had

excited some little speculation in my mind, but, beyond thinking that,

if I ever had an opportunity of examining the local records of the

period indicated, I would try to remember Dr. Haynes, I made no effort

to pursue his case.

Quite lately I was cataloguing the manuscripts in the library of the

college to which he belonged. I had reached the end of the numbered

volumes on the shelves, and I proceeded to ask the librarian Whether

there were any more books which he thought I ought to include in my

description. "I don't think there are," he said, "but we had better come

and look at the manuscript class and make sure. Have you time to do that

now?" I had time. We went to the library, checked off the manuscripts,

and, at the end of our survey arrived at a shelf of which I had seen

nothing. Its contents consisted for the most part of sermons, bundles of

fragmentary papers, college exercises, Cyrus, an epic poem in several

cantos, the product of a country clergyman's leisure, mathematical

tracts by a deceased professor, and other similar material of a kind

with which I am only too familiar. I took brief notes of these. Lastly,

there was a tin box, which was pulled out and dusted. Its label, much

faded, was thus inscribed: "Papers of the Ven. Archdeacon Haynes.

Bequeathed in 1834 by his sister, Miss Letitia Haynes."

I knew at once that the name was one which I had somewhere encountered,

and could very soon locate it. "That must be the Archdeacon Haynes who

came to a very odd end at Barchester. I've read his obituary in the

Gentleman's Magazine. May I take the box home? Do you know if there is

anything interesting in it?"

The librarian was very willing that I should take the box and examine it

at leisure. "I never looked inside it myself," he said, "but I've always

been meaning to. I am pretty sure that is the box which our old Master

once said ought never to have been accepted by the college. He said that

to Martin years ago; and he said also that as long as he had control

over the library it should never be opened. Martin told me about it,

and said that he wanted terribly to know what was in it; but the Master

was librarian, and always kept the box in the lodge, so there was no

getting at it in his time, and when he died it was taken away by mistake

by his heirs, and only returned a few years ago. I can't think why I

haven't opened it; but, as I have to go away from Cambridge this

afternoon, you had better have first go at it. I think I can trust you

not to publish anything undesirable in our catalogue."

I took the box home and examined its contents, and thereafter consulted

the librarian as to what should be done about publication, and, since I

have his leave to make a story out of it, provided I disguise the

identity of the people concerned, I will try what can be done.

The materials are, of course, mainly journals and letters. How much I

shall quote and how much epitomize must be determined by considerations

of space. The proper understanding of the situation has necessitated a

little--not very arduous--research, which has been greatly facilitated

by the excellent illustrations and text of the Barchester volume in

Bell's Cathedral Series.

When you enter the choir of Barchester Cathedral now, you pass through a

screen of metal and coloured marbles, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and

find yourself in what I must call a very bare and odiously furnished

place. The stalls are modern, without canopies. The places of the

dignitaries and the names of the prebends have fortunately been allowed

to survive, and are inscribed on small brass plates affixed to the

stalls. The organ is in the triforium, and what is seen of the case is

Gothic. The reredos and its surroundings are like every other.

Careful engravings of a hundred years ago show a very different state of

things. The organ is on a massive classical screen. The stalls are also

classical and very massive. There is a baldacchino of wood over the

altar, with urns upon its corners. Further east is a solid altar screen,

classical in design, of wood, with a pediment, in which is a triangle

surrounded by rays, enclosing certain Hebrew letters in gold. Cherubs

contemplate these. There is a pulpit with a great sounding-board at the

eastern end of the stalls on the north side, and there is a black and

white marble pavement. Two ladies and a gentleman are admiring the

general effect. From other sources I gather that the archdeacon's stall

then, as now, was next to the bishop's throne at the south-eastern end

of the stalls. His house almost faces the western part of the church,

and is a fine red-brick building of William the Third's time.

Here Dr. Haynes, already a mature man, took up his abode with his sister

in the year 1810. The dignity had long been the object of his wishes,

but his predecessor refused to depart until he had attained the age of

ninety-two. About a week after he had held a modest festival in

celebration of that ninety-second birthday, there came a morning, late

in the year, when Dr. Haynes, hurrying cheerfully into his

breakfast-room, rubbing his hands and humming a tune, was greeted, and

checked in his genial flow of spirits, by the sight of his sister,

seated, indeed, in her usual place behind the tea-urn, but bowed forward

and sobbing unrestrainedly into her handkerchief. "What--what is the

matter? What bad news?" he began. "Oh, Johnny, you've not heard? The

poor dear archdeacon!" "The archdeacon, yes? What is it--ill, is he?"

"No, no; they found him on the staircase this morning; it is so

shocking." "Is it possible! Dear, dear, poor Pulteney! Had there been

any seizure?" "They don't think so, and that is almost the worst thing

about it. It seems to have been all the fault of that stupid maid of

theirs, Jane." Dr. Haynes paused. "I don't quite understand, Letitia.

How was the maid at fault?" "Why, as far as I can make out, there was a

stair-rod missing, and she never mentioned it, and the poor archdeacon

set his foot quite on the edge of the step--you know how slippery that

oak is--and it seems he must have fallen almost the whole flight and

broken his neck. It is so sad for poor Miss Pulteney. Of course, they

will get rid of the girl at once. I never liked her." Miss Haynes's

grief resumed its sway, but eventually relaxed so far as to permit of

her taking some breakfast. Not so her brother, who, after standing in

silence before the window for some minutes, left the room, and did not

appear again that morning.

I need only add that the careless maid-servant was dismissed forthwith,

but that the missing stair-rod was very shortly afterwards found under

the stair-carpet--an additional proof, if any were needed, of extreme

stupidity and carelessness on her part.

For a good many years Dr. Haynes had been marked out by his ability,

which seems to have been really considerable, as the likely successor of

Archdeacon Pulteney, and no disappointment was in store for him. He was

duly installed, and entered with zeal upon the discharge of those

functions which are appropriate to one in his position. A considerable

space in his journals is occupied with exclamations upon the confusion

in which Archdeacon Pulteney had left the business of his office and the

documents appertaining to it. Dues upon Wringham and Barnswood have been

uncollected for something like twelve years, and are largely

irrecoverable; no visitation has been held for seven years; four

chancels are almost past mending. The persons deputized by the

archdeacon have been nearly as incapable as himself. It was almost a

matter for thankfulness that this state of things had not been permitted

to continue, and a letter from a friend confirms this view. "[Greek: ho

katechon]," it says (in rather cruel allusion to the Second Epistle to

the Thessalonians), "is removed as last. My poor friend! Upon what a

scene of confusion will you be entering! I give you my word that, on the

last occasion of my crossing his threshold, there was no single paper

that he could lay hands upon, no syllable of mine that he could hear,

and no fact in connection with my business that he could remember. But

now, thanks to a negligent maid and a loose stair-carpet, there is some

prospect that necessary business will be transacted without a complete

loss alike of voice and temper." This letter was tucked into a pocket in

the cover of one of the diaries.

There can be no doubt of the new archdeacon's zeal and enthusiasm. "Give

me but time to reduce to some semblance of order the innumerable errors

and complications with which I am confronted, and I shall gladly and

sincerely join with the aged Israelite in the canticle which too many, I

fear, pronounce but with their lips." This reflection I find, not in a

diary, but a letter; the doctor's friends seem to have returned his

correspondence to his surviving sister. He does not confine himself,

however, to reflections. His investigation of the rights and duties of

his office are very searching and businesslike, and there is a

calculation in one place that a period of three years will just suffice

to set the business of the Archdeaconry upon a proper footing. The

estimate appears to have been an exact one. For just three years he is

occupied in reforms; but I look in vain at the end of that time for the

promised Nunc dimittis. He has now found a new sphere of activity.

Hitherto his duties have precluded him from more than an occasional

attendance at the Cathedral services. Now he begins to take an interest

in the fabric and the music. Upon his struggles with the organist, an

old gentleman who had been in office since 1786, I have no time to

dwell; they were not attended with any marked success. More to the

purpose is his sudden growth of enthusiasm for the Cathedral itself and

its furniture. There is a draft of a letter to Sylvanus Urban (which I

do not think was ever sent) describing the stalls in the choir. As I

have said, these were of fairly late date--of about the year 1700, in


"The archdeacon's stall, situated at the south-east end, west of the

episcopal throne (now so worthily occupied by the truly excellent

prelate who adorns the See of Barchester), is distinguished by some

curious ornamentation. In addition to the arms of Dean West, by whose

efforts the whole of the internal furniture of the choir was completed,

the prayer-desk is terminated at the eastern extremity by three small

but remarkable statuettes in the grotesque manner. One is an exquisitely

modelled figure of a cat, whose crouching posture suggests with

admirable spirit the suppleness, vigilance, and craft of the redoubted

adversary of the genus Mus. Opposite to this is a figure seated upon a

throne and invested with the attributes of royalty; but it is no earthly

monarch whom the carver has sought to portray. His feet are studiously

concealed by the long robe in which he is draped: but neither the crown

nor the cap which he wears suffice to hide the prick-ears and curving

horns which betray his Tartarean origin; and the hand which rests upon

his knee is armed with talons of horrifying length and sharpness.

Between these two figures stands a shape muffled in a long mantle. This

might at first sight be mistaken for a monk or 'friar of orders grey,'

for the head is cowled and a knotted cord depends from somewhere about

the waist. A slight inspection, however, will lead to a very different

conclusion. The knotted cord is quickly seen to be a halter, held by a

hand all but concealed within the draperies; while the sunken features

and, horrid to relate, the rent flesh upon the cheek-bones, proclaim the

King of Terrors. These figures are evidently the production of no

unskilled chisel; and should it chance that any of your correspondents

are able to throw light upon their origin and significance, my

obligations to your valuable miscellany will be largely increased."

* * * * *

There is more description in the paper, and, seeing that the woodwork in

question has now disappeared, it has a considerable interest. A

paragraph at the end is worth quoting:

"Some late researches among the Chapter accounts have shown me that

the carving of the stalls was not, as was very usually reported,

the work of Dutch artists, but was executed by a native of this

city or district named Austin. The timber was procured from an oak

copse in the vicinity, the property of the Dean and Chapter, known

as Holywood. Upon a recent visit to the parish within whose

boundaries it is situated, I learned from the aged and truly

respectable incumbent that traditions still lingered amongst the

inhabitants of the great size and age of the oaks employed to

furnish the materials of the stately structure which has been,

however imperfectly, described in the above lines. Of one in

particular, which stood near the centre of the grove, it is

remembered that it was known as the Hanging Oak. The propriety of

that title is confirmed by the fact that a quantity of human bones

was found in the soil about its roots, and that at certain times of

the year it was the custom for those who wished to secure a

successful issue to their affairs, whether of love or the ordinary

business of life, to suspend from its boughs small images or

puppets rudely fashioned of straw, twigs, or the like rustic


So much for the archdeacon's archaeological investigations. To return to

his career as it is to be gathered from his diaries. Those of his first

three years of hard and careful work show him throughout in high

spirits, and, doubtless, during this time, that reputation for

hospitality and urbanity which is mentioned in his obituary notice was

well deserved. After that, as time goes on, I see a shadow coming over

him--destined to develop into utter blackness--which I cannot but think

must have been reflected in his outward demeanour. He commits a good

deal of his fears and troubles to his diary; there was no other outlet

for them. He was unmarried, and his sister was not always with him. But

I am much mistaken if he has told all that he might have told. A series

of extracts shall be given:

"Aug. 30, 1816.--The days begin to draw in more perceptibly than

ever. Now that the Archdeaconry papers are reduced to order, I

must find some further employment for the evening hours of autumn

and winter. It is a great blow that Letitia's health will not allow

her to stay through these months. Why not go on with my Defence of

Episcopacy? It may be useful.

"Sept. 15.--Letitia has left me for Brighton.

"Oct. 11.--Candles lit in the choir for the first time at evening

prayers. It came as a shock: I find that I absolutely shrink from

the dark season.

"Nov. 17.--Much struck by the character of the carving on my

desk: I do not know that I had ever carefully noticed it before. My

attention was called to it by an accident. During the Magnificat

I was, I regret to say, almost overcome with sleep. My hand was

resting on the back of the carved figure of a cat which is the

nearest to me of the three figures on the end of my stall. I was

not aware of this, for I was not looking in that direction, until I

was startled by what seemed a softness, a feeling as of rather

rough and coarse fur, and a sudden movement, as if the creature

were twisting round its head to bite me. I regained complete

consciousness in an instant, and I have some idea that I must have

uttered a suppressed exclamation, for I noticed that Mr. Treasurer

turned his head quickly in my direction. The impression of the

unpleasant feeling was so strong that I found myself rubbing my

hand upon my surplice. This accident led me to examine the figures

after prayers more carefully than I had done before, and I realized

for the first time with what skill they are executed.

"Dec. 6.--I do indeed miss Letitia's company. The evenings, after

I have worked as long as I can at my Defence, are very trying.

The house is too large for a lonely man, and visitors of any kind

are too rare. I get an uncomfortable impression when going to my

room that there is company of some kind. The fact is (I may as

well formulate it to myself) that I hear voices. This, I am well

aware, is a common symptom of incipient decay of the brain--and I

believe that I should be less disquieted than I am if I had any

suspicion that this was the cause. I have none--none whatever, nor

is there anything in my family history to give colour to such an

idea. Work, diligent work, and a punctual attention to the duties

which fall to me is my best remedy, and I have little doubt that it

will prove efficacious.

"Jan. 1. My trouble is, I must confess it, increasing upon me.

Last night, upon my return after midnight from the Deanery, I lit

my candle to go upstairs. I was nearly at the top when something

whispered to me, 'Let me wish you a happy New Year.' I could not be

mistaken: it spoke distinctly and with a peculiar emphasis. Had I

dropped my candle, as I all but did, I tremble to think what the

consequences must have been. As it was, I managed to get up the

last flight, and was quickly in my room with the door locked, and

experienced no other disturbance.

"Jan. 15.--I had occasion to come downstairs last night to my

workroom for my watch, which I had inadvertently left on my table

when I went up to bed. I think I was at the top of the last flight

when I had a sudden impression of a sharp whisper in my ear 'Take

care.' I clutched the balusters and naturally looked round at

once. Of course, there was nothing. After a moment I went on--it

was no good turning back--but I had as nearly as possible fallen: a

cat--a large one by the feel of it--slipped between my feet, but

again, of course, I saw nothing. It may have been the kitchen

cat, but I do not think it was.

"Feb. 27.--A curious thing last night, which I should like to

forget. Perhaps if I put it down here I may see it in its true

proportion. I worked in the library from about 9 to 10. The hall

and staircase seemed to be unusually full of what I can only call

movement without sound: by this I mean that there seemed to be

continuous going and coming, and that whenever I ceased writing to

listen, or looked out into the hall, the stillness was absolutely

unbroken. Nor, in going to my room at an earlier hour than

usual--about half-past ten--was I conscious of anything that I

could call a noise. It so happened that I had told John to come to

my room for the letter to the bishop which I wished to have

delivered early in the morning at the Palace. He was to sit up,

therefore, and come for it when he heard me retire. This I had for

the moment forgotten, though I had remembered to carry the letter

with me to my room. But when, as I was winding up my watch, I heard

a light tap at the door, and a low voice saying, 'May I come in?'

(which I most undoubtedly did hear), I recollected the fact, and

took up the letter from my dressing-table, saying, 'Certainly: come

in.' No one, however, answered my summons, and it was now that, as

I strongly suspect, I committed an error: for I opened the door and

held the letter out. There was certainly no one at that moment in

the passage, but, in the instant of my standing there, the door at

the end opened and John appeared carrying a candle. I asked him

whether he had come to the door earlier; but am satisfied that he

had not. I do not like the situation; but although my senses were

very much on the alert, and though it was some time before I could

sleep, I must allow that I perceived nothing further of an untoward


With the return of spring, when his sister came to live with him for

some months, Dr. Haynes's entries became more cheerful, and, indeed, no

symptom of depression is discernible unto the early part of September,

when he was again left alone. And now, indeed, there is evidence that he

was incommoded again, and that more pressingly. To this matter I will

return in a moment, but I digress to put in a document which, rightly or

wrongly, I believe to have a bearing on the thread of the story.

The account-books of Dr. Haynes, preserved along with his other papers,

show, from a date but little later than that of his institution as

archdeacon, a quarterly payment of L25 to J.L. Nothing could have been

made of this, had it stood by itself. But I connect with it a very dirty

and ill-written letter, which, like another that I have quoted, was in a

pocket in the cover of a diary. Of date or postmark there is no vestige,

and the decipherment was not easy. It appears to run:

"Dr Sr.

"I have bin expctin to her off you theis last wicks, and not

Haveing done so must supose you have not got mine witch was saying

how me and my man had met in with bad times this season all seems

to go cross with us on the farm and which way to look for the rent

we have no knowledge of it this been the sad case with us if you

would have the great [liberality probably, but the exact spelling

defies reproduction] to send fourty pounds otherwise steps will

have to be took which I should not wish. Has you was the Means of

my losing my place with Dr. Pulteney I think it is only just what I

am asking and you know best what I could say if I was Put to it but

I do not wish anything of that unpleasant Nature being one that

always wish to have everything Pleasant about me.

"Your obedt Servt,


About the time at which I suppose this letter to have been written there

is, in fact, a payment of L40 to J.L.

We return to the diary:

"Oct. 22.--At evening prayers, during the Psalms, I had that same

experience which I recollect from last year. I was resting my hand

on one of the carved figures, as before (I usually avoid that of

the cat now), and--I was going to have said--a change came over it,

but that seems attributing too much importance to what must, after

all, be due to some physical affection in myself: at any rate, the

wood seemed to become chilly and soft as if made of wet linen. I

can assign the moment at which I became sensible of this. The choir

was singing the words (Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over

him and) let Satan stand at his right hand.

"The whispering in my house was more persistent tonight. I seemed

not to be rid of it in my room. I have not noticed this before. A

nervous man, which I am not, and hope I am not becoming, would have

been much annoyed, if not alarmed, by it. The cat was on the stairs

tonight. I think it sits there always. There is no kitchen cat.

"Nov. 15.--Here again I must note a matter I do not understand. I

am much troubled in sleep. No definite image presented itself, but

I was pursued by the very vivid impression that wet lips were

whispering into my ear with great rapidity and emphasis for some

time together. After this, I suppose, I feel asleep, but was

awakened with a start by a feeling as if a hand were laid on my

shoulder. To my intense alarm I found myself standing at the top of

the lowest flight on the first staircase. The moon was shining

brightly enough through the large window to let me see that there

was a large cat on the second or third step. I can make no comment.

I crept up to bed again, I do not know how. Yes, mine is a heavy

burden. [Then follows a line or two which has been scratched out. I

fancy I read something like 'acted for the best.']"

Not long after this it is evident to me that the archdeacon's firmness

began to give way under the pressure of these phenomena. I omit as

unnecessarily painful and distressing the ejaculations and prayers

which, in the months of December and January, appear for the first time

and become increasingly frequent. Throughout this time, however, he is

obstinate in clinging to his post. Why he did not plead ill-health and

take refuge at Bath or Brighton I cannot tell; my impression is that it

would have done him no good; that he was a man who, if he had confessed

himself beaten by the annoyances, would have succumbed at once, and that

he was conscious of this. He did seek to palliate them by inviting

visitors to his house. The result he has noted in this fashion:

"Jan. 7.--I have prevailed on my cousin Allen to give me a few

days, and he is to occupy the chamber next to mine.

"Jan. 8.--A still night. Allen slept well, but complained of the

wind. My own experiences were as before: still whispering and

whispering: what is it that he wants to say?

"Jan. 9.--Allen thinks this is a very noisy house. He thinks,

too, that my cat is an unusually large and fine specimen, but very


"Jan. 10.--Allen and I in the library until 11. He left me twice

to see what the maids were doing in the hall: returning the second

time he told me he had seen one of them passing through the door at

the end of the passage, and said if his wife were here she would

soon get them into better order. I asked him what coloured dress

the maid wore; he said grey or white. I supposed it would be so.

"Jan. 11.--Allen left me today. I must be firm."

These words, I must be firm, occur again and again on subsequent days;

sometimes they are the only entry. In these cases they are in an

unusually large hand, and dug into the paper in a way which must have

broken the pen that wrote them.

Apparently the archdeacon's friends did not remark any change in his

behaviour, and this gives me a high idea of his courage and

determination. The diary tells us nothing more than I have indicated of

the last days of his life. The end of it all must be told in the

polished language of the obituary notice:

"The morning of the 26th of February was cold and tempestuous. At

an early hour the servants had occasion to go into the front hall

of the residence occupied by the lamented subject of these lines.

What was their horror upon observing the form of their beloved and

respected master lying upon the landing of the principal staircase

in an attitude which inspired the gravest fears. Assistance was

procured, and an universal consternation was experienced upon the

discovery that he had been the object of a brutal and a murderous

attack. The vertebral column was fractured in more than one place.

This might have been the result of a fall: it appeared that the

stair-carpet was loosened at one point. But, in addition to this,

there were injuries inflicted upon the eyes, nose and mouth, as if

by the agency of some savage animal, which, dreadful to relate,

rendered those features unrecognizable. The vital spark was, it is

needless to add, completely extinct, and had been so, upon the

testimony of respectable medical authorities, for several hours.

The author or authors of this mysterious outrage are alike buried

in mystery, and the most active conjecture has hitherto failed to

suggest a solution of the melancholy problem afforded by this

appalling occurrence."

The writer goes on to reflect upon the probability that the writings of

Mr. Shelley, Lord Byron, and M. Voltaire may have been instrumental in

bringing about the disaster, and concludes by hoping, somewhat vaguely,

that this event may "operate as an example to the rising generation";

but this portion of his remarks need not be quoted in full.

I had already formed the conclusion that Dr. Haynes was responsible for

the death of Dr. Pulteney. But the incident connected with the carved

figure of death upon the archdeacon's stall was a very perplexing

feature. The conjecture that it had been cut out of the wood of the

Hanging Oak was not difficult, but seemed impossible to substantiate.

However, I paid a visit to Barchester, partly with the view of finding

out whether there were any relics of the woodwork to be heard of. I was

introduced by one of the canons to the curator of the local museum, who

was, my friend said, more likely to be able to give me information on

the point than any one else. I told this gentleman of the description of

certain carved figures and arms formerly on the stalls, and asked

whether any had survived. He was able to show me the arms of Dean West

and some other fragments. These, he said, had been got from an old

resident, who had also once owned a figure--perhaps one of those which I

was inquiring for. There was a very odd thing about that figure, he

said. "The old man who had it told me that he picked it up in a

wood-yard, whence he had obtained the still extant pieces, and had taken

it home for his children. On the way home he was fiddling about with it

and it came in two in his hands, and a bit of paper dropped out. This he

picked up and, just noticing that there was writing on it, put it into

his pocket, and subsequently into a vase on his mantelpiece. I was at

his house not very long ago, and happened to pick up the vase and turn

it over to see whether there were any marks on it, and the paper fell

into my hand. The old man, on my handing it to him, told me the story I

have told you, and said I might keep the paper. It was crumpled and

rather torn, so I have mounted it on a card, which I have here. If you

can tell me what it means I shall be very glad, and also, I may say, a

good deal surprised."

He gave me the card. The paper was quite legibly inscribed in an old

hand, and this is what was on it:

"When I grew in the Wood

I was water'd w^{th} Blood

Now in the Church I stand

Who that touches me with his Hand

If a Bloody hand he bear

I councell him to be ware

Lest he be fetcht away

Whether by night or day,

But chiefly when the wind blows high

In a night of February."

"This I dreampt, 26 Febr. A^o 1699. JOHN AUSTIN."

"I suppose it is a charm or a spell: wouldn't you call it something of

that kind?" said the curator.

"Yes," I said, "I suppose one might. What became of the figure in which

it was concealed?"

"Oh, I forgot," said he. "The old man told me it was so ugly and

frightened his children so much that he burnt it."