Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
III HORSES AND THE UNKNOWN
"Before the blazing faggots on the hearth sat a burly-looking individual in a blue blouse. On our arrival he arose, and as his huge form towered above me, I thought I had never seen anyone quite so hideous, nor so utterly unlike the orthodox Frenchman. Obeying his injunction--for I can scarcely call it an invitation--to sit down, I took a seat by the fire, and warming my half-frozen limbs, waited impatiently whilst the woman made up my bed and prepared supper.
"The storm had now reached cyclonic dimensions, and under its stupendous fury the whole house--stoutly built though it was--swayed on its foundations. The howling of the wind in the rude, old-fashioned chimney and along the passage, and the frenzied beating of the snow against the diamond window-panes, deadened all other noises, and rendered any attempt at conversation absolutely abortive. So I ate my meal in silence, pretending not to notice the subtle interchange of glances that constantly took place between the strangely assorted pair. Whether they were husband and wife, what the man did for a living, were questions that continually occurred to me, and I found my eyes incessantly wandering to the numerous packing-cases, piles of carpets, casks and other articles, which corroborated the woman's statement that they had but recently 'moved in.' Once I attempted to empty the coffee (which was black and peculiarly bitter) under the table, but had to desist, as I saw the man's devilish eyes fixed searchingly on me. I then pushed aside the cup, and on the woman asking if it was not to my liking, I shouted out that I was not in the least thirsty. After this incident the covert looks became more numerous, and my suspicions increased accordingly.
"At the first opportunity I got up, and signalling my intention to go to bed, was preparing to leave my seat, when my host, walking to a cupboard, fetched out a bottle of cognac, and pouring out a tumbler, handed it me with a mien that I dare not refuse.
"The woman then led me up a flight of rickety, wooden steps and into a sepulchral-looking chamber with no other furniture in it save a long, narrow, iron bedstead, a dilapidated washstand, a very unsteady, common deal table, on which was a looking-glass and a collar stud, and a rush-bottomed chair. Setting the candlestick on the dressing-table, and assuring me again that the bed was well aired, my hostess withdrew, observing as she left the room that she would get me a nice breakfast and call me at seven. At seven! How I wished it was seven now! As I stood in the midst of the floor shivering--for the room was icy cold, I suddenly saw a dark shadow emerge from a remote corner of the room and slide surreptitiously towards the door, where it halted. My eyes then fell on the lock, and I perceived that there was no key. No key! And that evil-looking pair below! I must barricade the door somehow. Yet with what? There was nothing of any weight in the room! Nothing! I began to feel horribly tired and sleepy--so sleepy that it was only with supreme effort I could prevent my eyelids closing. Ah! I had it--a wedge! I had a knife. Of wood there was plenty--a piece off the washstand, table, or chair. Anything would suffice. I essayed to struggle to the chair, my limbs tottered, my eyelids closed. Then the shadow from the doorway moved towards and THROUGH me, and with the coldness of its passage I revived! With desperate energy I cut a couple of chunks off the washstand, and paring them down, eventually succeeded in slipping them in the crack of the door, and rendering it impossible to open from the outside. That done, I staggered to the bed, and falling, dressed as I was, on the counterpane, sank into a deep sleep. How long I slept I cannot say. I suddenly heard the loud neighing of a horse which seemed to come from just under my window, and, as in a vision, saw by my side in the bed a something which gradually developed into the figure of a man, the counterpart of the mysterious being in the shaggy coat who had guided me to the house. He was fully dressed, sound asleep and breathing heavily. As I was looking a dark shadow fell across the sleeper's face, and on glancing up I perceived, to my horror, a black something crawling on the floor. Nearer and nearer it came, until it reached the side of the bed, when I immediately recognized the evil, smirking face of my hostess. In one hand she held a lamp and in the other a horn-handled knife. Setting the lamp on the floor, she coolly undid the collar of the sleeping man, and I saw a stud, the counterpart of the one on the dressing-table, fall on the bare boards with a sharp tap, and disappear in the surrounding darkness. Then the woman felt the edge of the knife with her repulsive thumb, and calmly cut the helpless man's throat. I screamed--and the murderess and her victim instantly vanished--and I realized I was alone in the room and very much awake. Whether all that had occurred was a dream, I cannot say with certainty, though I am inclined to think not.