Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
III HORSES AND THE UNKNOWN
The house, though old--and its black oak panellings, silent staircases, dark corridors, and general air of gloom were certainly suggestive of ghosts--did not affect me in the same degree. The fear it inspired was the ordinary fear inspired by the ordinary superphysical, but the fear I felt in the grounds was a fear created by something out of the way--something far more bizarre than a mere phantom of the dead.
The Colonel asked me if I had experienced any unusual sensations the moment I entered the house, and I told him, "Yes."
"Nearly everyone does," he replied, "and yet, so far as I know, no one has ever seen anything. The noises we hear all round the house have lately been more frequent. I won't describe them; I want to learn your unbiassed opinion of them first."
We then had tea, and whilst the rest--there was a large house-party--indulged in music and cards, the Colonel and I had a delightful chat about old times. I went to bed in the firm resolution of keeping awake till at least two; but I was very tired, and the excessive cold had made me extremely sleepy; consequently, despite my heroic efforts, I gradually dozed off, and knew no more till it was broad daylight and the butler entered my room with a cup of tea. When I came down to breakfast I found everyone in the best of spirits. The Onslows are "great hands" at original entertainments, and the announcement that there would be a masked ball that evening was received with tremendous enthusiasm.
"To-night we dance, to-morrow we feed on Easter eggs and fancy cakes," one of the guests laughingly whispered. "What a nicely ordered programme! I hear, too, we are to have a real old-fashioned Easter Day--heaving and lifting, and stool-ball. Egad! The Colonel deserves knighthood!"
Soon after breakfast there was a general stampede to Seeton and Dinstable to buy gifts; for in that respect again the Onslows stuck to old customs, and there was a general interchange of presents on Easter morning. My purchases made, I joined one or two of the house-party at lunch in Seeton, cycled back alone to Eastover in time for tea; and, at five o'clock, commenced my first explorations of the grounds. The sky having become clouded my progress was somewhat slow. I did the Park first, and I had not gone very far before I detected the same presence I had so acutely felt the previous afternoon. Like the scent of a wild beast, it had a certain defined track which I followed astutely, eventually coming to a full stop in front of a wall of rock. I then perceived by the aid of a few fitful rays of suppressed light, which at intervals struggled successfully through a black bank of clouds, the yawning mouth of a big cavern, from the roof of which hung innumerable stalactites. I now suddenly realized that I was in a very lonely, isolated spot, and became immeasurably perturbed. The Unknown Something in the atmosphere which had inspired me with so much fear was here conglomerated--it was no longer the mere essence--it was the whole Thing. The whole Thing, but what was that Thing? A hideous fascination made me keep my gaze riveted on the gaping hole opposite me. At first I could make out nothing--nothing but jagged walls and roof, and empty darkness; then there suddenly appeared in the very innermost recesses of the cave a faint glow of crimson light which grew and grew, until with startling abruptness it resolved itself into two huge eyes, red and menacing. The sight was so unexpected, and, by reason of its intense malignity, so appalling, that I was simply dumbfounded. I could do nothing but stare at the Thing--paralysed and speechless. I made a desperate effort to get back my self-possession; I strove with all my might to reason with myself, to assure myself that this was the supreme moment of my life, the moment I had so long and earnestly desired. But it was in vain; I was terrified--helplessly, hopelessly terrified. The eyes moved, they drew nearer and nearer to me, and as they did so they became more and more hostile. I opened my mouth to shout for help, I could feel my lungs bursting under the tension; not a sound came; and then--then, as the eyes closed on me, and I could feel the cold, clammy weight pressing me down, there rang out, loud and clear, in the keen and cutting air of the spring evening, a whole choir of voices--the village choral society.