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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XXX THE IRON CAGE
"Well," returned my mother, "you shall both come and sleep in the little spare room next us; but what has alarmed you?"
"Someone, my lady, went through our room in the night; we both saw the figure, but we covered our heads with the bed-clothes, and lay in a dreadful fright till morning."
On hearing this, I could not help laughing, upon which Creswell burst into tears; and seeing how nervous she was, we comforted her by saying we had heard of a good house, and that we should very soon abandon our present habitation.
A few nights afterwards, my mother requested me and Charles to go into her bedroom, and fetch her frame, that she might prepare her work for the next day. It was after supper; and we were ascending the stairs by the light of a lamp which was always kept burning, when we saw going up before us, a tall, thin figure, with hair flowing down his back, and wearing a loose powdering gown. We both at once concluded it was my sister Hannah, and called out: "It won't do, Hannah! you cannot frighten us!" Upon which the figure turned into a recess in the wall; but as there was nobody there when we passed, we concluded that Hannah had contrived, somehow or other, to slip away and make her escape by the back stairs. On telling this to my mother, however, she said, "It is very odd, for Hannah went to bed with a headache before you came in from your walk"; and sure enough, on going to her room, there we found her fast asleep; and Alice, who was at work there, assured us that she had been so for more than an hour. On mentioning this circumstance to Creswell, she turned quite pale, and exclaimed that that was precisely the figure she and Marsh had seen in their bedroom.
About this time my brother Harry came to spend a few days with us, and we gave him a room up another pair of stairs, at the opposite end of the house. A morning or two after his arrival, when he came down to breakfast, he asked my mother, angrily, whether she thought he went to bed drunk and could not put out his own candle, that she sent those French rascals to watch him. My mother assured him that she had never thought of doing such a thing; but he persisted in the accusation, adding, "last night I jumped up and opened the door, and by the light of the moon, through the skylight, I saw the fellow in his loose gown at the bottom of the stairs. If I had not been in my shirt, I would have gone after him, and made him remember coming to watch me."
We were now preparing to quit the house, having secured another, belonging to a gentleman who was going to spend some time in Italy; but a few days before our removal, it happened that a Mr and Mrs Atkyns, some English friends of ours, called, to whom we mentioned these strange circumstances, observing how extremely unpleasant it was to live in a house that somebody found means of getting into, though how they contrived it we could not discover, nor what their motive could be, except it was to frighten us; observing that nobody could sleep in the room Marsh and Creswell had been obliged to give up. Upon this, Mrs Atkyns laughed heartily, and said that she should like, of all things, to sleep there, if my mother would allow her, adding that, with her little terrier, she should not be afraid of any ghost that ever appeared. As my mother had, of course, no objection to this fancy of hers, Mrs Atkyns requested her husband to ride home with the groom, in order that the latter might bring her night-things before the gates of the town were shut, as they were then residing a little way in the country. Mr Atkyns smiled, and said she was very bold; but he made no difficulties, and sent the things, and his wife retired with her dog to her room when we retired to ours, apparently without the least apprehension.