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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XXX THE IRON CAGE
When she came down in the morning we were immediately struck at seeing her look very ill; and, on inquiring if she, too, had been frightened, she said she had been awakened in the night by something moving in her room, and that, by the light of the night lamp, she saw most distinctly a figure, and that the dog, which was very spirited and flew at everything, never stirred, although she endeavoured to make him. We saw clearly that she had been very much alarmed; and when Mr Atkyns came and endeavoured to dissipate the feeling by persuading her that she might have dreamt it, she got quite angry. We could not help thinking that she had actually seen something; and my mother said, after she was gone, that though she could not bring herself to believe it was really a ghost, still she earnestly hoped that she might get out of the house without seeing this figure which frightened people so much.
We were now within three days of the one fixed for our removal; I had been taking a long ride, and being tired, had fallen asleep the moment I lay down, but in the middle of the night I was suddenly awakened--I cannot tell by what, for the step over our heads we had become so used to that it no longer disturbed us. Well, I awoke; I had been lying with my face towards my mother, who was asleep beside me, and, as one usually does on awaking, I turned to the other side, where, the weather being warm, the curtain of the bed was undrawn, as it was also at the foot, and I saw standing by a chest of drawers, which were betwixt me and the window, a thin, tall figure, in a loose powdering gown, one arm resting on the drawers, and the face turned towards me. I saw it quite distinctly by the night-light, which burnt clearly; it was a long, thin, pale, young face, with oh! such a melancholy expression as can never be effaced from my memory! I was, certainly, very much frightened; but my great horror was lest my mother should awake and see the figure. I turned my head gently towards her, and heard her breathing high in a sound sleep. Just then the clock on the stairs struck four. I daresay it was nearly an hour before I ventured to look again; and when I did take courage to turn my eyes towards the drawers there was nothing, yet I had not heard the slightest sound, though I had been listening with the greatest intensity.
As you may suppose, I never closed my eyes again; and glad I was when Creswell knocked at the door, as she did every morning, for we always locked it, and it was my business to get out of bed and let her in. But on this occasion, instead of doing so, I called out, "Come in, the door is not fastened"; upon which she answered that it was, and I was obliged to get out of bed and admit her as usual.
When I told my mother what had happened she was very grateful to me for not waking her, and commended me much for my resolution; but as she was always my first object, that was not to be wondered at. She, however, resolved not to risk another night in the house, and we got out of it that very day, after instituting, with the aid of the servants, a thorough search, with a view to ascertain whether there was any possible means of getting into the rooms except by the usual modes of ingress; but our search was vain; none could be discovered.
Considering the number of people that were in the house, the fearlessness of the family, and their disinclination to believe in what is called the _supernatural_, together with the great interest the owner of this large and handsome house must have had in discovering the trick, if there had been one, I think it is difficult to find any other explanation of this strange story than that the sad and disappointed spirit of this poor injured, and probably murdered boy, had never been disengaged from its earthly relations, to which regret for its frustrated hopes and violated rights still held it attached.