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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
VI THE HAUNTED AND THE HAUNTERS: OR THE HOUSE AND THE BRAIN
"But is it possible? I have known this man."
"How--where?" I cried.
"In India. He was high in the confidence of the Rajah of ----, and wellnigh drew him into a revolt which would have lost the Rajah his dominions. The man was a Frenchman--his name de V----, clever, bold, lawless. We insisted on his dismissal and banishment: it must be the same man--no two faces like his--yet this miniature seems nearly a hundred years old."
Mechanically I turned round the miniature to examine the back of it, and on the back was engraved a pentacle; in the middle of the pentacle a ladder, and the third step of the ladder was formed by the date 1765. Examining still more minutely, I detected a spring; this, on being pressed, opened the back of the miniature as a lid. Withinside the lid was engraved "Mariana to thee--Be faithful in life and in death to ----." Here follows a name that I will not mention, but it was not unfamiliar to me. I had heard it spoken of by old men in my childhood as the name borne by a dazzling charlatan, who had made a great sensation in London for a year or so, and had fled the country on the charge of a double murder within his own house--that of his mistress and his rival. I said nothing of this to Mr J----, to whom reluctantly I resigned the miniature.
We had found no difficulty in opening the first drawer within the iron safe; we found great difficulty in opening the second: it was not locked, but it resisted all efforts till we inserted in the chinks the edge of a chisel. When we had thus drawn it forth, we found a very singular apparatus in the nicest order. Upon a small thin book, or rather tablet, was placed a saucer of crystal; this saucer was filled with a clear liquid--on that liquid floated a kind of compass, with a needle shifting rapidly round, but instead of the usual points of a compass were seven strange characters, not very unlike those used by astrologers to denote the planets. A very peculiar, but not strong nor displeasing odour, came from this drawer, which was lined with a wood that we afterwards discovered to be hazel. Whatever the cause of this odour, it produced a material effect on the nerves. We all felt it, even the two workmen who were in the room--a creeping tingling sensation from the tips of the fingers to the roots of the hair. Impatient to examine the tablet, I removed the saucer. As I did so the needle of the compass went round and round with exceeding swiftness, and I felt a shock that ran through my whole frame, so that I dropped the saucer on the floor. The liquid was spilt--the saucer was broken--the compass rolled to the end of the room--and at that instant the walls shook to and fro, as if a giant had swayed and rocked them.
The two workmen were so frightened that they ran up the ladder by which we had descended from the trap-door; but seeing that nothing more happened, they were easily induced to return.
Meanwhile I had opened the tablet: it was bound in a plain red leather, with a silver clasp; it contained but one sheet of thick vellum, and on that sheet were inscribed, within a double pentacle, words in old monkish Latin, which are literally to be translated thus:--"On all that it can reach within these walls--sentient or inanimate, living or dead--as moves the needle, so work my will! Accursed be the house, and restless be the dwellers therein."