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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
It was a summer night, but chilly, the sky somewhat gloomy and overcast. Still, there was a moon--faint and sickly, but still a moon--and if the clouds permitted, after midnight it would be brighter.
I reached the house, knocked, and my servant opened with a cheerful smile.
"All right, sir, and very comfortable."
"Oh!" said I, rather disappointed; "have you not seen nor heard anything remarkable?"
"Well, sir, I must own I have heard something queer."
"The sound of feet pattering behind me; and once or twice small noises like whispers close at my ear--nothing more."
"You are not at all frightened?"
"I! not a bit of it, sir"; and the man's bold look reassured me on one point--viz. that, happen what might, he would not desert me.
We were in the hall, the street-door closed, and my attention was now drawn to my dog. He had at first ran in eagerly enough, but had sneaked back to the door, and was scratching and whining to get out. After patting him on the head, and encouraging him gently, the dog seemed to reconcile himself to the situation and followed me and F---- through the house, but keeping close at my heels instead of hurrying inquisitively in advance, which was his usual and normal habit in all strange places. We first visited the subterranean apartments, the kitchen and other offices, and especially the cellars, in which last there were two or three bottles of wine still left in a bin, covered with cobwebs, and evidently, by their appearance, undisturbed for many years. It was clear that the ghosts were not wine-bibbers.
For the rest we discovered nothing of interest. There was a gloomy little backyard, with very high walls. The stones of this yard were very damp--and what with the damp, and what with the dust and smoke-grime on the pavement, our feet left a slight impression where we passed. And now appeared the first strange phenomenon witnessed by myself in this strange abode. I saw, just before me, the print of a foot suddenly form itself, as it were. I stopped, caught hold of my servant, and pointed to it. In advance of that footprint as suddenly dropped another. We both saw it. I advanced quickly to the place; the footprint kept advancing before me, a small footprint--the foot of a child: the impression was too faint thoroughly to distinguish the shape, but it seemed to us both that it was the print of a naked foot. This phenomenon ceased when we arrived at the opposite wall, nor did it repeat itself on returning.
We remounted the stairs, and entered the rooms on the ground floor, a dining parlour, a small back-parlour, and a still smaller third room that had been probably appropriated to a footman--all still as death. We then visited the drawing-rooms, which seemed fresh and new. In the front room I seated myself in an armchair. F---- placed on the table the candlestick with which he had lighted us. I told him to shut the door. As he turned to do so, a chair opposite to me moved from the wall quickly and noiselessly, and dropped itself about a yard from my own chair, immediately fronting it.
"Why, this is better than the turning-tables," said I, with a half-laugh--and as I laughed, my dog put back his head and howled.
F----, coming back, had not observed the movement of the chair. He employed himself now in stilling the dog. I continued to gaze on the chair, and fancied I saw on it a pale blue misty outline of a human figure, but an outline so indistinct that I could only distrust my own vision. The dog now was quiet. "Put back that chair opposite to me," said I to F----; "put it back to the wall."