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Ghostly Tales (J. S. Le Fanu) online
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street
The cock he crew, away then flew
the fiend who had enslaved me through the awful watches of the night; and, harassed and nervous, I rose to the duties of the day.
I had--I can't say exactly why, but it may have been from the exquisite anguish and profound impressions of unearthly horror, with which this strange phantasmagoria was associated--an insurmountable antipathy to describing the exact nature of my nightly troubles to my friend and comrade. Generally, however, I told him that I was haunted by abominable dreams; and, true to the imputed materialism of medicine, we put our heads together to dispel my horrors, not by exorcism, but by a tonic.
I will do this tonic justice, and frankly admit that the accursed portrait began to intermit its visits under its influence. What of that? Was this singular apparition--as full of character as of terror--therefore the creature of my fancy, or the invention of my poor stomach? Was it, in short, _subjective_ (to borrow the technical slang of the day) and not the palpable aggression and intrusion of an external agent? That, good friend, as we will both admit, by no means follows. The evil spirit, who enthralled my senses in the shape of that portrait, may have been just as near me, just as energetic, just as malignant, though I saw him not. What means the whole moral code of revealed religion regarding the due keeping of our own bodies, soberness, temperance, etc.? here is an obvious connexion between the material and the invisible; the healthy tone of the system, and its unimpaired energy, may, for aught we can tell, guard us against influences which would otherwise render life itself terrific. The mesmerist and the electro-biologist will fail upon an average with nine patients out of ten--so may the evil spirit. Special conditions of the corporeal system are indispensable to the production of certain spiritual phenomena. The operation succeeds sometimes--sometimes fails--that is all.
I found afterwards that my would-be sceptical companion had his troubles too. But of these I knew nothing yet. One night, for a wonder, I was sleeping soundly, when I was roused by a step on the lobby outside my room, followed by the loud clang of what turned out to be a large brass candlestick, flung with all his force by poor Tom Ludlow over the banisters, and rattling with a rebound down the second flight of stairs; and almost concurrently with this, Tom burst open my door, and bounced into my room backwards, in a state of extraordinary agitation.
I had jumped out of bed and clutched him by the arm before I had any distinct idea of my own whereabouts. There we were--in our shirts--standing before the open door--staring through the great old banister opposite, at the lobby window, through which the sickly light of a clouded moon was gleaming.
"What's the matter, Tom? What's the matter with you? What the devil's the matter with you, Tom?" I demanded shaking him with nervous impatience.
He took a long breath before he answered me, and then it was not very coherently.
"It's nothing, nothing at all--did I speak?--what did I say?--where's the candle, Richard? It's dark; I--I had a candle!"
"Yes, dark enough," I said; "but what's the matter?--what _is_ it?--why don't you speak, Tom?--have you lost your wits?--what is the matter?"
"The matter?--oh, it is all over. It must have been a dream--nothing at all but a dream--don't you think so? It could not be anything more than a dream."
"Of _course_" said I, feeling uncommonly nervous, "it _was_ a dream."
"I thought," he said, "there was a man in my room, and--and I jumped out of bed; and--and--where's the candle?"