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Ghostly Tales (J. S. Le Fanu) online
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street
I slept extemporaneously in my new quarters in Digges' Street that night, and next morning returned for breakfast to the haunted mansion, where I was certain Tom would call immediately on his arrival.
I was quite right--he came; and almost his first question referred to the primary object of our change of residence.
"Thank God," he said with genuine fervour, on hearing that all was arranged. "On _your_ account I am delighted. As to myself, I assure you that no earthly consideration could have induced me ever again to pass a night in this disastrous old house."
"Confound the house!" I ejaculated, with a genuine mixture of fear and detestation, "we have not had a pleasant hour since we came to live here"; and so I went on, and related incidentally my adventure with the plethoric old rat.
"Well, if that were _all_," said my cousin, affecting to make light of the matter, "I don't think I should have minded it very much."
"Ay, but its eye--its countenance, my dear Tom," urged I; "if you had seen _that_, you would have felt it might be _anything_ but what it seemed."
"I inclined to think the best conjurer in such a case would be an able-bodied cat," he said, with a provoking chuckle.
"But let us hear your own adventure," I said tartly.
At this challenge he looked uneasily round him. I had poked up a very unpleasant recollection.
"You shall hear it, Dick; I'll tell it to you," he said. "Begad, sir, I should feel quite queer, though, telling it _here_, though we are too strong a body for ghosts to meddle with just now."
Though he spoke this like a joke, I think it was serious calculation. Our Hebe was in a corner of the room, packing our cracked delft tea and dinner-services in a basket. She soon suspended operations, and with mouth and eyes wide open became an absorbed listener. Tom's experiences were told nearly in these words:----
"I saw it three times, Dick--three distinct times; and I am perfectly certain it meant me some infernal harm. I was, I say, in danger--in _extreme_ danger; for, if nothing else had happened, my reason would most certainly have failed me, unless I had escaped so soon. Thank God. I _did_ escape.
"The first night of this hateful disturbance, I was lying in the attitude of sleep, in that lumbering old bed. I hate to think of it. I was really wide awake, though I had put out my candle, and was lying as quietly as if I had been asleep; and although accidentally restless, my thoughts were running in a cheerful and agreeable channel.
"I think it must have been two o'clock at least when I thought I heard a sound in that--that odious dark recess at the far end of the bedroom. It was as if someone was drawing a piece of cord slowly along the floor, lifting it up, and dropping it softly down again in coils. I sate up once or twice in my bed, but could see nothing, so I concluded it must be mice in the wainscot. I felt no emotion graver than curiosity, and after a few minutes ceased to observe it.
"While lying in this state, strange to say; without at first a suspicion of anything supernatural, on a sudden I saw an old man, rather stout and square, in a sort of roan-red dressing-gown, and with a black cap on his head, moving stiffly and slowly in a diagonal direction, from the recess, across the floor of the bedroom, passing my bed at the foot, and entering the lumber-closet at the left. He had something under his arm; his head hung a little at one side; and, merciful God! when I saw his face."