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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
The Woman at Seven Brothers
A cold horror took me. I knew now why she had come back again. She wasn't a woman--she was a devil. I turned my back on her. I said to myself: "It's time to light up. You've got to light up"--like that, over and over, out loud. My hand was shivering so I could hardly find a match; and when I scratched it, it only flared a second and then went out in the back draught from the open door. She was standing in the doorway, looking at me. It's queer, sir, but I felt like a child caught in mischief.
"I--I--was going to light up," I managed to say, finally.
"Why?" said she. No, I can't say it as she did.
"_Why?_" said I. "_My God!_"
She came nearer, laughing, as if with pity, low, you know. "Your God? And who is your God? What is God? What is anything on a night like this?"
I drew back from her. All I could say anything about was the light.
"Why not the dark?" said she. "Dark is softer than light--tenderer--dearer than light. From the dark up here, away up here in the wind and storm, we can watch the ships go by, you and I. And you love me so. You've loved me so long, Ray."
"I never have!" I struck out at her. "I don't! I don't!"
Her voice was lower than ever, but there was the same laughing pity in it. "Oh yes, you have." And she was near me again.
"I have?" I yelled. "I'll show you! I'll show you if I have!"
I got another match, sir, and scratched it on the brass. I gave it to the first wick, the little wick that's inside all the others. It bloomed like a yellow flower. "I _have_?" I yelled, and gave it to the next.
Then there was a shadow, and I saw she was leaning beside me, her two elbows on the brass, her two arms stretched out above the wicks, her bare forearms and wrists and hands. I gave a gasp:
"Take care! You'll burn them! For God's sake----"
She didn't move or speak. The match burned my fingers and went out, and all I could do was stare at those arms of hers, helpless. I'd never noticed her arms before. They were rounded and graceful and covered with a soft down, like a breath of gold. Then I heard her speaking close to my ear.
"Pretty arms," she said. "Pretty arms!"
I turned. Her eyes were fixed on mine. They seemed heavy, as if with sleep, and yet between their lids they were two wells, deep and deep, and as if they held all the things I'd ever thought or dreamed in them. I looked away from them, at her lips. Her lips were red as poppies, heavy with redness. They moved, and I heard them speaking:
"Poor boy, you love me so, and you want to kiss me--don't you?"
"No," said I. But I couldn't turn around. I looked at her hair. I'd always thought it was stringy hair. Some hair curls naturally with damp, they say, and perhaps that was it, for there were pearls of wet on it, and it was thick and shimmering around her face, making soft shadows by the temples. There was green in it, queer strands of green like braids.
"What is it?" said I.
"Nothing but weed," said she, with that slow, sleepy smile.
Somehow or other I felt calmer than I had any time. "Look here," said I. "I'm going to light this lamp." I took out a match, scratched it, and touched the third wick. The flame ran around, bigger than the other two together. But still her arms hung there. I bit my lip. "By God, I will!" said I to myself, and I lit the fourth.