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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
The Woman at Seven Brothers
You'll say it's foolish, sir, and maybe it _was_ foolish. Maybe it was because I hadn't eaten. But I began thinking of that door up there the minute I set foot on the stair, and all the way up through that howling dark well I dreaded to pass it. I told myself I wouldn't stop. I didn't stop. I felt the landing underfoot and I went on, four steps, five--and then I couldn't. I turned and went back. I put out my hand and it went on into nothing. That door, sir, was open again.
I left it be; I went on up to the light-room and set to work. It was Bedlam there, sir, screeching Bedlam, but I took no notice. I kept my eyes down. I trimmed those seven wicks, sir, as neat as ever they were trimmed; I polished the brass till it shone, and I dusted the lens. It wasn't till that was done that I let myself look back to see who it was standing there, half out of sight in the well. It was her, sir.
"Where'd you come from?" I asked. I remember my voice was sharp.
"Up Jacob's-ladder," said she, and hers was like the syrup of flowers.
I shook my head. I was savage, sir. "The ladder's carried away."
"I cast it off," said she, with a smile.
"Then," said I, "you must have come while I was asleep." Another thought came on me heavy as a ton of lead. "And where's _he_?" said I. "Where's the boat?"
"He's drowned," said she, as easy as that. "And I let the boat go adrift. You wouldn't hear me when I called."
"But look here," said I. "If you came through the store-room, why didn't you wake me up? Tell me that!" It sounds foolish enough, me standing like a lawyer in court, trying to prove she _couldn't_ be there.
She didn't answer for a moment. I guess she sighed, though I couldn't hear for the gale, and her eyes grew soft, sir, so soft.
"I couldn't," said she. "You looked so peaceful--dear one."
My cheeks and neck went hot, sir, as if a warm iron was laid on them. I didn't know what to say. I began to stammer, "What do you mean--" but she was going back down the stair, out of sight. My God sir, and I used not to think she was good-looking!
I started to follow her. I wanted to know what she meant. Then I said to myself, "If I don't go--if I wait here--she'll come back." And I went to the weather side and stood looking out of the window. Not that there was much to see. It was growing dark, and the Seven Brothers looked like the mane of a running horse, a great, vast, white horse running into the wind. The air was a-welter with it. I caught one peep of a fisherman, lying down flat trying to weather the ledge, and I said, "God help them all to-night," and then I went hot at sound of that "God."
I was right about her, though. She was back again. I wanted her to speak first, before I turned, but she wouldn't. I didn't hear her go out; I didn't know what she was up to till I saw her coming outside on the walk-around, drenched wet already. I pounded on the glass for her to come in and not be a fool; if she heard she gave no sign of it.
There she stood, and there I stood watching her. Lord, sir--was it just that I'd never had eyes to see? Or are there women who bloom? Her clothes were shining on her, like a carving, and her hair was let down like a golden curtain tossing and streaming in the gale, and there she stood with her lips half open, drinking, and her eyes half closed, gazing straight away over the Seven Brothers, and her shoulders swaying, as if in tune with the wind and water and all the ruin. And when I looked at her hands over the rail, sir, they were moving in each other as if they bathed, and then I remembered, sir.