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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
"The chairs seemed all in confusion. I noticed that a door, probably that of a closet, had remained ajar.
"I first went to the window and opened it to get some light, but the hinges of the outside shutters were so rusted that I could not loosen them.
"I even tried to break them with my sword, but did not succeed. As those fruitless attempts irritated me, and as my eyes were by now adjusted to the dim light, I gave up hope of getting more light and went toward the writing-desk.
"I sat down in an arm-chair, folded back the top, and opened the drawer. It was full to the edge. I needed but three packages, which I knew how to distinguish, and I started looking for them.
"I was straining my eyes to decipher the inscriptions, when I thought I heard, or rather felt a rustle behind me. I took no notice, thinking a draft had lifted some curtain. But a minute later, another movement, almost indistinct, sent a disagreeable little shiver over my skin. It was so ridiculous to be moved thus even so slightly, that I would not turn round, being ashamed. I had just discovered the second package I needed, and was on the point of reaching for the third, when a great and sorrowful sigh, close to my shoulder, made me give a mad leap two yards away. In my spring I had turned round, my hand on the hilt of my sword, and surely had I not felt that, I should have fled like a coward.
"A tall woman, dressed in white, was facing me, standing behind the chair in which I had sat a second before.
"Such a shudder ran through me that I almost fell back! Oh, no one who has not felt them can understand those gruesome and ridiculous terrors! The soul melts; your heart seems to stop; your whole body becomes limp as a sponge, and your innermost parts seem collapsing.
"I do not believe in ghosts; and yet I broke down before the hideous fear of the dead; and I suffered, oh, I suffered more in a few minutes, in the irresistible anguish of supernatural dread, than I have suffered in all the rest of my life!
"If she had not spoken, I might have died. But she did speak; she spoke in a soft and plaintive voice which set my nerves vibrating. I could not say that I regained my self-control. No, I was past knowing what I did; but the kind of pride I have in me, as well as a military pride, helped me to maintain, almost in spite of myself, an honorable countenance. I was making a pose, a pose for myself, and for her, for her, whatever she was, woman, or phantom. I realized this later, for at the time of the apparition, I could think of nothing. I was afraid.
"'Oh, you can be of great help to me, monsieur!'
"I tried to answer, but I was unable to utter one word. A vague sound came from my throat.
"'Will you? You can save me, cure me. I suffer terribly. I always suffer. I suffer, oh, I suffer!'
"And she sat down gently in my chair. She looked at me.
"I nodded my head, being still paralyzed.
"Then she handed me a woman's comb of tortoise-shell, and murmured:
"'Comb my hair! Oh, comb my hair! That will cure me. Look at my head--how I suffer! And my hair--how it hurts!'
"Her loose hair, very long, very black, it seemed to me, hung over the back of the chair, touching the floor.
"Why did I do it? Why did I, shivering, accept that comb, and why did I take between my hands her long hair, which left on my skin a ghastly impression of cold, as if I had handled serpents? I do not know.