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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE X - "---- HOUSE," NEAR BLYTHSWOOD SQUARE, GLASGOW. THE HAUNTED BATH
"I may as well have a peep in the cupboard," he said, "just to satisfy myself no one is hiding there--for every one in the house knows how I hate this beastly bathroom--with the intention of playing me a practical joke. Supposing one of the maids--Polly, for example, I'm sure she'd be quite capable--took it into her pretty head to"--but here the Captain was obliged to stop; he really was not equal to facing, even in his mind's eye, the situation such a supposition involved, and at the bare idea of such a thing his countenance assumed a deeper hue, and--I am loth to admit--an amused grin. The grin, however, died out as he cautiously opened the door and peered furtively in; no one--nothing was there! With a breath of relief he closed the door again, placed a chair against it, and, sitting down, proceeded to pull off his clothes. Coat, vest, under-garments, he placed them all tenderly in an untidy heap on the floor, and then, with a last lingering, affectionate look at them, walked sedately towards the bath. But this sedateness was only momentary. The first few steps he walked, but, a noise in the grate startling him, he suddenly assumed an air of the greatest gaiety, and, bowing with mock gallantry to his trousers, he now waltzed coquettishly to the bath. It was grim, horribly grim, and horribly hot too, for, when he felt the temperature with one of his squat, podgy toes, it made him swear quite involuntarily. Turning on the cold water, and slapping his thighs playfully, he felt again. Too hot yet, far too hot even for him! He loved heat. More cold! and he was hoisting one chubby leg to feel again, when, a repetition of the noise in the grate making him swing round, he lost his balance, and descended on the floor with a hard, a very hard, bump. For some seconds he lay still, too sulky and aggrieved even to get up, but, the draught from under the ill-fitting door tickling his bare flesh in the most immodest fashion, he roused himself from this lethargy, and was about to raise himself from the floor, when the lights went out--went out without a moment's warning, and he found himself engulfed in the most funereal darkness. To say he was startled is to put it very mildly--he was absolutely terror-stricken--far too terror-stricken to think of moving now, and least of all of getting up and groping for the matches. Indeed, when he came to think of it, he had not seen any matches in the room, and he had not brought any with him, his wife had flurried him so much. The moment the candles were extinguished the grimness sensibly increased, and he could feel all around him, thickly amalgamated with the ether, a superphysical presence, at once hostile and horrible. Then, to bring his terror to a climax, there issued from the bath a loud rubbing and splashing, as if some one, some very heavy person, was vigorously washing. The water rose and fell, squished and bubbled as it does when one is lying at full length in it, raising and lowering oneself, kicking and plunging first on one side and then on the other. Whilst, to add to the realism, Captain Smythe distinctly heard gasping and puffing; and the soft, greasy sound of a well-soaped flannel. He could indeed follow every movement of the occupant of the bath as graphically as if he had seen him--from the brisk scrubbing of body and legs to the finicky process of cleaning the ears and toes.