Title: A Bottomless Grave and Other Victorian Tales of Terror.
Author: H.B. Marriott-Watson, G.R. Sims, Morgan Robertson, R. Murray Gilchrist, Dick Donovan (J. E. Preston Muddock), Frank Norris, Ambrose Bierce, J.K. Bangs, and George Manville Fenn.
Genre: Fiction, literature, short stories, horror, humour.
Country: U.K., Australia, U.S..
Publication Date: 1867, 1888, 1893, 1894, 1898, 1899, 1903 (this collection 1977).
Summary: This book collects 21 Victorian ghost and horror stories. (Stories 1-10 in this post, refer to PART 2 for 11-21). In The Devil on the Marsh (1893) by H.B. Marriott-Watson, a man who has a rendezvous with a woman in a swamp among the moors realizes with horror she is not what she appears. In A Tragic Honeymoon (1894) by G.R. Sims, a gruesome suicide in a hotel interferes with a beginning of a happy honeymoon, but the two cases have a dark connection. The Battle of the Monsters (1899) by Morgan Robertson is a tale that describes a mighty underwater battle of many gruesome and strange creatures as the rabies virus fights its inoculation. In The Return (1894) by R. Murray Gilchrist, a man who leaves his beloved to make his fortune returns after 20 years to a sad and haunting discovery. In The Corpse Light (1899) by Dick Donovan (J. E. Preston Muddock), a cynical country doctor is haunted by ghostly apparitions outside an infamously haunted windmill, which leads him to a discovery of a dark crime. In The Ship That Saw a Ghost (1903) by Frank Norris, a ship on a shady mission to do with an island surrounded in dark folklore encounters the island's ghostly sentinel. A Bottomless Grave (1888) by Ambrose Bierce is a tale of a family that descends into unspeakable crime after the untimely and suspicious death of the patriarch. In One Summer Night (1893) by Ambrose Bierce, a man accidentally buried alive encounters body snatchers. Ghosts That Have Haunted Me (1898) by J.K. Bangs is a humorous tale in which a man describes overcoming his fears in his meetings with many ghosts and spirits in favour of having an interesting time. In Haunted by Spirits (1867) by George Manville Fenn, a skeptical friend of the family agrees to spend some nights in a "haunted chamber," and gets more than he bargained for.
My rating: 8/10
♥ Tendering my horse upon the verge of the swamp, I soon discovered the path that crossed it, and entering struck out boldly for the heart. The track could have been little used, for the reeds, which stood high above the level of my eyes upon either side, straggled everywhere across in low arches, through which I dodged, and broke my way with some inconvenience and much impatience.
I was moving very slowly at the time, with a mind half disposed to turn from the melancholy expedition, which it seemed to me now must surely be a cruel jest she had played upon me. While some such reluctance held me, I was suddenly arrested by a hoarse croaking which broke out upon my left, sounding somewhere from the reeds in the black mire. A little further it came again from close at hand, and when I had passed on a few more steps in wonder and perplexity, I heard it for the third time. I stopped and listened, but the marsh was a grave, and so taking the noise for the signal of some raucous frog, I resumed my way. But in a little the croaking was repeated, and coming quickly to a stand I pushed the reeds aside and peered into the darkness. I could see nothing, but at the immediate moment of my pause I thought I detected the sound of some body trailing through the rushes. My distaste for the adventure grew with this suspicion, and had it not been for my delirious infatuation I had assuredly turned back and ridden home. The ghastly sound pursued me at intervals along the track..
♥ "At last," she said, "at last, my beloved!" I caressed her.
"Why," said I, tingling at the nerves, "why have you put this dolorous journey between us? And what mad freak is your presence in this swamp?" She uttered her silver laugh, and nestled to me again.
"I am the creature of this place," she answered. "This is my home. I have sworn you should behold me in my native sin ere you ravished me away."
"Come, then," said I; "I have seen; let there be an end of this. I know you, what you are. This marsh chokes up my heart. God forbid you should spend more of your days here. Come."
"You are in haste," she cried. "There is yet much to learn. Look, my friend," she said, "you who know me, what I am. This is my prison, and I have inherited its properties. Have you no fear?"
For answer I pulled her to me, and her warm lips drove out the horrid humours of the night; but the swift passage of a flickering mockery over her eyes struck me as a flash of lightning, and I grew chill again.
"I have the marsh in my blood," she whispered: "the marsh and the fog of it. Think ere you vow to me, for I am the cloud in a starry night."
A lithe and lovely creature, palpable of warm flesh, she lifted her magic face to mine and besought me plaintively with these words. The dews of the nightfall hung on her lashes, and seemed to plead with me for her forlorn and solitary plight.
"Behold!" I cried, "witch or devil of the marsh, you shall come with me! I have known you on the moors, a roving apparition of beauty; nothing more I know, nothing more I ask. I care not what this dismal haunt means; not what these strange and mystic eyes. You have powers and senses above me; your sphere and habits are as mysterious ad incomprehensible as your beauty. But that," I said, "is mine, and the world that is mine shall be yours also."
♥ Low by the dripping reeds circled a small squat thing, in the likeness of a monstrous frog, coughing and choking in its throat. As I stared, the creature rose upon its legs and disclosed a horrid human resemblance. It face was white and thin, with long black hair; its body gnarled and twisted as with the ague of a thousand years. Shaking, it whined in a breathless voice, pointing a skeleton finger at the woman by my side.
"Your eyes were my guide," it quavered. "Do you think that after all these years I have no knowledge of your eyes? Lo, is there aught of evil in you I am not instructed in? This is the Hell you designed for me, and now you would leave me to a greater."
The wretch paused, and panting leaned upon a bush, while she stood silent, mocking him with her eyes, and soothing my terror with her soft touch.
"Hear!" he cried, turning to me, "hear the tale of this woman that you may know her as she is. She is the Presence of the marshes. Woman or Devil I know not, but only that the accursed marsh has crept into her soul and she herself is become its Evil Spirit; she herself, that lives and grows young and beautiful by it, has its full power to blight and chill and slay. I, who was once as you are, have this knowledge. What bones lie deep on this black swamp who can say but she? She has drained of health, she has drained of mind and of soul; what is between her and her desire that she should not drain also of life? She has made me a devil in her Hell, and now she would leave me to my solitary pain, and go search for another victim. But she shall not!" he screamed through his chattering teeth; "she shall not! My Hell is also hers! She shall not!"
~~The Devil of the Marsh by H.B. Marriott-Watson.
♥ I like motherly, middle-aged women for chamber-maids. They know their business better, and they answer the bell quicker than young, flighty chamber-maids. And they are not so fond of reading the letters you leave about you, and prying into your private affairs.
..They have not the opportunity for minutely investigating; but even in hotels there are chamber-maids who wan to know all about the guests, and who chatter among themselves concerning No. 157, No. 63, or No. 215, and speculate as to his profession, his financial position, and his moral qualities. Chamber-maids in large hotels have some curious experiences, and, as the records of the law courts plainly show, they are close observers, and are able months, sometimes years, afterwards to identify parties, and to favour the court with detailed statements worthy of a detective or a paid spy.
Let me hasten to remove the impression that I wish to be "down" on chamber-maids. As a whole I look upon them as very worthy and decidedly useful members of the community. But I still prefer, when I am staying for any length of time at a hotel, to have a chamber-maid who has passed her first youth and settled down to a staid and matronly sort of person.
♥ '"Good gracious, sir!" I exclaimed, beginning to see what the manager meant, "you don't mean to say that the young lady in 13 was the one he wanted to marry?"
'"Yes, there is no doubt, from what the brother has told me, that it is so."
'And I had put him, quite by accident, in the room above the bride and bridegroom. Only one thin floor separated him from the girl he had broken his heart over, and on her bridal night, while he lay a corpse above her, his blood had dropped through and had fallen on her hands and stained her wedding-ring.
'He had doubtless timed his suicide. he had intended to take his life upon her wedding-way, and in the building in which she was to pass the first hours of her married life with the husband of her choice.
'But I am sure he did not know when he planned that terrible tragedy that she would be the first to see his life-blood flow—that her cry of horror would be the first thing to lead to the discovery of his terrible fate.'
~~A Tragic Honeymoon by G.R. Sims.
♥ An enormous liner, considered unsinkable and the most powerful passengership in the world, carries insufficient lifeboats. On a voyage across the Atlantic one cold April night, it strikes an iceberg and sinks with appalling loss of life. This was the incredible plot of Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan, a short novel by Morgan Robertson (1861-1915). Incredible, for he published his work in 1898, fourteen years before the famous sinking of the "Titanic". The amazing similarities between Robertson's fiction and the real tragedy go beyond the likeness of names, "Titan" and "Titanic". Both ships relied on watertight compartments to give them their unsinkable reputation; both ships carried the cream of society from both sides of the Atlantic; both ships had almost the same dimensions; both ships so ignored the possibility of disaster that they carried only the legal minimum of lifeboats. Robertson varied his plot somewhat from the later real-life events, in that the</i> "Titan" was not ripped open by the iceberg like the "Titanic," but was literally turned over to immediately founder, leaving only a few survivors. The novel is concerned with one survivor's attempts to obtain justice from the ship's owners for the running down of another vessel by the "Titan" before the disaster. This incredible literary coincidence stands almost alone in the history of fiction.
~~From Introduction to The Battle of Monsters by Morgan Roberson, by Hugh Lamb.
♥ He was an amphibian, and, as such, undeniably beautiful; for the sunlight, refracted and diffused in the water, gave his translucent, pearl-blue body all the shifting colours of the spectrum. Vigorous and graceful of movement, in shape he resembled a comma of three dimensions, twisted, when at rest, to a slight spiral curve; but in travelling he straightened out with quick selective jerks, each one sending him ahead a couple of lengths. Supplemented by the undulatory movement of a long continuation of his tail, it was his way of swimming, good enough to enable him to escape his enemies; this, and riding at anchor in a current by his cable-like appendage, constituting his main occupation in life. The pleasure of eating was denied him; nature had given him a mouth, but he used it only for purposes of offence and defence, absorbing his food in a most unheard-of manner—through the soft walls of his body.
Yet he enjoyed a few social pleasures. Though the organs of the five senses were missing in his economy, he possessed an inner sixth sense which answered for all and also gave him power of speech. He would converse, swap news and views, with creatures of his own and other species, provided that they were of equal size and prowess; but he wasted no time on any but his social peers. Smaller creatures he pursued when they annoyed him; larger ones pursued him.
The sunlight which made him so beautiful to look at, was distasteful to him; it also made him too visible. He preferred a half-darkness and less fervour to life's battle—time to judge of chances, to figure on an enemy's speed and turning-circle, before beginning flight or pursuit. But his dislike of it really came of a stronger animus—a shuddering recollection of three hours once passe on dry land in a comatose condition, which had followed a particularly long and intense period of bright sunlight. He had never been able to explain the connection, but the awful memory still saddened his life.
♥ They were monstrous shapes, living but inert, barely pulsing with dormant life, as much larger than himself as the dog-headed kind were smaller—huge, unwieldy, disk-shaped masses of tissue, light grey at the margins, dark red in the middle. They were in the majority, and blocked the view. Darting and wriggling between and about them were horrible forms, some larger than himself, others smaller. There were serpents, who swam with a serpent's motion. Some were serpents in form, but were curled rigidly into living corkscrews, and by sculling with their tails screwed their way through the water with surprising rapidity. Others were barrel- or globe-shaped, with swarming tentacles. With these they pulled themselves along, in and out through the crowd, or, bringing their squirming appendages rearward—each an individual snake—used them as propellers, and swam. There were creatures in the form of long cylinders, some with tentacles by which they rolled along like a log in a tideway; others, without appendages, were as inert and helpless as the huge red-and-grey disks. He saw four ball-shaped creatures float by, clinging together; then a group of eight, then one of twelve. All these, to the extent of their volition, seemed to be in a state of extreme agitation and excitement.
The cause was apparent. The tunnel from which he had come was still discharging the dog-faced animals by the thousand, and he knew now the business they were one. It was war—war to the death. They flung themselves with furious energy into the parade, fighting and biting all they could reach. A hundred at a time would pounce on one of the large red-and-grey creatures, almost hiding it from view; then, and before they had passed out of sight, they would fall off and disperse, and the once living victim would come with them, in parts. The smaller, active swimmers fled, but if one was caught, he suffered; a quick dart, a tangle of tentacles, an embrace of the wicked flippers, a bite—and a dead body floated on.
And now into the battle came a ponderous engine of vengeance and defence. A gigantic, lumbering pulsating creature, white and translucent but for the dark, active brain showing through its walls, horrible in the slow, implacable deliberation of its movements, floated down with the current. It was larger than the huge red-and-grey creatures. It was formless, in the full irony of the definition—for it assumed all forms. It was long—barrel-shaped; it shrank to a sphere, then broadened laterally, and again extended above and below. In turn it was a sphere, a disk, a pyramid, a pentahedron, a polyhedron. It possessed neither legs, flippers, nor tentacles; but out from its heaving, shrinking body it would send, now from one spot, now from another, an active arm, or feeler, with which it swam, pulled, or pushed. An unlucky invader which one of them touched made a few more voluntary movements; for instantly the whole side of the whitish mass bristled with arms. They seized, crushed, killed it, and then pushed it bodily through the living walls to the anima's interior to serve for food. And the gaping fissure healed at once, like the wounds of Milton's warring angels.
The first white monster floated down, killing as he went; then came another, pushing eagerly into the fray; then came two, then three, then dozens. It seemed that the word had been passed, and the army of defence was mustering.
♥ But to the never-changing result: they were crushed, mangled, and cast out, the number of suicides, in this neighbourhood, largely exceeding those killed by the white warriors. And yet, in spite of the large mortality among them, the attacking force was increasing. Where one died two took his place; and the reason was soon made plain—they were reproducing. A black fighter, longer than his fellows, a little sluggish of movement, as though from the restrictive pressure of a large round protuberance in his middle, which made him resemble a snake which had swallowed an egg, was caught by a white monster and instantly embraced by a multitude of feelers. He struggled, bit, and broke in two; then the two parts escaped the grip of the astonished captor, and wriggled away, the protuberance becoming the head of the rear portion, which immediately joined the fight, snapping and biting with unmistakable jaws. This phenomenon was repeated.
And on went the battle. Illumined by the living lamps, and watched by terrified non-combatants, the horrid carnival continued with never-slacking fury and ever-changing background—past the mouths of tributary tunnels which increased the volume and velocity of the current and added to the fighting strength, on through widening archways to a repetition of the cross-currents, the thunder, and the sponge-like maze, down past the heaving walls of larger tunnels to branched passages, where, in comparative slack water, the siege of the caves was resumed. For hour after hour this went on, the invaders dying by hundreds, but increasing by thousands and ten thousands, as the geometrical progression advanced, until, with swimming-spaces nearly choked by their bodies, living and dead, there came the inevitable turn in the tide of battle. A white monster was killed.
Glutted with victims, exhausted and sluggish, he was pounced upon by hundreds, hidden from view by a living envelope of black, which pulsed and throbbed with his death-throes. A feeler reached out, to be bitter off, then another, to no avail. His strength was gone, and the assailants bit and burrowed until they reached a vital part, when the great mass assumed a spherical form and throbbed no more. They dropped off, and, as the mangled ball floated on, charged on the next enemy with renewed fury and courage born of their victory. This one died as quickly.
♥ An instant of light from a venturesome torch showed him to his enemies, and again he fought, like a whale in his last flurry, slowly dying from exhaustion and pain, but still potential to kill—terrible in his agony. There was no counting of scalps in that day's work; but perhaps no devouring white monster in all the defensive army could have shown a death-list equal to this. From the surging black cloud there was a steady outflow of the dead, pushed back by the living.
Weaker and weaker, while they mangled his flesh, and still in darkness, he fought them down through branching passages to another network of small tunnels, where he caught a momentary view of the walls and the stolid white guard, thence on to what he knew was open space. And here he felt that he could fight no more. They had covered him completely, and try as he might with his failing strength, he could not dislodge them. So he ceased his struggles; and numb with pain, dazed with despair, he awaited the end.
♥ "..I don't know anything about it. I never saw such doings. What is it all for? What does it mean?"
"Oh, this is nothing; it's all in a lifetime. Still, I admit it might ha' been serious for us—and you, too—if we hadn't got help."
"But who are they, and what? They all seem of a family, and are killing each other."
"Immortal shade of Darwin!" exclaimed the other sentry, who had not spoken before. "Where were you brought up? Don't you know that variations from type are the deadliest enemies of the parent stock? These two brown breeds are the hundredth or two-hundredth cousins of the black kind. When they've killed off their common relative, and get to competing for grub, they'll exterminate each other, and we'll be rid of 'em all. Law of nature. Understand?"
"Oh, y-yes, I understand, of course; but what did the black kind attack me for? And what did they want, anyway?"
"To follow out their destiny, I s'pose. They're the kind of folks who have missions. Reformers, we call 'em—who want to enforce their peculiar ideas and habits on other people. Sometimes we call them expansions—fond of colonising territory that doesn't belong to them. They wanted to get through the cells to the lymph-passages, thence on to the brain and the spinal marrow. Know what I mean? Hydrophobia."
"Oh, say, now! You're too easy."
"Come, come," said the other, good-naturedly; "don't guy him. He never had our advantages. You see, neighbour, we get these points from the subjective brain, which knows all things and gives us our instructions. We're the white corpuscles—phagocytes, the scientists call us—and our work is to police the blood-vessels, and kill off invaders that make trouble. Those red-and-grey chumps can't take care of themselves, and we must protect 'em. Understand? But this invasion was too much for us, and we had to have help from outside. You must have come in with the first crowd—think I saw you—in at the bite. Second crowd came in through an inoculation tube, and just in time to pull you through."
"I don't know," answered our bewildered friend. "In at the bite? What bite? I was swimming round comfortable-like, and there was a big noise, and then I was alongside of a big white wall, and then—"
"Exactly; the dog's tooth. You got into bad company, friend, and you're well out of it. That first gang is the microbe of rabies, not very well known yet, because a little too small to be seen by most microscopes. All the scientists seem to have learned about 'em is that a colony of a few hundred generations old—which they call a culture, or serum—is death on the original bird; and that's what they sent in to help out. Pasteur's dead, worse luck, but sometime old Koch'll find out what we've known all along—that it's only variation from type."
"Koch!" he answered, eagerly and proudly. "Oh, I know Koch; I've met him. And I know about microscopes, too. Why, Koch had me under his microscope once. He discovered my family, and named us—the comma bacilli—the Spirilli of Asiatic Cholera."
In silent horror they drew way from him, and then conversed together. Other white warriors drifting along stopped and joined the conference, and when a hundred or more were massed before him, they spread out to a semi-spherical formation and closed in.
"What's the matter?" he asked, nervously. "What's wrong? What are you going to do? I haven't done anything, have I?"
"It's not what you've done, stranger," sad his quondam friend, "or what we're going to do. It's what you're going to do. You're going to die. Don't see how you got past quarantine, anyhow."
"What—why—I don't want to die. I've done nothing. All I want is peace and quiet, and a place to swim where it isn't too light nor too dark. I mind my own affairs. Let me alone—you hear me—let me alone!"
They answered him not. Slowly and irresistibly the hollow formation contracted—individuals slipping out when necessary—until he was pushed, still protesting, into the nearest movable cave. The walls crashed together and his life went out. When he was cast forth he was in five pieces.
And so our gentle, conservative, non-combative cholera microbe, who only wanted to be left along to mind his own affairs, met this violent death, a martyr to prejudice and an unsympathetic environment.
Extract from hospital record of the case of John Anderson:
August 18. As period of incubation for both cholera and hydrophobia has passed and no initial symptoms of either disease have been noticed, patient is this day discharged, cured.
~~The Battle of the Monsters by Morgan Robertson.
♥ As my eyes, unaccustomed to the day, blinked rapidly, the recollection came of a scene forty-five years past, and once more beneath the oldest tree stood the girl I loved, mischievously plucking yarrow, and, despite its evil omen, twining the snowy clusters in her black hair. Again her coquettish words rang in my ears: "Make me thy lady! Make me the richest woman in England, and I promise thee, Brian, we shall be the happiest of God's creatures." And I remember how the mad thirst for gold filled me: how I trusted in her fidelity, and without reasoning or even telling her that I would conquer fortune for her sake, I kissed her sadly and passed into the world. Then followed a complete silence until the Star of Europe, the greatest diamond discovered in modern times, lay in my hand—a rough unpolished stone not unlike the lumps of spar I had often seen lying on the sandy lanes of my native country. This should be Rose's own, and all the others that clanked so melodiously in their leather bulse should go towards fulfilling her ambition. Rich and happy I should be soon, and should I not marry an untitled gentlewoman, sweet in her prime? The twenty years' interval of work and sleep was like a fading dream, for I was going home. The knowledge thrilled me so that my nerves were strung tight as iron ropes and I laughed like a young boy. And it was all because my home was to be in Rose Pascal's arms.
♥ "Love," she said, when she had regained her breath, "the past struggle was sharp and torturing—the future struggle will be crueller still. What a great love yours was, to wait and trust for so long! Would that mine had been as powerful! Poor, weak heart that could not endure!"
♥ We walked in silence over the waste that crowns the valley of the Whitelands and, being near the verge of the rocks, saw the great pinewood sloping downwards, lighted near us by the moon, but soon lost in density. Along the mysterious line where the light changed into gloom, intricate shadows in withered summer bracken struck and receded in a mimic battle. Before us lay the Priests' Cliff. The moon was veiled by a grove of elms, whose ever-swaying branches alternately increased and lessened her brightness. This was a place of notoriety—a veritable Golgotha—a haunt fit only for demons. Murder and theft had been punished here; and to this day fireside stories are told of evil women dancing round that Druids' circle, carrying hearts plucked from gibbeted bodies.
"Rose," I whispered, "why have you brought me here?"
She made no reply, but pressed her head more closely to my shoulder. Scarce had my lips closed ere a sound like this hiss of a half-strangled snake vibrated among the trees. It grew louder and louder. A monstrous shadow hovered above.
Rose from my bosom murmured, "Love is strong as Death! Love is strong as Death!"
I locked her in my arms, so tightly that she grew breathless. "Hold me," she panted. "You are strong."
A cold hand touched our foreheads so that, benumbed, we sank together to the ground, to fall instantly into a dreamless slumber.
When I awoke the clear grey light of the early morning had spread over the country. Beyond the Hell Garden the sun was just bursting through the clouds, and had already spread a long golden haze along the horizon. The babbling of the streamlet that runs down to Halkton was so distinctly that it seemed almost at my side. How sweetly the wild thyme smelt! Filled with the tender recollections of the night, without turning, I called Rose Pascal from her sleep.
"Sweetheart, sweetheart, waken! waken! waken! See how glad the world looks—see the omens of a happy future."
Now answer came. I sat up, and looking round me saw that I was alone. A square stone lay near. When the sun was high I crept to read the inscription carved thereon:—"Here, at four cross-paths, lieth, with a stake through the bosom, the body of Rose Pascal, who in her sixteenth year wilfully cast away the life God gave."
~~The Return by R. Murray Gilchrist.
♥ What I am about to relate is so marvellous, so weird and startling, that even now, as I dwell upon it all, I wonder why I of all men should have been subjected to the unnatural and unearthly influence. I no longer scoff when somebody reminds me that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy.
♥ I gathered that there had been some dispute about the ownership and for over a quarter of a century that dispute claim had remained unsettled; and during that long period the old mill had been gradually falling into ruin. The foundations had from some cause sunk, throwing the main building out of the perpendicular. Part of the roof had fallen in, and the fierce gales of a quarter of a century had battered the sails pretty well to match-wood. A long light of wooden steps led up to the principal door, but these steps had rotted away in places, and the door itself had party fallen inwards. Needless to say, this mill had become the home of bats and owls, and, according to the yokels, of something more fearsome than either. It was a forlorn and mournful-looking place, any way, even in the full blaze of sunshine; but seen in moonlight its appearance was singularly weird, and well calculated to beget in the rustic mind a feeling of horror, and to produce a creepy and uncanny sensation in anyone susceptible to the influence of outre appearances.
♥ There had been a slight improvement in the weather. It had ceased to rain, but the wind had settled down into a steady gale, and screeched and screamed over the moorland with a demoniacal fury. The darkness, however, was not so intense as it was, and a star here and there was visible through the torn clouds. But it was an eerie sort of night, and I was strangely impressed with a sense of my loneliness. It was absolutely unusual for me to feel like this, and I suggested to myself that my nerves were a little unstrung by overwork and the anxiety the squire's illness had caused me. And so I rode on, bowing my head to the storm, while the mare stepped out well, and I anticipated that in little more than half an hour I should be snug in bed. As we got abreast of the haunted mill the mare once more gibbed, and all but threw me, and again I was struck in the face by the cold clammy something.
I almost think my hair rose on end as I observed that the illuminated corpse was lying in the roadway again; but now it appeared to be surrounded by a lake of blood. It was the most horrible sight that ever human eyes looked upon. I tried to urge Princess forward, but she was stricken with terror, and, wheeling right round, was setting off toward High Lea again. But once more I was struck in the face by the invisible something, and its coldness and clamminess made me shudder, while there in front of us lay the corpse in the pool of blood. The mare reared and plunged, and I got her head round, determining to make a wild gallop for Brinton and leave the horrors of the haunted mill behind. But the corpse was again in front of us, and I shrank back almost appalled as the something once more touched my face.
I cannot hope to describe what my feelings were at this supreme moment. I don't believe anything human could have daunted me; but I was confronted by a supernatural mystery that not only terrified me but the mare I was riding. Whichever way I turned, that awful, ghastly object confronted me, and the blow in the face was repeated again and again.
~~The Corpse Light by Dick Donovan.
♥ If you know something of the ways of ships and what is expected of them, you will understand that the Glarus, to be some half a dozen hundred miles south of the Lloyds' would have her, and to be still going south, under full steam, was a scandal that would have made her brothers and sisters ostracise her finally and forever.
And that is curious, too. Humans may indulge in vagaries innumerable, and may go far afield in the way of lying; but a ship may not so much as quibble without suspicion. The last lapse of "regularity", the least difficulty in squaring performance with intuition, and behold she is on the black list, and her captain, owners, officers, agents and consignors, and even supercargoes, are asked to explain.
And the Glarus was already on the black list. Form the beginning her stars had been malign. As the Breda, she had first lost her reputation, seduced into a filibustering escapade down the South American coast, where in the end a plain-clothes United States detective—that is to say, a revenue cutter—arrested her off Buenos Aires and brought her home, a prodigal daughter, besmirched and disgraced.
♥ For the trip to the island of B. 300 was the last occasion on which the Glarus will smell blue water or taste the trades. She will never clear again. She is lumber.
And yet the Glarus on this very blessed day on 1902 is riding to her buoys off Sausalito in San Francisco Bay, complete in every detail (bar a broken propeller shaft), not a rope missing, not a screw loose, not a plank started—a perfectly equipped steam-freighter.
But you may go along the "Front" in San Francisco from Fisherman's wharf to the China steamshops' docks and shake your dollars under the seamen's noses, and if you so much as whisper Glarus they will edge suddenly off and look at you with scared suspicion, and then, as like as not, walk away without another word. No pilot will take the Glarus out; no captain will navigate her; no stoker will feed her fires; no sailor will walk her decks. The Glarus is suspect. She has seen a ghost.
♥ I suppose, no doubt, that it was the knowledge of our isolation that impressed me with the dreadful remoteness of our position. Certainly the sea in itself looks no different at a thousand than at a hundred miles from shore. But as day after day I came out on deck at noon, after ascertaining our position on the chart (a mere pin-point in a reach of empty paper), the sight of the ocean weighed down upon me with an infinitely great awesomeness—and I was no new hand to the high seas even then.
But at such times the Glarus seemed to me to be threading a loneliness beyond all worlds and beyond all conception desolate. Even in more populous waters, when no sail notches the line of the horizon, the propinquity of one's kind is nevertheless a thing understood, and to an unappreciated degree comforting. Here, however, I knew we were out, far out in the desert. Never a keel for years upon years before us had parted these waters; never a sail had bellied to these winds. Perfunctorily, day in and day out we turned our eyes through long habit towards the horizon. But we knew, before the look, that the searching would be bootless. Forever and forever, under the pitiless sun and cold blue sky stretched the indigo of the ocean floor. The ether between the planets can be no less empty, no less void.
I never, till that moment, could have so much as conceived the imagination of such loneliness, such utter stagnant abomination of desolation. In an open boat, bereft of comrades, I should have gone mad in thirty minutes.
..For we had come at last to that region of the Great Seas where no ship goes, the silent sea of Coleridge and the Ancient One, the unplumbed, untracked, uncharted Dreadfulness, primordial, hushed, and we were as much lone as a grain of star-dust whirling in the empty space beyond Uranus and the ken of the greatest telescopes.
So the Glarus plodded and churned her way onwards. Everyday and all day the same pale blue sky and the unwinking sun bent over that moving speck. Every day and all day the same black-blue water-world, untouched by any known mind, smooth as a slab of syenite, colourful as an opal, stretched out and around and beyond and before and behind us, forever, illimitable, empty. Every day the smoke of our fires veiled the streaked whiteness of our wake. Every day Hardenberg (our skipper) at noon pricked a pin-hole in the chart that hung in the wheel-house, and that showed we were so much farther into the wilderness. Every day the world of men, of civilisation, of newspapers, policemen and street-railways receded, and we steamed on alone, lost and forgotten in that silent sea.
♥ The island towards which we were heading is associated in the minds of men with a Horror. A ship had called there once, two hundred years in advance of the Glarus—a shop not much unlike the crank high-powered caravel of Hudson, and her company had landed, and having accomplished the evil they had set out to do, made shift to sail away. And then, just after the palms of the island had sunk from sight below the water's edge, the unspeakable had happened. The Death that was not Death had arisen from out the sea and stood before the ship, and over it, and the blight of the thing lay along the decks like mould, and the ship sweated in the terror of that which is yet without a name.
Twenty men died in the first week, all but six in the second. These six, with the shadow of insanity upon them, made out to launch a boat, returned to the island and died there, after leaving a record of what had happened.
The six left the ship exactly as she was, sails all set, lanterns all lit—left her in the shadow of the Death that was not Death.
She stood there, becalmed, and watched them go. She was never heard of again.
Or was she—well, that's as may be.
But the main point of the whole affair, to my notion, has always been this. The ship was the last friend of those six poor wretches who made back for the island with their poor chests of plunder. She was their guardian, as it were, would have defended and befriended them to the last; and also we, the Three Black Crows and myself, had no right under heaven, nor before the law of men, to come prying and peeping into this business—into this affair of the dead and buried past. There was sacrilege in it. We were no better than body-snatchers.
♥ "We are some five hundred odd miles off that island by now," he said, "and she's doing her thirteen knots handsome. All's well so far—but do you know, I'd just as soon raise that point o' land as soon as convenient."
"How so?" said I, bending on the line. "Expect some weather?"
"Mr Dixon," said he, giving me a curious glance, "the sea is a queer proposition, put it any ways. I've been a seafarin' man since I was big as a minute, and I know the sea, and whats more, the Feel o' the Sea. Now, look out yonder. Nothing', hey? Nothin' but the same ol' skyline we've watched all the way out. The glass is as steady as a steeple, and this ol' hooker, I reckon, is as sound as the day she went off the ways. But just the same if I were to home now, a-foolin' about Gloucester way in my little dough-dish—d'ye know what? I'd put into port. I sure would. Because why? Because I got the Feel o' the Sea, Mr Dixon. I got the Feel o' the Sea. ..I don't know. There's some blame thing or other close to us, I'll be a hat. I don't know the name of it, but there's a big Bird in the air, just out of sight some'eres, and I," he suddenly exclaimed, smacking his knee and leaning forward, "I—don't—like—it—one—dam'—bit."
♥ And after that no one spoke for a long minute, and we stood there, moveless black shadows, huddled together for the sake of the blessed elbow touch that means so incalculably much, looking off over our port quarter.
For the ship that we saw there—oh, she was not a half-mile distant—was unlike any ship known to present-day construction.
She was short, and high-pooped, and her stern, which was turned a little towards us, we could see, was set with curious windows, not unlike a house. And on either side of this stern were two great iron cressets such as once were used to burn signal-fires in. She had three masts with mighty yards swung 'thwart ship, but bare of all sails save a few rotting streamers. Here and there about her a tangled mass of rigging dropped and sagged.
And there she lay, in the red eye of the setting moon, in that solitary ocean, shadowy, antique, forlorn, a thing the most abandoned, the most sinister I ever remember to have seen.
♥ She came on slowly; her bows, the high, clumsy bows pointed towards us, the water turning from her forefoot. She came on; she was near at hand. Was saw her plainly—saw the rotted planks, the crumbling rigging, the rust-corroded metal-work, the broken rail, the gaping deck, and I could imagine that the clan water broke away from her sides in refluent wavelets as though in recoil from a thing unclean. She made no sound. No single thing stirred aboard the hulk of her—but she moved.
..And in the silence of that empty ocean, in the queer half-light between dawn and day, at six o'clock, silent as the settling of the dead to the bottomless bottom of the ocean, grey as fog, lonely, blind, soulless, voiceless, the Dead Ship crossed our bows.
♥ I will make allowance for the fact that there was no centre-board nor keel to speak of to the Glarus. I will admit that the sails upon a nine-hundred-ton freighter are not calculated to speed her, nor steady her. I will even admit the possibility of a current that set from the island towards us. All this may be true, yet the Glarus should have advanced. We should have made a wake.
And instead of this, our stolid, steady, trusty old boat was—what shall I say?
I will say that no man may thoroughly understand a ship—after all. I will say that new ships are cranky and unsteady; that old and seasoned ships have their little crochets, their little fussinesses that their skippers must learn and humour if they are to get anything out of them; that even the best ships may sulk at times, shirk their work, grow unstable, perverse, and refuse to answer helm and handling. And I will say that some ships that for years have sailed blue water as soberly and as docilely as a strut-car horse has plodded the treadmill of the 'tween-tracks, have been known to balk, as stubbornly and as conclusively as any old Bay Billy that ever wore a bell. I know this has happened, because I have seen it. I saw, for instance, the Glarus do it.
Quite literally and truly we could do nothing with her. We will say, if you like, that that great jar and wrench when the shaft gave way shook her and crippled her. It is true, however, that whatever the cause may have been, we could not force her towards the island. Of course, we all said "current"; but why didn't the log-line trail?
For three days and three nights we tried it. And the Glarus heaved and plunged and shook herself just as you have seen a horse plunge and rear when his rider tries to force him at the steam-roller.
I tell you I could feel the fabric of her tremble and shudder from bow to stern-post, as though she were in a storm; I tell you she fell off from the wind, and broad-on drifted back from her course till the sensation of her shrinking was as plain as her own staring lights and a thing pitiful to see.
~~The Ship That Saw a Ghost by Frank Norris.
♥ My father, a drunkard, had a patent for an invention for making coffee-berries out of clay; but he was an honest man and would not himself engage in the manufacture. He was, therefore, only moderately wealthy, his royalties from his really valuable invention bringing him hardly enough to pay his expenses of litigation with rogues guilty of infringement. So I lacked many advantages enjoyed by the children of unscrupulous and dishonourable parents, and had it not been for a noble and devoted mother, who neglected all my brothers and sisters and personally supervised my education, should have grown up in ignorance and been compelled to teach school. To be the favourite child of a good woman is better than gold.
♥ The Commissioner of Patents had pronounced it the most ingenious, effective and generally meritorious invention that had ever been submitted to him, and my father had naturally looked forward to an old age of prosperity and honour. His sudden death was, therefore, a deep disappointment to him; but my mother, whose piety and resignation to the will of Heaven were conspicuous virtues of her character, was apparently less affected.
.."..of course it is better than he is dead."
She uttered this with so evident a sense of its obviousness as a self-evident truth that none of us had the courage to brave her surprise by asking an explanation. My mother's air of surprise when any of us went wrong in any way was very terrible to us. One day, when in a fit of peevish temper, I had taken the liberty to cut off the baby's ear, her simple words, "John, you surprise me!" appeared to me so sharp a reproof that after a sleepless night I went to her in tears, and throwing myself at her feet, exclaimed: "Mother, forgive me for surprising you." So now we all—including the one-eared baby—felt that it would keep matters smoother to accept without question the statement that it was better, somehow, for our dear father to be dead.
♥ "John"—here my mother turned her angel face to me—"you are an educated lad, and very discreet. You have now an opportunity to show your gratitude for all the sacrifices that your education has entailed upon the rest of us. John, go and remove the Coroner."
Inexpressibly delighted by this proof of my mother's confidence, and by the chance to distinguish myself by an act that squared with my natural disposition, I knelt before her, carried her hand to my lips and bathed it with tears of sensibility. Before five o'clock that afternoon I had removed the Coroner.
I was immediately arrested and thrown into jail..
♥ "May it please your Honour," began the District Attorney, "I do not deem it necessary to submit any evidence in this case. Under the law of the land you sit here as a committing magistrate. It is therefore your duty to commit. Testimony and argument alike would imply a doubt that your Honour means to perform your sworn duty. That is my case."
My counsel, a brother of the deceased Coroner, rose and said: "May it please the Court, my learned friend on the other side has so well and eloquently stated the law governing in this case that it only remains for me to inquire to what extent it has been already complied with. It is true, your Honour is a committing magistrate, and as such it is your duty to commit—what? That is a matter which the law has wisely and justly left to your own discretion, and wisely you have discharged already every obligation that the law imposes. Since I have known your Honour you have done nothing but commit. You have committed embracery, theft, arson, perjury, adultery, murder—every crime in the calendar and every excess known to the sensual and depraved, including my learned friend, the District Attorney. You have done your whole duty as a committing magistrate, and as there is no evidence against this worthy young man, my client, I move that he be discharged."
An impressive silence ensued. The Judge arose, put on the black cap and in a voice trembling with emotion sentenced me to life and liberty. The turning to my counsel he said, coldly but significantly:
"I will see you later."
The next morning the lawyer who had so conscientiously defended me against a charge of murdering his own brother—with whom he had a quarrel about some land—had disappeared and his fate is to this day unknown.
♥ Thus, within a few brief months a worthy and respectable family was reduced from prosperity to crime; necessity compelled us to go to work.
In the selection of occupations we were governed by a variety of considerations, such as personal fitness, inclination, and so forth. My mother opened a select private school for instruction in the art of changing the spots upon leopard-skin rugs; my eldest brother, George Henry, who had a turn for music, became a bugler in a neighbouring asylum for deaf mutes; my sister, Mary Maria, took orders for Professor Pumpernickel's Essence of Latchkeys for flavouring mineral sprigs, and I set up as an adjuster and gilder of crossbeams for gibbets. The other children, too young for labour, continued to steal small articles exposed in front of shops, as they had been taught.
In our intervals of leisure we decoyed travellers into our house and buried the bodies in a cellar.
♥ On the incidents of our precipitate flight from that horrible place—on the extinction of all human sentiment in that tumultuous, mad scramble up the damp and mouldy stairs—slipping, falling, pulling one another down and clambering over one another's back—the lights extinguished, babes trampled beneath the feet of their strong brothers and hurled backwards to death by a mother's arm!—on all this I do not dare to dwell. My mother, my eldest brother and sister and I escaped; the others remained below, to perish of their wounds, or of their terror—some, perhaps, by flame. For within an hour we four, hastily gathering together what money and jewels we had and what clothing we could carry, fired the dwelling and fled by its light into the hills. We did not even pause to collect the insurance, and my dear mother said on her death-bed, years afterwards in a distant land, that this was the only sin of omission that lay upon her conscience. Her confessor, a holy man, assured her that under the circumstances Heaven would pardon the neglect.
♥ All was clear. My father, whatever had caused him to be "taken bad" at his meal (and I think my sainted mother could have thrown some light upon that matter) had indubitably been buried alive. The grave having been accidentally dug above the forgotten drain, and down almost to the crown of its arch, and no coffin having been used, his struggles on reviving had broken the rotten masonry and he had fallen through, escaping finally into the cellar. Feeling that he was not welcome in his own house, yet having no other, he had lived in subterranean seclusion, a witness to our thrift and a pensioner on our providence. It was he who had eaten our food; it was he who had drunk our wine—he was no better than a thief! In a moment of intoxication, and feeling, no doubt, that need of companionship which is the one sympathetic link between a drunken man and his race, he had left his place of concealment at a strangely inopportune time, entailing the most deplorable consequences upon those nearest and dearest to him—a blunder that had almost the dignity of crime.
~~A Bottomless Grave by Ambrose Bierce.
♥ The fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not seem to him to prove that he was dead: he had always been a hard man to convince. That he really was buried, the testimony of his sense compelled him to admit. His posture—flat upon his back, with his hands crossed upon his stomach and tied with something that he easily broke without profitably altering the situation—the strict confinement of his entire person, the black darkness and profound silence, made a body of evidence impossible to controvert and he accepted it without cavil.
~~One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce.
♥ If we could only get used to the idea that ghosts are perfectly harmless creatures, who are powerless to affect our well-being unless we assist them by giving way to our fears, we should enjoy the supernatural exceedingly, it seems to me. Coleridge, I think it was, was once asked by a lady if he believed in ghosts, and he replied, "No, madame; I have seen too many of them." Which is my case exactly.
♥ I'm going to tell you about it briefly, though I warn you in advance that you will find it a great strain upon your confidence in my veracity. It may even shatter that confidence beyond repair; but I cannot help that. I hold that it is a man's duty in this life to give to the world the benefit of his experience. All that he sees he should set down exactly as he sees it, and so simply, withal, that to the dullest comprehension the moral involved shall be perfectly obvious. If he is a painter, and an auburn-haired maiden appears to him to have blue hair, he should paint her hair blue, and just so long as he sticks by his principles and is true to himself, he need not bother about what you may think of him. So it is with me. My scheme of living is based upon being true to myself. You may class me with Baron Munchausen if you choose; I shall not mind so long as I have the consolation of feeling, deep down in my heart, that I am a true realist, and diverge not from the paths of truth as truth manifests itself to me.
♥ I don't remember the brand, but that us just as well—it was not a cigar to be advertised in a civilised piece of literature—but I do remember that they came in bundles of fifty, tied about with blue ribbon.
♥ My hair not only stood on end, but tugged madly in an effort to get away. Four hairs—I can prove the statement if it be desired—did pull themselves loose from my scalp in their insane desire to rise above the terrors of the situation, and flying upwards, stuck like nails into the oak ceiling directly over my head, whence they had to be pulled the next morning with nippers by our hired man, who would no doubt testify to the truth of the occurrence as I have asserted it if he were still living, which, unfortunately, he is not. Like most hired men, he was subject to attacks of lethargy, from one of which he died last summer.
♥ Having no property to sell, I candidly admit that Bronxdale is not of an arctic nature in summer, except socially, perhaps. Socially, it is the coolest town on the Hudson; but we are at this moment not discussing cordiality, fraternal love, or the question raised by the Declaration of Independence as to whether all men are born equal.
♥ I do not myself mind hot weather in the daytime, but hot nights are killing. I can't sleep. I toss about for hours, and then, for the sake of variety, I flop, but sleep cometh not. My debts double, and my income seems to sizzle away under the influence of a hot, sleepless night; and it was just here that a certain awful thing saved me from the insanity which is a certain result of parboiled insomnia.
♥ I had retired at half-past seven, after dining lightly upon a cold salmon and a gallon of iced tea—not because I was tired, but because I wanted to get down to first principles at once, and remove my clothing, and sort of spread myself over all the territory I could, which is a thing you can't do in a library, or even in a white-and-gold parlour. If man were constructed like a machine, as he really ought to be, to be strictly comfortable—a machine that could be taken apart like an eight-day clock—I should have taken myself apart, putting one section of myself on the roof, another part in the spare room, hanging a third on the clothes-line in the yard, and so on, leaving my head in the ice-box; but unfortunately we have to keep ourselves together in this life, hence I did the only thing one can do, and retired, and incidentally spread myself over some freshly baked bedclothing. There was some relief from the heat, but not much. I had been roasting, and while my sensations were somewhat like those which I imagine come to a planked shad when he first finds himself spread out over the plank, there was a mitigation. My temperature fell off from 167 to about 163, which is not quite enough to make a man absolutely content. Suddenly, however, I began to shiver. There was no breeze, but I began to shiver.
"It is getting cooler," I thought, as the chill came on, and I rose and looked at the thermometer. It still registered the highest possible point, and the mercury was rebelliously trying to break through the top of the glass tube and take a stroll on the roof.
"That's queer," I said to myself. "It's as hot as ever, and yet I'm shivering. I wonder if my goose is cooked? I've certainly got a chill."
I jumped back into bed and pulled the sheet up over me; but still I shivered. Then I pulled the blanket up, but the chill continued. I couldn't seem to get warm again. Then came the counterpane, and finally I had to put on my bath-robe—a fuzzy woollen affair, which in midwinter I had sometimes found too warm for comfort. Even then I was not sufficiently bundled up, so I called for an extra blanket, two afghans, and the hot-water bag.
Everybody in the house thought I had gone mad, and I wondered myself if perhaps I hadn't, when all of a sudden I perceived, off in the corner, the Awful Thing, and perceiving it, I knew all.
I was being haunted, and the physical repugnance of which I have spoken was on. The cold shiver, the invariable accompaniment of the ghostly visitant, had come, and I assure you I never was go glad of anything in my life. It has always been said of me by my critics that I am raw; I was afraid that after that night they would say I was half baked, and I would far rather be the one than the other; and it was the Awful Thing that saved me. Realising this, I spoke to it gratefully.
"You are a heaven-born gift on a night like this," said I, rising up and walking to its side.
"I am glad to be of service to you," the Awful Thing replied, smiling at me so yellowly that I almost wished the author of the Blue-Button of Cowardice could have seen it.
"It's very good of you," I put in.
"Not at all," replied the Thing; "you are the only man I know who doesn't think it necessary to prevaricate about ghosts every time he gets an order for a Christmas story. There have been more lies told about us than about any other class of things in existence, and we are getting a trifle tired of it. We may have lost our corporal existence, but some of our sensitiveness still remains."
"Well," said I, rising and lighting the gas-logs—for I was on the very verge of congealment—"I am sure I am pleased if you like my stories."
"Oh, as for that, I don't think much of them," said the Awful Thing, with a purple display of candour which amused me, although I cannot say that I relished it; "but you never lie about us. You are not at all interesting, but you are truthful, and we spooks hate libellers. Just because one happens to be a thing is no reason why writers should libel it, and that's why I have always respected you. We regard you as a sort of spook Boswell. You may be dull and stupid, but you tell the truth, and when I saw you in imminent danger of becoming a mere grease spot, owing to the fearful heat, I decided to help you through. That's why I'm here. Go to sleep now. I'll stay here and keep you shivering until daylight anyhow. I'd sty longer, but we are always laid at sunrise."
♥ I rose up from my bed, and picked up the poker to bat him over the head, but again I restrained myself. It will not to to quarrel, I thought. I will be courteous if he is not, thus giving a dead Englishman a lesson which wouldn't hurt some of the living.
♥ Next morning every bit of that silverware was gone; and, what is more, three weeks later I found the ghost's picture in the Rogue's Gallery in New York as that of the cleverest sneak-thief in the country.
All of which, let me say to you, dear reader, in conclusion, proves that when you are dealing with ghosts you mustn't give up all your physical resources until you have definitely ascertained that the thing by which you are confronted, horrid or otherwise, is a ghost, and not an all too material rogue with a light step, and a commodious jute bag for plunder concealed beneath his coat.
"How to tell the ghost?" you ask.
Well, as an eminent master of fiction frequently observes in his writings, "that is another story," which I shall hope some day to tell for your instruction and my own aggrandisement.
~~Ghosts That Have Haunted Me by J.K. Bangs.
♥ On descending to breakfast, I found that I was to undergo a rigorous cross-examination as to what I had seen and heard; but one elderly lady present shook her head ominously, freely giving it as her opinion that it was little better than sacrilege to open the haunted chamber, and finishing a very solemn peroration with the words—
"Stop a bit; they don't walk every night."
♥ But there was no relief here, for as I threw myself down at full length, the great bedstead gave a crack, a rattle, and a bound, and then in an agony of dread I was clinging to the bedding, for the huge structure began to rise slowly higher—higher—higher—sailing away apparently upon the wings of the wind, and then again sinking lower and lower and lower to interminable depths, so that I involuntarily groaned and closed my eyes. But that was of no avail, for I could feel the great bedstead career, now on one side, now on the other, and ever going onward through space like some vessel upon a vast aerial sea.
The rapid gliding upward, in spite of the dread, seemed attended with somewhat of an exhilarating effect; but the falling was hideous in the extreme—for now it was slowly and gently, but the next moment the speed was fearful, and I lay trembling in expectation of feeling the structure dash upon the ground, while every time I unclosed my eyes I could see the gyrating candles, and turned giddy with confusion.
And now with one tremendously-swift gliding sweep, away we went, faster and faster, more rapidly than swallows upon the wing. Space seemed obliterated; and, by the rushing noise and singing in my ears, I could feel that the bedstead was careering on where the atmosphere was growing more and more attenuated, while soon, from the catching of my breath, I felt sure that we should soon be beyond air altogether. The candles were gone, but there were stars innumerable, past which we sped with inconceivable rapidity, so that their light seemed continued in one long luminous streak, while ever more and more the speed was increasing, till it seemed that we were attached to some mighty cord, and being whirled round and round with frightful velocity, as if at the end of the string; and now I trembled for the moment when the cord should be loosed, and we should fly off into illimitable space, to go one—on—on for ever!
At least it came, and away I went; but now separated from the bedstead, to which I had clung to he last. On—on—on, with something large and undefined in front of me, which I felt that I should strike, though I was powerless to prevent the collision. Nearer—nearer—nearer, but ever darting along like a shooting-star in its course, I was swept on, till, with a fearful crash, I struck what I now found to be the lost bed, and tried to cling to it once more; but, no! I rolled off, and fell slowly and gradually lower—lower, and evidently out of the sphere of the former attraction, so that at last I fell, with only a moderate bump, upon the floor, when, hastily rising, I found all totally dark...
♥ "..But I say, old boy, I suppose we must look over it, as it's Christmas; but, do you know, judging by my own feelings, I think I'd better make the punch rather less potent to-night."
"Well, really," I said, "I think so too."
"Do you?" said Ned.
"Oh, yes," I said, "for my head aches awfully"; and no wonder, seeing how it has been Haunted by Spirits!
~~Haunted by Spirits by George Manville Fenn.