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The Haunted House

The Haunted House

Charles Dickens

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Mortals in the House

  • Under none of the accredited ghostly circumstances, and environed by none o_he conventional ghostly surroundings, did I first make acquaintance with th_ouse which is the subject of this Christmas piece. I saw it in the daylight, with the sun upon it. There was no wind, no rain, no lightning, no thunder, n_wful or unwonted circumstance, of any kind, to heighten its effect. More tha_hat: I had come to it direct from a railway station: it was not more than _ile distant from the railway station; and, as I stood outside the house, looking back upon the way I had come, I could see the goods train runnin_moothly along the embankment in the valley. I will not say that everythin_as utterly commonplace, because I doubt if anything can be that, except t_tterly commonplace people- -and there my vanity steps in; but, I will take i_n myself to say that anybody might see the house as I saw it, any fine autum_orning.
  • The manner of my lighting on it was this.
  • I was travelling towards London out of the North, intending to stop by th_ay, to look at the house. My health required a temporary residence in th_ountry; and a friend of mine who knew that, and who had happened to driv_ast the house, had written to me to suggest it as a likely place. I had go_nto the train at midnight, and had fallen asleep, and had woke up and had sa_ooking out of window at the brilliant Northern Lights in the sky, and ha_allen asleep again, and had woke up again to find the night gone, with th_sual discontented conviction on me that I hadn’t been to sleep at all;—upo_hich question, in the first imbecility of that condition, I am ashamed t_elieve that I would have done wager by battle with the man who sat opposit_e. That opposite man had had, through the night—as that opposite man alway_as—several legs too many, and all of them too long. In addition to thi_nreasonable conduct (which was only to be expected of him), he had had _encil and a pocket-book, and had been perpetually listening and taking notes.
  • It had appeared to me that these aggravating notes related to the jolts an_umps of the carriage, and I should have resigned myself to his taking them, under a general supposition that he was in the civil-engineering way of life, if he had not sat staring straight over my head whenever he listened. He was _oggle-eyed gentleman of a perplexed aspect, and his demeanour becam_nbearable.
  • It was a cold, dead morning (the sun not being up yet), and when I had out- watched the paling light of the fires of the iron country, and the curtain o_eavy smoke that hung at once between me and the stars and between me and th_ay, I turned to my fellow-traveller and said:
  • “I beg your pardon, sir, but do you observe anything particular in me”? For, really, he appeared to be taking down, either my travelling-cap or my hair, with a minuteness that was a liberty.
  • The goggle-eyed gentleman withdrew his eyes from behind me, as if the back o_he carriage were a hundred miles off, and said, with a lofty look o_ompassion for my insignificance:
  • “In you, sir?—B.”
  • “B, sir?” said I, growing warm.
  • “I have nothing to do with you, sir,” returned the gentleman; “pray let m_isten—O.”
  • He enunciated this vowel after a pause, and noted it down.
  • At first I was alarmed, for an Express lunatic and no communication with th_uard, is a serious position. The thought came to my relief that the gentlema_ight be what is popularly called a Rapper: one of a sect for (some of) whom _ave the highest respect, but whom I don’t believe in. I was going to ask hi_he question, when he took the bread out of my mouth.
  • “You will excuse me,” said the gentleman contemptuously, “if I am too much i_dvance of common humanity to trouble myself at all about it. I have passe_he night—as indeed I pass the whole of my time now—in spiritual intercourse.”
  • “O!” said I, somewhat snappishly.
  • “The conferences of the night began,” continued the gentleman, turning severa_eaves of his note-book, “with this message: ‘Evil communications corrupt goo_anners.’”
  • “Sound,” said I; “but, absolutely new?”
  • “New from spirits,” returned the gentleman.
  • I could only repeat my rather snappish “O!” and ask if I might be favoure_ith the last communication.
  • “‘A bird in the hand,’” said the gentleman, reading his last entry with grea_olemnity, “‘is worth two in the Bosh.’”
  • “Truly I am of the same opinion,” said I; “but shouldn’t it be Bush?”
  • “It came to me, Bosh,” returned the gentleman.
  • The gentleman then informed me that the spirit of Socrates had delivered thi_pecial revelation in the course of the night. “My friend, I hope you ar_retty well. There are two in this railway carriage. How do you do? There ar_eventeen thousand four hundred and seventy-nine spirits here, but you canno_ee them. Pythagoras is here. He is not at liberty to mention it, but hope_ou like travelling.” Galileo likewise had dropped in, with this scientifi_ntelligence. “I am glad to see you, amico. Come sta? Water will freeze whe_t is cold enough. Addio!” In the course of the night, also, the followin_henomena had occurred. Bishop Butler had insisted on spelling his name, “Bubler,” for which offence against orthography and good manners he had bee_ismissed as out of temper. John Milton (suspected of wilful mystification) had repudiated the authorship of Paradise Lost, and had introduced, as join_uthors of that poem, two Unknown gentlemen, respectively named Grungers an_cadgingtone. And Prince Arthur, nephew of King John of England, had describe_imself as tolerably comfortable in the seventh circle, where he was learnin_o paint on velvet, under the direction of Mrs. Trimmer and Mary Queen o_cots.
  • If this should meet the eye of the gentleman who favoured me with thes_isclosures, I trust he will excuse my confessing that the sight of the risin_un, and the contemplation of the magnificent Order of the vast Universe, mad_e impatient of them. In a word, I was so impatient of them, that I wa_ightily glad to get out at the next station, and to exchange these clouds an_apours for the free air of Heaven.
  • By that time it was a beautiful morning. As I walked away among such leaves a_ad already fallen from the golden, brown, and russet trees; and as I looke_round me on the wonders of Creation, and thought of the steady, unchanging, and harmonious laws by which they are sustained; the gentleman’s spiritua_ntercourse seemed to me as poor a piece of journey-work as ever this worl_aw. In which heathen state of mind, I came within view of the house, an_topped to examine it attentively.
  • It was a solitary house, standing in a sadly neglected garden: a pretty eve_quare of some two acres. It was a house of about the time of George th_econd; as stiff, as cold, as formal, and in as bad taste, as could possibl_e desired by the most loyal admirer of the whole quartet of Georges. It wa_ninhabited, but had, within a year or two, been cheaply repaired to render i_abitable; I say cheaply, because the work had been done in a surface manner, and was already decaying as to the paint and plaster, though the colours wer_resh. A lop-sided board drooped over the garden wall, announcing that it was “to let on very reasonable terms, well furnished.” It was much too closely an_eavily shadowed by trees, and, in particular, there were six tall poplar_efore the front windows, which were excessively melancholy, and the site o_hich had been extremely ill chosen.
  • It was easy to see that it was an avoided house—a house that was shunned b_he village, to which my eye was guided by a church spire some half a mil_ff—a house that nobody would take. And the natural inference was, that it ha_he reputation of being a haunted house.
  • No period within the four-and-twenty hours of day and night is so solemn t_e, as the early morning. In the summer-time, I often rise very early, an_epair to my room to do a day’s work before breakfast, and I am always o_hose occasions deeply impressed by the stillness and solitude around me.
  • Besides that there is something awful in the being surrounded by familia_aces asleep—in the knowledge that those who are dearest to us and to whom w_re dearest, are profoundly unconscious of us, in an impassive state, anticipative of that mysterious condition to which we are all tending—th_topped life, the broken threads of yesterday, the deserted seat, the close_ook, the unfinished but abandoned occupation, all are images of Death. Th_ranquillity of the hour is the tranquillity of Death. The colour and th_hill have the same association. Even a certain air that familiar househol_bjects take upon them when they first emerge from the shadows of the nigh_nto the morning, of being newer, and as they used to be long ago, has it_ounterpart in the subsidence of the worn face of maturity or age, in death, into the old youthful look. Moreover, I once saw the apparition of my father, at this hour. He was alive and well, and nothing ever came of it, but I sa_im in the daylight, sitting with his back towards me, on a seat that stoo_eside my bed. His head was resting on his hand, and whether he was slumberin_r grieving, I could not discern. Amazed to see him there, I sat up, moved m_osition, leaned out of bed, and watched him. As he did not move, I spoke t_im more than once. As he did not move then, I became alarmed and laid my han_pon his shoulder, as I thought—and there was no such thing.
  • For all these reasons, and for others less easily and briefly statable, I fin_he early morning to be my most ghostly time. Any house would be more or les_aunted, to me, in the early morning; and a haunted house could scarcel_ddress me to greater advantage than then.
  • I walked on into the village, with the desertion of this house upon my mind, and I found the landlord of the little inn, sanding his door-step. I bespok_reakfast, and broached the subject of the house.
  • “Is it haunted?” I asked.
  • The landlord looked at me, shook his head, and answered, “I say nothing.”
  • “Then it is haunted?”
  • “Well!” cried the landlord, in an outburst of frankness that had th_ppearance of desperation—“I wouldn’t sleep in it.”
  • “Why not?”
  • “If I wanted to have all the bells in a house ring, with nobody to ring ’em; and all the doors in a house bang, with nobody to bang ’em; and all sorts o_eet treading about, with no feet there; why, then,” said the landlord, “I’_leep in that house.”
  • “Is anything seen there?”
  • The landlord looked at me again, and then, with his former appearance o_esperation, called down his stable-yard for “Ikey!”
  • The call produced a high-shouldered young fellow, with a round red face, _hort crop of sandy hair, a very broad humorous mouth, a turned-up nose, and _reat sleeved waistcoat of purple bars, with mother-of-pearl buttons, tha_eemed to be growing upon him, and to be in a fair way—if it were no_runed—of covering his head and overunning his boots.
  • “This gentleman wants to know,” said the landlord, “if anything’s seen at th_oplars.”
  • “‘Ooded woman with a howl,” said Ikey, in a state of great freshness.
  • “Do you mean a cry?”
  • “I mean a bird, sir.”
  • “A hooded woman with an owl. Dear me! Did you ever see her?”
  • “I seen the howl.”
  • “Never the woman?”
  • “Not so plain as the howl, but they always keeps together.”
  • “Has anybody ever seen the woman as plainly as the owl?”
  • “Lord bless you, sir! Lots.”
  • “Who?”
  • “Lord bless you, sir! Lots.”
  • “The general-dealer opposite, for instance, who is opening his shop?”
  • “Perkins? Bless you, Perkins wouldn’t go a-nigh the place. No!” observed th_oung man, with considerable feeling; “he an’t overwise, an’t Perkins, but h_n’t such a fool as that.”
  • (Here, the landlord murmured his confidence in Perkins’s knowing better.)
  • “Who is—or who was—the hooded woman with the owl? Do you know?”
  • “Well!” said Ikey, holding up his cap with one hand while he scratched hi_ead with the other, “they say, in general, that she was murdered, and th_owl he ‘ooted the while.”
  • This very concise summary of the facts was all I could learn, except that _oung man, as hearty and likely a young man as ever I see, had been took wit_its and held down in ’em, after seeing the hooded woman. Also, that _ersonage, dimly described as “a hold chap, a sort of one-eyed tramp, answering to the name of Joby, unless you challenged him as Greenwood, an_hen he said, ‘Why not? and even if so, mind your own business,’” ha_ncountered the hooded woman, a matter of five or six times. But, I was no_aterially assisted by these witnesses: inasmuch as the first was i_alifornia, and the last was, as Ikey said (and he was confirmed by th_andlord), Anywheres.
  • Now, although I regard with a hushed and solemn fear, the mysteries, betwee_hich and this state of existence is interposed the barrier of the great tria_nd change that fall on all the things that live; and although I have not th_udacity to pretend that I know anything of them; I can no more reconcile th_ere banging of doors, ringing of bells, creaking of boards, and such-lik_nsignificances, with the majestic beauty and pervading analogy of all th_ivine rules that I am permitted to understand, than I had been able, a littl_hile before, to yoke the spiritual intercourse of my fellow- traveller to th_hariot of the rising sun. Moreover, I had lived in two haunted houses—bot_broad. In one of these, an old Italian palace, which bore the reputation o_eing very badly haunted indeed, and which had recently been twice abandone_n that account, I lived eight months, most tranquilly and pleasantly: notwithstanding that the house had a score of mysterious bedrooms, which wer_ever used, and possessed, in one large room in which I sat reading, times ou_f number at all hours, and next to which I slept, a haunted chamber of th_irst pretensions. I gently hinted these considerations to the landlord. An_s to this particular house having a bad name, I reasoned with him, Why, ho_any things had bad names undeservedly, and how easy it was to give bad names, and did he not think that if he and I were persistently to whisper in th_illage that any weird-looking old drunken tinker of the neighbourhood ha_old himself to the Devil, he would come in time to be suspected of tha_ommercial venture! All this wise talk was perfectly ineffective with th_andlord, I am bound to confess, and was as dead a failure as ever I made i_y life.
  • To cut this part of the story short, I was piqued about the haunted house, an_as already half resolved to take it. So, after breakfast, I got the keys fro_erkins’s brother-in-law (a whip and harness maker, who keeps the Post Office, and is under submission to a most rigorous wife of the Doubly Seceding Littl_mmanuel persuasion), and went up to the house, attended by my landlord and b_key.
  • Within, I found it, as I had expected, transcendently dismal. The slowl_hanging shadows waved on it from the heavy trees, were doleful in the las_egree; the house was ill-placed, ill-built, ill-planned, and ill-fitted. I_as damp, it was not free from dry rot, there was a flavour of rats in it, an_t was the gloomy victim of that indescribable decay which settles on all th_ork of man’s hands whenever it’s not turned to man’s account. The kitchen_nd offices were too large, and too remote from each other. Above stairs an_elow, waste tracts of passage intervened between patches of fertilit_epresented by rooms; and there was a mouldy old well with a green growth upo_t, hiding like a murderous trap, near the bottom of the back-stairs, unde_he double row of bells. One of these bells was labelled, on a black ground i_aded white letters, Master B. This, they told me, was the bell that rang th_ost.
  • “Who was Master B.?” I asked. “Is it known what he did while the owl hooted?”
  • “Rang the bell,” said Ikey.
  • I was rather struck by the prompt dexterity with which this young man pitche_is fur cap at the bell, and rang it himself. It was a loud, unpleasant bell, and made a very disagreeable sound. The other bells were inscribed accordin_o the names of the rooms to which their wires were conducted: as “Pictur_oom,” “Double Room,” “Clock Room,” and the like. Following Master B.’s bel_o its source I found that young gentleman to have had but indifferent third- class accommodation in a triangular cabin under the cock-loft, with a corne_ireplace which Master B. must have been exceedingly small if he were eve_ble to warm himself at, and a corner chimney- piece like a pyramida_taircase to the ceiling for Tom Thumb. The papering of one side of the roo_ad dropped down bodily, with fragments of plaster adhering to it, and almos_locked up the door. It appeared that Master B., in his spiritual condition, always made a point of pulling the paper down. Neither the landlord nor Ike_ould suggest why he made such a fool of himself.
  • Except that the house had an immensely large rambling loft at top, I made n_ther discoveries. It was moderately well furnished, but sparely. Some of th_urniture—say, a third—was as old as the house; the rest was of variou_eriods within the last half-century. I was referred to a corn-chandler in th_arket-place of the county town to treat for the house. I went that day, and _ook it for six months.
  • It was just the middle of October when I moved in with my maiden sister (_enture to call her eight-and-thirty, she is so very handsome, sensible, an_ngaging). We took with us, a deaf stable- man, my bloodhound Turk, two wome_ervants, and a young person called an Odd Girl. I have reason to record o_he attendant last enumerated, who was one of the Saint Lawrence’s Unio_emale Orphans, that she was a fatal mistake and a disastrous engagement.
  • The year was dying early, the leaves were falling fast, it was a raw cold da_hen we took possession, and the gloom of the house was most depressing. Th_ook (an amiable woman, but of a weak turn of intellect) burst into tears o_eholding the kitchen, and requested that her silver watch might be delivere_ver to her sister (2 Tuppintock’s Gardens, Liggs’s Walk, Clapham Rise), i_he event of anything happening to her from the damp. Streaker, the housemaid, feigned cheerfulness, but was the greater martyr. The Odd Girl, who had neve_een in the country, alone was pleased, and made arrangements for sowing a_corn in the garden outside the scullery window, and rearing an oak.
  • We went, before dark, through all the natural—as opposed t_upernatural—miseries incidental to our state. Dispiriting reports ascended (like the smoke) from the basement in volumes, and descended from the uppe_ooms. There was no rolling-pin, there was no salamander (which failed t_urprise me, for I don’t know what it is), there was nothing in the house, what there was, was broken, the last people must have lived like pigs, wha_ould the meaning of the landlord be? Through these distresses, the Odd Gir_as cheerful and exemplary. But within four hours after dark we had got into _upernatural groove, and the Odd Girl had seen “Eyes,” and was in hysterics.
  • My sister and I had agreed to keep the haunting strictly to ourselves, and m_mpression was, and still is, that I had not left Ikey, when he helped t_nload the cart, alone with the women, or any one of them, for one minute.
  • Nevertheless, as I say, the Odd Girl had “seen Eyes” (no other explanatio_ould ever be drawn from her), before nine, and by ten o’clock had had as muc_inegar applied to her as would pickle a handsome salmon.
  • I leave a discerning public to judge of my feelings, when, under thes_ntoward circumstances, at about half-past ten o’clock Master B.’s bell bega_o ring in a most infuriated manner, and Turk howled until the house resounde_ith his lamentations!
  • I hope I may never again be in a state of mind so unchristian as the menta_rame in which I lived for some weeks, respecting the memory of Master B.
  • Whether his bell was rung by rats, or mice, or bats, or wind, or what othe_ccidental vibration, or sometimes by one cause, sometimes another, an_ometimes by collusion, I don’t know; but, certain it is, that it did ring tw_ights out of three, until I conceived the happy idea of twisting Master B.’_eck—in other words, breaking his bell short off—and silencing that youn_entleman, as to my experience and belief, for ever.
  • But, by that time, the Odd Girl had developed such improving powers o_atalepsy, that she had become a shining example of that very inconvenien_isorder. She would stiffen, like a Guy Fawkes endowed with unreason, on th_ost irrelevant occasions. I would address the servants in a lucid manner, pointing out to them that I had painted Master B.’s room and balked the paper, and taken Master B.’s bell away and balked the ringing, and if they coul_uppose that that confounded boy had lived and died, to clothe himself with n_etter behaviour than would most unquestionably have brought him and th_harpest particles of a birch-broom into close acquaintance in the presen_mperfect state of existence, could they also suppose a mere poor human being, such as I was, capable by those contemptible means of counteracting an_imiting the powers of the disembodied spirits of the dead, or of an_pirits?—I say I would become emphatic and cogent, not to say rathe_omplacent, in such an address, when it would all go for nothing by reason o_he Odd Girl’s suddenly stiffening from the toes upward, and glaring among u_ike a parochial petrifaction.
  • Streaker, the housemaid, too, had an attribute of a most discomfiting nature.
  • I am unable to say whether she was of an usually lymphatic temperament, o_hat else was the matter with her, but this young woman became a mer_istillery for the production of the largest and most transparent tears I eve_et with. Combined with these characteristics, was a peculiar tenacity of hol_n those specimens, so that they didn’t fall, but hung upon her face and nose.
  • In this condition, and mildly and deplorably shaking her head, her silenc_ould throw me more heavily than the Admirable Crichton could have done in _erbal disputation for a purse of money. Cook, likewise, always covered m_ith confusion as with a garment, by neatly winding up the session with th_rotest that the Ouse was wearing her out, and by meekly repeating her las_ishes regarding her silver watch.
  • As to our nightly life, the contagion of suspicion and fear was among us, an_here is no such contagion under the sky. Hooded woman? According to th_ccounts, we were in a perfect Convent of hooded women. Noises? With tha_ontagion downstairs, I myself have sat in the dismal parlour, listening, until I have heard so many and such strange noises, that they would hav_hilled my blood if I had not warmed it by dashing out to make discoveries.
  • Try this in bed, in the dead of the night: try this at your own comfortabl_ire-side, in the life of the night. You can fill any house with noises, i_ou will, until you have a noise for every nerve in your nervous system.
  • I repeat; the contagion of suspicion and fear was among us, and there is n_uch contagion under the sky. The women (their noses in a chronic state o_xcoriation from smelling-salts) were always primed and loaded for a swoon, and ready to go off with hair- triggers. The two elder detached the Odd Gir_n all expeditions that were considered doubly hazardous, and she alway_stablished the reputation of such adventures by coming back cataleptic. I_ook or Streaker went overhead after dark, we knew we should presently hear _ump on the ceiling; and this took place so constantly, that it was as if _ighting man were engaged to go about the house, administering a touch of hi_rt which I believe is called The Auctioneer, to every domestic he met with.
  • It was in vain to do anything. It was in vain to be frightened, for the momen_n one’s own person, by a real owl, and then to show the owl. It was in vai_o discover, by striking an accidental discord on the piano, that Turk alway_owled at particular notes and combinations. It was in vain to be _hadamanthus with the bells, and if an unfortunate bell rang without leave, t_ave it down inexorably and silence it. It was in vain to fire up chimneys, let torches down the well, charge furiously into suspected rooms and recesses.
  • We changed servants, and it was no better. The new set ran away, and a thir_et came, and it was no better. At last, our comfortable housekeeping got t_e so disorganised and wretched, that I one night dejectedly said to m_ister: “Patty, I begin to despair of our getting people to go on with u_ere, and I think we must give this up.”
  • My sister, who is a woman of immense spirit, replied, “No, John, don’t give i_p. Don’t be beaten, John. There is another way.”
  • “And what is that?” said I.
  • “John,” returned my sister, “if we are not to be driven out of this house, an_hat for no reason whatever, that is apparent to you or me, we must hel_urselves and take the house wholly and solely into our own hands.”
  • “But, the servants,” said I.
  • “Have no servants,” said my sister, boldly.
  • Like most people in my grade of life, I had never thought of the possibilit_f going on without those faithful obstructions. The notion was so new to m_hen suggested, that I looked very doubtful. “We know they come here to b_rightened and infect one another, and we know they are frightened and d_nfect one another,” said my sister.
  • “With the exception of Bottles,” I observed, in a meditative tone.
  • (The deaf stable-man. I kept him in my service, and still keep him, as _henomenon of moroseness not to be matched in England.)
  • “To be sure, John,” assented my sister; “except Bottles. And what does that g_o prove? Bottles talks to nobody, and hears nobody unless he is absolutel_oared at, and what alarm has Bottles ever given, or taken! None.”
  • This was perfectly true; the individual in question having retired, ever_ight at ten o’clock, to his bed over the coach-house, with no other compan_han a pitchfork and a pail of water. That the pail of water would have bee_ver me, and the pitchfork through me, if I had put myself withou_nnouncement in Bottles’s way after that minute, I had deposited in my ow_ind as a fact worth remembering. Neither had Bottles ever taken the leas_otice of any of our many uproars. An imperturbable and speechless man, he ha_at at his supper, with Streaker present in a swoon, and the Odd Girl marble, and had only put another potato in his cheek, or profited by the genera_isery to help himself to beefsteak pie.
  • “And so,” continued my sister, “I exempt Bottles. And considering, John, tha_he house is too large, and perhaps too lonely, to be kept well in hand b_ottles, you, and me, I propose that we cast about among our friends for _ertain selected number of the most reliable and willing—form a Society her_or three months—wait upon ourselves and one another—live cheerfully an_ocially—and see what happens.”
  • I was so charmed with my sister, that I embraced her on the spot, and wen_nto her plan with the greatest ardour.
  • We were then in the third week of November; but, we took our measures s_igorously, and were so well seconded by the friends in whom we confided, tha_here was still a week of the month unexpired, when our party all came dow_ogether merrily, and mustered in the haunted house.
  • I will mention, in this place, two small changes that I made while my siste_nd I were yet alone. It occurring to me as not improbable that Turk howled i_he house at night, partly because he wanted to get out of it, I stationed hi_n his kennel outside, but unchained; and I seriously warned the village tha_ny man who came in his way must not expect to leave him without a rip in hi_wn throat. I then casually asked Ikey if he were a judge of a gun? On hi_aying, “Yes, sir, I knows a good gun when I sees her,” I begged the favour o_is stepping up to the house and looking at mine.
  • “She’s a true one, sir,” said Ikey, after inspecting a double- barrelled rifl_hat I bought in New York a few years ago. “No mistake about Her, sir.”
  • “Ikey,” said I, “don’t mention it; I have seen something in this house.”
  • “No, sir?” he whispered, greedily opening his eyes. “‘Ooded lady, sir?”
  • “Don’t be frightened,” said I. “It was a figure rather like you.”
  • “Lord, sir?”
  • “Ikey!” said I, shaking hands with him warmly: I may say affectionately; “i_here is any truth in these ghost-stories, the greatest service I can do you, is, to fire at that figure. And I promise you, by Heaven and earth, I will d_t with this gun if I see it again!”
  • The young man thanked me, and took his leave with some little precipitation, after declining a glass of liquor. I imparted my secret to him, because I ha_ever quite forgotten his throwing his cap at the bell; because I had, o_nother occasion, noticed something very like a fur cap, lying not far fro_he bell, one night when it had burst out ringing; and because I had remarke_hat we were at our ghostliest whenever he came up in the evening to comfor_he servants. Let me do Ikey no injustice. He was afraid of the house, an_elieved in its being haunted; and yet he would play false on the hauntin_ide, so surely as he got an opportunity. The Odd Girl’s case was exactl_imilar. She went about the house in a state of real terror, and yet lie_onstrously and wilfully, and invented many of the alarms she spread, and mad_any of the sounds we heard. I had had my eye on the two, and I know it. It i_ot necessary for me, here, to account for this preposterous state of mind; _ontent myself with remarking that it is familiarly known to every intelligen_an who has had fair medical, legal, or other watchful experience; that it i_s well established and as common a state of mind as any with which observer_re acquainted; and that it is one of the first elements, above all others, rationally to be suspected in, and strictly looked for, and separated from, any question of this kind.
  • To return to our party. The first thing we did when we were all assembled, was, to draw lots for bedrooms. That done, and every bedroom, and, indeed, th_hole house, having been minutely examined by the whole body, we allotted th_arious household duties, as if we had been on a gipsy party, or a yachtin_arty, or a hunting party, or were shipwrecked. I then recounted the floatin_umours concerning the hooded lady, the owl, and Master B.: with others, stil_ore filmy, which had floated about during our occupation, relative to som_idiculous old ghost of the female gender who went up and down, carrying th_host of a round table; and also to an impalpable Jackass, whom nobody wa_ver able to catch. Some of these ideas I really believe our people below ha_ommunicated to one another in some diseased way, without conveying them i_ords. We then gravely called one another to witness, that we were not ther_o be deceived, or to deceive—which we considered pretty much the sam_hing—and that, with a serious sense of responsibility, we would be strictl_rue to one another, and would strictly follow out the truth. Th_nderstanding was established, that any one who heard unusual noises in th_ight, and who wished to trace them, should knock at my door; lastly, that o_welfth Night, the last night of holy Christmas, all our individua_xperiences since that then present hour of our coming together in the haunte_ouse, should be brought to light for the good of all; and that we would hol_ur peace on the subject till then, unless on some remarkable provocation t_reak silence.
  • We were, in number and in character, as follows:
  • First—to get my sister and myself out of the way—there were we two. In th_rawing of lots, my sister drew her own room, and I drew Master B.’s. Next, there was our first cousin John Herschel, so called after the grea_stronomer: than whom I suppose a better man at a telescope does not breathe.
  • With him, was his wife: a charming creature to whom he had been married in th_revious spring. I thought it (under the circumstances) rather imprudent t_ring her, because there is no knowing what even a false alarm may do at suc_ time; but I suppose he knew his own business best, and I must say that i_he had been My wife, I never could have left her endearing and bright fac_ehind. They drew the Clock Room. Alfred Starling, an uncommonly agreeabl_oung fellow of eight-and-twenty for whom I have the greatest liking, was i_he Double Room; mine, usually, and designated by that name from having _ressing-room within it, with two large and cumbersome windows, which n_edges I was ever able to make, would keep from shaking, in any weather, win_r no wind. Alfred is a young fellow who pretends to be “fast” (another wor_or loose, as I understand the term), but who is much too good and sensibl_or that nonsense, and who would have distinguished himself before now, if hi_ather had not unfortunately left him a small independence of two hundred _ear, on the strength of which his only occupation in life has been to spen_ix. I am in hopes, however, that his Banker may break, or that he may ente_nto some speculation guaranteed to pay twenty per cent.; for, I am convince_hat if he could only be ruined, his fortune is made. Belinda Bates, boso_riend of my sister, and a most intellectual, amiable, and delightful girl, got the Picture Room. She has a fine genius for poetry, combined with rea_usiness earnestness, and “goes in”—to use an expression of Alfred’s—fo_oman’s mission, Woman’s rights, Woman’s wrongs, and everything that i_oman’s with a capital W, or is not and ought to be, or is and ought not t_e. “Most praiseworthy, my dear, and Heaven prosper you!” I whispered to he_n the first night of my taking leave of her at the Picture-Room door, “bu_on’t overdo it. And in respect of the great necessity there is, my darling, for more employments being within the reach of Woman than our civilisation ha_s yet assigned to her, don’t fly at the unfortunate men, even those men wh_re at first sight in your way, as if they were the natural oppressors of you_ex; for, trust me, Belinda, they do sometimes spend their wages among wive_nd daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers; and the play is, really, not all Wolf and Red Riding-Hood, but has other parts in it.” However, I digress.
  • Belinda, as I have mentioned, occupied the Picture Room. We had but thre_ther chambers: the Corner Room, the Cupboard Room, and the Garden Room. M_ld friend, Jack Governor, “slung his hammock,” as he called it, in the Corne_oom. I have always regarded Jack as the finest-looking sailor that eve_ailed. He is gray now, but as handsome as he was a quarter of a centur_go—nay, handsomer. A portly, cheery, well-built figure of a broad-shouldere_an, with a frank smile, a brilliant dark eye, and a rich dark eyebrow. _emember those under darker hair, and they look all the better for thei_ilver setting. He has been wherever his Union namesake flies, has Jack, and _ave met old shipmates of his, away in the Mediterranean and on the other sid_f the Atlantic, who have beamed and brightened at the casual mention of hi_ame, and have cried, “You know Jack Governor? Then you know a prince of men!” That he is! And so unmistakably a naval officer, that if you were to meet hi_oming out of an Esquimaux snow-hut in seal’s skin, you would be vaguel_ersuaded he was in full naval uniform.
  • Jack once had that bright clear eye of his on my sister; but, it fell out tha_e married another lady and took her to South America, where she died. Thi_as a dozen years ago or more. He brought down with him to our haunted house _ittle cask of salt beef; for, he is always convinced that all salt beef no_f his own pickling, is mere carrion, and invariably, when he goes to London, packs a piece in his portmanteau. He had also volunteered to bring with hi_ne “Nat Beaver,” an old comrade of his, captain of a merchantman. Mr. Beaver, with a thick-set wooden face and figure, and apparently as hard as a block al_ver, proved to be an intelligent man, with a world of watery experiences i_im, and great practical knowledge. At times, there was a curious nervousnes_bout him, apparently the lingering result of some old illness; but, it seldo_asted many minutes. He got the Cupboard Room, and lay there next to Mr.
  • Undery, my friend and solicitor: who came down, in an amateur capacity, “to g_hrough with it,” as he said, and who plays whist better than the whole La_ist, from the red cover at the beginning to the red cover at the end.
  • I never was happier in my life, and I believe it was the universal feelin_mong us. Jack Governor, always a man of wonderful resources, was Chief Cook, and made some of the best dishes I ever ate, including unapproachable curries.
  • My sister was pastrycook and confectioner. Starling and I were Cook’s Mate, turn and turn about, and on special occasions the chief cook “pressed” Mr.
  • Beaver. We had a great deal of out-door sport and exercise, but nothing wa_eglected within, and there was no ill-humour or misunderstanding among us, and our evenings were so delightful that we had at least one good reason fo_eing reluctant to go to bed.
  • We had a few night alarms in the beginning. On the first night, I was knocke_p by Jack with a most wonderful ship’s lantern in his hand, like the gills o_ome monster of the deep, who informed me that he “was going aloft to the mai_ruck,” to have the weathercock down. It was a stormy night and _emonstrated; but Jack called my attention to its making a sound like a cry o_espair, and said somebody would be “hailing a ghost” presently, if it wasn’_one. So, up to the top of the house, where I could hardly stand for the wind, we went, accompanied by Mr. Beaver; and there Jack, lantern and all, with Mr.
  • Beaver after him, swarmed up to the top of a cupola, some two dozen feet abov_he chimneys, and stood upon nothing particular, coolly knocking th_eathercock off, until they both got into such good spirits with the wind an_he height, that I thought they would never come down. Another night, the_urned out again, and had a chimney-cowl off. Another night, they cut _obbing and gulping water-pipe away. Another night, they found out somethin_lse. On several occasions, they both, in the coolest manner, simultaneousl_ropped out of their respective bedroom windows, hand over hand by thei_ounterpanes, to “overhaul” something mysterious in the garden.
  • The engagement among us was faithfully kept, and nobody revealed anything. Al_e knew was, if any one’s room were haunted, no one looked the worse for it.