J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 1
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Online Distributed Proofreading Team
J. S. LE FANU'S GHOSTLY TALES, VOLUME 1
Schalken the Painter (1851)
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street (1853)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Schalken the Painter
_"For he is not a man as I am that
we should come together; neither is
there any that might lay his hand
upon us both. Let him, therefore,
take his rod away from me, and let
not his fear terrify me."_
There exists, at this moment, in good preservation a remarkable work of
Schalken's. The curious management of its lights constitutes, as usual
in his pieces, the chief apparent merit of the picture. I say
_apparent_, for in its subject, and not in its handling, however
exquisite, consists its real value. The picture represents the interior
of what might be a chamber in some antique religious building; and its
foreground is occupied by a female figure, in a species of white robe,
part of which is arranged so as to form a veil. The dress, however, is
not that of any religious order. In her hand the figure bears a lamp, by
which alone her figure and face are illuminated; and her features wear
such an arch smile, as well becomes a pretty woman when practising some
prankish roguery; in the background, and, excepting where the dim red
light of an expiring fire serves to define the form, in total shadow,
stands the figure of a man dressed in the old Flemish fashion, in an
attitude of alarm, his hand being placed upon the hilt of his sword,
which he appears to be in the act of drawing.
There are some pictures, which impress one, I know not how, with a
conviction that they represent not the mere ideal shapes and
combinations which have floated through the imagination of the artist,
but scenes, faces, and situations which have actually existed. There is
in that strange picture, something that stamps it as the representation
of a reality.
And such in truth it is, for it faithfully records a remarkable and
mysterious occurrence, and perpetuates, in the face of the female
figure, which occupies the most prominent place in the design, an
accurate portrait of Rose Velderkaust, the niece of Gerard Douw, the
first, and, I believe, the only love of Godfrey Schalken. My great
grandfather knew the painter well; and from Schalken himself he learned
the fearful story of the painting, and from him too he ultimately
received the picture itself as a bequest. The story and the picture have
become heir-looms in my family, and having described the latter, I
shall, if you please, attempt to relate the tradition which has
descended with the canvas.
There are few forms on which the mantle of romance hangs more
ungracefully than upon that of the uncouth Schalken--the boorish but
most cunning worker in oils, whose pieces delight the critics of our day
almost as much as his manners disgusted the refined of his own; and yet
this man, so rude, so dogged, so slovenly, in the midst of his
celebrity, had in his obscure, but happier days, played the hero in a
wild romance of mystery and passion.
When Schalken studied under the immortal Gerard Douw, he was a very
young man; and in spite of his phlegmatic temperament, he at once fell
over head and ears in love with the beautiful niece of his wealthy
master. Rose Velderkaust was still younger than he, having not yet
attained her seventeenth year, and, if tradition speaks truth, possessed
all the soft and dimpling charms of the fair, light-haired Flemish
maidens. The young painter loved honestly and fervently. His frank
adoration was rewarded. He declared his love, and extracted a faltering
confession in return. He was the happiest and proudest painter in all
Christendom. But there was somewhat to dash his elation; he was poor and
undistinguished. He dared not ask old Gerard for the hand of his sweet
ward. He must first win a reputation and a competence.
There were, therefore, many dread uncertainties and cold days before
him; he had to fight his way against sore odds. But he had won the heart
of dear Rose Velderkaust, and that was half the battle. It is needless
to say his exertions were redoubled, and his lasting celebrity proves
that his industry was not unrewarded by success.
These ardent labours, and worse still, the hopes that elevated and
beguiled them, were however, destined to experience a sudden
interruption--of a character so strange and mysterious as to baffle all
inquiry and to throw over the events themselves a shadow of
Schalken had one evening outstayed all his fellow-pupils, and still
pursued his work in the deserted room. As the daylight was fast falling,
he laid aside his colours, and applied himself to the completion of a
sketch on which he had expressed extraordinary pains. It was a religious
composition, and represented the temptations of a pot-bellied Saint
Anthony. The young artist, however destitute of elevation, had,
nevertheless, discernment enough to be dissatisfied with his own work,
and many were the patient erasures and improvements which saint and
devil underwent, yet all in vain. The large, old-fashioned room was
silent, and, with the exception of himself, quite emptied of its usual
inmates. An hour had thus passed away, nearly two, without any improved
result. Daylight had already declined, and twilight was deepening into
the darkness of night. The patience of the young painter was exhausted,
and he stood before his unfinished production, angry and mortified, one
hand buried in the folds of his long hair, and the other holding the
piece of charcoal which had so ill-performed its office, and which he
now rubbed, without much regard to the sable streaks it produced, with
irritable pressure upon his ample Flemish inexpressibles. "Curse the
subject!" said the young man aloud; "curse the picture, the devils, the
At this moment a short, sudden sniff uttered close beside him made the
artist turn sharply round, and he now, for the first time, became aware
that his labours had been overlooked by a stranger. Within about a yard
and half, and rather behind him, there stood the figure of an elderly
man in a cloak and broad-brimmed, conical hat; in his hand, which was
protected with a heavy gauntlet-shaped glove, he carried a long ebony
walking-stick, surmounted with what appeared, as it glittered dimly in
the twilight, to be a massive head of gold, and upon his breast, through
the folds of the cloak, there shone the links of a rich chain of the
same metal. The room was so obscure that nothing further of the
appearance of the figure could be ascertained, and his hat threw his
features into profound shadow. It would not have been easy to conjecture
the age of the intruder; but a quantity of dark hair escaping from
beneath this sombre hat, as well as his firm and upright carriage served
to indicate that his years could not yet exceed threescore, or
thereabouts. There was an air of gravity and importance about the garb
of the person, and something indescribably odd, I might say awful, in
the perfect, stone-like stillness of the figure, that effectually
checked the testy comment which had at once risen to the lips of the
irritated artist. He, therefore, as soon as he had sufficiently
recovered his surprise, asked the stranger, civilly, to be seated, and
desired to know if he had any message to leave for his master.
"Tell Gerard Douw," said the unknown, without altering his attitude in
the smallest degree, "that Minheer Vanderhausen, of Rotterdam, desires
to speak with him on tomorrow evening at this hour, and if he please, in
this room, upon matters of weight; that is all."
The stranger, having finished this message, turned abruptly, and, with a
quick, but silent step quitted the room, before Schalken had time to say
a word in reply. The young man felt a curiosity to see in what direction
the burgher of Rotterdam would turn, on quitting the studio, and for
that purpose he went directly to the window which commanded the door. A
lobby of considerable extent intervened between the inner door of the
painter's room and the street entrance, so that Schalken occupied the
post of observation before the old man could possibly have reached the
street. He watched in vain, however. There was no other mode of exit.
Had the queer old man vanished, or was he lurking about the recesses of
the lobby for some sinister purpose? This last suggestion filled the
mind of Schalken with a vague uneasiness, which was so unaccountably
intense as to make him alike afraid to remain in the room alone, and
reluctant to pass through the lobby. However, with an effort which
appeared very disproportioned to the occasion, he summoned resolution to
leave the room, and, having locked the door and thrust the key in his
pocket, without looking to the right or left, he traversed the passage
which had so recently, perhaps still, contained the person of his
mysterious visitant, scarcely venturing to breathe till he had arrived
in the open street.
"Minheer Vanderhausen!" said Gerard Douw within himself, as the
appointed hour approached, "Minheer Vanderhausen, of Rotterdam! I never
heard of the man till yesterday. What can he want of me? A portrait,
perhaps, to be painted; or a poor relation to be apprenticed; or a
collection to be valued; or--pshaw! there's no one in Rotterdam to leave
me a legacy. Well, whatever the business may be, we shall soon know it
It was now the close of day, and again every easel, except that of
Schalken, was deserted. Gerard Douw was pacing the apartment with the
restless step of impatient expectation, sometimes pausing to glance over
the work of one of his absent pupils, but more frequently placing
himself at the window, from whence he might observe the passengers who
threaded the obscure by-street in which his studio was placed.
"Said you not, Godfrey," exclaimed Douw, after a long and fruitful gaze
from his post of observation, and turning to Schalken, "that the hour he
appointed was about seven by the clock of the Stadhouse?"
"It had just told seven when I first saw him, sir," answered the
"The hour is close at hand, then," said the master, consulting a
horologe as large and as round as an orange. "Minheer Vanderhausen from
Rotterdam--is it not so?"
"Such was the name."
"And an elderly man, richly clad?" pursued Douw, musingly.
"As well as I might see," replied his pupil; "he could not be young, nor
yet very old, neither; and his dress was rich and grave, as might become
a citizen of wealth and consideration."
At this moment the sonorous boom of the Stadhouse clock told, stroke
after stroke, the hour of seven; the eyes of both master and student
were directed to the door; and it was not until the last peal of the
bell had ceased to vibrate, that Douw exclaimed----
"So, so; we shall have his worship presently, that is, if he means to
keep his hour; if not, you may wait for him, Godfrey, if you court his
acquaintance. But what, after all, if it should prove but a mummery got
up by Vankarp, or some such wag? I wish you had run all risks, and
cudgelled the old burgomaster soundly. I'd wager a dozen of Rhenish, his
worship would have unmasked, and pleaded old acquaintance in a trice."
"Here he comes, sir," said Schalken, in a low monitory tone; and
instantly, upon turning towards the door, Gerard Douw observed the same
figure which had, on the day before, so unexpectedly greeted his pupil
There was something in the air of the figure which at once satisfied the
painter that there was no masquerading in the case, and that he really
stood in the presence of a man of worship; and so, without hesitation,
he doffed his cap, and courteously saluting the stranger, requested him
to be seated. The visitor waved his hand slightly, as if in
acknowledgment of the courtesy, but remained standing.
"I have the honour to see Minheer Vanderhausen of Rotterdam?" said
"The same," was the laconic reply of his visitor.
"I understand your worship desires to speak with me," continued Douw,
"and I am here by appointment to wait your commands."
"Is that a man of trust?" said Vanderhausen, turning towards Schalken,
who stood at a little distance behind his master.
"Certainly," replied Gerard.
"Then let him take this box, and get the nearest jeweller or goldsmith
to value its contents, and let him return hither with a certificate of
At the same time, he placed a small case about nine inches square in the
hands of Gerard Douw, who was as much amazed at its weight as at the
strange abruptness with which it was handed to him. In accordance with
the wishes of the stranger, he delivered it into the hands of Schalken,
and repeating his direction, despatched him upon the mission.
Schalken disposed his precious charge securely beneath the folds of his
cloak, and rapidly traversing two or three narrow streets, he stopped at
a corner house, the lower part of which was then occupied by the shop of
a Jewish goldsmith. He entered the shop, and calling the little Hebrew
into the obscurity of its back recesses, he proceeded to lay before him
Vanderhausen's casket. On being examined by the light of a lamp, it
appeared entirely cased with lead, the outer surface of which was much
scraped and soiled, and nearly white with age. This having been
partially removed, there appeared beneath a box of some hard wood; which
also they forced open and after the removal of two or three folds of
linen, they discovered its contents to be a mass of golden ingots,
closely packed, and, as the Jew declared, of the most perfect quality.
Every ingot underwent the scrutiny of the little Jew, who seemed to feel
an epicurean delight in touching and testing these morsels of the
glorious metal; and each one of them was replaced in its berth with the
exclamation: "_Mein Gott_, how very perfect! not one grain of
alloy--beautiful, beautiful!" The task was at length finished, and the
Jew certified under his hand the value of the ingots submitted to his
examination, to amount to many thousand rix-dollars. With the desired
document in his pocket, and the rich box of gold carefully pressed under
his arm, and concealed by his cloak, he retraced his way, and entering
the studio, found his master and the stranger in close conference.
Schalken had no sooner left the room, in order to execute the commission
he had taken in charge, than Vanderhausen addressed Gerard Douw in the
"I cannot tarry with you to-night more than a few minutes, and so I
shall shortly tell you the matter upon which I come. You visited the
town of Rotterdam some four months ago, and then I saw in the church of
St. Lawrence your niece, Rose Velderkaust. I desire to marry her; and if
I satisfy you that I am wealthier than any husband you can dream of for
her, I expect that you will forward my suit with your authority. If you
approve my proposal, you must close with it here and now, for I cannot
wait for calculations and delays."
Gerard Douw was hugely astonished by the nature of Minheer
Vanderhausen's communication, but he did not venture to express
surprise; for besides the motives supplied by prudence and politeness,
the painter experienced a kind of chill and oppression like that which
is said to intervene when one is placed in unconscious proximity with
the object of a natural antipathy--an undefined but overpowering
sensation, while standing in the presence of the eccentric stranger,
which made him very unwilling to say anything which might reasonably
"I have no doubt," said Gerard, after two or three prefatory hems, "that
the alliance which you propose would prove alike advantageous and
honourable to my niece; but you must be aware that she has a will of her
own, and may not acquiesce in what _we_ may design for her advantage."
"Do not seek to deceive me, sir painter," said Vanderhausen; "you are
her guardian--she is your ward--she is mine if _you_ like to make her
The man of Rotterdam moved forward a little as he spoke, and Gerard
Douw, he scarce knew why, inwardly prayed for the speedy return of
"I desire," said the mysterious gentleman, "to place in your hands at
once an evidence of my wealth, and a security for my liberal dealing
with your niece. The lad will return in a minute or two with a sum in
value five times the fortune which she has a right to expect from her
husband. This shall lie in your hands, together with her dowry, and you
may apply the united sum as suits her interest best; it shall be all
exclusively hers while she lives: is that liberal?"
Douw assented, and inwardly acknowledged that fortune had been
extraordinarily kind to his niece; the stranger, he thought, must be
both wealthy and generous, and such an offer was not to be despised,
though made by a humourist, and one of no very prepossessing presence.
Rose had no very high pretensions for she had but a modest dowry, which
she owed entirely to the generosity of her uncle; neither had she any
right to raise exceptions on the score of birth, for her own origin was
far from splendid, and as the other objections, Gerald resolved, and
indeed, by the usages of the time, was warranted in resolving, not to
listen to them for a moment.
"Sir" said he, addressing the stranger, "your offer is liberal, and
whatever hesitation I may feel in closing with it immediately, arises
solely from my not having the honour of knowing anything of your family
or station. Upon these points you can, of course, satisfy me without
"As to my respectability," said the stranger, drily, "you must take that
for granted at present; pester me with no inquiries; you can discover
nothing more about me than I choose to make known. You shall have
sufficient security for my respectability--my word, if you are
honourable: if you are sordid, my gold."
"A testy old gentleman," thought Douw, "he must have his own way; but,
all things considered, I am not justified to declining his offer. I will
not pledge myself unnecessarily, however."
"You will not pledge yourself unnecessarily," said Vanderhausen,
strangely uttering the very words which had just floated through the
mind of his companion; "but you will do so if it is necessary, I
presume; and I will show you that I consider it indispensable. If the
gold I mean to leave in your hands satisfy you, and if you don't wish my
proposal to be at once withdrawn, you must, before I leave this room,
write your name to this engagement."
Having thus spoken, he placed a paper in the hands of the master, the
contents of which expressed an engagement entered into by Gerard Douw,
to give to Wilken Vanderhausen of Rotterdam, in marriage, Rose
Velderkaust, and so forth, within one week of the date thereof. While
the painter was employed in reading this covenant, by the light of a
twinkling oil lamp in the far wall of the room, Schalken, as we have
stated, entered the studio, and having delivered the box and the
valuation of the Jew, into the hands of the stranger, he was about to
retire, when Vanderhausen called to him to wait; and, presenting the
case and the certificate to Gerard Douw, he paused in silence until he
had satisfied himself, by an inspection of both, respecting the value of
the pledge left in his hands. At length he said----
"Are you content?"
The painter said he would fain have another day to consider.
"Not an hour," said the suitor, apathetically.
"Well then," said Douw, with a sore effort, "I am content, it is a
"Then sign at once," said Vanderhausen, "for I am weary."
At the same time he produced a small case of writing materials, and
Gerard signed the important document.
"Let this youth witness the covenant," said the old man; and Godfrey
Schalken unconsciously attested the instrument which for ever bereft him
of his dear Rose Velderkaust.
The compact being thus completed, the strange visitor folded up the
paper, and stowed it safely in an inner pocket.
"I will visit you to-morrow night at nine o'clock, at your own house,
Gerard Douw, and will see the object of our contract;" and so saying
Wilken Vanderhausen moved stiffly, but rapidly, out of the room.
Schalken, eager to resolve his doubts, had placed himself by the window,
in order to watch the street entrance; but the experiment served only to
support his suspicions, for the old man did not issue from the door.
This was _very_ strange, odd, nay fearful. He and his master returned
together, and talked but little on the way, for each had his own
subjects of reflection, of anxiety, and of hope. Schalken, however, did
not know the ruin which menaced his dearest projects.
Gerard Douw knew nothing of the attachment which had sprung up between
his pupil and his niece; and even if he had, it is doubtful whether he
would have regarded its existence as any serious obstruction to the
wishes of Minheer Vanderhausen. Marriages were then and there matters of
traffic and calculation; and it would have appeared as absurd in the
eyes of the guardian to make a mutual attachment an essential element in
a contract of the sort, as it would have been to draw up his bonds and
receipts in the language of romance.
The painter, however, did not communicate to his niece the important
step which he had taken in her behalf, a forebearance caused not by any
anticipated opposition on her part, but solely by a ludicrous
consciousness that if she were to ask him for a description of her
destined bridegroom, he would be forced to confess that he had not once
seen his face, and if called upon, would find it absolutely impossible
to identify him. Upon the next day, Gerard Douw, after dinner, called
his niece to him and having scanned her person with an air of
satisfaction, he took her hand, and looking upon her pretty innocent
face with a smile of kindness, he said:----
"Rose, my girl, that face of yours will make your fortune." Rose blushed
and smiled. "Such faces and such tempers seldom go together, and when
they do, the compound is a love charm, few heads or hearts can resist;
trust me, you will soon be a bride, girl. But this is trifling, and I am
pressed for time, so make ready the large room by eight o'clock
to-night, and give directions for supper at nine. I expect a friend; and
observe me, child, do you trick yourself out handsomely. I will not have
him think us poor or sluttish."
With these words he left her, and took his way to the room in which his
When the evening closed in, Gerard called Schalken, who was about to
take his departure to his own obscure and comfortless lodgings, and
asked him to come home and sup with Rose and Vanderhausen. The
invitation was, of course, accepted and Gerard Douw and his pupil soon
found themselves in the handsome and, even then, antique chamber, which
had been prepared for the reception of the stranger. A cheerful wood
fire blazed in the hearth, a little at one side of which an
old-fashioned table, which shone in the fire-light like burnished gold,
was awaiting the supper, for which preparations were going forward; and
ranged with exact regularity, stood the tall-backed chairs, whose
ungracefulness was more than compensated by their comfort. The little
party, consisting of Rose, her uncle, and the artist, awaited the
arrival of the expected visitor with considerable impatience. Nine
o'clock at length came, and with it a summons at the street door, which
being speedily answered, was followed by a slow and emphatic tread upon
the staircase; the steps moved heavily across the lobby, the door of the
room in which the party we have described were assembled slowly opened,
and there entered a figure which startled, almost appalled, the
phlegmatic Dutchmen, and nearly made Rose scream with terror. It was the
form, and arrayed in the garb of Minheer Vanderhausen; the air, the
gait, the height were the same, but the features had never been seen by
any of the party before. The stranger stopped at the door of the room,
and displayed his form and face completely. He wore a dark-coloured
cloth cloak, which was short and full, not falling quite to his knees;
his legs were cased in dark purple silk stockings, and his shoes were
adorned with roses of the same colour. The opening of the cloak in front
showed the under-suit to consist of some very dark, perhaps sable
material, and his hands were enclosed in a pair of heavy leather gloves,
which ran up considerably above the wrist, in the manner of a gauntlet.
In one hand he carried his walking-stick and his hat, which he had
removed, and the other hung heavily by his side. A quantity of grizzled
hair descended in long tresses from his head, and rested upon the plaits
of a stiff ruff, which effectually concealed his neck. So far all was
well; but the face!--all the flesh of the face was coloured with the
bluish leaden hue, which is sometimes produced by metallic medicines,
administered in excessive quantities; the eyes showed an undue
proportion of muddy white, and had a certain indefinable character of
insanity; the hue of the lips bearing the usual relation to that of the
face, was, consequently, nearly black; and the entire character of the
face was sensual, malignant, and even satanic. It was remarkable that
the worshipful stranger suffered as little as possible of his flesh to
appear, and that during his visit he did not once remove his gloves.
Having stood for some moments at the door, Gerard Douw at length found
breath and collectedness to bid him welcome, and with a mute inclination
of the head, the stranger stepped forward into the room. There was
something indescribably odd, even horrible, about all his motions,
something undefinable, that was unnatural, unhuman; it was as if the
limbs were guided and directed by a spirit unused to the management of
bodily machinery. The stranger spoke hardly at all during his visit,
which did not exceed half an hour; and the host himself could scarcely
muster courage enough to utter the few necessary salutations and
courtesies; and, indeed, such was the nervous terror which the presence
of Vanderhausen inspired, that very little would have made all his
entertainers fly in downright panic from the room. They had not so far
lost all self-possession, however, as to fail to observe two strange
peculiarities of their visitor. During his stay his eyelids did not once
close, or, indeed, move in the slightest degree; and farther, there was
a deathlike stillness in his whole person, owing to the absence of the
heaving motion of the chest, caused by the process of respiration. These
two peculiarities, though when told they may appear trifling, produced a
very striking and unpleasant effect when seen and observed. Vanderhausen
at length relieved the painter of Leyden of his inauspicious presence;
and with no trifling sense of relief the little party heard the street
door close after him.
"Dear uncle," said Rose, "what a frightful man! I would not see him
again for the wealth of the States."
"Tush, foolish girl," said Douw, whose sensations were anything but
comfortable. "A man may be as ugly as the devil, and yet, if his heart
and actions are good, he is worth all the pretty-faced perfumed puppies
that walk the Mall. Rose, my girl, it is very true he has not thy pretty
face, but I know him to be wealthy and liberal; and were he ten times
more ugly, these two virtues would be enough to counter balance all his
deformity, and if not sufficient actually to alter the shape and hue of
his features, at least enough to prevent one thinking them so much
"Do you know, uncle," said Rose, "when I saw him standing at the door, I
could not get it out of my head that I saw the old painted wooden figure
that used to frighten me so much in the Church of St. Laurence at
Gerard laughed, though he could not help inwardly acknowledging the
justness of the comparison. He was resolved, however, as far as he
could, to check his niece's disposition to dilate upon the ugliness of
her intended bridegroom, although he was not a little pleased, as well
as puzzled, to observe that she appeared totally exempt from that
mysterious dread of the stranger which, he could not disguise it from
himself, considerably affected him, as also his pupil Godfrey Schalken.
Early on the next day there arrived, from various quarters of the town,
rich presents of silks, velvets, jewellery, and so forth, for Rose; and
also a packet directed to Gerard Douw, which on being opened, was found
to contain a contract of marriage, formally drawn up, between Wilken
Vanderhausen of the _Boom-quay_, in Rotterdam, and Rose Velderkaust of
Leyden, niece to Gerard Douw, master in the art of painting, also of the
same city; and containing engagements on the part of Vanderhausen to
make settlements upon his bride, far more splendid than he had before
led her guardian to believe likely, and which were to be secured to her
use in the most unexceptionable manner possible--the money being placed
in the hand of Gerard Douw himself.
I have no sentimental scenes to describe, no cruelty of guardians, no
magnanimity of wards, no agonies, or transport of lovers. The record I
have to make is one of sordidness, levity, and heartlessness. In less
than a week after the first interview which we have just described, the
contract of marriage was fulfilled, and Schalken saw the prize which he
would have risked existence to secure, carried off in solemn pomp by his
repulsive rival. For two or three days he absented himself from the
school; he then returned and worked, if with less cheerfulness, with far
more dogged resolution than before; the stimulus of love had given place
to that of ambition. Months passed away, and, contrary to his
expectation, and, indeed, to the direct promise of the parties, Gerard
Douw heard nothing of his niece or her worshipful spouse. The interest
of the money, which was to have been demanded in quarterly sums, lay
unclaimed in his hands.
He began to grow extremely uneasy. Minheer Vanderhausen's direction in
Rotterdam he was fully possessed of; after some irresolution he finally
determined to journey thither--a trifling undertaking, and easily
accomplished--and thus to satisfy himself of the safety and comfort of
his ward, for whom he entertained an honest and strong affection. His
search was in vain, however; no one in Rotterdam had ever heard of
Minheer Vanderhausen. Gerard Douw left not a house in the _Boom-quay_
untried, but all in vain. No one could give him any information whatever
touching the object of his inquiry, and he was obliged to return to
Leyden nothing wiser and far more anxious, than when he had left it.
On his arrival he hastened to the establishment from which Vanderhausen
had hired the lumbering, though, considering the times, most luxurious
vehicle, which the bridal party had employed to convey them to
Rotterdam. From the driver of this machine he learned, that having
proceeded by slow stages, they had late in the evening approached
Rotterdam; but that before they entered the city, and while yet nearly a
mile from it, a small party of men, soberly clad, and after the old
fashion, with peaked beards and moustaches, standing in the centre of
the road, obstructed the further progress of the carriage. The driver
reined in his horses, much fearing, from the obscurity of the hour, and
the loneliness, of the road, that some mischief was intended. His fears
were, however, somewhat allayed by his observing that these strange men
carried a large litter, of an antique shape, and which they immediately
set down upon the pavement, whereupon the bridegroom, having opened the
coach-door from within, descended, and having assisted his bride to do
likewise, led her, weeping bitterly, and wringing her hands, to the
litter, which they both entered. It was then raised by the men who
surrounded it, and speedily carried towards the city, and before it had
proceeded very far, the darkness concealed it from the view of the Dutch
coachman. In the inside of the vehicle he found a purse, whose contents
more than thrice paid the hire of the carriage and man. He saw and could
tell nothing more of Minheer Vanderhausen and his beautiful lady.
This mystery was a source of profound anxiety and even grief to Gerard
Douw. There was evidently fraud in the dealing of Vanderhausen with him,
though for what purpose committed he could not imagine. He greatly
doubted how far it was possible for a man possessing such a countenance
to be anything but a villain, and every day that passed without his
hearing from or of his niece, instead of inducing him to forget his
fears, on the contrary tended more and more to aggravate them. The loss
of her cheerful society tended also to depress his spirits; and in order
to dispel the gloom, which often crept upon his mind after his daily
occupations were over, he was wont frequently to ask Schalken to
accompany him home, and share his otherwise solitary supper.
One evening, the painter and his pupil were sitting by the fire, having
accomplished a comfortable meal, and had yielded to the silent and
delicious melancholy of digestion, when their ruminations were disturbed
by a loud sound at the street door, as if occasioned by some person
rushing and scrambling vehemently against it. A domestic had run without
delay to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, and they heard him
twice or thrice interrogate the applicant for admission, but without
eliciting any other answer but a sustained reiteration of the sounds.
They heard him then open the hall-door, and immediately there followed a
light and rapid tread on the staircase. Schalken advanced towards the
door. It opened before he reached it, and Rose rushed into the room. She
looked wild, fierce and haggard with terror and exhaustion, but her
dress surprised them as much as even her unexpected appearance. It
consisted of a kind of white woollen wrapper, made close about the neck,
and descending to the very ground. It was much deranged and
travel-soiled. The poor creature had hardly entered the chamber when she
fell senseless on the floor. With some difficulty they succeeded in
reviving her, and on recovering her senses, she instantly exclaimed, in
a tone of terror rather than mere impatience:----
"Wine! wine! quickly, or I'm lost!"
Astonished and almost scared at the strange agitation in which the call
was made, they at once administered to her wishes, and she drank some
wine with a haste and eagerness which surprised them. She had hardly
swallowed it, when she exclaimed, with the same urgency:
"Food, for God's sake, food, at once, or I perish."
A considerable fragment of a roast joint was upon the table, and
Schalken immediately began to cut some, but he was anticipated, for no
sooner did she see it than she caught it, a more than mortal image of
famine, and with her hands, and even with her teeth, she tore off the
flesh, and swallowed it. When the paroxysm of hunger had been a little
appeased, she appeared on a sudden overcome with shame, or it may have
been that other more agitating thoughts overpowered and scared her, for
she began to weep bitterly and to wring her hands.
"Oh, send for a minister of God," said she; "I am not safe till he
comes; send for him speedily."
Gerard Douw despatched a messenger instantly, and prevailed on his niece
to allow him to surrender his bed chamber to her use. He also persuaded
her to retire to it at once to rest; her consent was extorted upon the
condition that they would not leave her for a moment.
"Oh that the holy man were here," she said; "he can deliver me: the dead
and the living can never be one: God has forbidden it."
With these mysterious words she surrendered herself to their guidance,
and they proceeded to the chamber which Gerard Douw had assigned to her
"Do not, do not leave me for a moment," said she; "I am lost for ever if
Gerard Douw's chamber was approached through a spacious apartment, which
they were now about to enter. He and Schalken each carried a candle, so
that a sufficiency of light was cast upon all surrounding objects. They
were now entering the large chamber, which as I have said, communicated
with Douw's apartment, when Rose suddenly stopped, and, in a whisper
which thrilled them both with horror, she said:----
"Oh, God! he is here! he is here! See, see! there he goes!"
She pointed towards the door of the inner room, and Schalken thought he
saw a shadowy and ill-defined form gliding into that apartment. He drew
his sword, and, raising the candle so as to throw its light with
increased distinctness upon the objects in the room, he entered the
chamber into which the shadow had glided. No figure was there--nothing
but the furniture which belonged to the room, and yet he could not be
deceived as to the fact that something had moved before them into the
chamber. A sickening dread came upon him, and the cold perspiration
broke out in heavy drops upon his forehead; nor was he more composed,
when he heard the increased urgency and agony of entreaty, with which
Rose implored them not to leave her for a moment.
"I saw him," said she; "he's here. I cannot be deceived; I know him;
he's by me; he is with me; he's in the room. Then, for God's sake, as
you would save me, do not stir from beside me."
They at length prevailed upon her to lie down upon the bed, where she
continued to urge them to stay by her. She frequently uttered incoherent
sentences, repeating, again and again, "the dead and the living cannot
be one: God has forbidden it." And then again, "Rest to the
wakeful--sleep to the sleep-walkers." These and such mysterious and
broken sentences, she continued to utter until the clergyman arrived.
Gerard Douw began to fear, naturally enough, that terror or
ill-treatment, had unsettled the poor girl's intellect, and he half
suspected, by the suddenness of her appearance, the unseasonableness of
the hour, and above all, from the wildness and terror of her manner,
that she had made her escape from some place of confinement for
lunatics, and was in imminent fear of pursuit. He resolved to summon
medical advice as soon as the mind of his niece had been in some measure
set at rest by the offices of the clergyman whose attendance she had so
earnestly desired; and until this object had been attained, he did not
venture to put any questions to her, which might possibly, by reviving
painful or horrible recollections, increase her agitation. The clergyman
soon arrived--a man of ascetic countenance and venerable age--one whom
Gerard Douw respected very much, forasmuch as he was a veteran polemic,
though one perhaps more dreaded as a combatant than beloved as a
Christian--of pure morality, subtle brain, and frozen heart. He entered
the chamber which communicated with that in which Rose reclined and
immediately on his arrival, she requested him to pray for her, as for
one who lay in the hands of Satan, and who could hope for deliverance
only from heaven.
That you may distinctly understand all the circumstances of the event
which I am going to describe, it is necessary to state the relative
position of the parties who were engaged in it. The old clergyman and
Schalken were in the anteroom of which I have already spoken; Rose lay
in the inner chamber, the door of which was open; and by the side of the
bed, at her urgent desire, stood her guardian; a candle burned in the
bedchamber, and three were lighted in the outer apartment. The old man
now cleared his voice as if about to commence, but before he had time to
begin, a sudden gust of air blew out the candle which served to
illuminate the room in which the poor girl lay, and she, with hurried
"Godfrey, bring in another candle; the darkness is unsafe."
Gerard Douw forgetting for the moment her repeated injunctions, in the
immediate impulse, stepped from the bedchamber into the other, in order
to supply what she desired.
"Oh God! do not go, dear uncle," shrieked the unhappy girl--and at the
same time she sprung from the bed, and darted after him, in order, by
her grasp, to detain him. But the warning came too late, for scarcely
had he passed the threshold, and hardly had his niece had time to utter
the startling exclamation, when the door which divided the two rooms
closed violently after him, as if swung by a strong blast of wind.
Schalken and he both rushed to the door, but their united and desperate
efforts could not avail so much as to shake it. Shriek after shriek
burst from the inner chamber, with all the piercing loudness of
despairing terror. Schalken and Douw applied every nerve to force open
the door; but all in vain. There was no sound of struggling from within,
but the screams seemed to increase in loudness, and at the same time
they heard the bolts of the latticed window withdrawn, and the window
itself grated upon the sill as if thrown open. One _last_ shriek, so
long and piercing and agonized as to be scarcely human, swelled from the
room, and suddenly there followed a death-like silence. A light step was
heard crossing the floor, as if from the bed to the window; and almost
at the same instant the door gave way, and, yielding to the pressure of
the external applicants, nearly precipitated them into the room. It was
empty. The window was open, and Schalken sprung to a chair and gazed out
upon the street and canal below. He saw no form, but he saw, or thought
he saw, the waters of the broad canal beneath settling ring after ring
in heavy circles, as if a moment before disturbed by the submission of
some ponderous body.
No trace of Rose was ever after found, nor was anything certain
respecting her mysterious wooer discovered or even suspected--no clue
whereby to trace the intricacies of the labyrinth and to arrive at its
solution, presented itself. But an incident occurred, which, though it
will not be received by our rational readers in lieu of evidence,
produced nevertheless a strong and a lasting impression upon the mind of
Schalken. Many years after the events which we have detailed, Schalken,
then residing far away received an intimation of his father's death, and
of his intended burial upon a fixed day in the church of Rotterdam. It
was necessary that a very considerable journey should be performed by
the funeral procession, which as it will be readily believed, was not
very numerously attended. Schalken with difficulty arrived in Rotterdam
late in the day upon which the funeral was appointed to take place. It
had not then arrived. Evening closed in, and still it did not appear.
Schalken strolled down to the church; he found it open; notice of the
arrival of the funeral had been given, and the vault in which the body
was to be laid had been opened. The sexton, on seeing a well-dressed
gentleman, whose object was to attend the expected obsequies, pacing the
aisle of the church, hospitably invited him to share with him the
comforts of a blazing fire, which, as was his custom in winter time upon
such occasions, he had kindled in the hearth of a chamber in which he
was accustomed to await the arrival of such grisly guests and which
communicated, by a flight of steps, with the vault below. In this
chamber, Schalken and his entertainer seated themselves; and the sexton,
after some fruitless attempts to engage his guest in conversation, was
obliged to apply himself to his tobacco-pipe and can, to solace his
solitude. In spite of his grief and cares, the fatigues of a rapid
journey of nearly forty hours gradually overcame the mind and body of
Godfrey Schalken, and he sank into a deep sleep, from which he awakened
by someone's shaking him gently by the shoulder. He first thought that
the old sexton had called him, but _he_ was no longer in the room. He
roused himself, and as soon as he could clearly see what was around him,
he perceived a female form, clothed in a kind of light robe of white,
part of which was so disposed as to form a veil, and in her hand she
carried a lamp. She was moving rather away from him, in the direction of
the flight of steps which conducted towards the vaults. Schalken felt a
vague alarm at the sight of this figure and at the same time an
irresistible impulse to follow its guidance. He followed it towards the
vaults, but when it reached the head of the stairs, he paused; the
figure paused also, and, turning gently round, displayed, by the light
of the lamp it carried, the face and features of his first love, Rose
Velderkaust. There was nothing horrible, or even sad, in the
countenance. On the contrary, it wore the same arch smile which used to
enchant the artist long before in his happy days. A feeling of awe and
interest, too intense to be resisted, prompted him to follow the
spectre, if spectre it were. She descended the stairs--he followed--and
turning to the left, through a narrow passage, she led him, to his
infinite surprise, into what appeared to be an old-fashioned Dutch
apartment, such as the pictures of Gerard Douw have served to
immortalize. Abundance of costly antique furniture was disposed about
the room, and in one corner stood a four-post bed, with heavy black
cloth curtains around it; the figure frequently turned towards him with
the same arch smile; and when she came to the side of the bed, she drew
the curtains, and, by the light of the lamp, which she held towards its
contents, she disclosed to the horror-stricken painter, sitting bolt
upright in the bed, the livid and demoniac form of Vanderhausen.
Schalken had hardly seen him, when he fell senseless upon the floor,
where he lay until discovered, on the next morning, by persons employed
in closing the passages into the vaults. He was lying in a cell of
considerable size, which had not been disturbed for a long time, and he
had fallen beside a large coffin, which was supported upon small
pillars, a security against the attacks of vermin.
To his dying day Schalken was satisfied of the reality of the vision
which he had witnessed, and he has left behind him a curious evidence of
the impression which it wrought upon his fancy, in a painting executed
shortly after the event I have narrated, and which is valuable as
exhibiting not only the peculiarities which have made Schalken's
pictures sought after, but even more so as presenting a portrait of his
early love, Rose Velderkaust, whose mysterious fate must always remain
matter of speculation.
An Account of Some Strange
Disturbances in Aungier Street
It is not worth telling, this story of mine--at least, not worth
writing. Told, indeed, as I have sometimes been called upon to tell it,
to a circle of intelligent and eager faces, lighted up by a good
after-dinner fire on a winter's evening, with a cold wind rising and
wailing outside, and all snug and cosy within, it has gone off--though I
say it, who should not--indifferent well. But it is a venture to do as
you would have me. Pen, ink, and paper are cold vehicles for the
marvellous, and a "reader" decidedly a more critical animal than a
"listener." If, however, you can induce your friends to read it after
nightfall, and when the fireside talk has run for a while on thrilling
tales of shapeless terror; in short, if you will secure me the _mollia
tempora fandi_, I will go to my work, and say my say, with better heart.
Well, then, these conditions presupposed, I shall waste no more words,
but tell you simply how it all happened.
My cousin (Tom Ludlow) and I studied medicine together. I think he would
have succeeded, had he stuck to the profession; but he preferred the
Church, poor fellow, and died early, a sacrifice to contagion,
contracted in the noble discharge of his duties. For my present purpose,
I say enough of his character when I mention that he was of a sedate but
frank and cheerful nature; very exact in his observance of truth, and
not by any means like myself--of an excitable or nervous temperament.
My Uncle Ludlow--Tom's father--while we were attending lectures,
purchased three or four old houses in Aungier Street, one of which was
unoccupied. _He_ resided in the country, and Tom proposed that we should
take up our abode in the untenanted house, so long as it should continue
unlet; a move which would accomplish the double end of settling us
nearer alike to our lecture-rooms and to our amusements, and of
relieving us from the weekly charge of rent for our lodgings.
Our furniture was very scant--our whole equipage remarkably modest and
primitive; and, in short, our arrangements pretty nearly as simple as
those of a bivouac. Our new plan was, therefore, executed almost as soon
as conceived. The front drawing-room was our sitting-room. I had the
bedroom over it, and Tom the back bedroom on the same floor, which
nothing could have induced me to occupy.
The house, to begin with, was a very old one. It had been, I believe,
newly fronted about fifty years before; but with this exception, it had
nothing modern about it. The agent who bought it and looked into the
titles for my uncle, told me that it was sold, along with much other
forfeited property, at Chichester House, I think, in 1702; and had
belonged to Sir Thomas Hacket, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin in James
II.'s time. How old it was _then_, I can't say; but, at all events, it
had seen years and changes enough to have contracted all that mysterious
and saddened air, at once exciting and depressing, which belongs to most
There had been very little done in the way of modernising details; and,
perhaps, it was better so; for there was something queer and by-gone in
the very walls and ceilings--in the shape of doors and windows--in the
odd diagonal site of the chimney-pieces--in the beams and ponderous
cornices--not to mention the singular solidity of all the woodwork, from
the banisters to the window-frames, which hopelessly defied disguise,
and would have emphatically proclaimed their antiquity through any
conceivable amount of modern finery and varnish.
An effort had, indeed, been made, to the extent of papering the
drawing-rooms; but somehow, the paper looked raw and out of keeping; and
the old woman, who kept a little dirt-pie of a shop in the lane, and
whose daughter--a girl of two and fifty--was our solitary handmaid,
coming in at sunrise, and chastely receding again as soon as she had
made all ready for tea in our state apartment;--this woman, I say,
remembered it, when old Judge Horrocks (who, having earned the
reputation of a particularly "hanging judge," ended by hanging himself,
as the coroner's jury found, under an impulse of "temporary insanity,"
with a child's skipping-rope, over the massive old bannisters) resided
there, entertaining good company, with fine venison and rare old port.
In those halcyon days, the drawing-rooms were hung with gilded leather,
and, I dare say, cut a good figure, for they were really spacious rooms.
The bedrooms were wainscoted, but the front one was not gloomy; and in
it the cosiness of antiquity quite overcame its sombre associations. But
the back bedroom, with its two queerly-placed melancholy windows,
staring vacantly at the foot of the bed, and with the shadowy recess to
be found in most old houses in Dublin, like a large ghostly closet,
which, from congeniality of temperament, had amalgamated with the
bedchamber, and dissolved the partition. At night-time, this
"alcove"--as our "maid" was wont to call it--had, in my eyes, a
specially sinister and suggestive character. Tom's distant and solitary
candle glimmered vainly into its darkness. _There_ it was always
overlooking him--always itself impenetrable. But this was only part of
the effect. The whole room was, I can't tell how, repulsive to me. There
was, I suppose, in its proportions and features, a latent discord--a
certain mysterious and indescribable relation, which jarred indistinctly
upon some secret sense of the fitting and the safe, and raised
indefinable suspicions and apprehensions of the imagination. On the
whole, as I began by saying, nothing could have induced me to pass a
night alone in it.
I had never pretended to conceal from poor Tom my superstitious
weakness; and he, on the other hand, most unaffectedly ridiculed my
tremors. The sceptic was, however, destined to receive a lesson, as you
We had not been very long in occupation of our respective dormitories,
when I began to complain of uneasy nights and disturbed sleep. I was, I
suppose, the more impatient under this annoyance, as I was usually a
sound sleeper, and by no means prone to nightmares. It was now, however,
my destiny, instead of enjoying my customary repose, every night to "sup
full of horrors." After a preliminary course of disagreeable and
frightful dreams, my troubles took a definite form, and the same vision,
without an appreciable variation in a single detail, visited me at least
(on an average) every second night in the week.
Now, this dream, nightmare, or infernal illusion--which you please--of
which I was the miserable sport, was on this wise:----
I saw, or thought I saw, with the most abominable distinctness, although
at the time in profound darkness, every article of furniture and
accidental arrangement of the chamber in which I lay. This, as you know,
is incidental to ordinary nightmare. Well, while in this clairvoyant
condition, which seemed but the lighting up of the theatre in which was
to be exhibited the monotonous tableau of horror, which made my nights
insupportable, my attention invariably became, I know not why, fixed
upon the windows opposite the foot of my bed; and, uniformly with the
same effect, a sense of dreadful anticipation always took slow but sure
possession of me. I became somehow conscious of a sort of horrid but
undefined preparation going forward in some unknown quarter, and by some
unknown agency, for my torment; and, after an interval, which always
seemed to me of the same length, a picture suddenly flew up to the
window, where it remained fixed, as if by an electrical attraction, and
my discipline of horror then commenced, to last perhaps for hours. The
picture thus mysteriously glued to the window-panes, was the portrait of
an old man, in a crimson flowered silk dressing-gown, the folds of which
I could now describe, with a countenance embodying a strange mixture of
intellect, sensuality, and power, but withal sinister and full of
malignant omen. His nose was hooked, like the beak of a vulture; his
eyes large, grey, and prominent, and lighted up with a more than mortal
cruelty and coldness. These features were surmounted by a crimson velvet
cap, the hair that peeped from under which was white with age, while the
eyebrows retained their original blackness. Well I remember every line,
hue, and shadow of that stony countenance, and well I may! The gaze of
this hellish visage was fixed upon me, and mine returned it with the
inexplicable fascination of nightmare, for what appeared to me to be
hours of agony. At last----
The cock he crew, away then flew
the fiend who had enslaved me through the awful watches of the night;
and, harassed and nervous, I rose to the duties of the day.
I had--I can't say exactly why, but it may have been from the exquisite
anguish and profound impressions of unearthly horror, with which this
strange phantasmagoria was associated--an insurmountable antipathy to
describing the exact nature of my nightly troubles to my friend and
comrade. Generally, however, I told him that I was haunted by abominable
dreams; and, true to the imputed materialism of medicine, we put our
heads together to dispel my horrors, not by exorcism, but by a tonic.
I will do this tonic justice, and frankly admit that the accursed
portrait began to intermit its visits under its influence. What of that?
Was this singular apparition--as full of character as of
terror--therefore the creature of my fancy, or the invention of my poor
stomach? Was it, in short, _subjective_ (to borrow the technical slang
of the day) and not the palpable aggression and intrusion of an external
agent? That, good friend, as we will both admit, by no means follows.
The evil spirit, who enthralled my senses in the shape of that portrait,
may have been just as near me, just as energetic, just as malignant,
though I saw him not. What means the whole moral code of revealed
religion regarding the due keeping of our own bodies, soberness,
temperance, etc.? here is an obvious connexion between the material and
the invisible; the healthy tone of the system, and its unimpaired
energy, may, for aught we can tell, guard us against influences which
would otherwise render life itself terrific. The mesmerist and the
electro-biologist will fail upon an average with nine patients out of
ten--so may the evil spirit. Special conditions of the corporeal system
are indispensable to the production of certain spiritual phenomena. The
operation succeeds sometimes--sometimes fails--that is all.
I found afterwards that my would-be sceptical companion had his troubles
too. But of these I knew nothing yet. One night, for a wonder, I was
sleeping soundly, when I was roused by a step on the lobby outside my
room, followed by the loud clang of what turned out to be a large brass
candlestick, flung with all his force by poor Tom Ludlow over the
banisters, and rattling with a rebound down the second flight of stairs;
and almost concurrently with this, Tom burst open my door, and bounced
into my room backwards, in a state of extraordinary agitation.
I had jumped out of bed and clutched him by the arm before I had any
distinct idea of my own whereabouts. There we were--in our
shirts--standing before the open door--staring through the great old
banister opposite, at the lobby window, through which the sickly light
of a clouded moon was gleaming.
"What's the matter, Tom? What's the matter with you? What the devil's
the matter with you, Tom?" I demanded shaking him with nervous
He took a long breath before he answered me, and then it was not very
"It's nothing, nothing at all--did I speak?--what did I say?--where's
the candle, Richard? It's dark; I--I had a candle!"
"Yes, dark enough," I said; "but what's the matter?--what _is_ it?--why
don't you speak, Tom?--have you lost your wits?--what is the matter?"
"The matter?--oh, it is all over. It must have been a dream--nothing at
all but a dream--don't you think so? It could not be anything more than
"Of _course_" said I, feeling uncommonly nervous, "it _was_ a dream."
"I thought," he said, "there was a man in my room, and--and I jumped out
of bed; and--and--where's the candle?"
"In your room, most likely," I said, "shall I go and bring it?"
"No; stay here--don't go; it's no matter--don't, I tell you; it was all
a dream. Bolt the door, Dick; I'll stay here with you--I feel nervous.
So, Dick, like a good fellow, light your candle and open the window--I
am in a _shocking state_."
I did as he asked me, and robing himself like Granuaile in one of my
blankets, he seated himself close beside my bed.
Every body knows how contagious is fear of all sorts, but more
especially that particular kind of fear under which poor Tom was at that
moment labouring. I would not have heard, nor I believe would he have
recapitulated, just at that moment, for half the world, the details of
the hideous vision which had so unmanned him.
"Don't mind telling me anything about your nonsensical dream, Tom," said
I, affecting contempt, really in a panic; "let us talk about something
else; but it is quite plain that this dirty old house disagrees with us
both, and hang me if I stay here any longer, to be pestered with
indigestion and--and--bad nights, so we may as well look out for
lodgings--don't you think so?--at once."
Tom agreed, and, after an interval, said----
"I have been thinking, Richard, that it is a long time since I saw my
father, and I have made up my mind to go down to-morrow and return in a
day or two, and you can take rooms for us in the meantime."
I fancied that this resolution, obviously the result of the vision which
had so profoundly scared him, would probably vanish next morning with
the damps and shadows of night. But I was mistaken. Off went Tom at peep
of day to the country, having agreed that so soon as I had secured
suitable lodgings, I was to recall him by letter from his visit to my
Now, anxious as I was to change my quarters, it so happened, owing to a
series of petty procrastinations and accidents, that nearly a week
elapsed before my bargain was made and my letter of recall on the wing
to Tom; and, in the meantime, a trifling adventure or two had occurred
to your humble servant, which, absurd as they now appear, diminished by
distance, did certainly at the time serve to whet my appetite for change
A night or two after the departure of my comrade, I was sitting by my
bedroom fire, the door locked, and the ingredients of a tumbler of hot
whisky-punch upon the crazy spider-table; for, as the best mode of
Black spirits and white,
Blue spirits and grey,
with which I was environed, at bay, I had adopted the practice
recommended by the wisdom of my ancestors, and "kept my spirits up by
pouring spirits down." I had thrown aside my volume of Anatomy, and was
treating myself by way of a tonic, preparatory to my punch and bed, to
half-a-dozen pages of the _Spectator_, when I heard a step on the flight
of stairs descending from the attics. It was two o'clock, and the
streets were as silent as a churchyard--the sounds were, therefore,
perfectly distinct. There was a slow, heavy tread, characterised by the
emphasis and deliberation of age, descending by the narrow staircase
from above; and, what made the sound more singular, it was plain that
the feet which produced it were perfectly bare, measuring the descent
with something between a pound and a flop, very ugly to hear.
I knew quite well that my attendant had gone away many hours before, and
that nobody but myself had any business in the house. It was quite plain
also that the person who was coming down stairs had no intention
whatever of concealing his movements; but, on the contrary, appeared
disposed to make even more noise, and proceed more deliberately, than
was at all necessary. When the step reached the foot of the stairs
outside my room, it seemed to stop; and I expected every moment to see
my door open spontaneously, and give admission to the original of my
detested portrait. I was, however, relieved in a few seconds by hearing
the descent renewed, just in the same manner, upon the staircase leading
down to the drawing-rooms, and thence, after another pause, down the
next flight, and so on to the hall, whence I heard no more.
Now, by the time the sound had ceased, I was wound up, as they say, to a
very unpleasant pitch of excitement. I listened, but there was not a
stir. I screwed up my courage to a decisive experiment--opened my door,
and in a stentorian voice bawled over the banisters, "Who's there?"
There was no answer but the ringing of my own voice through the empty
old house,--no renewal of the movement; nothing, in short, to give my
unpleasant sensations a definite direction. There is, I think, something
most disagreeably disenchanting in the sound of one's own voice under
such circumstances, exerted in solitude, and in vain. It redoubled my
sense of isolation, and my misgivings increased on perceiving that the
door, which I certainly thought I had left open, was closed behind me;
in a vague alarm, lest my retreat should be cut off, I got again into my
room as quickly as I could, where I remained in a state of imaginary
blockade, and very uncomfortable indeed, till morning.
Next night brought no return of my barefooted fellow-lodger; but the
night following, being in my bed, and in the dark--somewhere, I suppose,
about the same hour as before, I distinctly heard the old fellow again
descending from the garrets.
This time I had had my punch, and the _morale_ of the garrison was
consequently excellent. I jumped out of bed, clutched the poker as I
passed the expiring fire, and in a moment was upon the lobby. The sound
had ceased by this time--the dark and chill were discouraging; and,
guess my horror, when I saw, or thought I saw, a black monster, whether
in the shape of a man or a bear I could not say, standing, with its back
to the wall, on the lobby, facing me, with a pair of great greenish eyes
shining dimly out. Now, I must be frank, and confess that the cupboard
which displayed our plates and cups stood just there, though at the
moment I did not recollect it. At the same time I must honestly say,
that making every allowance for an excited imagination, I never could
satisfy myself that I was made the dupe of my own fancy in this matter;
for this apparition, after one or two shiftings of shape, as if in the
act of incipient transformation, began, as it seemed on second thoughts,
to advance upon me in its original form. From an instinct of terror
rather than of courage, I hurled the poker, with all my force, at its
head; and to the music of a horrid crash made my way into my room, and
double-locked the door. Then, in a minute more, I heard the horrid bare
feet walk down the stairs, till the sound ceased in the hall, as on the
If the apparition of the night before was an ocular delusion of my fancy
sporting with the dark outlines of our cupboard, and if its horrid eyes
were nothing but a pair of inverted teacups, I had, at all events, the
satisfaction of having launched the poker with admirable effect, and in
true "fancy" phrase, "knocked its two daylights into one," as the
commingled fragments of my tea-service testified. I did my best to
gather comfort and courage from these evidences; but it would not do.
And then what could I say of those horrid bare feet, and the regular
tramp, tramp, tramp, which measured the distance of the entire staircase
through the solitude of my haunted dwelling, and at an hour when no good
influence was stirring? Confound it!--the whole affair was abominable. I
was out of spirits, and dreaded the approach of night.
It came, ushered ominously in with a thunder-storm and dull torrents of
depressing rain. Earlier than usual the streets grew silent; and by
twelve o'clock nothing but the comfortless pattering of the rain was to
I made myself as snug as I could. I lighted _two_ candles instead of
one. I forswore bed, and held myself in readiness for a sally, candle in
hand; for, _coute qui coute_, I was resolved to _see_ the being, if
visible at all, who troubled the nightly stillness of my mansion. I was
fidgetty and nervous and tried in vain to interest myself with my books.
I walked up and down my room, whistling in turn martial and hilarious
music, and listening ever and anon for the dreaded noise. I sate down
and stared at the square label on the solemn and reserved-looking black
bottle, until "FLANAGAN & CO'S BEST OLD MALT WHISKY" grew into a sort of
subdued accompaniment to all the fantastic and horrible speculations
which chased one another through my brain.
Silence, meanwhile, grew more silent, and darkness darker. I listened in
vain for the rumble of a vehicle, or the dull clamour of a distant row.
There was nothing but the sound of a rising wind, which had succeeded
the thunder-storm that had travelled over the Dublin mountains quite out
of hearing. In the middle of this great city I began to feel myself
alone with nature, and Heaven knows what beside. My courage was ebbing.
Punch, however, which makes beasts of so many, made a man of me
again--just in time to hear with tolerable nerve and firmness the lumpy,
flabby, naked feet deliberately descending the stairs again.
I took a candle, not without a tremour. As I crossed the floor I tried
to extemporise a prayer, but stopped short to listen, and never finished
it. The steps continued. I confess I hesitated for some seconds at the
door before I took heart of grace and opened it. When I peeped out the
lobby was perfectly empty--there was no monster standing on the
staircase; and as the detested sound ceased, I was reassured enough to
venture forward nearly to the banisters. Horror of horrors! within a
stair or two beneath the spot where I stood the unearthly tread smote
the floor. My eye caught something in motion; it was about the size of
Goliah's foot--it was grey, heavy, and flapped with a dead weight from
one step to another. As I am alive, it was the most monstrous grey rat I
ever beheld or imagined.
Shakespeare says--"Some men there are cannot abide a gaping pig, and
some that are mad if they behold a cat." I went well-nigh out of my wits
when I beheld this _rat_; for, laugh at me as you may, it fixed upon me,
I thought, a perfectly human expression of malice; and, as it shuffled
about and looked up into my face almost from between my feet, I saw, I
could swear it--I felt it then, and know it now, the infernal gaze and
the accursed countenance of my old friend in the portrait, transfused
into the visage of the bloated vermin before me.
I bounced into my room again with a feeling of loathing and horror I
cannot describe, and locked and bolted my door as if a lion had been at
the other side. D--n him or _it_; curse the portrait and its original! I
felt in my soul that the rat--yes, the _rat_, the RAT I had just seen,
was that evil being in masquerade, and rambling through the house upon
some infernal night lark.
Next morning I was early trudging through the miry streets; and, among
other transactions, posted a peremptory note recalling Tom. On my
return, however, I found a note from my absent "chum," announcing his
intended return next day. I was doubly rejoiced at this, because I had
succeeded in getting rooms; and because the change of scene and return
of my comrade were rendered specially pleasant by the last night's half
ridiculous half horrible adventure.
I slept extemporaneously in my new quarters in Digges' Street that
night, and next morning returned for breakfast to the haunted mansion,
where I was certain Tom would call immediately on his arrival.
I was quite right--he came; and almost his first question referred to
the primary object of our change of residence.
"Thank God," he said with genuine fervour, on hearing that all was
arranged. "On _your_ account I am delighted. As to myself, I assure you
that no earthly consideration could have induced me ever again to pass a
night in this disastrous old house."
"Confound the house!" I ejaculated, with a genuine mixture of fear and
detestation, "we have not had a pleasant hour since we came to live
here"; and so I went on, and related incidentally my adventure with the
plethoric old rat.
"Well, if that were _all_," said my cousin, affecting to make light of
the matter, "I don't think I should have minded it very much."
"Ay, but its eye--its countenance, my dear Tom," urged I; "if you had
seen _that_, you would have felt it might be _anything_ but what it
"I inclined to think the best conjurer in such a case would be an
able-bodied cat," he said, with a provoking chuckle.
"But let us hear your own adventure," I said tartly.
At this challenge he looked uneasily round him. I had poked up a very
"You shall hear it, Dick; I'll tell it to you," he said. "Begad, sir, I
should feel quite queer, though, telling it _here_, though we are too
strong a body for ghosts to meddle with just now."
Though he spoke this like a joke, I think it was serious calculation.
Our Hebe was in a corner of the room, packing our cracked delft tea and
dinner-services in a basket. She soon suspended operations, and with
mouth and eyes wide open became an absorbed listener. Tom's experiences
were told nearly in these words:----
"I saw it three times, Dick--three distinct times; and I am perfectly
certain it meant me some infernal harm. I was, I say, in danger--in
_extreme_ danger; for, if nothing else had happened, my reason would
most certainly have failed me, unless I had escaped so soon. Thank God.
I _did_ escape.
"The first night of this hateful disturbance, I was lying in the
attitude of sleep, in that lumbering old bed. I hate to think of it. I
was really wide awake, though I had put out my candle, and was lying as
quietly as if I had been asleep; and although accidentally restless, my
thoughts were running in a cheerful and agreeable channel.
"I think it must have been two o'clock at least when I thought I heard a
sound in that--that odious dark recess at the far end of the bedroom. It
was as if someone was drawing a piece of cord slowly along the floor,
lifting it up, and dropping it softly down again in coils. I sate up
once or twice in my bed, but could see nothing, so I concluded it must
be mice in the wainscot. I felt no emotion graver than curiosity, and
after a few minutes ceased to observe it.
"While lying in this state, strange to say; without at first a suspicion
of anything supernatural, on a sudden I saw an old man, rather stout and
square, in a sort of roan-red dressing-gown, and with a black cap on his
head, moving stiffly and slowly in a diagonal direction, from the
recess, across the floor of the bedroom, passing my bed at the foot, and
entering the lumber-closet at the left. He had something under his arm;
his head hung a little at one side; and, merciful God! when I saw his
Tom stopped for a while, and then said----
"That awful countenance, which living or dying I never can forget,
disclosed what he was. Without turning to the right or left, he passed
beside me, and entered the closet by the bed's head.
"While this fearful and indescribable type of death and guilt was
passing, I felt that I had no more power to speak or stir than if I had
been myself a corpse. For hours after it had disappeared, I was too
terrified and weak to move. As soon as daylight came, I took courage,
and examined the room, and especially the course which the frightful
intruder had seemed to take, but there was not a vestige to indicate
anybody's having passed there; no sign of any disturbing agency visible
among the lumber that strewed the floor of the closet.
"I now began to recover a little. I was fagged and exhausted, and at
last, overpowered by a feverish sleep. I came down late; and finding you
out of spirits, on account of your dreams about the portrait, whose
_original_ I am now certain disclosed himself to me, I did not care to
talk about the infernal vision. In fact, I was trying to persuade myself
that the whole thing was an illusion, and I did not like to revive in
their intensity the hated impressions of the past night--or to risk the
constancy of my scepticism, by recounting the tale of my sufferings.
"It required some nerve, I can tell you, to go to my haunted chamber
next night, and lie down quietly in the same bed," continued Tom. "I did
so with a degree of trepidation, which, I am not ashamed to say, a very
little matter would have sufficed to stimulate to downright panic. This
night, however, passed off quietly enough, as also the next; and so too
did two or three more. I grew more confident, and began to fancy that I
believed in the theories of spectral illusions, with which I had at
first vainly tried to impose upon my convictions.
"The apparition had been, indeed, altogether anomalous. It had crossed
the room without any recognition of my presence: I had not disturbed
_it_, and _it_ had no mission to _me_. What, then, was the imaginable
use of its crossing the room in a visible shape at all? Of course it
might have _been_ in the closet instead of _going_ there, as easily as
it introduced itself into the recess without entering the chamber in a
shape discernible by the senses. Besides, how the deuce _had_ I seen it?
It was a dark night; I had no candle; there was no fire; and yet I saw
it as distinctly, in colouring and outline, as ever I beheld human form!
A cataleptic dream would explain it all; and I was determined that a
dream it should be.
"One of the most remarkable phenomena connected with the practice of
mendacity is the vast number of deliberate lies we tell ourselves, whom,
of all persons, we can least expect to deceive. In all this, I need
hardly tell you, Dick, I was simply lying to myself, and did not believe
one word of the wretched humbug. Yet I went on, as men will do, like
persevering charlatans and impostors, who tire people into credulity by
the mere force of reiteration; so I hoped to win myself over at last to
a comfortable scepticism about the ghost.
"He had not appeared a second time--that certainly was a comfort; and
what, after all, did I care for him, and his queer old toggery and
strange looks? Not a fig! I was nothing the worse for having seen him,
and a good story the better. So I tumbled into bed, put out my candle,
and, cheered by a loud drunken quarrel in the back lane, went fast
"From this deep slumber I awoke with a start. I knew I had had a
horrible dream; but what it was I could not remember. My heart was
thumping furiously; I felt bewildered and feverish; I sate up in the bed
and looked about the room. A broad flood of moonlight came in through
the curtainless window; everything was as I had last seen it; and though
the domestic squabble in the back lane was, unhappily for me, allayed, I
yet could hear a pleasant fellow singing, on his way home, the then
popular comic ditty called, 'Murphy Delany.' Taking advantage of this
diversion I lay down again, with my face towards the fireplace, and
closing my eyes, did my best to think of nothing else but the song,
which was every moment growing fainter in the distance:----
"'Twas Murphy Delany, so funny and frisky,
Stept into a shebeen shop to get his skin full;
He reeled out again pretty well lined with whiskey,
As fresh as a shamrock, as blind as a bull.
"The singer, whose condition I dare say resembled that of his hero, was
soon too far off to regale my ears any more; and as his music died away,
I myself sank into a doze, neither sound nor refreshing. Somehow the
song had got into my head, and I went meandering on through the
adventures of my respectable fellow-countryman, who, on emerging from
the 'shebeen shop,' fell into a river, from which he was fished up to be
'sat upon' by a coroner's jury, who having learned from a 'horse-doctor'
that he was 'dead as a door-nail, so there was an end,' returned their
verdict accordingly, just as he returned to his senses, when an angry
altercation and a pitched battle between the body and the coroner winds
up the lay with due spirit and pleasantry.
"Through this ballad I continued with a weary monotony to plod, down to
the very last line, and then _da capo_, and so on, in my uncomfortable
half-sleep, for how long, I can't conjecture. I found myself at last,
however, muttering, '_dead_ as a door-nail, so there was an end'; and
something like another voice within me, seemed to say, very faintly, but
sharply, 'dead! dead! _dead_! and may the Lord have mercy on your soul!'
and instantaneously I was wide awake, and staring right before me from
"Now--will you believe it, Dick?--I saw the same accursed figure
standing full front, and gazing at me with its stony and fiendish
countenance, not two yards from the bedside."
Tom stopped here, and wiped the perspiration from his face. I felt very
queer. The girl was as pale as Tom; and, assembled as we were in the
very scene of these adventures, we were all, I dare say, equally
grateful for the clear daylight and the resuming bustle out of doors.
"For about three seconds only I saw it plainly; then it grew indistinct;
but, for a long time, there was something like a column of dark vapour
where it had been standing, between me and the wall; and I felt sure
that he was still there. After a good while, this appearance went too. I
took my clothes downstairs to the hall, and dressed there, with the door
half open; then went out into the street, and walked about the town till
morning, when I came back, in a miserable state of nervousness and
exhaustion. I was such a fool, Dick, as to be ashamed to tell you how I
came to be so upset. I thought you would laugh at me; especially as I
had always talked philosophy, and treated _your_ ghosts with contempt. I
concluded you would give me no quarter; and so kept my tale of horror to
"Now, Dick, you will hardly believe me, when I assure you, that for many
nights after this last experience, I did not go to my room at all. I
used to sit up for a while in the drawing-room after you had gone up to
your bed; and then steal down softly to the hall-door, let myself out,
and sit in the 'Robin Hood' tavern until the last guest went off; and
then I got through the night like a sentry, pacing the streets till
"For more than a week I never slept in bed. I sometimes had a snooze on
a form in the 'Robin Hood,' and sometimes a nap in a chair during the
day; but regular sleep I had absolutely none.
"I was quite resolved that we should get into another house; but I could
not bring myself to tell you the reason, and I somehow put it off from
day to day, although my life was, during every hour of this
procrastination, rendered as miserable as that of a felon with the
constables on his track. I was growing absolutely ill from this wretched
mode of life.
"One afternoon I determined to enjoy an hour's sleep upon your bed. I
hated mine; so that I had never, except in a stealthy visit every day to
unmake it, lest Martha should discover the secret of my nightly absence,
entered the ill-omened chamber.
"As ill-luck would have it, you had locked your bedroom, and taken away
the key. I went into my own to unsettle the bedclothes, as usual, and
give the bed the appearance of having been slept in. Now, a variety of
circumstances concurred to bring about the dreadful scene through which
I was that night to pass. In the first place, I was literally
overpowered with fatigue, and longing for sleep; in the next place, the
effect of this extreme exhaustion upon my nerves resembled that of a
narcotic, and rendered me less susceptible than, perhaps, I should in
any other condition have been, of the exciting fears which had become
habitual to me. Then again, a little bit of the window was open, a
pleasant freshness pervaded the room, and, to crown all, the cheerful
sun of day was making the room quite pleasant. What was to prevent my
enjoying an hour's nap _here_? The whole air was resonant with the
cheerful hum of life, and the broad matter-of-fact light of day filled
every corner of the room.
"I yielded--stifling my qualms--to the almost overpowering temptation;
and merely throwing off my coat, and loosening my cravat, I lay down,
limiting myself to _half_-an-hour's doze in the unwonted enjoyment of a
feather bed, a coverlet, and a bolster.
"It was horribly insidious; and the demon, no doubt, marked my
infatuated preparations. Dolt that I was, I fancied, with mind and body
worn out for want of sleep, and an arrear of a full week's rest to my
credit, that such measure as _half_-an-hour's sleep, in such a
situation, was possible. My sleep was death-like, long, and dreamless.
"Without a start or fearful sensation of any kind, I waked gently, but
completely. It was, as you have good reason to remember, long past
midnight--I believe, about two o'clock. When sleep has been deep and
long enough to satisfy nature thoroughly, one often wakens in this way,
suddenly, tranquilly, and completely.
"There was a figure seated in that lumbering, old sofa-chair, near the
fireplace. Its back was rather towards me, but I could not be mistaken;
it turned slowly round, and, merciful heavens! there was the stony face,
with its infernal lineaments of malignity and despair, gloating on me.
There was now no doubt as to its consciousness of my presence, and the
hellish malice with which it was animated, for it arose, and drew close
to the bedside. There was a rope about its neck, and the other end,
coiled up, it held stiffly in its hand.
"My good angel nerved me for this horrible crisis. I remained for some
seconds transfixed by the gaze of this tremendous phantom. He came close
to the bed, and appeared on the point of mounting upon it. The next
instant I was upon the floor at the far side, and in a moment more was,
I don't know how, upon the lobby.
"But the spell was not yet broken; the valley of the shadow of death was
not yet traversed. The abhorred phantom was before me there; it was
standing near the banisters, stooping a little, and with one end of the
rope round its own neck, was poising a noose at the other, as if to
throw over mine; and while engaged in this baleful pantomime, it wore a
smile so sensual, so unspeakably dreadful, that my senses were nearly
overpowered. I saw and remember nothing more, until I found myself in
"I had a wonderful escape, Dick--there is no disputing _that_--an escape
for which, while I live, I shall bless the mercy of heaven. No one can
conceive or imagine what it is for flesh and blood to stand in the
presence of such a thing, but one who has had the terrific experience.
Dick, Dick, a shadow has passed over me--a chill has crossed my blood
and marrow, and I will never be the same again--never, Dick--never!"
Our handmaid, a mature girl of two-and-fifty, as I have said, stayed her
hand, as Tom's story proceeded, and by little and little drew near to
us, with open mouth, and her brows contracted over her little, beady
black eyes, till stealing a glance over her shoulder now and then, she
established herself close behind us. During the relation, she had made
various earnest comments, in an undertone; but these and her
ejaculations, for the sake of brevity and simplicity, I have omitted in
"It's often I heard tell of it," she now said, "but I never believed it
rightly till now--though, indeed, why should not I? Does not my mother,
down there in the lane, know quare stories, God bless us, beyant telling
about it? But you ought not to have slept in the back bedroom. She was
loath to let me be going in and out of that room even in the day time,
let alone for any Christian to spend the night in it; for sure she says
it was his own bedroom."
"_Whose_ own bedroom?" we asked, in a breath.
"Why, _his_--the ould Judge's--Judge Horrock's, to be sure, God rest his
sowl"; and she looked fearfully round.
"Amen!" I muttered. "But did he die there?"
"Die there! No, not quite _there_," she said. "Shure, was not it over
the banisters he hung himself, the ould sinner, God be merciful to us
all? and was not it in the alcove they found the handles of the
skipping-rope cut off, and the knife where he was settling the cord, God
bless us, to hang himself with? It was his housekeeper's daughter owned
the rope, my mother often told me, and the child never throve after, and
used to be starting up out of her sleep, and screeching in the night
time, wid dhrames and frights that cum an her; and they said how it was
the speerit of the ould Judge that was tormentin' her; and she used to
be roaring and yelling out to hould back the big ould fellow with the
crooked neck; and then she'd screech 'Oh, the master! the master! he's
stampin' at me, and beckoning to me! Mother, darling, don't let me go!'
And so the poor crathure died at last, and the docthers said it was
wather on the brain, for it was all they could say."
"How long ago was all this?" I asked.
"Oh, then, how would I know?" she answered. "But it must be a wondherful
long time ago, for the housekeeper was an ould woman, with a pipe in her
mouth, and not a tooth left, and better nor eighty years ould when my
mother was first married; and they said she was a rale buxom,
fine-dressed woman when the ould Judge come to his end; an', indeed, my
mother's not far from eighty years ould herself this day; and what made
it worse for the unnatural ould villain, God rest his soul, to frighten
the little girl out of the world the way he did, was what was mostly
thought and believed by every one. My mother says how the poor little
crathure was his own child; for he was by all accounts an ould villain
every way, an' the hangin'est judge that ever was known in Ireland's
"From what you said about the danger of sleeping in that bedroom," said
I, "I suppose there were stories about the ghost having appeared there
"Well, there was things said--quare things, surely," she answered, as it
seemed, with some reluctance. "And why would not there? Sure was it not
up in that same room he slept for more than twenty years? and was it not
in the _alcove_ he got the rope ready that done his own business at
last, the way he done many a betther man's in his lifetime?--and was not
the body lying in the same bed after death, and put in the coffin there,
too, and carried out to his grave from it in Pether's churchyard, after
the coroner was done? But there was quare stories--my mother has them
all--about how one Nicholas Spaight got into trouble on the head of it."
"And what did they say of this Nicholas Spaight?" I asked.
"Oh, for that matther, it's soon told," she answered.
And she certainly did relate a very strange story, which so piqued my
curiosity, that I took occasion to visit the ancient lady, her mother,
from whom I learned many very curious particulars. Indeed, I am tempted
to tell the tale, but my fingers are weary, and I must defer it. But if
you wish to hear it another time, I shall do my best.
When we had heard the strange tale I have _not_ told you, we put one or
two further questions to her about the alleged spectral visitations, to
which the house had, ever since the death of the wicked old Judge, been
"No one ever had luck in it," she told us. "There was always cross
accidents, sudden deaths, and short times in it. The first that tuck, it
was a family--I forget their name--but at any rate there was two young
ladies and their papa. He was about sixty, and a stout healthy gentleman
as you'd wish to see at that age. Well, he slept in that unlucky back
bedroom; and, God between us an' harm! sure enough he was found dead one
morning, half out of the bed, with his head as black as a sloe, and
swelled like a puddin', hanging down near the floor. It was a fit, they
said. He was as dead as a mackerel, and so _he_ could not say what it
was; but the ould people was all sure that it was nothing at all but the
ould Judge, God bless us! that frightened him out of his senses and his
"Some time after there was a rich old maiden lady took the house. I
don't know which room _she_ slept in, but she lived alone; and at any
rate, one morning, the servants going down early to their work, found
her sitting on the passage-stairs, shivering and talkin' to herself,
quite mad; and never a word more could any of _them_ or her friends get
from her ever afterwards but, 'Don't ask me to go, for I promised to
wait for him.' They never made out from her who it was she meant by
_him_, but of course those that knew all about the ould house were at no
loss for the meaning of all that happened to her.
"Then afterwards, when the house was let out in lodgings, there was
Micky Byrne that took the same room, with his wife and three little
children; and sure I heard Mrs. Byrne myself telling how the children
used to be lifted up in the bed at night, she could not see by what
mains; and how they were starting and screeching every hour, just all as
one as the housekeeper's little girl that died, till at last one night
poor Micky had a dhrop in him, the way he used now and again; and what
do you think in the middle of the night he thought he heard a noise on
the stairs, and being in liquor, nothing less id do him but out he must
go himself to see what was wrong. Well, after that, all she ever heard
of him was himself sayin', 'Oh, God!' and a tumble that shook the very
house; and there, sure enough, he was lying on the lower stairs, under
the lobby, with his neck smashed double undher him, where he was flung
over the banisters."
Then the handmaiden added----
"I'll go down to the lane, and send up Joe Gavvey to pack up the rest of
the taythings, and bring all the things across to your new lodgings."
And so we all sallied out together, each of us breathing more freely, I
have no doubt, as we crossed that ill-omened threshold for the last
Now, I may add thus much, in compliance with the immemorial usage of the
realm of fiction, which sees the hero not only through his adventures,
but fairly out of the world. You must have perceived that what the
flesh, blood, and bone hero of romance proper is to the regular
compounder of fiction, this old house of brick, wood, and mortar is to
the humble recorder of this true tale. I, therefore, relate, as in duty
bound, the catastrophe which ultimately befell it, which was simply
this--that about two years subsequently to my story it was taken by a
quack doctor, who called himself Baron Duhlstoerf, and filled the
parlour windows with bottles of indescribable horrors preserved in
brandy, and the newspapers with the usual grandiloquent and mendacious
advertisements. This gentleman among his virtues did not reckon
sobriety, and one night, being overcome with much wine, he set fire to
his bed curtains, partially burned himself, and totally consumed the
house. It was afterwards rebuilt, and for a time an undertaker
established himself in the premises.
I have now told you my own and Tom's adventures, together with some
valuable collateral particulars; and having acquitted myself of my
engagement, I wish you a very good night, and pleasant dreams.
Back to Full Books