Part 2 out of 3
that perhaps it might be the best way for the gentleman to look at one or
two of the larger rooms and pick one for himself. It seemed a good idea.
The top floor was soon rejected as entailing too much getting upstairs
after the day's work; the second floor contained no room of exactly the
dimensions required; but on the first floor there was a choice of two or
three rooms which would, so far as size went, suit admirably.
The landlord was strongly in favour of Number 17, but Mr Anderson pointed
out that its windows commanded only the blank wall of the next house, and
that it would be very dark in the afternoon. Either Number 12 or Number
14 would be better, for both of them looked on the street, and the bright
evening light and the pretty view would more than compensate him for the
additional amount of noise.
Eventually Number 12 was selected. Like its neighbours, it had three
windows, all on one side of the room; it was fairly high and unusually
long. There was, of course, no fireplace, but the stove was handsome and
rather old--a cast-iron erection, on the side of which was a
representation of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the inscription, 'I Bog
Mose, Cap. 22,' above. Nothing else in the room was remarkable; the only
interesting picture was an old coloured print of the town, date about
Supper-time was approaching, but when Anderson, refreshed by the ordinary
ablutions, descended the staircase, there were still a few minutes before
the bell rang. He devoted them to examining the list of his
fellow-lodgers. As is usual in Denmark, their names were displayed on a
large blackboard, divided into columns and lines, the numbers of the
rooms being painted in at the beginning of each line. The list was not
exciting. There was an advocate, or Sagfoerer, a German, and some bagmen
from Copenhagen. The one and only point which suggested any food for
thought was the absence of any Number 13 from the tale of the rooms, and
even this was a thing which Anderson had already noticed half a dozen
times in his experience of Danish hotels. He could not help wondering
whether the objection to that particular number, common as it is, was so
widespread and so strong as to make it difficult to let a room so
ticketed, and he resolved to ask the landlord if he and his colleagues in
the profession had actually met with many clients who refused to be
accommodated in the thirteenth room.
He had nothing to tell me (I am giving the story as I heard it from him)
about what passed at supper, and the evening, which was spent in
unpacking and arranging his clothes, books, and papers, was not more
eventful. Towards eleven o'clock he resolved to go to bed, but with him,
as with a good many other people nowadays, an almost necessary
preliminary to bed, if he meant to sleep, was the reading of a few pages
of print, and he now remembered that the particular book which he had
been reading in the train, and which alone would satisfy him at that
present moment, was in the pocket of his great-coat, then hanging on a
peg outside the dining-room.
To run down and secure it was the work of a moment, and, as the passages
were by no means dark, it was not difficult for him to find his way back
to his own door. So, at least, he thought; but when he arrived there, and
turned the handle, the door entirely refused to open, and he caught the
sound of a hasty movement towards it from within. He had tried the wrong
door, of course. Was his own room to the right or to the left? He glanced
at the number: it was 13. His room would be on the left; and so it was.
And not before he had been in bed for some minutes, had read his wonted
three or four pages of his book, blown out his light, and turned over to
go to sleep, did it occur to him that, whereas on the blackboard of the
hotel there had been no Number 13, there was undoubtedly a room numbered
13 in the hotel. He felt rather sorry he had not chosen it for his own.
Perhaps he might have done the landlord a little service by occupying it,
and given him the chance of saying that a well-born English gentleman had
lived in it for three weeks and liked it very much. But probably it was
used as a servant's room or something of the kind. After all, it was most
likely not so large or good a room as his own. And he looked drowsily
about the room, which was fairly perceptible in the half-light from the
street-lamp. It was a curious effect, he thought. Rooms usually look
larger in a dim light than a full one, but this seemed to have contracted
in length and grown proportionately higher. Well, well! sleep was more
important than these vague ruminations--and to sleep he went.
On the day after his arrival Anderson attacked the Rigsarkiv of Viborg.
He was, as one might expect in Denmark, kindly received, and access to
all that he wished to see was made as easy for him as possible. The
documents laid before him were far more numerous and interesting than he
had at all anticipated. Besides official papers, there was a large bundle
of correspondence relating to Bishop Joergen Friis, the last Roman
Catholic who held the see, and in these there cropped up many amusing and
what are called 'intimate' details of private life and individual
character. There was much talk of a house owned by the Bishop, but not
inhabited by him, in the town. Its tenant was apparently somewhat of a
scandal and a stumbling-block to the reforming party. He was a disgrace,
they wrote, to the city; he practised secret and wicked arts, and had
sold his soul to the enemy. It was of a piece with the gross corruption
and superstition of the Babylonish Church that such a viper and
blood-sucking _Troldmand_ should be patronized and harboured by the
Bishop. The Bishop met these reproaches boldly; he protested his own
abhorrence of all such things as secret arts, and required his
antagonists to bring the matter before the proper court--of course, the
spiritual court--and sift it to the bottom. No one could be more ready
and willing than himself to condemn Mag Nicolas Francken if the evidence
showed him to have been guilty of any of the crimes informally alleged
Anderson had not time to do more than glance at the next letter of the
Protestant leader, Rasmus Nielsen, before the record office was closed
for the day, but he gathered its general tenor, which was to the effect
that Christian men were now no longer bound by the decisions of Bishops
of Rome, and that the Bishop's Court was not, and could not be, a fit or
competent tribunal to judge so grave and weighty a cause.
On leaving the office, Mr Anderson was accompanied by the old gentleman
who presided over it, and, as they walked, the conversation very
naturally turned to the papers of which I have just been speaking.
Herr Scavenius, the Archivist of Viborg, though very well informed as to
the general run of the documents under his charge, was not a specialist
in those of the Reformation period. He was much interested in what
Anderson had to tell him about them. He looked forward with great
pleasure, he said, to seeing the publication in which Mr Anderson spoke
of embodying their contents. 'This house of the Bishop Friis,' he added,
'it is a great puzzle to me where it can have stood. I have studied
carefully the topography of old Viborg, but it is most unlucky--of the
old terrier of the Bishop's property which was made in 1560, and of which
we have the greater part in the Arkiv--just the piece which had the list
of the town property is missing. Never mind. Perhaps I shall some day
succeed to find him.'
After taking some exercise--I forget exactly how or where--Anderson went
back to the Golden Lion, his supper, his game of patience, and his bed.
On the way to his room it occurred to him that he had forgotten to talk
to the landlord about the omission of Number 13 from the hotel board, and
also that he might as well make sure that Number 13 did actually exist
before he made any reference to the matter.
The decision was not difficult to arrive at. There was the door with its
number as plain as could be, and work of some kind was evidently going on
inside it, for as he neared the door he could hear footsteps and voices,
or a voice, within. During the few seconds in which he halted to make
sure of the number, the footsteps ceased, seemingly very near the door,
and he was a little startled at hearing a quick hissing breathing as of a
person in strong excitement. He went on to his own room, and again he was
surprised to find how much smaller it seemed now than it had when he
selected it. It was a slight disappointment, but only slight. If he found
it really not large enough, he could very easily shift to another. In the
meantime he wanted something--as far as I remember it was a
pocket-handkerchief--out of his portmanteau, which had been placed by the
porter on a very inadequate trestle or stool against the wall at the
farthest end of the room from his bed. Here was a very curious thing: the
portmanteau was not to be seen. It had been moved by officious servants;
doubtless the contents had been put in the wardrobe. No, none of them
were there. This was vexatious. The idea of a theft he dismissed at once.
Such things rarely happen in Denmark, but some piece of stupidity had
certainly been performed (which is not so uncommon), and the _stuepige_
must be severely spoken to. Whatever it was that he wanted, it was not so
necessary to his comfort that he could not wait till the morning for it,
and he therefore settled not to ring the bell and disturb the servants.
He went to the window--the right-hand window it was--and looked out on
the quiet street. There was a tall building opposite, with large spaces
of dead wall; no passers-by; a dark night; and very little to be seen of
The light was behind him, and he could see his own shadow clearly cast on
the wall opposite. Also the shadow of the bearded man in Number 11 on the
left, who passed to and fro in shirtsleeves once or twice, and was seen
first brushing his hair, and later on in a nightgown. Also the shadow of
the occupant of Number 13 on the right. This might be more interesting.
Number 13 was, like himself, leaning on his elbows on the window-sill
looking out into the street. He seemed to be a tall thin man--or was it
by any chance a woman?--at least, it was someone who covered his or her
head with some kind of drapery before going to bed, and, he thought, must
be possessed of a red lamp-shade--and the lamp must be flickering very
much. There was a distinct playing up and down of a dull red light on the
opposite wall. He craned out a little to see if he could make any more of
the figure, but beyond a fold of some light, perhaps white, material on
the window-sill he could see nothing.
Now came a distant step in the street, and its approach seemed to recall
Number 13 to a sense of his exposed position, for very swiftly and
suddenly he swept aside from the window, and his red light went out.
Anderson, who had been smoking a cigarette, laid the end of it on the
window-sill and went to bed.
Next morning he was woken by the _stuepige_ with hot water, etc. He
roused himself, and after thinking out the correct Danish words, said as
distinctly as he could:
'You must not move my portmanteau. Where is it?'
As is not uncommon, the maid laughed, and went away without making any
Anderson, rather irritated, sat up in bed, intending to call her back,
but he remained sitting up, staring straight in front of him. There was
his portmanteau on its trestle, exactly where he had seen the porter put
it when he first arrived. This was a rude shock for a man who prided
himself on his accuracy of observation. How it could possibly have
escaped him the night before he did not pretend to understand; at any
rate, there it was now.
The daylight showed more than the portmanteau; it let the true
proportions of the room with its three windows appear, and satisfied its
tenant that his choice after all had not been a bad one. When he was
almost dressed he walked to the middle one of the three windows to look
out at the weather. Another shock awaited him. Strangely unobservant he
must have been last night. He could have sworn ten times over that he had
been smoking at the right-hand window the last thing before he went to
bed, and here was his cigarette-end on the sill of the middle window.
He started to go down to breakfast. Rather late, but Number 13 was later:
here were his boots still outside his door--a gentleman's boots. So then
Number 13 was a man, not a woman. Just then he caught sight of the number
on the door. It was 14. He thought he must have passed Number 13 without
noticing it. Three stupid mistakes in twelve hours were too much for a
methodical, accurate-minded man, so he turned back to make sure. The next
number to 14 was number 12, his own room. There was no Number 13 at all.
After some minutes devoted to a careful consideration of everything he
had had to eat and drink during the last twenty-four hours, Anderson
decided to give the question up. If his eyes or his brain were giving way
he would have plenty of opportunities for ascertaining that fact; if not,
then he was evidently being treated to a very interesting experience. In
either case the development of events would certainly be worth watching.
During the day he continued his examination of the episcopal
correspondence which I have already summarized. To his disappointment, it
was incomplete. Only one other letter could be found which referred to
the affair of Mag Nicolas Francken. It was from the Bishop Joergen Friis
to Rasmus Nielsen. He said:
'Although we are not in the least degree inclined to assent to your
judgement concerning our court, and shall be prepared if need be to
withstand you to the uttermost in that behalf, yet forasmuch as our
trusty and well-beloved Mag Nicolas Francken, against whom you have dared
to allege certain false and malicious charges, hath been suddenly removed
from among us, it is apparent that the question for this time falls. But
forasmuch as you further allege that the Apostle and Evangelist St John
in his heavenly Apocalypse describes the Holy Roman Church under the
guise and symbol of the Scarlet Woman, be it known to you,' etc.
Search as he might, Anderson could find no sequel to this letter nor any
clue to the cause or manner of the 'removal' of the _casus belli_. He
could only suppose that Francken had died suddenly; and as there were
only two days between the date of Nielsen's last letter--when Francken
was evidently still in being--and that of the Bishop's letter, the death
must have been completely unexpected.
In the afternoon he paid a short visit to Hald, and took his tea at
Baekkelund; nor could he notice, though he was in a somewhat nervous
frame of mind, that there was any indication of such a failure of eye or
brain as his experiences of the morning had led him to fear.
At supper he found himself next to the landlord.
'What,' he asked him, after some indifferent conversation, 'is the reason
why in most of the hotels one visits in this country the number thirteen
is left out of the list of rooms? I see you have none here.'
The landlord seemed amused.
'To think that you should have noticed a thing like that! I've thought
about it once or twice myself, to tell the truth. An educated man, I've
said, has no business with these superstitious notions. I was brought up
myself here in the high school of Viborg, and our old master was always a
man to set his face against anything of that kind. He's been dead now
this many years--a fine upstanding man he was, and ready with his hands
as well as his head. I recollect us boys, one snowy day--'
Here he plunged into reminiscence.
'Then you don't think there is any particular objection to having a
Number 13?' said Anderson.
'Ah! to be sure. Well, you understand, I was brought up to the business
by my poor old father. He kept an hotel in Aarhuus first, and then, when
we were born, he moved to Viborg here, which was his native place, and
had the Phoenix here until he died. That was in 1876. Then I started
business in Silkeborg, and only the year before last I moved into this
Then followed more details as to the state of the house and business when
first taken over.
'And when you came here, was there a Number 13?'
'No, no. I was going to tell you about that. You see, in a place like
this, the commercial class--the travellers--are what we have to provide
for in general. And put them in Number 13? Why, they'd as soon sleep in
the street, or sooner. As far as I'm concerned myself, it wouldn't make a
penny difference to me what the number of my room was, and so I've often
said to them; but they stick to it that it brings them bad luck.
Quantities of stories they have among them of men that have slept in a
Number 13 and never been the same again, or lost their best customers,
or--one thing and another,' said the landlord, after searching for a more
'Then what do you use your Number 13 for?' said Anderson, conscious as he
said the words of a curious anxiety quite disproportionate to the
importance of the question.
'My Number 13? Why, don't I tell you that there isn't such a thing in the
house? I thought you might have noticed that. If there was it would be
next door to your own room.'
'Well, yes; only I happened to think--that is, I fancied last night that
I had seen a door numbered thirteen in that passage; and, really, I am
almost certain I must have been right, for I saw it the night before as
Of course, Herr Kristensen laughed this notion to scorn, as Anderson had
expected, and emphasized with much iteration the fact that no Number 13
existed or had existed before him in that hotel.
Anderson was in some ways relieved by his certainty, but still puzzled,
and he began to think that the best way to make sure whether he had
indeed been subject to an illusion or not was to invite the landlord to
his room to smoke a cigar later on in the evening. Some photographs of
English towns which he had with him formed a sufficiently good excuse.
Herr Kristensen was flattered by the invitation, and most willingly
accepted it. At about ten o'clock he was to make his appearance, but
before that Anderson had some letters to write, and retired for the
purpose of writing them. He almost blushed to himself at confessing it,
but he could not deny that it was the fact that he was becoming quite
nervous about the question of the existence of Number 13; so much so that
he approached his room by way of Number 11, in order that he might not be
obliged to pass the door, or the place where the door ought to be. He
looked quickly and suspiciously about the room when he entered it, but
there was nothing, beyond that indefinable air of being smaller than
usual, to warrant any misgivings. There was no question of the presence
or absence of his portmanteau tonight. He had himself emptied it of its
contents and lodged it under his bed. With a certain effort he dismissed
the thought of Number 13 from his mind, and sat down to his writing.
His neighbours were quiet enough. Occasionally a door opened in the
passage and a pair of boots was thrown out, or a bagman walked past
humming to himself, and outside, from time to time, a cart thundered over
the atrocious cobble-stones, or a quick step hurried along the flags.
Anderson finished his letters, ordered in whisky and soda, and then went
to the window and studied the dead wall opposite and the shadows upon it.
As far as he could remember, Number 14 had been occupied by the lawyer, a
staid man, who said little at meals, being generally engaged in studying
a small bundle of papers beside his plate. Apparently, however, he was in
the habit of giving vent to his animal spirits when alone. Why else
should he be dancing? The shadow from the next room evidently showed that
he was. Again and again his thin form crossed the window, his arms waved,
and a gaunt leg was kicked up with surprising agility. He seemed to be
barefooted, and the floor must be well laid, for no sound betrayed his
movements. Sagfoerer Herr Anders Jensen, dancing at ten o'clock at night
in a hotel bedroom, seemed a fitting subject for a historical painting in
the grand style; and Anderson's thoughts, like those of Emily in the
'Mysteries of Udolpho', began to 'arrange themselves in the following
When I return to my hotel,
At ten o'clock p.m.,
The waiters think I am unwell;
I do not care for them.
But when I've locked my chamber door,
And put my boots outside,
I dance all night upon the floor.
And even if my neighbours swore,
I'd go on dancing all the more,
For I'm acquainted with the law,
And in despite of all their jaw,
Their protests I deride.
Had not the landlord at this moment knocked at the door, it is probable
that quite a long poem might have been laid before the reader. To judge
from his look of surprise when he found himself in the room, Herr
Kristensen was struck, as Anderson had been, by something unusual in its
aspect. But he made no remark. Anderson's photographs interested him
mightily, and formed the text of many autobiographical discourses. Nor is
it quite clear how the conversation could have been diverted into the
desired channel of Number 13, had not the lawyer at this moment begun to
sing, and to sing in a manner which could leave no doubt in anyone's mind
that he was either exceedingly drunk or raving mad. It was a high, thin
voice that they heard, and it seemed dry, as if from long disuse. Of
words or tune there was no question. It went sailing up to a surprising
height, and was carried down with a despairing moan as of a winter wind
in a hollow chimney, or an organ whose wind fails suddenly. It was a
really horrible sound, and Anderson felt that if he had been alone he
must have fled for refuge and society to some neighbour bagman's room.
The landlord sat open-mouthed.
'I don't understand it,' he said at last, wiping his forehead. 'It is
dreadful. I have heard it once before, but I made sure it was a cat.'
'Is he mad?' said Anderson.
'He must be; and what a sad thing! Such a good customer, too, and so
successful in his business, by what I hear, and a young family to bring
Just then came an impatient knock at the door, and the knocker entered,
without waiting to be asked. It was the lawyer, in _deshabille_ and very
rough-haired; and very angry he looked.
'I beg pardon, sir,' he said, 'but I should be much obliged if you would
Here he stopped, for it was evident that neither of the persons before
him was responsible for the disturbance; and after a moment's lull it
swelled forth again more wildly than before.
'But what in the name of Heaven does it mean?' broke out the lawyer.
'Where is it? Who is it? Am I going out of my mind?'
'Surely, Herr Jensen, it comes from your room next door? Isn't there a
cat or something stuck in the chimney?'
This was the best that occurred to Anderson to say and he realized its
futility as he spoke; but anything was better than to stand and listen to
that horrible voice, and look at the broad, white face of the landlord,
all perspiring and quivering as he clutched the arms of his chair.
'Impossible,' said the lawyer, 'impossible. There is no chimney. I came
here because I was convinced the noise was going on here. It was
certainly in the next room to mine.'
'Was there no door between yours and mine?' said Anderson eagerly.
'No, sir,' said Herr Jensen, rather sharply. 'At least, not this
'Ah!' said Anderson. 'Nor tonight?'
'I am not sure,' said the lawyer with some hesitation.
Suddenly the crying or singing voice in the next room died away, and the
singer was heard seemingly to laugh to himself in a crooning manner. The
three men actually shivered at the sound. Then there was a silence.
'Come,' said the lawyer, 'what have you to say, Herr Kristensen? What
does this mean?'
'Good Heaven!' said Kristensen. 'How should I tell! I know no more than
you, gentlemen. I pray I may never hear such a noise again.'
'So do I,' said Herr Jensen, and he added something under his breath.
Anderson thought it sounded like the last words of the Psalter, '_omnis
spiritus laudet Dominum_,' but he could not be sure.
'But we must do something,' said Anderson--'the three of us. Shall we go
and investigate in the next room?'
'But that is Herr Jensen's room,' wailed the landlord. 'It is no use; he
has come from there himself.'
'I am not so sure,' said Jensen. 'I think this gentleman is right: we
must go and see.'
The only weapons of defence that could be mustered on the spot were a
stick and umbrella. The expedition went out into the passage, not without
quakings. There was a deadly quiet outside, but a light shone from under
the next door. Anderson and Jensen approached it. The latter turned the
handle, and gave a sudden vigorous push. No use. The door stood fast.
'Herr Kristensen,' said Jensen, 'will you go and fetch the strongest
servant you have in the place? We must see this through.'
The landlord nodded, and hurried off, glad to be away from the scene of
action. Jensen and Anderson remained outside looking at the door.
'It _is_ Number 13, you see,' said the latter.
'Yes; there is your door, and there is mine,' said Jensen.
'My room has three windows in the daytime,' said Anderson with
difficulty, suppressing a nervous laugh.
'By George, so has mine!' said the lawyer, turning and looking at
Anderson. His back was now to the door. In that moment the door opened,
and an arm came out and clawed at his shoulder. It was clad in ragged,
yellowish linen, and the bare skin, where it could be seen, had long grey
hair upon it.
Anderson was just in time to pull Jensen out of its reach with a cry of
disgust and fright, when the door shut again, and a low laugh was heard.
Jensen had seen nothing, but when Anderson hurriedly told him what a risk
he had run, he fell into a great state of agitation, and suggested that
they should retire from the enterprise and lock themselves up in one or
other of their rooms.
However, while he was developing this plan, the landlord and two
able-bodied men arrived on the scene, all looking rather serious and
alarmed. Jensen met them with a torrent of description and explanation,
which did not at all tend to encourage them for the fray.
The men dropped the crowbars they had brought, and said flatly that they
were not going to risk their throats in that devil's den. The landlord
was miserably nervous and undecided, conscious that if the danger were
not faced his hotel was ruined, and very loth to face it himself. Luckily
Anderson hit upon a way of rallying the demoralized force.
'Is this,' he said, 'the Danish courage I have heard so much of? It isn't
a German in there, and if it was, we are five to one.'
The two servants and Jensen were stung into action by this, and made a
dash at the door.
'Stop!' said Anderson. 'Don't lose your heads. You stay out here with the
light, landlord, and one of you two men break in the door, and don't go
in when it gives way.'
The men nodded, and the younger stepped forward, raised his crowbar, and
dealt a tremendous blow on the upper panel. The result was not in the
least what any of them anticipated. There was no cracking or rending of
wood--only a dull sound, as if the solid wall had been struck. The man
dropped his tool with a shout, and began rubbing his elbow. His cry drew
their eyes upon him for a moment; then Anderson looked at the door again.
It was gone; the plaster wall of the passage stared him in the face, with
a considerable gash in it where the crowbar had struck it. Number 13 had
passed out of existence.
For a brief space they stood perfectly still, gazing at the blank wall.
An early cock in the yard beneath was heard to crow; and as Anderson
glanced in the direction of the sound, he saw through the window at the
end of the long passage that the eastern sky was paling to the dawn.
'Perhaps,' said the landlord, with hesitation, 'you gentlemen would like
another room for tonight--a double-bedded one?'
Neither Jensen nor Anderson was averse to the suggestion. They felt
inclined to hunt in couples after their late experience. It was found
convenient, when each of them went to his room to collect the articles he
wanted for the night, that the other should go with him and hold the
candle. They noticed that both Number 12 and Number 14 had _three_
* * * * *
Next morning the same party reassembled in Number 12. The landlord was
naturally anxious to avoid engaging outside help, and yet it was
imperative that the mystery attaching to that part of the house should be
cleared up. Accordingly the two servants had been induced to take upon
them the function of carpenters. The furniture was cleared away, and, at
the cost of a good many irretrievably damaged planks, that portion of the
floor was taken up which lay nearest to Number 14.
You will naturally suppose that a skeleton--say that of Mag Nicolas
Francken--was discovered. That was not so. What they did find lying
between the beams which supported the flooring was a small copper box. In
it was a neatly-folded vellum document, with about twenty lines of
writing. Both Anderson and Jensen (who proved to be something of a
palaeographer) were much excited by this discovery, which promised to
afford the key to these extraordinary phenomena.
* * * * *
I possess a copy of an astrological work which I have never read. It has,
by way of frontispiece, a woodcut by Hans Sebald Beham, representing a
number of sages seated round a table. This detail may enable connoisseurs
to identify the book. I cannot myself recollect its title, and it is not
at this moment within reach; but the fly-leaves of it are covered with
writing, and, during the ten years in which I have owned the volume, I
have not been able to determine which way up this writing ought to be
read, much less in what language it is. Not dissimilar was the position
of Anderson and Jensen after the protracted examination to which they
submitted the document in the copper box.
After two days' contemplation of it, Jensen, who was the bolder spirit of
the two, hazarded the conjecture that the language was either Latin or
Anderson ventured upon no surmises, and was very willing to surrender the
box and the parchment to the Historical Society of Viborg to be placed in
I had the whole story from him a few months later, as we sat in a wood
near Upsala, after a visit to the library there, where we--or, rather,
I--had laughed over the contract by which Daniel Salthenius (in later
life Professor of Hebrew at Koenigsberg) sold himself to Satan. Anderson
was not really amused.
'Young idiot!' he said, meaning Salthenius, who was only an undergraduate
when he committed that indiscretion, 'how did he know what company he was
And when I suggested the usual considerations he only grunted. That same
afternoon he told me what you have read; but he refused to draw any
inferences from it, and to assent to any that I drew for him.
By what means the papers out of which I have made a connected story came
into my hands is the last point which the reader will learn from these
pages. But it is necessary to prefix to my extracts from them a statement
of the form in which I possess them.
They consist, then, partly of a series of collections for a book of
travels, such a volume as was a common product of the forties and
fifties. Horace Marryat's _Journal of a Residence in Jutland and the
Danish Isles_ is a fair specimen of the class to which I allude. These
books usually treated of some unknown district on the Continent. They
were illustrated with woodcuts or steel plates. They gave details of
hotel accommodation and of means of communication, such as we now expect
to find in any well-regulated guide-book, and they dealt largely in
reported conversations with intelligent foreigners, racy innkeepers, and
garrulous peasants. In a word, they were chatty.
Begun with the idea of furnishing material for such a book, my papers as
they progressed assumed the character of a record of one single personal
experience, and this record was continued up to the very eve, almost, of
The writer was a Mr Wraxall. For my knowledge of him I have to depend
entirely on the evidence his writings afford, and from these I deduce
that he was a man past middle age, possessed of some private means, and
very much alone in the world. He had, it seems, no settled abode in
England, but was a denizen of hotels and boarding-houses. It is probable
that he entertained the idea of settling down at some future time which
never came; and I think it also likely that the Pantechnicon fire in the
early seventies must have destroyed a great deal that would have thrown
light on his antecedents, for he refers once or twice to property of his
that was warehoused at that establishment.
It is further apparent that Mr Wraxall had published a book, and that it
treated of a holiday he had once taken in Brittany. More than this I
cannot say about his work, because a diligent search in bibliographical
works has convinced me that it must have appeared either anonymously or
under a pseudonym.
As to his character, it is not difficult to form some superficial
opinion. He must have been an intelligent and cultivated man. It seems
that he was near being a Fellow of his college at Oxford--Brasenose, as I
judge from the Calendar. His besetting fault was pretty clearly that of
over-inquisitiveness, possibly a good fault in a traveller, certainly a
fault for which this traveller paid dearly enough in the end.
On what proved to be his last expedition, he was plotting another book.
Scandinavia, a region not widely known to Englishmen forty years ago, had
struck him as an interesting field. He must have alighted on some old
books of Swedish history or memoirs, and the idea had struck him that
there was room for a book descriptive of travel in Sweden, interspersed
with episodes from the history of some of the great Swedish families. He
procured letters of introduction, therefore, to some persons of quality
in Sweden, and set out thither in the early summer of 1863.
Of his travels in the North there is no need to speak, nor of his
residence of some weeks in Stockholm. I need only mention that some
_savant_ resident there put him on the track of an important collection
of family papers belonging to the proprietors of an ancient manor-house
in Vestergothland, and obtained for him permission to examine them.
The manor-house, or _herrgard_, in question is to be called Rabaeck
(pronounced something like Roebeck), though that is not its name. It is
one of the best buildings of its kind in all the country, and the picture
of it in Dahlenberg's _Suecia antiqua et moderna_, engraved in 1694,
shows it very much as the tourist may see it today. It was built soon
after 1600, and is, roughly speaking, very much like an English house of
that period in respect of material--red-brick with stone facings--and
style. The man who built it was a scion of the great house of De la
Gardie, and his descendants possess it still. De la Gardie is the name by
which I will designate them when mention of them becomes necessary.
They received Mr Wraxall with great kindness and courtesy, and pressed
him to stay in the house as long as his researches lasted. But,
preferring to be independent, and mistrusting his powers of conversing in
Swedish, he settled himself at the village inn, which turned out quite
sufficiently comfortable, at any rate during the summer months. This
arrangement would entail a short walk daily to and from the manor-house
of something under a mile. The house itself stood in a park, and was
protected--we should say grown up--with large old timber. Near it you
found the walled garden, and then entered a close wood fringing one of
the small lakes with which the whole country is pitted. Then came the
wall of the demesne, and you climbed a steep knoll--a knob of rock
lightly covered with soil--and on the top of this stood the church,
fenced in with tall dark trees. It was a curious building to English
eyes. The nave and aisles were low, and filled with pews and galleries.
In the western gallery stood the handsome old organ, gaily painted, and
with silver pipes. The ceiling was flat, and had been adorned by a
seventeenth-century artist with a strange and hideous 'Last Judgement',
full of lurid flames, falling cities, burning ships, crying souls, and
brown and smiling demons. Handsome brass coronae hung from the roof; the
pulpit was like a doll's-house covered with little painted wooden cherubs
and saints; a stand with three hour-glasses was hinged to the preacher's
desk. Such sights as these may be seen in many a church in Sweden now,
but what distinguished this one was an addition to the original building.
At the eastern end of the north aisle the builder of the manor-house had
erected a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was a largish
eight-sided building, lighted by a series of oval windows, and it had a
domed roof, topped by a kind of pumpkin-shaped object rising into a
spire, a form in which Swedish architects greatly delighted. The roof was
of copper externally, and was painted black, while the walls, in common
with those of the church, were staringly white. To this mausoleum there
was no access from the church. It had a portal and steps of its own on
the northern side.
Past the churchyard the path to the village goes, and not more than three
or four minutes bring you to the inn door.
On the first day of his stay at Rabaeck Mr Wraxall found the church door
open, and made these notes of the interior which I have epitomized. Into
the mausoleum, however, he could not make his way. He could by looking
through the keyhole just descry that there were fine marble effigies and
sarcophagi of copper, and a wealth of armorial ornament, which made him
very anxious to spend some time in investigation.
The papers he had come to examine at the manor-house proved to be of just
the kind he wanted for his book. There were family correspondence,
journals, and account-books of the earliest owners of the estate, very
carefully kept and clearly written, full of amusing and picturesque
detail. The first De la Gardie appeared in them as a strong and capable
man. Shortly after the building of the mansion there had been a period of
distress in the district, and the peasants had risen and attacked several
chateaux and done some damage. The owner of Rabaeck took a leading part in
supressing trouble, and there was reference to executions of ring-leaders
and severe punishments inflicted with no sparing hand.
The portrait of this Magnus de la Gardie was one of the best in the
house, and Mr Wraxall studied it with no little interest after his day's
work. He gives no detailed description of it, but I gather that the face
impressed him rather by its power than by its beauty or goodness; in
fact, he writes that Count Magnus was an almost phenomenally ugly man.
On this day Mr Wraxall took his supper with the family, and walked back
in the late but still bright evening.
'I must remember,' he writes, 'to ask the sexton if he can let me into
the mausoleum at the church. He evidently has access to it himself, for I
saw him tonight standing on the steps, and, as I thought, locking or
unlocking the door.'
I find that early on the following day Mr Wraxall had some conversation
with his landlord. His setting it down at such length as he does
surprised me at first; but I soon realized that the papers I was reading
were, at least in their beginning, the materials for the book he was
meditating, and that it was to have been one of those quasi-journalistic
productions which admit of the introduction of an admixture of
His object, he says, was to find out whether any traditions of Count
Magnus de la Gardie lingered on in the scenes of that gentleman's
activity, and whether the popular estimate of him were favourable or not.
He found that the Count was decidedly not a favourite. If his tenants
came late to their work on the days which they owed to him as Lord of the
Manor, they were set on the wooden horse, or flogged and branded in the
manor-house yard. One or two cases there were of men who had occupied
lands which encroached on the lord's domain, and whose houses had been
mysteriously burnt on a winter's night, with the whole family inside. But
what seemed to dwell on the innkeeper's mind most--for he returned to the
subject more than once--was that the Count had been on the Black
Pilgrimage, and had brought something or someone back with him.
You will naturally inquire, as Mr Wraxall did, what the Black Pilgrimage
may have been. But your curiosity on the point must remain unsatisfied
for the time being, just as his did. The landlord was evidently unwilling
to give a full answer, or indeed any answer, on the point, and, being
called out for a moment, trotted out with obvious alacrity, only putting
his head in at the door a few minutes afterwards to say that he was
called away to Skara, and should not be back till evening.
So Mr Wraxall had to go unsatisfied to his day's work at the manor-house.
The papers on which he was just then engaged soon put his thoughts into
another channel, for he had to occupy himself with glancing over the
correspondence between Sophia Albertina in Stockholm and her married
cousin Ulrica Leonora at Rabaeck in the years 1705-10. The letters were of
exceptional interest from the light they threw upon the culture of that
period in Sweden, as anyone can testify who has read the full edition of
them in the publications of the Swedish Historical Manuscripts
In the afternoon he had done with these, and after returning the boxes in
which they were kept to their places on the shelf, he proceeded, very
naturally, to take down some of the volumes nearest to them, in order to
determine which of them had best be his principal subject of
investigation next day. The shelf he had hit upon was occupied mostly by
a collection of account-books in the writing of the first Count Magnus.
But one among them was not an account-book, but a book of alchemical and
other tracts in another sixteenth-century hand. Not being very familiar
with alchemical literature, Mr Wraxall spends much space which he might
have spared in setting out the names and beginnings of the various
treatises: The book of the Phoenix, book of the Thirty Words, book of the
Toad, book of Miriam, Turba philosophorum, and so forth; and then he
announces with a good deal of circumstance his delight at finding, on a
leaf originally left blank near the middle of the book, some writing of
Count Magnus himself headed 'Liber nigrae peregrinationis'. It is true
that only a few lines were written, but there was quite enough to show
that the landlord had that morning been referring to a belief at least as
old as the time of Count Magnus, and probably shared by him. This is the
English of what was written:
'If any man desires to obtain a long life, if he would obtain a faithful
messenger and see the blood of his enemies, it is necessary that he
should first go into the city of Chorazin, and there salute the
prince....' Here there was an erasure of one word, not very thoroughly
done, so that Mr Wraxall felt pretty sure that he was right in reading it
as _aeris_ ('of the air'). But there was no more of the text copied, only
a line in Latin: _Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora_. (See
the rest of this matter among the more private things.)
It could not be denied that this threw a rather lurid light upon the
tastes and beliefs of the Count; but to Mr Wraxall, separated from him by
nearly three centuries, the thought that he might have added to his
general forcefulness alchemy, and to alchemy something like magic, only
made him a more picturesque figure, and when, after a rather prolonged
contemplation of his picture in the hall, Mr Wraxall set out on his
homeward way, his mind was full of the thought of Count Magnus. He had no
eyes for his surroundings, no perception of the evening scents of the
woods or the evening light on the lake; and when all of a sudden he
pulled up short, he was astonished to find himself already at the gate of
the churchyard, and within a few minutes of his dinner. His eyes fell on
'Ah,' he said, 'Count Magnus, there you are. I should dearly like to see
'Like many solitary men,' he writes, 'I have a habit of talking to myself
aloud; and, unlike some of the Greek and Latin particles, I do not expect
an answer. Certainly, and perhaps fortunately in this case, there was
neither voice nor any that regarded: only the woman who, I suppose, was
cleaning up the church, dropped some metallic object on the floor, whose
clang startled me. Count Magnus, I think, sleeps sound enough.'
That same evening the landlord of the inn, who had heard Mr Wraxall say
that he wished to see the clerk or deacon (as he would be called in
Sweden) of the parish, introduced him to that official in the inn
parlour. A visit to the De la Gardie tomb-house was soon arranged for the
next day, and a little general conversation ensued.
Mr Wraxall, remembering that one function of Scandinavian deacons is to
teach candidates for Confirmation, thought he would refresh his own
memory on a Biblical point.
'Can you tell me,' he said, 'anything about Chorazin?'
The deacon seemed startled, but readily reminded him how that village had
once been denounced.
'To be sure,' said Mr Wraxall; 'it is, I suppose, quite a ruin now?'
'So I expect,' replied the deacon. 'I have heard some of our old priests
say that Antichrist is to be born there; and there are tales--'
'Ah! what tales are those?' Mr Wraxall put in.
'Tales, I was going to say, which I have forgotten,' said the deacon; and
soon after that he said good night.
The landlord was now alone, and at Mr Wraxall's mercy; and that inquirer
was not inclined to spare him.
'Herr Nielsen,' he said, 'I have found out something about the Black
Pilgrimage. You may as well tell me what you know. What did the Count
bring back with him?'
Swedes are habitually slow, perhaps, in answering, or perhaps the
landlord was an exception. I am not sure; but Mr Wraxall notes that the
landlord spent at least one minute in looking at him before he said
anything at all. Then he came close up to his guest, and with a good deal
of effort he spoke:
'Mr Wraxall, I can tell you this one little tale, and no more--not any
more. You must not ask anything when I have done. In my grandfather's
time--that is, ninety-two years ago--there were two men who said: "The
Count is dead; we do not care for him. We will go tonight and have a free
hunt in his wood"--the long wood on the hill that you have seen behind
Rabaeck. Well, those that heard them say this, they said: "No, do not go;
we are sure you will meet with persons walking who should not be walking.
They should be resting, not walking." These men laughed. There were no
forestmen to keep the wood, because no one wished to live there. The
family were not here at the house. These men could do what they wished.
'Very well, they go to the wood that night. My grandfather was sitting
here in this room. It was the summer, and a light night. With the window
open, he could see out to the wood, and hear.
'So he sat there, and two or three men with him, and they listened. At
first they hear nothing at all; then they hear someone--you know how far
away it is--they hear someone scream, just as if the most inside part of
his soul was twisted out of him. All of them in the room caught hold of
each other, and they sat so for three-quarters of an hour. Then they hear
someone else, only about three hundred ells off. They hear him laugh out
loud: it was not one of those two men that laughed, and, indeed, they
have all of them said that it was not any man at all. After that they
hear a great door shut.
'Then, when it was just light with the sun, they all went to the priest.
They said to him:
'"Father, put on your gown and your ruff, and come to bury these men,
Anders Bjornsen and Hans Thorbjorn."
'You understand that they were sure these men were dead. So they went to
the wood--my grandfather never forgot this. He said they were all like so
many dead men themselves. The priest, too, he was in a white fear. He
said when they came to him:
'"I heard one cry in the night, and I heard one laugh afterwards. If I
cannot forget that, I shall not be able to sleep again."
'So they went to the wood, and they found these men on the edge of the
wood. Hans Thorbjorn was standing with his back against a tree, and all
the time he was pushing with his hands--pushing something away from him
which was not there. So he was not dead. And they led him away, and took
him to the house at Nykjoping, and he died before the winter; but he went
on pushing with his hands. Also Anders Bjornsen was there; but he was
dead. And I tell you this about Anders Bjornsen, that he was once a
beautiful man, but now his face was not there, because the flesh of it
was sucked away off the bones. You understand that? My grandfather did
not forget that. And they laid him on the bier which they brought, and
they put a cloth over his head, and the priest walked before; and they
began to sing the psalm for the dead as well as they could. So, as they
were singing the end of the first verse, one fell down, who was carrying
the head of the bier, and the others looked back, and they saw that the
cloth had fallen off, and the eyes of Anders Bjornsen were looking up,
because there was nothing to close over them. And this they could not
bear. Therefore the priest laid the cloth upon him, and sent for a spade,
and they buried him in that place.'
The next day Mr Wraxall records that the deacon called for him soon after
his breakfast, and took him to the church and mausoleum. He noticed that
the key of the latter was hung on a nail just by the pulpit, and it
occurred to him that, as the church door seemed to be left unlocked as a
rule, it would not be difficult for him to pay a second and more private
visit to the monuments if there proved to be more of interest among them
than could be digested at first. The building, when he entered it, he
found not unimposing. The monuments, mostly large erections of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were dignified if luxuriant, and
the epitaphs and heraldry were copious. The central space of the domed
room was occupied by three copper sarcophagi, covered with
finely-engraved ornament. Two of them had, as is commonly the case in
Denmark and Sweden, a large metal crucifix on the lid. The third, that of
Count Magnus, as it appeared, had, instead of that, a full-length effigy
engraved upon it, and round the edge were several bands of similar
ornament representing various scenes. One was a battle, with cannon
belching out smoke, and walled towns, and troops of pikemen. Another
showed an execution. In a third, among trees, was a man running at full
speed, with flying hair and outstretched hands. After him followed a
strange form; it would be hard to say whether the artist had intended it
for a man, and was unable to give the requisite similitude, or whether it
was intentionally made as monstrous as it looked. In view of the skill
with which the rest of the drawing was done, Mr Wraxall felt inclined to
adopt the latter idea. The figure was unduly short, and was for the most
part muffled in a hooded garment which swept the ground. The only part of
the form which projected from that shelter was not shaped like any hand
or arm. Mr Wraxall compares it to the tentacle of a devil-fish, and
continues: 'On seeing this, I said to myself, "This, then, which is
evidently an allegorical representation of some kind--a fiend pursuing a
hunted soul--may be the origin of the story of Count Magnus and his
mysterious companion. Let us see how the huntsman is pictured: doubtless
it will be a demon blowing his horn.'" But, as it turned out, there was
no such sensational figure, only the semblance of a cloaked man on a
hillock, who stood leaning on a stick, and watching the hunt with an
interest which the engraver had tried to express in his attitude.
Mr Wraxall noted the finely-worked and massive steel padlocks--three in
number--which secured the sarcophagus. One of them, he saw, was detached,
and lay on the pavement. And then, unwilling to delay the deacon longer
or to waste his own working-time, he made his way onward to the
'It is curious,' he notes, 'how, on retracing a familiar path, one's
thoughts engross one to the absolute exclusion of surrounding objects.
Tonight, for the second time, I had entirely failed to notice where I was
going (I had planned a private visit to the tomb-house to copy the
epitaphs), when I suddenly, as it were, awoke to consciousness, and found
myself (as before) turning in at the churchyard gate, and, I believe,
singing or chanting some such words as, "Are you awake, Count Magnus? Are
you asleep, Count Magnus?" and then something more which I have failed to
recollect. It seemed to me that I must have been behaving in this
nonsensical way for some time.'
He found the key of the mausoleum where he had expected to find it, and
copied the greater part of what he wanted; in fact, he stayed until the
light began to fail him.
'I must have been wrong,' he writes, 'in saying that one of the padlocks
of my Counts sarcophagus was unfastened; I see tonight that two are
loose. I picked both up, and laid them carefully on the window-ledge,
after trying unsuccessfully to close them. The remaining one is still
firm, and, though I take it to be a spring lock, I cannot guess how it is
opened. Had I succeeded in undoing it, I am almost afraid I should have
taken the liberty of opening the sarcophagus. It is strange, the interest
I feel in the personality of this, I fear, somewhat ferocious and grim
The day following was, as it turned out, the last of Mr Wraxall's stay at
Rabaeck. He received letters connected with certain investments which made
it desirable that he should return to England; his work among the papers
was practically done, and travelling was slow. He decided, therefore, to
make his farewells, put some finishing touches to his notes, and be off.
These finishing touches and farewells, as it turned out, took more time
than he had expected. The hospitable family insisted on his staying to
dine with them--they dined at three--and it was verging on half past six
before he was outside the iron gates of Rabaeck. He dwelt on every step of
his walk by the lake, determined to saturate himself, now that he trod it
for the last time, in the sentiment of the place and hour. And when he
reached the summit of the churchyard knoll, he lingered for many minutes,
gazing at the limitless prospect of woods near and distant, all dark
beneath a sky of liquid green. When at last he turned to go, the thought
struck him that surely he must bid farewell to Count Magnus as well as
the rest of the De la Gardies. The church was but twenty yards away, and
he knew where the key of the mausoleum hung. It was not long before he
was standing over the great copper coffin, and, as usual, talking to
himself aloud: 'You may have been a bit of a rascal in your time,
Magnus,' he was saying, 'but for all that I should like to see you, or,
'Just at that instant,' he says, 'I felt a blow on my foot. Hastily
enough I drew it back, and something fell on the pavement with a clash.
It was the third, the last of the three padlocks which had fastened the
sarcophagus. I stooped to pick it up, and--Heaven is my witness that I am
writing only the bare truth--before I had raised myself there was a sound
of metal hinges creaking, and I distinctly saw the lid shifting upwards.
I may have behaved like a coward, but I could not for my life stay for
one moment. I was outside that dreadful building in less time than I can
write--almost as quickly as I could have said--the words; and what
frightens me yet more, I could not turn the key in the lock. As I sit
here in my room noting these facts, I ask myself (it was not twenty
minutes ago) whether that noise of creaking metal continued, and I cannot
tell whether it did or not. I only know that there was something more
than I have written that alarmed me, but whether it was sound or sight I
am not able to remember. What is this that I have done?'
* * * * *
Poor Mr Wraxall! He set out on his journey to England on the next day, as
he had planned, and he reached England in safety; and yet, as I gather
from his changed hand and inconsequent jottings, a broken man. One of the
several small note-books that have come to me with his papers gives, not
a key to, but a kind of inkling of, his experiences. Much of his journey
was made by canal-boat, and I find not less than six painful attempts to
enumerate and describe his fellow-passengers. The entries are of this
24. Pastor of village in Skane. Usual black coat and soft black hat.
25. Commercial traveller from Stockholm going to Trollhaettan. Black
cloak, brown hat.
26. Man in long black cloak, broad-leafed hat, very old-fashioned.
This entry is lined out, and a note added: 'Perhaps identical with No.
13. Have not yet seen his face.' On referring to No. 13, I find that he
is a Roman priest in a cassock.
The net result of the reckoning is always the same. Twenty-eight people
appear in the enumeration, one being always a man in a long black cloak
and broad hat, and another a 'short figure in dark cloak and hood'. On
the other hand, it is always noted that only twenty-six passengers appear
at meals, and that the man in the cloak is perhaps absent, and the short
figure is certainly absent.
On reaching England, it appears that Mr Wraxall landed at Harwich, and
that he resolved at once to put himself out of the reach of some person
or persons whom he never specifies, but whom he had evidently come to
regard as his pursuers. Accordingly he took a vehicle--it was a closed
fly--not trusting the railway and drove across country to the village of
Belchamp St Paul. It was about nine o'clock on a moonlight August night
when he neared the place. He was sitting forward, and looking out of the
window at the fields and thickets--there was little else to be
seen--racing past him. Suddenly he came to a cross-road. At the corner
two figures were standing motionless; both were in dark cloaks; the
taller one wore a hat, the shorter a hood. He had no time to see their
faces, nor did they make any motion that he could discern. Yet the horse
shied violently and broke into a gallop, and Mr Wraxall sank back into
his seat in something like desperation. He had seen them before.
Arrived at Belchamp St Paul, he was fortunate enough to find a decent
furnished lodging, and for the next twenty-four hours he lived,
comparatively speaking, in peace. His last notes were written on this
day. They are too disjointed and ejaculatory to be given here in full,
but the substance of them is clear enough. He is expecting a visit from
his pursuers--how or when he knows not--and his constant cry is 'What has
he done?' and 'Is there no hope?' Doctors, he knows, would call him mad,
policemen would laugh at him. The parson is away. What can he do but lock
his door and cry to God?
People still remember last year at Belchamp St Paul how a strange
gentleman came one evening in August years back; and how the next morning
but one he was found dead, and there was an inquest; and the jury that
viewed the body fainted, seven of 'em did, and none of 'em wouldn't speak
to what they see, and the verdict was visitation of God; and how the
people as kep' the 'ouse moved out that same week, and went away from
that part. But they do not, I think, know that any glimmer of light has
ever been thrown, or could be thrown, on the mystery. It so happened that
last year the little house came into my hands as part of a legacy. It had
stood empty since 1863, and there seemed no prospect of letting it; so I
had it pulled down, and the papers of which I have given you an abstract
were found in a forgotten cupboard under the window in the best bedroom.
'OH, WHISTLE, AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD'
'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Full Term is over,
Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of
Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in
the hospitable hall of St James's College.
The Professor was young, neat, and precise in speech.
'Yes,' he said; 'my friends have been making me take up golf this term,
and I mean to go to the East Coast--in point of fact to Burnstow--(I dare
say you know it) for a week or ten days, to improve my game. I hope to
get off tomorrow.'
'Oh, Parkins,' said his neighbour on the other side, 'if you are going to
Burnstow, I wish you would look at the site of the Templars' preceptory,
and let me know if you think it would be any good to have a dig there in
It was, as you might suppose, a person of antiquarian pursuits who said
this, but, since he merely appears in this prologue, there is no need to
give his entitlements.
'Certainly,' said Parkins, the Professor: 'if you will describe to me
whereabouts the site is, I will do my best to give you an idea of the lie
of the land when I get back; or I could write to you about it, if you
would tell me where you are likely to be.'
'Don't trouble to do that, thanks. It's only that I'm thinking of taking
my family in that direction in the Long, and it occurred to me that, as
very few of the English preceptories have ever been properly planned, I
might have an opportunity of doing something useful on off-days.'
The Professor rather sniffed at the idea that planning out a preceptory
could be described as useful. His neighbour continued:
'The site--I doubt if there is anything showing above ground--must be
down quite close to the beach now. The sea has encroached tremendously,
as you know, all along that bit of coast. I should think, from the map,
that it must be about three-quarters of a mile from the Globe Inn, at the
north end of the town. Where are you going to stay?'
'Well, _at_ the Globe Inn, as a matter of fact,' said Parkins; 'I have
engaged a room there. I couldn't get in anywhere else; most of the
lodging-houses are shut up in winter, it seems; and, as it is, they tell
me that the only room of any size I can have is really a double-bedded
one, and that they haven't a corner in which to store the other bed, and
so on. But I must have a fairly large room, for I am taking some books
down, and mean to do a bit of work; and though I don't quite fancy having
an empty bed--not to speak of two--in what I may call for the time being
my study, I suppose I can manage to rough it for the short time I shall
'Do you call having an extra bed in your room roughing it, Parkins?' said
a bluff person opposite. 'Look here, I shall come down and occupy it for
a bit; it'll be company for you.'
The Professor quivered, but managed to laugh in a courteous manner.
'By all means, Rogers; there's nothing I should like better. But I'm
afraid you would find it rather dull; you don't play golf, do you?'
'No, thank Heaven!' said rude Mr Rogers.
'Well, you see, when I'm not writing I shall most likely be out on the
links, and that, as I say, would be rather dull for you, I'm afraid.'
'Oh, I don't know! There's certain to be somebody I know in the place;
but, of course, if you don't want me, speak the word, Parkins; I shan't
be offended. Truth, as you always tell us, is never offensive.'
Parkins was, indeed, scrupulously polite and strictly truthful. It is to
be feared that Mr Rogers sometimes practised upon his knowledge of these
characteristics. In Parkins's breast there was a conflict now raging,
which for a moment or two did not allow him to answer. That interval
being over, he said:
'Well, if you want the exact truth, Rogers, I was considering whether the
room I speak of would really be large enough to accommodate us both
comfortably; and also whether (mind, I shouldn't have said this if you
hadn't pressed me) you would not constitute something in the nature of a
hindrance to my work.'
Rogers laughed loudly.
'Well done, Parkins!' he said. 'It's all right. I promise not to
interrupt your work; don't you disturb yourself about that. No, I won't
come if you don't want me; but I thought I should do so nicely to keep
the ghosts off.' Here he might have been seen to wink and to nudge his
next neighbour. Parkins might also have been seen to become pink. 'I beg
pardon, Parkins,' Rogers continued; 'I oughtn't to have said that. I
forgot you didn't like levity on these topics.'
'Well,' Parkins said, 'as you have mentioned the matter, I freely own
that I do _not_ like careless talk about what you call ghosts. A man in
my position,' he went on, raising his voice a little, 'cannot, I find, be
too careful about appearing to sanction the current beliefs on such
subjects. As you know, Rogers, or as you ought to know; for I think I
have never concealed my views--'
'No, you certainly have not, old man,' put in Rogers _sotto voce._
'--I hold that any semblance, any appearance of concession to the view
that such things might exist is equivalent to a renunciation of all that
I hold most sacred. But I'm afraid I have not succeeded in securing your
'Your _undivided_ attention, was what Dr Blimber actually _said_,'
Rogers interrupted, with every appearance of an earnest desire for
accuracy. 'But I beg your pardon, Parkins: I'm stopping you.'
 Mr Rogers was wrong, _vide Dombey and Son_, chapter xii.
'No, not at all,' said Parkins. 'I don't remember Blimber; perhaps he was
before my time. But I needn't go on. I'm sure you know what I mean.'
'Yes, yes,' said Rogers, rather hastily--'just so. We'll go into it fully
at Burnstow, or somewhere.'
In repeating the above dialogue I have tried to give the impression which
it made on me, that Parkins was something of an old woman--rather
henlike, perhaps, in his little ways; totally destitute, alas! of the
sense of humour, but at the same time dauntless and sincere in his
convictions, and a man deserving of the greatest respect. Whether or not
the reader has gathered so much, that was the character which Parkins
* * * * *
On the following day Parkins did, as he had hoped, succeed in getting
away from his college, and in arriving at Burnstow. He was made welcome
at the Globe Inn, was safely installed in the large double-bedded room of
which we have heard, and was able before retiring to rest to arrange his
materials for work in apple-pie order upon a commodious table which
occupied the outer end of the room, and was surrounded on three sides by
windows looking out seaward; that is to say, the central window looked
straight out to sea, and those on the left and right commanded prospects
along the shore to the north and south respectively. On the south you saw
the village of Burnstow. On the north no houses were to be seen, but only
the beach and the low cliff backing it. Immediately in front was a
strip--not considerable--of rough grass, dotted with old anchors,
capstans, and so forth; then a broad path; then the beach. Whatever may
have been the original distance between the Globe Inn and the sea, not
more than sixty yards now separated them.
The rest of the population of the inn was, of course, a golfing one, and
included few elements that call for a special description. The most
conspicuous figure was, perhaps, that of an _ancien militaire_, secretary
of a London club, and possessed of a voice of incredible strength, and of
views of a pronouncedly Protestant type. These were apt to find utterance
after his attendance upon the ministrations of the Vicar, an estimable
man with inclinations towards a picturesque ritual, which he gallantly
kept down as far as he could out of deference to East Anglian tradition.
Professor Parkins, one of whose principal characteristics was pluck,
spent the greater part of the day following his arrival at Burnstow in
what he had called improving his game, in company with this Colonel
Wilson: and during the afternoon--whether the process of improvement were
to blame or not, I am not sure--the Colonel's demeanour assumed a
colouring so lurid that even Parkins jibbed at the thought of walking
home with him from the links. He determined, after a short and furtive
look at that bristling moustache and those incarnadined features, that it
would be wiser to allow the influences of tea and tobacco to do what they
could with the Colonel before the dinner-hour should render a meeting
'I might walk home tonight along the beach,' he reflected--'yes, and take
a look--there will be light enough for that--at the ruins of which Disney
was talking. I don't exactly know where they are, by the way; but I
expect I can hardly help stumbling on them.'
This he accomplished, I may say, in the most literal sense, for in
picking his way from the links to the shingle beach his foot caught,
partly in a gorse-root and partly in a biggish stone, and over he went.
When he got up and surveyed his surroundings, he found himself in a patch
of somewhat broken ground covered with small depressions and mounds.
These latter, when he came to examine them, proved to be simply masses of
flints embedded in mortar and grown over with turf. He must, he quite
rightly concluded, be on the site of the preceptory he had promised to
look at. It seemed not unlikely to reward the spade of the explorer;
enough of the foundations was probably left at no great depth to throw a
good deal of light on the general plan. He remembered vaguely that the
Templars, to whom this site had belonged, were in the habit of building
round churches, and he thought a particular series of the humps or mounds
near him did appear to be arranged in something of a circular form. Few
people can resist the temptation to try a little amateur research in a
department quite outside their own, if only for the satisfaction of
showing how successful they would have been had they only taken it up
seriously. Our Professor, however, if he felt something of this mean
desire, was also truly anxious to oblige Mr Disney. So he paced with care
the circular area he had noticed, and wrote down its rough dimensions in
his pocket-book. Then he proceeded to examine an oblong eminence which
lay east of the centre of the circle, and seemed to his thinking likely
to be the base of a platform or altar. At one end of it, the northern, a
patch of the turf was gone--removed by some boy or other creature _ferae
naturae_. It might, he thought, be as well to probe the soil here for
evidences of masonry, and he took out his knife and began scraping away
the earth. And now followed another little discovery: a portion of soil
fell inward as he scraped, and disclosed a small cavity. He lighted one
match after another to help him to see of what nature the hole was, but
the wind was too strong for them all. By tapping and scratching the sides
with his knife, however, he was able to make out that it must be an
artificial hole in masonry. It was rectangular, and the sides, top, and
bottom, if not actually plastered, were smooth and regular. Of course it
was empty. No! As he withdrew the knife he heard a metallic clink, and
when he introduced his hand it met with a cylindrical object lying on the
floor of the hole. Naturally enough, he picked it up, and when he brought
it into the light, now fast fading, he could see that it, too, was of
man's making--a metal tube about four inches long, and evidently of some
By the time Parkins had made sure that there was nothing else in this odd
receptacle, it was too late and too dark for him to think of undertaking
any further search. What he had done had proved so unexpectedly
interesting that he determined to sacrifice a little more of the daylight
on the morrow to archaeology. The object which he now had safe in his
pocket was bound to be of some slight value at least, he felt sure.
Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before
starting homeward. A faint yellow light in the west showed the links, on
which a few figures moving towards the club-house were still visible, the
squat martello tower, the lights of Aldsey village, the pale ribbon of
sands intersected at intervals by black wooden groynings, the dim and
murmuring sea. The wind was bitter from the north, but was at his back
when he set out for the Globe. He quickly rattled and clashed through the
shingle and gained the sand, upon which, but for the groynings which had
to be got over every few yards, the going was both good and quiet. One
last look behind, to measure the distance he had made since leaving the
ruined Templars' church, showed him a prospect of company on his walk, in
the shape of a rather indistinct personage, who seemed to be making great
efforts to catch up with him, but made little, if any, progress. I mean
that there was an appearance of running about his movements, but that the
distance between him and Parkins did not seem materially to lessen. So,
at least, Parkins thought, and decided that he almost certainly did not
know him, and that it would be absurd to wait until he came up. For all
that, company, he began to think, would really be very welcome on that
lonely shore, if only you could choose your companion. In his
unenlightened days he had read of meetings in such places which even now
would hardly bear thinking of. He went on thinking of them, however,
until he reached home, and particularly of one which catches most
people's fancy at some time of their childhood.' Now I saw in my dream
that Christian had gone but a very little way when he saw a foul fiend
coming over the field to meet him.' 'What should I do now,' he thought,
'if I looked back and caught sight of a black figure sharply defined
against the yellow sky, and saw that it had horns and wings? I wonder
whether I should stand or run for it. Luckily, the gentleman behind is
not of that kind, and he seems to be about as far off now as when I saw
him first. Well, at this rate, he won't get his dinner as soon as I
shall; and, dear me! it's within a quarter of an hour of the time now. I
Parkins had, in fact, very little time for dressing. When he met the
Colonel at dinner, Peace--or as much of her as that gentleman could
manage--reigned once more in the military bosom; nor was she put to
flight in the hours of bridge that followed dinner, for Parkins was a
more than respectable player. When, therefore, he retired towards twelve
o'clock, he felt that he had spent his evening in quite a satisfactory
way, and that, even for so long as a fortnight or three weeks, life at
the Globe would be supportable under similar conditions--'especially,'
thought he, 'if I go on improving my game.'
As he went along the passages he met the boots of the Globe, who stopped
'Beg your pardon, sir, but as I was abrushing your coat just now there
was something fell out of the pocket. I put it on your chest of drawers,
sir, in your room, sir--a piece of a pipe or somethink of that, sir.
Thank you, sir. You'll find it on your chest of drawers, sir--yes, sir.
Good night, sir.'
The speech served to remind Parkins of his little discovery of that
afternoon. It was with some considerable curiosity that he turned it over
by the light of his candles. It was of bronze, he now saw, and was shaped
very much after the manner of the modern dog-whistle; in fact it
was--yes, certainly it was--actually no more nor less than a whistle. He
put it to his lips, but it was quite full of a fine, caked-up sand or
earth, which would not yield to knocking, but must be loosened with a
knife. Tidy as ever in his habits, Parkins cleared out the earth on to a
piece of paper, and took the latter to the window to empty it out. The
night was clear and bright, as he saw when he had opened the casement,
and he stopped for an instant to look at the sea and note a belated
wanderer stationed on the shore in front of the inn. Then he shut the
window, a little surprised at the late hours people kept at Burnstow, and
took his whistle to the light again. Why, surely there were marks on it,
and not merely marks, but letters! A very little rubbing rendered the
deeply-cut inscription quite legible, but the Professor had to confess,
after some earnest thought, that the meaning of it was as obscure to him
as the writing on the wall to Belshazzar. There were legends both on the
front and on the back of the whistle. The one read thus:
QUIS EST ISTE QUI VENIT
'I ought to be able to make it out,' he thought; 'but I suppose I am a
little rusty in my Latin. When I come to think of it, I don't believe I
even know the word for a whistle. The long one does seem simple enough.
It ought to mean: "Who is this who is coming?" Well, the best way to find
out is evidently to whistle for him.'
He blew tentatively and stopped suddenly, startled and yet pleased at the
note he had elicited. It had a quality of infinite distance in it, and,
soft as it was, he somehow felt it must be audible for miles round. It
was a sound, too, that seemed to have the power (which many scents
possess) of forming pictures in the brain. He saw quite clearly for a
moment a vision of a wide, dark expanse at night, with a fresh wind
blowing, and in the midst a lonely figure--how employed, he could not
tell. Perhaps he would have seen more had not the picture been broken by
the sudden surge of a gust of wind against his casement, so sudden that
it made him look up, just in time to see the white glint of a seabird's
wing somewhere outside the dark panes.
The sound of the whistle had so fascinated him that he could not help
trying it once more, this time more boldly. The note was little, if at
all, louder than before, and repetition broke the illusion--no picture
followed, as he had half hoped it might. "But what is this? Goodness!
what force the wind can get up in a few minutes! What a tremendous gust!
There! I knew that window-fastening was no use! Ah! I thought so--both
candles out. It is enough to tear the room to pieces."
The first thing was to get the window shut. While you might count twenty
Parkins was struggling with the small casement, and felt almost as if he
were pushing back a sturdy burglar, so strong was the pressure. It
slackened all at once, and the window banged to and latched itself. Now
to relight the candles and see what damage, if any, had been done. No,
nothing seemed amiss; no glass even was broken in the casement. But the
noise had evidently roused at least one member of the household: the
Colonel was to be heard stumping in his stockinged feet on the floor
above, and growling. Quickly as it had risen, the wind did not fall at
once. On it went, moaning and rushing past the house, at times rising to
a cry so desolate that, as Parkins disinterestedly said, it might have
made fanciful people feel quite uncomfortable; even the unimaginative, he
thought after a quarter of an hour, might be happier without it.
Whether it was the wind, or the excitement of golf, or of the researches
in the preceptory that kept Parkins awake, he was not sure. Awake he
remained, in any case, long enough to fancy (as I am afraid I often do
myself under such conditions) that he was the victim of all manner of
fatal disorders: he would lie counting the beats of his heart, convinced
that it was going to stop work every moment, and would entertain grave
suspicions of his lungs, brain, liver, etc.--suspicions which he was sure
would be dispelled by the return of daylight, but which until then
refused to be put aside. He found a little vicarious comfort in the idea
that someone else was in the same boat. A near neighbour (in the darkness
it was not easy to tell his direction) was tossing and rustling in his
The next stage was that Parkins shut his eyes and determined to give
sleep every chance. Here again over-excitement asserted itself in another
form--that of making pictures. _Experto crede_, pictures do come to the
closed eyes of one trying to sleep, and are often so little to his taste
that he must open his eyes and disperse them.
Parkins's experience on this occasion was a very distressing one. He
found that the picture which presented itself to him was continuous. When
he opened his eyes, of course, it went; but when he shut them once more
it framed itself afresh, and acted itself out again, neither quicker nor
slower than before. What he saw was this:
A long stretch of shore--shingle edged by sand, and intersected at short
intervals with black groynes running down to the water--a scene, in fact,
so like that of his afternoon's walk that, in the absence of any
landmark, it could not be distinguished therefrom. The light was obscure,
conveying an impression of gathering storm, late winter evening, and
slight cold rain. On this bleak stage at first no actor was visible.
Then, in the distance, a bobbing black object appeared; a moment more,
and it was a man running, jumping, clambering over the groynes, and every
few seconds looking eagerly back. The nearer he came the more obvious it
was that he was not only anxious, but even terribly frightened, though
his face was not to be distinguished. He was, moreover, almost at the end
of his strength. On he came; each successive obstacle seemed to cause him
more difficulty than the last. 'Will he get over this next one?' thought
Parkins; 'it seems a little higher than the others.' Yes; half climbing,
half throwing himself, he did get over, and fell all in a heap on the
other side (the side nearest to the spectator). There, as if really
unable to get up again, he remained crouching under the groyne, looking
up in an attitude of painful anxiety.
So far no cause whatever for the fear of the runner had been shown; but
now there began to be seen, far up the shore, a little flicker of
something light-coloured moving to and fro with great swiftness and
irregularity. Rapidly growing larger, it, too, declared itself as a
figure in pale, fluttering draperies, ill-defined. There was something
about its motion which made Parkins very unwilling to see it at close
quarters. It would stop, raise arms, bow itself towards the sand, then
run stooping across the beach to the water-edge and back again; and then,
rising upright, once more continue its course forward at a speed that was
startling and terrifying. The moment came when the pursuer was hovering
about from left to right only a few yards beyond the groyne where the
runner lay in hiding. After two or three ineffectual castings hither and
thither it came to a stop, stood upright, with arms raised high, and then
darted straight forward towards the groyne.
It was at this point that Parkins always failed in his resolution to keep
his eyes shut. With many misgivings as to incipient failure of eyesight,
overworked brain, excessive smoking, and so on, he finally resigned
himself to light his candle, get out a book, and pass the night waking,
rather than be tormented by this persistent panorama, which he saw
clearly enough could only be a morbid reflection of his walk and his
thoughts on that very day.
The scraping of match on box and the glare of light must have startled
some creatures of the night--rats or what not--which he heard scurry
across the floor from the side of his bed with much rustling. Dear, dear!
the match is out! Fool that it is! But the second one burnt better, and a
candle and book were duly procured, over which Parkins pored till sleep
of a wholesome kind came upon him, and that in no long space. For about
the first time in his orderly and prudent life he forgot to blow out the
candle, and when he was called next morning at eight there was still a
flicker in the socket and a sad mess of guttered grease on the top of the
After breakfast he was in his room, putting the finishing touches to his
golfing costume--fortune had again allotted the Colonel to him for a
partner--when one of the maids came in.
'Oh, if you please,' she said, 'would you like any extra blankets on your
'Ah! thank you,' said Parkins. 'Yes, I think I should like one. It seems
likely to turn rather colder.'
In a very short time the maid was back with the blanket.
'Which bed should I put it on, sir?' she asked.
'What? Why, that one--the one I slept in last night,' he said, pointing
'Oh yes! I beg your pardon, sir, but you seemed to have tried both of
'em; leastways, we had to make 'em both up this morning.'
'Really? How very absurd!' said Parkins. 'I certainly never touched the
other, except to lay some things on it. Did it actually seem to have been
'Oh yes, sir!' said the maid. 'Why, all the things was crumpled and
throwed about all ways, if you'll excuse me, sir--quite as if anyone
'adn't passed but a very poor night, sir.'
'Dear me,' said Parkins. 'Well, I may have disordered it more than I
thought when I unpacked my things. I'm very sorry to have given you the
extra trouble, I'm sure. I expect a friend of mine soon, by the way--a
gentleman from Cambridge--to come and occupy it for a night or two. That
will be all right, I suppose, won't it?'
'Oh yes, to be sure, sir. Thank you, sir. It's no trouble, I'm sure,'
said the maid, and departed to giggle with her colleagues.
Parkins set forth, with a stern determination to improve his game.
I am glad to be able to report that he succeeded so far in this
enterprise that the Colonel, who had been rather repining at the prospect
of a second day's play in his company, became quite chatty as the morning
advanced; and his voice boomed out over the flats, as certain also of our
own minor poets have said, 'like some great bourdon in a minster tower'.
'Extraordinary wind, that, we had last night,' he said. 'In my old home
we should have said someone had been whistling for it.'
'Should you, indeed!' said Perkins. 'Is there a superstition of that kind
still current in your part of the country?'
'I don't know about superstition,' said the Colonel. 'They believe in it
all over Denmark and Norway, as well as on the Yorkshire coast; and my
experience is, mind you, that there's generally something at the bottom
of what these country-folk hold to, and have held to for generations. But
it's your drive' (or whatever it might have been: the golfing reader will
have to imagine appropriate digressions at the proper intervals).
When conversation was resumed, Parkins said, with a slight hesitancy:
'A propos of what you were saying just now, Colonel, I think I ought to
tell you that my own views on such subjects are very strong. I am, in
fact, a convinced disbeliever in what is called the "supernatural".'
'What!' said the Colonel,'do you mean to tell me you don't believe in
second-sight, or ghosts, or anything of that kind?'
'In nothing whatever of that kind,' returned Parkins firmly.
'Well,' said the Colonel, 'but it appears to me at that rate, sir, that
you must be little better than a Sadducee.'
Parkins was on the point of answering that, in his opinion, the Sadducees
were the most sensible persons he had ever read of in the Old Testament;
but feeling some doubt as to whether much mention of them was to be found
in that work, he preferred to laugh the accusation off.
'Perhaps I am,' he said; 'but--Here, give me my cleek, boy!--Excuse me
one moment, Colonel.' A short interval. 'Now, as to whistling for the
wind, let me give you my theory about it. The laws which govern winds are
really not at all perfectly known--to fisherfolk and such, of course, not
known at all. A man or woman of eccentric habits, perhaps, or a stranger,
is seen repeatedly on the beach at some unusual hour, and is heard
whistling. Soon afterwards a violent wind rises; a man who could read the
sky perfectly or who possessed a barometer could have foretold that it
would. The simple people of a fishing-village have no barometers, and
only a few rough rules for prophesying weather. What more natural than
that the eccentric personage I postulated should be regarded as having
raised the wind, or that he or she should clutch eagerly at the
reputation of being able to do so? Now, take last night's wind: as it
happens, I myself was whistling. I blew a whistle twice, and the wind
seemed to come absolutely in answer to my call. If anyone had seen me--'
The audience had been a little restive under this harangue, and Parkins
had, I fear, fallen somewhat into the tone of a lecturer; but at the last
sentence the Colonel stopped.
'Whistling, were you?' he said. 'And what sort of whistle did you use?
Play this stroke first.' Interval.
'About that whistle you were asking, Colonel. It's rather a curious one.
I have it in my--No; I see I've left it in my room. As a matter of fact,
I found it yesterday.'
And then Parkins narrated the manner of his discovery of the whistle,
upon hearing which the Colonel grunted, and opined that, in Parkins's
place, he should himself be careful about using a thing that had belonged
to a set of Papists, of whom, speaking generally, it might be affirmed
that you never knew what they might not have been up to. From this topic
he diverged to the enormities of the Vicar, who had given notice on the
previous Sunday that Friday would be the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle,
and that there would be service at eleven o'clock in the church. This and
other similar proceedings constituted in the Colonel's view a strong
presumption that the Vicar was a concealed Papist, if not a Jesuit; and
Parkins, who could not very readily follow the Colonel in this region,
did not disagree with him. In fact, they got on so well together in the
morning that there was not talk on either side of their separating after
Both continued to play well during the afternoon, or at least, well
enough to make them forget everything else until the light began to fail
them. Not until then did Parkins remember that he had meant to do some
more investigating at the preceptory; but it was of no great importance,
he reflected. One day was as good as another; he might as well go home
with the Colonel.
As they turned the corner of the house, the Colonel was almost knocked
down by a boy who rushed into him at the very top of his speed, and then,
instead of running away, remained hanging on to him and panting. The
first words of the warrior were naturally those of reproof and
objurgation, but he very quickly discerned that the boy was almost
speechless with fright. Inquiries were useless at first. When the boy got
his breath he began to howl, and still clung to the Colonel's legs. He
was at last detached, but continued to howl.
'What in the world is the matter with you? What have you been up to? What
have you seen?' said the two men.
'Ow, I seen it wive at me out of the winder,' wailed the boy, 'and I
don't like it.'
'What window?' said the irritated Colonel. 'Come pull yourself together,
'The front winder it was, at the 'otel,' said the boy.
At this point Parkins was in favour of sending the boy home, but the
Colonel refused; he wanted to get to the bottom of it, he said; it was
most dangerous to give a boy such a fright as this one had had, and if it
turned out that people had been playing jokes, they should suffer for it
in some way. And by a series of questions he made out this story: The boy
had been playing about on the grass in front of the Globe with some
others; then they had gone home to their teas, and he was just going,
when he happened to look up at the front winder and see it a-wiving at
him. _It_ seemed to be a figure of some sort, in white as far as he
knew--couldn't see its face; but it wived at him, and it warn't a right
thing--not to say not a right person. Was there a light in the room? No,
he didn't think to look if there was a light. Which was the window? Was
it the top one or the second one? The seckind one it was--the big winder
what got two little uns at the sides.
'Very well, my boy,' said the Colonel, after a few more questions. 'You
run away home now. I expect it was some person trying to give you a
start. Another time, like a brave English boy, you just throw a
stone--well, no, not that exactly, but you go and speak to the waiter, or
to Mr Simpson, the landlord, and--yes--and say that I advised you to do
The boy's face expressed some of the doubt he felt as to the likelihood
of Mr Simpson's lending a favourable ear to his complaint, but the
Colonel did not appear to perceive this, and went on:
'And here's a sixpence--no, I see it's a shilling--and you be off home,
and don't think any more about it.'
The youth hurried off with agitated thanks, and the Colonel and Parkins
went round to the front of the Globe and reconnoitred. There was only one
window answering to the description they had been hearing.
'Well, that's curious,' said Parkins; 'it's evidently my window the lad
was talking about. Will you come up for a moment, Colonel Wilson? We
ought to be able to see if anyone has been taking liberties in my room.'
They were soon in the passage, and Parkins made as if to open the door.
Then he stopped and felt in his pockets.
'This is more serious than I thought,' was his next remark. 'I remember
now that before I started this morning I locked the door. It is locked
now, and, what is more, here is the key.' And he held it up. 'Now,' he
went on, 'if the servants are in the habit of going into one's room
during the day when one is away, I can only say that--well, that I don't
approve of it at all.' Conscious of a somewhat weak climax, he busied
himself in opening the door (which was indeed locked) and in lighting
candles. 'No,' he said, 'nothing seems disturbed.'
'Except your bed,' put in the Colonel.
'Excuse me, that isn't my bed,' said Parkins. 'I don't use that one. But
it does look as if someone had been playing tricks with it.'
It certainly did: the clothes were bundled up and twisted together in a
most tortuous confusion. Parkins pondered.
'That must be it,' he said at last. 'I disordered the clothes last night
in unpacking, and they haven't made it since. Perhaps they came in to
make it, and that boy saw them through the window; and then they were
called away and locked the door after them. Yes, I think that must be
'Well, ring and ask,' said the Colonel, and this appealed to Parkins as
The maid appeared, and, to make a long story short, deposed that she had
made the bed in the morning when the gentleman was in the room, and
hadn't been there since. No, she hadn't no other key. Mr Simpson, he kep'
the keys; he'd be able to tell the gentleman if anyone had been up.
This was a puzzle. Investigation showed that nothing of value had been
taken, and Parkins remembered the disposition of the small objects on
tables and so forth well enough to be pretty sure that no pranks had been
played with them. Mr and Mrs Simpson furthermore agreed that neither of
them had given the duplicate key of the room to any person whatever
during the day. Nor could Parkins, fair-minded man as he was, detect
anything in the demeanour of master, mistress, or maid that indicated
guilt. He was much more inclined to think that the boy had been imposing
on the Colonel.
The latter was unwontedly silent and pensive at dinner and throughout the
evening. When he bade goodnight to Parkins, he murmured in a gruff
'You know where I am if you want me during the night.'
'Why, yes, thank you, Colonel Wilson, I think I do; but there isn't much
prospect of my disturbing you, I hope. By the way,' he added, 'did I show
you that old whistle I spoke of? I think not. Well, here it is.'
The Colonel turned it over gingerly in the light of the candle.
'Can you make anything of the inscription?' asked Parkins, as he took it
'No, not in this light. What do you mean to do with it?'
'Oh, well, when I get back to Cambridge I shall submit it to some of the
archaeologists there, and see what they think of it; and very likely, if
they consider it worth having, I may present it to one of the museums.'
'M!' said the Colonel. 'Well, you may be right. All I know is that, if it
were mine, I should chuck it straight into the sea. It's no use talking,
I'm well aware, but I expect that with you it's a case of live and learn.
I hope so, I'm sure, and I wish you a good night.'
He turned away, leaving Parkins in act to speak at the bottom of the
stair, and soon each was in his own bedroom.
By some unfortunate accident, there were neither blinds nor curtains to
the windows of the Professor's room. The previous night he had thought
little of this, but tonight there seemed every prospect of a bright moon
rising to shine directly on his bed, and probably wake him later on. When
he noticed this he was a good deal annoyed, but, with an ingenuity which
I can only envy, he succeeded in rigging up, with the help of a
railway-rug, some safety-pins, and a stick and umbrella, a screen which,
if it only held together, would completely keep the moonlight off his
bed. And shortly afterwards he was comfortably in that bed. When he had
read a somewhat solid work long enough to produce a decided wish to
sleep, he cast a drowsy glance round the room, blew out the candle, and
fell back upon the pillow.
He must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clatter
shook him up in a most unwelcome manner. In a moment he realized what had
happened: his carefully-constructed screen had given way, and a very
bright frosty moon was shining directly on his face. This was highly
annoying. Could he possibly get up and reconstruct the screen? or could
he manage to sleep if he did not?
For some minutes he lay and pondered over all the possibilities; then he
turned over sharply, and with his eyes open lay breathlessly listening.
There had been a movement, he was sure, in the empty bed on the opposite
side of the room. Tomorrow he would have it moved, for there must be rats
or something playing about in it. It was quiet now. No! the commotion
began again. There was a rustling and shaking: surely more than any rat
I can figure to myself something of the Professor's bewilderment and
horror, for I have in a dream thirty years back seen the same thing
happen; but the reader will hardly, perhaps, imagine how dreadful it was
to him to see a figure suddenly sit up in what he had known was an empty
bed. He was out of his own bed in one bound, and made a dash towards the
window, where lay his only weapon, the stick with which he had propped
his screen. This was, as it turned out, the worst thing he could have
done, because the personage in the empty bed, with a sudden smooth
motion, slipped from the bed and took up a position, with outspread arms,
between the two beds, and in front of the door. Parkins watched it in a
horrid perplexity. Somehow, the idea of getting past it and escaping
through the door was intolerable to him; he could not have borne--he
didn't know why--to touch it; and as for its touching him, he would
sooner dash himself through the window than have that happen. It stood
for the moment in a band of dark shadow, and he had not seen what its
face was like. Now it began to move, in a stooping posture, and all at
once the spectator realized, with some horror and some relief, that it
must be blind, for it seemed to feel about it with its muffled arms in a
groping and random fashion. Turning half away from him, it became
suddenly conscious of the bed he had just left, and darted towards it,
and bent and felt over the pillows in a way which made Parkins shudder as
he had never in his life thought it possible. In a very few moments it
seemed to know that the bed was empty, and then, moving forward into the
area of light and facing the window, it showed for the first time what
manner of thing it was.
Parkins, who very much dislikes being questioned about it, did once
describe something of it in my hearing, and I gathered that what he
chiefly remembers about it is a horrible, an intensely horrible, face _of
crumpled linen._ What expression he read upon it he could not or would
not tell, but that the fear of it went nigh to maddening him is certain.
But he was not at leisure to watch it for long. With formidable quickness
it moved into the middle of the room, and, as it groped and waved, one
corner of its draperies swept across Parkins's face. He could not, though
he knew how perilous a sound was--he could not keep back a cry of
disgust, and this gave the searcher an instant clue. It leapt towards him
upon the instant, and the next moment he was half-way through the window
backwards, uttering cry upon cry at the utmost pitch of his voice, and
the linen face was thrust close into his own. At this, almost the last
possible second, deliverance came, as you will have guessed: the Colonel
burst the door open, and was just in time to see the dreadful group at
the window. When he reached the figures only one was left. Parkins sank
forward into the room in a faint, and before him on the floor lay a
tumbled heap of bed-clothes.
Colonel Wilson asked no questions, but busied himself in keeping everyone
else out of the room and in getting Parkins back to his bed; and himself,
wrapped in a rug, occupied the other bed, for the rest of the night.
Early on the next day Rogers arrived, more welcome than he would have
been a day before, and the three of them held a very long consultation in
the Professor's room. At the end of it the Colonel left the hotel door
carrying a small object between his finger and thumb, which he cast as
far into the sea as a very brawny arm could send it. Later on the smoke
of a burning ascended from the back premises of the Globe.
Exactly what explanation was patched up for the staff and visitors at the
hotel I must confess I do not recollect. The Professor was somehow
cleared of the ready suspicion of delirium tremens, and the hotel of the
reputation of a troubled house.
There is not much question as to what would have happened to Parkins if
the Colonel had not intervened when he did. He would either have fallen
out of the window or else lost his wits. But it is not so evident what
more the creature that came in answer to the whistle could have done than
frighten. There seemed to be absolutely nothing material about it save
the bedclothes of which it had made itself a body. The Colonel, who
remembered a not very dissimilar occurrence in India, was of the opinion
that if Parkins had closed with it it could really have done very little,
and that its one power was that of frightening. The whole thing, he said,
served to confirm his opinion of the Church of Rome.
There is really nothing more to tell, but, as you may imagine, the
Professor's views on certain points are less clear cut than they used to
be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a surplice
hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a scarecrow in a
field late on a winter afternoon has cost him more than one sleepless
THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS
_Verum usque in praesentem diem multa garriunt inter se Canonici de
abscondito quodam istius Abbatis Thomae thesauro, quem saepe,
quanquam ahduc incassum, quaesiverunt Steinfeldenses. Ipsum enim
Thomam adhuc florida in aetate existentem ingentem auri massam circa
monasterium defodisse perhibent; de quo multoties interrogatus ubi
esset, cum risu respondere solitus erat: 'Job, Johannes, et Zacharias
vel vobis vel posteris indicabunt'; idemque aliquando adiicere se
inventuris minime invisurum. Inter alia huius Abbatis opera, hoc
memoria praecipue dignum indico quod fenestram magnam in orientali
parte alae australis in ecclesia sua imaginibus optime in vitro
depictis impleverit: id quod et ipsius effigies et insignia ibidem
posita demonstrant. Domum quoque Abbatialem fere totam restauravit:
puteo in atrio ipsius effosso et lapidibus marmoreis pulchre caelatis
exornato. Decessit autem, morte aliquantulum subitanea perculsus,
aetatis suae anno lxxii(do), incarnationis vero Dominicae mdxxix(o)._
'I suppose I shall have to translate this,' said the antiquary to
himself, as he finished copying the above lines from that rather rare and
exceedingly diffuse book, the _Sertum Steinfeldense Norbertinum._
'Well, it may as well be done first as last,' and accordingly the
following rendering was very quickly produced:
Up to the present day there is much gossip among the Canons about a
certain hidden treasure of this Abbot Thomas, for which those of
Steinfeld have often made search, though hitherto in vain. The story
is that Thomas, while yet in the vigour of life, concealed a very
large quantity of gold somewhere in the monastery. He was often asked
where it was, and always answered, with a laugh: 'Job, John, and
Zechariah will tell either you or your successors.' He sometimes
added that he should feel no grudge against those who might find it.
Among other works carried out by this Abbot I may specially mention
his filling the great window at the east end of the south aisle of
the church with figures admirably painted on glass, as his effigy and
arms in the window attest. He also restored almost the whole of the
Abbot's lodging, and dug a well in the court of it, which he adorned
with beautiful carvings in marble. He died rather suddenly in the
seventy-second year of his age, A.D. 1529.
 An account of the Premonstratensian abbey of Steinfeld, in the
Eiffel, with lives of the Abbots, published at Cologne in 1712 by
Christian Albert Erhard, a resident in the district. The epithet
_Norbertinum_ is due to the fact that St Norbert was founder of the
The object which the antiquary had before him at the moment was that of
tracing the whereabouts of the painted windows of the Abbey Church at
Steinfeld. Shortly after the Revolution, a very large quantity of painted
glass made its way from the dissolved abbeys of Germany and Belgium to
this country, and may now be seen adorning various of our parish
churches, cathedrals, and private chapels. Steinfeld Abbey was among the
most considerable of these involuntary contributors to our artistic
possession (I am quoting the somewhat ponderous preamble of the book
which the antiquary wrote), and the greater part of the glass from that
institution can be identified without much difficulty by the help, either
of the numerous inscriptions in which the place is mentioned, or of the
subjects of the windows, in which several well-defined cycles or
narratives were represented.
The passage with which I began my story had set the antiquary on the
track of another identification. In a private chapel--no matter where--he
had seen three large figures, each occupying a whole light in a window,
and evidently the work of one artist. Their style made it plain that that
artist had been a German of the sixteenth century; but hitherto the more
exact localizing of them had been a puzzle. They represented--will you be
surprised to hear it?--JOB PATRIARCHA, JOHANNES EVANGELISTA, ZACHARIAS
PROPHETA, and each of them held a book or scroll, inscribed with a
sentence from his writings. These, as a matter of course, the antiquary
had noted, and had been struck by the curious way in which they differed
from any text of the Vulgate that he had been able to examine. Thus the
scroll in Job's hand was inscribed: _Auro est locus in quo absconditur_
(for _conflatur_); on the book of John was: _Habent in vestimentis
suis scripturam quam nemo novit_ (for in _vestimento scriptum_, the
following words being taken from another verse); and Zacharias had:
_Super lapidem unum septem oculi sunt_ (which alone of the three
presents an unaltered text).
 There is a place for gold where it is hidden.
 They have on their raiment a writing which no man knoweth.
 Upon one stone are seven eyes.
A sad perplexity it had been to our investigator to think why these three
personages should have been placed together in one window. There was no
bond of connexion between them, either historic, symbolic, or doctrinal,
and he could only suppose that they must have formed part of a very large
series of Prophets and Apostles, which might have filled, say, all the
clerestory windows of some capacious church. But the passage from the
_Sertum_ had altered the situation by showing that the names of the
actual personages represented in the glass now in Lord D----'s chapel had
been constantly on the lips of Abbot Thomas von Eschenhausen of
Steinfeld, and that this Abbot had put up a painted window, probably
about the year 1520, in the south aisle of his abbey church. It was no
very wild conjecture that the three figures might have formed part of
Abbot Thomas's offering; it was one which, moreover, could probably be
confirmed or set aside by another careful examination of the glass. And,
as Mr. Somerton was a man of leisure, he set out on pilgrimage to the
private chapel with very little delay. His conjecture was confirmed to
the full. Not only did the style and technique of the glass suit
perfectly with the date and place required, but in another window of the
chapel he found some glass, known to have been bought along with the
figures, which contained the arms of Abbot Thomas von Eschenhausen.
At intervals during his researches Mr. Somerton had been haunted by the
recollection of the gossip about the hidden treasure, and, as he thought
the matter over, it became more and more obvious to him that if the Abbot
meant anything by the enigmatical answer which he gave to his
questioners, he must have meant that the secret was to be found somewhere
in the window he had placed in the abbey church. It was undeniable,
furthermore, that the first of the curiously-selected texts on the
scrolls in the window might be taken to have a reference to hidden
Every feature, therefore, or mark which could possibly assist in
elucidating the riddle which, he felt sure, the Abbot had set to
posterity he noted with scrupulous care, and, returning to his Berkshire
manor-house, consumed many a pint of the midnight oil over his tracings
and sketches. After two or three weeks, a day came when Mr Somerton
announced to his man that he must pack his own and his master's things
for a short journey abroad, whither for the moment we will not follow