I am dying; the solid world, that once was so much to me and in which I held a great place, is slipping fast away like the ending of a dream. I have faith that I may wake in a brighter one. I look about me at the whitewashed walls of the prison infirmary, and am glad that this is at an end; I tell this story to one who has been a good friend to me and who will write it down, so that all men may know what my life has been, and may understand the ruin that fell upon me.
So many tales have got about, as to the crime I committed, that it is just and right that the truth should be told; as I hope for mercy I lay my hand upon my heart and look at the white ceiling above me and swear this is the truth.
I was said to be wild as a young man; I do not think it can ever be claimed I was vicious. The world seemed very full of wonderful things and I longed to see them; life stretched out before me like a great panorama, and I wanted to examine every corner of the picture. So, at an age when most boys are still in the home-nest, I had started out to make my fortune in what fashion I could.
I made that fortune somewhat more rapidly than most men have done. That was a day of new countries, when fortunes were to be picked out of the solid earth; when cities rose in a night, as it were; and when a man who rose a beggar in the morning might lie down at night a millionaire —or something very near it, at all events. I was one of the lucky ones; everything seemed to prosper with me; and I looked forward to returning, within a very short time, back to the old country a rich man. Then, in an evil hour, I thought I saw a chance to take a bigger stride even than before; and I arranged a partnership with Alan Mophant. Mophant was one of those bright, bold, dashing sort of creatures, who seem to twine their way into the hearts of their fellows, and who are always ready with a smile and a jest for good or ill fortune. I liked him; trusted him utterly. He repaid my trust by robbing me of all I had in a desolate part of Mexico, and leaving me penniless and almost starving. The crime was blacker when I remember that I was lying ill of a fever and could not help myself.
My fortune was gone; I had to begin all over again. A kindly woman nursed me back to life and health; and I set out with one bitter hope in my mind: to find Alan Mophant and take my revenge for the wrong he had done me. I couldn’t begin to make another fortune until I had found him —until I had met him face to face.
I was prospecting a little later in a place hundreds of miles from where he had deserted me and had practically given up all hope of finding him, when I suddenly came upon him — almost walked into his arms, as it were. We were all alone, as it happened; and, almost before he knew what had occurred, I was upon him, and we were grappling together like tigers.
I swear I did not mean to kill him; I don’t think I knew what my real intention was at that moment. All I thought of was the fact that the man who had robbed me of all I had toiled so hard to get, and who had deserted me when I was almost dying, was in my clutches. So we gripped each other and swayed about, breathing hard and not speaking a word. Continue reading
I don’t belong to any society, but I take a great interest in what are called occult mysteries. I pursue my investigations in my own way, and not long ago was on the lookout for a haunted house. I had an open mind on the subject of hauntings: all I wanted was to prove the truth one way or another. I heard after some research of a house in the northern outskirts of London — there are many lonely places about there. I arranged with the agent to have the use of the house for a week. He assured me it was quite empty — not even a caretaker was in it. No one, of course, would come near it, as the belief in its being haunted was profound, and the whole neighbourhood shunned it.
This looked eligible. I departed one evening, in high spirits, for my solitary vigil. Of course, there was a murder connected with the house, but the exact nature of the haunting I had never been able to get at. To discover this would be part of my work. It was early autumn, at the moonless part of the month, so that the nights were dark, but not cold, and I needed no fire. I supplied myself with food and light.
The house looked decidedly gruesome — in a melancholy state of dilapidation, windows broken, shutters off their hinges, the doorsteps green with damp; the garden was a wilderness. However, I have a large fund of animal spirits, I am the right side of forty, and my life has been an easy one; I am not, therefore, a person of moods or ready depression. I explored my temporary possession unscared by the rush of rats and mice and the cracking of loose flooring. Fortunately I found some old furniture — useless even to the poorest second-hand dealer — scattered about the house; some of this — a few chairs and a table — I brought down into one of the rooms that seemed best to serve my purpose.
What was I going to do? You — if you are uninitiated — may ask. Why, sit up for a ghost? — or an appearance, hallucination — what you like to call it. It sounds funny; I can quite see that; and you may think that if I saw anything it wouldn’t prove much. Somebody else, of course, would explain it away. But, anyhow, here I was.
It wasn’t my cue to remain in one place. The ghost — or hallucination — might be disporting itself in one part while I waited in the other, and we should thus be dodging each other — a sort of hide and seek. So I roamed about up and down very much as if I had been the perturbed spirit. Everywhere I heard creaks, groanings, flappings — no wonder the place was believed to be haunted. I am certain every plank had the dry rot in it. I had some supper and enjoyed it; a spirit stove supplied me with hot coffee — my only drink.
Then I composed myself on two chairs. I may have dozed; I remember thinking the silence oppressive, and then suddenly starting up at some sound below. What was it?
No doubt I ought to have gone to the door and looked out, and perhaps called out, to see what or who was there; but I stood still. If you shout out rudely to a — well, a ghost, you destroy your own purpose. This may have been my reflection — I don’t say it was. So I waited — as any scientific man would.
Why did I attach any particular importance to this sound? Well, it was different from all I had heard — like somebody groping in the dark. A ghost wouldn’t grope, you object; ghosts are familiar with the dark. Exactly; that’s quite right; but it didn’t occur to me atthe time.
A door closed — I’m sure it did ; and there was a door shutting off the passage leading from my room to the rest of the house. I fancied, too, the key was turned — but this must have been fancy.
What was it — who? A stealthy step came right up to my door, paused — good heavens! a ghost at such close quarters! It came in — it — he — something! I fell back in my chair. Continue reading