Art by Jake and Dino Chapman (Pinterest).
The Red Chamber
George Manville Fenn
From Christmas Penny Readings, Original Sketches for the Season by George Manville Fenn, 1867
“…there is not a soul living within ten miles of this place, that would not give you a long account of the horrors of the Red Chamber: of spots of blood upon the bedclothes coming down in a regular rain; noises…shrieks and groans; skeletons or transparent bodies.”
“But what an out-of-the-way place to get to,” I said, after being most cordially received by my old school fellow and his wife, one bitter night after a long ride. “But you really are glad to see me, eh?”
“Now, hold your tongue, do,” cried Ned and his wife in a breath. “You won’t get away again under a month, so don’t think it. But where we are going to put you I don’t know,” said Ned.
“Oh I can sleep anywhere, chairs, table, anything you like; only make me welcome. Fine old house this seems, but however came you to take it?”
“Got it cheap, my boy. Been shut up for twenty years. It’s haunted, and no one will live in it. But I have it full for this Christmas, at all events, and what’s more I have some potent spirits in the place too, but they are all corked down tightly, so there is no fear at present. But I say, Lilly,” cried Ned, addressing his wife, “why we shall have to go into the haunted room and give him our place.”
“That you won’t,” I said. “I came down here on purpose to take you by surprise, and to beg for a snack of dinner on Christmas-day; and now you are going to give me about the greatest treat possible, a bed in a haunted room. What kind of a ghost is it?”
“You mustn’t laugh,” said Ned, trying to appear very serious; “for there is not a soul living within ten miles of this place, that would not give you a long account of the horrors of the Red Chamber: of spots of blood upon the bedclothes coming down in a regular rain; noises; clashing of swords; shrieks and groans; skeletons or transparent bodies. Oh, my dear fellow, you needn’t grin, for it’s all gospel truth about here, and if we did not keep that room screwed up, not a servant would stay in the house.”
“Wish I could buy it and take it away,” I said.
“I wish you could, indeed,” cried Ned, cordially.