Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes, ed., George Mann, TOC

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Table of Contents

  1. The Last Visitor by Stephen Henry
  2. The Docklands Murder by Dan Watters
  3. Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of Bodmin by Jonathan Green
  4. The Case of the Blind Man’s Spectacles by Marcia Wilson
  5. The Unfortunate Guest by Iain McLaughlin
  6. The Unexpected Death of the Martian Ambassador by Andrew Lane
  7. No Good Deed by David Marcum
  8. The Curious Case of Vanished Youth by Mark A. Latham
  9. The Curse of the Blue Diamond by Sam Stone
  10. The Pilot Fish by Stuart Douglas
  11. The Case of the Scented Lady by Nik Vincent
  12. Harlingdon’s Heir by Michelle Ruda
  13. The Noble Burglar by James Lovegrove
  14. The Second Mask by Philip Purser-Hallard
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Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tails of Sherlock Holmes, eds., J. R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec, TOC

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Table of Contents

  1. Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell by Simon Clark
  2. The Greatest Mystery by Paul Kane
  3. The Adventure of the Six Maledictions by Kim Newman
  4. The Comfort of the Seine by Stephen Volk
  5. The Adventure of Lucifer’s Footprints by Christopher Fowler
  6. The Deadly Sin of Sherlock Holmes by Tom English
  7. The Color That Came to Chiswick by William Meikle
  8. A Country Death by Simon Kurt Unsworth
  9. From the Tree of Time by Fred Saberhagen
  10. The Executioner by Lawrence C. Connolly
  11. Sherlock Holmes and the Great Game by Kevin Cockle
  12. The House of Blood by Tony Richards

Sherlock Holmes & “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1896

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Art by David Lupton for a book edition of “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” by Arthur Conan Doyle. (David Lupton website)

 

—The Sherlock Holmes Files—

The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual

by Arthur Conan Doyle

(The Strand Magazine, xxxx)

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Facsimile of Oregonian newspaper reprint of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”.

 

An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I am in the least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an arm-chair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.

Our chambers were always full of chemicals and of criminal relics which had a way of wandering into unlikely positions, and of turning up in the butter-dish or in even less desirable places. But his papers were my great crux. He had a horror of destroying documents, especially those which were connected with his past cases, and yet it was only once in every year or two that he would muster energy to docket and arrange them; for, as I have mentioned somewhere in these incoherent memoirs, the outbursts of passionate energy when he performed the remarkable feats with which his name is associated were followed by reactions of lethargy during which he would lie about with his violin and his books, hardly moving save from the sofa to the table. Thus month after month his papers accumulated, until every corner of the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner. One winter’s night, as we sat together by the fire, I ventured to suggest to him that, as he had finished pasting extracts into his common-place book, he might employ the next two hours in making our room a little more habitable. He could not deny the justice of my request, so with a rather rueful face he went off to his bedroom, from which he returned presently pulling a large tin box behind him. This he placed in the middle of the floor and, squatting down upon a stool in front of it, he threw back the lid. I could see that it was already a third full of bundles of paper tied up with red tape into separate packages.

“There are cases enough here, Watson,” said he, looking at me with mischievous eyes. “I think that if you knew all that I had in this box you would ask me to pull some out instead of putting others in.”

“These are the records of your early work, then?” I asked. “I have often wished that I had notes of those cases.”

“Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before my biographer had come to glorify me.” He lifted bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of way. “They are not all successes, Watson,” said he. “But there are some pretty little problems among them. Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife. And here—ah, now, this really is something a little recherché.”

He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest, and brought up a small wooden box with a sliding lid, such as children’s toys are kept in. From within he produced a crumpled piece of paper, and old-fashioned brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string attached to it, and three rusty old disks of metal.

“Well, my boy, what do you make of this lot?” he asked, smiling at my expression.

“It is a curious collection.”

“Very curious, and the story that hangs round it will strike you as being more curious still.”

“These relics have a history then?”

“So much so that they are history.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Sherlock Holmes picked them up one by one, and laid them along the edge of the table. Then he reseated himself in his chair and looked them over with a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes.

“These,” said he, “are all that I have left to remind me of the adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.”

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Sherlock Holmes & “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1910

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“Sherlock, Science & Ratiocination” by Elia Mervi (SignumUniversity.org).

 

—The Sherlock Holmes Files—

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot

by Arthur Conan Doyle

(The Strand Magazine, 1910*)

***

In recording from time to time some of the curious experiences and interesting recollections which I associate with my long and intimate friendship with Mr Sherlock Holmes, I have continually been faced by difficulties caused by his own aversion to publicity. To his sombre and cynical spirit all popular applause was always abhorrent, and nothing amused him more at the end of a successful case than to hand over the actual exposure to some orthodox official, and to listen with a mocking smile to the general chorus of misplaced congratulation. It was indeed this attitude upon the part of my friend, and certainly not any lack of interesting material, which has caused me of late years to lay very few of my records before the public. My participation in some of his adventures was always a privilege which entailed discretion and reticence upon me.

It was, then, with considerable surprise that I received a telegram from Holmes last Tuesday – he has never been known to write where a telegram would serve – in the following terms: ‘Why not tell them of the Cornish horror-strangest case I have handled.’ I have no idea what backward sweep of memory had brought the matter fresh to his mind, or what freak had caused him to desire that I should recount it, but I hasten, before another cancelling telegram may arrive, to hunt out the notes which give me the exact details of the case, and to lay the narrative before my readers.

It was, then, in the spring of the year 1897 that Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretions of his own. In March of that year Dr Moore Agar, of Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day recount, gave positive injunctions that the famous private agent would lay aside all his cases and surrender himself to complete rest if he wished to avert an absolute breakdown. The state of his health was not a matter in which he himself took the faintest interest, for his mental detachment was absolute, but he was induced at last, on the threat of being permanently disqualified from work, to give himself a complete change of scene and air. Thus it was that in the early spring of that year we found ourselves together in a small cottage near Poldhu Bay, at the further extremity of the Cornish peninsula.

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“THOSE STARING EYES AND GNASHING TEETH FLASHED PAST US LIKE A DREADUL VISION.” One of seven illustrations by artist Gilbert Holiday for the original December 1910 publication of the story in The Strand Magazine, UK.

It was a singular spot, and one peculiarly well suited to the grim humour of my patient. From the windows of our little whitewashed house, which stood high upon a grassy headland, we looked down upon the whole sinister semicircle of Mounts Bay, that old death-trap of sailing vessels, with its fringe of black cliffs and surge-swept reefs on which innumerable seamen have met their end. With a northerly breeze it lies placid and sheltered, inviting the storm-tossed craft to tack into it for rest and protection.

Then comes the sudden swirl round of the wind, the blustering gale from the south-west, the dragging anchor, the lee shore, and the last battle in the creaming breakers. The wise mariner stands far out from that evil place.

On the land side our surroundings were as sombre as on the sea. It was a country of rolling moors, lonely and dun-coloured, with an occasional church tower to mark the site of some old-world village. In every direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race which had passed utterly away, and left as its sole record strange monuments of stone, irregular mounds which contained the burned ashes of the dead, and curious earth-works which hinted at prehistoric strife. The glamour and mystery of the place, with its sinister atmosphere of forgotten nations, appealed to the imagination of my friend, and he spent much of his time in long walks and solitary meditations upon the moor. The ancient Cornish language had also arrested his attention, and he had, I remember, conceived the idea that it was akin to the Chaldean, and had been largely derived from the Phoenician traders in tin. He had received a consignment of books upon philology and was settling down to develop this thesis, when suddenly, to my sorrow and to his unfeigned delight, we found ourselves, even in that land of dreams, plunged into a problem at our very doors which was more intense, more engrossing, and infinitely more mysterious than any of those which had driven us from London. Our simple life and peaceful, healthy routine were violently interrupted, and we were precipitated into the midst of a series of events which caused the utmost excitement not only in Cornwall, but throughout the whole West of England. Many of my readers may retain some recollection of what was called at the time ‘The Cornish Horror’, though a most imperfect account of the matter reached the London Press. Now, after thirteen years, I will give the true details of this inconceivable affair to the public.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Scene of the Crime, a Pastiche…

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(The Strand)

 

The autumn of 1897 presented such an array of singular cases that to pen any one of them seems unjust to those excluded. Clients from all walks of life brought their seemingly insoluble problems to my friend for resolution. There was the case where Holmes vindicated a hapless fellow named Sedgington, whose lascivious pencil sketchings of Queen Victoria fell into the hands of the nefarious blackmailer Reginald Quigg. My sleep is still plagued with nightmares of the Horace Bellefonte dental floss affair, as shocking a tale as The Giant Rat of Sumatra or The Monster Anchovy of Crete. It was also during this period that Holmes found my scarf under the sofa. However, complete written accounts of these and other adventures will never reach the public eye, the unfortunate result of my having rammed my case notes so tightly into my desk drawer that I can’t pull it open.Sherlock Holmes and the Scene of the Crime

There is one case that I feel competent to chronicle entirely from memory, so deeply are its details etched in my mind. It all began early in October on a chilly Sunday afternoon during a lull in my friend’s casework. Holmes was deep in the sway of a cocaine-induced stupor as was his habit when no interesting cases occupied his intellect. He had been curled up in a chair by the window all morning with his violin, his incoherent state evident in his effort to coax a tune out of the instrument by licking it. I myself was engrossed in a philosophical treatise concerning man’s pursuit of perfection, which I took to be an allegory of a whale hunt.

The silence was interrupted by the sound of footfalls on the stairs leading up to our flat. Seizing the moment to inject some spirit into my friend, I quickly adopted his deductive methods to describe our visitor in advance.

“Your next client is a man,” I confidently proclaimed. “Rather tall and quite sturdily built, no doubt a logger by trade.”

I succeeded in getting Holmes’s attention, if not his enthusiasm, so I continued.

“Despite the capabilities of his stride, he ascends the stairs one at a time. This, in addition to a slightly perceptible limp, tells me he incurred a leg wound while serving in the army, possibly in Afghanistan.”

Undaunted by my companion’s sardonic grin, I confidently swung the door open to admit Mrs. Hudson, delivering our morning tea. On her way out she mentioned that we had a visitor waiting downstairs and asked whether she should show him up.

“By all means,” I replied on behalf of Holmes, who was too convulsed in laughter to speak. “Anything to relieve the monotony.”

I greeted our visitor at the door and offered him the seat across from Holmes. He was quite young, handsomely attired in the manner of a genteel aristocrat. Once comfortable, he lost no time in beginning his narrative.

“My name is Ichabod Thortonshire. I live with my father and younger brother on a modest country estate in Kent, a mere stone’s throw away from here, provided you can throw a stone about 20 miles. My mother died shortly after my brother, Rodney, was born and Father took it upon himself to raise us on his own, choosing not to remarry.

“Despite his family responsibilities, my father developed a fine career as a physician. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, Dr. Watson, Dr. Osgood Thortonshire?”

“Why, yes, “ I replied. Dr. Thortonshire was the author of many a medical treatise and had caused quite a stir in the profession some years ago when he advocated closing surgical incisions not with suture but through the use of huge styptic pencils.

“Well,” Mr. Thortonshire continued, “about five years ago, my father left a thriving practice for academic life. He had been offered a chair at Cambridge and six months later a file cabinet, but after a while he grew listless in his teachings and eventually had to surrender his chair and was forced to stand. Not the ambitious sort, he elected to retire to Kent and manage a gentleman’s farm there; you know, the type where all the crops get cultivated but somehow no one ever gets their hands dirty.

“The three of us led a comfortable, sedentary life until last week when tragedy struck. I awoke one morning to find my father slumped in a chair in his study, dead of a broken neck. Naturally I called Scotland Yard at once but as yet they’ve no clue to the identity of the murderer. I’ve no one else to turn to, Mr. Holmes, and your reputation for divining solutions in matters like these is widely known. I beg of your help.”

Holmes, who had been listening intently throughout, now leaned forward. “Was your brother at home at the time of your father’s death?”

“Yes, he was. I awakened him with the awful news that morning. He’s a bit simple-minded and quite harmless, though as a child he tended to be rather cruel. I can remember times when he would lay his pet chameleon on plaid surfaces and watch it go crazy trying to blend in. He keeps mostly to himself nowadays, a voracious reader though he ignores the words and reads only the punctuation. Surely you don’t suspect him, Mr. Holmes?”

“Any conjecture I could make at this point would be premature,” assured Holmes. “I suggest that if it is at all convenient, I accompany you back to Kent for a thorough examination of the scene of the crime.”

“Excellent,” Mr. Thortonshire exclaimed. “I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know you’ll be working on the case. You’ve certainly set my mind at ease!”

“I only hope I can live up to your expectations,” my friend modestly replied as he donned his overcoat and deerstalker. Within minutes they left and I decided to take advantage of the solitude to return to my reading. My volume of philosophy in hand, I situated myself comfortably in the easy chair and was asleep in no time flat.

An hour or so later, I was awakened by the creak of a floorboard to find a hobo-like character fumbling through our belongings near the desk. It was obviously Holmes, attired as he was in order to blend in with the London lowlife. He often did this to ferret out clues for a case and took great delight in tricking me with his impressions, but this time I refused to be duped. When he first noticed I was awake, he feigned alarm but I quickly dismissed his anxiety, detailing the whereabouts of certain valuables and chuckling all the while he collected them. After he scurried out the door with a sack full of plunder and a perplexed look on his face, I resumed my nap, confident I had gotten the better of my friend.

Holmes had still not returned that evening when I retired, but early the following morning I awoke to the smell of Mrs. Hudson’s breakfast and putting on my robe, I walked into the living room to find my comrade reading the morning paper while eating.

“Ah, Watson,” he said without even lifting his eyes. “Come and enjoy this marvelous meal Mrs. Hudson has prepared for us.” There was an uplifted tone in his voice that I assumed was attributable to the Thortonshire case, so I sat down to eat and asked him about it.

It’s finished,” he said glibly. In contrast to Holmes’s nonchalance, I reacted to the news with noticeable startle, flinging a forkful of scrambled eggs with such force that they stuck to the ceiling.

“Finished?” I cried, regaining composure. “But it was only . . . “

“The good doctor’s death was accidental,” he murmured, oblivious to my amazement.

“But a broken neck! How, in a chair?”

“Dr. Thortonshire suffered from a rare combination of narcolepsy and insomnia. When the narcolepsy seized him, he would begin to nod off, only to jerk back, unable to sleep. Over time, this presented such stress to his neck that the break was inevitable.”

“But surely his son Ichabod was aware of his father’s condition. Why didn’t he proffer this information to Scotland Yard?”

“I suspect that Ichabod was reluctant to share his father’s inheritance with his brother. Since the death could easily be misinterpreted as foul play, Ichabod concealed this detail, allowing the authorities to draw conclusions implicating Rodney, who was too simple to defend himself. After the dust settled and his brother was institutionalized, the entire estate would accrue to Ichabod.”

“Of all the brazenness!” I exclaimed. “Deliberately submitting the case to your purview and expecting to deceive you!” Holmes characteristically shrugged off the compliment and resumed his meal.

“One thing puzzles me,” I continued. “Why was the disguise necessary?”

“What?” Holmes replied, his face now straight.

“You know, the riff-raff garb.” I proceeded to outline the episode of the previous day while Holmes listened with a blank stare on his face. When I finished, Holmes paused a full minute and then handed me his dinner knife handle first, stood up, turned with his back facing me, and his arms raised, crying “Go ahead then. Finish the deed!”

I wrote off his overreaction to tension and fatigue, although even after a good night’s rest it was weeks before he deigned to acknowledge my presence.

END.

A Long-Lost Ghost Story by Sherlock Holmes Author! “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe”…

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Original manuscript, Page 1, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s hand. The story had been sent by Doyle to Blackwood’s Magazine for publication consideration. Blackwood never published it. It was found in 2000 in the Blackwood’s archives in Ireland. The story is now available to read free on the public domain.

*

Looking back now at the events of my life that one dreadful night looms out like some great landmark. Even now, after the lapse of so many years, I cannot think of it without a shudder. All minor incidents and events I mentally classify as occurring before or after the time when I saw a Ghost.

Yes, saw a ghost. Don’t be incredulous, reader, don’t sneer at the phrase; though I can’t blame you for I was incredulous enough myself once. However hear the facts of my story before you pass a judgment.

The old Grange used to stand on my estate of Goresthorpe in Norfolk. It has been pulled down now, but it stood there when Tom Hulton came to visit me in 184-. It was a tumbledown old pile at the meeting of the Morsely and Alton roads where the new turn-pike stands now. The garden round had long been choked up by a rank growth of weeds, while pools of stagnant water and the accumulated garbage of the whole village poisoned the air around. It was a dreary place by day and an eerie one by night, for strange stories were told of the Grange, sounds were said to have come from those weather-beaten walls, such as mortal lips never uttered, and the elders of the village still spoke of one, Job Garston by name, who thirty years before had had the temerity to sleep inside, and who had been led out in the morning, a whitehaired broken man.

I used, I remember, to ascribe all this to the influence of the weird gaunt old building upon their untutored minds, and moralized upon the effects of a liberal education in removing such mental weaknesses. I alone knew however that the Grange had certainly, as far as foul crime was concerned, as orthodox a title to be haunted as any building on record. The last tenant as I discovered from my family papers was a certain Godfrey Marsden, a villain of the first water. He lived there about the middle of last century and was a byeword of ferocity and brutality throughout the whole countryside. Finally he consummated his many crimes by horribly hacking his two young children to death and strangling their mother. In the confusion of the Pretender’s march into England, justice was laxly administered, and Marsden succeeded in escaping to the continent where all trace of him was lost. There was a rumour indeed among his creditors, the only ones who regretted him, that remorse had led him to commit suicide, and that his body had been washed up on the French Coast, but those who knew him best laughed at the idea of anything so intangible having an effect upon so hardened a ruffian. Since his day the Grange had been untenanted and had been suffered to fall into the state of disrepair in which it then was.

Tom Hulton was an old college chum of mine, and right glad I was to see his honest face beneath my roof. He brightened the whole house, Tom did, for a more good humoured hearty reckless fellow never breathed. His only fault was that he had acquired a strange speculative way of thinking from his German education, and this led to continual arguments between us, for I had been trained as a medical student and looked at things therefore from an eminently practical point of view. That evening, I remember, the first after his arrival, we glided from one argument into another but all with the greatest good humour and invariably without coming to any conclusion.

I forget how the question of ghosts arose; at any rate there we were, Tom Hulton and I, at midnight in the depths of a debate about spirits and spiritualism. Tom, when he argued was wont to produce a certain large briar root pipe of his, and by this time he was surrounded by a dense wreath of smoke, from the midst of which his voice issued like the oracle of Delphi, while his stalwart figure loomed through the haze.

‘I tell you, Jack,’ he was saying, ‘that mankind may be divided into two classes, the men who profess not to believe in Ghosts and are mortally afraid of them, and the men who admit at least the possibility of their existence and would go out of their way to see one. Now I don’t scruple to acknowledge that I am one of the latter school. Of course, Jack, I know that you are one of these “credo-quod-tango” medicals, who walk in the narrow path of certain fact, and quite right too in such a profession as yours; but I have always had a strange leaning towards the unseen and supernatural, especially in this matter of the existence of ghosts. Don’t think though that I am such a fool as to believe in the orthodox spectre with his curse, and his chain warranted to rattle, and his shady retreat down some back stairs, or in the cellar; no, nothing of that sort.’

‘Well, Tom, let’s hear your idea of a creditable ghost.’

‘It’s not such an easy matter, you see, to explain it to another, even though I can define it in my own mind well enough. You and I both hold, Jack, that when a man dies he has done with all the cares and troubles of this world, and is for the future, be it one of joy or sorrow, a pure and ethereal spirit. Well now, what I feel is that it is possible for a man to be hurried out of this world with a soul as impregnated with some one all-absorbing passion, that it clings to him even after he has passed the portals of the grave. Now,’ continued Tom, impressively waving his pipe from side to side through the cloud that surrounded him, ‘love or patriotism or some other pure and elevating passion, might well be entertained by one who is but a spirit, but it is different, I fancy, with such grosser feelings as hatred or revenge. These one could imagine, even after death, clogging the poor soul so that it must still inhabit that coarse clay which is most fitted to the coarse passions which absorb it; and thus I would account for the unexplained and unexplainable things which have happened even in our own time, and for the deeply rooted belief in Ghosts which exists, smother it as we may, in every breast, and which has existed in every age.’

‘You may be right, Tom,’ said I, ‘but as you say “quod tango credo” and as I never saw any of your “impregnated spirits” I must beg leave to doubt their existence.’

‘It’s very easy to laugh at the matter,’ answered Tom, ‘but there are few facts in this world which have not been laughed at, sometime or another. Tell me this, Jack, did you ever try to see a ghost? Did you ever go upon a ghost hunt, my boy?’

‘Well I can’t say I ever did,’ said I, ‘did you?’

‘I’m on one just now, Jack,’ said he, and then sat puffing at his pipe for some time. ‘Look here,’ he continued, ‘I’ve heard you talk of some old manor or Grange you have down here, which is said to be haunted. Now I want you to lend me the key of that, and I’ll take up my quarters there tomorrow night. How long is it since anyone slept in it, Jack?’

‘For heaven’s sake, don’t think of doing such a foolhardy thing,’ I exclaimed. ‘Why only one man has slept in Goresthorpe Grange during a hundred years, and he went mad to my certain knowledge!’

‘Ha! that sounds promising, very promising,’ cried Tom in high delight. ‘Now just observe the thick headedness of the British public, yourself included, Jack. You won’t believe in ghosts, and you won’t go and look where a ghost is said to be found. Now suppose there was said to be white crows or some other natural curiosity in Yorkshire, and someone assured you that there was not, because he had been all through Wales without seeing one, you would naturally consider the man an idiot. Well, doesn’t the same apply to you if you refuse to go to the Grange and settle the question for yourself once for all?’

‘If you go tomorrow, I shall certainly go too,’ I returned, ‘if only to prevent your coming home with some cock and bull story about an impregnated spirit, so good night, Tom,’ and with that we separated.

I confess that in the morning I began to feel that I had been slightly imprudent in aiding and abetting Tom in his ridiculous expedition. ‘It’s that confounded Irish whisky,’ thought I. ‘I always put my foot into it after the third glass, however perhaps Tom has thought better of it too by this time.’ In that expectation however I was woefully disappointed, for Tom swore he had been awake all night planning and preparing everything for the evening.

‘We’re bound to take pistols you know, old boy; those are always taken; then there are our pipes and a couple of ounces of bird’s-eye, and our rugs, and a bottle of whisky, nothing else, I think. By Jove, I do believe we’ll unearth a ghost tonight!’

‘Heaven forbid!’ I mentally ejaculated but as there was no way out of it I pretended to be as enthusiastic in the business as Tom himself.

All day Tom was in a state of the wildest excitement, and as evening fell we both walked over to the old Grange of Goresthorpe. There it stood cold, bleak and desolate as ever with the wind howling past it. Great strips of ivy which had lost their hold upon the walls swayed and tossed in the wind like the plumes of a hearse. How comfortable the lights in the village seemed to my eyes as we turned the key in the rusty lock, and having lit a candle began to walk down the stoneflagged dusty hall!

‘Here we are!’ said Tom, throwing a door open and disclosing a large dingy room.

‘Not there for Goodness’ sake,’ said I, ‘let’s find a small room where we can light a fire and be sure at a glance that we are the only people in it.’

‘All right, old fellow,’ answered Tom laughing. ‘I did a little exploring today on my own hook and know the place pretty well. I’ve got just the article to suit you at the other end of the house.’

He took up the candle again as he spoke and having shut the door he led me from one passage to another through the rambling old building. We came at last to a long corridor running the whole length of one wing of the house, which certainly had a very ghostly appearance. One wall was entirely solid, while the other had openings for windows let in at every three or four paces, so that when the moon shone in the dark passage was flecked every here and there with patches of white light. Near the end of it was a door which led into a small room, cleaner and more modern looking than the rest of the house, and with a large fireplace opposite the entrance. It was hung with dark red curtains, and when we had got our fire ablaze it certainly looked more comfortable than I had ever dared to expect. Tom seemed unutterably disgusted and discontented by the result; ‘Call this a haunted house,’ he said, ‘why we might as well sit up in a hotel and expect to see a ghost! This isn’t by any means the sort of thing I have been looking forward to.’ It was not until the briar had been twice replenished that he began to recover his usual equanimity of temper.

Perhaps it was our curious surroundings which flavoured the bird’s-eye and mellowed the whisky, and our own suppressed excitement which gave zest to the conversation. Certainly a pleasanter evening neither of us ever spent.

Outside the wind was howling and screaming, tossing the trailing ivy in the air. The moon shone out fitfully from between the dark clouds which drifted across the sky, and the measured patter of the rain was heard upon the slates above us.

‘The roof may leak, but it can’t get at us,’ said Tom, ‘for there’s a little bedroom above our heads with a very good floor too. Shouldn’t be surprised if it’s the very room where those youngsters were cut up by that model father of theirs. Well it’s nearly twelve o’clock, and if we are going to see anything at all, we ought to see it before very long. By Jove, what a chill wind comes through that door! I remember feeling like this when I was waiting outside before going in for my oral exam at college. You look excited too, old boy.’

‘Hush, Tom, didn’t you hear a noise in the corridor?’

‘Hang the noise,’ said Tom, ‘pass me over a fusee old boy.’

‘I’ll swear I heard a heavy door slamming,’ I insisted. ‘I’ll tell you what, Tom, I feel as if your ambition was going to be realized tonight and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m heartily sorry I came with you on such a foolhardy errand.’

‘Dash it all,’ said Tom, ‘it’s no use funking it now — By Jove, what’s that?’

It was a gentle pit pat pit pat in the room and close to Tom’s elbow. We both sprang to our feet, and then Tom burst into a roar of laughter. ‘Why, Jack,’ he said, ‘you’re making a regular old woman of me; it’s only the rain that has got in after all and is dropping on that bit of loose paper on the wall yonder. What fools we were to be frightened! Why here’s the very place it dropped-‘

‘Good God!’ I cried, ‘what is the matter with you, Tom?’ His face had changed to a livid hue, his eyes were fixed and staring, and his lips parted in horror and astonishment.

‘Look!’ he almost screamed, ‘look!’ and he held up the piece of paper which had been hanging from the mildewed wall. Great heaven! it was all freckled and spotted with gouts of still liquid blood. Even as we stood gazing at it, another drop fell upon the floor with a dull splash. Both our pale faces were turned upwards tracing the course of this horrible shower. We could discern a small crack in the cornice, and through this as through a wound in human flesh the blood seemed to well. Another drop fell, and yet another, as we stood gazing spellbound.

‘Come away, Tom, come away!’ I cried at last, unable to bear it longer. ‘Come! God’s curse is on the place.’ I seized him by the shoulder as I spoke and turned towards the door.

‘By God, I won’t,’ cried Tom fiercely, shaking off my grasp, ‘come up with me, Jack, and get to the bottom of the matter. There may be some villainy here. Hang it, man, don’t be cowed by a drop or two of blood! Don’t try to stop me! I shall go’; and he pushed past me and dashed into the corridor.

What a moment that was! If I should live to be a hundred I could never shake off my vivid remembrance of it. Outside the wind was still howling past the windows, while an occasional flash of lightning illuminated the old Grange. Within there was no sound save the creaking of the door as it was thrown back and the gentle pit pat of that ghastly shower from above. Then Tom tottered back into the room and grasped me by the arm. ‘Let us stick together, Jack,’ he said in an awestruck whisper. ‘There’s something coming up the corridor!’

A horrible fascination led us to the door, and we peered together down the long and dark passage. One side was, as I have said, pierced by numerous openings through which the moonlight streamed throwing little patches of light upon the dark floor. Far down the passage we could see that something was obscuring first one of these bright spots, then the next, then another. It vanished in the gloom, then it reappeared where the next window cast its light, then it vanished again. It was coming rapidly towards us. Now it was only four windows from us, now three, now two, one, and then the figure of a man emerged into the glare of light which burst from our open door. He was running rapidly and vanished into the gloom on the other side of us. His dress was old fashioned and dishevelled, what seemed to be long dark ribbons hung down among his hair, on each side of his swarthy face. But that face itself — when shall I ever forget it? As he ran he kept it half turned back, as if expecting some pursuer, and his countenance expressed such a degree of hopeless despair, and of dreadful fear, that, frightened as I was, my heart bled for him. As we followed the direction of his horror stricken gaze we saw that he had indeed a pursuer. As before we could trace the dark shadow flitting over the white flecks of moonlight, as before it emerged into the circle of light thrown by our candles and fire. It was a beautiful and stately lady, a woman perhaps eight and twenty years of age, with the low dress and gorgeous train of last century. Beneath her lovely chin we both remarked upon one side of the neck four small dark spots, and on the other side one larger one. She swept by us, looking neither to the right nor left, but with her stony gaze bent upon the spot where the fugitive had vanished. Then she too was lost in the darkness. A minute later as we stood there, still gazing, a horrible shriek, a scream of awful agony, rang out high above the wind and the thunder, and then all was still inside the house.

I don’t know how long we both stood there, spellbound, holding on to each other’s arms. It must have been some time for the fresh candle was flickering in the socket when Tom, with a shudder, walked rapidly down the passage, still grasping my hand. Without a word we passed out through the mouldering hall door, out into the storm and the rain, over the garden wall, through the silent village and up the avenue. It was not until we were in my comfortable little smoking room, and Tom from sheer force of habit had lit a cigar, that he seemed to recover his equanimity at all.

‘Well, Jack,’ were the first words he said, ‘what do you think of ghosts now?’ His next remark was ‘Confound it, I’ve lost the best briar root pipe I ever had, for I’ll be hanged before I go back there to fetch it.’

‘We have seen a horrible sight,’ said I. ‘What a face he had, Tom! And those ghastly ribbons hanging from his hair, what were those, Tom?’

‘Ribbons! Why, Jack, don’t you know seaweed when you see it? And I’ve seen those dark marks that were on the woman’s neck before now, and so have you in your medical studies I have little doubt.’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘those were the marks of four fingers and a thumb. It was the strangled woman, Tom. God preserve us from ever seeing such a sight again!’

‘Amen,’ said Tom, and those were the last words we interchanged that night.

In the morning Tom, his mission ended, went down to London, and soon afterwards set sail for the coffee estates of his father in Ceylon. Since then I have lost sight of him. I do not know whether he is alive or dead, but of one thing I am very sure, that if alive he never thinks without a shudder of our terrible night in the haunted Grange of Goresthorpe.

The End