I took up my abode at the hotel where I had passed the previous night, and there I presently received a visit from the Capo di Polizia, who told me very civilly that I must present myself, even morning and evening at his bureau, but that I might have liberty to 'circulate' in the neighbourhood during the day. I grew so weary of this dull place, that after I had explored the immediate vicinity of the town I began to extend my walks to a greater distance, and as I always reported myself to the police before night I met with no objection on their part.
One day, however, when I had been as far as Alatri and was returning on foot, night overtook me. I had lost my way, and could not tell how far I might be from my destination. I was very tired and had a heavy knapsack on my shoulders, packed with stones and relics from the ruins of the old Pelasgic fortress which I had been exploring, besides a number of old coins and a lamp or two which I had purchased there. I could discern no signs of any human habitation, and the hills, covered with wood, seemed to shut me in on every side. I was beginning to think seriously of looking out for some sheltered spot under a thicket in which to pass the night, when the welcome sound of a footstep behind me fell upon my ears. Presently a man dressed in the usual long shaggy coat of a shepherd overtook me, and hearing of my difficulty offered to conduct me to a house at a short distance from the road, where I might obtain a lodging; before we reached the spot he told me that the house in question was an inn and that he was the landlord of it. He had not much custom, he said, so he employed himself in shepherding during the day; but he could make me conformable, and give me a good supper also, better than I should expect, to look at him; but he had been in different circumstances once, and had lived in service in good families, and knew how things ought to be, and what a signore like myself was used to.
'The house to which he took me seemed like its owner to have seen better days. It was a large rambling place and much dilapidated, but it was tolerably comfortable within; and my landlord, after he had thrown off his sheepskin coat, prepared me a good and savoury meal, and sat down to look at and converse with me while I ate it. I did not much like the look of the fellow; but he seemed anxious to be sociable and told me a great deal about his former life when he was in service, expecting to receive similar confidences from me. I did not gratify him much, but one must talk of something, and he seemed to think it only proper to express an interest in his guests and to learn as much of their concerns as they would tell him.
'I went to bed early, intending to resume my journey as soon as it should be light. My landlord took up my knapsack, and carried it to my room, observing as he did so that it was a great weight for me to travel with. I answered jokingly that it contained great treasures, referring to my coins and relics; of course he did not understand me, and before I could explain he wished me a most happy little night, and left me.
'The room in which I found myself was situated at the end of a long passage; there were two rooms on the right side of this passage, and a window on the left, which looked out upon a yard or garden. Having taken a survey of the outside of the house while smoking my cigar after.dinner, when the moon was up, I understood exactly the position of my chamber the end room of a long narrow wing, projecting at right angles from the main building, with which it was connected only by the passage and the two side rooms already mentioned.
Please to bear this description carefully in mind while I proceed.
'Before getting into bed, I drove into the floor close to the door a small gimlet which formed part of a complicated pocket?knife which I always carried with me, so that it would be impossible for any one to enter the room without my knowledge; there was a lock to the door, but the key would not turn in it; there was also a bolt, but it would not enter the hole intended for it, the door having sunk apparently from its proper level. I satisfied, myself, however, that The door was securely fastened by my gimlet, and soon fell asleep.
'How can I describe the strange and horrible sensation which oppressed me as I woke our of my first slumber? I had been sleeping soundly, and before I quite recovered consciousness I had instinctively risen from my pillow, and was crouching forward, my knees drawn up, my hands clasped before my face, and my whole frame quivering with horror. I saw nothing, felt nothing; but a sound was ringing in my ears which seemed to make my blood run cold. I could not have supposed it possible that any mere sound, whatever might be its nature, could have produced such a revulsion of feeling or inspired such intense horror as I then experienced. It was not a cry of terror that I heard that would have roused me to action nor the moaning of one in pain that would have distressed me, and called forth sympathy rather than aversion. True, it was like the groaning of one in anguish and despair, but not like any mortal voice: it seemed too dreadful, too intense, for human utterance. The sound had begun while I was fast asleep close in the head of my bed close to my very pillow; it continued after I was wide awake a long, loud, hollow, protracted groan, making the midnight air reverberate, and then dying gradually away until it ceased entirely. It was some minutes before I could at all recover from the terrible impression which seemed to stop my breath and paralyse my limbs. At length I began to look about me, for the night was not entirely dark, and I could discern the outlines of the room and the several pieces of furniture in it. I then got out of bed, and called aloud, 'Who is there? What is the matter?