I had jumped out of bed and clutched him by the arm before I had any distinct idea of my own whereabouts. There we were - in our shirts - standing before the open door - staring through the great old banister opposite, at the lobby window, through which the sickly light of a clouded moon was gleaming.
'What's the matter, Tom? What's the matter with you? What the devil's the matter with you, Tom?' I demanded shaking him with nervous impatience.
He took a long breath before he answered me, and then it was not very coherently.
'It's nothing, nothing at all - did I speak? - what did I say? - Where's the candle, Richard? It's dark; I - I had a candle!'
'Yes, dark enough,' I said; 'but what's the matter? - what is it? - why don't you speak, Tom? - have you lost your wits? - what is the matter?'
'The matter? - oh, it is all over. It must have been a dream - nothing at all but a dream - don't you think so? It could not be anything more than a dream.'
'Of course,' said I, feeling uncommonly nervous, 'it was a dream.'
'I thought,' he said, 'there was a man in my room, and - and I jumped out of bed; and - and - where's the candle - '
'In your room, most likely,' I said, 'shall I go and bring it - '
'No; stay here - don't go; it's no matter - don't, I tell you; it was all a dream. Bolt the door, Dick; I'll stay here with you - I feel nervous. So, Dick, like a good fellow, light your candle and open the window - I am in a shocking state.'
I did as he asked me, and robing himself like Granuaile in one of my blankets, he seated himself close beside my bed.
Everybody knows how contagious is fear of all sorts, but more especially that particular kind of fear under which poor Tom was at that moment labouring. I would not have heard, nor I believe would he have recapitulated, just at that moment, for half the world, the details of the hideous vision which had so unmanned him.
'Don't mind telling me anything about your nonsensical dream, Tom,' said I, affecting contempt, really in a panic; 'let us talk about something else; but it is quite plain that this dirty old house disagrees with us both, and hang me if I stay here longer, to be pestered with indigestion and - and - bad nights, so we may as well look out for lodgings - don't you think so? - at once.'
Tom agreed, and, after an interval, said -
'I have been thinking, Richard, that it is a long time since I saw my father, and I have made up my mind to go down tomorrow and return in a day or two, and you can take rooms for us in the meantime.'
I fancied that this resolution, obviously the result of the vision which had so profoundly scared him, would probably vanish next morning with the damps and shadows of night. But I was mistaken. Off went Tom at peep of day to the country, having agreed that so soon as I had secured suitable lodgings, I was to recall him by letter from his visit to my Uncle Ludlow.
Now, anxious as I was to change my quarters, it so happened, owing to a series of petty procrastinations and accidents, that nearly a week elapsed before my bargain was made and my letter of recall on the wing to Tom; and, in the meantime, a trifling adventure or two had occurred to your humble servant, which, absurd as they now appear, diminished by distance, did certainly at the time serve to whet my appetite for change considerably.
Black spirits and white by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Black spirits and white,
Blue spirits and grey, with which I was environed, at bay, I had adopted the practice recommended by the wisdom of my ancestors, and 'kept my spirits up by pouring spirits down'. I had thrown aside my volume of Anatomy, and was treating myself by way of a tonic, preparatory to my punch and bed, to half-a-dozen pages of the Spectator, when I heard a step on the flight of stairs descending from the attics. It was two o'clock, and the streets were as silent as a churchyard - the sounds were, therefore, perfectly distinct. There was a slow, heavy tread, characterized by the emphasis and deliberation of age, descending by the narrow staircase from above; and, what made the sound more singular, it was plain that the feet which produced it were perfectly bare, measuring the descent with something between a pound and a flop, very ugly to hear.