This last was a small room with a sofa-bed, and had no communication with the landing-place--no other door
but that which conducted to the bedroom I was to occupy. On either side of my fireplace was a cupboard,
without locks, flush with the wall and covered with the same dull-brown paper. We examined these
cupboards--only hooks to suspend female dresses--nothing else; we sounded the walls--evidently solid--the
outer walls of the building. Having finished the survey of these apartments, warmed myself a few moments,
and lighted my cigar, I then, still accompanied by F----, went forth to complete my reconnoiter. In the
landing-place there was another door; it was closed firmly. 'Sir,' said my servant, in surprise, 'I unlocked this
door with all the others when I first came; it cannot have got locked from the inside, for----'
Before he had finished his sentence, the door, which neither of us then was touching, opened quietly of itself.
We looked at each other a single instant. The same thought seized both--some human agency might be
detected here. I rushed in first, my servant followed. A small blank dreary room without furniture--few empty
boxes and hampers in a corner--a small window--the shutters closed--not even a fireplace--no other door than
that by which we had entered--no carpet on the floor, and the floor seemed very old, uneven, worm-eaten,
mended here and there, as was shown by the whiter patches on the wood; but no living being, and no visible
place in which a living being could have hidden. As we stood gazing round, the door by which we had entered
closed as quietly as it had before opened: we were imprisoned.
For the first time I felt a creep of undefinable horror. Not so my servant. 'Why, they don't think to trap us, sir;
I could break the trumpery door with a kick of my foot.'
'Try first if it will open to your hand,' said I, shaking off the vague apprehension that had seized me, 'while I
unclose the shutters and see what is without.'
I unbarred the shutters--the window looked on the little back yard I have before described; there was no ledge
without--nothing to break the sheer descent of the wall. No man getting out of that window would have found
any footing till he had fallen on the stones below.
F----, meanwhile, was vainly attempting to open the door. He now turned round to me and asked my
permission to use force. And I should here state, in justice to the servant, that, far from evincing any
superstitious terrors, his nerve, composure, and even gayety amidst circumstances so extraordinary, compelled
my admiration, and made me congratulate myself on having secured a companion in every way fitted to the
occasion. I willingly gave him the permission he required. But though he was a remarkably strong man, his
force was as idle as his milder efforts; the door did not even shake to his stoutest kick. Breathless and panting,
he desisted. I then tried the door myself, equally in vain. As I ceased from the effort, again that creep of horror
came over me; but this time it was more cold and stubborn. I felt as if some strange and ghastly exhalation
were rising up from the chinks of that rugged floor, and filling the atmosphere with a venomous influence
hostile to human life. The door now very slowly and quietly opened as of its own accord. We precipitated
ourselves into the landing-place. We both saw a large pale light--as large as the human figure but shapeless
and unsubstantial--move before us, and ascend the stairs that led from the landing into the attics. I followed
the light, and my servant followed me. It entered, to the right of the landing, a small garret, of which the door
stood open. I entered in the same instant. The light then collapsed into a small globule, exceedingly brilliant
and vivid; rested a moment on a bed in the corner, quivered, and vanished.
We approached the bed and examined it--a half-tester, such as is commonly found in attics devoted to
servants. On the drawers that stood near it we perceived an old faded silk kerchief, with the needle still left in
a rent half repaired. The kerchief was covered with dust; probably it had belonged to the old woman who had
last died in that house, and this might have been her sleeping room. I had sufficient curiosity to open the
drawers: there were a few odds and ends of female dress, and two letters tied round with a narrow ribbon of
faded yellow. I took the liberty to possess myself of the letters. We found nothing else in the room worth
noticing--nor did the light reappear; but we distinctly heard, as we turned to go, a pattering footfall on the
floor--just before us. We went through the other attics (in all four), the footfall still preceding us. Nothing to
be seen--nothing but the footfall heard. I had the letters in my hand: just as I was descending the stairs I
distinctly felt my wrist seized, and a faint soft effort made to draw the letters from my clasp. I only held them
the more tightly, and the effort ceased.