My eye now rested on the table, and from under the table (which was without cloth or cover--an old
mahogany round table) there rose a hand, visible as far as the wrist. It was a hand, seemingly, as much of flesh
and blood as my own, but the hand of an aged person--lean, wrinkled, small, too--a woman's hand. That hand
very softly closed on the two letters that lay on the table: hand and letters both vanished.
There then came the same three loud measured knocks I heard at the bed-head before this extraordinary drama
As those sounds slowly ceased, I felt the whole room vibrate sensibly; and at the far end there rose, as from
the floor, sparks or globules like bubbles of light, many-colored--green, yellow, fire-red, azure. Up and down,
to and fro, hither, thither, as tiny Will-o'-the-Wisps the sparks moved, slow or swift, each at his own caprice.
A chair (as in the drawing-room below) was now advanced from the wall without apparent agency, and placed
at the opposite side of the table. Suddenly as forth from the chair, there grew a shape--a woman's shape. It was
distinct as a shape of life--ghastly as a shape of death. The face was that of youth, with a strange mournful
beauty: the throat and shoulders were bare, the rest of the form in a loose robe of cloudy white. It began
sleeking its long yellow hair, which fell over its shoulders; its eyes were not turned towards me, but to the
door; it seemed listening, watching, waiting. The shadow of the shade in the background grew darker; and
again I thought I beheld the eyes gleaming out from the summit of the shadow--eyes fixed upon that shape.
As if from the door, though it did not open, there grew out another shape, equally distinct, equally ghastly--a
man's shape--a young man's. It was in the dress of the last century, or rather in a likeness of such dress (for
both the male shape and the female, though defined, were evidently unsubstantial,
impalpable--simulacra--phantasms); and there was something incongruous, grotesque, yet fearful, in the
contrast between the elaborate finery, the courtly precision of that old-fashioned garb, with its ruffles and lace
and buckles, and the corpse-like aspect and ghost-like stillness of the flitting wearer. Just as the male shape
approached the female, the dark shadow started from the wall, all three for a moment wrapped in darkness.
When the pale light returned, the two phantoms were as in the grasp of the shadow that towered between
them; and there was a blood-stain on the breast of the female; and the phantom male was leaning on its
phantom sword, and blood seemed trickling fast from the ruffles, from the lace; and the darkness of the
intermediate Shadow swallowed them up--they were gone. And again the bubbles of light shot, and sailed,
and undulated, growing thicker and thicker and more wildly confused in their movements.
The closet door to the right of the fireplace now opened, and from the aperture there came the form of an aged
woman. In her hand she held letters,--the very letters over which I had seen the Hand close; and behind her I
heard a footstep. She turned round as if to listen, and then she opened the letters and seemed to read; and over
her shoulder I saw a livid face, the face as of a man long drowned--bloated, bleached, seaweed tangled in its
dripping hair; and at her feet lay a form as of a corpse, and beside the corpse there cowered a child, a
miserable squalid child, with famine in its cheeks and fear in its eyes. And as I looked in the old woman's
face, the wrinkles and lines vanished and it became a face of youth--hard-eyed, stony, but still youth; and the
Shadow darted forth, and darkened over these phantoms as it had darkened over the last.
Nothing now was left but the Shadow, and on that my eyes were intently fixed, till again eyes grew out of the
Shadow--malignant, serpent eyes. And the bubbles of light again rose and fell, and in their disorder, irregular,
turbulent maze, mingled with the wan moonlight. And now from these globules themselves, as from the shell
of an egg, monstrous things burst out; the air grew filled with them; larv so bloodless and so hideous that I
can in no way describe them except to remind the reader of the swarming life which the solar microscope
brings before his eyes in a drop of water--things transparent, supple, agile, chasing each other, devouring each
other--forms like nought ever beheld by the naked eye. As the shapes were without symmetry, so their
movements were without order. In their very vagrancies there was no sport; they came round me and round,
thicker and faster and swifter, swarming over my head, crawling over my right arm, which was outstretched in
involuntary command against all evil beings. Sometimes I felt myself touched, but not by them; invisible
hands touched me. Once I felt the clutch as of cold soft fingers at my throat. I was still equally conscious that
if I gave way to fear I should be in bodily peril; and I concentrated all my faculties in the single focus of
resisting, stubborn will. And I turned my sight from the Shadow--above all, from those strange serpent
eyes--eyes that had now become distinctly visible. For there, though in nought else round me, I was aware that
there was a WILL, and a will of intense, creative, working evil, which might crush down my own.