For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница

her legs and half her body had disappeared beneath the

whirling, sucking bog and her pointed head was held up in

the air as she struggled and yelped all the while. I tried two

or three times to stride across to her but each time I had to

pull free abruptly for fear of going under myself. I wished

that I had got a stick to throw across to her, as some sort of

grappling hook with which to grab hold of her collar. I felt

a second of pure despair, alone in the middle of the wide

marsh, under the fast-moving, stormy sky, with only For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница water

all around me and that dreadful house the only solid thing

for miles around.

But aware that, if I gave into panic, I should most

certainly be lost, I thought furiously and then, very

cautiously, lay down full length on the marsh mud, keeping

my lower body pressed as hard as I could onto a small

island of solid ground and, reaching and stretching my

trunk and my arms forward, inch by inch, gasping for

breath until, just as the last of her body sank, I lunged out

and grabbed the dog about the neck and hauled and strained

and tugged with all the force I could, a strength For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница I would

never have dreamed I could have summoned up, born of

terror and desperation; and after an agonizing time, when

we both fought for our lives against the treacherous quicksand

that tried to pull us both down into itself and I felt my

grip on the slippery wet fur and wet flesh of the dog almost

give, at last I knew that I would hold and win. I strained as

hard as ever I could to drag my body backwards onto firmer

ground. As I did so, the dog's body suddenly gave and the

tug of war was over as I fell back, holding her tight For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница, the

two of us soaked with water and mud, my chest burning

and my lungs almost bursting, my arms feeling as if they

had been dragged from their sockets, as indeed they almost

had.

We rested, panting, exhausted, and I wondered if I

would ever be able to get up, I felt suddenly so faint and

weak and lost in the middle of the marsh. The poor dog

was making choking noises now and rubbing her head

against me over and over, no doubt both terrified and also

in great pain, for I had nearly asphyxiated her as I had

clutched so hard around her neck. But she was alive For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница and so

was I and, gradually, a little warmth from each of our

bodies and the pause revived us and, cradling Spider like a

child in my arms, I began to stumble back across the

marshes towards the house. As I did so and within a few

yards of it, I glanced up. At one of the upper windows, the

only window with bars across it, the window of the nursery,

I caught a glimpse of someone standing. A woman. That

woman. She was looking directly towards me.

Spider was whimpering in my arms and making

occasional little retching coughs. We were both trembling

violently. How I reached the For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница grass in front of the house I

shall never know but, as I did so, I heard a sound. It was

coming from the far end of the causeway path which was

just beginning to be visible as the tide began to recede. It was the sound of a pony trap.

A Packet of Letters.

There was a bright light and I was staring into it -or, rather, I felt that it was boring into me, boring through my

eyes right into my brain and I struggled to turn my head

away and my head seemed to be very light, scarcely set on

my For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница shoulders at all, but spinning, floating like blown

thistledown!

Then abruptly the light was removed and when I opened

my eyes the normal world and ordinary things in it came

into focus again. I found myself lying, propped up on the

couch in the morning room, with the large, red, concerned

face of Mr Samuel Daily looming over me. In his hand he

held a pocket torch, with which, I realized, he must have

been peering into my eyes, in a crude attempt to arouse me.

I sat up, but at once the walls began to shift and buckle

forward and I was obliged to lie For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница back again weakly. And

then, in a rush, everything came back to me with great

force, the chase after the dog across the wet marshes and

the struggle to free her, the sight of the woman in black at

the nursery window and then those sounds which had



caused my fears to mount to such a height that I had lost

control of myself and my senses and fallen unconscious.

'But the trap -the pony and trap . . .'

'At the front door.'

I stared.

'Oh, I still like to make use of it now and again. It's a

pleasant way to travel when there's nothing to For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница hurry over

and it's a sight safer than a motor car across that causeway,'

'Ah.' I felt a surge of relief as I realized the plain facts of the matter, that the noise I had heard had been that of a

real pony and cart.

'What did you think?' He was looking at me keenly.

'A pony and cart '

'Yes?'

I'd -heard others. Another.'

'Keckwick, perhaps,' he said evenly.

'No, no'. I sat up, more cautiously and the room stayed

firm.

'You take care now.'

'I'm better -I'm all right. It was . . .' I wiped my brow For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница.

'I should like a drink.'

'At your elbow.'

I turned and saw a jug of water and a glass and I drank

thirstily, beginning to feel more and more refreshed and

my nerves to be steadier as I did so.

Realizing it, Mr Daily moved away from my side to a

chair opposite and sat himself down.

'I had you on my mind,' he said at last. 'I wasn't happy.

It began to unsettle me.'

'Isn't it quite early in the morning -I've become confused. . .'

'Early enough. I kept waking. As I said, I had you onmy

mind.'

'How strange.'

'Was it? Not For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница as it seems to me. Not strange at all.'

'No.'

'A good job I came when I did.'

'Yes, indeed, I'm very grateful. You must have - what? Carried me in here, I remember nothing about it.'

'I've dragged heavier than you with one arm around my

neck -there's

not much flesh on your bones.'

'I'm extremely glad to see you, Mr Daily.'

'You've good reason.'

'I have.'

'People have drowned on that marsh before now.'

'Yes. Yes, I know that now. I felt that I was being pulled

under and the dog with me.' I For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница started up. 'Spider . . .'

She's here. She'll do.'

I looked to where he nodded, to the dog down on the rug

between us. At the sound of her name, she bumped her

tail, but otherwise she lay, the mud drying on her coat in

clots and streaks, and pasted thickly to her leg, looking as

limp and exhausted as I myself felt.

'Now, when you've come to a bit more, you'd better get

whatever you need and we'll be off.'

'Off?'

'Aye. I came to see how you were faring in this godforsaken

place. I have seen. You had better come back

home For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница with me and recover yourself.'

I did not answer for a few moments but lay back and

went over in my mind the sequence of events of the previous

night and of this morning -and,

indeed, further back than

that, from my first visit here. I knew that there had been

hauntings by the woman in black and perhaps by some

other occupant of this house. I knew that the sounds I had

heard out on the marsh were ghostly sounds. But although

these had been terrifying, and inexplicable, I thought that if I had to I could go over them again, if only because For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница I had

been growing more and more determined to find out what

restless soul it was who wanted to cause these disturbances

and why, why. If I could uncover the truth, perhaps I

might in some way put an end to it all forever.

But what I couldn't endure more was the atmosphere

surrounding the events: the sense of oppressive hatred and

malevolence, of someone's evil and also of terrible grief and

distress. These, which seemed to invade my own soul and

take charge of me, these were what I could no longer bear.

I told Mr Daily that I would be glad and For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница grateful to go back

with him and to rest at his house if only for a short while.

But I was worried, not wanting to leave the mystery

unexplained and knowing, too, that at the same time

someone would have to finish, at some point, the necessary

work of sorting out and packing up Mrs Drablow's papers.

This I mentioned now.

'And what have you found here, Mr Kipps? A map to

buried treasure?'

'No. A great quantity of rubbish, old waste paper, and

precious little of interest, let alone of value. FranklyI

doubt whether there will be anything. But the job will have

to be done at some For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница time or other. We are obliged to do it.'

I got up and began to walk about the room, trying my

limbs and finding them more or less steady.

'For now, I don't mind confessing that I shall be pretty

glad to let up and leave the lot of it behind. There were just

one or two papers I should like to go over again for my own

curiosity. There is a packet of old letters with a few

documents attached. I was reading them late last night. I

shall bring those with me.'

Then, while Mr Daily began to go round the downstairs

rooms For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница, drawing the blinds, checking that all the fires were

extinguished, I went first to the room in which I had been

working to gather together the bundle of letters and then

upstairs for my few belongings. I was no longer at afraid

because I was leaving Eel Marsh House at least for the time

being and because of the large and reassuring presence of

Mr Samuel Daily. Whether I would ever return here I did

not know but certainly if I did so it would not be alone. I

felt altogether calm, therefore, as I reached the top of the

staircase and turned towards the small bedroom For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница I had been

using, the events of the previous night seeming far in the

past and with no more power to harm me than a particularly

bad nightmare.

I packed up my bag quickly, closed the window and drew

down the blind. On the floor lay the remnants of the

shattered torch and I swept them together into a corner

with the edge of my foot. All was quiet now, the wind had

been dropping since dawn, though, if I closed my eyes, I

could hear again its moaning and crying and all the banging

and rattling it had given rise to in the old house. But,

although For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница that had contributed to my nervousness, I could

perfectly well sort out those incidental events -the

storm,

the bumps and creaks, the darkness, from the ghostly

happenings and the atmosphere surrounding them. The

weather might change, the wind drop, the sun shine, Eel

Marsh House might stand quiet and still. It would be no

less dreadful. Whoever haunted it and whatever terrible

emotions still possessed them would continue to disturb

and distress anyone who came near here, that I knew.

I finished picking up my belongings and left the room.

As I reached the landing I could not prevent myself from

glancing quickly and half-fearfully For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница along the passage that

led to the nursery.

The door was ajar. I stood, feeling the anxiety that lay

only just below the surface begin to rise up within me,

making my heart beat fast. Below, I heard Mr Daily's

footsteps and the pitter-patter of the dog as it followed him

about. And, reassured by their presence, I summoned up

my courage and made my way cautiously towards that half-open

door. When I reached it I hesitated. She had been

there. I had seen her. Whoever she was, this was the focus

of her search or her attention or her grief - I could not For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница tell

which. This was the very heart of the haunting.

There was no sound now. The rocking chair was still.

Very slowly I pushed open the door wider and wider, inch

by inch, and took a few steps forward until I could see all

the way into the room.

It was in a state of disarray as might have been caused by

a gang of robbers, bent on mad, senseless destruction.

Whereas the bed had been made up neatly, now the clothes

were pulled off anyhow and bundled up or trailing onto the

floor. The wardrobe door and the drawers of the small chest were pulled open For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница and all the clothes they contained half

dragged out, and left hanging like entrails from a wounded

body. The lead soldiers had been knocked down like a set

of ninepins and the wooden animals from the ark strewn

about the shelf, books lay open, their jackets torn, puzzles

and games were all jumbled up in a heap together in the

centre of the floor. Soft toys were split and unclothed, the

tin Sambo was smashed as by a hammer blow. Thebedside

table and the small cupboard were overturned. And the

rocking chair had been pushed into the centre, to preside,

tall-backed and erect, like a great brooding For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница bird, over the

wreck.

I crossed the room to the window, for perhaps thevandals

had gained an entry here. It was tight-bolted and rusted

over and the wooden bars were fast and firm. No one had

entered here.

As I climbed unsteadily up into Mr Daily's pony trap which

waited in the drive, I stumbled and he was obliged to grip

my arm and support me until I could regain my strength

and I saw that he peered intensely into my face and

recognized by its pallor that I had suffered a new shock.

But he said nothing about it, only wrapped a heavy For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница rug

about my legs, set Spider on my knees for the greater

warmth and comfort of us both and then clicked at the

pony to turn about.

We left the gravel and went across the rough grass,

reached the Nine Lives Causeway and began to traverse it.

The tide was dropping back steadily, the sky was a uniform,

pearly grey, the air moist and cold but still, after the storm.

The marshes lay dull, misty and drear all about us, and,

ahead, the flat countryside was dripping and gloomy,

without colour, without leaf, without undulation. The pony

went steadily and quietly and For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница Mr Daily hummed in a low,

tuneless sort of way. I sat as one in a trance, numb, unaware

of very much except the movement of the pony trap and

the dankness of the air.

But, as we reached the lanes and left the marsh and the

estuary behind, I did glance back once over my shoulder.

Eel Marsh House stood iron-grey and grim, looming up

like a crag, its windows blank and shuttered. There was no

sign of any shape or shadow, no living or dead soul. I

thought that no one watched us go. Then, the pony's

hooves began to clip-clop For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница briskly on the tarmac of the

narrow lane between the ditches and straggling blackthorn

hedges. I turned my eyes away from that dreadful place for

what I fervently prayed was the last time.

From the moment I had climbed into the pony trap, Mr

Samuel Daily had treated me as gently and with as much

care and concern as an invalid and his efforts to make me

feel rested and at ease were redoubled upon arrival at his

house. A room had been prepared, a large quiet room with

a small balcony overlooking the garden and the open fields

beyond. A servant was dispatched at once to the For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница Gifford

Arms for the rest of my belongings and, after being given a

light breakfast, I was left alone to sleep through the

morning. Spider was bathed and groomed and then brought

to me, 'since you've' got used to her'. And she lay contentedly beside my chair, apparently none the worse for her

unpleasant experience early that morning.

I rested but I could not sleep, my brain was still in a

confusion and a fever, my nerves all on edge. I was deeply

grateful for the peace and tranquillity, but above all for the

knowledge that, although I was quite alone and undisturbed

here, nevertheless in the house below For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница and the outbuildings

beyond there were people, plenty of people, going about

their everyday affairs, the reassurance I so badly needed

that the normal world still moved through its appointed

course.

I tried very hard not to let my mind dwell upon what had

happened to me. But I wrote a somewhat guarded letter to

Mr Bentley and a fuller one to Stella -though neither of

them did I tell everything nor confess the extent of my

distress.

After this, I went outside and took a few turns of the

large lawn but the air was cold and raw and I soon returned to my room. There was no For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница sign of Samuel Daily. For an

hour or so before noon I dozed fitfully in my chair and,

strangely enough, though my body jerked upright once or

twice in sudden alarm, after a short time I was able to relax,

and so refresh myself more than I would have expected.

At one o'clock there was a knock upon my door and a

maid inquired as to whether I would like my luncheon to

be served here or if I felt like going down to the dining

room.

'Tell Mrs Daily I will join them directly, thank you.'

I washed and tidied myself For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница, called to the dog and walked

downstairs.

The Dailys were attentiveness and kindness itself and

insistent that I remain with them a day or two longer,

before I returned to London. For I had fully decided to go

back: nothing on earth would have induced me to pass

another hour in Eel Marsh House; I had been as bold and

determined as a man could be but I had been defeated and

I was not afraid to admit as much, nor did I feel any sense

of shame. A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing

away from all manner of physical dangers but when things

supernatural, insubstantial For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница and inexplicable threaten not

only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost

soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most

prudent course.

But I was angry nonetheless, not with myself but with

whatever haunted Eel Marsh House, angry at the wild and

pointless behaviour of that disturbed creature and angry

that it had prevented me, as it would no doubt prevent any

other human being, from doing my job. Perhaps I was also

angry with those people -Mr

Jerome, Keckwick, the

landlord, Samuel Daily -who

had been proven right about

the place. I was young and arrogant enough to feel dashed.

I had For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница learned a hard lesson.

That afternoon, left to my own devices again after an

excellent luncheon -Mr

Daily was soon gone to visit one of

his outlying farms - I took out the packet of Mrs Drablow's

papers which I had brought with me, for I was still curious

about the story I had begun to piece together from my

initial reading of the letters and I thought I would divert

myself further by trying to complete it. The difficulty was,

of course, that I did not know who the young woman -J for Jennet, who had written the letters -was,

whether she

might have For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница been a relative of Mrs Drablow, or her husband,

or merely a friend. But it seemed most likely that only a

blood relation would have given or, rather, been forced to

give her illegitimate child for adoption to another woman,

in the way the letters and legal documents revealed.

I felt sorry for J, as I read her short, emotional letters

over again. Her passionate love for her child and her

isolation with it, her anger and the way she at first fought

bitterly against and, finally, gave despairingly in to the

course proposed to her, filled me with sadness and sympathy. A girl from the servant For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница class, living in a closely

bound community, might perhaps have fared better, sixty

or so years before, than this daughter of genteel parentage,

who had been so coldly rejected and whose feelings were so

totally left out of the count. Yet servant girls in Victorian

England had, I knew, often been driven to murder or

abandon their misconceived children. At least Jennet had

known that her son was alive and had been given a good

home.

And then I opened the other documents that were bound

together with the letters. They were three death certificates.

The first was of the boy, Nathaniel Drablow, at the For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница age of

six years. The cause of death was given as drowning. After

that, and bearing exactly the same date, was a similar

certificate, stating that Rose Judd had also died by

drowning.

I felt a terrible, cold, sickening sensation that began in

the pit of my stomach and seemed to rise up throughmy

chest into my throat, so that I was sure I would either vomit

or choke. But I did not, I only got up and paced in agitation

and distress about the room, clutching the two sheets of

creased paper in my hand.

After a while, I forced myself to look at the last document

also. That too For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница was a death certificate, but dated some twelve

years after the other two.

It was for Jennet Eliza Humfrye, spinster, aged thirty-six

years. The cause of death was given simply as 'heart failure'.

I sat down heavily in my chair. But I was too agitated to

remain there for long and in the end I called to Spider and

went out again into the November afternoon that was

already closing in to an early twilight, and began to walk,

away from Mr Daily's house and garden, past the barns and

stables and sheds and off across some stubble. I felt better

for the For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница exercise. Around me there was only the countryside,

ploughed brown in ridges, with low hedges and, here and

there, two or three elm trees, their bare branches full of

rooks' nests, from which those ugly black birds flew up in

a raucous, flapping flock, every now and then, to reel about,

cawing, in the leaden sky. There was a chill wind blowing

over the fields driving a spatter of hard rain before it.

Spider seemed pleased to be out.

As I walked, my thoughts were all concentrated upon the

papers I had just read and the story they had told and

which was now becoming clear and For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница complete. I had found

out, more or less by chance, the solution -or

much of it to

the identity of the woman in black, as well as the answer

to many other questions. But, although I now knew more,

I was not satisfied by the discovery, only upset and alarmed

-and afraid too. I knew -and yet I did not know, I was

bewildered and nothing had truly been explained. For how

can such things be? I have already stated that I had no more

believed in ghosts than does any healthy young man of

sound education, reasonable intelligence and matter-of-fact

inclinations. But ghosts I For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница had seen. An event, and that a

dreadful, tragic one, of many years ago, which had taken

place and been done with, was somehow taking place over

and over again, repeating itself in some dimension other

than the normal, present one. A pony trap, carrying a boy

of six called Nathaniel, the adopted son of Mr and Mrs

Drablow, and also his nursemaid, had somehow taken a

wrong path in the sea mist and veered off the safety of the

causeway and onto the marshes, where it had been sucked

into the quicksands and swallowed up by the mud and

rising waters of the estuary. The child and the nursemaid

had been For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница drowned and so presumably had the pony and

whoever had been driving the trap. And now, out on those

same marshes, the whole episode, or a ghost, a shadow, a

memory of it, somehow happened again and again - how often

I did not know. But nothing could be seen now, only

heard.

The only other things I knew were that the boy's mother,

Jennet Humfrye had died of a wasting disease twelve years

after her son, that they were both buried in the now disused

and tumbledown graveyard beyond Eel Marsh House; that

the child's nursery had been preserved in that house For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница as he

had left it, with his bed, his clothes, his toys, all undisturbed, and that his mother haunted the place, Moreover,

that the intensity of her grief and distress together with her

pent-up hatred and desire for revenge permeated theair all

around.

And it was that which so troubled me, the force of those

emotions, for those were what I believed had power to

harm. But to harm who? Was not everyone connectedwith

that sad story now dead? For presumably Mrs Drablow had

been the very last of them.

Eventually I began to be tired and turned back but

although I could not find any solution to For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница the business - or

perhaps because it was all so inexplicable - I could not put

it from my mind, I worried at it all the way home and

brooded upon it as I sat in my quiet room, looking out into

the evening darkness.

By the time the gong was sounded for dinner I had

worked myself up into such a fever of agitation that I

determined to pour the whole story out to Mr Samuel Daily

and to demand to hear anything whatever that he knew or

had ever heard about the business.

The scene was as before, the study of Mr Daily's house

after dinner, with the For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница two of us in the comfortable wing

chairs, the decanter and glasses between us on the small

table. I was feeling considerably better after another good

dinner.

I had just come to the end of my story. Mr Daily had sat,

listening without interruption, his face turned away from

me, as I had relived, though with surprising calm, all the

events of my short stay at Eel Marsh House, leading up to

the time when he had found me in a faint outside early that

morning. And I had also told him of my conclusions, drawn

from my perusal of the packet of letters For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница and the death

certificates.

He did not speak for some minutes. The clock ticked.

The fire burned evenly and sweetly in the grate. The dog

Spider lay in front of it on the hearth-rug. Telling the story

had been like a purgation and now my head felt curiously

light, my body in that limp state such as follows upon a

fever or a fright. But I reflected that I could, from this

moment on, only get better, because I could only move step

by steady step away from those awful happenings, as surely

as time went on.

'Well,' he said at last. 'You have come a long way For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница since

the night I met you on the late train.'

'It feels like a hundred years ago. I feel like another

man.'

'You've gone through some rough seas.'

'Well, I'm in the calm after the storm now and there's an

end of it.'

I saw that his face was troubled.

'Come,' I said bravely, 'you don't think any more harm

can come of it surely? I never intend to go back there.

Nothing would persuade me.'

No.'

'Then all is well.'

He did not answer, but leaned forward and poured

himself another small tot of whisky.

'Though I do For Pat and Charles Gardner 9 страница wonder what will happen to the house,,' I

said. 'I'm sure no one local is ever going to want to live

there and I can't imagine anyone who might come from

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