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- Dreams and Dream Stories - 10/44 -
XXI. The Haunted Inn
I seemed in my vision to be on a long and wearisome journey, and to have arrived at an Inn, in which I was offered shelter and rest. The apartment given me consisted of a bedroom and parlour, communicating, and furnished in an antique manner, everything in the rooms appearing to be worm-eaten, dusty and out of date. The walls were bare and dingy; there was not a picture or an ornament in the apartment. An extremely dim light prevailed in the scene; indeed, I do not clearly remember, whether, with the exception of the fire and a nightlamp, the rooms were illumined at all. I seated myself in a chair, by the hearth; it was late, and I thought only of rest. But, presently, I became aware of strange things going on about me. On a table in a corner lay some papers and a pencil. With a feeling of indescribable horror I saw this pencil assume an erect position and begin of itself to write on the paper, precisely as though an invisible hand held and guided it. At the same time, small detonations sounded in different parts of the room; tiny bright sparks appeared, burst, and immediately expired in smoke. The pencil having ceased to write, laid itself gently down, and taking the paper in my hand I found on it a quantity of writing which at first appeared to me to be in cipher, but I presently perceived that the words composing it were written backwards, from right to left, exactly as one sees writing reflected on a looking glass. What was written made a considerable impression on me at the time, but I cannot now recall it. I know, however, that the dominant feeling I experienced was one of horror.
I called the owners of the inn and related to them what had taken place. They received my statement with perfect equanimity, and told me that in their house this was the normal state of things, of which, in fact, they were extremely proud; and they ended by congratulating me as a visitor much favored by the invisible agencies of the place.
"We call them our Lights," they said.
"It is true," I observed, "that I saw lights in the air about the room, but they went out instantaneously, and left only smoke behind them. And why do they write backwards? Who are They?"
As I asked this last question, the pencil on the table rose again, and wrote thus on the paper:--
Again horror seized on me, and the air becoming full of smoke I found it impossible to breathe. "Let me out!" I cried, "I am stifled here,--the air is full of smoke!"
"Outside," the people of the house answered, "you will lose your way; it is quite dark, and we have no other rooms to let. And, besides, it is the same in all the other apartments of the inn."
"But the place is haunted!" I cried; and I pushed past them, and burst out of the house.
Before the doorway stood a tall veiled figure, like translucent silver. A sense of reverence overcame me. The night was balmy, and bright almost as day with resplendent starlight. The stars seemed to lean out of heaven; they looked down on me like living eyes, full of a strange immeasurable sympathy. I crossed the threshold, and stood in the open plain, breathing with rapture and relief the pure warm air of that delicious night. How restful, calm, and glorious was the dark landscape, outlined in purple against the luminous sky! And what a consciousness of vastness and immensity above and around me! "Where am I?" I cried. The silver figure stood beside me, and lifted its veil. It was Pallas Athena.
"Under the Stars of the East," she answered me, "the true eternal Lights of the World."
After I was awake, a text in the Gospels was vividly brought to my mind:--"There was no room for then in the Inn." What is this Inn, I wondered, all the rooms of which are haunted, and in which the Christ cannot be born? And this open country under the eastern night,--is it not the same in which they were "abiding," to whom that Birth was first angelically announced?
--Atcham, Nov. 5, 1885
---------- ** The solution of the enigma was afterwards recognised in an instruction, also imparted in sleep, in which it was said, "If Occultism were all, and held the key of heaven, there would be no need of Christ." (Ed.)
XXII. An Eastern Apologue
The following was read by me during sleep, in an old book printed in archaic type. As with many other things similarly read by me, I do not know whether it is to be found in any book:--
"After Buddha had been ten years in retirement, certain sages sent their disciples to him, asking him,--'What dost thou claim to be, Gotama?'
"Buddha answered them, 'I claim to be nothing.'
"Ten years afterwards they sent again to him, asking the same question, and again Buddha answered:--'I claim to be nothing.'
"Then after yet another ten years had passed, they sent a third time, asking, 'What dost thou claim to be, Gotama?'
"And Buddha replied, 'I claim to be the utterance of the most high God.'
"Then they said to him: 'How is this, that hitherto thou hast proclaimed thyself to be nothing, and now thou declarest thyself to be the very utterance of God?'
"Buddha answered: `Either I am nothing, or I am the very utterance of God, for between these two all is silence."'
--Atcham, March 5, 1885
XXIII. A Haunted House Indeed!
I dreamt that during a tour on the Continent with my friend C. we stayed in a town wherein there was an ancient house of horrible reputation, concerning which we received the following account. At the top of the house was a suite of rooms, from which no one who entered at night ever again emerged. No corpse was ever found; but it was said by some that the victims were absorbed bodily by the walls; by others that there were in the rooms a number of pictures in frames, one frame, however, containing a blank canvas, which had the dreadful power, first, of fascinating the beholder, and next of drawing him towards it, so that he was compelled to approach and gaze at it. Then, by the same hideous enchantment, he was forced to touch it, and the touch was fatal. For the canvas seized him as a devil-fish seizes its prey, and sucked him in, so that he perished without leaving a trace of himself, or of the manner of his death. The legend said further that if any person could succeed in passing a night in these rooms and in resisting their deadly influence, the spell would for ever be broken, and no one would thenceforth be sacrificed.
Hearing all this, and being somewhat of the knight-errant order, C. and I determined to face the danger, and, if possible, deliver the town from the enchantment. We were assured that the attempt would be vain, for that it had already been many times made, and the Devils of the place were always triumphant. They had the power, we were told, of hallucinating the senses of their victims; we should be subjected to some illusion, and be fatally deceived. Nevertheless, we were resolved to try what we could do, and in order to acquaint ourselves with the scene of the ordeal, we visited the place in the daytime. It was a gloomy-looking building, consisting of several vast rooms, filled with lumber of old furniture, worm-eaten and decaying; scaffoldings, which seemed to have been erected for the sake of making repairs and then left; the windows were curtainless, the floors bare, and rats ran hither and thither among the rubbish accumulated in the corners. Nothing could possibly look more desolate and gruesome. We saw no pictures; but as we did not explore every part of the rooms, they may have been there without our seeing them.
We were further informed by the people of the town that in order to visit the rooms at night it was necessary to wear a special costume, and that without it we should have no chance whatever of issuing from them alive. This costume was of black and white, and each of us was to carry a black stave. So we put on this attire,--which somewhat resembled the garb of an ecclesiastical order,--and when the appointed time came, repaired to the haunted house, where, after toiling up the great staircase in the darkness, we reached the door of the haunted apartments to find it closed. But light was plainly visible beneath it, and within was the sound of voices. This greatly surprised us; but after a short conference we knocked. The door was presently opened by a servant, dressed as a modern indoor footman usually is, who civilly asked us to walk in. On entering we found the place altogether different from what we expected to find, and had found on our daylight visit. It was brightly lighted, had decorated walls, pretty ornaments, carpets, and every kind of modern garnishment, and, in short, bore all the appearance of an ordinary well-appointed private "flat." While we stood in the corridor, astonished, a gentleman in evening dress advanced towards us from one of the reception rooms. As he looked interrogatively at us, we thought it best to explain the intrusion, adding that we presumed we had either entered the wrong house, or stopped at the wrong apartment.
He laughed pleasantly at our tale, and said, "I don't know anything about haunted rooms, and, in fact, don't believe in anything of the kind. As for these rooms, they have for a long time been let for two or three nights every week to our Society for the purpose of
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