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"The Watcher" appeared in _Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery_ (Dublin, 1851)

by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)




     "How long wilt thou not depart from me?  Thou
     terrifiest me through visions:  so that my soul
     chooseth strangling rather than my life."


It is now more than fifty years since the occurrences which
I am about to relate caused a strange sensation in the gay
society of Dublin.  The fashionable world, however, is no
recorder of traditions; the memory of selfishness seldom
reaches far; and the events which occasionally disturb the
polite monotony of its pleasant and heartless progress,
however stamped with the characters of misery and horror,
scarcely ever outlive the gossip of a season; and, except
perhaps in the remembrance of a few more directly interested
in the consequences of the catastrophe, are in a little time
lost to the recollection of all.  The appetite for scandal,
or for horror, has been sated; the incident can yield no
more of interest or of novelty; curiosity, frustrated by
impenetrable mystery, gives over the pursuit in despair; the
tale has ceased to be new, grows stale and flat; and so, in
a few years, inquiry subsides into indifference and all is

  Somewhere about the year 1794, the younger brother of a
certain baronet, whom I shall call Sir James Barton,
returned to Dublin.  He had served in the navy with some
distinction, having commanded one of his Majesty's frigates
during the greater part of the American war.  Captain Barton
was now apparently some two or three-and-forty years of age. 
He was an intelligent and agreeable companion, when he chose
it, though generally reserved, and occasionally even moody. 
In society, however, he deported himself as a man of the
world, and a gentleman.  He had not contracted any of the
noisy brusqueness sometimes acquired at sea; on the
contrary, his manners were remarkably easy, quiet, and even
polished.  He was in person about the middle size, and
somewhat strongly formed; his countenance was marked with
the lines of thought, and on the whole wore an expression of
gravity and even of melancholy; being however, as we have
said, a man of perfect breeding, as well as of affluent
circumstances and good family, he had, of course, ready
access to the best society of the metropolis, without the
necessity of any other credentials.  In his personal habits
Captain Barton was unexpensive.  He occupied lodgings in one
of the "then" fashionable streets in the south side of the
town, kept but one horse and one servant, and though a
reputed free-thinker, yet lived an orderly and moral life,
indulging neither in gaming, drinking, nor any other vicious
pursuit, living very much to himself, without forming any
intimacies, or choosing any companions, and appearing to mix
in gay society rather for the sake of its bustle and
distraction, than for any opportunities which it offered of
interchanging either thoughts or feelings with its votaries. 
Barton was therefore pronounced a saving, prudent, unsocial
sort of a fellow, who bid fair to maintain his celibacy
alike against stratagem and assault, and was likely to live
to a good old age, die rich, and leave his money to a

  It was soon apparent, however, that the nature of Mr.
Barton's plans had been totally misconceived.  A young lady,
whom we shall call Miss Montague, was at this time
introduced into the gay world of Dublin, by her aunt, the
Dowager Lady Rochdale.  Miss Montague was decidedly pretty
and accomplished, and having some natural cleverness, and a
great deal of gaiety, became for a while a reigning toast. 
Her popularity, however, gained her, for a time, nothing
more than that unsubstantial admiration which, however
pleasant as an incense to vanity, is by no means necessarily
antecedent to matrimony; for, unhappily for the young lady
in question, it was an understood thing, that, beyond her
personal attractions, she had no kind of earthly provision. 
Such being the state of affairs, it will readily be believed
that no little surprise was consequent upon the appearance
of Captain Barton as the avowed lover of the penniless Miss

  His suit prospered, as might have been expected, and in a
short time it was confidentially communicated by old Lady
Rochdale to each of her hundred and fifty particular friends
in succession, that Captain Barton had actually tendered
proposals of marriage, with her approbation, to her niece,
Miss Montague, who had, moreover, accepted the offer of his
hand, conditionally upon the consent of her father, who was
then upon his homeward voyage from India, and expected in
two or three months at furthest.  About his consent there
could be no doubt.  The delay, therefore, was one merely of
form; they were looked upon as absolutely engaged, and Lady
Rochdale, with a rigour of old-fashioned decorum with which
her niece would, no doubt, gladly have dispensed, withdrew
her thenceforward from all further participation in the
gaieties of the town.  Captain Barton was a constant
visitor, as well as a frequent guest at the house, and was
permitted all the privileges and intimacy which a betrothed
suitor is usually accorded.  Such was the relation of
parties, when the mysterious circumstances which darken this
narrative with inexplicable melancholy, first began to
unfold themselves.

  Lady Rochdale resided in a handsome mansion at the north
side of Dublin, and Captain Barton's lodgings, as we have
already said, were situated at the south.  The distance
intervening was considerable, and it was Captain Barton's
habit generally to walk home without an attendant, as often
as he passed the evening with the old lady and her fair
charge.  His shortest way in such nocturnal walks lay, for a
considerable space, through a line of street which had as
yet been merely laid out, and little more than the
foundations of the houses constructed.  One night, shortly
after his engagement with Miss Montague had commenced, he
happened to remain unusually late, in company only with her
and Lady Rochdale.  The conversation had turned upon the
evidences of revelation, which he had disputed with the
callous scepticism of a confirmed infidel.  What were called
"French principles" had, in those days, found their way a
good deal into fashionable society, especially that portion
of it which professed allegiance to Whiggism, and neither
the old lady nor her charge were so perfectly free from the
taint as to look upon Mr. Barton's views as any serious
objection to the proposed union.  The discussion had
degenerated into one upon the supernatural and the
marvellous, in which he had pursued precisely the same line
of argument and ridicule.  In all this, it is but truth to
state, Captain Barton was guilty of no affectation; the
doctrines upon which he insisted were, in reality, but too
truly the basis of his owned fixed belief, if so it might be
called; and perhaps not the least strange of the many
strange circumstances connected with this narrative, was the
fact that the subject of the fearful influences we are about
to describe was himself, from the deliberate conviction of
years, an utter disbeliever in what are usually termed
preternatural agencies.

  It was considerably past midnight when Mr. Barton took his
leave, and set out upon his solitary walk homeward.  He had
now reached the lonely road, with its unfinished dwarf walls
tracing the foundations of the projected rows of houses on
either side.  The moon was shining mistily, and its
imperfect light made the road he trod but additionally
dreary; that utter silence, which has in it something
indefinably exciting, reigned there, and made the sound of
his steps, which alone broke it, unnaturally loud and
distinct.  He had proceeded thus some way, when on a sudden
he heard other footsteps, pattering at a measured pace, and,
as it seemed, about two score steps behind him.  The
suspicion of being dogged is at all times unpleasant; it is,
however, especially so in a spot so desolate and lonely: 
and this suspicion became so strong in the mind of Captain
Barton, that he abruptly turned about to confront his
pursuers, but, though there was quite sufficient moonlight
to disclose any object upon the road he had traversed, no
form of any kind was visible there. 

  The steps he had heard could not have been the
reverberation of his own, for he stamped his foot upon the
ground, and walked briskly up and down, in the vain attempt
to awake an echo; though by no means a fanciful person,
therefore, he was at last fain to charge the sounds upon his
imagination, and treat them as an illusion.  Thus satisfying
himself, he resumed his walk, and before he had proceeded a
dozen paces, the mysterious footfalls were again audible
from behind, and this time, as if with the special design of
showing that the sounds were not the responses of an echo,
the steps sometimes slackened nearly to a halt, and
sometimes hurried for six or eight strides to a run, and
again abated to a walk.

  Captain Barton, as before, turned suddenly round, and with
the same result; no object was visible above the deserted
level of the road.  He walked back over the same ground,
determined that, whatever might have been the cause of the
sounds which had so disconcerted him, it should not escape
his search; the endeavour, however, was unrewarded.  In
spite of all his scepticism, he felt something like a
superstitious fear stealing fast upon him, and, with these
unwonted and uncomfortable sensations, he once more turned
and pursued his way.  There was no repetition of these
haunting sounds, until he had reached the point where he had
last stopped to retrace his steps.  Here they were resumed,
and with sudden starts of running, which threatened to bring
the unseen pursuer close up to the alarmed pedestrian. 
Captain Barton arrested his course as formerly; the
unaccountable nature of the occurrence filled him with vague
and almost horrible sensations, and, yielding to the
excitement he felt gaining upon him, he shouted, sternly -- 

  "Who goes there?"

  The sound of one's own voice, thus exerted, in utter
solitude, and followed by total silence, has in it something
unpleasantly exciting, and he felt a degree of nervousness
which, perhaps, from no cause had he ever known before.  To
the very end of this solitary street the steps pursued him,
and it required a strong effort of stubborn pride on his
part to resist the impulse that prompted him every moment to
run for safety at the top of his speed.  It was not until he
had reached his lodging, and sate by his own fireside, that
he felt sufficiently reassured to arrange and reconsider in
his own mind the occurrences which had so discomposed him: 
so little a matter, after all, is sufficient to upset the
pride of scepticism, and vindicate the old simple laws of
nature within us. 

  Mr. Barton was next morning sitting at a late breakfast,
reflecting upon the incidents of the previous night, with
more of inquisitiveness than awe, so speedily do gloomy
impressions upon the fancy disappear under the cheerful
influences of day, when a letter just delivered by the
postman was placed upon the table before him.  There was
nothing remarkable in the address of this missive, except
that it was written in a hand which he did not know --
perhaps it was disguised -- for the tall narrow characters
were sloped backward; and with the self-inflicted suspense
which we so often see practised in such cases, he puzzled
over the inscription for a full minute before he broke the
seal.  When he did so, he read the following words, written
in the same hand: 

       "Mr. Barton, late Captain of the 'Dolphin,' is warned
     of DANGER.  He will do wisely to avoid ---- street --
     [here the locality of his last night's adventure was
     named] -- if he walks there as usual he will meet with
     something bad.  Let him take warning, once for all, for
     he has good reason to dread 
                                      "The Watcher."

  Captain Barton read and re-read this strange effusion; in
every light and in every direction he turned it over and
over.  He examined the paper on which it was written, and
closely scrutinized the handwriting.  Defeated here, he
turned to the seal; it was nothing but a patch of wax, upon
which the accidental impression of a coarse thumb was
imperfectly visible.  There was not the slightest mark, no
clue of indication of any kind, to lead him to even a guess
as to its possible origin.  The writer's object seemed a
friendly one, and yet he subscribed himself as one whom he
had "good reason to dread."  Altogether, the letter, its
author, and its real purpose, were to him an inexplicable
puzzle, and one, moreover, unpleasantly suggestive, in his
mind, of associations connected with the last night's

  In obedience to some feeling -- perhaps of pride -- Mr.
Barton did not communicate, even to his intended bride, the
occurrences which we have just detailed.  Trifling as they
might appear, they had in reality most disagreeably affected
his imagination, and he cared not to disclose, even to the
young lady in question, what she might possibly look upon as
evidences of weakness.  The letter might very well be but a
hoax, and the mysterious footfall but a delusion of his
fancy.  But although he affected to treat the whole affair
as unworthy of a thought, it yet haunted him pertinaciously,
tormenting him with perplexing doubts, and depressing him
with undefined apprehensions.  Certain it is, that for a
considerable time afterwards he carefully avoided the street
indicated in the letter as the scene of danger.

  It was not until about a week after the receipt of the
letter which I have transcribed, that anything further
occurred to remind Captain Barton of its contents, or to
counteract the gradual disappearance from his mind of the
disagreeable impressions which he had then received.  He was
returning one night, after the interval I have stated, from
the theatre, which was then situated in Crow-street, and
having there handed Miss Montague and Lady Rochdale into
their carriage, he loitered for some time with two or three
acquaintances.  With these, however, he parted close to the
College, and pursued his way alone.  It was now fully one
o'clock, and the streets were quite deserted.  During the
whole of his walk with the companions from whom he had just
parted, he had been at times painfully aware of the sound of
steps, as it seemed, dogging them on their way.  Once or
twice he had looked back, in the uneasy anticipation that he
was again about to experience the same mysterious annoyances
which had so much disconcerted him a week before, and
earnestly hoping that he might "see" some form from whom the
sounds might naturally proceed.  But the street was
deserted; no form was visible.  Proceeding now quite alone
upon his homeward way, he grew really nervous and
uncomfortable, as he became sensible, with increased
distinctness, of the well-known and now absolutely dreaded

  By the side of the dead wall which bounded the College
Park, the sounds followed, recommencing almost
simultaneously with his own steps.  The same unequal pace --
sometimes slow, sometimes, for a score yards or so,
quickened to a run-- was audible from behind him.  Again and
again he turned; quickly and stealthily he glanced over his
shoulder, almost at every half-dozen steps; but no one was
visible.  The horrors of this intangible and unseen
persecution became gradually all but intolerable; and when
at last he reached his home, his nerves were strung to such
a pitch of excitement that he could not rest, and did not
attempt even to lie down until after the day-light had

  He was awakened by a knock at his chamber-door, and his
servant entering, handed him several letters which had just
been received by the penny post.  One among them instantly
arrested his attention; a single glance at the direction
aroused him thoroughly.  He at once recognized its
character, and read as follows: --

       "You may as well think, Captain Barton, to escape
     from your own shadow as from me; do what you may, I
     will see you as often as I please, and you shall see
     me, for I do not want to hide myself, as you fancy.  Do
     not let it trouble your rest, Captain Barton; for, with
     a 'good conscience,' what need you fear from the eye of

                                              "The Watcher."

  It is scarcely necessary to dwell upon the feelings
elicited by a perusal of this strange communication. 
Captain Barton was observed to be unusually absent and out
of spirits for several days afterwards; but no one divined
the cause.  Whatever he might think as to the phantom steps
which followed him, there could be no possible illusion
about the letters he had received; and, to say the least of
it, their immediate sequence upon the mysterious sounds
which had haunted him was an odd coincidence.  The whole
circumstance was, in his own mind, vaguely and instinctively
connected with certain passages in his past life, which, of
all others, he hated to remember.

  It happened, however, that in addition to his own
approaching nuptials, Captain Barton had just then --
fortunately, perhaps, for himself -- some business of an
engrossing kind connected with the adjustment of a large and
long-litigated claim upon certain properties.  The hurry and
excitement of business had its natural effect in gradually
dispelling the marked gloom which had for a time
occasionally oppressed him, and in a little while his
spirits had entirely resumed their accustomed tone.

  During all this time, however, he was occasionally
dismayed by indistinct and half-heard repetitions of the
same annoyance, and that in lonely places, in the day time
as well as after nightfall.  These renewals of the strange
impressions from which he had suffered so much were,
however, desultory and faint, insomuch that often he really
could not, to his own satisfaction, distinguish between them
and the mere suggestions of an excited imagination.  One
evening he walked down to the House of Commons with a Mr.
Norcott, a member.  As they walked down together, he was
observed to become absent and silent, and to a degree so
marked as scarcely to consist with good breeding; and this,
in one who was obviously, in all his habits, so perfectly a
gentleman, seemed to argue the pressure of some urgent and
absorbing anxiety.  It was afterwards known that, during the
whole of that walk, he had heard the well-known footsteps
dogging him as he proceeded.  This, however, was the last
time he suffered from this phase of the persecution, of
which he was already the anxious victim.  A new and a very
different one was about to be presented. 

  Of the new series of impressions which were afterwards
gradually to work out his destiny, that evening disclosed
the first; and but for its relation to the train of events
which followed, the incident would scarcely have been
remembered by any one.  As they were walking in at the
passage, a man, of whom his friend could afterwards remember
only that he was short in stature, looked like foreigner,
and wore a kind of travelling-cap, walked very rapidly, and
as if under some fierce excitement, directly towards them,
muttering to himself fast and vehemently the while.  This
odd-looking person walked straight toward Barton, who was
foremost, and halted, regarding him for a moment or two with
a look of menace and fury almost maniacal; and then turning
about as abruptly, he walked before them at the same
agitated pace, and disappeared by a side passage. 

  Norcott distinctly remembered being a good deal shocked at
the countenance and bearing of this man, which indeed
irresistibly impressed him with an undefined sense of
danger, such as he never felt before or since from the
presence of anything human; but these sensations were far
from amounting to anything so disconcerting as to flurry or
excite him -- he had seen only a singularly evil
countenance, agitated, as it seemed, with the excitement of
madness.  He was absolutely astonished, however, at the
effect of this apparition upon Captain Barton.  He knew him
to be a man of proved courage and coolness in real danger, a
circumstance which made his conduct upon this occasion the
more conspicuously odd.  He recoiled a step or two as the
stranger advanced, and clutched his companion's arm in
silence, with a spasm of agony or terror; and then, as the
figure disappeared, shoving him roughly back, he followed it
for a few paces, stopped in great disorder, and sat down
upon a form.  A countenance more ghastly and haggard it was
impossible to fancy.

  "For God's sake, Barton, what is the matter?" said
Norcott, really alarmed at his appearance.  "You're not
hurt, are you? nor unwell?  What is it?" 

  "What did he say? -- I did not hear it -- what was it?"
asked Barton, wholly disregarding the question.

  "Tut, tut -- nonsense." said Norcott, greatly surprised;
"who cares what the fellow said?  You are unwell -- Barton,
decidedly unwell; let me call a coach."

  "Unwell!  Yes -- no -- not exactly unwell," he said,
evidently making an effort to recover his self-possession;
"but to say the truth, I am fatigued -- a little overworked
-- and perhaps over anxious.  You know I have been in
Chancery, and the winding up of a suit is always a nervous
affair.  I have felt uncomfortable all this evening; but I
am better now.  Come, come; shall we go on?"

  "No, no.  Take my advice, Barton, and go home; you really
do need rest; you are looking absolutely ill.  I really do
insist on your allowing me to see you home," replied his

  It was obvious that Barton was not himself disinclined to
be persuaded.  He accordingly took his leave, politely
declining his friend's offered escort.  Notwithstanding the
few commonplace regrets which Norcott had expressed, it was
plain that he was just as little deceived as Barton himself
by the extempore plea of illness with which he had accounted
for the strange exhibition, and that he even then suspected
some lurking mystery in the matter.

  Norcott called next day at Barton's lodgings, to inquire
for him, and learned from the servant that he had not left
his room since his return the night before; but that he was
not seriously indisposed, and hoped to be out again in a few
days.  That evening he sent for Doctor Richards, then in
large and fashionable practice in Dublin, and their
interview was, it is said, an odd one. 

  He entered into a detail of his own symptoms in an
abstracted and desultory kind of way, which seemed to argue
a strange want of interest in his own cure, and, at all
events, made it manifest that there was some topic engaging
his mind of more engrossing importance than his present
ailment.  He complained of occasional palpitations, and
headach.  Doctor Richards asked him, among other questions,
whether there was any irritating circumstance or anxiety to
account for it.  This he denied quickly and almost
peevishly; and the physician thereupon declared his opinion,
that there was nothing amiss except some slight derangement
of the digestion, for which he accordingly wrote a
prescription, and was about to withdraw, when Mr. Barton,
with the air of a man who suddenly recollects a topic which
had nearly escaped him, recalled him. 

  "I beg your pardon, doctor, but I had really almost
forgot; will you permit me to ask you two or three medical
questions -- rather odd ones, perhaps, but as a wager
depends upon their solution, you will, I hope, excuse any

  The physician readily undertook to satisfy the inquirer.

  Barton seemed to have some difficulty about opening the
proposed interrogatories, for he was silent for a minute,
then walked to his book-case and returned as he had gone; at
last he sat down, and said, -- 

  "You'll think them very childish questions, but I can't
recover my wager without a decision; so I must put them.  I
want to know first about lock-jaw.  If a man actually has
had that complaint, and appears to have died of it -- so
that so, that a physician of average skill pronounces him
actually dead -- may he, after all, recover?"

  Doctor Richards smiled, and shook his head.

  "But -- but a blunder may be made," resumed Barton. 
"Suppose an ignorant pretender to medical skill; may 'he' be
so deceived by any stage of complaint, as to mistake what is
only a part of the progress of the disease, for death

  "No one who had ever seen death," answered he, "could
mistake it in the case of lock-jaw."

  Barton mused for a few minutes.  "I am going to ask you a
question, perhaps still more childish; but first tell me,
are not the regulations of foreign hospitals, such as those
of, let us say, Lisbon, very lax and bungling?  May not all
kinds of blunders and slips occur in their entries of names,
and soforth?"

  Doctor Richards professed his inability to answer that

  "Well, then, doctor, here is the last of my questions. 
You will, probably, laugh at it; but it must out,
nevertheless.  Is there any disease, in all the range of
human maladies, which would have the effect of perceptibly
contracting the stature, and the whole frame -- causing the
man to shrink in all his proportions, and yet to preserve
his exact resemblance to himself in every particular -- with
the one exception, his height and bulk; 'any' disease, mark,
no matter how rare, how little believed in, generally, which
could possibly result in producing such an effect?"

  The physician replied with a smile, and a very decided

  "Tell me, then," said Barton, abruptly, "if a man be in
reasonable fear of assault from a lunatic who is at large,
can he not procure a warrant for his arrest and detention?"

  "Really, that is more a lawyer's questions than one in my
way," replied Doctor Richards; "but I believe, on applying
to a magistrate, such a course would be directed."

  The physician then took his leave; but, just as he reached
the hall-door, remembered that he had left his cane up
stairs, and returned.  His reappearance was awkward, for a
piece of paper, which he recognized as his own prescription,
was slowly burning upon the fire, and Barton sitting close
by with an expression of settled gloom and dismay.  Doctor
Richards had too much tact to appear to observe what
presented itself; but he had seen quite enough to assure him
that the mind, and not the body, of Captain Barton was in
reality the seat of his sufferings.

  A few days afterwards, the following advertisement
appeared in the Dublin newspapers:

  "If Sylvester Yelland, formerly a foremast man on board
his Majesty's frigate Dolphin, or his nearest of kin, will
apply to Mr. Robert Smith, solicitor, at his office,
Dame-street, he or they may hear of something greatly to his
or their advantage.  Admission may be had at any hour up to
twelve o'clock at night, for the next fortnight, should
parties desire to avoid observation; and the strictest
secrecy, as to all communications intended to be
confidential, shall be honourably observed."
  The Dolphin, as we have mentioned, was the vessel which
Captain Barton had commanded; and this circumstance,
connected with the extraordinary exertions made by the
circulation of hand-bills, &c., as well as by repeated
advertisements, to secure for this strange notice the utmost
possible publicity, suggested to Doctor Richards the idea
that Captain Barton's extreme uneasiness was somehow
connected with the individual to whom the advertisement was
addressed, and he himself the author of it.  This, however,
it is needless to add, was no more than a conjecture.  No
information whatsoever, as to the real purpose of the
advertisement itself, was divulged by the agent, nor yet any
hint as to who his employer might be. 

  Mr. Barton, although he had latterly begun to earn for
himself the character of a hypochondriac, was yet very far
from deserving it.  Though by no means lively, he had yet,
naturally, what are termed "even spirits," and was not
subject to undue depressions.  He soon, therefore, began to
return to his former habits; and one of the earliest
symptoms of this healthier tone of spirits was, his
appearing at a grand dinner of the Freemasons, of which
worthy fraternity he was himself a brother.  Barton, who had
been at first gloomy and abstracted, drank much more freely
than was his wont -- possibly with the purpose of dispelling
his own secret anxieties -- and under the influence of good
wine, and pleasant company, became gradually (unlike his
usual "self") talkative, and even noisy.  It was under this
unwonted excitement that he left his company at about
half-past ten o'clock; and as conviviality is a strong
incentive to gallantry, it occurred to him to proceed
forthwith to Lady Rochdale's, and pass the remainder of the
evening with her and his destined bride.

  Accordingly, he was soon at ---- street, and chatting
gaily with the ladies.  It is not to be supposed that
Captain Barton had exceeded the limits which propriety
prescribes to good fellowship; he had merely taken enough of
wine to raise his spirits, without, however, in the least
degree unsteadying his mind, or affecting his manners.  With
this undue elevation of spirits had supervened an entire
oblivion or contempt of those undefined apprehensions which
had for so long weighed upon his mind, and to a certain
extent estranged him from society; but as the night wore
away, and his artificial gaiety began to flag, these painful
feelings gradually intruded themselves again, and he grew
abstracted and anxious as heretofore.  He took his leave at
length, with an unpleasant foreboding of some coming
mischief, and with a mind haunted with a thousand mysterious
apprehensions, such as, even while he acutely felt their
pressure, he, nevertheless, inwardly strove, or affected to

  It was his proud defiance of what he considered to be his
own weakness, which prompted him upon this occasion to the
course which brought about the adventure which we are now
about to relate.  Mr. Barton might have easily called a
coach, but he was conscious that his strong inclination to
do so proceeded from no cause other than what he desperately
persisted in representing to himself to be his own
superstitious tremors.  He might also have returned home by
a route different from that against which he had been warned
by his mysterious correspondent; but for the same reason he
dismissed this idea also, and with a dogged and half
desperate resolution to force matters to a crisis of some
kind, if there were any reality in the causes of his former
suffering, and if not, satisfactorily to bring their
delusiveness to the proof, he determined to follow precisely
the course which he had trodden upon the night so painfully
memorable in his own mind as that on which his strange
persecution had commenced.  Though, sooth to say, the pilot
who for the first time steers his vessel under the muzzles
of a hostile battery, never felt his resolution more
severely tasked that did Captain Barton, as he breathlessly
pursued this solitary path -- a path which, spite of every
effort of scepticism and reason, he felt to be, as respected
"him," infested by a malignant influence.

  He pursued his way steadily and rapidly, scarcely
breathing from intensity of suspense; he, however, was
troubled by no renewal of the dreaded footsteps, and was
beginning to feel a return of confidence, as, more than
three-fourths of the way being accomplished with impunity,
he approached the long line of twinkling oil lamps which
indicated the frequented streets.  This feeling of
self-congratulation was, however, but momentary.  The report
of a musket at some two hundred yards behind him, and the
whistle of a bullet close to his head, disagreeably and
startlingly dispelled it.  His first impulse was to retrace
his steps in pursuit of the assassin; but the road on either
side was, as we have said, embarrassed by the foundations of
a street, beyond which extended waste fields, full of
rubbish and neglected lime and brick kilns, and all now as
utterly silent as though no sound had ever disturbed their
dark and unsightly solitude.  The futility of,
single-handed, attempting, under such circumstances, a
search for the murderer, was apparent, especially as no
further sound whatever was audible to direct his pursuit.

  With the tumultuous sensations of one whose life had just
been exposed to a murderous attempt, and whose escape has
been the narrowest possible, Captain Barton turned, and
without, however, quickening his pace actually to a run,
hurriedly pursued his way.  He had turned, as we have said,
after a pause of a few seconds, and had just commenced his
rapid retreat, when on a sudden he met the well-remembered
little man in the fur cap.  The encounter was but momentary. 
The figure was walking at the same exaggerated pace, and
with the same strange air of menace as before; and as it
passed him, he thought he heard it say, in a furious
whisper, "Still alive -- still alive!" 

  The state of Mr. Barton's spirits began now to work a
corresponding alteration in his health and looks, and to
such a degree that it was impossible that the change should
escape general remark.  For some reasons, known but to
himself, he took no step whatsoever to bring the attempt
upon his life, which he had so narrowly escaped, under the
notice of the authorities; on the contrary, he kept it
jealously to himself; and it was not for many weeks after
the occurrence that he mentioned it, and then in strict
confidence, to a gentleman, whom the torments of his mind at
last compelled him to consult.

  Spite of his blue devils, however, poor Barton, having no
satisfactory reason to render to the public for any undue
remissness in the attentions which his relation to Miss
Montague required, was obliged to exert himself, and present
to the world a confident and cheerful bearing.  The true
source of his sufferings, and every circumstance connected
with them, he guarded with a reserve so jealous, that it
seemed dictated by at least a suspicion that the origin of
his strange persecution was known to himself, and that it
was of a nature which, upon his own account, he could not or
dared not disclose.

  The mind thus turned in upon itself, and constantly
occupied with a haunting anxiety which it dared not reveal,
or confide to any human breast, became daily more excited,
and, of course, more vividly impressible, by a system of
attack which operated through the nervous system; and in
this state he was destined to sustain, with increasing
frequency, the stealthy visitations of that apparition,
which from the first had seemed to possess so unearthly and
terrible a hold upon his imagination.

  ***                    ***                    ***

  It was about this time that Captain Barton called upon the
then celebrated preacher, Doctor Macklin, with whom he had a
slight acquaintance, and an extraordinary conversation
ensued.  The divine was seated in his chambers in college,
surrounded with works upon his favourite pursuit, and deep
in theology, when Barton was announced.  There was something
at once embarrassed and excited in his manner, which, along
with his wan and haggard countenance, impressed the student
with the unpleasant consciousness that his visitor must have
recently suffered terribly indeed to account for an
alternation so striking, almost shocking.

  After the usual interchange of polite greeting, and a few
common-place remarks, Captain Barton, who obviously
perceived the surprise which his visit had excited, and
which Doctor Macklin was unable wholly to conceal,
interrupted a brief pause by remarking: --

  "This is a strange call, Doctor Macklin, perhaps scarcely
warranted by an acquaintance so slight as mine with you.  I
should not, under ordinary circumstances, have ventured to
disturb you; but my visit is neither an idle nor impertinent
intrusion.  I am sure you will not so account it, when -- "

  Doctor Macklin interrupted him with assurances, such as
good breeding suggested, and Barton resumed: --

  "I am come to task your patience by asking your advice. 
When I say your patience, I might, indeed, say more; I might
have said your humanity, your compassion; for I have been,
and am a great sufferer."

  "My dear sir," replied the churchman, "it will, indeed,
afford me infinite gratification if I can give you comfort
in any distress of mind, but -- but -- "

  "I know what you would say," resumed Barton, quickly; "I
am an unbeliever, and, therefore, incapable of deriving help
from religion, but don't take that for granted.  At least
you must not assume that, however unsettled my convictions
may be, I do not feel a deep, a very deep, interest in the
subject.  Circumstances have lately forced it upon my
attention, in such a way as to compel me to review the whole
question in a more candid and teachable spirit, I believe,
than I ever studied it in before."

  "Your difficulties, I take it for granted, refer to the
evidences of revelation," suggested the clergyman.

  "Why -- no -- yes; in fact I am ashamed to say I have not
considered even my objections sufficiently to state them
connectedly; but -- but there is one subject on which I feel
a peculiar interest."

  He paused again, and Doctor Macklin pressed him to

  "The fact is," said Barton, "whatever may be my
uncertainty as to the authenticity of what we are taught to
call revelation, of one fact I am deeply and horribly
convinced, that there does exist beyond this a spiritual
world -- a system whose workings are generally in mercy
hidden from us -- a system which may be, and which is
sometimes, partially and terribly revealed.  I am sure, I
know," continued Barton, with increasing excitement, "there
is a God -- a dreadful God -- and that retribution follows
guilt.  In ways, the most mysterious and stupendous; by
agencies, the most inexplicable and terrific; there is a
spiritual system -- great God, how frightfully I have been
convinced! -- a system malignant, and inexorable, and
omnipotent, under whose persecutions I am, and have been,
suffering the torments of the damned!  -- yes, sir -- yes
-- the fires and frenzy of hell!"

  As Barton spoke, his agitation became so vehement that the
divine was shocked and even alarmed.  The wild and excited
rapidity with which he spoke, and, above all, the
indefinable horror which stamped his features, afforded a
contrast to his ordinary cool and unimpassioned
self-possession striking and painful in the last degree.

  "My dear sir," said Doctor Macklin, after a brief pause,
"I fear you have been suffering much, indeed; but I venture
to predict that the depression under which you labour will
be found to originate in purely physical causes; and that
with a change of air, and the aid of a few tonics, your
spirits will return, and the tone of your mind be once more
cheerful and tranquil as heretofore.  There was, after all,
more truth than we are quite willing to admit in the classic
theories which assigned the undue predominance of any one
affection of the mind, to the undue action or torpidity of
one or other of our bodily organs.  Believe me, that a
little attention to diet, exercise, and the other essentials
of health, under competent direction, will make you as much
yourself as you can wish." 

  "Doctor Macklin," said Barton, with something like a
shudder, "I 'cannot' delude myself with such a hope.  I have
no hope to cling to but one, and that is, that by some other
spiritual agency more potent than that which tortures me,
'it' may be combated, and I delivered.  If this may not be,
I am lost -- now and for ever lost."

  "But, Mr. Barton, you must remember," urged his companion,
"that others have suffered as you have done, and -- "

  "No, no, no," interrupted he with irritability; "no, sir,
I am not a credulous -- far from a superstitious man.  I
have been, perhaps, too much the reverse -- too sceptical,
too slow of belief; but unless I were one whom no amount of
evidence could convince, unless I were to contemn the
repeated, the 'perpetual' evidence of my own senses, I am
now -- now at last constrained to believe -- I have no
escape from the conviction, the overwhelming certainty, that
I am hunted and dogged, go where I may, by -- by a DEMON."

  There was an almost preternatural energy of horror in
Barton's face, as, with its damp and death like lineaments
turned towards his companion, he thus delivered himself.

  "God help you, my poor friend" said Doctor Macklin, much
shocked.  "God help you; for, indeed, you 'are' a sufferer,
however your sufferings may have been caused."

  "Ay, ay, God help me," echoed Barton sternly; "but 'will'
he help me?  will he help me?"

  "Pray to him; pray in an humble and trusting spirit," said

  "Pray, pray," echoed he again; "I can't pray; I could as
easily move a mountain by an effort of my will.  I have not
belief enough to pray; there is something within me that
will not pray.  You prescribe impossibilities -- literal

  "You will not find it so, if you will but try," said the
Doctor Macklin.

  "Try!  I 'have' tried, and the attempt only fills me with
confusion and terror.  I have tried in vain, and more than
in vain.  The awful, unutterable idea of eternity and
infinity oppresses and maddens my brain, whenever my mind
approaches the contemplation of the Creator; I recoil from
the effort, scared, confounded, terrified.  I tell you,
Doctor Macklin, if I am to be saved, it must be by other
means.  The idea of the Creator is to me intolerable; my
mind cannot support it."

  "Say, then, my dear sir," urged he, "say how you would
have me serve you; what you would learn of me; what can I do
or say to relieve you?"

  "Listen to me first," replied Captain Barton, with a
subdued air, and an evident effort to suppress his
excitement; "listen to me while I detail the circumstances
of the terrible persecution under which my life has become
all but intolerable -- a persecution which has made me fear
'death' and the world beyond the grave as much as I have
grown to hate existence."

  Barton then proceeded to relate the circumstances which we
have already detailed, and then continued, --

  "This has now become habitual -- an accustomed thing.  I
do not mean the actual seeing him in the flesh -- thank God,
'that' at least is not permitted daily.  Thank God, from the
unutterable horrors of that visitation I have been
mercifully allowed intervals of repose, though none of
security; but from the consciousness that a malignant spirit
is following and watching me wherever I go, I have never,
for a single instant, a temporary respite.  I am pursued
with blasphemies, cries of despair, and appalling hatred.  I
hear those dreadful sounds called after me as I turn the
corners of streets; they come in the night-time while I sit
in my chamber alone; they haunt me everywhere, charging
me with hideous crimes, and -- great God! -- threatening me
with coming vengeance and eternal misery!  Hush! -- do you
hear 'that'?" he cried, with a horrible smile of triumph;
"there -- there, will that convince you?"

  The clergyman felt the chillness of horror irresistibly
steal over him, while, during the wail of a sudden gust of
wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the half articulate
sounds of rage and derision mingling in their sough.

  "Well, what do you think of 'that'?" at length Barton
cried, drawing a long breath through his teeth.

  "I hear the wind," said Doctor Macklin; "what should I
think of it? what is there remarkable about it?"

  "The prince of the powers of the air," muttered Barton,
with a shudder.

  "Tut, tut! my dear sir!" said the student, with an effort
to reassure himself; for though it was broad daylight, there
was nevertheless something disagreeably contagious in the
nervous excitement under which his visitor so obviously
suffered.  "You must not give way to those wild fancies; you
must resist those impulses of the imagination."

  "Ay, ay; 'resist the devil, and he will flee from thee,'"
said Barton, in the same tone; "but 'how' resist him? ay,
there it is:  there is the rub.  What -- 'what' am I to do? 
what 'can' I do?"

  "My dear sir, this is fancy," said the man of folios "you
are your own tormentor."

  "No, no, sir; fancy has no part in it," answered Barton,
somewhat sternly.  "Fancy, forsooth!  Was it that made
'you,' as well as me, hear, but this moment, those appalling
accents of hell?  Fancy, indeed!  No, no."

  "But you have seen this person frequently," said the
ecclesiastic; "why have you not accosted or secured him?  Is
it not somewhat precipitate, to say no more, to assume, as
you have done, the existence of preternatural agency, when,
after all, everything may be easily accountable, if only
proper means were taken to sift the matter."

  "There are circumstances connected with thing -- this
'appearance,'" said Barton, "which it were needless to
disclose, but which to 'me' are proofs of its horrible and
unearthly nature.  I know that the being who haunts me is
not 'man.'  I say I 'know' this; I could prove it to your
own conviction."  He paused for a minute, and then added, --
"And as to accosting it, I dare not, I could not.  When I
see it I am powerless; I stand in the gaze of death, in the
triumphant presence of preterhuman power and malignity.  My
strength, and faculties, and memory all forsake me.  O, God! 
I fear, sir, you know not what you speak of.  Mercy, mercy
heaven have pity on me."

  He leaned his elbow on the table, and passed his hand
across his eyes, as if to exclude some image of horror,
muttering the last words of the sentence he had just
concluded, again and again.

  "Doctor Macklin," he said, abruptly raising himself, and
looking full upon the clergyman with an imploring eye, "I
know you will do for me whatever may be done.  You know now
fully the circumstances and the nature of the mysterious
agency of which I am the victim.  I tell you I cannot help
myself; I cannot hope to escape; I am utterly passive.  I
conjure you, then, to weigh my case well, and if anything
may be done for me by vicarious supplication, by the
intercession of the good, or by any aid or influence
whatsoever, I implore of you, I adjure you in the name of
the Most High, give me the benefit of that influence,
deliver me from the body of this death.  Strive for me, pity
me; I know you will; you cannot refuse this; it is the
purpose and object of my visit.  Send me away with some
hope, however little, some faint hope of ultimate
deliverance, and I will nerve myself to endure, from hour to
hour, the hideous dream into which my existence is

  Doctor Macklin assured him that all he could do was to
pray earnestly from him, and that so much he would not fail
to do.  They parted with a hurried and melancholy
valediction.  Barton hastened to the carriage, which awaited
him at the door, drew the blinds, and drove away, while Dr.
Macklin returned to his chamber, to ruminate at leisure upon
the strange interview which had just interrupted his

  It was not to be expected that Captain Barton's changed
and eccentric habits should long escape remark and
discussion.  Various were the theories suggested to account
for it.  Some attributed the alteration to the pressure of
secret pecuniary embarrassments; others to a repugnance to
fulfil an engagement into which he was presumed to have too
precipitately entered; and others, again, to the supposed
incipiency of mental disease, which latter, indeed, was the
most plausible, as well as the most generally received, of
the hypotheses circulated in the gossip of the day.

  From the very commencement of this change, at first so
gradual in its advances, Miss Montague  had of course been
aware of it.  The intimacy involved in their peculiar
relation, as well as the near interest which it inspired,
afforded, in her case, alike opportunity and motive for the
successful exercise of that keen and penetrating observation
peculiar to the sex.  His visits became, at length, so
interrupted, and his manner, while they lasted, so
abstracted, strange, and agitated, that Lady Rochdale, after
hinting her anxiety and her suspicions more than once, at
length distinctly stated her anxiety, and pressed for an
explanation.  The explanation was given, and although its
nature at first relieved the worse solicitudes of the old
lady and her niece, yet the circumstances which attended it,
and the really dreadful consequences which it obviously
threatened as regarded the spirits and indeed the reason of
the now wretched man who made the strange declaration, were
enough, upon a little reflection, to fill their minds with
perturbation and alarm. 

  General Montague, the young lady's father, at length
arrived.  He had himself slightly known Barton, some ten or
twelve years previously, and being aware of his fortune and
connexions, was disposed to regard him as an unexceptionable
and indeed a most desirable match for his daughter.  He
laughed at the story of Barton's supernatural visitations,
and lost not a moment in calling upon his intended

  "My dear Barton," he continued, gaily, after a little
conversation, "my sister tells me that you are a victim to
blue devils, in quite a new and original shape."

  Barton changed countenance, and sighed profoundly. 

  "Come, come; I protest this will never do," continued the
general; "you are more like a man on his way to the gallows
than to the altar.  These devils have made quite a saint of

  Barton made an effort to change the conversation.

  "No, no, it won't do," said his visitor, laughing; "I am
resolved to say out what I have to say upon this magnificent
mock mystery of yours.  Come, you must not be angry; but
really it is too bad to see you, at your time of life,
absolutely frightened into good behaviour, like a naughty
child, by a bugaboo, and, as far as I can learn, a very
particularly contemptible one.  Seriously, though, my dear
Barton, I have been a good deal annoyed at what they tell
me; but, at the same time, thoroughly convinced that there
is nothing in the matter that may not be cleared up, with
just a little attention and management, within a week at

  "Ah, General, you do not know --" he began.

  "Yes, but I do know quite enough to warrant my
confidence," interrupted the soldier.  "I know that all your
annoyance proceeds from the occasional appearance of a
certain little man in a cap and a greatcoat, with a red vest
and bad countenance, who follows you about, and pops upon
you at the corners of lanes, and throws you into ague fits. 
Now, my dear fellow, I'll make it my business to 'catch'
this mischievous little mountebank, and either beat him into
a jelly with my own hands, or have him whipped through the
town at the cart's-tail."

  "If 'you' knew what 'I' know," said Barton, with gloomy
agitation, "you would speak very differently.  Don't imagine
that I am so weak and foolish as to assume, without proof
the most overwhelming, the conclusion to which I have been
forced.  The proofs are here, locked up here."  As he spoke,
he tapped upon his breast, and with an anxious sigh
continued to walk up and down the room. 

  "Well, well, Barton," said his visitor, "I'll wager a rump
and a dozen I collar the ghost, and convince yourself before
many days are over."

  He was running on in the same strain when he was suddenly
arrested, and not a little shocked, by observing Barton, who
had approached the window, stagger slowly back, like one who
had received a stunning blow -- his arm feebly extended
toward the street, his face and his very lips white as ashes
-- while he uttered, "There -- there -- there!"

  General Montague started mechanically to his feet, and,
from the window of the drawing-room, saw a figure
corresponding, as well as his hurry would permit him
to discern, with the description of the person, whose
appearance so constantly and dreadfully disturbed the repose
of his friend.  The figure was just turning from the rails
of the area upon which it had been leaning, and, without
waiting to see more, the old gentleman snatched his cane and
hat, and rushed down the stairs and into the street, in the
furious hope of securing the person, and punishing the
audacity of the mysterious stranger.  He looked around him,
but in vain, for any trace of the form he had himself
distinctly beheld.  He ran breathlessly to the nearest
corner, expecting to see from thence the retreating figure,
but no such form was visible.  Back and forward, from
crossing to crossing, he ran, at fault, and it was not until
the curious gaze and laughing countenances of the passers-by
reminded him of the absurdity of his pursuit, that he
checked his hurried pace, lowered his walking-cane from the
menacing altitude which he had mechanically given it,
adjusted his hat, and walked composedly back again, inwardly
vexed and flurried.  He found Barton pale and trembling in
every joint; they both remained silent, though under
emotions very different.  At last Barton whispered, "You saw

  "'It!' -- him -- some one -- you mean -- to be sure I
did," replied Montague, testily.  "But where is the good or
the harm of seeing him?  The fellow runs like a lamplighter. 
I wanted to 'catch' him, but he had stolen away before I
could reach the hall-door.  However, it is no great matter;
next time, I dare say, I'll do better; and, egad, if I once
come within reach of him, I'll introduce his shoulders to
the weight of my cane, in a way to make him cry 'peccavi.'"

  Notwithstanding General Montague's undertakings and
exhortations, however, Barton continued to suffer from the
self-same unexplained cause.  Go how, when, or where he
would, he was still constantly dogged or confronted by the
hateful being who had established over him so dreadful and
mysterious an influence; nowhere, and at no time was he
secure against the odious appearance which haunted him with
such diabolical perseverance.  His depression, misery, and
excitement became more settled and alarming every day, and
the mental agonies that ceaselessly preyed upon him began at
last so sensibly to affect his general health, that Lady
Rochdale and General Montague succeeded, without, indeed,
much difficulty, in persuading him to try a short tour on
the Continent, in the hope that an entire change of scene
would, at all events, have the effect of breaking through
the influences of local association, which the more
sceptical of his friends assumed to be by no means
inoperative in suggesting and perpetuating what they
conceived to be a mere form of nervous illusion.  General
Montague, indeed, was persuaded that the figure which
haunted his intended son-in-law was by no means the creation
of his own imagination, but, on the contrary, a substantial
form of flesh and blood, animated by a spiteful and
obstinate resolution, perhaps with some murderous object in
perspective, to watch and follow the unfortunate gentleman. 
Even this hypothesis was not a very pleasant one; yet it was
plain that if Barton could once be convinced that there was
nothing preternatural in the phenomenon which he had
hitherto regarded in that light, the affair would lose all
it terrors in his eyes, and wholly cease to exercise upon
his health and spirits the baleful influence which it had
hitherto done.  He therefore reasoned, that if the annoyance
were actually escaped from by mere change of scene, it
obviously could not have originated in any supernatural

  Yielding to their persuasions, Barton left Dublin for
England, accompanied by General Montague.  They posted
rapidly to London, and thence to Dover, whence they took the
packet with a fair wind for Calais.  The general's
confidence in the result of the expedition on Barton's
spirits had risen day by day since their departure from the
shores of Ireland; for, to the inexpressible relief and
delight of the latter, he had not, since then, so much as
even once fancied a repetition of those impressions which
had, when at home, drawn him gradually down to the very
abyss of horror and despair.  This exemption from what he
had begun to regard as the inevitable condition of his
existence, and the sense of security which began to pervade
his mind, were inexpressibly delightful; and in the
exultation of what he considered his deliverance, he
indulged in a thousand happy anticipations for a future,
into which so lately he had hardly dared to look; and in
short, both he and his companion secretly congratulated
themselves upon the termination of that persecution which
had been to its immediate victim a source of such
unspeakable agony. 

  It was a beautiful day, and a crowd of idlers stood upon
the jetty to receive the packet, and enjoy the bustle of the
new arrivals.  Montague walked a few paces in advance of his
friend, and as he made his way through the crowd, a little
man touched his arm, and said to him, in a broad provincial
"patois," --

  "Monsieur is walking too fast; he will lose his sick
comrade in the throng, for, by my faith, the poor gentleman
seems to be fainting." 

  Montague turned quickly, and observed that Barton did
indeed look deadly pale.  He hastened to his side.

  "My poor fellow, are you ill?" he asked anxiously.

  The question was unheeded, and twice repeated, ere Barton
stammered, --

  "I saw him -- by --, I saw him!"

  "Him! -- who -- where -- when did you see him -- where is
he?" cried Montague, looking around him.

  "I saw him -- but his is gone," repeated Barton, faintly.

  "But where -- where?  For God's sake, speak," urged
Montague, vehemently.

  "It is but this moment -- 'here,'" said he.

  "But what did he look like -- what had he on  -- what did
he wear? -- quick, quick," urged his excited companion,
ready to dart among the crowd, and collar the delinquent on
the spot.

  "He touched your arm -- he spoke to you -- he pointed to
me.  God be merciful to me, there is no escape," said
Barton, in the low, subdued tones of intense despair.

  Montague had already bustled away in all the flurry of
mingled hope and indignation; but though the singular
"personnel" of the stranger who had accosted him was vividly
and perfectly impressed upon his recollection he failed
to discover among the crowd even the slightest resemblance
to him.  After a fruitless search, in which he enlisted the
services of several of the bystanders, who aided all the
more zealously, as they believed he had been robbed, he at
length, out of breath and baffled, gave over the attempt.

  "Ah, my friend, it won't do," said Barton, with the faint
voice and bewildered, ghastly look of one who had been
stunned by some mortal shock; "there is no use in contending
with it; whatever it is, the dreadful association between me
and it is now established; I shall never escape -- never,

  "Nonsense, nonsense, by dear fellow; don't talk so," said
Montague, with something at once of irritation and dismay;
"you must not; never mind, I say -- never mind, we'll jockey
the scoundrel yet."

  It was, however, but lost labour to endeavour henceforward
to inspire Barton with one ray of hope; he became utterly
desponding.  This intangible and, as it seemed, utterly
inadequate influence was fast destroying his energies of
intellect, character, and health.  His first object was now
to return to Ireland, there, as he believed, and now almost
hoped, speedily to die.

  To Ireland, accordingly, he came, and one of the first
faces he saw upon the shore was again that of his implacable
and dreaded persecutor.  Barton seemed at last to have lost
not only all enjoyment and every hope in existence, but all
independence of will besides.  He now submitted himself
passibly to the management of the friends most nearly
interested in his welfare.  With the apathy of entire
despair, he implicitly assented to whatever measures they
suggested and advised; and as a last resource, it was
determined to remove him to a house of Lady Rochdale's in
the neighbourhood of Clontarf, where, with the advice of his
medical attendant, who persisted in his opinion that the
whole train of impressions resulted merely from some nervous
derangement, it was resolved that he was to confine himself
strictly to the house, and to make use only of those
apartments which commanded a view of an enclosed yard, the
gates of which were to be kept jealously locked.  Those
precautions would at least secure him against the casual
appearance of any living form, which his excited imagination
might possibly confound with the spectre which, as it was
contended, his fancy recognized in every figure which bore
even a distant or general resemblance to the traits with
which he had at first invested it.  A month or six weeks'
absolute seclusion under these conditions, it was hoped,
might, by interrupting the series of these terrible
impressions, gradually dispel the predisposing apprehension,
and effectually break up the associations which had
confirmed the supposed disease, and rendered recovery
hopeless.  Cheerful society and that of his friends was to
be constantly supplied, and on the whole, very sanguine
expectations were indulged in, that under this treatment the
obstinate hypochondria of the patient might at length give

  Accompanied, therefore, by Lady Rochdale, General
Montague, and his daughter -- his own affianced bride --
poor Barton, himself never daring to cherish a hope of his
ultimate emancipation from the strange horrors under which
his life was literally wasting away, took possession of the
apartments, whose situation protected him against the
dreadful intrusions, from which he shrank with such
unutterable terror.

  After a little time, a steady persistence in this system
began to manifest its results, in a very marked though
gradual improvement alike in the health and spirits of the
invalid.  Not, indeed, that anything at all approaching to
complete recovery was yet discernible.  On the contrary, to
those who had not seen him since the commencement of his
strange sufferings, such an alteration would have been
apparent as might well have shocked them.  The improvement,
however, such as it was, was welcomed with gratitude and
delight, especially by the poor young lady, whom her
attachment to him, as well as her now singularly painful
position, consequent on his mysterious and protracted
illness, rendered an object of pity scarcely one degree less
to be commiserated than himself. 

  A week passed -- a fortnight -- a month -- and yet no
recurrence of the hated visitation had agitated and
terrified him as before.  The treatment had, so far forth,
been followed by complete success.  The chain of association
had been broken.  The constant pressure upon the overtasked
spirits had been removed, and, under these comparatively
favourable circumstances, the sense of social community with
the world about him, and something of human interest, if not
of enjoyment, began to reanimate his mind.

  It was about this time that Lady Rochdale, who, like most
old ladies of the day, was deep in family receipts, and a
great pretender to medical science, being engaged in the
concoction of certain unpalatable mixtures, of marvellous
virtue, despatched her own maid to the kitchen garden, with
a list of herbs, which were there to be carefully culled,
and brought back to her for the purpose stated.  The
hand-maiden, however, returned with her task scarce half
completed, and a good deal flurried and alarmed.  Her mode
for accounting for her precipitate retreat and evident
agitation was odd, and to the old lady unpleasantly

  It appeared that she had repaired to the kitchen garden,
pursuant to her mistress's directions, and had there begun
to make the specified selection among the rank and neglected
herbs which crowded one corner of the enclosure, and while
engaged in this pleasant labour, she carelessly sang a
fragment of an old song, as she said, "to keep herself
company."  She was, however, interrupted by a sort of
mocking echo of the air she was singing; and looking up, she
saw through the old thorn hedge, which surrounded the
garden, a singularly ill-looking little man, whose
countenance wore the stamp of menace and malignity, standing
close to her, at the other side of the hawthorn screen.  She
described herself as utterly unable to move or speak, while
he charged her with a message for Captain Barton; the
substance of which she distinctly remembered to have been to
the effect, that he, Captain Barton, must come abroad as
usual, and shew himself to his friends, out of doors, or
else prepare for a visit in his own chamber.  On concluding
this brief message, the stranger had, with a threatening
air, got down into the outer ditch, and seizing the hawthorn 
stems in his hands, seemed on the point of climbing through
the fence -- a feat which might have been accomplished
without much difficulty.  Without, of course, awaiting this
result, the girl, throwing down her treasures of thyme and
rosemary, had turned and run, with the swiftness of terror,
to the house.  Lady Rochdale commanded her, on pain of
instant dismissal, to observe an absolute silence respecting
all that portion of the incident which related to Captain
Barton; and, at the same time, directed instant search to be
made by her men in the garden and fields adjacent.  This
measure, however, was attended with the usual unsuccess, and
filled with fearful and indefinable misgivings, Lady
Rochdale communicated the incident to her brother.  The
story, however, until long afterwards, went no further, and,
of course, it was jealously guarded from Barton, who
continued to amend, though slowly and imperfectly.

Barton now began to walk occasionally in the courtyard which
we have mentioned, and which being surrounded by a high
wall, commanded no view beyond its own extent.  Here he,
therefore, considered himself perfectly secure; and, but for
a careless violation of orders by one of the grooms, he
might have enjoyed, at least for some time longer, his
much-prized immunity.  Opening upon the public road, this
yard was entered by a wooden gate, with a wicket in it,
which was further defended by an iron gate upon the outside. 
Strict orders had been given to keep them carefully locked;
but, spite of these, it had happened that one day, as Barton
was slowly pacing this narrow enclosure, in his accustomed
walk, and reaching the further extremity, was turning to
retrace his steps, he saw the boarded wicket ajar, and the
face of his tormentor immovably looking at him through the
iron bars.  For a few seconds he stood riveted to the earth 
-- breathless and bloodless -- in the fascination of that
dreaded gaze, and then fell helplessly and insensibly upon
the pavement.

  There was he found a few minutes afterwards, and conveyed
to his room -- the apartment which he was never afterwards
to leave alive.  Henceforward a marked and unaccountable
change was observable in the tone of his mind.  Captain
Barton was now no longer the excited and despairing man he
had been before; a strange alteration had passed upon him --
an unearthly tranquillity reigned in his mind -- it was the
anticipated stillness of the grave.

  "Montague, my friend, this struggle is nearly ended now,"
he said, tranquilly, but with a look of fixed and fearful
awe.  "I have, at last, some comfort from that world of
spirits, from which my 'punishment' has come.  I know now
that my sufferings will be soon over."

  Montague pressed him to speak on.

  "Yes," said he, in a softened voice, "my punishment is
nearly ended.  From sorrow, perhaps I shall never, in time
or eternity, escape; but my 'agony' is almost over.  Comfort
has been revealed to me, and what remains of my allotted
struggle I will bear with submission -- even with hope."

  "I am glad to hear you speak so tranquilly, my dear
fellow," said Montague; "peace and cheerfulness of mind are
all you need to make you what you were."

  "No, no I never can be that," said he, mournfully.  "I am
no longer fit for life.  I am soon to die:  I do not shrink
from death as I did.  I am to see 'him' but once again, and
then all is ended."

  "He said so, then?" suggested Montague.

  "He?  No, no:  good tidings could scarcely come through
him; and these were good and welcome; and they came so
solemnly and sweetly, with unutterable love and melancholy,
such as I could not, without saying more than is needful, or
fitting, of other long-past scenes and persons, fully
explain to you."  As Barton said this he shed tears.

  "Come, come," said Montague, mistaking the source of his
emotions, "you must not give way.  What is it, after all,
but a pack of dreams and nonsense; or, at worst, the
practices of a scheming rascal that enjoys his power of
playing upon your nerves, and loves to exert it -- a
sneaking vagabond that owes you a grudge, and pays it off
this way, not daring to try a more manly one."

  "A grudge, indeed, he owes me -- you say rightly," said
Barton, with a sullen shudder; "a grudge as you call it.  Oh
God! when the justice of heaven permits the Evil one to
carry out a scheme of vengeance -- when its execution is
committed to the lost and frightful victim of sin, who owes
his own ruin to the man, the very man, whom he is
commissioned to pursue -- then, indeed, the torments and
terrors of hell are anticipated on earth.  But heaven has
dealt mercifully with me -- hope has opened to me at last;
and if death could come without the dreadful sight I am
doomed to see, I would gladly close my eyes this moment upon
the world.  But though death is welcome, I shrink with an
agony you cannot understand -- a maddening agony, an actual
frenzy of terror, from the last encounter with that -- that
DEMON, who has drawn me thus to the verge of the chasm, and
who is himself to plunge me down.  I am to seem him again --
once more -- but under circumstances unutterably more
terrific than ever." 

  As Barton thus spoke, he trembled so violently that
Montague was really alarmed at the extremity of his sudden
agitation, and hastened to lead him back to the topic which
had before seem to exert so tranquillizing an effect upon
his mind.

  "It was not a dream" he said, after a time; "I was in a
different state -- I felt differently and strangely; and yet
it was all as real, as clear and vivid, as what I now see
and hear; it was a reality."

  "And what 'did' you see and hear?" urged his companion.

  "When I awakened from the swoon I fell into on seeing
'him'" said Barton, continuing as if he had not heard the
question, "it was slowly, very slowly; I was reclining by
the margin of a broad lake, surrounded by misty hills, and a
soft, melancholy, rose-coloured light illuminated it all. 
It was indescribably sad and lonely, and yet more beautiful
than any earthly scene.  My head was leaning on the lap of a
girl, and she was singing a strange and wondrous song, that
told, I known not how, whether by words or harmony, of all
my life -- all that is past, and all that is still to come;
and with the song the old feelings that I thought had
perished within me came back, and tears flowed from my eyes,
partly for the song and its mysterious beauty, and partly
for the unearthly sweetness of her voice; yet I knew the
voice -- oh! how well; and I was spell-bound as I listened
and looked at the strange and solitary scene, without
stirring, almost without breathing -- and, alas! alas!
without turning my eyes toward the face that I knew was near
me, so sweetly powerful was the enchantment that held me. 
And so, slowly and softly, the song and scene grew fainter,
and ever fainter, to my senses, till all was dark and still
again.  And then I wakened to this world, as you saw,
comforted, for I knew that I was forgiven much."  Barton
wept again long and bitterly.

  From this time, as we have said, the prevailing tone of
his mind was one of profound and tranquil melancholy.  This,
however, was not without its interruptions.  He was
thoroughly impressed the conviction that he was to
experience another and a final visitation, illimitably
transcending in horror all he had before experienced.  From
this anticipated and unknown agony, he often shrunk in such
paroxysms of abject terror and distraction, as filled the
whole household with dismay and superstitious panic.  Even
those among them who affected to discredit the supposition
of preternatual agency in the matter, were often in their
secret souls visited, during the darkness and solitude of
the night, with qualms and apprehensions, which they would
not have readily confessed; and none of them attempted to
dissuade Barton from the resolution on which he now
systematically acted, of shutting himself up in his own
apartment.  The window-blinds of this room were kept
jealously down; and his own man was seldom out of his
presence, day or night, his bed being placed in the same

  This man was an attached and respectable servant; and his
duties, in addition to those ordinarily imposed upon
"valets," but which Barton's independent habits generally
dispensed with, were to attend carefully to the simple
precautions by means of which his master hoped to exclude
the dreaded intrusion of the "Watcher," as the strange
letter he had at first received had designated his
persecutor.  And, in addition to attending to these
arrangements, which consisted merely in anticipating the
possibility of his master's being, through any unscreened
window or opened door, exposed to the dreaded influence, the
valet was never to suffer him to be for one moment alone: 
total solitude, even for a minute, had become to him now
almost as intolerable as the idea of going abroad into the
public ways; it was an instinctive anticipation of what was

  It is needless to say, that, under these mysterious and
horrible circumstances, no steps were taken toward the
fulfilment of that engagement into which he had entered. 
There was quite disparity enough in point of years, and
indeed of habits, between the young lady and Captain Barton,
to have precluded anything like very vehement or romantic
attachment on her part.  Though grieved and anxious,
therefore, she was very far from being heart-broken; a
circumstance which, for the sentimental purposes of our
tale, is much to be deplored.  But truth must be told,
especially in a narrative, whose chief, if not only,
pretensions to interest consist in a rigid adherence to
facts, or what are so reported to have been.

Miss Montague, however, devoted much of her time to a
patient but fruitless attempt to cheer the unhappy invalid. 
She read for him, and conversed with him; but it was
apparent that whatever exertions he made, the endeavour to
escape from the one constant and ever present fear that
preyed upon him was utterly and miserably unavailing.

Young ladies, as all the world knows, are much given to the
cultivation of pets; and among those who shared the favour
of Miss Montague was a fine old owl, which the gardener, who
caught him napping among the ivy of a ruined stable, had
dutifully presented to that young lady.

The caprice which regulates such preferences was manifested
in the extravagant favour with which this grim and
ill-favoured bird was at once distinguished by his mistress;
and, trifling as this whimsical circumstance may seem, I am
forced to mention it, inasmuch as it is connected, oddly
enough, with the concluding scene of the story.  Barton, so
far from sharing in this liking for the new favourite,
regarded it from the first with an antipathy as violent as
it was utterly unaccountable.  Its very vicinity was
insupportable to him.  He seemed to hate and dread it with a
vehemence absolutely laughable, and which, to those who have
never witnessed the exhibition of antipathies of this kind,
would seem all but incredible.

  With these few words of preliminary explanation, I shall
proceed to state the particulars of the last scene in this
strange series of incidents.  It was almost two o'clock one
winter's night, and Barton was, as usual at that hour, in
his bed; the servant we have mentioned occupied a smaller
bed in the same room, and a candle was burning.  The man was
on a sudden aroused by his master, who said, --

  "I can't get it out of my head that that accursed bird has
escaped somehow, and is lurking in some corner of the room. 
I have been dreaming of him.  Get up, Smith, and look about;
search for him.  Such hateful dreams!"

  The servant rose, and examined the chamber, and while
engaged in so doing, he heard the well-known sound, more
like a long-drawn gasp than a hiss, with which these birds
from their secret haunts affright the quiet of the night. 
This ghostly indication of its proximity, for the sound
proceeded from the passage upon which Barton's chamber-door
opened, determined the search of the servant, who, opening
the door, proceeded a step or two forward for the purpose of
driving the bird away.  He had, however, hardly entered the
lobby, when the door behind him slowly swung to under the
impulse, as it seemed, of some gentle current of air; but as
immediately over the door there was a kind of window,
intended in the day-time to aid in lighting the passage, and
through which the rays of the candle were then issuing, the
valet could see quite enough for his purpose.  As he
advanced he heard his master, who, lying in a well-curtained
bed had not, as it seemed, perceived his exit from the room,
call him by name, and direct him to place the candle on the
table by his bed.  The servant, who was now some way in the
long passage, and not liking to raise his voice for the
purpose of replying, lest he should startle the sleeping
inmates of the house, began to walk hurriedly and softly
back again, when, to his amazement, he heard a voice in the
interior of the chamber answering calmly, and actually saw,
through the widow which overtopped the door, that the light
was slowly shifting, as if carried across the chamber in
answer to his master's call.  Palsied by a feeling akin to
terror, yet not unmingled with a horrible curiosity, he
stood breathless and listening at the threshold, unable to
summon resolution to push open the door and enter.  Then
came a rustling of the curtains, and a sound like that of
one who in a low voice hushes a child to rest, in the midst
of which he heard Barton say, in a tone of stifled horror --
"Oh, God -- oh, my God!" and repeat the same exclamation
several times.  Then ensued a silence, which again was
broken by the same strange soothing sound; and at last there
burst forth, in one swelling peal, a yell of agony so
appalling and hideous, that, under some impulse of
ungovernable horror, the man rushed to the door, and with
his whole strength strove to force it open.  Whether it was
that, in his agitation, he had himself but imperfectly
turned the handle, or that the door was really secured upon
the inside, he failed to effect an entrance; and as he
tugged and pushed, yell after yell rang louder and wilder
through the chamber, accompanied all the while by the same
hushed sounds.  Actually freezing with terror, and scarce
knowing what he did, the man turned and ran down the
passage, wringing his hands in the extremity of horror
irresolution.  At the stair-head he was encountered by
General Montague, scared and eager, and just as they met the
fearful sounds had ceased.

  "What is it? -- who -- where is your master?" said
Montague, with the incoherence of extreme agitation.  "Has
anything -- for God's sake, is anything wrong?"

  "Lord have mercy on us, it's all over," said the man,
staring wildly towards his master's chamber.  "He's dead
sir; I'm sure he's dead."

  Without waiting for inquiry or explanation, Montague,
closely followed by the servant, hurried to the
chamber-door, turned the handle, and pushed it open.  As
the door yielded to his pressure, the ill-omened bird of
which the servant had been in search, uttering its spectral
warning, started suddenly from the far side of the bed, and
flying through the door-way close over their heads, and
extinguishing, in his passage, the candle which Montague
carried, crashed through the skylight that overlooked the
lobby, and sailed away into the darkness of the outer space.

  "There it is, God bless us!" whispered the man, after a
breathless pause. 

  "Curse that bird!" muttered the general, startled by the
suddenness of the apparition, and unable to conceal his

  "The candle was moved," said the man, after another
breathless pause; "see, they put it by the bed!"

  "Draw the curtains, fellow, and don't stand gaping there,"
whispered Montague, sternly.

  The man hesitated.

  "Hold this, then," said Montague, impatiently, thrusting
the candlestick into the servant's hand, and himself
advancing to the bedside, he drew the curtains apart.  The
light of the candle, which was still burning at the bedside,
fell upon a figure huddled together, and half upright, at
the head of the bed.  It seemed as though it had shrunk back
as far as the solid panelling would allow, and the hands
were still clutched in the bed-clothes.

  "Barton, Barton, Barton!" cried the general, with a
strange mixture of awe and vehemence.

  He took the candle, and held it so that it shone full upon
his face.  The features were fixed, stern and white; the jaw
was fallen, and the sightless eyes, still open, gazed
vacantly forward toward the front of the bed. 

  "God Almighty, he's dead!" muttered the general, as he
looked upon this fearful spectacle.  They both continued to
gaze upon it in silence for a minute or more.  "And cold,
too," whispered Montague, withdrawing his hand from that of
the dead man.

  "And see, see; may I never have life, sir," added the man,
after another pause, with a shudder, "but there was
something else on the bed with him!  Look there -- look
there; see that, sir!" 

  As the man thus spoke, he pointed to a deep indenture, as
if caused by a heavy pressure, near the foot of the bed.

  Montague was silent.

  "Come, sir, come away, for God's sake!" whispered the man,
drawing close up to him, and holding fast by his arm while
he glanced fearfully round; "what good can be done here now?
-- come away, for God's sake!"

  At this moment they heard the steps of more than one
approaching, and Montague, hastily desiring the servant to
arrest their progress, endeavoured to loose the rigid grip
with which the fingers of the dead man were clutched in the
bed-clothes, and drew, as well as he was able, the awful
figure into a reclining posture; then closing the curtains
carefully upon it, he hastened himself to meet those who
were approaching.


  It is needless to follow the personages so slightly
connected with this narrative into the events of their after
lives; it is enough for us to remark, that no clue to the
solution of these mysterious occurrences was ever afterwards
discovered; and so long an interval having now passed, it is
scarcely to be expected that time can throw any new lights
upon their inexplicable obscurity.  Until the secrets of the
earth shall be no longer hidden, therefore, these
transactions must remain shrouded in their original mystery.

  The only occurrence in Captain Barton's former life to
which reference was ever made, as having any possible
connexion with the sufferings with which his existence
closed, and which he himself seemed to regard as working out
a retribution for some grievous sin of his past life, was a
circumstance which not for several years after his death was
brought to light.  The nature of this disclosure was painful
to his relatives, and discreditable to his memory.

  It appeared, then, that some eight years before Captain
Barton's final return to Dublin, he had formed, in the town
of Plymouth, a guilty attachment, the object of which was
the daughter of one of the ship's crew under his command. 
The father had visited the frailty of his unhappy child with
extreme harshness, and even brutality, and it was said that
she had died heart-broken.  Presuming upon Barton's
implication in her guilt, this man had conducted himself
toward him with marked insolence, and Barton retaliated
this, and what he resented with still more exasperated
bitterness -- his treatment of the unfortunate girl -- by
a systematic exercise of those terrible and arbitrary
severities with which the regulations of the navy arm those
who are responsible for its discipline.  The man had at
length made his escape, while the vessel was in port at
Lisbon, but died, as it was said, in an hospital in that
town, of the wounds inflicted in one of his recent and
sanguinary punishments.

  Whether these circumstances in reality bear, or not, upon
the occurrences in Barton's after-life, it is, of course,
impossible to say.  It seems, however, more than probable
that they were, at least in his own mind, closely associated
with them.  But however, the truth may be, as to the origin
and motives of this mysterious persecution, there can be no
doubt that, with respect to the agencies by which it was
accomplished, absolute and impenetrable mystery is like to
prevail until the day of doom.

[The End]

(Prepared by Patricia Teter)