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THE HAND ON THE PANEL.

It being necessary to take up our residence in London, my wife and I went up. to look for a house. The agent to whom we s.tated our requirements suggested Barlow square, which, though old-fashioned, was, he assured us, much sougiit after, both upon account of the size of the houses, and the free, healthy air ; the extent ot the square and large well stocked gardens adding to its charms. It was a bright sunshiny October day, when we ‘viewed’ the house, and certainly the man was right: everything looked clear, bright, and quietly respectable. There was a rookery in great elm trees of the square garden, plenty of flourishing evergreens, beautiful turf, and troops of children, whose rosy cheeks and strong lungs set my wife’s heart at Test, on the much discussed subject of bringing our north country brood to inhale London air. The house, seen from the outside,

had a grave, solidly well-to-do look; seen from the inside, the impression

became intensified. The rooms were many and large, the windows were wide, the sunlight. and fresh breeze came rushing merrily in. We could have roasted a moderate sized ox at the old fashioned kitchen fire-place, and given a ball in either of the chief rooms. It was on a magnificent scale altogether, the great carved mantlepieces, and panelled walls keeping up the character. To crown all, the rent was moderate, ridiculously out of proportion, it seemed, for such space and accommodation Yet the landlord seemed content, and looked actually relieved when I signed a twenty-one years* lease.

Everything in the way of fixtures being in order, all that remained was |p go home and pack up, our civil landlord (who was a house decorator by trade) taking in hand to receive and arrange our furniture, having all things in readiness by a certain day in November.

Nothing could have been managed more easily, nothing more satisfactorily; we had experienced none of those manifold troubles usually consequent upon house hunting or ‘flitting,’ for when the cabs containing our live stock, namely, five children, a nurse, my wife, and self, reached the door of No. 3, Barlow square, there stood the smiling landlord, with his equally smiling wife, to welcome us to a well-aired, welllighted, and well-provisioned home. Fires burning, kettles boiling, and a dinner cooking. For some days we were very busy re-arranging, unpacking odds and ends, and generally settling down. I chose ray den, uiy wife chose hers; at the end of the week she consulted me as to a slight change. ‘ I cannot think,’ said she, ‘ what possessed the 'landlord - not to fumistr the large front bedroom ; it is. by; far the prettiest in the house; has such handy cupboards, is close to the night nursery, and the back stairs. Nothing could be more convenient. It is really just the room for ourselves; so when you go down to Portsmouth to-morrow, I shall just get a couple of commissionaries in to move the things, and have it all ready by the time you cooie home,’ : / 1 was detained a couple of days at Portsmouth, and when I got home," Ellen struck me as looking pale and harrassed ; she would scarcely, give me time to be devoured with baby welcomes, certainly not to answer the storm of enquiries, as to ships, soldiers.

and ‘ What I had brought,’ bundling the bairns off with a peremptory — * Now go the .nursery. Dah is dread* fully tired.’ She packed them off, shut the door, and sitting down by the side of me, said, in a tone portentous of some dire calamity : * Oh! Jack, I have had such a fright.’

‘ How ? What has happened ? The bairns seem-'all right.’ ‘ Yes, yes, they are all right.- Of course I did not tell them ; indeed I’ve told nobody; I kept it all for you.’ * Thank you, dear, that was very considerate.’ I did not mean to be sarcastic, though it reads rather that way. ‘ Here I am now ; but lam glad the fright is over.’ ‘ But it’s not over; I saw it last night,’ she shuddered. ‘ It ?’ I questioned, and I am afraid I smiled. ! ‘ There ! I knew you would laugh- at me, but it’s true. The first night I slept in that horrid room I saw it; the ; second night I saw it again ; last night I did not go to bed at all, but I saw it again.’

* It! It! It! But what the deuce is it?’ ‘ That’s just what I want to know, and why I kept it for you.’ ‘ Show it to me, then !’ ‘ I cannot until we go to bed then, exactly as the clock strikes twb you shall see it.’ I stared at the little. excited woman. What could she mean ? Was she ill, delirious ? Had the fatigue and change been too much for her? I am,. I confess it, a nervous man. I had been sitting up under tire influence , of black coffee and Cognac for two nights,«ark~ ing against to me at a paper upon animportant social grievance, and my nerves were in a state of unusual.irritation. I mentally resolved to send for a doctor ; in the meantime calm the little woman by making her forget the mysterious

I refrained my curosity, 1 p.J «..! out my MSS., and (as I always ch’) set her to work, looking it over. *No time to be.lost,’ said I ; ‘ must go to the office to-night!’ Before she had. finished her task dinner came on j.thena couple of friends dropped in to distuss the object of my journey. So, the evening past, bedtime arrived. Ellen said nothing alarm me, but I felt her shivering, and noticed that she had put a whole scuttle full of coals on the fire. ‘Tired out, I went oft -to sleep almost as soon as my head rested on the cool soft pillow. I was awakened by Ellen shaking me.

* Jack,' she whispered. { Jack, there it is. Do wake up.’ I believe I swore; I was very tired you know, ‘Oh ! you cruel man; Wake, I say. You must see it I groaned and opened my f eyes. The room was dimly lighted by the fire. I saw nothing except what looked Very comfortable at first, then, just as I was going to express my opinion pretty strongly, .my eye caught a faint gleam of light shining on or from a cupboard door.

Under ordinary circumstances 1 would have taken no notice, attributing it to reflection; now, however, I looked more intently. The gleam was cUrious, it was exactly, in the form of a large spread out hand. * * What the dickens is it ?’ and I was now, like my wife, sitting up and staring. ‘ Isrt’t it awful ? Poor little woman, she was shaking and sobbing. This would never do. I jumped up, made tor the place, rubbed my hand over the panel, and held up hiy palm, fully expecting to see it glimmering with phosphorus, and so dispel supernatural fears. There was no sign on my hand, neither from my present pqjnt of observation was there any upon the panel. I lighted a candle, examined it closely* saw nothing but new paint, and said so. I put the candle upon a table close to the panel, and we saw no more of it.

1 Only a reflection, you see/ I argued complaisantly. ‘You see, yhen the light is there it counlencts the power. * But it was a hand.’ ‘ Only a chance form/ Ellen was a little quieter now, but, .when I went off to sle.'p, she was still sitting up, peering about in .search of the object that could possibly have thrown such a reflection. * Next afternoon, when we were sitting by the fire light before dinner, there came a cautious ring at ; the front doorbell. ‘ There he is again/ said Ellen. ‘ I forgot to tell you; but each evening you were away a policeman came and asked me if we were all right.’ ‘ Very kind, I daresay, but one may have too much of a good thing.’ As I spoke the servant opened the door, and 1 heard her say to someone — * Master’s at home; you can speak to him/

‘ Good evening, sir/ said a deep voice in a hoarse whisper as I. went to the door. ‘ You’ll excuse me, but I hope it’s all right?’ * Much obliged, my good fellow. Yes, everything is all right; we shall not trouble you to call again. Mary, a glass of beer.’ * Thank you, sir, hp beer for me. I only called to enquire if you were all . right; the lady looked alarmed the 1 other evening.’ '{To he continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18810416.2.13

Bibliographic details

THE HAND ON THE PANEL., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 320, 16 April 1881

Word Count
1,445

THE HAND ON THE PANEL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 320, 16 April 1881

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