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The Christmas Library: 250+ Essential Christmas Novels, Poems, Carols, Short Stories...by 100+ Authors

The Christmas Library: 250+ Essential Christmas Novels, Poems, Carols, Short Stories...by 100+ Authors

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The Christmas Library: 250+ Essential Christmas Novels, Poems, Carols, Short Stories...by 100+ Authors

4.5/5 (3 ratings)
5,338 pages
86 hours
Dec 10, 2018


This holiday, we proudly present to you this unique collection of the greatest Christmas stories. Over 250 of them are included by your favourite authors:Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Hans Christian Andersen, E.T.A. Hoffmann, O. Henry, Mark Twain and many more!
Dec 10, 2018

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The Christmas Library

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Copyright © 2018 by Oregan Publishing

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A.A. Milne

A Hint for Next Christmas

Adelaide Anne Procter

The Ghost in the Picture Room

Algernon Blackwood

The Kit-Bag

Alice Duer Miller

The Burglar And The Wizard

Alice Hale Burnett

Christmas Holidays at Merryvale

Amy Ella Blanchard

Little Maid Marian

Andy Adams

A Winter Round-Up

Anne Hollingsworth Wharton

Christmas in Seventeen Seventy-Six

Annie Eliot Trumbull

A Christmas Accident

Annie Roe Carr

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays


A Christmas Hamper


A Snow Man


My Christmas Dinner


The First Puritan Christmas Tree


The Legend of Babouscka


The Legend of the Christmas Tree


The Little Thief in the Pantry


The Shepherds and the Angels


The practical joke, or, The Christmas story of Uncle Ned


Widow Townsend's Visitor

Anton Chekhov

A Woman's Kingdom

Anton Chekhov

At Christmas Time

Anton Chekhov

The Boys

Anton Chekhov


Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle

Banjo Paterson

Santa Claus in the Bush

Banjo Paterson

Santa Claus

Beatrix Potter

The Tailor of Gloucester

Berthold Auerbach

Christian Gellert's Last Christmas

Bret Harte

How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar

Grimm Brothers

The Elves And The Shoemaker

C.H. Mead

The Song of the Star

Cecil Frances Alexander


Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

A Christmas Tree

Charles Dickens

Christmas at Fezziwig's Warehouse

Charles Dickens

Nobody's Story

Charles Dickens

The Battle of Life

Charles Dickens

The Child's Story

Charles Dickens

The Chimes

Charles Dickens

The Christmas Golbin

Charles Dickens

The Cricket on the Hearth

Charles Dickens

The Ghost in the Corner Room

Charles Dickens

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

Charles Dickens

The Mortals in the House

Charles Dickens

The Poor Relation's Story

Charles Dickens

The Poor Traveler

Charles Dickens

The Schoolboy's Story

Charles Dickens

What Christmas Is As We Grow Older

Charles Edward Carryl

The Admiral’s Caravan

All Through the Night (Christmas Carol)

Angels We Have Heard on High (Christmas Carol)

Away in the Manger (Christmas Carol)

Carol of the Bells (Christmas Carol)

Deck the Halls (Christmas Carol)

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (Christmas Carol)

Good King Wenceslas (Christmas Carol)

Hark The Herald Angels Sing (Christmas Carol)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Christmas Carol)

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Christmas Carol)

Jingle Bells (Christmas Carol)

Joy to the World (Christmas Carol)

O Christmas Tree (Christmas Carol)

O Come, All Ye Faithful (Christmas Carol)

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Christmas Carol)

Silent Night (Christmas Carol)

The First Noel (Christmas Carol)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Christmas Carol)

The Wassail Song (Here We Come A-Caroling)(Christmas Carol)

We Three Kings (Christmas Carol)

Christopher North

Christmas Dreams

Clement Clarke Moore

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Cornelia Redmond

Billy’s Santa Claus Experience

Don Marquis

A Christmas Gift

Dylan Thomas

A Child's Christmas in Wales

Edward Payson Roe

A Christmas-Eve Suit

Edward Payson Roe

Christmas Eve in War Times

Edward Payson Roe

Susie Rolliffe's Christmas

Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

Peace on Earth, Good-will to Dogs

Elia W. Peattie

How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats

Elizabeth Anderson

The Goblins' Christmas

Elizabeth Margaret Chandler


Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Old Man’s Christmas

Ellis Parker Butler

The Thin Santa Claus

Ernest Vincent Wright

Santa Claus’ Assistants

Eugene Field

Christmas Eve

Eugene Field

Christmas Treasures

Eugene Field

Jest 'fore Christmas

Eugene Field

The First Christmas Tree

Eugene Field

The Peace of Christmas-Time

Evaleen Stein

The Christmas Porringer

Florence L. Barclay

The Upas Tree

Francis Pharcellus Church

Is There a Santa Claus?

Frank Stockton

Captain Eli's Best Ear

Frank Stockton

The Christmas Wreck

Frank Stockton

The Sprig of Holly

Fyodor Dostoevsky

A Christmas Tree and a Wedding

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Beggar Boy at Christ’s Christmas Tree

G.K. Chesterton


George A. Baker

On Santa Claus

George Augustus Sala

The Ghost in the Double Room

George Robert Sims

Christmas Day in the Workhouse

H.W. Collingwood

Indian Pete's Christmas Gift

H.P. Lovecraft


H.P. Lovecraft

The Festival

Hans Christian Andersen

The Fir-Tree

Hans Christian Andersen

The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree

Hans Christian Andersen

The Little Match Girl

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Betty's Bright Idea

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Christmas In Poganuc

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Christmas; or, The Good Fairy

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The First Christmas of New England

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Three Kings

Henry van Dyke

A Dream-Story

Henry van Dyke

A Little Essay: Christmas-Giving And Christmas-Living

Henry van Dyke

A Short Christmas Sermon: Keeping Christmas

Henry van Dyke

Christmas Prayers

Henry van Dyke

Keeping Christmas

Henry van Dyke

The First Christmas Tree

Henry van Dyke

The Other Wise Man

Hesba Stretton

The Ghost in the Clock Room

Hezekiah Butterworth

First New England Christmas

Jacob August Riis

Nibsy's Christmas

Jacob August Riis

Skippy Of Scrabble Alley

Jacob August Riis

What The Christmas Sun Saw In The Tenements

James Whitcomb Riley

A Defective Santa Claus

John Bowring

Watchman, Tell Us of the Night

John Greenleaf Whittier

A Christmas Carmen

John Greenleaf Whittier

The Mystic's Christmas

John Kendrick Bangs

A Holiday Wish

John Kendrick Bangs

A Merry Christmas Pie

John Kendrick Bangs

A Toast to Santa Claus

John Kendrick Bangs

Christmas Eve

John Kendrick Bangs

Santa Claus and Little Billee

John Kendrick Bangs

The Child Who Had Everything But-

John Kendrick Bangs

The Conversion of Hetherington

John Kendrick Bangs

The House of The Seven Santas

John Masefield


John Milton

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity

John Strange Winter

A Christmas Fairy

José María de Pereda

A Christmas Eve in Spain

Julia Schayer

Angela's Christmas

Juliana Horatia Ewing

The Peace Egg

Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Birds' Christmas Carol

Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Romance of a Christmas Card

Katharine Lee Bates

Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride

Kenneth Grahame


L. Frank Baum

A Kidnapped Santa Claus

L. Frank Baum

Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus

L. Frank Baum

Little Bun Rabbit

Laura Lee Hope

Six Little Bunkers at Grandpa Ford's

Laura Lee Hope

The Story of a Nodding Donkey

Laura Lee Hope

The Story of a Stuffed Elephant

Leo Tolstoy

A Russian Christmas Party

Leo Tolstoy

Papa Panov's Special Christmas

Letitia Elizabeth Landon


Lewis Carroll

Christmas Greetings from a Fairy to a Child

Lope de Vega

A Christmas Cradlesong

Louisa May Alcott

A Christmas Dream, and How It Came to Be True

Louisa May Alcott

A Country Christmas

Louisa May Alcott

A Song for a Christmas Tree

Louisa May Alcott

Cousin Tribulation's Story

Louisa May Alcott

The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice Treherne's Temptation

Louisa May Alcott

Tilly's Christmas

Louisa May Alcott

What the Bell Saw and Said

Lucy Maud Montgomery

A Christmas Inspiration

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Christmas at Red Butte

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Uncle Richard's New Year Dinner



Margaret E. Sangster

The Christmas Babe

Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit

Mark Twain

A Letter from Santa Claus

Martha Finley

Christmas with Grandma Elsie

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

A Stolen Christmas

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Christmas Jenny

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Josiah's First Christmas

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Brownie's Xmas

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Christmas Ball

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Christmas Ghost

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Christmas Masquerade

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Gospel According to Joan

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Snowflake Tree

Mary Louisa Molesworth

Not Quite True

Mary Louisa Molesworth

The Christmas Princess

Meredith Nicholson

A Reversible Santa Claus

Montague Rhodes James

The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance

Mother Goose

Little Jack Horner

Mrs W.H. Corning

A Western Christmas

Nahum Tate


Nathaniel Hawthorne

Christmas Banquet

Nathaniel Hawthorne


Newton Booth Tarkington

Beasley's Christmas Party


A Chaparral Christmas Gift


An Unfinished Christmas Story


Christmas By Injunction


The Gift of the Magi


Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking

Olive Thorne Miller

The Telltale Tile

Paul Laurence Dunbar

A Christmas Folk Song

Paul Laurence Dunbar

A Little Christmas Basket

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Chrismus Is A-Comin'

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Chrismus On The Plantation

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Christmas Carol

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Christmas in the Heart

Paul Laurence Dunbar


Paul Laurence Dunbar

One Christmas At Shiloh

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Speakin' O' Christmas

Peter Christen Asbjornsen

Round the Yule-Log: Christmas in Norway

Ralph Henry Barbour

A College Santa Claus

Richmal Crompton

The Christmas Present

Richmal Crompton

William's New Year's Day

Robert Browning

Christmas Eve

Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne

Robert Ervin Howard

« Golden Hope » Christmas

Robert Frost

Christmas Trees

Robert Ingersoll

What I Want for Christmas

Robert Louis Stevenson

A Christmas Sermon

Robert Louis Stevenson


Rose Terry Cooke


Rudyard Kipling

Christmas in India

S. Weir Mitchell

Mr. Kris Kringle


Bertie's Christmas Eve


Reginald on Christmas Presents


Reginald's Christmas Revel

Sara Teasdale

Christmas Carol

Stephen Leacock

A Christmas Letter

Stephen Leacock

Merry Christmas

Stephen Leacock

The Errors of Santa Claus

Theodore Parker

The Two Christmas Celebrations, A.D. I. and MDCCCLV

Thomas Chatterton

A Hymn for Christmas Day

Thomas Hardy

The Oxen

Thomas Hill


Thomas Nelson Page

How the Captain Made Christmas

Viktor Rydberg

Robin Goodfellow

Washington Irving

Christmas Day

Washington Irving

Christmas Eve

Washington Irving


Washington Irving

The Christmas Dinner

Washington Irving

The Stage-coach

Willa Cather

A Burglar's Christmas

William Dean Howells

Christmas Every Day

William Dean Howells

The Night Before Christmas

William Dean Howells

The Pony Engine and the Pacific Express

William Dean Howells

The Pumpkin-Glory

William Dean Howells

Turkeys Turning The Tables

William Henry Davies


William J. Locke

A Christmas Mystery

William Makepeace Thackeray

Dr. Birch and His Young Friends

William Makepeace Thackeray

Mrs Perkins’s Ball

William Makepeace Thackeray

Our Street

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Kickleburys on the Rhine

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Rose and the Ring

William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night

Zona Gale


A Hint for Next Christmas

A.A. Milne

A Hint for Next Christmas

There has been some talk lately of the standardization of golf balls, but a more urgent reform is the standardization of Christmas presents. It is no good putting this matter off; let us take it in hand now, so that we shall be in time for next Christmas.

My crusade is on behalf of those who spend their Christmas away from home. Last year I returned (with great difficulty) from such an adventure and I am more convinced than ever that Christmas presents should conform to a certain standard of size. My own little offerings were thoughtfully chosen. A match-box, a lace handkerchief or two, a cigarette-holder, a pencil and note-book, Gems from Wilcox, and so on; such gifts not only bring pleasure (let us hope) to the recipient, but take up a negligible amount of room in one’s bag, and add hardly anything to the weight of it. Of course, if your fellow-visitor says to you, How sweet of you to give me such a darling little handkerchief--it’s just what I wanted--how ever did you think of it? you do not reply, Well, it was a choice between that and a hundredweight of coal, and I’ll give you two guesses why I chose the handkerchief. No; you smile modestly and say, As soon as I saw it, I felt somehow that it was yours; after which you are almost in a position to ask your host casually where he keeps the mistletoe.

But it is almost a certainty that the presents you receive will not have been chosen with such care. Probably the young son of the house has been going in for carpentry lately, and in return for your tie-pin he gives you a wardrobe of his own manufacture. You thank him heartily, you praise its figure, but all the time you are wishing that it had chosen some other occasion. Your host gives you a statuette or a large engraving; somebody else turns up with a large brass candle-stick. It is all very gratifying, but you have got to get back to London somehow, and, thankful though you are not to have received the boar-hound or parrot-in-cage which seemed at one time to be threatening, you cannot help wishing that the limits of size for a Christmas present had been decreed by some authority who was familiar with the look of your dressing-case.

Obviously, too, there should be a standard value for a certain type of Christmas present. One may give what one will to one’s own family or particular friends; that is all right. But in a Christmas house-party there is a pleasant interchange of parcels, of which the string and the brown paper and the kindly thought are the really important ingredients, and the gift inside is nothing more than an excuse for these things. It is embarrassing for you if Jones has apologized for his brown paper with a hundred cigars, and you have only excused yourself with twenty-five cigarettes; perhaps still more embarrassing if it is you who have lost so heavily on the exchange. An understanding that the contents were to be worth five shillings exactly would avoid this embarassment.

And now I am reminded of the ingenuity of a friend of mine, William by name, who arrived at a large country house for Christmas without any present in his bag. He had expected neither to give nor to receive anything, but to his horror he discovered on the 24th that everybody was preparing a Christmas present for him, and that it was taken for granted that he would require a little privacy and brown paper on Christmas Eve for the purpose of addressing his own offerings to others. He had wild thoughts of telegraphing to London for something to be sent down, and spoke to other members of the house-party in order to discover what sort of presents would be suitable.

What are you giving our host P he asked one of them.

Mary and I are giving him a book, said John, referring to his wife.

William then approached the youngest son of the house, and discovered that he and his next brother Dick were sharing in this, that, and the other. When he had heard this, William retired to his room and thought profoundly. He was the first down to breakfast on Christmas morning. All the places at the table were piled high with presents. He looked at John’s place. The top parcel said, To John and Mary from Charles. William took out his fountain-pen and added a couple of words to the inscription. It then read, To John and Mary from Charles and William, and in William’s opinion looked just as effective as before. He moved on to the next place. To Angela from Father, said the top parcel. And William, wrote William. At his hostess’ place he hesitated for a moment. The first present there was for Darling Mother, from her loving children. It did not seem that an and William was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be deprived of William’s kindly thought; twenty seconds later the handkerchiefs from John and Mary and William expressed all the nice things which he was feeling for her. He passed on to the next place....

It is, of course, impossible to thank every donor of a joint gift; one simply thanks the first person whose eye one happens to catch. Sometimes William’s eye was caught, sometimes not. But he was spared all embarrassment; and I can recommend his solution of the problem with perfect confidence to those who may be in a similar predicament next Christmas.

There is a minor sort of Christmas present about which also a few words must be said; I refer to the Christmas card.

The Christmas card habit is a very pleasant one, but it, too, needs to be disciplined. I doubt if many people understand its proper function. This is partly the result of our bringing up; as children we were allowed (quite rightly) to run wild in the Christmas card shop, with one of two results. Either we still run wild, or else the reaction has set in and we avoid the Christmas card shop altogether. We convey our printed wishes for a happy Christmas to everybody or to nobody. This is a mistake. In our middle-age we should discriminate.

The child does not need to discriminate. It has two shillings in the hand and about twenty-four relations. Even in my time two shillings did not go far among twenty-four people. But though presents were out of the question, one could get twenty-four really beautiful Christmas cards for the money, and if some of them were ha’penny ones, then one could afford real snow on a threepenny one for the most important uncle, meaning by most important, perhaps (but I have forgotten now), the one most likely to be generous in return. Of the fun of choosing those twenty-four cards I need not now speak, nor of the best method of seeing to it that somebody else paid for the necessary twenty-four stamps. But certainly one took more trouble in suiting the tastes of those who were to receive the cards than the richest and most leisured grown-up would take in selecting a diamond necklace for his wife’s stocking or motor-cars for his sons-in-law. It was not only a question of snow, but also of the words in which the old, old wish was expressed. If the aunt who was known to be fond of poetry did not get something suitable from Eliza Cook, one might regard her Christmas as ruined. How could one grudge the trouble necessary to make her Christmas really happy for her? One might even explore the fourpenny box.

But in middle-age--by which I mean anything over twenty and under ninety--one knows too many people. One cannot give them a Christmas card each; there is not enough powdered glass to go round. One has to discriminate, and the way in which most of us discriminate is either to send no cards to anybody or else to send them to the first twenty or fifty or hundred of our friends (according to our income and energy) whose names come into our minds. Such cards are meaningless; but if we sent our Christmas cards to the right people, we could make the simple words upon them mean something very much more than a mere wish that the recipient’s Christmas shall be merry (which it will be anyhow, if he likes merriness) and his New Year bright (which, let us hope, it will not be).

A merry Christmas, with an old church in the background and a robin in the foreground, surrounded by a wreath of holly-leaves. It might mean so much. What I feel that it ought to mean is something like this:--

You live at Potters Bar and I live at Petersham. Of course, if we did happen to meet at the Marble Arch one day, it would be awfully jolly, and we could go and have lunch together somewhere, and talk about old times. But our lives have drifted apart since those old days. It is partly the fault of the train-service, no doubt. Glad as I should be to see you, I don’t like to ask you to come all the way to Petersham to dinner, and if you asked me to Potters Bar--well, I should come, but it would be something of a struggle, and I thank you for not asking me. Besides, we have made different friends now, and our tastes are different. After we had talked about the old days, I doubt if we should have much to say to each other. Each of us would think the other a bit of a bore, and our wives would wonder why we had ever been friends at Liverpool. But don’t think I have forgotten you. I just send this card to let you know that I am still alive, still at the same address, and that I still remember you. No need, if we ever do meet, or if we ever want each other’s help, to begin by saying: ‘I suppose you have quite forgotten those old days at Liverpool.’ We have neither of us forgotten; and so let us send to each other, once a year, a sign that we have not forgotten, and that once upon a time we were friends. ‘A merry Christmas to you.’

That is what a Christmas card should say. It is absurd to say this to a man or woman whom one is perpetually ringing up on the telephone; to somebody whom one met last week or with whom one is dining the week after; to a man whom one may run across at the club on almost any day, or a woman whom one knows to shop daily at the same stores as oneself. It is absurd to say it to a correspondent to whom one often writes. Let us reserve our cards for the old friends who have dropped out of our lives, and let them reserve their cards for us.

But, of course, we must have kept their addresses; otherwise we have to print our cards publicly--as I am doing now. Old friends will please accept this, the only intimation.

The Ghost in the Picture Room

Adelaide Anne Procter

The Ghost in the Picture Room

Belinda, with a modest self-possession quite her own, promptly answered for this Spectre in a low, clear voice:

The lights extinguished; by the hearth I leant,

Half weary with a listless discontent.

The flickering giant shadows, gathering near.

Closed round me with a dim and silent fear;

All dull, all dark; save when the leaping flame,

Glancing, lit up The Picture’s ancient frame.

Above the hearth it hung. Perhaps the night,

My foolish tremors, or the gleaming light,

Lent Power to that Portrait dark and quaint —

A Portrait such as Rembrandt loved to paint —

The likeness of a Nun. I seemed to trace

A world of sorrow in the patient face,

In the thin hands folded across her breast —

Its own and the room’s shadow hid the rest.

I gazed and dreamed, and the dull embers stirred,

Till an old legend that I once had heard

Came back to me; linked to the mystic gloom

Of the dark Picture in the ghostly room.

In the far South, where clustering vines are hung;

Where first the old chivalric lays were sung;

Where earliest smiled that gracious child of France,

Angel and Knight and Fairy, called Romance,

I stood one day. The warm blue June was spread

Upon the earth; blue summer overhead,

Without a cloud to fleck its radiant glare,

Without a breath to stir its sultry air.

All still, all silent, save the sobbing rush

Of rippling waves, that lapsed in silver hush

Upon the beach; where, glittering towards the strand,

The purple Mediterranean kissed the land.

All still, all peaceful; when a convent chime

Broke on the midday silence for a time,

Then trembling into quiet, seemed to cease,

In deeper silence and more utter peace.

So as I turned to gaze, where gleaming white,

Half hid by shadowy trees from passers’ sight,

The convent lay, one who had dwelt for long

In that fair home of ancient tale and song,

Who knew the story of each cave and hill,

And every haunting fancy lingering still

Within the land, spake thus to me, and told

The convent’s treasured legend, quaint and old:

Long years ago, a dense and flowering wood,

Still more concealed where the white convent stood,

Borne on its perfumed wings the title came:

Our Lady of the Hawthorns is its name.

Then did that bell, which still rings out today

Bid all the country rise, or eat, or pray.

Before that convent shrine, the haughty knight

Passed the lone vigil of his perilous fight;

For humbler cottage strife, or village brawl,

The abbess listened, prayed, and settled all.

Young hearts that came, weighed down by love or wrong,

Left her kind presence comforted and strong.

Each passing pilgrim, and each beggar’s right

Was food, and rest, and shelter for the night.

But, more than this, the nuns could well impart

The deepest mysteries of the healing art;

Their store of herbs and simples was renowned,

And held in wondering faith for miles around.

Thus strife, love, sorrow, good and evil fate,

Found help and blessing at the convent gate.

Of all the nuns, no heart was half so light,

No eyelids veiling glances half as bright,

No step that glided with such noiseless feet,

No face that looked so tender or so sweet,

No voice that rose in choir so pure, so clear,

No heart to all the others half so dear

(So surely touched by others’ pain or woe,

Guessing the grief her young life could not know),

No soul in childlike faith so undefiled,

As Sister Angela’s, the Convent Child.

For thus they loved to call her. She had known

No home, no love, no kindred, save their own —

An orphan, to their tender nursing given,

Child, plaything, pupil, now the bride of Heaven.

And she it was who trimmed the lamp’s red light

That swung before the altar, day and night.

Her hands it was, whose patient skill could trace

The finest broidery, weave the costliest lace;

But most of all, her first and dearest care,

The office she would never miss or share,

Was every day to weave fresh garlands sweet,

To place before the shrine at Mary’s feet.

Nature is bounteous in that region fair,

For even winter has her blossoms there.

Thus Angela loved to count each feast the best,

By telling with what flowers the shrine was dressed.

In pomp supreme the countless Roses passed,

Battalion on battalion thronging fast,

Each with a different banner, flaming bright,

Damask, or striped, or crimson, pink, or white,

Until they bowed before the new-born queen,

And the pure virgin lily rose serene.

Though Angela always thought the Mother blest,

Must love the time of her own hawthorns best

Each evening through the year, with equal care,

She placed her flowers; then kneeling down in prayer,

As their faint perfume rose before the shrine,

So rose her thoughts, as pure and as divine.

She knelt until the shades grew dim without,

Till one by one the altar lights shone out,

Till one by one the nuns, like shadows dim,

Gathered around to chant their vesper hymn:

Her voice then led the music’s winged flight,

And Ave, Maris Stella filled the night.

But wherefore linger on those days of peace?

When storms draw near, then quiet hours must cease.

War, cruel war, defaced the land, and came

So near the convent with its breath of flame,

That, seeking shelter, frightened peasants fled,

Sobbing out tales of coming fear and dread.

Till after a fierce skirmish, down the road,

One night came straggling soldiers, with their load

Of wounded, dying comrades; and the band,

Half pleading, yet as if they could command,

Summoned the trembling sisters, craved their care,

Then rode away, and left the wounded there.

But soon compassion bade all fear depart,

And bidding every sister do her part,

Some prepare simples, healing salves, or bands,

The abbess chose the more experienced hands,

To dress the wounds needing most skilful care;

Yet even the youngest novice took her share,

And thus to Angela, whose ready will

And pity could not cover lack of skill,

The charge of a young wounded knight must fall,

A case which seemed least dangerous of them all.

Day after day she watched beside his bed,

And first in utter quiet the hours fled:

His feverish moans alone the silence stirred,

Or her soft voice, uttering some pious word.

At last the fever left him; day by day

The hours, no longer silent, passed away.

What could she speak of? First, to still his plaint,

She told him legends of the martyr’d saints;

Described the pangs, which, through God’s plenteous grace,

Had gained their souls so high and bright a place.

This pious artifice soon found success

Or so she fancied for he murmured less.

And so she told the pomp and grand array

In which the chapel shone on Easter Day,

Described the vestments, gold, and colours bright,

Counted how many tapers gave their light;

Then, in minute detail went on to say,

How the high altar looked on Christmas day:

The kings and shepherds, all in green and white,

And a large star of jewels gleaming bright.

Then told the sign by which they all had seen,

How even nature loved to greet her Queen,

For, when Our Lady’s last procession went

Down the long garden, every head was bent,

And rosary in hand each sister prayed;

As the long floating banners were displayed,

They struck the hawthorn boughs, and showers and showers

Of buds and blossoms strewed her way with flowers.

The knight unwearied listened; till at last,

He too described the glories of his past;

Tourney, and joust, and pageant bright and fair,

And all the lovely ladies who were there.

But half incredulous she heard. Could this

This be the world? this place of love and bliss!

Where, then, was hid tha strange and hideous charm,

That never failed to bring the gazer harm?

She crossed herself, yet asked, and listened still,

And still the knight described with all his skill,

The glorious world of joy, all joys above,

Transfigured in the golden mist of love.

Spread, spread your wings, ye angel guardians bright,

And shield these dazzling phantoms from her sight!

But no; days passed, matins and vespers rang,

And still the quiet nuns toiled, prayed, and sang,

And never guessed the fatal, coiling net

That every day drew near, and nearer yet.

Around their darling; for she went and came

About her duties, outwardly the same.

The same? ah, no! even when she knelt to pray,

Some charmed dream kept all her heart away.

So days went on, until the convent gate

Opened one night. Who durst go forth so late?

Across the moonlit grass, with stealthy tread,

Two silent, shrouded figures passed and fled.

And all was silent, save the moaning seas,

That sobbed and pleaded, and a wailing breeze

That sighed among the perfumed hawthorn trees.

What need to tell that dream so bright and brief,

Of joy unchequered by a dread of grief?

What need to tell how all such dreams must fade,

Before the slow foreboding, dreaded shade,

That floated nearer, until pomp and pride,

Pleasure and wealth, were summoned to her side,

To bid, at least, the noisy hours forget,

And clamour down the whispers of regret.

Still Angela strove to dream, and strove in vain;

Awakened once, she could not sleep again.

She saw, each day and hour, more worthless grown

The heart for which she cast away her own;

And her soul learnt, through bitterest inward strife,

The slight, frail love for which she wrecked her life;

The phantom for which all her hope was given,

The cold bleak earth for which she bartered heaven!

But all in vain; what chance remained? what heart

Would stoop to take so poor an outcast’s part?

Years fled, and she grew reckless more and more,

Until the humblest peasant closed his door,

And where she passed, fair dames, in scorn and pride,

Shuddered, and drew their rustling robes aside.

At last a yearning seemed to fill her soul,

A longing that was stronger than control:

Once more, just once again, to see the place

That knew her young and innocent; to retrace

The long and weary southern path; to gaze

Upon the haven of her childish days;

Once more beneath the convent roof to lie;

Once more to look upon her home — and die!

Weary and worn — her comrades, chill remorse

And black despair, yet a strange silent force

Within her heart, that drew her more and more —

Onward she crawled, and begged from door to door.

Weighed down with weary days, her failing strength

Grew less each hour, till one day’s dawn at length,

As its first rays flooded the world with light,

Showed the broad waters, glittering blue and bright,

And where, amid the leafy hawthorn wood,

Just as of old the low white convent stood.

Would any know her? Nay, no fear. Her face

Had lost all trace of youth, of joy, of grace,

Of the pure happy soul they used to know —

The novice Angela — so long ago.

She rang the convent bell. The well-known sound

Smote on her heart, and bowed her to the ground.

And she, who had not wept for long dry years,

Felt the strange rush of unaccustomed tears;

Terror and anguish seemed to check her breath,

And stop her heart — O God! could this be death?

Crouching against the iron gate, she laid

Her weary head against the bars, and prayed:

But nearer footsteps drew, then seemed to wait;

And then she heard the opening of the grate,

And saw the withered face, on which awoke

Pity and sorrow, as the portress spoke,

And asked the stranger’s bidding: Take me in,

She faltered, "Sister Monica, from sin,

And sorrow, and despair, that will not cease;

Oh take me in, and let me die in peace!"

With soothing words the sister bade her wait,

Until she brought the key to unbar the gate.

The beggar tried to thank her as she lay,

And heard the echoing footsteps die away.

But what soft voice was that which sounded near,

And stirred strange trouble in her heart to hear?

She raised her head; she saw — she seemed to know

A face, that came from long, long years ago:

Herself; yet not as when she fled away,

The young and blooming Novice, fair and gay,

But a grave woman, gentle and serene:

The outcast knew it — what she might have been.

But as she gazed and gazed, a radiance bright

Filled all the place with strange and sudden light;

The nun was there no longer, but instead,

A figure with a circle round its head,

A ring of glory; and a face, so meek,

So soft, so tender. . . . Angela strove to speak,

And stretched her hands out, crying, "Mary mild,

Mother of mercy, help me! — help your child!"

And Mary answered, "From thy bitter past,

Welcome, my child! oh, welcome home at last!

I filled thy place. Thy flight is known to none,

For all thy daily duties I have done;

Gathered thy flowers, and prayed, and sang, and slept;

Didst thou not know, poor child, thy place was kept?

Kind hearts are here; yet would the tenderest one

Have limits to its mercy: God has none.

And man’s forgiveness may be true and sweet,

But yet he stoops to give it. More complete

Is love that lays forgiveness at thy feet,

And pleads with thee to raise it. Only Heaven

Means crowned, not vanquished, when it says ‘Forgiven!’ "

Back hurried Sister Monica; but where

Was the poor beggar she left lying there?

Gone; and she searched in vain, and sought the place

For that wan woman, with the piteous face:

But only Angela at the gateway stood,

Laden with hawthorn blossoms from the wood.

And never did a day pass by again,

But the old portress, with a sigh of pain,

Would sorrow for her loitering: with a prayer

That the poor beggar, in her wild despair,

Might not have come to any ill; and when

She ended, God forgive her! humbly then

Did Angela bow her head, and say Amen!

How pitiful her heart was! all could trace

Something that dimmed the brightness of her face

After that day, which none had seen before;

Not trouble — but a shadow — nothing more.

Years passed away. Then, one dark day of dread,

Saw all the sisters kneeling round a bed,

Where Angela lay dying; every breath

Struggling beneath the heavy hand of death.

But suddenly a flush lit up her cheek,

She raised her wan right hand, and strove to speak.

In sorrowing love they listened; not a sound

Or sigh disturbed the utter silence round;

The very taper’s flames were scarcely stirred,

In such hushed awe the sisters knelt and heard.

And thro’ that silence Angela told her life:

Her sin, her flight; the sorrow and the strife,

And the return; and then, clear, low, and calm,

Praise God for me, my sisters; and the psalm

Rang up to heaven, far, and clear, and wide,

Again and yet again, then sank and died;

While her white face had such a smile of peace,

They saw she never heard the music cease;

And weeping sisters laid her in her tomb,

Crowned with a wreath of perfumed hawthorn bloom.

And thus the legend ended. It may be

Something is hidden in the mystery,

Besides the lesson of God’s pardon, shown

Never enough believed, or asked, or known.

Have we not all, amid life’s petty strife,

Some pure ideal of a noble life

That once seemed possible? Did we not hear

The flutter of its wings, and feel it near,

And just within our reach? It was. And yet

We lost it in this daily jar and fret,

And now live idle in a vague regret;

But still our place is kept, and it will wait,

Ready for us to fill it, soon or late.

No star is ever lost we once have seen,

We always may be what we might have been.

Since good, tho’ only thought, has life and breath,

God’s life can always be redeemed from death;

And evil, in its nature, is decay,

And any hour can blot it all away;

The hopes that, lost, in some far distance seem.

May be the truer life, and this the dream.

The Kit-Bag

Algernon Blackwood

The Kit-Bag

When the words 'Not Guilty' sounded through the crowded courtroom that dark December afternoon, Arthur Wilbraham, the great criminal KC, and leader for the triumphant defence, was represented by his junior; but Johnson, his private secretary, carried the verdict across to his chambers like lightning.

'It's what we expected, I think,' said the barrister, without emotion; 'and, personally, I am glad the case is over.'

There was no particular sign of pleasure that his defence of John Turk, the murderer, on a plea of insanity, had been successful, for no doubt he felt, as everybody who had watched the face felt, that no man had ever better deserved the gallows.

'I'm glad too,' said Johnson. He had sat in the court for ten days watching the face of the man who had carried out with callous detail one of the most brutal and cold-blooded murders of recent years.

The counsel glanced up at his secretary. They were more than employer and employed; for family and other reasons, they were friends. 'Ah, I remember, yes,' he said with a kind smile, 'and you want to get away for Christmas. You're going to skate and ski in the Alps, aren't you? If I was your age I'd come with you.'

Johnson laughed shortly. He was a young man of twenty-six, with a delicate face like a girl's. 'I can catch the morning boat now,' he said; 'but that's not the reason I'm glad the trial is over. I'm glad it's over because I've seen the last of that man's dreadful face. It positively haunted me. That white skin, with the black hair brushed low over the forehead, is a thing I shall never forget, and the description of the way the dismembered body was crammed and packed with lime into that-'

'Don't dwell on it, my dear fellow,' interrupted the other, looking at him curiously out of his keen eyes, 'don't think about it. Such pictures have a trick of coming back when one least wants them.' He paused a moment. 'Now go,' he added presently, 'and enjoy your holiday. I shall want all your energy for my Parliamentary work when you get back. And don't break your neck skiing.'

Johnson shook hands and took his leave. At the door he turned suddenly.

'I knew there was something I wanted to ask you,' he said. 'Would you mind lending me one of your kit-bags? It's too late to get one tonight, and I leave in the morning before the shops are open.'

'Of course; I'll send Henry over with it to your rooms. You shall have it the moment I get home.'

'I promise to take great care of it,' said Johnson gratefully, delighted to think that within thirty hours he would be nearing the brilliant sunshine of the high Alps in winter. The thought of that criminal court was like an evil dream in his mind.

He dined at his club and went on to Bloomsbury, where he occupied the top floor in one of those old, gaunt houses in which the rooms are large and lofty. The floor below his own was vacant and unfurnished, and below that were other lodgers whom he did not know. It was cheerless, and he looked forward heartily to a change. The night was even more cheerless: it was miserable, and few people were about. A cold, sleety rain was driving down the streets before the keenest east wind he had ever felt. It howled dismally among the big, gloomy houses of the great squares, and when he reached his rooms he heard it whistling and shouting over the world of black roofs beyond his windows.

In the hall he met his landlady, shading a candle from the draughts with her thin hand. 'This come by a man from Mr Wilbr'im's, sir.'

She pointed to what was evidently the kit-bag, and Johnson thanked her and took it upstairs with him. 'I shall be going abroad in the morning for ten days, Mrs Monks,' he said. 'I'll leave an address for letters.'

'And I hope you'll 'ave a merry Christmas, sir,' she said, in a raucous, wheezy voice that suggested spirits, ‘and better weather than this.' 'I hope so too,' replied her lodger, shuddering a little as the wind went roaring down the street outside.

When he got upstairs he heard the sleet volleying against the window panes. He put his kettle on to make a cup of hot coffee, and then set about putting a few things in order for his absence. 'And now I must pack--such as my packing is,' he laughed to himself, and set to work at once. He liked the packing, for it brought the snow mountains so vividly before him, and made him forget the unpleasant scenes of the past ten days. Besides, it was not elaborate in nature. His friend had lent him the very thing--a stout canvas kit-bag, sack-shaped, with holes round the neck for the brass bar and padlock. It was a bit shapeless, true, and not much to look at, but its capacity was unlimited, and there was no need to pack carefully. He shoved in his waterproof coat, his fur cap and gloves, his skates and climbing boots, his sweaters, snow-boots, and ear-caps; and then on the top of these he piled his woollen shirts and underwear, his thick socks, puttees, and knickerbockers. The dress suit came next, in case the hotel people dressed for dinner, and then, thinking of the best way to pack his white shirts, he paused a moment to reflect. 'That's the worst of these kit-bags,' he mused vaguely, standing in the centre of the sitting-room, where he had come to fetch some string.

It was after ten o'clock. A furious gust of wind rattled the windows as though to hurry him up, and he thought with pity of the poor Londoners whose Christmas would be spent in such a climate, whilst he was skimming over snowy slopes in bright sunshine, and dancing in the evening with rosy-cheeked girls—Ah! that reminded him; he must put in his dancing-pumps and evening socks. He crossed over from his sitting-room to the cupboard on the landing where he kept his linen.

And as he did so he heard someone coming up the stairs. He stood still a moment on the landing to listen. It was Mrs Monks's step, he thought; she must be coming up with the last post. But then the steps ceased suddenly, and he heard no more. They were at least two flights down, and he came to the conclusion they were too heavy to be those of his bibulous landlady. No doubt they belonged to a late lodger who had mistaken his floor. He went into his bedroom and packed his pumps and dress-shirts as best he could.

The kit-bag by this time was two-thirds full, and stood upright on its own base like a sack of flour. For the first time he noticed that it was old and dirty, the canvas faded and worn, and that it had obviously been subjected to rather rough treatment. It was not a very nice bag to have sent him—certainly not a new one, or one that his chief valued. He gave the matter a passing thought, and went on with his packing. Once or twice, however, he caught himself wondering who it could have been wandering down below, for Mrs Monks had not come up with letters, and the floor was empty and unfurnished. From time to time, moreover, he was almost certain he heard a soft tread of someone padding about over the bare boards—cautiously, stealthily, as silently as possible—and, further, that the sounds had been lately coming distinctly nearer.

For the first time in his life he began to feel a little creepy. Then, as though to emphasize this feeling, an odd thing happened: as he left the bedroom, having just packed his recalcitrant white shirts, he noticed that the top of the kit-bag lopped over towards him with an extraordinary resemblance to a human face. The canvas fell into a fold like a nose and forehead, and the brass rings for the padlock just filled the position of the eyes. A shadow—or was it a travel stain? for he could not tell exactly—looked like hair. It gave him rather a turn, for it was so absurdly, so outrageously, like the face of John Turk, the murderer.

He laughed, and went into the front room, where the light was stronger.

'That horrid case has got on my mind,' he thought; 'I shall be glad of a change of scene and air.' In the sitting-room, however, he was not pleased to hear again that stealthy tread upon the stairs, and to realize that it was much closer than before, as well as unmistakably real. And this time he got up and went out to see who it could be creeping about on the upper staircase at so late an hour.

But the sound ceased; there was no one visible on the stairs. He went to the floor below, not without trepidation, and turned on the electric light to make sure that no one was hiding in the empty rooms of the unoccupied suite. There was not a stick of furniture large enough to hide a dog. Then he called over the banisters to Mrs Monks, but there was no answer, and his voice echoed down into the dark vault of the house, and was lost in the roar of the gale that howled outside. Everyone was in bed and asleep—everyone except himself and the owner of this soft and stealthy tread.

'My absurd imagination, I suppose,' he thought. 'It must have been the wind after all, although—it seemed so very real and close, I thought.' He went back to his packing. It was by this time getting on towards midnight. He drank his coffee up and lit another pipe—the last before turning in.

It is difficult to say exactly at what point fear begins, when the causes of that fear are not plainly before the eyes. Impressions gather on the surface of the mind, film by film, as ice gathers upon the surface of still water, but often so lightly that they claim no definite recognition from the consciousness. Then a point is reached where the accumulated impressions become a definite emotion, and the mind realizes that something has happened. With something of a start, Johnson suddenly recognized that he felt nervous—oddly nervous; also, that for some time past the causes of this feeling had been gathering slowly in his mind, but that he had only just reached the point where he was forced to acknowledge them.

It was a singular and curious malaise that had come over him, and he hardly knew what to make of it. He felt as though he were doing something that was strongly objected to by another person, another person, moreover, who had some right to object. It was a most disturbing and disagreeable feeling, not unlike the persistent promptings of conscience: almost, in fact, as if he were doing something he knew to be wrong. Yet, though he searched vigorously and honestly in his mind, he could nowhere lay his finger upon the secret of this growing uneasiness, and it perplexed him. More, it distressed and frightened him.

'Pure nerves, I suppose,' he said aloud with a forced laugh. 'Mountain air will cure all that! Ah,' he added, still speaking to himself, 'and that reminds me—my snow-glasses.'

He was standing by the door of the bedroom during this brief soliloquy, and as he passed quickly towards the sitting-room to fetch them from the cupboard he saw out of the comer of his eye the indistinct outline of a figure standing on the stairs, a few feet from the top. It was someone in a stooping position, with one hand on the banisters, and the face peering up towards the landing. And at the same moment he heard a shuffling footstep. The person who had been creeping about below all this time had at last come up to his own floor. Who in the world could it be? And what in the name of Heaven did he want?

Johnson caught his breath sharply and stood stock still. Then, after a few seconds' hesitation, he found his courage, and turned to investigate. The stairs, he saw to his utter amazement, were empty; there was no one. He felt a series of cold shivers run over him, and something about the muscles of his legs gave a little and grew weak. For the space of several minutes he peered steadily into the shadows that congregated about the top of the staircase where he had seen the figure, and then he walked fast—almost ran, in fact—into the light of the front room; but hardly had he passed inside the doorway when he heard someone come up the stairs behind him with a quick bound and go swiftly into his bedroom. It was a heavy, but at the same time a stealthy footstep—the tread of somebody who did not wish to be seen. And it was at this precise moment that the nervousness he had hitherto experienced leaped the boundary line, and entered the state of fear, almost of acute unreasoning fear. Before it turned into terror there was a further boundary to cross, and beyond that again lay the region of pure horror. Johnson's position was an unenviable one.

‘By Jove! That was someone on the stairs, then,' he muttered, his flesh crawling all over; 'and whoever it was has now gone into my bedroom.' His delicate, pale face turned absolutely white, and for some minutes he hardly knew what to think or do. Then he realized intuitively that delay only set a premium upon fear; and he crossed the landing boldly and went straight into the other room, where, a few seconds before, the steps had disappeared. 'Who's there? Is that you, Mrs Monks?' he called aloud, as he went, and heard the first half of his words echo down the empty stairs, while the second half fell dead against the curtains in a room that apparently held no other human figure than his own.

'Who's there?' he called again, in a voice unnecessarily loud and that only just held firm. 'What do you want here?'

The curtains swayed very slightly, and, as he saw it, his heart felt as if it almost missed a beat; yet he dashed forward and drew them aside with a rush. A window, streaming with rain, was all that met his gaze. He continued his search, but in vain; the cupboards held nothing but rows of clothes, hanging motionless; and under the bed there was no sign of anyone hiding. He stepped backwards into the middle of the room, and, as he did so, something all but tripped him up. Turning with a sudden spring of alarm he saw the kit-bag.

'Odd!' he thought. 'That's not where I left it!' A few moments before it had surely been on his right, between the bed and the bath; he did not remember having moved it. It was very curious. What in the world was the matter with everything? Were all his senses gone queer? t A terrific gust of wind tore at the windows, dashing the sleet against the glass with the force of small gunshot, and then fled away howling dismally over the waste of Bloomsbury roofs. A sudden vision of the Channel next day rose in his mind and recalled him sharply to realities.

‘There's no one here at any rate; that's quite clear!' he exclaimed aloud. Yet at the time he uttered them he knew perfectly well that his words were not true and that he did not believe them himself. He felt exactly as though someone was hiding close about him, watching all his movements, trying to hinder his packing in some way. 'And two of my senses,' he added, keeping up the pretence, 'have played me the most absurd tricks: the steps I heard and the figure I saw were both entirely imaginary.'

He went back to the front room, poked the fire into a blaze, and sat down before it to think. What impressed him more than anything else was the fact that the kit-bag was no longer where he had left it. It had been dragged nearer to the door.

What happened afterwards that night happened, of course, to a man already excited by fear, and was perceived by a mind that had not the full and proper control, therefore, of the senses. Outwardly, Johnson remained calm and master of himself to the end, pretending to the very last that everything he witnessed had a natural explanation, or was merely delusions of his tired nerves. But inwardly, in his very heart, he knew all along that someone had been hiding downstairs in the empty suite when he came in, that this person had watched his opportunity and then stealthily made his way up to the bedroom, and that all he saw and heard afterwards, from the moving of the kit-bag to—well, to the other things this story has to tell—were caused directly by the presence of this invisible person.

And it was here, just when he most desired to keep his mind and thoughts controlled, that the vivid pictures received day after day upon the mental plates exposed in the courtroom of the Old Bailey, came strongly to light and developed themselves in the dark room of his inner vision. Unpleasant, haunting memories have a way of coming to life again just when the mind least desires them—in the silent watches of the night, on sleepless pillows, during the lonely hours spent by sick and dying beds. And so now, in the same way, Johnson saw nothing but the dreadful face of John Turk, the murderer, lowering at him from every corner of his mental field of vision; the white skin, the evil eyes, and the fringe of black hair low over the forehead. All the pictures of those ten days in court crowded back into his mind unbidden, and very vivid.

'This is all rubbish and nerves,' he exclaimed at length, springing with sudden energy from his chair. 'I shall finish my packing and go to bed. I'm overwrought, overtired. No doubt, at this rate I shall hear steps and things all night!'

But his face was deadly white all the same. He snatched up his field-glasses and walked across to the bedroom, humming a music-hall song as he went—a trifle too loud to be natural; and the instant he crossed the threshold and stood within the room something turned cold about his heart, and he felt that every hair on his head stood up.

The kit-bag lay close in front of him, several feet nearer to the door than he had left it, and just over its crumpled top he saw a head and face slowly sinking down out of sight as though someone were crouching behind it to hide, and at the same moment a sound like a long-drawn sigh was distinctly audible in the still air about him between the gusts of the storm outside.

Johnson had more courage and will-power than the girlish indecision of his face indicated; but at first such a wave of terror came over him that for some seconds he could do nothing but stand and stare. A violent trembling ran down his back and legs, and he was conscious of a foolish, almost a hysterical, impulse to scream aloud. That sigh seemed in his very ear, and the air still quivered with it. It was unmistakably a human sigh.

'Who's there?' he said at length, finding his voice; but though he meant to speak with loud decision, the tones came out instead in a faint whisper, for he had partly lost the control of his tongue and lips.

He stepped forward, so that he could see all round and over the kit-bag. Of course there was nothing there, nothing but the faded carpet and the bulging canvas sides. He put out his hands and threw open the mouth of the sack where it had fallen over, being only three parts full, and then he saw for the first time that round the inside, some six inches from the top, there ran a broad smear of dull crimson. It was an old and faded blood stain. He uttered a scream, and drew back his hands as if they had been burnt. At the same moment the kit-bag gave a faint, but unmistakable, lurch forward towards the door.

Johnson collapsed backwards, searching with his hands for the support of something solid, and the door, being further behind him than he realized, received his weight just in time to prevent his falling, and shut to with a resounding bang. At the same moment the swinging of his left arm accidentally touched the electric switch, and the light in the room went out.

It was an awkward and disagreeable predicament, and if Johnson had not been possessed of real pluck he might have done all manner of foolish things. As it was, however, he pulled himself together, and groped furiously for the little brass knob to turn the light on again. But the rapid closing of the door had set the coats hanging on it a-swinging, and his fingers became entangled in a confusion of sleeves and pockets, so that it was

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