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The Transfer

by Algernon Blackwood
The child began to cry in the early afternoon— about three o’clock, to be exact. I remember the hour, because I had been listening with secret relief to the sound of the departing carriage. Those wheels fading into the distance down the gra el dri e with !rs. "rene, and her daughter #ladys to whom I was go erness, meant for me some hours’ welcome rest, and the $une day was oppressi ely hot. !oreo er, there was this excitement in the little country house% hold that had told upon us all, but especially upon myself. This excitement, running delicately behind all the e ents of the morning, was due to some mystery, and the mystery was of course kept concealed from the go erness. I had exhausted myself with guessing and keeping on the watch. "or some deep and unex% plained anxiety possessed me, so that I kept thinking of my sister’s dictum that I was really much too sens% iti e to make a good go erness, and that I should ha e done far better as a professional clair oyante. !r. "rene, senior, &'ncle "rank,( was expected for an unusual isit from town about tea%time. That I knew. I also knew that his isit was concerned some% how with the future welfare of little $amie, #ladys’ se en%year%old brother. !ore than this, indeed, I ne er knew, and this missing link makes my story in a fashion incoherent—an important bit of the strange pu))le left out. I only gathered that the isit of 'ncle "rank was of a condescending nature, that $amie was told he must be upon his ery best beha ior to make a good impression, and that $amie, who had ne er seen his uncle, dreaded him horribly already in ad ance. Then, trailing thinly through the dying crunch of the carriage wheels this sultry afternoon, I heard the curious little wail of the child’s crying, with the effect, wholly unaccountable, that e ery ner e in my body shot its bolt electrically, bringing me to my feet with a tingling of une*ui ocal alarm. +ositi ely, the water ran into my eyes. I recalled his white dis% tress that morning when told that 'ncle "rank was motoring down for tea and that he was to be & ery nice indeed( to him. It had gone into me like a knife. All through the day, indeed, had run this nightmare *uality of terror and ision.

&The man with the ’normous face,( he had asked in a little oice of awe, and then gone speechless from the room in tears that no amount of soothing man% agement could calm. That was all I saw- and what he meant by &the ’normous face( ga e me only a sense of ague presentiment. But it came as anticlimax some% how—a sudden re elation of the mystery and excite% ment that pulsed beneath the *uiet of the stifling summer day. I feared for him. "or of all that com% monplace household I lo ed $amie best, though pro% fessionally I had nothing to do with him. .e was a high%strung, ultra%sensiti e child, and it seemed to me that no one understood him, least of all his hon% est, tender%hearted parents- so that his little wailing oice brought me from my bed to the window in a moment like a call for help. The ha)e of $une lay o er that big garden like a blanket- the wonderful flowers, which were !r. "rene’s delight, hung motionless- the lawns, so soft and thick, cushioned all other sounds- only the limes and huge clumps of guelder roses hummed with bees. Through this muted atmosphere of heat and ha)e the sound of the child’s crying floated faintly to my ears —from a distance. Indeed, I wonder now that I heard it at all, for the next moment I saw him down beyond the garden, standing in his white sailor suit alone, two hundred yards away. .e was down by the ugly patch where nothing grew—the "orbidden /orner. A faintness then came o er me at once, a faintness as of death, when I saw him there of all places%where he ne er was allowed to go, and where, moreo er, he was usually too terrified to go. To see him standing solitary in that singular spot, abo e all to hear him crying there, bereft me momentarily of the power to act. Then, before I could reco er my composure suffi% ciently to call him in, !r. "rene came round the corner from the 0ower "arm with the dogs, and, see% ing his son, performed that office for me. In his loud, good%natured, hearty oice he called him, and $amie turned and ran as though some spell had broken 1ust in time—ran into the open arms of his fond but uncomprehending father, who carried him indoors on his shoulder, while asking &what all this hubbub was about,( And, at their heels, the tailless sheep% dogs followed, barking loudly, and performing what $amie called their &#ra el 2ance,( because they ploughed up the moist, rolled gra el with their feet. I stepped back swiftly from the window lest I should be seen. .ad I witnessed the sa ing of the child from fire or drowning the relief could hardly

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to argue or reason it away. senior. though e*ually we ne er mentioned it. where the black earth showed uglily in winter. eiled for% tunately by his silence. yet not with the explanation that could really heal. but it was his weeping alone there in the "orbidden /orner that had printed it. making for the house. and secretly ga e it food in the form of birds or mice or rabbits he found dead upon his wanderings. perhaps. The way it sprang to life pro es. I understood why the coming of his uncle in ol ed somehow an experience that wrapped terror at its heart. ga e life to an unspeakable possibility that hitherto had lain at the back of my own consciousness. yet some such word is what the entire family sought.e would pro% tect the boy from his own ain imaginings. had caught at the edge of a shocking fact—a hint of dark. glimmering bey% ond. "rene.3 T4A56"34 — = of 8 . a center of disease that cried for healing lest it spread. that would turn it rich and li ing as the rest. perhaps. where the lambs played. then it’s empty.something lacking that it e er searched for. $amie’s words.( he told me. who felt that things an imaginati e child belie ed were important. 9nly !r. 6mall groups of other words. In contrast to the rich luxuriance of death amid life. But it ne er did spread. that there was something missing in that dying patch of garden. his ibrating emotion of fearful anticipation had de eloped the plate. But for the red% T. swore that it shook its surface sometimes while he watched it. I saw no more till later. if you please. !iss #ould. holding no remnant to keep the soil ali e. !r. It’s not fed. &But. ne er:— used. /learly it must ha e lain there all along.( I remember that I shrank from asking explanation. "rene. too shocked. who spent whole hours there. once found and taken. &'ncle "rank. with an emphasis and con iction that made me sud% denly turn cold. wealthy. I hid my eyes. almost like a piece of dangerous bog.( was this person who out of his abundant life could supply the lack—unwittingly. They dis% appeared behind the rose trees. It was $amie—$amie who felt its spell and haunted it. I felt sure. <ith a sense of nightmare certainty that left me too weak to resist the preposterous idea. senior. and for whom it was finally labelled &strictly out of bounds( because it stimulated his already big imagination. The gardeners had a ery simple explanation of its barrenness—that the water all drained off it owing to the lie of the slopes immediately about it.something. &I know what would make it feel all right. black blast of con ictionand the only way I can put it into words. it came with a ast dis*uieting shock of reality. that treeless.( 9nly the con iction of an earnest child. though ne er—oh. But I know what would make it feel all right. he added. this cer% tainty came with its full.( And when I stared into the little pale face where the eyes shone so dark and wonderful. I remember that my knees shook. To describe the ugly patch as &singular( is hard to 1ustify. and in summer baked and cracked with fissures where green li)ards shot their fire in passing. The photograph shone framed before me in the air. would not say and do the right thing *uite. not wisely but too darkly—it was $amie who buried ogres there and heard it crying in an earthy oice. $amie’s idea was—had been all along—my own as well.but for me.( &!iss #ould.ha e been greater. . his sudden pallor. that my mind already contained it. &!iss #ould(—he always used my name like this in all his sentences—“it’s hungry. To $amie and myself. as I lay down on my bed and thought about it all. Behind it stood the thick wood of sil er birches and. I cannot say. "rene. in a word. could ha e made so outrageous a suggestion worth listening to for an instant. nothing in 5ature is bad—exactlyonly different from the rest sometimes. It’s dying because it can’t get the food it wants.more—that there was some li ing person who could do this for it. empty patch and the person of this igorous. arri ed. a bald. "or this connection between the dying. sore place. flowerless spot was more than singular. don’t you see. e en while afraid. $amie. seems this. And now. The blood rushed from my heart as I listened. though hidden. &It’s bad. undisco ered truth had leaped into that sensiti e imagination. the orchard meadow. in this exaggerated way. and successful man had already lodged itself in my sub% consciousness before I was aware of it. but I think some power of darkness trooped across the suggestion of that sentence at the end. <hy there lay horror in the words I cannot say. indeed. $amie. I think. It stood at the far end of the magnifi% cent rose garden. when !r. since night% mare horror really is not properly tellable at all. seeking within myself for the right thing to say to him. And it was $amie who put so extraordinarily into words the feeling that the horrid spot had gi en me from the moment I first saw it.

6o this was how I saw him—a great human sponge. This time it was a ery different matter. . T. I think. so that while in a full room he shone. but e en then the effort of resistance would generate force that he absorbed and not the other. 5ot e illy. unknowingly. it seemed. that is. and had then read so much about him in the papers—his energy. And in another hour this man would be here. but $amie. his presence might not be necessary.( and that I was terrified. your strength. and that 'ncle "rank had to be propitiated. At first you would be conscious of taut resistance. was a woman’s wild imagining.but you felt that he was dangerous owing to the facile way he absorbed into himself all loose itality that was to be had. if I didn’t mind. I watched the big summer clouds abo e. It does not eyes and oice and presence de itali)ed you. The isit clearly had to do with something on the uglier side of life—money. senior. I mean. his phil% anthropy. I had ne er felt a day so stifling.only that his parents were anxious.e had arri ed. I went to the window. 1unior. To human beings. was in the hall to meet his brother. absorbed from others—stolen. had been so fre*uently the sub% 1ect of con ersation in the family since I came. "rene was a man who drooped alone. and later used them for his own benefit and aggrandi)ement. as my sister would ha e said—clair oyantly. 6ome instinct taught him how to protect himself from that. he ne er ga e out.ness—the charm of my face goes to pieces unless my eyes are clear—I could ha e cried. !y eye wandered to the empty patch. because it meant that a pretty face would be con% sidered a welcome addition to the isitor’s landscape. must shrink from his too near approach and hide away for fear of being appropriated. 9thers fed him. <hat has to do with it—or I should not be telling the story—is that !rs. after all. "rene.the man was good enough. of—death. the stillness of the afternoon. unknowingly no doubt. !y idea of a human ampire was satisfied. $amie. but grew ital in a crowd—because he used their itality.he took your ideas. "rene from 0ondon in his big motor%car. e ery one with whom he came in contactleft them exhausted. "or this !r. And the only time I saw him >when I took #ladys to a meeting where he was chairman. "rene sent for me to come down &in my nice white dress. I knew him as he was—within. 0ife. "rene and #ladys. !r. back from their dri e. was waiting—waiting for the coming of !r. not highly organi)ed enough to resist. .e went about car% rying these accumulations of the life of others.e was a supreme. It lay there waiting. it was not so fully under his control as he imagined. listless. alone by himself and with no life to draw upon he languished and declined. tired. "rene. too. If souls could be made isible. . I would stake my life upon the truth and accuracy of my portrait. !r.this would slowly shade off into weariness. $amie’s words that morning about the &’normous face( came back upon me like a battering%ram. yet pleased. were sitting in wicker chairs. you may say. . as I learned afterwards. "or the same reason.e had no more chance than a fly before the wheels of a huge—what $amie used to call—“attraction( engine. and later felt his atmosphere and presence while for a moment he patroni)ingly spoke with her? had 1ustified the portrait I had drawn. .3 T4A56"34 — @ of 8 . settle% ments. In the man’s immediate neighborhood you felt his presence draining you. +erhaps. motionless. unconscious artist in the science of taking the fruits of others’ work and li ing —for his own ad antage. I had so often heard him discussed.but I think rather it was that kind of di ining intuition which women share with children. or pro% ceeds of life. put in the finishing touch to my unconscious portrait. for fear. That has noth% ing to do with the affair. his success with e erything he laid his hand to—that a picture of the man had grown com% plete within me. dull black there amid the rich luxuriance of the garden flowers. that it had been deemed wiser to keep him in his room. The man carried about with him some silent.e ampired. The silence of the o erheated garden was oppressi e. <ith a male antagonist it might be different. had shown such hysterical alarm. It struck me as a hideous bit of emptiness yawning to be filled and nourished. Tea was all ready on the lawn beneath the lime trees. and !rs. . crammed and soaked with the life. the ha)e.e ne er ga e out.the will would become flaccid.I ne er knew exactly. And I shall ne er forget the sensation of icy shrinking and distress with which I heard the rumble of the car. compelling trick of drawing out all your reser es—then swiftly pocketing them. . of course. The idea of $amie playing round its bare edge was loath% some. In this sense his &life( was not really his own. The household. your ery words.or.then you either mo ed away or yiel% ded—agreed to all he said with a sense of weakness pressing e er closer upon the edges of collapse. The rest. or what not. offered such bold resist% ance.

and #ladys. then went with the rapidity of machinery running down and beyond control. stood within easy reach of that spot of yawning emptiness. "rene found himself pit% ted against a aster kingdom than he knew and.e felt the huge disaster coming. The next second his face betrayed that singular and horrid change. it seemed. alone had mo ed and followed him. and his lips trembled a moment and turned flabby. yet really spreading large with the loose &surround( of others’ life he had appropriated. drew breath. . had met. this man. though !rs. exerted all its force— in resistance. so hard. deep. They did not glitter. but really they were seconds. It was like the click which starts some huge machinery mo ing—that instant’s pause before it actually starts. And the instant I came upon the lawn—I hesitate to set it down. . in a soft oice charged with alarm.e pointed to the empty patch. stammered.that. waiting and eager to be filled. he started across the lawn towards it. but only one side. !r. from its ast. so finding.( he was saying. self% congratulating oice. the human. as my eyes met his. bleak face. <asn’t it char—. and that it was caused by troops of small black horses that raced about us from his person—to attack. 9h. and so i idly that I mar elled the oth% ers did not scream. The conflict would be hideously une*ual. for time is measured by the *uality and not the *uantity of sensations it contains. 3ach side had already sent out emissaries. and so charged with danger that I could not keep my oice from trembling when I spoke. $ohn. After a first momentary appro ing glance he took no further notice of nature achie ed this result automatically. he missed his words. The whole thing. so that I remembered $amie’s miserable phrase. creamy shine like 3astern eyes. it sounds so foolish. 9utwardly all seemed well. &<hat’s that. 3arth scented her prey. /lose by his side I witnessed it. so practiced and tri% umphant. yet so gently that until it was accomplished no one noticed it. filling in pauses with little undertalk to #ladys. and the curious. ibrating with the ac*uired itality of others. of course. for the first e idence he ga e that something was going wrong with him was when his oice grew suddenly confused. It was such a soft and easy ictory. oily brightness of his steady eyes. separated merely by some do)en yards or so. before anyone could answer. The other merely stretched out a feeler. how long before I could not tell. within me.( and then broke off abruptly. Before fi e minutes had passed.( . . on one side at least. &6ir #eorge ga e me that car— ga e it to me as a present. and not externally. "or the first time in his long career of battening on others. the human and the egetable. These two acti e &centers( were within fighting distance. The tea and talk went smoothly. indeed. It seemed a few hours passed. howe er. 3ach side was intensely acti e. most odd it was. sharply etched amid the general confusion. Then. "rene clattered noisily with the cups. or do something iolent to pre ent it. that in some way it was intended that I should witness what I did witness. so keen. grow% ing somehow loose about the bones of the cheek. or run. stood up.that other so patient. as it were. I was aware of one thing only. I felt my presence was some% how ine itable. !y mind focussed exclus% i ely upon it. in his drawling. shook inwardly in that little part that was his definite actual self. "or a second there was a gaping pause. And it was this. I saw it all as plainly as though I watched two great animals prepare for battle. both unconsciouslyyet in some inexplicable way I saw it. with so mighty a draw of the whole earth behind it. I watched his hard. I saw it all with merciless. &<hat’s that horrid place. &Aes. The emissaries of the two kingdoms. it was rather pitiful: There was no bluster or great effort. but they drew you with a sort of soft.he so thin. but inwardly e erything was awful—skirting the edge of things unspeakable. 5o one else stirred. taking the summer brilliance out of e erything. I make it out. and looked uneasily about him. that a kind of sudden darkness came. I thought of a giant dynamo working silently and in is% ible. $amie was ne er mentioned. and larger. going e ery minute faster. Before anyone could mo e he stood upon the more was necessary. I remember. photographic detail.I noticed how thin he was. And someone’s crying there—who is it.I helped to pass the plates and cups. making some sudden impulsi e gesture with her hands. . ga e a cry—it was like a little scream T.e leaned o er—peering down into it.Also.e dominated us all. in that ery second. for I. And e erything he said or did announced what I may dare to call the suction of his presence.( he cried. potential strength.3 T4A56"34 — B of 8 . and—ugh:—so ob iously aware that its opportunity at last had come. disconnected—I could ha e sworn.

is acti ities ceased. I experienced—for him— one of those moments that shake the heart. "rene. The face for a second made me think of those toys of green india rubber that children pull.a li*uid fear ran all o er me. It grew enormous. /ertainly he achie ed nothing worth public mention.that the thing was awful. .is eyes. In my nos% trils was a pungent smell of earth. 9ne moment on the edge he wobbled horribly.—but this time not of laughter. pale as ashes. it was the heat. as it were. . but somehow flat and lifeless. perhaps. yet weak. "rom that day to this I ha e scarcely heard a men% tion of !r.—“9h. The empty. but e en before I left in the following summer it had oice was like a thin report. But this was an external impression only. he saw the child and called aloud to him across the empty patch. ery strong. And. bleak face grow somehow wider. 'pon the other side. the more effecti e because unin% telligible really. was lifting his brother’s head from the lawn where he had fallen from the heat.( !r. and across the counten% ance was written plainly what I can only call an expression of destruction. it’s the heat. come here:( . and that was why. was done to it by gardeners. so far as I know. #ladys came running out with cold water. The papers ne er mentioned him. full—fed. don’t mo e. senior.e had ne er really mo ed from there. worn out with his crying and unreasoning alarm. stood little $ was deep and muffled and it dipped away into the earth. he stepped forward into the middle of the patch and fell hea ily upon his after%life.( I heard her whisper. I caught a sound—from $amie. yawning patch ga e out that sound. And then it happened—a truly wicked sight—like watching a uni erse in action. Again I thought of a troop of small black horses galloping away down a subterranean passage beneath my feet —plunging into the depths—their tramping growing fainter and fainter into buried distance. But it may be only that. became singularly ineffecti e. . was happening at the same time to his entire person. !r. !r. Aet I felt that if I could know all. faded shockingly. the little child. !o ing up nearer to the edge. mother. . and they 1ust picked him up and car% ried him into the house.3 T4A56"34 — C of 8 . obeyed neither of us. full of great. Then the butler followed. howe er. rapid yet ungainly. . was that all this itality and life he had transferred from others to himself for years was now in turn being taken from him and trans% ferred—elsewhere. I came back into myself. my fear would be more than 1ustified. dri ing weeds and creepers. wasn’t it. And then—all passed. I saw. 5othing. but I did not catch !rs. yet all contained within a small s*uare foot of space. and bursting thick with life. 1unior. "rene turned sideways. "rene’s reply. T. I clearly understood. . <hat actually happened. The after%life of that empty patch of garden. " had no &crack( in it. I learned afterwards. It was really supplication. and downwards.e was watching. close beside the tea%table. at any rate. A similar thing. It was like a gulp. only that no one said a word about it. was *uite otherwise. ha ing left the employ of !rs. &$ames. though I was not conscious of saying it. spread through the air. then with that *ueer sideways motion. the most horrid part of all.e reco ered e en before the doctor came. I heard my own ring out imperious and strong. as when a rifle misses fire. he stood there—laughing: I heard that laughter. had been the whole time asleep upon his bed upstairs. with ama)ement. throwing up his arms. isn’t it. was speechless. And that was. as he dropped. or in the way of draining it or bringing in new earth. "rene. it became clear what had drawn me there thus instincti ely. It seemed as if he dropped suddenly out of life. "rene. But the instant I reached his side. &!other. I saw his hard. my boy. sponge and towel. And $amie. and what lay actually behind. her father. It lay untouched. full of awe. sharp.and to this day no one has said a word. there was no particular occasion for me to hear any% thing.e looked utterly des% troyed. discern% ing instincti ely the easiest substitute within reach. luscious. I think he under% stood aguely that if someone could only take his place he might be sa ed. "rom her face it struck me that she was bordering on collapse herself. 6tay where you are:( But $amie. . brandy too—all kinds of things. among the sil er birches. &$amie. but could ha e sworn it did not come from him. But the *ueer thing to me is that I was con inced the others all had seen what I saw. for it drew out into the atmosphere in a stream of mo ement.

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