----"How graves give up
And how the night air hideous grows
MIDNIGHT. -- THE HAIL-STORM. -- THE DREADFUL VISITOR.
-- THE VAMPYRE.
The solemn tones
of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight -- the air is thick and
heavy -- a strange, death like stillness pervades all nature. Like
the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually terrific outbreak
of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations,
to gather a terrific strength for the great effort. A faint peal
of thunder now comes from far off. Like a signal gun for the battle
of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy,
and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more
devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted, than would a half century
of ordinary phenomena.
It was as if some giant had blown upon some
toy town, and scattered many of the buildings before the hot blast of his
terrific breath; for as suddenly as that blast of wind had come did it
cease, and all was as still and calm as before.
Sleepers awakened, and thought that what they
had heard must be the confused chimera of a dream. They trembled
and turned to sleep again.
All is still -- still as the very grave.
Not a sound breaks the magic of repose. What is that -- a strange
pattering noise, as of a million fairy feet? It is hail -- yes, a
hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are dashed from the trees,
mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct
fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that
before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which,
in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which
here and there arose from persons who found their houses invaded by the
Now and then, too, there would come a sudden
gust of wind that in its strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment,
hold millions of the hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to
dash them with redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief
was to be done.
Oh, how the storm raged! Hail -- rain
-- wind. It was, in very truth, an awful night.
There was an antique chamber in an ancient
house. Curious and quaint carvings adorn the walls, and the large
chimneypiece is a curiosity of itself. The ceiling is low, and a
large bay window, from roof to floor, looks to the west. The window
is latticed, and filled with curiously painted glass and rich stained pieces,
which send in a strange, yet beautiful light, when sun or moon shines into
the apartment. There is but one portrait in that room, although the
walls seem paneled for the express purpose of containing a series of pictures.
That portrait is of a young man, with a pale face, a stately brow, and
a strange expression about the eyes, which no one cared to look on twice.
There is a stately bed in that chamber, of
carved walnut-wood is it made, rich in design and elaborate in execution;
one of those works which owe their existence to the Elizabethan era.
It is hung with heavy silken and damask furnishing; nodding feathers are
at its corners -- covered with dust are they, and they lend a funereal
aspect to the room. The floor is of polished oak.
God! how the hail dashes on the old bay window!
Like an occasional discharge of mimic musketry, it comes clashing, beating,
and cracking upon the small panes; but they resist it -- their small size
saves them; the wind, the hail, the rain, expend their fury in vain.
The bed in that old chamber is occupied.
A creature formed in all fashions of loveliness lies in a half sleep upon
that ancient couch --- a girl young and beautiful as a spring morning.
Her long hair has escaped from its confinement and streams over the blackened
coverings of the bedstead; she has been restless in her sleep, for the
clothing of the bed is in much confusion. One arm is over her head,
the other hangs nearly off the side of the bed near to which she lies.
A neck and bosom that would have formed a study for the rarest sculptor
that ever Providence gave genius to, were half disclosed. She moaned
slightly in her sleep, and once or twice the lips moved as if in prayer
-- at least one might judge so, for the name of Him who suffered for all
came once faintly from them.
She had endured much fatigue, and the storm
dose not awaken her; but it can disturb the slumbers it does not possess
the power to destroy entirely. The turmoil of the elements wakes
the senses, although it cannot entirely break the repose they have lapsed
Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth,
slightly parted, and exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened
even in the faint light that came from that bay window. How sweetly
the long silken eyelashes lay upon the cheek. Now she moves, and
one shoulder is entirely visible -- whiter, fairer than the spotless clothing
of the bed on which she lies, is the smooth skin of that fair creature,
just budding into womanhood, and in that transition state which presents
to us all the charms of the girl -- almost of the child, with the more
matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.
Was that lightning? Yes -- an awful,
vivid, terrifying flash -- then a roaring peal of thunder, as if a thousand
mountains were rolling one over the other in the blue vault of Heaven!
Who sleeps now in that ancient city? Not one living soul. The
dread trumpet of eternity could not more effectually have awakened any
The hail continues. The wind continues.
The uproar of the elements seems at its height. Now she awakens --
that beautiful girl on the antique bed; she opens those eyes of celestial
blue, and a faint cry of alarm bursts from her lips. At least it
is a cry which, amid the noise and turmoil without, sounds but faint and
weak. She sits upon the bed and presses her hands upon her eyes.
Heavens! what a wild torrent of wind, and rain, and hail! The thunder
likewise seems intent upon awakening sufficient echoes to last until the
next flash of forked lightning should again produce the wild concussion
of the air. She murmurs a prayer -- a prayer for those she loves
best; the names of those dear to her gentle heart come from her lips; she
weeps and prays; she thinks then of what devastation the storm must surely
produce, and to the great God of Heaven she prays for all living things.
Another flash -- a wild, blue, bewildering flash of lightning streams across
that bay window, for an instant bringing out every colour in it with terrible
distinctness. A shriek bursts from the lips of the young girl, and
then, with eyes fixed upon that window, which, in another moment, is all
darkness, and with such an expression of terror upon her face as it had
never before known, she trembled, and the perspiration of intense fear
stood upon her brow.
"What-- what was it?" she gasped; "real or
delusion? Oh, God, what was it? A figure tall and gaunt, endeavouring
from the outside to unclasp the window. I saw it. That flash
of lightning revealed it to me. It stood the whole length of the
There was a lull of the wind. The hail
was not falling so thickly -- moreover, it now fell, what there was of
it, straight, and yet a strange clattering sound came upon the glass of
that long window. It could not be a delusion -- she is awake, and
she hears it. What can produce it? Another flash of lightning
-- another shriek -- there could be now no delusion.
A tall figure is standing on the ledge immediately
outside the long window. It is its finger-nails upon the glass that
produces the sound so like the hail, now that the hail has ceased.
Intense fear paralysed the limbs of the beautiful girl. That one
shriek is all she can utter -- with hand clasped, a face of marble, a heart
beating so wildly in her bosom, that each moment it seems as if it would
break its confines, eyes distended and fixed upon the window, she waits,
froze with horror. The pattering and clattering of the nails continue.
No word is spoken, and now she fancies she can trace the darker form of
that figure against the window, and she can see the long arms moving to
and fro, feeling for some mode of entrance. What strange light is
that which now gradually creeps up into the air? red and terrible
-- brighter and brighter it grows. The lightning has set fire to
a mill, and the reflection of the rapidly consuming building falls upon
that long window. There can be no mistake. The figure is there,
still feeling for an entrance, and clattering against the glass with its
long nails, that appear as if the growth of many years had been untouched.
She tries to scream again but a choking sensation comes over her, and she
cannot. It is too dreadful -- she tries to move -- each limb seems
weighted down by tons of lead -- she can but in a hoarse faint whisper
"Help-- help-- help-- help!"
And that one word she repeats like a person
in a dream. The red glare of the fire continues. It throws
up the tall gaunt figure in hideous relief against the long window.
It shows, too, upon the one portrait that is in the chamber, and the portrait
appears to fix its eyes upon the attempting intruder, while the flickering
light from the fire makes it look fearfully lifelike. A small pane
of glass is broken, and the form from without introduces a long gaunt hand,
which seems utterly destitute of flesh. The fastening is removed,
and one-half of the window, which opens like folding doors, is swung wide
open upon its hinges.
And yet now she could not scream -- she could
not move. "Help! -- help! -- help!" was all she could say.
But, oh, that look of terror that sat upon her face, it was dreadful --
a look to haunt the memory for a life-time -- a look to obtrude itself
upon the happiest moments, and turn them to bitterness.
The figure turns half round, and the light
falls upon its face. It is perfectly white -- perfectly bloodless.
The eyes look like polished tin; the lips are drawn back, and the principal
feature next to those dreadful eyes is the teeth -- the fearful looking
teeth -- projecting like those of some wild animal, hideously, glaringly
white, and fang-like. It approaches the bed with a strange, gliding
movement. It clashes together the long nails that literally appear
to hang from the finger ends. No sound comes from its lips.
Is she going mad -- that young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror?
she has drawn up all her limbs; she cannot even now say help. The
power of articulation is gone, but the power of movement has returned to
her; she can draw herself slowly along to the other side of the bed from
that towards which the hideous appearance is coming.
But her eyes are fascinated. The glance
of a serpent could not have produced a greater effect upon her than did
the fixed gaze of those awful, metallic-looking eyes that were bent down
on her face. Crouching down so that the gigantic height was lost,
and the horrible, protruding white face was the most prominent object,
came on the figure. What was it? -- what did it want there? -- what
made it look so hideous -- so unlike an inhabitant of the earth, and yet
be on it?
Now she has got to the verge of the bed, and
the figure pauses. It seemed as if when it paused she lost the power
to proceed. The clothing of the bed was now clutched in her hands
with unconscious power. She drew her breath short and thick.
Her bosom heaves, and her limbs tremble, yet she cannot withdraw her eyes
from that marble-looking face. He holds her with his glittering eye.
The storm has ceased -- all is still.
The winds are hushed; the church clock proclaims the hour of one:
a hissing sound comes from the throat of the hideous being, and he raises
his long, gaunt arms -- the lips move. He advances. The girl
places one small foot on to the floor. She is unconsciously dragging
the clothing with her. The door of the room is in that direction
-- can she reach it? Has she power to walk? -- can she withdraw her
eyes from the face of the intruder, and so break the hideous charm?
God of Heaven! is it real, or some dream so like reality as to nearly overturn
The figure has paused again, and half on the
bed and half out of it that young girl lies trembling. Her long hair
streams across the entire width of the bed. As she has slowly moved
along she has left it streaming across the pillows. The pause lasted
about a minute -- oh, what an age of agony. That minute was, indeed,
enough for madness to do its full work in.
With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen
-- with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every
breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them
round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed --
Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in
rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the
bed -- she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again.
Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul.
The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with
a hideous satisfaction -- horrible profanation. He drags her head
to the bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined
in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth
-- a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. _The girl
has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!_
Next Time: The Alarm. -- The Pistol Shot. --
The Pursuit and Its Consequences.