This matter began, as far as I am concerned, with the
reading of a notice in the obituary section of the Gentleman's Magazine
for an early year in the nineteenth century:
'On February 26th, at his residence in the Cathedral
Close of Barchester, the Venerable John Benwell Haynes, D.D., aged 57,
Archdeacon of Sowerbridge and Rector of Pickhill and Candley. He was of
-- College, Cambridge, and where, by talent and assiduity, he commanded
the esteem of his seniors; when, at the usual time, he took his first degree,
his name stood high in the list of wranglers. These academical honours
procured for him within a short time a Fellowship of his College. In the
year 1783 he received Holy Orders, and was shortly afterwards presented
to the perpetual Curacy of Ranxton-sub-Ashe by his friend and patron the
late truly venerable Bishop of Lichfield . . . His speedy preferments,
first to a Prebend, and subsequently to the dignity of Precentor in the
Cathedral of Barchester, form an eloquent testimony to the respect in which
he was held and to his eminent qualifications. He succeeded to the Archdeaconry
upon the sudden decease of Archdeacon Pulteney in 1810. His sermons, ever
conformable to the principles of the religion and Church which he adorned,
displayed in no ordinary degree, without the least trace of enthusiasm,
the refinement of the scholar united with the graces of the Christian.
Free from sectarian violence, and informed by the spirlt of the truest
charity, they will long dwell in the memories ofhis hearers. (Here a further
omission.) The productions of his pen include an able defence of Episcopacy,
which, though often perused by the author of this tribute to his memory,
afford but one additional instance of the want of liberality and enterprise
which is a too common characteristic of the publishers of our generation.
His published works are, indeed, confined to a spirited and elegant version
of the Argonantica of Valerius Flaccus, a volume of Discourser upon the
Several Event in the Life of Joshua, delivered in his Cathedral, and a
number of the charges which he pronounced at various visitations, to the
clergy of his Archdeaconry. These are distinguished by etc., etc. The urbanity
and hospitality of the subject of these lines will not readily be forgotten
by those who enjoyed his acquaintance. His interest in the venerable and
awful pile under whose hoary vault he was so punctual an attendant, and
particularly in the musical portion of its rites, might be termed filial,
and formed a strong and delightful contrast to the polite indifference
displayed by too many of our Cathedral dignitaries at the present time.'
The final paragraph, after informing us that Dr Haynes
died a bachelor, says:
'It might have been augured that an existence
so placid and benevolent would have been terminated in a ripe old age by
a dissolution equally gradual and calm. But how unsearchable are the workings
of Providence! The peaceful and retired seclusion amid which the honoured
evening of Dr Haynes's life was mellowing to its close was destined to
be disturbed, nay, shattered, by a tragedy as appalling as it was unexpected.
The morning of the 26th of February -- '
But perhaps I shall do better to keep back the remainder
of the narrative until I have told the circumstances which led up to it.
These, as far as they are now accessible, I have derived from another source.
I had read the obituary notice which I have been quoting,
quite by chance, along with a great many others of the same period. It
had excited some little speculation in my mind, but, beyond thinking that,
if I ever had an opportunity of examining the local records of the period
indicated, I would try to remember Dr Haynes, I made no effort to pursue
Quite lately I was cataloguing the manuscripts in the
library of the college to which he belonged. I had reached the end of the
numbered volumes on the shelves, and I proceeded to ask the librarian whether
there were any more books which he thought I ought to include in my description.
'I don't think there are,' he said, 'but we had better come and look at
the manuscript class and make sure. Have you time to do that now?' I had
time. We went to the library, checked off the manuscripts, and, at the
end of our survey, arrived at a shelf of which I had seen nothing. Its
contents consisted for the most part of sermons, bundles of fragmentary
papers, college exercises, Cyrus, an epic poem in several cantos, the product
of a country clergyman's leisure, mathematical tracts by a deceased professor,
and other similar material of a kind with which I am only too familiar.
I took brief notes of these. Lastly, there was a tin box, which was pulled
out and dusted. Its label, much faded, was thus inscribed: 'Papers of the
Ven. Archdeacon Haynes. Bequeathed in 1834 by his sister, Miss Letitia
I knew at once that the name was one which I had somewhere
encountered, and could very soon locate it. 'That must be the Archdeacon
Haynes who came to a very odd end at Barchester. I've read his obituary
in the Gentleman's Magazine. May I take the box home? Do you know if there
is anything interesting in it?'
The librarian was very willing that I should take the
box and examine it at leisure. 'I never looked inside it myself,' he said,
'but I've always been meaning to. I am pretty sure that is the box which
our old Master once said ought never to have been accepted by the college.
He said that to Martin years ago; and he said also that as long as he had
control over the library it should never he opened. Martin told me about
it, and said that he wanted terribly to know what was in it; but the Master
was librarian, and always kept the box in the lodge, so there was no getting
at it in his time, and when he died it was taken away by mistake by his
heirs, and only returned a few years ago. I can't think why I haven't opened
it; but, as I have to go away from Cambridge this afternoon, you had better
have first go at it. I think I can trust you not to publish anything undesirable
in our catalogue.'
I took the box home and examined its contents, and thereafter
consulted the librarian as to what should he done about publication, and,
since I have his leave to make a story out of it, provided I disguise the
identity of the people concerned, I will try what can be done.
The materials are, of course, mainly journals and letters.
How much I shall quote and how much epitomize must be determined by considerations
of space. The proper understanding of the situation has necessitated a
little -- not very arduous -- research, which has been greatly facilitated
by the excellent illustrations and text of the Barchester volume in Bell's
When you enter the choir of Barchester Cathedral now,
you pass through a screen of metal and coloured marbles, designed by Sir
Gilbert Scott, and find yourself in what I must call a very bare and odiously
furnished place. The stalls are modern, without canopies. The places of
the dignitaries and the names of the prebends have fortunately been allowed
to survive, and are inscribed on small brass plates affixed to the stalls.
The organ is in the triforium, and what is seen of the case is Gothic.
The reredos and its surroundings are like every other.
Careful engravings of a hundred years ago show a very
different state of things. The organ is on a massive classical screen.
The stalls are also classical and very massive. There is a baldacchino
of wood over the altar, with urns upon its corners. Farther east is a solid
altar screen, classical in design, of wood, with a pediment, in which is
a triangle surrounded by rays, enclosing certain Hebrew letters in gold.
Cherubs contemplate these. There is a pulpit with a great sounding-board
at the eastern end of the stalls on the north side, and there is a black
and white marble pavement. Two ladies and a gentleman are admiring the
general effect. From other sources I gather that the archdeacon's stall
then, as now, was next to the bishop's throne at the south-eastern end
of the stalls. His house almost faces the west front of the church, and
is a fine red-brick building of William the Third's time.
Here Dr Haynes, already a mature man, took op his abode
with his sister in the year 1810. The dignity had long been the object
of his wishes, but his predecessor refused to depart until he had attained
the age of ninety-two. About a week after he had held a modest festival
in celebration of that ninety-second birthday, there came a morning, late
in the year, when Dr Haynes, hunying cheerfully into his breakfast-room,
rubbing his hands and humming a tune, was greeted, and checked in his genial
flow of spirits, by the sight of his sister, seated, indeed, in her usual
place behind the tea-urn, but bowed forward and sobbing unrestrainedly
into her handkerchief. 'What what is the matter? What bad news?' he began.
'Oh, Johnny, you've not heard? The poor dear archdeacon!' 'The archdeacon,
yes? What is it -- ill, is he?' 'No, no; they found him on the staircase
this morning; it is so shocking.' 'Is it possible! Dear, dear, poor Pulteney!
Had there been any seizure?' 'They don't think so, and that is almost the
worst thing about it. It seems to have been all the fault of that stupid
maid of theirs, Jane.' Dr Haynes paused. 'I don't quite understand, Letitia.
How was the maid at fault?' 'Why, as far as I can make out, there was a
stair-rod missing, and she never mentioned it, and the poor archdeacon
set his foot quite on the edge of the step -- you know how slippery that
oak is -- and it seems he must have fallen almost the whole flight and
broken his neck. It is so sad for poor Miss Pulteney. Of course, they will
get rid of the girl at once. I never liked her.' Miss Haynes's grief resumed
its sway, but eventually relaxed so far as to perrnit of her taking some
breakfast. Not so her brother, who, after standing in silence before the
window for some minutes, left the room, and did not appear again that morning.
I need only add that the careless maid-servant was dismissed forthwith,
but that the missing stair-rod was very shortly afterwards found under
the stair-carpet -- an additional proot, if any were needed, of extreme
stupidity and carelessness on her part.
For a good many years Dr Haynes had been marked out by
his ability, which seems to have been really considerable, as the likely
successor of Archdeacon Pulteney, and no disappointment was in store for
him. He was duly installed, and entered with zeal upon the discharge of
those functions which are appropriate to one in his position. A considerable
space in his journals is occupied with exclamations upon the confusion
in which Archdeacon Pulteney had left the business of his office and the
documents appertaining to it. Dues upon Wringham and Barnswood have been
uncollected for something like twelve years, and are largely irrecoverable;
no visitation has been held for seven years; four chancels are almost past
mending. The persons deputized by the archdeacon have been nearly as incapable
as himself. It was almost a matter for thankfulness that this state of
things had not been permitted to continue, and a letter from a friend confirms
this view. 'ho katekhon,' it says (in rather cruel allusion to the Second
Epistle to the Thessalonians), 'is removed at last. My poor friend! Upon
what a scene of confusion will you be entering! I give you my word that,
on the last occasion of my crossing his threshold, there was no single
paper that he could lay hands upon, no syllable of mine that he could hear,
and no fact tn connection with my business that he could remember. But
now, thanks to a negligent maid and a loose stair-carpet, there is some
prospect that necessary business will be transacted without a complete
loss alike of voice and temper.' This letter was tucked into a pocket in
the cover of one of the diaries.
There can be no doubt of the new archdeacon's zeal and
enthusiasm. 'Give me but time to reduce to some semblance of order the
innumerable errors and complications with which I am confronted, and I
shall gladly and sincerely join with the aged Israelite in the canticle
which too many, I fear, pronounce but with their lips.' This reflection
I find, not in a diary, but a letter; the doctor's friends seem to have
returned his correspondence to his surviving sister. He does not confine
himself, however, to reflections. His investigation of the rights and duties
of his office are very searching and business-like, and there is a calculation
in one place that a period of three years will just suffice to set the
business of the Archdeaconry upon a proper footing. The estimate appears
to have been an exact one. For just three years he is occupied in reforms;
but I look in vain at the end of that time for the promised Nunc dimittis.
He has now found a new sphere of activity. Hitherto his duties have precluded
him from more than an occasional attendance at the Cathedral services.
Now he begins to take an interest in the fabric and the music. Upon his
struggles with the organist, an old gentleman who had been in office since
1786, I have no time to dwell; they were not attended with any marked success.
More to the purpose is his sudden growth of enthusiasm for the Cathedral
itself and its furniture. There is a draft of a letter to Sylvanus Urban
(which I do not think was ever sent) describing the stalls in the choir.
As I have said, these were of fairly late date -- of about the year 1700,
'The archdeacon's stall, situated at the south-east end,
west of the episcopal throne (now so worthily occupied by the truly excellent
prelate who adorns the See of Barchester), is distinguished by some curious
ornamentation In addition to the arms of Dean West, by whose efforts the
whole of the internal furniture of the choir was completed, the prayer-desk
is terminated at the eastern extremity by three small but remarkable statuettes
in the grotesque manner. One is an exquisitely modelled figure of a cat,
whose crouching posture suggests with admirable spirit the suppleness,
vigilance, and craft of the redoubted adversary of the genus Mus. Opposite
to this is a figure seated upon a throne and invested with the attributes
of royalty; but it is no earthly monarch whom the carver has sought to
portray. His feet are studiously concealed by the long robe in which he
is draped: but neither the crown nor the cap which he wears suffice to
hide the prick-ears and curving horns which betray his Tartarean origin;
and the hand which rests upon his knee is armed with talons of horrifying
length and sharpness. Between these two figures stands a shape muffled
in a long mantle. This might at first sight be mistaken for a monk or 'friar
of orders grey', for the head is cowled and a knotted cord depends from
somewhere about the waist. A slight inspection, however, will lead to a
very different conclusion. The knotted cord is quickly seen to be a halter,
held by a hand all but concealed within the draperies; while the sunken
features and, horrid to relate, the rent flesh upon the cheek-bones, proclaim
the King of Terrors. These figures are evidently the production of no unskilled
chisel; and should it chance that any of your correspondents are able to
throw light upon their origin and significance, my obligations to your
valuable miscellany will be largely increased.'
There is more description in the paper, and, seeing that
the woodwork in question has now disappeared, it has a considerable interest.
A paragraph at the end is worth quoting:
'Some late researches among the Chapter accounts
have shown me that the carving of the stalls was not, as was very usually
reported, the work of Dutch artists, but was executed by a native of this
city or district named Austin. The timber was procured from an oak copse
in the vicinity, the property of the Dean and Chapter, known as Holywood.
Upon a recent visit to the parish within whose boundaries it is situated,
I learned from the aged and truly respectable incumbent that traditions
still lingered amongst the inhabitants of the great size and age of the
oaks employed to furnish the materials of the stately structure which has
been, however imperfectly, described in the above lines. Of one in particular,
which stood near the centre of the grove, it is remembered that it was
known as the Hanging Oak. The propriety of that title is confirmed by the
fact that a quantity of human bones was found in the soil about its roots,
and that at certain times of the year it was the custom for those who wished
to secure a successful issue to their affairs, whether of love or the ordinary
business oflife, to suspend from its boughs small images or puppets rudely
fashioned of straw, twigs, or the like rustic materials.'
So much for the archdeacon's archaeological investigations.
To return to his career as it is to be gathered from his diaries. Those
of his first three years of hard and careful work show him throughout in
high spirits, and, doubtless, during this time, that reputation for hospitality
and urbanity which is mentioned in his obituary notice was well deserved.
After that, as time goes on, I see a shadow coming over him -- destined
to develop into utter blackness -- which I cannot but think must have been
reflected in his outward demeanour. He commits a good deal of his fears
and troubles to his diary; there was no other outlet for them, He was unmarried,
and his sister was not always with him. But I am much mistaken if he has
told all that he might have told. A series of extracts shall be given:
Aug.30, 1816 -- The days begin to draw in more pereeptibly
than ever. Now that the Archdeaconry papers are reduced to order, I must
find some further employment for the evening hours of autumn and winter.
It is a great blow that Letitia's health will not allow her to stay through
these months. Why not go on with my Defence of Episcopacy? It may be useful.
Sept. 15 -- Letitia has left me for Brighton.
Oct.11 -- Candles lit in the choir for the first time
at evening prayers. It came as a shock: I find that I absolutely shrink
from the dark season.
Nov.17 -- Much struck by the character of the carving
on my desk: I do not know that I had ever carefully noticed it before.
My attention was Called to it hy an accident. During the Magnificat I was,
I regret to say, almost overcome with sleep. My hand was resting on the
back of the carved figure of a cat which is the nearest to me of the three
figures on the end of my stall. I was not aware of this, for I was not
looking in that direction, until I was startled by what seemed a softness,
a feeling as of rather rough and coarse fur, and a sudden movement, as
if the creature were twisting round its head to bite me. I regained complete
consciousness in an instant, and I have some idea that I must have uttered
a suppressed exclamation, for I noticed that Mr. Treasurer turned his head
quickly in my direction. The impression of the unpleasant feeling was so
strong that I found myself rubbing my hand upon my surplice. This accident
led me to examine the figures after prayers more carefully than I had done
before, and I realized for the first time with what skill they are executed.
Dec. 6 -- I do indeed miss Letitia's company. The evenings, after I have
worked as long as I can at my Defence, are very trying. The house is too
large for a lonely man, and visitors of any kind are too rare. I get an
uncomfortable impression when going to my room that there is company of
some kind. The fact is (I may as well formulate it to myself) that I hear
voices. This, I am well aware, is a common symptom of incipient decay of
the brain -- and I believe that I should be less disquieted than I am if
I had any suspicion that this was the cause. I have none -- none whatever,
nor is there anything in my family history to give colour to such an idea.
Work, diligent work, and a punctual attention to the duties which fall
to me is my best remedy, and I have little doubt that it will prove efficacious.
Jan. 1 -- my trouble is, I must confess it, increasing
upon me. Last night, upon my return after midnight from the Deanery, I
lit my candle to go upstairs. I was nearly at the top when something whispered
tome, 'Let me wish you a happy New Year.' I could not be mistaken: it spoke
distinctly and with a peculiar emphasis. Had I dropped my candle, as I
all but did, I tremble to think what the consequences must have been. As
it was, I managed to get up the last flight, and was quickly in my room
with the door locked, and experienced no other disturbance.
Jan. 15 -- I had occasion to come downstairs last night
to my workroom for my watch, which I had inadvertently left on my table
when I went up to bed. I think I was at the top of the last flight when
I had a sudden impression of a sharp whisper in my ear 'Take care.' I clutched
the balusters and naturally looked round at once. Of course, there was
nothing. After a moment I went on -- it was no good turning hack -- but
I had as nearly as possible fallen: a cat -- a large one by the feel of
it -- slipped between my feet, but again, of course, I saw nothing. It
may have been the kitchen cat, but I do not think it was.
Feb. 27 -- A curious thing last night, which I should
like to forget. Perhaps if I put it down here I may see it in its true
proportion. I worked in the library from about 9 to 10. The hall and staircase
seemed to be unusually full of what I can only call movement without sound:
by this I mean that there seemed to be continuous going and coming, and
that whenever I ceased writing to listen, or looked out into the hall,
the stillness was absolutely unbroken. Nor, in going to my room at an earlier
hour than usual -- about half-past ten -- was I conscious of anything that
I could call a noise. It so happened that I had told John to come to my
room for the letter to the bishop which I wished to have delivered early
in the morning at the Palace. He was to sit up, therefore, and come for
it when he heard me retire. This I had for the moment forgotten, though
I had remembered to carry the letter with me to my room. But when, as I
was winding up my watch, I heard a light tap at the door, and a low voice
saying, 'May I come in?' (which I most undoubtedly did hear), I recollected
the fact, and took up the letter from my drerssing-table, saying, 'Certainly:
come in.' No one, however, answered my summons, and it was now that, as
I strongly suspect, I committed an error: for I opened the door and held
the letter out. There was certainly no one at that moment in the passage,
but, in the instant of my standing there, the door at the end opened and
John appeared carrying a candle. I asked him whether he hsd come to the
door earlier; but am satisfied that he had not. I do not like the situation;
but although my senses were very much on the alert, and though it was some
time bcfore I could sleep, I must allow that I perceived nothing further
of an untoward character.
With the return of spring, when his sister came to live
with him for some months, Dr Haynes's entries become more cheerful, and,
indeed, no symptom of depression is discernible until the early part of
September, when he was again left alone. And now, indeed, there is evidence
that he was incommoded again, and that more pressingly. To this matter
I will return in a moment, but I digress to put in a document which, rightly
or wrongly, I believe to have a bearing on the thread of the story.
The account-books of Dr Haynes, preserved along with his
other papets, show, from a date but little later than that of his institution
as archdeacon, a quarterly payment of 25 to J.L. Nothing could have been
made of this, had it stood by itself. But I connect with it a very dirty
and ill-written letter, which, like another that I have quoted, was in
a pocket in the cover of a diary. Of date or postmark there is no vestige,
and the decipherment was not easy. It appears to run:
I have bin expetin to her off you theis last wicks, and
not Haveing done so must supose you have not got mine witch was saying
how me and my man had met in with bad times this season all seems to go
cross with us on the farm and which way to look for the rent we have no
knowledge of it this been the sad case with us if you would have the great
[liberality probably, but the exact spelling defies reproduction] to send
fourty pounds otherwise steps will have to he took which I should not wish.
Has you was the Means of me losing my place with Dr Pulteney I think it
is only just what I am asking and you know best what I could say if I was
Put to it but I do not wish anything of that unpleasant Nature being one
that always wish to have everything Pleasant about me.
Your obedt Servt,
About the time at which I suppose this letter to have
been written there is, in fact, a payment of 40 to J.L.
We return to the diary:
Oct.22 -- At evening prayers, during the Psalms, I had
that same experience which I recollect from last year. I was resting my
hand on one of the carved figures, as before (I usually avoid that of the
cat now), and -- I was going to have said -- a change came over it, but
that seems attributing too much importance to what must after all, be due
to some physical affection in myself; at any rate, the wood seemed to become
chilly and soft as if made of wet linen. I can assign the moment at which
I became sensible of this. The choir were singing the words (Set thou an
ungodly man to be ruler over him and) let Satan stand at his right hand.
The whispering in my house was more persistent tonight.
I seemed not to be rid of it in my room. I have not noticed this before.
A nervous man, which I am not, and hope I am not becoming, would have been
much annoyed, if not alarmed, by it. The cat was on the stairs tonight.
I think it sits there always. There is no kitchen cat.
Nov. 5 -- Here again I must note a matter I do not understand.
I am much troubled in sleep. No definite image presented itself, but I
was pursued by the very vivid imprtssion that wet lips were whispering
into my ear with great rapidity and emphssis for some time together. After
this, I suppose, I fell asleep, but was awakened with a start by a feeling
as if a hand were laid on my shoulder. To my intense alarm I found myself
standing at the top of the lowest flight of the first staircase. The moon
was shining brightly enough through the large window to let me see that
there was a large cat on the second or third step. I can make no comment.
I crept up to bed again, I do not know how. Yea, mine is a heavy burden,
[Then follows a line or two which has been scratched out. I fancy I read
something like 'acted for the best'.]
Not long after this it is evident to me that the archdeacon's
firmness began to give way under the pressure of these phenomena. I omit
as unnecessarily painful and distressing the ejaculations and prayers which,
in the months of December and January, appear for the first time and become
increasingly frequent. Throughout this time, however, he is obstinate in
clinging to his post. Why he did not plead ill-health and take refuge at
Bath or Brighton I cannot tell; my impression is that it would have done
him no good; that he was a man who, if he had confessed himself beaten
by the annoyances, would have succumbed at once, and that he was conscious
of this. He did seek to palliate them by inviting visitors to his house.
The result he has noted in this fashion:
Jan. 7 -- I have prevailed on my cousin Allen to give
me a few days, and he is to occupy the chamber next to rnine.
Jan.11 -- A still night. Allen slept well, but complained
of the wind. My own experiences were as before: still whispering and whispering:
what is it that he wants to say?
Jan. 9 -- Allen thinks this a very noisy house. He thinks,
too, that my cat is an unusually large and fine specimen, but very wild.
Jan. 10 -- Allen and I in the library until 11. He left
twice to see what the maids were doing in the hall: returning the second
time he told me he had seen one of them passing through the door at the
end of the pasasge, and said if his wife were here she would soon get them
into better order. I asked him what coloured dress the maid wore; he said
grey or white. I supposed it would be so.
Jan.11 -- Allen left me today. I must be firm.
These words, I must be firm, occur again and again on
subsequent days; sometimes they are the only entry. In these cases they
are in an unusually large hand, and dig into the paper in a way which must
have broken the pen that wrote them.
Apparently the archdeacon's friends did not remark any
change in his behaviour, and this gives me a high idea of his courage and
determination. The diary tells us nothing more than I have indicated of
the last days of his life. The end of it all must be told in the polished
language of the obituary notice:
'The morning of the 26th of February was cold and tempestuous.
At an early hour the servants had occasion to go into the front hall of
the residence occupied by the lamented subject of these lines. What was
their horror upon observing the form of their beloved and respected master
lying upon the landing of the principal staircase in an attitude which
inspired the gravest fears. Assistance was procured, and an universal consternation
was experienced upon the discovery that he had been the object of a brutal
and a murderous attack. The vertebral column was fractured in more than
one place. This might have been the result of a fall: it appeared that
the stair-carpet was loosened at one point. But, in addition to this, there
were injuries inflicted upon the eyes, nose and month, as if by the agency
of some savage animal, which, dreadful to relate, rendered those features
unrecognizable. The vital spark was, it is needless to add, completely
extinct, and had been so, upon the testimony of respectable medical authorities,
for several hours. The author or authors of this mysterious outrage are
alike buried in mystery, and the most active conjecture has hitherto failed
to suggest a solution of the melancholy problem afforded by this appalling
The writer goes on to reflect upon the probability that
the writings of Mr Shelley, Lord Byron, and M. Voltaire may have been instrumental
in bringing about the disaster, and concludes by hoping, somewhat vaguely,
that this event may 'operate as an example to the rising generation'; but
this portion of his remarks need not be quoted in full.
I had already formed the conclusion that Dr Haynes was
responsible for the death of Dr Pulteney. But the incident connected with
the carved figure of death upon the archdeacon's stall was a very perplexing
feature. The conjecture that it had been cut out of the wood of the Hanging
Oak was not difficult, but seemed impossible to substantiate. However,
I paid a visit to Barchester, partly with the view of finding out whether
there were any relics of the woodwork to be heard of. I was introduced
by one of the canons to the curator of the local musenm, who was, my friend
said, more likely to be able to give me information on the point than anyone
else. I told this gentlernan of the description of certain carved figures
and arms formerly on the stalls, and asked whether any had survived. He
was able to show me the arms of Dean West and some other fragments. These,
he said, had been got from an old resident, who had also once owned a figure
-- perhaps one of those which I was inquiring for. There was a very odd
thing about that figure, he said. 'The old man who had it told me that
he picked it up in a woodyard, whence he had obtained the still extant
pieces, and had taken it home for his children. On the way home he was
fiddling about with it and it came in two in his hands, and a bit of paper
dropped out. This he picked up and, just noticing that there was writing
on it, put it into his pocket, and subsequently into a vase on his mantelpiece.
I was at his house not very long ago, and happened to pick up the vase
and turn it over to see whether there were any marks on it, and the paper
tell into my hand. The old man, on my handing it to him, told me the story
I have told you, and said I might keep the paper. It was crumpled and rather
torn, so I have mounted it on a card, which I have here. If you can tell
me what it means I shall be very glad, and also, I may say, a good deal
He gave me the card. The paper was quite legibly inseribed
in an old hand, and this is what was on it:
'I suppose it is a charm or a spell: wouldn't you call it
something of that kind?' said the curator.
When I grew in the Wood
I was water'd wth Blood
Now in the Church I stand
Who that touches me with his Hand
If a Bloody hand he bear
I councell him to be ware
Lest he be fetcht away
Whether by night or day,
But chiefly when the wind blows high
In a night of February.
This I drempt, 26 Febr. AD 1699. John Austin.
'Yes,' I said, 'I suppose one might. What became of the
figure in which it was concealed?'
'Oh, I forgot,' said he. 'The old man told me it was so
ugly and frightened his children so much that he burnt it.'