(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Tenth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis
My dear Sister,——
O blessed Dawn! Tho’ she shewed not her rosy Fingers, but her dull gray Face alone, yet never was I so delighted to greet her! I have passed such a Night as I hope never to pass again.
Yesterday I spent partly in Conversation with Doctor Albertus, and partly in reading alone from the eminent Doctor’s curious Library: For the Doctor left me much on my Own, having (he said) certain Tasks to complete which would not bear Neglect.
These Conversations touched on every Matter, and I should have taken much Delight in recording them for you. I have not long to write, however; I am resolved to see Doctor Albertus as soon as he stirs, and bring him News, which may be as unpleasant for him to hear, as it is for me to deliver. I write to explain my sudden Change of Plans.
When I retired in the Evening, I thought myself better equipped to face the Prospect of another Night in the Abbey: For I had procured a prodigious Supply of Tapers,and moreover had had the Opportunity to grow accustomed to the Place. I brought with me a witty Play from the Library of Doctor Albertus, entitled, Love’s Triumph Delayed; or, the Lost Inheritance, which lightened the Gloom of the Chamber as I read it, and indeed I fell asleep with the Book upon my Chest.
For some time I slept soundly, untroubled by the Dreams and Night-mares of the previous Night; but at a certain Hour I began to imagine, once again, that I heard the Sound of Clockworks, an infinite Number of ’em, drawing nearer and nearer, till the very Bed shook with their Approach. Still my weariness kept me in Slumber, or rather on the very Edge of Waking; but as I fancy’d the Sound receding, I shook off Sleep, and started up, the Book falling on the Floor beside me as I did.
Now I was awake; and the wilfull Draughts having not yet won their inevitable Victory against the Tapers, there was still some Illumination in the Chamber. All was as I remembered it, at least in those Parts of the Room that were not hid in impenetrable Shadow. Yet the Memory of that infernal Cacophony would not leave me, and in the near Darkness I half believed that I had verily heard such a Noise, and that it was not a mere Dream or Fancy. So lively was the Impression it had left that I determined either to lay it to Rest as a Dream, or to discover the Cause of it, if it were a waking Perception.
Throwing the Blankets aside, I set my Feet on the icy stone Floor; and, without pausing to cover my Night-gown, I grasped the nearest Candle and opened the Door to the Hall.
All was Silence, and the only Illumination in the long Hall came from the Candle I held in my Hand: But my eye caught a Movement at the Edge of the Candle-light. Now you must swear, that you will think no less of me, when I tell you that my Heart stopped in my Breast, and that I was frozen to the Spot with Terror: For what I saw, tho’ it was nearly too dark to see anything, was the ghostly Figure of a Woman, dressed all in white, receding from me with silent Steps, if indeed her Feet moved at all, until she vanished in the impenetrable Blackness.
A certain Part of me would have pursued this Spirit, or whatever she might have been; but my Feet would not move, and I stood in the same Place for a Quarter of an Hour until the dripping Wax from the Taper burned my Hand. Then at last I was roused from my Petrification, and I retreated to my Chamber, where you may be assured I spent a sleepless Night.
I am, in most Circumstances, as brave as any other Man; but there is something about this House that would strike Fear into the Heart of Achilles. I have never in my Life been so grateful for the rosy-fingered Dawn as I was this Morning, and I am resolved to tell Doctor Albertus that I must no longer impose upon his Hospitality. This is the Reason for my Letter, with which I inform you that I shall return to London at the earliest Opportunity:
Where I shall have the Honor to remain, &c