فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

The Furniture That Went Mad

When Mr Hall came downstairs in the early hours of Whit Monday, he noticed that the stranger’s door was open and the front door unlocked. He remembered holding the lamp while Mrs Hall locked it the night before. At the sight of the front door he stopped; then he went upstairs again. He knocked at the stranger’s door. There was no answer. He knocked again; then pushed the door wide open and entered.

It was as he expected. The bed, the room too, was empty. And what was still more strange, on the bed and chair were scattered the clothes, the only clothes so far as he knew, and the bandages of their guest. His big hat was hanging on the bedpost.

As Mr Hall stood there he heard his wife’s voice coming from the kitchen.

He turned and hurried down to her.

‘Jenny,’ he said, ‘he’s not in his room and the front door is unlocked.’

At first Mrs Hall did not understand, but as soon as she did she determined to see the empty room for herself. Hall went first. ‘If he’s not there, his clothes are. And what is he doing without his clothes?’

As they came out of the kitchen they both thought they heard the front door open and shut but, seeing it closed and seeing nothing there, neither said a word to the other about it at the time. Mrs Hall passed her husband in the passage, and ran on first upstairs. Someone on the staircase sneezed. Mr Hall, following six steps behind, thought that he heard her sneeze; she, going first, thought that he was sneezing. She threw open the door and stood looking round the room. ‘What a strange thing!’ she said.

She heard a cough close behind her, as it seemed, and, turning, was surprised to see her husband some distance away on the top stair. But in another moment he was beside her. She put her hand under the bedcovers.

‘Cold,’ she said. ‘He’s been up an hour or more.’

At that point, a most unexpected thing happened. The bedcovers pulled themselves together into a pile, and then jumped violently off the bed. It was just as if a hand had thrown them to one side. Then the stranger’s hat jumped off the bedpost, flew through the air, and came straight at Mrs Hall’s face. Next, a piece of soap flew from the washstand. Finally the chair threw the stranger’s coat and trousers carelessly onto the floor, laughed in a voice very like the stranger’s, turned itself round so that its four legs pointed at Mrs Hall, seemed to take aim at her for a moment, and then moved quickly towards her. She cried out and turned, and the chair legs landed gently but firmly against her back and pushed her and Mr Hall out of the room. The door shut loudly and was locked. The chair and the bed seemed to be dancing for a moment, and then suddenly everything was still.

Mrs Hall was left almost fainting in Mr Hall’s arms in the passage. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr Hall and Millie, now dressed, succeeded in getting her downstairs.

‘Spirits,’ said Mrs Hall. ‘I know it’s spirits. I’ve read about them in the papers. Tables and chairs dancing.’

‘Lock him out,’ she went on. ‘Don’t let him come in again. I half guessed… I might have known. With those eyes and that bandaged head, and never going to church on Sunday. And all those bottles - more than it’s right for anyone to have. He’s put the spirits into the furniture… My good old furniture! My poor dear mother used to sit in that chair when I was a little girl. And now it rises against me!’

They sent Millie across the street through the golden five o’clock sunshine to wake up Mr Sandy Wadgers, who was clever and might be able to help them.

‘Magic,’ said Mr Wadgers and came to the inn greatly troubled. They wanted him to lead the way upstairs to the room, but he didn’t seem to be in any hurry. He preferred to talk in the passage. Then Mr Huxter came and joined in the talk. There was a great deal of talking, but nothing was done.

‘Let’s have the facts first,’ said Mr Sandy Wadgers. ‘Let’s be sure we’d be acting perfectly right in breaking that door open.’

And suddenly the door of the room upstairs opened by itself, and they saw coming down the stairs the wrapped-up figure of the stranger staring more blackly than ever through those large glasses. He came down stiffly and slowly, staring all the time; he walked across the passage, staring, and then stopped.

He entered the parlour, and suddenly and angrily shut the door in their faces.

Not a word was spoken until the noise of the door had died away. They looked at one another.

‘Well, I’ve never seen anything like it!’ said Mr Wadgers, more troubled than ever.

‘If I were you, I’d go in and ask him about it,’ Mr Wadgers advised Mr Hall. ‘I’d demand an explanation.’

It took some time to persuade Mr Hall to do it. At last he knocked, opened the door, and got as far as:

‘Excuse me-‘

‘Go to the devil!’ said the stranger, ‘and shut that door after you.’

And that was all.

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