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Chapter 3 The Curtains
(from The Diary of Mr Poynter)
Mr James Denton’s greatest love in life was books, old ones most of all. His collection grew bigger and bigger every year, but he lived in his aunt’s house, and she was not very happy about this.
Mr Denton was in London one day to buy furniture for the new house which he and his aunt were building, and he was on his way to a shop to choose the curtains. His way took him, quite by chance, past one of the best bookshops in London, and he could not stop himself going in, just for a quick look, as he to’d himself.
He was just walking round the shop, looking at all the different books, when he noticed a small collection of books on the part of England that he came from, Warwickshire. He spent the next half an hour looking through these and finally decided to buy one that really interested him, called The Diary of Mr Poynter, 1710. He paid for the book and then, looking at his watch, he realized that he had very little time before his train back to Warwickshire left, and he had to rush to the station. He just caught the train.
That night, his aunt questioned him about his trip to London and was very interested to hear about the furniture which was going to arrive soon. Her nephew described everything in detail.
but still she was not satisfied. ‘And what about the curtains, James?’ she asked. ‘Did you go to . . . ? ‘ Suddenly James remembered. ‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ he said, ‘dial’s the one thing I missed. I am so sorry. You see, I was on my way there when, quite by chance. I passed Robins
‘Not Robins the bookshop, I hope,’ cried his aunt. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve bought more horrible old books, James.’
‘Well, only one,’ he said, feeling a bit guilty, ‘and it’s a very interesting one, a diary of someone who used to live not far from here . . . ‘ But he could see that his aunt was not really listening.
‘You can’t go to London again before next Thursday,’ she was saying, ‘and really, James, until we decide on the curtains, there’s nothing more we can do.
Luckily, she decided to go to bed soon after that and James was left alone with his new book, which he read until the early hours of the morning. He found this diary, with its stories of everyday life at that time, very interesting. The next day was Sunday. After church, James and his aunt sat in the living-room together.
Is this the old book that made you forget my curtains?’ asked his aunt, picking it up. ‘Well, it doesn’t look very good . , . The Diary of Mr Poynter. Huh!’ But she opened the book and looked at a few pages. Suddenly, much to his surprise, she began to show some interest. ‘Look at this. James,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it lovely?’ It was a small piece of paper, pinned to one of the pages of the diary. On it was a beautiful drawing, made up of curving lines, which somehow caught the eye. ‘Well, why don’t we get it copied for the curtains if you like it so much?’ he suggested, hoping that she would forgive him for his bad memory of the day before in London. His aunt agreed and the very next day, James took the piece of paper to a company in the nearest town, who agreed to copy it and make it into curtains.
About a month later, James was called in to inspect the work and was extremely pleased with the result. ‘Was it a difficult job?’ he asked the manager.
‘Not too difficult, sir. But, to tell you the truth, the artist who did the work was very unhappy about it - he said there was something bad in the drawing, sir.’ James was thoughtful but still he chose the colours for the curtains and then returned home.
A few weeks later, the curtains were ready and a man came to hang them in several rooms of the new house, one of which was James’s bedroom. That night he found that he could not stop looking at them and, although it was a still night, he was almost sure that the curtains were moving and that someone was watching him from behind them. He told himself that this was impossible and not to be so stupid. He explained to himself that the effect was caused by the curving lines on the curtains, which looked just like long, curling black hair.
The next day, a friend of James’s came to stay and after dinner they sat up late, talking and laughing. At last they decided to go to bed and James showed his friend to the guest room , which was just along from his own. James, though, did not want to go to bed immediately and sat in the chair by the fire in his room, reading. He fell asleep for a few minutes and, when he woke, he realized that something was in the room with him. Putting out his hand, lie felt something covered in hair and thought it was his dog, who always followed him everywhere. ‘ How did you get in here? I thought I left you downstairs,’ he said, looking down. To his horror, he found it was not his little dog. but something almost human. He jumped and screamed and, as he did, the face of the thing came up towards him: no eyes, no nose, no mouth. Only hair. He screamed again and rushed to the door, but was so frightened that he could not get it open. He felt the thing touch his back and start to tear at his shirt. At last the door flew open and he rushed to his friends room, terrified and breathing hard.
The next morning, early. James went away to the seaside for a few days to try to forget about his horrible experience. He took with him The Diary of Mr Poymer. He wanted to read it again carefully to find out anything he could about the pattern pinned on to the page. When he turned to that part of the book he found that there were several pieces of paper stuck one on top of the other. He carefully pulled off the first two and found this story, written by Mr Poymer in 1707.
‘Old Mr Casbury of Acrington told me this day of young Sir Everard Charlett, at that time a student of University College.
The young man drank too much and broke the law many times, but because he was from an important family, the university never did anything about it. He used to wear his hair very long and curling down his neck and he wore unusual, colourful clothes. His behaviour made his father very unhappy. One day.
they found young Sir Everard dead in his room, with all his hair pulled out. No one could explain why or how he died, but the strangest thing was that, the day after he died, the body disappeared completely, leaving only a pile of long, curling black hair on the floor of his room. His father kept some of this hair and had drawings made of it, part of which I have pinned to this page.’
This is the strange story behind the curtains. Before he returned home. James Denton ordered his servants to take them all down and burn them.
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