A Haunted House
by Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Approximate Word Count: 710
Whatever hour you woke there was a
door shutting. From room to room
they went, hand in hand, lifting here,
opening there, making sure--a ghostly
"Here we left it," she said. And he
added, "Oh, but here tool" "It's
upstairs," she murmured. "And in the
garden," he whispered. "Quietly,"
they said, "or we shall wake them."
But it wasn't that you woke us. Oh,
no. "They're looking for it; they're
drawing the curtain," one might say,
and so read on a page or two. "Now
they've found it,' one would be
certain, stopping the pencil on the
margin. And then, tired of reading,
one might rise and see for oneself,
the house all empty, the doors
standing open, only the wood
pigeons bubbling with content and
the hum of the threshing machine
sounding from the farm. "What did I
come in here for? What did I want to
find?" My hands were empty.
"Perhaps its upstairs then?" The
apples were in the loft. And so down
again, the garden still as ever, only
the book had slipped into the grass.
But they had found it in the
drawing room. Not that one could
ever see them. The windowpanes
reflected apples, reflected roses; all
the leaves were green in the glass. If
they moved in the drawing room, the
apple only turned its yellow side. Yet,
the moment after, if the door was
opened, spread about the floor, hung
upon the walls, pendant from the
ceiling--what? My hands were empty.
The shadow of a thrush crossed the
carpet; from the deepest wells of
silence the wood pigeon drew its
bubble of sound. "Safe, safe, safe"
the pulse of the house beat softly.
"The treasure buried; the room . . ."
the pulse stopped short. Oh, was that
the buried treasure?
A moment later the light had faded.
Out in the garden then? But the trees
spun darkness for a wandering beam
of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk
beneath the surface the beam I
sought always burned behind the
glass. Death was the glass; death
was between us, coming to the
woman first, hundreds of years ago,
leaving the house, sealing all the
windows; the rooms were darkened.
He left it, left her, went North, went
East, saw the stars turned in the
Southern sky; sought the house,
found it dropped beneath the Downs.
"Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the
house beat gladly. 'The Treasure
The wind roars up the avenue. Trees stoop and bend this way and
that. Moonbeams splash and spill
wildly in the rain. But the beam of the
lamp falls straight from the window.
The candle burns stiff and still.
Wandering through the house,
opening the windows, whispering
not to wake us, the ghostly couple
seek their joy.
"Here we slept," she says. And he
adds, "Kisses without number."
"Waking in the morning--" "Silver
between the trees--"
"Upstairs--" 'In the garden--"
"When summer came--" 'In winter
snowtime--" "The doors go shutting
far in the distance, gently knocking
like the pulse of a heart.
Nearer they come, cease at the
doorway. The wind falls, the rain
slides silver down the glass. Our
eyes darken, we hear no steps beside
us; we see no lady spread her
ghostly cloak. His hands shield the
lantern. "Look," he breathes. "Sound asleep.
Love upon their lips."
Stooping, holding their silver lamp
above us, long they look and deeply.
Long they pause. The wind drives
straightly; the flame stoops slightly.
Wild beams of moonlight cross both
floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the
faces bent; the faces pondering; the
faces that search the sleepers and
seek their hidden joy.
"Safe, safe, safe," the heart of the
house beats proudly. "Long
years--" he sighs. "Again you
found me." "Here," she murmurs,
"sleeping; in the garden reading;
laughing, rolling apples in the loft.
Here we left our treasure--"
Stooping, their light lifts the lids
upon my eyes. "Safe! safe! safe!" the
pulse of the house beats wildly.
Waking, I cry "Oh, is this your buried
treasure? The light in the heart."
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