For sheer terror?

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “ that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

I can see Douglas there before the fire, to which he had got up to present his back, looking down at his interlocutor with his hands in his pockets. “Nobody but me, till now, has ever heard. It’s quite too horrible.” This, naturally, was declared by several voices to give the thing the utmost price, and our friend, with quiet art, prepared his triumph by turning his eyes over the rest of us and going on: “ It’s beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it.”

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“For sheer terror?” I remember asking. He seemed to say it was not so simple as that; to be

really at a loss how to qualify it. He passed his hand over his eyes, made a little wincing grimace. “For dreadful— dreadfulness!”

“Oh, how delicious!” cried one of the women. He took no notice of her; he looked at me, but as if,

instead of me, he saw what he spoke of. “For general uncanny ugliness and horror and pain.”

“Well then,” I said, “ just sit right down and begin.” He turned round to the fire, gave a kick to a log,

watched it an instant. Then as he faced us again: “ I can’ t begin. I shall have to send to town.” There was a unanimous groan at this, and much reproach; after which, in his preoccupied way, he explained. “The story’s written. It’s in a locked drawer—it has not been out for years. I could write to my man and enclose the key; he could send down the packet as he finds it.” It was to me in particular that he appeared to propound this—appeared almost to appeal for aid not to hesitate. He had broken a thickness of ice, the formation of many a winter; had had his reasons for a long silence. The others resented postponement, but it was just his scruples that charmed me.

 

 

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