Dinner that night was an awkward affair. I had decided that discretion on my part would be best, as I did not seek to worry either the Professor or Miss Thompson. Despite this nobility on my part, I felt most aggrieved and in ill sorts. I could not imagine what individual, perhaps maddened by some unknowing action on my part, should seek me harm.
The house lay deep in shadows that night. From every crevice and corner spread creeping pools of inky blackness that threatened to rise up and engulf the unwary. The constant drumbeat of rain upon the roof proved maddening, and in such madness I came to understand the insanity that drove my unknown foe. With all haste I make my exits to the library, but what I supposed would be the warm and familiar glow of the candles served only to deepen the shadows that surrounded me. I turned my attention to a volume of Blake. An unwise choice this proved to be, as tormented by visions of Heaven and Hell, I soon retreated to that unwelcoming land that lies between sleep and wakefulness. In this melancholy and nightmarish realm, the occasional roll of thunder penetrated my consciousness like the roar of cannons.
On occasion I roused myself back towards consciousness, but my frequent draughts of brandy soon put me into an alcoholic stupor, made more frightful by the lashing rain upon the windowpane. Thus ensorcelled by spirits of an earthly variety, I became more open to the influence of spirits of a spectral sort. Every shadow made my heart pound dully in my chest, every gust of wind through the shutters drove me to heights of suspicion.
I saw no-one as the night deepened. I could have been in the house alone. Neither Miss Thompson nor the Professor saw fit to make themselves known, though I would have gladly suffered much for their company.
At long last I saw the fingers of the clock creep towards two o’ the clock, and my sense won over my bravado. I retired to bed, discontented and worried. It is a terrible thing, the unknown. Even the bravest man quails before it. After much fitful tossing and turning, Morpheus’ warm embrace greeted me. My sleep was troubled.
In the wee hours of the morning, when the world was still dark, I awoke into confusion. Some noise, some sound had disturbed my restless slumber, and I found myself trapped beneath a heavy counterpane, haunted by the echo of my own breath in the darkened room. Or was it my own breath? For several moments I held it within me, and my skin crawled as I heard the unmistakable sound of air being drawn into lungs not my own.
No coward was I. "Who’s there?" I demanded, but no response came. Only the heavy beat of rain on the gable. "Who’s there?"
The voice that rasped out of the dark was hoarse with hate and rage. I struggled against the sheets, seeking to free myself and face this unseen assailant. He spoke again.
"Three weeks in woods and field and mud and rain, Stokington. Three weeks." The hairs on the back of my neck came up. The voice was familiar, very familiar, but I could not place it. But it mattered not. The madman had found me.
"You were the ruin of me, Stokington," he growled. “Now I shall be the ruin of you.” A shadow detached itself from the wall, and I wondered sickly how long this lunatic had been there. Had he been there when I came in to sleep? Had he been there when I drowsed in the library? Had he been there while Miss Thompson, the Professor and I dined? Perhaps he had come directly from the church, after assaulting young Sarah so. The thought chilled me.
The shadow raised an arm, and I saw the glint of a rapier in what little light there was. "Prepare for death, Stokington, for I am the spirit that always denies!"
A bolt of lightning exploded somewhere out on the moors, illuminating the room, and I saw him!
A slight, almost boyish frame made leaner still by hunger, enwrapped in ragged clothing that had perhaps once been fashionable. A cherubic face, so childlike in its beauty, marred only by spatters of mud and a month-long growth of beard. Long, matted golden blonde hair curtained a pair of green eyes that, sunk deep into the recesses of the skull, were filled with malice, madness, and hate. One delicate, nearly feminine hand clutched a long, rust-spotted blade. In short, the picture of madness unbound.
Worse still, I knew this man. My one-time nemesis.
"Calvin Hobbes," I whispered.
The Life, Times, and Misadventures of Dennis St. Michel, Viscount of Stokington, Soldier, Gambler, Diplomat, Scoundrel, Notorious Rakehell, and Lord of Menacing House, in his Own Words.