The Best Mystery and Detective Stories
The Horla, or Modern Ghosts
May 8th. What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying in the grass in front of my
house, under the enormous plantain tree which covers it, and shades and shelters the
whole of it. I like this part of the country and I am fond of living here because I am
attached to it by deep roots, profound and delicate roots which attach a man to the soil on
which his ancestors were born and died, which attach him to what people think and what
they eat, to the usages as well as to the food, local expressions, the peculiar language of
the peasants, to the smell of the soil, of the villages and of the atmosphere itself.
I love my house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see the Seine which flows
by the side of my garden, on the other side of the road, almost through my grounds, the
great and wide Seine, which goes to Rouen and Havre, and which is covered with boats
passing to and fro.
On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, that large town with its blue roofs, under its pointed
Gothic towers. They are innumerable, delicate or broad, dominated by the spire of the
cathedral, and full of bells which sound through the blue air on fine mornings, sending
their sweet and distant iron clang to me; their metallic sound which the breeze wafts in
my direction, now stronger and now weaker, according as the wind is stronger or lighter.
What a delicious morning it was!
About eleven o'clock, a long line of boats drawn by a steam tug, as big as a fly, and
which scarcely puffed while emitting its thick smoke, passed my gate.
After two English schooners, whose red flag fluttered toward the sky, there came a
magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was perfectly white and wonderfully clean and
shining. I saluted it, I hardly know why, except that the sight of the vessel gave me great
May 12th. I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few days, and I feel ill, or rather I
Whence do these mysterious influences come, which change our happiness into
discouragement, and our self-confidence into diffidence? One might almost say that the
air, the invisible air is full of unknowable Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to
endure. I wake up in the best spirits, with an inclination to sing in my throat. Why? I go
down by the side of the water, and suddenly, after walking a short distance, I return home
wretched, as if some misfortune were awaiting me there. Why? Is it a cold shiver which,
passing over my skin, has upset my nerves and given me low spirits? Is it the form of the
clouds, or the color of the sky, or the color of the surrounding objects which is so
changeable, which have troubled my thoughts as they passed before my eyes? Who can