The House on the Borderland
9. In The Cellars
"AT LAST, what with being tired and cold, and the uneasiness that possessed me, I
resolved to take a walk through the house; first calling in at the study, for a glass of
brandy to warm me. This, I did, and, while there, I examined the door, carefully; but
found all as I had left it the night before. "The day was just breaking, as I left the tower;
though it was still too dark in the house to be able to see without a light, and I took one of
the study candles with me on my round. By the time I had finished the ground floor, the
daylight was creeping in, wanly, through the barred windows. My search had shown me
nothing fresh. Everything appeared to be in order, and I was on the point of extinguishing
my candle, when the thought suggested itself to me to have another glance round the
cellars. I had not, if I remember rightly, been into them since my hasty search on the
evening of the attack.
"For, perhaps, the half of a minute, I hesitated. I would have been very willing to forego
the task--as, indeed, I am inclined to think any man well might--for of all the great, awe-
inspiring rooms in this house, the cellars are the hugest and weirdest. Great, gloomy
caverns of places, unlit by any ray of daylight. Yet, I would not shirk the work. I felt that
to do so would smack of sheer cowardice. Besides, as I reassured myself, the cellars were
really the most unlikely places in which to come across anything dangerous; considering
that they can be entered, only through a heavy oaken door, the key of which, I carry
always on my person.
"It is in the smallest of these places that I keep my wine; a gloomy hole close to the foot
of the cellar stairs; and beyond which, I have seldom proceeded. Indeed, save for the
rummage round, already mentioned, I doubt whether I had ever, before, been right
through the cellars.
"As I unlocked the great door, at the top of the steps, I paused, nervously, a moment, at
the strange, desolate smell that assailed my nostrils. Then, throwing the barrel of my
weapon forward, I descended, slowly, into the darkness of the underground regions.
"Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I stood for a minute, and listened. All was silent, save
for a faint drip, drip of water, falling, drop by drop, somewhere to my left. As I stood, I
noticed how quietly the candle burnt; never a flicker nor flare, so utterly windless was the
"Quietly, I moved from cellar to cellar. I had but a very dim memory of their
arrangement. The impressions left by my first search were blurred. I had recollections of
a succession of great cellars, and of one, greater than the rest, the roof of which was
upheld by pillars; beyond that my mind was hazy, and predominated by a sense of cold
and darkness and shadows. Now, however, it was different; for, although nervous, I was
sufficiently collected to be able to look about me, and note the structure and size of the
different vaults I entered.