The Room In The Tower by E. F. Benson
The Room in the Tower
by E. E Benson, 1912
It was when I was about sixteen that I first had the dream, and this is what happened in it. I stood in front of a big red house and waited. Soon a man opened the door and said, ‘Go through into the garden and have some tea.’ I went through the living-room and the kitchen, and into the garden at the back of the house. There were six people there, sitting on chairs and drinking tea, but I didn’t know them. Then one of the men spoke, and I saw that he was from my old school – I remembered his name, Jack Stone, but I didn’t know him well. He told me that the others were his mother, father and sisters.
I didn’t like it in the garden with those people. Nobody spoke to me and it was very hot. I wanted to go home. In the corner of the garden was an old tower, a very tall, thin building.
Suddenly Mrs Stone turned to me and said, ‘Jack is going to show you your room now. It is in the tower.’ I did not know why, but her words frightened me. I knew the tower was dangerous and I didn’t want to go there. Jack stood up and I knew I had to follow him. Inside the tower, we walked up and up in the dark and then we arrived outside my room. Jack opened the door and … I always woke up suddenly before I went into the room.
I had this dream many times. It was always the same – the garden, the family, the tower — and I always felt very hot and frightened when Mrs Stone said ‘Jack is going to show you your room now.’ But I always followed him up and up in the dark, and when he opened the door I always woke up. I never saw what was in the room.
Then the people in the dream started to change. Mrs Stone had black hair in the beginning, but after fifteen years her hair was white and she was very old and weak. Jack got older, too, and ill. One of his sisters went away and they told me she was married. I didn’t like these people and I didn’t want to have the same dream all the time, but it always came back to me in the night.
Then suddenly the dream stopped for about six months. I was very happy and I tried to forget the garden, the people and the tower. But one night it all started again. This time, Mrs Stone wasn’t there and all the family wore black. ‘Mrs Stone is dead,’ I thought. ‘Perhaps Jack isn’t going to take me to the tower this time.’ But suddenly Mrs Stone spoke – I couldn’t see her but she said, as before, ‘Jack is going to show you your room now.’ As usual, I followed him but this time the tower was darker than before. From a window in the tower I saw a stone in the centre of the garden, under a tree, with these words on it: ‘Remember the bad and dangerous Julia Stone’. Again I woke up cold and afraid.
In the first week of August that year I went with a friend, John Clinton, to stay in a house in Sussex.
‘Please come,’ he said. ‘My family are coming too and they say
There was a stone in the centre of the garden, under a tree, with these words on it: ‘Remember the bad and dangerous Julia Stone’.
it’s a very nice place where we can walk and swim. We can drive down together on Sunday afternoon.’
Sunday came and we had a nice afternoon driving down to Sussex in the sun.AVe arrived in the village where the house was at about five o’clock. We did not know where the house was, so we asked somebody. He told us it was over the river and behind some trees outside the village. John was the driver and, because it was so hot, I went to sleep as he drove.
I woke up when the car stopped, and found that I was in front of the same house as the one in my dreams, the house of the Stone family. We walked through the living-room and the kitchen and into the garden at the back. I knew, without looking, that there was a tower in the corner of the garden. It was very, very hot in the late-afternoon sun. I waited to feel ill and afraid as I always did in my dream. But the people in the garden were not unfriendly – the Clinton family talked and laughed and I liked them very much.
Then Mrs Clinton said to me, Jack is going to show you your room now. It is in the tower.’And my friend John stood up (his family always called him Jack’) and I followed him up to the room. I was afraid when he opened the door because in my dream I always woke up before I saw the room. But this time I went in. Everything was very nice inside and my bags were ready for me on the bed. ‘Perhaps it isn’t bad here,’ I thought, ‘and perhaps the bad dreams are going to stop now that I am here, in the room in the tower.’
But then I saw two pictures near the bed, and that same cold fear came back. One picture was of Mrs Stone, old and with white hair, as she often was in my dream. The other picture was of Jack Stone, his face was ill and angry, as he was in my last dream before this visit. I looked at the picture of Mrs Stone for a long time – she had dangerous eyes and they followed me round the room.
One picture was of Mrs Stone, old and with white hair, as she often was in my dream.
John Clinton came back to tell me dinner was ready. ‘I don’t like this picture, John,’ I said. ‘I’m going to have bad dreams tonight if it stays in here. Can we move it outside?’
‘Yes,’ said John.‘Let’s move it now.’
But when we tried to carry it out, it was very, very heavy. We could not carry it. We put it down on the floor. John suddenly said ‘Oh look, there’s blood on my hand — a small cut from this picture.’ Then I saw that there was blood on my hand, too. But after we washed our hands we had no cuts, so we tried again to move the picture. I didn’t want to look at Mrs Stone’s face as we moved her picture through the door, but her eyes followed me again. There was a smile on her face now, but her eyes were more dangerous than before, her mouth was blood-red and the picture was heavier and heavier. We left the picture outside the door of my room.
We went down to dinner and when we finished, John and I went out into the garden to smoke. It was a very hot night, hotter than the day, and I didn’t much want to go to bed.
Suddenly a dog ran across the garden and sat under the tree I could see from my bedroom window. The dog sat on the place where the stone was in my dream, and it did not move. It was frightened. It sat and looked at the tower for a minute and then ran away. Next came a cat and it did the same thing
‘Do you see those animals?’ I asked John. ‘Why are they so afraid?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said.
At about midnight we said goodnight and I went to bed. It was very hot but I was tired and I thought I was ready to sleep. Without the picture of Mrs Stone in my room, I was happier and I didn’t think about her dangerous smile or the cuts on our hands. I closed my eyes and slept.
I woke up suddenly; I don’t know what time it was. The room was very dark and for a minute I didn’t know where I was. Then, with sudden fear, I remembered. A light came on and I saw a woman, a woman I knew, the woman in the picture. I saw those dangerous eyes, the blood-red mouth, the smile … Mrs Stone put a cold hand on my neck and spoke.
‘So, you are here in the tower, after so many years and so many dreams. Yes, I waited and waited for you, and then I stopped waiting, but at last you came. I am so happy that you came. Tonight I am going to have a good dinner … I am thirsty … I am hungry … I am waiting. Yes, I am so happy that you came, after all this time … ’
Again she put her cold hand on my neck, and then her face came slowly down and her teeth started to cut into me … I was too weak to move. But suddenly I knew I had to get away quickly. I hit her hard in the face and at the same time I jumped out of bed and ran to the door. John Clinton was outside.
A light came on and I saw a woman, a woman I knew, the woman in the picture. I saw those dangerous eyes, the blood-red mouth, the smile …
‘I heard a noise,’ he said.‘What is it? What’s wrong?’And then, ‘Look! There’s blood on your neck.’
‘John,’ I said, ‘that woman in the picture we took from the room this afternoon … she came back. She’s in there now … her name is Julia Stone.’
John laughed. ‘You are having a bad dream,’ he said, and walked into the room to look. But he came out very fast, as white as me, and said, ‘You’re right! She … She’s there! And there’s blood on the bed and on the floor.’
I don’t know how I ran downstairs. My legs were weak and it was difficult to stand, but soon we were out in the garden again. We left the house the next day. About a year later I went back to the village to ask the people there if they knew anything about the owner and about Julia Stone. One very old woman knew the story.This is what she told me:
‘Eight or nine years ago a woman died in that room in the tower where you stayed. Three times the village people tried to bury her at the church … but each time somebody saw the dead woman’s ghost at night, with blood on her mouth and a dangerous smile. Then we knew that she killed people and drank their blood. We didn’t want to try to bury her any more, so we took her back to the house with the tower and buried her under the tree you can see from the window of that room. There she stays, waiting quietly, sometimes for many years. But people say she visits young men in their dreams, and she brings them here. I think you know what happens to them when they arrive … ’