The Story of Konnor Old House by E. and H. Heron
"I HOLD," Mr. Flaxman Low, the eminent psychologist, was saying,
"that there are no other laws in what we term the realm of the
supernatural but those which are the projections or extensions of
"Very likely that's so," returned Naripse, with suspicious
humility. "But, all the same, Konnor Old House presents problems that
won't work in with any natural laws I'm acquainted with. I almost
hesitate to give voice to them, they sound so impossible and--and
"Let's judge of them," said Low.
"It is said," said Naripse, standing up with his back to the fire,
"it is said that a Shining Man haunts the place. Also a light is
frequently seen in the library--I've watched it myself of a night
from here--yet the dust there, which happens to lie very thick over
the floor and the furniture, has afterwards shown no sign of
"Have you satisfactory evidence of the presence of the Shining
"I think so," replied Naripse shortly. "I saw him myself the night
before I wrote asking you to come up to see me. I went into the house
after dusk, and was on the stairs when I saw him: the tall figure of
a man, absolutely white and shining. His back was towards me, but the
sullen, raised shoulders and sidelong head expressed a degree of
sinister animosity that exceeded anything I've ever met with. So I
left him in possession, for it's a fact that anyone who has tried to
leave his card at Konnor Old House has left his wits with it."
"It certainly sounds rather absurd," said Mr. Low, "but I suppose
we have not heard all about it yet?"
"No, there is a tragedy connected with the house, but it's quite a
commonplace sort of story and in no way accounts for the Shining
Naripse was a young man of means, who spent most of his time
abroad, but the above conversation took place at the spot to which he
always referred as home--a shooting-lodge connected with his big
grouse-moor on the West Coast of Scotland. The lodge was a small new
house built in a damp valley, with a trout-stream running just beyond
From the high ground above, where the moor stretched out towards
the Solway Firth, it was possible on a fine day to see the dark cone
of Ailsa Crag rising above the shimmering ripples. But Mr. Low
happened to arrive in a spell of bad weather, when nothing was
visible about the lodge but a few roods of sodden lowland, and a
curve of the yellow tumbling little river, and beyond a mirky outline
of shouldering hills blurred by the ever-falling rain. It may have
been eleven o'clock on a depressing, muggy night, when Naripse began
to talk about Konnor Old House as he sat with his guests over a
crackling flaming fire of pinewood.
"Konnor Old House stands on a spur of the ridge opposite-one of
the finest sites possible, and it belongs to me. Yet I am obliged to
live in this damp little boghole, for the man who would pass a night
in Konnor is not to be met with in this county!"
Sullivan, the third man present, replied he was, perhaps--with a
glance at Low--there were two, which stung Naripse, who turned his
words into a deliberate challenge.
"Is it a bet?" asked Sullivan, rising. He was a tallish man, dark,
and clean-shaven, whose features were well-known to the public in
connection with the emerald green jersey of the Rugby International
Football Team of Ireland. "If it is, it's a bet I'm going to win I
Good-night. In the morning, Naripse, I'll trouble you for the
"The affair is much more in Low's line than in yours," said
Naripse. "But you're not really going?"
"You may take it I am though!"
"Don't be a fool, Jack! Low, tell him not to go, tell him there
are things no man ought to meddle with---" he broke off.
"There are things no man can meddle with," replied Sullivan,
obstinately fixing his cap on his head, "and my backing out of this
bet would stand in as one of them!"
Naripse was strangely urgent.
"Low, speak to him! You know---"
Flaxman Low saw that the big Irishman's one vanity had got upon
its legs; he also saw that Naripse was very much in earnest.
"Sullivan's big enough to take care of himself:" he said laughing.
"At the same time, if he doesn't object, we might as well hear the
story before he starts."
Sullivan hesitated, then flung his cap into a corner.
"That's so," he said.
It was a warm night for the time of the year, and they could hear,
through the open window, the splashing downpour of the rain.
"There's nothing so lonely as the drip of heavy rain!" began
Naripse, "I always associate it with Konnor Old House. The place has
stood empty for ten years or more, and this is the story they tell
about it. It was last inhabited by a Sir James Mackian, who had been
a merchant of sorts in Sierra Leone. When the baronetcy fell to him,
he came to England and settled down in this place with a pretty
daughter and a lot of servants, including a nigger, named Jake, whose
life he was said to have saved in Africa. Everything went on well for
nearly two years, when Sir James had occasion to go to Edinburgh for
a few days. During his absence his daughter was found dead in her
bed, having taken an overdose of some sleeping draught. The shock
proved too great for her father. He tried travelling, but, on his
return home, he fell into a settled melancholy, and died some months
later a dumb imbecile at the asylum."
"Well, I shan't object to meeting the girl as she's so pretty,"
remarked Sullivan with a laugh. "But there's not much in the
"Of course," added Naripse, "countryside gossip adds a good deal
of colour to the plain facts of the case. It is said that terrible
details connected with Miss Mackian's death were suppressed at the
inquest, and people recollected afterwards that for months the girl
had worn an unhappy, frightened look. It seemed she disliked the
negro, and had been heard to beg her father to send him away, but the
old man would not listen to her."
"What became of the negro in the end?" asked Flaxman Low.
"In the end Sir James kicked him out after a violent scene, in the
course of which he appears to have accused Jake of having some hand
in causing the girl's death. The nigger swore he'd be revenged on
him, but, as a matter of fact, he left the place almost immediately,
and has never been heard of since--which disposes of the nigger. A
short time after the old man went mad; he was found lying on a couch
in the library--a hopeless imbecile." Saying this, Naripse went to
the window, and looked out into the rainy darkness. "Konnor Old House
stands on the ridge opposite, and a part of the building, including
the library window, where the light is sometimes seen, is visible
through the trees from here. There is no light there tonight,
Sullivan laughed his big, full laugh.
"How about your shining man? I hope we may have the luck to meet.
I suspect some canny Scots tramp knows where to get a snug roost rent
"That may be so," replied Naripse, with a slow patience. "I can
only say that after seeing the light of a night, I have more than
once gone up in the morning to have a look at the library, and never
found the thick dust in the least disturbed."
"Have you noticed if the light appears at regular intervals?" said
"No; it's there on and off. I generally see it in rainy
"What sort of people have gone crazy in Konnor Old House?" asked
"One was a tramp. He must have lived pleasantly in the kitchen for
days. Then he took to the library, which didn't agree with him
apparently. He was found in a dying state lying upon Sir James's
couch, with horrible black patches on his face. He was too far gone
to speak, so nothing was gleaned from him."
"He probably had a dirty face, and, having caught cold in the
rain, went into Konnor Old House and died quietly there of pneumonia
or something of the kind, just as you or I might have done, tucked up
in our own little beds at home," commented Sullivan.
"The last man to try his luck with the ghosts," went on Naripse,
without noticing this remark, "was a young fellow, called Bowie, a
nephew of Sir James. He was a student at Edinburgh University and he
wanted to clear up the mystery. I was not at home, but my factor
allowed him to pass a night in the house. As he did not appear next
day, they went to look for him. He was found lying on the couch--and
he has not spoken a rational word since."
"Sheer--mere physical fright, acting on an overwrought brain!"
Sullivan summed up the case scornfully. "And now I'm off. The rain
has stopped, and I'll get up to the house before midnight. You may
expect me at dawn to tell you what I've seen."
"What do you intend to do when you get there?" asked Flaxman
"I'll pass the night on the ghostly couch which I suppose I shall
find in the library. Take my word for it, madness is in Sir James's
family; father and daughter and nephew all gave proof of it in
different ways. The tramp, who was perhaps in there for a couple of
days, died a natural death. It only needs a healthy man to run the
gauntlet and set all this foolish talk at rest."
Naripse was plainly much disturbed though he made no further
objection, but when Sullivan was gone, he moved restlessly about the
room looking out of the window from time to time. Suddenly he
"There it is! The light I mentioned to you."
Mr. Low went to the window. Away on the opposite ridge a faint
light glimmered out through the thick gloom. Then he glanced at his
"Rather over an hour since he started," he remarked. "Well, now,
Naripse, if you will be so good as to hand me 'Human Origins' from
the shelf behind you, I think we may settle down to wait for dawn.
Sullivan's just the man to give a good account of himself--under most
"Heaven send there may be no black side to this business!" said
Naripse. "Of course I was a fool to say what I did about the Old
House, but nobody except an ass like Jack would think I meant it. I
wish the night was well over! That light is due to go out in two
Even to Mr. Low the night seemed unbearably long; but at the first
streak of dawn he tossed his book on to the sofa, stretched himself,
and said: "We may as well be moving; let's go and see what Sullivan
The rain began to fall again, and was coming down in close
straight lines as the two men drove up the avenue to Konnor Old
House. As they ascended, the trees grew thicker on the banks of the
cutting which led them in curves to the terrace on which stood the
house. Although it was a modern red-brick building, rather
picturesque with its gables and sharply-pitched overhanging roofs, it
looked desolate and forbidding enough in the grey daybreak. To the
left lay lawns and gardens, to the right the cliff fell away steeply
to where the burn roared in spate some three hundred feet below. They
drove round to the empty stables, and then hurried back to the house
on foot by a path that debouched directly under the library window.
Naripse stopped under it, and shouted: "Hullo! Jack, where are
But no answer came, and they went on to the hall door. The gloom
of the wet dawning and the heavy smell of stagnant air filled the big
hall as they looked round at its dreary emptiness. The silence within
the house itself was oppressive. Again Naripse shouted, and the noise
echoed harshly through the passages, jarring on the stillness, then
he led the way to the library at a run.
As they came in sight of the doorway a wave of some nauseating
odour met them, and at the same moment they saw Sullivan lying just
outside the threshold, his body twisted and rigid like a man in the
extremity of pain, his contorted profile ivory-pale against the dark
oak flooring, As they stooped to raise him, Mr. Low had just time to
notice the big gloomy room beyond, with its heaped and trampled
layers of accumulated dust. There was no time for more than a glance,
for the indescribable, fetid odour almost overpowered them as they
hastened to carry Sullivan into the open air.
"We must get him home as soon as we can," said Mr. Low, "for we
have a very sick man on our hands."
This proved to be true. But in a few days, thanks to Mr. Low's
treatment and untiring care, the severe physical symptoms became less
urgent, and in due time Sullivan's mind cleared.
The following account is taken from the written statement of his
experience in Konnor Old House:
"On reaching the house he entered as noiselessly as possible, and
made for the library, finding his way by the help of a series of
matches to Sir James's couch, upon which he lay down. He was
conscious at once of an acrid taste in his mouth, which he accounted
for by the clouds of dust he had raised in crossing the room.
"First he began to think about the approaching football match with
Scotland, for which he was already in training. He was still in his
mood of derisive incredulity. The house seemed vastly empty, and
wrapped in an uneasy silence, a silence which made each of his
comfortable movements an omen of significance. Presently the sense of
a presence in the room was borne in upon him. He sat up, and spoke
softly. He almost expected someone to answer him, and so strong did
this feeling become that he called out: 'Who's there?' No reply came,
and he sat on amidst the oppressive silence. He says the slightest
noise would have been a relief. It was the listening in the silence
that bred in him so intense a longing to grapple with some solid
"Fear! He, who had denied the very existence of cause for fear,
found himself shivering with an untranslatable terror! This was fear!
He realised it with an infinite recoil of anger.
"Presently he became aware that the darkness about him was
clearing. A feeble light filtered slowly through it from above.
Looking up at the ceiling, he perceived directly above his head an
irregular patch of pale phosphorescent luminance, which grew
gradually brighter. How long he sat with his head thrown back,
staring at the light, he does not know. It seemed years. Then he
spoke to himself plainly. With an immense effort, he forced his eyes
away from the light and got upon his feet to drag his limbs round the
room. The phosphorescence was of a greenish tint, and as strong as
moonlight, but the dust rose like vapour at the slightest movement,
and somewhat obscured its power. He moved about, but not for long. A
clogging weight, such as one feels in nightmare, pressed upon him,
and his exhaustion was intensified by the overpowering physical
disgust bred in him by the repulsive odour which passed across his
face as he staggered back to the couch.
"For a few moments he would not look up. He says he had an
impression that someone was watching him through the radiance as
through a window. The atmosphere about him was thickening and
cloaking the walls with drowsy horror, while his senses revolted and
choked at the growing odour. Then followed a state of semi-sleep, for
he recollects no more until he found himself staring again at the
luminous patch on the ceiling.
"By this time the brightness was beginning to dim; dark smears
showed through it here and there, which ran slowly together till out
of them grew and protruded a fat, black, evil face. A second later
Sullivan was aware that the horrible face was sinking down nearer and
nearer to his own, while all about it the light changed to black,
dripping fluid, that formed great drops and fell.
"It seemed as if he could not save himself; he could not move! The
fighting blood in him had died out; Then fear, mad fear and strong
loathing gave him the strength to act. He saw his own hand working
savagely, it passed through and through the impending face, yet he
swears that he felt a slight impact and that he saw the fat, glazed
skin quiver! Then, with a final struggle, he tore it himself from the
couch, and, rushing to the door, he wrenched open, and plunged
forward into a red vacancy, down--down--After that he remembered no
While Sullivan still lay ill and unable to give an account of
himself or of what had happened at Konnor Old House, Mr. Flaxman Low
expressed his intention of paying a visit to the asylum for the
purpose of seeing young Bowie. But on arrival at the asylum, he found
that Bowie had died during the previous night. A weary-eyed assistant
doctor took Mr. Low to see the body. Bowie had evidently been of a
gaunt, but powerful build. The features, though harsh, were noble,
the face being somewhat disfigured by a rough, raised discoloration,
which extended from the centre of the forehead to behind the right
Mr. Low asked a question.
"Yes, it is a very obscure case," observed the assistant, "but it
is the disease he died of. When he was brought here some months ago
he had a small dark spot on his forehead, but it spread rapidly, and
there are now similar large patches over the whole of his body. I
take it to be of a cancerous character, likely to occur in a
scrofulous subject after a shock and severe mental strain, such as
Bowie chose to subject himself to by passing a night in Konnor Old
House. The first result of the shock was the imbecility, an
increasing lethargic condition of the body supervened and finally
While the doctor was speaking, Mr. Low bent over the dead man and
closely examined the mark upon the face.
"This mark appears to be the result of a fungoid growth, perhaps
akin to the Indian disease known as mycetoma?" he said at length.
"It may be so. The case is very obscure, but the disease, whatever
we may call it, appears to be in Bowie's family, for I believe his
uncle, Sir James Mackian, had precisely similar symptoms during his
last illness. He also died in this institution, but that was before
my time," replied the assistant.
After a further examination of the body Mr. Low took his leave,
and during the following day or two was busily engaged in a spare
empty room placed at his disposal by Naripse. A deal table and chair
were all he required, Mr. Low explained, and to these he added a
microscope, an apparatus for producing a moist heat, and the coat
worn by Sullivan on the night of his adventure. At the end of the
third day, as Sullivan was already on the road to recovery, Mr. Low,
accompanied by Naripse, paid a second visit to Konnor Old House,
during which Low mentioned some of his conclusions about the strange
events which had occurred there. It will be an easy task to compare
Mr. Flaxman Low's theory with the experience detailed by Sullivan and
with the one or two subsequent discoveries that added something like
confirmation to his conclusions.
Mr. Low and his host drove up as on the previous occasion, and
stabled the horse as before. The day was dry, but grey, and the time
the early afternoon. As they ascended the path leading to the house,
Mr. Low remarked, after gazing up for a few seconds at the library
"That room has the air of being occupied."
"Why?--What makes you think so?" asked Naripse nervously.
"It is hard to say, but it produces that impression." Naripse
shook his head despondently.
"I've always noticed it myself," he returned, "I wish Sullivan
were all right again and able to tell us what he saw in there.
Whatever it was it has nearly cost him his life. I don't suppose we
shall ever know anything more definite about the matter."
"I fancy I can tell you," replied Low, "but let us get on into the
library, and see what it looks like before we enter into the subject
any further. By the way, I should advise you to tie your handkerchief
over your mouth and nose before we go into the room."
Naripse, upon whom the events of the last few days had had a very
strong effect, was in a state of scarcely-controllable
"What do you mean, Low?--you can't have any idea---"
"Yes, I believe the dust in that house to be simply poisonous.
Sullivan inhaled any amount of it--hence his condition."
The same suggestion of loneliness and stagnation hung about the
house as they passed through the hall and entered the library. They
halted at the door and looked in. The amount of greenish dust in the
room was extraordinary; it lay in little drifts and mounds over the
floor, but most abundantly just about the couch. Immediately above
this spot, they perceived on the ceiling a long, discoloured stain.
Naripse pointed to it.
"Do you see that? It is a bloodstain, and, I give you my word, it
grows larger and larger every year!" He finished the sentence in a
low voice, and shuddered.
"Ah, so I should have expected," observed Flaxman Low, who was
looking at the stained ceiling with much interest. "That, of course,
"Low, tell me what you mean? A bloodstain that grows year by year
explains everything?" Naripse broke off and pointed to the couch.
"Look there! a cat's been walking over that sofa."
Mr. Low put his hand on his friend's shoulder and smiled.
"My dear fellow! That stain on the ceiling is simply a patch of
mould and fungi, Now come in carefully without raising the dust, and
let us examine the cat's footsteps, as you call them."
Naripse advanced to the couch and considered the marks
"They are not the footmarks of any animal, they are something much
more unaccountable. They are raindrops. And why should raindrops be
here in this perfectly watertight room, and even then only in one
small part of it? You can't very well explain that, and you certainly
can't have expected it?"
"Look round and follow my points," replied Mr. Low. "When we came
to fetch Sullivan, I noticed the dust which far exceeds the ordinary
accumulation even in the most neglected places. You may also notice
that it is of a greenish colour and of extreme fineness. This dust is
of the same nature as the powder you find in a puff-ball, and is
composed of minute sporuloid bodies. I found that Sullivan's coat was
covered with this fine dust, and also about the collar and upper
portion of the sleeve I found one or two gummy drops which correspond
to these raindrops, as you call them. I naturally concluded from
their position that they had fallen from above. From the dust, or
rather spores, which I found on Sullivan's coat, I have since
cultivated no fewer than four specimens of fungi, of which three
belong to known African species; but the fourth, so far as I know,
has never been described, but it approximates most closely to one of
"But how about the raindrops, or whatever they are? I believe they
drop from that horrible stain."
"They are drops from the stain, and are caused by the unnamed
fungus I have just alluded to. It matures very rapidly, and
absolutely decays as it matures, liquefying into a sort of dark
mucilage, full of spores, which drips down, and diffuses a most
repulsive odour. In time the mucilage dries, leaving the dust of the
"I don't know much about these things myself," replied Naripse
dubiously, "and it strikes me you know more than enough. But look
here; how about the light? You saw it last night yourself."
"It happens that the three species of African fungi possess well
known phosphorescent properties, which are manifested not only during
decomposition, but also during the period of growth. The light is
only visible from time to time; probably climatic and atmospheric
conditions only admit of occasional efflorescence."
"But," object Naripse, "supposing it to be a case of poisoning by
fungi as you say, how is it that Sullivan, though exposed to
precisely the same sources of danger as the others who have passed a
night here, has escaped? He has been very ill, but his mind has
already regained its balance, whereas, in the three other cases, the
mind was wholly destroyed."
Mr. Low looked very grave.
"My dear fellow, you are such an excitable and superstitious
person that I hesitate to put your nerves to any further test."
"Oh, go on!"
"I hesitate for two reasons. The one I have mentioned, and also
because in my answer I must speak of curious and unpleasant things,
some of which are proved facts, others only more or less well-founded
assumptions. It is acknowledged that fungi exert an important
influence in certain diseases, a few being directly attributable to
fungi as a primary cause. Also it is an historical fact that
poisonous fungi have more than once been used to alter the fate of
nations. From the evidence before us and the condition of Bowie's
body, I can but conclude that the unknown fungus I have alluded to is
of a singularly malignant nature, and acts through the skin upon the
brain with terrible rapidity afterwards gradually inter-penetrating
all the tissues of the body, and eventually causing death. In
Sullivan's case, luckily, the falling drops only touched his
clothing, not his skin."
"But wait a minute, Low, how did these fungi come here? And how
can we rid the house of them? Upon my word, it is enough to make a
man go off his head to hear about it. What are you going to do
"In the first place we will go upstairs and examine the flooring
just above that stained patch of ceiling."
"You can't do that I'm afraid. The room above this happens to be
divided into two portions by a hollow partition between 2ft. and 3ft.
thick," said Naripse, "the interior of which may originally have been
meant for a cupboard, but I don't think it has ever been used."
"Then let us examine the cupboard; there must be some way of
getting into it."
Upon this Naripse led the way upstairs, but, as he gained the top,
he leant back, and grasping Mr. Low by the arm thrust him violently
"Look! the light--did you see the light?" he said.
For a second or two it seemed as if a light, like the elusive
light thrown by a rotating reflector, quivered on the four walls of
the landing, then disappeared almost before one could he certain of
having seen it.
"Can you point me out the precise spot where you saw the shining
figure you told us of?" asked Low.
Naripse pointed to a dark corner of the landing.
"Just there in front of that panel between the two doors. Now that
I come to think of it, I fancy there is some means of opening the
upper part of that panel. The idea was to ventilate the cupboard-like
space I mentioned just now."
Naripse walked across the landing and felt round the panel, till
he found a small metal knob. On turning this, the upper part of the
panel fell back like a shutter, disclosing a narrow space of darkness
beyond. Naripse thrust his head into the opening and peered into the
gloom, but immediately started back with a gasp.
"The shining man!" he cried. "He's there!"
Mr. Flaxman Low, hardly knowing what to expect, looked over his
shoulder; then, exerting his strength, pulled away some of the lower
boarding. For within, at arm's length, stood a dimly shining figure!
A tall man, with his back towards them, leaning against the left of
the partition, and shrouded from head to foot in faintly luminous
The figure remained quite motionless while they stared at it in
surprise; then Mr. Flaxman Low pulled on his glove, and, leaning
forward, touched the man's head. A portion of the white mass came
away in his fingers, the lower surface of which showed a bunch of
frizzled negroid hair.
"Good Heavens, Low, what do you make of this?" asked Naripse. "It
must be the body of Jake. But what is this shining stuff?"
Low stood under the wide skylight and examined what he held in his
"Fungus," he said at last. "And it appears to have some property
allied to the mouldy fungus which attacks the common house-fly. Have
you not seen them dead upon window-panes, stiffly fixed upon their
legs, and covered with a white mould? Something of the same kind has
taken place here."
"But what had Jake to do with the fungus? And how did he come
"All that, of course, we can only surmise," replied Mr. Low.
"There is little doubt that secrets of nature hidden from us are well
known to the various African tribes. It is possible that the negro
possessed some of these deadly spores, but how or why he made use of
them are questions that can never be cleared up now."
"But what was he doing here?" asked Naripse.
"As I said before we can only guess the answer to that question,
but I should suppose that the negro made use of this cupboard as a
place where he could be free from interruption; that he here
cultivated the spores is proved by the condition of his body and of
the ceiling immediately below. Such an occupation is by no means free
from danger, especially in an airless and inclosed space such as
this. It is evident that either by design or accident he became
infected by the fungus poison, which in time covered his whole body
as you now see. The subject of obeah," Flaxman Low went on
reflectively, "is one to the study of which I intend to devote myself
at some future period. I have, indeed, already made some arrangements
for an expedition in connection with the subject into the interior of
"And how is the horrible thing to be got rid of? Nothing short of
burning the place down would be of any radical use," remarked
Low, who by this time was deeply engrossed in considering the
strange facts with which he had just become acquainted, answered
abstractedly: "I suppose not."
Naripse said no more, and the words were only recalled to Mr.
Low's mind a day or two later, when he received by post a copy of the
West Coast Advertiser. It was addressed in the handwriting of
Naripse, and the following extract was lightly scored:
"Konnor Old House, the property of Thomas Naripse, Esquire, of
Konnor Lodge, was, we regret to say, destroyed by fire last night. We
are sorry to add that the loss to the owner will be considerable, as
no insurance policy had been effected with regard to the