The Visitor

The day passed away as it had begun – in active scrubbing, cleaning, brushing and dusting of everything that was within reach of Mr Greene’s armchair and therefore susceptible of dripping blood on his writing desk. His inkstands were checked and every ink bottle was carefully wrapped in cloth. While Mrs Inglis polished the lamps and the candle-holders, Mr Greene went around the house. He inspected the ceiling of his study and the floor of the attic, looking for more bloody stains, for dead bodies and other strange occurrences. He found nothing of the sort and after shifting some dusty bags and two chairs covered in cobwebs from one side of the attic to the other, he sat down on one of them to think it all over again. In town, most people considered him the most learned man after the doctor and the priest. Therefore, he could not talk to anybody but these two. But how could he possibly tell them about the stain without being taken for a crazy old fool?

In the evening of that eventful day, Mr Greene retired early hoping for sound, dreamless sleep. His bedroom was situated on the second floor and its high French windows gave way on the garden. The evening was pleasant and the air fresh. Mr Greene arranged his slippers at the foot of the bed, propped up his pillows, put his nightcap on and slid under the fluffy covers. With a slow deep sigh, Mr Greene sipped his chamomile infusion and reflected on his day. The mysterious blood stain was still on his mind and its sudden appearance became the object of a thousand conjectures. What if the stain was a mere illusion? What if it was not real blood? What if Mrs Inglis and himself had just had a terrible fright because of something ordinary? Maybe it was a natural phenomenon. The possibility of the stain appearing again threw Mr Greene in a violent commotion. He wanted the stain out of his mind and wished it gone. The attempts to chase the stain out of his mind kept him awake until midnight but then, the fatigue had its say.

Mr Greene was already dozing off when a loud knocking downstairs threw him out of his pleasant slumber. Mr Greene sat up in bed and lit the orange tiffany lamp on his bedstead. This was too much. First the stain, now this. Meanwhile, someone had started banging violently on the front door. The clanging sound of the ring latches was so disturbing that it could have raised the dead. Soon, this was accompanied by shouting and what sounded like repetitive kicks at the wooden part of the heavy iron door. Muttering curses to himself, Mr Greene went down the stairs and looked through the peephole. Mrs Inglis had just risen and stood close behind him, her disheveled hair sticking on all sides from underneath her bonnet. A small man in a thick woolen coat paced impatiently outside. His gait was brisk and his movements swift for his age which was at least ninety.

“But… this can’t be! I know the man!” Mr Greene slid a large key into the lock and opened the door. “For God’s sake, James, what do you want with me at this hour?”

“Mr Edward, Sir,” said the old man and the wrinkles of his forehead deepened into heavy folds, “we don’t know what to do! We found something in Robert’s shop and he’s nowhere to be found. I came to fetch you.” The old man took his greasy chequered cap off and folded it nervously with both hands.

“Sir, Mr Mandeville, the doctor…” the old man paused.

“I know who Mr Mandeville is. What about him? Has something happened?”

“No, Sir, but he said you should come to town and lend him a hand. He said you were the man, Sir. That’s what he said… He’s the man, James. He’s the man.”

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