The Red Room by H.G. Wells
Adapted by EFLshorts.com
‘I tell you,’ I said angrily, ‘there are no ghosts*. I do not believe* in them.’ I sat in front of the fire with a glass in my hand. I looked at the old man and woman. They sat in front of the fire with me and warmed their hands.
‘It is your choice,*’ said the old man.
‘I am twenty-eight years old,’ I said, ‘and only children believe in ghosts.’
The old woman looked into the fire. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you are twenty-eight years old but you don’t know anything.’
‘You are trying to make me afraid,’ I said and put my glass down on the table. I stood up. There was a big mirror* in front of me. I looked at the mirror and saw my face. ‘I say again, there are no ghosts.’
The old man looked at me and I saw the fire in his eyes. ‘That is your choice.’
Just then, the door opened and another* old man came in. He walked very slowly and he looked a lot older than his friends. He had no hair and his teeth were yellow. He did not look at me. He went and sat in one of the chairs. I watched him sit down slowly.
‘My husband is right*: this has nothing to do with us. It is your choice,’ said the old woman.
‘I know,’ I said. ‘I heard you and I choose to stay. Now please take me to the room, I am tired and I want to sleep.’
‘You can go alone,’ said the old woman. ‘I am not taking you to that room.’
‘All right,’ I said. ‘Where do I go?’
‘The room is upstairs. Go along the corridor* and through a door. The red room is on your left,’ said the old man.
‘Goodnight to you all,’ I said but I did not move.
The three of them looked at me and I did not like the look on their faces. I laughed. ‘I am not going to die tonight. There is no ghost.’
They said nothing.
‘Goodnight,’ I said again and this time I left the room. When I closed the door, I heard the oldest man say something.
I heard him say: ‘Goodbye.’
*ghost (n) – a dead person’s image
*believe (v) – think that something is true
*choice (n) – make a decision (between alternatives)
*mirror (n) – glass that shows our face
*another (det) – one more
*right (adj) – not wrong
*corridor (n) – part of a house whose doors lead to other rooms
I took a candle* with me into the corridor. It was very dark. The light* from the candle was weak*. I was not happy. I was alone, tired and cold. I could not stop feeling afraid. The old people’s words worried me. I didn’t think it was true. I was not a child. But here – alone in the corridor – the thought of a ghost was very real. I walked up the dark corridor and held the candle in front of me.
The dark was all around me. I could not see the doors to the other rooms. I wanted to get upstairs. Slowly, I put one foot out and took one step at a time. I took my time. The steps up were wooden and made noises when I went up them. There was another corridor upstairs. I knew the red room was on my left – but where?
‘Not far now,’ I thought. I stopped and listened. Did I hear a noise? The dark moved closer to me and the light from the candle nearly went out. I put a hand around it. I could not let it go out. Shadows* moved around in the dark. A noise. I stopped again and listened but there was nothing. I moved on. I was a little afraid now. The dark did it to me. I wanted to sing or talk, to do something to break the quiet. I tried this and very quietly sang a little song. My voice sounded very loud in the dark, quiet corridor. It made me feel more alone and afraid, so I stopped. I moved slowly forward and looked at all the doors. I held my candle up to the doors. I needed to find the door to the red room quickly. Just then, in the dark, a white face looked out at me from the black shadow. I stopped. Was it a ghost? I took out my gun.
‘Who is there?’ I said.
Again, I slowly moved forward with my candle. The face came out the shadows but had no body. It was a picture – a picture of an old man’s face on the wall! I nearly laughed and put my gun back in my pocket.
After about a minute, I found the correct door. I stood in the shadows and waited before I opened the door. Why? I do not know the answer. Was I afraid? Perhaps. I stood and looked at the wooden door and did not move. It was a long time before I was ready. Then I opened the door. Here it was: the room of ghosts. Was this true? I was about to find out.
I went into the red room.
*candle – a wax object that we burn in order to get light
*light – brightness, the opposite of dark
*weak – not strong
*shadow – a dark area behind or below an object when the object stands in front of a light
After I went inside, I turned* and quickly closed the door behind me. There was a key* in the door so I locked* it. I held my candle up and looked around the room. I wanted to see it; the great red room of Lorraine Castle. In this room, a young duke died a long time ago. A young wife died too. She slept in the red room and for some fun her husband scared* her. Her fear* was terrible and she died in bed. I looked around the big dark room with all its shadows and dark windows… Was it true? Might I get a ghostly visit tonight?
I walked around the room and took my little light into all the corners. There was an old chair and a bed of course. I sat down on it. It was cold. I got up and went to the big windows. I wanted to see out but all I saw was the black of night. I took off my coat and put it on the chair. There was a mirror and a table. On top of this table were lots of candles. I lit all of these and put them all around the room. `Thank you, some light,’ I said to no one. There was a fire and the room was cold so I lit it and watched the smoke. I wanted the fire on all night. It gave light too. In a dark room you can never have too much light. I turned my back to the fire. It felt warm. I went to my coat and took out my gun from the pocket. I put the gun on the table. I wanted it close to me.
I stood for five minutes and warmed legs and watched the room. In one corner* it was very dark. I looked into the dark corner and after some time I began to see something there. My eyes began to water*. I moved forward with a candle. There was nothing there. I sat the candle on the floor to light up the corner. I then went back to stand in front of the fire.
Time moved slowly in the room. ‘There are no ghosts,’ I said to the shadows. The shadows didn’t answer. They moved in the candlelight. My eyes moved from left to right and tried to see through the dark. Everywhere I looked I thought I saw something or someone move. `There are no ghosts,’ I said. I thought about the three old people downstairs. I could call on them, but for what? I did not know. What was there to be afraid of? It was a room and that was all it was.
Just then I remembered the other candles in the corridor. I unlocked the door and went out the room. I left the door open and got the candles. There were ten of them. I went back in and put them around the room. `More candles,’ I thought,’ that is better.’ I turned and locked the door again. I now had seventeen candles and I could now see all of the room. ‘No ghost can visit this room. It has nowhere to hide.’
*turned – moved his body around
*key – an object for opening or locking doors
*locked – a door that has been closed with a key
*scared – afraid
*fear – nervousness caused by something that is frightening
*corner – a place where two sides (or walls) meet
*water – to run with tears (perhaps because the person isn’t blinking)
At midnight, the candle in the corner went out*. I did not see this: I just* turned around and saw the dark corner.
Was it the wind from the corridor? I knew it wasn’t. I walked over and lit the candle again with a match*. Just then, I saw something move on the wall, quick and sudden. I turned my head. The two candles on the table were out.
‘Did I do that?’ I thought. ‘Did I move quickly and the candles went out with my movement*?’ I walked back to light them again. When I did, the candle on my right went out and then the one next to it. No smoke came from the candles. At first, I didn’t understand. I stood and looked at them for a minute. Then the candle next to the bed went out.
‘What’s happening?’ I said. Then the candle in the corner went out again and then another*. One by one candles went out and the dark shadows came in.
‘I need these candles,’ I said. Who was I talking to? There was no one in the room. I took out my matches again. I began to light the candles again. I lit the candle in the corner again, but one candle at the window went out. I lit a candle next to the door and the one by the bed. But then four candles all went out at once in all the corners of the room. I lit another match and stood and watched.
Another two candles went out. I let out a cry. I dropped the matches and picked up* a candle. The candle in my hand burned* brightly. This was better: matches were too slow. I ran around and lit the candles in the room with the candle in my hand, but they all went out seconds later. I lit one and another two went out. I ran from candle to candle, corner to corner; and all the time, the darkness and shadows closed in on me. Now I was afraid.
I could not see. I ran and hit my leg on the table and fell. I let go of my candle and it went out. I stood up and got another. I turned around quickly and the candle went out again. Just then, the last two candles in the room went out. Now the only light in the room came from the fire. I moved towards the fire with my candle ready – and the fire went out too.
*went out – stopped shining, extinguished
*just – only, simply
*a match – a short, thin piece of wood for lighting fires
*movement – action
*another – one more
*picked up – held in one’s hand and raised
*burned – was aflame
Darkness – everything was black. I tried to see. There was nothing but cold, black shadows. Something moved. What was it? Did the shadows move? I let out a scream*. I tried to stand up. I waved* my arms around me. Again I saw something move and I screamed again. Was that a whisper*? I gave out a cry and ran to the door. I had to get away.
In the dark, I hit the bed. I ran around in the dark. I hit the table and the chair. I cried out again and again. Then I hit my head…
I opened my eyes. It was day and I could see the sun through the window. The old man from downstairs sat by my bed. He watched me closely. The old lady with the yellow teeth was there too.
`What happened?’ I asked. ‘I remember you but that is all.’
`We found you in the morning,’ said the old man. ‘There was blood* on your head.’
Very slowly, I remembered my night in the red room of Lorraine Castle.
`Now do you think there is a ghost in the room?’ asked the old man.
`Yes, ` I said, `the room is haunted*.’
`Did you see it?’ the old man asked. ‘Tell us… who was it? Who is the ghost? Is it the young Duke?’
‘No,’ I said, `it is not.’
‘Ha!’ said the old woman, `it is the wife, she died in her bed… `
‘No, ` I said, `it is not her. There is no ghost of the wife or the Duke in the room. It is not a ghost. It is worse, much worse, than that.’
‘What is it then?’ the old woman and man asked.
‘It is the worst thing, ‘I said. `I could not see it but it was with me in the corridor upstairs and it was with me in the room. ` I looked out the window. `It was darkness and fear.’
`Yes,’ said the old man with the yellow teeth. `I knew it. The dark… it is always there. In the day time it is there. It waits and watches. On a summer’s day in the room, it is there: you can feel it behind you. It has no face or body but you do not want to turn around and see it. It is in the corners at night and behind the curtains*. It lives in this house. It is haunted* and that is the room of death.’
I listened to the old man. He was right: I was lucky*. I was lucky to be alive*.
*a scream – a loud, frightened shout
*waved – moved arms (to attract attention or ‘say’ goodbye)
*a whisper – a very quite voice
*blood – the red fluid in our body
*haunted – frequented by a ghost or evil spirit
*curtains – fabric used at windows to block sunlight
*lucky – fortunate
*alive – not dead