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Scarlet Runners

By James S. Pyke-Nott

THIS is the story of a house—its history.
It was a well-kept house when first I knew it, big—for a
house of this kind—and very imposing ; and it was very com-
monly said that many persons would give their eyes to possess it.
But the persons who were thus talked about never thought of it
as a house at all ; and they couldn t have got inside it, even if
they had wished to get there, which they never thought of wish-
ing ; so it is difficult to understand why they wanted it, for as a
mere ornament it was too large and too unmanageable. I speak
of it simply as a house, because I am trying to be charitable, and
I believe that up to the very last it was a comfortable place to live
in—very safe, and always well stored with provisions. I will tell
about those who lived in it after I have explained what a really
wonderful house it was, for then its inmates will be less surprising.
It could move, even when not on wheels, and frequently did so
move ; and once it moved astonishingly fast—and I will tell about
that too in a little while. Yes, it was wonderfully built : what
wonderful machinery it had ! and how wonderfully the machinery
kept in order !

This house, like all houses of its kind, was haunted. It did
not look haunted, very few houses that are in good repair do ; for


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ghosts have many affectations, and with them it is unfashionable to
appear in houses that are not dilapidated : also many of them are
shy, and some are proud, and others are sleepy, so, when a house
comes alongside another house, their ghosts as a rule sit quite still
and content themselves with listening to the conversation of the
houses. But those whom the stories are mostly told about are
of course the more eager and restless spirits, who can be seen
looking out through the windows of their houses, and are often
accompanied by strange lights. Some of these are affectionate
ghosts, who long to know their fellow ghosts, and to be under-
stood by them ; and many sad stories are told about these

It is pleasant to sit and talk of ghosts. None of our stern wise
elders can come and vex us with certificated knowledge : we get
to know each other, and that is a great matter, and a very difficult
matter, for generations of wise men have constructed cases for us,
and written out labels to be stuck on us, and classified all our
thoughts ; and wise men of the present come round and say, ” Ah,
yes ; this is a thing we thoroughly understand.” And that is
hateful, and it is absurd ; for we are really ghosts—we are like
those of whom I have spoken, of whom the sad stories are

We will talk no more of ghosts, or we shall sleep less soundly
than we ought to sleep—and I promised to tell about the inmates
of this haunted house. They were not at all troubled by their
ghost ; but then they were many, and they spent all their time in
dancing. I never knew exactly how many they were, it would
not have been easy to count them. Night and day they danced
down the corridors and up the passages, and through a hall where
a wonderful machine beat out the time for them, and seized them
as they approached and whirled them round and sent them off


                        99 By James S. Pyke-Nott

again down the corridors, and that was great fun. It was never
very light in any part of the dwelling—if that could be called a
dwelling where nobody dwelt for an instant, for these people even
slept dancing—but they could see each other quite well, for they
were all dressed in scarlet.

They must have been fond of dancing, and certainly there
was plenty of company, but I think they found it monotonous,
for whenever they found a crack in the walls they at once forced
their way out into the open, although they always died imme-
diately. But these sad occurrences were rare, for, as I have said,
this was an unusually safe house to live in ; it was quite distressed
when it saw its inmates rush out and die, and so it did its very
best to keep from being injured.

One day a great battle was fought between the houses of two
neighbouring countries, and soon so much smoke arose that it
became difficult to see what was going on ; but the matter did
not end in smoke, for many houses were destroyed, and many
were grievously damaged. And this house was present at the
first : and this is the story I promised to tell. Perhaps it
could not help being present, and certainly as soon as the
hostile houses hove in sight it thought of its inmates and the
danger into which it was bringing them ; but it did not fully
realise the cruelty of remaining where it was until the approaching
houses began to open fire, and then it determined to remain there
no longer. Yes, it had wonderful machinery ! It was a splendid
house to live in.

Nevertheless these bright little dancers come to a woeful and
untimely end. Years went by and they still danced on in safety,
but danger often lurked outside now ; and their house outside
looked less and less desirable—nobody wished to possess it any
longer. And one day there was a violent jerk and then some of


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the passages became blocked, and then the company began to
crowd upon each other. The measure died out : silence and
stillness settled throughout the place ; the dancers rested in
crushed heaps.

Their house had been hanged.

MLA citation:

Pyke-Nott, James S. “Scarlet Runners.” The Yellow Book, vol. 11, October 1896, pp. 97-100. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.