5/12/04 [April Menu]
The Printable KISS Grammar Workbooks The KISS Workbooks Anthology

Notes for
"Squire Toby’s Will," 
by  J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)

 The Text of the Story

 Grade 11 Lit Literature Index
1st Paragraph AK SC  WB Free SC
2nd Paragraph AK SC  "

      There are certainly more important literary works that deserve to be represented on this KISS site, but finding interesting stylistic passages in them will require some time. I happened to be reading J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories (available from Dover Publications) and encountered these passages. Their style struck me, so I decided to add them now.
    Part of what makes them interesting is simply the length of the main clauses. The first sentence (a single main clause) in the first paragraph is 95 words long. Even more striking, perhaps, is the fact that thirty-nine words separate the direct object ("passing") of the main verb ("will remember") from its direct object ("house"). Professional writers average about twenty words per main clause, so thirty-nine words are almost twice the average length, and here they are not a main clause, but rather an insertion between the main finite verb and part of its direct object. What's going on?
    Perhaps the first thing we should note about this style is that Le Fanu's readers would probably have been accustomed to longer, more complex sentences. Longer sentences were part of the style of the times. Beyond that, however, this is a ghost story, and part of the trick of the fantastic is in creating a balance between the credible an the incredible. Thus, I would suggest, the core of Le Fanu's initial main clause is a pull-in toward the credible -- "Many persons ...  will remember passing ... a ... house ...." If many people will remember it, then it must be true. (And, by implication, this story must be true.) Many of the subordinated details in the first part of the first sentence add to that pull toward credibility, including the reference to "the old York and London road." The exact location of the house ("about three miles south of the town of Applebury and a mile and a half before you reach the old Angel Inn") is, essentially, irrelevant to the plot or theme of the story. Its purpose is more to establish the narrator as a precise recorder of events, a recorder who invites readers to verify his account. (Thus we get "before you reach" rather than "before I reached.")
     The details in the rest of the first sentence (and the rest of the first paragraph) imply a variety of contrasts that may be intentionally unclear. These contrasts may be initiated in the "black-and-white" of the house, which could, by implication, suggest black or white, either / or thinking. One of the contrasts is between the "old" and the "new." The emphasis here is on the old -- "the old Angel Inn," "those old-fashioned ... habitations," "ancient elms," "old and gigantic." The old, however, is being seen from the present, the "now," as the wide avenue is "now overgrown." The paragraph, however, complicates the question by reminding us that what is now old was once new, and not only that, but also that "old" and "new" are cyclical.
     By implication, the house that is now "dilapidated and weather-stained" was once new and free from stain. Similarly, the avenue that is "now" overgrown, was once clear. Likewise, a close reading suggests that the gaps in the trees that form the double-rowed flanks of the avenue were not always there. The gaps appear to have been formed as some of the trees have fallen, some across the avenue, and then been cleared away -- "with sometimes a fallen tree lying across on the avenue."
     The initial paragraph develops still another contrast, between light and bright as opposed to dark and solemn. "Glimmering," "evening sun" and "diamond panes" suggest brightness, but these are "thrown into relief" by "a dense background" and "dark ["gigantic"] trees" in "solemn files" with "here and there a gap [of light?] in their solemn files."
     Taken together, these contrasts develop still another, that between civilization and nature. The conflict between civilization and nature is central to  many literary works, as it is a central question of human life. Thus the exact meaning of the two terms ("civilization" and "nature") depend upon the context in which the conflict appears. In general, "civilization" is what man does or has done to his environment -- it is what man has built. "Nature" is either what God has done (the natural world), or those mysterious aspects of "nature" than man can neither understand nor control. Since "Squire Toby's Will" is a ghost story, "nature" here is probably best interpreted as the latter -- the mysterious, and the uncontrollable.
     The opening lines of the first sentence suggest that "civilization," among other things, includes mankind's pride in logical, mental measurement. When we measure nature, perhaps we can control it. And does "cage-work habitations" suggest that we try to cage nature -- both nature external to us and human nature? The "lattice" windows would also have had significant connotations for many of Le Fanu's readers. In one sense, they are the sign of an alehouse, but they also evoke William Blake's "mind-forg'd manacles" in his famous poem "London." On windows, lattice breaks the view of external nature by superimposing a fairly precise, mathematical gridwork. [1] Later in the paragraph, we find the "wide avenue" "flanked by double rows of ... trees." Nature does not make avenues, nor do trees naturally grow in double rows. But in this description, nature is taking back her own, as the avenue is "now overgrown" and there are gaps in the rows.
     No reader, of course, is going to think through the implications of this first paragraph in anywhere near the detail just discussed, but that, perhaps, is precisely the point. One way of looking at sentences is to compared them to trains that are generated ("loaded" with information) in a writer's or speaker's mind. These "trains" are sent out (on paper or by sound), and received by readers or listeners who decode them (unload the train). In unloading the train, readers evaluate the "load" (the content) in a number of ways. For one, they accept it as making sense, or they reject it as nonsensical. (See the discussion, below, about the second paragraph.) Good readers, however, will also question the validity (at the simplest level, the truth or falsehood) of the statement. [2] In this paragraph, the two main S/V/C patterns should obviously be accepted be readers as the truth. The 146 words in the first paragraph are all contained in two main clauses, the first of which has been discussed above. It invites readers to verify for themselves the veracity of the account. The second main S/V/C pattern is the simple, and easily believable "A[n] ... avenue ... leads up to the hall door."
     The length of these two main clauses (95 and 51 words, respectively) makes them especially difficult to process. (See the psycholinguistic model of how the brain processes language.) Readers simply cannot stop, or even slow down, to consider the validity or even the meaning of most of the subordinated details. The train analogy might be particularly relevant to this passage since these two "trains" are so huge. In reading these two sentences, it is almost as if one is in a massive train, chewing up the tracks at sixty miles per hour, and the subordinated details are, to stretch the analogy, the scenery one sees through the train window. It is obviously there; it certainly adds to the mood or atmosphere, but it is such a blur that one cannot really study it or make it out. It is mysterious. Stylistically, in other words, Le Fanu uses massive subordination to create another contrast. On the surface (the main S/V/C patterns), this is a simple, true, and obviously credible tale. Underneath, however, things are not quite so clear. Is the scene being described old, or new? Dark, or bright? Uncivilized, or civilized? Controllable, or uncontrollable? Underneath it all, the subordinated elements suggest that life is mysterious, as it should be for a ghost story.
     Le Fanu ends that first paragraph with the avenue that "leads up to the hall door." Most readers probably expect that in the next paragraph they will be invited to enter through that door. But in a good ghost story, what you expect is not what you get. In the second paragraph, we find ourselves far from that door, back out at the end of the avenue and looking up it from the top of the London coach. [3] Much could be said about the style of this second paragraph. Perhaps the most important concerns the core of the initial (topic) sentence -- "... you are struck with so many signs of desertion and decay ..." The rest of the paragraph is primarily an explication of these signs, most of which pick up the subordinated contrasts in the first paragraph, make them more explicit, and also tend to resolve them with a focus on the old, decayed, dark, and mysterious. 
      A stylistic trick that adds to the mysterious tone of the paragraph is the placing of long, complex modifiers before the word they modify. Thus the first word in the paragraph is "Looking," but we do not know who is looking until nineteen words later, when we hit the subject "you." The implication of the KISS psycholinguistic model is that readers will perceive "Looking" and have to hold it in working memory, chunking the following words to it, but always still watching for the word to which "Looking" itself chunks. Nineteen words result in a relatively long wait, thereby raising questions, and increasing the mysteriousness. Perhaps an even better example appears later in the paragraph -- " ... further on you pass, embowered in melancholy trees, a small and ruinous Saxon chapel ...." Here again, the psycholinguistic model suggests that readers, having read the subject and verb "you pass," will be expecting a direct object. But instead of getting that direct object, we get a somewhat mysterious description of it first ("embowered in melancholy trees"). Thoughtful readers will be momentarily mystified by that -- What could be embowered {"embowered"?) in melancholy trees? Some (of my) readers may consider this as a very subtle point, but then, the subtlety of Le Fanu's style is my point. Note the difference, had the sentence been written -- "you pass a small and ruinous Saxon chapel embowered in melancholy trees." The question, the mystification, disappears.
     The style of this second paragraph is worth discussing. Note, for example, how some of the S/V/C patterns still evoke the readers' consent -- "you are struck," "you conclude," "you pass."  But my primary reason for including this paragraph is an error that appears in the Dover edition. There, the second paragraph reads:

       Looking up its somber and lifeless avenue from the top of the London coach, as I have often done, you are struck with so many signs of desertion and decay – the tufted grass sprouting in the chinks of the steps and window stones, the smokeless chimneys over which the jackdaws are wheeling, the absence of human life and all its evidence, that you conclude at once that the place is uninhabited and abandoned to decay. The name of this ancient house is Gylingden Hall. Tall hedges and old timber quickly shroud the old place from view, and about a quarter of a mile further on your pass, embowered in melancholy trees, a small and ruinous Saxon chapel, which, time out of mind, has been the burying place of the family of Marston, and partakes of the neglect and desolation which brood over their ancient dwelling place. (31)
My guess is that most readers will be, as I was, very confused by that last sentence. The sentence did not (does not?) make sense because I could not find a main subject and verb. I processed "on your pass" as a prepositional phrase. And because Le Fanu so frequently separates modifiers from the words that they modify, I was not particularly bothered by "embowered . . .," but then I processed "chapel" as a subject, "embowered" being chunked to it. Then, as I continued to read, I subconsciously sought the verb that goes with "chapel." Some twenty-nine words later, I hit the period. No verb, just confusion. Perhaps the most interesting thing you can do with either of these paragraphs is simply to give students the second one, have them discuss it, analyze it, and then note how a simple error can cause major confusion, especially in long, complicated main clauses.

Using these Selections for Exercises

     You can, of course, simply have students analyze one or both of these selections and be done with them. A more productive approach, however, might be to make these the assignments for two or three weeks of work. Start with sentence combining or decombining. 
     Thus you might give the students the sentence-combining exercise, without letting them see Le Fanu's original, and have them combine some of the sentences. If possible, have the students share their versions with their classmates. (One fairly efficient way to do this is to have them use washable ink pens to write their versions on overhead transparencies. Then the students can simply put their versions on the overhead and explain what they did and why.) Remember that length and complexity are not absolute virtues. Many readers are not accustomed to the length and complexity of sentences such as those written by Le Fanu. Many readers may simply be confused by such length. For a modern audience, simpler sentences might be more effective. 
     Another approach would be to give the students Le Fanu's original and have the students decombine the sentences. This may be a very effective approach because educational psychologists such as Piaget and Vygotsky have argued that cognitive mastery involves reversibility -- sentence combining is a mental operation, the reverse of which is decombining. And if you think that students who can effectively combine sentences can automatically decombine them, simply have your students try it. As with the combining exercise, here too the question is one of audience, style, and purpose. 
     My own decombinations of these passages are not very elegant, but note, for example, how my version of the second paragraph emphasizes "tall" and "old" by taking them out of their original sentence ("Tall hedges and old timber quickly shroud the old place from view, ....") and making them separate predications ("The hedges are tall, and  the timber is old, and the place is old.") Perhaps even more important from a stylistic point of view, my revision of the first paragraph takes "black-and-white" out of the 95-word main clause in which it is buried and raises it to a separate statement ("The house was black-and-white."). Because my purpose was simply to chop the text into smaller units for the students to combine, this change is not very meaningful -- all the sentences in my version are relatively short. If, however, one combines most of the other sentences and leaves "The house was black-and-white" as a short and simple sentence, "black-and-white" is emphasized -- "black-and-white," "yes" and "no," "true" and "false." The emphasis on "black-and-white" would, I would suggest, reinforce the tension between "credible" and "incredible" that was discussed above.
      Teachers can, of course, simply have the students do a combining or decombining version of these passages and be done with them, but it might be helpful to have students analyze and discuss the syntax of their own combined or de-combined versions of the text. To what extent did they use subordinate clauses? Gerundives? Post-positioned adjectives? Did they, for example, use "dilapidated" as a finite verb in a main clause? ("They [The houses] were dilapidated.") Or did they use it in a subordinate clause? ("which were dilapidated.") Or did they use it as Le Fanu did, as a post-positioned gerundive? ("house ... ,dilapidated") Or did they move it before the noun it modifies? ("a large black-and-white, dilapidated and weather-stained house"). Note that the purpose of this exercise and discussion is not to suggest that some options are right and others are wrong, but rather to show students that there are many correct choices that they can make in developing well-formed, meaningful sentences.
     The syntactic analysis of Le Fanu's original version should be much more interesting and meaningful for students if it is preceded by either the combining or de-combining exercise and then by the students' analysis of their own versions. I seriously doubt that any student will have recreated Le Fanu's opening 95-word main clause, nor would I suggest that 95-word main clauses are stylistically good, but showing students Le Fanu's original, and discussing it with them (even if you do not have them analyze it), will show students not only that some writers do use such long and complex clauses, but also that the students can learn how to decode and make meaning from such sentences.
     The following table suggests a sequence of three assignments and class work based on just the first paragraph, and the time that such work might take.

# Assignment Time 
1 Do the sentence combining (or de-combining) exercise. 30 min
2 Class discussion of the results. 30 min
3 Students analyze their own versions. 20 min
4 Class discussion of the results. 30 min
5 Students analyze Le Fanu's original 20 min
6 Class discussion of the results. 30 min
The last two time estimates assume that the students have already had a fair amount of practice at KISS Level Four. (They are accustomed to identifying prepositional phrases, S/V/C patterns, clauses, and verbals.) My experience suggests that some students will only need ten minutes to analyze the passage, whereas some will not finish in twenty. Obviously the class discussions could take significantly more or less time, depending on the the students' interest and the degree of detail and variations that the teacher wants to cover. However thirty minutes should provide plenty of time to cover at least some of the major different stylistic possibilities.
     The preceding estimates suggest that a teacher could have the students do and discuss all three assignments in three 50-minute class periods by doing the assignment in the first part of the class period and then using the rest of the period to discuss the results. Personally, I would prefer to have the students do their individual work as homework. This wastes less time for the students who can complete it quickly, and it allows more time for those students who need it. It also saves class time for discussions of other things. For example, if the students have read the story, they can spend that extra class time either discussing or writing about other aspects of the story.

1 Some readers may feel that this interpretation of "lattice" is a big stretch. That may be true,  but we need to remember two things. First, there was no radio or television in Le Fanu's time. Instead, people spent more time reading. And one of the primary sources of themes in those days was the conflict between nature and civilization, especially because of the effects of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, readers would have been very likely to pick up, consciously or unconsciously, many of the symbols that writers were using to portray that conflict. From this perspective, "lattice" is a rather obvious symbol of man's imposition of his "straight mental lines" into (or onto) the world of nature.
2. There is a reason for the traditional use of the term "predicate." If we look at language from a philosophical/logical frame of reference, simple statements (main clauses) are "predications" about the grammatical subject. A primary interest of many philosophers is, and has been, how to evaluate the truth or validity of such predications. The philosophical evaluation of predications is a complex field in itself, but consider, for example, the statement, "John lied to us." The obvious question for the reader or listener is "Did he lie, or didn't he?" In other words, is that statement, that predication, valid or invalid? In essence, good readers question the validity of every sentence, every main clause, that they read. (This may be, indeed, the primary difference between good and weak readers.) 
     Note that what we question is almost always the predication in the main S/V/C clause pattern. If, for example, we have the sentence "My old friend John lied to us," rarely, if ever, will anyone ask in response "Is John your old friend?" Whether it is oral or written, language is usually upon us so fast that we simply accept subordinate, modifying elements in the sentence patterns.
3. The expectation that the second paragraph will take readers through the hall door is, in part,  the result of "avenue .. leads up to the hall door" being the main S/V/C pattern in this 51-word main clause, especially since "leads up to the hall door" are the last words in the sentence. You might find it interesting to have students play with, and discuss their versions of, the decombining of this paragraph. In my version, "leads to the hall door" is located much earlier in the paragraph. Many students may, however, revise the passage such that "The avenue leads up to the hall door" is the final sentence in the paragraph. The important activity here is the discussion of different students' versions. Language is a communal activity to which we all bring individualized sets of expectations. To understand the effects of stylistic differences, we have to understand (thus discuss) different people's reactions to different situations. In this case, my own sense is that if the final sentence in this paragraph were "The avenue leads up to the hall door," most readers would have even stronger expectations that the next paragraph would at least begin with a focus on that door. The fact that it does not would thus result in an even stronger jarring of expectations, thereby losing the subtlety, perhaps even undercutting the credibility, that Le Fanu has created in the first paragraph.

An Exercise on Semicolons

     An entirely different way to use this story as an exercise in grammatical style is to have students study the semicolons in it. Semicolons cause most students so many problems that some instructors simply tell students not to use them. The grammar textbooks don't help. Most textbooks give students the rule that semicolons are used to join main clauses, especially when the ideas in the main clauses convey contrasting ideas. For most students, this rule is useless because the textbooks never teach students to identify main clauses. 
     Within the KISS framework, however, most tenth graders should be able to identify clauses. Have the students use the electronic version of this story (See below.) to copy and paste all the sentences in it that include a semicolon into a separate document. (They should be able to use the "Find" function in a browser or word processor to do this relatively easily.) Then have them analyze the copied sentences and discuss what they find about how Le Fanu uses the semicolon.

A Literary Perspective

     People read literature for different reasons, and obviously some people read stories like "Squire Toby's Will" simply because they like ghost stories. There are, however, some people who like to analyze what they read. Such analysis can provide interesting material not only for discussion, but also for exercises in writing. The following study questions might serve as a starting point. They are followed by my own essay into the nature of the story. 

Study Questions

1. Characterize Squire Toby Marston.
2. Characterize his two sons, Scroope and Charlie. Pay special attention to any characteristics that suggest they are either good or evil.
3. Characterize Tom Cooper. What does he add to the story? (How would the story be different if he were not in it?)
4. Characterize the dog with the huge black head, and then explain its function in the story.
5. Describe and then explain the importance of the setting of the story.
6. What is the most important conflict in the story? Why?
7. Does this story have a theme (moral)? If so, what is it? [At one point in the story, the narrator states: "It behooves us all to act promptly on our good resolutions. There is a determined gravitation towards evil, which, if left to itself, will bear down first intentions." (46) Could this be the theme?]
8. Is this a ghost story, or a detective / mystery? [For an interesting class period, divide the class into two groups for a debate. One group should argue that there is a logical explanation to the events in this story, that it is, in fact, a detective, not a ghost story. The other group should be prepared to find the flaws in the first group's arguments, thereby arguing that it is, indeed, a ghost story.]

An Excellent Writing Assignment

     For more than twenty-five years, I have struggled with the problems of teaching students how to write. During the last two years, my perceptions have changed, primarily as a result of analyzing the students' sample essays from state standards documents. Most of the standards evaluate students for focus,  organization, and content, almost as if these are separate teachable domains. And, indeed, we often try to teach them as such. I myself  spend a lot of class time on thesis (for focus) and on outlining (for organization). But in looking at the evaluations of students' samples, it seems to me that problems in focus and organization are dependent on the problem of details. If students do not not have details, they have nothing to organize and nothing to focus that organization around.
     I have, of course, also devoted a lot of class time to the question of details, but when students write about their own experiences, as they often do in writing classes, neither the instructor nor their classmates (in peer review groups) have access to the experiences about which the students are writing. Thus it is extremely difficult to point out to students the kinds of details that could have been included.
     Writing about literary works eliminates this problem, but it does so only if we can get students beyond a simple retelling of the plot. The classroom debate (suggested in Study Question # 8, above) should provide every student with plenty of details as well as a focus around which they can organize their own and their classmates' ideas. If you plan on using this question as a writing assignment, tell the students so before they read the story and then encourage them to take notes during the class debate. Personally, I would let students argue the side they believe in (ghost or detective), regardless of the side they were assigned to for the debate.

"Squire Toby's Will" -- Ghost Story, or Detective Story?

      Of the four stories by J. Sheridan Le Fanu in Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories (Dover Thrift Edition, 1993) "Squire Toby's Will" is the only one that is specifically designated as a "Ghost Story" as part of its title -- or, for those who like to be precise, subtitle. Precise, careful (and suspicious) readers may wonder about that. What does this special designation add to the story? Or, if they are all ghost stories, why don't they all have this designation? Could it be that "Squire Toby's Will" is subtitled "A Ghost Story" because, in fact, it is ultimately not a ghost story? Could it be that someone, with a reason, wants readers to think that it is a ghost story? Perhaps, instead, it is a mystery story.
     The carefully done syntactic balance, in the opening paragraphs, between the believable and the mysterious (described above), may introduce a similar balancing act between a ghost story (with a supernatural explanation) and a detective story (with a much more realistic explanation). "Squire Toby's Will" may well be Tom Cooper's invention to cover his theft and murder of Charlie Marston. As long as people consider the tale to be a "ghost story," they will not suspect Tom Cooper.
     Perhaps the first thing we need to note is that the narrator is never identified or characterized. He appears to be telling a tale about a place with which he is familiar, and he sometimes gives his impressions. For example, he notes that "I don't think, with the exception of old Cooper, that the servants cared for this prohibition [regarding Scroope's funeral], except as it baulked a curiosity always strong in the solitude of the country." (49) But perhaps this relatively rare intrusion of the narrative "I" simply draws attention both to Cooper, and to the following sentence -- "Cooper was very much vexed that the eldest son of the old Squire should be buried in the old family chapel, and no sign of decent respect from Gylingden Hall." The rest of this rather lengthy paragraph describes the heated confrontation between Cooper and his master, Charlie Marston.
     That Cooper himself must be the source of the narrator's tale is suggested a couple of pages later when we are told that "The Squire, Cooper said, looked 'awful bad,' ..." (53) Clearly, Cooper is the source of much of the story since, for much of the story, he was the only one who was with the Squire -- he is the primary living witness. This is reaffirmed at the end where we are told that "old Cooper had his own opinion about the Squire's death, though his lips were sealed, and he never spoke about it." (58) Obviously, the narrator could not have known that Cooper had "his own opinion" unless Cooper had, to some degree at least, discussed the Squire's life. The next sentence, the last in the story, raises further suspicions about Cooper's role in the Squire's death. We are told that 

He went and lived for the residue of his days in York, where there are still people who remember him, a taciturn and surly old man, who attended church regularly, and also drank a little, and was known to have saved some money.
Where did Cooper, who spent most of his years as a servant of the Marstons, get the money? We were told that the Squire gave Cooper "a fifty" from the rents of Hazelden (57), but the source of this information has to be Cooper since the two were alone at the time. Interestingly, we are also told that Nelly Carwell was to get the other fifty from the rents. The Squire might have given Cooper this money, but the fact that it is mentioned in the story might be Cooper's way of explaining his access to cash upon his master's death -- with the gift to Nelly being a means of diverting suspicion.
     If he did kill Charlie Marston, Cooper's motive would seem to be his previously mentioned anger at Charlie's disrespect for the deceased Scroope. Cooper was a faithful family servant, with his loyalty being more to the family as a whole (and to its reputation) than to any specific member. Thus he may have viewed Charlie's death as just retribution, a retribution in which he may well have been willing to assist. This may also explain why, at the end of his life, he was "taciturn and surly, ...attended church regularly, and also drank a little."
     Cooper's specific actions in relation to Charlie's death are never clear, but for people who do not believe in ghosts, it seems clear that he was, at least to some extent, responsible for it. No one else was around. Cooper found Charlie hanging on the inside of a closed closet door in King Herod's chamber:
     When he pushed open the door, his master was lying dead upon the floor. His cravat was drawn halter-wise tight round his throat, and had done its work well. The body was cold, and had been long dead. (58)
But Cooper is the only witness to this. For all that readers know, Cooper could have hanged him there. While that is a possibility, it may be more likely that Cooper simply drove him to suicide.
     Tom Cooper is first mentioned after the description of Charlie's near-death experience -- "Tom Cooper, who had been butler in the palmy days of Gylingden Hall, under old Squire Toby, still maintained his post with old-fashioned fidelity ...." (35) When Tom asks Charlie why he is so down in spirit, Charlie reveals that, during his deathly experience, his father was "with" him and "was bullying [him] about some one thing....." Charlie, however, cannot figure out what it was, except, perhaps, for the "paper of settlements." His brother Scroope had claimed that Charlie and their father  had "made away" with the document, a document which would have given the estate to Scroope. Charlie notes that Scroope "swore he'd hang me yet for it. He said it in them identical words -- he'd never rest till he hanged me for it...." (37) It is, in other words, Scroope who, in Charlie's dream, introduces both the settlement papers and the idea of hanging Charlie.
     Since Charlie claims to have no knowledge of such a document, he asks Tom if he might have. Tom's thoughts, however, go in a different direction. He suggests that his father may have appeared to him because, in the twenty years since his father's death, no tombstone had been put over his grave. Tom, it appears, is more concerned about the family's responsibilities and reputation. Charlie agrees to pay for an engraved tombstone, and they visit the gravesite. As they return, they meet the strange dog.
     Where the dog came from, if indeed it did exist, is never clarified. It could have been a simple stray, or it could have been a dog that resembled Squire Toby and that was found and brought near the estate by Tom. It is while the dog is with them that Charlie supposedly dreams again, discovers King Herod's chamber, and discovers the settlement papers. Finally, Charlie orders that the dog be shot, noting that "old Cooper says he's a witch." (46)  Previously the narrator noted that Cooper "remembered more tales of witchcraft than are now current in that part of the world." (39) It is possible, therefore, that the entire stories about the dog, about King Herod's chamber, and about the settlement papers are tales of witchcraft invented by Tom both to punish Charlie for not properly respecting his father's death and to cover his own role in Charlie's death.
     Once again Charlie dreams, this time seeing two figures by his bedside. This could have been a real dream, or it could have been Tom talking to Charlie while he slept, thereby creating the "dream." This time, however, Tom also reports his own dream:
I was adreamed about him, too, sir: I dreamed he was dammin' and sinkin' about a hole was burnt in his coat, and the old master, God be wi' him! said -- quite plain -- I'd 'a swore 'twas himself -- 'Cooper, get up, ye d----d land-loupin' thief, and lend a hand to hang him -- for he's a daft cur, and no dog o' mine.'' (48)
Tom's dream, of course, validates Charlie's (in Charlie's mind), thereby reinforcing Charlie's fear. But Tom's dream also indirectly introduces the idea that Tom is a thief and that he is supposed to assist in hanging Charlie.
     Nothing in the story ever suggests that Tom liked or respected Charlie, but Charlie's reaction to Scroope's death clearly antagonizes Tom. Charlie refuses to participate in the funeral, prohibits the servants from participating, and closes the house to the members of the funeral procession. "Cooper was very much vexed that the eldest son of the old Squire should be buried in the old family chapel, and no sign of decent respect from Gylingden Hall." (49) He "expostulated stoutly," but Charlie refuses to give in. Obviously, Tom is not  happy with Charlie.
     Having watched the funeral procession from a distance, Tom claims to have seen two men in black enter Gylingden Hall and mysteriously disappear. He implies that these men are the ghosts of Toby and Scroope, and discusses them with the servants. These discussions reach Charlie, increasing his fear. Later, however, Cooper thinks "that the two mourners might have left the house and driven away, on finding no one to receive them." (51) But after the appearance of these two, "the house was troubled," and the servants begin to leave. "Steps and voices followed them sometimes in the passages, and tittering whispers, always minatory, scared them at corners of the galleries . . . ." (50) Are these sounds evidence of ghosts? Or might they be the normal fears of servants in a big house with a mentally unbalanced master? And might the sounds and voices be the creations of Tom Cooper?
     We are told that "Old Cooper was testy and captious about these stories" (51), but Charlie rebukes Tom for frightening the servants "wi' your plaguy stories." Tension builds, and Cooper has another dream, a dream in which he hears "a stern deep voice, saying, 'You wern't at the funeral; I might take your life ....'" This reminds Cooper of his previous dream, the dream in which he was instructed to assist in the hanging of Charlie. Immediately after this dream, Cooper is summoned by the bell to Charlie's room, where he finds Charlie frantically afraid "in the tone of a man who expects a robber." (52) A doctor is summoned, and nurses are brought in to stay with Charlie.
     Charlie warns the nurses about a fellow who sometimes comes to the door, telling them that:
He looks in at the door and beckons, -- a thin, hump-backed chap in mourning, wi' black gloves on; ye'll know him by his lean face, as brown as the wainscot: don't ye mind his smilin'. You don't go out to him, nor ask him in; he won't say nout; and if he grows anger'd and looks awry at ye, don't ye be afeared, for he can't hurt ye, and he'll grow tired waitin', and go away; and for God's sake mind ye don't ask him in, nor go out after him! (54)
Obviously Charlie is deathly afraid of this fellow, who apparently has appeared several times. He might be a ghost, but his description may remind careful readers of Tom who "had grown lean, and stooped, and his face, dark with the peculiar brown of age, furrowed and gnarled ..." (35) "Brown" is an unusual way to describe the color of a face, and Charlie may not have made the connection because he has always assumed that Tom is a faithful servant. Could Tom's protest that no such person exists simply be a cover for the fact that he has intentionally been appearing at the door to spook Charlie?
      But the nurses are spooked as well, and they later summon Tom to tell him that "The man with the hump has been atryin' the door." (54) Meanwhile, Charlie has been "saying Scroope every minute." This leads to Tom's search of the hallway, where Tom himself claims to be wavering, sometimes thinking that it is Scroope's ghost, sometimes thinking that it is only the shadows from a flickering candle. This ends when "[i]nto his master's room burst old Cooper, half wild with fear, and clapped the door and turned the key in a twinkling, looking as if he had been pursued by murderers." (55) It might have been a ghost, or it might have been Tom's own fearful imagination, or it could all have been another act on Tom's part, intended to further scare Charlie.
     In addition, of course, it scares the nurses such that Tom becomes Charlie's "only nightly attendant." The narrator tells us that, in the following conversations between Charlie and Tom, Tom appears to be "awefully frightened," but we need to remember that the narrator is retelling a story the source of which has to be Tom. And, if Tom really was frightened, the ghosts that frightened him  were those that told him to assist in the hanging of Charlie.
     Tom may or may not have literally hanged Charlie, but surely there is evidence to suggest that if he did not hang him, Tom, and not supernatural ghosts, drove Charlie to suicide. He had motive, he had means, and he had opportunity. "Squire Toby's Will" may be a ghost story, but perhaps it is a detective/mystery. In an episode of the popular TV serial C.S.I., the investigators discuss Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. One says that it is a ghost story, but as Grisham notes, it may be, if one believes in ghosts. Otherwise, it is a mystery. So it may be with "Squire Toby's Will."
-- Ed Vavra