Stacks Image 79

WALLPAPER 8/9

On a wallpaper pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind. The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.

You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream. The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions.

That is, sometimes.

There is one truly peculiar thing about this wallpaper, a thing nobody seems to notice but me. It changes as the light changes.

When the sun shoots in through the east window, I always watch for that first long, straight ray, it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it. That is why I always watch it. The moon shines in all night when there is a moon, I wouldn't know it was the same paper.

At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, overhead light, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern and the man behind it is as plain as can be.

I didn't realize for a long time what showed in the paper, that dim sub-pattern in the back, but now I am quite sure it is a teenage boy.

By daylight he is subdued, quiet. I imagine it is the pattern that keeps him still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me staring for hours.

I lie down ever so much now. Charlotte says it is good for me to sleep all I can. Indeed she started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal. I believe it is a very bad habit, I don't sleep.

The fact is I am getting a little afraid of Charlotte. She seems very distant sometimes. It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, that perhaps it is the wallpaper. I've caught her also staring at the wallpaper!

What is funny is that life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something to look forward to. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was when I had nothing. Charlotte is so pleased to see me improve. I had no intention of telling her it was because of the wallpaper. I no longer want to leave until I have figured it out. I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.

There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried. It is the strangest yellow. It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw, not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.


But there is something else about that paper, the smell. I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It drifts through the house. I find it floating in the dining room, sneaking through the living room, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs. It gets into my beard. Such a peculiar odor, too. I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to decide what it smelled like. It is not bad, at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever smelled. In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me. It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house down to escape it.

But now I am used to it. The only source I can think of is the color of the paper. A yellow smell.

There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the baseboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, straight, as if it had been rubbed over and over.

I wonder how it was done and who did it, and why they did it. Round and round and round, round and round and round.

I really have discovered something at last. The front pattern does move. The guy behind shakes it. Sometimes I think there are a great many men behind, and sometimes only one, and he crawls around fast, and his crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots he keeps still, and in the very shady spots he just takes hold of the bars and shakes them surprisingly hard.

And all the time he is trying trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern, it strangles him; I think that is why it has so many heads. If those heads were covered or taken off it would be easier to escape.

I think the guy gets out sometime. And I'll tell you why, I've seen him. I can see him out of every one of my windows. It is the same man, I know. He spies on me from below.

That top pattern should be pulled off from the under one. I began peeling the paper from the wall. There are only two more days before we leave for me to get this paper off, and I believe Charlotte is beginning to notice. I don't like the way she looks at me. I don't want to even talk to her.

Stacks Image 71
Stacks Image 73