Poor Jane. She has so looked forward to her first child, and now that he’s here, she can barely hold him without bursting into tears. John assures us that nothing is really wrong with her, just a temporary nervous depression or slight hysterical tendency. He thinks she will improve quickly if he takes her away to the countryside for awhile, and he’s asked me to go with them to keep house and be a companion for Jane.
Of course, I told my dearest John I would be happy to go with them. I love Jane as if she is truly my sister by blood and not just bound to us by marriage. I shall do my utmost to help her get well and to keep both their spirits up.
I feel a bit foolish writing under cover of darkness like a naughty school girl reading romances, but John has made it clear that writing would be harmful for Jane, and I can hardly be seen writing when she is forbidden. I don’t see what harm could come from a little writing; in fact, writing down my thoughts always helps me to understand them a bit better, but I suppose John knows best. As he is so fond of telling us all, he is the doctor.
The house John has rented is lovely. I could spend hours in the garden talking with Jane if only she would talk to me. She’s gone cold and silent in a way she never was before we came here, and that worries me.
Little John is doing well under Mary’s care, and for that we are all grateful.
I must admit that I grow ever more perplexed at my brother’s behavior. He does not seem himself in the least. John has always been somewhat supercilious but no more than any other man who has risen to the top of a difficult profession. He has always listened to me and regarded my opinion, and his relationship with Jane seemed much the same. Since we came to this house, though, he has grown ever more dismissive. He will not acquiesce to even the most innocuous requests Jane makes, and I do not understand why.
He has chosen the most awful room for them to sleep in, and since he intends for Jane to mostly sleep, that room has become the entirety of the house for her. The room is covered in wallpaper so obnoxiously yellow that I cannot even describe it, and the pattern gives me a headache. The room is in general disrepair—great gouges on the floor, places where the paper has been ripped away (and I say bully for whoever tried to liberate the room from that monstrosity)—and I cannot understand why John won’t let Jane sleep in that perfectly lovely room downstairs with the chintz drapes. He even said he’d repaper the room for her one evening, and by breakfast, he’d decided he would do no such thing, stating outright that repapering the room would only be giving in to silly whims that shouldn’t be indulged. He had such a queer look in his eye when he was speaking to Jane that I almost didn’t recognize him.
And then he is gone so much of the time. Why does he keep away? I think Jane would get better much more quickly if he spent more time with her, but John just brushes away my concerns. He says he must work to recoup the unexpected expense of renting the house which is a valid concern, and yet I wish he would stay home a few more nights this week.
I have just had the most upsetting conversation with Mary. She is from the village, and she told me this house has been empty for so long because a murder took place here years ago! John told us the house was let so cheaply because of some unresolved inheritance issue. I do not believe he would bring Jane to convalesce in a house where something evil took place, so he must not know the house’s history. Either that or he lied, and I choose to believe better of my brother.
Jane worries me.
She is not getting better despite all John’s assurances to the contrary.
Something is terribly wrong in this house.
I am starting to fear for us all.
I am afraid that I am going mad, that Mary’s story about the house has infected me somehow, led me to see things where once I would have seen nothing at all. Mary herself seems unperturbed by sleeping in a house where a woman murdered her husband, but I cannot stop thinking about the impact such violence might have on a place, the subtle traces it might leave behind.
“Oh, he had it coming, Miss Jennie,” Mary said to me. “You can believe that. He kept her in this house like a prisoner, never let her go nowhere. She was a pitiful creature, she was, and she hanged herself right after.” And then she started nursing Little John with a beatific smile on her face as if she had not just revealed yet another death that took place on this cursed ground.
Jane is not helping my paranoia. She has grown obsessed with the wallpaper in her room. Her clothes are smeared with abhorrent yellow streaks, and I often catch her staring at the paper with the most curious look on her face. She even speaks to the paper sometimes. I don’t think she realizes she’s doing it. “How did you get in there?” she says. Or “Shall I help you out?” My blood runs cold to hear her say such things.
I would go home in an instant, but I do not want to leave Jane without an ally. She is all alone here, and no one else senses the malevolence in this house.
I saw something in the wallpaper today. I know this cannot be so, but I saw a figure, a woman perhaps, struggling as if she was caught in the wallpaper and trapped there somehow. I felt as if in a trance. I reached out to touch the paper, and then Jane grabbed me by the arm. I spoke harshly to her, but I could not help my fright. Jane was furious with me; I could see it on her face, but she said nothing to me.
When I turned to leave, I saw scores of women behind the bars of the paper, some of them hanged and all of them watching me.
I must be losing my mind. I don’t know what to do.
I thought John had finally come back to us. He seemed almost his old self earlier today. Perhaps because we’re leaving in two days the hold this house has on all of is diminishing. At any rate, he’d finally noticed that Jane isn’t better by any measure of health, and he asked me all manner of alarmed questions about her behavior. I felt emboldened by the positive changes in his demeanor to suggest that we leave early, if not for our sakes, then for Jane’s.
At that point, such a curious expression passed over his face, almost as if he was warring with himself. Then John shook his head. “We’ll finish out the lease, Jennie. No reason not to.”
I pleaded with him to reconsider, but he shrugged me off and packed his bags to leave again. He won’t return again until the morning we are to leave.
I am in despair.
I begged Jane to let me sleep with her last night, but she wouldn’t hear of it. I was so afraid that she would attempt something drastic on our final night in this evil place that I spent most of it in the hallway outside her room, listening. I was so relieved when she opened the door this morning and ate breakfast with me as if nothing was wrong.
But now Jane has locked herself inside that dreadful room, and none of us can get in. She must have come to breakfast for the sole purpose of obtaining the key. I can hear her muttering to herself through the door. She sounds deranged.
I hope John returns soon, for I do not have the strength to force the door and fear what I might find inside.
I am home now, and I finally feel well enough to write again. I know that dwelling on what happened is not good for my health, but I feel I must exorcise these events from my thoughts or else be consumed by them.
I do not know how Jane killed him. The doctors could not find a mark on John’s body. They say he died of angina pectoris brought on by a nervous shock at witnessing Jane’s total deterioration. I know better, though. I know she killed him somehow. The look on her face when I finally gathered enough courage to open the door was one of malice and hatred the likes of which I had never seen before and hope never to see again. The room smelled overwhelming of sulphur, and Jane’s clothes were smeared all along one side with that noxious yellow dust of the wallpaper. She already had the rope around her neck when I opened the door, and God help me, I let her jump. Now Little John is orphaned, both parents taken from him before his life had truly begun.
Mother and Father have been so kind to me since I’ve returned home. Jane’s brother, the doctor, has even treated me despite his grief. I am to rest and have no excitement. He doesn’t want to me to read or write or tax myself in any way, and after this confession has ended, I will endeavor to obey his instructions.
I have spent these last weeks since John and Jane’s deaths sleeping, scarcely rousing myself for meals. I no longer feel the acute terror of the ordeal, but an unease, a kind of paranoia, lingers.
I have never noticed it before now, but the wallpaper in my bedroom has such a peculiar pattern. Perhaps if I can decipher it, I will begin to feel better.