The Face On The Wall

By EV Lucas

Blogger’s Note: I read this story in school I think eleven years back or something. Parts of this story came back to memory on and off, and like I’m generally wont to do, I’d google phrases of those, to see if I could find the story online. In this case, the phrase was “And then we looked around for Rudson-Wayte who had brought this snake to bite our bosoms, but he too had disappeared”. Before today, I never hit any good results. Which means, today I did. And I don’t know if the content on that page would last forever, or as long as I’d want it. So here it is. I don’t intend copyright violations, and will take this story off the Net if asked to do so, no issues. But I’d just like to share something I hold dear to myself. No issues? Read on then. Hope you’ll enjoy this story as much as I did.

I still tingle with mortification over an experience at Dabney’s last evening, the only satisfaction being that others tingle with me. We were talking of the supernatural — that unprofitable but endlessly alluring theme — and most of us had cited an instance, without, however, producing much effect. Among the strangers to me was a little man with an anxious white face, whom Rudson-Wayte had brought, and he watched each speaker with the closest attention, but said nothing. Then Dabney, wishing to include him in the talk, turned to him and asked if he had no experience to relate, no story that contained an inexplicable element.

He thought a moment. “Well,” he said, “not a story in the ordinary sense of the word: nothing, that is, from hearsay, like most of your examples. Truth, I always hold, is not only vastly stranger than fiction, but also vastly more interesting. I could tell you an occurrence which happened to me person ally and which oddly enough completed itself only this afternoon.”

We begged him to begin.

“A year or two ago,” he said, “I was in rooms in Great Ormond Street — an old house on the Holborn side. The bedroom walls had been distempered by a previous tenant, but the place was damp and great patches of discolouration, had broken out. One of these — as indeed often happens — was exactly like a human face; but more faithfully and startlingly than is customary? Lying in bed in the morning putting off getting up, I used to watch it and watch it, and gradually I came to think of it as real — as my fellow lodger, in fact. The odd thing was that while the patches on the walls grew larger and changed their contours, this never did. It remained identically the same.

“While there, I had a very bad attack of influenza, with complications, and all day long I had nothing to do but read or meditate, and it was then that this face began to get a firmer hold of me. It grew more and more real and remarkable. I may say that it dominated my thoughts day and night.There was a curious turn to the nose, and the slant of the forehead was unique. It was, in fact, full of individuality: the face of a man apart, a man in a thousand.

“Well, I got better, but the face still controlled me. I found myself searching the streets for one like it. Somewhere, I was convinced, the real man must exist, and him I must meet. Why, I had no notion; I only knew that he and I were in some way linked by fate. I frequented places where men congregate in large numbers — political meetings, football matches, the railway stations when the suburban trains pour forth their legions on the City in the morning and receive them again in the evening. But all in vain. I had never before realised as I then did how many different faces of man there are and how few. For all differ, and yet, classified, they belong to only as many groups as you count on your hands.

“The search became a mania with me. I neglected everything else. I stood at busy corners watching the crowd until people thought me crazy, and the police began to know me and be suspicious. Women I never glanced at: men, men, and men, all the time.”

He passed his hand wearily over his brow. “And then,” he continued, “at last I saw him. He was in a taxi driving east along Piccadilly. I turned and ran beside it for a little way and then saw an empty one coming. ‘Follow that taxi,’ I gasped, and leaped in. The driver managed to keep it in sight and it took us to Charing Cross. I rushed on to the platform and found my man with two ladies and a little girl. They were going to France by the 2.20. I hung about to try and get a word with him, but in vain. Other friends had joined theparty, and they moved to the train in a solid body.

“I hastily purchased a ticket to Folkestone, hoping that I should catch him on the boat before it sailed; but at Folkestone he got on board before me with his friends, and they disappeared into a large private saloon, several cabins thrown into one. Evidently he was a man of wealth.

“Again I was foiled; but I determined to cross too, feeling certain that when the voyage had begun he would leave the ladies and come out for a stroll on the deck. I had only just enough fare to Boulogne, but nothing could shake me now. I took up my position opposite the saloon door and waited. After half an hour the door opened and he came out, but with the little girl. My heart beat so that it seemed to shake the boat more than the propeller. There was no mistaking the face — every line was the same. He glanced at me and moved towards the companion-way for the upper deck. It was nowor never, I felt.

“Excuse me,” I stammered, “but do you mind giving me your card? I have a very important reason for wishing to communicate with you.”

“He seemed to be astonished, as indeed well he might; but he complied. With extreme deliberation he took out his case and handed me his card and hurried on with the little girl. It was clear that he thought me a lunatic and considered it wiser to humour me than not.

“Clutching the card I hurried to a deserted corner of the ship and read it. My eyes dimmed; my head swam; for on it were the words: Mr Ormond Wall with an address at Pittsburg, U.S.A. I remember no more until I found myself at Boulogne. There I lay in a broken condition for some weeks, and only a month ago did I return.”

He was silent.

We looked at him and at one another and waited. All the other talk of the evening was nothing compared with the story of the little pale man.

“I went back,” he resumed after a moment or so, “to Great Ormond Street and set to work to discover all I could about this American in whose life I had so mysteriously intervened. I wrote to Pittsburg; I wrote to American editors; I cultivated the society of Americans in London; but all that I could find out was that he was a millionaire with English parents who had resided in London. But where? To that question I received no answer.

“And so the time went on until yesterday morning. I had gone to bed more than usually tired and slept till late. When I woke the sun was streaming into the room. As I always do, I looked at once at the wall on which the face is to be seen. I rubbed my eyes and sprang up in alarm. It was only faintly visible. Last night it had been as clear as ever — almost I could hear it speak. And now it was but a ghost of itself.

“I got up dazed and dejected and went out. The early editions of the newspapers were already out, and on the contents bill I saw ‘American millionaire’s Motor Accident’. You must all of you have seen it. I bought it and read at once what I knew I should read. Mr Ormond Wall, the Pittsburg millionaire, and party, motoring from Spezzia to Pisa, had come into collision with a wagon and were overturned; Mr Wall’s condition was critical.

“I went back to my room still dazed, and sat on the bed looking with unseeing eyes at the face on the wall. And even as I looked, suddenly it completely disappeared.

“Later I found that Mr Wall had succumbed to his injuries at what I take to be that very moment.”

Again he was silent.

“Most remarkable,” we said; “most extraordinary,” and so forth, and we meant it too.

“Yes,” said the stranger. “There are three extraordinary, three most remarkable things about my story. One is that it should be possible for the discolouration in a lodging-house in London not only to form the features of a gentleman in America, but to have this intimate association with his existence. It will take Science some time to explain that. Another is that that gentleman’s name should bear any relation to the spot on which his features were being so curiously reproduced by some mysterious agency. Is it not so?”

We agreed with him, and our original discussion on supernatural manifestations set in again with increased excitement, during which the narrator of the amazing experience rose and said good-night. Just as he was at the door, one of the company — I rejoice to think it was Spanton —recalled us to the cause of our excited debate by asking him, before he left, what he considered the third extraordinary thing in connection with his deeply interesting story. “You said three things, you know,” Spanton reminded him.

“Oh, the third thing,” he said, as he opened the door, “I was forgetting that. The third extraordinary thing about the story is that I made it up about half an hour ago; Good-night, again.”

After coming to our senses we looked round for Rudson-Wayte, who had brought this snake to bite our bosoms, but he too had disappeared.

56 Responses to The Face On The Wall

  1. Tuna Fish says:

    Wow! this has a very O Henryish touch to it.

  2. shahzar abdullah says:

    i read this story way back in school and it was always there but never it seemed that i would go and search but a few days back it just so happened that i was reading an article which had this phrase (the face on the wall).i started searching and did found it, I t did brought back memories from school and how we were made to read the story. Doing the same again….

  3. reena says:

    had read this way back in school and a search to read it again got me to your post 😀

  4. Harita says:

    This story was a chapter when I was studying in 7th grade and it is so nice to read it again after years…….

  5. Soumya Mandi says:

    My favorite story. It was in our english course when I was in XIIth grade. Any more similar stories??

  6. Akinori Suzuki says:

    I’m a student in Japan. I read this story at school recently.
    And in readind this, I couldn’t understand the meaning of “There was a curious turn to the nose”.
    What does this phrase mean? Would you tell me the meaning of it?

    • wanderlust says:

      wow, from japan 🙂 konnichiwa 🙂

      ‘curious turn to the nose’ just means the nose of the face on the wall was turned in a way that made the entire face interesting. try googling for ‘upturned nose’ on image search. hope that helped.

      arigato gozaimasu for visiting and commenting.

  7. Akinori Suzuki says:

    I’m sorry, but I have a question again. I can’t understand the meaning of “and which oddly enough completed itself only this afternoon”. what does this phrase mean? Would you tell me it when it is convenient to you ?

    • wanderlust says:

      ah you’re back 🙂 okaerinasai 🙂
      i think it means that the story he told reached its ending only that afternoon…. he found out that mr ormond wall died only this afternoon.
      he probably says “oddly enough” because it’s a quirky coincidence that such a story should end in the afternoon and right in the evening, an opportunity (like a party where people are discussing the supernatural) should present itself so that the man can tell the story.

      • SNambiath says:

        I read this at school too, about 35 years ago! 🙂 For some strange reason, I got the yen (no offense, Akinori!) to google it up, as I couldn’t remember it exactly anymore. So, here I am!

        Here is a more likely explanation to Akinori’s question: Since the pale man (story teller) had made up the story “about half and hour ago”, “it completed itself only this afternoon!”

        Thats the delight of the story, isn’t it? Multiple interpretations of the climax!! O Henry and Mark Twain were masters at this too!

  8. Akinori Suzuki says:

    Thank you for replying so soon. Your explanation is very clear.
    By the way, have you ever been toJapan ? You know many Japanese phrases such as “arigatou””okaerinasai”.

    • wanderlust says:

      no, i’ve never been to japan, except when i stopped for an hour at Tokyo-Narita while flying from singapore to los angeles. but i learnt japanese during my undergrad so i’m familiar with the basic phrases, and my mother learned japanese in her spare time, and speaks it fluently. and i try to learn japanese somewhat half-heartedly by watching subtitled hayao miyazaki movies.

  9. Akinori Suzuki says:

    So you know many Japanese phrases. I’m very glad that you and your mother are learning Japanese. Hayao Miyazaki is very famous in Japan, and I saw some movies of his such as “Castle in The Sky”,”Spirited Away”. His works have been familiar to us since we were children. By the way, I have a question again. I’m so sorry. “as indeed well he might” means that indeed it is natural for him (Mr.Ormond) to be astonished,doesn’t it?

    • wanderlust says:

      yes, you’re right… ‘as indeed well he might’ does mean that it’s natural for mr. ormond to be astonished.

      are you in school, having this story as part of english literature or something? if you have an interest in reading english stories, i’d suggest you read Roald Dahl’s books. You might have heard of the more famous ones like The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…. those are nice. I enjoyed reading his childhood stories in Boy – Tales of Childhood. I’d suggest you read it too 🙂

      i don’t know all that many japanese phrases except very basic ones… watching manga/anime does help – deathnote, naruto and the like… i can understand stuff thanks to those, but don’t recall them well enough to speak by myself.

  10. Akinori Suzuki says:

    I’m reading this story as part of English class. We read not only english literature but also the story on astronomy or biology.
    Taking your advice, I saw “The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and it was so nice. I think I’d try reading this too.
    You watch manga/anime. I was surprised to see the word: “deathnote”,”naruto”.They are very famous in Japan, and There is no bookstore but sell them. Learning Languages is so hard. It will take, I think, 1000 years for me to master English.So I think your mother is so great. By the way, in the srory”The Face on The Wall”,what does “wagon”means? Did Mr.Ormond come into collision with a strong vehicle pulled by horses or with a large open container pelled by a train?

    • wanderlust says:

      since it’s a motor accident, it’s reasonable to assume it was a vehicle on the road… so i suppose it was a car of some sort… maybe those were called wagons back then. it’s a very small detail, assuming either way wouldn’t make a difference.

      yeah, deathnote and naruto are world-famous. my undergrad friends in india were (and are) addicted to them. and manga is a big deal in the US too where i’m studying now. more so in southern california because there are a lot of asians here. Check out the san diego comic-con… you’ll get an idea of how popular Manga is.

  11. Akinori Suzuki says:

    I saw the San diego comic-con site. It seems very pleasant. Have you ever been there? And are there Japanese comics too? By the way, I was surprised to know you are in California. Are you from the UK?

    Thanks to your help, I could translate the whole story into Japanese but three sentences.1,”Mr.Wall had succumbed to his injuries at what I take to be that very moment” 2,'”we said; “most extraordinary,”and so forth, and we meant it too.’3,’who brought this snake to bite our bosoms’ Does this sentence simply means that Rudson-Wayte had a little man bite our chest(made us tingle)?

    • wanderlust says:

      Let’s see about the three sentences… 1. Split it this way.. (Mr wall had succumbed to his injuries at) (what i take to be) (that very moment). basically the guy telling the story says it’s possible that mr. wall died (succumbed to his injuries) at the very moment the image on the wall disappeared. 2. It’s supposed to mean they all expressed their astonishment (which they really felt) at the end of the story. 3. Rudson-Wayte was the guy who had brought along the fellow who narrated the story. ‘Bite our bosoms’ probably means he played with their feelings… he first made them all excited and interested in a story, and then told them it was all a lie, and that didn’t feel so good.

      Hope that helped.

      I live an hour from San Diego, but I haven’t been to Comic-Con. The tickets are expensive, and are normally sold out within hours of opening. I am not into comics all that much, so I don’t feel passionate enough to attend. I’ve heard there is a strong presence of japanese comics. A couple of years back, Hayao Miyazaki was invited to speak. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGK-bV4Nw70 I’m from India, and I’m doing my Master’s degree in the United States.

  12. Akinori Suzuki says:

    Thank you for replying so kindly.1,”Mr.Wall had succumbed to his injuries at what I take to be that very moment” means that he had succumbed to his injuries at the time which I think to be that very moment(the time when the face on the wall dissapeared)?

    I was amazed. Hayao Miyazaki did be intervewed in the comic-con. And you are from India. Did you go to a university in America too? And Do a lot of people from India go the university in America?

    • wanderlust says:

      yes, you’re right about the line.

      i did my undergrad [bachelor’s degree] in a university in india. i’m doing my master’s degree in america. yeah, a lot of indians come to america to study, especially in engineering fields. there are a lot of japanese in my university as well, both newcomers as well as japanese-americans [people whose parents had moved here from japan years ago, and raised their children in america].

  13. Satya says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was mentioning about this story which I too read it on school and was asking her to read. On searching we found this on your post. This is one of my favorite stories from my childhood.

  14. E V Lucas says:

    I don’t understand how you can use my story without my permission. Wondering how you can get permission from a guy who is long dead and gone? The image in the gravatar is my present incarnation. It is destiny that has brought me to your post and for that I am most thankful. Follow your heart and there are more bizarre things that are destined to happen.

  15. niks says:

    I read this story during my 8th Standard ICSE and I always remembered the story. Was looking out for a link and found this. Thanks my friend.

  16. Dinesh P. says:

    yeah it took a while for me to actually remember the story behind “The face on the Wall” . It was in the forth or the fifth grade when my regular teacher didn’t make it to the class on time , a substitute teacher told this story.Its nice to really be revised with this again.Thankyou.
    Dinesh P.(Houston,Tx 2011)

  17. Hubert G says:

    Hey guys, I read that story also in school and have one question: Is the third extraordinary thing, the fact, that he just lied all the time or something else, because I didn’t understand the ending.

    Hope you can help me

  18. esham says:

    why is the stranger compared to a snake?

  19. Shamis says:

    fantastic. great to read it again after sooo many years. it seemed so long and big back in school but now, it barely took me 5 minutes to read the entire story. ho times have changed…

  20. meda says:

    i would like to ask you this question…….how does the writer cleverly weave a story that draws links between reality and imagination???

  21. Joshitha says:

    I have a question: what two story telling techniques are used in this story

  22. Isha says:

    My dad narrated this to me two years back and all ma and my brother could do was laugh uncontrollably. Thanks for the whole stuff. It was damn enjoyable.

  23. Deepika says:

    This certainly has been my favourite story among all the stories in our English text book. Was googling at and came across your blog. Thanks for sharing it.

  24. ashutosj says:

    thats really nice

  25. Ankita says:

    My brother told me about this story…fortunately it was included in my 11th’s syllabus…and when i read this i just loved it nd laughed lott its really awesome…i’ve alrdy read it 75 tyms

  26. pinky says:

    I loved this story…i actually forgot the correct story line..very happy to read this after a long time..

  27. pinky says:

    Very happy to read this story after so many years…very interesting story.. with full suspense..

  28. mohammad umair says:

    This is amazing stuff. I was completely hooked. Can you post more such stories. I love reading such types of stories. They fascinate me.

    It is amazing to see you guys read such stories in school. I never ever read such stuff even after I graduated.

  29. reham says:

    What story telling techniques have been used by E.V. Lucas in his story, ‘ The
    Face on the Wall’?

  30. theidfier says:

    I just enjoy a well-told story – why divert oneself into storytellying techniques??

  31. muskan says:

    i love this story.I just enjoy a well-told story.What story telling techniques have been used by E.V. Lucas in his story, ‘ The
    Face on the Wall’?
    i learned in class 8.I always remembered the story. Was looking out for a link and found this. Thanks my friend.This is amazing stuff. I was completely hooked. Can you post more such stories. I love reading such types of stories. They fascinate me.

    It is amazing to see you guys read such stories in school. I never ever read such stuff even after I graduated.very happy to read this. 🙂

  32. muskan says:

    It is amazing to see you guys read such stories in school. I never ever read such stuff even after I graduated.very happy to read this. 🙂 😮 😀 😛

  33. muskan says:

    This certainly has been my favourite story among all the stories in our English text book. Was googling at and came across your blog. Thanks for sharing it.:) 😮 😀 😛 😉 ;X

  34. hanadi says:

    its a very nice story

  35. reham says:

    what storytelling techniques have benn used by E V Lucas in this story

  36. rupesh singh says:

    Gud

  37. Sonia says:

    omg.. i read this almost 15-16 years back.. when I was in school and I always thought it to be a Chekhov masterpiece.. Now i remember its EV Lucas.. Thank you sooo so much!! Just relived the experience

  38. ruatruati says:

    this story was very interested….last week i had a very unusual experience.we were at dabney’s,havung an intresting conversation about the supernatural.

  39. ruatruati says:

    he said.as he opened the door,he was forgetting that .The third extraordinary thing about the story is that he made it up about half an hour ago

  40. Jacob Avei says:

    I remember no more until I found myself at Boulogne. There I lay in a broken condition for some weeks, and only a month ago did I return.”
    I don’t understand this lines.. please explain..

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