That night was black and lowering, fitting weather for the pandemonium I was about to turn loose. At ten o'clock, I loaded a wagon with the tanks of compressed cohorts, and, muffled in heavy overcoats, we drove to the sanatorium. All was silent as we approached; all was dark. The wagon concealed in a grove of pines, we took out the tanks one by one, and placed them beneath the ground-floor windows. The sashes were easily forced open, and raised enough to enable us to insert the rubber tubes connected with the iron reservoirs. At midnight everything was ready.
I gave the word, and my assistants ran from tank to tank, opening the stopcocks. With a hiss as of escaping steam the huge vessels emptied themselves, vomiting forth clouds of vapor, which, upon contact with the air, coagulated into strange shapes as the white of an egg does when dropped into boiling water. The rooms became instantly filled with dismembered shades of men and horses seeking wildly to unite themselves with their proper parts.
Legs ran down the corridors, seeking their respective trunks, arms writhed wildly reaching for missing bodies, heads rolled hither and yon in search of native necks. Horses' tails and hoofs whisked and hurried in quest of equine ownership until, reorganized, the spectral steeds galloped about to find their riders.
Had it been possible, I would have stopped this riot of wraiths long ere this, for it was more awful than I had anticipated, but it was already too late. Cowering in the garden, I began to hear the screams of awakened and distracted patients. In another moment, the front door of the hotel was burst open, and a mob of hysterical women in expensive nightgowns rushed out upon the lawn, and huddled in shrieking groups.
I fled into the night.
I fled, but Napoleon's men fled with me. Compelled by I know not what fatal astral attraction, perhaps the subtle affinity of the creature for the creator, the spectral shells, moved by some mysterious mechanics of spiritual being, pursued me with fatuous fury. I sought refuge, first, in my laboratory, but, even as I approached, a lurid glare foretold me of its destruction. As I drew nearer, the whole ghost-factory was seen to be in flames; every moment crackling reports were heard, as the over-heated tins of phantasmagoria exploded and threw their supernatural contents upon the night. These liberated ghosts joined the army of Napoleon's outraged warriors, and turned upon me. There was not enough formaldybrom in all the world to quench their fierce energy. There was no place in all the world safe for me from their visitation. No ghost-extinguisher was powerful enough to lay the host of spirits that haunted me henceforth, and I had neither time nor money left with which to construct new Gatling quick-firing tanks.
It is little comfort to me to know that one hundred nervous invalids were completely restored to health by means of the terrific shock which I administered.
"DEY AIN'T NO GHOSTS"
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
From the Century Magazine, November, 1911. By permission of the Century Company and Ellis Parker Butler.
"Dey Ain't No Ghosts"
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
Once 'pon a time dey was a li'l' black boy whut he name was Mose. An' whin he come erlong to be 'bout knee-high to a mewel, he 'gin to git powerful 'fraid ob ghosts, 'ca'se dat am sure a mighty ghostly location whut he lib' in, 'ca'se dey 's a grabeyard in de hollow, an' a buryin'-ground on de hill, an' a cemuntary in betwixt an' between, an' dey ain't nuffin' but trees nowhar excipt in de clearin' by de shanty an' down de hollow whar de pumpkin-patch am.
An' whin de night come erlong, dey ain't no sounds at all whut kin be heard in dat locality but de rain-doves, whut mourn out, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" jes dat trembulous an' scary, an' de owls, whut mourn out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" more trembulous an' scary dan dat, an' de wind, whut mourn out, "You-you-o-o-o!" mos' scandalous' trembulous an' scary ob all. Dat a powerful onpleasant locality for a li'l' black boy whut he name was Mose.
'Ca'se dat li'l' black boy he so specially black he can't be seen in de dark at all 'cept by de whites ob he eyes. So whin he go' outen de house at night, he ain't dast shut he eyes, 'ca'se den ain't nobody can see him in de least. He jes as invidsible as nuffin'. An' who know' but whut a great, big ghost bump right into him 'ca'se it can't see him? An' dat shore w'u'd scare dat li'l' black boy powerful' bad, 'ca'se yever'body knows whut a cold, damp pussonality a ghost is.
So whin dat li'l' black Mose go' outen de shanty at night, he keep' he eyes wide open, you may be shore. By day he eyes 'bout de size ob butter-pats, an' come sundown he eyes 'bout de size ob saucers; but whin he go' outen de shanty at night, he eyes am de size ob de white chiny plate whut set on de mantel; an' it powerful' hard to keep eyes whut am de size ob dat from a-winkin' an' a-blinkin'.
So whin Hallowe'en come' erlong, dat li'l' black Mose he jes mek' up he mind he ain't gwine outen he shack at all. He cogitate he gwine stay right snug in de shack wid he pa an' he ma, 'ca'se de rain-doves tek notice dat de ghosts are philanderin' roun' de country, 'ca'se dey mourn out, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls dey mourn out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de wind mourn out, "You-you-o-o-o!" De eyes ob dat li'l' black Mose dey as big as de white chiny plate whut set on de mantel by side de clock, an' de sun jes a-settin'.
So dat all right. Li'l' black Mose he scrooge' back in de corner by de fireplace, an' he 'low' he gwine stay dere till he gwine to bed. But byme-by Sally Ann, whut live' up de road, draps in, an' Mistah Sally Ann, whut is her husban', he draps in, an' Zack Badget an' de school-teacher whut board' at Unc' Silas Diggs's house drap in, an' a powerful lot ob folks drap in. An' li'l' black Mose he seen dat gwine be one s'prise-party, an' he right down cheerful 'bout dat.
So all dem folks shake dere hands an' 'low "Howdy," an' some ob dem say: "Why, dere's li'l' Mose! Howdy, li'l' Mose?" An' he so please' he jes grin' an' grin', 'ca'se he ain't reckon whut gwine happen. So byme-by Sally Ann, whut live up de road, she say', "Ain't no sort o' Hallowe'en lest we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' de school-teacher, whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she 'low', "Hallowe'en jes no Hallowe'en at all 'thout we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' li'l' black Mose he stop' a-grinnin', an' he scrooge' so far back in de corner he 'mos' scrooge frough de wall. But dat ain't no use, 'ca'se he ma say', "Mose, go on down to de pumpkin-patch an' fotch a pumpkin."
"I ain't want to go," say' li'l' black Mose.
"Go on erlong wid yo'," say' he ma, right commandin'.
"I ain't want to go," say' Mose ag'in.
"Why ain't yo' want to go?" he ma ask'.
"'Ca'se I's afraid ob de ghosts," say' li'l' black Mose, an' dat de particular truth an' no mistake.
"Dey ain't no ghosts," say' de school-teacher, whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, right peart.
"'Co'se dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, whut dat 'fear'd ob ghosts he ain't dar' come to li'l' black Mose's house ef de school-teacher ain't ercompany him.
"Go 'long wid your ghosts!" say li'l' black Mose's ma.
"Wha' yo' pick up dat nomsense?" say' he pa. "Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' dat whut all dat s'prise-party 'low: dey ain't no ghosts. An' dey 'low dey mus' hab a jack-o'-lantern or de fun all sp'iled. So dat li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose he done got to fotch a pumpkin from de pumpkin-patch down de hollow. So he step'outen de shanty an' he stan' on de doorstep twell he get' he eyes pried open as big as de bottom ob he ma's wash-tub, mostly, an' he say', "Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he put' one foot on de ground, an' dat was de fust step.
An' de rain-dove say', "OO-oo-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de owl mourn' out, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de wind sob' out, "You-you-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck one look ober he shoulder, an' he shut he eyes so tight dey hurt round de aidges, an' he pick' up he foots an' run. Yas, sah, he run' right peart fast. An' he say': "Dey ain't no ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he run' erlong de paff whut lead' by de buryin'-ground on de hill, 'ca'se dey ain't no fince eround dat buryin'-ground at all.
No fince; jes' de big trees whut de owls an' de rain-doves sot in an' mourn an' sob, an' whut de wind sigh an' cry frough. An byme-by somefin' jes' brush' li'l' Mose on de arm, which mek' him run jes a bit more faster. An' byme-by somefin' jes brush' li'l' Mose on de cheek, which mek' him run erbout as fast as he can. An' byme-by somefin' grab' li'l' Mose by de aidge of he coat, an' he fight' an' struggle' an' cry out: "Dey ain't no ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' dat ain't nuffin' but de wild brier whut grab' him, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de leaf ob a tree whut brush' he cheek, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de branch ob a hazel-bush whut brush' he arm. But he downright scared jes de same, an' he ain't lose no time, 'ca'se de wind an' de owls an' de rain-doves dey signerfy whut ain't no good. So he scoot' past dat buryin'-ground whut on de hill, an' dat cemuntary whut betwixt an' between, an' dat grabeyard in de hollow, twell he come' to de pumpkin-patch, an' he rotch' down an' tek' erhold ob de bestest pumpkin whut in de patch. An' he right smart scared. He jes' de mostest scared li'l' black boy whut yever was. He ain't gwine open he eyes fo' nuffin', 'ca'se de wind go, "You-you-o-o-o!" an' de owls go, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de rain-doves go, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!"
He jes speculate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he hair don't stand on ind dat way. An' he jes cogitate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way. An' he jes 'low', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he backbone ain't all trembulous wid chills dat way. So he rotch' down, an' he rotch' down, twell he git' a good hold on dat pricklesome stem of dat bestest pumpkin whut in de patch, an' he jes yank' dat stem wid all he might.
"Let loosen my head!" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose he jump' 'most outen he skin. He open' he eyes, an' he 'gin to shake like de aspen-tree, 'ca'se whut dat a-standin' right dar behint him but a 'mendjous big ghost! Yas, sah, dat de bigges', whites' ghost whut yever was. An' it ain't got no head. Ain't got no head at all! Li'l' black Mose he jes drap' on he knees an' he beg' an' pray':
"Oh, 'scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost!" he beg'. "Ah ain't mean no harm at all."
"Whut for you try to take my head?" ask' de ghost in dat fearsome voice whut like de damp wind outen de cellar.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" beg' li'l' Mose. "Ah ain't know dat was yo' head, an' I ain't know you was dar at all. 'Scuse me!"
"Ah 'scuse you ef you do me dis favor," say' de ghost. "Ah got somefin' powerful important to say unto you, an' Ah can't say hit 'ca'se Ah ain't got no head; an' whin Ah ain't got no head, Ah ain't got no mouf, an' whin Ah ain't got no mouf, Ah can't talk at all."
An' dat right logical fo' shore. Can't nobody talk whin he ain't got no mouf, an' can't nobody have no mouf whin he ain't got no head, an' whin li'l' black Mose he look', he see' dat ghost ain't got no head at all. Nary head.
So de ghost say':
"Ah come on down yere fo' to git a pumpkin fo' a head, an' Ah pick' dat ixact pumpkin whut yo' gwine tek, an' Ah don't like dat one bit. No, sah. Ah feel like Ah pick yo' up an' carry yo' away, an' nobody see you no more for yever. But Ah got somefin' powerful important to say unto yo', an' if yo' pick up dat pumpkin an' sot it on de place whar my head ought to be, Ah let you off dis time, 'ca'se Ah ain't been able to talk fo' so long Ah right hongry to say somefin'."
So li'l' black Mose he heft up dat pumpkin, an' de ghost he bend' down, an' li'l' black Mose he sot dat pumpkin on dat ghostses neck. An' right off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to wink an' blink like a jack-o'-lantern, an' right off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to glimmer an' glow frough de mouf like a jack-o'-lantern, an' right off dat ghost start' to speak. Yas, sah, dass so.
"Whut yo' want to say unto me?" inquire' li'l' black Mose.
"Ah want to tell yo'," say' de ghost, "dat yo' ain't need yever be skeered of ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
An' whin he say dat, de ghost jes vanish' away like de smoke in July. He ain't even linger round dat locality like de smoke in Yoctober. He jes dissipate' outen de air, an' he gone intirely.
So li'l' Mose he grab' up de nex' bestest pumpkin an' he scoot'. An' whin he come' to de grabeyard in de hollow, he goin' erlong same as yever, on'y faster, whin he reckon' he'll pick up a club in case he gwine have trouble. An' he rotch' down an' rotch' down an' tek' hold of a likely appearin' hunk o' wood whut right dar. An' whin he grab' dat hunk of wood——
"Let loosen my leg!" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy 'most jump' outen he skin, 'ca'se right dar in de paff is six 'mendjus big ghostes an' de bigges' ain't got but one leg. So li'l' black Mose jes natchully handed dat hunk of wood to dat bigges' ghost, an' he say':
"'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost; Ah ain't know dis your leg."
An' whut dem six ghostes do but stand round an' confabulate? Yas, sah, dass so. An' whin dey do so, one say':
"'Pears like dis a mighty likely li'l' black boy. Whut we gwine do fo' to reward him fo' politeness?"
An' annuder say':
"Tell him whut de truth is 'bout ghostes."
So de bigges' ghost he say':
"Ah gwine tell yo' somefin' important whut yever'body don't know: Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' whin he say' dat, de ghostes jes natchully vanish away, an' li'l' black Mose he proceed' up de paff. He so scared he hair jes yank' at de roots, an' whin de wind go', "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owl go', "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de rain-doves go, "You-you-o-o-o-!" he jes tremble' an' shake'. An' byme-by he come' to de cemuntary whut betwixt an' between, an' he shore is mighty skeered, 'ca'se dey is a whole comp'ny of ghostes lined up along de road, an' he 'low' he ain't gwine spind no more time palaverin' wid ghostes. So he step' offen de road fo' to go round erbout, an' he step' on a pine-stump whut lay right dar.
"Git offen my chest!" say' a big voice all on a suddent, 'ca'se dat stump am been selected by de captain ob de ghostes for to be he chest, 'ca'se he ain't got no chest betwixt he shoulders an' he legs. An' li'l' black Mose he hop' offen dat stump right peart. Yes, sah; right peart.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" dat li'l' black Mose beg' an' plead', an' de ghostes ain't know whuther to eat him all up or not, 'ca'se he step on de boss ghostes's chest dat a-way. But byme-by they 'low they let him go 'ca'se dat was an accident, an' de captain ghost he say', "Mose, you Mose, Ah gwine let you off dis time, 'ca'se you ain't nuffin' but a misabul li'l' tremblin' nigger; but Ah want you should remimimber one thing mos' particular'."
"Ya-yas, sah," say' dat li'l' black boy; "Ah'll remimber. Whut is dat Ah got to remimber?"
De captain ghost he swell' up, an' he swell' up, twell he as big as a house, an' he say' in a voice whut shake' de ground:
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
So li'l' black Mose he bound to remimber dat, an' he rise' up an' mek' a bow, an' he proceed' toward home right libely. He do, indeed.
An' he gwine along jes as fast as he kin, whin he come' to de aidge ob de buryin'-ground whut on de hill, an' right dar he bound to stop, 'ca'se de kentry round about am so populate' he ain't able to go frough. Yas, sah, seem' like all de ghostes in de world habin' a conferince right dar. Seem' like all de ghosteses whut yever was am havin' a convintion on dat spot. An' dat li'l' black Mose so skeered he jes fall' down on a' old log whut dar an' screech' an' moan'. An' all on a suddent de log up and spoke:
"Get offen me! Get offen me!" yell' dat log.
So li'l' black Mose he git' offen dat log, an' no mistake.
An' soon as he git' offen de log, de log uprise, an' li'l' black Mose he see' dat dat log am de king ob all de ghostes. An' whin de king uprise, all de congergation crowd round li'l' black Mose, an' dey am about leben millium an' a few lift over. Yas, sah; dat de reg'lar annyul Hallowe'en convintion whut li'l' black Mose interrup'. Right dar am all de sperits in de world, an' all de ha'nts in de world, an' all de hobgoblins in de world, an' all de ghouls in de world, an' all de spicters in de world, an' all de ghostes in de world. An' whin dey see li'l' black Mose, dey all gnash dey teef an' grin' 'ca'se it gettin' erlong toward dey-all's lunch-time. So de king, whut he name old Skull-an'-Bones, he step' on top ob li'l' Mose's head, an' he say':
"Gin'l'min, de convintion will come to order. De sicretary please note who is prisint. De firs' business whut come' before de convintion am: whut we gwine do to a li'l' black boy whut stip' on de king an' maul' all ober de king an' treat' de king dat disrespictful'."
An li'l' black Mose jes moan' an' sob':
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah King! Ah ain't mean no harm at all."
But nobody ain't pay no attintion to him at all, 'ca'se yevery one lookin' at a monstrous big ha'nt whut name Bloody Bones, whut rose up an' spoke.
"Your Honor, Mistah King, an' gin'l'min an' ladies," he say', "dis am a right bad case ob lasy majesty, 'ca'se de king been step on. Whin yivery li'l' black boy whut choose' gwine wander round at night an' stip on de king ob ghostes, it ain't no time for to palaver, it ain't no time for to prevaricate, it ain't no time for to cogitate, it ain't no time do nuffin' but tell de truth, an' de whole truth, an' nuffin' but de truth."
An' all dem ghostes sicond de motion, an' dey confabulate out loud erbout dat, an' de noise soun' like de rain-doves goin', "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls goin', "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" an' de wind goin', "You-you-o-o-o!" So dat risolution am passed unanermous, an' no mistake.
So de king ob de ghostes, whut name old Skull-an'-Bones, he place' he hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a wet rag, an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' one ob de hairs whut on de head of li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' de monstrous big ha'nt whut he name Bloody Bones he lay he hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a toadstool in de cool ob de day, an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' a heejus sperit whut he name Moldy Pa'm place' he hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like de yunner side ob a lizard, an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn white as snow.
An' a perticklar bend-up hobgoblin he put' he hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he mek' dat same remark, an' dat whole convintion ob ghostes an' spicters an' ha'nts an' yiver'thing, which am more 'n a millium, pass by so quick dey-all's hands feel lak de wind whut blow outen de cellar whin de day am hot, an' dey-all say, "Dey ain't no ghosts." Yas, sah, dey-all say dem wo'ds so fas' it soun' like de wind whin it moan frough de turkentine-trees whut behind de cider-priss. An' yivery hair whut on li'l' black Mose's head turn' white. Dat whut happen' whin a li'l' black boy gwine meet a ghost convintion dat-a-way. Dat's so he ain' gwine forgit to remimber dey ain't no ghostes. 'Ca'se ef a li'l' black boy gwine imaginate dey is ghostes, he gwine be skeered in de dark. An' dat a foolish thing for to imaginate.
So prisintly all de ghostes am whiff away, like de fog outen de holler whin de wind blow' on it, an' li'l' black Mose he ain' see no ca'se for to remain in dat locality no longer. He rotch' down, an' he raise' up de pumpkin, an' he perambulate' right quick to he ma's shack, an' he lift' up de latch, an' he open' de do', an' he yenter' in. An' he say':
"Yere's de pumpkin."
An' he ma an' he pa, an' Sally Ann, whut live up de road, an' Mistah Sally Ann, whut her husban', an' Zack Badget, an' de school-teacher whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' all de powerful lot of folks whut come to de doin's, dey all scrooged back in de cornder ob de shack, 'ca'se Zack Badget he been done tell a ghost-tale, an' de rain-doves gwine, "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' de owls am gwine, "Whut-whoo-o-o-o!" and de wind it gwine, "You-you-o-o-o!" an' yiver'body powerful skeered. 'Ca'se li'l' black Mose he come' a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do' jes whin dat ghost-tale mos' skeery, an' yiver'body gwine imaginate dat he a ghost a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do'. Yas, sah. So li'l' black Mose he turn' he white head, an' he look' roun' an' peer' roun', an' he say':
"Whut you all skeered fo'?"
'Ca'se ef anybody skeered, he want' to be skeered too. Dat's natural. But de school-teacher, whut live at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she say':
"Fo' de lan's sake, we fought you was a ghost!"
So li'l' black Mose he sort ob sniff an' he sort ob sneer, an' he 'low':
"Huh! dey ain't no ghosts."
Den he ma she powerful took back dat li'l' black Mose he gwine be so uppetish an' contrydict folks whut know 'rifmeticks an' algebricks an' gin'ral countin' widout fingers, like de school-teacher whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house knows, an' she say':
"Huh! whut you know 'bout ghosts, anner ways?"
An' li'l' black Mose he jes kinder stan' on one foot, an' he jes kinder suck' he thumb, an' he jes kinder 'low':
"I don't know nuffin' erbout ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
So he pa gwine whop him fo' tellin' a fib 'bout dey ain' no ghosts whin yiver'body know' dey is ghosts; but de school-teacher, whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she tek' note de hair ob li'l' black Mose's head am plumb white, an' she tek' note li'l' black Mose's face am de color ob wood-ash, so she jes retch' one arm round dat li'l' black boy, an' she jes snuggle' him up, an' she say':
"Honey lamb, don't you be skeered; ain' nobody gwine hurt you. How you know dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he kinder lean' up 'g'inst de school-teacher whut board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' he 'low':
"'Ca'se—'ca'se—'ca'se I met de cap'n ghost, an' I met de gin'ral ghost, an' I met de king ghost, an' I met all de ghostes whut yiver was in de whole worl', an' yivery ghost say' de same thing: 'Dey ain't no ghosts.' An' if de cap'n ghost an' de gin'ral ghost an' de king ghost an' all de ghostes in de whole worl' don't know ef dar am ghostes, who does?"
"Das right; das right, honey lamb," say' de school-teacher. And she say': "I been s'picious dey ain' no ghostes dis long whiles, an' now I know. Ef all de ghostes say dey ain' no ghosts, dey ain' no ghosts."
So yiver'body 'low' dat so 'cep' Zack Badget, whut been tellin' de ghost-tale, an' he ain' gwine say "Yis" an' he ain' gwine say "No," 'ca'se he right sweet on de school-teacher; but he know right well he done seen plinty ghostes in he day. So he boun' to be sure fust. So he say' to li'l' black Mose:
"'T ain't likely you met up wid a monstrous big ha'nt whut live' down de lane whut he name Bloody Bones?"
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose; "I done met up wid him."
"An' did old Bloody Bones done tol' you dey ain' no ghosts?" say Zack Badget.
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose, "he done tell me perzackly dat."
"Well, if he tol' you dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, "I got to 'low dey ain't no ghosts, 'ca'se he ain' gwine tell no lie erbout it. I know dat Bloody Bones ghost sence I was a piccaninny, an' I done met up wif him a powerful lot o' times, an' he ain't gwine tell no lie erbout it. Ef dat perticklar ghost say' dey ain't no ghosts, dey ain't no ghosts."
So yiver'body say':
"Das right; dey ain' no ghosts."
An' dat mek' li'l' black Mose feel mighty good, 'ca'se he ain' lak ghostes. He reckon' he gwine be a heap mo' comfortable in he mind sence he know' dey ain' no ghosts, an' he reckon' he ain' gwine be skeered of nuffin' never no more. He ain' gwine min' de dark, an' he ain' gwine min' de rain-doves whut go', "Oo-oo-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de owls whut go', "Who-whoo-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de wind whut go', "You-you-o-o-o!" nor nuffin', nohow. He gwine be brave as a lion, sence he know' fo' sure dey ain' no ghosts. So prisintly he ma say':
"Well, time fo' a li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose to be gwine up de ladder to de loft to bed."
An' li'l' black Mose he 'low' he gwine wait a bit. He 'low' he gwine jes wait a li'l' bit. He 'low' he gwine be no trouble at all ef he jes been let wait twell he ma she gwine up de ladder to de loft to bed, too. So he ma she say':
"Git erlong wid yo'! Whut yo' skeered ob whin dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he scrooge', and he twist', an' he pucker' up de mouf, an' he rub' he eyes, an' prisintly he say' right low:
"I ain' skeered ob ghosts whut am, 'ca'se dey ain' no ghosts."
"Den whut am yo' skeered ob?" ask he ma.
"Nuffin," say' de li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose; "but I jes feel kinder oneasy 'bout de ghosts whut ain't."
Jes lak white folks! Jes lak white folks!
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
From The Lady or the Tiger? and Other Stories. Copyright, 1884, by Charles Scribner's Sons. By permission of the publishers.
The Transferred Ghost
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
The country residence of Mr. John Hinckman was a delightful place to me, for many reasons. It was the abode of a genial, though somewhat impulsive, hospitality. It had broad, smooth-shaven lawns and towering oaks and elms; there were bosky shades at several points, and not far from the house there was a little rill spanned by a rustic bridge with the bark on; there were fruits and flowers, pleasant people, chess, billiards, rides, walks, and fishing. These were great attractions; but none of them, nor all of them together, would have been sufficient to hold me to the place very long. I had been invited for the trout season, but should, probably, have finished my visit early in the summer had it not been that upon fair days, when the grass was dry, and the sun was not too hot, and there was but little wind, there strolled beneath the lofty elms, or passed lightly through the bosky shades, the form of my Madeline.
This lady was not, in very truth, my Madeline. She had never given herself to me, nor had I, in any way, acquired possession of her. But as I considered her possession the only sufficient reason for the continuance of my existence, I called her, in my reveries, mine. It may have been that I would not have been obliged to confine the use of this possessive pronoun to my reveries had I confessed the state of my feelings to the lady.
But this was an unusually difficult thing to do. Not only did I dread, as almost all lovers dread, taking the step which would in an instant put an end to that delightful season which may be termed the ante-interrogatory period of love, and which might at the same time terminate all intercourse or connection with the object of my passion; but I was, also, dreadfully afraid of John Hinckman. This gentleman was a good friend of mine, but it would have required a bolder man than I was at that time to ask him for the gift of his niece, who was the head of his household, and, according to his own frequent statement, the main prop of his declining years. Had Madeline acquiesced in my general views on the subject, I might have felt encouraged to open the matter to Mr. Hinckman; but, as I said before, I had never asked her whether or not she would be mine. I thought of these things at all hours of the day and night, particularly the latter.
I was lying awake one night, in the great bed in my spacious chamber, when, by the dim light of the new moon, which partially filled the room, I saw John Hinckman standing by a large chair near the door. I was very much surprised at this for two reasons. In the first place, my host had never before come into my room; and, in the second place, he had gone from home that morning, and had not expected to return for several days. It was for this reason that I had been able that evening to sit much later than usual with Madeline on the moonlit porch. The figure was certainly that of John Hinckman in his ordinary dress, but there was a vagueness and indistinctness about it which presently assured me that it was a ghost. Had the good old man been murdered? and had his spirit come to tell me of the deed, and to confide to me the protection of his dear—? My heart fluttered at what I was about to think, but at this instant the figure spoke.
"Do you know," he said, with a countenance that indicated anxiety, "if Mr. Hinckman will return to-night?"
I thought it well to maintain a calm exterior, and I answered:
"We do not expect him."
"I am glad of that," said he, sinking into the chair by which he stood. "During the two years and a half that I have inhabited this house, that man has never before been away for a single night. You can't imagine the relief it gives me."
And as he spoke he stretched out his legs, and leaned back in the chair. His form became less vague, and the colors of his garments more distinct and evident, while an expression of gratified relief succeeded to the anxiety of his countenance.
"Two years and a half!" I exclaimed. "I don't understand you."
"It is fully that length of time," said the ghost, "since I first came here. Mine is not an ordinary case. But before I say anything more about it, let me ask you again if you are sure Mr. Hinckman will not return to-night."
"I am as sure of it as I can be of anything," I answered. "He left to-day for Bristol, two hundred miles away."
"Then I will go on," said the ghost, "for I am glad to have the opportunity of talking to someone who will listen to me; but if John Hinckman should come in and catch me here, I should be frightened out of my wits."
"This is all very strange," I said, greatly puzzled by what I had heard. "Are you the ghost of Mr. Hinckman?"
This was a bold question, but my mind was so full of other emotions that there seemed to be no room for that of fear.
"Yes, I am his ghost," my companion replied, "and yet I have no right to be. And this is what makes me so uneasy, and so much afraid of him. It is a strange story, and, I truly believe, without precedent. Two years and a half ago, John Hinckman was dangerously ill in this very room. At one time he was so far gone that he was really believed to be dead. It was in consequence of too precipitate a report in regard to this matter that I was, at that time, appointed to be his ghost. Imagine my surprise and horror, sir, when, after I had accepted the position and assumed its responsibilities, that old man revived, became convalescent, and eventually regained his usual health. My situation was now one of extreme delicacy and embarrassment. I had no power to return to my original unembodiment, and I had no right to be the ghost of a man who was not dead. I was advised by my friends to quietly maintain my position, and was assured that, as John Hinckman was an elderly man, it could not be long before I could rightfully assume the position for which I had been selected. But I tell you, sir," he continued, with animation, "the old fellow seems as vigorous as ever, and I have no idea how much longer this annoying state of things will continue. I spend my time trying to get out of that old man's way. I must not leave this house, and he seems to follow me everywhere. I tell you, sir, he haunts me."
"That is truly a queer state of things," I remarked. "But why are you afraid of him? He couldn't hurt you."
"Of course he couldn't," said the ghost. "But his very presence is a shock and terror to me. Imagine, sir, how you would feel if my case were yours."
I could not imagine such a thing at all. I simply shuddered.
"And if one must be a wrongful ghost at all," the apparition continued, "it would be much pleasanter to be the ghost of some man other than John Hinckman. There is in him an irascibility of temper, accompanied by a facility of invective, which is seldom met with. And what would happen if he were to see me, and find out, as I am sure he would, how long and why I had inhabited his house, I can scarcely conceive. I have seen him in his bursts of passion; and, although he did not hurt the people he stormed at any more than he would hurt me, they seemed to shrink before him."
All this I knew to be very true. Had it not been for this peculiarity of Mr. Hinckman, I might have been more willing to talk to him about his niece.
"I feel sorry for you," I said, for I really began to have a sympathetic feeling toward this unfortunate apparition. "Your case is indeed a hard one. It reminds me of those persons who have had doubles, and I suppose a man would often be very angry indeed when he found that there was another being who was personating himself."
"Oh! the cases are not similar at all," said the ghost. "A double or doppelgaenger lives on the earth with a man; and, being exactly like him, he makes all sorts of trouble, of course. It is very different with me. I am not here to live with Mr. Hinckman. I am here to take his place. Now, it would make John Hinckman very angry if he knew that. Don't you know it would?"
I assented promptly.
"Now that he is away I can be easy for a little while," continued the ghost; "and I am so glad to have an opportunity of talking to you. I have frequently come into your room, and watched you while you slept, but did not dare to speak to you for fear that if you talked with me Mr. Hinckman would hear you, and come into the room to know why you were talking to yourself."
"But would he not hear you?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" said the other: "there are times when anyone may see me, but no one hears me except the person to whom I address myself."
"But why did you wish to speak to me?" I asked.
"Because," replied the ghost, "I like occasionally to talk to people, and especially to someone like yourself, whose mind is so troubled and perturbed that you are not likely to be frightened by a visit from one of us. But I particularly wanted to ask you to do me a favor. There is every probability, so far as I can see, that John Hinckman will live a long time, and my situation is becoming insupportable. My great object at present is to get myself transferred, and I think that you may, perhaps, be of use to me."
"Transferred!" I exclaimed. "What do you mean by that?"
"What I mean," said the other, "is this: Now that I have started on my career I have got to be the ghost of somebody, and I want to be the ghost of a man who is really dead."
"I should think that would be easy enough," I said. "Opportunities must continually occur."
"Not at all! not at all!" said my companion quickly. "You have no idea what a rush and pressure there is for situations of this kind. Whenever a vacancy occurs, if I may express myself in that way, there are crowds of applications for the ghost-ship."
"I had no idea that such a state of things existed," I said, becoming quite interested in the matter. "There ought to be some regular system, or order of precedence, by which you could all take your turns like customers in a barber's shop."
"Oh dear, that would never do at all!" said the other. "Some of us would have to wait forever. There is always a great rush whenever a good ghost-ship offers itself—while, as you know, there are some positions that no one would care for. And it was in consequence of my being in too great a hurry on an occasion of the kind that I got myself into my present disagreeable predicament, and I have thought that it might be possible that you would help me out of it. You might know of a case where an opportunity for a ghost-ship was not generally expected, but which might present itself at any moment. If you would give me a short notice, I know I could arrange for a transfer."
"What do you mean?" I exclaimed. "Do you want me to commit suicide? Or to undertake a murder for your benefit?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" said the other, with a vapory smile. "I mean nothing of that kind. To be sure, there are lovers who are watched with considerable interest, such persons having been known, in moments of depression, to offer very desirable ghost-ships; but I did not think of anything of that kind in connection with you. You were the only person I cared to speak to, and I hoped that you might give me some information that would be of use; and, in return, I shall be very glad to help you in your love affair."
"You seem to know that I have such an affair," I said.
"Oh, yes!" replied the other, with a little yawn. "I could not be here so much as I have been without knowing all about that."
There was something horrible in the idea of Madeline and myself having been watched by a ghost, even, perhaps, when we wandered together in the most delightful and bosky places. But, then, this was quite an exceptional ghost, and I could not have the objections to him which would ordinarily arise in regard to beings of his class.
"I must go now," said the ghost, rising: "but I will see you somewhere to-morrow night. And remember—you help me, and I'll help you."
I had doubts the next morning as to the propriety of telling Madeline anything about this interview, and soon convinced myself that I must keep silent on the subject. If she knew there was a ghost about the house, she would probably leave the place instantly. I did not mention the matter, and so regulated my demeanor that I am quite sure Madeline never suspected what had taken place. For some time I had wished that Mr. Hinckman would absent himself, for a day at least, from the premises. In such case I thought I might more easily nerve myself up to the point of speaking to Madeline on the subject of our future collateral existence; and, now that the opportunity for such speech had really occurred, I did not feel ready to avail myself of it. What would become of me if she refused me?
I had an idea, however, that the lady thought that, if I were going to speak at all, this was the time. She must have known that certain sentiments were afloat within me, and she was not unreasonable in her wish to see the matter settled one way or the other. But I did not feel like taking a bold step in the dark. If she wished me to ask her to give herself to me, she ought to offer me some reason to suppose that she would make the gift. If I saw no probability of such generosity, I would prefer that things should remain as they were.
* * * * *
That evening I was sitting with Madeline in the moonlit porch. It was nearly ten o'clock, and ever since supper-time I had been working myself up to the point of making an avowal of my sentiments. I had not positively determined to do this, but wished gradually to reach the proper point, when, if the prospect looked bright, I might speak. My companion appeared to understand the situation—at least, I imagined that the nearer I came to a proposal the more she seemed to expect it. It was certainly a very critical and important epoch in my life. If I spoke, I should make myself happy or miserable forever, and if I did not speak I had every reason to believe that the lady would not give me another chance to do so.
Sitting thus with Madeline, talking a little, and thinking very hard over these momentous matters, I looked up and saw the ghost, not a dozen feet away from us. He was sitting on the railing of the porch, one leg thrown up before him, the other dangling down as he leaned against a post. He was behind Madeline, but almost in front of me, as I sat facing the lady. It was fortunate that Madeline was looking out over the landscape, for I must have appeared very much startled. The ghost had told me that he would see me some time this night, but I did not think he would make his appearance when I was in the company of Madeline. If she should see the spirit of her uncle, I could not answer for the consequences. I made no exclamation, but the ghost evidently saw that I was troubled.
"Don't be afraid," he said—"I shall not let her see me; and she cannot hear me speak unless I address myself to her, which I do not intend to do."
I suppose I looked grateful.
"So you need not trouble yourself about that," the ghost continued; "but it seems to me that you are not getting along very well with your affair. If I were you, I should speak out without waiting any longer. You will never have a better chance. You are not likely to be interrupted; and, so far as I can judge, the lady seems disposed to listen to you favorably; that is, if she ever intends to do so. There is no knowing when John Hinckman will go away again; certainly not this summer. If I were in your place, I should never dare to make love to Hinckman's niece if he were anywhere about the place. If he should catch anyone offering himself to Miss Madeline, he would then be a terrible man to encounter."
I agreed perfectly to all this.
"I cannot bear to think of him!" I ejaculated aloud.
"Think of whom?" asked Madeline, turning quickly toward me.
Here was an awkward situation. The long speech of the ghost, to which Madeline paid no attention, but which I heard with perfect distinctness, had made me forget myself.
It was necessary to explain quickly. Of course, it would not do to admit that it was of her dear uncle that I was speaking; and so I mentioned hastily the first name I thought of.
"Mr. Vilars," I said.
This statement was entirely correct; for I never could bear to think of Mr. Vilars, who was a gentleman who had, at various times, paid much attention to Madeline.
"It is wrong for you to speak in that way of Mr. Vilars," she said. "He is a remarkably well educated and sensible young man, and has very pleasant manners. He expects to be elected to the legislature this fall, and I should not be surprised if he made his mark. He will do well in a legislative body, for whenever Mr. Vilars has anything to say he knows just how and when to say it."
This was spoken very quietly, and without any show of resentment, which was all very natural, for if Madeline thought at all favorably of me she could not feel displeased that I should have disagreeable emotions in regard to a possible rival. The concluding words contained a hint which I was not slow to understand. I felt very sure that if Mr. Vilars were in my present position he would speak quickly enough.
"I know it is wrong to have such ideas about a person," I said, "but I cannot help it."
The lady did not chide me, and after this she seemed even in a softer mood. As for me, I felt considerably annoyed, for I had not wished to admit that any thought of Mr. Vilars had ever occupied my mind.
"You should not speak aloud that way," said the ghost, "or you may get yourself into trouble. I want to see everything go well with you, because then you may be disposed to help me, especially if I should chance to be of any assistance to you, which I hope I shall be."
I longed to tell him that there was no way in which he could help me so much as by taking his instant departure. To make love to a young lady with a ghost sitting on the railing nearby, and that ghost the apparition of a much-dreaded uncle, the very idea of whom in such a position and at such a time made me tremble, was a difficult, if not an impossible, thing to do; but I forbore to speak, although I may have looked my mind.
"I suppose," continued the ghost, "that you have not heard anything that might be of advantage to me. Of course, I am very anxious to hear; but if you have anything to tell me, I can wait until you are alone. I will come to you to-night in your room, or I will stay here until the lady goes away."
"You need not wait here," I said; "I have nothing at all to say to you."
Madeline sprang to her feet, her face flushed and her eyes ablaze.
"Wait here!" she cried. "What do you suppose I am waiting for? Nothing to say to me indeed!—I should think so! What should you have to say to me?"
"Madeline!" I exclaimed, stepping toward her, "let me explain."
But she had gone.
Here was the end of the world for me! I turned fiercely to the ghost.
"Wretched existence!" I cried. "You have ruined everything. You have blackened my whole life. Had it not been for you——"
But here my voice faltered. I could say no more.
"You wrong me," said the ghost. "I have not injured you. I have tried only to encourage and assist you, and it is your own folly that has done this mischief. But do not despair. Such mistakes as these can be explained. Keep up a brave heart. Good-by."
And he vanished from the railing like a bursting soap-bubble.
I went gloomily to bed, but I saw no apparitions that night except those of despair and misery which my wretched thoughts called up. The words I had uttered had sounded to Madeline like the basest insult. Of course, there was only one interpretation she could put upon them.
As to explaining my ejaculations, that was impossible. I thought the matter over and over again as I lay awake that night, and I determined that I would never tell Madeline the facts of the case. It would be better for me to suffer all my life than for her to know that the ghost of her uncle haunted the house. Mr. Hinckman was away, and if she knew of his ghost she could not be made to believe that he was not dead. She might not survive the shock! No, my heart could bleed, but I would never tell her.
The next day was fine, neither too cool nor too warm; the breezes were gentle, and nature smiled. But there were no walks or rides with Madeline. She seemed to be much engaged during the day, and I saw but little of her. When we met at meals she was polite, but very quiet and reserved. She had evidently determined on a course of conduct and had resolved to assume that, although I had been very rude to her, she did not understand the import of my words. It would be quite proper, of course, for her not to know what I meant by my expressions of the night before.
I was downcast and wretched, and said but little, and the only bright streak across the black horizon of my woe was the fact that she did not appear to be happy, although she affected an air of unconcern. The moonlit porch was deserted that evening, but wandering about the house I found Madeline in the library alone. She was reading, but I went in and sat down near her. I felt that, although I could not do so fully, I must in a measure explain my conduct of the night before. She listened quietly to a somewhat labored apology I made for the words I had used.
"I have not the slightest idea what you meant," she said, "but you were very rude."
I earnestly disclaimed any intention of rudeness, and assured her, with a warmth of speech that must have made some impression upon her, that rudeness to her would be an action impossible to me. I said a great deal upon the subject, and implored her to believe that if it were not for a certain obstacle I could speak to her so plainly that she would understand everything.
She was silent for a time, and then she said, rather more kindly, I thought, than she had spoken before:
"Is that obstacle in any way connected with my uncle?"
"Yes," I answered, after a little hesitation, "it is, in a measure, connected with him."
She made no answer to this, and sat looking at her book, but not reading. From the expression of her face, I thought she was somewhat softened toward me. She knew her uncle as well as I did, and she may have been thinking that, if he were the obstacle that prevented my speaking (and there were many ways in which he might be that obstacle), my position would be such a hard one that it would excuse some wildness of speech and eccentricity of manner. I saw, too, that the warmth of my partial explanations had had some effect on her, and I began to believe that it might be a good thing for me to speak my mind without delay. No matter how she should receive my proposition, my relations with her could not be worse than they had been the previous night and day, and there was something in her face which encouraged me to hope that she might forget my foolish exclamations of the evening before if I began to tell her my tale of love.
I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and as I did so the ghost burst into the room from the doorway behind her. I say burst, although no door flew open and he made no noise. He was wildly excited, and waved his arms above his head. The moment I saw him, my heart fell within me. With the entrance of that impertinent apparition, every hope fled from me. I could not speak while he was in the room.
I must have turned pale; and I gazed steadfastly at the ghost, almost without seeing Madeline, who sat between us.
"Do you know," he cried, "that John Hinckman is coming up the hill? He will be here in fifteen minutes; and if you are doing anything in the way of love-making, you had better hurry it up. But this is not what I came to tell you. I have glorious news! At last I am transferred! Not forty minutes ago a Russian nobleman was murdered by the Nihilists. Nobody ever thought of him in connection with an immediate ghost-ship. My friends instantly applied for the situation for me, and obtained my transfer. I am off before that horrid Hinckman comes up the hill. The moment I reach my new position, I shall put off this hated semblance. Good-by. You can't imagine how glad I am to be, at last, the real ghost of somebody."
"Oh!" I cried, rising to my feet, and stretching out my arms in utter wretchedness, "I would to Heaven you were mine!"
"I am yours," said Madeline, raising to me her tearful eyes.
THE MUMMY'S FOOT
BY THEOPHILE GAUTIER
Translated for this volume by Sara Goldman.
The Mummy's Foot
By THEOPHILE GAUTIER
I had sauntered idly into the shop of one of those dealers in old curiosities—"bric-a-brac" as they say in that Parisian argot, so absolutely unintelligible elsewhere in France.
You have no doubt often glanced through the windows of some of these shops, which have become numerous since it is so fashionable to buy antique furniture, that the humblest stockbroker feels obliged to have a room furnished in medieval style.
Something is there which belongs alike to the shop of the dealer in old iron, the warehouse of the merchant, the laboratory of the chemist, and the studio of the painter: in all these mysterious recesses, where but a discreet half-light filters through the shutters, the most obviously antique thing is the dust: the cobwebs are more genuine than the laces, and the old pear-tree furniture is more modern than the mahogany which arrived but yesterday from America.
The warehouse of my dealer in bric-a-brac was a veritable Capharnauem; all ages and all countries seemed to have arranged a rendezvous there; an Etruscan terra cotta lamp stood upon a Boule cabinet, with ebony panels decorated with simple filaments of inlaid copper: a duchess of the reign of Louis XV stretched nonchalantly her graceful feet under a massive Louis XIII table with heavy, spiral oaken legs, and carvings of intermingled flowers and grotesque figures.
In a corner glittered the ornamented breastplate of a suit of damaskeened armor of Milan. The shelves and floor were littered with porcelain cupids and nymphs, Chinese monkeys, vases of pale green enamel, cups of Dresden and old Sevres.
Upon the denticulated shelves of sideboards, gleamed huge Japanese plaques, with red and blue designs outlined in gold, side by side with the enamels of Bernard Palissy, with serpents, frogs, and lizards in relief.
From ransacked cabinets tumbled cascades of silvery-gleaming China silk, the shimmering brocade pricked into luminous beads by a slanting sunbeam; while portraits of every epoch smiled through their yellowed varnish from frames more or less tarnished.
The dealer followed me watchfully through the tortuous passages winding between the piles of furniture, warding off with his hands the perilous swing of my coat tail, observing my elbows with the disquieting concern of an antiquarian and a usurer.
He was an odd figure—this dealer; an enormous skull, smooth as a knee, was surrounded by a scant aureole of white hair, which, by contrast, emphasized the salmon-colored tint of his complexion, and gave a wrong impression of patriarchal benevolence, corrected, however, by the glittering of two small, yellow eyes which shifted in their orbits like two louis d'or floating on quicksilver. The curve of his nose gave him an aquiline silhouette, which suggested the Oriental or Jewish type. His hands, long, slender, with prominent veins and sinews protruding like the strings on a violin, with nails like the claws on the membraneous wings of the bat moved with a senile trembling painful to behold, but those nervously quivering hands became firmer than pincers of steel, or the claws of a lobster, when they picked up any precious object, an onyx cup, a Venetian glass, or a platter of Bohemian crystal. This curious old fellow had an air so thoroughly rabbinical and cabalistic, that, from mere appearance, he would have been burned at the stake three centuries ago.
"Will you not buy something from me to-day, sir? Here is a kris from Malay, with a blade which undulates like a flame; look at these grooves for the blood to drip from, these teeth reversed so as to tear out the entrails in withdrawing the weapon; it is a fine specimen of a ferocious weapon, and will be an interesting addition to your trophies; this two-handed sword is very beautiful—it is the work of Joseph de la Herz; and this cauchelimarde with its carved guard—what superb workmanship!"
"No, I have enough weapons and instruments of carnage; I should like to have a small figure, any sort of object which can be used for a paper weight; for I cannot endure those commonplace bronzes for sale at the stationers which one sees invariably on everybody's desk."
The old gnome, rummaging among his ancient wares, displayed before me some antique bronzes—pseudo-antique, at least, fragments of malachite, little Hindu and Chinese idols, jade monkeys, incarnations of Brahma and Vishnu, marvelously suitable for the purpose—scarcely divine—of holding papers and letters in place.
I was hesitating between a porcelain dragon covered with constellations of warts, its jaws embellished with teeth and tusks, and a hideous little Mexican fetish, representing realistically the god Vitziliputzili, when I noticed a charming foot, which at first I supposed was a fragment of some antique Venus.
It had that beautiful tawny reddish tint, which gives the Florentine bronzes their warm, life-like appearance, so preferable to the verdigris tones of ordinary bronzes, which might be taken readily for statues in a state of putrefaction; a satiny luster gleamed over its curves, polished by the amorous kisses of twenty centuries; for it must have been a Corinthian bronze, a work of the finest period, molded perhaps by Lysippus himself.
"That foot will do," I said to the dealer, who looked at me with an ironical, crafty expression, as he handed me the object I asked for, so that I might examine it more carefully.
I was surprised at its lightness. It was not a metal foot but in reality a foot of flesh, an embalmed foot, a mummy's foot; on examining it more closely, one could distinguish the grain of the skin, and the almost imperceptible imprint of the weave of the wrappings. The toes were slender, delicate, with perfect nails, pure and transparent as agate; the great toe, slightly separated from the others, in the antique manner was in pleasing contrast to the position of the other toes, and gave a suggestion of the freedom and lightness of a bird's foot. The sole, faintly streaked with almost invisible lines, showed that it had never touched the ground, or come in contact with anything but the finest mats woven from the rushes of the Nile, and the softest rugs of panther skin.
"Ha, ha! You want the foot of the Princess Hermonthis," said the dealer with a strange, mocking laugh, staring at me with his owlish eyes. "Ha, ha, ha, for a paper weight! An original idea! an artist's idea! If anyone had told old Pharaoh that the foot of his adored daughter would be used for a paper weight, particularly whilst he was having a mountain of granite hollowed out in which to place her triple coffin, painted and gilded, covered with hieroglyphics, and beautiful pictures of the judgment of souls, it would truly have surprised him," continued the queer little dealer, in low tones, as though talking to himself.
"How much will you charge me for this fragment of a mummy?"
"Ah, as much as I can get; for it is a superb piece; if I had the mate to it, you could not have it for less than five hundred francs—the daughter of a Pharaoh! there could be nothing more choice."
"Assuredly it is not common; but, still, how much do you want for it? First, however, I want to acquaint you with one fact, which is, that my fortune consists of only five louis. I will buy anything that costs five louis, but nothing more expensive. You may search my vest pockets, and my most secret bureau drawers, but you will not find one miserable five franc piece besides."
"Five louis for the foot of the Princess Hermonthis! It is very little, too little, in fact, for an authentic foot," said the dealer, shaking his head and rolling his eyes with a peculiar rotary motion. "Very well, take it, and I will throw in the outer covering," he said, rolling it in a shred of old damask—"very beautiful, genuine damask, which has never been redyed; it is strong, yet it is soft," he muttered, caressing the frayed tissue, in accordance with his dealer's habit of praising an article of so little value, that he himself thought it good for nothing but to give away.
He dropped the gold pieces into a kind of medieval pouch which was fastened at his belt, while he repeated:
"The foot of the Princess Hermonthis to be used for a paper weight!"
Then, fastening upon me his phosphorescent pupils he said, in a voice strident as the wails of a cat which has just swallowed a fish bone:
"Old Pharaoh will not be pleased; he loved his daughter—that dear man."
"You speak of him as though you were his contemporary; no matter how old you may be, you do not date back to the pyramids of Egypt," I answered laughingly from the threshold of the shop.
I returned home, delighted with my purchase.
To make use of it at once, I placed the foot of the exalted Princess Hermonthis on a stack of papers—sketches of verses, undecipherable mosaics of crossed out words, unfinished articles, forgotten letters, posted in the desk drawer, a mistake often made by absent-minded people; the effect was pleasing, bizarre, and romantic.
Highly delighted with this decoration, I went down into the street, and took a walk with all the importance and pride proper to a man who has the inexpressible advantage over the passersby he elbows, of possessing a fragment of the Princess Hermonthis, daughter of Pharaoh.
I thought people who did not possess, like myself, a paper weight so genuinely Egyptian, were objects of ridicule, and it seemed to me the proper business of the sensible man to have a mummy's foot upon his desk.
Happily, an encounter with several friends distracted me from my raptures over my recent acquisition, I went to dinner with them, for it would have been hard for me to dine alone.
When I returned at night, with my brain somewhat muddled by the effects of a few glasses of wine, a vague whiff of oriental perfume tickled delicately my olfactory nerves. The heat of the room had warmed the natron, the bitumen, and the myrrh in which the paraschites who embalmed the dead had bathed the body of the Princess; it was a delicate, yet penetrating perfume, which four thousand years had not been able to dissipate.
The Dream of Egypt was for the Eternal; its odors have the solidity of granite, and last as long.
In a short time I drank full draughts from the black cup of sleep; for an hour or two all remained in obscurity; Oblivion and Nothingness submerged me in their somber waves.
Nevertheless the haziness of my perceptions gradually cleared away, dreams began to brush me lightly in their silent flight.
The eyes of my soul opened, and I saw my room as it was in reality. I might have believed myself awake, if I had not had a vague consciousness that I was asleep, and that something very unusual was about to take place.
The odor of myrrh had increased in intensity, and I had a slight headache, which I very naturally attributed to several glasses of champagne that we had drunk to unknown gods, and to our future success.
I scrutinized my room with a feeling of expectation, which there was nothing to justify. Each piece of furniture was in its usual place; the lamp, softly shaded by the milky whiteness of its ground crystal globe, burned upon the console, the water colors glowed from under the Bohemian glass; the curtains hung in heavy drooping folds; everything suggested tranquility and slumber.
Nevertheless, after a few moments the quiet of the room was disturbed, the woodwork creaked furtively, the ash-covered log suddenly spurted out a blue flame, and the surfaces of the plaques seemed like metallic eyes, watching, like myself, for what was about to happen.
By chance my eyes fell on the table on which I had placed the foot of the Princess Hermonthis.
Instead of remaining in the state of immobility proper to a foot which has been embalmed for four thousand years, it moved about in an agitated manner, twitching, leaping about over the papers like a frightened frog; one might have thought it in contact with a galvanic battery; I could hear distinctly the quick tap of the little heel, hard as the hoof of a gazelle.
I became rather dissatisfied with my purchase, for I like paper weights of sedentary habits—besides I found it very unnatural for feet to move about without legs, and I began to feel something closely resembling fear.
Suddenly I noticed a movement of one of the folds of my curtains, and I heard a stamping like that made by a person hopping about on one foot. I must admit that I grew hot and cold by turns, that I felt a mysterious breeze blowing down my back, and that my hair stood on end so suddenly that it forced my night-cap to a leap of several degrees.
The curtains partly opened, and I saw the strangest figure possible advancing.
It was a young girl, as coffee-coloured as Amani the dancer, and of a perfect beauty of the purest Egyptian type. She had slanting almond-shaped eyes, with eyebrows so black that they appeared blue; her nose was finely chiseled, almost Grecian in its delicacy; she might have been taken for a Corinthian statue of bronze, had not her prominent cheekbones and rather African fullness of lips indicated without a doubt the hieroglyphic race which dwelt on the banks of the Nile.
Her arms, thin, spindle shaped, like those of very young girls, were encircled with a kind of metal ornament, and bracelets of glass beads; her hair was twisted into little cords; on her breast hung a green paste idol, identified by her whip of seven lashes as Isis, guide of souls—a golden ornament shone on her forehead, and slight traces of rouge were visible on the coppery tints of her cheeks.
As for her costume, it was very odd.
Imagine a pagne made of narrow strips bedizened with red and black hieroglyphics, weighted with bitumen, and apparently belonging to a mummy newly unswathed.
In one of those flights of fancy usual in dreams, I could hear the hoarse, rough voice of the dealer of bric-a-brac reciting in a monotonous refrain, the phrase he had kept repeating in his shop in so enigmatic a manner.
"Old Pharaoh will not be pleased—he loved his daughter very much—that dear man."
One peculiar detail, which was hardly reassuring, was that the apparition had but one foot, the other was broken off at the ankle.
She approached the table, where the mummy's foot was fidgeting and tossing about with redoubled energy. She leaned against the edge, and I saw her eyes fill with pearly tears.
Although she did not speak, I fully understood her feelings. She looked at the foot, for it was in truth her own, with an expression of coquettish sadness, which was extremely charming; but the foot kept jumping and running about as though it were moved by springs of steel.
Two or three times she stretched out her hand to grasp it, but did not succeed.
Then began between the Princess Hermonthis and her foot, which seemed to be endowed with an individuality of its own, a very bizarre dialogue, in an ancient Coptic tongue, such as might have been spoken thirty centuries before, among the sphinxes of the Land of Ser; fortunately, that night I understood Coptic perfectly.
The Princess Hermonthis said in a tone of voice sweet and tremulous as the tones of a crystal bell:
"Well, my dear little foot, you always flee from me, yet I took the best of care of you; I bathed you with perfumed water, in a basin of alabaster; I rubbed your heel with pumice stone, mixed with oil of palm; your nails were cut with golden scissors, and polished with a hippopotamus' tooth; I was careful to select for you painted and embroidered tatbebs, with turned up toes, which were the envy of all the young girls of Egypt; on your great toe, you wore rings representing the sacred Scarab, and you supported one of the lightest bodies that could be desired by a lazy foot."
The foot answered in a pouting, regretful voice:
"You know well that I no longer belong to myself. I have been bought and paid for; the old dealer knew what he was about. He bears you a grudge for having refused to marry him. This is a trick he has played on you. The Arab who forced open your royal tomb, in the subterranean pits of the Necropolis of Thebes, was sent there by him. He wanted to prevent you from attending the reunion of the shades, in the cities of the lower world. Have you five pieces of gold with which to ransom me?"
"Alas, no! My jewels, my rings, my purses of gold and of silver have all been stolen from me," answered the Princess Hermonthis with a sigh.
"Princess," I then cried out, "I have never kept possession of anyone's foot unjustly; even though you have not the five louis which it cost me, I will return it to you gladly; I should be wretched, were I the cause of the lameness of so charming a person as the Princess Hermonthis."
I delivered this discourse in a courtly, troubadour-like manner, which must have astonished the beautiful Egyptian.
She looked at me with an expression of deepest gratitude, and her eyes brightened with bluish lights.
She took her foot, which this time submitted, and, like a woman about to put on her brodekin, she adjusted it to her leg with great dexterity.
This operation finished, she took a few steps about the room, as though to assure herself that she was in reality no longer lame.
"Ah, how happy my father will be, he who was so wretched because of my mutilation—he who, from the day of my birth, set a whole nation to work to hollow out a tomb so deep that he might preserve me intact until that supreme last day, when souls must be weighed in the scales of Amenti! Come with me to my father; he will be happy to receive you, for you have given me back my foot."
I found this proposition quite natural. I decked myself out in a dressing-gown of huge sprawling design, which gave me an extremely Pharaohesque appearance; I hurriedly put on a pair of Turkish slippers, and told the Princess Hermonthis that I was ready to follow her.
Before setting out, Hermonthis detached from her necklace the little green paste image and placed it on the scattered papers which strewed the table.
"It is no more than right," she said smilingly, "that I should replace your paper weight."
She gave me her hand, which was soft and cool as the skin of a serpent, and we departed.
For a time we sped with the rapidity of an arrow, through a misty expanse of space, in which almost indistinguishable silhouettes flashed by us, on the right and left.
For an instant we saw nothing but sea and sky.
A few minutes later, towering obelisks, pillars, the sloping outlines of the sphinx, were designed against the horizon.
We had arrived.
The princess conducted me to the side of a mountain of red granite in which there was an aperture so low and narrow that, had it not been marked by two monoliths covered with bizarre carvings, it would have been difficult to distinguish from the fissures in the rock.
Hermonthis lighted a torch and led the way.
The corridors were hewn through the living rock. The walls, with panels covered with hieroglyphics, and representations of allegorical processions, must have been the work of thousands of hands for thousands of years; the corridors, of an interminable length, ended in square rooms, in the middle of which pits had been constructed, to which we descended by means of crampons or spiral staircases. These pits led us into other rooms, from which opened out other corridors embellished in the same bizarre manner with sparrow-hawks, serpents coiled in circles, the symbolic tau, pedum, and baris, prodigious works which no living eye should ever see, interminable legends in granite which only the dead throughout eternity have time to read.
At last we reached a hall so vast, so boundless, so immeasurable, that its limits could not be discerned. As far as the eye could see, extended files of gigantic columns, between which sparkled livid stars of yellow light. These glittering points of light revealed incalculable depths beyond.
The Princess Hermonthis, still holding my hand, greeted graciously the mummies of her acquaintance.
My eyes gradually became accustomed to the shadowy twilight, and I began to distinguish the objects around me.
I saw, seated upon their thrones, the kings of the subterranean races. They were dignified old personages, or dried up, shriveled, wrinkled-like parchment, and blackened with naphtha and bitumen. On their heads they wore pschents of gold, and their breastplates and gorgets scintillated with precious stones; their eyes had the fixedness of the sphinx, and their long beards were whitened by the snows of centuries. Behind them stood their embalmed subjects, in the rigid and constrained postures of Egyptian art, preserving eternally the attitudes prescribed by the hieratic code. Behind the subjects, the cats, ibixes, and crocodiles contemporary with them, rendered still more monstrous by their wrappings, mewed, beat their wings, and opened and closed their huge jaws in foolish grimaces.
All the Pharaohs were there—Cheops, Chephrenes, Psammetichus, Sesostri, Amenoteph, all the dark-skinned rulers of the country of the pyramids, and the royal sepulchers; on a still higher platform sat enthroned the kings Chronos, and Xixouthros, who were contemporary with the deluge, and Tubal-Cain, who preceded it.
The beard of King Xixouthros had grown to such lengths that it had already wound itself seven times around the granite table against which he leaned, lost in reverie, as though in slumber.
Further in the distance, through a dim exhalation, across the mists of eternities, I beheld vaguely the seventy-two pre-Adamite kings, with their seventy-two peoples, vanished forever.
The Princess Hermonthis, after allowing me a few moments to enjoy this dizzying spectacle, presented me to Pharaoh, her father, who nodded to me in a most majestic manner.
"I have found my foot—I have found my foot!" cried the Princess, clapping her little hands, with every indication of uncontrollable joy. "It was this gentleman who returned it to me."
The races of Kheme, the races of Nahasi, all the races, black, bronze, and copper-colored, repeated in a chorus:
"The Princess Hermonthis has found her foot."
Xixouthros himself was deeply affected.
He raised his heavy eyelids, stroked his moustache, and regarded me with his glance charged with the centuries.
"By Oms, the dog of Hell, and by Tmei, daughter of the Sun and of Truth, here is a brave and worthy young man," said Pharaoh, extending toward me his scepter which terminated in a lotus flower. "What recompense do you desire?"
Eagerly, with that audacity which one has in dreams, where nothing seems impossible, I asked him for the hand of the Princess Hermonthis. Her hand in exchange for her foot, seemed to me an antithetical recompense, in sufficiently good taste.
Pharaoh opened wide his eyes of glass, surprised at my pleasantry, as well as my request.
"From what country are you, and what is your age?"
"I am a Frenchman, and I am twenty-seven years old, venerable Pharaoh."
"Twenty-seven years old! And he wishes to espouse the Princess Hermonthis, who is thirty centuries old!" exclaimed in a chorus all the thrones, and all the circles of nations.
Hermonthis alone did not seem to think my request improper.
"If you were even two thousand years old," continued the old king, "I would gladly bestow upon you the Princess; but the disproportion is too great; besides, our daughters must have husbands who will last, and you no longer know how to preserve yourselves. Of the last persons who were brought here, scarcely fifteen centuries ago, nothing now remains but a pinch of ashes. Look! my flesh is as hard as basalt, my bones are bars of steel. I shall be present on the last day, with the body and features I had in life. My daughter Hermonthis will last longer than a statue of bronze. But at that time the winds will have dissipated the last grains of your dust, and Isis herself, who knew how to recover the fragments of Osiris, would hardly be able to recompose your being. See how vigorous I still am, and how powerful is the strength of my arm," said he, shaking my hand in the English fashion, in a way that cut my fingers with my rings.
His grasp was so strong that I awoke, and discovered my friend Alfred, who was pulling me by the arm, and shaking me, to make me get up.
"Oh, see here, you maddening sleeper! Must I have you dragged into the middle of the street, and have fireworks put off close to your ear, in order to waken you? It is afternoon. Don't you remember that you promised to call for me and take me to see the Spanish pictures of M. Aguada?"
"Good heavens! I forgot all about it," I answered, dressing hurriedly. "We can go there at once—I have the permit here on my table." I crossed over to get it; imagine my astonishment when I saw, not the mummy's foot I had bought the evening before, but the little green paste image left in its place by the Princess Hermonthis!
THE RIVAL GHOSTS
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
From Tales of Fantasy and Fact, by Brander Matthews. Copyright, 1886, by Harper Brothers. By permission of the publishers and Brander Matthews.
The Rival Ghosts
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
The good ship sped on her way across the calm Atlantic. It was an outward passage, according to the little charts which the company had charily distributed, but most of the passengers were homeward bound, after a summer of rest and recreation, and they were counting the days before they might hope to see Fire Island Light. On the lee side of the boat, comfortably sheltered from the wind, and just by the door of the captain's room (which was theirs during the day), sat a little group of returning Americans. The Duchess (she was down on the purser's list as Mrs. Martin, but her friends and familiars called her the Duchess of Washington Square) and Baby Van Rensselaer (she was quite old enough to vote, had her sex been entitled to that duty, but as the younger of two sisters she was still the baby of the family)—the Duchess and Baby Van Rensselaer were discussing the pleasant English voice and the not unpleasant English accent of a manly young lordling who was going to America for sport. Uncle Larry and Dear Jones were enticing each other into a bet on the ship's run of the morrow.
"I'll give you two to one she don't make 420," said Dear Jones.
"I'll take it," answered Uncle Larry. "We made 427 the fifth day last year." It was Uncle Larry's seventeenth visit to Europe, and this was therefore his thirty-fourth voyage.
"And when did you get in?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer. "I don't care a bit about the run, so long as we get in soon."
"We crossed the bar Sunday night, just seven days after we left Queenstown, and we dropped anchor off Quarantine at three o'clock on Monday morning."
"I hope we sha'n't do that this time. I can't seem to sleep any when the boat stops."
"I can, but I didn't," continued Uncle Larry, "because my stateroom was the most for'ard in the boat, and the donkey-engine that let down the anchor was right over my head."
"So you got up and saw the sun rise over the bay," said Dear Jones, "with the electric lights of the city twinkling in the distance, and the first faint flush of the dawn in the east just over Fort Lafayette, and the rosy tinge which spread softly upward, and——"
"Did you both come back together?" asked the Duchess.
"Because he has crossed thirty-four times you must not suppose he has a monopoly in sunrises," retorted Dear Jones. "No; this was my own sunrise; and a mighty pretty one it was too."
"I'm not matching sunrises with you," remarked Uncle Larry calmly; "but I'm willing to back a merry jest called forth by my sunrise against any two merry jests called forth by yours."
"I confess reluctantly that my sunrise evoked no merry jest at all." Dear Jones was an honest man, and would scorn to invent a merry jest on the spur of the moment.
"That's where my sunrise has the call," said Uncle Larry, complacently.
"What was the merry jest?" was Baby Van Rensselaer's inquiry, the natural result of a feminine curiosity thus artistically excited.
"Well, here it is. I was standing aft, near a patriotic American and a wandering Irishman, and the patriotic American rashly declared that you couldn't see a sunrise like that anywhere in Europe, and this gave the Irishman his chance, and he said, 'Sure ye don't have'm here till we're through with 'em over there.'"
"It is true," said Dear Jones, thoughtfully, "that they do have some things over there better than we do; for instance, umbrellas."
"And gowns," added the Duchess.
"And antiquities."—this was Uncle Larry's contribution.
"And we do have some things so much better in America!" protested Baby Van Rensselaer, as yet uncorrupted by any worship of the effete monarchies of despotic Europe. "We make lots of things a great deal nicer than you can get them in Europe—especially ice-cream."
"And pretty girls," added Dear Jones; but he did not look at her.
"And spooks," remarked Uncle Larry, casually.
"Spooks?" queried the Duchess.
"Spooks. I maintain the word. Ghost, if you like that better, or specters. We turn out the best quality of spook——"
"You forget the lovely ghost stories about the Rhine and the Black Forest," interrupted Miss Van Rensselaer, with feminine inconsistency.
"I remember the Rhine and the Black Forest and all the other haunts of elves and fairies and hobgoblins; but for good honest spooks there is no place like home. And what differentiates our spook—spiritus Americanus—from the ordinary ghost of literature is that it responds to the American sense of humor. Take Irving's stories, for example. The 'Headless Horseman'—that's a comic ghost story. And Rip Van Winkle—consider what humor, and what good humor, there is in the telling of his meeting with the goblin crew of Hendrik Hudson's men! A still better example of this American way of dealing with legend and mystery is the marvelous tale of the rival ghosts."
"The rival ghosts!" queried the Duchess and Baby Van Rensselaer together. "Who were they?"
"Didn't I ever tell you about them?" answered Uncle Larry, a gleam of approaching joy flashing from his eye.
"Since he is bound to tell us sooner or later, we'd better be resigned and hear it now," said Dear Jones.
"If you are not more eager, I won't tell it at all."
"Oh, do, Uncle Larry! you know I just dote on ghost stories," pleaded Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Once upon a time," began Uncle Larry—"in fact, a very few years ago—there lived in the thriving town of New York a young American called Duncan—Eliphalet Duncan. Like his name, he was half Yankee and half Scotch, and naturally he was a lawyer, and had come to New York to make his way. His father was a Scotchman who had come over and settled in Boston and married a Salem girl. When Eliphalet Duncan was about twenty he lost both of his parents. His father left him enough money to give him a start, and a strong feeling of pride in his Scotch birth; you see there was a title in the family in Scotland, and although Eliphalet's father was the younger son of a younger son, yet he always remembered, and always bade his only son to remember, that this ancestry was noble. His mother left him her full share of Yankee grit and a little old house in Salem which had belonged to her family for more than two hundred years. She was a Hitchcock, and the Hitchcocks had been settled in Salem since the year 1. It was a great-great-grandfather of Mr. Eliphalet Hitchcock who was foremost in the time of the Salem witchcraft craze. And this little old house which she left to my friend, Eliphalet Duncan, was haunted."
"By the ghost of one of the witches, of course?" interrupted Dear Jones.
"Now how could it be the ghost of a witch, since the witches were all burned at the stake? You never heard of anybody who was burned having a ghost, did you?" asked Uncle Larry.
"That's an argument in favor of cremation, at any rate," replied Dear Jones, evading the direct question.
"It is, if you don't like ghosts. I do," said Baby Van Rensselaer.
"And so do I," added Uncle Larry. "I love a ghost as dearly as an Englishman loves a lord."
"Go on with your story," said the Duchess, majestically overruling all extraneous discussion.
"This little old house at Salem was haunted," resumed Uncle Larry. "And by a very distinguished ghost—or at least by a ghost with very remarkable attributes."
"What was he like?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a premonitory shiver of anticipatory delight.
"It had a lot of peculiarities. In the first place, it never appeared to the master of the house. Mostly it confined its visitations to unwelcome guests. In the course of the last hundred years it had frightened away four successive mothers-in-law, while never intruding on the head of the household."
"I guess that ghost had been one of the boys when he was alive and in the flesh." This was Dear Jones's contribution to the telling of the tale.
"In the second place," continued Uncle Larry, "it never frightened anybody the first time it appeared. Only on the second visit were the ghost-seers scared; but then they were scared enough for twice, and they rarely mustered up courage enough to risk a third interview. One of the most curious characteristics of this well-meaning spook was that it had no face—or at least that nobody ever saw its face."
"Perhaps he kept his countenance veiled?" queried the Duchess, who was beginning to remember that she never did like ghost stories.
"That was what I was never able to find out. I have asked several people who saw the ghost, and none of them could tell me anything about its face, and yet while in its presence they never noticed its features, and never remarked on their absence or concealment. It was only afterwards when they tried to recall calmly all the circumstances of meeting with the mysterious stranger that they became aware that they had not seen its face. And they could not say whether the features were covered, or whether they were wanting, or what the trouble was. They knew only that the face was never seen. And no matter how often they might see it, they never fathomed this mystery. To this day nobody knows whether the ghost which used to haunt the little old house in Salem had a face, or what manner of face it had."
"How awfully weird!" said Baby Van Rensselaer. "And why did the ghost go away?"
"I haven't said it went away," answered Uncle Larry, with much dignity.
"But you said it used to haunt the little old house at Salem, so I supposed it had moved. Didn't it?" the young lady asked.
"You shall be told in due time. Eliphalet Duncan used to spend most of his summer vacations at Salem, and the ghost never bothered him at all, for he was the master of the house—much to his disgust, too, because he wanted to see for himself the mysterious tenant at will of his property. But he never saw it, never. He arranged with friends to call him whenever it might appear, and he slept in the next room with the door open; and yet when their frightened cries waked him the ghost was gone, and his only reward was to hear reproachful sighs as soon as he went back to bed. You see, the ghost thought it was not fair of Eliphalet to seek an introduction which was plainly unwelcome."
Dear Jones interrupted the story-teller by getting up and tucking a heavy rug more snugly around Baby Van Rensselaer's feet, for the sky was now overcast and gray, and the air was damp and penetrating.
"One fine spring morning," pursued Uncle Larry, "Eliphalet Duncan received great news. I told you that there was a title in the family in Scotland, and that Eliphalet's father was the younger son of a younger son. Well, it happened that all Eliphalet's father's brothers and uncles had died off without male issue except the eldest son of the eldest son, and he, of course, bore the title, and was Baron Duncan of Duncan. Now the great news that Eliphalet Duncan received in New York one fine spring morning was that Baron Duncan and his only son had been yachting in the Hebrides, and they had been caught in a black squall, and they were both dead. So my friend Eliphalet Duncan inherited the title and the estates."
"How romantic!" said the Duchess. "So he was a baron!"
"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "he was a baron if he chose. But he didn't choose."
"More fool he!" said Dear Jones, sententiously.
"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "I'm not so sure of that. You see, Eliphalet Duncan was half Scotch and half Yankee, and he had two eyes to the main chance. He held his tongue about his windfall of luck until he could find out whether the Scotch estates were enough to keep up the Scotch title. He soon discovered that they were not, and that the late Lord Duncan, having married money, kept up such state as he could out of the revenues of the dowry of Lady Duncan. And Eliphalet, he decided that he would rather be a well-fed lawyer in New York, living comfortably on his practice, than a starving lord in Scotland, living scantily on his title."
"But he kept his title?" asked the Duchess.
"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "he kept it quiet. I knew it, and a friend or two more. But Eliphalet was a sight too smart to put 'Baron Duncan of Duncan, Attorney and Counselor at Law,' on his shingle."
"What has all this got to do with your ghost?" asked Dear Jones, pertinently.
"Nothing with that ghost, but a good deal with another ghost. Eliphalet was very learned in spirit lore—perhaps because he owned the haunted house at Salem, perhaps because he was a Scotchman by descent. At all events, he had made a special study of the wraiths and white ladies and banshees and bogies of all kinds whose sayings and doings and warnings are recorded in the annals of the Scottish nobility. In fact, he was acquainted with the habits of every reputable spook in the Scotch peerage. And he knew that there was a Duncan ghost attached to the person of the holder of the title of Baron Duncan of Duncan."