"So, besides being the owner of a haunted house in Salem, he was also a haunted man in Scotland?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Just so. But the Scotch ghost was not unpleasant, like the Salem ghost, although it had one peculiarity in common with its transatlantic fellow-spook. It never appeared to the holder of the title, just as the other never was visible to the owner of the house. In fact, the Duncan ghost was never seen at all. It was a guardian angel only. Its sole duty was to be in personal attendance on Baron Duncan of Duncan, and to warn him of impending evil. The traditions of the house told that the Barons of Duncan had again and again felt a premonition of ill fortune. Some of them had yielded and withdrawn from the venture they had undertaken, and it had failed dismally. Some had been obstinate, and had hardened their hearts, and had gone on reckless to defeat and to death. In no case had a Lord Duncan been exposed to peril without fair warning."
"Then how came it that the father and son were lost in the yacht off the Hebrides?" asked Dear Jones.
"Because they were too enlightened to yield to superstition. There is extant now a letter of Lord Duncan, written to his wife a few minutes before he and his son set sail, in which he tells her how hard he has had to struggle with an almost overmastering desire to give up the trip. Had he obeyed the friendly warning of the family ghost, the letter would have been spared a journey across the Atlantic."
"Did the ghost leave Scotland for America as soon as the old baron died?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with much interest.
"How did he come over," queried Dear Jones—"in the steerage, or as a cabin passenger?"
"I don't know," answered Uncle Larry, calmly, "and Eliphalet didn't know. For as he was in no danger, and stood in no need of warning, he couldn't tell whether the ghost was on duty or not. Of course he was on the watch for it all the time. But he never got any proof of its presence until he went down to the little old house of Salem, just before the Fourth of July. He took a friend down with him—a young fellow who had been in the regular army since the day Fort Sumter was fired on, and who thought that after four years of the little unpleasantness down South, including six months in Libby, and after ten years of fighting the bad Indians on the plains, he wasn't likely to be much frightened by a ghost. Well, Eliphalet and the officer sat out on the porch all the evening smoking and talking over points in military law. A little after twelve o'clock, just as they began to think it was about time to turn in, they heard the most ghastly noise in the house. It wasn't a shriek, or a howl, or a yell, or anything they could put a name to. It was an undeterminate, inexplicable shiver and shudder of sound, which went wailing out of the window. The officer had been at Cold Harbor, but he felt himself getting colder this time. Eliphalet knew it was the ghost who haunted the house. As this weird sound died away, it was followed by another, sharp, short, blood-curdling in its intensity. Something in this cry seemed familiar to Eliphalet, and he felt sure that it proceeded from the family ghost, the warning wraith of the Duncans."
"Do I understand you to intimate that both ghosts were there together?" inquired the Duchess, anxiously.
"Both of them were there," answered Uncle Larry. "You see, one of them belonged to the house, and had to be there all the time, and the other was attached to the person of Baron Duncan, and had to follow him there; wherever he was, there was that ghost also. But Eliphalet, he had scarcely time to think this out when he heard both sounds again, not one after another, but both together, and something told him—some sort of an instinct he had—that those two ghosts didn't agree, didn't get on together, didn't exactly hit it off; in fact, that they were quarreling."
"Quarreling ghosts! Well, I never!" was Baby Van Rensselaer's remark.
"It is a blessed thing to see ghosts dwell together in unity," said Dear Jones.
And the Duchess added, "It would certainly be setting a better example."
"You know," resumed Uncle Larry, "that two waves of light or of sound may interfere and produce darkness or silence. So it was with these rival spooks. They interfered, but they did not produce silence or darkness. On the contrary, as soon as Eliphalet and the officer went into the house, there began at once a series of spiritualistic manifestations—a regular dark seance. A tambourine was played upon, a bell was rung, and a flaming banjo went singing around the room."
"Where did they get the banjo?" asked Dear Jones, sceptically.
"I don't know. Materialized it, maybe, just as they did the tambourine. You don't suppose a quiet New York lawyer kept a stock of musical instruments large enough to fit out a strolling minstrel troupe just on the chance of a pair of ghosts coming to give him a surprise party, do you? Every spook has its own instrument of torture. Angels play on harps, I'm informed, and spirits delight in banjos and tambourines. These spooks of Eliphalet Duncan's were ghosts with all modern improvements, and I guess they were capable of providing their own musical weapons. At all events, they had them there in the little old house at Salem the night Eliphalet and his friend came down. And they played on them, and they rang the bell, and they rapped here, there, and everywhere. And they kept it up all night."
"All night?" asked the awe-stricken Duchess.
"All night long," said Uncle Larry, solemnly; "and the next night too. Eliphalet did not get a wink of sleep, neither did his friend. On the second night the house ghost was seen by the officer; on the third night it showed itself again; and the next morning the officer packed his gripsack and took the first train to Boston. He was a New Yorker, but he said he'd sooner go to Boston than see that ghost again. Eliphalet wasn't scared at all, partly because he never saw either the domiciliary or the titular spook, and partly because he felt himself on friendly terms with the spirit world, and didn't scare easily. But after losing three nights' sleep and the society of his friend, he began to be a little impatient, and to think that the thing had gone far enough. You see, while in a way he was fond of ghosts, yet he liked them best one at a time. Two ghosts were one too many. He wasn't bent on making a collection of spooks. He and one ghost were company, but he and two ghosts were a crowd."
"What did he do?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Well he couldn't do anything. He waited awhile, hoping they would get tired; but he got tired out first. You see, it comes natural to a spook to sleep in the daytime, but a man wants to sleep nights, and they wouldn't let him sleep nights. They kept on wrangling and quarreling incessantly; they manifested and they dark-seanced as regularly as the old clock on the stairs struck twelve; they rapped and they rang bells and they banged the tambourine and they threw the flaming banjo about the house, and, worse than all, they swore."
"I did not know that spirits were addicted to bad language," said the Duchess.
"How did he know they were swearing? Could he hear them?" asked Dear Jones.
"That was just it," responded Uncle Larry; "he could not hear them—at least, not distinctly. There were inarticulate murmurs and stifled rumblings. But the impression produced on him was that they were swearing. If they had only sworn right out, he would not have minded it so much, because he would have known the worst. But the feeling that the air was full of suppressed profanity was very wearing, and after standing it for a week he gave up in disgust and went to the White Mountains."
"Leaving them to fight it out, I suppose," interjected Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Not at all," explained Uncle Larry. "They could not quarrel unless he was present. You see, he could not leave the titular ghost behind him, and the domiciliary ghost could not leave the house. When he went away he took the family ghost with him, leaving the house ghost behind. Now spooks can't quarrel when they are a hundred miles apart any more than men can."
"And what happened afterwards?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a pretty impatience.
"A most marvelous thing happened. Eliphalet Duncan went to the White Mountains, and in the car of the railroad that runs to the top of Mount Washington he met a classmate whom he had not seen for years, and this classmate introduced Duncan to his sister, and this sister was a remarkably pretty girl, and Duncan fell in love with her at first sight, and by the time he got to the top of Mount Washington he was so deep in love that he began to consider his own unworthiness, and to wonder whether she might ever be induced to care for him a little—ever so little."
"I don't think that is so marvelous a thing," said Dear Jones, glancing at Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Who was she?" asked the Duchess, who had once lived in Philadelphia.
"She was Miss Kitty Sutton, of San Francisco, and she was a daughter of old Judge Sutton, of the firm of Pixley & Sutton."
"A very respectable family," assented the Duchess.
"I hope she wasn't a daughter of that loud and vulgar old Mrs. Sutton whom I met at Saratoga one summer four or five years ago?" said Dear Jones.
"Probably she was," Uncle Larry responded.
"She was a horrid old woman. The boys used to call her Mother Gorgon."
"The pretty Kitty Sutton with whom Eliphalet Duncan had fallen in love was the daughter of Mother Gorgon. But he never saw the mother, who was in Frisco, or Los Angeles, or Santa Fe, or somewhere out West, and he saw a great deal of the daughter, who was up in the White Mountains. She was traveling with her brother and his wife, and as they journeyed from hotel to hotel Duncan went with them, and filled out the quartette. Before the end of the summer he began to think about proposing. Of course he had lots of chances, going on excursions as they were every day. He made up his mind to seize the first opportunity, and that very evening he took her out for a moonlight row on Lake Winipiseogee. As he handed her into the boat he resolved to do it, and he had a glimmer of suspicion that she knew he was going to do it, too."
"Girls," said Dear Jones, "never go out in a rowboat at night with a young man unless you mean to accept him."
"Sometimes it's best to refuse him, and get it over once for all," said Baby Van Rensselaer, impersonally.
"As Eliphalet took the oars he felt a sudden chill. He tried to shake it off, but in vain. He began to have a growing consciousness of impending evil. Before he had taken ten strokes—and he was a swift oarsman—he was aware of a mysterious presence between him and Miss Sutton."
"Was it the guardian-angel ghost warning him off the match?" interrupted Dear Jones.
"That's just what it was," said Uncle Larry. "And he yielded to it, and kept his peace, and rowed Miss Sutton back to the hotel with his proposal unspoken."
"More fool he," said Dear Jones. "It will take more than one ghost to keep me from proposing when my mind is made up." And he looked at Baby Van Rensselaer.
"The next morning," continued Uncle Larry, "Eliphalet overslept himself, and when he went down to a late breakfast he found that the Suttons had gone to New York by the morning train. He wanted to follow them at once, and again he felt the mysterious presence overpowering his will. He struggled two days, and at last he roused himself to do what he wanted in spite of the spook. When he arrived in New York it was late in the evening. He dressed himself hastily, and went to the hotel where the Suttons were, in the hope of seeing at least her brother. The guardian angel fought every inch of the walk with him, until he began to wonder whether, if Miss Sutton were to take him, the spook would forbid the banns. At the hotel he saw no one that night, and he went home determined to call as early as he could the next afternoon, and make an end of it. When he left his office about two o'clock the next day to learn his fate, he had not walked five blocks before he discovered that the wraith of the Duncans had withdrawn his opposition to the suit. There was no feeling of impending evil, no resistance, no struggle, no consciousness of an opposing presence. Eliphalet was greatly encouraged. He walked briskly to the hotel; he found Miss Sutton alone. He asked her the question, and got his answer."
"She accepted him, of course?" said Baby Van Rensselaer.
"Of course," said Uncle Larry. "And while they were in the first flush of joy, swapping confidences and confessions, her brother came into the parlor with an expression of pain on his face and a telegram in his hand. The former was caused by the latter, which was from Frisco, and which announced the sudden death of Mrs. Sutton, their mother."
"And that was why the ghost no longer opposed the match?" questioned Dear Jones.
"Exactly. You see, the family ghost knew that Mother Gorgon was an awful obstacle to Duncan's happiness, so it warned him. But the moment the obstacle was removed, it gave its consent at once."
The fog was lowering its thick, damp curtain, and it was beginning to be difficult to see from one end of the boat to the other. Dear Jones tightened the rug which enwrapped Baby Van Rensselaer, and then withdrew again into his own substantial coverings.
Uncle Larry paused in his story long enough to light another of the tiny cigars he always smoked.
"I infer that Lord Duncan"—the Duchess was scrupulous in the bestowal of titles—"saw no more of the ghosts after he was married."
"He never saw them at all, at any time, either before or since. But they came very near breaking off the match, and thus breaking two young hearts."
"You don't mean to say that they knew any just cause or impediment why they should not forever after hold their peace?" asked Dear Jones.
"How could a ghost, or even two ghosts, keep a girl from marrying the man she loved?" This was Baby Van Rensselaer's question.
"It seems curious, doesn't it?" and Uncle Larry tried to warm himself by two or three sharp pulls at his fiery little cigar. "And the circumstances are quite as curious as the fact itself. You see, Miss Sutton wouldn't be married for a year after her mother's death, so she and Duncan had lots of time to tell each other all they knew. Eliphalet got to know a good deal about the girls she went to school with; and Kitty soon learned all about his family. He didn't tell her about the title for a long time, as he wasn't one to brag. But he described to her the little old house at Salem. And one evening towards the end of the summer, the wedding-day having been appointed for early in September, she told him that she didn't want a bridal tour at all; she just wanted to go down to the little old house at Salem to spend her honeymoon in peace and quiet, with nothing to do and nobody to bother them. Well, Eliphalet jumped at the suggestion: it suited him down to the ground. All of a sudden he remembered the spooks, and it knocked him all of a heap. He had told her about the Duncan banshee, and the idea of having an ancestral ghost in personal attendance on her husband tickled her immensely. But he had never said anything about the ghost which haunted the little old house at Salem. He knew she would be frightened out of her wits if the house ghost revealed itself to her, and he saw at once that it would be impossible to go to Salem on their wedding trip. So he told her all about it, and how whenever he went to Salem the two ghosts interfered, and gave dark seances and manifested and materialized and made the place absolutely impossible. Kitty listened in silence, and Eliphalet thought she had changed her mind. But she hadn't done anything of the kind."
"Just like a man—to think she was going to," remarked Baby Van Rensselaer.
"She just told him she could not bear ghosts herself, but she would not marry a man who was afraid of them."
"Just like a girl—to be so inconsistent," remarked Dear Jones.
Uncle Larry's tiny cigar had long been extinct. He lighted a new one, and continued: "Eliphalet protested in vain. Kitty said her mind was made up. She was determined to pass her honeymoon in the little old house at Salem, and she was equally determined not to go there as long as there were any ghosts there. Until he could assure her that the spectral tenant had received notice to quit, and that there was no danger of manifestations and materializing, she refused to be married at all. She did not intend to have her honeymoon interrupted by two wrangling ghosts, and the wedding could be postponed until he had made ready the house for her."
"She was an unreasonable young woman," said the Duchess.
"Well, that's what Eliphalet thought, much as he was in love with her. And he believed he could talk her out of her determination. But he couldn't. She was set. And when a girl is set, there's nothing to do but to yield to the inevitable. And that's just what Eliphalet did. He saw he would either have to give her up or to get the ghosts out; and as he loved her and did not care for the ghosts, he resolved to tackle the ghosts. He had clear grit, Eliphalet had—he was half Scotch and half Yankee and neither breed turns tail in a hurry. So he made his plans and he went down to Salem. As he said good-by to Kitty he had an impression that she was sorry she had made him go; but she kept up bravely, and put a bold face on it, and saw him off, and went home and cried for an hour, and was perfectly miserable until he came back the next day."
"Did he succeed in driving the ghosts away?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with great interest.
"That's just what I'm coming to," said Uncle Larry, pausing at the critical moment, in the manner of the trained story-teller. "You see, Eliphalet had got a rather tough job, and he would gladly have had an extension of time on the contract, but he had to choose between the girl and the ghosts, and he wanted the girl. He tried to invent or remember some short and easy way with ghosts, but he couldn't. He wished that somebody had invented a specific for spooks—something that would make the ghosts come out of the house and die in the yard. He wondered if he could not tempt the ghosts to run in debt, so that he might get the sheriff to help him. He wondered also whether the ghosts could not be overcome with strong drink—a dissipated spook, a spook with delirium tremens, might be committed to the inebriate asylum. But none of these things seemed feasible."
"What did he do?" interrupted Dear Jones. "The learned counsel will please speak to the point."
"You will regret this unseemly haste," said Uncle Larry, gravely, "when you know what really happened."
"What was it, Uncle Larry?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer. "I'm all impatience."
And Uncle Larry proceeded:
"Eliphalet went down to the little old house at Salem, and as soon as the clock struck twelve the rival ghosts began wrangling as before. Raps here, there, and everywhere, ringing bells, banging tambourines, strumming banjos sailing about the room, and all the other manifestations and materializations followed one another just as they had the summer before. The only difference Eliphalet could detect was a stronger flavor in the spectral profanity; and this, of course, was only a vague impression, for he did not actually hear a single word. He waited awhile in patience, listening and watching. Of course he never saw either of the ghosts, because neither of them could appear to him. At last he got his dander up, and he thought it was about time to interfere, so he rapped on the table, and asked for silence. As soon as he felt that the spooks were listening to him he explained the situation to them. He told them he was in love, and that he could not marry unless they vacated the house. He appealed to them as old friends, and he laid claim to their gratitude. The titular ghost had been sheltered by the Duncan family for hundreds of years, and the domiciliary ghost had had free lodging in the little old house at Salem for nearly two centuries. He implored them to settle their differences, and to get him out of his difficulty at once. He suggested that they had better fight it out then and there, and see who was master. He had brought down with him all needful weapons. And he pulled out his valise, and spread on the table a pair of navy revolvers, a pair of shotguns, a pair of dueling-swords, and a couple of bowie knives. He offered to serve as second for both parties, and to give the word when to begin. He also took out of his valise a pack of cards and a bottle of poison, telling them that if they wished to avoid carnage they might cut the cards to see which one should take the poison. Then he waited anxiously for their reply. For a little space there was silence. Then he became conscious of a tremulous shivering in one corner of the room, and he remembered that he had heard from that direction what sounded like a frightened sigh when he made the first suggestion of the duel. Something told him that this was the domiciliary ghost, and that it was badly scared. Then he was impressed by a certain movement in the opposite corner of the room, as though the titular ghost were drawing himself up with offended dignity. Eliphalet couldn't exactly see those things, because he never saw the ghosts, but he felt them. After a silence of nearly a minute a voice came from the corner where the family ghost stood—a voice strong and full, but trembling slightly with suppressed passion. And this voice told Eliphalet it was plain enough that he had not long been the head of the Duncans, and that he had never properly considered the characteristics of his race if now he supposed that one of his blood could draw his sword against a woman. Eliphalet said he had never suggested that the Duncan ghost should raise his hand against a woman, and all he wanted was that the Duncan ghost should fight the other ghost. And then the voice told Eliphalet that the other ghost was a woman."
"What?" said Dear Jones, sitting up suddenly. "You don't mean to tell me that the ghost which haunted the house was a woman?"
"Those were the very words Eliphalet Duncan used," said Uncle Larry; "but he did not need to wait for the answer. All at once he recalled the traditions about the domiciliary ghost, and he knew that what the titular ghost said was the fact. He had never thought of the sex of a spook, but there was no doubt whatever that the house ghost was a woman. No sooner was this firmly fixed in Eliphalet's mind than he saw his way out of the difficulty. The ghosts must be married!—for then there would be no more interference, no more quarreling, no more manifestations and materializations, no more dark seances, with their raps and bells and tambourines and banjos. At first the ghosts would not hear of it. The voice in the corner declared that the Duncan wraith had never thought of matrimony. But Eliphalet argued with them, and pleaded and pursuaded and coaxed, and dwelt on the advantages of matrimony. He had to confess, of course, that he did not know how to get a clergyman to marry them; but the voice from the corner gravely told him that there need be no difficulty in regard to that, as there was no lack of spiritual chaplains. Then, for the first time, the house ghost spoke, a low, clear, gentle voice, and with a quaint, old-fashioned New England accent, which contrasted sharply with the broad Scotch speech of the family ghost. She said that Eliphalet Duncan seemed to have forgotten that she was married. But this did not upset Eliphalet at all; he remembered the whole case clearly, and he told her she was not a married ghost, but a widow, since her husband had been hanged for murdering her. Then the Duncan ghost drew attention to the great disparity in their ages, saying that he was nearly four hundred and fifty years old, while she was barely two hundred. But Eliphalet had not talked to juries for nothing; he just buckled to, and coaxed those ghosts into matrimony. Afterwards he came to the conclusion that they were willing to be coaxed, but at the time he thought he had pretty hard work to convince them of the advantages of the plan."
"Did he succeed?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a woman's interest in matrimony.
"He did," said Uncle Larry. "He talked the wraith of the Duncans and the specter of the little old house at Salem into a matrimonial engagement. And from the time they were engaged he had no more trouble with them. They were rival ghosts no longer. They were married by their spiritual chaplain the very same day that Eliphalet Duncan met Kitty Sutton in front of the railing of Grace Church. The ghostly bride and bridegroom went away at once on their bridal tour, and Lord and Lady Duncan went down to the little old house at Salem to pass their honeymoon."
Uncle Larry stopped. His tiny cigar was out again. The tale of the rival ghosts was told. A solemn silence fell on the little party on the deck of the ocean steamer, broken harshly by the hoarse roar of the fog-horn.
THE WATER GHOST OF HARROWBY HALL
BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
From The Water Ghost, and other Stories, by John Kendrick Bangs. Copyright, 1904, by Harper Brothers. By permission of the publishers and John Kendrick Bangs.
The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall
BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
The trouble with Harrowby Hall was that it was haunted, and, what was worse, the ghost did not content itself with merely appearing at the bedside of the afflicted person who saw it, but persisted in remaining there for one mortal hour before it would disappear.
It never appeared except on Christmas Eve, and then as the clock was striking twelve, in which respect alone was it lacking in that originality which in these days is a sine qua non of success in spectral life. The owners of Harrowby Hall had done their utmost to rid themselves of the damp and dewy lady who rose up out of the best bedroom floor at midnight, but without avail. They had tried stopping the clock, so that the ghost would not know when it was midnight; but she made her appearance just the same, with that fearful miasmatic personality of hers, and there she would stand until everything about her was thoroughly saturated.
Then the owners of Harrowby Hall caulked up every crack in the floor with the very best quality of hemp, and over this were placed layers of tar and canvas; the walls were made waterproof, and the doors and windows likewise, the proprietors having conceived the notion that the unexorcised lady would find it difficult to leak into the room after these precautions had been taken; but even this did not suffice. The following Christmas Eve she appeared as promptly as before, and frightened the occupant of the room quite out of his senses by sitting down alongside of him and gazing with her cavernous blue eyes into his; and he noticed, too, that in her long, aqueously bony fingers bits of dripping seaweed were entwined, the ends hanging down, and these ends she drew across his forehead until he became like one insane. And then he swooned away, and was found unconscious in his bed the next morning by his host, simply saturated with sea-water and fright, from the combined effects of which he never recovered, dying four years later of pneumonia and nervous prostration at the age of seventy-eight.
The next year the master of Harrowby Hall decided not to have the best spare bedroom opened at all, thinking that perhaps the ghost's thirst for making herself disagreeable would be satisfied by haunting the furniture, but the plan was as unavailing as the many that had preceded it.
The ghost appeared as usual in the room—that is, it was supposed she did, for the hangings were dripping wet the next morning, and in the parlor below the haunted room a great damp spot appeared on the ceiling. Finding no one there, she immediately set out to learn the reason why, and she chose none other to haunt than the owner of the Harrowby himself. She found him in his own cosey room drinking whiskey—whiskey undiluted—and felicitating himself upon having foiled her ghost-ship, when all of a sudden the curl went out of his hair, his whiskey bottle filled and overflowed, and he was himself in a condition similar to that of a man who has fallen into a water-butt. When he recovered from the shock, which was a painful one, he saw before him the lady of the cavernous eyes and seaweed fingers. The sight was so unexpected and so terrifying that he fainted, but immediately came to, because of the vast amount of water in his hair, which, trickling down over his face, restored his consciousness.
Now it so happened that the master of Harrowby was a brave man, and while he was not particularly fond of interviewing ghosts, especially such quenching ghosts as the one before him, he was not to be daunted by an apparition. He had paid the lady the compliment of fainting from the effects of his first surprise, and now that he had come to he intended to find out a few things he felt he had a right to know. He would have liked to put on a dry suit of clothes first, but the apparition declined to leave him for an instant until her hour was up, and he was forced to deny himself that pleasure. Every time he would move she would follow him, with the result that everything she came in contact with got a ducking. In an effort to warm himself up he approached the fire, an unfortunate move as it turned out, because it brought the ghost directly over the fire, which immediately was extinguished. The whiskey became utterly valueless as a comforter to his chilled system, because it was by this time diluted to a proportion of ninety per cent of water. The only thing he could do to ward off the evil effects of his encounter he did, and that was to swallow ten two-grain quinine pills, which he managed to put into his mouth before the ghost had time to interfere. Having done this, he turned with some asperity to the ghost, and said:
"Far be it from me to be impolite to a woman, madam, but I'm hanged if it wouldn't please me better if you'd stop these infernal visits of yours to this house. Go sit out on the lake, if you like that sort of thing; soak the water-butt, if you wish; but do not, I implore you, come into a gentleman's house and saturate him and his possessions in this way. It is damned disagreeable."
"Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe," said the ghost, in a gurgling voice, "you don't know what you are talking about."
"Madam," returned the unhappy householder, "I wish that remark were strictly truthful. I was talking about you. It would be shillings and pence—nay, pounds, in my pocket, madam, if I did not know you."
"That is a bit of specious nonsense," returned the ghost, throwing a quart of indignation into the face of the master of Harrowby. "It may rank high as repartee, but as a comment upon my statement that you do not know what you are talking about, it savors of irrelevant impertinence. You do not know that I am compelled to haunt this place year after year by inexorable fate. It is no pleasure to me to enter this house, and ruin and mildew everything I touch. I never aspired to be a shower-bath, but it is my doom. Do you know who I am?"
"No, I don't," returned the master of Harrowby. "I should say you were the Lady of the Lake, or Little Sallie Waters."
"You are a witty man for your years," said the ghost.
"Well, my humor is drier than yours ever will be," returned the master.
"No doubt. I'm never dry. I am the Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall, and dryness is a quality entirely beyond my wildest hope. I have been the incumbent of this highly unpleasant office for two hundred years to-night."
"How the deuce did you ever come to get elected?" asked the master.
"Through a suicide," replied the specter. "I am the ghost of that fair maiden whose picture hangs over the mantelpiece in the drawing-room. I should have been your great-great-great-great-great-aunt if I had lived, Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe, for I was the own sister of your great-great-great-great-grandfather."
"But what induced you to get this house into such a predicament?"
"I was not to blame, sir," returned the lady. "It was my father's fault. He it was who built Harrowby Hall, and the haunted chamber was to have been mine. My father had it furnished in pink and yellow, knowing well that blue and gray formed the only combination of color I could tolerate. He did it merely to spite me, and, with what I deem a proper spirit, I declined to live in the room; whereupon my father said I could live there or on the lawn, he didn't care which. That night I ran from the house and jumped over the cliff into the sea."
"That was rash," said the master of Harrowby.
"So I've heard," returned the ghost. "If I had known what the consequences were to be I should not have jumped; but I really never realized what I was doing until after I was drowned. I had been drowned a week when a sea-nymph came to me and informed me that I was to be one of her followers forever afterwards, adding that it should be my doom to haunt Harrowby Hall for one hour every Christmas Eve throughout the rest of eternity. I was to haunt that room on such Christmas Eves as I found it inhabited; and if it should turn out not to be inhabited, I was and am to spend the allotted hour with the head of the house."
"I'll sell the place."
"That you cannot do, for it is also required of me that I shall appear as the deeds are to be delivered to any purchaser, and divulge to him the awful secret of the house."
"Do you mean to tell me that on every Christmas Eve that I don't happen to have somebody in that guest-chamber, you are going to haunt me wherever I may be, ruining my whiskey, taking all the curl out of my hair, extinguishing my fire, and soaking me through to the skin?" demanded the master.
"You have stated the case, Oglethorpe. And what is more," said the water ghost, "it doesn't make the slightest difference where you are, if I find that room empty, wherever you may be I shall douse you with my spectral pres——"
Here the clock struck one, and immediately the apparition faded away. It was perhaps more of a trickle than a fade, but as a disappearance it was complete.
"By St. George and his Dragon!" ejaculated the master of Harrowby, wringing his hands. "It is guineas to hot-cross buns that next Christmas there's an occupant of the spare room, or I spend the night in a bathtub."
But the master of Harrowby would have lost his wager had there been anyone there to take him up, for when Christmas Eve came again he was in his grave, never having recovered from the cold contracted that awful night. Harrowby Hall was closed, and the heir to the estate was in London, where to him in his chambers came the same experience that his father had gone through, saving only that, being younger and stronger, he survived the shock. Everything in his rooms was ruined—his clocks were rusted in the works; a fine collection of water-color drawings was entirely obliterated by the onslaught of the water ghost; and what was worse, the apartments below his were drenched with the water soaking through the floors, a damage for which he was compelled to pay, and which resulted in his being requested by his landlady to vacate the premises immediately.
The story of the visitation inflicted upon his family had gone abroad, and no one could be got to invite him out to any function save afternoon teas and receptions. Fathers of daughters declined to permit him to remain in their houses later than eight o'clock at night, not knowing but that some emergency might arise in the supernatural world which would require the unexpected appearance of the water ghost in this on nights other than Christmas Eve, and before the mystic hour when weary churchyards, ignoring the rules which are supposed to govern polite society, begin to yawn. Nor would the maids themselves have aught to do with him, fearing the destruction by the sudden incursion of aqueous femininity of the costumes which they held most dear.
So the heir of Harrowby Hall resolved, as his ancestors for several generations before him had resolved, that something must be done. His first thought was to make one of his servants occupy the haunted room at the crucial moment; but in this he failed, because the servants themselves knew the history of that room and rebelled. None of his friends would consent to sacrifice their personal comfort to his, nor was there to be found in all England a man so poor as to be willing to occupy the doomed chamber on Christmas Eve for pay.
Then the thought came to the heir to have the fireplace in the room enlarged, so that he might evaporate the ghost at its first appearance, and he was felicitating himself upon the ingenuity of his plan, when he remembered what his father had told him—how that no fire could withstand the lady's extremely contagious dampness. And then he bethought him of steam-pipes. These, he remembered, could lie hundreds of feet deep in water, and still retain sufficient heat to drive the water away in vapor; and as a result of this thought the haunted room was heated by steam to a withering degree, and the heir for six months attended daily the Turkish baths, so that when Christmas Eve came he could himself withstand the awful temperature of the room.
The scheme was only partially successful. The water ghost appeared at the specified time, and found the heir of Harrowby prepared; but hot as the room was, it shortened her visit by no more than five minutes in the hour, during which time the nervous system of the young master was well-nigh shattered, and the room itself was cracked and warped to an extent which required the outlay of a large sum of money to remedy. And worse than this, as the last drop of the water ghost was slowly sizzling itself out on the floor, she whispered to her would-be conqueror that his scheme would avail him nothing, because there was still water in great plenty where she came from, and that next year would find her rehabilitated and as exasperatingly saturating as ever.
It was then that the natural action of the mind, in going from one extreme to the other, suggested to the ingenious heir of Harrowby the means by which the water ghost was ultimately conquered, and happiness once more came within the grasp of the house of Oglethorpe.
The heir provided himself with a warm suit of fur under-clothing. Donning this with the furry side in, he placed over it a rubber garment, tight-fitting, which he wore just as a woman wears a jersey. On top of this he placed another set of under-clothing, this suit made of wool, and over this was a second rubber garment like the first. Upon his head he placed a light and comfortable diving helmet, and so clad, on the following Christmas Eve he awaited the coming of his tormentor.
It was a bitterly cold night that brought to a close this twenty-fourth day of December. The air outside was still, but the temperature was below zero. Within all was quiet, the servants of Harrowby Hall awaiting with beating hearts the outcome of their master's campaign against his supernatural visitor.
The master himself was lying on the bed in the haunted room, clad as has already been indicated, and then——
The clock clanged out the hour of twelve.
There was a sudden banging of doors, a blast of cold air swept through the halls, the door leading into the haunted chamber flew open, a splash was heard, and the water ghost was seen standing at the side of the heir of Harrowby, from whose outer dress there streamed rivulets of water, but whose own person deep down under the various garments he wore was as dry and as warm as he could have wished.
"Ha!" said the young master of Harrowby. "I'm glad to see you."
"You are the most original man I've met, if that is true," returned the ghost. "May I ask where did you get that hat?"
"Certainly, madam," returned the master, courteously. "It is a little portable observatory I had made for just such emergencies as this. But, tell me, is it true that you are doomed to follow me about for one mortal hour—to stand where I stand, to sit where I sit?"
"That is my delectable fate," returned the lady.
"We'll go out on the lake," said the master, starting up.
"You can't get rid of me that way," returned the ghost. "The water won't swallow me up; in fact, it will just add to my present bulk."
"Nevertheless," said the master, firmly, "we will go out on the lake."
"But, my dear sir," returned the ghost, with a pale reluctance, "it is fearfully cold out there. You will be frozen hard before you've been out ten minutes."
"Oh no, I'll not," replied the master. "I am very warmly dressed. Come!" This last in a tone of command that made the ghost ripple.
And they started.
They had not gone far before the water ghost showed signs of distress.
"You walk too slowly," she said. "I am nearly frozen. My knees are so stiff now I can hardly move. I beseech you to accelerate your step."
"I should like to oblige a lady," returned the master, courteously, "but my clothes are rather heavy, and a hundred yards an hour is about my speed. Indeed, I think we would better sit down here on this snowdrift, and talk matters over."
"Do not! Do not do so, I beg!" cried the ghost. "Let me move on. I feel myself growing rigid as it is. If we stop here, I shall be frozen stiff."
"That, madam," said the master slowly, and seating himself on an ice-cake—"that is why I have brought you here. We have been on this spot just ten minutes; we have fifty more. Take your time about it, madam, but freeze, that is all I ask of you."
"I cannot move my right leg now," cried the ghost, in despair, "and my overskirt is a solid sheet of ice. Oh, good, kind Mr. Oglethorpe, light a fire, and let me go free from these icy fetters."
"Never, madam. It cannot be. I have you at last."
"Alas!" cried the ghost, a tear trickling down her frozen cheek. "Help me, I beg. I congeal!"
"Congeal, madam, congeal!" returned Oglethorpe, coldly. "You have drenched me and mine for two hundred and three years, madam. To-night you have had your last drench."
"Ah, but I shall thaw out again, and then you'll see. Instead of the comfortably tepid, genial ghost I have been in my past, sir, I shall be iced-water," cried the lady, threateningly.
"No, you won't, either," returned Oglethorpe; "for when you are frozen quite stiff, I shall send you to a cold-storage warehouse, and there shall you remain an icy work of art forever more."
"But warehouses burn."
"So they do, but this warehouse cannot burn. It is made of asbestos and surrounding it are fireproof walls, and within those walls the temperature is now and shall forever be 416 degrees below the zero point; low enough to make an icicle of any flame in this world—or the next," the master added, with an ill-suppressed chuckle.
"For the last time let me beseech you. I would go on my knees to you, Oglethorpe, were they not already frozen. I beg of you do not doo——"
Here even the words froze on the water-ghost's lips and the clock struck one. There was a momentary tremor throughout the ice-bound form, and the moon, coming out from behind a cloud, shone down on the rigid figure of a beautiful woman sculptured in clear, transparent ice. There stood the ghost of Harrowby Hall, conquered by the cold, a prisoner for all time.
The heir of Harrowby had won at last, and to-day in a large storage house in London stands the frigid form of one who will never again flood the house of Oglethorpe with woe and sea-water.
As for the heir of Harrowby, his success in coping with a ghost has made him famous, a fame that still lingers about him, although his victory took place some twenty years ago; and so far from being unpopular with the fair sex, as he was when we first knew him, he has not only been married twice, but is to lead a third bride to the altar before the year is out.
BACK FROM THAT BOURNE
From the New York Sun. By permission of the editor.
Back from That Bourne
Practical Working of Materialization in Maine. A Strange Story from Pocock Island—A Materialized Spirit that Will not Go back. The First Glimpse of what May yet Cause very Extensive Trouble in this World.
(The Sun, Saturday, December 19, 1874.)
We are permitted to make extracts from a private letter which bears the signature of a gentleman well known in business circles, and whose veracity we have never heard called in question. His statements are startling and well-nigh incredible, but if true, they are susceptible of easy verification. Yet the thoughtful mind will hesitate about accepting them without the fullest proof, for they spring upon the world a social problem of stupendous importance. The dangers apprehended by Mr. Malthus and his followers become remote and commonplace by the side of this new and terrible issue.
The letter is dated at Pocock Island, a small township in Washington County, Maine, about seventeen miles from the mainland and nearly midway between Mt. Desert and the Grand Menan. The last state census accords to Pocock Island a population of 311, mostly engaged in the porgy fisheries. At the Presidential election of 1872 the island gave Grant a majority of three. These two facts are all that we are able to learn of the locality from sources outside of the letter already referred to.
The letter, omitting certain passages which refer solely to private matters, reads as follows:
"But enough of the disagreeable business that brought me here to this bleak island in the month of November. I have a singular story to tell you. After our experience together at Chittenden I know you will not reject statements because they are startling.
"My friend, there is upon Pocock Island a materialized spirit which (or who) refuses to be dematerialized. At this moment and within a quarter of a mile from me as I write, a man who died and was buried four years ago, and who has exploited the mysteries beyond the grave, walks, talks, and holds interviews with the inhabitants of the island, and is, to all appearances, determined to remain permanently upon this side of the river. I will relate the circumstances as briefly as I can."
"In April, 1870, John Newbegin died and was buried in the little cemetery on the landward side of the island. Newbegin was a man of about forty-eight, without family or near connections, and eccentric to a degree that sometimes inspired questions as to his sanity. What money he had earned by many seasons' fishing upon the banks was invested in quarters of two small mackerel schooners, the remainder of which belonged to John Hodgeson, the richest man on Pocock, who was estimated by good authorities to be worth thirteen or fourteen thousand dollars.
"Newbegin was not without a certain kind of culture. He had read a good deal of the odds and ends of literature and, as a simple-minded islander expressed it in my hearing, knew more bookfuls than anybody on the island. He was naturally an intelligent man; and he might have attained influence in the community had it not been for his utter aimlessness of character, his indifference to fortune, and his consuming thirst for rum.
"Many yachtsmen who have had occasion to stop at Pocock for water or for harbor shelter during eastern cruises, will remember a long, listless figure, astonishingly attired in blue army pants, rubber boots, loose toga made of some bright chintz material, and very bad hat, staggering through the little settlement, followed by a rabble of jeering brats, and pausing to strike uncertain blows at those within reach of the dead sculpin which he usually carried round by the tail. This was John Newbegin."
HIS SUDDEN DEATH
"As I have already remarked, he died four years ago last April. The Mary Emmeline, one of the little schooners in which he owned, had returned from the eastward, and had smuggled, or 'run in' a quantity of St. John brandy. Newbegin had a solitary and protracted debauch. He was missed from his accustomed walks for several days, and when the islanders broke into the hovel where he lived, close down to the seaweed and almost within reach of the incoming tide, they found him dead on the floor, with an emptied demijohn hard by his head.
"After the primitive custom of the island, they interred John Newbegin's remains without coroner's inquest, burial certificate, or funeral services, and in the excitement of a large catch of porgies that summer, soon forgot him and his friendless life. His interest in the Mary Emmeline and the Prettyboat recurred to John Hodgeson; and as nobody came forward to demand an administration of the estate, it was never administered. The forms of law are but loosely followed in some of these marginal localities."
HIS REAPPEARANCE AT POCOCK
"Well, my dear ——, four years and four months had brought their quota of varying seasons to Pocock Island when John Newbegin reappeared under the following circumstances:
"In the latter part of last August, as you may remember, there was a heavy gale all along our Atlantic coast. During this storm the squadron of the Naugatuck Yacht Club, which was returning from a summer cruise as far as Campobello, was forced to take shelter in the harbor to the leeward of Pocock Island. The gentlemen of the club spent three days at the little settlement ashore. Among the party was Mr. R—— E——, by which name you will recognize a medium of celebrity, and one who has been particularly successful in materializations. At the desire of his companions, and to relieve the tedium of their detention, Mr. E—— improvised a cabinet in the little schoolhouse at Pocock, and gave a seance, to the delight of his fellow yachtsmen and the utter bewilderment of such natives as were permitted to witness the manifestations.
"The conditions appeared unusually favorable to spirit appearances and the seance was upon the whole perhaps the most remarkable that Mr. E—— ever held. It was all the more remarkable because the surroundings were such that the most prejudiced skeptic could discover no possibility of trickery.
"The first form to issue from the wood closet which constituted the cabinet, when Mr. E—— had been tied therein by a committee of old sailors from the yachts, was that of an Indian chief who announced himself as Hock-a-mock, and who retired after dancing a 'Harvest Moon' pas seul, and declaring himself in very emphatic terms, as opposed to the present Indian policy of the Administration. Hock-a-mock was succeeded by the aunt of one of the yachtsmen, who identified herself beyond question by allusion to family matters and by displaying the scar of a burn upon her left arm, received while making tomato catsup upon earth. Then came successively a child whom none present recognized, a French Canadian who could not talk English, and a portly gentleman who introduced himself as William King, first Governor of Maine. These in turn reentered the cabinet and were seen no more.
"It was some time before another spirit manifested itself, and Mr. E—— gave directions that the lights be turned down still further. Then the door of the wood closet was slowly opened and a singular figure in rubber boots and a species of Dolly Varden garment emerged, bringing a dead fish in his right hand."
HIS DETERMINATION TO REMAIN
"The city men who were present, I am told, thought that the medium was masquerading in grotesque habiliments for the more complete astonishment of the islanders, but these latter rose from their seats and exclaimed with one consent: 'It is John Newbegin!' And then, in not unnatural terror of the apparition they turned and fled from the schoolroom, uttering dismal cries.
"John Newbegin came calmly forward and turned up the solitary kerosene lamp that shed uncertain light over the proceedings. He then sat down in the teacher's chair, folded his arms, and looked complacently about him.
"'You might as well untie the medium,' he finally remarked. 'I propose to remain in the materialized condition.'
"And he did remain. When the party left the schoolhouse among them walked John Newbegin, as truly a being of flesh and blood as any man of them. From that day to this, he has been a living inhabitant of Pocock Island, eating, drinking, (water only) and sleeping after the manner of men. The yachtsmen who made sail for Bar Harbor the very next morning, probably believe that he was a fraud hired for the occasion by Mr. E——. But the people of Pocock, who laid him out, dug his grave, and put him into it four years ago, know that John Newbegin has come back to them from a land they know not of."
A SINGULAR MEMBER OF SOCIETY
"The idea, of having a ghost—somewhat more condensed it is true than the traditional ghost—as a member was not at first overpleasing to the 311 inhabitants of Pocock Island. To this day, they are a little sensitive upon the subject, feeling evidently that if the matter got abroad, it might injure the sale of the really excellent porgy oil which is the product of their sole manufacturing interest. This reluctance to advertise the skeleton in their closet, superadded to the slowness of these obtuse, fishy, matter-of-fact people to recognize the transcendent importance of the case, must be accepted as explanation of the fact that John Newbegin's spirit has been on earth between three and four months, and yet the singular circumstance is not known to the whole country.
"But the Pocockians have at last come to see that a spirit is not necessarily a malevolent spirit, and accepting his presence as a fact in their stolid, unreasoning way, they are quite neighborly and sociable with Mr. Newbegin.
"I know that your first question will be: 'Is there sufficient proof of his ever having been dead?' To this I answer unhesitatingly, 'Yes.' He was too well-known a character and too many people saw the corpse to admit of any mistake on this point. I may add here that it was at one time proposed to disinter the original remains, but that project was abandoned in deference to the wishes of Mr. Newbegin, who feels a natural delicacy about having his first set of bones disturbed from motives of mere curiosity."
AN INTERVIEW WITH A DEAD MAN
"You will readily believe that I took occasion to see and converse with John Newbegin. I found him affable and even communicative. He is perfectly aware of his doubtful status as a being, but is in hopes that at some future time there may be legislation that shall correctly define his position and the position of any spirit who may follow him into the material world. The only point upon which he is reticent is his experience during the four years that elapsed between his death and his reappearance at Pocock. It is to be presumed that the memory is not a pleasant one: at least he never speaks of this period. He candidly admits, however, that he is glad to get back to earth and that he embraced the very first opportunity to be materialized.
"Mr. Newbegin says that he is consumed with remorse for the wasted years of his previous existence. Indeed, his conduct during the past three months would show that this regret is genuine. He has discarded his eccentric costume, and dresses like a reasonable spirit. He has not touched liquor since his reappearance. He has embarked in the porgy oil business, and his operations already rival that of Hodgeson, his old partner in the Mary Emmeline and the Prettyboat. By the way, Newbegin threatens to sue Hodgeson for his individed quarter in each of these vessels, and this interesting case therefore bids fair to be thoroughly investigated in the courts.
"As a business man, he is generally esteemed on the Island, although there is a noticeable reluctance to discount his paper at long dates. In short, Mr. John Newbegin is a most respectable citizen (if a dead man can be a citizen) and has announced his intention of running for the next Legislature!"
"And now, my dear ——, I have told you the substance of all I know respecting this strange, strange case. Yet, after all, why so strange? We accepted materialization at Chittenden. Is this any more than the logical issue of that admission? If the spirit may return to earth, clothed in flesh and blood and all the physical attributes of humanity, why may it not remain on earth as long as it sees fit?
"Thinking of it from whatever standpoint, I cannot but regard John Newbegin as the pioneer of a possibly large immigration from the spirit world. The bars once down, a whole flock will come trooping back to earth. Death will lose its significance altogether. And when I think of the disturbance which will result in our social relations, of the overthrow of all accepted institutions, and of the nullification of all principles of political economy, law, and religion, I am lost in perplexity and apprehension."
BY RICHARD MIDDLETON
From The Ghost-Ship by Richard Middleton. Published by permission of Mitchell Kennerley, and taken from the volume, The Ghost-Ship and Other Stories.
BY RICHARD MIDDLETON
Fairfield is a little village lying near the Portsmouth Road, about halfway between London and the sea. Strangers, who now and then find it by accident, call it a pretty, old-fashioned place; we who live in it and call it home don't find anything very pretty about it, but we should be sorry to live anywhere else. Our minds have taken the shape of the inn and the church and the green, I suppose. At all events, we never feel comfortable out of Fairfield.
Of course the cockneys, with their vasty houses and noise-ridden streets, can call us rustics if they choose; but for all that, Fairfield is a better place to live in than London. Doctor says that when he goes to London his mind is bruised with the weight of the houses, and he was a cockney born. He had to live there himself when he was a little chap, but he knows better now. You gentlemen may laugh—perhaps some of you come from London-way, but it seems to me that a witness like that is worth a gallon of arguments.
Dull? Well, you might find it dull, but I assure you that I've listened to all the London yarns you have spun to-night, and they're absolutely nothing to the things that happen at Fairfield. It's because of our way of thinking, and minding our own business. If one of your Londoners was set down on the green of a Saturday night when the ghosts of the lads who died in the war keep tryst with the lasses who lie in the churchyard, he couldn't help being curious and interfering, and then the ghosts would go somewhere where it was quieter. But we just let them come and go and don't make any fuss, and in consequence Fairfield is the ghostiest place in all England. Why, I've seen a headless man sitting on the edge of the well in broad daylight, and the children playing about his feet as if he were their father. Take my word for it, spirits know when they are well off as much as human beings.
Still, I must admit that the thing I'm going to tell you about was queer even for our part of the world, where three packs of ghost-hounds hunt regularly during the season, and blacksmith's great-grandfather is busy all night shoeing the dead gentlemen's horses. Now that's a thing that wouldn't happen in London, because of their interfering ways; but blacksmith he lies up aloft and sleeps as quiet as a lamb. Once when he had a bad head he shouted down to them not to make so much noise, and in the morning he found an old guinea left on the anvil as an apology. He wears it on his watch-chain now. But I must get on with my story; if I start telling you about the queer happenings at Fairfield, I'll never stop.
It all came of the great storm in the spring of '97, the year that we had two great storms. This was the first one, and I remember it well, because I found in the morning that it had lifted the thatch of my pigsty into the widow's garden as clean as a boy's kite. When I looked over the hedge, widow—Tom Lamport's widow that was—was prodding for her nasturtiums with a daisy grubber. After I had watched her for a little I went down to the Fox and Grapes to tell landlord what she had said to me. Landlord he laughed, being a married man and at ease with the sex. "Come to that," he said, "the tempest has blowed something into my field. A kind of a ship I think it would be."
I was surprised at that until he explained that it was only a ghost-ship, and would do no hurt to the turnips. We argued that it had been blown up from the sea at Portsmouth, and then we talked of something else. There were two slates down at the parsonage and a big tree in Lumley's meadow. It was a rare storm.
I reckon the wind had blown our ghosts all over England. They were coming back for days afterward with foundered horses, and as footsore as possible, and they were so glad to get back to Fairfield that some of them walked up the street crying like little children. Squire said that his great-grandfather's great-grandfather hadn't looked so dead-beat since the battle of Naseby, and he's an educated man.
What with one thing and another, I should think it was a week before we got straight again, and then one afternoon I met the landlord on the green, and he had a worried face. "I wish you'd come and have a look at that ship in my field," he said to me. "It seems to me it's leaning real hard on the turnips. I can't bear thinking what the missus will say when she sees it."
I walked down the lane with him, and, sure enough, there was a ship in the middle of his field, but such a ship as no man had seen on the water for three hundred years, let alone in the middle of a turnipfield. It was all painted black, and covered with carvings, and there was a great bay-window in the stern, for all the world like the squire's drawing-room. There was a crowd of little black cannon on deck and looking out of her port-holes, and she was anchored at each end to the hard ground. I have seen the wonders of the world on picture-postcards, but I have never seen anything to equal that.
"She seems very solid for a ghost-ship," I said, seeing that landlord was bothered.
"I should say it's a betwixt and between," he answered, puzzling it over; "but it's going to spoil a matter of fifty turnips, and missus she'll want it moved." We went up to her and touched the side, and it was as hard as a real ship. "Now, there's folks in England would call that very curious," he said.
Now, I don't know much about ships, but I should think that that ghost-ship weighed a solid two hundred tons, and it seemed to me that she had come to stay; so that I felt sorry for landlord, who was a married man. "All the horses in Fairfield won't move her out of my turnips," he said, frowning at her.
Just then we heard a noise on her deck, and we looked up and saw that a man had come out of her front cabin and was looking down at us very peaceably. He was dressed in a black uniform set off with rusty gold lace, and he had a great cutlass by his side in a brass sheath. "I'm Captain Bartholomew Roberts," he said in a gentleman's voice, "put in for recruits. I seem to have brought her rather far up the harbor."
"Harbor!" cried landlord. "Why, you're fifty miles from the sea!"
Captain Roberts didn't turn a hair. "So much as that, is it?" he said coolly. "Well, it's of no consequence."
Landlord was a bit upset at this. "I don't want to be unneighborly," he said, "but I wish you hadn't brought your ship into my field. You see, my wife sets great store on these turnips."
The captain took a pinch of snuff out of a fine gold box that he pulled out of his pocket, and dusted his fingers with a silk handkerchief in a very genteel fashion. "I'm only here for a few months," he said, "but if a testimony of my esteem would pacify your good lady, I should be content," and with the words he loosed a great gold brooch from the neck of his coat and tossed it down to landlord.
Landlord blushed as red as a strawberry. "I'm not denying she's fond of jewelry," he said; "but it's too much for half a sackful of turnips." Indeed it was a handsome brooch.
The captain laughed. "Tut, man!" he said, "it's a forced sale, and you deserve a good price. Say no more about it," and nodding good day to us, he turned on his heel and went into the cabin. Landlord walked back up the lane like a man with a weight off his mind. "That tempest has blowed me a bit of luck," he said; "the missus will be main pleased with that brooch. It's better than blacksmith's guinea any day."
'97 was Jubilee year—the year of the second Jubilee, you remember, and we had great doings at Fairfield, so that we hadn't much time to bother about the ghost-ship, though, anyhow, it isn't our way to meddle in things that don't concern us. Landlord he saw his tenant once or twice when he was hoeing his turnips, and passed the time of day and landlord's wife wore her new brooch to church every Sunday. But we didn't mix much with the ghosts at any time, all except an idiot lad there was in the village, and he didn't know the difference between a man and a ghost, poor innocent! On Jubilee day, however, somebody told Captain Roberts why the church bells were ringing, and he hoisted a flag and fired off his guns like a loyal Englishman. 'T is true the guns were shotted, and one of the round shot knocked a hole in Farmer Johnstone's barn, but nobody thought much of that in such a season of rejoicing.
It wasn't till our celebrations were over that we noticed that anything was wrong in Fairfield. 'T was shoemaker who told me first about it one morning at the Fox and Grapes. "You know my great-great-uncle?" he said to me.
"You mean Joshua, the quiet lad?" I answered, knowing him well.
"Quiet!" said shoemaker, indignantly. "Quiet you call him, coming home at three o'clock every morning as drunk as a magistrate and waking up the whole house with his noise!"
"Why, it can't be Joshua," I said, for I knew him for one of the most respectable young ghosts in the village.
"Joshua it is," said shoemaker; "and one of these nights he'll find himself out in the street if he isn't careful."
This kind of talk shocked me, I can tell you, for I don't like to hear a man abusing his own family, and I could hardly believe that a steady youngster like Joshua had taken to drink. But just then in came butcher Aylwin in such a temper that he could hardly drink his beer. "The young puppy! The young puppy!" he kept on saying, and it was some time before shoemaker and I found out that he was talking about his ancestor that fell at Senlac.
"Drink?" said shoemaker, hopefully, for we all like company in our misfortunes, and butcher nodded grimly. "The young noodle!" he said, emptying his tankard.
Well, after that I kept my ears open, and it was the same story all over the village. There was hardly a young man among all the ghosts of Fairfield who didn't roll home in the small hours of the morning the worse for liquor. I used to wake up in the night and hear them stumble past my house, singing outrageous songs. The worst of it was that we couldn't keep the scandal to ourselves, and the folk at Greenhill began to talk of "sodden Fairfield" and taught their children to sing a song about us:
Sodden Fairfield, sodden Fairfield, Has no use for bread and butter, Rum for breakfast, rum for dinner, Rum for tea, and rum for supper!
We are easy-going in our village, but we didn't like that.
Of course we soon found out where the young fellows went to get the drink, and landlord was terribly cut up that his tenant should have turned out so badly; but his wife wouldn't hear of parting with the brooch, so he couldn't give the captain notice to quit. But as time went on, things grew from bad to worse, and at all hours of the day you would see those young reprobates sleeping it off on the village green. Nearly every afternoon a ghost-wagon used to jolt down to the ship with a lading of rum, and though the older ghosts seemed inclined to give the captain's hospitality the go-by, the youngsters were neither to hold nor to bind.
So one afternoon when I was taking my nap, I heard a knock at the door, and there was parson, looking very serious, like a man with a job before him that he didn't altogether relish.
"I'm going down to talk to the captain about all this drunkenness in the village, and I want you to come with me," he said straight out.
I can't say that I fancied the visit much myself, and I tried to hint to parson that as, after all, they were only a lot of ghosts, it didn't much matter.
"Dead or alive, I'm responsible for their good conduct," he said, "and I'm going to do my duty and put a stop to this continued disorder. And you are coming with me, John Simmons."
So I went, parson being a persuasive kind of man.
We went down to the ship, and as we approached her, I could see the captain tasting the air on deck. When he saw parson, he took off his hat very politely, and I can tell you that I was relieved to find that he had a proper respect for the cloth. Parson acknowledged his salute, and spoke out stoutly enough.
"Sir, I should be glad to have a word with you."
"Come on board, sir; come on board," said the captain, and I could tell by his voice that he knew why we were there.
Parson and I climbed up an uneasy kind of ladder, and the captain took us into the great cabin at the back of the ship, where the bay-window was. It was the most wonderful place you ever saw in your life, all full of gold and silver plate, swords with jeweled scabbards, carved oak chairs, and great chests that looked as though they were bursting with guineas. Even parson was surprised, and he did not shake his head very hard when the captain took down some silver cups and poured us out a drink of rum. I tasted mine, and I don't mind saying that it changed my view of things entirely. There was nothing betwixt and between about that rum, and I felt that it was ridiculous to blame the lads for drinking too much of stuff like that. It seemed to fill my veins with honey and fire.
Parson put the case squarely to the captain, but I didn't listen much to what he said. I was busy sipping my drink and looking through the window at the fishes swimming to and fro over landlord's turnips. Just then it seemed the most natural thing in the world that they should be there, though afterward, of course, I could see that that proved it was a ghost-ship.
But even then I thought it was queer when I saw a drowned sailor float by in the thin air, with his hair and beard all full of bubbles. It was the first time I had seen anything quite like that at Fairfield.
All the time I was regarding the wonders of the deep, parson was telling Captain Roberts how there was no peace or rest in the village owing to the curse of drunkenness, and what a bad example the youngsters were setting to the older ghosts. The captain listened very attentively, and put in a word only now and then about boys being boys and young men sowing their wild oats. But when parson had finished his speech, he filled up our silver cups and said to parson with a flourish:
"I should be sorry to cause trouble anywhere where I have been made welcome, and you will be glad to hear that I put to sea to-morrow night. And now you must drink me a prosperous voyage."
So we all stood up and drank the toast with honor, and that noble rum was like hot oil in my veins.
After that, captain showed us some of the curiosities he had brought back from foreign parts, and we were greatly amazed, though afterward I couldn't clearly remember what they were. And then I found myself walking across the turnips with parson, and I was telling him of the glories of the deep that I had seen through the window of the ship. He turned on me severely.
"If I were you, John Simmons," he said, "I should go straight home to bed." He has a way of putting things that wouldn't occur to an ordinary man, has parson, and I did as he told me.
Well, next day it came on to blow, and it blew harder and harder, till about eight o'clock at night I heard a noise and looked out into the garden. I dare say you won't believe me,—it seems a bit tall even to me,—but the wind had lifted the thatch of my pigsty into the widow's garden a second time. I thought I wouldn't wait to hear what widow had to say about it, so I went across the green to the Fox and Grapes, and the wind was so strong that I danced along on tiptoe like a girl at the fair. When I got to the inn, landlord had to help me shut the door. It seemed as though a dozen goats were pushing against it to come in out of the storm.
"It's a powerful tempest," he said, drawing the beer. "I hear there's a chimney down at Dickory End."
"It's a funny thing how these sailors know about the weather," I answered. "When captain said he was going to-night, I was thinking it would take a capful of wind to carry the ship back to sea; and now here's more than a capful."
"Ah, yes," said landlord; "it's to-night he goes true enough, and mind you, though he treated me handsome over the rent, I'm not sure it's a loss to the village. I don't hold with gentrice, who fetch their drink from London instead of helping local traders to get their living."
"But you haven't got any rum like his," I said, to draw him out.
His neck grew red above his collar, and I was afraid I'd gone too far; but after a while he got his breath with a grunt.
"John Simmons," he said, "if you've come down here this windy night to talk a lot of fool's talk, you've wasted a journey."
Well, of course then I had to smooth him down with praising his rum, and Heaven forgive me for swearing it was better than captain's. For the like of that rum no living lips have tasted save mine and parson's. But somehow or other I brought landlord round, and presently we must have a glass of his best to prove its quality.
"Beat that if you can," he cried, and we both raised our glasses to our mouths, only to stop halfway and look at each other in amaze. For the wind that had been howling outside like an outrageous dog had all of a sudden turned as melodious as the carol-boys of a Christmas eve.
"Surely that's not my Martha," whispered landlord, Martha being his great-aunt who lived in the loft overhead.
We went to the door, and the wind burst it open so that the handle was driven clean into the plaster of the wall, but we didn't think about that at the time; for over our heads, sailing very comfortably through the windy stars, was the ship that had passed the summer in landlord's field. Her port-holes and her bay-window were blazing with lights, and there was a noise of singing and fiddling on her decks. "He's gone!" shouted landlord above the storm, "and he's taken half the village with him." I could only nod in answer, not having lungs like bellows of leather.
In the morning we were able to measure the strength of the storm, and over and above my pigsty, there was damage enough wrought in the village to keep us busy. True it is that the children had to break down no branches for the firing that autumn, since the wind had strewn the woods with more than they could carry away. Many of our ghosts were scattered abroad, but this time very few came back, all the young men having sailed with captain; and not only ghosts, for a poor half-witted lad was missing, and we reckoned that he had stowed himself away or perhaps shipped as cabin-boy, not knowing any better.
What with the lamentations of the ghost girls and the grumblings of families who had lost ancestors, the village was upset for a while, and the funny thing was that it was the folk who had complained most of the carryings-on of the youngsters who made most noise now that they were gone. I hadn't any sympathy with shoemaker or butcher, who ran about saying how much they missed their lads, but it made me grieve to hear the poor bereaved girls calling their lovers by name on the village green at nightfall. It didn't seem fair to me that they should have lost their men a second time, after giving up life in order to join them, as like as not. Still, not even a spirit can be sorry forever, and after a few months we made up our mind that the folk who had sailed in the ship were never coming back; and we didn't talk about it any more.
And then one day, I dare say it would be a couple of years after, when the whole business was quite forgotten, who should come trapesing along the road from Portsmouth but the daft lad who had gone away with the ship without waiting till he was dead to become a ghost. You never saw such a boy as that in all your life. He had a great rusty cutlass hanging to a string at his waist, and he was tattooed all over in fine colors, so that even his face looked like a girl's sampler. He had a handkerchief in his hand full of foreign shells and old-fashioned pieces of small money, very curious, and he walked up to the well outside his mother's house and drew himself a drink as if he had been nowhere in particular.
The worst of it was that he had come back as soft-headed as he went, and try as we might, we couldn't get anything reasonable out of him. He talked a lot of gibberish about keelhauling and walking the plank and crimson murders—things which a decent sailor should know nothing about, so that it seemed to me that for all his manners captain had been more of a pirate than a gentleman mariner. But to draw sense out of that boy was as hard as picking cherries off a crab-tree. One silly tale he had that he kept on drifting back to, and to hear him you would have thought that it was the only thing that happened to him in his life.
"We was at anchor," he would say, "off an island called the Basket of Flowers, and the sailors had caught a lot of parrots and we were teaching them to swear. Up and down the decks, up and down the decks, and the language they used was dreadful. Then we looked up and saw the masts of the Spanish ship outside the harbor. Outside the harbor they were, so we threw the parrots into the sea, and sailed out to fight. And all the parrots were drowneded in the sea, and the language they used was dreadful."
That's the sort of boy he was—nothing but silly talk of parrots when we asked him about the fighting. And we never had a chance of teaching him better, for two days after he ran away again, and hasn't been seen since.
That's my story, and I assure you that things like that are happening at Fairfield all the time. The ship has never come back, but somehow, as people grow older, they seem to think that one of these windy nights she'll come sailing in over the hedges with all the lost ghosts on board. Well, when she comes, she'll be welcome. There's one ghost lass that has never grown tired of waiting for her lad to return. Every night you'll see her out on the green, straining her poor eyes with looking for the mast-lights among the stars. A faithful lass you'd call her, and I'm thinking you'd be right.
Landlord's field wasn't a penny the worse for the visit; but they do say that since then the turnips that have been grown in it have tasted of rum.
THE TRANSPLANTED GHOST
A CHRISTMAS STORY
BY WALLACE IRWIN
From Everybody's Magazine. By permission of Everybody's and Wallace Irwin.
The Transplanted Ghost
A CHRISTMAS STORY
BY WALLACE IRWIN
When Aunt Elizabeth asked me to spend Christmas with her at Seven Oaks she appended a peculiar request to her letter. "Like a good fellow," she wrote, "won't you drop off at Perkinsville, Ohio, on your way, and take a look at Gauntmoor Castle? They say it's a wonderful old pile; and its history is in many ways connected with that of our own family. As long as you're the last of the Geoffray Pierreponts, such things ought to interest you." Like her auburn namesake who bossed the Thames of yore, sweet, red-haired, romantic autocrat, Aunt Elizabeth! Her wishes were commands.
"What the deuce is Aunt Elizabeth up to now?" I asked Tim Cole, my law partner, whom I found in my rooms smoking my tobacco. "Why should I be inspecting Gauntmoor Castle—and what is a castle named Gauntmoor doing in Perkinsville, Ohio, anyway? Perkinsville sounds like the Middle West, and Gauntmoor sounds like the Middle Ages."
"Right in both analyses," said the pipe-poaching Tim. "Castle Gauntmoor is from the Middle Ages, and we all know about where in Ohio Perkinsville is. But is it possible that you, twenty-seven years old and a college graduate, haven't heard of Thaddeus Hobson, the Marvelous Millionaire?" I shook my head. "The papers have been full of Hobson in the past two or three years," said Tim. "It was in 1898, I think, that Fate jumped Thaddeus Hobson to the golden Olympus. He was first head salesman in the village hardware store, then he formulated so successful a scheme to clean up the Tin Plate Combine that he put away a fabulous number of millions in a year, and subsequently went to England. Finally he set his heart on Norman architecture. After a search he found the ancient Castle Gauntmoor still habitable and for sale. He thrilled the British comic papers by his offer to buy the castle and move it to America. Hobson saw the property, telegraphed to London, and closed the deal in two hours. And an army of laborers at once began taking the Gauntmoor to pieces, stone by stone.
"Transporting that relic to America involved a cost in labor and ingenuity comparable with nothing that has yet happened. Moving the Great Pyramid would be a lighter job, perhaps. Thousands of tons of scarred and medieval granite were carried to the railroads, freighted to the sea, and dragged across the Atlantic in whopping big lighters chartered for the job. And the next the newspapers knew, the monster was set up in Perkinsville, Ohio."
"But why did he do it?" I asked.
"Who knows?" said Tim. "Ingrowing sentiment—unlimited capital—wanted to do something for the Home Town, probably; wanted to beautify the village that gave him his start—and didn't know how to go at it. Well, so long!" he called out, as I seized my hat and streaked for the train.
* * * * *
It was dinner time when the train pulled in at Perkinsville. The town was as undistinguished as I expected. I was too hungry to care about castles at the moment, so I took the 'bus for the Commercial Hotel, an establishment that seemed to live up to its name, both in sentiment and in accommodation. The landlord, Mr. Spike, referred bitterly to the castle, which, he explained, was, by its dominating presence, "spoilin' the prosperous appearance of Perkinsville." Dinner over, he led me to a side porch.
"How does Perkinsville look with that—with that curio squattin' on top of it?" asked Mr. Spike sternly, as he pointed over the local livery stable, over Smith Brothers' Plow Works, over Odd Fellows' Hall, and up, up to the bleak hills beyond, where, poised like a stony coronet on a giant's brow, rose the great Norman towers and frowning buttresses of Gauntmoor Castle. I rubbed my eyes. No, it couldn't be real—it must be a wizard's work!
"What's old Hobson got out of it?" said Mr. Spike in my ear. "Nothin' but an old stone barn, where he can set all day nursin' a grouch and keepin' his daughter Anita—they do say he does—under lock and key for fear somebody's goin' to marry her for her money."
Mr. Spike looked up at the ramparts defiantly, even as the Saxon churl must have gazed in an earlier, far sadder land.
"It's romantic," I suggested.
"Yes, darn rheumatic," agreed Mr. Spike.
"Is it open for visitors?" I asked innocently.
"Hobson?" cackled Spike. "He'd no more welcome a stranger to that place than he'd welcome—a ghost. He's a hol-ee terror, Hobson!"
Mr. Spike turned away to referee a pool game down in the barroom.
The fires of a December sunset flared behind Gauntmoor and cast the grim shadows of Medievalism over Mediocrity, which lay below. Presently the light faded, and I grew tired of gazing. Since Hobson would permit no tourists to inspect his castle, why was I here on this foolish trip? Already I was planning to wire Aunt Elizabeth a sarcastic reference to being marooned at Christmas with a castle on my hands, when a voice at my shoulder said suddenly:
"Mr. Hobson sends his compliments, sir, and wants to know would Mr. Pierrepont come up to Gauntmoor for the night?"
A groom in a plum-colored livery stood at my elbow. A light station wagon was waiting just outside. How the deuce did Hobson know my name? What did he want of me at Gauntmoor this time of night? Yet prospects of bed and breakfast away from the Commercial lured me strangely.
"Sure, Mr. Pierrepont will be delighted," I announced, leaping into the vehicle, and soon we were mounting upward, battling with the winds around the time-scarred walls. The wagon stopped at the great gate. A horn sounded from within, the gate swung open, a drawbridge fell with a hideous creaking of machinery, and we passed in, twenty or thirty feet above the snow-drifted moat. Beyond the portcullis a dim door swung open. Some sort of seneschal met us with a light and led us below the twilight arches, where beyond, I could catch glimpses of the baileys and courts and the donjon tower against the heavy ramparts.
The wind hooted through the high galleries as we passed; but the west wing, from its many windows and loopholes, blazed with cheerful yellow light. It looked nearly cozy. Into a tall, gaunt tower we plunged, down a winding staircase, and suddenly we came into a vast hall, stately with tapestries and innumerable monkish carvings—and all brightly lighted with electricity!
A little fat man sat smoking in a chair near the fire. When I entered he was in his shirt sleeves, reading a newspaper, but when a footman announced my name the little man, in a state of great nervousness, jumped to his feet and threw on a coat, fidgeting painfully with the armholes. As he came toward me, I noticed that he was perfectly bald. He looked dyspeptic and discontented, like a practical man trying vainly to adjust his busy habits to a lazy life. Obviously he didn't go with the rest of the furniture.
"Pleased to see you, Mr. Pierrepont," he said, looking me over carefully as if he thought of buying me. "Geoffray Pierrepont—tut, tut!—ain't it queer!"
"Queer!" I said rather peevishly. "What's queer about it?"
"Excuse me, did I say queer? I didn't mean to be impolite, sir—I was just thinking, that's all."
You could hear the demon Army of the Winds scaling the walls outside.
"Maybe you thought it kind of abrupt, Mr. Pierrepont, me asking you up here so unceremonious," he said. "My daughter Annie, she tells me I ought to live up to the looks of the place; but I've got my notions. To tell you the truth, I'm in an awful quandary about this Antique Castle business and when I heard you was at the hotel, I thought you might help me out some way. You see you——"
He led me to a chair and offered me a fat cigar.
"Young man," he said, "when you get your head above water and make good in the world—if you ever do—don't fool with curios, don't monkey with antiques. Keep away from castles. They're like everything else sold by curio dealers—all humbug. Look nice, yes. But get 'em over to America and they either fall to pieces or the paint comes off. Whether it's a chair or a castle—same old story. The sly scalawags that sell you the goods won't live up to their contracts."
"Hasn't Gauntmoor all the ancient inconveniences a Robber Baron could wish?" I asked.
"It ain't," announced Mr. Hobson. "Though it looks all right to a stranger, perhaps. There may be castles in the Old World got it on Gauntmoor for size—thank God I didn't buy 'em!—but for looks you can't beat Gauntmoor."
"Comfortable?" I asked.
"Can't complain. Modern plumbed throughout. Hard to heat, but I put an electric-light plant in the cellar. Daughter Annie's got a Colonial suite in the North Tower."
"Well," I suggested, "if there's anything the castle lacks, you can buy it."
"There's one thing money can't buy," said Mr. Hobson, leaning very close and speaking in a sibilant whisper. "And that's ghosts!"
"But who wants ghosts?" I inquired.
"Now look here," said Mr. Hobson. "I'm a business man. When I bought Gauntmoor, the London scalawags that sold it to me gave me distinctly to understand that this was a Haunted Castle. They showed me a haunted chamber, showed me the haunted wall where the ghost walks, guaranteed the place to be the Spook Headquarters of the British Isles—and see what I got!" He snapped his fingers in disgust.
"Results? Stung! I've slept in that haunted room upstairs for a solid year. I've gazed night after night over the haunted rampart. I've even hired spiritualists to come and cut their didoes in the towers and donjon keep. No use. You can't get ghosts where they ain't."
I expressed my sympathy.
"I'm a plain man," said Hobson. "I ain't got any ancestors back of father, who was a blacksmith, and a good one, when sober. Somebody else's ancestors is what I looked for in this place—and I've got 'em, too, carved in wood and stone in the chapel out back of the tower. But statues and carvings ain't like ghosts to add tone to an ancient lineage."
"Is there any legend?" I asked.
"Haven't you heard it?" he exclaimed, looking at me sharply out of his small gray eyes. "It seems, 'way back in the sixteenth century, there was a harum-scarum young feller living in a neighboring castle, and he took an awful shine to Lady Katherine, daughter of the Earl of Cummyngs, who was boss of this place at that time. Now the young man who loved Miss—I mean Lady—Katherine was a sort of wild proposition. Old man wouldn't have him around the place; but young man kept hanging on till Earl ordered him off. Finally the old gent locked Lady Kitty in the donjon tower," said Mr. Hobson.
"Too much shilly-shallying in this generation," he went on. "Every house that's got a pretty girl ought to have a donjon keep. I've got both." He paused and wiped his brow.
"This fresh young kid I'm telling you about, he thought he knew more than the old folks, so he got a rope ladder and climbed up the masonry one night, intending to bust into the tower where the girl was. But just as he got half across the wall—out yonder—his foot slipped and he broke his neck in the moat below. Consequence, Lady Kitty goes crazy and old Earl found dead a week later in his room. It was Christmas Eve when the boy was killed. That's the night his ghost's supposed to walk along the ramparts, give a shriek, and drop off—but the irritating thing about it all is, it don't ever happen."
"And now, Mr. Hobson," I said, throwing away the butt of my cigar, "why am I here? What have I got to do with all this ghost business?"
"I want you to stay," said Hobson, beseechingly. "To-morrow night's Christmas Eve. I've figured it out that your influence, somehow, you being of the same blood, as it were, might encourage the ghost to come out and save the reputation of the castle."