Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostępny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacji Legimi na:
Ghosts and Family Legends
A Volume for Christmas
FIRST PART. ROUND THE FIRE.
SECOND PART. LEGENDS OF THE EARTHBOUND.
THE ITALIAN'S STORY.
THE DUTCH OFFICER'S STORY.
THE OLD FRENCH GENTLEMAN'S STORY.
THE SWISS LADY'S STORY.
THE SHEEP-FARMER'S STORY.
MY FRIEND'S STORY.
It happened that I spent the last winter in a large country mansion, in the north of England, where we had a succession of visitors, and all manner of amusements—dancing, music, cards, billiards, and other games.
Towards the end of December, 1857, however, the gaiety of the house was temporarily interrupted by a serious misfortune that occurred to one of the party, which, in the evening, occasioned us to assemble with grave faces round the drawing-room fire, where we fell to discussing the slight tenure by which we hold whatever blessings we enjoy, and the sad uncertainty of human life, as it affects us in its most mournful aspect—the lives of those we love.
From this theme, the conversation branched out into various speculations regarding the great mysteries of the here and hereafter; the reunion of friends, and the possible interests of them that have past away in the well-being of those they have left behind; till it fell, naturally, into the relation of certain experiences which almost everybody has had, more or less; and which were adduced to fortify the arguments of those who regard the future as less disjoined from the present than it is considered to be by Theologians generally.
In short, we began to tell ghost stories; and although some of the party professed an utter disbelief in apparitions, they proved to be as fertile as the believers in their contributions—relating something that had happened to themselves or their friends, as having undoubtedly occurred, or to all appearance, occurred—only, with the reservation, that it must certainly have been a dream.
The substance of these conversations fills the following pages, and I have told the stories as nearly as possible in the words of the original narrators. Of course, I am not permitted to give their names; nobody chooses to confess, in print, that he or anybody belonging to him, has seen a ghost, or believes that he has seen one. There is a sort of odium attached to the imputation, that scarcely anyone seems equal to encounter; and no wonder, when wise people listen to the avowal with such strange incredulity, and pronounce you at the best a superstitious fool, or a patient afflicted with spectral illusions.
Under these circumstances, whether I have ever seen a ghost, myself, I must decline confiding to the public; but I take almost as courageous a step in avowing my entire and continued belief in the fact that others do occasionally see these things; and I assert, that most of those who related the events contained in the ensuing pages of this work, confessed to me their absolute conviction that they or their friends had actually seen and heard what they said they did.
Some of the company related curious traditions and legends connected with their family annals; and these form the second part of this little book, which I hope may prove a not uninteresting companion for a Christmas fireside.
15th October, 1858.
"But there are no ghosts now," objected Mr. R.
"Quite the contrary," said I; "I have no doubt there is nobody in this circle who has not either had some experience of the sort in his own person, or been made a confidant of such experiences by friends whose word on any other subject he would feel it impossible to doubt."
After some discussion on the existence of ghosts and cognate subjects, it was agreed that each should relate a story, restricting himself to circumstances that had either happened to himself or had been told him by somebody fully entitled to confidence, who had undergone the experience.
We followed the order in which we were sitting, and Miss P. began as follows:—
"I was some years ago engaged to be married to an officer in the —— regiment. Circumstances connected with our families prevented the union taking place as early as we had expected; and in the mean while Captain S., whose regiment was in the West Indies, was ordered to join. I need not say that this separation distressed us a good deal, but we consoled each other as well as we could by maintaining a constant correspondence; though there were no steam packets in those days, and letters were much longer on their way and less certain in their arrival than they are now. Still I heard pretty regularly, and had no reason for the least uneasiness.
"One day that I had been out shopping, and had returned rather tired, I told my mother that I should go and lie down for an hour, for we were going out in the evening, and I was afraid I might have a head-ache, to which I am rather subject; so I went up to my room, took down a book and threw myself on the bed to read or sleep as it might happen. I had read a page or two, and feeling drowsy had laid down the volume in order to compose myself to sleep, when I was aroused by a knock at my chamber door.
"'Come in,' I said, without turning my head, for I thought it was the maid come to fetch the dress I was going to wear in the evening.
"I heard the door open and a person enter, but the foot was not her's; and then I looked round and saw that it was Captain S. What came over me then I can't tell you. I knew little of mesmerism at that period, but I have since thought that when a spirit appears, it must have some power of mesmerising the spectator; for I have heard other people who had been in similar situations describe very much what I experienced myself. I was perfectly calm, not in the least frightened or surprised, but transfixed. Of course, had I remained in my normal state, I should either have been amazed at seeing Captain S. so unexpectedly, especially in my chamber; or if I believed it an apparition, I should have been dreadfully distressed and alarmed; but I was neither; and I can't say whether I thought it himself or his ghost. I was passive, and my mind accepted the phenomenon without question of how such at thing could be.
"Captain S. approached the bedside, and spoke to me exactly as he was in the habit of doing, and I answered him in the same manner. After the first greeting, he crossed the room to fetch a chair that stood by the dressing table. He wore his uniform, and when his back was turned, I remember distinctly seeing the seams of his coat behind. He brought the chair, and having seated himself by the bed side, he conversed with me for about half-an-hour; he then rose and looking at his watch, said his time had expired and he must go; he bade me good bye and went out by the same door he had entered at.
"The moment it closed on him, I knew what had happened; if my hypothesis be correct, his power over me ceased when he disappeared and I returned to my normal state. I screamed, and seized the bell rope which I rang with such violence that I broke it. My mother, who was in the room underneath, rushed up stairs, followed by the servants. They found me on the floor in a fainting state, and for some time I was unable to communicate the cause of my agitation. At length, being somewhat calmed, I desired the servants might leave the room, and then I told my mother what had happened. Of course, she thought it was a dream; in vain I assured her it was not, and pointed to the chair which, wonderful to say, had been actually brought to the bedside by the spirit—there it stood exactly as it had been placed by him; luckily nobody had moved it. I said, you know where that chair usually stands; when you were up here a little while ago it was in its usual place—so it was when I lay down—I never moved it; it was placed there by Captain S.
"My mother was greatly perplexed; she found me so confident and clear; yet, the thing appeared to her impossible.
"From that time, I only thought of Captain S. as one departed from this life; suspense and its agonies were spared me. I was certain. Accordingly, about a month afterwards, when one morning Major B. of the ---- regiment sent in his card, I said to my mother, 'Now you'll see; he comes to tell me of Henry's death.'
"It was so. Captain S. had died of fever on the day he paid me that mysterious visit."
We asked Miss P. if any similar circumstance had ever occurred to her before or since.
"Never," she answered; "I never saw anything of the sort but on that occasion."
"I have no experience of my own to relate," said Dr. W., "but in the course of my late tour in Scotland, I went amongst other places to Skye, and I found the whole island talking of an event that had just happened there, which may perhaps interest you. There was a tradesman in Portree of the name of Robertson; I believe he was a sort of general dealer, as shopkeepers frequently are in those remote localities. Whatever his business was, however, it frequently took him to the other islands or the mainland to make purchases. He had arranged to go on one of these expeditious, I think to Raasa, when a friend called to inform him that a meeting of the inhabitants was to be held on some public question in which he, Robertson, was much interested."
"'You had better defer going till after Friday,' said Mr. Brown; 'we can't do without you, and its very possible you may not get back in time.'
"'Oh, yes, I can do all my business, and be back very well on Thursday,' said Mr. Robertson; objecting that if he waited over Friday it would be no use going till Monday. Brown tried to persuade him to alter his plans, but in vain; 'however,' said he, 'you may rely on seeing me on Thursday, if you'll look in, in the evening; as I would not miss the meeting on any account.'
"This conversation took place at an early hour on Tuesday morning. Immediately afterwards Mr. Robertson bade his wife and children good-bye, and proceeded to the boat which left at eleven o'clock, having on board, besides himself, two other passengers, and two boatmen.
"On Thursday evening, Mr. Brown, who had been busying himself in fortifying and encouraging their adherents against the next day, and had taken upon himself to answer for his friend Robertson's presence, as soon as he had finished business, set off to keep his appointment with the latter, anxious to ascertain that he was arrived.
"His anxiety was soon relieved, for on his way he met him.
"'Well, here you are,' said he, holding out his hand.
"'Yes,' answered Robertson, not appearing to notice the hand, 'I have kept my promise.'
"Upon that Mr. Brown introduced the subject of the meeting, and mentioned the hopes he had of carrying the question, with which Robertson seemed satisfied; but as soon as possible turning the conversation into another direction, he began talking to his friend about his wife and children, and certain arrangements he had wished to be made respecting his property.
"His mind seemed so much more engrossed with these matters than the meeting, that little was said upon the latter subject, and Mr. Brown, having parted with him in the street, rather wondered why he chose such a moment to discuss his private affairs.
"The next morning, at the appointed hour, the principal inhabitants of the place assembled in a public room at the Tun. Brown, who wanted to say a word to Robertson, lingered at the door; but as he did not come, he thought he must have arrived before himself, and went up stairs.
"'Is Robertson here?' said he, on entering the room.
"'No,' said one, 'I'm afraid he's not come back from Raasa.'
"'Oh, yes,' said Brown, 'he'll be here; I saw him yesterday evening.'
"They then discoursed about the matter in hand for some time, till finding the chairman was about to proceed to business, Robertson's absence was again reverted to.
"'I know he's come back,' said one, 'for I saw him standing at his own door as I passed last night.'
"'He can't have forgotten it,' said another.
"'Certainly not, for we spoke of it last night,' said Brown.
"'Perhaps he's ill,' suggested somebody.
"'Just send your man to Mr. Robertson's, and say we are waiting for him,' said Brown to the landlord.
"The landlord left the room to do so; and, in the meantime, they proceeded to business.
"Presently, the landlord re-entered the room, saying, that Mrs. Robertson answered that her husband had not returned from Raasa, and that she did not much expect he would be back till night.
"'Nonsense,' cried Brown, 'Why, I saw the man yesterday according to appointment, and had a long conversation with him.'
"'I am sure he's come back,' said one who had spoke before. 'I was coming down the street on the other side of the way, and I saw him standing at the door with his apron on. I should have crossed over to speak to him, but I was in a hurry.'
"'It's extraordinary,' said the landlord: 'Mrs. Robertson declares he's not come.'
"Some jokes were then passed about the apparent defection of Robertson from his spouse, and the meeting concluded their business without him, his party being exceedingly annoyed at his absence, which they thought not fair to the cause.
"'He should have given us his support.'
"'I suppose he has altered his opinions.'
"'Then he had better have said so.'
"'It struck me, certainly, that he was rather lukewarm on the subject when I talked to him last night; but on Tuesday I saw him just before he started, and he said he would not miss the meeting on any account. I'll go and look after him and know what he means.'
"Accordingly, Brown proceeded to his friend's house, and found Mrs. Robertson and her children at dinner.
"'Weel," Mr. Brown,' she said, 'so your meeting's over.'
"'Aye,' said he, 'but where's Robertson? Why didn't he keep his word with us?'
"'Why, you see, I dare say he meant to be back—indeed, I know he did: but business won't be neglected, and I suppose he could not manage it.'
"'Do you mean to say he's not come back!' said Brown.
"'Sure, I do,' answered Mrs. R. 'Of course, he'd have been at the meeting if he had.'
"'But people saw him last night, standing at his own door,' answered the cautious Brown.
"'Na, na, Mr. Brown, don't you believe that,' said Mrs. R., laughing; they that say that had too much whiskey in their een.'
"The children laughed at the idea of anybody seeing their father when he was at Raasa, and on the whole it was evident, that if John Robertson had returned, it was unknown to his family. But what could be his reason for so strange a proceeding, and why, if he wanted to evade the meeting, had he needlessly shown himself at all? Why not really stay away from Portree?
"However, Robertson did not appear; and later in the day the landlord of the Tun said to Brown, as he was passing the door, 'You must have been mistaken about seeing Mr. Robertson; the boat from Raasa is not come in.'
"'Then he must have come over by some other, for I not only saw him but walked and talked with him. I can't think what he can mean by playing at Hide and Seek in this way?'
"'It's very extraordinary,' said the landlord, 'for I am expecting a hamper from Raasa; and so, hearing from you that Mr. Robertson was come, I went down to inquire about it; but they declare no boat of any sort has come in these two days; the wind's right against them.'
"'I know the boat from Raasa is not come back,' said the porter; 'for I saw Jenny McGill just now, and she says her husband is not returned.'
"'Really you'll persuade me that I'm not in my right senses,' said the perplexed Brown. 'If ever I saw Robertson in my life I saw him last night; I was going to call upon him, as he had asked me to do so before he went away; but I met him, not far from my own house; and what is more, he told me of a thing I did not know before, regarding a purchase he had made, and spoke of what he intended to do with it.'
"'It's most extraordinary,' said the landlord.
"'Eh, sirs,' said an old fishwife, who was standing by, 'I wish it may not be John Robertson's ghaist that ye saw, for the wind's sair agin them, and I'd a bad dream about Jamie McGill last night.'
"They all laughed; but this was the first suggestion of the sort that had been made; and though he would not confess it, Brown began to feel rather uncomfortable; the more so as several things were recalled to his memory that had not struck him at the time. He remembered that Robertson had avoided shaking hands with him, either on meeting or parting, as was his wont; he had even then been struck with the grave tone of his conversation, and with his choosing that particular moment for pressing on his friend's attention what did not appear to have any urgent interest at present. Then it occurred to him that he looked ill and sad—he had attributed this to fatigue; but now, putting everything together, he could not help feeling a considerable degree of uneasiness. He kept hovering about Robertson's house, and from that to the shore all day; went to bed at night quite nervous; and by the next afternoon the alarm had spread and become universal. It was not without cause.
"John Robertson never came back; the boat had been lost—how, was not known, as all on board had perished. However, Mr. Brown took upon himself to be the friend and guardian of the bereaved family; and the information he received in that melancholy interview he was enabled to turn much to the advantage of their circumstances."
"A very remarkable story," said I.
"Yes," answered Dr. W. "very remarkable indeed, if true."
"And is it not true," I said, "remember, we are upon honour; I should think it a very ill compliment if any one attempted to mystify us with an invented story."
"I did not invent it, I assure you," replied Dr. W.; "I give it you as it was given to me on the spot. If you ask me if I believe it, I can't say I do."
"Do you think the people who told you believed it?"
"They certainly appeared to do so."
"And did it seem generally believed?"
"I can't say but it did; but of course, one must have wonderfully strong evidence before one could believe such a thing as that."
"Granted; but unless you had seen the thing yourself, you cannot have stronger evidence of a phenomenon of that description, than that it was believed by those who had good reason to know the grounds of their belief. They were able to judge how far Mr. Brown was worthy of credit; and they had the advantage of having witnessed his demeanour at the public meeting, when he asserted that he had walked and talked with Robertson, at a time he could not possibly know if he was telling a lie, that the man would not sooner or later return to confute him. Besides, as far as we see, it would have been a useless and wicked lie, inasmuch as it was calculated to make the man's family very uneasy. His subsequent conduct does not at all countenance the persuasion that he was capable of such a proceeding.'
"Certainly not; but you know the Scotch are very superstitious."
"I can't agree with you; the higher and lower classes of the towns are exactly similar in that respect to the same classes of England. In all countries the lower classes are more disposed to put faith in these things, because they believe in their traditions and adhere to the axiom that seeing is believing. The higher classes, on the other hand, are carefully educated not to believe in such traditions and to reject the axiom that seeing is believing, if the thing seen is a ghost. Now I freely admit, that our senses often deceive us, and that we think we see what we do not; every body with the slightest intelligence has, I suppose, learnt to distrust his own senses to a certain extent; but why on one particular point we should reject their evidence altogether, I never could understand."
"You have heard, I suppose of spectral illusions?" said the Doctor.
"Of course I have, and admit their existence; but we have so many cases on our side, that doctrine will not cover, and it is so impossible for you to prove that any particular case of ghost seeing falls under that head, that it is no use discussing the subject. It complicates the difficulty I confess, but can never decide the question. I was going to say, however, that the shopkeepers and middle classes of Scotland are anything but what you mean by superstitious—the class to whom Brown and Robertson belong, is the most hardheaded, argumentative, and matter of fact in the kingdom; and their religion, which is eminently unimaginative, so far from inducing a belief in ghosts, would have a precisely opposite tendency, because ghosts do not form an article of belief in either the longer or shorter catechism. In the remoter districts of the Highlands, the people are said to have more of what you would call superstition; but the same peculiarity is remarked in all mountainous regions; and as it has never been satisfactorily accounted for, we will not enter into the discussion now."
"After the doctor's story, I fear mine will appear too trifling," said Mrs. M., "but as it is the only circumstance of the kind that ever happened to myself, I prefer giving it you to any of the many stories I have heard.
"About fifteen years ago, I was staying with some friends at a magnificent old seat in Yorkshire, and our host being very much crippled with the gout, was in the habit of driving about the park and neighbourhood in a low pony phaeton, on which occasions, I often accompanied him. One of our favourite excursions was to the ruins of an old abbey just beyond the park, and we generally returned by a remarkably pretty rural lane leading to the village, or rather, small town of C.
"One fine summer's evening we had just entered this lane, when seeing the hedges full of wild flowers, I asked my friend to let me alight and gather some; I walked on before the carriage picking honeysuckles and roses as I went along, till I came to a gate that led into a field. It was a common country gate, with a post on each side, and on one of these posts sat a large white cat, the finest animal of the kind I had ever seen; and as I have a weakness for cats, I stopt to admire this sleek, fat puss, looking so wonderfully comfortable in a very uncomfortable position; the top of the post on which it was sitting, with its feet doubled up under it, being out of all proportion to its body, for no Angola ever rivalled it in size.
"'Come on, gently,' I called to my friend, 'here's such a magnificent cat!' for I feared the approach of the phaeton would startle it away before he had seen it.
"'Where?' said he, pulling up his horse opposite the gate.
"'There,' said I, pointing to the post, 'Isn't it a beauty; I wonder if it would let me stroke it!'
"'I see no cat,' said he.
"'There on the post,' said I, but he declared he saw nothing, though puss sat there in perfect composure during this colloquy.
"'Don't you see the cat, James,' said I, in great perplexity to the groom.
"'Yes, ma'am; a large white cat on that post.'
"I thought my friend must be joking, or else losing his eye-sight, and I approached the cat, intending to take it in my arms, and carry it to the carriage; but as I drew near, she jumped off the post, which was natural enough—but to my surprise she jumped into nothing—as she jumped she disappeared! no cat in the field—none in the lane—none in the ditch!
"'Where did she go, James?'
"'I don't know, ma'am, I can't see her,' said the groom, standing up in his seat, and looking all round.
"I was quite bewildered; but still I had no glimmering of the truth; and when I got into the carriage again, my friend said he thought I and James were dreaming, and I retorted that I thought he must be going blind.
"I had a commission to execute as we passed through the town, and I alighted for that purpose at the little haberdasher's; and while they were serving me, I mentioned that I had seen a remarkably beautiful cat sitting on a gate in the lane; and asked if they could tell me who it belonged to, adding, it was the largest cat I ever saw.
"The owners of the shop, and two women who were making purchases, suspended their proceedings, looked at each other, and then looked at me, evidently very much surprised.
"'Was it a white cat, ma'am?' said the mistress.
"'Yes, a white cat; a beautiful creature and—'
"'Bless me!' cried two or three, 'the lady's seen the White Cat of C. It hasn't been seen these twenty years.'
"'Master wishes to know if you'll soon be done, ma'am? The pony is getting restless,' said James.
"Of course, I hurried out, and got into the carriage, telling my friend that the cat was well known to the people at C., and that it was twenty years old.
"In those days, I believe, I never thought of ghosts, and least of all should I have thought of the ghost of a cat; but two evenings afterwards, as we were driving down the lane, I again saw the cat in the same position, and again my companion could not see it, though the groom did. I alighted immediately, and went up to it. As I approached, it turned its head, and looked full towards me with its soft, mild eyes, and a kindly expression, like that of a loving dog; and then, without moving from the post, it began to fade gradually away, as if it were a vapour, till it had quite disappeared. All this the groom saw as well as myself; and now there could be no mistake as to what it was. A third time, I saw it in broad daylight, and my curiosity greatly awakened, I resolved to make further inquiries amongst the inhabitants of C., but before I had an opportunity of doing so, I was summoned away by the death of my eldest child, and I have never been in that part of the world since. However, I once mentioned the circumstance to a lady who was acquainted with that neighbourhood, and she said she had heard of the White Cat of C., but had never seen it.
"But as you may not think this story very interesting since it only relates to a cat, I will, if you please, tell you another, in which I was concerned, although I saw nothing myself."
"We shall be very happy," I said, "but I am far from thinking your story wanting in interest, in fact, to me it has a very peculiar interest. There are few friends so sincere as the animals who have loved us, and none that I, for my part, more earnestly desire to see again. I have had two dogs, in my life, who contributed much to my happiness while they lived, and never caused me a sorrow till they died. Besides, there is a deep mystery in the being of these creatures, which proud man never seeks to unravel, or condescends to speculate on. What is their relation to the human race? Why are these spiritual germs embodied in those forms and made subject to man, that hard and cruel master! who assumes to be their superior, because he is endowed with some higher faculties, the most of which he grossly misuses. How beautiful are their characters when studied? how wonderful their intelligence when cultivated? how willing they are to serve us when kindly treated? But man, by his cruelty, ignorance, laziness, and want of judgment, spoils their temper, blunts their intelligence, deteriorates their nature, and then punishes them for being what he himself has made them. Well might Chalmers exclaim, 'All nature groans beneath the cruelty of man.' Why are these creatures, sinless, as far as we see, placed here as the subjects of this barbarous, unthinking tyrant? That has always appeared to me a solemn question."
After this little digression, Mrs. M. continued as follows:—
"I had been travelling on the continent, and was staying at Brussels on my way home. The bedroom I occupied was within another, in which slept my faithful maid, Rachel, and one of my children. I had been in bed sometime, and had not been to sleep, when I heard Rachel's voice, saying something which I did not distinctly hear, and before I could ask what it was, she uttered a cry that immediately brought me to her bedside. I found her in a state of violent agitation, and as soon as she was composed enough to speak, she told me that she had not been long in bed when she heard a voice call her, which she supposed to be mine, and immediately afterwards, in the glass which was opposite the foot of the bed, she saw a figure in white, enter and proceed to the other end of the room. She concluded it was me in my night dress, and that I had only mentioned her name to ascertain if she was awake, fearing to disturb the child, who was restless, she lay still, and did not answer. The figure went back through the door, but presently returned again, and seemed to be looking about for something, whereupon she half sat up in bed; when it approached, and laid its hand heavily on her knee, there was something painful in the pressure, and she exclaimed, 'Oh, don't do that ma'am!' but she had scarcely uttered the words when she discerned the features, and saw it was her sister. The phantom looked sadly at her, and then retreating to the opposite corner, disappeared. This circumstance, in spite of my arguments and suggestions that it was a dream, made a very painful impression on her; she felt sure some misfortune had happened, and so it proved; her sister had died on that night, leaving a family of young children, about whom, in her last moments, she was very anxious."
"Cases of that sort are very numerous," said Lady A., "I know of two which I can give upon perfectly good authority. A friend of mine was sitting a few years since in the drawing room at her country seat; there was a door at each end, leading to other rooms, both of which were open. A slight rustle caused her to raise her eyes from her work, when she saw her nephew enter at one door, walk straight through, and out at the other. The young man was at college, and she had no reason to expect him then, but concluding some unforeseen business had brought him, and that he was in search of her, she called—'Arthur, here I am,' and pursued him into the adjoining room, and then into the hall. Receiving no answer, and not being able to find him in any direction, she rang for the servants, and inquired where he was; but they did not know; they had seen nothing of him. She insisted he had arrived, and he was sought for all over the house and grounds in vain. The thing remained perfectly incomprehensible, till the post brought a letter, announcing that the young man had been drowned on that day.
"Another instance, equally well established, is that of Dr. C., of Dublin. He resided with his family some few miles from the city, I believe, at or near Howth, and when he returned in the evening after visiting his patients, he frequently, to save time, took a short cut across some sands, which in certain states of the tide were not always safe. Mrs. C. had often entreated him to relinquish this practice, and take the more circuitous way; but he thought he was too well acquainted with the place to run any danger. One evening that they were expecting him, as usual, to dinner, his brother, who was standing at the window, saw him arrive; he rode a white horse, and was therefore a conspicuous object. When the dinner hour came, as he had not appeared in the drawing room, his brother and Mrs. C., to whom the latter had mentioned having seen him, desired the servants to seek him in his dressing room, and ask if he was ready. He was not in his room, nor was he any where to be found; neither had any of the servants seen him, nor was his horse in the stable. Mr. C., however, confident of his arrival, suggested that he might be gone to visit some sick person in the neighbourhood; so they waited. But in vain; news presently arrived that horse and man had been drowned that evening in crossing the sands."
There was scarcely any one present unacquainted with examples of this kind of appearance amongst their family or friends, but Captain L. related to us a case still more curious and unaccountable that had happened to himself in India when he was in the Himalaya.
"I was just finishing my breakfast one morning," said he, "when my servant entered and announced a visitor. It was Captain P. B. of ours, who came to invite me to a game of billiards. Our billiard-room was situated about a mile beyond my quarter, and Captain B., who lived at the other extremity, had to pass my residence to go to it.
"'Are you going up there now?' I said.
"'Yes,' said he; 'will you come?'
"'Why, I can't come directly,' I answered; 'for I have a letter to write first; but if you'll go on, I'll join you presently.'
"He left me, and as soon as I had written my letter, I started for the billiard-room. When I entered it, Captain P. B. was not there, nor, indeed, anybody but the marker—which was not surprising, as it was earlier than we usually went there.
"'Where's Captain B?' I said.
"'Don't know, sir; he has not been here yet.'
"'Not been here?'
"'No, sir, not to-day.'
"Thinking, that as I was not ready, he had filled up the interval by going somewhere else, I began knocking about the balls; every now and then looking out of the window, expecting to see him approach; but when this had lasted upwards of two hours, I began to be rather impatient, and was just thinking of going away, when I saw him approaching with his wife in an open carriage from an opposite direction.
"'A pretty fellow you are, to keep me kicking my heels here waiting for you,' said I, as he entered the room.
"'Keep you waiting!' he said; 'I have not kept you waiting.'
"'Why, I've been here these two hours and more.'
"'How was I to know that; I did not know you were coming up here.'
"'Why, I told you I'd come as soon as I had finished my letter.'
"'My dear fellow, what are you talking about?' exclaimed my friend, in evident surprise; 'when did you tell me so? I don't recollect making any appointment to meet you to-day.'
"'What! not this morning, as you were passing my quarter?' said I, amazed in my turn. 'Didn't you ask me to come and play a game at billiards; and didn't I tell you I'd come as soon as I had finished my letter? and I did.'
"P. B. looked at me as if he thought I'd suddenly become insane; but as I suppose my countenance did not confirm that impression, he said, 'Here's some mistake; when do you suppose I made this appointment with you?'
"'Suppose!' I answered, rather indignant; 'what do you mean by suppose? Didn't you come into my quarter about three hours ago, just as I was finishing breakfast, and ask me to come up here and play a game at billiards with you?'
"'No; it must have been somebody else. Who gave you the message?'
"'Message! there was no message,' I answered, quite bewildered. 'You came in yourself—you know you did. What's the use of trying to hoax one?'
"'I don't know whether you are trying to hoax me,' replied P. B.; 'but upon my soul I have not been in your quarter to-day; nor have I seen you at all, till I entered this room. Moreover, I went with my wife at an early hour to breakfast with Captain D., and we are now returning thence; and I told the coachman to set me down here as he passed.'
"This was most confounding; and as we were both equally positive in what we asserted, we left the billiard-room together, and proceeded to take the testimony of my servant. On being asked who he had introduced when I was finishing breakfast, he unhesitatingly answered, Captain B. His account, in short, coincided entirely with mine.
"'Now then,' said Captain B., 'as you have your witness, you must hear mine,' and we went on to his quarter, where I received the most satisfactory and unimpeachable evidence, that what he said was correct. He had left home with Mrs. B. at six o'clock, and gone by appointment to breakfast with Captain D., who lived quite in a different direction to my quarter; and Captain D. afterwards testified to his never having left his house till he stept into the carriage with his wife.
"This event created a great sensation at the time; and people endeavoured by every means to explain it away, but nobody ever could. Captain B. did not like it at all; and his wife and family were very much alarmed, but nothing ensued, and I believe he is alive and well at this moment."
We next turned to Madame Von B., who said she knew so many cases of spiritual appearances, and occurrences of that nature, that she was rather perplexed by the abundance of her recollections. Amongst these she selected the following on account of its singularity:—
"We resided a great deal on the continent before I was married, and my mother had a favourite maid, called Françoise, who lived with her many years—a most trustworthy, excellent creature, in whom she had the greatest confidence; insomuch, that when I married, being very young and very inexperienced, as she was obliged to separate from me herself, she transferred Françoise to my service, considering her better able to take care of me than anybody else.
"I was living in Paris then, where Françoise, who was a native of Metz, had some relations settled in business, whom she often used to visit. She was generally very chatty when she returned from these people; for I knew all her affairs, and through her, all their affairs; and I took an interest in whatever concerned her or hers.