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Title: J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 4
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 4" ***

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VOLUME 4***


J. S. LE FANU'S GHOSTLY TALES, VOLUME 4

Ghost Stories of Chapelizod (1851)
The Drunkard's Dream (1838)
The Ghost and the Bone-setter (1838)
The Mysterious Lodger (1850)

by

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu



GHOST STORIES OF CHAPELIZOD



Take my word for it, there is no such thing as an ancient village,
especially if it has seen better days, unillustrated by its legends of
terror. You might as well expect to find a decayed cheese without mites,
or an old house without rats, as an antique and dilapidated town without
an authentic population of goblins. Now, although this class of
inhabitants are in nowise amenable to the police authorities, yet, as
their demeanor directly affects the comforts of her Majesty's subjects, I
cannot but regard it as a grave omission that the public have hitherto
been left without any statistical returns of their numbers, activity,
etc., etc. And I am persuaded that a Commission to inquire into and
report upon the numerical strength, habits, haunts, etc., etc., of
supernatural agents resident in Ireland, would be a great deal more
innocent and entertaining than half the Commissions for which the country
pays, and at least as instructive. This I say, more from a sense of duty,
and to deliver my mind of a grave truth, than with any hope of seeing the
suggestion adopted. But, I am sure, my readers will deplore with me that
the comprehensive powers of belief, and apparently illimitable leisure,
possessed by parliamentary commissions of inquiry, should never have been
applied to the subject I have named, and that the collection of that
species of information should be confided to the gratuitous and desultory
labours of individuals, who, like myself, have other occupations to
attend to. This, however, by the way.

Among the village outposts of Dublin, Chapelizod once held a
considerable, if not a foremost rank. Without mentioning its connexion
with the history of the great Kilmainham Preceptory of the Knights of St.
John, it will be enough to remind the reader of its ancient and
celebrated Castle, not one vestige of which now remains, and of the fact
that it was for, we believe, some centuries, the summer residence of the
Viceroys of Ireland. The circumstance of its being up, we believe, to the
period at which that corps was disbanded, the headquarters of the Royal
Irish Artillery, gave it also a consequence of an humbler, but not less
substantial kind. With these advantages in its favour, it is not
wonderful that the town exhibited at one time an air of substantial and
semi-aristocratic prosperity unknown to Irish villages in modern times.

A broad street, with a well-paved footpath, and houses as lofty as were
at that time to be found in the fashionable streets of Dublin; a goodly
stone-fronted barrack; an ancient church, vaulted beneath, and with a
tower clothed from its summit to its base with the richest ivy; an humble
Roman Catholic chapel; a steep bridge spanning the Liffey, and a great
old mill at the near end of it, were the principal features of the town.
These, or at least most of them, remain still, but the greater part in a
very changed and forlorn condition. Some of them indeed are superseded,
though not obliterated by modern erections, such as the bridge, the
chapel, and the church in part; the rest forsaken by the order who
originally raised them, and delivered up to poverty, and in some cases to
absolute decay.

The village lies in the lap of the rich and wooded valley of the Liffey,
and is overlooked by the high grounds of the beautiful Phoenix Park on
the one side, and by the ridge of the Palmerstown hills on the other. Its
situation, therefore, is eminently picturesque; and factory-fronts and
chimneys notwithstanding, it has, I think, even in its decay, a sort of
melancholy picturesqueness of its own. Be that as it may, I mean to
relate two or three stories of that sort which may be read with very good
effect by a blazing fire on a shrewd winter's night, and are all directly
connected with the altered and somewhat melancholy little town I have
named. The first I shall relate concerns



The Village Bully


About thirty years ago there lived in the town of Chapelizod an
ill-conditioned fellow of herculean strength, well known throughout the
neighbourhood by the title of Bully Larkin. In addition to his remarkable
physical superiority, this fellow had acquired a degree of skill as a
pugilist which alone would have made him formidable. As it was, he was
the autocrat of the village, and carried not the sceptre in vain.
Conscious of his superiority, and perfectly secure of impunity, he lorded
it over his fellows in a spirit of cowardly and brutal insolence, which
made him hated even more profoundly than he was feared.

Upon more than one occasion he had deliberately forced quarrels upon men
whom he had singled out for the exhibition of his savage prowess; and in
every encounter his over-matched antagonist had received an amount of
"punishment" which edified and appalled the spectators, and in some
instances left ineffaceable scars and lasting injuries after it.

Bully Larkin's pluck had never been fairly tried. For, owing to his
prodigious superiority in weight, strength, and skill, his victories had
always been certain and easy; and in proportion to the facility with
which he uniformly smashed an antagonist, his pugnacity and insolence
were inflamed. He thus became an odious nuisance in the neighbourhood,
and the terror of every mother who had a son, and of every wife who had a
husband who possessed a spirit to resent insult, or the smallest
confidence in his own pugilistic capabilities.

Now it happened that there was a young fellow named Ned Moran--better
known by the soubriquet of "Long Ned," from his slender, lathy
proportions--at that time living in the town. He was, in truth, a mere
lad, nineteen years of age, and fully twelve years younger than the
stalwart bully. This, however, as the reader will see, secured for him no
exemption from the dastardly provocations of the ill-conditioned
pugilist. Long Ned, in an evil hour, had thrown eyes of affection upon a
certain buxom damsel, who, notwithstanding Bully Larkin's amorous
rivalry, inclined to reciprocate them.

I need not say how easily the spark of jealousy, once kindled, is blown
into a flame, and how naturally, in a coarse and ungoverned nature, it
explodes in acts of violence and outrage.

"The bully" watched his opportunity, and contrived to provoke Ned Moran,
while drinking in a public-house with a party of friends, into an
altercation, in the course of which he failed not to put such insults
upon his rival as manhood could not tolerate. Long Ned, though a simple,
good-natured sort of fellow, was by no means deficient in spirit, and
retorted in a tone of defiance which edified the more timid, and gave his
opponent the opportunity he secretly coveted.

Bully Larkin challenged the heroic youth, whose pretty face he had
privately consigned to the mangling and bloody discipline he was himself
so capable of administering. The quarrel, which he had himself contrived
to get up, to a certain degree covered the ill blood and malignant
premeditation which inspired his proceedings, and Long Ned, being full of
generous ire and whiskey punch, accepted the gauge of battle on the
instant. The whole party, accompanied by a mob of idle men and boys, and
in short by all who could snatch a moment from the calls of business,
proceeded in slow procession through the old gate into the Phoenix Park,
and mounting the hill overlooking the town, selected near its summit a
level spot on which to decide the quarrel.

The combatants stripped, and a child might have seen in the contrast
presented by the slight, lank form and limbs of the lad, and the muscular
and massive build of his veteran antagonist, how desperate was the chance
of poor Ned Moran.

"Seconds" and "bottle-holders"--selected of course for their love of the
game--were appointed, and "the fight" commenced.

I will not shock my readers with a description of the cool-blooded
butchery that followed. The result of the combat was what anybody might
have predicted. At the eleventh round, poor Ned refused to "give in"; the
brawny pugilist, unhurt, in good wind, and pale with concentrated and as
yet unslaked revenge, had the gratification of seeing his opponent seated
upon his second's knee, unable to hold up his head, his left arm
disabled; his face a bloody, swollen, and shapeless mass; his breast
scarred and bloody, and his whole body panting and quivering with rage
and exhaustion.

"Give in, Ned, my boy," cried more than one of the bystanders.

"Never, never," shrieked he, with a voice hoarse and choking.

Time being "up," his second placed him on his feet again. Blinded with
his own blood, panting and staggering, he presented but a helpless mark
for the blows of his stalwart opponent. It was plain that a touch would
have been sufficient to throw him to the earth. But Larkin had no notion
of letting him off so easily. He closed with him without striking a blow
(the effect of which, prematurely dealt, would have been to bring him at
once to the ground, and so put an end to the combat), and getting his
battered and almost senseless head under his arm, fast in that peculiar
"fix" known to the fancy pleasantly by the name of "chancery," he held
him firmly, while with monotonous and brutal strokes he beat his fist, as
it seemed, almost into his face. A cry of "shame" broke from the crowd,
for it was plain that the beaten man was now insensible, and supported
only by the herculean arm of the bully. The round and the fight ended by
his hurling him upon the ground, falling upon him at the same time with
his knee upon his chest.

The bully rose, wiping the perspiration from his white face with his
blood-stained hands, but Ned lay stretched and motionless upon the grass.
It was impossible to get him upon his legs for another round. So he was
carried down, just as he was, to the pond which then lay close to the old
Park gate, and his head and body were washed beside it. Contrary to the
belief of all he was not dead. He was carried home, and after some months
to a certain extent recovered. But he never held up his head again, and
before the year was over he had died of consumption. Nobody could doubt
how the disease had been induced, but there was no actual proof to
connect the cause and effect, and the ruffian Larkin escaped the
vengeance of the law. A strange retribution, however, awaited him.

After the death of Long Ned, he became less quarrelsome than before, but
more sullen and reserved. Some said "he took it to heart," and others,
that his conscience was not at ease about it. Be this as it may, however,
his health did not suffer by reason of his presumed agitations, nor was
his worldly prosperity marred by the blasting curses with which poor
Moran's enraged mother pursued him; on the contrary he had rather risen
in the world, and obtained regular and well-remunerated employment from
the Chief Secretary's gardener, at the other side of the Park. He still
lived in Chapelizod, whither, on the close of his day's work, he used to
return across the Fifteen Acres.

It was about three years after the catastrophe we have mentioned, and
late in the autumn, when, one night, contrary to his habit, he did not
appear at the house where he lodged, neither had he been seen anywhere,
during the evening, in the village. His hours of return had been so very
regular, that his absence excited considerable surprise, though, of
course, no actual alarm; and, at the usual hour, the house was closed for
the night, and the absent lodger consigned to the mercy of the elements,
and the care of his presiding star. Early in the morning, however, he was
found lying in a state of utter helplessness upon the slope immediately
overlooking the Chapelizod gate. He had been smitten with a paralytic
stroke: his right side was dead; and it was many weeks before he had
recovered his speech sufficiently to make himself at all understood.

He then made the following relation:--He had been detained, it appeared,
later than usual, and darkness had closed before he commenced his
homeward walk across the Park. It was a moonlit night, but masses of
ragged clouds were slowly drifting across the heavens. He had not
encountered a human figure, and no sounds but the softened rush of the
wind sweeping through bushes and hollows met his ear. These wild and
monotonous sounds, and the utter solitude which surrounded him, did not,
however, excite any of those uneasy sensations which are ascribed to
superstition, although he said he did feel depressed, or, in his own
phraseology, "lonesome." Just as he crossed the brow of the hill which
shelters the town of Chapelizod, the moon shone out for some moments
with unclouded lustre, and his eye, which happened to wander by the
shadowy enclosures which lay at the foot of the slope, was arrested by
the sight of a human figure climbing, with all the haste of one pursued,
over the churchyard wall, and running up the steep ascent directly
towards him. Stories of "resurrectionists" crossed his recollection, as
he observed this suspicious-looking figure. But he began, momentarily,
to be aware with a sort of fearful instinct which he could not explain,
that the running figure was directing his steps, with a sinister
purpose, towards himself.

The form was that of a man with a loose coat about him, which, as he ran,
he disengaged, and as well as Larkin could see, for the moon was again
wading in clouds, threw from him. The figure thus advanced until within
some two score yards of him, it arrested its speed, and approached with a
loose, swaggering gait. The moon again shone out bright and clear, and,
gracious God! what was the spectacle before him? He saw as distinctly as
if he had been presented there in the flesh, Ned Moran, himself, stripped
naked from the waist upward, as if for pugilistic combat, and drawing
towards him in silence. Larkin would have shouted, prayed, cursed, fled
across the Park, but he was absolutely powerless; the apparition stopped
within a few steps, and leered on him with a ghastly mimicry of the
defiant stare with which pugilists strive to cow one another before
combat. For a time, which he could not so much as conjecture, he was held
in the fascination of that unearthly gaze, and at last the thing,
whatever it was, on a sudden swaggered close up to him with extended
palms. With an impulse of horror, Larkin put out his hand to keep the
figure off, and their palms touched--at least, so he believed--for a
thrill of unspeakable agony, running through his arm, pervaded his entire
frame, and he fell senseless to the earth.

Though Larkin lived for many years after, his punishment was terrible. He
was incurably maimed; and being unable to work, he was forced, for
existence, to beg alms of those who had once feared and flattered him. He
suffered, too, increasingly, under his own horrible interpretation of the
preternatural encounter which was the beginning of all his miseries. It
was vain to endeavour to shake his faith in the reality of the
apparition, and equally vain, as some compassionately did, to try to
persuade him that the greeting with which his vision closed was intended,
while inflicting a temporary trial, to signify a compensating
reconciliation.

"No, no," he used to say, "all won't do. I know the meaning of it well
enough; it is a challenge to meet him in the other world--in Hell, where
I am going--that's what it means, and nothing else."

And so, miserable and refusing comfort, he lived on for some years, and
then died, and was buried in the same narrow churchyard which contains
the remains of his victim.

I need hardly say, how absolute was the faith of the honest inhabitants,
at the time when I heard the story, in the reality of the preternatural
summons which, through the portals of terror, sickness, and misery, had
summoned Bully Larkin to his long, last home, and that, too, upon the
very ground on which he had signalised the guiltiest triumph of his
violent and vindictive career.

I recollect another story of the preternatural sort, which made no small
sensation, some five-and-thirty years ago, among the good gossips of the
town; and, with your leave, courteous reader, I shall relate it.



The Sexton's Adventure


Those who remember Chapelizod a quarter of a century ago, or more, may
possibly recollect the parish sexton. Bob Martin was held much in awe by
truant boys who sauntered into the churchyard on Sundays, to read the
tombstones, or play leap frog over them, or climb the ivy in search of
bats or sparrows' nests, or peep into the mysterious aperture under the
eastern window, which opened a dim perspective of descending steps
losing themselves among profounder darkness, where lidless coffins gaped
horribly among tattered velvet, bones, and dust, which time and
mortality had strewn there. Of such horribly curious, and otherwise
enterprising juveniles, Bob was, of course, the special scourge and
terror. But terrible as was the official aspect of the sexton, and
repugnant as his lank form, clothed in rusty, sable vesture, his small,
frosty visage, suspicious grey eyes, and rusty, brown scratch-wig, might
appear to all notions of genial frailty; it was yet true, that Bob
Martin's severe morality sometimes nodded, and that Bacchus did not
always solicit him in vain.

Bob had a curious mind, a memory well stored with "merry tales," and
tales of terror. His profession familiarized him with graves and goblins,
and his tastes with weddings, wassail, and sly frolics of all sorts. And
as his personal recollections ran back nearly three score years into the
perspective of the village history, his fund of local anecdote was
copious, accurate, and edifying.

As his ecclesiastical revenues were by no means considerable, he was not
unfrequently obliged, for the indulgence of his tastes, to arts which
were, at the best, undignified.

He frequently invited himself when his entertainers had forgotten to do
so; he dropped in accidentally upon small drinking parties of his
acquaintance in public houses, and entertained them with stories, queer
or terrible, from his inexhaustible reservoir, never scrupling to accept
an acknowledgment in the shape of hot whiskey-punch, or whatever else
was going.

There was at that time a certain atrabilious publican, called Philip
Slaney, established in a shop nearly opposite the old turnpike. This man
was not, when left to himself, immoderately given to drinking; but being
naturally of a saturnine complexion, and his spirits constantly requiring
a fillip, he acquired a prodigious liking for Bob Martin's company. The
sexton's society, in fact, gradually became the solace of his existence,
and he seemed to lose his constitutional melancholy in the fascination of
his sly jokes and marvellous stories.

This intimacy did not redound to the prosperity or reputation of the
convivial allies. Bob Martin drank a good deal more punch than was good
for his health, or consistent with the character of an ecclesiastical
functionary. Philip Slaney, too, was drawn into similar indulgences, for
it was hard to resist the genial seductions of his gifted companion; and
as he was obliged to pay for both, his purse was believed to have
suffered even more than his head and liver.

Be this as it may, Bob Martin had the credit of having made a drunkard of
"black Phil Slaney"--for by this cognomen was he distinguished; and Phil
Slaney had also the reputation of having made the sexton, if possible, a
"bigger bliggard" than ever. Under these circumstances, the accounts of
the concern opposite the turnpike became somewhat entangled; and it came
to pass one drowsy summer morning, the weather being at once sultry and
cloudy, that Phil Slaney went into a small back parlour, where he kept
his books, and which commanded, through its dirty window-panes, a full
view of a dead wall, and having bolted the door, he took a loaded pistol,
and clapping the muzzle in his mouth, blew the upper part of his skull
through the ceiling.

This horrid catastrophe shocked Bob Martin extremely; and partly on this
account, and partly because having been, on several late occasions, found
at night in a state of abstraction, bordering on insensibility, upon the
high road, he had been threatened with dismissal; and, as some said,
partly also because of the difficulty of finding anybody to "treat" him
as poor Phil Slaney used to do, he for a time forswore alcohol in all its
combinations, and became an eminent example of temperance and sobriety.

Bob observed his good resolutions, greatly to the comfort of his wife,
and the edification of the neighbourhood, with tolerable punctuality. He
was seldom tipsy, and never drunk, and was greeted by the better part of
society with all the honours of the prodigal son.

Now it happened, about a year after the grisly event we have mentioned,
that the curate having received, by the post, due notice of a funeral to
be consummated in the churchyard of Chapelizod, with certain instructions
respecting the site of the grave, despatched a summons for Bob Martin,
with a view to communicate to that functionary these official details.

It was a lowering autumn night: piles of lurid thunder-clouds, slowly
rising from the earth, had loaded the sky with a solemn and boding canopy
of storm. The growl of the distant thunder was heard afar off upon the
dull, still air, and all nature seemed, as it were, hushed and cowering
under the oppressive influence of the approaching tempest.

It was past nine o'clock when Bob, putting on his official coat of seedy
black, prepared to attend his professional superior.

"Bobby, darlin'," said his wife, before she delivered the hat she held in
her hand to his keeping, "sure you won't, Bobby, darlin'--you won't--you
know what."

"I _don't_ know what," he retorted, smartly, grasping at his hat.

"You won't be throwing up the little finger, Bobby, acushla?" she said,
evading his grasp.

"Arrah, why would I, woman? there, give me my hat, will you?"

"But won't you promise me, Bobby darlin'--won't you, alanna?"

"Ay, ay, to be sure I will--why not?--there, give me my hat, and
let me go."

"Ay, but you're not promisin', Bobby, mavourneen; you're not promisin'
all the time."

"Well, divil carry me if I drink a drop till I come back again," said the
sexton, angrily; "will that do you? And _now_ will you give me my hat?"

"Here it is, darlin'," she said, "and God send you safe back."

And with this parting blessing she closed the door upon his retreating
figure, for it was now quite dark, and resumed her knitting till his
return, very much relieved; for she thought he had of late been oftener
tipsy than was consistent with his thorough reformation, and feared the
allurements of the half dozen "publics" which he had at that time to pass
on his way to the other end of the town.

They were still open, and exhaled a delicious reek of whiskey, as Bob
glided wistfully by them; but he stuck his hands in his pockets and
looked the other way, whistling resolutely, and filling his mind with the
image of the curate and anticipations of his coming fee. Thus he steered
his morality safely through these rocks of offence, and reached the
curate's lodging in safety.

He had, however, an unexpected sick call to attend, and was not at home,
so that Bob Martin had to sit in the hall and amuse himself with the
devil's tattoo until his return. This, unfortunately, was very long
delayed, and it must have been fully twelve o'clock when Bob Martin set
out upon his homeward way. By this time the storm had gathered to a
pitchy darkness, the bellowing thunder was heard among the rocks and
hollows of the Dublin mountains, and the pale, blue lightning shone upon
the staring fronts of the houses.

By this time, too, every door was closed; but as Bob trudged homeward,
his eye mechanically sought the public-house which had once belonged to
Phil Slaney. A faint light was making its way through the shutters and
the glass panes over the doorway, which made a sort of dull, foggy halo
about the front of the house.

As Bob's eyes had become accustomed to the obscurity by this time, the
light in question was quite sufficient to enable him to see a man in a
sort of loose riding-coat seated upon a bench which, at that time, was
fixed under the window of the house. He wore his hat very much over his
eyes, and was smoking a long pipe. The outline of a glass and a quart
bottle were also dimly traceable beside him; and a large horse saddled,
but faintly discernible, was patiently awaiting his master's leisure.

There was something odd, no doubt, in the appearance of a traveller
refreshing himself at such an hour in the open street; but the sexton
accounted for it easily by supposing that, on the closing of the house
for the night, he had taken what remained of his refection to the place
where he was now discussing it al fresco.

At another time Bob might have saluted the stranger as he passed with a
friendly "good night"; but, somehow, he was out of humour and in no
genial mood, and was about passing without any courtesy of the sort,
when the stranger, without taking the pipe from his mouth, raised the
bottle, and with it beckoned him familiarly, while, with a sort of lurch
of the head and shoulders, and at the same time shifting his seat to the
end of the bench, he pantomimically invited him to share his seat and
his cheer. There was a divine fragrance of whiskey about the spot, and
Bob half relented; but he remembered his promise just as he began to
waver, and said:

"No, I thank you, sir, I can't stop to-night."

The stranger beckoned with vehement welcome, and pointed to the vacant
space on the seat beside him.

"I thank you for your polite offer," said Bob, "but it's what I'm too
late as it is, and haven't time to spare, so I wish you a good night."

The traveller jingled the glass against the neck of the bottle, as if to
intimate that he might at least swallow a dram without losing time. Bob
was mentally quite of the same opinion; but, though his mouth watered, he
remembered his promise, and shaking his head with incorruptible
resolution, walked on.

The stranger, pipe in mouth, rose from his bench, the bottle in one hand,
and the glass in the other, and followed at the sexton's heels, his dusky
horse keeping close in his wake.

There was something suspicious and unaccountable in this importunity.

Bob quickened his pace, but the stranger followed close. The sexton began
to feel queer, and turned about. His pursuer was behind, and still
inviting him with impatient gestures to taste his liquor.

"I told you before," said Bob, who was both angry and frightened, "that I
would not taste it, and that's enough. I don't want to have anything to
say to you or your bottle; and in God's name," he added, more vehemently,
observing that he was approaching still closer, "fall back and don't be
tormenting me this way."

These words, as it seemed, incensed the stranger, for he shook the bottle
with violent menace at Bob Martin; but, notwithstanding this gesture of
defiance, he suffered the distance between them to increase. Bob,
however, beheld him dogging him still in the distance, for his pipe shed
a wonderful red glow, which duskily illuminated his entire figure like
the lurid atmosphere of a meteor.

"I wish the devil had his own, my boy," muttered the excited sexton, "and
I know well enough where you'd be."

The next time he looked over his shoulder, to his dismay he observed the
importunate stranger as close as ever upon his track.

"Confound you," cried the man of skulls and shovels, almost beside
himself with rage and horror, "what is it you want of me?"

The stranger appeared more confident, and kept wagging his head and
extending both glass and bottle toward him as he drew near, and Bob
Martin heard the horse snorting as it followed in the dark.

"Keep it to yourself, whatever it is, for there is neither grace nor
luck about you," cried Bob Martin, freezing with terror; "leave me
alone, will you."

And he fumbled in vain among the seething confusion of his ideas for a
prayer or an exorcism. He quickened his pace almost to a run; he was now
close to his own door, under the impending bank by the river side.

"Let me in, let me in, for God's sake; Molly, open the door," he cried,
as he ran to the threshold, and leant his back against the plank. His
pursuer confronted him upon the road; the pipe was no longer in his
mouth, but the dusky red glow still lingered round him. He uttered some
inarticulate cavernous sounds, which were wolfish and indescribable,
while he seemed employed in pouring out a glass from the bottle.

The sexton kicked with all his force against the door, and cried at the
same time with a despairing voice.

"In the name of God Almighty, once for all, leave me alone."

His pursuer furiously flung the contents of the bottle at Bob Martin;
but instead of fluid it issued out in a stream of flame, which expanded
and whirled round them, and for a moment they were both enveloped in a
faint blaze; at the same instant a sudden gust whisked off the
stranger's hat, and the sexton beheld that his skull was roofless. For
an instant he beheld the gaping aperture, black and shattered, and then
he fell senseless into his own doorway, which his affrighted wife had
just unbarred.

I need hardly give my reader the key to this most intelligible and
authentic narrative. The traveller was acknowledged by all to have been
the spectre of the suicide, called up by the Evil One to tempt the
convivial sexton into a violation of his promise, sealed, as it was, by
an imprecation. Had he succeeded, no doubt the dusky steed, which Bob had
seen saddled in attendance, was destined to have carried back a double
burden to the place from whence he came.

As an attestation of the reality of this visitation, the old thorn tree
which overhung the doorway was found in the morning to have been blasted
with the infernal fires which had issued from the bottle, just as if a
thunder-bolt had scorched it.

The moral of the above tale is upon the surface, apparent, and, so to
speak, _self-acting_--a circumstance which happily obviates the
necessity of our discussing it together. Taking our leave, therefore, of
honest Bob Martin, who now sleeps soundly in the same solemn dormitory
where, in his day, he made so many beds for others, I come to a legend
of the Royal Irish Artillery, whose headquarters were for so long a time
in the town of Chapelizod. I don't mean to say that I cannot tell a
great many more stories, equally authentic and marvellous, touching this
old town; but as I may possibly have to perform a like office for other
localities, and as Anthony Poplar is known, like Atropos, to carry a
shears, wherewith to snip across all "yarns" which exceed reasonable
bounds, I consider it, on the whole, safer to despatch the traditions of
Chapelizod with one tale more.

Let me, however, first give it a name; for an author can no more despatch
a tale without a title, than an apothecary can deliver his physic without
a label. We shall, therefore, call it--



The Spectre Lovers


There lived some fifteen years since in a small and ruinous house, little
better than a hovel, an old woman who was reported to have considerably
exceeded her eightieth year, and who rejoiced in the name of Alice, or
popularly, Ally Moran. Her society was not much courted, for she was
neither rich, nor, as the reader may suppose, beautiful. In addition to a
lean cur and a cat she had one human companion, her grandson, Peter
Brien, whom, with laudable good nature, she had supported from the period
of his orphanage down to that of my story, which finds him in his
twentieth year. Peter was a good-natured slob of a fellow, much more
addicted to wrestling, dancing, and love-making, than to hard work, and
fonder of whiskey-punch than good advice. His grandmother had a high
opinion of his accomplishments, which indeed was but natural, and also of
his genius, for Peter had of late years begun to apply his mind to
politics; and as it was plain that he had a mortal hatred of honest
labour, his grandmother predicted, like a true fortuneteller, that he was
born to marry an heiress, and Peter himself (who had no mind to forego
his freedom even on such terms) that he was destined to find a pot of
gold. Upon one point both agreed, that being unfitted by the peculiar
bias of his genius for work, he was to acquire the immense fortune to
which his merits entitled him by means of a pure run of good luck. This
solution of Peter's future had the double effect of reconciling both
himself and his grandmother to his idle courses, and also of maintaining
that even flow of hilarious spirits which made him everywhere welcome,
and which was in truth the natural result of his consciousness of
approaching affluence.

It happened one night that Peter had enjoyed himself to a very late hour
with two or three choice spirits near Palmerstown. They had talked
politics and love, sung songs, and told stories, and, above all, had
swallowed, in the chastened disguise of punch, at least a pint of good
whiskey, every man.

It was considerably past one o'clock when Peter bid his companions
goodbye, with a sigh and a hiccough, and lighting his pipe set forth on
his solitary homeward way.

The bridge of Chapelizod was pretty nearly the midway point of his night
march, and from one cause or another his progress was rather slow, and it
was past two o'clock by the time he found himself leaning over its old
battlements, and looking up the river, over whose winding current and
wooded banks the soft moonlight was falling.

The cold breeze that blew lightly down the stream was grateful to him. It
cooled his throbbing head, and he drank it in at his hot lips. The scene,
too, had, without his being well sensible of it, a secret fascination.
The village was sunk in the profoundest slumber, not a mortal stirring,
not a sound afloat, a soft haze covered it all, and the fairy moonlight
hovered over the entire landscape.

In a state between rumination and rapture, Peter continued to lean over
the battlements of the old bridge, and as he did so he saw, or fancied he
saw, emerging one after another along the river bank in the little
gardens and enclosures in the rear of the street of Chapelizod, the
queerest little white-washed huts and cabins he had ever seen there
before. They had not been there that evening when he passed the bridge on
the way to his merry tryst. But the most remarkable thing about it was
the odd way in which these quaint little cabins showed themselves. First
he saw one or two of them just with the corner of his eye, and when he
looked full at them, strange to say, they faded away and disappeared.
Then another and another came in view, but all in the same coy way, just
appearing and gone again before he could well fix his gaze upon them; in
a little while, however, they began to bear a fuller gaze, and he found,
as it seemed to himself, that he was able by an effort of attention to
fix the vision for a longer and a longer time, and when they waxed faint
and nearly vanished, he had the power of recalling them into light and
substance, until at last their vacillating indistinctness became less and
less, and they assumed a permanent place in the moonlit landscape.

"Be the hokey," said Peter, lost in amazement, and dropping his pipe into
the river unconsciously, "them is the quarist bits iv mud cabins I ever
seen, growing up like musharoons in the dew of an evening, and poppin' up
here and down again there, and up again in another place, like so many
white rabbits in a warren; and there they stand at last as firm and fast
as if they were there from the Deluge; bedad it's enough to make a man
a'most believe in the fairies."

This latter was a large concession from Peter, who was a bit of a
free-thinker, and spoke contemptuously in his ordinary conversation of
that class of agencies.

Having treated himself to a long last stare at these mysterious fabrics,
Peter prepared to pursue his homeward way; having crossed the bridge and
passed the mill, he arrived at the corner of the main-street of the
little town, and casting a careless look up the Dublin road, his eye was
arrested by a most unexpected spectacle.

This was no other than a column of foot soldiers, marching with perfect
regularity towards the village, and headed by an officer on horseback.
They were at the far side of the turnpike, which was closed; but much to
his perplexity he perceived that they marched on through it without
appearing to sustain the least check from that barrier.

On they came at a slow march; and what was most singular in the matter
was, that they were drawing several cannons along with them; some held
ropes, others spoked the wheels, and others again marched in front of the
guns and behind them, with muskets shouldered, giving a stately character
of parade and regularity to this, as it seemed to Peter, most unmilitary
procedure.

It was owing either to some temporary defect in Peter's vision, or to
some illusion attendant upon mist and moonlight, or perhaps to some other
cause, that the whole procession had a certain waving and vapoury
character which perplexed and tasked his eyes not a little. It was like
the pictured pageant of a phantasmagoria reflected upon smoke. It was as
if every breath disturbed it; sometimes it was blurred, sometimes
obliterated; now here, now there. Sometimes, while the upper part was
quite distinct, the legs of the column would nearly fade away or vanish
outright, and then again they would come out into clear relief, marching
on with measured tread, while the cocked hats and shoulders grew, as it
were, transparent, and all but disappeared.

Notwithstanding these strange optical fluctuations, however, the column
continued steadily to advance. Peter crossed the street from the corner
near the old bridge, running on tip-toe, and with his body stooped to
avoid observation, and took up a position upon the raised footpath in the
shadow of the houses, where, as the soldiers kept the middle of the road,
he calculated that he might, himself undetected, see them distinctly
enough as they passed.

"What the div--, what on airth," he muttered, checking the irreligious
ejaculation with which he was about to start, for certain queer
misgivings were hovering about his heart, notwithstanding the factitious
courage of the whiskey bottle. "What on airth is the manin' of all this?
is it the French that's landed at last to give us a hand and help us in
airnest to this blessed repale? If it is not them, I simply ask who the
div--, I mane who on airth are they, for such sogers as them I never
seen before in my born days?"

By this time the foremost of them were quite near, and truth to say they
were the queerest soldiers he had ever seen in the course of his life.
They wore long gaiters and leather breeches, three-cornered hats, bound
with silver lace, long blue coats, with scarlet facings and linings,
which latter were shewn by a fastening which held together the two
opposite corners of the skirt behind; and in front the breasts were in
like manner connected at a single point, where and below which they
sloped back, disclosing a long-flapped waistcoat of snowy whiteness; they
had very large, long cross-belts, and wore enormous pouches of white
leather hung extraordinarily low, and on each of which a little silver
star was glittering. But what struck him as most grotesque and outlandish
in their costume was their extraordinary display of shirt-frill in front,
and of ruffle about their wrists, and the strange manner in which their
hair was frizzled out and powdered under their hats, and clubbed up into
great rolls behind. But one of the party was mounted. He rode a tall
white horse, with high action and arching neck; he had a snow-white
feather in his three-cornered hat, and his coat was shimmering all over
with a profusion of silver lace. From these circumstances Peter concluded
that he must be the commander of the detachment, and examined him as he
passed attentively. He was a slight, tall man, whose legs did not half
fill his leather breeches, and he appeared to be at the wrong side of
sixty. He had a shrunken, weather-beaten, mulberry-coloured face, carried
a large black patch over one eye, and turned neither to the right nor to
the left, but rode on at the head of his men, with a grim, military
inflexibility.

The countenances of these soldiers, officers as well as men, seemed all
full of trouble, and, so to speak, scared and wild. He watched in vain
for a single contented or comely face. They had, one and all, a
melancholy and hang-dog look; and as they passed by, Peter fancied that
the air grew cold and thrilling.

He had seated himself upon a stone bench, from which, staring with all
his might, he gazed upon the grotesque and noiseless procession as it
filed by him. Noiseless it was; he could neither hear the jingle of
accoutrements, the tread of feet, nor the rumble of the wheels; and when
the old colonel turned his horse a little, and made as though he were
giving the word of command, and a trumpeter, with a swollen blue nose and
white feather fringe round his hat, who was walking beside him, turned
about and put his bugle to his lips, still Peter heard nothing, although
it was plain the sound had reached the soldiers, for they instantly
changed their front to three abreast.

"Botheration!" muttered Peter, "is it deaf I'm growing?"

But that could not be, for he heard the sighing of the breeze and the
rush of the neighbouring Liffey plain enough.

"Well," said he, in the same cautious key, "by the piper, this bangs
Banagher fairly! It's either the Frinch army that's in it, come to take
the town iv Chapelizod by surprise, an' makin' no noise for feard iv
wakenin' the inhabitants; or else it's--it's--what it's--somethin' else.
But, tundher-an-ouns, what's gone wid Fitzpatrick's shop across the way?"

The brown, dingy stone building at the opposite side of the street looked
newer and cleaner than he had been used to see it; the front door of it
stood open, and a sentry, in the same grotesque uniform, with shouldered
musket, was pacing noiselessly to and fro before it. At the angle of this
building, in like manner, a wide gate (of which Peter had no recollection
whatever) stood open, before which, also, a similar sentry was gliding,
and into this gateway the whole column gradually passed, and Peter
finally lost sight of it.

"I'm not asleep; I'm not dhramin'," said he, rubbing his eyes, and
stamping slightly on the pavement, to assure himself that he was wide
awake. "It is a quare business, whatever it is; an' it's not alone that,
but everything about town looks strange to me. There's Tresham's house
new painted, bedad, an' them flowers in the windies! An' Delany's house,
too, that had not a whole pane of glass in it this morning, and scarce a
slate on the roof of it! It is not possible it's what it's dhrunk I am.
Sure there's the big tree, and not a leaf of it changed since I passed,
and the stars overhead, all right. I don't think it is in my eyes it is."

And so looking about him, and every moment finding or fancying new food
for wonder, he walked along the pavement, intending, without further
delay, to make his way home.

But his adventures for the night were not concluded. He had nearly
reached the angle of the short land that leads up to the church, when for
the first time he perceived that an officer, in the uniform he had just
seen, was walking before, only a few yards in advance of him.

The officer was walking along at an easy, swinging gait, and carried
his sword under his arm, and was looking down on the pavement with an
air of reverie.

In the very fact that he seemed unconscious of Peter's presence, and
disposed to keep his reflections to himself, there was something
reassuring. Besides, the reader must please to remember that our hero had
a quantum sufficit of good punch before his adventure commenced, and was
thus fortified against those qualms and terrors under which, in a more
reasonable state of mind, he might not impossibly have sunk.

The idea of the French invasion revived in full power in Peter's fuddled
imagination, as he pursued the nonchalant swagger of the officer.

"Be the powers iv Moll Kelly, I'll ax him what it is," said Peter, with a
sudden accession of rashness. "He may tell me or not, as he plases, but
he can't be offinded, anyhow."

With this reflection having inspired himself, Peter cleared his voice
and began--

"Captain!" said he, "I ax your pardon, captain, an' maybe you'd be so
condescindin' to my ignorance as to tell me, if it's plasin' to yer
honour, whether your honour is not a Frinchman, if it's plasin' to you."

This he asked, not thinking that, had it been as he suspected, not one
word of his question in all probability would have been intelligible to
the person he addressed. He was, however, understood, for the officer
answered him in English, at the same time slackening his pace and moving
a little to the side of the pathway, as if to invite his interrogator to
take his place beside him.

"No; I am an Irishman," he answered.

"I humbly thank your honour," said Peter, drawing nearer--for the
affability and the nativity of the officer encouraged him--"but maybe
your honour is in the _sarvice_ of the King of France?"

"I serve the same King as you do," he answered, with a sorrowful
significance which Peter did not comprehend at the time; and,
interrogating in turn, he asked, "But what calls you forth at this hour
of the day?"

"The _day,_ your honour!--the night, you mane."

"It was always our way to turn night into day, and we keep to it still,"
remarked the soldier. "But, no matter, come up here to my house; I have a
job for you, if you wish to earn some money easily. I live here."

As he said this, he beckoned authoritatively to Peter, who followed
almost mechanically at his heels, and they turned up a little lane near
the old Roman Catholic chapel, at the end of which stood, in Peter's
time, the ruins of a tall, stone-built house.

Like everything else in the town, it had suffered a metamorphosis. The
stained and ragged walls were now erect, perfect, and covered with
pebble-dash; window-panes glittered coldly in every window; the green
hall-door had a bright brass knocker on it. Peter did not know whether to
believe his previous or his present impressions; seeing is believing, and
Peter could not dispute the reality of the scene. All the records of his
memory seemed but the images of a tipsy dream. In a trance of
astonishment and perplexity, therefore, he submitted himself to the
chances of his adventure.

The door opened, the officer beckoned with a melancholy air of authority
to Peter, and entered. Our hero followed him into a sort of hall, which
was very dark, but he was guided by the steps of the soldier, and, in
silence, they ascended the stairs. The moonlight, which shone in at the
lobbies, showed an old, dark wainscoting, and a heavy, oak banister. They
passed by closed doors at different landing-places, but all was dark and
silent as, indeed, became that late hour of the night.

Now they ascended to the topmost floor. The captain paused for a minute
at the nearest door, and, with a heavy groan, pushing it open, entered
the room. Peter remained at the threshold. A slight female form in a
sort of loose, white robe, and with a great deal of dark hair hanging
loosely about her, was standing in the middle of the floor, with her
back towards them.

The soldier stopped short before he reached her, and said, in a voice of
great anguish, "Still the same, sweet bird--sweet bird! still the same."
Whereupon, she turned suddenly, and threw her arms about the neck of the
officer, with a gesture of fondness and despair, and her frame was
agitated as if by a burst of sobs. He held her close to his breast in
silence; and honest Peter felt a strange terror creep over him, as he
witnessed these mysterious sorrows and endearments.

"To-night, to-night--and then ten years more--ten long years--another
ten years."

The officer and the lady seemed to speak these words together; her voice
mingled with his in a musical and fearful wail, like a distant summer
wind, in the dead hour of night, wandering through ruins. Then he heard
the officer say, alone, in a voice of anguish--

"Upon me be it all, for ever, sweet birdie, upon me."

And again they seemed to mourn together in the same soft and desolate
wail, like sounds of grief heard from a great distance.

Peter was thrilled with horror, but he was also under a strange
fascination; and an intense and dreadful curiosity held him fast.

The moon was shining obliquely into the room, and through the window
Peter saw the familiar slopes of the Park, sleeping mistily under its
shimmer. He could also see the furniture of the room with tolerable
distinctness--the old balloon-backed chairs, a four-post bed in a sort of
recess, and a rack against the wall, from which hung some military
clothes and accoutrements; and the sight of all these homely objects
reassured him somewhat, and he could not help feeling unspeakably curious
to see the face of the girl whose long hair was streaming over the
officer's epaulet.

Peter, accordingly, coughed, at first slightly, and afterward more
loudly, to recall her from her reverie of grief; and, apparently, he
succeeded; for she turned round, as did her companion, and both, standing
hand in hand, gazed upon him fixedly. He thought he had never seen such
large, strange eyes in all his life; and their gaze seemed to chill the
very air around him, and arrest the pulses of his heart. An eternity of
misery and remorse was in the shadowy faces that looked upon him.

If Peter had taken less whisky by a single thimbleful, it is probable
that he would have lost heart altogether before these figures, which
seemed every moment to assume a more marked and fearful, though hardly
definable, contrast to ordinary human shapes.

"What is it you want with me?" he stammered.

"To bring my lost treasure to the churchyard," replied the lady, in a
silvery voice of more than mortal desolation.

The word "treasure" revived the resolution of Peter, although a cold
sweat was covering him, and his hair was bristling with horror; he
believed, however, that he was on the brink of fortune, if he could but
command nerve to brave the interview to its close.

"And where," he gasped, "is it hid--where will I find it?"

They both pointed to the sill of the window, through which the moon was
shining at the far end of the room, and the soldier said--

"Under that stone."

Peter drew a long breath, and wiped the cold dew from his face,
preparatory to passing to the window, where he expected to secure the
reward of his protracted terrors. But looking steadfastly at the window,
he saw the faint image of a new-born child sitting upon the sill in the
moonlight, with its little arms stretched toward him, and a smile so
heavenly as he never beheld before.

At sight of this, strange to say, his heart entirely failed him, he
looked on the figures that stood near, and beheld them gazing on the
infantine form with a smile so guilty and distorted, that he felt as if
he were entering alive among the scenery of hell, and shuddering, he
cried in an irrepressible agony of horror--

"I'll have nothing to say with you, and nothing to do with you; I don't
know what yez are or what yez want iv me, but let me go this minute,
every one of yez, in the name of God."

With these words there came a strange rumbling and sighing about
Peter's ears; he lost sight of everything, and felt that peculiar and
not unpleasant sensation of falling softly, that sometimes supervenes
in sleep, ending in a dull shock. After that he had neither dream nor
consciousness till he wakened, chill and stiff, stretched between two
piles of old rubbish, among the black and roofless walls of the
ruined house.

We need hardly mention that the village had put on its wonted air of
neglect and decay, or that Peter looked around him in vain for traces of
those novelties which had so puzzled and distracted him upon the
previous night.

"Ay, ay," said his grandmother, removing her pipe, as he ended his
description of the view from the bridge, "sure enough I remember myself,
when I was a slip of a girl, these little white cabins among the gardens
by the river side. The artillery sogers that was married, or had not room
in the barracks, used to be in them, but they're all gone long ago.

"The Lord be merciful to us!" she resumed, when he had described the
military procession, "It's often I seen the regiment marchin' into the
town, jist as you saw it last night, acushla. Oh, voch, but it makes my
heart sore to think iv them days; they were pleasant times, sure enough;
but is not it terrible, avick, to think it's what it was the ghost of the
rigiment you seen? The Lord betune us an' harm, for it was nothing else,
as sure as I'm sittin' here."

When he mentioned the peculiar physiognomy and figure of the old officer
who rode at the head of the regiment--

"That," said the old crone, dogmatically, "was ould Colonel Grimshaw, the
Lord presarve us! he's buried in the churchyard iv Chapelizod, and well I
remember him, when I was a young thing, an' a cross ould floggin' fellow
he was wid the men, an' a devil's boy among the girls--rest his soul!"

"Amen!" said Peter; "it's often I read his tombstone myself; but he's a
long time dead."

"Sure, I tell you he died when I was no more nor a slip iv a girl--the
Lord betune us and harm!"

"I'm afeard it is what I'm not long for this world myself, afther seeing
such a sight as that," said Peter, fearfully.

"Nonsinse, avourneen," retorted his grandmother, indignantly, though she
had herself misgivings on the subject; "sure there was Phil Doolan, the
ferryman, that seen black Ann Scanlan in his own boat, and what harm ever
kem of it?"

Peter proceeded with his narrative, but when he came to the description
of the house, in which his adventure had had so sinister a conclusion,
the old woman was at fault.

"I know the house and the ould walls well, an' I can remember the time
there was a roof on it, and the doors an' windows in it, but it had a bad
name about being haunted, but by who, or for what, I forget intirely."

"Did you ever hear was there goold or silver there?" he inquired.

"No, no, avick, don't be thinking about the likes; take a fool's advice,
and never go next to near them ugly black walls again the longest day you
have to live; an' I'd take my davy, it's what it's the same word the
priest himself id be afther sayin' to you if you wor to ax his raverence
consarnin' it, for it's plain to be seen it was nothing good you seen
there, and there's neither luck nor grace about it."

Peter's adventure made no little noise in the neighbourhood, as the
reader may well suppose; and a few evenings after it, being on an errand
to old Major Vandeleur, who lived in a snug old-fashioned house, close by
the river, under a perfect bower of ancient trees, he was called on to
relate the story in the parlour.

The Major was, as I have said, an old man; he was small, lean, and
upright, with a mahogany complexion, and a wooden inflexibility of face;
he was a man, besides, of few words, and if _he_ was old, it follows
plainly that his mother was older still. Nobody could guess or tell _how_
old, but it was admitted that her own generation had long passed away,
and that she had not a competitor left. She had French blood in her
veins, and although she did not retain her charms quite so well as Ninon
de l'Enclos, she was in full possession of all her mental activity, and
talked quite enough for herself and the Major.

"So, Peter," she said, "you have seen the dear, old Royal Irish again in
the streets of Chapelizod. Make him a tumbler of punch, Frank; and Peter,
sit down, and while you take it let us have the story."

Peter accordingly, seated, near the door, with a tumbler of the nectarian
stimulant steaming beside him, proceeded with marvellous courage,
considering they had no light but the uncertain glare of the fire, to
relate with minute particularity his awful adventure. The old lady
listened at first with a smile of good-natured incredulity; her
cross-examination touching the drinking-bout at Palmerstown had been
teazing, but as the narrative proceeded she became attentive, and at
length absorbed, and once or twice she uttered ejaculations of pity or
awe. When it was over, the old lady looked with a somewhat sad and stern
abstraction on the table, patting her cat assiduously meanwhile, and then
suddenly looking upon her son, the Major, she said--

"Frank, as sure as I live he has seen the wicked Captain Devereux."

The Major uttered an inarticulate expression of wonder.

"The house was precisely that he has described. I have told you the story
often, as I heard it from your dear grandmother, about the poor young
lady he ruined, and the dreadful suspicion about the little baby. _She_,
poor thing, died in that house heart-broken, and you know he was shot
shortly after in a duel."

This was the only light that Peter ever received respecting his
adventure. It was supposed, however, that he still clung to the hope that
treasure of some sort was hidden about the old house, for he was often
seen lurking about its walls, and at last his fate overtook him, poor
fellow, in the pursuit; for climbing near the summit one day, his holding
gave way, and he fell upon the hard uneven ground, fracturing a leg and a
rib, and after a short interval died, and he, like the other heroes of
these true tales, lies buried in the little churchyard of Chapelizod.



       *       *       *       *       *



THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM


_Being a Fourth Extract from the Legacy of the Late F. Purcell, P. P. of
Drumcoolagh_

"All this _he_ told with some confusion and
Dismay, the usual consequence of dreams
Of the unpleasant kind, with none at hand
To expound their vain and visionary gleams.
I've known some odd ones which seemed really planned
Prophetically, as that which one deems
'A strange coincidence,' to use a phrase
By which such things are settled now-a-days."

BYRON.


Dreams--What age, or what country of the world has not felt and
acknowledged the mystery of their origin and end? I have thought not a
little upon the subject, seeing it is one which has been often forced
upon my attention, and sometimes strangely enough; and yet I have never
arrived at any thing which at all appeared a satisfactory conclusion. It
does appear that a mental phenomenon so extraordinary cannot be wholly
without its use. We know, indeed, that in the olden times it has been
made the organ of communication between the Deity and his creatures; and
when, as I have seen, a dream produces upon a mind, to all appearance
hopelessly reprobate and depraved, an effect so powerful and so lasting
as to break down the inveterate habits, and to reform the life of an
abandoned sinner. We see in the result, in the reformation of morals,
which appeared incorrigible in the reclamation of a human soul which
seemed to be irretrievably lost, something more than could be produced by
a mere chimaera of the slumbering fancy, something more than could arise
from the capricious images of a terrified imagination; but once
prevented, we behold in all these things, in the tremendous and
mysterious results, the operation of the hand of God. And while Reason
rejects as absurd the superstition which will read a prophecy in every
dream, she may, without violence to herself, recognize, even in the
wildest and most incongruous of the wanderings of a slumbering intellect,
the evidences and the fragments of a language which may be spoken, which
_has_ been spoken to terrify, to warn, and to command. We have reason to
believe too, by the promptness of action, which in the age of the
prophets, followed all intimations of this kind, and by the strength of
conviction and strange permanence of the effects resulting from certain
dreams in latter times, which effects ourselves may have witnessed, that
when this medium of communication has been employed by the Deity, the
evidences of his presence have been unequivocal. My thoughts were
directed to this subject, in a manner to leave a lasting impression upon
my mind, by the events which I shall now relate, the statement of which,
however extraordinary, is nevertheless _accurately correct_.

About the year l7-- having been appointed to the living of C----h, I
rented a small house in the town, which bears the same name: one morning,
in the month of November, I was awakened before my usual time, by my
servant, who bustled into my bedroom for the purpose of announcing a sick
call. As the Catholic Church holds her last rites to be totally
indispensable to the safety of the departing sinner, no conscientious
clergyman can afford a moment's unnecessary delay, and in little more
than five minutes I stood ready cloaked and booted for the road in the
small front parlour, in which the messenger, who was to act as my guide,
awaited my coming. I found a poor little girl crying piteously near the
door, and after some slight difficulty I ascertained that her father was
either dead, or just dying.

"And what may be your father's name, my poor child?" said I. She held
down her head, as if ashamed. I repeated the question, and the wretched
little creature burst into floods of tears, still more bitter than she
had shed before. At length, almost provoked by conduct which appeared to
me so unreasonable, I began to lose patience, spite of the pity which I
could not help feeling towards her, and I said rather harshly, "If you
will not tell me the name of the person to whom you would lead me, your
silence can arise from no good motive, and I might be justified in
refusing to go with you at all."

"Oh! don't say that, don't say that," cried she. "Oh! sir, it was that I
was afeard of when I would not tell you--I was afeard when you heard his
name you would not come with me; but it is no use hidin' it now--it's Pat
Connell, the carpenter, your honour."

She looked in my face with the most earnest anxiety, as if her very
existence depended upon what she should read there; but I relieved her at
once. The name, indeed, was most unpleasantly familiar to me; but,
however fruitless my visits and advice might have been at another time,
the present was too fearful an occasion to suffer my doubts of their
utility as my reluctance to re-attempting what appeared a hopeless task
to weigh even against the lightest chance, that a consciousness of his
imminent danger might produce in him a more docile and tractable
disposition. Accordingly I told the child to lead the way, and followed
her in silence. She hurried rapidly through the long narrow street which
forms the great thoroughfare of the town. The darkness of the hour,
rendered still deeper by the close approach of the old fashioned houses,
which lowered in tall obscurity on either side of the way; the damp
dreary chill which renders the advance of morning peculiarly cheerless,
combined with the object of my walk, to visit the death-bed of a
presumptuous sinner, to endeavour, almost against my own conviction, to
infuse a hope into the heart of a dying reprobate--a drunkard, but too
probably perishing under the consequences of some mad fit of
intoxication; all these circumstances united served to enhance the gloom
and solemnity of my feelings, as I silently followed my little guide, who
with quick steps traversed the uneven pavement of the main street. After
a walk of about five minutes she turned off into a narrow lane, of that
obscure and comfortless class which are to be found in almost all small
old fashioned towns, chill without ventilation, reeking with all manner
of offensive effluviae, dingy, smoky, sickly and pent-up buildings,
frequently not only in a wretched but in a dangerous condition.

"Your father has changed his abode since I last visited him, and, I am
afraid, much for the worse," said I.

"Indeed he has, sir, but we must not complain," replied she; "we have to
thank God that we have lodging and food, though it's poor enough, it is,
your honour."

Poor child! thought I, how many an older head might learn wisdom from
thee--how many a luxurious philosopher, who is skilled to preach but not
to suffer, might not thy patient words put to the blush! The manner and
language of this child were alike above her years and station; and,
indeed, in all cases in which the cares and sorrows of life have
anticipated their usual date, and have fallen, as they sometimes do, with
melancholy prematurity to the lot of childhood, I have observed the
result to have proved uniformly the same. A young mind, to which joy and
indulgence have been strangers, and to which suffering and self-denial
have been familiarised from the first, acquires a solidity and an
elevation which no other discipline could have bestowed, and which, in
the present case, communicated a striking but mournful peculiarity to the
manners, even to the voice of the child. We paused before a narrow, crazy
door, which she opened by means of a latch, and we forthwith began to
ascend the steep and broken stairs, which led upwards to the sick man's
room. As we mounted flight after flight towards the garret floor, I heard
more and more distinctly the hurried talking of many voices. I could also
distinguish the low sobbing of a female. On arriving upon the uppermost
lobby, these sounds became fully audible.

"This way, your honor," said my little conductress, at the same time
pushing open a door of patched and half rotten plank, she admitted me
into the squalid chamber of death and misery. But one candle, held in the
fingers of a scared and haggard-looking child, was burning in the room,
and that so dim that all was twilight or darkness except within its
immediate influence. The general obscurity, however, served to throw into
prominent and startling relief the death-bed and its occupant. The light
was nearly approximated to, and fell with horrible clearness upon, the
blue and swollen features of the drunkard. I did not think it possible
that a human countenance could look so terrific. The lips were black and
drawn apart--the teeth were firmly set--the eyes a little unclosed, and
nothing but the whites appearing--every feature was fixed and livid, and
the whole face wore a ghastly and rigid expression of despairing terror
such as I never saw equalled; his hands were crossed upon his breast, and
firmly clenched, while, as if to add to the corpse-like effect of the
whole, some white cloths, dipped in water, were wound about the forehead
and temples. As soon as I could remove my eyes from this horrible
spectacle, I observed my friend Dr. D----, one of the most humane of a
humane profession, standing by the bedside. He had been attempting, but
unsuccessfully, to bleed the patient, and had now applied his finger to
the pulse.

"Is there any hope?" I inquired in a whisper.

A shake of the head was the reply. There was a pause while he continued
to hold the wrist; but he waited in vain for the throb of life, it was
not there, and when he let go the hand it fell stiffly back into its
former position upon the other.

"The man is dead," said the physician, as he turned from the bed where
the terrible figure lay.

Dead! thought I, scarcely venturing to look upon the tremendous and
revolting spectacle--dead! without an hour for repentance, even a
moment for reflection--dead! without the rites which even the best
should have. Is there a hope for him? The glaring eyeball, the grinning
mouth, the distorted brow--that unutterable look in which a painter
would have sought to embody the fixed despair of the nethermost
hell--these were my answer.

The poor wife sat at a little distance, crying as if her heart would
break--the younger children clustered round the bed, looking, with
wondering curiosity, upon the form of death, never seen before. When the
first tumult of uncontrollable sorrow had passed away, availing myself of
the solemnity and impressiveness of the scene, I desired the
heart-stricken family to accompany me in prayer, and all knelt down,
while I solemnly and fervently repeated some of those prayers which
appeared most applicable to the occasion. I employed myself thus in a
manner which, I trusted, was not unprofitable, at least to the living,
for about ten minutes, and having accomplished my task, I was the first
to arise. I looked upon the poor, sobbing, helpless creatures who knelt
so humbly around me, and my heart bled for them. With a natural
transition, I turned my eyes from them to the bed in which the body lay,
and, great God! what was the revulsion, the horror which I experienced on
seeing the corpse-like, terrific thing seated half upright before me--the
white cloths, which had been wound about the head, had now partly slipped
from their position, and were hanging in grotesque festoons about the
face and shoulders, while the distorted eyes leered from amid them--

"A sight to dream of, not to tell."

I stood actually rivetted to the spot. The figure nodded its head and
lifted its arm, I thought with a menacing gesture. A thousand confused
and horrible thoughts at once rushed upon my mind. I had often read that
the body of a presumptuous sinner, who, during life, had been the willing
creature of every satanic impulse, after the human tenant had deserted
it, had been known to become the horrible sport of demoniac possession. I
was roused from the stupefaction of terror in which I stood, by the
piercing scream of the mother, who now, for the first time, perceived the
change which had taken place. She rushed towards the bed, but, stunned by
the shock and overcome by the conflict of violent emotions, before she
reached it, she fell prostrate upon the floor. I am perfectly convinced
that had I not been startled from the torpidity of horror in which I was
bound, by some powerful and arousing stimulant, I should have gazed upon
this unearthly apparition until I had fairly lost my senses. As it was,
however, the spell was broken, superstition gave way to reason: the man
whom all believed to have been actually dead, was living! Dr. D---- was
instantly standing by the bedside, and, upon examination, he found that a
sudden and copious flow of blood had taken place from the wound which the
lancet had left, and this, no doubt, had effected his sudden and almost
preternatural restoration to an existence from which all thought he had
been for ever removed. The man was still speechless, but he seemed to
understand the physician when he forbid his repeating the painful and
fruitless attempts which he made to articulate, and he at once resigned
himself quietly into his hands.

I left the patient with leeches upon his temples, and bleeding
freely--apparently with little of the drowsiness which accompanies
apoplexy; indeed, Dr. D---- told me that he had never before witnessed a
seizure which seemed to combine the symptoms of so many kinds, and yet
which belonged to none of the recognized classes; it certainly was not
apoplexy, catalepsy, _nor delirium tremens_, and yet it seemed, in some
degree, to partake of the properties of all--it was strange, but stranger
things are coming.

During two or three days Dr. D---- would not allow his patient to
converse in a manner which could excite or exhaust him, with any one; he
suffered him merely, as briefly as possible, to express his immediate
wants, and it was not until the fourth day after my early visit, the
particulars of which I have just detailed, that it was thought expedient
that I should see him, and then only because it appeared that his extreme
importunity and impatience were likely to retard his recovery more than
the mere exhaustion attendant upon a short conversation could possibly
do; perhaps, too, my friend entertained some hope that if by holy
confession his patient's bosom were eased of the perilous stuff, which no
doubt, oppressed it, his recovery would be more assured and rapid. It
was, then, as I have said, upon the fourth day after my first
professional call, that I found myself once more in the dreary chamber of
want and sickness. The man was in bed, and appeared low and restless. On
my entering the room he raised himself in the bed, and muttered twice or
thrice--"Thank God! thank God." I signed to those of his family who stood
by, to leave the room, and took a chair beside the bed. So soon as we
were alone, he said, rather doggedly--"There's no use now in telling me
of the sinfulness of bad ways--I know it all--I know where they lead
to--I seen everything about it with my own eyesight, as plain as I see
you." He rolled himself in the bed, as if to hide his face in the
clothes, and then suddenly raising himself, he exclaimed with startling
vehemence--"Look, sir, there is no use in mincing the matter; I'm blasted
with the fires of hell; I have been in hell; what do you think of
that?--in hell--I'm lost for ever--I have not a chance--I am damned
already--damned--damned--." The end of this sentence he actually
shouted; his vehemence was perfectly terrific; he threw himself back, and
laughed, and sobbed hysterically. I poured some water into a tea-cup, and
gave it to him. After he had swallowed it, I told him if he had anything
to communicate, to do so as briefly as he could, and in a manner as
little agitating to himself as possible; threatening at the same time,
though I had no intention of doing so, to leave him at once, in case he
again gave way to such passionate excitement. "It's only foolishness," he
continued, "for me to try to thank you for coming to such a villain as
myself at all; it's no use for me to wish good to you, or to bless you;
for such as me has no blessings to give." I told him that I had but done
my duty, and urged him to proceed to the matter which weighed upon his
mind; he then spoke nearly as follows:--"I came in drunk on Friday night
last, and got to my bed here, I don't remember how; sometime in the
night, it seemed to me, I wakened, and feeling unasy in myself, I got up
out of the bed. I wanted the fresh air, but I would not make a noise to
open the window, for fear I'd waken the crathurs. It was very dark, and
throublesome to find the door; but at last I did get it, and I groped my
way out, and went down as asy as I could. I felt quite sober, and I
counted the steps one after another, as I was going down, that I might
not stumble at the bottom. When I came to the first landing-place, God be
about us always! the floor of it sunk under me, and I went down, down,
down, till the senses almost left me. I do not know how long I was
falling, but it seemed to me a great while. When I came rightly to myself
at last, I was sitting at a great table, near the top of it; and I could
not see the end of it, if it had any, it was so far off; and there was
men beyond reckoning, sitting down, all along by it, at each side, as far
as I could see at all. I did not know at first was it in the open air;
but there was a close smothering feel in it, that was not natural, and
there was a kind of light that my eyesight never saw before, red and
unsteady, and I did not see for a long time where it was coming from,
until I looked straight up, and then I seen that it came from great balls
of blood-coloured fire, that were rolling high over head with a sort of
rushing, trembling sound, and I perceived that they shone on the ribs of
a great roof of rock that was arched overhead instead of the sky. When I
seen this, scarce knowing what I did, I got up, and I said, 'I have no
right to be here; I must go,' and the man that was sitting at my left
hand, only smiled, and said, 'sit down again, you can _never_ leave this
place,' and his voice was weaker than any child's voice I ever heerd, and
when he was done speaking he smiled again. Then I spoke out very loud and
bold, and I said--'in the name of God, let me out of this bad place.' And
there was a great man, that I did not see before, sitting at the end of
the table that I was near, and he was taller than twelve men, and his
face was very proud and terrible to look at, and he stood up and
stretched out his hand before him, and when he stood up, all that was
there, great and small, bowed down with a sighing sound, and a dread came
on my heart, and he looked at me, and I could not speak. I felt I was his
own, to do what he liked with, for I knew at once who he was, and he
said, 'if you promise to return, you may depart for a season'; and the
voice he spoke with was terrible and mournful, and the echoes of it went
rolling and swelling down the endless cave, and mixing with the trembling
of the fire overhead; so that, when he sate down, there was a sound after
him, all through the place like the roaring of a furnace, and I said,
with all the strength I had, 'I promise to come back; in God's name let
me go,' and with that I lost the sight and the hearing of all that was
there, and when my senses came to me again, I was sitting in the bed with
the blood all over me, and you and the rest praying around the room."
Here he paused and wiped away the chill drops of horror which hung upon
his forehead.

I remained silent for some moments. The vision which he had just
described struck my imagination not a little, for this was long before
Vathek and the "Hall of Iblis" had delighted the world; and the
description which he gave had, as I received it, all the attractions of
novelty beside the impressiveness which always belongs to the narration
of an _eye-witness_, whether in the body or in the spirit, of the scenes
which he describes. There was something, too, in the stern horror with
which the man related these things, and in the incongruity of his
description, with the vulgarly received notions of the great place of
punishment, and of its presiding spirit, which struck my mind with awe,
almost with fear. At length he said, with an expression of horrible,
imploring earnestness, which I shall never forget--"Well, sir, is there
any hope; is there any chance at all? or, is my soul pledged and promised
away for ever? is it gone out of my power? must I go back to the place?"

In answering him I had no easy task to perform; for however clear might
be my internal conviction of the groundlessness of his fears, and however
strong my scepticism respecting the reality of what he had described, I
nevertheless felt that his impression to the contrary, and his humility
and terror resulting from it, might be made available as no mean engines
in the work of his conversion from profligacy, and of his restoration to
decent habits, and to religious feeling. I therefore told him that he was
to regard his dream rather in the light of a warning than in that of a
prophecy; that our salvation depended not upon the word or deed of a
moment, but upon the habits of a life; that, in fine, if he at once
discarded his idle companions and evil habits, and firmly adhered to a
sober, industrious, and religious course of life, the powers of darkness
might claim his soul in vain, for that there were higher and firmer
pledges than human tongue could utter, which promised salvation to him
who should repent and lead a new life.

I left him much comforted, and with a promise to return upon the next
day. I did so, and found him much more cheerful, and without any remains
of the dogged sullenness which I suppose had arisen from his despair.
His promises of amendment were given in that tone of deliberate
earnestness, which belongs to deep and solemn determination; and it was
with no small delight that I observed, after repeated visits, that his
good resolutions, so far from failing, did but gather strength by time;
and when I saw that man shake off the idle and debauched companions,
whose society had for years formed alike his amusement and his ruin, and
revive his long discarded habits of industry and sobriety, I said within
myself, there is something more in all this than the operation of an
idle dream. One day, sometime after his perfect restoration to health, I
was surprised on ascending the stairs, for the purpose of visiting this
man, to find him busily employed in nailing down some planks upon the
landing place, through which, at the commencement of his mysterious
vision, it seemed to him that he had sunk. I perceived at once that he
was strengthening the floor with a view to securing himself against such
a catastrophe, and could scarcely forbear a smile as I bid "God bless
his work."

He perceived my thoughts, I suppose, for he immediately said,

"I can never pass over that floor without trembling. I'd leave this
house if I could, but I can't find another lodging in the town so cheap,
and I'll not take a better till I've paid off all my debts, please God;
but I could not be asy in my mind till I made it as safe as I could.
You'll hardly believe me, your honor, that while I'm working, maybe a
mile away, my heart is in a flutter the whole way back, with the bare
thoughts of the two little steps I have to walk upon this bit of a
floor. So it's no wonder, sir, I'd thry to make it sound and firm with
any idle timber I have."

I applauded his resolution to pay off his debts, and the steadiness with
which he pursued his plans of conscientious economy, and passed on.

Many months elapsed, and still there appeared no alteration in his
resolutions of amendment. He was a good workman, and with his better
habits he recovered his former extensive and profitable employment. Every
thing seemed to promise comfort and respectability. I have little more to
add, and that shall be told quickly. I had one evening met Pat Connell,
as he returned from his work, and as usual, after a mutual, and on his
side respectful salutation, I spoke a few words of encouragement and
approval. I left him industrious, active, healthy--when next I saw him,
not three days after, he was a corpse. The circumstances which marked the
event of his death were somewhat strange--I might say fearful. The
unfortunate man had accidentally met an early friend, just returned,
after a long absence, and in a moment of excitement, forgetting
everything in the warmth of his joy, he yielded to his urgent invitation
to accompany him into a public house, which lay close by the spot where
the encounter had taken place. Connell, however, previously to entering
the room, had announced his determination to take nothing more than the
strictest temperance would warrant. But oh! who can describe the
inveterate tenacity with which a drunkard's habits cling to him through
life. He may repent--he may reform--he may look with actual abhorrence
upon his past profligacy; but amid all this reformation and compunction,
who can tell the moment in which the base and ruinous propensity may not
recur, triumphing over resolution, remorse, shame, everything, and
prostrating its victim once more in all that is destructive and revolting
in that fatal vice.

The wretched man left the place in a state of utter intoxication. He was
brought home nearly insensible, and placed in his bed, where he lay in
the deep calm lethargy of drunkenness. The younger part of the family
retired to rest much after their usual hour; but the poor wife remained
up sitting by the fire, too much grieved and shocked at the recurrence of
what she had so little expected, to settle to rest; fatigue, however, at
length overcame her, and she sunk gradually into an uneasy slumber. She
could not tell how long she had remained in this state, when she
awakened, and immediately on opening her eyes, she perceived by the faint
red light of the smouldering turf embers, two persons, one of whom she
recognized as her husband noiselessly gliding out of the room.

"Pat, darling, where are you going?" said she. There was no answer--the
door closed after them; but in a moment she was startled and terrified by
a loud and heavy crash, as if some ponderous body had been hurled down
the stair. Much alarmed, she started up, and going to the head of the
staircase, she called repeatedly upon her husband, but in vain. She
returned to the room, and with the assistance of her daughter, whom I had
occasion to mention before, she succeeded in finding and lighting a
candle, with which she hurried again to the head of the staircase. At the
bottom lay what seemed to be a bundle of clothes, heaped together,
motionless, lifeless--it was her husband. In going down the stairs, for
what purpose can never now be known, he had fallen helplessly and
violently to the bottom, and coming head foremost, the spine at the neck
had been dislocated by the shock, and instant death must have ensued. The
body lay upon that landing-place to which his dream had referred. It is
scarcely worth endeavouring to clear up a single point in a narrative
where all is mystery; yet I could not help suspecting that the second
figure which had been seen in the room by Connell's wife on the night of
his death, might have been no other than his own shadow. I suggested this
solution of the difficulty; but she told me that the unknown person had
been considerably in advance of the other, and on reaching the door, had
turned back as if to communicate something to his companion--it was then
a mystery. Was the dream verified?--whither had the disembodied spirit
sped?--who can say? We know not. But I left the house of death that day
in a state of horror which I could not describe. It seemed to me that I
was scarce awake. I heard and saw everything as if under the spell of a
nightmare. The coincidence was terrible.



       *       *       *       *       *



THE GHOST AND THE BONE-SETTER


In looking over the papers of my late valued and respected friend,
Francis Purcell, who for nearly fifty years discharged the arduous duties
of a parish priest in the south of Ireland, I met with the following
document. It is one of many such, for he was a curious and industrious
collector of old local traditions--a commodity in which the quarter where
he resided mightily abounded. The collection and arrangement of such
legends was, as long as I can remember him, his _hobby_; but I had never
learned that his love of the marvellous and whimsical had carried him so
far as to prompt him to commit the results of his enquiries to writing,
until, in the character of _residuary legatee_, his will put me in
possession of all his manuscript papers. To such as may think the
composing of such productions as these inconsistent with the character
and habits of a country priest, it is necessary to observe, that there
did exist a race of priests--those of the old school, a race now nearly
extinct--whose habits were from many causes more refined, and whose
tastes more literary than are those of the alumni of Maynooth.

It is perhaps necessary to add that the superstition illustrated by the
following story, namely, that the corpse last buried is obliged, during
his juniority of interment, to supply his brother tenants of the
churchyard in which he lies, with fresh water to allay the burning thirst
of purgatory, is prevalent throughout the south of Ireland. The writer
can vouch for a case in which a respectable and wealthy farmer, on the
borders of Tipperary, in tenderness to the corns of his departed
helpmate, enclosed in her coffin two pair of brogues, a light and a
heavy, the one for dry, the other for sloppy weather; seeking thus to
mitigate the fatigues of her inevitable perambulations in procuring
water, and administering it to the thirsty souls of purgatory. Fierce and
desperate conflicts have ensued in the case of two funeral parties
approaching the same churchyard together, each endeavouring to secure to
his own dead priority of sepulture, and a consequent immunity from the
tax levied upon the pedestrian powers of the last comer. An instance not
long since occurred, in which one of two such parties, through fear of
losing to their deceased friend this inestimable advantage, made their
way to the churchyard by a _short cut_, and in violation of one of their
strongest prejudices, actually threw the coffin over the wall, lest time
should be lost in making their entrance through the gate. Innumerable
instances of the same kind might be quoted, all tending to show how
strongly, among the peasantry of the south, this superstition is
entertained. However, I shall not detain the reader further, by any
prefatory remarks, but shall proceed to lay before him the following:--

_Extract from the Ms. Papers of the Late Rev. Francis Purcell, of
Drumcoolagh_

"I tell the following particulars, as nearly as I can recollect them,
in the words of the narrator. It may be necessary to observe that he
was what is termed a _well-spoken_ man, having for a considerable time
instructed the ingenious youth of his native parish in such of the
liberal arts and sciences as he found it convenient to profess--a
circumstance which may account for the occurrence of several big
words, in the course of this narrative, more distinguished for
euphonious effect, than for correctness of application. I proceed
then, without further preface, to lay before you the wonderful
adventures of Terry Neil.

"Why, thin, 'tis a quare story, an' as thrue as you're sittin' there; and
I'd make bould to say there isn't a boy in the seven parishes could tell
it better nor crickther than myself, for 'twas my father himself it
happened to, an' many's the time I heerd it out iv his own mouth; an' I
can say, an' I'm proud av that same, my father's word was as incredible
as any squire's oath in the counthry; and so signs an' if a poor man got
into any unlucky throuble, he was the boy id go into the court an' prove;
but that dosen't signify--he was as honest and as sober a man, barrin' he
was a little bit too partial to the glass, as you'd find in a day's walk;
an' there wasn't the likes of him in the counthry round for nate
labourin' an' _baan_ diggin'; and he was mighty handy entirely for
carpenther's work, and mendin' ould spudethrees, an' the likes i' that.
An' so he tuck up with bone-setting, as was most nathural, for none of
them could come up to him in mendin' the leg iv a stool or a table; an'
sure, there never was a bone-setter got so much custom--man an' child,
young an' ould--there never was such breakin' and mendin' of bones known
in the memory of man. Well, Terry Neil, for that was my father's name,
began to feel his heart growin' light and his purse heavy; an' he took a
bit iv a farm in Squire Phalim's ground, just undher the ould castle, an'
a pleasant little spot it was; an' day an' mornin', poor crathurs not
able to put a foot to the ground, with broken arms and broken legs, id be
comin' ramblin' in from all quarters to have their bones spliced up.
Well, yer honour, all this was as well as well could be; but it was
customary when Sir Phelim id go any where out iv the country, for some iv
the tinants to sit up to watch in the ould castle, just for a kind of a
compliment to the ould family--an' a mighty unpleasant compliment it was
for the tinants, for there wasn't a man of them but knew there was some
thing quare about the ould castle. The neighbours had it, that the
squire's ould grandfather, as good a gintleman, God be with him, as I
heer'd as ever stood in shoe leather, used to keep walkin' about in the
middle iv the night, ever sinst he bursted a blood vessel pullin' out a
cork out iv a bottle, as you or I might be doin', and will too, plase
God; but that dosen't signify. So, as I was sayin', the ould squire used
to come down out of the frame, where his picthur was hung up, and to
brake the bottles and glasses, God be marciful to us all, an' dhrink all
he could come at--an' small blame to him for that same; and then if any
of the family id be comin' in, he id be up again in his place, looking as
quite an' innocent as if he didn't know any thing about it--the
mischievous ould chap.

"Well, your honour, as I was sayin', one time the family up at the
castle was stayin' in Dublin for a week or two; and so as usual, some of
the tenants had to sit up in the castle, and the third night it kem to
my father's turn. 'Oh, tare an ouns,' says he unto himself, 'an' must I
sit up all night, and that ould vagabond of a sperit, glory be to God,'
says he, 'serenading through the house, an' doin' all sorts iv
mischief.' However, there was no gettin' aff, and so he put a bould face
on it, an' he went up at nightfall with a bottle of pottieen, and
another of holy wather.

"It was rainin' smart enough, an' the evenin' was darksome and gloomy,
when my father got in, and the holy wather he sprinkled on himself, it
wasn't long till he had to swallee a cup iv the pottieen, to keep the
cowld out iv his heart. It was the ould steward, Lawrence Connor, that
opened the door--and he an' my father wor always very great. So when he
seen who it was, an' my father tould him how it was his turn to watch in
the castle, he offered to sit up along with him; and you may be sure my
father wasn't sorry for that same. So says Larry,

"'We'll have a bit iv fire in the parlour,' says he.

"'An' why not in the hall?' says my father, for he knew that the squire's
picthur was hung in the parlour.

"'No fire can be lit in the hall,' says Lawrence, 'for there's an ould
jackdaw's nest in the chimney.'

"'Oh thin,' says my father, 'let us stop in the kitchen, for it's very
umproper for the likes iv me to be sittin' in the parlour,' says he.

"'Oh, Terry, that can't be,' says Lawrence; 'if we keep up the ould
custom at all, we may as well keep it up properly,' says he.

"'Divil sweep the ould custom,' says my father--to himself, do ye mind,
for he didn't like to let Lawrence see that he was more afeard himself.

"'Oh, very well,' says he. 'I'm agreeable, Lawrence,' says he; and so
down they both went to the kitchen, until the fire id be lit in the
parlour--an' that same wasn't long doin'.

"Well, your honour, they soon wint up again, an' sat down mighty
comfortable by the parlour fire, and they beginn'd to talk, an' to smoke,
an' to dhrink a small taste iv the pottieen; and, moreover, they had a
good rousing fire of bogwood and turf, to warm their shins over.

"Well, sir, as I was sayin' they kep convarsin' and smokin' together
most agreeable, until Lawrence beginn'd to get sleepy, as was but
nathural for him, for he was an ould sarvint man, and was used to a
great dale iv sleep.

"'Sure it's impossible,' says my father, 'it's gettin' sleepy you are?'

"'Oh, divil a taste,' says Larry, 'I'm only shuttin' my eyes,' says he,
'to keep out the parfume of the tibacky smoke, that's makin' them
wather,' says he. 'So don't you mind other people's business,' says he
stiff enough (for he had a mighty high stomach av his own, rest his
sowl), 'and go on,' says he, 'with your story, for I'm listenin',' says
he, shuttin' down his eyes.

"Well, when my father seen spakin' was no use, he went on with his
story.--By the same token, it was the story of Jim Soolivan and his ould
goat he was tellin'--an' a pleasant story it is--an' there was so much
divarsion in it, that it was enough to waken a dormouse, let alone to
pervint a Christian goin' asleep. But, faix, the way my father tould it,
I believe there never was the likes heerd sinst nor before for he bawled
out every word av it, as if the life was fairly leavin' him thrying to
keep ould Larry awake; but, faix, it was no use, for the hoorsness came
an him, an' before he kem to the end of his story, Larry O'Connor
beginned to snore like a bagpipes.

"'Oh, blur an' agres,' says my father, 'isn't this a hard case,' says
he, 'that ould villain, lettin' on to be my friend, and to go asleep
this way, an' us both in the very room with a sperit,' says he. 'The
crass o' Christ about us,' says he; and with that he was goin' to shake
Lawrence to waken him, but he just remimbered if he roused him, that
he'd surely go off to his bed, an lave him completely alone, an' that id
be by far worse.

"'Oh thin,' says my father, 'I'll not disturb the poor boy. It id be
neither friendly nor good-nathured,' says he, 'to tormint him while he is
asleep,' says he; 'only I wish I was the same way myself,' says he.

"An' with that he beginned to walk up an' down, an' sayin' his prayers,
until he worked himself into a sweat, savin' your presence. But it was
all no good; so he dhrunk about a pint of sperits, to compose his mind.

"'Oh,' says he, 'I wish to the Lord I was as asy in my mind as Larry
there. Maybe,' says he, 'if I thried I could go asleep'; an' with that he
pulled a big arm-chair close beside Lawrence, an' settled himself in it
as well as he could.

"But there was one quare thing I forgot to tell you. He couldn't help, in
spite av himself, lookin' now an' thin at the picthur, an' he immediately
observed that the eyes av it was follyin' him about, an' starin' at him,
an' winkin' at him, wherever he wint. 'Oh,' says he, when he seen that,
'it's a poor chance I have,' says he; 'an' bad luck was with me the day I
kem into this unforthunate place,' says he; 'but any way there's no use
in bein' freckened now,' says he; 'for if I am to die, I may as well
parspire undaunted,' says he.

"Well, your honour, he thried to keep himself quite an' asy, an' he
thought two or three times he might have wint asleep, but for the way the
storm was groanin' and creekin' through the great heavy branches outside,
an' whistlin' through the ould chimnies iv the castle. Well, afther one
great roarin' blast iv the wind, you'd think the walls iv the castle was
just goin' to fall, quite an' clane, with the shakin' iv it. All av a
suddint the storm stopt, as silent an' as quite as if it was a July
evenin'. Well, your honour, it wasn't stopped blowin' for three minnites,
before he thought he hard a sort iv a noise over the chimney-piece; an'
with that my father just opened his eyes the smallest taste in life, an'
sure enough he seen the ould squire gettin' out iv the picthur, for all
the world as if he was throwin' aff his ridin' coat, until he stept out
clane an' complate, out av the chimly-piece, an' thrun himself down an
the floor. Well, the slieveen ould chap--an' my father thought it was the
dirtiest turn iv all--before he beginned to do anything out iv the way,
he stopped, for a while, to listen wor they both asleep; an' as soon as
he thought all was quite, he put out his hand, and tuck hould iv the
whiskey bottle, an' dhrank at laste a pint iv it. Well, your honour, when
he tuck his turn out iv it, he settled it back mighty cute intirely, in
the very same spot it was in before. An' he beginn'd to walk up an' down
the room, lookin' as sober an' as solid as if he never done the likes at
all. An' whinever he went apast my father, he thought he felt a great
scent of brimstone, an' it was that that freckened him entirely; for he
knew it was brimstone that was burned in hell, savin' your presence. At
any rate, he often heer'd it from Father Murphy, an' he had a right to
know what belonged to it--he's dead since, God rest him. Well, your
honour, my father was asy enough until the sperit kem past him; so close,
God be marciful to us all, that the smell iv the sulphur tuck the breath
clane out iv him; an' with that he tuck such a fit iv coughin', that it
al-a-most shuck him out iv the chair he was sittin' in.

"'Ho, ho!' says the squire, stoppin' short about two steps aff, and
turnin' round facin' my father, 'is it you that's in it?--an' how's all
with you, Terry Neil?'

"'At your honour's sarvice,' says my father (as well as the fright id let
him, for he was more dead than alive), 'an' it's proud I am to see your
honour to-night,' says he.

"'Terence,' says the squire, 'you're a respectable man (an' it was thrue
for him), an industhrious, sober man, an' an example of inebriety to the
whole parish,' says he.

"'Thank your honour,' says my father, gettin' courage, 'you were always a
civil spoken gintleman, God rest your honour.'

"'Rest my honour,' says the sperit (fairly gettin' red in the face with
the madness), 'Rest my honour?' says he. 'Why, you ignorant spalpeen,'
says he, 'you mane, niggarly ignoramush,' says he, 'where did you lave
your manners?' says he. 'If I _am_ dead, it's no fault iv mine,' says he;
'an' it's not to be thrun in my teeth at every hand's turn, by the likes
iv you,' says he, stampin' his foot an the flure, that you'd think the
boords id smash undher him.

"'Oh,' says my father, 'I'm only a foolish, ignorant, poor man,' says he.

"'You're nothing else,' says the squire; 'but any way,' says he, 'it's
not to be listenin' to your gosther, nor convarsin' with the likes iv
you, that I came _up_--down I mane,' says he--(an' as little as the
mistake was, my father tuck notice iv it). 'Listen to me now, Terence
Neil,' says he, 'I was always a good masther to Pathrick Neil, your
grandfather,' says he.

"'Tis thrue for your honour,' says my father.

"'And, moreover, I think I was always a sober, riglar gintleman,' says
the squire.

"'That's your name, sure enough,' says my father (though it was a big lie
for him, but he could not help it).

"'Well,' says the sperit, 'although I was as sober as most men--at laste
as most gintlemen'--says he; 'an' though I was at different pariods a
most extempory Christian, and most charitable and inhuman to the poor,'
says he; 'for all that I'm not as asy where I am now,' says he, 'as I had
a right to expect,' says he.

"'An' more's the pity,' says my father; 'maybe your honour id wish to
have a word with Father Murphy?'

"'Hould your tongue, you misherable bliggard,' says the squire; 'it's
not iv my sowl I'm thinkin'--an' I wondher you'd have the impitence to
talk to a gintleman consarnin' his sowl;--and when I want _that_ fixed,'
says he, slappin' his thigh, 'I'll go to them that knows what belongs to
the likes,' says he. 'It's not my sowl,' says he, sittin' down opposite
my father; 'it's not my sowl that's annoyin' me most--I'm unasy on my
right leg,' says he, 'that I bruck at Glenvarloch cover the day I killed
black Barney.'

"(My father found out afther, it was a favourite horse that fell undher
him, afther leapin' the big fince that runs along by the glen.)

"'I hope,' says my father, 'your honour's not unasy about the
killin' iv him?

"'Hould your tongue, ye fool,' said the squire, 'an' I'll tell you why
I'm anasy an my leg,' says he. 'In the place, where I spend most iv my
time,' says he, 'except the little leisure I have for lookin' about me
here,' says he, 'I have to walk a great dale more than I was ever used
to,' says he, 'and by far more than is good for me either,' says he; 'for
I must tell you,' says he, 'the people where I am is ancommonly fond iv
could wather, for there is nothin' betther to be had; an', moreover, the
weather is hotter than is altogether plisint,' says he; 'and I'm
appinted,' says he, 'to assist in carryin' the wather, an' gets a mighty
poor share iv it myself,' says he, 'an' a mighty throublesome, warin' job
it is, I can tell you,' says he; 'for they're all iv them surprisingly
dhry, an' dhrinks it as fast as my legs can carry it,' says he; 'but what
kills me intirely,' says he, 'is the wakeness in my leg,' says he, 'an' I
want you to give it a pull or two to bring it to shape,' says he, 'and
that's the long an' the short iv it,' says he.

"'Oh, plase your honour,' says my father (for he didn't like to handle
the sperit at all), 'I wouldn't have the impitence to do the likes to
your honour,' says he; 'it's only to poor crathurs like myself I'd do it
to,' says he.

"'None iv your blarney,' says the squire, 'here's my leg,' says he,
cockin' it up to him, 'pull it for the bare life,' says he; 'an' if you
don't, by the immortial powers I'll not lave a bone in your carcish I'll
not powdher,' says he.

"'When my father heerd that, he seen there was no use in purtendin', so
he tuck hould iv the leg, an' he kept pullin' an' pullin', till the
sweat, God bless us, beginned to pour down his face.

"'Pull, you divil', says the squire.

"'At your sarvice, your honour,' says my father.

"'Pull harder,' says the squire.

"My father pulled like the divil.

"'I'll take a little sup,' says the squire, rachin' over his hand to the
bottle, 'to keep up my courage,' says he, lettin' an to be very wake in
himself intirely. But, as cute as he was, he was out here, for he tuck
the wrong one. 'Here's to your good health, Terence,' says he, 'an' now
pull like the very divil,' 'an' with that he lifted the bottle of holy
wather, but it was hardly to his mouth, whin he let a screech out, you'd
think the room id fairly split with it, an' made one chuck that sent the
leg clane aff his body in my father's hands; down wint the squire over
the table, an' bang wint my father half way across the room on his back,
upon the flure. Whin he kem to himself the cheerful mornin' sun was
shinin' through the windy shutthers, an' he was lying flat an his back,
with the leg iv one of the great ould chairs pulled clane out iv the
socket an' tight in his hand, pintin' up to the ceilin', an' ould Larry
fast asleep, an' snorin' as loud as ever. My father wint that mornin' to
Father Murphy, an' from that to the day of his death, he never neglected
confission nor mass, an' what he tould was betther believed that he spake
av it but seldom. An', as for the squire, that is the sperit, whether it
was that he did not like his liquor, or by rason iv the loss iv his leg,
he was never known to walk again."



       *       *       *       *       *



THE MYSTERIOUS LODGER



PART I


About the year 1822 I resided in a comfortable and roomy old house, the
exact locality of which I need not particularise, further than to say
that it was not very far from Old Brompton, in the immediate
neighbourhood, or rather continuity (as even my Connemara readers
perfectly well know), of the renowned city of London.

Though this house was roomy and comfortable, as I have said, it was not,
by any means, a handsome one. It was composed of dark red brick, with
small windows, and thick white sashes; a porch, too--none of your flimsy
trellis-work, but a solid projection of the same vermillion
masonry--surmounted by a leaded balcony, with heavy, half-rotten
balustrades, darkened the hall-door with a perennial gloom. The mansion
itself stood in a walled enclosure, which had, perhaps, from the date of
the erection itself, been devoted to shrubs and flowers. Some of the
former had grown there almost to the dignity of trees; and two dark
little yews stood at each side of the porch, like swart and inauspicious
dwarfs, guarding the entrance of an enchanted castle. Not that my
domicile in any respect deserved the comparison: it had no reputation as
a haunted house; if it ever had any ghosts, nobody remembered them. Its
history was not known to me: it may have witnessed plots, cabals, and
forgeries, bloody suicides and cruel murders. It was certainly old enough
to have become acquainted with iniquity; a small stone slab, under the
balustrade, and over the arch of the porch I mentioned, had the date
1672, and a half-effaced coat of arms, which I might have deciphered any
day, had I taken the trouble to get a ladder, but always put it off. All
I can say for the house is, that it was well stricken in years, with a
certain air of sombre comfort about it; contained a vast number of rooms
and closets; and, what was of far greater importance, was got by me a
dead bargain.

Its individuality attracted me. I grew fond of it for itself, and for its
associations, until other associations of a hateful kind first disturbed,
and then destroyed, their charm. I forgave its dull red brick, and
pinched white windows, for the sake of the beloved and cheerful faces
within: its ugliness was softened by its age; and its sombre evergreens,
and moss-grown stone flower-pots, were relieved by the brilliant hues of
a thousand gay and graceful flowers that peeped among them, or nodded
over the grass.

Within that old house lay my life's treasure! I had a darling little
girl of nine, and another little darling--a boy--just four years of age;
and dearer, unspeakably, than either--a wife--the prettiest, gayest,
best little wife in all London. When I tell you that our income was
scarcely £380 a-year, you will perceive that our establishment cannot
have been a magnificent one; yet, I do assure you, we were more
comfortable than a great many lords, and happier, I dare say, than the
whole peerage put together.

This happiness was not, however, what it ought to have been. The reader
will understand at once, and save me a world of moralising
circumlocution, when he learns, bluntly and nakedly, that, among all my
comforts and blessings, I was an infidel.

I had not been without religious training; on the contrary, more than
average pains had been bestowed upon my religious instruction from my
earliest childhood. My father, a good, plain, country clergyman, had
worked hard to make me as good as himself; and had succeeded, at least,
in training me in godly habits. He died, however, when I was but twelve
years of age; and fate had long before deprived me of the gentle care of
a mother. A boarding-school, followed by a college life, where nobody
having any very direct interest in realising in my behalf the ancient
blessing, that in fulness of time I should "die a good old man," I was
left very much to my own devices, which, in truth, were none of the best.

Among these were the study of Voltaire, Tom Paine, Hume, Shelley, and the
whole school of infidels, poetical as well as prose. This pursuit, and
the all but blasphemous vehemence with which I gave myself up to it, was,
perhaps, partly reactionary. A somewhat injudicious austerity and
precision had indissolubly associated in my childish days the ideas of
restraint and gloom with religion. I bore it a grudge; and so, when I
became thus early my own master, I set about paying off, after my own
fashion, the old score I owed it. I was besides, like every other young
infidel whom it has been my fate to meet, a conceited coxcomb. A
smattering of literature, without any real knowledge, and a great
assortment of all the cut-and-dry flippancies of the school I had
embraced, constituted my intellectual stock in trade. I was, like most of
my school of philosophy, very proud of being an unbeliever; and fancied
myself, in the complacency of my wretched ignorance, at an immeasurable
elevation above the church-going, Bible-reading herd, whom I treated with
a good-humoured superciliousness which I thought vastly indulgent.

My wife was an excellent little creature and truly pious. She had married
me in the full confidence that my levity was merely put on, and would at
once give way before the influence she hoped to exert upon my mind. Poor
little thing! she deceived herself. I allowed her, indeed, to do entirely
as she pleased; but for myself, I carried my infidelity to the length of
an absolute superstition. I made an ostentation of it. I would rather
have been in a "hell" than in a church on Sunday; and though I did not
prevent my wife's instilling her own principles into the minds of our
children, I, in turn, took especial care to deliver mine upon all
occasions in their hearing, by which means I trusted to sow the seeds of
that unprejudiced scepticism in which I prided myself, at least as early
as my good little partner dropped those of her own gentle "superstition"
into their infant minds. Had I had my own absurd and impious will in this
matter, my children should have had absolutely no religious education
whatsoever, and been left wholly unshackled to choose for themselves
among all existing systems, infidelity included, precisely as chance,
fancy, or interest might hereafter determine.

It is not to be supposed that such a state of things did not afford her
great uneasiness. Nevertheless, we were so very fond of one another,
and in our humble way enjoyed so many blessings, that we were as
entirely happy as any pair can be without the holy influence of
religious sympathy.

But the even flow of prosperity which had for so long gladdened my little
household was not destined to last for ever. It was ordained that I
should experience the bitter truth of more than one of the wise man's
proverbs, and first, especially, of that which declares that "he that
hateth suretyship is sure." I found myself involved (as how many have
been before) by a "d--d good-natured friend," for more than two hundred
pounds. This agreeable intelligence was conveyed to me in an attorney's
letter, which, to obviate unpleasant measures, considerately advised my
paying the entire amount within just one week of the date of his pleasant
epistle. Had I been called upon within that time to produce the Pitt
diamond, or to make title to the Buckingham estates, the demand would
have been just as easily complied with.

I have no wish to bore my reader further with this little worry--a very
serious one to me, however--and it will be enough to mention, that the
kindness of a friend extricated me from the clutches of the law by a
timely advance, which, however, I was bound to replace within two years.
To enable me to fulfill this engagement, my wife and I, after repeated
consultations, resolved upon the course which resulted in the odd and
unpleasant consequences which form the subject of this narrative.

We resolved to advertise for a lodger, with or without board, &c.; and by
resolutely submitting, for a single year, to the economy we had
prescribed for ourselves, as well as to the annoyance of a stranger's
intrusion, we calculated that at the end of that term we should have
liquidated our debt.

Accordingly, without losing time, we composed an advertisement in the
most tempting phraseology we could devise, consistently with that
economic laconism which the cost per line in the columns of the _Times_
newspaper imposes upon the rhetoric of the advertising public.

Somehow we were unlucky; for although we repeated our public notification
three times in the course of a fortnight, we had but two applications.
The one was from a clergyman in ill health--a man of great ability and
zealous piety, whom we both knew by reputation, and who has since been
called to his rest. My good little wife was very anxious that we should
close with his offer, which was very considerably under what we had fixed
upon; and I have no doubt that she was influenced by the hope that his
talents and zeal might exert a happy influence upon my stubborn and
unbelieving heart. For my part, his religious character displeased me. I
did not wish my children's heads to be filled with mythic dogmas--for so
I judged the doctrines of our holy faith--and instinctively wished him
away. I therefore declined his offer; and I have often since thought not
quite so graciously as I ought to have done. The other offer--if so it
can be called--was so very inadequate that we could not entertain it.

I was now beginning to grow seriously uneasy--our little project, so far
from bringing in the gains on which we had calculated, had put me
considerably out of pocket; for, independently of the cost of the
advertisement I have mentioned, there were sundry little expenses
involved in preparing for the meet reception of our expected inmate,
which, under ordinary circumstances, we should not have dreamed of.
Matters were in this posture, when an occurrence took place which
immediately revived my flagging hopes.

As we had no superfluity of servants, our children were early obliged to
acquire habits of independence; and my little girl, then just nine years
of age, was frequently consigned with no other care than that of her own
good sense, to the companionship of a little band of playmates, pretty
similarly circumstanced, with whom it was her wont to play. Having one
fine summer afternoon gone out as usual with these little companions, she
did not return quite so soon as we had expected her; when she did so, she
was out of breath, and excited.

"Oh, papa," she said, "I have seen such a nice old, kind gentleman, and
he told me to tell you that he has a particular friend who wants a
lodging in a quiet place, and that he thinks your house would suit him
exactly, and ever so much more; and, look here, he gave me this."

She opened her hand, and shewed me a sovereign.

"Well, this does look promisingly," I said, my wife and I having first
exchanged a smiling glance.

"And what kind of gentleman was he, dear?" inquired she. "Was he well
dressed--whom was he like?"

"He was not like any one that I know," she answered; "but he had very
nice new clothes on, and he was one of the fattest men I ever saw; and
I am sure he is sick, for he looks very pale, and he had a crutch
beside him."

"Dear me, how strange!" exclaimed my wife; though, in truth there was
nothing very wonderful in the matter. "Go on, child," I said; "let us
hear it all out."

"Well, papa, he had such an immense yellow waistcoat!--I never did see
such a waistcoat," she resumed; "and he was sitting or leaning, I can't
say which, against the bank of the green lane; I suppose to rest himself,
for he seems very weak, poor gentleman!"

"And how did you happen to speak to him?" asked my wife.

"When we were passing by, none of us saw him at all but I suppose he
heard them talking to me, and saying my name; for he said,
'Fanny--little Fanny--so, that's your name--come here child, I have a
question to ask you.'"

"And so you went to him?" I said.

"Yes," she continued, "he beckoned to me, and I did go over to him, but
not very near, for I was greatly afraid of him at first."

"Afraid! dear, and why afraid?" asked I.

"I was afraid, because he looked very old, very frightful, and as if he
would hurt me."

"What was there so old and frightful about him?" I asked.

She paused and reflected a little, and then said--

"His face was very large and pale, and it was looking upwards: it seemed
very angry, I thought, but maybe it was angry from pain; and sometimes
one side of it used to twitch and tremble for a minute, and then to grow
quite still again; and all the time he was speaking to me, he never
looked at me once, but always kept his face and eyes turned upwards; but
his voice was very soft, and he called me little Fanny, and gave me this
pound to buy toys with; so I was not so frightened in a little time, and
then he sent a long message to you, papa, and told me if I forgot it he
would beat me; but I knew he was only joking, so that did not frighten
me either."

"And what was the message, my girl?" I asked, patting her pretty head
with my hand.

"Now, let me remember it all," she said, reflectively; "for he told it to
me twice. He asked me if there was a good bedroom at the top of the
house, standing by itself--and you know there is, so I told him so; it
was exactly the kind of room that he described. And then he said that his
friend would pay two hundred pounds a-year for that bedroom, his board
and attendance; and he told me to ask you, and have your answer when he
should next meet me."

"Two hundred pounds!" ejaculated my poor little wife; "why that is nearly
twice as much as we expected."

"But did he say that his friend was sick, or very old; or that he had any
servant to be supported also?" I asked.

"Oh! no; he told me that he was quite able to take care of himself, and
that he had, I think he called it, an asthma, but nothing else the
matter; and that he would give no trouble at all, and that any friend who
came to see him, he would see, not in the house, but only in the garden."

"In the garden!" I echoed, laughing in spite of myself.

"Yes, indeed he said so; and he told me to say that he would pay one
hundred pounds when he came here, and the next hundred in six months, and
so on," continued she.

"Oh, ho! half-yearly in advance--better and better," said I.

"And he bid me say, too, if you should ask about his character, that he
is just as good as the master of the house himself," she added; "and when
he said that, he laughed a little."

"Why, if he gives us a hundred pounds in advance," I answered, turning to
my wife, "we are safe enough; for he will not find half that value in
plate and jewels in the entire household, if he is disposed to rob us. So
I see no reason against closing with the offer, should it be seriously
meant--do you, dear?"

"Quite the contrary, love," said she. "I think it most desirable--indeed,
most _providential_."

"Providential! my dear little bigot!" I repeated, with a smile. "Well, be
it so. I call it _lucky_ merely; but, perhaps, you are happier in your
faith, than I in my philosophy. Yes, you are _grateful_ for the chance
that I only rejoice at. You receive it as a proof of a divine and tender
love--I as an accident. Delusions are often more elevating than truth."

And so saying, I kissed away the saddened cloud that for a moment
overcast her face.

"Papa, he bid me be sure to have an answer for him when we meet again,"
resumed the child. "What shall I say to him when he asks me?"

"Say that we agree to his proposal, my dear--or stay," I said, addressing
my wife, "may it not be prudent to reduce what the child says to writing,
and accept the offer so? This will prevent misunderstanding, as she may
possibly have made some mistake."

My wife agreed, and I wrote a brief note, stating that I was willing to
receive an inmate upon the terms recounted by little Fanny, and which I
distinctly specified, so that no mistake could possibly arise owing to
the vagueness of what lawyers term a parole agreement. This important
memorandum I placed in the hands of my little girl, who was to deliver
it whenever the old gentleman in the yellow waistcoat should chance to
meet her. And all these arrangements completed, I awaited the issue of
the affair with as much patience as I could affect. Meanwhile, my wife
and I talked it over incessantly; and she, good little soul, almost wore
herself to death in settling and unsettling the furniture and
decorations of our expected inmate's apartments. Days passed away--days
of hopes deferred, tedious and anxious. We were beginning to despond
again, when one morning our little girl ran into the breakfast-parlour,
more excited even than she had been before, and fresh from a new
interview with the gentleman in the yellow waistcoat. She had
encountered him suddenly, pretty nearly where she had met him before,
and the result was, that he had read the little note I have mentioned,
and desired the child to inform me that his friend, _Mr. Smith_, would
take possession of the apartments I proposed setting, on the terms
agreed between us, that very evening.

"This evening!" exclaimed my wife and I simultaneously--_I_ full of the
idea of making a first instalment on the day following; _she_, of the
hundred-and-one preparations which still remained to be completed.

"And so Smith is his name! Well, that does not tell us much," said I;
"but where did you meet your friend on this occasion, and how long is
it since?"

"Near the corner of the wall-flower lane (so we indicated one which
abounded in these fragrant plants); he was leaning with his back against
the old tree you cut my name on, and his crutch was under his arm."

"But how long ago?" I urged.

"Only this moment; I ran home as fast as I could," she replied.

"Why, you little blockhead, you should have told me that at first," I
cried, snatching up my hat, and darting away in pursuit of the yellow
waistcoat, whose acquaintance I not unnaturally coveted, inasmuch as a
man who, for the first time, admits a stranger into his house, on the
footing of permanent residence, desires generally to know a little more
about him than that his name is Smith.

The place indicated was only, as we say, a step away; and as yellow
waistcoat was fat, and used a crutch, I calculated on easily overtaking
him. I was, however, disappointed; crutch, waistcoat, and all had
disappeared. I climbed to the top of the wall, and from this commanding
point of view made a sweeping observation--but in vain. I returned
home, cursing my ill-luck, the child's dulness, and the fat old
fellow's activity.

I need hardly say that Mr. Smith, in all his aspects, moral, social,
physical, and monetary, formed a fruitful and interesting topic of
speculation during dinner. How many phantom Smiths, short and long, stout
and lean, ill-tempered and well-tempered--rich, respectable, or highly
dangerous merchants, spies, forgers, nabobs, swindlers, danced before us,
in the endless mazes of fanciful conjecture, during that anxious
_tête-à-tête_, which was probably to be interrupted by the arrival of the
gentleman himself.

My wife and I puzzled over the problem as people would over the possible
_dénouement_ of a French novel; and at last, by mutual consent, we came
to the conclusion that Smith could, and would turn out to be no other
than the good-natured valetudinarian in the yellow waistcoat himself, a
humorist, as was evident enough, and a millionaire, as we unhesitatingly
pronounced, who had no immediate relatives, and as I hoped, and my wife
"was certain," taken a decided fancy to our little Fanny; I patted the
child's head with something akin to pride, as I thought of the
magnificent, though remote possibilities, in store for her.

Meanwhile, hour after hour stole away. It was a beautiful autumn evening,
and the amber lustre of the declining sun fell softly upon the yews and
flowers, and gave an air, half melancholy, half cheerful, to the dark-red
brick piers surmounted with their cracked and grass-grown stone urns, and
furnished with the light foliage of untended creeping plants. Down the
short broad walk leading to this sombre entrance, my eye constantly
wandered; but no impatient rattle on the latch, no battering at the gate,
indicated the presence of a visited, and the lazy bell hung dumbly among
the honey-suckles.

"When will he come? Yellow waistcoat promised _this evening_! It has
been evening a good hour and a half, and yet he is not here. When will
he come? It will soon be dark--the evening will have passed--will he
come at all?"

Such were the uneasy speculations which began to trouble us. Redder and
duskier grew the light of the setting sun, till it saddened into the
mists of night. Twilight came, and then darkness, and still no arrival,
no summons at the gate. I would not admit even to my wife the excess of
my own impatience. I could, however, stand it no longer; so I took my hat
and walked to the gate, where I stood by the side of the public road,
watching every vehicle and person that approached, in a fever of
expectation. Even these, however, began to fail me, and the road grew
comparatively quiet and deserted. Having kept guard like a sentinel for
more than half an hour, I returned in no very good humour, with the
punctuality of an expected inmate--ordered the servant to draw the
curtains and secure the hall-door; and so my wife and I sate down to our
disconsolate cup of tea. It must have been about ten o'clock, and we were
both sitting silently--she working, I looking moodily into a paper--and
neither of us any longer entertaining a hope that anything but
disappointment would come of the matter, when a sudden tapping, very loud
and sustained, upon the window pane, startled us both in an instant from
our reveries.

I am not sure whether I mentioned before that the sitting-room we
occupied was upon the ground-floor, and the sward came close under the
window. I drew the curtains, and opened the shutters with a revived hope;
and looking out, saw a very tall thin figure, a good deal wrapped up,
standing about a yard before me, and motioning with head and hand
impatiently towards the hall-door. Though the night was clear, there was
no moon, and therefore I could see no more than the black outline, like
that of an _ombre chinoise_ figure, signing to me with mop and moe. In a
moment I was at the hall-door, candle in hand; the stranger stept in--his
long fingers clutched in the handle of a valise, and a bag which trailed
upon the ground behind him.

The light fell full upon him. He wore a long, ill-made, black surtout,
buttoned across, and which wrinkled and bagged about his lank figure; his
hat was none of the best, and rather broad in the brim; a sort of white
woollen muffler enveloped the lower part of his face; a pair of prominent
green goggles, fenced round with leather, completely concealed his eyes;
and nothing of the genuine man, but a little bit of yellow forehead, and
a small transverse segment of equally yellow cheek and nose, encountered
the curious gaze of your humble servant.

"You are--I suppose"--I began; for I really was a little doubtful
about my man.

"Mr. Smith--the same; be good enough to show me to my bedchamber,"
interrupted the stranger, brusquely, and in a tone which, spite of the
muffler that enveloped his mouth, was sharp and grating enough.

"Ha!--Mr. Smith--so I supposed. I hope you may find everything as
comfortable as we desire to make it--"

I was about making a speech, but was cut short by a slight bow, and a
decisive gesture of the hand in the direction of the staircase. It was
plain that the stranger hated ceremony.

Together, accordingly, we mounted the staircase; he still pulling his
luggage after him, and striding lightly up without articulating a word;
and on reaching his bedroom, he immediately removed his hat, showing a
sinister, black scratch-wig underneath, and then began unrolling the
mighty woolen wrapping of his mouth and chin.

"Come," thought I, "we _shall_ see something of your face after all."

This something, however, proved to be very little; for under his muffler
was a loose cravat, which stood up in front of his chin and upon his
mouth, he wore a respirator--an instrument which I had never seen before,
and of the use of which I was wholly ignorant.

There was something so excessively odd in the effect of this piece of
unknown mechanism upon his mouth, surmounted by the huge goggles which
encased his eyes, that I believe I should have laughed outright, were
it not for a certain unpleasant and peculiar impressiveness in the
_tout ensemble_ of the narrow-chested, long-limbed, and cadaverous
figure in black. As it was, we stood looking at one another in silence
for several seconds.

"Thank you, sir," at last he said, abruptly. "I shan't want anything
whatever to-night; if you can only spare me this candle."

I assented; and, becoming more communicative, he added--

"I am, though an invalid, an independent sort of fellow enough. I am a
bit of a philosopher; I am my own servant, and, I hope, my own master,
too. I rely upon myself in matters of the body and of the mind. I place
valets and priests in the same category--fellows who live by our
laziness, intellectual or corporeal. I am a Voltaire, without his
luxuries--a Robinson Crusoe, without his Bible--an anchorite, without a
superstition--in short, my indulgence is asceticism, and my faith
infidelity. Therefore, I shan't disturb your servants much with my bell,
nor yourselves with my psalmody. You have got a rational lodger, who
knows how to attend upon himself."

During this singular address he was drawing off his ill-fitting black
gloves, and when he had done so, a bank-note, which had been slipped
underneath for safety, remained in his hand.

"Punctuality, sir, is one of my poor pleasures," he said; "will you allow
me to enjoy it now? To-morrow you may acknowledge this; I should not rest
were you to decline it."

He extended his bony and discoloured fingers, and placed the note in my
hand. Oh, Fortune and Plutus! It was a £100 bank-note.

"Pray, not one word, my dear sir," he continued, unbending still further;
"it is simply done pursuant to agreement. We shall know one another
better, I hope, in a little time; you will find me always equally
punctual. At present pray give yourself no further trouble; I require
nothing more. Good night."

I returned the valediction, closed his door, and groped my way down the
stairs. It was not until I had nearly reached the hall, that I
recollected that I had omitted to ask our new inmate at what hour he
would desire to be called in the morning, and so I groped my way back
again. As I reached the lobby on which his chamber opened, I perceived a
long line of light issuing from the partially-opened door, within which
stood Mr. Smith, the same odd figure I had just left; while along the
boards was creeping towards him across the lobby, a great, big-headed,
buff-coloured cat. I had never seen this ugly animal before; and it had
reached the threshold of his door, arching its back, and rubbing itself
on the post, before either appeared conscious of my approach, when, with
an angry growl, it sprang into the stranger's room.

"What do you want?" he demanded, sharply, standing in the doorway.

I explained my errand.

"I shall call myself," was his sole reply; and he shut the door with a
crash that indicated no very pleasurable emotions.

I cared very little about my lodger's temper. The stealthy rustle of his
bank-note in my waistcoat pocket was music enough to sweeten the harshest
tones of his voice, and to keep alive a cheerful good humour in my heart;
and although there was, indisputably, something queer about him, I was,
on the whole, very well pleased with my bargain.

The next day our new inmate did not ring his bell until noon. As soon
as he had had some breakfast, of which he very sparingly partook, he
told the servant that, for the future, he desired that a certain
quantity of milk and bread might be left outside his door; and this
being done, he would dispense with regular meals. He desired, too,
that, on my return, I should be acquainted that he wished to see me in
his own room at about nine o'clock; and, meanwhile, he directed that he
should be left undisturbed. I found my little wife full of astonishment
at Mr. Smith's strange frugality and seclusion, and very curious to
learn the object of the interview he had desired with me. At nine
o'clock I repaired to his room.

I found him in precisely the costume in which I had left him--the same
green goggles--the same muffling of the mouth, except that being now no
more than a broadly-folded black silk handkerchief, very loose, and
covering even the lower part of the nose, it was obviously intended for
the sole purpose of concealment. It was plain I was not to see more of
his features than he had chosen to disclose at our first interview. The
effect was as if the lower part of his face had some hideous wound or
sore. He closed the door with his own hand on my entrance, nodded
slightly, and took his seat. I expected him to begin, but he was so long
silent that I was at last constrained to address him.

I said, for want of something more to the purpose, that I hoped he had
not been tormented by the strange cat the night before.

"What cat?" he asked, abruptly; "what the plague do you mean?"

"Why, I certainly did see a cat go into your room last night," I resumed.

"Hey, and what if you did--though I fancy you dreamed it--I'm not afraid
of a cat; are you?" he interrupted, tartly.

At this moment there came a low growling mew from the closet which opened
from the room in which we sat.

"Talk of the devil," said I, pointing towards the closet. My companion,
without any exact change of expression, looked, I thought, somehow
still more sinister and lowering; and I felt for a moment a sort of
superstitious misgiving, which made the rest of the sentence die away
on my lips.

Perhaps Mr. Smith perceived this, for he said, in a tone calculated to
reassure me--

"Well, sir, I think I am bound to tell you that I like my apartments very
well; they suit me, and I shall probably be your tenant for much longer
than at first you anticipated."

I expressed my gratification.

He then began to talk, something in the strain in which he had spoken of
his own peculiarities of habit and thinking upon the previous evening. He
disposed of all classes and denominations of superstition with an easy
sarcastic slang, which for me was so captivating, that I soon lost all
reserve, and found myself listening and suggesting by turns--acquiescent
and pleased--sometimes hazarding dissent; but whenever I did, foiled and
floored by a few pointed satirical sentences, whose sophistry, for such I
must now believe it, confounded me with a rapidity which, were it not for
the admiration with which he had insensibly inspired me, would have
piqued and irritated my vanity not a little.

While this was going on, from time to time the mewing and growling of a
cat within the closet became more and more audible. At last these sounds
became so loud, accompanied by scratching at the door, that I paused in
the midst of a sentence, and observed--

"There certainly is a cat shut up in the closet?"

"Is there?" he ejaculated, in a surprised tone; "nay, I do not hear it."

He rose abruptly and approached the door; his back was towards me, but I
observed he raised the goggles which usually covered his eyes, and looked
steadfastly at the closet door. The angry sounds all died away into a
low, protracted growl, which again subsided into silence. He continued in
the same attitude for some moments, and then returned.

"I do not hear it," he said, as he resumed his place, and taking a book
from his capacious pocket, asked me if I had seen it before? I never had,
and this surprised me, for I had flattered myself that I knew, at least
by name, every work published in England during the last fifty years in
favour of that philosophy in which we both delighted. The book, moreover,
was an odd one, as both its title and table of contents demonstrated.

While we were discoursing upon these subjects, I became more and more
distinctly conscious of a new class of sounds proceeding from the same
closet. I plainly heard a measured and heavy tread, accompanied by the
tapping of some hard and heavy substance like the end of a staff, pass up
and down the floor--first, as it seemed, stealthily, and then more and
more unconcealedly. I began to feel very uncomfortable and suspicious. As
the noise proceeded, and became more and more unequivocal, Mr. Smith
abruptly rose, opened the closet door, just enough to admit his own
lath-like person, and steal within the threshold for some seconds. What
he did I could not see--I felt conscious he had an associate concealed
there; and though my eyes remained fixed on the book, I could not avoid
listening for some audible words, or signal of caution. I heard, however,
nothing of the kind. Mr. Smith turned back--walked a step or two towards
me, and said--

"I fancied I heard a sound from that closet, but there is
nothing--nothing--nothing whatever; bring the candle, let us both look."

I obeyed with some little trepidation, for I fully anticipated that I
should detect the intruder, of whose presence my own ears had given me,
for nearly half an hour, the most unequivocal proofs. We entered the
closet together; it contained but a few chairs and a small spider table.
At the far end of the room there was a sort of grey woollen cloth upon
the floor, and a bundle of something underneath it. I looked jealously at
it, and half thought I could trace the outline of a human figure; but, if
so, it was perfectly motionless.

"Some of my poor wardrobe," he muttered, as he pointed his lean finger in
the direction. "It did not sound like a cat, did it--hey--did it?" he
muttered; and without attending to my answer, he went about the
apartment, clapping his hands, and crying, "Hish--hish--hish!"

The game, however, whatever it was, did not start. As I entered I had
seen, however, a large crutch reposing against the wall in the corner
opposite to the door. This was the only article in the room, except that
I have mentioned, with which I was not familiar. With the exception of
our two selves, there was not a living creature to be seen there; no
shadow but ours upon the bare walls; no feet but our own upon the
comfortless floor.

I had never before felt so strange and unpleasant a sensation.

"There is nothing unusual in the room but that crutch," I said.

"What crutch, you dolt? I see no crutch," he ejaculated, in a tone of
sudden but suppressed fury.

"Why, _that_ crutch," I answered (for somehow I neither felt nor resented
his rudeness), turning and pointing to the spot where I had seen it. It
was gone!--it was neither there nor anywhere else. It must have been an
illusion--rather an odd one, to be sure. And yet I could at this moment,
with a safe conscience, _swear_ that I never saw an object more
distinctly than I had seen it but a second before.

My companion was muttering fast to himself as we withdrew; his presence
rather scared than reassured me; and I felt something almost amounting to
horror, as, holding the candle above his cadaverous and sable figure, he
stood at his threshold, while I descended the stairs, and said, in a sort
of whisper--

"Why, but that I am, like yourself, a philosopher, I should say that your
house is--is--a--ha! ha! ha!--HAUNTED!"

"You look very pale, my love," said my wife, as I entered the
drawing-room, where she had been long awaiting my return. "Nothing
unpleasant has happened?"

"Nothing, nothing, I assure you. Pale!--_do_ I look pale?" I answered.
"We are excellent friends, I assure you. So far from having had the
smallest disagreement, there is every prospect of our agreeing but too
well, as you will say; for I find that he holds all my opinions upon
speculative subjects. We have had a great deal of conversation this
evening, I assure you; and I never met, I think, so scholarlike and
able a man."

"I am sorry for it, dearest," she said, sadly. "The greater his talents,
if such be his opinions, the more dangerous a companion is he."

We turned, however, to more cheerful topics, and it was late before we
retired to rest. I believe it was pride--perhaps only vanity--but, at all
events, some obstructive and stubborn instinct of my nature, which I
could not overcome--that prevented my telling my wife the odd occurrences
which had disturbed my visit to our guest. I was unable or ashamed to
confess that so slight a matter had disturbed me; and, above all, that
any accident could possibly have clouded, even for a moment, the frosty
clearness of my pure and lofty scepticism with the shadows of
superstition.

Almost every day seemed to develop some new eccentricity of our strange
guest. His dietary consisted, without any variety or relief, of the
monotonous bread and milk with which he started; his bed had not been
made for nearly a week; nobody had been admitted into his room since my
visit, just described; and he never ventured down stairs, or out of
doors, until after nightfall, when he used sometimes to glide swiftly
round our little enclosed shrubbery, and at others stand quite
motionless, composed, as if in an attitude of deep attention. After
employing about an hour in this way, he would return, and steal up stairs
to his room, when he would shut himself up, and not be seen again until
the next night--or, it might be, the night after that--when, perhaps, he
would repeat his odd excursion.

Strange as his habits were, their eccentricity was all upon the side
least troublesome to us. He required literally no attendance; and as to
his occasional night ramble, even _it_ caused not the slightest
disturbance of our routine hour for securing the house and locking up the
hall-door for the night, inasmuch as he had invariably retired before
that hour arrived.

All this stimulated curiosity, and, in no small degree, that of my wife,
who, notwithstanding her vigilance and her anxiety to see our strange
inmate, had been hitherto foiled by a series of cross accidents. We were
sitting together somewhere about ten o'clock at night, when there came a
tap at the room-door. We had just been discussing the unaccountable
Smith; and I felt a sheepish consciousness that he might be himself at
the door, and have possibly even overheard our speculation--some of them
anything but complimentary, respecting himself.

"Come in," cried, I, with an effort; and the tall form of our lodger
glided into the room. My wife was positively frightened, and stood
looking at him, as he advanced, with a stare of manifest apprehension,
and even recoiled mechanically, and caught my hand.

Sensitiveness, however, was not his fault: he made a kind of stiff nod as
I mumbled an introduction; and seating himself unasked, began at once to
chat in that odd, off-hand, and sneering style, in which he excelled, and
which had, as he wielded it, a sort of fascination of which I can pretend
to convey no idea.

My wife's alarm subsided, and although she still manifestly felt some
sort of misgiving about our visitor, she yet listened to his
conversation, and, spite of herself, soon began to enjoy it. He stayed
for nearly half an hour. But although he glanced at a great variety of
topics, he did not approach the subject of religion. As soon as he was
gone, my wife delivered judgment upon him in form. She admitted he was
agreeable; but then he was such an unnatural, awful-looking object: there
was, besides, something indescribably frightful, she thought, in his
manner--the very tone of his voice was strange and hateful; and, on the
whole, she felt unutterably relieved at his departure.

A few days after, on my return, I found my poor little wife agitated and
dispirited. Mr. Smith had paid her a visit, and brought with him a book,
which he stated he had been reading, and which contained some references
to the Bible which he begged of her to explain in that profounder and
less obvious sense in which they had been cited. This she had endeavoured
to do; and affecting to be much gratified by her satisfactory exposition,
he had requested her to reconcile some discrepancies which he said had
often troubled him when reading the Scriptures. Some of them were quite
new to my good little wife; they startled and even horrified her. He
pursued this theme, still pretending only to seek for information to
quiet his own doubts, while in reality he was sowing in her mind the
seeds of the first perturbations that had ever troubled the sources of
her peace. He had been with her, she thought, no more than a quarter of
an hour; but he had contrived to leave her abundant topics on which to
ruminate for days. I found her shocked and horrified at the doubts which
this potent Magus had summoned from the pit--doubts which she knew not
how to combat, and from the torment of which she could not escape.

"He has made me very miserable with his deceitful questions. I never
thought of them before; and, merciful Heaven! I cannot answer them! What
am I to do? My serenity is gone; I shall never be happy again."

In truth, she was so very miserable, and, as it seemed to me, so
disproportionately excited, that, inconsistent in me as the task would
have been, I would gladly have explained away her difficulties, and
restored to her mind its wonted confidence and serenity, had I possessed
sufficient knowledge for the purpose. I really pitied her, and heartily
wished Mr. Smith, for the nonce, at the devil.

I observed after this that my wife's spirits appeared permanently
affected. There was a constantly-recurring anxiety, and I thought
something was lying still more heavily at her heart than the
uncertainties inspired by our lodger.

One evening, as we two were sitting together, after a long silence, she
suddenly laid her hand upon my arm, and said--

"Oh, Richard, my darling! would to God you could pray for me!"

There was something so agitated, and even terrified, in her manner,
that I was absolutely startled. I urged her to disclose whatever preyed
upon her mind.

"You can't sympathise with me--you can't help me--you can scarcely
compassionate me in my misery! Oh, dearest Richard! Some evil influence
has been gaining upon my heart, dulling and destroying my convictions,
killing all my holy affections, and--and absolutely transforming me. I
look inward upon myself with amazement, with terror--with--oh, God!--with
actual despair!"

Saying this, she threw herself on her knees, and wept an agonised flood
of tears, with her head reposing in my lap.

Poor little thing, my heart bled for her! But what could I do or say?

All I could suggest was what I really thought, that she was
unwell--hysterical--and needed to take better care of her precious self;
that her change of feeling was fancied, not real; and that a few days
would restore her to her old health and former spirits and serenity.

"And sometimes," she resumed, after I had ended a consolatory discussion,
which it was but too manifest had fallen unprofitably upon her ear, "such
dreadful, impious thoughts come into my mind, whether I choose it or not;
they come, and stay, and return, strive as I may; and I can't pray
against them. They are forced upon me with the strength of an independent
will; and oh!--horrible--frightful--they blaspheme the character of God
himself. They upbraid the Almighty upon his throne, and I can't pray
against them; there is something in me now that resists prayer."

There was such a real and fearful anguish in the agitation of my gentle
companion, that it shook my very soul within me, even while I was
affecting to make light of her confessions. I had never before witnessed
a struggle at all like this, and I was awe-struck at the spectacle.

At length she became comparatively calm. I did gradually succeed, though
very imperfectly, in reassuring her. She strove hard against her
depression, and recovered a little of her wonted cheerfulness.

After a while, however, the cloud returned. She grew sad and earnest,
though no longer excited; and entreated, or rather implored, of me to
grant her one special favour, and this was, to avoid the society of
our lodger.

"I never," she said, "could understand till now the instinctive dread
with which poor Margaret, in _Faust_, shrinks from the hateful presence
of Mephistopheles. I now feel it in myself. The dislike and suspicion I
first felt for that man--Smith, or whatever else he may call himself--has
grown into literal detestation and terror. I hate him--I am afraid of
him--I never knew what anguish of mind was until he entered our doors;
and would to God--would to God he were gone."

I reasoned with her--kissed her--laughed at her; but could not dissipate,
in the least degree, the intense and preternatural horror with which she
had grown to regard the poor philosophic invalid, who was probably, at
that moment, poring over some metaphysical book in his solitary
bedchamber.

The circumstance I am about to mention will give you some notion of the
extreme to which these excited feelings had worked upon her nerves. I was
that night suddenly awakened by a piercing scream--I started upright in
the bed, and saw my wife standing at the bedside, white as ashes with
terror. It was some seconds, so startled was I, before I could find words
to ask her the cause of her affright. She caught my wrist in her icy
grasp, and climbed, trembling violently, into bed. Notwithstanding my
repeated entreaties, she continued for a long time stupified and dumb. At
length, however, she told me, that having lain awake for a long time, she
felt, on a sudden, that she could pray, and lighting the candle, she had
stolen from beside me, and kneeled down for the purpose. She had,
however, scarcely assumed the attitude of prayer, when somebody, she
said, clutched her arm violently near the wrist, and she heard, at the
same instant, some blasphemous menace, the import of which escaped her
the moment it was spoken, muttered close in her ear. This terrifying
interruption was the cause of the scream which had awakened me; and the
condition in which she continued during the remainder of the night
confirmed me more than ever in the conviction, that she was suffering
under some morbid action of the nervous system.

After this event, which _I_ had no hesitation in attributing to fancy,
she became literally afraid to pray, and her misery and despondency
increased proportionately.

It was shortly after this that an unusual pressure of business called me
into town one evening after office hours. I had left my dear little wife
tolerably well, and little Fanny was to be her companion until I
returned. She and her little companion occupied the same room in which we
sat on the memorable evening which witnessed the arrival of our eccentric
guest. Though usually a lively child, it most provokingly happened upon
this night that Fanny was heavy and drowsy to excess. Her mamma would
have sent her to bed, but that she now literally feared to be left alone;
although, however, she could not so far overcome her horror of solitude
as to do this, she yet would not persist in combating the poor child's
sleepiness.

Accordingly, little Fanny was soon locked in a sound sleep, while her
mamma quietly pursued her work beside her. They had been perhaps some
ten minutes thus circumstanced, when my wife heard the window softly
raised from without--a bony hand parted the curtains, and Mr. Smith
leaned into the room.

She was so utterly overpowered at sight of this apparition, that even had
it, as she expected, climbed into the room, she told me she could not
have uttered a sound, or stirred from the spot where she sate transfixed
and petrified.

"Ha, ha!" he said gently, "I hope you'll excuse this, I must admit, very
odd intrusion; but I knew I should find you here, and could not resist
the opportunity of raising the window just for a moment, to look in upon
a little family picture, and say a word to yourself. I understand that
you are troubled, because for some cause you cannot say your
prayers--because what you call your 'faith' is, so to speak, dead and
gone, and also because what _you_ consider bad thoughts are constantly
recurring to your mind. Now, all that is very silly. If it is really
impossible for you to believe and to pray, what are you to infer from
that? It is perfectly plain your Christian system can't be a true
one--faith and _prayer_ it everywhere represents as the conditions of
grace, acceptance, and salvation; and yet your Creator will not _permit_
you either to believe or pray. The Christian system is, forsooth, a
_free_ gift, and yet he who formed _you_ and _it_, makes it absolutely
impossible for you to accept it. _Is_ it, I ask you, from your own
experience--is it a free gift? And if your own experience, in which you
can't be mistaken, gives its pretensions the lie, why, in the name of
common sense, will you persist in believing it? I say it is downright
blasphemy to think it has emanated from the Good Spirit--assuming that
there is one. It tells you that you must be tormented hereafter in a way
only to be made intelligible by the image of eternal fires--pretty
strong, we must all allow--unless you comply with certain conditions,
which it pretends are so easy that it is a positive pleasure to embrace
and perform them; and yet, for the life of you, you can't--physically
_can't_--do either. Is this truth and mercy?--or is it swindling and
cruelty? Is it the part of the Redeemer, or that of the tyrant, deceiver,
and tormentor?"

Up to that moment, my wife had sate breathless and motionless, listening,
in the catalepsy of nightmare, to a sort of echo of the vile and impious
reasoning which had haunted her for so long. At the last words of the
sentence his voice became harsh and thrilling; and his whole manner
bespoke a sort of crouching and terrific hatred, the like of which she
could not have conceived.

Whatever may have been the cause, she was on a sudden disenchanted. She
started to her feet; and, freezing with horror though she was, in a
shrill cry of agony commanded him, in the name of God, to depart from
her. His whole frame seemed to darken; he drew back silently; the
curtains dropped into their places, the window was let down again as
stealthily as it had just been raised; and my wife found herself alone in
the chamber with our little child, who had been startled from her sleep
by her mother's cry of anguish, and with the fearful words, "tempter,"
"destroyer," "devil," still ringing in her ears, was weeping bitterly,
and holding her terrified mother's hand.

There is nothing, I believe, more infectious than that species of
nervousness which shows itself in superstitious fears. I began--although
I could not bring myself to admit anything the least like it--to partake
insensibly, but strongly of the peculiar feelings with which my wife, and
indeed my whole household, already regarded the lodger up stairs. The
fact was, beside, that the state of my poor wife's mind began to make me
seriously uneasy; and, although I was fully sensible of the pecuniary and
other advantages attendant upon his stay, they were yet far from
outweighing the constant gloom and frequent misery in which the
protracted sojourn was involving my once cheerful house. I resolved,
therefore, at whatever monetary sacrifice, to put an end to these
commotions; and, after several debates with my wife, in which the subject
was, as usual, turned in all its possible and impossible bearings, we
agreed that, deducting a fair proportion for his five weeks' sojourn, I
should return the remainder of his £100, and request immediate possession
of his apartments. Like a man suddenly relieved of an insufferable load,
and breathing freely once more, I instantly prepared to carry into effect
the result of our deliberations.

In pursuance of this resolution, I waited upon Mr. Smith. This time my
call was made in the morning, somewhere about nine o'clock. He
received me at his door, standing as usual in the stealthy opening
which barely admitted his lank person. There he stood, fully equipped
with goggles and respirator, and swathed, rather than dressed, in his
puckered black garments.

As he did not seem disposed to invite me into his apartment, although
I had announced my visit as one of business, I was obliged to open my
errand where I stood; and after a great deal of fumbling and
muttering, I contrived to place before him distinctly the resolution
to which I had come.

"But I can't think of taking back any portion of the sum I have paid
you," said he, with a cool, dry emphasis.

"Your reluctance to do so, Mr. Smith, is most handsome, and I assure you,
appreciated," I replied. "It is very generous; but, at the same time, it
is quite impossible for me to accept what I have no right to take, and I
must beg of you not to mention that part of the subject again."

"And why should _I_ take it?" demanded Mr. Smith.

"Because you have paid this hundred pounds for six months, and you are
leaving me with nearly five months of the term still unexpired," I
replied. "I expect to receive fair play myself, and always give it."

"But who on earth said that I was going away so soon?" pursued Mr. Smith,
in the same dry, sarcastic key. "_I_ have not said so--because I really
don't intend it; I mean to stay here to the last day of the six months
for which I have paid you. I have no notion of vacating my hired
lodgings, simply because you say, _go_. I shan't quarrel with you--I
never quarrel with anybody. I'm as much your friend as ever; but, without
the least wish to disoblige, I can't do this, positively I cannot. Is
there anything else?"

I had not anticipated in the least the difficulty which thus
encountered and upset our plans. I had so set my heart upon effecting
the immediate retirement of our inauspicious inmate, that the
disappointment literally stunned me for a moment. I, however, returned
to the charge: I urged, and prayed, and almost besought him to give up
his apartments, and to leave us. I offered to repay every farthing of
the sum he had paid me--reserving nothing on account of the time he had
already been with us. I suggested all the disadvantages of the house. I
shifted my ground, and told him that my wife wanted the rooms; I
pressed his gallantry--his good nature--his economy; in short, I
assailed him upon every point--but in vain, he did not even take the
trouble of repeating what he had said before--he neither relented, nor
showed the least irritation, but simply said--

"I can't do this; here I am, and here I stay until the half-year has
expired. You wanted a lodger, and you have got one--the quietest, least
troublesome, least expensive person you could have; and though your
house, servants, and furniture are none of the best, I don't care for
that. I pursue my own poor business and enjoyments here entirely to my
satisfaction."

Having thus spoken, he gave me a sort of nod, and closed the door.

So, instead of getting rid of him the next day, as we had hoped, we had
nearly five months more of his company in expectancy; I hated, and my
wife dreaded the prospect. She was literally miserable and panic-struck
at her disappointment--and grew so nervous and wretched that I made up my
mind to look out for lodgings for her and the children (subversive of all
our schemes of retrenchment as such a step would be), and surrendering
the house absolutely to Mr. Smith and the servants during the remainder
of his term.

Circumstances, however, occurred to prevent our putting this plan in
execution. My wife, meanwhile, was, if possible, more depressed and
nervous every day. The servants seemed to sympathise in the dread and
gloom which involved ourselves; the very children grew timid and
spiritless, without knowing why--and the entire house was pervaded with
an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear. A poorhouse or a dungeon would
have been cheerful, compared with a dwelling haunted unceasingly with
unearthly suspicions and alarms. I would have made any sacrifice short of
ruin, to emancipate our household from the odious mental and moral
thraldom which was invisibly established over us--overcasting us with
strange anxieties and an undefined terror.

About this time my wife had a dream which troubled her much, although
she could not explain its supposed significance satisfactorily by any
of the ordinary rules of interpretation in such matters. The vision was
as follows.

She dreamed that we were busily employed in carrying out our scheme of
removal, and that I came into the parlour where she was making some
arrangements, and, with rather an agitated manner, told her that the
carriage had come for the children. She thought she went out to the hall,
in consequence, holding little Fanny by one hand, and the boy--or, as we
still called him, "baby,"--by the other, and feeling, as she did so, an
unaccountable gloom, almost amounting to terror, steal over her. The
children, too, seemed, she thought, frightened, and disposed to cry.

So close to the hall-door as to exclude the light, stood some kind of
vehicle, of which she could see nothing but that its door was wide open,
and the interior involved in total darkness. The children, she thought,
shrunk back in great trepidation, and she addressed herself to induce
them, by persuasion, to enter, telling them that they were only "going to
their new home." So, in a while, little Fanny approached it; but, at the
same instant, some person came swiftly up from behind, and, raising the
little boy in his hands, said fiercely, "No, the baby first"; and placed
him in the carriage. This person was our lodger, Mr. Smith, and was gone
as soon as seen. My wife, even in her dream, could not act or speak; but
as the child was lifted into the carriage-door, a man, whose face was
full of beautiful tenderness and compassion, leaned forward from the
carriage and received the little child, which, stretching his arms to the
stranger, looked back with a strange smile upon his mother.

"He is safe with me, and I will deliver him to you when you come."

These words the man spoke, looking upon her, as he received him, and
immediately the carriage-door shut, and the noise of its closing wakened
my wife from her nightmare.

This dream troubled her very much, and even haunted my mind unpleasantly
too. We agreed, however, not to speak of it to anybody, not to divulge
any of our misgivings respecting the stranger. We were anxious that
neither the children nor the servants should catch the contagion of those
fears which had seized upon my poor little wife, and, if truth were
spoken, upon myself in some degree also. But this precaution was, I
believe, needless, for, as I said before, everybody under the same roof
with Mr. Smith was, to a certain extent, affected with the same nervous
gloom and apprehension.

And now commences a melancholy chapter in my life. My poor little Fanny
was attacked with a cough which soon grew very violent, and after a time
degenerated into a sharp attack of inflammation. We were seriously
alarmed for her life, and nothing that care and medicine could effect
was spared to save it. Her mother was indefatigable, and scarcely left
her night or day; and, indeed, for some time, we all but despaired of
her recovery.

One night, when she was at the worst, her poor mother, who had sat for
many a melancholy hour listening, by her bedside, to those plaintive
incoherences of delirium and moanings of fever, which have harrowed so
many a fond heart, gained gradually from her very despair the courage
which she had so long wanted, and knelt down at the side of her sick
darling's bed to pray for her deliverance.

With clasped hands, in an agony of supplication, she prayed that God
would, in his mercy, spare her little child--that, justly as she herself
deserved the sorest chastisement his hand could inflict, he would yet
deal patiently and tenderly with her in this one thing. She poured out
her sorrows before the mercy-seat--she opened her heart, and declared her
only hope to be in his pity; without which, she felt that her darling
would only leave the bed where she was lying for her grave.

Exactly as she came to this part of her supplication, the child, who had
grown, as it seemed, more and more restless, and moaned and muttered with
increasing pain and irritation, on a sudden started upright in her bed,
and, in a thrilling voice, cried--

"No! no!--the baby first."

The mysterious sentence which had secretly tormented her for so long,
thus piercingly uttered by this delirious, and, perhaps, dying child,
with what seemed a preternatural earnestness and strength, arrested her
devotions, and froze her with a feeling akin to terror.

"Hush, hush, my darling!" said the poor mother, almost wildly, as she
clasped the attenuated frame of the sick child in her arms; "hush, my
darling; don't cry out so loudly--there--there--my own love."

The child did not appear to see or hear her, but sate up still with
feverish cheeks, and bright unsteady eyes, while her dry lips were
muttering inaudible words.

"Lie down, my sweet child--lie down, for your own mother," she said;
"if you tire yourself, you can't grow well, and your poor mother will
lose you."

At these words, the child suddenly cried out again, in precisely the same
loud, strong voice--"No! no! the baby first, the baby first"--and
immediately afterwards lay down, and fell, for the first time since her
illness into a tranquil sleep.

My good little wife sate, crying bitterly by her bedside. The child was
better--_that_ was, indeed, delightful. But then there was an omen in the
words, thus echoed from her dream, which she dared not trust herself to
interpret, and which yet had seized, with a grasp of iron, upon every
fibre of her brain.

"Oh, Richard," she cried, as she threw her arms about my neck, "I am
terrified at this horrible menace from the unseen world. Oh! poor,
darling little baby, I shall lose you--I am sure I shall lose you.
Comfort me, darling, and say he is not to die."

And so I did; and tasked all my powers of argument and persuasion to
convince her how unsubstantial was the ground of her anxiety. The little
boy was perfectly well, and, even were he to die before his sister that
event might not occur for seventy years to come. I could not, however,
conceal from myself that there was something odd and unpleasant in the
coincidence; and my poor wife had grown so nervous and excitable, that a
much less ominous conjecture would have sufficed to alarm her.

Meanwhile, the unaccountable terror which our lodger's presence inspired
continued to increase. One of our maids gave us warning, solely from her
dread of our queer inmate, and the strange accessories which haunted him.
She said--and this was corroborated by her fellow-servant--that Mr. Smith
seemed to have constantly a companion in his room; that although they
never heard them speak, they continually and distinctly heard the tread
of two persons walking up and down the room together, and described
accurately the peculiar sound of a stick or crutch tapping upon the
floor, which my own ears had heard. They also had seen the large,
ill-conditioned cat I have mentioned, frequently steal in and out of the
stranger's room; and observed that when our little girl was in greatest
danger, the hateful animal was constantly writhing, fawning, and crawling
about the door of the sick room after nightfall. They were thoroughly
persuaded that this ill-omened beast was the foul fiend himself, and I
confess I could not--sceptic as I was--bring myself absolutely to the
belief that he was nothing more than a "harmless, necessary cat." These
and similar reports--implicitly believed as they palpably were by those
who made them--were certainly little calculated to allay the perturbation
and alarm with which our household was filled.

The evenings had by this time shortened very much, and darkness often
overtook us before we sate down to our early tea. It happened just at
this period of which I have been speaking, after my little girl had begun
decidedly to mend, that I was sitting in our dining-parlour, with my
little boy fast asleep upon my knees, and thinking of I know not what, my
wife having gone up stairs, as usual, to sit in the room with little
Fanny. As I thus sate in what was to me, in effect, total solitude,
darkness unperceived stole on us.

On a sudden, as I sate, with my elbow leaning upon the table, and my
other arm round the sleeping child, I felt, as I thought, a cold
current of air faintly blowing upon my forehead. I raised my head, and
saw, as nearly as I could calculate, at the far end of the table on
which my arm rested, two large green eyes confronting me. I could see
no more, but instantly concluded they were those of the abominable cat.
Yielding to an impulse of horror and abhorrence, I caught a water-croft
that was close to my hand, and threw it full at it with all my force. I
must have missed my object, for the shining eyes continued fixed for a
second, and then glided still nearer to me, and then a little nearer
still. The noise of the glass smashed with so much force upon the table
called in the servant, who happened to be passing. She had a candle in
her hand, and, perhaps, the light alarmed the odious beast, for as she
came in it was gone.

I had had an undefined idea that its approach was somehow connected with
a designed injury of some sort to the sleeping child. I could not be
mistaken as to the fact that I had plainly seen the two broad, glaring,
green eyes. Where the cursed animal had gone I had not observed: it
might, indeed, easily have run out at the door as the servant opened it,
but neither of us had seen it do so; and we were every one of us in such
a state of nervous excitement, that even this incident was something in
the catalogue of our ambiguous experiences.

It was a great happiness to see our darling little Fanny every day
mending, and now quite out of danger: this was cheering and delightful.
It was also something to know that more than two months of our lodger's
term of occupation had already expired; and to realise, as we now could
do, by anticipation, the unspeakable relief of his departure.

My wife strove hard to turn our dear child's recovery to good account for
me; but the impressions of fear soon depart, and those of religious
gratitude must be preceded by religious faith. All as yet was but as seed
strewn upon the rock.

Little Fanny, though recovering rapidly, was still very weak, and her
mother usually passed a considerable part of every evening in her
bedroom--for the child was sometimes uneasy and restless at night. It
happened at this period that, sitting as usual at Fanny's bedside, she
witnessed an occurrence which agitated her not a little.

The child had been, as it seems, growing sleepy, and was lying
listlessly, with eyes half open, apparently taking no note of what was
passing. Suddenly, however, with an expression of the wildest terror, she
drew up her limbs, and cowered in the bed's head, gazing at some object;
which, judging from the motion of her eyes, must have been slowly
advancing from the end of the room next the door.

The child made a low shuddering cry, as she grasped her mother's hand,
and, with features white and tense with terror, slowly following with her
eyes the noiseless course of some unseen spectre, shrinking more and more
fearfully backward every moment.

"What is it? Where? What is it that frightens you, my darling?" asked the
poor mother, who, thrilled with horror, looked in vain for the apparition
which seemed to have all but bereft the child of reason.

"Stay with me--save me--keep it away--look, look at it--making signs to
me--don't let it hurt me--it is angry--Oh! mamma, save me, save me!"

The child said this, all the time clinging to her with both her hands, in
an ecstasy of panic.

"There--there, my darling," said my poor wife, "don't be afraid; there's
nothing but me--your own mamma--and little baby in the room; nothing, my
darling; nothing indeed."

"Mamma, mamma, don't move; don't go near him"; the child continued
wildly. "It's only his back now; don't make him turn again; he's untying
his handkerchief. Oh! baby, baby; he'll _kill_ baby! and he's lifting up
those green things from his eyes; don't you see him doing it? Mamma,
mamma, why does he come here? Oh, mamma, poor baby--poor little baby!"

She was looking with a terrified gaze at the little boy's bed, which lay
directly opposite to her own, and in which he was sleeping calmly.

"Hush, hush, my darling child," said my wife, with difficulty
restraining an hysterical burst of tears; "for God's sake don't speak so
wildly, my own precious love--there, there--don't be frightened--there,
darling, there."

"Oh! poor baby--poor little darling baby," the child continued as before;
"will no one save him--tell that wicked man to go away--oh--there--why,
mamma--don't--oh, sure you won't let him--don't--don't--he'll take the
child's life--will you let him lie down that way on the bed--save poor
little baby--oh, baby, baby, waken--his head is on your face."

As she said this she raised her voice to a cry of despairing terror which
made the whole room ring again.

This cry, or rather yell, reached my ears as I sate reading in the
parlour by myself, and fearing I knew not what, I rushed to the
apartment; before I reached it, the sound had subsided into low but
violent sobbing; and, just as I arrived at the threshold I heard, close
at my feet, a fierce protracted growl, and something rubbing along the
surbase. I was in the dark, but, with a feeling of mingled terror and
fury, I stamped and struck at the abhorred brute with my feet, but in
vain. The next moment I was in the room, and heard little Fanny, through
her sobs, cry--

"Oh, poor baby is killed--that wicked man has killed him--he uncovered
his face, and put it on him, and lay upon the bed and killed poor baby. I
knew he came to kill him. Ah, papa, papa, why did you not come up before
he went?--he is gone, he went away as soon as he killed our poor little
darling baby."

I could not conceal my agitation, quite, and I said to my wife--

"Has he, Smith, been here?"

"No."

"What is it, then?"

"The child has seen _some_ one."

"Seen whom? Who? Who has been here?"

"I did not see it; but--but I am sure the child saw--that is, _thought_
she saw _him_;--the person you have named. Oh, God, in mercy deliver us!
What shall I do--what shall I do!"

Thus saying, the dear little woman burst into tears, and crying, as if
her heart would break, sobbed out an entreaty that I would look at baby;
adding, that she herself had not courage to see whether her darling was
sleeping or dead.

"Dead!" I exclaimed. "Tut, tut, my darling; you must not give way to such
morbid fancies--he is very well, I see him breathing;" and so saying, I
went over to the bed where our little boy was lying. He was slumbering;
though it seemed to me very heavily, and his cheeks were flushed.

"Sleeping tranquilly, my darling--tranquilly, and deeply; and with a
warm colour in his cheeks," I said, rearranging the coverlet, and
retiring to my wife, who sate almost breathless whilst I was looking at
our little boy.

"Thank God--thank God," she said quietly; and she wept again; and rising,
came to his bedside.

"Yes, yes--alive; thank God; but it seems to me he is breathing very
short, and with difficulty, and he looks--_does_ he not look hot and
feverish? Yes, he _is_ very hot; feel his little hand--feel his neck;
merciful heaven! he is burning."

It was, indeed, very true, that his skin was unnaturally dry and hot; his
little pulse, too, was going at a fearful rate.

"I do think," said I--resolved to conceal the extent of my own
apprehensions--"I do think that he is just a _little_ feverish; but he
has often been much more so; and will, I dare say, in the morning, be
perfectly well again. I dare say, but for little Fanny's _dream_, we
should not have observed it at all."

"Oh, my darling, my darling, my darling!" sobbed the poor little woman,
leaning over the bed, with her hands locked together, and looking the
very picture of despair. "Oh, my darling, what has happened to you? I put
you into your bed, looking so well and beautiful, this evening, and here
you are, stricken with sickness, my own little love. Oh, you will
not--you cannot, leave your poor mother!"

It was quite plain that she despaired of the child from the moment we had
ascertained that it was unwell. As it happened, her presentiment was but
too truly prophetic. The apothecary said the child's ailment was
"suppressed small-pox"; the physician pronounced it "typhus." The only
certainty about it was the issue--the child died.

To me few things appear so beautiful as a very young child in its
shroud. The little innocent face looks so sublimely simple and confiding
amongst the cold terrors of death--crimeless, and fearless, that little
mortal has passed alone under the shadow, and explored the mystery of
dissolution. There is death in its sublimest and purest image--no
hatred, no hypocrisy, no suspicion, no care for the morrow ever darkened
that little face; death has come lovingly upon it; there is nothing
cruel, or harsh, in his victory. The yearnings of love, indeed, cannot
be stifled; for the prattle, and smiles, and all the little world of
thoughts that were so delightful, are gone for ever. Awe, too, will
overcast us in its presence--for we are looking on death; but we do not
fear for the little, lonely voyager--for the child has gone, simple and
trusting, into the presence of its all-wise Father; and of such, we
know, is the kingdom of heaven.

And so we parted from poor little baby. I and his poor old nurse
drove in a mourning carriage, in which lay the little coffin, early
in the morning, to the churchyard of ----. Sore, indeed, was my
heart, as I followed that little coffin to the grave! Another burial
had just concluded as we entered the churchyard, and the mourners
stood in clusters round the grave, into which the sexton was now
shovelling the mould.

As I stood, with head uncovered, listening to the sublime and touching
service which our ritual prescribes, I found that a gentleman had drawn
near also, and was standing at my elbow. I did not turn to look at him
until the earth had closed over my darling boy; I then walked a little
way apart, that I might be alone, and drying my eyes, sat down upon a
tombstone, to let the confusion of my mind subside.

While I was thus lost in a sorrowful reverie, the gentleman who had stood
near me at the grave was once more at my side. The face of the stranger,
though I could not call it handsome, was very remarkable; its expression
was the purest and noblest I could conceive, and it was made very
beautiful by a look of such compassion as I never saw before.

"Why do you sorrow as one without hope?" he said, gently.

"I _have_ no hope," I answered.

"Nay, I think you have," he answered again; "and I am sure you will soon
have more. That little child for which you grieve, has escaped the
dangers and miseries of life; its body has perished; but he will receive
in the end the crown of life. God has given him an early victory."

I know not what it was in him that rebuked my sullen pride, and humbled
and saddened me, as I listened to this man. He was dressed in deep
mourning, and looked more serene, noble, and sweet than any I had ever
seen. He was young, too, as I have said, and his voice very clear and
harmonious. He talked to me for a long time, and I listened to him with
involuntary reverence. At last, however, he left me, saying he had often
seen me walking into town, about the same hour that he used to go that
way, and that if he saw me again he would walk with me, and so we might
reason of these things together.

It was late when I returned to my home, now a house of mourning.



PART II


Our home was one of sorrow and of fear. The child's death had stricken us
with terror no less than grief. Referring it, as we both tacitly did, to
the mysterious and fiendish agency of the abhorred being whom, in an evil
hour, we had admitted into our house, we both viewed him with a degree
and species of fear for which I can find no name.

I felt that some further calamity was impending. I could not hope that we
were to be delivered from the presence of the malignant agent who
haunted, rather than inhabited our home, without some additional proofs
alike of his malice and his power.

My poor wife's presentiments were still more terrible and overpowering,
though not more defined, than my own. She was never tranquil while our
little girl was out of her sight; always dreading and expecting some new
revelation of the evil influence which, as we were indeed both persuaded,
had bereft our darling little boy of life. Against an hostility so
unearthly and intangible there was no guarding, and the sense of
helplessness intensified the misery of our situation. Tormented with
doubts of the very basis of her religion, and recoiling from the ordeal
of prayer with the strange horror with which the victim of hydrophobia
repels the pure water, she no longer found the consolation which, had
sorrow reached her in any other shape, she would have drawn from the
healing influence of religion. We were both of us unhappy, dismayed,
DEMON-STRICKEN.

Meanwhile, our lodger's habits continued precisely the same. If, indeed,
the sounds which came from his apartments were to be trusted, he and his
agents were more on the alert than ever. I can convey to you, good
reader, no notion, even the faintest, of the dreadful sensation always
more or less present to my mind, and sometimes with a reality which
thrilled me almost to frenzy--the apprehension that I had admitted into
my house the incarnate spirit of the dead or damned, to torment me and
my family.

It was some nights after the burial of our dear little baby; we had not
gone to bed until late, and I had slept, I suppose, some hours, when I
was awakened by my wife, who clung to me with the energy of terror. She
said nothing, but grasped and shook me with more than her natural
strength. She had crept close to me, and was cowering with her head under
the bedclothes.

The room was perfectly dark, as usual, for we burned no night-light; but
from the side of the bed next her proceeded a voice as of one sitting
there with his head within a foot of the curtains--and, merciful heavens!
it was the voice of our lodger.

He was discoursing of the death of our baby, and inveighing, in the old
mocking tone of hate and suppressed fury, against the justice, mercy, and
goodness of God. He did this with a terrible plausibility of sophistry,
and with a resolute emphasis and precision, which seemed to imply, "I
have got something to tell you, and, whether you like it or like it not,
I _will_ say out my say."

To pretend that I felt anger at his intrusion, or emotion of any sort,
save the one sense of palsied terror, would be to depart from the truth.
I lay, cold and breathless, as if frozen to death--unable to move, unable
to utter a cry--with the voice of that demon pouring, in the dark, his
undisguised blasphemies and temptations close into my ears. At last the
dreadful voice ceased--whether the speaker went or stayed I could not
tell--the silence, which he might be improving for the purpose of some
hellish strategem, was to me more tremendous even than his speech.

We both lay awake, not daring to move or speak, scarcely even breathing,
but clasping one another fast, until at length the welcome light of day
streamed into the room through the opening door, as the servant came in
to call us. I need not say that our nocturnal visitant had left us.

The magnanimous reader will, perhaps, pronounce that I ought to have
pulled on my boots and inexpressibles with all available despatch, run to
my lodger's bedroom, and kicked him forthwith downstairs, and the entire
way moreover out to the public road, as some compensation for the
scandalous affront put upon me and my wife by his impertinent visit. Now,
at that time, I had no scruples against what are termed the laws of
honour, was by no means deficient in "pluck," and gifted, moreover, with
a somewhat excitable temper. Yet, I will honestly avow that, so far from
courting a collision with the dreaded stranger, I would have recoiled at
his very sight, and given my eyes to avoid him, such was the ascendancy
which he had acquired over me, as well as everybody else in my household,
in his own quiet, irresistible, hellish way.

The shuddering antipathy which our guest inspired did not rob his
infernal homily of its effect. It was not a new or strange thing which
he presented to our minds. There was an awful subtlety in the train of
his suggestions. All that he had said had floated through my own mind
before, without order, indeed, or shew of logic. From my own rebellious
heart the same evil thoughts had risen, like pale apparitions hovering
and lost in the fumes of a necromancer's cauldron. His was like the
summing up of all this--a reflection of my own feelings and fancies--but
reduced to an awful order and definiteness, and clothed with a
sophistical form of argument. The effect of it was powerful. It revived
and exaggerated these bad emotions--it methodised and justified
them--and gave to impulses and impressions, vague and desultory before,
something of the compactness of a system.

My misfortune, therefore, did not soften, it exasperated me. I regarded
the Great Disposer of events as a persecutor of the human race, who took
delight in their miseries. I asked why my innocent child had been smitten
down into the grave?--and why my darling wife, whose first object, I
knew, had ever been to serve and glorify her Maker, should have been thus
tortured and desolated by the cruelest calamity which the malignity of a
demon could have devised? I railed and blasphemed, and even in my agony
defied God with the impotent rage and desperation of a devil, in his
everlasting torment.

In my bitterness, I could not forbear speaking these impenitent
repetitions of the language of our nightly visitant, even in the presence
of my wife. She heard me with agony, almost with terror. I pitied and
loved her too much not to respect even her weaknesses--for so I
characterised her humble submission to the chastisements of heaven. But
even while I spared her reverential sensitiveness, the spectacle of her
patience but enhanced my own gloomy and impenitent rage.

I was walking into town in this evil mood, when I was overtaken by the
gentleman whom I had spoken with in the churchyard on the morning when my
little boy was buried. I call him _gentleman_, but I could not say _what_
was his rank--I never thought about it; there was a grace, a purity, a
compassion, and a grandeur of intellect in his countenance, in his
language, in his mien, that was beautiful and kinglike. I felt, in his
company, a delightful awe, and an humbleness more gratifying than any
elation of earthly pride.

He divined my state of feeling, but he said nothing harsh. He did not
rebuke, but he reasoned with me--and oh! how mighty was that
reasoning--without formality--without effort--as the flower grows and
blossoms. Its process was in harmony with the successions of
nature--gentle, spontaneous, irresistible.

At last he left me. I was grieved at his departure--I was
wonder-stricken. His discourse had made me cry tears at once sweet and
bitter; it had sounded depths I knew not of, and my heart was disquieted
within me. Yet my trouble was happier than the resentful and defiant calm
that had reigned within me before.

When I came home, I told my wife of my having met the same good, wise man
I had first seen by the grave of my child. I recounted to her his
discourse, and, as I brought it again to mind, my tears flowed afresh,
and I was happy while I wept.

I now see that the calamity which bore at first such evil fruit, was good
for me. It fixed my mind, however rebelliously, upon God, and it stirred
up all the passions of my heart. Levity, inattention, and
self-complacency are obstacles harder to be overcome than the violence of
evil passions--the transition from hate is easier than from indifference,
to love. A mighty change was making on my mind.

I need not particularise the occasions upon which I again met my
friend, for so I knew him to be, nor detail the train of reasoning and
feeling which in such interviews he followed out; it is enough to say,
that he assiduously cultivated the good seed he had sown, and that his
benignant teachings took deep root, and flourished in my soul,
heretofore so barren.

One evening, having enjoyed on the morning of the same day another of
those delightful and convincing conversations, I was returning on foot
homeward; and as darkness had nearly closed, and the night threatened
cold and fog, the footpaths were nearly deserted.

As I walked on, deeply absorbed in the discourse I had heard on the same
morning, a person overtook me, and continued to walk, without much
increasing the interval between us, a little in advance of me. There came
upon me, at the same moment, an indefinable sinking of the heart, a
strange and unaccountable fear. The pleasing topics of my meditations
melted away, and gave place to a sense of danger, all the more unpleasant
that it was vague and objectless. I looked up. What was that which moved
before me? I stared--I faltered; my heart fluttered as if it would choke
me, and then stood still. It was the peculiar and unmistakeable form of
our lodger.

Exactly as I looked at him, he turned his head, and looked at me over his
shoulder. His face was muffled as usual. I cannot have seen its features
with any completeness, yet I felt that his look was one of fury. The next
instant he was at my side; and my heart quailed within me--my limbs all
but refused their office; yet the very emotions of terror, which might
have overcome me, acted as a stimulus, and I quickened my pace.

"Hey! what a pious person! So I suppose you have learned at last that
'evil communications corrupt good manners'; and you are absolutely afraid
of the old infidel, the old blasphemer, hey?"

I made him no answer; I was indeed too much agitated to speak.

"You'll make a good Christian, no doubt," he continued; "the independent
man, who thinks for himself, reasons his way to his principles, and
sticks fast to them, is sure to be true to whatever system he embraces.
You have been so consistent a philosopher, that I am sure you will make a
steady Christian. You're not the man to be led by the nose by a
sophistical mumbler. _You_ could never be made the prey of a grasping
proselytism; _you_ are not the sport of every whiff of doctrine, nor the
facile slave of whatever superstition is last buzzed in your ear. No, no:
you've got a masculine intellect, and think for yourself, hey?"

I was incapable of answering him. I quickened my pace to escape from his
detested persecution; but he was close beside me still.

We walked on together thus for a time, during which I heard him muttering
fast to himself, like a man under fierce and malignant excitement. We
reached, at length, the gateway of my dwelling; and I turned the
latch-key in the wicket, and entered the enclosure. As we stood together
within, he turned full upon me, and confronting me with an aspect whose
character I felt rather than saw, he said--

"And so you mean to be a Christian, after all! Now just reflect how very
absurdly you are choosing. Leave the Bible to that class of fanatics who
may hope to be saved under its system, and, in the name of common sense,
study the Koran, or some less ascetic tome. Don't be gulled by a
plausible slave, who wants nothing more than to multiply _professors_ of
his theory. Why don't you _read_ the Bible, you miserable, puling
poltroon, before you hug it as a treasure? Why don't you read it, and
learn out of the mouth of the founder of Christianity, that there is one
sin for which there is _no_ forgiveness--blasphemy against the Holy
Ghost, hey?--and that sin I myself have heard you commit by the hour--in
my presence--in my room. I have heard you commit it in our free
discussions a dozen times. The Bible seals against you the lips of mercy.
If _it_ be true, you are this moment as irrevocably damned as if you had
died with those blasphemies on your lips."

Having thus spoken, he glided into the house. I followed slowly.

His words rang in my ears--I was stunned. What he had said I feared might
be true. Giant despair felled me to the earth. He had recalled, and
lighted up with a glare from the pit, remembrances with which I knew not
how to cope. It was true I had spoken with daring impiety of subjects
whose sacredness I now began to appreciate. With trembling hands I opened
the Bible. I read and re-read the mysterious doom recorded by the
Redeemer himself against blasphemers of the Holy Ghost--monsters set
apart from the human race, and damned and dead, even while they live and
walk upon the earth. I groaned--I wept. Henceforward the Bible, I
thought, must be to me a dreadful record of despair. I dared not read it.

I will not weary you with all my mental agonies. My dear little wife did
something toward relieving my mind, but it was reserved for the friend,
to whose heavenly society I owed so much, to tranquillise it once more.
He talked this time to me longer, and even more earnestly than before. I
soon encountered him again. He expounded to me the ways of Providence,
and showed me how needful sorrow was for every servant of God. How mercy
was disguised in tribulation, and our best happiness came to us, like our
children, in tears and wailing. He showed me that trials were sent to
call us up, with a voice of preternatural power, from the mortal apathy
of sin and the world. And then, again, in our new and better state, to
prove our patience and our faith--

"The more trouble befalls you, the nearer is God to you. He visits you in
sorrow--and sorrow, as well as joy, is a sign of his presence. If, then,
other griefs overtake you, remember this--be patient, be faithful; and
bless the name of God."

I returned home comforted and happy, although I felt assured that some
further and sadder trial was before me.

Still our household was overcast by the same insurmountable dread of our
tenant. The same strange habits characterised him, and the same
unaccountable sounds disquieted us--an atmosphere of death and malice
hovered about his door, and we all hated and feared to pass it.

Let me now tell, as well and briefly as I may, the dreadful circumstances
of my last great trial. One morning, my wife being about her household
affairs, and I on the point of starting for town, I went into the parlour
for some letters which I was to take with me. I cannot easily describe my
consternation when, on entering the room, I saw our lodger seated near
the window, with our darling little girl upon his knee.

His back was toward the door, but I could plainly perceive that the
respirator had been removed from his mouth, and that the odious green
goggles were raised. He was sitting, as it seemed, absolutely without
motion, and his face was advanced close to that of the child.

I stood looking at this group in a state of stupor for some seconds. He
was, I suppose, conscious of my presence, for although he did not turn
his head, or otherwise take any note of my arrival, he readjusted the
muffler which usually covered his mouth, and lowered the clumsy
spectacles to their proper place.

The child was sitting upon his knee as motionless as he himself, with a
countenance white and rigid as that of a corpse, and from which every
trace of meaning, except some vague character of terror, had fled, and
staring with a fixed and dilated gaze into his face.

As it seemed, she did not perceive my presence. Her eyes were transfixed
and fascinated. She did not even seem to me to breathe. Horror and
anguish at last overcame my stupefaction.

"What--what is it?" I cried; "what ails my child, my darling child?"

"I'd be glad to know, myself," he replied, coolly; "it is certainly
something very queer."

"What is it, darling?" I repeated, frantically, addressing the child.

"What is it?" he reiterated. "Why it's pretty plain, I should suppose,
that the child is ill."

"Oh merciful God!" I cried, half furious, half terrified--"You have
injured her--you have terrified her. Give me my child--give her to me."

These words I absolutely shouted, and stamped upon the floor in my horrid
excitement.

"Pooh, pooh!" he said, with a sort of ugly sneer; "the child is
nervous--you'll make her more so--be quiet and she'll probably find her
tongue presently. I have had her on my knee some minutes, but the sweet
bird could not tell what ails her."

"Let the child go," I shouted in a voice of thunder; "let her go, I
say--let her go."

He took the passive, death-like child, and placed her standing by the
window, and rising, he simply said--

"As soon as you grow cool, you are welcome to ask me what questions you
like. The child is plainly ill. I should not wonder if she had seen
something that frightened her."

Having thus spoken, he passed from the room. I felt as if I spoke, saw,
and walked in a horrid dream. I seized the darling child in my arms, and
bore her away to her mother.

"What is it--for mercy's sake what is the matter?" she cried, growing in
an instant as pale as the poor child herself.

"I found that--that _demon_--in the parlour with the child on his lap,
staring in her face. She is manifestly terrified."

"Oh! gracious God! she is lost--she is killed," cried the poor
mother, frantically looking into the white, apathetic, meaningless
face of the child.

"Fanny, darling Fanny, tell us if you are ill," I cried, pressing the
little girl in terror to my heart.

"Tell your own mother, my darling," echoed my poor little wife. "Oh!
darling, darling child, speak to your poor mother."

It was all in vain. Still the same dilated, imploring gaze--the same pale
face--wild and dumb. We brought her to the open window--we gave her cold
water to drink--we sprinkled it in her face. We sent for the apothecary,
who lived hard by, and he arrived in a few moments, with a parcel of
tranquillising medicines. These, however, were equally unavailing.

Hour after hour passed away. The darling child looked upon us as if she
would have given the world to speak to us, or to weep, but she uttered no
sound. Now and then she drew a long breath as though preparing to say
something, but still she was mute. She often put her hand to her throat,
as if there was some pain or obstruction there.

I never can, while I live, lose one line of that mournful and terrible
portrait--the face of my stricken child. As hour after hour passed away,
without bringing the smallest change or amendment, we grew both alarmed,
and at length absolutely terrified for her safety.

We called in a physician toward night, and told him that we had reason to
suspect that the child had somehow been frightened, and that in no other
way could we at all account for the extraordinary condition in which he
found her.

This was a man, I may as well observe, though I do not name him, of the
highest eminence in his profession, and one in whose skill, from past
personal experience, I had the best possible reasons for implicitly
confiding.

He asked a multiplicity of questions, the answers to which seemed to
baffle his attempts to arrive at a satisfactory diagnosis. There was
something undoubtedly anomalous in the case, and I saw plainly that there
were features in it which puzzled and perplexed him not a little.

At length, however, he wrote his prescription, and promised to return at
nine o'clock. I remember there was something to be rubbed along her
spine, and some medicines beside.

But these remedies were as entirely unavailing as the others. In a state
of dismay and distraction we watched by the bed in which, in accordance
with the physician's direction, we had placed her. The absolute
changelessness of her condition filled us with despair. The day which had
elapsed had not witnessed even a transitory variation in the dreadful
character of her seizure. Any change, even a change for the worse, would
have been better than this sluggish, hopeless monotony of suffering.

At the appointed hour the physician returned. He appeared disappointed,
almost shocked, at the failure of his prescriptions. On feeling her pulse
he declared that she must have a little wine. There had been a wonderful
prostration of all the vital powers since he had seen her before. He
evidently thought the case a strange and precarious one.

She was made to swallow the wine, and her pulse rallied for a time, but
soon subsided again. I and the physician were standing by the fire,
talking in whispers of the darling child's symptoms, and likelihood of
recovery, when we were arrested in our conversation by a cry of anguish
from the poor mother, who had never left the bedside of her little child,
and this cry broke into bitter and convulsive weeping.

The poor little child had, on a sudden, stretched down her little hands
and feet, and died. There is no mistaking the features of death: the
filmy eye and dropt jaw once seen, are recognised whenever we meet them
again. Yet, spite of our belief, we cling to hope; and the distracted
mother called on the physician, in accents which might have moved a
statue, to say that her darling was not dead, not quite dead--that
something might still be done--that it could not be all over. Silently
he satisfied himself that no throb of life still fluttered in that
little frame.

"It is, indeed, all over," he said, in tones scarce above a whisper; and
pressing my hand kindly, he said, "comfort your poor wife"; and so, after
a momentary pause, he left the room.

This blow had smitten me with stunning suddenness. I looked at the dead
child, and from her to her poor mother. Grief and pity were both
swallowed up in transports of fury and detestation with which the
presence in my house of the wretch who had wrought all this destruction
and misery filled my soul. My heart swelled with ungovernable rage; for a
moment my habitual fear of him was neutralised by the vehemence of these
passions. I seized a candle in silence, and mounted the stairs. The sight
of the accursed cat, flitting across the lobby, and the loneliness of the
hour, made me hesitate for an instant. I had, however, gone so far, that
shame sustained me. Overcoming a momentary thrill of dismay, and
determined to repel and defy the influence that had so long awed me, I
knocked sharply at the door, and, almost at the same instant, pushed it
open, and entered our lodger's chamber.

He had had no candle in the room, and it was lighted only by the
"darkness visible" that entered through the window. The candle which I
held very imperfectly illuminated the large apartment; but I saw his
spectral form floating, rather than walking, back and forward in front of
the windows.

At sight of him, though I hated him more than ever, my instinctive fear
returned. He confronted me, and drew nearer and nearer, without speaking.
There was something indefinably fearful in the silent attraction which
seemed to be drawing him to me. I could not help recoiling, little by
little, as he came toward me, and with an effort I said--

"You know why I have come: the child--she's dead!"

"Dead--ha!--_dead_--is she?" he said, in his odious, mocking tone.

"Yes--dead!" I cried, with an excitement which chilled my very marrow
with horror; "and _you_ have killed her, as you killed my other."

"How?--I killed her!--eh?--ha, ha!" he said, still edging nearer
and nearer.

"Yes; I say you!" I shouted, trembling in every joint, but
possessed by that unaccountable infatuation which has made men
invoke, spite of themselves, their own destruction, and which I was
powerless to resist--"deny it as you may, it is you who killed
her--wretch!--FIEND!--no wonder she could not stand the breath and
glare of HELL!"

"And you are one of those who believe that not a sparrow falls to the
ground without your Creator's consent," he said, with icy sarcasm; "and
this is a specimen of Christian resignation--hey? You charge his act upon
a poor fellow like me, simply that you may cheat the devil, and rave and
rebel against the decrees of heaven, under pretence of abusing me. The
breath and flare of hell!--eh? You mean that I removed this and these
(touching the covering of his mouth and eyes successively) as I _shall_
do now again, and show you there's no great harm in that."

There was a tone of menace in his concluding words not to be mistaken.

"Murderer and liar from the beginning, as you are, I defy you!" I
shouted, in a frenzy of hate and horror, stamping furiously on the floor.

As I said this, it seemed to me that he darkened and dilated before my
eyes. My senses, thoughts, consciousness, grew horribly confused, as if
some powerful, extraneous will, were seizing upon the functions of my
brain. Whether I were to be mastered by death, or madness, or possession,
I knew not; but hideous destruction of some sort was impending: all hung
upon the moment, and I cried aloud, in my agony, an adjuration in the
name of the three persons of the Trinity, that he should not torment me.

Stunned, bewildered, like a man recovered from a drunken fall, I stood,
freezing and breathless, in the same spot, looking into the room, which
wore, in my eyes, a strange, unearthly character. Mr. Smith was cowering
darkly in the window, and, after a silence, spoke to me in a croaking,
sulky tone, which was, however, unusually submissive.

"Don't it strike you as an odd procedure to break into a gentleman's
apartment at such an hour, for the purpose of railing at him in the
coarsest language? If you have any charge to make against me, do so; I
invite inquiry and defy your worst. If you think you can bring home to me
the smallest share of blame in this unlucky matter, call the coroner, and
let his inquest examine and cross-examine me, and sift the matter--if,
indeed, there is anything to _be_ sifted--to the bottom. Meanwhile, go
you about your business, and leave me to mine. But I see how the wind
sits; you want to get rid of me, and so you make the place odious to me.
But it won't do; and if you take to making criminal charges against me,
you had better look to yourself; for two can play at that game."

There was a suppressed whine in all this, which strangely contrasted with
the cool and threatening tone of his previous conversation.

Without answering a word I hurried from the room, and scarcely felt
secure, even when once more in the melancholy chamber, where my poor wife
was weeping.

Miserable, horrible was the night that followed. The loss of our child
was a calamity which we had not dared to think of. It had come, and with
a suddenness enough to bereave me of reason. It seemed all unreal, all
fantastic. It needed an effort to convince me, minute after minute, that
the dreadful truth was so; and the old accustomed feeling that she was
still alive, still running from room to room, and the expectation that I
should hear her step and her voice, and see her entering at the door,
would return. But still the sense of dismay, of having received some
stunning, irreparable blow, remained behind; and then came the horrible
effort, like that with which one rouses himself from a haunted sleep, the
question, "What disaster is this that has befallen?"--answered, alas! but
too easily, too terribly! Amidst all this was perpetually rising before
my fancy the obscure, dilated figure of our lodger, as he had confronted
me in his malign power that night. I dismissed the image with a shudder
as often as it recurred; and even now, at this distance of time, I have
felt more than I could well describe in the mere effort to fix my
recollection upon its hated traits, while writing the passages I have
just concluded.

This hateful scene I did not recount to my poor wife. Its horrors were
too fresh upon me. I had not courage to trust myself with the agitating
narrative; and so I sate beside her, with her hand locked in mine: I had
no comfort to offer but the dear love I bore her.

At last, like a child, she cried herself to sleep--the dull, heavy
slumber of worn-out grief. As for me, the agitation of my soul was too
fearful and profound for repose. My eye accidentally rested on the holy
volume, which lay upon the table open, as I had left it in the morning;
and the first words which met my eye were these--"For our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory." This blessed sentence riveted my
attention, and shed a stream of solemn joy upon my heart; and so the
greater part of that mournful night, I continued to draw comfort and
heavenly wisdom from the same inspired source.

Next day brought the odious incident, the visit of the undertaker--the
carpentery, upholstery, and millinery of death. Why has not civilisation
abolished these repulsive and shocking formalities? What has the poor
corpse to do with frills, and pillows, and napkins, and all the equipage
in which it rides on its last journey? There is no intrusion so jarring
to the decent grief of surviving affection, no conceivable mummery more
derisive of mortality.

In the room which we had been so long used to call "the nursery," now
desolate and mute, the unclosed coffin lay, with our darling shrouded in
it. Before we went to our rest at night we visited it. In the morning the
lid was to close over that sweet face, and I was to see the child laid by
her little brother. We looked upon the well-known and loved features,
purified in the sublime serenity of death, for a long time, whispering to
one another, among our sobs, how sweet and beautiful we thought she
looked; and at length, weeping bitterly, we tore ourselves away.

We talked and wept for many hours, and at last, in sheer exhaustion,
dropt asleep. My little wife awaked me, and said--

"I think they have come--the--the undertakers."

It was still dark, so I could not consult my watch; but they were to have
arrived early, and as it was winter, and the nights long, the hour of
their visit might well have arrived.

"What, darling, is your reason for thinking so?" I asked.

"I am sure I have heard them for some time in the nursery," she answered.
"Oh! dear, dear little Fanny! Don't allow them to close the coffin until
I have seen my darling once more."

I got up, and threw some clothes hastily about me. I opened the door and
listened. A sound like a muffled knocking reached me from the nursery.

"Yes, my darling!" I said, "I think they have come. I will go and desire
them to wait until you have seen her again."

And, so saying, I hastened from the room.

Our bedchamber lay at the end of a short corridor, opening from the
lobby, at the head of the stairs, and the nursery was situated nearly at
the end of a corresponding passage, which opened from the same lobby at
the opposite side As I hurried along I distinctly heard the same sounds.
The light of dawn had not yet appeared, but there was a strong moonlight
shining through the windows. I thought the morning could hardly be so far
advanced as we had at first supposed; but still, strangely as it now
seems to me, suspecting nothing amiss, I walked on in noiseless,
slippered feet, to the nursery-door. It stood half open; some one had
unquestionably visited it since we had been there. I stepped forward, and
entered. At the threshold horror arrested my advance.

The coffin was placed upon tressles at the further extremity of the
chamber, with the foot of it nearly towards the door, and a large window
at the side of it admitted the cold lustre of the moon full upon the
apparatus of mortality, and the objects immediately about it.

At the foot of the coffin stood the ungainly form of our lodger. He
seemed to be intently watching the face of the corpse, and was stooped a
little, while with his hands he tapped sharply, from time to time at the
sides of the coffin, like one who designs to awaken a slumberer. Perched
upon the body of the child, and nuzzling among the grave-clothes, with a
strange kind of ecstasy, was the detested brute, the cat I have so often
mentioned.

The group thus revealed, I looked upon but for one instant; in the next I
shouted, in absolute terror--

"In God's name! what are you doing?"

Our lodger shuffled away abruptly, as if disconcerted; but the
ill-favoured cat, whisking round, stood like a demon sentinel upon the
corpse, growling and hissing, with arched back and glaring eyes.

The lodger, turning abruptly toward me, motioned me to one side.
Mechanically I obeyed his gesture, and he hurried hastily from the room.

Sick and dizzy, I returned to my own chamber. I confess I had not nerve
to combat the infernal brute, which still held possession of the room,
and so I left it undisturbed.

This incident I did not tell to my wife until some time afterwards; and I
mention it here because it was, and is, in my mind associated with a
painful circumstance which very soon afterwards came to light.

That morning I witnessed the burial of my darling child. Sore and
desolate was my heart; but with infinite gratitude to the great
controller of all events, I recognised in it a change which nothing but
the spirit of all good can effect. The love and fear of God had grown
strong within me--in humbleness I bowed to his awful will--with a sincere
trust I relied upon the goodness, the wisdom, and the mercy of him who
had sent this great affliction. But a further incident connected with
this very calamity was to test this trust and patience to the uttermost.

It was still early when I returned, having completed the last sad office.
My wife, as I afterwards learned, still lay weeping upon her bed. But
somebody awaited my return in the hall, and opened the door, anticipating
my knock. This person was our lodger.

I was too much appalled by the sudden presentation of this abhorred
spectre even to retreat, as my instinct would have directed, through the
open door.

"I have been expecting your return," he said, "with the design of saying
something which it might have profited you to learn, but now I apprehend
it is too late. What a pity you are so violent and impatient; you would
not have heard me, in all probability, this morning. You cannot think
how cross-grained and intemperate you have grown since you became a
saint--but that is your affair, not mine. You have buried your little
daughter this morning. It requires a good deal of that new attribute of
yours, _faith_, which judges all things by a rule of contraries, and can
never see anything but kindness in the worst afflictions which malignity
could devise, to discover benignity and mercy in the torturing calamity
which has just punished you and your wife for _nothing_! But I fancy
that it will be harder still when I tell you what I more than
suspect--ha, ha. It would be really ridiculous, if it were not
heart-rending; that your little girl has been actually buried _alive_;
do you comprehend me?--alive. For, upon my life, I fancy she was not
dead as she lay in her coffin."

I knew the wretch was exulting in the fresh anguish he had just
inflicted. I know not how it was, but any announcement of _disaster_ from
his lips, seemed to me to be necessarily true. Half-stifled with the
dreadful emotions he had raised, palpitating between hope and terror, I
rushed frantically back again, the way I had just come, running as fast
as my speed could carry me, toward the, alas! distant burial-ground where
my darling lay.

I stopped a cab slowly returning to town, at the corner of the lane,
sprang into it, directed the man to drive to the church of ----, and
promised him anything and everything for despatch. The man seemed amazed;
doubtful, perhaps, whether he carried a maniac or a malefactor. Still he
took his chance for the promised reward, and galloped his horse, while I,
tortured with suspense, yelled my frantic incentives to further speed.

At last, in a space immeasurably short, but which to me was protracted
almost beyond endurance, we reached the spot. I halloed to the sexton,
who was now employed upon another grave, to follow me. I myself seized a
mattock, and in obedience to my incoherent and agonised commands, he
worked as he had never worked before. The crumbling mould flew swiftly to
the upper soil--deeper and deeper, every moment, grew the narrow
grave--at last I sobbed, "Thank God--thank God," as I saw the face of the
coffin emerge; a few seconds more and it lay upon the sward beside me,
and we both, with the edges of our spades, ripped up the lid.

_There_ was the corpse--but not the tranquil statue I had seen it last.
Its knees were both raised, and one of its little hands drawn up and
clenched near its throat, as if in a feeble but agonised struggle to
force up the superincumbent mass. The eyes, that I had last seen closed,
were now open, and the face no longer serenely pale, but livid and
distorted.

I had time to see all in an instant; the whole scene reeled and darkened
before me, and I swooned away.

When I came to myself, I found that I had been removed to the
vestry-room. The open coffin was in the aisle of the church, surrounded
by a curious crowd. A medical gentleman had examined the body carefully,
and had pronounced life totally extinct. The trepidation and horror I
experienced were indescribable. I felt like the murderer of my own child.
Desperate as I was of any chance of its life, I dispatched messengers for
no less than three of the most eminent physicians then practising in
London. All concurred--the child was now as dead as any other, the oldest
tenant of the churchyard.

Notwithstanding which, I would not permit the body to be reinterred for
several days, until the symptoms of decay became unequivocal, and the
most fantastic imagination could no longer cherish a doubt. This,
however, I mention only parenthetically, as I hasten to the conclusion of
my narrative. The circumstance which I have last described found its way
to the public, and caused no small sensation at the time.

I drove part of the way home, and then discharged the cab, and walked the
remainder. On my way, with an emotion of ecstasy I cannot describe, I met
the good being to whom I owed so much. I ran to meet him, and felt as if
I could throw myself at his feet, and kiss the very ground before him. I
knew by his heavenly countenance he was come to speak comfort and healing
to my heart.

With humbleness and gratitude, I drank in his sage and holy discourse. I
need not follow the gracious and delightful exposition of God's revealed
will and character with which he cheered and confirmed my faltering
spirit. A solemn joy, a peace and trust, streamed on my heart. The wreck
and desolation there, lost their bleak and ghastly character, like ruins
illuminated by the mellow beams of a solemn summer sunset.

In this conversation, I told him what I had never revealed to any one
before--the absolute terror, in all its stupendous and maddening
amplitude, with which I regarded our ill-omened lodger, and my agonised
anxiety to rid my house of him. My companion answered me--

"I know the person of whom you speak--he designs no good for you or any
other. He, too, knows me, and I have intimated to him that he must now
leave you, and visit you no more. Be firm and bold, trusting in God,
through his Son, like a good soldier, and you will win the victory from a
greater and even worse than he--the _unseen_ enemy of mankind. You need
not see or speak with your evil tenant any more. Call to him from your
hall, in the name of the Most Holy, to leave you bodily, with all that
appertains to him, this evening. He knows that he must go, and will obey
you. But leave the house as soon as may be yourself; you will scarce have
peace in it. Your own remembrances will trouble you and _other minds have
established associations within its walls and chambers too_."

These words sounded mysteriously in my ears.

Let me say here, before I bring my reminiscences to a close, a word or
two about the house in which these detested scenes occurred, and which I
did not long continue to inhabit. What I afterwards learned of it, seemed
to supply in part a dim explanation of these words.

In a country village there is no difficulty in accounting for the
tenacity with which the sinister character of a haunted tenement cleaves
to it. Thin neighbourhoods are favourable to scandal; and in such
localities the reputation of a house, like that of a woman, once blown
upon, never quite recovers. In huge London, however, it is quite another
matter; and, therefore, it was with some surprise that, five years after
I had vacated the house in which the occurrences I have described took
place, I learned that a respectable family who had taken it were obliged
to give it up, on account of annoyances, for which they could not
account, and all proceeding from the apartments formerly occupied by our
"lodger." Among the sounds described were footsteps restlessly
traversing the floor of that room, accompanied by the peculiar tapping
of the crutch.

I was so anxious about this occurrence, that I contrived to have strict
inquiries made into the matter. The result, however, added little to what
I had at first learned--except, indeed, that our old friend, the cat,
bore a part in the transaction as I suspected; for the servant, who had
been placed to sleep in the room, complained that something bounded on
and off, and ran to-and-fro along the foot of the bed, in the dark. The
same servant, while in the room, in the broad daylight, had heard the
sound of walking, and even the rustling of clothes near him, as of people
passing and repassing; and, although he had never seen anything, he yet
became so terrified that he would not remain in the house, and
ultimately, in a short time, left his situation.

These sounds, attention having been called to them, were now incessantly
observed--the measured walking up and down the room, the opening and
closing of the door, and the teazing tap of the crutch--all these sounds
were continually repeated, until at last, worn out, frightened, and
worried, its occupants resolved on abandoning the house.

About four years since, having had occasion to visit the capital, I
resolved on a ramble by Old Brompton, just to see if the house were still
inhabited. I searched for it, however, in vain, and at length, with
difficulty, ascertained its site, upon which now stood two small,
staring, bran-new brick houses, with each a gay enclosure of flowers.
Every trace of our old mansion, and, let us hope, of our "mysterious
lodger," had entirely vanished.

Let me, however, return to my narrative where I left it.

Discoursing upon heavenly matters, my good and gracious friend
accompanied me even within the outer gate of my own house. I asked him to
come in and rest himself, but he would not; and before he turned to
depart, he lifted up his hand, and blessed me and my household.

Having done this, he went away. My eyes followed him till he disappeared,
and I turned to the house. My darling wife was standing at the window of
the parlour. There was a seraphic smile on her face--pale, pure, and
beautiful as death. She was gazing with an humble, heavenly earnestness
on us. The parting blessing of the stranger shed a sweet and hallowed
influence on my heart. I went into the parlour, to my darling: childless
she was now; I had now need to be a tender companion to her.

She raised her arms in a sort of transport, with the same smile of
gratitude and purity, and, throwing them round my neck, she said--

"I have seen him--it is he--the man that came with you to the door, and
blessed us as he went away--is the same I saw in my dream--the same who
took little baby in his arms, and said he would take care of him, and
give him safely to me again."

More than a quarter of a century has glided away since then; other
children have been given us by the good God--children who have been, from
infancy to maturity, a pride and blessing to us. Sorrows and reverses,
too, have occasionally visited us; yet, on the whole, we have been
greatly blessed; prosperity has long since ended all the cares of the
_res angusta domi_, and expanded our power of doing good to our
fellow-creatures. God has given it; and God, we trust, directs its
dispensation. In our children, and--would you think it?--our
_grand_-children, too, the same beneficent God has given us objects that
elicit and return all the delightful affections, and exchange the sweet
converse that makes home and family dearer than aught else, save that
blessed home where the Christian family shall meet at last.

The dear companion of my early love and sorrows still lives, blessed be
Heaven! The evening tints of life have fallen upon her; but the dear
remembrance of a first love, that never grew cold, makes her beauty
changeless for me. As for your humble servant, he is considerably her
senior, and looks it: time has stolen away his raven locks, and given
him a _chevelure_ of snow instead. But, as I said before, I and my wife
love, and, I believe, _admire_ one another more than ever; and I have
often seen our elder children smile archly at one another, when they
thought we did not observe them, thinking, no doubt, how like a pair of
lovers we two were.





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