MORE than thirty-five years ago, when my husband left the army till again summoned to military duty by the fatal Crimean war, it was agreed that we should live for at least a year with my father and mother, as some compensation to us all for the enforced and painful separation occasioned by our wandering army life. My father, Colonel D—, had just taken on lease an oldfashioned, picturesque-looking house on the banks of the Medway, close to Maidstone. Before the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. his building had been a branch establishment of the great nunnery in Maidstone, and was called the New Wark of Prestehelle, now corrupted into the more modern appellation of Newark House. The mansion and the estate belonging to it had been for more than two hundred years in the possession of an old Kentish family of the name of Browne, whose portraits, collected from generation to generation, were still in the house, but, to clear the place for the new tenant, had been ignominiously consigned to one of the large attics. Just before my father took the place a very beautiful chapel, part of the old property, into which we had a private door from our grounds, had been opened for divine service as a chapel of ease. It had been for years in the possession of a farmer to whom the lands of the estate were leased, and who used it as a barn, when the admiration of a wandering tourist was attracted to its groined roof and the delicate tracery here and there perceptible through desecrating piles of hay and straw. This tourist having drawn public attention to its beauty, a subscription was opened, and very soon the ancient building was cleansed, restored, and rededicated to its original purpose. Tradition averred that from our wine cellar to the friary at Aylesford, a distance of eight miles, there was a subterranean passage which had served in the olden time as a means of communication between the monks and the nuns. Be this as it may, there certainly was a very large opening in the cellar which the workmen employed in repairs seemed most reluctant to enter, and which my dear father, very insensible to romantic adventures, but tenderly concerned for the safety of his valuable wines, had most securely bricked up before any of his property was removed into the house. When we did take possession, it was found that large as was the house there was barely sufficient sleeping-room, my nursery establishment being added to the family staff of servants. Under these circumstances my mother was compelled to assign one of the attics as a bedroom for her own cook and housemaid, to which they made no objection, for the room was large, and though rather gloomy, from the small, old-fashioned casement windows, it had a delightful view of the river and the town beyond. I believe that the first night passed off quietly enough, but in the morning, when Mrs. Harris, the cook, went as usual to my mother’s dressingroom for orders, she requested permission to turn the old portraits which had been ranged round the room with their faces to the wall, it being dreadful, as she phrased it, “ for them horrid Brownes to be a-watching everything she did, and a-following her with their eyes to every corner of the room.” Permission for this change was easily granted, but it would appear that the buried originals of the portraits, indignant at being so unceremoniously displaced, resolved to avenge themselves, and very soon mysterious whispers of what took place nightly in the attic reached me through my nurse, whose face looked as pale as if she had shared in the terrors of her fellow-servants. The cook and housemaid both declared that as soon as they were in bed and the light put out, a trampling as of many feet began all over the room; in the calmest night the old casements rattled violently; an indistinct murmur of angry voices was heard, apparently muttering threats; however closely they drew the bed-curtains they were withdrawn by unseen hands; angry faces looked in upon them if they ventured their heads from under the clothes; and the bedclothes themselves were often forcibly pulled away, in spite of their frantic efforts to hold them fast. And all this went on during the whole night, only ceasing with the dawn of day, when they mostly fell into a troubled, uneasy sleep which was far from refreshing them. Of course this state of affairs could not go on. The cook, a hard-featured, strong-minded woman, determined to give warning, and Lucy, the housemaid, a young woman of very delicate health, became alarmingly ill. I had to represent to my dear mother the absolute necessity of yielding to their fears, and although at that time we both utterly repudiated the possibility of ghostly visitations, yet it was thought better to give up to the terrified women a spare bedroom, kept for visitors, on the floor with ourselves. Peace and tranquillity were again restored to the family, and as far as I know no member of it ever went near the haunted attic. I have often deeply regretted that I did not myself take some pains to investigate these mysterious occurrences.
A stout Yorkshire farmer of the name of James Wreggit, having emigrated to Canada, settled himself and family on a good farm which he rented in one of the townships. He was considered fairdealing and honorable in all transactions with his neighbors, and in every respect bore a most excellent character. In the farmer’s house was a first-floor sittingroom with a large fire-place. In this room the children slept, but from the first night evinced the greatest dislike to going to bed there, screaming with terror, and saying that a man was in the room with them. For a long time the parents paid no attention to their complaints. During harvest time a change was made, and the farmer himself slept in this room, as it was cooler and more convenient. The first night he slept there he was about to rise almost before the break of day, when, glancing towards the fire-place, he saw standing there a stranger of a dissipated, drunken appearance. “Hallo! What’s thee doing there ? ” was his very natural exclamation. Receiving no reply, “ Won’t thee speak? I’ll make thee speak!” and picking up one of his heavy boots from the bedside he was preparing to throw it at the intruder, when the man, suddenly raising his arm as if to ward off the blow, vanished in a moment from before his eyes. Wreggit, unable to get this matter out of his head, brooded over it till the next day, when about noon he entered into conversation with a neighbor who was working with him, and asked him to describe the former tenant of the farm, who had died from excessive drinking. The description so entirely resembled the man he had seen in the room that he at once exclaimed, “ I saw him last night! ” Wreggit recounted this to some old friends near whom he had lived before taking the farm, and it is from the dictation of one of his auditors that I have written down this remarkable circumstance. At the time neither Wreggit nor his friends had the slightest belief in apparitions.
An English family, who lived for years in the Rue Neuve at Calais, were constantly annoyed by ghostly visitations, mostly from a little withered-looking old woman, who obtained in the family the sobriquet of “ the old woman of the peartree,” from her so often disappearing at a pear-tree which stood close to the spot where an old stone staircase had been discovered leading down to a large subterranean vault. The house and garden stood upon part of the old site of the great Capuchin convent, and though the vault was at this time closed all round, with no visible mode of egress, yet tradition whispered that there were passages leading from it in all directions, one in particular extending as far as Fort Neuilly, a considerable distance off. The old pear-tree had been blighted while in full bloom, or, as the French curiously phrased it, “ moonstruck.” Soon after the family took possession of their apartments, the visits of the old woman began. They saw her in the bedrooms, they met her on the staircase, and often, when the four young ladies of the family stood talking at twilight in the garden, they would find one more than their number standing with them; but if they ventured even to whisper a remark about her presence she would glide away, turning an angry look upon the young party, and vanish by the peartree. At first they were much alarmed, and the eldest daughter mentioned the circumstance to the lady from whom they hired the house. She minutely described the quaint, old-fashioned dress of their unwelcome visitor, and even the bunch of keys at her girdle. Her auditor turned pale, and begged the young lady not to talk to any one of the old woman’s visits, as they had already been the cause of her apartments remaining long unlet; that she was said to have been a former proprietress of the house, who had been a dreadful miser, and had passed a long life in prowling about the premises day and night in search of buried treasure. Her most disagreeable visitation was to the bedroom of the mother of the family, who for a long time could not be persuaded that the younger children had not been lying on her bed, as every evening the marks of its having been lain on were distinctly visible. She was also much disturbed in the night by the bedclothes being forcibly pulled away; and whenever the father of the family (a lawyer in England) came over for a little recreation from his labors, he complained that he could not get a night’s rest, so incessant was the jerking of the bedclothes, while strange noises filled the room. In this room the old woman’s husband had died, and she seemed still to frequent it. One evening the third daughter ran gayly up the stairs, exclaiming that she “ did not care for the old woman, and was not a bit afraid of her!” Just as she was passing her mother’s room, the door of which was open, the old woman appeared at it, struck the young girl a violent blow on the shoulder, and disappeared into the room, slamming the door violently in her face. An hour after this two of the other sisters saw her passing up the stairs before them, turning into another door. This particular night the mother of the young ladies heard all through the night some one moving about her room.
But the old woman of the pear-tree was not the only one who lingered in the precincts of the old monkish domain. The second daughter gave me an account of what befell her in one of the rooms, which account I give in her own words: —
“It was in the winter of 1852 that I was sent up-stairs by mamma to get her a pocket-handkerchief from the drawers in the room opposite to hers. It was about six o’clock on a winter’s evening, and as the passages up-stairs were but imperfectly lit by the hall lamp, I went with considerable fear and reluctance. On entering the room I took a good look all round to make sure that none of the children were hiding there to frighten me. Having got the handkerchief from the drawers, I once more looked round before quitting the room, and, to my great astonishment, saw a lady kneeling in the attitude of prayer by the bedside; she turned her head as I approached, and I saw that her face was very beautiful, her hair most luxuriant, her dress long, falling in elegant folds around her. My fright was great, but I did not scream, and indeed was so certain that it must be a living person that I softly approached and laid my hand upon her head. What was my surprise when my hand fell completely through her head, meeting with no obstruction of solid flesh, but passing, as it were, through air. Turning round she looked at me in a severe and reproachful manner, as if for disturbing her at her devotions. I saw no more. I fled from the room, and only remember finding myself at the foot of the staircase; how I got there I was never able to tell.”
Mrs. G— with her two little girls of the respective ages of eight and nine years, had been staying in the country on a visit to her sister-in-law; but having taken a house near London, she sent the two children with their nurse off by an early train, following herself by one a few hours later. Towards the evening of the same day, one of the little girls walked into a room of the house which they had quitted in the morning, where a cousin, to whom she was much attached, was sitting at his studies, and said to him, “ I am come to say goodby, Walter; I shall never see you again.” Then kissing him, she vanished from the room. The young man was greatly startled and astonished, as he had himself seen both the little girls and their nurse off by the morning train. At this very time of the evening both the children in London were taken suddenly ill, while playing in their new home, a few hours after they had arrived. The doctor called in pronounced their complaint to be small-pox of the most malignant kind. They both died within the week, but the youngest died first. The day after she was buried, the poor bereaved mother was anxiously watching the last hours of the one still left, for whom she well knew no chance of life remained. Suddenly the sick child woke up from a kind of stupor, and exclaimed, “ Oh, look, mamma! look at the beautiful angels!” pointing to the foot of the bed. Mrs. G—saw nothing, but heard soft, sweet music, which seemed to float in the air. Again the child exclaimed, “Oh, dear mamma, there is Minnie! She has come for me! ” She smiled, and appeared greatly pleased. At this moment Mrs. G— distinctly heard a voice say, “ Come, dear Ada; I am waiting for you!” The sick child smiled once again, and died without a struggle. Long did the poor mother remember overhearing a childish conversation between the two little ones, in which the youngest said to the other that she felt sure she should die first, and would be certain to come and fetch her.
If it appear strange to us mortals, and even awful, that the disembodied spirit can, under certain conditions unknown to us, revisit the scenes of its previous existence, how much more awful and difficult of belief is it that spirits which have quitted their earthly life in the unrestrained indulgence of angry and malevolent passions can yet exercise such an influence over the corrupting clay which they apparently left behind them as to violate the sacred repose of the tomb, and terrify and appal the living! Such a circumstance certainly occurred at H—k Hall in Lincolnshire, and was long the theme of conversation in that county. H—k Hall had been in the possession of the H—family for hundreds of years; at the time of which I am writing the ancient line had dwindled down to two individuals, — the old squire in present possession, and his only brother and destined successor, who was unmarried, and very little younger than himself. The hall, which had once been so full of life and gayety, had become the abode of sorrow and gloom, in consequence of the early death of the squire’s young daughter, his only child, and the heiress of all his possessions.
This death followed in less than a year by that of his wife, to whom he was deeply attached, had quite broken down the old squire’s health and happiness. The lady and her daughter were deposited in the family vault amid the tears and regrets of the villagers, by whom they were much and deservedly beloved. For years the squire had had no intercourse whatever with his brother, between whom and the lady of the hall there had been a life-long feud: the hatred on her part having been quite of a passive nature, as she was never heard to mention his name; but on his, of the most abusive and virulent kind, which made his exclusion from the hall an absolute necessity. The cause of this hatred could only be guessed at even by the most curious, as none was ever assigned by either party. When the old squire, after his double bereavement, became almost heart-broken, the good pastor of the village, whose friendship with the family had existed for fifty years, effected a meeting and a thorough reconciliation between the long-estranged brothers, and the younger one took up his abode once more in the home of his ancestors. One only condition was made. — that the name of his deceased sister-in-law should never pass his lips. A year passed away. The old squire, soothed and comforted by the companionship of his early playfellow, began to recover both his health and spirits; but at this time a malignant fever broke out in the village. Among its victims was the squire’s brother, who during his whole life had known neither sickness nor disease. He was prostrated at once, and never rallied. The good minister before mentioned, who well knew the family history, unmoved by that fear of infection which made him a solitary watcher, took his stand by the bed of the dying man and vainly endeavored to draw his thoughts to the eternity which was fast opening before him. His pious words fell upon a dull, unlistening ear, but as he touched upon the duty of forgiveness, and cautiously alluded to his well-known hatred of the deceased Mrs. H—, the effect was appalling; all apathy vanished, and though a few minutes before apparently past the power of speech, yet now the sick man broke out into fierce imprecations, and by a last supreme effort raising himself upright in the bed exclaimed, “ I know that I am dying; but mark my last words: if, when I am dead, you dare to bury me in the same vault with that accursed woman, the living as well as the dead shall hear of me!” He fell back with a frightful oath on his lips, and expired. The horror-struck minister kept close in his own breast this dreadful death of one he had known so long, and thought it more kind, as well as more prudent, to keep the poor squire in ignorance of his brother’s last hours. As was the invariable custom in the H— family, the body, after lying in state for a time, was consigned with much pomp and ceremony to the family vault, and was placed next to the coffins of the squire’s wife and daughter. That very night the villagers living near the church-yard were disturbed by doleful shrieks and cries proceeding from the vault, — a noise of strife and straggling and blows, as if of enemies engaged in close fight. The next morning at daylight the strange tale was carried to the rectory, and the good clergyman thought it best, under the circumstances, to disclose to the squire his brother’s last fearful words and threats, and to suggest the opening of the vault. To this the squire, greatly shocked, consented, and the vault was unlocked and entered by a party sent to examine into the cause of the strange noises heard the night before. A scene perfectly inexplicable met their eyes. The coffins of the squire’s lady and daughter were lying in a far corner of the vault, the young girl’s coffin across her mother’s, as if to protect it. Close to them, standing erect and menacing, was the coffin of the squire’s brother, so recently and decorously placed upon black trestles. Amazement seized the by-standers, but under the superintendence of proper people the coffins were restored to their original places, and the vault was again closed up. At night the noises began again; the sound of blows, shrieks of pain, and a frightful contention of struggling enemies appalled the party of villagers set to watch the place, in order to prevent the possibility of deception. The tale was whispered far beyond the precincts of the village, and savans from the neighboring city, who laughed at the idea of anything supernatural, suggested that an explosion of gas from the foul air of the vault might have occasioned the displacement of the coffins. The squire was induced to have large ventilators placed in the vault; but this did not in the least abate the nuisance, which to the terror of the village rather increased than diminished. At length the squire himself resolved that a strong brick wall should be built up in the vault, so as to separate effectually the coffins of those who even in the solitude of the tomb seemed to keep up their antagonism. This had the desired effect; from that moment all was quiet in the vault, and the noises were never heard again; but for long afterwards the strange story was current in Lincolnshire.
More than forty years ago some circumstances occurred at Port Royal, in Jamaica, which at the time made a great noise in the civil as well as the military circles of the place, and which ended tragically for some of the parties concerned. It was only recently that I became acquainted with the full details of the affair from the recital of one who was at the time an inhabitant of the island, although not mixed up in what took place, and who had the story from written documents carefully preserved in the family. Many years before the date of the present story, an insurrection and massacre in the island afforded, as is too often the case, full scope for the indulgence of personal hatred and revenge, cloaked under the specious pretense of patriotism and public zeal. One of the most opulent merchants of Port Royal, retired from business, but occupying a situation of great public importance, had made himself obnoxious to the popular party by his strict adherence to his duties as a citizen and a magistrate. He had one deadly enemy, a neighbor as wealthy as himself, but whose infamous and licentious character had caused him to be entirely rejected by the family, not only as a suitor for the hand of one of Mr. M—’s lovely daughters, but even as a common acquaintance. Mr. M—’s house was in the outskirts of the town, in the midst of lovely gardens, and was furnished with a taste and splendor which only tropical luxury could suggest. The house, securely shut up and well defended, was considered so impregnable that Mr. M—, his large family, and his numerous dependents believed themselves in perfect safety when the insurrection broke out, and never thought of seeking safety by flight to a more distant spot. Their cruel enemy, however, found means to corrupt one of the inferior servants, and by the aid of this traitor obtained entrance at midnight for himself and a well-organized band of miscreants, to whom the certainty of rich plunder would have been a sufficient inducement even without the specious plea that Mr. M— had been the adviser of some harsh measures deemed necessary by the government to restore public order. The work of murder speedily began, and in spite of the resistance offered by the whole household, who nobly seconded their master, the family were driven from story to story, till they could go no further, having reached a large room at the top of the house, which, having no outlet, left them no chance of escape. No mercy was shown either to infancy, beauty, or helpless old age; every individual of the doomed family was massacred, and after securing a rich booty of jewels and plate the murderers would have set fire to the princely mansion, but that a body of troops came down upon them, too late to save their victims, but in time to save the house and much of its valuable contents from spoliation. The prime mover in this fiendish deed was killed in the conflict with the military while trying to escape; the house and grounds became utterly desolate, and were shunned by all. Passers-by after night-fall averred that shrieks of murder and cries for help were invariably heard proceeding upwards from the bottom to the very top of the house.
Such was its condition at the opening of the year 18—, when, the barracks at Port Royal being full to overflowing, and at this inopportune moment fresh troops arriving, it was found expedient to quarter some of them in the town. The haunted house, from its great size and close vicinity to the town, was mentioned to the general commanding as a suitable place, and it was settled that a large party of the newly arrived regiment, with their officers, should be quartered in the long-deserted mansion. All seemed to go well; the soldiers, glad to be again safe on land, roamed about at pleasure, and viewed with astonishment the spacious rooms, the rich carvings, the marble staircases, .and the half-decaying but still magnificent furniture profusely scattered about. The officers of the garrison, always hospitably inclined, had got ready a pleasant entertainment for the new-comers in one of the splendid saloons, and towards midnight all was glee and conviviality. About this time a loud noise was heard at the outer gates, which seemed as it were to fly open for the entrance of numbers, then a battering sound and confused demand for admittance at the great door of the hall, which opened in like manner of its own accord; then piercing shrieks as of people ascending the great staircase, and the cries of women and children flying madly from a pursuing enemy. The amazed officers, hastily snatching up their swords, rushed in a body into the entrance hall, where numbers of their men, attracted by the fearful noise, were also looking wildly about them. They saw nothing, and only felt a chill current of outer air which at once extinguished all the lights. The shrieks and noise of people pursuing others up the stairs still continued, but high up in the house; and we must now leave the tenants of the lower apartments in a state of alarmed bewilderment, and follow the shadowy “ rabble rout ” to a large room at the top of the mansion, which had been assigned as a sleeping place for twelve of the young soldiers who could not find accommodation below. They were all preparing for rest when the tumultuous cries of people ascending the stairs, and of others in hot pursuit, made them fear that an insurrection had broken out in the town, and though a few of the bravest proposed their making a rush down-stairs to the assistance of their officers and comrades, they were overruled, and the door of the room was hastily barricaded with heavy articles of furniture dragged from their places for the purpose. The noise advanced, the door was assaulted, every obstacle gave way, and the astonished occupants of the room felt themselves seized with a strange, cold horror as a rush of air extinguished the light, and all who stood in the way received heavy blows from invisible bands, which left some of them senseless and the rest in a state of idiotic bewilderment. One only of the number retained full and clear possession of his senses, and seems to have had a perception of the ghostly nature of what was passing. When the door was burst open he was standing in the middle of the room, and so escaped the blows showered on his comrades. With great presence of mind he relit the lamp, but it went out again directly; still he described being able to see by a kind of shadowy twilight which pervaded the room. He distinctly remarked a throng of spectral figures, which appeared like bluish vapors, with dim and indistinct outlines, passing swiftly to the top of the room. When they reached it the noise was deafening; he heard the wailing cries of little children, the shrieks and prayers for mercy of women, the bitter oaths and imprecations of men, the clashing of weapons, the deadly stabs, and the dull thud of falling bodies as each victim was in turn dispatched; in short, the bloody drama of long years before was reënacted on that fearful night. At length an appalling silence settled upon the horrors of the scene, and the hitherto spell-bound spectator knew and felt no more till he awoke to life in a ward of the regimental hospital, having been brought with difficulty through the dangers of a brain fever.
Three of his companions were dead of the same complaint, and two more were in a state of hopeless idiocy. The strictest inquiries were made, and a searching examination took place in the endeavor to detect any fraud or deception, but nothing was elicited in the way of reasonable explanation, and the matter was hushed up by the authorities. Soon afterwards the government purchased the estate, and razed every building on it to the ground.
Captain W—, a friend of mine, was telling me, while we were on the subject of ghosts, of a circumstance which had occurred while he was in India, and which had entirely removed his disbelief in the possibility of apparitions. He was the nephew of the general commanding the troops in cantonments near Delhi, in the north of India, in the year 18—. Attached to his regiment was a young ensign, Arthur G—, quite a lad in years, being only seventeen. He was an orphan with no near relations, and his guardians had yielded to his enthusiastic love for a military life. He had been a year with Captain W—s regiment, when he began to droop and to feel an increasing languor and sense of illness, very depressing to his buoyant spirit. This alarmed his friends, by whom he was greatly beloved; in fact, he was the general pet of the regiment, being a warm-hearted and genial comrade, often enlivening the dull routine of regimental life by his merry humor and boyish pranks. After some weeks of total prostration, the fatal verdict of “decline ” was given by his medical attendant, and, anxious to give a last chance of recovery to one so young and so amiable, the general in command sent him a sick certificate to Calcutta, from thence to embark for England after due examination by a medical board. That no care or attention might be wanting on his journey, a regimental surgeon, a very dear friend, was sent with him. In due time this officer rejoined the regiment, reporting that his young patient had borne the fatigue of the journey better than could have been expected, that he had himself seen him on board of a homewardbound vessel, and that every possible comfort had been provided for his passage, the surgeon of the ship having taken the especial charge of him. This was satisfactory, and after a time his comrades almost ceased to talk of him and of his chances of recovery. A few weeks after the doctor’s return, the officers of Arthur G—’s regiment were sitting over their wine after the mess dinner, the mess-room being a long, large tent with an opening at each end. Captain W—said afterwards that he was just thinking of poor Arthur G—, and wondering if he should ever see him again, when Arthur himself came in at one door of the tent, and passing down the whole length of the dinner table went out at ihe opposite door. He was dressed as they had last seen him; he was deadly pale, but smiled and nodded to several of his friends as he had been wont to do, and gave a long and earnest look towards Captain W—, who had been his most intimate friend.
The mess broke up at once, some going to look for their old comrade in the mess-room of the regiment in cantonments with them, and Captain W— to the tent of his uncle the general, whom, however, he found alone writing some dispatches, and who, looking up with astonishment, declared that he had seen nothing of the young officer. When on inquiry it was found that he had also passed through the mess-room of the other regiment, and had been recognized by many of the officers, and also by the servants in attendance, and yet could nowhere be found, his sudden appearance and disappearance seemed equally mysterious. Eventually letters arrived from Calcutta bringing the sad intelligence that Arthur G—had died at sea on the very day and at the very hour that he was seen in the camp before Delhi.
People who can look back to Calais as it was twenty years ago may remember a small shop kept by a tobacconist, which stood at the corner of the Rue de Guise, nearest to the Place. The house belonged to a maiden lady, who, like most French shop-keepers, lived on the ground-floor, and was glad to let the first and second floors, comprising some elegant apartments, to English families, who swarm over to Calais in the summer season for sea-bathing. French people carefully abstained from renting these apartments, as the mysterious disappearance of the last occupant three years before had caused rumors of all kinds to circulate in the town. The tenant in question was a military man, a captain in the regiment then on garrison duty, was unmarried, and lived by himself, passing most of his time in one of the numerous cafés which are the invariable resort of French officers. He seldom had any visitors, but a sergeant of the same regiment came morning and evening to receive his orders and to attend to his personal requirements. One morning this man walked into the shop below, where the mistress of the house was serving her customers, and asked if she had seen his master, for he had found the private door open, and on going as usual up-stairs had seen that the bed had not been slept in, and that all in the room was as he had left it the night before. The lady replied that she had heard no sound whatever in the apartment above since the sounding of the retraite the night before at half past eight, when she certainly heard the hall door shut, and supposed it was the captain coming in, as was his wont, at that hour. The whole town was searched; the police were applied to; the sergeant, on whom suspicion at first fell, was subjected to a searching examination; but no result followed, except that upon looking over the things in his room one large sheet was missing from the newly made bed. In short, his fate remained shrouded in the deepest mystery.
Three years after this event, the apartments, newly and elegantly furnished, were let for the summer to the family of Judge D—r, consisting of his wife and some young people, mostly grown up. Having settled themselves comfortably, they were at tea one evening in a sitting-room which opened immediately on the stairs going down to the private entrance, and which reached to within a few feet of the hall door, which space formed a very narrow, dark passage, a common mode of saving room in old French houses. As the family sat at tea the drums on the Place began to beat the retraite, and just as they finished three loud knocks were given on the door of the sitting-room. Having in vain given the usual response, “ Entrez! ” one of the family opened the door and looked down the staircase. No one was there, and as was natural they thought their unknown visitor had left the house. As this knocking occurred two or three evenings in succession with the same result, the family determined to lock the house door at the foot of the stairs, and to watch for the mysterious knocker. The knocks came as usual when the retraite sounded, but before the third knock was given the watchers inside suddenly threw open the door, and confronted a tall figure, closely wrapped in a large white sheet, which immediately vanished down the stairs, and sank out of their sight at the bottom. The next night the same thing happened, and Judge D—r found it necessary to remove his family, who were much alarmed and agitated by what had occurred.
Soon after this the owner of the house, finding it impossible to let her rooms, had the whole building taken down, and an entirely new house and shop built on the old site. When the workmen removed the staircase and took up the flooring of the narrow passage at its foot, they found the decaying body of a military man wrapped round and round in a large white sheet. There could be no doubt that this was the unfortunate captain, who had been foully murdered and buried in the silence of the night, but by whom could never be found out, as the sergeant, who was always under deep suspicion, had died in hospital of dissipation and absinthe more than a year before the discovery.
Soon after we went to France we were fortunate enough to obtain a very excellent servant. Fanny was a specimen of the best of her class. She was active and intelligent, made nothing of the entire work of our large family, was always bright, cheerful, and good tempered, and soon became a great favorite with us all. She had been in our service for about three years, when she received a letter urgently requiring her to go without delay to the death-bed of a sister-in-law to whom she was much attached, and who lived with her husband and one little boy in a small village near Gravelines. Fanny went at once, and was in time to nurse her sister-in-law for a few days before her death. She returned after an absence of some weeks, but we soon noticed that she was quite altered both in manner and appearance. All her French vivacity had vanished; she went about her work in a languid, listless manner, seemed always preoccupied, and even had from the first morning a worn and fatigued look upon her face which greatly distressed us. She acknowledged that she had lain awake the greater part of the night, and indeed my sister, who slept in the room underneath Fanny’s, told us that whenever she happened to wake up she heard Fanny talking, as she supposed, in her sleep. Some months went by, at the end of which Fanny appeared seriously ill, and wished to go home to her mother, who lived in Calais. Before she left, she confided to my eldest sister the reason of her altered looks and sleepless nights. She said that from the time of her sister-in-law’s funeral she had come to her bedside every night, and remained some hours, talking of the events of her past life, and making many inquiries after her husband and child, about whose welfare she manifested the greatest anxiety. Fanny invariably locked her door when she went to bed, and always found it open in the morning. Her sister-inlaw, just as midnight struck, used to glide noiselessly in, dressed in her peasant’s cloak and hood, sit down by the bed, and enter into conversation, after throwing back her hood so as to leave her face exposed. Sometimes there were long intervals of silence, but as soon as the day dawned she would rise, draw her hood over her face, and simply saying, “ I must go now,” vanish from sight. At first Fanny was dreadfully frightened, but became at last so habituated to the nightly visit of the apparition that she used to sit up in her bed as a matter of course, and remain sitting up till her visitor departed. Fanny was by no means a rigid Roman Catholic, but her sister-in-law had been very punctual in all the duties of her religion, and on her death-bed besought Fanny to have masses said for her soul. Not attaching equal importance to these prayers for the dead, she had quite omitted to fulfill her promise; but when she went home her mother advised her to go to the priest, who strongly recommended her to repair the omission. This she did, and she told us afterwards that after the masses were duly said the nightly visits of her sister-in-law entirely ceased.
H. B. K.