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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IX - CREAKING STAIR. GROCER'S COUGH. MY GILLIE'S FATHER'S STORY. GIRL IN PINK. LADY IN BLACK. DANCING DEVIL
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The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IX - CREAKING STAIR. GROCER'S COUGH. MY GILLIE'S FATHER'S STORY. GIRL IN PINK. LADY IN BLACK. DANCING DEVIL Post by :skytiger33 Category :Long Stories Author :Andrew Lang Date :July 2011 Read :2733

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The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IX - CREAKING STAIR. GROCER'S COUGH. MY GILLIE'S FATHER'S STORY. GIRL IN PINK. LADY IN BLACK. DANCING DEVIL

CHAPTER IX - CREAKING STAIR. GROCER'S COUGH. MY GILLIE'S FATHER'S STORY. GIRL IN PINK. LADY IN BLACK. DANCING DEVIL

Haunted Houses. Antiquity of Haunted Houses. Savage Cases. Ancient Egyptian Cases. Persistence in Modern Times. Impostures. Imaginary Noises. Nature of Noises. The Creaking Stair. Ghostly Effects produced by the Living but Absent. The Grocer's Cough. Difficulty of Belief. My Gillie's Father's Story. "Silverton Abbey." The Dream that Opened the Door. Abbotsford Noises. Legitimate Haunting by the Dead. The Girl in Pink. The Dog in the Haunted Room. The Lady in Black. Dogs Alarmed. The Dead Seldom Recognised. Glamis. A Border Castle. Another Class of Hauntings. A Russian Case. The Dancing Devil. The Little Hands.

Haunted houses have been familiar to man ever since he has owned a roof to cover his head. The Australian blacks possessed only shelters or "leans-to," so in Australia the spirits do their rapping on the tree trunks; a native illustrated this by whacking a table with a book. The perched-up houses of the Dyaks are haunted by noisy routing agencies. We find them in monasteries, palaces, and crofters' cottages all through the Middle Ages. On an ancient Egyptian papyrus we find the husband of the Lady Onkhari protesting against her habit of haunting his house, and exclaiming: "What wrong have I done," exactly in the spirit of the "Hymn of Donald Ban," who was "sair hadden down by a bodach" (noisy bogle) after Culloden. {188a}

The husband of Onkhari does not say how she disturbed him, but the manners of Egyptian haunters, just what they remain at present, may be gathered from a magical papyrus, written in Greek. Spirits "wail and groan, or laugh dreadfully"; they cause bad dreams, terror and madness; finally, they "practice stealthy theft," and rap and knock. The "theft" (by making objects disappear mysteriously) is often illustrated in the following tales, as are the groaning and knocking. {188b} St. Augustine speaks of hauntings as familiar occurrences, and we have a chain of similar cases from ancient Egypt to 1896. Several houses in that year were so disturbed that the inhabitants were obliged to leave them. The newspapers were full of correspondence on the subject.

The usual annoyances are apparitions (rare), flying about of objects (not very common), noises of every kind (extremely frequent), groans, screams, footsteps and fire-raising. Imposture has either been proved or made very probable in ten out of eleven cases of volatile objects between 1883 and 1895. {188c} Moreover, it is certain that the noises of haunted houses are not equally audible by all persons present, even when the sounds are at their loudest. Thus Lord St. Vincent, the great admiral, heard nothing during his stay at the house of his sister, Mrs. Ricketts, while that lady endured terrible things. After his departure she was obliged to recall him. He arrived, and slept peacefully. Next day his sister told him about the disturbances, after which he heard them as much as his neighbours, and was as unsuccessful in discovering their cause. {189}

Of course this looks as if these noises were unreal, children of the imagination. Noises being the staple of haunted houses, a few words may be devoted to them. They are usually the frou-frou or rustling sweep of a gown, footsteps, raps, thumps, groans, a sound as if all the heavy furniture was being knocked about, crashing of crockery and jingling of money. Of course, as to footsteps, people may be walking about, and most of the other noises are either easily imitated, or easily produced by rats, water pipes, cracks in furniture (which the Aztecs thought ominous of death), and other natural causes. The explanation is rather more difficult when the steps pace a gallery, passing and repassing among curious inquirers, or in this instance.

THE CREAKING STAIR

A lady very well known to myself, and in literary society, lived as a girl with an antiquarian father in an old house dear to an antiquary. It was haunted, among other things, by footsteps. The old oak staircase had two creaking steps, numbers seventeen and eighteen from the top. The girl would sit on the stair, stretching out her arms, and count the steps as they passed her, one, two, three, and so on to seventeen and eighteen, which always creaked . {190} In this case rats and similar causes were excluded, though we may allow for "expectant attention". But this does not generally work. When people sit up on purpose to look out for the ghost, he rarely comes; in the case of the "Lady in Black," which we give later, when purposely waited for, she was never seen at all.

Discounting imposture, which is sometimes found, and sometimes merely fabled (as in the Tedworth story), there remains one curious circumstance. Specially ghostly noises are attributed to the living but absent.

THE GROCER'S COUGH

A man of letters was born in a small Scotch town, where his father was the intimate friend of a tradesman whom we shall call the grocer. Almost every day the grocer would come to have a chat with Mr. Mackay, and the visitor, alone of the natives, had the habit of knocking at the door before entering. One day Mr. Mackay said to his daughter, "There's Mr. Macwilliam's knock. Open the door." But there was no Mr. Macwilliam! He was just leaving his house at the other end of the street. From that day Mr. Mackay always heard the grocer's knock "a little previous," accompanied by the grocer's cough, which was peculiar. Then all the family heard it, including the son who later became learned. He, when he had left his village for Glasgow, reasoned himself out of the opinion that the grocer's knock did herald and precede the grocer. But when he went home for a visit he found that he heard it just as of old. Possibly some local Sentimental Tommy watched for the grocer, played the trick and ran away. This explanation presents no difficulty, but the boy was never detected. {191}

Such anecdotes somehow do not commend themselves to the belief even of people who can believe a good deal.

But "the spirits of the living," as the Highlanders say, have surely as good a chance to knock, or appear at a distance, as the spirits of the dead. To be sure, the living do not know (unless they are making a scientific experiment) what trouble they are giving on these occasions, but one can only infer, like St. Augustine, that probably the dead don't know it either.

Thus,

MY GILLIE'S FATHER'S STORY

Fishing in Sutherland, I had a charming companion in the gillie. He was well educated, a great reader, the best of salmon fishers, and I never heard a man curse William, Duke of Cumberland, with more enthusiasm. His father, still alive, was second-sighted, and so, to a moderate extent and without theory, was my friend. Among other anecdotes (confirmed in writing by the old gentleman) was this:--

The father had a friend who died in the house which they both occupied. The clothes of the deceased hung on pegs in the bedroom. One night the father awoke, and saw a stranger examining and handling the clothes of the defunct. Then came a letter from the dead man's brother, inquiring about the effects. He followed later, and was the stranger seen by my gillie's father.

Thus the living but absent may haunt a house both noisily and by actual appearance. The learned even think, for very exquisite reasons, that "Silverton Abbey" {192} is haunted noisily by a "spirit of the living". Here is a case:--

THE DREAM THAT KNOCKED AT THE DOOR

The following is an old but good story. The Rev. Joseph Wilkins died, an aged man, in 1800. He left this narrative, often printed; the date of the adventure is 1754, when Mr. Wilkins, aged twenty-three, was a schoolmaster in Devonshire. The dream was an ordinary dream, and did not announce death, or anything but a journey. Mr. Wilkins dreamed, in Devonshire, that he was going to London. He thought he would go by Gloucestershire and see his people. So he started, arrived at his father's house, found the front door locked, went in by the back door, went to his parents' room, saw his father asleep in bed and his mother awake. He said: "Mother, I am going a long journey, and have come to bid you good-bye". She answered in a fright, "Oh dear son, thou art dead!" Mr. Wilkins wakened, and thought nothing of it. As early as a letter could come, one arrived from his father, addressing him as if he were dead, and desiring him, if by accident alive, or any one into whose hands the letter might fall, to write at once. The father then gave his reasons for alarm. Mrs. Wilkins, being awake one night, heard some one try the front door, enter by the back, then saw her son come into her room and say he was going on a long journey, with the rest of the dialogue. She then woke her husband, who said she had been dreaming, but who was alarmed enough to write the letter. No harm came of it to anybody.

The story would be better if Mr. Wilkins, junior, like Laud, had kept a nocturnal of his dreams, and published his father's letter, with post-marks.

The story of the lady who often dreamed of a house, and when by chance she found and rented it was recognised as the ghost who had recently haunted it, is good, but is an invention!__

A somewhat similar instance is that of the uproar of moving heavy objects, heard by Scott in Abbotsford on the night preceding and the night of the death of his furnisher, Mr. Bullock, in London. The story is given in Lockhart's Life of Scott, and is too familiar for repetition.

On the whole, accepting one kind of story on the same level as the other kind, the living and absent may unconsciously produce the phenomena of haunted houses just as well as the dead, to whose alleged performances we now advance. Actual appearances, as we have said, are not common, and just as all persons do not hear the sounds, so many do not see the appearance, even when it is visible to others in the same room. As an example, take a very mild and lady-like case of haunting.

THE GIRL IN PINK

The following anecdote was told to myself, a few months after the curious event, by the three witnesses in the case. They were connections of my own, the father was a clergyman of the Anglican Church; he, his wife and their daughter, a girl of twenty, were the "percipients". All are cheerful, sagacious people, and all, though they absolutely agreed as to the facts in their experience, professed an utter disbelief in "ghosts," which the occurrence has not affected in any way. They usually reside in a foreign city, where there is a good deal of English society. One day they left the town to lunch with a young fellow-countryman who lived in a villa in the neighbourhood. There he was attempting to farm a small estate, with what measure of success the story does not say. His house was kept by his sister, who was present, of course, at the little luncheon party. During the meal some question was asked, or some remark was made, to which the clerical guest replied in English by a reference to "the maid-servant in pink".

"There is no maid in pink," said the host, and he asked both his other guests to corroborate him.

Both ladies, mother and daughter, were obliged to say that unless their eyes deceived them, they certainly had seen a girl in pink attending on them, or, at least, moving about in the room. To this their entertainers earnestly replied that no such person was in their establishment, that they had no woman servant but the elderly cook and housekeeper, then present, who was neither a girl nor in pink. After luncheon the guests were taken all over the house, to convince them of the absence of the young woman whom they had seen, and assuredly there was no trace of her.

On returning to the town where they reside, they casually mentioned the circumstance as a curious illusion. The person to whom they spoke said, with some interest, "Don't you know that a girl is said to have been murdered in that house before your friends took it, and that she is reported to be occasionally seen, dressed in pink?"

They had heard of no such matter, but the story seemed to be pretty generally known, though naturally disliked by the occupant of the house. As for the percipients, they each and all remain firm in the belief that, till convinced of the impossibility of her presence, they were certain they had seen a girl in pink, and rather a pretty girl, whose appearance suggested nothing out of the common. An obvious hypothesis is discounted, of course, by the presence of the sister of the young gentleman who farmed the estate and occupied the house.

Here is another case, mild but pertinacious.

THE DOG IN THE HAUNTED ROOM

The author's friend, Mr. Rokeby, lives, and has lived for some twenty years, in an old house at Hammersmith. It is surrounded by a large garden, the drawing-room and dining-room are on the right and left of the entrance from the garden, on the ground floor. My friends had never been troubled by any phenomena before, and never expected to be. However, they found the house "noisy," the windows were apt to be violently shaken at night and steps used to be heard where no steps should be. Deep long sighs were audible at all times of day. As Mrs. Rokeby approached a door, the handle would turn and the door fly open. {196} Sounds of stitching a hard material, and of dragging a heavy weight occurred in Mrs. Rokeby's room, and her hair used to be pulled in a manner for which she could not account. "These sorts of things went on for about five years, when in October, 1875, about three o'clock in the afternoon, I was sitting" (says Mrs. Rokeby) "with three of my children in the dining-room, reading to them. I rang the bell for the parlour-maid, when the door opened, and on looking up I saw the figure of a woman come in and walk up to the side of the table, stand there a second or two, and then turn to go out again, but before reaching the door she seemed to dissolve away. She was a grey, short-looking woman, apparently dressed in grey muslin. I hardly saw the face, which seemed scarcely to be defined at all. None of the children saw her," and Mrs. Rokeby only mentioned the affair at the time to her husband.

Two servants, in the next two months, saw the same figure, alike in dress at least, in other rooms both by daylight and candle light. They had not heard of Mrs. Rokeby's experience, were accustomed to the noises, and were in good health. One of them was frightened, and left her place.

A brilliant light in a dark room, an icy wind and a feeling of being "watched" were other discomforts in Mrs. Rokeby's lot. After 1876, only occasional rappings were heard, till Mr. Rokeby being absent one night in 1883, the noises broke out, "banging, thumping, the whole place shaking". The library was the centre of these exercises, and the dog, a fine collie, was shut up in the library. Mrs. Rokeby left her room for her daughter's, while the dog whined in terror, and the noises increased in violence. Next day the dog, when let out, rushed forth with enthusiasm, but crouched with his tail between his legs when invited to re-enter.

This was in 1883. Several years after, Mr. Rokeby was smoking, alone, in the dining-room early in the evening, when the dog began to bristle up his hair, and bark. Mr. Rokeby looked up and saw the woman in grey, with about half her figure passed through the slightly open door. He ran to the door, but she was gone, and the servants were engaged in their usual business. {198a}

Our next ghost offered many opportunities to observers.

THE LADY IN BLACK

A ghost in a haunted house is seldom observed with anything like scientific precision. The spectre in the following narrative could not be photographed, attempts being usually made in a light which required prolonged exposure. Efforts to touch it were failures, nor did it speak. On the other hand, it did lend itself, perhaps unconsciously, to one scientific experiment. The story is unromantic; the names are fictitious. {198b}

Bognor House, an eligible family residence near a large town, was built in 1860, and occupied, till his death in 1876, by Mr. S. He was twice married, and was not of temperate ways. His second wife adopted his habits, left him shortly before his death, and died at Clifton in 1878. The pair used to quarrel about some jewels which Mr. S. concealed in the flooring of a room where the ghost was never seen.

A Mr L. now took the house, but died six months later. Bognor House stood empty for four years, during which there was vague talk of hauntings. In April, 1882, the house was taken by Captain Morton. This was in April; in June Miss Rose Morton, a lady of nineteen studying medicine (and wearing spectacles), saw the first appearance. Miss Morton did not mention her experiences to her family, her mother being an invalid, and her brothers and sisters very young, but she transmitted accounts to a friend, a lady, in a kind of diary letters. These are extant, and are quoted.

Phenomena of this kind usually begin with noises, and go on to apparitions. Miss Morton one night, while preparing to go to bed, heard a noise outside, thought it was her mother, opened the door, saw a tall lady in black holding a handkerchief to her face, and followed the figure till her candle burned out. A widow's white cuff was visible on each wrist, the whole of the face was never seen. In 1882- 84, Miss Morton saw the figure about six times; it was thrice seen, once through the window from outside, by other persons, who took it for a living being. Two boys playing in the garden ran in to ask who was the weeping lady in black.

On 29th January, 1884, Miss Morton spoke to her inmate, as the lady in black stood beside a sofa. "She only gave a slight gasp and moved towards the door. Just by the door I spoke to her again, but she seemed as if she were quite unable to speak." {199} In May and June Miss Morton fastened strings at different heights from the stair railings to the wall, where she attached them with glue, but she twice saw the lady pass through the cords, leaving them untouched. When Miss Morton cornered the figure and tried to touch her, or pounce on her, she dodged, or disappeared. But by a curious contradiction her steps were often heard by several of the family, and when she heard the steps, Miss Morton used to go out and follow the figure. There is really no more to tell. Miss Morton's father never saw the lady, even when she sat on a sofa for half an hour, Miss Morton watching her. Other people saw her in the garden crying, and sent messages to ask what was the matter, and who was the lady in distress. Many members of the family, boys, girls, married ladies, servants and others often saw the lady in black. In 1885 loud noises, bumps and turning of door handles were common, and though the servants were told that the lady was quite harmless, they did not always stay. The whole establishment of servants was gradually changed, but the lady still walked. She appeared more seldom in 1887-1889, and by 1892 even the light footsteps ceased. Two dogs, a retriever and a Skye terrier, showed much alarm. "Twice," says Miss Morton, "I saw the terrier suddenly run up to the mat at the foot of the stairs in the hall, wagging its tail, and moving its back in the way dogs do when they expect to be caressed. It jumped up, fawning as it would do if a person had been standing there, but suddenly slunk away with its tail between its legs, and retreated, trembling, under a sofa." Miss Morton's own emotion, at first, was "a feeling of awe at something unknown, mixed with a strong desire to know more about it". {200}

This is a pretty tame case of haunting, as was conjectured, by an unhappy revenant, the returned spirit of the second Mrs. S. Here it may be remarked that apparitions in haunted houses are very seldom recognised as those of dead persons, and, when recognised, the recognition is usually dubious. Thus, in February, 1897, Lieutenant Carr Glyn, of the Grenadiers, while reading in the outer room of the Queen's Library in Windsor, saw a lady in black in a kind of mantilla of black lace pass from the inner room into a corner where she was lost to view. He supposed that she had gone out by a door there, and asked an attendant later who she was. There was no door round the corner, and, in the opinion of some, the lady was Queen Elizabeth! She has a traditional habit, it seems, of haunting the Library. But surely, of all people, in dress and aspect Queen Elizabeth is most easily recognised. The seer did not recognise her, and she was probably a mere casual hallucination. In old houses such traditions are common, but vague. In this connection Glamis is usually mentioned. Every one has heard of the Secret Chamber, with its mystery, and the story was known to Scott, who introduces it in The Betrothed. But we know when the Secret Chamber was built (under the Restoration), who built it, what he paid the masons, and where it is: under the Charter Room. {201} These cold facts rather take the "weird" effect off the Glamis legend.__

The usual process is, given an old house, first a noise, then a hallucination, actual or pretended, then a myth to account for the hallucination. There is a castle on the border which has at least seven or eight distinct ghosts. One is the famous Radiant Boy. He has been evicted by turning his tapestried chamber into the smoking- room. For many years not one ghost has been seen except the lady with the candle, viewed by myself, but, being ignorant of the story, I thought she was one of the maids. Perhaps she was, but she went into an empty set of rooms, and did not come out again. Footsteps are apt to approach the doors of these rooms in mirk midnight, the door handle turns, and that is all.

So much for supposed hauntings by spirits of the dead.

At the opposite pole are hauntings by agencies whom nobody supposes to be ghosts of inmates of the house. The following is an extreme example, as the haunter proceeded to arson. This is not so very unusual, and, if managed by an impostor, shows insane malevolence. {202}

THE DANCING DEVIL

On 16th November, 1870, Mr. Shchapoff, a Russian squire, the narrator, came home from a visit to a country town, Iletski, and found his family in some disarray. There lived with him his mother and his wife's mother, ladies of about sixty-nine, his wife, aged twenty, and his baby daughter. The ladies had been a good deal disturbed. On the night of the 14th, the baby was fractious, and the cook, Maria, danced and played the harmonica to divert her. The baby fell asleep, the wife and Mr. Shchapoff's miller's lady were engaged in conversation, when a shadow crossed the blind on the outside. They were about to go out and see who was passing, when they heard a double shuffle being executed with energy in the loft overhead. They thought Maria, the cook, was making a night of it, but found her asleep in the kitchen. The dancing went on but nobody could be found in the loft. Then raps began on the window panes, and so the miller and gardener patrolled outside. Nobody!

Raps and dancing lasted through most of the night and began again at ten in the morning. The ladies were incommoded and complained of broken sleep. Mr. Shchapoff, hearing all this, examined the miller, who admitted the facts, but attributed them to a pigeon's nest, which he had found under the cornice. Satisfied with this rather elementary hypothesis, Mr. Shchapoff sat down to read Livingstone's African Travels. Presently the double shuffle sounded in the loft. Mrs. Shchapoff was asleep in her bedroom, but was awakened by loud raps. The window was tapped at, deafening thumps were dealt at the outer wall, and the whole house thrilled. Mr. Shchapoff rushed out with dogs and a gun, there were no footsteps in the snow, the air was still, the full moon rode in a serene sky. Mr. Shchapoff came back, and the double shuffle was sounding merrily in the empty loft. Next day was no better, but the noises abated and ceased gradually.

Alas, Mr. Shchapoff could not leave well alone. On 20th December, to amuse a friend, he asked Maria to dance and play. Raps, in tune, began on the window panes. Next night they returned, while boots, slippers, and other objects, flew about with a hissing noise. A piece of stuff would fly up and fall with a heavy hard thud, while hard bodies fell soundless as a feather. The performances slowly died away.

On Old Year's Night Maria danced to please them; raps began, people watching on either side of a wall heard the raps on the other side. On 8th January, Mrs. Shchapoff fainted when a large, luminous ball floated, increasing in size, from under her bed. The raps now followed her about by day, as in the case of John Wesley's sisters. On these occasions she felt weak and somnolent. Finally Mr. Shchapoff carried his family to his town house for much-needed change of air.

Science, in the form of Dr. Shustoff, now hinted that electricity or magnetic force was at the bottom of the annoyances, a great comfort to the household, who conceived that the devil was concerned. The doctor accompanied his friends to their country house for a night, Maria was invited to oblige with a dance, and only a few taps on windows followed. The family returned to town till 21st January. No sooner was Mrs. Shchapoff in bed than knives and forks came out of a closed cupboard and flew about, occasionally sticking in the walls.

On 24th January the doctor abandoned the hypothesis of electricity, because the noises kept time to profane but not to sacred music. A Tartar hymn by a Tartar servant, an Islamite, had no accompaniment, but the Freischutz was warmly encored.

This went beyond the most intelligent spontaneous exercises of electricity. Questions were asked of the agencies, and to the interrogation, "Are you a devil?" a most deafening knock replied. "We all jumped backwards."

Now comes a curious point. In the Wesley and Tedworth cases, the masters of the houses, like the cure of Cideville (1851), were at odds with local "cunning men".

Mr. Shchapoff's fiend now averred that he was "set on" by the servant of a neighbouring miller, with whom Mr. Shchapoff had a dispute about a mill pond. This man had previously said, "It will be worse; they will drag you by the hair". And, indeed, Mrs. Shchapoff was found in tears, because her hair had been pulled. {205}

Science again intervened. A section of the Imperial Geographical Society sent Dr. Shustoff, Mr. Akutin (a Government civil engineer), and a literary gentleman, as a committee of inquiry appointed by the governor of the province. They made a number of experiments with Leyden jars, magnets, and so forth, with only negative results. Things flew about, both from , and towards Mrs. Shchapoff. Nothing volatile was ever seen to begin its motion, though, in March, 1883, objects were seen, by a policeman and six other witnesses, to fly up from a bin and out of a closed cupboard, in a house at Worksop. {206} Mr. Akutin, in Mrs. Shchapoff's bedroom, found the noises answer questions in French and German, on contemporary politics, of which the lady of the house knew nothing. Lassalle was said to be alive, Mr. Shchapoff remarked, "What nonsense!" but Mr. Akutin corrected him. The bogey was better informed. The success of the French in the great war was predicted.

The family now moved to their town house, and the inquest continued, though the raps were only heard near the lady. A Dr. Dubinsky vowed that she made them herself, with her tongue; then, with her pulse. The doctor assailed, and finally shook the faith of Mr. Akutin, who was to furnish a report. "He bribed a servant boy to say that his mistress made the sounds herself, and then pretended that he had caught her trying to deceive us by throwing things." Finally Mr. Akutin reported that the whole affair was a hysterical imposition by Mrs. Shchapoff. Dr. Dubinsky attended her, her health and spirits improved, and the disturbances ceased. But poor Mr. Shchapoff received an official warning not to do it again, from the governor of his province. That way lies Siberia.

"Imagine, then," exclaims Mr. Shchapoff, "our horror, when, on our return to the country in March, the unknown force at once set to work again. And now even my wife's presence was not essential. Thus, one day, I saw with my own eyes a heavy sofa jump off all four legs (three or four times in fact), and this when my aged mother was lying on it." The same thing occurred to Nancy Wesley's bed, on which she was sitting while playing cards in 1717. The picture of a lady of seventy, sitting tight to a bucking sofa, appeals to the brave.

Then the fire-raising began. A blue spark flew out of a wash-stand, into Mrs. Shchapoff's bedroom. Luckily she was absent, and her mother, rushing forward with a water-jug, extinguished a flaming cotton dress. Bright red globular meteors now danced in the veranda. Mr. Portnoff next takes up the tale as follows, Mr. Shchapoff having been absent from home on the occasion described.

"I was sitting playing the guitar. The miller got up to leave, and was followed by Mrs. Shchapoff. Hardly had she shut the door, when I heard, as though from far off, a deep drawn wail. The voice seemed familiar to me. Overcome with an unaccountable horror I rushed to the door, and there in the passage I saw a literal pillar of fire, in the middle of which, draped in flame, stood Mrs. Shchapoff. . . . I rushed to put it out with my hands, but I found it burned them badly, as if they were sticking to burning pitch. A sort of cracking noise came from beneath the floor, which also shook and vibrated violently." Mr. Portnoff and the miller "carried off the unconscious victim".

Mr. Shchapoff also saw a small pink hand, like a child's, spring from the floor, and play with Mrs. Shchapoff's coverlet, in bed. These things were too much; the Shchapoffs fled to a cottage, and took a new country house. They had no more disturbances. Mrs. Shchapoff died in child-bed, in 1878, "a healthy, religious, quiet, affectionate woman".

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