Page images

lancholy and distress. The sexton entered as I was still contemplating this interesting lead, and I immediately began a conversation with him on the subject of the persons who had preceded me in the living. He remembered several incumbents, concerning whom respectively I made various inquiries, till I concluded by the last, relative to whose history I was particularly inquisitive. • We considered him,' said the sexton,'as one of the most learned and amiable men who have ever resided among us. His character and benevolence endeared him to all his parishioners, who will long lament his loss. But he was carried off in the middle of his days by a lingering illness, the cause of which has given rise to many unpleasant reports among us, and which still form matter of conjecture. It is, however, commonly believed that he died of a broken heart.'

“My curiosity being still more warmly excited by the mention of this circumstance, I eagerly pressed him to disclose to me all he knew or had heard on the subject. • Nothing respecting it,' answered he, 'is absolutely known, but scandal has propagated a story of his having formed a criminal connexion with a young woman of the neighbourhood, by whom it was even asserted he had two sons. As confirmation of the report, I know that there certainly were two children who have been seen at the parsonage, boys of about four or five years old; but they suddenly disappeared, some time before the decease of their supposed father; though to what place they are sent, or what is become of them, we are wholly ignorant. It is equally certain, that the surmises and unfavourable opinions formed respecting this mysterious business, which inust necessarily have reached him, precipitated, if they did not produce the disorder of which our late pastor died: but he is gone to his account, and we are bound to think charitably of the departed.

"It is unnecessary to say with what emotion I listened to this relation, which recalled to my imagination, and seemed to give proof of the existence of all that I had seen.

Yet, unwilling to suffer my mind to become enslaved by phantoms which might have been the effect of error or deception, I neither communicated to the sexton the circumstance which I had witnessed, nor even permitted myself to quit

[ocr errors]

the chamber where it had taken place. I continued to lodge there, without ever witnessing any similar appearance ; and the recollection itself began to wear away, as the autumn advanced. When the approach of winter rendered it necessary to light fires through the house, I ordered the iron stove which stood in the room, and behind which the figure which I had beheld, together with the two boys, seemed to disappear, to be heated for the purpose of warming the apartment. Some difficulty was experienced in making the attempt, the stove not only smoking intolerably, but emitting an offensive smell. Having, therefore, sent for a blacksmith to inspect and repair it, he discovered in the inside, at the farthest extremity, the bones of two small human bodies, corresponding perfectly in size as well as in other respects with the description given me by the sexton, of the two boys who had been seen at the parsonage.

“ Thựs last circumstance completed my astonishment, and appeared to confer a sort of reality on an appearance which might otherwise have been considered as a delusion of the senses. I resigned the living, quitted the place, and retired to Königsberg ; but it has produced on my mind the deepest impression, and has in its effect given rise to that uncertainty and contradiction of sentiment which you remarked in my late discourse.


One evening Dr. Scott was seated by the fire reading at his house, in Broad-street, when accidentally raising his head, he saw in an elbow chair, at the opposite side of the fire-place or chimney, a grave gentleman in a black velvet gown, a long wig, looking with a pleasing countenance towards the doctor, as if about to speak to him.

The doctor was much perturbed. According to his narrative of the fact, the spectre, it seems, spoke first, and desired the doctor not to be alarmed, that he came to him upon a matter of great importance to an injured family, which was in great danger of being ruined ; and though he (the doctor) was a stranger to the family, yet knowing him


to be a man of integrity, he had chosen him to do this act of charity and justice.

The doctor was not at first composed enough to enter into the business with due attention, but seemed rather inclined to get out of the room if he could, and once or twice made an attempt to knock for some of the family to come up. The doctor having at length recovered himself, said, “ In the name of God, what art thou ?" After much importunity on the part of the doctor, the apparition began his story thus :

“ I lived in the county of Somerset, where I left a very good estate, which my grandson enjoys at this time. But he is sued for the possession by my two nephews, the sons of my younger

brother.” [Here he gave his own name, the name of his younger brother, and the names of his two nephews.]

The doctor then asked him how long the grandson had been in possession of the estate ; which he told him was seven years, intimating that he had been so long dead.

He then went on to tell him, that his nephews would be too strong for his grandson in the suit, and would deprive him of the mansion-house and estate; so that he would be in danger of being entirely ruined, and his family reduced.

The doctor then said, “ And what am I able to do in it, if the law be against him ?”

“Why,” said the spectre, “it is not that the nephews have any right; but the grand deed of settlement, being the conveyance of the inheritance, is lost: and for want of that deed they will not be able to make out their title to the estate.”

“Well," said the doctor, “ and still what can I do in the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

case ?”

“Why," said the spectre, “if you will go down to my grandson's house, and take some persons with you

whom you can trust, I will give you such instructions, that you shall find out the deed of settlement, which lies concealed in a place where I put it, and where you shall direct my grandson to take it out in your presence.

“But why then can you not direct your grandson himself to do this poo said the doctor.

66 there are

I can

" Ask me not about that," said the spectre; divers reasons which you may know hereafter. depend upon your honesty in it, in the meantime, and you may so dispose of matters that you shall have your expenses paid you, and be handsomely rewarded for your trouble. *

Having obtained a promise from Dr. Scott, the spectre told him he might apprize his grandson that he had formerly conversed with his grandfather, and ask to see the house ; and that in a certain upper room or loft, he would see a quantity of old lumber, coffers, chests, &c., which had been thrown aside, to make room for more fashionable furniture.

That, in a certain corner, he should find an old chest, with a broken lock upon it, and a key in it, which could neither be turned in the lock, nor pulled out. In this chest lay the grand deed or charter of the estate, which conveyed the inheritance, and without which the family might be ejected. The doctor having promised to dispatch this important commission, the spectre disappeared.

After a lapse of some days, and within the time limited by the proposal of the spectre, the doctor went into Somersetshire, and, having found the house alluded to, he was very courteously invited in. They now entered upon friendly discourse, and the doctor pretended to have heard much of the family, and of his grandfather, from whom, he said, he perceived the estate descended to its present occupier.

Aye," said the gentleman, shaking his head, “my father died young, and my grandfather has left things so confused, that, for want of one principal writing, which is not yet come to hand, I have met with great trouble from two cousins, my grandfather's brother's

children, who have put me to very great expense about it."

“But I hope you have got over it, sir ?” said the doctor.

“No," said the gentleman; “ to be candid with you, we shall never get quite over it, unless we can find this old deed : which, however, I hope we shall find, for I intend to make a general search after it.”

“I wish with all my heart you may find it, sir," said the doctor.

“I do not doubt but we shall; I had a strange dream about it last night," said the gentleman.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ A dream about the writing!" said the doctor ; “I hope it was that you should find it, then.”

“I dreamed,” said the other, “that a strange gentleman came to me, and assisted me in searching for it. I do not know but that you are the man.” “I should be very glad to be the man, said the doctor.

Nay," replied the gentleman, "you may be the man to help me to look after it."

Aye, sir," said the doctor, “I may help you to look after it, indeed, and I will do that with all my heart; but I would much rather be the man that should help you to find it: pray when do you intend to search ?"

“ To-morrow,” said the gentleman, “I have appointed to search for it." · But,” said the doctor, “ in what manner do you

intend to search ?"

“Why," replied the gentleman, “it is our opinion that my grandfather was so very much concerned in preserving this writing, and had so much jealousy as to its safety, that he hid it in a secret place; and I am resolved to pull half the house down but I will find it, if it is above ground.”

Truly,” said the doctor, “ he may have hid it, so that you may pull the whole house down before you find it. I have known such things utterly lost by the very care taken to preserve them.”

"If it was made of something the fire would not destroy," said the gentleman, “I would burn the house down, but I would find it."

"I suppose you have searched all the old gentleman's chests, trunks, and coffers over and over," said the doctor.

“Aye," said the gentleman, "and turned them all inside outward, and there they lie in a heap up in a loft, or garret, with nothing in them; nay, we knocked three or four of them in pieces to search for private drawers, and then I burnt them for anger, though they were fine old cypress chests that cost money enough when they were in fashion.” “I am sorry you burnt them," said the doctor.

Nay,” said the gentleman, “I did not burn a scrap of them till they were all split to pieces, and it was not possible there could be any thing in them.”

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »