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Ghosts I have Met and Some Others

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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #45 on: November 03, 2009, 01:46:45 am »

"Of course I should like to write you up," I said, with a sly wink
at myself. "I imagine you'd attract a good deal of attention in the
literary world. Judging from the time it takes you to get ready, you
ought to make a good magazine story--not one of those comic ghost
-tales that can be dashed off in a minute, and ultimately get
published in a book at the author's expense. You stir so little
that, as things go by contraries, you'll make a stirring tale.
You're long enough, I might say, for a three-volume novel--but--ah--
I can't do you unless I see you. You must be seen to be appreciated.
I can't imagine you, you know. Let's see, now, if I can guess what
kind of a ghost you are. Um! You must be terrifying in the extreme--
you'd make a man shiver in mid-August in mid-Africa. Your eyes are
unfathomably green. Your smile would drive the sanest mad. Your
hands are cold and clammy as a--ah--as a hot-water bag four hours
after."
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« Reply #46 on: November 03, 2009, 01:47:17 am »

And so I went on for ten minutes, praising him up to the skies, and
ending up with a pathetic appeal that he should manifest his
presence. It may be that I puffed him up so that he burst, but,
however that may be, he would not condescend to reply, and I grew
angry in earnest.

"Very well," I said, savagely, jumping up from my chair and turning
off the gas-log. "Don't! Nobody asked you to come in the first
place, and nobody's going to complain if you sulk in your tent like
Achilles. I don't want to see you. I could fake up a better ghost
than you are anyhow--in fact, I fancy that's what's the matter with
you. You know what a miserable specimen you are--couldn't frighten a
mouse if you were ten times as horrible. You're ashamed to show
yourself--and I don't blame you. I'd be that way too if I were you."
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« Reply #47 on: November 03, 2009, 01:47:32 am »

I walked half-way to the door, momentarily expecting to have him
call me back; but he didn't. I had to give him a parting shot.

"You probably belong to a ghost union--don't you? That's your
secret? Ordered out on strike, and won't do any haunting after
sundown unless some other employer of unskilled ghosts pays his
spooks skilled wages."

I had half a notion that the word "spook" would draw him out, for I
have noticed that ghosts do not like to be called spooks any more
than negroes like to be called "niggers." They consider it vulgar.
He never yielded in his reserve, however, and after locking up I
went to bed.

For a time I could not sleep, and I began to wonder if I had been
just, after all. Possibly there was no spirit within miles of me.
The symptoms were all there, but might not that have been due to my
depressed condition--for it does depress a writer to have one of his
best veins become sclerotic--I asked myself, and finally, as I went
off to sleep, I concluded that I had been in the wrong all through,
and had imagined there was something there when there really was
not.

"Very likely the ringing of the bell was due to the wind," I said,
as I dozed off. "Of course it would take a very heavy wind to blow
the button in, but then--" and then I fell asleep, convinced that no
ghost had ventured within a mile of me that night. But when morning
came I was undeceived. Something must have visited us that Christmas
Eve, and something very terrible; for while I was dressing for
breakfast I heard my wife calling loudly from below.
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« Reply #48 on: November 03, 2009, 01:48:00 am »

[Illustration: "IT HAD TURNED WHITE"]

"Henry!" she cried. "Please come down here at once."

"I can't. I'm only half shaved," I answered.

"Never mind that," she returned. "Come at once."

So, with the lather on one cheek and a cut on the other, I went
below.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Look at that!" she said, pointing to my grandmother's hair-sofa,
which stood in the hall just outside of my library door.

It had been black when we last saw it, but as I looked I saw that a
great change had come over it.

_It had turned white in a single night!_

Now I can't account for this strange incident, nor can any one else,
and I do not intend to try. It is too awful a mystery for me to
attempt to penetrate, but the sofa is there in proof of all that I
have said concerning it, and any one who desires can call and see it
at any time. It is not necessary for them to see me; they need only
ask to see the sofa, and it will be shown.

We have had it removed from the hall to the white-and-gold parlor,
for we cannot bear to have it stand in any of the rooms we use.
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« Reply #49 on: November 03, 2009, 01:48:19 am »

THE MYSTERY OF BARNEY O'ROURKE


A very irritating thing has happened. My hired man, a certain Barney
O'Rourke, an American citizen of much political influence, a good
gardener, and, according to his lights, a gentleman, has got very
much the best of me, and all because of certain effusions which from
time to time have emanated from my pen. It is not often that one's
literary chickens come home to roost in such a vengeful fashion as
some of mine have recently done, and I have no doubt that as this
story progresses he who reads will find much sympathy for me rising
up in his breast. As the matter stands, I am torn with conflicting
emotions. I am very fond of Barney, and I have always found him
truthful hitherto, but exactly what to believe now I hardly know.
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« Reply #50 on: November 03, 2009, 01:48:32 am »

The main thing to bring my present trouble upon me, I am forced to
believe, is the fact that my house has been in the past, and may
possibly still be, haunted. Why my house should be haunted at all I
do not know, for it has never been the scene of any tragedy that I
am aware of. I built it myself, and it is paid for. So far as I am
aware, nothing awful of a material nature has ever happened within
its walls, and yet it appears to be, for the present at any rate, a
sort of club-house for inconsiderate if not strictly horrid things,
which is a most unfair dispensation of the fates, for I have not
deserved it. If I were in any sense a Bluebeard, and spent my days
cutting ladies' throats as a pastime; if I had a pleasing habit of
inviting friends up from town over Sunday, and dropping them into
oubliettes connecting my library with dark, dank, and snaky
subterranean dungeons; if guests who dine at my house came with a
feeling that the chances were, they would never return to their
families alive--it might be different. I shouldn't and couldn't
blame a house for being haunted if it were the dwelling-place of a
bloodthirsty ruffian such as I have indicated, but that is just what
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« Reply #51 on: November 03, 2009, 01:48:45 am »

it is not. It is not the home of a lover of fearful crimes. I would
not walk ten feet for the pleasure of killing any man, no matter who
he is. On the contrary, I would walk twenty feet to avoid doing it,
if the emergency should ever arise, aye, even if it were that fiend
who sits next me at the opera and hums the opera through from
beginning to end. There have been times, I must confess, when I have
wished I might have had the oubliettes to which I have referred
constructed beneath my library and leading to the coal-bins or to
some long-forgotten well, but that was two or three years ago, when
I was in politics for a brief period, and delegations of willing and
thirsty voters were daily and nightly swarming in through every one
of the sixteen doors on the ground-floor of my house, which my
architect, in a riotous moment, smuggled into the plans in the guise
of "French windows." I shouldn't have minded then if the earth had
opened up and swallowed my whole party, so long as I did not have to
go with them, but under such provocation as I had I do not feel that
my residence is justified in being haunted after its present fashion
because such a notion entered my mind. We cannot help our thoughts,
much less our notions, and punishment for that which we cannot help
is not in strict accord with latter-day ideas of justice. It may
occur to some hypercritical person to suggest that the English
language has frequently been murdered in my den, and that it is its
horrid corse which is playing havoc at my home, crying out to heaven
and flaunting its bloody wounds in the face of my conscience, but I
can pass such an aspersion as that by with contemptuous silence, for
even if it were true it could not be set down as wilful
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« Reply #52 on: November 03, 2009, 01:49:10 am »

assassination on my part, since no sane person who needs a language
as much as I do would ever in cold blood kill any one of the many
that lie about us. Furthermore, the English language is not dead. It
may not be met with often in these days, but it is still encountered
with sufficient frequency in the works of Henry James and Miss Libby
to prove that it still lives; and I am told that one or two members
of our consular service abroad can speak it--though as for this I
cannot write with certainty, for I have never encountered one of
these exceptions to the general rule.
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« Reply #53 on: November 03, 2009, 01:49:30 am »

[Illustration: "IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT ONE'S LITERARY CHICKENS COME
HOME TO ROOST"]

The episode with which this narrative has to deal is interesting in
some ways, though I doubt not some readers will prove sceptical as
to its realism. There are suspicious minds in the world, and with
these every man who writes of truth must reckon. To such I have only
to say that it is my desire and intention to tell the truth as
simply as it can be told by James, and as truthfully as Sylvanus
Cobb ever wrote!

Now, then, the facts of my story are these:

In the latter part of last July, expecting a meeting of friends at
my house in connection with a question of the good government of the
city in which I honestly try to pay my taxes, I ordered one hundred
cigars to be delivered at my residence. I ordered several other
things at the same time, but they have nothing whatever to do with
this story, because they were all--every single bottle of them--
consumed at the meeting; but of the cigars, about which the strange
facts of my story cluster, at the close of the meeting a goodly two
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« Reply #54 on: November 03, 2009, 01:50:10 am »

dozen remained. This is surprising, considering that there were
quite six of us present, but it is true. Twenty-four by actual count
remained when the last guest left me. The next morning I and my
family took our departure for a month's rest in the mountains. In
the hurry of leaving home, and the worry of looking after three
children and four times as many trunks, I neglected to include the
cigars in my impedimenta, leaving them in the opened box upon my
library table. It was careless of me, no doubt, but it was an
important incident, as the sequel shows. The incidents of the stay
in the hills were commonplace, but during my absence from home
strange things were going on there, as I learned upon my return.

The place had been left in charge of Barney O'Rourke, who, upon my
arrival, assured me that everything was all right, and I thanked and
paid him.

"Wait a minute, Barney," I said, as he turned to leave me; "I've got
a cigar for you." I may mention incidentally that in the past I had
kept Barney on very good terms with his work by treating him in a
friendly, sociable way, but, to my great surprise, upon this
occasion he declined advances.
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« Reply #55 on: November 03, 2009, 01:50:28 am »

His face flushed very red as he observed that he had given up
smoking.

"Well, wait a minute, anyhow," said I. "There are one or two things
I want to speak to you about." And I went to the table to get a
cigar for myself.

_The box was empty!_

Instantly the suspicion which has doubtless flashed through the mind
of the reader flashed through my own--Barney had been tempted, and
had fallen. I recalled his blush, and on the moment realized that in
all my vast experience with hired men in the past I had never seen
one blush before. The case was clear. My cigars had gone to help
Barney through the hot summer.

"Well, I declare!" I cried, turning suddenly upon him. "I left a lot
of cigars here when I went away, Barney."

"I know ye did, sorr," said Barney, who had now grown white and
rigid. "I saw them meself, sorr. There was twinty-foor of 'em."

"You counted them, eh?" I asked, with an elevation of my eyebrows
which to those who know me conveys the idea of suspicion.

"I did, sorr. In your absence I was responsible for everyt'ing here,
and the mornin' ye wint awaa I took a quick invintery, sorr, of the
removables," he answered, fingering his cap nervously. "That's how
it was, sorr, and thim twinty-foor segyars was lyin' there in the
box forninst me eyes."
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« Reply #56 on: November 03, 2009, 01:50:42 am »

"And how do you account for the removal of these removables, as you
call them, Barney?" I asked, looking coldly at him. He saw he was
under suspicion, and he winced, but pulled himself together in an
instant.

"I expected the question, sorr," he said, calmly, "and I have me
answer ready. Thim segyars was shmoked, sorr."

"Doubtless," said I, with an ill-suppressed sneer. "And by whom?
Cats?" I added, with a contemptuous shrug of my shoulders.

His answer overpowered me, it was so simple, direct, and unexpected.

"Shpooks," he replied, laconically.

I gasped in astonishment, and sat down. My knees simply collapsed
under me, and I could no more have continued to stand up than fly.

"What?" I cried, as soon as I had recovered sufficiently to gasp out
the word.

"Shpooks," replied Barney. "Ut came about like this, sorr. It was
the Froiday two wakes afther you left, I became un'asy loike along
about nine o'clock in the avenin', and I fought I'd come around here
and see if everything was sthraight. Me wife sez ut's foolish of me,
sorr, and I sez maybe so, but I can't get ut out o' me head thot
somet'ing's wrong.

"'Ye locked everything up safe whin ye left?' sez she.
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« Reply #57 on: November 03, 2009, 01:51:04 am »

"'I always does,' sez I.

"'Thin ut's a phwhim,' sez she.

"'No,' sez I. 'Ut's a sinsation. If ut was a phwim, ut'd be youse as
would hov' it'; that's what I sez, sevarely loike, sorr, and out I
shtarts. It was tin o'clock whin I got here. The noight was dark and
blow-in' loike March, rainin' and t'underin' till ye couldn't hear
yourself t'ink.

"I walked down the walk, sorr, an' barrin' the t'under everyt'ing
was quiet. I troid the dures. All toight as a politician. Shtill,
t'inks I, I'll go insoide. Quiet as a lamb ut was, sorr; but on a
suddent, as I was about to go back home again, I shmelt shmoke!"

"Fire?" I cried, excitedly.

"I said shmoke, sorr," said Barney, whose calmness was now beautiful
to look upon, he was so serenely confident of his position.

"Doesn't smoke involve a fire?" I demanded.

"Sometimes," said Barney. "I t'ought ye meant a conflagrashun, sorr.
The shmoke I shmelt was segyars."

"Ah," I observed. "I am glad you are coming to the point. Go on.
There _is_ a difference."

"There is thot," said Barney, pleasantly, he was getting along so
swimmingly. "This shmoke, as I say, was segyar shmoke, so I gropes
me way cautious loike up the back sthairs and listens by the library
dure. All quiet as a lamb. Thin, bold loike, I shteps into the room,
and nearly drops wid the shcare I have on me in a minute. The room
was dark as a b'aver hat, sorr, but in different shpots ranged round
in the chairs was six little red balls of foire!"

"Barney!" I cried.
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« Reply #58 on: November 03, 2009, 01:51:19 am »

"Thrue, sorr," said he. "And tobacky shmoke rollin' out till you'd
'a' t'ought there was a foire in a segyar-store! Ut queered me,
sorr, for a minute, and me impulse is to run; but I gets me courage
up, springs across the room, touches the electhric button, an' bzt!
every gas-jet on the flure loights up!"

"That was rash, Barney," I put in, sarcastically.

"It was in your intherest, sorr," said he, impressively.

"And you saw what?" I queried, growing very impatient.

"What I hope niver to see again, sorr," said Barney, compressing his
lips solemnly. "_Six impty chairs,_ sorr, wid six segyars as hoigh
up from the flure as a man's mout', puffin' and a-blowin' out shmoke
loike a chimbley! An' ivery oncet in a whoile the segyars would go
down kind of an' be tapped loike as if wid a finger of a shmoker,
and the ashes would fall off onto the flure!"

"Well?" said I. "Go on. What next?"
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« Reply #59 on: November 03, 2009, 01:51:37 am »

"I wanted to run awaa, sorr, but I shtood rutted to the shpot wid
th' surproise I had on me, until foinally ivery segyar was burnt to
a shtub and trun into the foireplace, where I found 'em the nixt
mornin' when I came to clane up, provin' ut wasn't ony dhrame I'd
been havin'."

I arose from my chair and paced the room for two or three minutes,
wondering what I could say. Of course the man was lying, I thought.
Then I pulled myself together.

"Barney," I said, severely, "what's the use? Do you expect me to
believe any such ****-and-bull story as that?"

"No, sorr," said he. "But thim's the facts."

"Do you mean to say that this house of mine is haunted?" I cried.

[Illustration: "'SIX IMPTY CHAIRS, SORR'"]

"I don't know," said Barney, quietly. "I didn't t'ink so before."

"Before? Before what? When?" I asked.
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