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The Creaking Stair
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The Apparition Of Mrs Veal

This relation is matter of fact, and attended with such circumstances,
as may induce any reasonable man to believe it. It was sent by a
gentleman, a justice of peace, at Maidstone, in Kent, and a very
intelligent person, to his friend in London, as it is here worded; which
discourse is attested by a very sober and understanding gentlewoman, a
kinswoman of the said gentleman's, who lives in Canterbury, within a few
doors of the house in which the within-named Mrs. Bargrave lives; who
believes his kinswoman to be of so discerning a spirit, as not to be put
upon by any fallacy; and who positively assured him that the whole
matter, as it is related and laid down, is really true; and what she
herself had in the same words, as near as may be, from Mrs. Bargrave's
own mouth, who, she knows, had no reason to invent and publish such a
story, or any design to forge and tell a lie, being a woman of much
honesty and virtue, and her whole life a course, as it were, of piety.
The use which we ought to make of it, is to consider, that there is a
life to come after this, and a just God, who will retribute to every one
according to the deeds done in the body; and therefore to reflect upon
our past course of life we have led in the world; that our time is short
and uncertain; and that if we would escape the punishment of the
ungodly, and receive the reward of the righteous, which is the laying
hold of eternal life, we ought, for the time to come, to return to God
by a speedy repentance, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well: to
seek after God early, if happily He may be found of us, and lead such
lives for the future, as may be well pleasing in His sight.

This thing is so rare in all its circumstances, and on so good
authority, that my reading and conversation has not given me anything
like it: it is fit to gratify the most ingenious and serious inquirer.
Mrs. Bargrave is the person to whom Mrs. Veal appeared after her death;
she is my intimate friend, and I can avouch for her reputation, for
these last fifteen or sixteen years, on my own knowledge; and I can
confirm the good character she had from her youth, to the time of my
acquaintance. Though, since this relation, she is calumniated by some
people, that are friends to the brother of this Mrs. Veal, who appeared;
who think the relation of this appearance to be a reflection, and
endeavor what they can to blast Mrs. Bargrave's reputation, and to laugh
the story out of countenance. But by the circumstances thereof, and the
cheerful disposition of Mrs. Bargrave, notwithstanding the ill-usage of
a very wicked husband, there is not yet the least sign of dejection in
her face; nor did I ever hear her let fall a desponding or murmuring
expression; nay, not when actually under her husband's barbarity; which
I have been witness to, and several other persons of undoubted

Now you must know, Mrs. Veal was a maiden gentlewoman of about thirty
years of age, and for some years last past had been troubled with fits;
which were perceived coming on her, by her going off from her discourse
very abruptly to some impertinence. She was maintained by an only
brother, and kept his house in Dover. She was a very pious woman, and
her brother a very sober man to all appearance; but now he does all he
can to null or quash the story. Mrs. Veal was intimately acquainted with
Mrs. Bargrave from her childhood. Mrs. Veal's circumstances were then
mean; her father did not take care of his children as he ought, so that
they were exposed to hardships; and Mrs. Bargrave, in those days, had as
unkind a father, though she wanted neither for food nor clothing, whilst
Mrs. Veal wanted for both; insomuch that she would often say, Mrs.
Bargrave, you are not only the best, but the only friend I have in the
world, and no circumstances of life shall ever dissolve my friendship.
They would often condole each other's adverse fortunes, and read
together Drelincourt upon Death, and other good books; and so, like two
Christian friends, they comforted each other under their sorrow.

Some time after, Mr. Veal's friends got him a place in the custom-house
at Dover, which occasioned Mrs. Veal, by little and little, to fall off
from her intimacy with Mrs. Bargrave, though there was never any such
thing as a quarrel; but an indifferency came on by degrees, till at last
Mrs. Bargrave had not seen her in two years and a half; though above a
twelvemonth of the time Mrs. Bargrave hath been absent from Dover, and
this last half year has been in Canterbury about two months of the time,
dwelling in a house of her own.

In this house, on the 8th of September, 1705, she was sitting alone in
the forenoon, thinking over her unfortunate life, and arguing herself
into a due resignation to providence, though her condition seemed hard.
And, said she, I have been provided for hitherto, and doubt not but I
shall be still; and am well satisfied that my afflictions shall end when
it is most fit for me: and then took up her sewing-work, which she had
no sooner done, but she hears a knocking at the door. She went to see
who was there, and this proved to be Mrs. Veal, her old friend, who was
in a riding-habit. At that moment of time the clock struck twelve at

Madam, says Mrs. Bargrave, I am surprised to see you, you have been so
long a stranger; but told her, she was glad to see her, and offered to
salute her; which Mrs. Veal complied with, till their lips almost
touched; and then Mrs. Veal drew her hand across her own eyes, and said,
I am not very well; and so waived it. She told Mrs. Bargrave, she was
going a journey, and had a great mind to see her first. But, says Mrs.
Bargrave, how came you to take a journey alone? I am amazed at it,
because I know you have a fond brother. Oh! says Mrs. Veal, I gave my
brother the slip, and came away because I had so great a desire to see
you before I took my journey. So Mrs. Bargrave went in with her, into
another room within the first, and Mrs. Veal sat her down in an
elbow-chair, in which Mrs. Bargrave was sitting when she heard Mrs. Veal
knock. Then says Mrs. Veal, My dear friend, I am come to renew our old
friendship again, and beg your pardon for my breach of it; and if you
can forgive me, you are the best of women. O, says Mrs. Bargrave, do not
mention such a thing; I have not had an uneasy thought about it; I can
easily forgive it. What did you think of me? said Mrs. Veal. Says Mrs.
Bargrave, I thought you were like the rest of the world, and that
prosperity had made you forget yourself and me. Then Mrs. Veal reminded
Mrs. Bargrave of the many friendly offices she did her in former days,
and much of the conversation they had with each other in the times of
their adversity; what books they read, and what comfort, in particular,
they received from Drelincourt's Book of Death, which was the best, she
said, on that subject ever written. She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, the
two Dutch books which were translated, written upon death, and several
others. But Drelincourt, she said, had the clearest notions of death,
and of the future state, of any who had handled that subject. Then she
asked Mrs. Bargrave, whether she had Drelincourt. She said, Yes. Says
Mrs. Veal, Fetch it. And so Mrs. Bargrave goes up stairs and brings it
down. Says Mrs. Veal, Dear Mrs. Bargrave, if the eyes of our faith were
as open as the eyes of our body, we should see numbers of angels about
us for our guard. The notions we have of heaven now, are nothing like
what it is, as Drelincourt says; therefore be comforted under your
afflictions, and believe that the Almighty has a particular regard to
you; and that your afflictions are marks of God's favor; and when they
have done the business they are sent for, they shall be removed from
you. And believe me, my dear friend, believe what I say to you, one
minute of future happiness will infinitely reward you for all your
sufferings. For, I can never believe (and claps her hand upon her knee
with great earnestness, which indeed ran through most of her discourse),
that ever God will suffer you to spend all your days in this afflicted
state; but be assured, that your afflictions shall leave you, or you
them, in a short time. She spake in that pathetical and heavenly
manner, that Mrs. Bargrave wept several times, she was so deeply
affected with it.

Then Mrs. Veal mentioned Dr. Kenrick's Ascetick, at the end of which he
gives an account of the lives of the primitive Christians. Their pattern
she recommended to our imitation, and said, their conversation was not
like this of our age: For now, says she, there is nothing but frothy,
vain discourse, which is far different from theirs. Theirs was to
edification, and to build one another up in faith; so that they were not
as we are, nor are we as they were: but, says she, we ought to do as
they did. There was an hearty friendship among them; but where is it now
to be found? Says Mrs. Bargrave, It is hard indeed to find a true friend
in these days. Says Mrs. Veal, Mr. Norris has a fine copy of verses,
called Friendship in Perfection, which I wonderfully admire. Have you
seen the book? says Mrs. Veal. No, says Mrs. Bargrave, but I have the
verses of my own writing out. Have you? says Mrs. Veal, then fetch them.
Which she did from above stairs, and offered them to Mrs. Veal to read,
who refused, and waived the thing, saying, holding down her head would
make it ache; and then desired Mrs. Bargrave to read them to her, which
she did. As they were admiring friendship, Mrs. Veal said, Dear Mrs.
Bargrave, I shall love you for ever. In these verses there is twice used
the word Elysian. Ah! says Mrs. Veal, these poets have such names for
heaven. She would often draw her hands across her own eyes, and say,
Mrs. Bargrave, do not you think I am mightily impaired by my fits? No,
says Mrs. Bargrave, I think you look as well as ever I knew you. After
all this discourse, which the apparition put in much finer words than
Mrs. Bargrave said she could pretend to, and as much more than she can
remember, (for it cannot be thought, that an hour and three quarters'
conversation could all be retained, though the main of it she thinks she
does,) she said to Mrs. Bargrave, she would have her write a letter to
her brother, and tell him, she would have him give rings to such and
such; and that there was a purse of gold in her cabinet, and that she
would have two broad pieces given to her cousin Watson.

Talking at this rate, Mrs. Bargrave thought that a fit was coming upon
her, and so placed herself in a chair just before her knees, to keep her
from falling to the ground, if her fits should occasion it: for the
elbow-chair, she thought, would keep her from falling on either side.
And to divert Mrs. Veal, as she thought, took hold of her gown-sleeve
several times, and commended it. Mrs. Veal told her, it was a scowered
silk, and newly made up. But for all this, Mrs. Veal persisted in her
request, and told Mrs. Bargrave, she must not deny her: and she would
have her tell her brother all their conversation, when she had
opportunity. Dear Mrs. Veal, says Mrs. Bargrave, this seems so
impertinent, that I cannot tell how to comply with it; and what a
mortifying story will our conversation be to a young gentleman? Why,
says Mrs. Bargrave, it is much better, methinks, to do it yourself. No,
says Mrs. Veal, though it seems impertinent to you now, you will see
more reason for it hereafter. Mrs. Bargrave then, to satisfy her
importunity, was going to fetch a pen and ink; but Mrs. Veal said, Let
it alone now, but do it when I am gone; but you must be sure to do it:
which was one of the last things she enjoined her at parting; and so she
promised her.

Then Mrs. Veal asked for Mrs. Bargrave's daughter; she said, she was not
at home: But if you have a mind to see her, says Mrs. Bargrave, I'll
send for her. Do, says Mrs. Veal. On which she left her, and went to a
neighbor's to seek for her; and by the time Mrs. Bargrave was returning,
Mrs. Veal was got without the door in the street, in the face of the
beast-market, on a Saturday, which is market-day, and stood ready to
part, as soon as Mrs. Bargrave came to her. She asked her, why she was
in such haste. She said she must be going, though perhaps she might not
go her journey till Monday; and told Mrs. Bargrave, she hoped she should
see her again at her cousin Watson's, before she went whither she was
going. Then she said, she would take her leave of her, and walked from
Mrs. Bargrave in her view, till a turning interrupted the sight of her,
which was three quarters after one in the afternoon.

Mrs. Veal died the 7th of September, at twelve o'clock at noon of her
fits, and had not above four hours' senses before her death, in which
time she received the sacrament. The next day after Mrs. Veal's
appearing, being Sunday, Mrs. Bargrave was mightily indisposed with a
cold, and a sore throat, that she could not go out that day; but on
Monday morning she sent a person to Captain Watson's, to know if Mrs.
Veal was there. They wondered at Mrs. Bargrave's inquiry; and sent her
word, that she was not there, nor was expected. At this answer Mrs.
Bargrave told the maid she had certainly mistook the name, or made some
blunder. And though she was ill, she put on her hood, and went herself
to Captain Watson's though she knew none of the family, to see if Mrs.
Veal was there or not. They said, they wondered at her asking, for that
she had not been in town; they were sure, if she had, she would have
been there. Says Mrs. Bargrave, I am sure she was with me on Saturday
almost two hours. They said, it was impossible; for they must have seen
her if she had. In comes Captain Watson, while they were in dispute, and
said, that Mrs. Veal was certainly dead, and her escutcheons were
making. This strangely surprised Mrs. Bargrave, when she sent to the
person immediately who had the care of them, and found it true. Then she
related the whole story to Captain Watson's family, and what gown she
had on, and how striped; and that Mrs. Veal told her, it was scowered.
Then Mrs. Watson cried out, You have seen her indeed, for none knew, but
Mrs. Veal and myself, that the gown was scowered. And Mrs. Watson owned,
that she described the gown exactly: For, said she, I helped her to make
it up. This Mrs. Watson blazed all about the town, and avouched the
demonstration of the truth of Mrs. Bargrave's seeing Mrs. Veal's
apparition. And Captain Watson carried two gentlemen immediately to Mrs.
Bargrave's house, to hear the relation of her own mouth. And when it
spread so fast, that gentlemen and persons of quality, the judicious and
skeptical part of the world, flocked in upon her, it at last became such
a task, that she was forced to go out of the way. For they were, in
general, extremely satisfied of the truth of the thing, and plainly saw
that Mrs. Bargrave was no hypochondraic; for she always appears with
such a cheerful air, and pleasing mien, that she has gained the favor
and esteem of all the gentry; and it is thought a great favor, if they
can but get the relation from her own mouth. I should have told you
before, that Mrs. Veal told Mrs. Bargrave, that her sister and
brother-in-law were just come down from London to see her. Says Mrs.
Bargrave, How came you to order matters so strangely? It could not be
helped, says Mrs. Veal. And her brother and sister did come to see her,
and entered the town of Dover just as Mrs. Veal was expiring. Mrs.
Bargrave, asked her, whether she would drink some tea. Says Mrs. Veal,
I do not care if I do; but I'll warrant you, this mad fellow (meaning
Mrs. Bargrave's husband) has broke all your trinkets. But, says Mrs.
Bargrave, I'll get something to drink in for all that; but Mrs. Veal
waived it, and said, It is no matter, let it alone; and so it passed.

All the time I sat with Mrs. Bargrave, which was some hours, she
recollected fresh sayings of Mrs. Veal. And one material thing more she
told Mrs. Bargrave, that old Mr. Breton allowed Mrs. Veal ten pounds a
year; which was a secret, and unknown to Mrs. Bargrave, till Mrs. Veal
told it her.

Mrs. Bargrave never varies in her story; which puzzles those who doubt
of the truth, or are unwilling to believe it. A servant in the
neighbor's yard, adjoining to Mrs. Bargrave's house, heard her talking
to somebody an hour of the time Mrs. Veal was with her. Mrs. Bargrave
went out to her next neighbor's the very moment she parted with Mrs.
Veal, and told her what ravishing conversation she had with an old
friend, and told the whole of it. Drelincourt's Book of Death is, since
this happened, bought up strangely. And it is to be observed, that
notwithstanding all the trouble and fatigue Mrs. Bargrave has undergone
upon this account, she never took the value of a farthing, nor suffered
her daughter to take anything of anybody, and therefore can have no
interest in telling the story.

But Mr. Veal does what he can to stifle the matter, and said, he would
see Mrs. Bargrave; but yet it is certain matter of fact that he has been
at Captain Watson's since the death of his sister, and yet never went
near Mrs. Bargrave; and some of his friends report her to be a liar,
and that she knew of Mr. Breton's ten pounds a year. But the person who
pretends to say so, has the reputation of a notorious liar, among
persons whom I know to be of undoubted credit. Now Mr. Veal is more of a
gentleman than to say she lies; but says, a bad husband has crazed her.
But she needs only present herself, and it will effectually confute that
pretense. Mr. Veal says, he asked his sister on her death-bed, whether
she had a mind to dispose of anything? And she said, No. Now, the things
which Mrs. Veal's apparition would have disposed of, were so trifling,
and nothing of justice aimed at in their disposal, that the design of it
appears to me to be only in order to make Mrs. Bargrave so to
demonstrate the truth of her appearance, as to satisfy the world of the
reality thereof, as to what she had seen and heard; and to secure her
reputation among the reasonable and understanding part of mankind. And
then again, Mr. Veal owns, that there was a purse of gold; but it was
not found in her cabinet, but in a comb-box. This looks improbable; for
that Mrs. Watson owned, that Mrs. Veal was so very careful of the key of
the cabinet, that she would trust nobody with it. And if so, no doubt
she would not trust her gold out of it. And Mrs. Veal's often drawing
her hand over her eyes, and asking Mrs. Bargrave whether her fits had
not impaired her, looks to me as if she did it on purpose to remind Mrs.
Bargrave of her fits, to prepare her not to think it strange that she
should put her upon writing to her brother to dispose of rings and gold,
which looked so much like a dying person's request; and it took
accordingly with Mrs. Bargrave, as the effects of her fits coming upon
her; and was one of the many instances of her wonderful love to her, and
care of her, that she should not be affrighted; which indeed appears in
her whole management, particularly in her coming to her in the day-time,
waiving the salutation, and when she was alone; and then the manner of
her parting, to prevent a second attempt to salute her.

Now, why Mr. Veal should think this relation a reflection, as it is
plain he does, by his endeavoring to stifle it, I cannot imagine;
because the generality believe her to be a good spirit, her discourse
was so heavenly. Her two great errands were to comfort Mrs. Bargrave in
her affliction, and to ask her forgiveness for the breach of friendship,
and with a pious discourse to encourage her. So that, after all, to
suppose that Mrs. Bargrave could hatch such an invention as this from
Friday noon till Saturday noon, supposing that she knew of Mrs. Veal's
death the very first moment, without jumbling circumstances, and without
any interest too; she must be more witty, fortunate, and wicked too,
than any indifferent person, I dare say, will allow. I asked Mrs.
Bargrave several times, if she was sure she felt the gown? She answered
modestly, If my senses be to be relied on, I am sure of it. I asked her,
if she heard a sound when she clapped her hand upon her knee? She said,
she did not remember she did; but said she appeared to be as much a
substance as I did, who talked with her. And I may, said she, be as soon
persuaded, that your apparition is talking to me now, as that I did not
really see her: for I was under no manner of fear, and received her as a
friend, and parted with her as such. I would not, says she, give one
farthing to make any one believe it: I have no interest in it; nothing
but trouble is entailed upon me for a long time, for aught I know; and
had it not come to light by accident, it would never have been made
public. But now, she says, she will make her own private use of it, and
keep herself out of the way as much as she can; and so she has done
since. She says, She had a gentleman who came thirty miles to her to
hear the relation; and that she had told it to a room full of people at
a time. Several particular gentlemen have had the story from Mrs.
Bargrave's own mouth.

This thing has very much affected me, and I am as well satisfied, as I
am of the best-grounded matter of fact. And why we should dispute matter
of fact, because we cannot solve things of which we can have no certain
or demonstrative notions, seems strange to me. Mrs. Bargrave's authority
and sincerity alone, would have been undoubted in any other case.


The origin of the foregoing curious story seems to have been as

An adventurous bookseller had ventured to print a considerable edition
of a work by the Reverend Charles Drelincourt, minister of the Calvinist
church in Paris, and translated by M. D'Assigny, under the title of "The
Christian's Defense against the Fear of Death, with several directions
how to prepare ourselves to die well." But however certain the prospect
of death, it is not so agreeable (unfortunately) as to invite the eager
contemplation of the public; and Drelincourt's book, being neglected,
lay a dead stock on the hands of the publisher. In this emergency, he
applied to De Foe to assist him (by dint of such means as were then, as
well as now, pretty well understood in the literary world) in rescuing
the unfortunate book from the literary death to which general neglect
seemed about to consign it.

De Foe's genius and audacity devised a plan which, for assurance and
ingenuity, defied even the powers of Mr. Puff in the _Critic_: for who
but himself would have thought of summoning up a ghost from the grave to
bear witness in favor of a halting body of divinity? There is a
matter-of-fact, business-like style in the whole account of the
transaction, which bespeaks ineffable powers of self-possession. The
narrative is drawn up "by a gentleman, a _Justice of Peace_ at
Maidstone, in Kent, a very intelligent person." And, moreover, "the
discourse is attested by a very sober gentlewoman, who lives in
Canterbury, within a few doors of the house in which Mrs. Bargrave
lives." The Justice believes his kinswoman to be of so discerning a
spirit, as not to be put upon by any fallacy--and the kinswoman
positively assures the Justice, "that the whole matter, as it is related
and laid down, is really true, and what she herself heard, as near as
may be, from Mrs. Bargrave's own mouth, who, she knows, had no reason to
invent or publish such a story, or any design to forge and tell a lie,
being a woman of so much honesty and virtue, and her whole life a
course, as it were, of piety." Skepticism itself could not resist this
triple court of evidence so artfully combined, the Justice attesting
for the discerning spirit of the sober and understanding gentlewoman his
kinswoman, and his kinswoman becoming bail for the veracity of Mrs.
Bargrave. And here, gentle reader, admire the simplicity of those days.
Had Mrs. Veal's visit to her friend happened in our time, the conductors
of the daily press would have given the word, and seven gentlemen unto
the said press belonging, would, with an obedient start, have made off
for Kingston, for Canterbury, for Dover,--for Kamchatka if
necessary,--to pose the Justice, cross-examine Mrs. Bargrave, confront
the sober and understanding kinswoman, and dig Mrs. Veal up from her
grave, rather than not get to the bottom of the story. But in our time
we doubt and scrutinize; our ancestors wondered and believed.

Before the story is commenced, the understanding gentlewoman (not the
Justice of Peace), who is the reporter, takes some pains to repel the
objections made against the story by some of the friends of Mrs. Veal's
brother, who consider the marvel as an aspersion on their family, and do
what they can to laugh it out of countenance. Indeed, it is allowed,
with admirable impartiality, that Mr. Veal is too much of a gentleman to
suppose Mrs. Bargrave invented the story--scandal itself could scarce
have supposed that--although one notorious liar, who is chastised
towards the conclusion of the story, ventures to throw out such an
insinuation. No reasonable or respectable person, however, could be
found to countenance the suspicion, and Mr. Veal himself opined that
Mrs. Bargrave had been driven crazy by a cruel husband, and dreamed the
whole story of the apparition. Now all this is sufficiently artful. To
have vouched the fact as universally known, and believed by every one,
_nem. con._, would not have been half so satisfactory to a skeptic as to
allow fairly that the narrative had been impugned, and hint at the
character of one of those skeptics, and the motives of another, as
sufficient to account for their want of belief. Now to the fact itself.

Mrs. Bargrave and Mrs. Veal had been friends in youth, and had protested
their attachment should last as long as they lived; but when Mrs. Veal's
brother obtained an office in the customs at Dover, some cessation of
their intimacy ensued, "though without any positive quarrel." Mrs.
Bargrave had removed to Canterbury, and was residing in a house of her
own, when she was suddenly interrupted by a visit from Mrs. Veal, as she
was sitting in deep contemplation of certain distresses of her own. The
visitor was in a riding-habit, and announced herself as prepared for a
distant journey (which seems to intimate that spirits have a
considerable distance to go before they arrive at their appointed
station, and that the females at least put on a _habit_ for the
occasion). The spirit, for such was the seeming Mrs. Veal, continued to
waive the ceremony of salutation, both in going and coming, which will
remind the reader of a ghostly lover's reply to his mistress in the fine
old Scottish ballad:--

Why should I come within thy bower?
I am no earthly man;
And should I kiss thy rosy lips,
Thy days would not be lang.

They then began to talk in the homely style of middle-aged ladies, and
Mrs. Veal proses concerning the conversations they had formerly held,
and the books they had read together. Her very recent experience
probably led Mrs. Veal to talk of death, and the books written on the
subject, and she pronounced _ex cathedra_, as a dead person was best
entitled to do, that "Drelincourt's book on Death was the best book on
the subject ever written." She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, two Dutch
books which had been translated, and several others; but Drelincourt,
she said, had the clearest notions of death and the future state of any
who had handled that subject. She then asked for the work [we marvel the
edition and impress had not been mentioned] and lectured on it with
great eloquence and affection. Dr. Kenrick's _Ascetick_ was also
mentioned with approbation by this critical specter [the Doctor's work
was no doubt a tenant of the shelf in some favorite publisher's shop];
and Mr. Norris's _Poem on Friendship_, a work, which I doubt, though
honored with a ghost's approbation, we may now seek for as vainly as
Correlli tormented his memory to recover the sonata which the devil
played to him in a dream. Presently after, from former habits we may
suppose, the guest desires a cup of tea; but, bethinking herself of her
new character, escapes from her own proposal by recollecting that Mr.
Bargrave was in the habit of breaking his wife's china. It would have
been indeed strangely out of character if the spirit had lunched, or
breakfasted upon tea and toast. Such a consummation would have sounded
as ridiculous as if the statue of the commander in _Don Juan_ had not
only accepted of the invitation of the libertine to supper, but had also
committed a beefsteak to his flinty jaws and stomach of adamant. A
little more conversation ensued of a less serious nature, and tending to
show that even the passage from life to death leaves the female anxiety
about person and dress somewhat alive. The ghost asked Mrs. Bargrave
whether she did not think her very much altered, and Mrs. Bargrave of
course complimented her on her good looks. Mrs. Bargrave also admired
the gown which Mrs. Veal wore, and as a mark of her perfectly restored
confidence, the spirit led her into the important secret, that it was a
_scoured silk_, and lately made up. She informed her also of another
secret, namely, that one Mr. Breton had allowed her ten pounds a year;
and, lastly, she requested that Mrs. Bargrave would write to her
brother, and tell him how to distribute her mourning rings, and
mentioned there was a purse of gold in her cabinet. She expressed some
wish to see Mrs. Bargrave's daughter; but when that good lady went to
the next door to seek her, she found on her return the guest leaving the
house. She had got without the door, in the street, in the face of the
beast market, on a Saturday, which is market day, and stood ready to
part. She said she must be going, as she had to call upon her cousin
Watson (this appears to be a _gratis dictum_ on the part of the ghost)
and, maintaining the character of mortality to the last, she quietly
turned the corner, and walked out of sight.

Then came the news of Mrs. Veal's having died the day before at noon.
Says Mrs. Bargrave, "I am sure she was with me on Saturday almost two
hours." And in comes Captain Watson, and says Mrs. Veal was certainly
dead. And then come all the pieces of evidence, and especially the
striped silk gown. Then Mrs. Watson cried out, "You have seen her
indeed, for none knew but Mrs. Veal and I that that gown was scoured";
and she cried that the gown was described exactly, for, said she, "I
helped her to make it up." And next we have the silly attempts made to
discredit the history. Even Mr. Veal, her brother, was obliged to allow
that the gold was found, but with a difference, and pretended it was not
found in a cabinet, but elsewhere; and, in short, we have all the gossip
of _says I_, and _thinks I_, and _says she_, and _thinks she_, which
disputed matters usually excite in a country town.

When we have thus turned the tale, the seam without, it may be thought
too ridiculous to have attracted notice. But whoever will read it as
told by De Foe himself, will agree that, could the thing have happened
in reality, so it would have been told. The sobering the whole
supernatural visit into the language of the middle or low life, gives it
an air of probability even in its absurdity. The ghost of an exciseman's
housekeeper, and a seamstress, were not to converse like Brutus with his
Evil Genius. And the circumstances of scoured silks, broken tea-china,
and such like, while they are the natural topics of such persons'
conversation, would, one might have thought, be the last which an
inventor would have introduced into a pretended narrative betwixt the
dead and living. In short, the whole is so distinctly circumstantial,
that, were it not for the impossibility, or extreme improbability at
least, of such an occurrence, the evidence could not but support the

The effect was most wonderful. _Drelincourt upon Death_, attested by one
who could speak from experience, took an unequaled run. The copies had
hung on the bookseller's hands as heavy as a pile of lead bullets. They
now traversed the town in every direction, like the same balls
discharged from a field-piece. In short, the object of Mrs. Veal's
apparition was perfectly attained.--[See The Miscellaneous Prose Works
of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., vol. iv. p. 305, ed. 1827.]

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