The Club-room Ghost
At a town in the west of England, was held a club of twenty-four
persons, which assembled once a week, to drink punch, smoke tobacco, and
talk politics. Like Rubens's Academy at Antwerp, each member had his
peculiar chair, and the president's was more exalted than the rest. One
of the members had been in a dying state for some time; of course, his
chair, while he was absent, remained vacant.
The club being met on their usual night, inquiries were naturally made
after their associate. As he lived in the adjoining house, a particular
friend went himself to inquire for him, and returned with the dismal
tidings, that he could not possibly survive the night. This threw a
gloom on the company, and all efforts to turn the conversation from the
sad subject before them were ineffectual.
About midnight (the time, by long prescription, appropriated for the
walking of spectres), the door opened; and the form, in white, of the
dying, or rather of the dead man, walked into the room, and took his
seat in the accustomed chair: there he remained in silence, and in
silence was he gazed at. The apparition continued a sufficient time in
the chair to convince all present of the reality of the vision: at
length, he arose, and stalked towards the door, which he opened as if
living--went out, and then shut the door after him. After a long pause,
some one, at last, had the resolution to say, "If only one of us had
seen this, he would not have been believed; but it is impossible that so
many persons can be deceived."
The company, by degrees, recovered their speech; and the whole
conversation, as may be imagined, was upon the dreadful object which
had engaged their attention. They broke up, and went home. In the
morning, inquiry was made after their sick friend; it was answered by an
account of his death, which happened nearly at the time of his appearing
in the club. There could be little doubt before, but now nothing could
be more certain, than the reality of the apparition, which had been seen
by so many persons together.
It is needless to say, that such a story spread over the country, and
found credit, even from infidels; for, in this case, all reasoning
became superfluous, when opposed to a plain fact, attested by
three-and-twenty witnesses. To assert the doctrine of the fixed laws of
nature, was ridiculous, when there were so many people of credit to
prove that they might be unfixed. Years rolled on; the story ceased to
engage attention, and it was forgotten, unless when occasionally
produced to silence an unbeliever.
One of the club was an apothecary. In the course of his practice, he was
called to an old woman, whose profession was attending on sick persons.
She told him, that she could leave the world with a quiet conscience,
but for one thing which lay on her mind. "Do not you remember Mr. ----,
whose ghost has been so much talked of? I was his nurse. The night he
died, I left the room for something that was wanted. I am sure I had
not been absent long; but, at my return, I found the bed without my
patient. He was delirious; and I feared that he had thrown himself out
of the window. I was so frightened that I had no power to stir; but,
after some time, to my great astonishment, he entered the room
shivering, and his teeth chattering--laid down on the bed, and died.
Considering myself as the cause of his death, I kept this a secret, for
fear of what might be done to me. Though I could contradict all the
story of the ghost, I dared not do it. I knew, by what had happened,
that it was he himself who had been in the club-room (perhaps
recollecting, in his delirium, that it was the night of meeting): but I
hope God and the poor gentleman's friends will forgive me, and then I
shall die contented."
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