The Double Mistake Or College Ghost
Mr. Samuel Foote, the celebrated comedian, played the following trick
upon Doctor Gower, who was then provost of his college, a man of
considerable learning, but rather of a grave pedantic turn of mind.
The church belonging to the college fronted the side of a lane, where
cattle were sometimes turned out to graze during the night; and from the
steeple hung the bell-rope, very low in the middle of the outside porch.
Foote saw in this an object likely to produce some fun, and immediately
set about to accomplish his purpose. He accordingly, one night, slily
tied a wisp of hay to the rope, as a bait for the cows in their
peregrination to the grazing ground. The scheme succeeded to his wish.
One of the cows soon after, smelling the hay as she passed by the
church-door, instantly seized on it, and, by tugging at the rope, made
the bell ring, to the astonishment of the sexton and the whole parish.
This happened several nights successively; and the incident gave rise to
various reports--such as, not only that the church was haunted by evil
spirits, but that several spectres were seen walking about the
church-yard, in all those hideous and frightful shapes, which fear,
ignorance, and fancy, usually suggest on such occasions.
An event of this kind, however, was to be explored, for the honour of
philosophy, as well as for the quiet of the parish. Accordingly, the
Doctor and the sexton agreed to sit up one night, and, on the first
alarm, to run out, and drag the culprit to condign punishment. Their
plan being arranged, they waited with the utmost impatience for the
appointed signal: at last, the bell began to sound its usual alarm, and
they both sallied out in the dark, determined on making a discovery.
The sexton was the first in the attack: he seized the cow by the tail,
and cried out it was a gentleman commoner, as he had him by the tail of
his gown; while the Doctor, who had caught the cow by the horns at the
same time, immediately replied, "No, no, you blockhead, 'tis the
postman; and here I have hold of the rascal by his blowing-horn." Lights
however were immediately brought, when the character of the real
offender was discovered, and the laugh of the whole town was turned upon
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