Supposed Supernatural Appearance





Some few years since, before ghosts and spectres were commonly

introduced among us by means of the pantomimes and novels of the day, a

gentleman of a philosophical turn of mind, who was hardy enough to deny

the existence of any thing supernatural, happened to pay a visit at an

old house in Gloucestershire, whose unfortunate owner had just become a

bankrupt, with a view to offer such assistance and consolation as he

could bestow: when, in one rainy dull evening in the month of March, the

family being seated by the kitchen fire-side, the conversation turned on

supernatural appearances. The philosopher was endeavouring to convince

his auditors of the folly and absurdity of such opinions, with rather an

unbecoming levity, when the wife left the party and went up stairs; but

had hardly quitted the kitchen three minutes, before a dreadful noise

was heard, mingled with horrid screams. The poor maid changed

countenance, and her red hair stood erect, in every direction; the

husband trembled in his chair; and the philosopher began to look

serious. At last, the husband rose from his seat, and ascended the

stairs in search of his wife, when a second dreadful scream was heard:

the maid mustered resolution to follow her master, and a third scream

ensued. The philosopher, who was not quite at ease, now thought it high

time for him to set out in search of a cause: when, arriving at the

landing-place, he found the maid in a fit; the master lying flat, with

his face upon the floor, which was stained with blood; and, on advancing

a little farther, the mistress in nearly the same condition. To the

latter the philosopher paid immediate attention; and, finding she had

only swooned away, brought her in his arms down stairs, and placed her

on the floor of the kitchen. The pump was at hand, and he had the

presence of mind to run to it to get some water in a glass; but what was

his astonishment, when he found that he pumped only copious streams of

blood! which extraordinary appearance, joined to the other

circumstances, made the unbeliever tremble in every limb: a sudden

perspiration overspread the surface of his skin; and the supernatural

possessed his imagination in all its true colours of dread and horror.

Again and again he repeated his efforts; and, again and again, threw

away the loathsome contents of the glass.



Had the story stopped here, what would not superstition have made of it?

But the philosopher, who was still pumping, now found the water grew

paler; and, at last, pure water filled the vessel. Overjoyed at this

observation, he threw the limpid stream in the face of the mistress,

whose recovery was assisted by the appearance of her husband and Betty.



The mystery, when explained, turned out to be simply this--The good

housewife, when she knew that a docket had been struck against her

husband, had taken care to conceal some of her choice cherry brandy,

from the rapacious gripe of the messenger to the Commissioners of

Bankrupts, on some shelves in a closet up stairs, which also contained,

agreeably to the ancient architecture of the building, the trunk of the

pump below; and, in trying to move the jars, to get at a drop for the

party at the kitchen fire, the shelf gave way with a tremendous crash;

the jars were broken into an hundred pieces; the rich juice descended in

torrents down the trunk of the pump, and filled, with its ruby current,

the sucker beneath; and this was the self-same fluid which the

philosopher, in his fright, had so madly thrown away. The wife had

swooned at the accident; the husband, in his haste, had fallen on his

nose, which ran with blood; and the maid's legs, in her hurry, coming in

contact with her fallen master's ribs, she, like "vaulting ambition,"

overleaped herself, and fell on the other side.



Often has this story been told, by one who knew the philosopher, with

great effect, till the last act, or denouement; when disappointment

was mostly visible in the looks of his auditors, at finding there was

actually nothing supernatural in the affair, and no ghost.





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