The Haunted Castle





The castle of Ardivillers, near Breteuil, was reported to be haunted by

evil spirits. Dreadful noises were heard; and flames were seen, by

night, to issue from various apertures. The farmer who was entrusted

with the care of the house, in the absence of its owner, the President

d'Ardivillers, could alone live there. The spirit seemed to respect him;

but any person who ventured to take up a night's lodging in the castle

was sure to bear the marks of his audacity.



Superstition is catching. The peasants in the neighbourhood at length

began to see strange sights. Sometimes a dozen of ghosts would appear in

the air above the castle dancing. At other times, a number of presidents

and counsellors, in red robes, appeared in the adjacent meadow. There

they sat in judgment on a gentleman of the country, who had been

beheaded for some crime an hundred years before. In short, many had

seen, and all had heard, the wonders of the castle of Ardivillers.



This affair had continued four or five years, to the great loss of the

President, who had been obliged to let the estate to the farmer at a

very low rent. At length, suspecting some artifice, he resolved to visit

and inspect the castle himself.



Taking with him two gentlemen, his friends, they determined to pass the

night in the same apartment; and if any noise or apparition disturbed

them, to discharge their pistols at either ghost or sound. As spirits

know all things, they were probably aware of these preparations, and not

one appeared. But, in the chamber just above, a dreadful rattling of

chains was heard; and the wife and children of the farmer ran to assist

their lord. They threw themselves on their knees, begging that he would

not visit that terrible room. "My lord," said they, "what can human

force effect against people of t'other world? Monsieur de Ficancout

attempted the same enterprise years ago, and he returned with a

dislocated arm. M. D'Urselles tried too; he was overwhelmed with bundles

of hay, and was ill for a long time after." In short, so many attempts

were mentioned, that the President's friends advised him to abandon

the design.



But still they determined to encounter the danger. Proceeding up

stairs to an extensive room, each having a candle in one hand, and a

pistol in the other, they found it full of thick smoke, which increased

more and more from some flames that were visible. Soon after, the ghost

or spirit faintly appeared in the middle: he seemed quite black, and was

amusing himself with cutting capers; but another eruption of flame and

smoke hid him from their view. He had horns and a long tail; and was, in

truth, a dreadful object.



One of the gentlemen found his courage rather fail. "This is certainly

supernatural," said he; "let us retire." The other, endued with more

boldness, asserted that the smoke was that of gunpowder, which is no

supernatural composition; "and if this same spirit," added he, "knew his

own nature and trade, he should have extinguished our candles."



With these words, he jumped amidst the smoke and flames, and pursued the

spectre. He soon discharged the pistol at his back, and hit him exactly

in the middle; but was himself seized with fear, when the spirit, far

from falling, turned round and rushed upon him. Soon recovering himself,

he resolved to grasp the ghost, to discover if it were indeed aerial

and impassable. Mr. Spectre, disordered by this new manoeuvre, rushed to

the tower, and descended a small staircase.



The gentleman ran after, and, never losing sight of him, passed several

courts and gardens, still turning as the spirit winded, till at length

they entered into an open barn. Here the pursuer, certain, as he

thought, of his prey, shut the door, but when he turned round, what was

his amazement, to see the spirit totally disappear.



In great confusion, he called to the servants for more lights. On

examining the spot of the spirit's disappearance, he found a trap-door;

upon raising which, several mattresses appeared, to break the fall of

any headlong adventurer. Therefore, descending, he found the spirit to

be no other than the farmer himself. His dress, of a complete bull's

hide, had secured him from the pistol-shot; and the horns and tail were

not diabolic, but mere natural appendages of the original. The rogue

confessed his tricks, and was pardoned, on paying the arrears due for

five years, at the old rent of the land.





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