The Major's Lease





A curious little story was told the other day in a certain Civil Court

in British India.







A certain military officer, let us call him Major Brown, rented a house

in one of the big Cantonment stations where he had been recently

transferred with his regiment.



This gentleman had just arrived from England with his wife. He was the

son of a rich man at home and so he could afford to have a large house.

This was the first time he had come out to India and was consequently

rather unacquainted with the manners and customs of this country.



[Illustration: This is a rough plan, the original of which was probably

in the Major's handwriting.]



Major Brown took this house on a long lease and thought he had made a

bargain. The house was large and stood in the centre of a very spacious

compound. There was a garden which appeared to have been carefully laid

out once, but as the house had no tenant for a long time the garden

looked more like a wilderness. There were two very well kept lawn tennis

courts and these were a great attraction to the Major, who was very keen

on tennis. The stablings and out-houses were commodious and the Major,

who was thinking of keeping a few polo ponies, found the whole thing

very satisfactory. Over and above everything he found the landlord very

obliging. He had heard on board the steamer on his way out that Indian

landlords were the worst class of human beings one could come across on

the face of this earth (and that is very true), but this particular

landlord looked like an exception to the general rule.



He consented to make at his own expense all the alterations that the

Major wanted him to do, and these alterations were carried out to Major

and Mrs. Brown's entire satisfaction.



On his arrival in this station Major Brown had put up at an hotel and

after some alterations had been made he ordered the house to be

furnished. This was done in three or four days and then he moved in.



Annexed is a rough sketch of the house in question. The house was a very

large one and there was a number of rooms, but we have nothing to do

with all of them. The spots marked "C" and "E" represent the doors.



Now what happened in Court was this:



After he had occupied the house for not over three weeks the Major and

his wife cleared out and took shelter again in the hotel from which they

had come. The landlord demanded rent for the entire period stipulated

for in the lease and the Major refused to pay. The matter went to Court.

The presiding Judge, who was an Indian gentleman, was one of the

cleverest men in the service, and he thought it was a very simple case.



When the case was called on the plaintiff's pleader said that he would

begin by proving the lease. Major Brown, the defendant, who appeared in

person, said that he would admit it. The Judge who was a very kind

hearted gentleman asked the defendant why he had vacated the house.



"I could not stay," said the Major "I had every intention of living in

the house, I got it furnished and spent two thousand rupees over it, I

was laying out a garden...."



"But what do you mean by saying that you could not stay?"



"If your Honour passed a night in that house, you would understand what

I meant," said the Major.



"You take the oath and make a statement," said the Judge. Major Brown

then made the following statement on oath in open Court.



"When I came to the station I saw the house and my wife liked it. We

asked the landlord whether he would make a few alterations and he

consented. After the alterations had been carried out I executed the

lease and ordered the house to be furnished. A week after the execution

of the lease we moved in. The house is very large."



Here followed a description of the building; but to make matters clear

and short I have copied out the rough pencil sketch which is still on

the record of the case and marked the doors and rooms, as the Major had

done, with letters.



"I do not dine at the mess. I have an early dinner at home with my wife

and retire early. My wife and I sleep in the same bedroom (the room

marked "G" in the plan), and we are generally in bed at about 11 o'clock

at night. The servants all go away to the out-houses which are at a

distance of about 40 yards from the main building, only one Jamadar

(porter) remains in the front verandah. This Jamadar also keeps an eye

on the whole main building, besides I have got a good, faithful watch

dog which I brought out from home. He stays outside with the Jamadar.



"For the first fifteen days we were quite comfortable, then the trouble

began.



"One night before dinner my wife was reading a story, a detective story,

of a particularly interesting nature. There were only a few more pages

left and so we thought that she would finish them before we put out the

reading lamp. We were in the bedroom. But it took her much longer than

she had expected it would, and so it was actually half an hour after

midnight when we put out the big sixteen candle power reading lamp which

stood on a teapoy near the head of the beds. Only a small bedroom lamp

remained.



"But though we put out the light we did not fall asleep. We were

discussing the cleverness of the detective and the folly of the thief

who had left a clue behind, and it was actually two o'clock when we

pulled our rugs up to our necks and closed our eyes.



"At that moment we heard the footsteps of a number of persons walking

along the corridor. The corridor runs the whole length of the house as

will appear from the rough sketch. This corridor was well carpeted

still we heard the tread of a number of feet. We looked at the door "C."

This door was closed but not bolted from inside. Slowly it was pushed

open, and, horror of horrors, three shadowy forms walked into the room.

One was distinctly the form of a white man in European night attire,

another the form of a white woman, also in night attire, and the third

was the form of a black woman, probably an Indian nurse or ayah.



"We remained dumb with horror, as we could see clearly that these

unwelcome visitors were not of this world. We could not move.



"The three figures passed right round the beds as if searching for

something. They looked into every nook and corner of the bed-room and

then passed into the dressing room. Within half a minute they returned

and passed out into the corridor in the same order in which they had

come in, namely, the man first, the white woman next, and the black

woman last of all.



"We lay as if dead. We could hear them in the corridor and in the

bedroom adjoining, with the door "E", and in the dressing room attached

to that bedroom. They again returned and passed into the corridor ...

and then we could hear them no more.



"It must have taken me at least five minutes to collect my senses and

to bring my limbs under control. When I got up I found that my wife had

fainted. I hurried out of the room, rushed along the corridor, opened

the front door and called the servants. The servants were all

approaching the house across the land which separated the servants'

quarters from the main building. Then I went into the dining room, and

procuring some brandy, gave it to my wife. It was with some difficulty

that I could make her swallow it, but it revived her and she looked at

me with a bewildered smile on her face.



"The servants had in the meantime arrived and were in the corridor.

Their presence had the effect of giving us some courage. Leaving my wife

in bed I went out and related to the servants what I had seen. The

Chaukidar (the night watchman) who was an old resident of the compound

(in fact he had been in charge of the house when it was vacant, before I

rented it) gave me the history of the ghost, which my Jamadar

interpreted to me. I have brought the Chaukidar and shall produce him as

my witness."



This was the statement of the Major. Then there was the statement of

Jokhi Passi, Chaukidar, defendant's witness.



The statement of this witness as recorded was as follows:



"My age is 60 years. At the time of the Indian Mutiny I was a full-grown

young man. This house was built at that time. I mean two or three years

after the Mutiny. I have always been in charge. After the Mutiny one

Judge came to live in the house. He was called Judge Parson (probably

Pearson). The Judge had to try a young Muhammadan charged with murder

and he sentenced the youth to death. The aged parents of the young man

vowed vengeance against the good Judge. On the night following the

morning on which the execution took place it appeared that certain

undesirable characters were prowling about the compound. I was then the

watchman in charge as I am now. I woke up the Indian nurse who slept

with the Judge's baby in a bed-room adjoining the one in which the Judge

himself slept. On waking up she found that the baby was not in its cot.

She rushed out of the bed-room and informed the Judge and his wife. Then

a feverish search began for the baby, but it was never found. The police

were communicated with and they arrived at about four in the morning.

The police enquiry lasted for about half an hour and then the officers

went away promising to come again. At last the Judge, his wife, and

nurse all retired to their respective beds where they were found lying

dead later in the morning. Another police enquiry took place, and it was

found that death was due to snake-bite. There were two small punctures

on one of the legs of each victim. How a snake got in and killed each

victim in turn, especially when two slept in one room and the third in

another, and finally got out, has remained a mystery. But the Judge, his

wife, and the nurse are still seen on every Friday night looking for the

missing baby. One rainy season the servants' quarters were being

re-roofed. I had then an occasion to sleep in the corridor; and thus I

saw the ghosts. At that time I was as afraid as the Major Saheb is

to-day, but then I soon found out that the ghosts were quite harmless."



This was the story as recorded in Court. The Judge was a very sensible

man (I had the pleasure and honour of being introduced to him about 20

years after this incident), and with a number of people, he decided to

pass one Friday night in the haunted house. He did so. What he saw does

not appear from the record; for he left no inspection notes and

probably he never made any. He delivered judgment on Monday following.

It is a very short judgment.



After reciting the facts the judgment proceeds: "I have recorded the

statements of the defendant and a witness produced by him. I have also

made a local inspection. I find that the landlord, (the plaintiff) knew

that for certain reasons the house was practically uninhabitable, and he

concealed that fact from his tenant. He, therefore, could not recover.

The suit is dismissed with costs."



The haunted house remained untenanted for a long time. The proprietor

subsequently made a gift of it to a charitable institution. The founders

of this institution, who were Hindus and firm believers in charms and

exorcisms, had some religious ceremony performed on the premises.

Afterwards the house was pulled down and on its site now stands one of

the grandest buildings in the station, that cost fully ten thousand

pounds. Only this morning I received a visit from a gentleman who lives

in the building, referred to above, but evidently he has not even heard

of the ghosts of the Judge, his wife, and his Indian ayah.



It is now nearly fifty years; but the missing baby has not been heard

of. If it is alive it has grown into a fully developed man. But does he

know the fate of his parents and his nurse?



In this connection it will not be out of place to mention a fact that

appeared in the papers some years ago.



A certain European gentleman was posted to a district in the Madras

Presidency as a Government servant in the Financial Department.



When this gentleman reached the station to which he had been posted he

put up at the Club, as they usually do, and began to look out for a

house, when he was informed that there was a haunted house in the

neighbourhood. Being rather sceptical he decided to take this house,

ghost or no ghost. He was given to understand by the members of the Club

that this house was a bit out of the way and was infested at night with

thieves and robbers who came to divide their booty in that house; and to

guard against its being occupied by a tenant it had been given a bad

reputation. The proprietor being a wealthy old native of the old school

did not care to investigate. So our friend, whom we shall, for the

purposes of this story, call Mr. Hunter, took the house at a fair rent.



The house was in charge of a Chaukidar (care-taker, porter or watchman)

when it was vacant. Mr. Hunter engaged the same man as a night watchman

for this house. This Chaukidar informed Mr. Hunter that the ghost

appeared only one day in the year, namely, the 21st of September, and

added that if Mr. Hunter kept out of the house on that night there would

be no trouble.



"I always keep away on the night of the 21st September," said the

watchman.



"And what kind of ghost is it?" asked Mr. Hunter.



"It is a European lady dressed in white," said the man. "What does she

do?" asked Mr. Hunter.



"Oh! she comes out of the room and calls you and asks you to follow

her," said the man.



"Has anybody ever followed her?"



"Nobody that I know of, Sir," said the man. "The man who was here before

me saw her and died from fear."



"Most wonderful! But why do not people follow her in a body?" asked Mr.

Hunter.



"It is very easy to say that, Sir, but when you see her you will not

like to follow her yourself. I have been in this house for over 20

years, lots of times European soldiers have passed the night of the

21st September, intending to follow her but when she actually comes

nobody has ever ventured."



"Most wonderful! I shall follow her this time," said Mr. Hunter.



"As you please Sir," said the man and retired.



It was one of the duties of Mr. Hunter to distribute the pensions of all

retired Government servants.



In this connection Mr. Hunter used to come in contact with a number of

very old men in the station who attended his office to receive their

pensions from him.



By questioning them Mr. Hunter got so far that the house had at one time

been occupied by a European officer.



This officer had a young wife who fell in love with a certain Captain

Leslie. One night when the husband was out on tour (and not expected to

return within a week) his wife was entertaining Captain Leslie. The

gentleman returned unexpectedly and found his wife in the arms of the

Captain.



He lost his self-control and attacked the couple with a meat

chopper--the first weapon that came handy.



Captain Leslie moved away and then cleared out leaving the unfortunate

wife at the mercy of the infuriated husband. He aimed a blow at her head

which she warded off with her hand. But so severe was the blow that the

hand was cut off and the woman fell down on the ground quite

unconscious. The sight of blood made the husband mad. Subsequently the

servants came up and called a doctor, but by the time the doctor arrived

the woman was dead.



The unfortunate husband who had become raving mad was sent to a lunatic

asylum and thence taken away to England. The body of the woman was in

the local cemetery; but what had become of the severed hand was not

known. The missing limb had never been found. All this was 50 years ago,

that is, immediately after the Indian Mutiny.



This was what Mr. Hunter gathered.



The 21st September was not very far off. Mr. Hunter decided to meet the

ghost.



The night in question arrived, and Mr. Hunter sat in his bed-room with

his magazine. The lamp was burning brightly.



The servants had all retired, and Mr. Hunter knew that if he called for

help nobody would hear him, and even if anybody did hear, he too would

not come.



He was, however, a very bold man and sat there awaiting developments.



At one in the morning he heard footsteps approaching the bed-room from

the direction of the dining-room.



He could distinctly hear the rustle of the skirts. Gradually the door

between the two rooms began to open wide. Then the curtain began to

move. Mr. Hunter sat with straining eyes and beating heart.



At last she came in. The Englishwoman in flowing white robes. Mr. Hunter

sat panting unable to move. She looked at him for about a minute and

beckoned him to follow her. It was then that Mr. Hunter observed that

she had only one hand.



He got up and followed her. She went back to the dining-room and he

followed her there. There was no light in the dining-room but he could

see her faintly in the dark. She went right across the dining-room to

the door on the other side which opened on the verandah. Mr. Hunter

could not see what she was doing at the door, but he knew she was

opening it.



When the door opened she passed out and Mr. Hunter followed. Then she

walked across the verandah down the steps and stood upon the lawn. Mr.

Hunter was on the lawn in a moment. His fears had now completely

vanished. She next proceeded along the lawn in the direction of a hedge.

Mr. Hunter also reached the hedge and found that under the hedge were

concealed two spades. The gardener must have been working with them and

left them there after the day's work.



The lady made a sign to him and he took up one of the spades. Then again

she proceeded and he followed.



They had reached some distance in the garden when the lady with her foot

indicated a spot and Mr. Hunter inferred that she wanted him to dig

there. Of course, Mr. Hunter knew that he was not going to discover a

treasure-trove, but he was sure he was going to find something very

interesting. So he began digging with all his vigour. Only about 18

inches below the surface the blade struck against some hard substance.

Mr. Hunter looked up.



The apparition had vanished. Mr. Hunter dug on and discovered that the

hard substance was a human hand with the fingers and everything intact.

Of course, the flesh had gone, only the bones remained. Mr. Hunter

picked up the bones and knew exactly what to do.



He returned to the house, dressed himself up in his cycling costume and

rode away with the bones and the spade to the cemetery. He waked the

night watchman, got the gate opened, found out the tomb of the murdered

woman and close to it interred the bones, that he had found in such a

mysterious fashion, reciting as much of the service as he could

remember. Then he paid some _buksheesh_ (reward) to the night watchman

and came home.



He put back the spade in its old place and retired. A few days after he

paid a visit to the cemetery in the day-time and found that grass had

grown on the spot which he had dug up. The bones had evidently not been

disturbed.



The next year on the 21st September Mr. Hunter kept up the whole night,

but he had no visit from the ghostly lady.



The house is now in the occupation of another European gentleman who

took it after Mr. Hunter's transfer from the station and this new tenant

had no visit from the ghost either. Let us hope that "_she_" now rests

in peace.







The following extract from a Bengal newspaper that appeared in September

1913, is very interesting and instructive.



"The following extraordinary phenomenon took place at the Hooghly Police

Club Building, Chinsurah, at about midnight on last Saturday.



"At this late hour of the night some peculiar sounds of agony on the

roof of the house aroused the resident members of the Club, who at once

proceeded to the roof with lamps and found to their entire surprise a

lady clad in white jumping from the roof to the ground (about a hundred

feet in height) followed by a man with a dagger in his hands. But

eventually no trace of it could be found on the ground. This is not the

first occasion that such beings are found to visit this house and it is

heard from a reliable source that long ago a woman committed suicide by

hanging and it is believed that her spirit loiters round the building.

As these incidents have made a deep impression upon the members, they

have decided to remove the Club from the said buildings."





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