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The Apparition Of Mrs Veal

Scary Books: The Best Ghost Stories

This relation is matter of fact, and attended with such circumstances,

as may induce any reasonable man to believe it. It was sent by a

gentleman, a justice of peace, at Maidstone, in Kent, and a very

intelligent person, to his friend in London, as it is here worded; which

discourse is attested by a very sober and understanding gentlewoman, a

kinswoman of the said gentleman's, who lives in Canterbury, within a few

of the house in which the within-named Mrs. Bargrave lives; who

believes his kinswoman to be of so discerning a spirit, as not to be put

upon by any fallacy; and who positively assured him that the whole

matter, as it is related and laid down, is really true; and what she

herself had in the same words, as near as may be, from Mrs. Bargrave's

own mouth, who, she knows, had no reason to invent and publish such a

story, or any design to forge and tell a lie, being a woman of much

honesty and virtue, and her whole life a course, as it were, of piety.

The use which we ought to make of it, is to consider, that there is a

life to come after this, and a just God, who will retribute to every one

according to the deeds done in the body; and therefore to reflect upon

our past course of life we have led in the world; that our time is short

and uncertain; and that if we would escape the punishment of the

ungodly, and receive the reward of the righteous, which is the laying

hold of eternal life, we ought, for the time to come, to return to God

by a speedy repentance, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well: to

seek after God early, if happily He may be found of us, and lead such

lives for the future, as may be well pleasing in His sight.

This thing is so rare in all its circumstances, and on so good

authority, that my reading and conversation has not given me anything

like it: it is fit to gratify the most ingenious and serious inquirer.

Mrs. Bargrave is the person to whom Mrs. Veal appeared after her death;

she is my intimate friend, and I can avouch for her reputation, for

these last fifteen or sixteen years, on my own knowledge; and I can

confirm the good character she had from her youth, to the time of my

acquaintance. Though, since this relation, she is calumniated by some

people, that are friends to the brother of this Mrs. Veal, who appeared;

who think the relation of this appearance to be a reflection, and

endeavor what they can to blast Mrs. Bargrave's reputation, and to laugh

the story out of countenance. But by the circumstances thereof, and the

cheerful disposition of Mrs. Bargrave, notwithstanding the ill-usage of

a very wicked husband, there is not yet the least sign of dejection in

her face; nor did I ever hear her let fall a desponding or murmuring

expression; nay, not when actually under her husband's barbarity; which

I have been witness to, and several other persons of undoubted


Now you must know, Mrs. Veal was a maiden gentlewoman of about thirty

years of age, and for some years last past had been troubled with fits;

which were perceived coming on her, by her going off from her discourse

very abruptly to some impertinence. She was maintained by an only

brother, and kept his house in Dover. She was a very pious woman, and

her brother a very sober man to all appearance; but now he does all he

can to null or quash the story. Mrs. Veal was intimately acquainted with

Mrs. Bargrave from her childhood. Mrs. Veal's circumstances were then

mean; her father did not take care of his children as he ought, so that

they were exposed to hardships; and Mrs. Bargrave, in those days, had as

unkind a father, though she wanted neither for food nor clothing, whilst

Mrs. Veal wanted for both; insomuch that she would often say, Mrs.

Bargrave, you are not only the best, but the only friend I have in the

world, and no circumstances of life shall ever dissolve my friendship.

They would often condole each other's adverse fortunes, and read

together Drelincourt upon Death, and other good books; and so, like two

Christian friends, they comforted each other under their sorrow.

Some time after, Mr. Veal's friends got him a place in the custom-house

at Dover, which occasioned Mrs. Veal, by little and little, to fall off

from her intimacy with Mrs. Bargrave, though there was never any such

thing as a quarrel; but an indifferency came on by degrees, till at last

Mrs. Bargrave had not seen her in two years and a half; though above a

twelvemonth of the time Mrs. Bargrave hath been absent from Dover, and

this last half year has been in Canterbury about two months of the time,

dwelling in a house of her own.

In this house, on the 8th of September, 1705, she was sitting alone in

the forenoon, thinking over her unfortunate life, and arguing herself

into a due resignation to providence, though her condition seemed hard.

And, said she, I have been provided for hitherto, and doubt not but I

shall be still; and am well satisfied that my afflictions shall end when

it is most fit for me: and then took up her sewing-work, which she had

no sooner done, but she hears a knocking at the door. She went to see

who was there, and this proved to be Mrs. Veal, her old friend, who was

in a riding-habit. At that moment of time the clock struck twelve at


Madam, says Mrs. Bargrave, I am surprised to see you, you have been so

long a stranger; but told her, she was glad to see her, and offered to

salute her; which Mrs. Veal complied with, till their lips almost

touched; and then Mrs. Veal drew her hand across her own eyes, and said,

I am not very well; and so waived it. She told Mrs. Bargrave, she was

going a journey, and had a great mind to see her first. But, says Mrs.

Bargrave, how came you to take a journey alone? I am amazed at it,

because I know you have a fond brother. Oh! says Mrs. Veal, I gave my

brother the slip, and came away because I had so great a desire to see

you before I took my journey. So Mrs. Bargrave went in with her, into

another room within the first, and Mrs. Veal sat her down in an

elbow-chair, in which Mrs. Bargrave was sitting when she heard Mrs. Veal

knock. Then says Mrs. Veal, My dear friend, I am come to renew our old

friendship again, and beg your pardon for my breach of it; and if you

can forgive me, you are the best of women. O, says Mrs. Bargrave, do not

mention such a thing; I have not had an uneasy thought about it; I can

easily forgive it. What did you think of me? said Mrs. Veal. Says Mrs.

Bargrave, I thought you were like the rest of the world, and that

prosperity had made you forget yourself and me. Then Mrs. Veal reminded

Mrs. Bargrave of the many friendly offices she did her in former days,

and much of the conversation they had with each other in the times of

their adversity; what books they read, and what comfort, in particular,

they received from Drelincourt's Book of Death, which was the best, she

said, on that subject ever written. She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, the

two Dutch books which were translated, written upon death, and several

others. But Drelincourt, she said, had the clearest notions of death,

and of the future state, of any who had handled that subject. Then she

asked Mrs. Bargrave, whether she had Drelincourt. She said, Yes. Says

Mrs. Veal, Fetch it. And so Mrs. Bargrave goes up stairs and brings it

down. Says Mrs. Veal, Dear Mrs. Bargrave, if the eyes of our faith were

as open as the eyes of our body, we should see numbers of angels about

us for our guard. The notions we have of heaven now, are nothing like

what it is, as Drelincourt says; therefore be comforted under your

afflictions, and believe that the Almighty has a particular regard to

you; and that your afflictions are marks of God's favor; and when they

have done the business they are sent for, they shall be removed from

you. And believe me, my dear friend, believe what I say to you, one

minute of future happiness will infinitely reward you for all your

sufferings. For, I can never believe (and claps her hand upon her knee

with great earnestness, which indeed ran through most of her discourse),

that ever God will suffer you to spend all your days in this afflicted

state; but be assured, that your afflictions shall leave you, or you

them, in a short time. She spake in that pathetical and heavenly

manner, that Mrs. Bargrave wept several times, she was so deeply

affected with it.

Then Mrs. Veal mentioned Dr. Kenrick's Ascetick, at the end of which he

gives an account of the lives of the primitive Christians. Their pattern

she recommended to our imitation, and said, their conversation was not

like this of our age: For now, says she, there is nothing but frothy,

vain discourse, which is far different from theirs. Theirs was to

edification, and to build one another up in faith; so that they were not

as we are, nor are we as they were: but, says she, we ought to do as

they did. There was an hearty friendship among them; but where is it now

to be found? Says Mrs. Bargrave, It is hard indeed to find a true friend

in these days. Says Mrs. Veal, Mr. Norris has a fine copy of verses,

called Friendship in Perfection, which I wonderfully admire. Have you

seen the book? says Mrs. Veal. No, says Mrs. Bargrave, but I have the

verses of my own writing out. Have you? says Mrs. Veal, then fetch them.

Which she did from above stairs, and offered them to Mrs. Veal to read,

who refused, and waived the thing, saying, holding down her head would

make it ache; and then desired Mrs. Bargrave to read them to her, which

she did. As they were admiring friendship, Mrs. Veal said, Dear Mrs.

Bargrave, I shall love you for ever. In these verses there is twice used

the word Elysian. Ah! says Mrs. Veal, these poets have such names for

heaven. She would often draw her hands across her own eyes, and say,

Mrs. Bargrave, do not you think I am mightily impaired by my fits? No,

says Mrs. Bargrave, I think you look as well as ever I knew you. After

all this discourse, which the apparition put in much finer words than

Mrs. Bargrave said she could pretend to, and as much more than she can

remember, (for it cannot be thought, that an hour and three quarters'

conversation could all be retained, though the main of it she thinks she

does,) she said to Mrs. Bargrave, she would have her write a letter to

her brother, and tell him, she would have him give rings to such and

such; and that there was a purse of gold in her cabinet, and that she

would have two broad pieces given to her cousin Watson.

Talking at this rate, Mrs. Bargrave thought that a fit was coming upon

her, and so placed herself in a chair just before her knees, to keep her

from falling to the ground, if her fits should occasion it: for the

elbow-chair, she thought, would keep her from falling on either side.

And to divert Mrs. Veal, as she thought, took hold of her gown-sleeve

several times, and commended it. Mrs. Veal told her, it was a scowered

silk, and newly made up. But for all this, Mrs. Veal persisted in her

request, and told Mrs. Bargrave, she must not deny her: and she would

have her tell her brother all their conversation, when she had

opportunity. Dear Mrs. Veal, says Mrs. Bargrave, this seems so

impertinent, that I cannot tell how to comply with it; and what a

mortifying story will our conversation be to a young gentleman? Why,

says Mrs. Bargrave, it is much better, methinks, to do it yourself. No,

says Mrs. Veal, though it seems impertinent to you now, you will see

more reason for it hereafter. Mrs. Bargrave then, to satisfy her

importunity, was going to fetch a pen and ink; but Mrs. Veal said, Let

it alone now, but do it when I am gone; but you must be sure to do it:

which was one of the last things she enjoined her at parting; and so she

promised her.

Then Mrs. Veal asked for Mrs. Bargrave's daughter; she said, she was not

at home: But if you have a mind to see her, says Mrs. Bargrave, I'll

send for her. Do, says Mrs. Veal. On which she left her, and went to a

neighbor's to seek for her; and by the time Mrs. Bargrave was returning,

Mrs. Veal was got without the door in the street, in the face of the

beast-market, on a Saturday, which is market-day, and stood ready to

part, as soon as Mrs. Bargrave came to her. She asked her, why she was

in such haste. She said she must be going, though perhaps she might not

go her journey till Monday; and told Mrs. Bargrave, she hoped she should

see her again at her cousin Watson's, before she went whither she was

going. Then she said, she would take her leave of her, and walked from

Mrs. Bargrave in her view, till a turning interrupted the sight of her,

which was three quarters after one in the afternoon.

Mrs. Veal died the 7th of September, at twelve o'clock at noon of her

fits, and had not above four hours' senses before her death, in which

time she received the sacrament. The next day after Mrs. Veal's

appearing, being Sunday, Mrs. Bargrave was mightily indisposed with a

cold, and a sore throat, that she could not go out that day; but on

Monday morning she sent a person to Captain Watson's, to know if Mrs.

Veal was there. They wondered at Mrs. Bargrave's inquiry; and sent her

word, that she was not there, nor was expected. At this answer Mrs.

Bargrave told the maid she had certainly mistook the name, or made some

blunder. And though she was ill, she put on her hood, and went herself

to Captain Watson's though she knew none of the family, to see if Mrs.

Veal was there or not. They said, they wondered at her asking, for that

she had not been in town; they were sure, if she had, she would have

been there. Says Mrs. Bargrave, I am sure she was with me on Saturday

almost two hours. They said, it was impossible; for they must have seen

her if she had. In comes Captain Watson, while they were in dispute, and

said, that Mrs. Veal was certainly dead, and her escutcheons were

making. This strangely surprised Mrs. Bargrave, when she sent to the

person immediately who had the care of them, and found it true. Then she

related the whole story to Captain Watson's family, and what gown she

had on, and how striped; and that Mrs. Veal told her, it was scowered.

Then Mrs. Watson cried out, You have seen her indeed, for none knew, but

Mrs. Veal and myself, that the gown was scowered. And Mrs. Watson owned,

that she described the gown exactly: For, said she, I helped her to make

it up. This Mrs. Watson blazed all about the town, and avouched the

demonstration of the truth of Mrs. Bargrave's seeing Mrs. Veal's

apparition. And Captain Watson carried two gentlemen immediately to Mrs.

Bargrave's house, to hear the relation of her own mouth. And when it

spread so fast, that gentlemen and persons of quality, the judicious and

skeptical part of the world, flocked in upon her, it at last became such

a task, that she was forced to go out of the way. For they were, in

general, extremely satisfied of the truth of the thing, and plainly saw

that Mrs. Bargrave was no hypochondraic; for she always appears with

such a cheerful air, and pleasing mien, that she has gained the favor

and esteem of all the gentry; and it is thought a great favor, if they

can but get the relation from her own mouth. I should have told you

before, that Mrs. Veal told Mrs. Bargrave, that her sister and

brother-in-law were just come down from London to see her. Says Mrs.

Bargrave, How came you to order matters so strangely? It could not be

helped, says Mrs. Veal. And her brother and sister did come to see her,

and entered the town of Dover just as Mrs. Veal was expiring. Mrs.

Bargrave, asked her, whether she would drink some tea. Says Mrs. Veal,

I do not care if I do; but I'll warrant you, this mad fellow (meaning

Mrs. Bargrave's husband) has broke all your trinkets. But, says Mrs.

Bargrave, I'll get something to drink in for all that; but Mrs. Veal

waived it, and said, It is no matter, let it alone; and so it passed.

All the time I sat with Mrs. Bargrave, which was some hours, she

recollected fresh sayings of Mrs. Veal. And one material thing more she

told Mrs. Bargrave, that old Mr. Breton allowed Mrs. Veal ten pounds a

year; which was a secret, and unknown to Mrs. Bargrave, till Mrs. Veal

told it her.

Mrs. Bargrave never varies in her story; which puzzles those who doubt

of the truth, or are unwilling to believe it. A servant in the

neighbor's yard, adjoining to Mrs. Bargrave's house, heard her talking

to somebody an hour of the time Mrs. Veal was with her. Mrs. Bargrave

went out to her next neighbor's the very moment she parted with Mrs.

Veal, and told her what ravishing conversation she had with an old

friend, and told the whole of it. Drelincourt's Book of Death is, since

this happened, bought up strangely. And it is to be observed, that

notwithstanding all the trouble and fatigue Mrs. Bargrave has undergone

upon this account, she never took the value of a farthing, nor suffered

her daughter to take anything of anybody, and therefore can have no

interest in telling the story.

But Mr. Veal does what he can to stifle the matter, and said, he would

see Mrs. Bargrave; but yet it is certain matter of fact that he has been

at Captain Watson's since the death of his sister, and yet never went

near Mrs. Bargrave; and some of his friends report her to be a liar,

and that she knew of Mr. Breton's ten pounds a year. But the person who

pretends to say so, has the reputation of a notorious liar, among

persons whom I know to be of undoubted credit. Now Mr. Veal is more of a

gentleman than to say she lies; but says, a bad husband has crazed her.

But she needs only present herself, and it will effectually confute that

pretense. Mr. Veal says, he asked his sister on her death-bed, whether

she had a mind to dispose of anything? And she said, No. Now, the things

which Mrs. Veal's apparition would have disposed of, were so trifling,

and nothing of justice aimed at in their disposal, that the design of it

appears to me to be only in order to make Mrs. Bargrave so to

demonstrate the truth of her appearance, as to satisfy the world of the

reality thereof, as to what she had seen and heard; and to secure her

reputation among the reasonable and understanding part of mankind. And

then again, Mr. Veal owns, that there was a purse of gold; but it was

not found in her cabinet, but in a comb-box. This looks improbable; for

that Mrs. Watson owned, that Mrs. Veal was so very careful of the key of

the cabinet, that she would trust nobody with it. And if so, no doubt

she would not trust her gold out of it. And Mrs. Veal's often drawing

her hand over her eyes, and asking Mrs. Bargrave whether her fits had

not impaired her, looks to me as if she did it on purpose to remind Mrs.

Bargrave of her fits, to prepare her not to think it strange that she

should put her upon writing to her brother to dispose of rings and gold,

which looked so much like a dying person's request; and it took

accordingly with Mrs. Bargrave, as the effects of her fits coming upon

her; and was one of the many instances of her wonderful love to her, and

care of her, that she should not be affrighted; which indeed appears in

her whole management, particularly in her coming to her in the day-time,

waiving the salutation, and when she was alone; and then the manner of

her parting, to prevent a second attempt to salute her.

Now, why Mr. Veal should think this relation a reflection, as it is

plain he does, by his endeavoring to stifle it, I cannot imagine;

because the generality believe her to be a good spirit, her discourse

was so heavenly. Her two great errands were to comfort Mrs. Bargrave in

her affliction, and to ask her forgiveness for the breach of friendship,

and with a pious discourse to encourage her. So that, after all, to

suppose that Mrs. Bargrave could hatch such an invention as this from

Friday noon till Saturday noon, supposing that she knew of Mrs. Veal's

death the very first moment, without jumbling circumstances, and without

any interest too; she must be more witty, fortunate, and wicked too,

than any indifferent person, I dare say, will allow. I asked Mrs.

Bargrave several times, if she was sure she felt the gown? She answered

modestly, If my senses be to be relied on, I am sure of it. I asked her,

if she heard a sound when she clapped her hand upon her knee? She said,

she did not remember she did; but said she appeared to be as much a

substance as I did, who talked with her. And I may, said she, be as soon

persuaded, that your apparition is talking to me now, as that I did not

really see her: for I was under no manner of fear, and received her as a

friend, and parted with her as such. I would not, says she, give one

farthing to make any one believe it: I have no interest in it; nothing

but trouble is entailed upon me for a long time, for aught I know; and

had it not come to light by accident, it would never have been made

public. But now, she says, she will make her own private use of it, and

keep herself out of the way as much as she can; and so she has done

since. She says, She had a gentleman who came thirty miles to her to

hear the relation; and that she had told it to a room full of people at

a time. Several particular gentlemen have had the story from Mrs.

Bargrave's own mouth.

This thing has very much affected me, and I am as well satisfied, as I

am of the best-grounded matter of fact. And why we should dispute matter

of fact, because we cannot solve things of which we can have no certain

or demonstrative notions, seems strange to me. Mrs. Bargrave's authority

and sincerity alone, would have been undoubted in any other case.


The origin of the foregoing curious story seems to have been as


An adventurous bookseller had ventured to print a considerable edition

of a work by the Reverend Charles Drelincourt, minister of the Calvinist

church in Paris, and translated by M. D'Assigny, under the title of "The

Christian's Defense against the Fear of Death, with several directions

how to prepare ourselves to die well." But however certain the prospect

of death, it is not so agreeable (unfortunately) as to invite the eager

contemplation of the public; and Drelincourt's book, being neglected,

lay a dead stock on the hands of the publisher. In this emergency, he

applied to De Foe to assist him (by dint of such means as were then, as

well as now, pretty well understood in the literary world) in rescuing

the unfortunate book from the literary death to which general neglect

seemed about to consign it.

De Foe's genius and audacity devised a plan which, for assurance and

ingenuity, defied even the powers of Mr. Puff in the _Critic_: for who

but himself would have thought of summoning up a ghost from the grave to

bear witness in favor of a halting body of divinity? There is a

matter-of-fact, business-like style in the whole account of the

transaction, which bespeaks ineffable powers of self-possession. The

narrative is drawn up "by a gentleman, a _Justice of Peace_ at

Maidstone, in Kent, a very intelligent person." And, moreover, "the

discourse is attested by a very sober gentlewoman, who lives in

Canterbury, within a few doors of the house in which Mrs. Bargrave

lives." The Justice believes his kinswoman to be of so discerning a

spirit, as not to be put upon by any fallacy--and the kinswoman

positively assures the Justice, "that the whole matter, as it is related

and laid down, is really true, and what she herself heard, as near as

may be, from Mrs. Bargrave's own mouth, who, she knows, had no reason to

invent or publish such a story, or any design to forge and tell a lie,

being a woman of so much honesty and virtue, and her whole life a

course, as it were, of piety." Skepticism itself could not resist this

triple court of evidence so artfully combined, the Justice attesting

for the discerning spirit of the sober and understanding gentlewoman his

kinswoman, and his kinswoman becoming bail for the veracity of Mrs.

Bargrave. And here, gentle reader, admire the simplicity of those days.

Had Mrs. Veal's visit to her friend happened in our time, the conductors

of the daily press would have given the word, and seven gentlemen unto

the said press belonging, would, with an obedient start, have made off

for Kingston, for Canterbury, for Dover,--for Kamchatka if

necessary,--to pose the Justice, cross-examine Mrs. Bargrave, confront

the sober and understanding kinswoman, and dig Mrs. Veal up from her

grave, rather than not get to the bottom of the story. But in our time

we doubt and scrutinize; our ancestors wondered and believed.

Before the story is commenced, the understanding gentlewoman (not the

Justice of Peace), who is the reporter, takes some pains to repel the

objections made against the story by some of the friends of Mrs. Veal's

brother, who consider the marvel as an aspersion on their family, and do

what they can to laugh it out of countenance. Indeed, it is allowed,

with admirable impartiality, that Mr. Veal is too much of a gentleman to

suppose Mrs. Bargrave invented the story--scandal itself could scarce

have supposed that--although one notorious liar, who is chastised

towards the conclusion of the story, ventures to throw out such an

insinuation. No reasonable or respectable person, however, could be

found to countenance the suspicion, and Mr. Veal himself opined that

Mrs. Bargrave had been driven crazy by a cruel husband, and dreamed the

whole story of the apparition. Now all this is sufficiently artful. To

have vouched the fact as universally known, and believed by every one,

_nem. con._, would not have been half so satisfactory to a skeptic as to

allow fairly that the narrative had been impugned, and hint at the

character of one of those skeptics, and the motives of another, as

sufficient to account for their want of belief. Now to the fact itself.

Mrs. Bargrave and Mrs. Veal had been friends in youth, and had protested

their attachment should last as long as they lived; but when Mrs. Veal's

brother obtained an office in the customs at Dover, some cessation of

their intimacy ensued, "though without any positive quarrel." Mrs.

Bargrave had removed to Canterbury, and was residing in a house of her

own, when she was suddenly interrupted by a visit from Mrs. Veal, as she

was sitting in deep contemplation of certain distresses of her own. The

visitor was in a riding-habit, and announced herself as prepared for a

distant journey (which seems to intimate that spirits have a

considerable distance to go before they arrive at their appointed

station, and that the females at least put on a _habit_ for the

occasion). The spirit, for such was the seeming Mrs. Veal, continued to

waive the ceremony of salutation, both in going and coming, which will

remind the reader of a ghostly lover's reply to his mistress in the fine

old Scottish ballad:--

Why should I come within thy bower?

I am no earthly man;

And should I kiss thy rosy lips,

Thy days would not be lang.

They then began to talk in the homely style of middle-aged ladies, and

Mrs. Veal proses concerning the conversations they had formerly held,

and the books they had read together. Her very recent experience

probably led Mrs. Veal to talk of death, and the books written on the

subject, and she pronounced _ex cathedra_, as a dead person was best

entitled to do, that "Drelincourt's book on Death was the best book on

the subject ever written." She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, two Dutch

books which had been translated, and several others; but Drelincourt,

she said, had the clearest notions of death and the future state of any

who had handled that subject. She then asked for the work [we marvel the

edition and impress had not been mentioned] and lectured on it with

great eloquence and affection. Dr. Kenrick's _Ascetick_ was also

mentioned with approbation by this critical specter [the Doctor's work

was no doubt a tenant of the shelf in some favorite publisher's shop];

and Mr. Norris's _Poem on Friendship_, a work, which I doubt, though

honored with a ghost's approbation, we may now seek for as vainly as

Correlli tormented his memory to recover the sonata which the devil

played to him in a dream. Presently after, from former habits we may

suppose, the guest desires a cup of tea; but, bethinking herself of her

new character, escapes from her own proposal by recollecting that Mr.

Bargrave was in the habit of breaking his wife's china. It would have

been indeed strangely out of character if the spirit had lunched, or

breakfasted upon tea and toast. Such a consummation would have sounded

as ridiculous as if the statue of the commander in _Don Juan_ had not

only accepted of the invitation of the libertine to supper, but had also

committed a beefsteak to his flinty jaws and stomach of adamant. A

little more conversation ensued of a less serious nature, and tending to

show that even the passage from life to death leaves the female anxiety

about person and dress somewhat alive. The ghost asked Mrs. Bargrave

whether she did not think her very much altered, and Mrs. Bargrave of

course complimented her on her good looks. Mrs. Bargrave also admired

the gown which Mrs. Veal wore, and as a mark of her perfectly restored

confidence, the spirit led her into the important secret, that it was a

_scoured silk_, and lately made up. She informed her also of another

secret, namely, that one Mr. Breton had allowed her ten pounds a year;

and, lastly, she requested that Mrs. Bargrave would write to her

brother, and tell him how to distribute her mourning rings, and

mentioned there was a purse of gold in her cabinet. She expressed some

wish to see Mrs. Bargrave's daughter; but when that good lady went to

the next door to seek her, she found on her return the guest leaving the

house. She had got without the door, in the street, in the face of the

beast market, on a Saturday, which is market day, and stood ready to

part. She said she must be going, as she had to call upon her cousin

Watson (this appears to be a _gratis dictum_ on the part of the ghost)

and, maintaining the character of mortality to the last, she quietly

turned the corner, and walked out of sight.

Then came the news of Mrs. Veal's having died the day before at noon.

Says Mrs. Bargrave, "I am sure she was with me on Saturday almost two

hours." And in comes Captain Watson, and says Mrs. Veal was certainly

dead. And then come all the pieces of evidence, and especially the

striped silk gown. Then Mrs. Watson cried out, "You have seen her

indeed, for none knew but Mrs. Veal and I that that gown was scoured";

and she cried that the gown was described exactly, for, said she, "I

helped her to make it up." And next we have the silly attempts made to

discredit the history. Even Mr. Veal, her brother, was obliged to allow

that the gold was found, but with a difference, and pretended it was not

found in a cabinet, but elsewhere; and, in short, we have all the gossip

of _says I_, and _thinks I_, and _says she_, and _thinks she_, which

disputed matters usually excite in a country town.

When we have thus turned the tale, the seam without, it may be thought

too ridiculous to have attracted notice. But whoever will read it as

told by De Foe himself, will agree that, could the thing have happened

in reality, so it would have been told. The sobering the whole

supernatural visit into the language of the middle or low life, gives it

an air of probability even in its absurdity. The ghost of an exciseman's

housekeeper, and a seamstress, were not to converse like Brutus with his

Evil Genius. And the circumstances of scoured silks, broken tea-china,

and such like, while they are the natural topics of such persons'

conversation, would, one might have thought, be the last which an

inventor would have introduced into a pretended narrative betwixt the

dead and living. In short, the whole is so distinctly circumstantial,

that, were it not for the impossibility, or extreme improbability at

least, of such an occurrence, the evidence could not but support the


The effect was most wonderful. _Drelincourt upon Death_, attested by one

who could speak from experience, took an unequaled run. The copies had

hung on the bookseller's hands as heavy as a pile of lead bullets. They

now traversed the town in every direction, like the same balls

discharged from a field-piece. In short, the object of Mrs. Veal's

apparition was perfectly attained.--[See The Miscellaneous Prose Works

of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., vol. iv. p. 305, ed. 1827.]