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The Isle Of Pines

Scary Books: Present At A Hanging

For many years there lived near the town of Gallipolis, Ohio, an old

man named Herman Deluse. Very little was known of his history, for

he would neither speak of it himself nor suffer others. It was a

common belief among his neighbors that he had been a pirate--if upon

any better evidence than his collection of boarding pikes,

cutlasses, and ancient flintlock pistols, no one knew. He lived

entirely alone in a small
ouse of four rooms, falling rapidly into

decay and never repaired further than was required by the weather.

It stood on a slight elevation in the midst of a large, stony field

overgrown with brambles, and cultivated in patches and only in the

most primitive way. It was his only visible property, but could

hardly have yielded him a living, simple and few as were his wants.

He seemed always to have ready money, and paid cash for all his

purchases at the village stores roundabout, seldom buying more than

two or three times at the same place until after the lapse of a

considerable time. He got no commendation, however, for this

equitable distribution of his patronage; people were disposed to

regard it as an ineffectual attempt to conceal his possession of so

much money. That he had great hoards of ill-gotten gold buried

somewhere about his tumble-down dwelling was not reasonably to be

doubted by any honest soul conversant with the facts of local

tradition and gifted with a sense of the fitness of things.

On the 9th of November, 1867, the old man died; at least his dead

body was discovered on the 10th, and physicians testified that death

had occurred about twenty-four hours previously--precisely how, they

were unable to say; for the post-mortem examination showed every

organ to be absolutely healthy, with no indication of disorder or

violence. According to them, death must have taken place about

noonday, yet the body was found in bed. The verdict of the

coroner's jury was that he "came to his death by a visitation of

God." The body was buried and the public administrator took charge

of the estate.

A rigorous search disclosed nothing more than was already known

about the dead man, and much patient excavation here and there about

the premises by thoughtful and thrifty neighbors went unrewarded.

The administrator locked up the house against the time when the

property, real and personal, should be sold by law with a view to

defraying, partly, the expenses of the sale.

The night of November 20 was boisterous. A furious gale stormed

across the country, scourging it with desolating drifts of sleet.

Great trees were torn from the earth and hurled across the roads.

So wild a night had never been known in all that region, but toward

morning the storm had blown itself out of breath and day dawned

bright and clear. At about eight o'clock that morning the Rev.

Henry Galbraith, a well-known and highly esteemed Lutheran minister,

arrived on foot at his house, a mile and a half from the Deluse

place. Mr. Galbraith had been for a month in Cincinnati. He had

come up the river in a steamboat, and landing at Gallipolis the

previous evening had immediately obtained a horse and buggy and set

out for home. The violence of the storm had delayed him over night,

and in the morning the fallen trees had compelled him to abandon his

conveyance and continue his journey afoot.

"But where did you pass the night?" inquired his wife, after he had

briefly related his adventure.

"With old Deluse at the 'Isle of Pines,'" {1} was the laughing

reply; "and a glum enough time I had of it. He made no objection to

my remaining, but not a word could I get out of him."

Fortunately for the interests of truth there was present at this

conversation Mr. Robert Mosely Maren, a lawyer and litterateur of

Columbus, the same who wrote the delightful "Mellowcraft Papers."

Noting, but apparently not sharing, the astonishment caused by Mr.

Galbraith's answer this ready-witted person checked by a gesture the

exclamations that would naturally have followed, and tranquilly

inquired: "How came you to go in there?"

This is Mr. Maren's version of Mr. Galbraith's reply:

"I saw a light moving about the house, and being nearly blinded by

the sleet, and half frozen besides, drove in at the gate and put up

my horse in the old rail stable, where it is now. I then rapped at

the door, and getting no invitation went in without one. The room

was dark, but having matches I found a candle and lit it. I tried

to enter the adjoining room, but the door was fast, and although I

heard the old man's heavy footsteps in there he made no response to

my calls. There was no fire on the hearth, so I made one and laying

[sic] down before it with my overcoat under my head, prepared myself

for sleep. Pretty soon the door that I had tried silently opened

and the old man came in, carrying a candle. I spoke to him

pleasantly, apologizing for my intrusion, but he took no notice of

me. He seemed to be searching for something, though his eyes were

unmoved in their sockets. I wonder if he ever walks in his sleep.

He took a circuit a part of the way round the room, and went out the

same way he had come in. Twice more before I slept he came back

into the room, acting precisely the same way, and departing as at

first. In the intervals I heard him tramping all over the house,

his footsteps distinctly audible in the pauses of the storm. When I

woke in the morning he had already gone out."

Mr. Maren attempted some further questioning, but was unable longer

to restrain the family's tongues; the story of Deluse's death and

burial came out, greatly to the good minister's astonishment.

"The explanation of your adventure is very simple," said Mr. Maren.

"I don't believe old Deluse walks in his sleep--not in his present

one; but you evidently dream in yours."

And to this view of the matter Mr. Galbraith was compelled

reluctantly to assent.

Nevertheless, a late hour of the next night found these two

gentlemen, accompanied by a son of the minister, in the road in

front of the old Deluse house. There was a light inside; it

appeared now at one window and now at another. The three men

advanced to the door. Just as they reached it there came from the

interior a confusion of the most appalling sounds--the clash of

weapons, steel against steel, sharp explosions as of firearms,

shrieks of women, groans and the curses of men in combat! The

investigators stood a moment, irresolute, frightened. Then Mr.

Galbraith tried the door. It was fast. But the minister was a man

of courage, a man, moreover, of Herculean strength. He retired a

pace or two and rushed against the door, striking it with his right

shoulder and bursting it from the frame with a loud crash. In a

moment the three were inside. Darkness and silence! The only sound

was the beating of their hearts.

Mr. Maren had provided himself with matches and a candle. With some

difficulty, begotten of his excitement, he made a light, and they

proceeded to explore the place, passing from room to room.

Everything was in orderly arrangement, as it had been left by the

sheriff; nothing had been disturbed. A light coating of dust was

everywhere. A back door was partly open, as if by neglect, and

their first thought was that the authors of the awful revelry might

have escaped. The door was opened, and the light of the candle

shone through upon the ground. The expiring effort of the previous

night's storm had been a light fall of snow; there were no

footprints; the white surface was unbroken. They closed the door

and entered the last room of the four that the house contained--that

farthest from the road, in an angle of the building. Here the

candle in Mr. Maren's hand was suddenly extinguished as by a draught

of air. Almost immediately followed the sound of a heavy fall.

When the candle had been hastily relighted young Mr. Galbraith was

seen prostrate on the floor at a little distance from the others.

He was dead. In one hand the body grasped a heavy sack of coins,

which later examination showed to be all of old Spanish mintage.

Directly over the body as it lay, a board had been torn from its

fastenings in the wall, and from the cavity so disclosed it was

evident that the bag had been taken.

Another inquest was held: another post-mortem examination failed to

reveal a probable cause of death. Another verdict of "the

visitation of God" left all at liberty to form their own

conclusions. Mr. Maren contended that the young man died of