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   Chapter 16 No.16

Strange Stories By Grant Allen Characters: 74919

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Eight decades passed away slowly in the Avondale Phalanstery; and day after day seemed more and more terrible to poor, weak, disconsolate Olive. The quiet refinement and delicate surroundings of their placid life seemed to make her poignant misery and long anxious term of waiting only the more intense in its sorrow and its awesomeness. Every day, the younger sisters turned as of old to their allotted round of pleasant housework; every day the elder sisters, who had earned their leisure, brought in their dainty embroidery, or their drawing materials, or their other occupations, and tried to console her, or rather to condole with her, in her great sorrow. She couldn't complain of any unkindness; on the contrary, all the brothers and sisters were sympathy itself; while Clarence, though he tried hard not to be too idolatrous to her (which is wrong and antisocial, of course), was still overflowing with tenderness and consideration for her in their common grief. But all that seemed merely to make things worse. If only somebody would have been cruel to her; if only the hierarch would have scolded her, or the elder sisters have shown any distant coldness, or the other girls have been wanting in sisterly sympathy, she might have got angry or brooded over her wrongs; whereas, now, she could do nothing save cry passively with a vain attempt at resignation. It was nobody's fault; there was nobody to be angry with, there was nothing to blame except the great impersonal laws and circumstances of the Cosmos, which it would be rank impiety and wickedness to question or to gainsay. So she endured in silence, loving only to sit with Clarence's hand in hers, and the dear doomed baby lying peacefully upon the stole in her lap. It was inevitable and there was no use repining; for so profoundly had the phalanstery schooled the minds and natures of those two unhappy young parents (and all their compeers), that, grieve as they might, they never for one moment dreamt of attempting to relax or set aside the fundamental principles of phalansteric society in these matters.

By the kindly rule of the phalanstery, every mother had complete freedom from household duties for two years after the birth of her child; and Clarence, though he would not willingly have given up his own particular work in the grounds and garden, spent all the time he could spare from his short daily task (every one worked five hours every lawful day, and few worked longer, save on special emergencies) by Olive's side. At last, the eight decades passed slowly away, and the fatal day for the removal of little Rosebud arrived. Olive called her Rosebud because, she said, she was a sweet bud that could never be opened into a full-blown rose. All the community felt the solemnity of the painful occasion; and by common consent the day (Darwin, December 20) was held as an intra-phalansteric fast by the whole body of brothers and sisters.

On that terrible morning Olive rose early, and dressed herself carefully in a long white stole with a broad black border of Greek key pattern. But she had not the heart to put any black upon dear little Rosebud; and so she put on her fine flannel wrapper, and decorated it instead with the pretty coloured things that Veronica and Philomela had worked for her, to make her baby as beautiful as possible on this its last day in a world of happiness. The other girls helped her and tried to sustain her, crying all together at the sad event. "She's a sweet little thing," they said to one another as they held her up to see how she looked. "If only it could have been her reception to-day instead of her removal!" But Olive moved through them all with stoical resignation-dry-eyed and parched in the throat, yet saying not a word save for necessary instructions and directions to the nursing sisters. The iron of her creed had entered into her very soul.

After breakfast, brother Eustace and the hierarch came sadly in their official robes into the lesser infirmary. Olive was there already, pale and trembling, with little Rosebud sleeping peacefully in the hollow of her lap. What a picture she looked, the wee dear thing, with the hothouse flowers from the conservatory that Clarence had brought to adorn her, fastened neatly on to her fine flannel robe! The physiologist took out a little phial from his pocket, and began to open a sort of inhaler of white muslin. At the same moment, the grave, kind old hierarch stretched out his hands to take the sleeping baby from its mother's arms. Olive shrank back in terror, and clasped the child softly to her heart. "No, no, let me hold her myself, dear hierarch," she said, without flinching. "Grant me this one last favour. Let me hold her myself." It was contrary to all fixed rules; but neither the hierarch nor any one else there present had the heart to refuse that beseeching voice on so supreme and spirit-rending an occasion.

Brother Eustace poured the chloroform solemnly and quietly on to the muslin inhaler. "By resolution of the phalanstery," he said, in a voice husky with emotion, "I release you, Rosebud, from a life for which you are naturally unfitted. In pity for your hard fate, we save you from the misfortune you have never known, and will never now experience." As he spoke, he held the inhaler to the baby's face, and watched its breathing grow fainter and fainter, till at last, after a few minutes, it faded gradually and entirely away. The little one had slept from life into death, painlessly and happily, even as they looked.

Clarence, tearful but silent, felt the baby's pulse for a moment, and then, with a burst of tears, shook his head bitterly. "It is all over," he cried with a loud cry. "It is all over; and we hope and trust it is better so."

But Olive still said nothing.

The physiologist turned to her with an anxious gaze. Her eyes were open, but they looked blank and staring into vacant space. He took her hand, and it felt limp and powerless. "Great heaven," he cried, in evident alarm, "what is this? Olive, Olive, our dear Olive, why don't you speak?"

Clarence sprang up from the ground, where he had knelt to try the dead baby's pulse, and took her unresisting wrist anxiously in his. "Oh, brother Eustace," he cried passionately, "help us, save us; what's the matter with Olive? she's fainting, she's fainting! I can't feel her heart beat, no, not ever so little."

Brother Eustace let the pale white hand drop listlessly from his grasp upon the pale white stole beneath, and answered slowly and distinctly: "She isn't fainting, Clarence; not fainting, my dear brother. The shock and the fumes of chloroform together have been too much for the action of the heart. She's dead too, Clarence; our dear, dear sister; she's dead too."

Clarence flung his arms wildly round Olive's neck, and listened eagerly with his ear against her bosom to hear her heart beat. But no sound came from the folds of the simple black-bordered stole; no sound from anywhere save the suppressed sobs of the frightened women who huddled closely together in the corner, and gazed horror-stricken upon the two warm fresh corpses.

"She was a brave girl," brother Eustace said at last, wiping his eyes and composing her hands reverently. "Olive was a brave girl, and she died doing her duty, without one murmur against the sad necessity that fate had unhappily placed upon her. No sister on earth could wish to die more nobly than by thus sacrificing her own life and her own weak human affections on the altar of humanity for the sake of her child and of the world at large."

"And yet, I sometimes almost fancy," the hierarch murmured with a violent effort to control his emotions, "when I see a scene like this, that even the unenlightened practices of the old era may not have been quite so bad as we usually think them, for all that. Surely an end such as Olive's is a sad and a terrible end to have forced upon us as the final outcome and natural close of all our modern phalansteric civilization."

"The ways of the Cosmos are wonderful," said brother Eustace solemnly; "and we, who are no more than atoms and mites upon the surface of its meanest satellite, cannot hope so to order all things after our own fashion that all its minutest turns and chances may approve themselves to us as light in our own eyes."

The sisters all made instinctively the reverential genuflexion. "The Cosmos is infinite," they said together, in the fixed formula of their cherished religion. "The Cosmos is infinite, and man is but a parasite upon the face of the least among its satellite members. May we so act as to further all that is best within us, and to fulfil our own small place in the system of the Cosmos with all becoming reverence and humility! In the name of universal Humanity. So be it."

* * *


"Then nothing would convince you of the existence of ghosts, Harry," I said, "except seeing one."

"Not even seeing one, my dear Jim," said Harry. "Nothing on earth would make me believe in them, unless I were turned into a ghost myself."

So saying, Harry drained his glass of whisky toddy, shook out the last ashes from his pipe, and went off upstairs to bed. I sat for a while over the remnants of my cigar, and ruminated upon the subject of our conversation. For my own part, I was as little inclined to believe in ghosts as anybody; but Harry seemed to go one degree beyond me in scepticism. His argument amounted in brief to this,-that a ghost was by definition the spirit of a dead man in a visible form here on earth; but however strange might be the apparition which a ghost-seer thought he had observed, there was no evidence possible or actual to connect such apparition with any dead person whatsoever. It might resemble the deceased in face and figure, but so, said Harry, does a portrait. It might resemble him in voice and manner, but so does an actor or a mimic. It might resemble him in every possible particular, but even then we should only be justified in saying that it formed a close counterpart of the person in question, not that it was his ghost or spirit. In short, Harry maintained, with considerable show of reason, that nobody could ever have any scientific ground for identifying any external object, whether shadowy or material, with a past human existence of any sort. According to him, a man might conceivably see a phantom, but could not possibly know that he saw a ghost.

Harry and I were two Oxford bachelors, studying at the time for our degree in Medicine, and with an ardent love for the scientific side of our future profession. Indeed, we took a greater interest in comparative physiology and anatomy than in physic proper; and at this particular moment we were stopping in a very comfortable farm-house on the coast of Flintshire for our long vacation, with the special object of observing histologically a peculiar sea-side organism, the Thingumbobbum Whatumaycallianum, which is found so plentifully on the shores of North Wales, and which has been identified by Professor Haeckel with the larva of that famous marine ascidian from whom the Professor himself and the remainder of humanity generally are supposed to be undoubtedly descended. We had brought with us a full complement of lancets and scalpels, chemicals and test-tubes, galvanic batteries and thermo-electric piles; and we were splendidly equipped for a thorough-going scientific campaign of the first water. The farm-house in which we lodged had formerly belonged to the county family of the Egertons; and though an Elizabethan manor replaced the ancient defensive building which had been wisely dismantled by Henry VIII., the modern farm-house into which it had finally degenerated still bore the name of Egerton Castle. The whole house had a reputation in the neighbourhood for being haunted by the ghost of one Algernon Egerton, who was beheaded under James II. for his participation, or rather his intention to participate, in Monmouth's rebellion. A wretched portrait of the hapless Protestant hero hung upon the wall of our joint sitting-room, having been left behind when the family moved to their new seat in Cheshire, as being unworthy of a place in the present baronet's splendid apartments. It was a few remarks upon the subject of Algernon's ghost which had introduced the question of ghosts in general; and after Harry had left the room, I sat for a while slowly finishing my cigar, and contemplating the battered features of the deceased gentleman.

As I did so, I was somewhat startled to hear a voice at my side observe in a bland and graceful tone, not unmixed with aristocratic hauteur, "You have been speaking of me, I believe,-in fact, I have unavoidably overheard your conversation,-and I have decided to assume the visible form and make a few remarks upon what seems to me a very hasty decision on your friend's part."

I turned round at once, and saw, in the easy-chair which Harry had just vacated, a shadowy shape, which grew clearer and clearer the longer I looked at it. It was that of a man of forty, fashionably dressed in the costume of the year 1685 or thereabouts, and bearing a close resemblance to the faded portrait on the wall just opposite. But the striking point about the object was this, that it evidently did not consist of any ordinary material substance, as its outline seemed vague and wavy, like that of a photograph where the sitter has moved; while all the objects behind it, such as the back of the chair and the clock in the corner, showed through the filmy head and body, in the very manner which painters have always adopted in representing a ghost. I saw at once that whatever else the object before might be, it certainly formed a fine specimen of the orthodox and old-fashioned apparition. In dress, appearance, and every other particular, it distinctly answered to what the unscientific mind would unhesitatingly have called the ghost of Algernon Egerton.

Here was a piece of extraordinary luck! In a house with two trained observers, supplied with every instrument of modern experimental research, we had lighted upon an undoubted specimen of the common spectre, which had so long eluded the scientific grasp. I was beside myself with delight. "Really, sir," I said, cheerfully, "it is most kind of you to pay us this visit, and I'm sure my friend will be only too happy to hear your remarks. Of course you will permit me to call him?"

The apparition appeared somewhat surprised at the philosophic manner in which I received his advances; for ghosts are accustomed to find people faint away or scream with terror at their first appearance; but for my own part I regarded him merely in the light of a very interesting phenomenon, which required immediate observation by two independent witnesses. However, he smothered his chagrin-for I believe he was really disappointed at my cool deportment-and answered that he would be very glad to see my friend if I wished it, though he had specially intended this visit for myself alone.

I ran upstairs hastily and found Harry in his dressing-gown, on the point of removing his nether garments. "Harry," I cried breathlessly, "you must come downstairs at once. Algernon Egerton's ghost wants to speak to you."

Harry held up the candle and looked in my face with great deliberation. "Jim, my boy," he said quietly, "you've been having too much whisky."

"Not a bit of it," I answered, angrily. "Come downstairs and see. I swear to you positively that a Thing, the very counterpart of Algernon Egerton's picture, is sitting in your easy-chair downstairs, anxious to convert you to a belief in ghosts."

It took about three minutes to induce Harry to leave his room; but at last, merely to satisfy himself that I was demented, he gave way and accompanied me into the sitting-room. I was half afraid that the spectre would have taken umbrage at my long delay, and gone off in a huff and a blue flame; but when we reached the room, there he was, in propria persona, gazing at his own portrait-or should I rather say his counterpart?-on the wall, with the utmost composure.

"Well, Harry," I said, "what do you call that?"

Harry put up his eyeglass, peered suspiciously at the phantom, and answered in a mollified tone, "It certainly is a most interesting phenomenon. It looks like a case of fluorescence; but you say the object can talk?"

"Decidedly," I answered, "it can talk as well as you or me. Allow me to introduce you to one another, gentlemen:-Mr. Henry Stevens, Mr. Algernon Egerton; for though you didn't mention your name, Mr. Egerton, I presume from what you said that I am right in my conjecture."

"Quite right," replied the phantom, rising as it spoke, and making a low bow to Harry from the waist upward. "I suppose your friend is one of the Lincolnshire Stevenses, sir?"

"Upon my soul," said Harry, "I haven't the faintest conception where my family came from. My grandfather, who made what little money we have got, was a cotton-spinner at Rochdale, but he might have come from heaven knows where. I only know he was a very honest old gentleman, and he remembered me handsomely in his will."

"Indeed, sir," said the apparition coldly. "My family were the Egertons of Egerton Castle, in the county of Flint, Armigeri; whose ancestor, Radulphus de Egerton, is mentioned in Domesday as one of the esquires of Hugh Lupus, Earl Palatine of Chester. Radulphus de Egerton had a son--"

"Whose history," said Harry, anxious to cut short these genealogical details, "I have read in the Annals of Flintshire, which lies in the next room, with the name you give as yours on the fly-leaf. But it seems, sir, you are anxious to converse with me on the subject of ghosts. As that question interests us all at present, much more than family descent, will you kindly begin by telling us whether you yourself lay claim to be a ghost?"

"Undoubtedly I do," replied the phantom.

"The ghost of Algernon Egerton, formerly of Egerton Castle?" I interposed.

"Formerly and now," said the phantom, in correction. "I have long inhabited, and I still habitually inhabit, by night at least, the room in which we are at present seated."

"The deuce you do," said Harry warmly. "This is a most illegal and unconstitutional proceeding. The house belongs to our landlord, Mr. Hay: and my friend here and myself have hired it for the summer, sharing the expenses, and claiming the sole title to the use of the rooms." (Harry omitted to mention that he took the best bedroom himself and put me off with a shabby little closet, while we divided the rent on equal terms.)

"True," said the spectre good-humouredly; "but you can't eject a ghost, you know. You may get a writ of habeas corpus, but the English law doesn't supply you with a writ of habeas animam. The infamous Jeffreys left me that at least. I am sure the enlightened nineteenth century wouldn't seek to deprive me of it."

"Well," said Harry, relenting, "provided you don't interfere with the experiments, or make away with the tea and sugar, I'm sure I have no objection. But if you are anxious to prove to us the existence of ghosts, perhaps you will kindly allow us to make a few simple observations?"

"With all the pleasure in death," answered the apparition courteously. "Such, in fact, is the very object for which I've assumed visibility."

"In that case, Harry," I said, "the correct thing will be to get out some paper, and draw up a running report which we may both attest afterwards. A few simple notes on the chemical and physical properties of a spectre will be an interesting novelty for the Royal Society, and they ought all to be jotted down in black and white at once."

This course having been unanimously determined upon as strictly regular, I laid a large folio of foolscap on the writing-table, and the apparition proceeded to put itself in an attitude for careful inspection.

"The first point to decide," said I, "is obviously the physical properties of our visitor. Mr. Egerton, will you kindly allow us to feel your hand?"

"You may try to feel it if you like," said the phantom quietly, "but I doubt if you will succeed to any brilliant extent." As he spoke, he held out his arm. Harry and I endeavoured successively to grasp it: our fingers slipped through the faintly luminous object as though it were air or shadow. The phantom bowed forward his head; we attempted to touch it, but our hands once more passed unopposed across the whole face and shoulders, without finding any trace whatsoever of mechanical resistance. "Experience the first," said Harry; "the apparition has no tangible material substratum." I seized the pen and jotted down the words as he spoke them. This was really turning out a very full-blown specimen of the ordinary ghost!

"The next question to settle," I said, "is that of gravity.-Harry, give me a hand out here with the weighing-machine.-Mr. Egerton, will you be good enough to step upon this board?"

Mirabile dictu! The board remained steady as ever. Not a tremor of the steelyard betrayed the weight of its shadowy occupant. "Experience the second," cried Harry, in his cool, scientific way: "the apparition has the specific gravity of atmospheric air." I jotted down this note also, and quietly prepared for the next observation.

"Wouldn't it be well," I inquired of Harry, "to try the weight in vacuo? It is possible that, while the specific gravity in air is equal to that of the atmosphere, the specific gravity in vacuo may be zero. The apparition-pray excuse me, Mr. Egerton, if the terms in which I allude to you seem disrespectful, but to call you a ghost would be to prejudge the point at issue-the apparition may have no proper weight of its own at all."

"It would be very inconvenient, though," said Harry, "to put the whole apparition under a bell-glass: in fact, we have none big enough. Besides, suppose we were to find that by exhausting the air we got rid of the object altogether, as is very possible, that would awkwardly interfere with the future prosecution of our researches into its nature and properties."

"Permit me to make a suggestion," interposed the phantom, "if a person whom you choose to relegate to the neuter gender may be allowed to have a voice in so scientific a question. My friend, the ingenious Mr. Boyle, has lately explained to me the construction of his air-pump, which we saw at one of the Friday evenings at the Royal Institution. It seems to me that your object would be attained if I were to put one hand only on the scale under the bell-glass, and permit the air to be exhausted."

"Capital," said Harry: and we got the air-pump in readiness accordingly. The spectre then put his right hand into the scale, and we plumped the bell-glass on top of it. The connecting portion of the arm shone through the severing glass, exactly as though the spectre consisted merely of an immaterial light. In a few minutes the air was exhausted, and the scales remained evenly balanced as before.

"This experiment," said Harry judicially, "slightly modifies the opinion which we formed from the preceding one. The specific gravity evidently amounts in itself to nothing, being as air in air, and as vacuum in vacuo. Jot down the result, Jim, will you?"

I did so faithfully, and then turning to the spectre I observed, "You mentioned a Mr. Boyle, sir, just now. You allude, I suppose, to the father of chemistry?"

"And uncle of the Earl of Cork," replied the apparition, promptly filling up the well-known quotation. "Exactly so. I knew Mr. Boyle slightly during our lifetime, and I have known him intimately ever since he joined the majority."

"May I ask, while my friend makes the necessary preparations for the spectrum analysis and the chemical investigation, whether you are in the habit of associating much with-er-well, with other ghosts?"

"Oh yes, I see a good deal of society."

"Contemporaries of your own, or persons of earlier and later dates?"

"Dates really matter very little to us. We may have Socrates and Bacon chatting in the same group. For my own part, I prefer modern society-I may say, the society of the latest arrivals."

"That's exactly why I asked," said I. "The excessively modern tone of your language and idioms struck me, so to speak, as a sort of anachronism with your Restoration costume-an anachronism which I fancy I have noticed in many printed accounts of gentlemen from your portion of the universe."

"Your observation is quite true," replied the apparition. "We continue always to wear the clothes which were in fashion at the time of our decease; but we pick up from new-comers the latest additions to the English language, and even, I may say, to the slang dictionary. I know many ghosts who talk familiarly of 'awfully jolly hops,' and allude to their progenitors as 'the governor.' Indeed, it is considered quite behind the times to describe a lady as 'vastly pretty,' and poor Mr. Pepys, who still preserves the antiquated idiom of his diary, is looked upon among us as a dreadfully slow old fogey."

"But why, then," said I, "do you wear your old costumes for ever? Why not imitate the latest fashions from Poole's and Worth's, as well as the latest cant phrase from the popular novels?"

"Why, my dear sir," answered the phantom, "we must have something to mark our original period. Besides, most people to whom we appear know something about costume, while very few know anything about changes in idiom,"-that I must say seemed to me, in passing, a powerful argument indeed-"and so we all preserve the dress which we habitually wore during our lifetime."

"Then," said Harry irreverently, looking up from his chemicals, "the society in your part of the country must closely resemble a fancy-dress ball."

"Without the tinsel and vulgarity, we flatter ourselves," answered the phantom.

By this time the preparations were complete, and Harry inquired whether the apparition would object to our putting out the lights in order to obtain definite results with the spectroscope. Our visitor politely replied that he was better accustomed to darkness than to the painful glare of our paraffin candles. "In fact," he added, "only the strong desire which I felt to convince you of our existence as ghosts could have induced me to present myself in so bright a room. Light is very trying to the eyes of spirits, and we generally take our constitutionals between eleven at night and four in the morning, stopping at home entirely during the moonlit half of the month."

"Ah, yes," said Harry, extinguishing the candles; "I've read, of course, that your authorities exactly reverse our own Oxford rules. You are all gated, I believe, from dawn to sunset, instead of from sunset to dawn, and have to run away helter-skelter at the first streaks of daylight, for fear of being too late for admission without a fine of twopence. But you will allow that your usual habit of showing yourselves only in the very darkest places and seasons naturally militates somewhat against the credibility of your existence. If all apparitions would only follow your sensible example by coming out before two scientific people in a well-lighted room, they would stand a much better chance of getting believed: though even in the present case I must allow that I should have felt far more confidence in your positive reality if you'd presented yourself in broad daylight, when Jim and I hadn't punished the whisky quite as fully as we've done this evening."

When the candles were out, our apparition still retained its fluorescent, luminous appearance, and seemed to burn with a faint bluish light of its own. We projected a pencil through the spectroscope, and obtained, for the first time in the history of science, the spectrum of a spectre. The result was a startling one indeed. We had expected to find lines indicating the presence of sulphur or phosphorus: instead of that, we obtained a continuous band of pale luminosity, clearly pointing to the fact that the apparition had no known terrestial element in its composition. Though we felt rather surprised at this discovery, we simply noted it down on our paper, and proceeded to verify it by chemical analysis.

The phantom obligingly allowed us to fill a small phial with the luminous matter, which Harry immediately proceeded to test with all the resources at our disposal. For purposes of comparison I filled a corresponding phial with air from another part of the room, which I subjected to precisely similar tests. At the end of half an hour we had completed our examination-the spectre meanwhile watching us with mingled curiosity and amusement; and we laid our written quantitative results side by side. They agreed to a decimal. The table, being interesting, deserves a place in this memoir. It ran as follows:-

Chemical Analysis of an Apparition.

Atmospheric air 96.45 per cent.

Aqueous vapour 2.31 "

Carbonic acid 1.08 "

Tobacco smoke 0.16 "

Volatile alcohol A trace


100.00 "

The alcohol Harry plausibly attributed to the presence of glasses which had contained whisky toddy. The other constituents would have been normally present in the atmosphere of a room where two fellows had been smoking uninterruptedly ever since dinner. This important experiment clearly showed that the apparition had no proper chemical constitution of its own, but consisted entirely of the same materials as the surrounding air.

"Only one thing remains to be done now, Jim," said Harry, glancing significantly at a plain deal table in the corner, with whose uses we were both familiar; "but then the question arises, does this gentleman come within the meaning of the Act? I don't feel certain about it in my own mind, and with the present unsettled state of public opinion on this subject, our first duty is to obey the law."

"Within the meaning of the Act?" I answered; "decidedly not. The words of the forty-second section say distinctly 'any living animal.' Now, Mr. Egerton, according to his own account, is a ghost, and has been dead for some two hundred years or thereabouts: so that we needn't have the slightest scruple on that account."

"Quite so," said Harry, in a tone of relief. "Well then, sir," turning to the apparition, "may I ask you whether you would object to our vivisecting you?"

"Mortuisecting, you mean, Harry," I interposed parenthetically. "Let us keep ourselves strictly within the utmost letter of the law."

"Vivisecting? Mortuisecting?" exclaimed the spectre, with some amusement. "Really, the proposal is so very novel that I hardly know how to answer it. I don't think you will find it a very practicable undertaking: but still, if you like, yes, you may try your hands upon me."

We were both much gratified at this generous readiness to further the cause of science, for which, to say the truth, we had hardly felt prepared. No doubt, we were constantly in the habit of maintaining that vivisection didn't really hurt, and that rabbits or dogs rather enjoyed the process than otherwise; still, we did not quite expect an apparition in human form to accede in this gentlemanly manner to a personal request which after all is rather a startling one. I seized our new friend's hand with warmth and effusion (though my emotion was somewhat checked by finding it slip through my fingers immaterially), and observed in a voice trembling with admiration, "Sir, you display a spirit of self-sacrifice which does honour to your head and heart. Your total freedom from prejudice is perfectly refreshing to the anatomical mind. If all 'subjects' were equally ready to be vivisected-no, I mean mortuisected-oh,-well,-there," I added (for I began to perceive that my argument didn't hang together, as "subjects" usually accepted mortuisection with the utmost resignation), "perhaps it wouldn't make much difference after all."

Meanwhile Harry had pulled the table into the centre of the room, and arranged the necessary instruments at one end. The bright steel had a most charming and scientific appearance, which added greatly to the general effect. I saw myself already in imagination drawing up an elaborate report for the Royal Society, and delivering a Croonian Oration, with diagrams and sections complete, in illustration of the "Vascular System of a Ghost." But alas, it was not to be. A preliminary difficulty, slight in itself, yet enormous in its preventive effects, unhappily defeated our well-made plans.

"Before you lay yourself on the table," said Harry, gracefully indicating that article of furniture to the spectre with his lancet, "may I ask you to oblige me by removing your clothes? It is usual in all these operations to-ahem-in short, to proceed in puris naturalibus. As you have been so very kind in allowing us to operate upon you, of course you won't object to this minor but indispensable accompaniment."

"Well, really, sir," answered the ghost, "I should have no personal objection whatsoever; but I'm rather afraid it can't be done. To tell you the truth, my clothes are an integral part of myself. Indeed, I consist chiefly of clothes, with only a head and hands protruding at the principal extremities. You must have noticed that all persons of my sort about whom you have read or heard were fully clothed in the fashion of their own day. I fear it would be quite impossible to remove these clothes. For example, how very absurd it would be to see the shadowy outline of a ghostly coat hanging up on a peg behind a door. The bare notion would be sufficient to cast ridicule upon the whole community. No, gentlemen, much as I should like to gratify you, I fear the thing's impossible. And, to let the whole secret out, I'm inclined to think, for my part, that I haven't got any independent body whatsoever."

"But, surely," I interposed, "you must have some internal economy, or else how can you walk and talk? For example, have you a heart?"

"Most certainly, my dear sir, and I humbly trust it is in the right place."

"You misunderstand me," I repeated: "I am speaking literally, not figuratively. Have you a central vascular organ on your left-hand side, with two auricles and ventricles, a mitral and a tricuspid valve, and the usual accompaniment of aorta, pulmonary vein, pulmonary artery, systole and diastole, and so forth?"

"Upon my soul, sir," replied the spectre with an air of bewilderment, "I have never even heard the names of these various objects to which you refer, and so I am quite unable to answer your question. But if you mean to ask whether I have something beating just under my fob (excuse the antiquated word, but as I wear the thing in question I must necessarily use the name), why then, most undoubtedly I have."

"Will you oblige me, sir," said Harry, "by showing me your wrist? It is true I can't feel your pulse, owing to what you must acknowledge as a very unpleasant tenuity in your component tissues: but perhaps I may succeed in seeing it."

The apparition held out its arm. Harry instinctively endeavoured to balance the wrist in his hand, but of course failed in catching it. We were both amused throughout to observe how difficult it remained, after several experiences, to realize the fact that this visible object had no material and tangible background underlying it. Harry put up his eyeglass and gazed steadily at the phantom arm; not a trace of veins or arteries could anywhere be seen. "Upon my word," he muttered, "I believe it's true, and the subject has no internal economy at all. This is really very interesting."

"As it is quite impossible to undress you," I observed, turning to our visitor, "may I venture to make a section through your chest, in order, if practicable, to satisfy myself as to your organs generally?"

"Certainly," replied the good-humoured spectre; "I am quite at your service."

I took my longest lancet from its case and made a very neat cut, right across the sternum, so as to pass directly through all the principal viscera. The effect, I regret to say, was absolutely nugatory. The two halves of the body reunited instantaneously behind the instrument, just as a mass of mercury reunites behind a knife. Evidently there was no chance of getting at the anatomical details, if any existed, underneath that brocaded waistcoat of phantasmagoric satin. We gave up the attempt in despair.

"And now," said the shadowy form, with a smile of conscious triumph, flinging itself easily but noiselessly into a comfortable arm-chair, "I hope you are convinced that ghosts really do exist. I think I have pretty fully demonstrated to you my own purely spiritual and immaterial nature."

"Excuse me," said Harry, seating himself in his turn on the ottoman: "I regret to say that I remain as sceptical as at the beginning. You have merely convinced me that a certain visible shape exists apparently unaccompanied by any tangible properties. With this phenomenon I am already familiar in the case of phosphorescent gaseous effluvia. You also seem to utter audible words without the aid of a proper larynx or other muscular apparatus; but the telephone has taught me that sounds exactly resembling those of the human voice may be produced by a very simple membrane. You have afforded us probably the best opportunity ever given for examining a so-called ghost, and

my private conviction at the end of it is that you are very likely an egregious humbug."

I confess I was rather surprised at this energetic conclusion, for my own faith had been rapidly expanding under the strange experiences of that memorable evening. But the visitor himself seemed much hurt and distressed. "Surely," he said, "you won't doubt my word when I tell you plainly that I am the authentic ghost of Algernon Egerton. The word of an Egerton of Egerton Castle was always better than another man's oath, and it is so still, I hope. Besides, my frank and courteous conduct to you both to-night, and the readiness with which I have met all your proposals for scientific examination, certainly entitle me to better treatment at your hands."

"I must beg ten thousand pardons," Harry replied, "for the plain language which I am compelled to use. But let us look at the case in a different point of view. During your occasional visits to the world of living men, you may sometimes have travelled in a railway carriage in your invisible form."

"I have taken a trip now and then (by a night train, of course), just to see what the invention was like."

"Exactly so. Well, now, you must have noticed that a guard insisted from time to time upon waking up the sleepy passengers for no other purpose than to look at their tickets. Such a precaution might be resented, say by an Egerton of Egerton Castle, as an insult to his veracity and his honesty. But, you see, the guard doesn't know an Egerton from a Muggins: and the mere word of a passenger to the effect that he belongs to that distinguished family is in itself of no more value than his personal assertion that his ticket is perfectly en règle."

"I see your analogy, and I must allow its remarkable force."

"Not only so," continued Harry firmly, "but you must remember that in the case I have put, the guard is dealing with known beings of the ordinary human type. Now, when a living person introduces himself to me as Egerton of Egerton Castle, or Sir Roger Tichborne of Alresford, I accept his statement with a certain amount of doubt, proportionate to the natural improbability of the circumstances. But when a gentleman of shadowy appearance and immaterial substance, like yourself, makes a similar assertion, to the effect that he is Algernon Egerton who died two hundred years ago, then I am reluctantly compelled to acknowledge, even at the risk of hurting that gentleman's susceptible feelings, that I can form no proper opinion whatsoever of his probable veracity. Even men, whose habits and constitution I familiarly understand, cannot always be trusted to tell me the truth: and how then can I expect implicitly to believe a being whose very existence contradicts all my previous experiences, and whose properties give the lie to all my scientific conceptions-a being who moves without muscles and speaks without lungs? Look at the possible alternatives, and then you will see that I am guilty of no personal rudeness when I respectfully decline to accept your uncorroborated assertions. You may be Mr. Algernon Egerton, it is true, and your general style of dress and appearance certainly bears out that supposition; but then you may equally well be his Satanic Majesty in person-in which case you can hardly expect me to credit your character for implicit truthfulness. Or again, you may be a mere hallucination of my fancy: I may be suddenly gone mad, or I may be totally drunk,-and now that I look at the bottle, Jim, we must certainly allow that we have fully appreciated the excellent qualities of your capital Glenlivet. In short, a number of alternatives exist, any one of which is quite as probable as the supposition of your being a genuine ghost; which supposition I must therefore lay aside as a mere matter for the exercise of a suspended judgment."

I thought Harry had him on the hip, there: and the spectre evidently thought so too; for he rose at once and said rather stiffly, "I fear, sir, you are a confirmed sceptic upon this point, and further argument might only result in one or the other of us losing his temper. Perhaps it would be better for me to withdraw. I have the honour to wish you both a very good evening." He spoke once more with the hauteur and grand mannerism of the old school, besides bowing very low at each of us separately as he wished us good-night.

"Stop a moment," said Harry rather hastily. "I wouldn't for the world be guilty of any inhospitality, and least of all to a gentleman, however indefinite in his outline, who has been so anxious to afford us every chance of settling an interesting question as you have. Won't you take a glass of whisky and water before you go, just to show there's no animosity?"

"I thank you," answered the apparition, in the same chilly tone; "I cannot accept your kind offer. My visit has already extended to a very unusual length, and I have no doubt I shall be blamed as it is by more reticent ghosts for the excessive openness with which I have conversed upon subjects generally kept back from the living world. Once more," with another ceremonious bow, "I have the honour to wish you a pleasant evening."

As he said these words, the fluorescent light brightened for a second, and then faded entirely away. A slightly unpleasant odour also accompanied the departure of our guest. In a moment, spectre and scent alike disappeared; but careful examination with a delicate test exhibited a faint reaction which proved the presence of sulphur in small quantities. The ghost had evidently vanished quite according to established precedent.

We filled our glasses once more, drained them off meditatively, and turned into our bedrooms as the clock was striking four.

Next morning, Harry and I drew up a formal account of the whole circumstance, which we sent to the Royal Society, with a request that they would publish it in their Transactions. To our great surprise, that learned body refused the paper, I may say with contumely. We next applied to the Anthropological Institute, where, strange to tell, we met with a like inexplicable rebuff. Nothing daunted by our double failure, we despatched a copy of our analysis to the Chemical Society; but the only acknowledgment accorded to us was a letter from the secretary, who stated that "such a sorry joke was at once impertinent and undignified." In short, the scientific world utterly refuses to credit our simple and straightforward narrative; so that we are compelled to throw ourselves for justice upon the general reading public at large. As the latter invariably peruse the pages of "Belgravia," I have ventured to appeal to them in the present article, confident that they will redress our wrongs, and accept this valuable contribution to a great scientific question at its proper worth. It may be many years before another chance occurs for watching an undoubted and interesting Apparition under such favourable circumstances for careful observation; and all the above information may be regarded as absolutely correct, down to five places of decimals.

Still, it must be borne in mind that unless an apparition had been scientifically observed as we two independent witnesses observed this one, the grounds for believing in its existence would have been next to none. And even after the clear evidence which we obtained of its immaterial nature, we yet remain entirely in the dark as to its objective reality, and we have not the faintest reason for believing it to have been a genuine unadulterated ghost. At the best we can only say that we saw and heard Something, and that this Something differed very widely from almost any other object we had ever seen and heard before. To leap at the conclusion that the Something was therefore a ghost, would be, I venture humbly to submit, without offence to the Psychical Research Society, a most unscientific and illogical specimen of that peculiar fallacy known as Begging the Question.

* * *


We Germans do not spare trouble where literary or scientific work is on hand: and so when I was appointed by the University of Breslau to the travelling scholarship in the Neo-Sanskritic languages, I made up my mind at once to spend the next five years of my life in India. I knew already a good deal more Hindi and Urdu than most English officials who have spent twenty years in the country; but I was anxious to perfect my knowledge by practice on the spot, and to acquire thorough proficiency in conversation by intercourse with the people themselves. I therefore went out to India at once, and avoiding the great towns, such as Calcutta or Allahabad, which have been largely anglicised by residents and soldiers, I took up my abode in the little village of Bithoor on the Ganges, a few miles from Cawnpore, celebrated as having been the residence of the Nana Sahib, whom you English always describe as "the most ferocious rebel in the Mutiny." Here I spent four years in daily intercourse with the native gentry, whose natural repugnance to foreigners I soon conquered by invariable respect for their feelings and prejudices. At the end of eighteen months I had so won my way to their hearts that the Muhammedans regarded me as scarcely outside the pale of Islam, while the Hindoos usually addressed me by the religious title of Bhai or brother.

Of course, however, the English officials did not look with any favouring eye upon my proceedings, especially as I sometimes felt called upon to remonstrate with them upon their hasty and often ignorant method of dispensing justice. This coolness towards the authorities increased the friendship felt towards me by the native population; and "the European Sahib who is not a Feringhee" became a general adviser of many among the poorer people in their legal difficulties. I merely mention these facts to account for the confidence reposed in me, of which the story I am about to relate is a striking example.

I had a syce or groom who passed by the name of Lal Biro. This man was a tall, reserved, white-haired old Hindoo, a Jat by caste, but with a figure which might have been taken for that of a Brahman. His manner to me was always cold and sometimes sullen; and I found it difficult to place myself on the same terms with him as with my other servants. One dark evening, however, during the cold season, I had driven back from Cawnpore with him late at night in a small open trap, and found him far more chatty and communicative than usual. When we reached the bungalow, we discovered that the lights were out, and the house almost shut up, as the servants had fancied that I meant to sleep at the club. Lal Biro accordingly came in with me, and helped me to get my supper ready. Then at my request he sat down cross-legged near the door and continued to give me some reminiscences of the Mutiny which had been interrupted by our arrival.

"Yes, Sahib," he said quietly, composing himself on a little mat with a respectful inclination of the body; "I am Ram Das of Cawnpore."

I was startled by the confession, for I knew the name of Ram Das as one of the most dangerous petty rebels, on whose head Government had fixed a large price; but I was gratified by the confidence he reposed in me, and I begged him to go on with his story. I write it down now in very nearly the literal English equivalent of his exact words.

"Yes, Sahib, it is a long story truly. I will tell you how it all came about. I was a cultivator on the uplands there by Cawnpore, and I had a nice plot of land in Zameendari near the village there, good land with wheat and millet and a little tobacco. My millet was joar, and I got a rupee for eighteen seers, good money. I was well-to-do in those days. No man in the village but spoke well of Ram Das. I had a wife and three children, and a good mud cottage, and I paid my dues regularly to Mahadeo, oil and grain, most properly. The Brahmans said I was a most pious man, and everybody thought well of me.

"One day Shaikh Ali, a Muhammedan, a landowner from over the river in Oude, whom I knew in the bazaar at Cawnpore, he met me near the bridge resting. He said to me, 'Well, Ram Das, these are strange things coming to pass. They say the sepoys have mutinied at Meerut, and the Feringhees are to be driven into the sea.'

"I said, 'That would not do us Hindoos much good. We should fall under you Musalmans again, and you would have an emperor at Delhi, and he would tax us and trouble us as our fathers tell us the Moguls did before the Feringhees came.'

"Shaikh Ali said to me, 'Are you a good man and true?'

"I answered, 'I pay my dues regularly and do poojah, but I don't know what you, a Musalman, mean by a good man.'

"'Can you keep counsel against the accursed Feringhees?' said he.

"'That is an easy thing to do,' I answered. 'They tax us, and number us, and make our salt dear, and mean to take our daughters away from us, for which purpose they have made a census, to see how many young women there are of twelve years and upwards. Besides, they slaughter cows the same as you do.'

"'Listen to me, Ram Das,' he said, 'and keep your counsel. Do you know that they have tried to make all the sepoys lose caste and become like dogs and Pariahs, by putting cow's grease on the cartridges?'

"'I know it,' I replied, 'because my brother is a sepoy at Allahabad, and he sent me word of it by a son of our neighbour.'

"'Did we Musalmans ever do so?' he asked again.

"'I never heard it,' said I: 'but indeed I am ignorant of all these things, for I am not an old man, and I have only heard imperfectly from my elders. Still, I don't know that you ever tried to make us lose caste.'

"'Well, Ram Das,' said the Shaikh, 'listen to what we propose. The sepoys from Meerut have gone to Delhi and have proclaimed the King as Emperor. But now the Nana of Bithoor has something to say about it. If the Nana were made king, would you fight for him?'

"'Certainly,' said I, 'for he is a Mahratta and a good Hindoo. He should by rights be Peshwa of the Mahrattas, and hold power even over your emperor at Delhi.'

"'That is quite true,' the Shaikh answered. 'The Peshwa was always the right hand and director of the Emperor. If we put the Mogul on the throne once more, the Nana would be his real sovereign, and Hindoos and Musalmans alike would rejoice in the change.'

"'But suppose we fall out among ourselves!'

"'What does that matter in the end?' he answered. 'Let us first drive out the accursed Feringhees, and then, if Allah prosper us, we may divide the land as we like between the two creeds. We are all sons of the soil, Hindoo and Musalman alike, and we can live together in peace. But these hateful Feringhees, they come across the sea, they overrun all India, they tax us all alike, they treat your Sindiah and Holkar as they treat our Nizam and our king of Oude, they take away our slaves, they tax our food, they pollute your sacred rivers, they destroy your castes, and as for us, they take their women to picnic in our mosques, as I have seen myself at Agra. Shall we not first drive them into the sea?'

"'You say well,' I answered, 'and I shall ask more of this matter at Bithoor.'

"That was the first that I heard of it all. Next day, the village was all in commotion. It was said that the Nana had called on all good Hindoos to help him to clear out the Feringhees. I left my hut and my children, and I came to Bithoor here. Then they gave me a rifle, and told me I should march with them to Cawnpore to kill the Feringhees. There were not many of the dogs, and the gods were on our side; and when we had killed them all we should have the whole of India for the Hindoos, with no land-tax or salt-tax, and there should be no more cattle slaughtered nor no more interference with the pilgrims at Hurdwar. It was a grand day that, and the Nana, dressed out in all the Peshwa's jewels, looked like a very king.

"Well, we went to Cawnpore and began to besiege the entrenchments which Wheeler Sahib had thrown up round the cantonment. We had great guns and many men, both sepoys and volunteers. Inside, the Feringhees had only a few, and not much artillery. We all thought that the gods had given us the Feringhees to slay, and that there would be no more of them left at all.

"For twenty days we continued besieging, and the Feringhees got weaker and weaker. They had no food, and scarcely any water. At last Wheeler Sahib sent to tell the Nana that he would give himself up, if the Nana would spare their lives. The Nana was a merciful man, and he said, 'I might go on and take the entrenchment, and kill you all if I wished; but to save time, because I want to get away and join the others, I will let you off.' So he took all the money in the treasury, and the guns, and promised to provide boats to take them all down to Allahabad.

"I was standing about near one of our guns that day, when Chunder Lal, a Brahman in the Nana's troops, came up to me and said, 'Well, Ram Das, what do you think of this?'

"'I think,' said I, 'that it is a sin and a shame, after we have broken down the hospital, and starved out the Feringhees, to let them go down the river to Allahabad, to strengthen the garrison that pollutes that holy city. For I hear that they do all kinds of wrong there, and insult the Brahmans, and the bathers, and the sacred fig-tree. And if these men go and join them, the garrison will be stronger, and they will be able to hold out longer against the people, which may the gods avert!'

"'So I think too, Ram Das,' said he; 'and for my part, I would try to prevent their going.'

"A little later, we went down to the river, by the Nana's orders. There some men had got boats together, and were putting the Feringhees into them. It was getting dark, and we all went down to guard them. A few of them had got into the boats; the rest were on the bank. I can see it all now: the white men with their proud looks abashed, going meekly into the boats, and the women stepping, all afraid and shrinking from the black faces-shrinking from us as if we were unclean and they would lose caste by touching us. Though they were so frightened, they were proud still. Then three guns went off somewhere in the camp. Chunder Lal was near me, and he said to me, 'That is the signal for us to fire. The Nana ordered me to fire when I heard those guns.' I don't know if it was true: perhaps the Nana ordered it, perhaps Chunder Lal told a lie: but I never could find out the truth about it, for they blew Chunder Lal from the guns at Cawnpore afterwards, and I have never seen the Nana since to ask him. At any rate, I levelled my musket and fired. I hit an officer Sahib, and wounded him, not mortally. In a moment there was a great report, and I looked round, and saw all our men firing. I don't know if they had the word of command, but I think not. I think they all saw me fire, and fired because I did, and because they thought it a shame to let the Feringhees escape; as though the head man of a village should entrap a tiger, a man-eater that had killed many cultivators in their dal-fields, and then should let it go. If a headman ordered the villagers to loose it from the trap, do you think they would obey him? No, and if he loosed it himself, they would take muskets and sticks and weapons of all kinds, and kill the man-eater at once. That is what we did with the Feringhees.

"It was a terrible sight, and I did not like to see it. Some of them leapt into the water and were drowned. Others swam away madly, like wild fowl, and we shot at them as they swam; and then they dived, and when they came up again, we fired at them again, and the water was red with their blood. I hit one man on the shoulder, and broke his arm, but still he swam on with his other arm, till somebody put a bullet through his head, and he sank. I ran into the water, as did many others, and we followed them down until all the swimmers were picked off. Some of the boats crossed the river: but there was a regiment waiting on the Oude shore-some said by accident, others that the Nana had posted it there-and the sepoys hacked them all to pieces as they tried to escape. It was a dreadful sight, and I am an older man now, and do not like to think of it: but I was younger then, and our blood was hot with fighting, and we thought we were going to drive the Feringhees out of the country, and that the gods would be well pleased with our day's work.

"Some boats got away a little way, but they were afterwards sent back. The women and children, some of them badly wounded, we took back into Cawnpore. We put them in the Bibi's house, near the Assembly Rooms. Then in a few days, the others who were sent back from Futteypore arrived, and the Nana said, 'What shall I do with them?' Everybody said, 'Shoot them:' so we took out all the men the same day and shot them at once. The women and children the Nana spared, because he was a humane man; and he sent them to the others in the Bibi's house. There they were well treated; and though they had not punkahs, and tattis, and cow's flesh, as formerly, yet they got better rations than any of the Nana's own soldiers: for the Feringhees, like all you Europeans, Sahib, are very luxurious, and will not live off rice or dal and a little ghee like other people. You have conquered every place in the world, from Ceylon to Cashmere, and so you have got luxurious, and live off wheaten bread, and cow's flesh, and wine, and many such ungodly things. But the rest of the world think it a great thing if they have ghee to their rice.

"After a fortnight the Nana's troops were defeated at Futteypore, and it was said that the Feringhee ladies were sending letters to the army. Then the Nana was very angry. He said, 'I have spared these women's lives, and yet they are sending news to my enemies. I will tell you what I will do: I will put them all to death.' So he gave word to have them shot. I was one of the guards at the Bibi's house, and I got orders to shoot them. Then we all tried to bring them out in front of the house; but they would not come; so we had to go in and put an end to them there with swords and bayonets. Poor things! they shrieked piteously; and I was sorry for them, because they were some of them young and pretty, and it is not the women's fault if the Feringhees come here, for the Feringhee ladies hate India, and will all go away again across the water if they can get a chance. And then there were the children! One poor lady clung to my knees and begged hard for her daughter: but I had to obey orders, so I cut her down. It was very sad. But then, the Feringhee ladies are even prouder than the men, and they hate us Hindoos. They would not care if they killed a thousand of us if their little fingers ached. Look how they make us salaam, and punish us for small faults, and compel us to work punkahs, and to run on foot after their carriages, and insult our gods. Ah, they are a cruel, proud race. They are lower than the lowest Sudra, and yet they will treat a twice-born Brahman like a dog.

"We threw all the bodies into the well at Cawnpore where now they have put up an image of one of their gods-a cold, white god, with two wings-to avenge their death. Then there was great joy in Cawnpore. We had killed the last of the Feringhees, and India should be our own. Soon, we might make the Nana into a real Peshwa, and turn against the Musalmans, and put down all slaughtering of cattle altogether, as the Rani did at Jhansi. We should have no more land-tax to pay, for the Musalmans should pay all the taxes, as is just: but the Hindoos should have their land for nothing, and live upon chupatties and ghee and honey every day. Ah, that was the grandest day that was ever seen in Cawnpore!

"But that was not the end of it. In the mysterious providence of the all-wise gods it was otherwise ordained. A few days before all this, I was standing about in the bazaar, when I met a jemadar. He said to me, 'So the Feringhees are marching from Allahabad!'

"'The Feringhees!' I said: 'why, no, we have killed them all off out of India, thanks be to the gods. At Delhi they are all killed, and at Meerut, and at Cawnpore here, and I believe everywhere but at Allahabad and at Calcutta.'

"'Ram Das,' he answered, 'you are a child; you know nothing. Do you think the Feringhees are so few? They are swarming across the water like locusts across the Ganges. In a few months, they will all come from where they have been helping the Sultan of Roum against the other Christians, and they will make the whole Doab into a desert, as they made Rohilcund in the days of Hostein Sahib.[1] Shall I tell you the news from Delhi?'

"'Yes,' I said, 'tell me by all means, for I don't believe the Feringhees will ever again hold rule in India, the land of the all-wise gods.' In those days, Sahib, I was very foolish. I did not know that the Feringhees were in number like the green parrots, and that they could send countless shiploads across the water as easily as we could send a cargo of dal down the river to Benares.

"'Well, then,' he said, 'Delhi has been besieged, and before long it will be taken. And the Feringhees have sent up men from Calcutta who have reached Allahabad, and are now on the march for Cawnpore. When they come, they will take us all, and kill the Nana, and there will be an end of the Hindoos for ever. They are going to make us all into Christians by force, baptising us with unclean water, and making Brahmans and Pariahs eat together of cow's flesh, and destroying all caste, and modesty, and religion altogether.'

"'They will do all these things, doubtless,' I replied, 'if they can succeed in catching us: but it is impossible. The Feringhees are but a handful: they could never have ruled us if it were not for the sepoys. They had all the muskets and the ammunition, and they kept them from us. But now that the sepoys have mutinied, the Feringhees are but a few officers and half-a-dozen regiments. And I cannot believe that the gods would allow men like them, who are worse than Musalmans, and have no caste, to conquer us who are the best blood in India, Brahmans, and Jats, and Mahrattas.'

"But the jemadar laughed at me. 'I tell you,' he said, 'this rebellion is all child's play. For I have myself been across the water once, as an officer's servant, and have been to England, and to their great town, London. It is so great that a man can hardly walk across it from end to end in a day; and if you were to put Allahabad or Cawnpore down in its midst, the people would not know that any new thing had come about. They have ships in their rivers as thick as the canes in a sugar-field; and iron roads with cars drawn by steam horses. They have so many men that they could overrun all India as easily as the people of Cawnpore could overrun Bihtoor. And so when I hear their guns outside the town, I will run away to them, and I advise you to do so too.'

"I didn't believe him at the time; but a few days afterwards, I found out that the Feringhees were really marching from Allahabad. And when we killed the ladies, they were almost at the door. They fought like demons, and we know that the demons must all be on their side. Many times we went out to meet them, but in four separate battles they cut our men to pieces like sheep. At last, just after we had got rid of the ladies, they got to Cawnpore.

"Then there was no end of the confusion. The Nana got frightened, and fled away. We blew up the magazine, so that they might not have powder; and the Feringhees came at once into the town. There never were people so savage or angry. The sight of the well and the Bibi's house seemed to drive them wild. They were more like tigers than human beings. Every sepoy whom they caught they shot at once for vengeance, because that is their religion: and many who were not sepoys, and who had not borne arms against them, they shot on false evidence. Every man who had a grudge against another told the Feringhees that their enemy had helped to cut down the ladies; and the Feringhees were so greedy for blood that they believed it all, and shot them down at once. So much blood was never shed in Cawnpore: for one life they took ten. Then we knew it was all true what the jemadar had said, and that they would take the whole Doab back, and put back the land-tax, and the salt-tax; and we thought too that they would make us all into Christians; but that they have not done, for so long as they get their taxes, and have high pay and good bungalows, and cow's flesh and beer, they don't care about, or reverence any religion, not even their own. For we Hindoos respect our fakeers, and even the Musalmans respect their pirs; but the Feringhees think as little of the missionaries as we do ourselves, and care more for dances than for their churches. That is why they have not compelled us to become Christians.

"All the time the Feringhees were in Cawnpore, I lay hid in the jemadar's house. He was a good man, though he had gone over to the Feringhees as soon as they came in sight: and nobody suspected his house, because he was now on their side, and had given them news of all that took place in the town when we killed the officers and the ladies. So I was quite safe there, and got dal and water every day, and was in no danger at all.

"Presently, the Feringhees moved off again, abandoning Cawnpore, because Havelock Sahib, who was the most terrible of their generals, wanted to go on to Lucknow. There the Musalmans of Oude had risen and were besieging the Presidency, with all the soldiers and officers. I would not go to Oude, because I did not care to fight for Musalmans, preferring rather to wait the chance of the Nana coming back; for only a Mahratta could now recover the kingdom for the Hindoos; and the Musalmans are almost as bad as the Feringhees themselves. In a short time, however, the Gwalior men came. They were good men, the Gwalior men: for though Sindiah, their rajah, had commanded them not to fight, they would not desert the other Hindoos, when there were Feringhees to be killed: and they disobeyed Sindiah, and rebelled, and so I joined them gladly. They pitched only fifteen miles from Cawnpore, and there I went out and enlisted with them.

"By-and-by most of the Gwalior men got frightened, and went back again. Then things became very bad. A few of us marched southward, and hid in the jungles that slope down towards the Jumna. We were very frightened, because there are tigers in that jungle: and two Gwalior men were eaten by the tigers. But soon some Feringhees from Etawa heard of our being there, and they came out to stalk us. It was just like shooting nil-ghae. They came on horseback, and closed all round the jungle where we were. Then they crept on into the jungle, and we crept away from them. Every now and then they drove a man into an open space; and then they all shouted like fiends, and shot at him. When they hit him and rolled him over, they laughed, and shouted louder still. I was hidden under some low bushes; and two Feringhees passed close to me, one on each side of the bushes; but they did not see me. Soon after, they started a man who had been a sepoy, and he ran back towards my bushes. I never said a word. Then they all fired at him, and killed him: but one bullet hit me on the arm, and went through the flesh of my arm, and partly splintered the bone. But still I said nothing. All day long I lay moaning to myself very low, and the Feringhees scoured all the jungle, and killed everybody but me, and went away saying to themselves that they had had a good day's sport. For they hunted us just as if we were antelopes.

"I lay for a fortnight, wounded, in the jungle, and had nothing to eat but Mahua berries. I was feverish and wandered in my mind: but at the end of a fortnight I could crawl out, and managed to drag along my wounded arm. Then I went to the nearest village, and gave out that I was a cultivator who had been wounded by the Gwalior men in trying to defend a tuhseelie[2] for the Feringhees. For that, they took great care of me, and sent me on to Cawnpore.

"I was not afraid to go back to the town, for my own people would not know me again. In that fortnight I had grown from a young man into the man you see me; only I was older-looking then than I am now, for I have got younger in the Sahib's service. My hair had turned white, and so had my beard, which was longer and more matted than before. My forehead was wrinkled, and my cheeks had fallen away. As soon as I had got to Cawnpore, I went straight to the jemadar's house, to see if he would recognize me; but he did not: for even my voice was hoarser and harsher than of old, through fever and exposure. So I went and told my story to the Feringhee doctor, how I had been wounded in keeping the tuhseelie for his people; and he tended my arm, and made it well again. For though the Feringhees are savage like tigers to their enemies, if you befriend them, they will treat you well. In that they are better than the Musalmans.

"Soon after, I went out to the parade ground, because I heard there was to be a dreadful sight. They were going to blow the rebels they had taken, from the guns. I went out and looked on. Then they took all the men, Brahmans and Chumars alike, and broke caste, and tied them each to a gun. I could not have done it, though I cut down the Feringhee ladies; but they did it, and made a light matter of it. Then they fired the guns, and in a whiff their bodies were all blown away utterly, so that there was nothing left of them. This they did so as utterly to destroy the rebels, leaving neither body nor soul, but annihilating them altogether, which is worse than death. They would have done it to me, if they had caught me. Do you wonder that I hate the Feringhees, Sahib? Why, they did it even to the twice-born Brahmans, let alone a Jat. The gods will avenge it on them.

"Then I went out to look at my plot of land. The Feringhees knew of me from many traitors, some of whom had given up my name to save themselves from being blown away-and no wonder. They had seized my plot, and sold it to another man, a zameendar, a Kayath in Cawnpore, who had made money by supplying them with food-the curse of all the gods upon him! And as for my wife and children, they had gone wandering out, and I have never seen them since. My wife was with child, and she went into Cawnpore, and thence elsewhere, I know not where, and starved to death, I suppose, or died in some other shameful way. But one of my daughters a missionary got, and sent her to Meerut to a school; and there they are teaching her to be a Christian, and to hate her own gods and her own people, and to love the Feringhees who suck the blood of India, and grind down the poor with taxes, and dispossess the Thakurs, who ought, of course, by right to own the land. This much I learned by inquiring at Cawnpore; but how my wife died, or whether they killed her, or what, that I have never been able to learn.

"So that was the end of it all. The Nana was hidden away somewhere up Nepaul way; and the Feringhees had got back Lucknow; and all over the Doab and the Punjab they were established again, and the hopes of the people were all broken. And I had lost my land, and my wife, and my children, and had nothing to live upon or to live for. And we had not driven out the accursed strangers, after all, but on the contrary they made themselves stronger than ever, and sent more soldiers, as the jemadar had prophesied, and put down the Company, who used to be their rajah, and sent up a Maharani instead, who is now Empress of India. And they made new taxes and a new census and all sorts of imposts. But since that time they have been more afraid of us, and are not so insolent to the temples, or the pilgrims, or to the sacred monkeys. And I came to Bithoor, and became a syce, and I have been a syce ever since. That is all I know about the Mutiny, Sahib."

The old man stopped suddenly, having told all his story in a dull, monotonous voice, with little feeling and no dramatic display. I have tried to reproduce it just as he said it. There was no passion, no fierceness, no cruelty in his manner; but simply a deep, settled, uniform tone of hatred to the English. It was the only time I had ever heard the story of the Mutiny from a native point of view, and I give it as I heard it, without mitigating aught either of its horror or its truth.

"And you are not afraid of telling me all this?" I asked.

He shook his head. "The Sahib has a white face," he answered, "but his heart is black."

"And the Nana?" I inquired. "Do you know if he is living still?"

His eyes flashed fire for the first time since he had begun. "Ay," he cried; "he is living. That I know from many trusty friends. And he will come again whenever there is trouble between the Feringhees and the other Christians: and then we shall have no quarrelling among ourselves; but Sindiah, and Holkar, and the Nizam, and the Oude people, and even the Bengalis will rise up together; and we will cut every Feringhee's throat in all India, and the gods will give us the land for ever after.... Good night, Sahib: my salaam to you." And he glided like a serpent from the room.


[1] Warren Hastings.

[2] Village Treasury.

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