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Title: The Ghosts at Grantley
Author: Leonard Kip
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606021.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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The Ghosts at Grantley
Leonard Kip



CHAPTER I



The London stagecoach dropped me at the gatelodge of Grantley Grange,
and according to my usual custom I started up to the Hall on foot. It
was such a pleasant Christmas morning as perhaps is not often seen,
and might well have tempted to a longer walk than that short mile up
the carefully trimmed avenue. There had been a slight fall of snow, a
mere sprinkle indeed; but it was sufficient to clothe the brown turf
with a dainty tint of pearl, and to make the dry leaves rattle crisp
beneath the feet, and to project the great oaks in seemingly more
ancient grandeur against the brightened background and generally to
give an unusually cheery and exhilerating aspect to the whole scenery
of the park.

When I had nearly reached the Hall, the church clock struck noon, and
immediately all the bells began to ring out a merry Christmas peal. Up
and down, hither and thither, now a snatch of tune and again a
meaningless clashing of all the bells at once--single notes and double
and triple concords, and, in fact, everything that well-disposed bells
ever can or will do--so it ran on right cheerily. Now it was that I
anticipated my Uncle Ruthven would hasten out to meet and welcome me.
For I knew that he was fond of listening to the chimes; and when the
changes were being sounded upon them he would not unfrequently sit at
the open window, the better to enjoy them.

And of course, as I could now plainly see the Hall through the
leafless trees, he from his open window could as readily watch my
approach. Somewhat to my momentary chagrin, however, he did not come
forth or even meet me at the door, and I was suffered to enter
unannounced. And passing through the main hall, I wandered into the
library.

There I found my Uncle Ruthven standing in the middle of the floor,
his head thrown back, his eyes fixed intently upon the opposite wall,
one arm raised in front to the level of his face, the other hand
thrown behind him, an expression of resolute determination impressed
upon every feature, his whole appearance and position resembling that
of the antique Quolt Thrower.

Evidently he had been engaged in similar action; for, in a moment, he
stepped to the other side of the room, picked up a short, fat book
which had been thrown thither, and replaced it upon the table.

"Anatomy of Melancholy," he remarked, turning to me with a little
chuckling laugh. "The first person who for a long while has got the
book all through him--eh, Geoffrey? Though, of course, we all relish a
little of it, now and then. Hit him directly upon the breast, and it
went through him as through a summer mist, dropping out behind between
his shoulder blades. Of course he has vanished, taking the hint of not
being longer wanted here."

"Who, Uncle Ruthven?" I asked.

"Why, the ghost, of course," was the answer.

I was a little startled at this. It is true that I had sometimes
thought that the library at Grantley Grange might be just the place
for ghosts. It was wainscoted heavily with carved oak darkened in tint
with the seasoning of four centuries. Above, the walls were covered
with hangings of Spanish leather, stamped in quaint pattern. The
fireplace was deep set and broad--so deep and broad, indeed, that the
great logs smoldering within appeared no larger than ordinary sticks.
The windows were projected into oriels with heavy mullions and let in
the light, encumbered with a thousand stray shadows. The tables and
chairs and high bookcases seemed almost immovable with their
sculptured massiveness, and as though designed for a race of giants.
Queer lamps hung from the ceiling and grotesque candlesconces
projected themselves from the walls, each with heavy metal shades that
would shut in more light than they sent forth. Over the mantel and
beside the doors were paintings blackened with age; a Salvator Rosa,
turned by the grime of time into a mere confusion of different
shadows, with only here and there a touch of faded light for contrast,
and, on either hand, eight or ten old portraits in ruffs and crimson
coats and armor, cracked and worm-eaten and sometimes almost
undistinguishable in face, but serving in costume to show the
different careers into which, in times past, the fates or inclinations
of the originals had carried them. A gloomy old library, indeed, full
of crevices that would not stay closed, and cobwebs that could not be
got at, and drafts that came from no one knew where, and flickering
shades that seemed to obey no philosophic law, but stole here and
there across wall and ceiling as their fancy led them. So that not
unnaturally it appeared at times as though the place could never have
been made for man's enjoyment, but rather as a hall for witches'
Sabbath or ghostly revels; and as I watched the subdued and hesitating
flickering of an errant sunbeam across the tarnished gilt pattern of
the Spanish leather, it was not difficult for queer fancies and
imaginings to take hold of me. But, after all, they were mere idle
conceits, and at the most I had not for an instant anticipated the
actual presentment of unearthly visitants.

"The ghost, did you say?" I therefore repeated, in some amazement.

"Yes, the ghost. Has been here every Christmas for many a year. Always
comes just as the chimes strike up at noon, as regularly as though
they had waked him. If you had ever before this happened to spend a
Christmas with us, you might have met him yourself. Assumes that he
belongs to the house, and that therefore he has his vested rights in
it. Frightened me a little at the first, but have become used to him
now and do not care. Am rather disposed, indeed, to lord it over him
with high hand; and he is such a patient ghost that it hardly seems to
make much difference with him. Am sorry always, in fact, if I speak
crossly to him. But, then, you know my temper, Geoffrey, and how
little I can brook presumption. How, then, would you feel if a ghost
were to come, implying that he was the master of the house and that
you were merely a visitor? Getsjust so far, indeed, and then vanishes
without telling anything important."

I looked wonderingly at Uncle Ruthven thus calmly discoursing about
the supernatural.

"But do you ever let him get further than that?" I suggested, my eyes
wandering to the book upon the table.

"Perhaps not, Geoffrey--perhaps not. I suppose that if I were more
patient he would talk a little better to the purpose. But then I am
very quick tempered, and it is so exasperating, every Christmas to go
through the very same thing. I always throw a book at him and am sorry
for it afterward. It is certainly not the hospitable thing upon my
part. But then to be so constantly beset, year after year, and not to
know how many more there may be of them. For there is at least one
other ghost somewhere about the house, Geoffrey. I have never seen
him, but Bidgers the butler has, and he says it is as like this fellow
as two peas. And if I am too polite to them, who knows but that they
may be encouraged to come in swarms and make the house very
uncomfortable? But let us leave all that for the present. You will be
wanting to see your room, I suppose. The South Oriel, just past the
second landing. Bidgers will carry up your portmanteau."

"Am sorry, by the way, that Lilian has not yet returned from the
continent. She could, of course, make your stay much more pleasant for
you than I can. But will do my best, Geoffrey. Luncheon at one, as
usual." Escorted by Bidgers, I proceeded upstairs to the South Oriel.
It was a large apartment upon the south side of the house, with a
broad octagonal window projection. If possible, the furniture was
heavier and more antiquated than that of the library. There were
quaint old tapestry hangings to the bedstead, so queer and faded that
it seemed almost as though they might have been embroidered during the
Crusades. The wardrobe was a marvel of size and solidity, and gave the
impression that in troublous times, obnoxious owners of the estate
might have safely been concealed in a false recess. Other articles of
furniture were in similar style, and all together gave quite a gloomy
aspect to an apartment that naturally, if left to itself, might have
been well disposed to be cheerful. The effect was not diminished by a
dingy picture over the mantelshelf, representing a funeral urn and
drooping willow worked in hair, with an exceedingly numerous and
mournfully dressed family coming two by two down a winding path to
weep in concert around the tomb. While I gazed solemnly at this work
of art, a ragged yew tree kept striving at every breath of wind to
thrust one of its gnarled old branches in at the window; and putting
all things together, the cheerfulness went out of me entirely, and the
idea of ghosts came in quite as naturally as in the library. I tried
to shake it off, remembering my late experience and not wishing to
have my mind burdened with any further queer fancies of the kind; and
after a moment or two, indeed, seemed to be succeeding very tolerably
and became able to hum an operatic drinking song with comparative ease
and correctness. Just then, however, happening to turn my head, I saw
a strange figure standing near the foot of the bed and gazing at me
with fixed but not unpleasing or unfriendly expression.

The figure of a pleasant young fellow; hot, to all appearance, over
twenty-two years of age, and exhibiting a lifelike rotundity and
opacity that would have prevented any suspicion in my mind of the
supernatural, if I had not had my uncle's word for it, or if I had
discovered any way in which the stranger could have entered the room
without my seeing him. A handsome young fellow, courtly in manner and
dress, with coat of purple velvet, slashed and embroidered the whole
length of the sleeves, a dainty little rapier swinging at his side and
a plumed cap held in his hand. Hair falling in long curls over his
broad lace collar, and the beard twisted into a point, while the small
mustachios also twined into points turned up against the cheeks. A
mild, responsive kind of face, with courteous smiles and replete with
indications of gentle disposition.

"I am exceedingly happy to meet you," he remarked, playing with the
gold-lace upon his sword hilt. "The more so that since I have been
ill, so few persons come to visit me at all. I do not know that I have
seen anybody of late, excepting the butler; and even he appears to be
a new butler, most unaccountably put into possession by some other and
pretended authority. I must in-quire into it when I am completely
restored."

"You say that you have been ill?"

"Yes; a faintness and much uneasy want of rest at night, principally
arising from this lump in my chest; and that, in turn, coming from the
attack upon me by my brother Harold. Would be glad to introduce him to
you if it were not for that. But I put it to you now: after what has
happened could I show him any such attention, or, indeed, associate
with him at all? If cousin Beatrice were here, now--" At this moment
there came a rap at the door; and the ghost, shrinking a little toward
one side, began to pale before me, and I saw that he was slowly fading
away, beginning at the legs, and so the line of invisibility extending
upward until gradually the whole figure had entirely vanished. Again I
saw in its entirety the carved footboard which he had hitherto
partially obscured; there was nothing left, indeed, to remind me of
the strange visitant.

And opening the door I saw only Bidgers, the butler.

"Luncheon is ready, Master Geoffrey," he said. "No fish today, for the
West stage is not in, but the mushrooms is particularly fine. Heard
you talking to the ghost as I came along--the upstairs ghost, not Sir
Ruthven's downstairs ghost. Sir Ruthven has only seen the downstairs
one, but I've seen both. Saw this one last Christmas, about this time.
He would not speak to me, however, it being that I am only the butler.
They're very much alike, Master Geoffrey. There's a very nice haunch
of venison for dinner today, let me recommend; and the kidneys is not
to be despised, either."



CHAPTER II



After that, and during the remainder of my visit, nothing else
happened especially worthy of mention. The Christmas festivities
passed off as they generally do; and the next morning I returned to
London, where my recollection of the ghosts soon began to die away. At
first, indeed, as is natural, I could think of nothing else. But
inasmuch as my Uncle Ruthven had taken the matter so coolly, I began
to be impressed by a careful and more deliberate consideration of his
manner, and to wonder whether I might not have imagined many of the
most singular circumstances attending the incident; until, at last, I
concluded that there could have been no ghost at all, but that I must
have dreamed the whole story.

In addition, my time became so fully occupied that I had few occasions
in which I might engage in desultory wandering of idle curiosity or
speculation; for during the first eight months I was diligently
employed reading for my admission to the Bar. After that, I was
actively forgetting most of what I had learned, giving myself up as
escort to my cousin Lilian. She had returned from her travels upon the
continent, and with her father was stopping awhile in London before
continuing on to the Grange. It was my pleasing duty to remain at
Lilian's side most of the time, Sir Ruthven being glad to avoid the
toil of active companionship. I was very much in love with Lilian, but
would not for the world have prematurely told her of it--it would have
made her so tyrannical. At last, of course, we quarreled. It was the
day before Sir Ruthven and Lilian returned home; and she informed me
that she was going on the 10.45 stagecoach, and that she would be
seriously displeased if I attempted to see her off. This looked well
for me upon the whole, I thought, and I started for the coach at once.
As ill luck would have it, I missed it, a circumstance which really
helped my cause; since Lilian, being thereby persuaded that I
understood it to be a lasting quarrel, felt suitably piqued into
anxiety and regret.

A little before Christmas, Sir Ruthven wrote me to run down to the
Grange as usual. With his letter came a perfumed note from Lilian,
stating that if she could, she would gladly be away at Christmas with
her Aunt Eleanor; but since she could not, but was obliged to remain
home, she would consider it a great insult if I presumed to visit the
Grange before she could get away in some other direction. I was
wonderfully encouraged at this, feeling that all was going on well;
and packing my trunk at once, I went down by the earliest stage on
Christmas morning.

Again the chimes happened to be ringing just as I alighted; and, as
before, no one coming forth to meet me, I pressed on to the library,
there to make my respects to Uncle Ruthven, feeling well assured that
I should find him in his accustomed seat beside the fireplace. He was
in the room, indeed, but not sitting down. He was standing beside the
chair and bowing with great affection of cordiality to some one in the
further corner of the room. Looking in that direction, I beheld a
young fellow in court suit of two centuries ago, with hand upon his
heart, bowing back to my uncle with still greater excess of old-
fashioned courtesy and cordiality; and I did not for an instant doubt
that I was looking upon the downstairs ghost. Almost the duplicate of
the other one, indeed. Evidently about the same age, with equally
agreeable, sunny, ingratiating expression.

Like the other, he had thick curls falling over the collar, beard
cultivated to a point, slashed velvet coat, laces, gold tassels, and a
slim, daintily decorated rapier. The most notable differences
consisted in his complexion and hair being a shade darker, and his
coat being of a lively crimson. It was a pleasant thing to see these
two persons salaaming cordially and ceremoniously to each other; my
uncle bowing until he struck the table behind him, and the ghost
bending over in responsive courtesy until the point of the scabbard of
his sword tipping up, made a new scratch upon the worm-eaten picture
of Salvator Rosa.

"You see, Geoffrey," my uncle whispered between his repeated
genuflexions, "he has come again to the very minute. The very same
time as last year, just as though the chimes waked him up. I remember
that you then thought that perhaps I was accustomed to cut him short
rather too suddenly. We will be more cautious now, and will not end
until we get his whole story out of him." Then to the ghost "I am
rejoiced to see you once more, kind sir."

"It gives me equal and exceeding pleasure," responded the ghost. "And
I know that my brother Arthur would be similarly gratified could he
only know about your arrival. But, then, how is he to know? After his
conduct toward me--the obloquy he has thrown around me, in fact--it
certainly would be beneath my dignity to approach him, even for the
sake of imparting informa-tion. I can, therefore, merely myself
welcome you."

"Now, just listen to that!" muttered Uncle Ruthven, beginning to flush
up angrily. "I have done my best; but is it possible to continue
politeness with a person who insists upon treating me as his guest? I
treat him with all the cordiality I can muster, and the only result of
it is that he turns around and seems to patronize me."

It chanced that, moved by the first warmth of my uncle's courtesy, the
ghost had advanced a little, as though to meet us, and thereby he now
stood between us and the window. This change of position seemed to
produce a marvelous alteration in his appearance. The face so fair and
genial and prepossessing became at once a queer confusion of lines,
every feature being obscured by what looked like converging cuts and
wrinkles, making the whole expression of the countenance
unintelligible. It was only for an instant, however. The next moment,
the ghost moving away from the window, his face became as before--
clear, distinct, filled with amiable and courteous refinement and
intelligence. It was not until afterward that the mystery explained
itself. Now, indeed, the singular appearance had lasted for such a
brief moment that it seemed scarcely worth while to seek an
explanation. The only thing, in fact, that particularly struck me was
a red line extending around the throat, as though the result of a
forced compression. This was observable even after the ghost had
passed from directly before the window, and until he had moved
completely out of reach of the entire spread of sunlight.

"If Cousin Beatrice were here," remarked the ghost in continuation,
"she would undoubtedly be very happy to take part in entertaining you.
But where is she now? It is some days since I have seen her. Do you
think it possible that Brother Arthur, in addition to the ignominy to
which he has subjected me by his unjust suspicions, can have
influenced her mind against me? If so, as long as I live, I will
never--" "Listen again to that! As long as he lives! How can anybody
stand such drivel?" cried Uncle Ruthven. "I suppose, Geoffrey, you
will now see that it is as well to put an end to this first as last?"

With that, as upon the previous Christmas, my uncle seized a large
book and vindictively let fly at the stranger. If until that time I
had had any doubts as to his unsubstantial nature, they were now
relieved. Corporeal and opaque as he had seemed, it was none the less
true that the volume, striking him in the stomach, passed completely
through him as through a stratum of air, falling upon the floor
behind, while the figure remained unblemished and uninjured; with this
exception, however, that naturally he seemed scarcely pleased with the
roughness of the reception, and a shadow of discontent flickered
across his face. Then appearing to comprehend that possibly he might
be unwelcome, he slowly faded away.

"Middleton's Cicero, this time," remarked my uncle, wiping his face
and gazing toward the weapon he had just so successfully used. "And
the fellow has digested that as well as the volume last year. At this
rate he will get my whole library into him before long. I cannot help
it, Geoffrey. You saw that I tried my best to be polite. But when a
ghost acts as though he owned the house, and moreover talks as though
he were alive, mortal man could not withstand the temptation to cut
him down. Well, well, get ready for lunch, Geoffrey. The South Oriel,
as last year."

Of course, being sent up to the same room and the old program seeming
to begin being played, I expected once again to meet the purple-coated
ghost. And as is natural, I went up with some little trepidation. For
it is one thing to have a ghost appear to you; good natured and
smiling from the first; and another thing deliberately to throw one's
self in the way of a ghost who might not happen at the moment to be in
a very pleasant humor, and might exert some supernatural power to make
himself extremely disagreeable. All the time I was dressing, I looked
uneasily over my shoulder, in search of apparitions. But inasmuch as
we seldom find what we most surely expect to see, I was left entirely
undisturbed, and finally began my descent to the dining room with
feelings greatly relieved and composed.

Passing the drawing-room, I heard the subdued rustle of silk, and
entering, found Cousin Lilian all arrayed for luncheon and smoothing
herself out before the fire. Of course after what had passed in
London, she swept me a stately courtesy, addressing me by my surname
as though I were a stranger whom she had casually met the previous
day; and of course I bowed in her presence with ceremonious reverence
befitting the first presentation of Raleigh to Queen Elizabeth. Then
Lilian, slightly lifting her eyebrows in spirit of wonderment at my
intrusion, remarked that she believed Sir Ruthven was in the library.
I replied that I had already seen Sir Ruthven and had found him busily
engaged with a ghost; and that as this seemed to be their reception
day and others might be expected by him, I would not intrude upon him
for a while, but with her permission would prefer to remain where I
was.

These preambles having been thus satisfactorily entered into, of
course we began making up by throwing at each other little spiteful
remarks of an epigrammatic nature; now and then spontaneous, but for
the most part carefully manufactured weeks before and treasured up for
the occasion. Snapping these off from side to side like torpedoes, and
mutually rebounding them harmlessly from our casemated natures, we
gradually composed our feelings and began getting along very well on
the path to reconciliation. How long it might have taken under
ordinary circumstances I cannot tell; but it happened all at once that
Lilian was startled into an unexpectedly rapid advance. For of a
sudden I felt her hand grasping my arm, and she called me by my first
name in the old familiar manner; and turning, I saw her gaze fixed
with a wondering but not altogether alarmed expression upon the
opposite corner of the room.

"See, Geoffrey!" she whispered. "The upstairs ghost! How comes he in
here?"



CHAPTER III



Turning, I saw the purple velvet ghost at last, bowing low to the
floor, with a humble courtesy that disarmed wrath, though nonetheless
did an explanation seem necessary.

"Really, my good sir," I therefore said, "this intrusion--"

"I must apologize for it, certainly," he remarked, again bowing low.
"I was a little behindhand this morning in reaching the South Oriel.
And passing through the hall, I saw a female figure inside this room.
I entered, expecting to meet my Cousin Beatrice. I see that I am
mistaken. Last night I slumbered more uneasily than usual--the lump in
my chest causing me very great disturbance, and doubtless it has
excited my nerves and made me easily deceived. It has all come from
Brother Harold's outrage upon me, I suppose. Which being so, it only
remains for me to rake my leave, with apology for the intrusion."

"Stay yet a moment," I said. "This is my cousin Miss Lilian, who
certainly will not! fear you and will forgive your slight mistake.
And--and I have so much to say to you."

In fact, I felt that this might be the last time I should see him; and
that it would be no more than a charity to enlighten him as to his
true condition. It was a very sad thing to see a bright, amiable young
ghost going around century after century as though he were still
alive, and I decided that it would be a kind action to correct his
error. Moreover, it happened that just at this moment, chance threw a
convincing explanation within my reach. For as the ghost stepped a
little to one side preparatory to taking his departure, it came about
that he stood between me and the window, just as the other ghost had
done; and in like manner, every feature seemed obscured with a network
of contrary lines and wrinkles. But as he chanced to remain there a
little longer than the other one had done, the mystery became almost
at once revealed. I saw that the singular appearance was caused by the
strong sunlight showing through him, whereby his whole head appeared
as a transparent object. It was exhibited as a mass of dim, lurid
light, not entirely endowed with all the bright translucent qualities
of glass, but rather as when a sheet of thin porcelain is held up to
the light, so that its semicloudy transparency is revealed, and with
it, any dark spots or imperfections in the surface are brought to
notice. In like manner, our visitor's head now seemed transformed with
the brightness of the sunlight behind it, so that its former opacity
was gone and there was a light, cloudy appearance as of a dissolving
mist, marked in every direction with straight and curved lines of
greater or less intensity. At first, the features, excepting as they
appeared in profile, seemed entirely to have vanished beneath a
confusion of other lines; but a moment's observation assured me of the
contrary. They were all still there--the sparkling eye, the delicate
mouth, the well-shapen ear. With a little attention, I could still
trace the sweep of their several outlines. It was merely that those
outlines were now somewhat confused by the addition of other lines
appearing from within the skull. These also, I found that with a
little study, I could still make out. There was a broad, irregularly-
curved mark showing the outline of the lobes of the brain. I could
follow the whole ball of the eye beneath its socket and the fainter
lines which connect the eye with the brain behind. The drum and the
small bones of the ear, and the twisted passages from the nose to the
ear were all now clearly defined. The palate, too, and the sides of
the throat, until hidden at last beneath the laced collar of that
courtly coat. In fine, under the influence of that bright sunlight
behind it, the young fellow's head became something like one of the
modern medical wax preparations, exhibiting every portion of its frame
in exact position; except that, far superior to any work of art, it
did not require to be taken apart for study, but could be examined in
detail, just as it stood.

"How long," I said, myself moving a little one side so that he might
not appear between me and the window; by which judicious movement he
became at once like any other person, his features returning to their
usual distinctness of outline, unclouded by any rival lines and curves
from behind; "how long have you been thus ill and disturbed at night
by pain within your chest?"

"A week, or even more, I think," he said.

"Pardon me," I responded; "here is where you have made a trifling
mistake in your chronology--you, and the other, as well. This little
episode which you believe has occupied a few days or so, has lasted,
in reality, upward of two centuries. You have been thrown into a
certain condition of mind in which you are unable to take due note of
time. Why this is so, I cannot attempt to explain. The melancholy fact
remains that you have already been wandering some two hundred years,
and for all we know, may be destined to wander to all eternity. In
proof of this, I might refer you to your costume, which is of the
fashion of Charles the Second; while, in fact, we are living in the
thirty-eighth of Victoria."

I paused for a moment here, thinking that he might wish to ask some
question. But as he maintained a perplexed silence, I continued:

"You are in further error in believing that the only consequence of
some injury you have received has been mere restlessness at night.
Instead of which, you died and of course were suitably buried. And
consequently, you are not now a man, but merely a ghost. It may be
unpleasant to be told this, but it is as well that you should know it
first as last. And, after all, there can be no harm in being a well-
conducted, creditable ghost. As such, you are allowed to appear each
Christmas day for a few minutes, at the expiration of which,
doubtless, you return to your grave. There, I presume, you slumber
until the next Christmas day, for you seem to have no definite
knowledge of your whereabouts. At the least you must be comfortable,
which perhaps is more than can be said of many ghosts. Even Hamlet's
father seems to have suffered torments; though there is presumptive
evidence that he was a very good man, and totally unlike his brother."

"You are incredulous about what I am now telling you? In proof of it,
let me stand you directly in front of the window, so that the sunlight
will strike full upon your person. Then let me hold this looking-glass
before you. Now studying your reflection carefully, you will see that
you are transparent; which, I take it, is the surest proof any man can
enjoy of his being a ghost. You can trace out the passages of your
ears, the convolutions of your brain, the course of your jugular vein.
This line, which you might easily mistake for a nerve or cord, is
merely a crack in the looking-glass. Should you feel disposed,
hereafter, for your amusement, to study your internal anatomy more
thoroughly, I would advise a new and more perfect mirror. But can you
any longer doubt your condition?"

"I can no longer doubt, indeed," groaned the ghost. "But what, alas,
can I now do?"

"A thousand things," I responded. "I take it that, inasmuch as men
must not live idle lives, in like manner ghosts, also, may have their
duties to perform. Surely, it can scarcely be intended, in the economy
of the unseen world, that they should pass lives--or, rather,
existences--of careless idleness. I know that, were I a ghost, I would
do my best to find some useful employment. I think that I would
endeavor to obtain some occupation that might be of benefit to the
world I had left behind. Suppose, for instance, that you endeavored to
retain some, even trifling, recollection of the nature of your abode
in the unseen world, how you are associated, whither you are sent, and
other facts of a kindred character, and were to impart them to the
human race from time to time through myself. Do you not think that you
would be doing great good, as well as entitling yourself to the
gratitude of all living men?"

The ghost mutely shook his head. Evidently he did not care
particularly about the gratitude of living men.

"Or suppose," I continued, struck with a new, and, in my estimation,
better idea--for it happened that I had lately been interesting myself
deeply in medical jurisprudence--"suppose that you were to apply
yourself to the benefit of the human race in an anatomical or
pathological capacity. There is on record the case of a man who had a
hole in the side of his stomach through which processes of digestion
could be watched, to the great service of medical science. Need I say
that, for every purpose of interest or utility, you surpass him
infinitely? I must assume, with tolerable certainty, that if your head
is transparent, so, also, is your whole body; and that the workings of
your inner system are simply hidden from sight by your clothing.
Divested of that, you could easily unfold, in the strong light of the
sun, the entire operations of your heart, your lungs and your stomach.
Daily could you have your seances, and new discoveries could be noted
down. There must be some thin, ghostly, almost impalpable fluid in
your system answering the purpose of blood in the human frame, and of
this physicians might succeed in watching the circulation and flow.
There are vexed questions in medical science as to the real use of
certain vessels and attachments---whether they are actually necessary
in the human constitution, or whether they are mere rudimentary relics
of a lower organization. These questions you might succeed in
determining. In fact--"

I had reached thus far, becoming so transported with the increasing
magnitude of my speculations that I no longer looked at the ghost, but
with half-closed eyes gazed upward at the ceiling; when suddenly
Lilian plucked me gently by the sleeve, and, with quiet movement of
the eyes, called my attention more directly to our visitor. He was
standing motionless beside the window; but I observed that the
pleasant expression had faded from his face, an angry flush was
mounting into every feature, grim, transporting rage was clouding
every line. And, as I paused in natural hesitation, he turned roughly
toward me.

"Have you done?" he cried, bursting out with an old-fashioned oath of
the days of the royal Stuarts. "Have you come to the end of your base
proposals? Have you reflected sufficiently what it is to dare to
suggest to Sir Arthur Grantley, of the Court of Charles, that he
should pass his time illustrating the labors and theories of leeches,
quacks, and charlatans?"

Another old-fashioned oath, a half withdrawal of the slender rapier
from its sheath, a driving it down again with impetuous, angry energy,
and the ghost strode wildly out of the drawing room, and was no more
seen. But for two or three moments we could hear him growling forth
his queer old court oaths as he rattled away along the outside
passage.



CHAPTER IV



Lilian and I gazed at each other in speechless wonderment. The bell
rung for luncheon, and we passed toward the dining room; still with
thoughts too deep for words.

"Can it be," I said at length, as we entered the other room, "that
this person, whom we had supposed to be merely some retainer of the
family, was in reality its head? That he could have been an ancestor
of yours, Lilian?"

"Papa will know," she answered. "We will ask him at luncheon." Then,
when the old gentleman sat eating his nuts and raisins and sipping his
wine--before which time he disliked to be disturbed about anything
excepting the occupation immediately in view--she began:

"Was there ever a Sir Arthur Grantley, papa?"

"Let me think," mumbled Uncle Ruthven. "Yes, there was a Sir Arthur
about two centuries ago. And now the story begins to come to me. There
were two brothers--twins; the oldest having the estate and title, and
the youngest being a captain in the Royal Guard. One would have
supposed that, being so nearly of an age and closely related, they
would have kept the peace; but the contrary was the fact. They
quarreled so that one of them murdered the other, and was suitably
hanged for it."

"Is there record of the fact, Uncle Ruthven?" "Nowhere, unless it may
be in the State Trials. I have never looked there. You will find no
allusion to it in Burke or Debrett. Those useful and accommodating
compilers, out of regard for the family honor, I suppose, merely state
that Harold Grantley died, aged twenty-two: a piece of reticence
which, after all, was scarcely worthwhile, considering that it
happened so long ago."

"Time is a great cleanser of family escutcheons. It would be
unpleasant to have a murder attached to the reputation of one's father
or grandfather; but carry it two centuries backs and no one seems to
care. If it were not so, there is scarcely a royal family on earth
which would not be hanging its head. I do not read that Her Most
Gracious Majesty Victoria ever makes herself miserable about any
suspicions attaching to the memory of Queen Mary of Scotland. In fact,
rather a disreputable ancestry, if distinguished, is better than none
at all. It is scarcely to be supposed, for instance, that any of us
would take it much to heart at finding Guy Fawkes seated upon one of
the limbs of the family tree. At any rate, we have no reason to
complain of this little murder in the Grantley line, seeing that it
finished up the direct descent in that quarter and sent down the
entail to us through a collateral branch."

With that, having exhausted his knowledge upon the subject, Uncle
Ruthven went on sipping his wine and turned the subject upon the
culture of turnips. But after luncheon Lilian and myself, feeling by
no means contented, slipped up to the library again and took down one
of the time-worn dusty volumes of the State Trials. The books had
evidently not been moved out of place for years; but it was easy,
having the reign, to find all that we wanted, and in a few minutes we
opened at the case of Rex Grantley. The book was very heavy, and at
the first we spread upon the table. This proving inconveniently high
we took to the sofa, where we let the volume rest on both our laps and
read together. It was very pleasant, altogether. It was necessary for
Lilian to lean over so that her curls brushed across my shoulder, and
at times I could feel her breath warm upon my cheek. That she might
have greater strength to hold her share of the book, I passed my arm
sustainingly about her waist; a fact which she did not seem to
realize, so intent was she upon the story of the murder. We have often
read about young men and maidens looking upon the same book and in
just such positions. In those narrations it is generally a book of
poetry, or at least a novel that interests them. I question if very
often a young lady sits with her lover absorbed in the story of a
murder committed by one of her own family and reads it without any
feeling except of curiosity about its mere incidents, and as coolly as
though it were Jack Shepperd or Oliver Twist.

But then, as Uncle Ruthven justly observed, it was so long ago.

It appeared, then, from the account in the State Trials, that Arthur
and Harold Grantley were twin brothers of the age of twenty-two. As
Uncle Ruthven had stated, Arthur was the oldest and in possession of
the title and estate, while Harold held commission in the Palace
Guard.

Naturally the two brothers were thrown much together, and were
supposed to be greatly attached to each other. Of course, they
sometimes had their little disagreements; but, until the period of the
murder, it was never supposed that there was any especial ill feelings
between them. The trouble ensued about noon one Christmas day. Harold
had obtained leave to visit his brother at the Grange; and after an
early dinner--for they were alone and much form and ceremony was
dispensed with--they sat at the table, conversing, eating filberts and
drinking their wine.

Possibly they had been drinking too much; but not so much, in fact, as
to exhibit its effects upon them to any great extent. The most that
could be said was, that it might have tended to make them quarrelsome;
but as it turned out, this after all was the whole mischief in the
case, and much worse in its results than downright and less harmful
intoxication. It chanced that Sir Arthur had taken the opportunity of
exhibiting to his brother a certain valuable heirloom, known in the
family as the great Lancaster diamond, having come into the line from
a collateral Lancaster branch. It had lain concealed in a secret
closet during the Cromwellian troubles, and had just been brought to
light again. It is supposed that Sir Arthur, being attached to their
cousin Beatrice and wishing marriage with her, had designed presenting
her with the diamond; and that Harold, being equally in love with her
and perhaps with no less prospect of success, had made objection; and
that from this fact the quarrel had arisen. Be that as it may, their
voices were heard in loud dispute; and suddenly Harold calling out for
help, his brother was found lying upon his back lifeless and with
every appearance about the throat of having been foully dealt with.
Harold's account of the circumstance was to the effect that Sir Arthur
all at once had thrown himself back in his chair and gasped and seemed
to have been seized with a fit. On the other hand, it was argued that
young men of his vigorous constitution did not readily die in fits--
that the appear-ances of foul play by strangulation were too evident--
that there had certainly been high words between them, a fact, indeed,
which Harold was obliged to admit--that the known passion of both the
young men for the same lady would have been sufficient of itself to
produce fraternal hatred and strife--and furthermore, that Harold
would have a supreme interest in his brother's death, by reason of the
succession to the estate. And then again, the diamond had disappeared.
If the death had been a natural one, the diamond would not have been
disturbed; but inasmuch as it was the leading cause of the dissension,
nothing was more natural than that the murderer should have made away
with it, by throwing it out of the window, into the lake, most likely,
so as to remove one great evidence of the crime. Altogether the
feeling ran very high against the surviving brother, political
prejudices that could scarcely now be explained intervened to increase
the excitement, while certain favorites of the king, desiring
promotion in the Guard by removal of one person of higher rank,
prejudiced the royal mind against pity or pardon. In fine, after much
agitation and a protracted trial, young Harold was found guilty and
executed.

"And this explains," I said to Lilian, "many circumstances that
hitherto have not been clear to me. The red line around the throat of
the downstairs ghost; the pain in the chest of the upstairs ghost--a
difficulty most naturally resulting from outside pressure--all these
things now tell the story very clearly, and agree most wonderfully
with the State trials account. Only---which at first seems strange--
the murdered now does not seem to remember that he was put to death,
nor the murderer that he was executed for it."

"That is, indeed, singular," said Lilian. "But, then, ghosts are so
silly!"

"At first sight, it may seem strange," I answered; "but not after a
moment's reflection. Violence endured by us in life is very often with
difficulty afterward brought to our memory. One has a fall or is
stricken down by a club and made senseless; he recovers after awhile,
and knows that in some way he has been injured, but does not remember
the actual fall or blow. And why should it be different if the injury
leads to death? Looking upon it in this light, and with this
philosophy, we see the young baronet awakening in the grave with no
conception of ever having been killed, but merely with some indistinct
idea of previous attack or vituperation. And, in the same manner, we
find the younger brother awakening in the belief that he is still
alive, and remembering not his execution at the hands of the law, but
only the fact of having been charged with some outrage against the
other, the nature of which he cannot comprehend, while the
circumstance of any charge being made at all grievously offends and
distresses him."

"All very plausible, indeed," responded Lilian. "But suppose that,
after all, he was innocent?"

"A thing very hard to believe, with so much contrary evidence," I
said. "All that is a mere woman's unreasoning supposition, with
endeavor to wipe off a blemish from the family escutcheon." "Pho! for
the family escutcheon," responded Lilian, putting up her lips in
pholike form. And as she spoke she looked so pretty that, having my
arm still about her waist, I began seriously to consider whether I had
not better improve the opportunity and now make my offer. So much was
already understood between us, indeed; and everyone, even Lilian
herself, knew very well that it was destined some day to come about,
as a suitable family arrangement long foreseen and often talked about;
and, therefore, what better moment than the present to unburden my
heart?

"I think, Lilian," I said, "that it is about time I spoke a word or
two to you about our future."

"Well, Geoffrey," she replied.

I saw the flush gather in her face, that she knew what must be coming,
that she anticipated tender avowal with loving expression. In this
last respect, at least, mindful of recent aggravations on her part, I
determined that I would disappoint her.

"No," I said, "it is not probable that Harold was innocent. And
therefore you must see for yourself, Lilian, that your family have
been a most disreputable lot. But for all that, having unfortunately a
strong personal prejudice in your favor, I am inclined to believe that
I shall not be doing myself too great injustice in offering you my
alliance."

"You are very kind, certainly, Geoffrey," she responded. "I cannot but
feel intensely gratified at the preference. I suppose that every
family must at some time or other meet its misfortune of a public
execution or some similar disgrace. I consider it particularly
fortunate that with us it has already happened. In your line of the
family it is yet to come; and if I may judge by circumstances, it will
probably take place during the present generation. And merely that I
may legally enjoy the privilege of standing at your side and
comforting you during that closing ordeal, I take pleasure in
accepting your offer."

And this is how Lilian and I became engaged.



CHAPTER V



It was understood that the wedding would not take place immediately.
Uncle Ruthven had some old-fashioned notions about matrimony,
prominent among which was the idea that no young man should marry
without having the means of support from his profession, so as to be
independent of the fluctuations and liabilities to loss of private
fortune. Upon this basis, it was determined that we should not wed
until I had made a public and credible appearance at the Bar.

This came about in the following October. I had been engaged as third
counsel in the great case of Charity-boy v. Church-warden, for
assault. Churchwarden had boxed the ears of Charity-boy for playing
marbles on a tombstone; but unfortunately had not succeeded in
catching him to do so until they were over the boundary-line of the
graveyard. Upon this defect, want of jurisdiction as to place was
alleged, and action brought. The suit had been running nearly five
years, and therefore could now reasonably be moved for trial. The
rector, curate, half the vestry and three of the bell-ringers had been
subpoenaed to give evidence and stood ready. It was necessary to have,
in addition, the testimony of the toy-maker who had sold the marbles;
and he, it happened, was on his deathbed at the north of Scotland. A
commission had been issued to take his testimony.

The toy-maker lay delirious for the most part, having a lucid interval
of about half an hour each day, during which he desired to make his
will. He was constantly prevented from doing so, however, by the
entrance of the commissioners demanding to take his testimony, which
so confused him that he always went off wandering again. Pending the
execution of the commission, of course an adjournment was desired.

Now it happened that, both the senior counsel being away, it devolved
upon me to make the application for the adjournment, and with a little
difficulty about the pitch of my voice, I succeeded in doing so. The
judge said that if the other side were agreed, there could be no
objection; and the other side having duly consented, the adjournment
was ordered. Whereupon I wrote down to Sir Ruthven that I had made my
first appearance. Sir Ruthven immediately wrote back, asking whether
my speech would be reported in the Times. I replied that I did not
suppose it would, as the papers were unusually interested in the
Montenegro difficulty, to the exclusion of much other valuable news.
Uncle Ruthven thereupon responded that he was satisfied, upon the
whole, even if the Times was silent about me; and that now that I had
resources for support independent of inherited estate, the wedding
might come off immediately after Christmas. And he told me to run down
the day before Christmas, so that we could have a pleasant little
Christmas dinner by ourselves, before the invited visitors began to
arrive.

Accordingly, I arrived at Grantley Grange upon the after-noon of the
twenty-fourth, and was at once shown to my room by Bidgers, who not
only lighted me up, but followed me in to assist in unpacking my
wardrobe. And while doing so, naturally with the self-allowance of an
old family servant he let his tongue run loose with the gossip and
events of the day.

"A hamper just come in, Master Geoffrey, with a fine large salmon; but
that is for tomorrow. You must praise it when you see it, for Sir
Ruthven sets great store in having got it. There has been no ghosts
seen since you was here last--perhaps they have all gone away for
good. There is talk that the Earl of Kildare will be at the wedding
next week; but any which way, he has sent a silver pitcher. Maybe,
after all, the ghosts have all been locked lip where they are. Miss
Lilian's Aunt Eleanor has done better than the Earl of Kildare though.
She cannot come, they say; but such diamond earrings as she has sent--
almost as large as filberts, Mr. Geoffrey! As to the grapes today, I
am fearful there's a little mold on some of them; but the oysters--"

"That will do--thank you, Bidgers," I said, tired of the running
stream; and Bidgers, taking the hint, affected to blow a speck of dirt
off the sleeve of my wedding coat, and gently glided out of the room.
I was not so much tired, indeed, as that I felt I would like to be
alone for thought.

Something in Bidgers last remark had awakened an association of ideas
in my mind; but of such intangible, confused character that I could
not follow it up to any definite purpose. Diamonds as large as
filberts--filberts and diamonds, so ran the words, through and through
my mind like the strain of a tune; but out of it all I could not, with
the utmost concentration of thought, gain any clue that I might--
follow up to a satisfactory certainty. At night the same--I fell
asleep with the old sequence of words running in my head, still like
the strain of a tune, as sometimes we will set to meter the thumping
of a railroad car. In the middle of the night I awoke; and then there
flashed upon mx' mind a solution of the puzzle, but so wild and
improbable, so idiotic and fantastic did it seem, that at once I
discouraged it. Even then, when scarcely half aroused, and at an hour
when the waking fancies run riot in premonition and alliance with
hardly more fanciful dreams, did I laugh at the crude conception and
try to beat it down, falling asleep again at last with mind apparently
entirely relieved of the foolish notion. But when in the morning I
awoke with the sun broadly shining in upon me, there again was the
queer idea; and now, wonderful to relate, though I lay with the
collectedness of thought appertaining to the open day, and with little
chance of crude fancies any longer overwhelming me, the idea, though
still as strange and ghostlike as before, no longer bore that first
impress of the ridiculous, but was as something real and to be soberly
and carefully considered. At least the experiment suggested by it
might be tried, though secretly and cautiously, so as not to provoke
ridicule in case it came to nothing.

Dressing myself, I stole softly downstairs. It was still very early,
and there was no one stirring below, excepting a housemaid dusting the
furniture. She merely looked up and then continued her task, my habit
of morning walks being too well known to excite observation. I passed
through the long window and came upon the bare winter-stained lawn.
There was the gardener, muffling anew some plants in straw; but he
too, merely touching his hat, said nothing. Then I followed a gravel
path around the terrace to the rear of the house, and thence struck
off to a little grove of pines a hundred yards or so away.

In the midst of these was the burial vault of the Grantley family. It
was by no means a repulsive object, being merely a brick erection a
few feet above the surface of the ground, and originally constructed
with some pretense of architectural symmetry. Neither was it an object
of superstitious or sentimental reverence. In fact, at the present
time there were not more than twelve or fifteen of the family laid
away in it. It had been built four centuries ago, and with
accommodation for a hundred or so; but at the time of the rebellion a
party of Cromwell's troops came sweeping down upon the house, and,
being in want of material for bullets, turned all the dead Grantleys
out of doors and took their leaden coffins to cast into ammunition.
After that time the burials continued for only a few generations;
since which, the yard around the village church had received the
family dead. About ten years ago it had been found necessary to open
the vault in order to get the date of some particular death for legal
evidence. The long-closed door had stoutly resisted, and at length the
lock was obliged to be broken. It was intended, of course, to restore
the fastenings; but equally of course, and as happens so often with
matters that can be done any day, the duty was postponed from time to
time, and gradually came to be no longer remembered. The closed door
then warped open a little of itself, and the gardeners leaned their
tools against it, and after awhile pushed the door further back, and
slipped their tools just inside out of the rain; and so, step by step,
the almost empty vault became only used as a toolhouse.

Vines were trained to grow over it, ferns gathered around its base,
and a stranger would have taken it for a somewhat dilapidated
icehouse.

I pushed the door open yet a little further and peeped within. The
sunbeams, still low and shut out by the screen of trees, could not now
enter; but enough light stole in to show a pile of rakes and hoes just
inside, and a little further along, a row of empty recesses, built for
coffins, but long since made vacant. Entering, I could see that the
recesses ran in double rows for some distance in front of me, being at
the further end shrouded in darkness. I drew out my cigar lighter and
by the aid of repeated tapers proceeded to explore. Then I could see
that at the further end, a few of the recesses were filled with
coffins. These were in various stages of decay. In all cases, the dark
coverings of cloth had moldered away and lay in fragments at the side
or on the stone floor below. In some, the outer wooden shells were
nearly whole; but in others, they had crumbled into dust and
splinters. With a few of the recesses, the names and dates of the
remains within were fastened at the lower edge upon brass plates; with
others, the plates had entirely disappeared. There was one recess
which contained a worm-eaten coffin of somewhat plain construction,
but no name or date or even evidence that any such had ever been
affixed. I could not resist the impression that here lay the
unfortunate Harold Grantley; given, as matter of right, a place in
this ancestral vault, but, through some charitable idea of letting his
unhappy fate become forgotten, denied all record that could lead to
future identification. Passing onward, with gathering assurance that
my search would not prove unavailing, at each minute renewing my
quickly expiring tapers, I carefully read every name, now and then
rubbing the brass plates with my handkerchief before I could decipher
the blurred old-fashioned letterings. Then, for a while, as the number
of remaining niches one by one was lessened without rewarding my
search, hope began to give way to disappointment. Only for a moment,
however; for soon, to my abundant gratification, I read upon one of
the plates, the words and characters, "Arthur Grantley, Obt. Dec.

25, 1663, Aet 22."

Here then, lay he whom I sought, and I scrutinized attentively all
that remained. A moth-eaten, rat-torn pall, a nest of coffins, and
that was all. Uneasily for the instant I turned my head, dreading lest
the blithe young apparition with its purple and laced coat and
dangling sword should arise and demand wherefore I was about to
disturb him; but all remained quiet about me. I was alone with my own
thoughts and purposes, and could prosecute my designs unquestioned and
unimpeded.

I had feared lest I might be obliged to seek for assistance, but it
was not so. Every thing, in fact, seemed made ready and convenient for
me. The outer box was worm-eaten, warped and decayed, so that it could
be broken and brushed away in places with a mere stroke of the hand;
the leaden coffin inside had corroded, and the solder of the seams
parted, so that the joints had spread apart, and, with no great
effort, I was able to bend open the end; the mahogany coffin inside of
all had suffered similar decay with the outer box, and readily parted.
In a moment the outer end of all three coffins lay open, and I could
easily insert my hand.

For a moment I hesitated. What if, as sometimes happens, the remains
had not suffered corruption, and my touch were to encounter a solid
form! Repressing this fear, I passed my hand stealthily within,
finding no obstruction. Only a little dust at the bottom, hardly deep
enough for a finger to write a name upon. This was all that was left
of the gay young courtier, twelfth baronet of Grantley. Slowly I let
my hand wander up along the bottom of the coffin, groping among the
dust, until two-thirds up to the top; then I struck against a small,
hard lump. My heart gave a loud thump of excitement. What could it be?
Was it the prize that I had hoped for, or was it merely some fragment
of unpulverized bone? Half wild with tremulous expectation, I grasped
the little lump of substance firmly between thumb and forefinger, and
hurried with it to the door of the vault. Even as I approached the
dim, lurid light just within the half-opened entrance, I began to feel
my assurances grow more sure; and when I emerged into the bright glow
of day beyond, and held my prize up against the golden rays of the
risen sun, I could no longer doubt that I had gained possession of the
long lost Lancaster diamond.



CHAPTER VI



When I returned to the house, I said nothing about what I had been
doing. It seemed as though the time for explanation would not come
until toward evening. How, in that broad garish light of morning,
could I venture to reveal that secret of dreams and darkness and
rifled tombs? How, indeed, would my story be believed, unless with the
glow of nightfall thrown around it to attune the listeners to
credence?

Moreover, what if, during the day, the ghost were to appear, condemn
my invasion of his sepulcher, demand his diamond, and possibly, by
threats of supernatural force and terrors, obtain it? Certainly the
accustomed hour for the ghosts was close at hand, and at any moment
they might visit us. Already Sir Ruthven sat in the library awaiting
his especial apparition. My uncle was, for the time, in no
particularly friendly mood toward ghosts; and he now loudly declared
that, whatever might before have been his courtesy, his forbearance
had at last ceased, and he would not tolerate their coming. Certainly
not now, he said, seeing that the house was preparing for a season of
festivity, and had other things than the next world to think about.
Accordingly he sat, watching, in his great elbow chair, with the
heaviest volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica at his side, in
readiness to crush out the first sign of ghost before even a word of
salutation could be uttered.

But to the wonder of all and greatly to Sir Ruthven's disgust as
well--seeing that, having made up his mind for action, he did not like
to feel that his time had been thrown away--no ghost appeared,
upstairs or down. Punctually at twelve, indeed, the chimes rang out
the merriest peal we had enjoyed for years--the changes were sounded
by the hundred with unusual exactness and celerity; yet all the time
my uncle sat unmolested, with his Encyclopaedia lying idle beside him.

At length the day wore itself out, the bell sounded for dinner, and we
repaired to the dining room.

It was to be our last little dinner by ourselves; a very small
Christmas party, indeed, but on the morrow the guests would begin to
arrive and to break up our privacy, and then there could be no
complaint about lack of excitement in the household. This last day Sir
Ruthven had desired we should have for ourselves. But few as we were,
no one had forgotten that it was the Christmas season and should be
honored accordingly. Holly and mistletoe decked the room in every
direction. A great yule log lay cosily esconced in the chimney-back
and good humoredly tried to blaze up as merrily as the smaller
branches that crackled around it; though being so unwieldy, it was not
very successful in the attempt. But those smaller branches, invading
the yule log's smoldering dignity with their blithe sport of gaiety,
snapped and sputtered around it with uproarious mirthfulness; sending
none but the prettiest colored smoke wreaths up the chimney, and
casting out bright tongues of flames that lighted up every corner of
the room and gave a ruddy glow to the time-faded portraits, and even
brought out patches of cheerful sunlight upon an old cracked Rembrandt
that no one had ever been able to decipher.

The table was set for us three only; but, in honor of the day, with as
much ceremony as though there were to be twenty present. A tall branch
wax-light, used only on occasions of great festivity, was brought out
from its green baize covering and planted in the center. Treasures of
antique silver, the very existence of which Sir Ruthven had nearly
forgotten, were exhumed from their places of long concealment, and now
once more, as in past centuries, pleasantly glimmered in the gentle
gleam of wax-light. Flowers here and there unobtrusively exhaled sweet
odors from tiny vases. There was to be a boar's head brought out and
placed on the table at the proper time for each of us to look at and
taste and pretend to enjoy. The plum-pudding was turning out a great
success--the greatest for many years, as Bidgers whispered to me. All
the circumstances of the scene around us were soft, harmonious and
cheerful; certainly now was the time for me to tell my story.

With some little affectation of ceremony, perhaps, I drew forth the
Lancaster diamond and placed it in Lilian's hand. I told her that I
could make her no more valuable Christmas gift than to restore this
rich family relic of the past. Lightly I touched upon the process
whereby I had found it; rather elaborating, instead, the train of
thought that had led me to suspect where it had lain hidden. I
explained how the finding of the diamond gave new illustration to the
record in the State Trials, proving that the younger brother had not
been guilty of any murder at all--that during the agitation of a
quarrel the older brother must have accidentally swallowed the
diamond, mistaking it for one of the filberts that lay beside it near
his plate, and which were of similar size--how that this unfortunate
error had been sufficient of itself to cause his death by
suffocation--how that thereby the discoloration around the neck of the
deceased, as Well as the disappearance of the diamond were properly
accounted for--how that, most probably, it also gave an explanation of
the unpleasant lump in the chest of the crimson-coated ghost.

"It is doubtless so," a soft voice thereat interrupted. We all looked
up; and, at the further side of the table, we beheld both the ghosts.
More alike now than ever before, it seemed to me; only with that
single difference of color of the coats. The same bright engaging
faces, the same gentle manner; as now, all heart burnings seemingly
healed, they stood with their arms bound lovingly about each other in
fraternal embrace.

"We have heard it all," continued the crimson ghost, "and thereby we
find an explanation of some things that we never thought of before.
Both Brother Arthur and myself now know that we are dead; and that it
is fitting, therefore, that we should no longer haunt these scenes, to
which indeed, we have no claim. I know that I have been hanged; a
matter, however, which occasions me no concern, seeing that I deserved
it not. I should at any rate have been dead long before this; and
since my family can be satisfied of my innocence and I know that my
Brother Arthur, in spite of a few harsh words, loves me still the
same, I care not for others' opinions."

"And I," said the purple ghost, "cannot sufficiently thank you for the
relief you have given me. Nightly have I lain in what I now perceive
was my grave, unable to sleep by reason of the strange lump in my
chest. This morning about eight, there came sudden relief; such sweet
relief, indeed, that I overslept myself, and for the first time in
many years have missed the chimes, and neglected at the appointed hour
to make my usual Christmas visit. Even this bodily relief, perhaps, is
not equal to what I feel at knowing that in reality I have suffered no
wrong at the hands of Brother Harold. I think that if now we could
only agree about the only subject which has ever estranged us--by
which I refer to our mutual attachment to Cousin Beatrice we might--"

"I think I can easily make your mind easy about that matter," remarked
Uncle Ruthven, coming forward. "If you will bear with me a minute, I
will show you the lifelike picture of your Cousin Beatrice in after
days."

He lifted one of the branch candlesticks from the table, and directed
its light upon a painting on the wall. The portrait of Cousin Beatrice
in more advanced life. A cracked, blackened and moth-eaten picture;
but in which, by singular chance, the face had remained intact. The
face of a woman who had long survived the natural freshness and graces
of youth, and had gained in place of them none of those more matured
and ennobling qualities that dignify age. The patched and painted and
powdered face of a woman given up to all lightness and frivolity; a
face in which there was nothing sweet or pleasant or kindly; in which
all the art of Sir Godfrey Kneller had not succeeded in mingling with
accurate likeness one spark of generous nature or blotting out the
appearance of sordid vanity that pervaded it throughout all.

"The portrait of your Cousin Beatrice in her fiftieth year," remarked
my Uncle Ruthven. "She never married, and was noted at Court for her
skill in cheating at cards."

The two young ghosts gazed for a moment intently at the picture. As
they did so, it seemed as though their embrace grew more intimate and
fraternal. At last they turned again, as satisfied.

"I do not think that we shall ever quarrel again about Cousin
Beatrice, even if at times we forget that we are all dead," the older
ghost then said, with a sweet smile. "And now that all differences are
so pleasantly made up, it remains for us only to bid you farewell. And
since Brother Harold can now rest in his grave untroubled by any idea
of wrong from me, and I can sleep, no longer annoyed by the lump that
pained my chest, it is probable that we shall never be aroused to
visits you again."

"But stay a moment," cried Uncle Ruthven, fairly touched at heart, and
no longer remembering the Encyclopaedia. "You will not go so soon? At
least you will take dinner with us?".As he spoke the ghosts had
already begun to vanish, the line of invisibility starting at the
feet, as before, and working upward until they were half gone. Then,
for a moment, the line trembled irresolutely, and so began to descend
until again they stood entirely revealed. It was as though a person
going out at a door had indeterminately held the handle for an instant
and then returned.

"Moreover," continued my uncle, "I have apologies to make for many a
past act of rudeness toward one of you."

"It is forgotten already," said the crimson ghost, bowing.

"What do you say Brother Arthur, can we wait a little longer?"

"A very few minutes, Brother Harold, if only to give myself time to
make amends for an act of impoliteness on my part toward this other
gentleman only last year."

So they seated themselves at the table and the dinner began. It was
pleasant to watch the old-fashioned politeness with which they
conducted themselves--the courtesy with which they bowed to Lilian at
each word they addressed to her--the grace with which, wishing to
cause no remark, they affected to eat and drink. Not able to do so,
indeed, by reason of their incorporeal nature, but all the time
lifting the full glasses and laden forks to their mouths and dropping
them again untouched. It was delightful to listen to their
conversation, marked here and there indeed, after the fashion of their
time, with a light oath, but bright and sparkling throughout all, with
vivacity and wit. At first, indeed; the time was somewhat occupied by
Uncle Ruthven giving sketches of the late history of the family; but
after that the ghosts were encouraged to talk, and pleasantly beguiled
half an hour with hitherto unknown anecdotes of the Court of the Merry
Monarch. As I listened my thoughts naturally strayed from the present
back to the romantic past, and my imagination carried me, unresisting,
into the olden days of the Stuarts. I was no longer in the prosaic
nineteenth century, I was in the midst of a laughing, careless throng
of king and courtiers, all busily making up for their enforced
deprivations during the somber period of the Commonwealth. Hamilton
and Nelly Gwynn, De Grammont and Villiers and Frances Stewart, these
and others of those long dead disreputables, whose actions may not
have been comely but whose names live vividly in story, and to whose
memories some glamor of romance still kindly attaches us, now crowded
around and made the past a reality and the present a mere unstable
myth. In the hallucination of the moment even the portrait of the poor
old card-cheating Beatrice Grantley seemed to invest itself with
something of her long-departed youthfulness; and as the mingled gleam
of wax-lights and yule log flickered upon it, it was as though some
hitherto unnoted beauties of expression came to the surface, and the
whole countenance became once more aglow with that youthful loveliness
which, doubtless, in the time of it, and during her occasional visits
to the Court, must have enticed Charles himself awhile from his more
stable attachments in order to enjoy passing flirtation with her.

"A joyous Court, indeed; and sadly now coming to my memory as I feel
that I can never mingle with it more," said the purple ghost. "A Court
to which I know that my fair young kinswoman would have done ample
honor, could she have been there," he added, bowing to Lilian; "even
more abundantly, indeed, than Cousin Beatrice. Growing old with more
grace and dignity than did Beatrice, I am very sure. And that she may
live to grow old in such gentle manner, let her take heed and not make
my sad mistake."

As he spoke, he pointed significantly to the Lancaster diamond which
chanced at that moment to be beside her plate, and, by a singular
coincidence, among a little pile of filberts.

"Yet I am sure," he added, still with the courtly manner of his
period, "that such sweet lips could never make mistake about anything.
Rather should the diamond, with its appropriate mate, be reserved to
grace those beauteous ears." "Its mate, do you say?" I remarked; not
sure, for the moment, but that the young ghost had swallowed two
diamonds, and that I had not carried my researches far enough.

"Yes, its mate," he said. "Surely you must know? Not so, indeed? Well,
there were two of these great diamonds, the Lancaster and the York.
They had come into possession of one family through union of adherents
of those two rival parties, and thence into our own line, through
subsequent alliance of that family with the Grantleys. In Cromwell's
time, the diamonds were hidden in separate places to preserve them
from confiscation, the knowledge of those places being handed down
only by word of mouth, for greater security. At the Restoration, I
alone knew the secret. At the time of my death I had already brought
the Lancaster diamond to light, as you are well aware. The York still
remains hidden. Permit us now, my brother and myself, to offer it to
you as our joint Christmas present. You will find it in a little metal
box close beside--"

At that very moment it chanced that a small bantam rooster outside the
window set up a crow.

It was a miserable little banty, scarcely half fledged. It had a
drooping wing, and a twisted toe; and for these defects and others,
perhaps, which we had not noticed, was constantly driven away from the
general society of the poultry-yard. Even the hens were accustomed to
pick at it. Its crow was weak, and piping, like a school-boy's first
attempt at whistling. Nor was this the hour of midnight or early dawn,
but merely seven in the evening. There seemed no reason why any ghost
with self-respect should be moved by such a feeble crow from such a
despicable source, and at such an early hour. And yet there may be a
certain, inflexible rule for well-constituted ghosts; and perhaps, in
cock-crowing, the line cannot easily be drawn between different
styles.

Be that as it may, at the very first pretense of sound from the little
banty, the ghost stopped speaking, gazed inquiringly at his brother
and received an answering nod; and then without another word they
slowly faded away.

"Ghosts are so ridiculous!" said Lilian. But I thought that as she
gazed at the Lancaster diamond and reflected how well the two
Christmas gifts would have looked if worn together, she seemed sadly
disappointed that the little banty had not put off his crowing for a
minute longer.



THE END



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