The Ghost Of Christmas Eve





A few years ago, as some may remember, a startling ghost-paper appeared

in the monthly organ of the Society for Haunting Houses. The writer

guaranteed the truth of his statement, and even gave the name of the

Yorkshire manor-house in which the affair took place. The article and

the discussion to which it gave rise agitated me a good deal, and I

consulted Pettigrew about the advisability of clearing up the mystery.

The writer wrote that he distinctly saw his arm pass through the

apparition and come out at the other side, and indeed I still remember

his saying so next morning. He had a scared face, but I had presence of

mind to continue eating my rolls and marmalade as if my brier had

nothing to do with the miraculous affair.






Seeing that he made a paper of it, I suppose he is justified in

touching up the incidental details. He says, for instance, that we were

told the story of the ghost which is said to haunt the house, just

before going to bed. As far as I remember, it was only mentioned at

luncheon, and then sceptically. Instead of there being snow falling

outside and an eerie wind wailing through the skeleton trees, the night

was still and muggy. Lastly, I did not know, until the journal reached

my hands, that he was put into the room known as the Haunted Chamber,

nor that in that room the fire is noted for casting weird shadows upon

the walls. This, however, may be so. The legend of the manor-house ghost

he tells precisely as it is known to me. The tragedy dates back to the

time of Charles I., and is led up to by a pathetic love-story, which I

need not give. Suffice it that for seven days and nights the old steward

had been anxiously awaiting the return of his young master and mistress

from their honeymoon. On Christmas eve, after he had gone to bed, there

was a great clanging of the door-bell. Flinging on a dressing-gown,

he hastened downstairs. According to the story, a number of servants

watched him, and saw by the light of his candle that his face was an

ashy white. He took off the chains of the door, unbolted it, and pulled

it open. What he saw no human being knows; but it must have been

something awful, for, without a cry, the old steward fell dead in the

hall. Perhaps the strangest part of the story is this: that the shadow

of a burly man, holding a pistol in his hand, entered by the open

door, stepped over the steward's body, and, gliding up the stairs,

disappeared, no one could say where. Such is the legend. I shall not

tell the many ingenious explanations of it that have been offered.

Every Christmas eve, however, the silent scene is said to be gone

through again; and tradition declares that no person lives for twelve

months at whom the ghostly intruder points his pistol.



On Christmas Day the gentleman who tells the tale in a scientific

journal created some sensation at the breakfast-table by solemnly

asserting that he had seen the ghost. Most of the men present scouted

his story, which may be condensed into a few words. He had retired

to his bedroom at a fairly early hour, and as he opened the door his

candle-light was blown out. He tried to get a light from the fire, but

it was too low, and eventually he went to bed in the semi-darkness. He

was wakened--he did not know at what hour--by the clanging of a bell.

He sat up in bed, and the ghost-story came in a rush to his mind. His

fire was dead, and the room was consequently dark; yet by and by he knew,

though he heard no sound, that his door had opened. He cried out, Who

is that? but got no answer. By an effort he jumped up and went to the

door, which was ajar. His bedroom was on the first floor, and looking up

the stairs he could see nothing. He felt a cold sensation at his heart,

however, when he looked the other way. Going slowly and without a

sound down the stairs, was an old man in a dressing-gown. He carried

a candle. From the top of the stairs only part of the hall is visible,

but as the apparition disappeared the watcher had the courage to go

down a few steps after him. At first nothing was to be seen, for the

candle-light had vanished. A dim light, however, entered by the long,

narrow windows which flank the hall door, and after a moment the

on-looker could see that the hall was empty. He was marvelling at this

sudden disappearance of the steward, when, to his horror, he saw a body

fall upon the hall floor within a few feet of the door. The watcher

cannot say whether he cried out, nor how long he stood there trembling.

He came to himself with a start as he realized that something was coming

up the stairs. Fear prevented his taking flight, and in a moment the

thing was at his side. Then he saw indistinctly that it was not the

figure he had seen descend. He saw a younger man, in a heavy overcoat,

but with no hat on his head. He wore on his face a look of extravagant

triumph. The guest boldly put out his hand toward the figure. To his

amazement his arm went through it. The ghost paused for a moment and

looked behind it. It was then the watcher realized that it carried

a pistol in its right hand. He was by this time in a highly strung

condition, and he stood trembling lest the pistol should be pointed at

him. The apparition, however, rapidly glided up the stairs and was soon

lost to sight. Such are the main facts of the story, none of which I

contradicted at the time.









I cannot say absolutely that I can clear up this mystery, but my

suspicions are confirmed by a good deal of circumstantial evidence. This

will not be understood unless I explain my strange infirmity. Wherever

I went I used to be troubled with a presentiment that I had left my pipe

behind. Often, even at the dinner-table, I paused in the middle of a

sentence as if stricken with sudden pain. Then my hand went down to my

pocket. Sometimes even after I felt my pipe, I had a conviction that it

was stopped, and only by a desperate effort did I keep myself from

producing it and blowing down it. I distinctly remember once dreaming

three nights in succession that I was on the Scotch express without it.

More than once, I know, I have wandered in my sleep, looking for it

in all sorts of places, and after I went to bed I generally jumped out,

just to make sure of it. My strong belief, then, is that I was the

ghost seen by the writer of the paper. I fancy that I rose in my sleep,

lighted a candle, and wandered down to the hall to feel if my pipe was

safe in my coat, which was hanging there. The light had gone out when

I was in the hall. Probably the body seen to fall on the hall floor was

some other coat which I had flung there to get more easily at my own.

I cannot account for the bell; but perhaps the gentleman in the Haunted

Chamber dreamed that part of the affair. I had put on the overcoat

before reascending; indeed I may say that next morning I was surprised

to find it on a chair in my bedroom, also to notice that there were

several long streaks of candle-grease on my dressing-gown. I conclude

that the pistol, which gave my face such a look of triumph, was my

brier, which I found in the morning beneath my pillow. The strangest

thing of all, perhaps, is that when I awoke there was a smell of

tobacco-smoke in the bedroom.





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