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any part of the field. In her clenched hand, indeed, she grasped a piece of ragged iron, and with that, it was pretended, she had so mangled her throat as to cause death. No-no; depend upon it the wretched woman never left the asylum alive. Marks of the chain and the whip were conspicuous on every part of her emaciated body, and long tufts of her thin grey hair were matted together with the blood which had issued from a deep gash on the back of her head. A lone cottager, too, whose hut stood in a lane adjoining the field, was awoke in the middle of the night by the sound of men's voices, and when they were heard no more, such terrific screams rang through the air every five minutes that the affrighted woman buried her face beneath the bedclothes in an agony of terror.'
How does that agree with what you have just said, that she did not leave the asylum alive ? said Simon Barnardiston.
*How did it happen,' replied Mr. Carliel, that the same screams were heard night after night, and every night on the same spot ? How did it happen that scores of persons testified to this fact, until at last no one would come within a mile of the field after dark? How did it happen that those same persons who heard the screaming, saw also the dim shadowy form of a female flying round and round the field, as if pursued, and then suddenly disappearing in the very place where the body was found ? How did it happen that a pale, bloodless face was seen pressing against the bedroom windows of the house which stood in that field, and this so constantly just after midnight, that the family were forced to quit it, and no one since has ever ventured to live in it? How did all these things happen?
Nay, I know not,' replied Simon Barnardiston ; 'besides, I don't know that they did happen.'
"Well, then, listen to what I know,' said Mr. Carliel, somewhat nettled at Simon's incredulity, which in this case implied a sort of reproach upon what would seem to be his own credulity.
There was something rather startling in his solemn invitation to listen, after the glimpse he had given of what might be expected; especially as the candles had been neglected, till their snuffs were become dismally long, and the log of wood had been suffered gradu ally to flicker down to a red heat, without
blaze. Snuff the candles, Stephen,' said Mary Falconer to her brother in a whisper.
"And give that wood a poke,' said Hugh Buckner, addressing Si. mon, who sat next the fire.
The candles were certainly all the better for being snuffed : but the log was poked in vain. It merely splintered into red-hot ashes, without emitting as much flame as lights up a glow-worm's tail.
My uncle,' resumed Mr. Carliel, when the little group had again settled down into silence, “told me all these circumstances with much chagrin, observing that the foolish notions which had thus got abroad would have the efect, he feared, of ruining his property, in that quarter. I joined with him in ridiculing the whole thing, and proposed that he should go down, and by sleeping in the house him. self, put an end to the delusion. I found, however, that, much as he laughed at the idea of the “SCREAMING WOMAN," and the pale, bloodless face that was seen pressing against the windows, he had no fancy for undertaking the task I had assigned him; but he jumped
at my proposal to undertake it myself. I accordingly went down, and was most cordially received by the family, who seemed half to believe, and quite to wish, that my presence might dissolve the spell. I inquired, as you may be sure, very minutely into all the particulars, and asked whether there was any one room in the house which the lady fancied more than another, because if there was, I should prefer that one for my bed-chamber. I was promised the room at the win. dow of which she had appeared three several times the preceding night; an occurrence, it seemed, which had never happened before. With this I deciared myself satisfied; and supper being announced, we were just about to go into the apartment where it was laid, when I saw the gentleman's eldest daughter, a young lady about twenty, turn suddenly pale.
"“Now, it's coming !” said she. “I know by that low moaning sound which the wind seems to make. O God! what shall I do while it lasts ?” and covering her ears with her hands, she crouched down upon a chair in one corner of the room.
She had scarcely done so before the very apartment in which we were all standing appeared to vibrate with a prolonged piercing scream, which made my blood run cold. It died away, and again it came, still louder, and still more piercing ; so as to give one the no. tion of some poor wretch upon whom the most exquisite torments were being inflicted. A third time it came; but now it was saint, and tremulous, and broken by languid sobs, as if life were ebbing fast under the torture. Never while I live shall I forget the terrible sound of those screams, or of that agonizing one which seemed to denote exhausted suffering yielding up its worn-out spirit!
"“ Let us go to the door,” said I, wishing to ascertain whether the other part of the story was true, that the dim shadowy form of a female might be seen flying round and round the field. I did so. The master of the house accompanied me. The night was very dark, and not an object of any kind was visible. I strained my sight into the darkness in every direction, but could see nothing.' 'l his was a sort of relief to me; the screaming had a little staggered my resolution ; but I now began to think that possibly it was either de. lusion, or some trick, being unaccompanied by that which it would have been more difficult to contrive, if there were any artifice at the boitom. But the relief, such as it was, soon vanished. “There !" said my companion, suddenly grasping my arm, and whispering in my ear, “there! there! do you see ? there she goes! round and round, like lightning !”'
I looked in the direction he pointed, and as plainly as I now see you,' said Mr. Carliel, addressing himself to Mary Falconer.
• Lord! don't look at me,' exclaimed the affrighted girl, who had been listening with breathless attention, and whom this appeal startled. 'I shall fancy you see the SCREAMING WOMAN here.'
“As plainly as I now see you,' repeated Mr. Carliel, “I saw, whirling round the field, but not touching the ground, the form of a tall, thin woman, with outstretched arms, and her long white dress streaming behind her. Nay, as the spectral shadow seemed to pass within a few feet of where we were standing in its rapid flight, I could distinctly hear the rushing sound of a body passing through the air with great velocity. This continued for two or three mi. nutes, when the phantom suddenly darted towards the middle of the field, sunk down, and disappeared.
«« That's the exact spot where the body was found,” observed my companion. “Now are you satisfied ? 'We may go in ; she will appear no more till after midnight.”
I was indeed satisfied: more than satisfied- I was convinced. I had had ocular demonstration of a thing which could not be the effect either of imagination or contrivance; and to tell you the plain truth, if shame would have let me, I should have dispensed with the remaining part of my task. However, I kept my fears to myself, put a bold face upon the matter, admitted it was very strange ; but, like our friend Simon there in the corner, affected to believe that, whatever it might be, it could be nothing supernatural; and thus try. ing to "screw my courage to the sticking-place," I took possession of my bedchamber, gaily promising to give a good account of the ghost next morning at breakfast.
* That was very venturesome, I think,' observed Mrs. Dagleish. 'I hope you said your prayers as soon as you were alone.'
'I said them before I went to bed, as I always do,' replied Mr. Carliel, but I do not remember that I put up any special one for the occasion.'
What ! did you go to bed ?' inquired Mary Falconer, and put out the candle !
'I went to bed; but, to confess the truth, I did not put out the candle.'
'I would have had half-a-dozen candles had I been you,' observed Hugh Buckner. I always think one doesn't feel so afraid of any thing when there's plenty of light. It wasn't a rushlight, I hope ? Rushlights are nasty things—they burn so dim, and are so apt to gutter and go out.'
Did you go to sleep?' asked Mrs. Dagleish. 'Oh, yes; for I did not want to lie awake : but may the next slumber (if ever I am doomed to have such another,) that is to end in so horrible a way, never-never be broken! A dream was upon me full of blood and death. The shrieking maniac flitted through my brain in a thousand shapes. At one moment she seemed to be stand. ing over me, brandishing a sword of fire. The next, she advanced from a dark corner of the room, bearing in her right hand a skull filled with some loathsome fluid. Lord! how she glared upon me as she presented this draught to my lips, and with her long bony fingers thrust into my mouth, forced me to swallow it. I felt it trickle down to my very heart in slow, cold drops, -and when there, methought it burned like a raging fire. The torment maddened me; I attempt. ed to spring upon the hag by whom it was inflicted; but a long, sallow arm held me down. I etruggled with her; and in the struggle I awoke. The first sound that struck my ears was that unearthly scream, which I had heard a few hours before. It was repeated : it came from the window: the casement flapped as if shaken by a strong wind: and though my very sinews seemed shrunk and withered by the sound, I threw myself out of bed, and staggered towards the window. I tore the curtains asunder, and there, pressed close against the glass, I saw a pale, bloodless visage, the glare of whose red eyes seemed to scorch my own. I well remember what followed the impulse, which I could not resist, to dash my hand through the panes. As I did so, the lips of the phantom quivered, the scream rang again through the apartment, and I fell senseless on the floor. The noise of the broken glass awakened the master of the house, who hastened into my room, and found me in a swoon, with my hand dreadfully cut and bleeding. Here are the scars still remaining,' continued Mr. Carliel, showing the back and wrist of his right hand, and I never look at them without a shuddering recollection of how they came there.'
"And was it never known,' said Mrs. Dagleish, how that poor creature came by her death ?'
Never. The matter was hushed up; no inquiries were made by any of her family, and strangers, whatever they might think, did not care to come forward. I believe, indeed, not even Dr. himself was acquainted with her name or history.'
* Poor soul!' ejaculated Mary Falconer, yawning as she spoke.
This set them all yawning, which produced a general declaration that it was very late, and time to go to bed. But nobody moved.
And you saw the face quite plain through the glass, did you ? asked Hugh Buckner, addressing Mr. Carliel, at the same time di. recting his looks towards the window of the room in which they were sitting,
"Oh, yes,' replied Mr. Carliel; there was no mistake about the matter; and I have seen it many a time since.'
Good gracious! where ?' said Mrs. Dagleish. "I see it now,' he continued calmly, turning his eyes upwards to the ceiling. Immediately all their eyes were hurried upwards to the ceiling. And I can bring the hideous image before me at any time, so strong was the impression it produced. In like manner I often hear the scream ringing in my ears.'
He had scarcely uttered the words when a terrific screaming was heard, which appeared to come from below stairs. Mrs. Dagleish and Mary Falconer screamed in chorus; Mr. Carliel grew pale; Stephen Falconer caught up the poker; Hugh Buckner held fast by his chair ; and Simon Barnardiston made for an old-fashioned cup board in one corner of the room, into which he vanished in the twinkling of an eye.
The screaming continued, -footsteps were heard hurrying along the passage,-the door flew open,-and Jesse, the servant wench, rushed in.
Oh, ma'am!' said she, addressing her mistress, I have been so frightened !
Frightened!' cried Simon, issuing from his hiding place the moment he heard her voice, what the devil was there to frighten you, you foolish girl?'
Oh, so frightened !' continued Jesse, dropping into a chair, and beginning to cry most lustily, holding her apron to her eyes with both hands.
‘She ought to be ashamed of herself,' quoth Hugh Buckner, his teeth chattering as he spoke.
Stephen Falconer gently restored the poker to its place, advanced towards his sister, who seemed very much inclined to go into hys. terics, called it “a capital joke,' and tried to laugh.
'I don't know what it all means,' said Mrs. Dagleish, recovering from her alarm, but it is very trying to one's nerves to have such
a scream in the house, just as we were all thinking about the poor screaming woman.'
• The coincidence is certainly curious,' remarked Mr. Carliel; but, though startled at first, hang me if I can help laughing at it now;' and forthwith they all began laughing at each other, which put a stop to Jesse's crying : she thought they were laughing at her, but wondered why. At last she laughed too, partly from the infectious nature of that "inarticulate expression of sudden merriment,' (as Johnson defines it,) and partly from the recollection of what had caused her own fright.
'It was certainly very ridiculous ! exclaimed Mary Falconer, the tears running down her cheeks. Very,' added Mrs. Dagleish.
Plenty of screaming down stairs and up,' said Stephen. 'I shan't forget how you looked when you laid hold of the poker,' quoth Simon Barnardiston.
Nor I how you looked, when you bolted into the cupboard in double-quick time,' retorted Stephen.
Nor I, how we all looked,' observed Mr. Carliel; at which the laugh began again, and continued till their very sides ached, and their temples throbbed.
Jesse, meanwhile, who knew nothing of how the family had been amusing themselves since supper, could not for the soul of her understand why her screaming should be the cause of such excessive merriment.
At last they ceased laughing, and then she was called upon to explain what had happened to her, which she did in few words. Waiting to go to bed, she had fallen asleep by the kitchen fire ; but was awakened by something tickling her left ear. • Putting up my hand,' she continued, 'to scratch my ear, I laid hold of I did not know what; it was soft and warm, like a mouse; but how a mouse could get behind my ear I could not think. However, it jumped out of my hand, and came with such a bounce upon the floor that I thought it would run up my petticoats perhaps ; so I set up a skreek, (I couldn't help it,) and ran out of the kitchen.'
The mystery thus solved, the Christmas gossipers soon after separated for the night, but not before it was settled that Mrs. Dagleish should tell her story of “The Black Riband' next morning at breakfast.
BY GEORGE RUDOLPH WECKHERLIN.
Repent thee of thy charge severe. Nor did a thought remain untold; Love honours my fidelity,
And yet thou hast a doubt of me, E'en as he holds thy beauty dear. Already hath thy faith grown cold.
Who could another's charms compare, In thee my heart and spirit dwell,
Bright model of all grace! to thine ? I live to love and sigh for thee; Search ’mid the shepherds roving there, If thine I am not, Myrtha, tell
Whose constancy can equal mine? To whom hast thou surrendered me?
* Born at Stuttgart, in 1584; died in London.