I had observed Mr. Governor growing fidgety as his turn his “spell,” he called it ap-proached, and he now surprised us all, by rising with a serious countenance, and requesting permission to “come aft” and have speech with me, before he spun his yarn. His great popularity led to a gracious concession of this indulgence, and we went out together into the hall.
“Old shipmate,” said Mr. Governor to me; “ever since I have been aboard of this old hulk, I have been haunted, day and night.”
“By what, Jack?”
Mr. Governor, clapping his hand on my shoulder and keeping it there, said:
“By something in the likeness of a Woman.”
“All! Your old affliction. You’ll never get over that, Jack, if you live to be a hundred.”
“No, don’t talk so, because I am very serious. All night long, I have been haunted by one figure. All day, the same figure has so bewildered me in the kitchen, that I wonder I haven’t poisoned the whole ship’s company. Now, there’s no fancy here. Would you like to see the figure?”
“I should like to see it very much.”
“Then here it is!” said Jack. Thereupon, he presented my sister, who had stolen out quietly, after us.
“Oh, indeed?” said I. “Then, I suppose, Patty, my dear, I have no occasion to ask whether you have been haunted?”
“Constantly, Joe,” she replied.
The effect of our going back again, all three together, and of my presenting my sister as the Ghost from the Corner Room, and Jack as the Ghost from my Sister’s Room, was triumphant — the crowning hit of the night. Mr. Beaver was so particularly delighted, that he by-and-by declared “a very little would make him dance a hornpipe.” Mr. Governor immediately supplied the very little, by offering to make it a double hornpipe; and there “ensued such toe-and-heeling, and buckle-covering, and double-shuffling, and heel-sliding, and execution of all sorts of slippery manoeuvres with vibratory legs, as none of us ever saw before, or will ever see again. When we had all laughed and applauded till we were faint, Starling, not to be outdone, favoured us with a more modern saltatory entertainment in the Lancashire clog manner — to the best of my belief, the longest dance ever performed: in which the sound of his feet became a Locomotive going through cuttings, tunnels, and open country, and became a vast number of other things we should never have suspected, unless he had kindly told us what they were.
It was resolved before we separated that night, that our three mouths’ period in the Haunted House should be wound up with the marriage of my sister and Mr. Governor. Belinda was nominated bridesmaid, and Stirling was engaged for bridegroom’s man.
In a word, we lived our term out, most happily, and were never for a moment haunted by anything more disagreeable than our own imaginations and remembrances. My cousin’s wife, in her great love for her husband and in her gratitude to him for the change her love had wrought in her, had told us, through his lips, her own story; and I am sure there was not one of us who did not like her the better for it, and respect her the more.
So, at last, before the shortest month in the year was quite out, we all walked forth one morning to the church with the spire, as if nothing uncommon were going to happen; and there Jack and my sister were married, as sensibly as could be. It occurs to me to mention that I observed Belinda and Alfred Starling to be rather sentimental and low, on the occasion, and that they are since engaged to be married in the same church. I regard it as an excellent thing for both, and a kind of union very wholesome for the times in which we live. He wants a little poetry, and she wants a little prose, and the marriage of the two things is the happiest marriage I know for all mankind.
Finally, I derived this Christmas Greeting from the Haunted House, which I affectionately address with all my heart to all my readers: Let us use the great virtue, Faith, but not abuse it; and let us put it to its best use, by having faith in the great Christmas book of the New Testament, and in one another.
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University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:49