The Angel and the Author
[The Ghost and the Blind Children.]
Ghosts are in the air. It is difficult at this moment to avoid talking of ghosts. The first
question you are asked on being introduced this season is:
"Do you believe in ghosts?"
I would be so glad to believe in ghosts. This world is much too small for me. Up to a
century or two ago the intellectual young man found it sufficient for his purposes. It still
contained the unknown--the possible--within its boundaries. New continents were still to
be discovered: we dreamt of giants, Liliputians, desert- fenced Utopias. We set our sail,
and Wonderland lay ever just beyond our horizon. To-day the world is small, the light
railway runs through the desert, the coasting steamer calls at the Islands of the Blessed,
the last mystery has been unveiled, the fairies are dead, the talking birds are silent. Our
baffled curiosity turns for relief outwards. We call upon the dead to rescue us from our
monotony. The first authentic ghost will be welcomed as the saviour of humanity.
But he must be a living ghost--a ghost we can respect, a ghost we can listen to. The poor
spiritless addle-headed ghost that has hitherto haunted our blue chambers is of no use to
us. I remember a thoughtful man once remarking during argument that if he believed in
ghosts--the silly, childish spooks about which we had been telling anecdotes--death
would possess for him an added fear: the idea that his next dwelling-place would be
among such a pack of dismal idiots would sadden his departing hours. What was he to
talk to them about? Apparently their only interest lay in recalling their earthly troubles.
The ghost of the lady unhappily married who had been poisoned, or had her throat cut,
who every night for the last five hundred years had visited the chamber where it
happened for no other purpose than to scream about it! what a tiresome person she would
be to meet! All her conversation during the long days would be around her earthly
wrongs. The other ghosts, in all probability, would have heard about that husband of hers,
what he said, and what he did, till they were sick of the subject. A newcomer would be
seized upon with avidity.
A lady of repute writes to a magazine that she once occupied for a season a wainscotted
room in an old manor house. On several occasions she awoke in the night: each time to
witness the same ghostly performance. Four gentlemen sat round a table playing cards.
Suddenly one of them sprang to his feet and plunged a dagger into the back of his partner.
The lady does not say so: one presumes it was his partner. I have, myself, when playing
bridge, seen an expression on my partner's face that said quite plainly:
"I would like to murder you."
I have not the memory for bridge. I forget who it was that, last trick but seven, played the
two of clubs. I thought it was he, my partner. I thought it meant that I was to take an early