From the too-plainly titled Ghost Stories by M.R. James. I’ve never read James but have been browsing a collection of his greatest tales this evening. As in this excerpt he often delights more in the follies of the genre than I’d expected.
Some classes of ghost stories it is very hard, seriously speaking, not to believe. Omens, Family Tokens and Forewarnings are of this sort.
Here is one, “never before published,” told me by an old man “who was there at the time.” I suppress names.
In the early part of last century, the wife of the squire of a certain village was driving across her park on the way to a county ball. The evening was gray and misty. [This goes without saying.]
Suddenly she looked out of the carriage window and “saw suffen”; as to what the something was my old man would not venture a statement. I gathered, however, that it was the lady’s “double.”
One of the horses broke loose, the other turned straight back to the Hall.
The lady never went out of the house again except in her coffin. [Impressive silence.] Of course my informant didn’t go to believe no such thing; but still, there was the story.
One really authentic one, which I fear a good many people must know, and I will lay my unquiet pen.
To be short: General Blucher was returning home alone from the wars. On entering the house he saw, sitting at the fire in a peculiar attitude, his parents—long since dead, and his sisters sitting around the room.
On greeting them he received no answer.
One of his sisters rose and touched him. He swooned, and when he came to himself was alone.
He was for some days delirious, but in a lucid interval, feeling himself at the point of death, he sent for his sovereign, told him the facts: said his sister had warned him he was to die that day, and so expired.
The aspect of my furniture is so terrific at this point that I really must stop.