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“All goes well, Baptista ?” he would say to me again.
We were all (said the Genoese courier, constraining himself to speak a little louder), we were all at Rome for the Carnival. I had been out, all day, with a Sicilian, a friend of mine and a courier, who was there with an English family. As I returned at night to our hôtel, I met the little Carolina, who never stirred from home alone, running distractedly along the Corso.
“ Carolina! What's the matter ?”
“ O Baptista! Oh, for the Lord's sake! where is my mistress ?”
“ Mistress, Carolina ?”
“ Gone since morning — told me, when master went out on his day's journey, not to call her, for she was tired with not resting in the night (having been in pain), and would lie in bed until the evening; then get up refreshed. She is gone!she is gone! Master has come back, broken down the door, and she is gone! My beautiful, my good, my innocent mistress!”
The pretty little one so cried, and raved, and tore herself, that I could not have held her, but for her swooning on my arm as if she had been shot. Master came up-in manner, face, or voice, no more the master that I knew, than I was he. He took me (I laid the little one upon her bed in the hôtel, and left her with the chamber-women), in a carriage, furiously through the darkness, across the desolate Campagna. When it was day, and we stopped at a miserable posthouse, all the horses had been hired twelve hours ago, and sent away in different directions. Mark me! — by the Signor Dellombra, who had passed there in a carriage, with a frightened English lady crouching in one corner.
I never heard (said the Genoese courier, drawing a long
breath) that she was ever traced beyond that spot. All I know is, that she vanished into infamous oblivion, with the dreaded face beside her that she had seen in her dream.
• What do you call that ?" said the German courier, triumphantly: “ Ghosts! There are no ghosts there! What do you call this, that I am going to tell you? Ghosts! There are no ghosts here!”
I took an engagement once (pursued the German courier) with an English gentleman, elderly and a bachelor, to travel through my country, my Fatherland. He was a merchant who traded with my country and knew the language, but who had never been there since he was a boy—as I judge, some sixty years before.
His name was James, and he had a twin-brother John, also a bachelor. Between these brothers there was a great affection. They were in business together, at Goodman's Fields, but they did not live together. Mr. James dwelt in Poland Street, turning out of Oxford Street, London. Mr. John resided by Epping Forest.
Mr. James and I were to start for Germany in about a week. The exact day depended on business. Mr. John came to Poland Street (where I was staying in the house), to pass that week with Mr. James. But, he said to his brother on the second day, “ I don't feel very well, James. There's not much the matter with me; but I think I am a little gouty. I'll go home and put myself under the care of my old housekeeper, who understands my ways. If I get quite better, I'll come back and see you before you go. If I don't feel well enough to resume my visit where I leave it off, why you will come and see me before you go.” Mr. James, of course, said he would, and they shook hands — both hands, as they always did —
nd see you bwhere I leave ames, of coursey always
and Mr. John ordered out his old-fashioned chariot and rumbled home.
It was on the second night after that — that is to say, the fourth in the week — when I was awoke out of my sound sleep by Mr. James coming into my bedroom in his flannel-gown, with a lighted candle. He sat upon the side of my bed, and looking at me, said :
“ Wilhelm, I have reason to think I have got some strange illness upon me.”
I then perceived that there was a very unusual expression in his face.
“ Wilhelm," said he, “ I am not afraid or ashamed to tell you, what I might be afraid or ashamed to tell another man. You come from a sensible country, where mysterious things are inquired into, and are not settled to have been weighed and measured - or to have been unweighable and unmeasurable — or in either case to have been completely disposed of, for all time — ever so many years ago. I have just now seen the phantom of my brother.”
I confess (said the German courier) that it gave me a little tingling of the blood to hear it.
“I have just now seen,” Mr James repeated, looking full at me, that I might see how collected he was, “ the phantom of my brother John. I was sitting up in bed, unable to sleep, when it came into my room, in a white dress, and, regarding me earnestly, passed up to the end of the room, glanced at some papers on my writing-desk, turned, and, still looking earnestly at me as it passed the bed, went out at the door. Now, I am not in the least mad, and am not in the least disposed to invest that phantom with any external existence out of myself. I think it is a warning to me that I am ill; and I think I had better be bled.”
I got out of bed directly (said the German courier) and
began to get on my clothes, begging him not to be alarmed, and telling him that I would go myself to the doctor. I was just ready, when we heard a loud knocking and ringing at the street door. My room being an attic at the back, and Mr. James's being the second-floor room in the front, we went down to his room, and put up the window, to see what was the matter.
“ Is that Mr. James ?” said a man below, falling back to the opposite side of the way to look up.
“ It is,” said Mr. James; “ and you are my brother's man, Robert.”
“Yes, sir. I am sorry to say, sir, that Mr. John is ill. He is very bad, sir. It is even feared that he may be lying at the point of death. He wants to see you, sir. I have a chaise here. Pray come to him. Pray lose no time.”
Mr. James and I looked at one another. “Wilhelm,” said he, “ this is strange. I wish you to come with me!" I helped him to dress, partly there and partly in the chaise; and no grass grew under the horses' iron shoes between Poland Street and the Forest.
Now, mind! (said the German courier.) I went with Mr. James into his brother's room, and I saw and heard myself what follows.
His brother lay upon his bed, at the upper end of a long bed-chamber. His old housekeeper was there, and others were there: I think three others were there, if not four, and they had been with him since early in the afternoon. He was in white, like the figure— necessarily so, because he had his nightdress on. He looked like the figure—necessarily so, because he looked earnestly at his brother when he saw him come into the room.
But, when his brother reached the bed-side, he slowly raised himself in bed, and looking full upon him, said these words :
“JAMES, YOU HAVE SEEN ME BEFORE, TO-NIGHT — AND YOU KNOW IT!”
And so died !
I waited, when the German courier ceased, to hear something said of this strange story. The silence was unbroken. I looked round, and the five couriers were gone: so noiselessly that the ghostly mountain might have absorbed them into its eternal snows. By this time, I was by no means in a mood to sit alone in that awful scene, with the chill air coming solemnly upon me — or, if I may tell the truth, to sit alone anywhere. So I went back into the convent-parlour, and, finding the American gentleman still disposed to relate the biography of the Honourable Ananias Dodger, heard it all out.