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rition, "this poor child," meaning the baby she carried,
"died here in my arms of privation and misery when I
was hiding her from those who would have been her
ruthless murderers. For that long term she has, ac-
cording to our laws, remained such as she was in life,
but now that the hundred and fifty years are gone, she
will begin to grow older and bigger as if she were
still a child of this world. Such is our law. It is not
in my power to watch over her in the future ; other
duties call me elsewhere. Already I have often been
compelled to absent myself, and now I can only hope
to be able to visit her at long intervals. To you then,
generous young man, I intrust my dearest hopes, the
care of my beloved daughter. It will be your duty and

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your pleasure alike to watch her grow in strength and
in beauty "

"But good heavens, Madam," I cried in alarm, "you
don't mean that "

"To your kind and watchful guardianship — for kind
and watchful I am sure that you will be — I hereby
resign her. Under your care she will thrive better than
if exposed to all the trouble and hardship that must fall
to my lot."

"But pardon me," I interposed. "I really cannot for
a moment "

"Give me no thanks," said the phantom, in a stately
manner; "they are not needed. The task that is before
you is no light one, and the obligation is not on your
side alone-"

"I should think it wasn't," I replied, indignantly. "I
had no intention of thanking you. I cannot entertain
the idea of such a thing for a moment. I "

"You have passed your word," said the lady, coldly
(she had now replaced the baby in a cradle in the se-
cret room and was hushing it to sleep), "and it cannot
be retracted. Fear not! she will bring happiness and
prosperity to you. In after years she will be the joy
and pride of her guardian."

"But I won't be her guardian," I shouted, in des-
peration. "I can't — I don't know how; it is quite out
of my power."

"She is called Euphemia," continued the lady, with-
out noticing my words — "the Lady Euphemia Crance-
lin. I am the Countess of Ruetown, born a Mailcote,
you know," and she stepped back to the door of the
secret room to take what was evidently intended to be
a farewell look at the baby. I could only look on help-
lessly; I think if I had not been in bed I might have
argued the point; but it was this very circumstance
which put me at such a disadvantage all the time.

86



THE GHOST BABY

"Farewell, my child," she continued. "Farewell,
kind friend. Be assured that my daughter will well re-
ward your care; but remember, also, that the gravest
consequences may follow any remissness or neglect.
Once more, farewell!"

And she disappeared.

I don't know what happened next; I was left in a
kind of dazed condition, and I think I must have gone
to sleep because I didn't know what else to do. Any-
how, the next thing I was conscious of was waking up
in the morning cheerful and comfortable, and utterly
oblivious of ghosts and babies. The sun was shining
brightly into the room, and I felt the kind of exhila-
ration that a fine morning naturally brings to a young
and healthy man untroubled by duns, in good train-
ing, and with a fair but not excessive day's work be-
fore him. I got up and dressed quickly, and, having
nearly finished my toilet, was looking out of the win-
dow at the river below, when I heard a slight sound
behind me, and on turning round saw the doors of the
secret room fly open of their own accord. In a mo-
ment the whole thing came back to my memory — the
ghost and the baby and the whole scene of the night
before. The cheery, hopeful prospects of a moment
before were replaced by a sickening feeling of discour-
agement and disgust. The sun went out like a candle;
the river was muddy and smelled nasty; the tempera-
ture of the room fell at least ten degrees. I daresay
this will be considered a very disagreeable way of re-
garding the matter; but it is not easy to realize the feel-
ings of a man who suddenly finds himself placed in the
supremely absurd and embarrassing position of guar-
dian to a baby ghost.

There was the little room exactly as I had seen it the
night before, and the cradle in the middle of it. After

87



COMEDY

some hesitation I determined to go and see with my
own eyes, in broad daylight, whether there really was
a baby there or not. After all, perhaps it had all been
a dream; perhaps I had not really received the extra-
ordinary charge that I fancied the ghost had intrusted
to me. Alas! my illusions on this pomt were soon dis-
pelled. As I reached the door of the secret room a
curious, inarticulate sound reached my ears — some-
thing between a crow and a chuckle, but indubitably
proceeding from the throat of that blessed baby. While
I was yet hesitating whether I should relieve my mind
by substituting a dififerent participle, I heard the old
housekeeper's footstep in the passage outside, and at
the same moment the folding-doors banged to again
within an inch of my nose.

"Breakfast is ready, sir," said Mrs. Creed, and glad
of any interruption I hastily followed her downstairs.

Later on, when I went about my work, I mentally
carried that baby about with me everywhere- What
was I to do? All my hopes of advancement and suc-
cess in life seemed irremediably blighted. What career
can be open to a man who has always to be dragging
a fine young ghost about with him? Who will give
him employment? People don't bargain for that kind
of thing. Besides, what was I expected to do in my
capacity of guardian? For, after all, I was guardian
to the blessed little nuisance, and I should have to be-
have myself as such. I am a conscientious man, I be-
lieve, and not at all given to shirking my obligations,
but really the task of bringing up a ghost baby was
rather too much for me. I caught myself wondering
whether the Foundling Hospital would take it in,
setting aside the diflficulty of carriage — and I knew that
I should be perfectly unable to transfer the baby to
any place where it didn't want to go. I felt it to be my
duty to watch over its infancy myself. It was to me



THE GHOST BABY

that the mother had confided her child. I tried to per-
suade myself that I had a noble task before me — to
bring up a ghost in the way it should go; but, in any
case, it was very difficult to know how to set about it.

While I revolved these schemes about the baby's fu-
ture I had made little progress in personal acquaintance
with it. When the folding-doors flew open — and they
always did in the morning, and often at night — I would
go up to the cradle and look into it. A first I could
only see something very shadowy and indistinct, but it
gradually became clearer, and after the first week I
could make out its little features plainly enough.

I don't know whether it was pretty. All the babies
I have seen yet appear to me to be very much alike in
that respect; but it seemed a nice baby enough. It
crowed and chuckled, and held out its little arms to me
when I came in, though it was a good fortnight before
I mustered up courage to say "Good-morning, Baby,"
which I felt politeness required of me. Then I used to
stand for a few minutes, not exactly knowing what to
do next, while the Baby crowed away like a little ban-
tam, and then I would say, "Well, good-bye for the
present. Baby," and go out, locking the doors after me
and taking away the key — an entirely useless precau-
tion, by the way. It generally appeared quite satisfied,
and, at all events, it very rarely cried, which was what
I was most afraid of. On the whole, I judged it to be
a good-natured, easy-going sort of infant, whom it
would not be difficult to get on with — if it was a neces-
sity of fate that I was to be saddled with a baby of one
kind or another.

Later on, indeed, we got to be very good friends,
Euphemia and I. I felt it to be a great advance the day
I first addressed it as Euphemia, and it was greatly de-
lighted itself. It was always pleased to see me. I
couldn't go and see it very often on account of my

89



COMEDY

work, and also to keep the servants from finding out
anything about it.

Mrs. Creed and her daughter had already spoken
several times about the noises that w^ere heard in the
cupboard; but fortunately, though they could hear it
cry — or, rather, crow, for it hardly every did cry — it
was quite invisible to them. I knew this, because Mrs.
Creed once came into my room when I had carried the
cradle out on to the hearthrug in my own room — for
the Baby always enjoyed the fire, and I was afraid of
trying to carry it alone, as it looked so very unsub-
stantial. Mrs. Creed came in suddenly — which she had
no business to do — and though she was startled at the
sight of the cradle she certainly saw nothing in it. The
cradle, I said, I had found in the lumber-room, and
brought downstairs to examine it, and, indeed, it was
a very curious piece of old carved-oak work, and very
well worth examining.

As I have said, we got on very well for the present,
but I was very uneasy in my mind about the future. In
the first place, I could not stay in Temsbury forever,
and what was the Baby to do when I had to go away?
It is true that my difficulties upon this point were soon
removed, when, being suddenly called away to London
one day, I found, on going to my chambers in the
evening, the Baby calmly reposing upon the chest of
drawers in my bedroom. It seemed a rather uncom-
fortable resting-place, so I managed to improvise a
kind of cradle out of my portmanteau, after turning all
the things out. To this the Baby managed to transport
itself somehow, and, on all future occasions when I had
to leave Temsbury, this portmanteau served as its
resting-place, and it seemed very comfortable. While,
however, some of my uneasiness was removed by this
discovery, it increased my anxieties for the future in
another direction. A bachelor who is invariably ac-

90



THE GHOST BABY

companied by a baby, of which he is absolutely incapable
of giving what would be considered a satisfactory ac-
count is, undoubtedly, a suspicious character. It is
true that the Baby was invisible to Mrs. Creed; but
would it be the same thing with Alice Raynsley? I
don't remember, by the way, whether I mentioned our
engagement. She is Alice Morrison now, I am happy
to say (my name is Robert Morrison). What would
Alice think of my being in possession of an unneces-
sary infant like this? It was a very serious question.

At one time I thought of consulting the Society of
Psychical Research ; but I was afraid that if they could
actually lay their hands on a real ghost, they would
want to dissect it, or put it under a miscroscope, or
something of that kind. On the other hand, they
might not be able even to see it. Clearly, there was
little help to be expected in my strange task from
living man.

Under these circumstances, I began to consider
whether I might not seek for aid among those who
were not living. Ours is a country which simply teems
with haunted houses, and it would be a reproach, in-
deed, if, in our civilized United Kingdom, there could
not be found one ghost ready to hold out his hand to
succor a helpless child. One of my oldest friends was
at that time secretary to a society occupied in re-
searches into the supernatural, and through his agency
I determined to put forth such an appeal to the ghosts
of Great Britain and Ireland as, I felt sure, would meet
with a ready response. All I had to do was to find out
some respectable old ghost who would either take
charge of the Baby himself or seek out the mother and
oblige her to take it back.

With this idea, I represented myself as an inquirer
desirous of throwing more light on such subjects and

91



COMEDY

not afraid of carrying out my researches in person.
The society accepted my proposals with eagerness and
pointed out to me a glorious enterprise which was
waiting ready to my hand. A daring man was wanted
to watch for the ghost in Grimleigh Manor, a fine old
house belonging to the Duke of Birmingham, which
had not been inhabited for some time, owing to the
general terror caused by the apparition.

I closed with this ofifer at once. The Duke, who was
to pay all expenses, drew out the programme of my op-
erations, and one of his gamekeepers was appointed to
be the companion of my watch.

I will not trouble my readers with all the negotia-
tions and arrangements to be gone through before the
eventful evening when Giles, the keeper, and I crept
in as secretly as possible by the back door of the manor
to begin our adventure. It was a fine autumn night,
with a bright moon shining, so that there was no neces-
sity for artificial light, of which I was very glad, for
I am not sure that I should have liked to face the ghost
in the dark, and yet I was required to observe the
strictest secrecy.

The Grimleigh ghost was an armed knight, pre-
sumably some early member of the Duke's family, who
haunted a long gallery, with a little room at the end of
it, through which he used to walk. This room I had
selected as my point of observation. In a dark corner
I posted myself a little after eleven o'clock, the appari-
tion being usually seen at about midnight, and gave
my companion instructions to remain at the bottom of
the staircase, and on no account to come up one step
unless I called him — a course which seemed to be in
perfect accordance with honest Giles' own inclination.

I don't suppose I waited more than an hour or so;
but it seemed about five times as much. The thought of
what the Baby would be doing was what prhicipally oc-

92



THE GHOST BABY

cupied me, though naturally, when my thoughts were
a-wandering, they often reverted to Alice Raynsley, and
I wished that Baby had never been born. And what
was the use of wishing? The Baby was there, and I
couldn't get rid of it. Anyhow, it would not be in my
way that night.

At last I heard a heavy footstep coming along the
gallery, and I cannot say that I was comfortable when
I first heard it. The door was open; but from my cor-
ner I could not see anything of the ghost till it came
into the room. I had been sure that it would be con-
scious of my presence; but it was not. An armed
figure, such as had been described to me, merely came
into the room, walked to the opposite wall and then
back again, without heeding me or giving me a chance
of speaking. It occurred to me that the figure w^as un-
usually heavy and awkward; its armor was very sub-
stantial and its demeanor by no means awe-inspiring.

I pushed forward as it stalked out again, and in the
long gallery, lighted up as it was by the moon, I saw,
to my utter amazement, the form of Euphemia ap-
parently hanging in mid-air in some extraordinary
fashion of its own — I never professed to really under-
stand that Baby. I was not the only one who saw it.
With a yell of terror the ghost dropped the lance and
shield it carried and turned to rush back to the room,
but at sight of me made a bolt for the staircase.

"Stop that man!" I shouted, and Giles came up
quickly at the call; but the ghost no sooner saw him
than it gave another scream, and fell down apparently
insensible. We dragged the apparition into the hall,
and on taking ofif its helmet and armor discovered as
common and dull-looking a young boor as one would
wish to see, now just coming to himself, but still evi-
dently in a state of frantic terror.

93



COMEDY

"Mark Tester, that is," said Giles, coolly, as \ie tied
the ghost's hands and feet- "Well, sir, this is a go!"

It was. We got the police over from the neighbor-
ing town, and instituted a thorough search. The house
had been taken possession of by a fraternity of bad
characters, living chiefly en burglary and poaching,
with an occasional spice of highway robbery. Two or
three of them were caught returning to their rendez-
vous before the discovery got wind. A number more
were indicated in the statement of Mark Tester, who
turned Queen's evidence, but only about six were
brought to trial at all. The secrecy we had observed
proved extremely fortunate, as the gang were per-
fectly unsuspicious, and that night had left only their
greenest hand to look after the stolen property stored
there, and to personate the harmless, necessary ghost
who had been their surest defense. I was kept down
there for some time to help in the investigations, and
had a room prepared for me in the house, when the
Baby turned up again at once, evidently much satisfied
with itself, and in the best of tempers. She was always
that, though, poor Euphemia! How she came to
Grimleigh that night, how she knew what to do, and
how or where she spent the night when she was not
suspended in mid-air, like Mohammed's cofhn, are
questions that I do not feel called upon to solve.

"The Gri'^^leigh Ghost" was the heading of many an
article in the newspapers of that time, as I dare say
many of my readers will remember. For a time I
heard of nothing but praises of my own courage and
sagacity — praises which I felt I did not deserve, as it
was the Baby who had done it all. Commissions to
examine into other apparitions poured in from various
quarters, and I felt that I could not keep up my repu-
tation without accepting some of them. If I had been
in my sober senses, probably I should have remained

94



THE GHOST BABY

satisfied with the laurels I had already gained, but I
was certainly a little intoxicated with all the praises
that were showered upon me. Besides, the Duke of
Birmingham had forced upon me a very handsome
check in return for my services, which I had not felt
justified in refusing. I had done him a great service —
Grimleigh Manor is his favorite residence now — or,
rather, the Baby and I had; and if I could not have
managed it without the Baby, no more would the
Baby have ever taken any steps in the matter without
me. Moreover, as I had all the inconveniences of
being Euphemia's guardian, it was only right that I
should get what good I could out of it.

These considerations, joined to a fresh success in dis-
covering a really transparent imposture which had
frightened some innocent rustics in an out-of-the-way
Buckinghamshire village, led me, after long reflection
and hesitation, to set up in business as a professional
ghost-seeker. I announced myself as possessing ex-
ceptional capacities for discovering imposture in the
case of supposed apparitions. I did not say that I re-
lied upon Euphemia's assistance, because I felt that any
mention of her would merely serve to disturb the pub-
lic mind. My scale of fees was extremely moderate;
expenses were, of course, to be paid, and board and
lodging free during investigation. The other charges
varied; so much was charged for the satisfactory ex-
posure of a fraud, so much less for formally testifying
to the existence of a ghost, and in cases where I was
unable to make a decisive statement one way or
another, nothing at all. The plan succeeded wonder-
fully; fresh orders arrived in shoals, and in a month's
time I was in full career of business, with really more
commissions than I could execute.

Of course, I exercised a certain discretion. I could
do nothing without the Baby, and I never could think



COMEDY

of taking that guileless infant into objectionable com-
pany. "Fullest references given and required" was on
all my prospectuses, and I was quite as careful about
the respectability of the ghost in question as of the
family who owned it. Thus, for instance, I refused a
very liberal offer from the Earl of Finsbury, who
wished me to visit his country seat in Essex, where an
ancestor of his lived very freely two hundred years ago,
and is believed to keep it up still with his old boon
companions in the old banqueting hall at Frimstead.
nor was I willing to inconvenience Euphemia by the ex-
posure to cold, and often to storm, consequent on
watching for such specters as disport themselves in the
open air. This led me to reject such cases as that of
the Bleeding Nun who haunts the ruined cloister of
Harminster, the Wild Huntsman of Gresleyford Chase,
or Captain Crackhemp, the highwayman, who is still to "
be seen on bad nights riding about Banningham Heath. ^

The Baby took to the business at once, and I must
say that its sagacity was unerring. I was often
troubled at the idea that the money ought really to
belong to it, and I used to cudgel my brains in search
of some way of laying the profits out for its advantage.
But Euphemia did not seem to care. Of course, I was
looking out the whole time for some ghost of good
character and charitable disposition who would help me
to restore her to her mother's care, or otherwise pro-
vide for her future in a more suitable manner than I
ever should be able to do. All my efiforts in this direc-
tion failed. I saw a great number of ghosts whose ap-
pearance and general reputation inclined me to speak
to them on the subject, but I could not get any of them
to discuss the matter with me. There was the old
Abbott of Greyford, the most venerable-looking old
ghost I ever saw, who showed great favor to Euphemia,
and gave her his blessing in the most paternal manner,

96



THE GHOST BABY

but when I said "Amen!" he vanished at once. There
was old Lady Dorothy SnaiHng at Webleyhurst, who
kissed the baby and almost cried over it, but only
shook her stick at me and was gone before I could
think what I should say to her. The White Lady of
Darkleton, the Prioress of Nonnancourt, the Grey
Priest of Wrangley Grange, and many others, showed
a distinct partiality to the Baby, but none of them
would listen to what I had to say.

Absorbed as I was in my new profession, I had had
little time left to see anything of the old friends of a
quieter and less successful time. I am naturally a
sociable fellow, and I felt this considerably. Even
Alice Raynsley I only saw now and then, and she, toa,
said I was changed, but not as the others did. She
spoke of the worn, worried look she had never seen in
me before, and begged me to tell her what it was that
lay so heavily on my mind. Sometimes I had thoughts
of telling her all about it, but what would have been the
good? Besides, I was doubtful whether I was at liberty
to speak about the Baby to any one; doubtful, too, I
dare say, whether she would believe such an improb-
able story. Something she must be told soon; for 1
had practically lost all hope of getting rid of the Baby,
and, in that case, our engagement must be at an end,
and I must devote myself in solitude to the duties of
my guardianship. Some time, perhaps, when the Baby
came of age — but that was a long time to look for-
ward to.

It was a real pleasure to me, in this condition of af-
fairs, to get an invitation to go down and spend a week
with my old friend, George Kirby, at his place in Cum-
berland. There was a party of some ten or twelve
people in the house, besides the host and hostess, all
very friendly and merry, as far as I could make out.

Vol. 18—7 97



COMEDY

To make matters more cheerful, Kirby called me aside
shortly after I arrived, and informed me that his wife
was expecting Alice Raynsley down in a few days. I
communicated this fact to Euphemia; but she seemed
to care very little about it, and was altogether in a
curious dreamy state I had never observed in her be-
fore.

The party at dinner that evening was a very jovial
one, and there was a great deal of chaffing about my
ghost-seeking experiences; but that I was accus-
tomed to.

"Of course, we have put you in the haunted room,"
said Kirby ; "I know that's the sort of company you
like, and you're in luck, I can tell you. One of the
maids saw the ghost less than a fortnight ago, and it's
probably still about."

"I didn't knov/ you had a ghost here," I answered-

"Oh, yes; we have — not of our own, you know — not
a family ghost; they don't make those things at Leeds.
It belongs to the old family who lived here ages ago —
for this is really a very old house, though my father
gave it a new outside — a great Cumberland family, the
Mailcotes. What's the matter, Morrison? Find your
orange too sour? Take some sugar with it."

"No, no, never mind; it's sweet enough," I said, hur-
riedly. "You said the Mailcotes?" I remembered
^hat Euphemia's mother had told me she was a Mail-
cote.

"Yes, the Mailcotes of Birkenholme — great people in
the old days. Birkenholme's the real name of this place,
you know."

"And what is the ghost, Mr. Kirby?" asked one of
the guests, laughing.

"Well, I can't say exactly," said our host: "it's a


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