Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
III HORSES AND THE UNKNOWN
"The coach did not go as fast as my uncle expected, but moved with a curious gliding motion, and the wheels made no noise whatever. This added to my uncle's apprehensions, and he almost made up his mind to open the carriage door and jump out. Something, however, which he could not account for restrained him, and he maintained his seat. Outside, all was still profoundly dark. The trees were scarcely distinguishable as deeper masses of shadow, and were recognizable only by the resinous odour, that, from time to time, sluggishly flowed in at the open window as the coach rolled on.
"At length they overtook some other vehicle, and for the first time for some hours my uncle heard the sound of solid wheels, which were as welcome to him as any joy bells. Just as they were passing the conveyance--a small wagonette drawn by a pair of horses, the latter took fright; there were loud shouts and a great stampede, and my uncle, who leaned out of the coach window, caught a glimpse of the vehicle dashing along ahead of them at a frightful speed. The driver of the coach, apparently totally unconcerned, continued his journey at the same regular, mechanical pace.
"Presently my uncle heard the sound of rushing water, and knew they must be nearing the Usk, a tributary of the Battle, which was only five miles from his house.
"The forest now ceased, and they crossed the road over the bridge in a brilliant burst of moonlight. About a mile or so further on the coach halted, and, to my uncle's surprise, he found himself in front of a house he had no recollection of seeing before. He got out, and to his horror saw that instead of riding in a coach he had been riding in a hearse, and that the horses had on their heads gigantic sable plumes.
"While he was standing gazing at the extraordinary equipage, the door of the house slowly opened, and two figures came out carrying a small coffin, which they placed inside the vehicle. He then heard loud peals of mad, hilarious laughter, and coach and horses immediately vanished. My uncle arrived home safely, but the shock of what he had experienced kept him in bed for some days. He learned that a phantom coach similar to the one he had ridden in had been seen in the forest twenty years previously, and that it was supposed to be a prognostication of some great misfortune, which supposition, in my uncle's case at least, proved true, as his wife died of apoplexy a few days after this adventure."
Yet another case of haunting by the phantasms of a horse comes to me from a gentleman in Marseilles, who told it me thus:--
"It was 9 p.m. when I left my friend Maitland's hotel in Châteauborne, and, facing north, set out on my way to Liffre, where my headquarters had been for the past fortnight. Liffre is in the hills, and the road which separated it from Châteauborne, wild and lonely enough in daylight and when the weather is fair, is almost untraversable in winter. The night in question was Christmas Eve; the snow had fallen heavily during the day, and with the wind blowing in icy draughts from the north-east, there was every prospect of another downfall. Maitland pressed me to stay in his hotel. 'It is sheer folly,' he said, 'for you to attempt to get home in weather like this. It is pitch dark, you are not familiar with the route, and if you don't wander off the track and tumble over a precipice, you will walk into a snowdrift. Be sensible--sleep here!'
"Much, however, as I should have liked to follow his counsel, I did not feel justified in doing so, as I had a lot of correspondence to attend to, and I realized it was most necessary for me to get back to Liffre without any further delay.
"It was true the night was inky black; but, with the aid of a lamp, I hadn't the slightest doubt I could find my way. Maitland bartered for a candle lantern with his host, and armed with this, a flagon of brandy and water and a thick stick, I said good-bye to Châteauborne.
"A couple of hundred yards saw me beyond the outskirts of the town, wherein I was the sole pedestrian, and silence reigned supreme. On and on I plodded, the feeble, yellow light of my lantern just preventing me--but only just--from wandering from the track. The road, which for the first mile or so was tolerably level, gradually began to rise, and, as it did so, I noticed for the first time indistinct images of gigantic, naked trees that becoming more and more numerous, and closer and closer together, at length united their long and grotesquely shaped branches overhead, and I found myself in the depths of a vast forest. The snow, which had up to the present held off, now recommenced to fall, and presently the wind, which had for some time been slowly acquiring strength, came howling through the trees with the utmost fury, the first blast swishing the lantern out of my hands and hurling me with considerable force into an undergrowth of thorns and brambles, out of which I extricated myself with no little difficulty.