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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Not till 21st December did Mr. Wesley hear anything, then came thumpings on his bedroom wall. Unable to discover the cause, he procured a stout mastiff, which soon became demoralised by his experiences. On the morning of the 24th, about seven o'clock, Emily led Mrs. Wesley into the nursery, where she heard knocks on and under the bedstead; these sounds replied when she knocked. Something "like a badger, with no head," says Emily; Mrs. Wesley only says, "like a badger," ran from under the bed. On the night of the 25th there was an appalling vacarme. Mr. and Mrs. Wesley went on a tour of inspection, but only found the mastiff whining in terror. "We still heard it rattle and thunder in every room above or behind us, locked as well as open, except my study, where as yet it never came." On the night of the 26th Mr. Wesley seems to have heard of a phenomenon already familiar to Emily--"something like the quick winding up of a jack, at the corner of the room by my bed head". This was always followed by knocks, "hollow and loud, such as none of us could ever imitate". Mr. Wesley went into the nursery, Hetty, Kezzy and Patty were asleep. The knocks were loud, beneath and in the room, so Mr. Wesley went below to the kitchen, struck with his stick against the rafters, and was answered "as often and as loud as I knocked". The peculiar knock which was his own, 1-23456-7, was not successfully echoed at that time. Mr. Wesley then returned to the nursery, which was as tapageuse as ever. The children, three, were trembling in their sleep. Mr. Wesley invited the agency to an interview in his study, was answered by one knock outside, "all the rest were within," and then came silence. Investigations outside produced no result, but the latch of the door would rise and fall, and the door itself was pushed violently back against investigators.

"I have been with Hetty," says Emily, "when it has knocked under her, and when she has removed has followed her," and it knocked under little Kezzy, when "she stamped with her foot, pretending to scare Patty."

Mr. Wesley had requested an interview in his study, especially as the Jacobite goblin routed loudly "over our heads constantly, when we came to the prayers for King George and the prince". In his study the agency pushed Mr. Wesley about, bumping him against the corner of his desk, and against his door. He would ask for a conversation, but heard only "two or three feeble squeaks, a little louder than the chirping of a bird, but not like the noise of rats, which I have often heard".

Mr. Wesley had meant to leave home for a visit on Friday, 28th December, but the noises of the 27th were so loud that he stayed at home, inviting the Rev. Mr. Hoole, of Haxey, to view the performances. "The noises were very boisterous and disturbing this night." Mr. Hoole says (in 1726, confirmed by Mrs. Wesley, 12th January, 1717) that there were sounds of feet, trailing gowns, raps, and a noise as of planing boards: the disturbance finally went outside the house and died away. Mr. Wesley seems to have paid his visit on the 30th, and notes, "1st January, 1717. My family have had no disturbance since I went away."

To judge by Mr. Wesley's letter to Sam, of 12th January, there was no trouble between the 29th of December and that date. On the 19th of January, and the 30th of the same month, Sam wrote, full of curiosity, to his father and mother. Mrs. Wesley replied (25th or 27th January), saying that no explanation could be discovered, but "it commonly was nearer Hetty than the rest". On 24th January, Sukey said "it is now pretty quiet, but still knocks at prayers for the king." On 11th February, Mr. Wesley, much bored by Sam's inquiries, says, "we are all now quiet. . . . It would make a glorious penny book for Jack Dunton," his brother-in-law, a publisher of popular literature, such as the Athenian Mercury. Emily (no date) explains the phenomena as the revenge for her father's recent sermons "against consulting those that are called cunning men, which our people are given to, and _it had a particular spite at my father_".