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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Esther Cox! You are mine to kill.

Mr. Hubbell has verified the inscription, and often, later, recognised the hand, in writings which "came out of the air and fell at our feet". Bits of plaster now gyrated in the room, accompanied by peels of local thunder. The doctor admitted that his diagnosis was at fault. Next day he visited his patient when potatoes flew at him. He exhibited a powerful sedative, but pounding noises began on the roofs and were audible at a distance of 200 yards, as the doctor himself told Mr. Hubbell.

The clergy now investigated the circumstances, which they attributed to electricity. "Even the most exclusive class" frequented Mr. Teed's house, till December, when Esther had an attack of diphtheria. On recovering she went on to visit friends in Sackville, New Brunswick, where nothing unusual occurred. On her return the phenomena broke forth afresh, and Esther heard a voice proclaim that the house would be set on fire. Lighted matches then fell from the ceiling, but the family extinguished them. The ghost then set a dress on fire, apparently as by spontaneous combustion, and this kind of thing continued. The heads of the local fire-brigade suspected Esther of these attempts at arson, and Dr. Nathan Tupper suggested that she should be flogged. So Mr. Teed removed Esther to the house of a Mr. White. In about a month "all," as Mrs. Nickleby's lover said, "was gas and gaiters". The furniture either flew about, or broke into flames. Worse, certain pieces of iron placed as an experiment on Esther's lap "became too hot to be handled with comfort," and then flew away.

Mr. Hubbell himself now came on the scene, and, not detecting imposture, thought that "there was money in it". He determined to "run" Esther as a powerful attraction, he lecturing, and Esther sitting on the platform.

It did not pay. The audience hurled things at Mr. Hubbell, and these were the only volatile objects. Mr. Hubbell therefore brought Esther back to her family at Amherst, where, in Esther's absence, his umbrella and a large carving knife flew at him with every appearance of malevolence. A great arm-chair next charged at him like a bull, and to say that Mr. Hubbell was awed "would indeed seem an inadequate expression of my feelings". The ghosts then thrice undressed little Willie in public, in derision of his tears and outcries. Fire-raising followed, and that would be a hard heart which could read the tale unmoved. Here it is, in the simple eloquence of Mr. Hubbell:--

"This was my first experience with Bob, the demon, as a fire-fiend; and I say, candidly, that until I had had that experience I never fully realised what an awful calamity it was to have an invisible monster, somewhere within the atmosphere, going from place to place about the house, gathering up old newspapers into a bundle and hiding it in the basket of soiled linen or in a closet, then go and steal matches out of the match-box in the kitchen or somebody's pocket, as he did out of mine, and after kindling a fire in the bundle, tell Esther that he had started a fire, but would not tell where; or perhaps not tell her at all, in which case the first intimation we would have was the smell of the smoke pouring through the house, and then the most intense excitement, everybody running with buckets of water. I say it was the most truly awful calamity that could possible befall any family, infidel or Christian, that could be conceived in the mind of man or ghost.