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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"A week after this event, news of this very friend's death reached me. It occurred on the morning in question. From the family I learned that according to the rites of the Greek Church and the custom of the country he resided in, he was buried in his evening clothes made abroad by a foreign tailor, and strange to say, he wore goloshes over his boots, according also to the custom of the country he died in. . . . When in England, he lived in Tavistock Place, and occupied my rooms during my absence." {95a}


"In the month of November (1785 or 1786), Sir John Sherbrooke and Colonel Wynyard were sitting before dinner in their barrack room at Sydney Cove, in America. It was duskish, and a candle was placed on a table at a little distance. A figure dressed in plain clothes and a good round hat, passed gently between the above people and the fire. While passing, Sir J. Sherbrooke exclaimed, 'God bless my soul, who's that?'

"Almost at the same moment Colonel W. said, 'That's my brother John Wynyard, and I am sure he is dead'. Colonel W. was much agitated, and cried and sobbed a great deal. Sir John said, 'The fellow has a devilish good hat; I wish I had it'. (Hats were not to be got there and theirs were worn out.) They immediately got up (Sir John was on crutches, having broken his leg), took a candle and went into the bedroom, into which the figure had entered. They searched the bed and every corner of the room to no effect; the windows were fastened up with mortar. . . .

"They received no communication from England for about five months, when a letter from Mr. Rush, the surgeon (Coldstream Guards), announced the death of John Wynyard at the moment, as near as could be ascertained, when the figure appeared. In addition to this extraordinary circumstance, Sir John told me that two years and a half afterwards he was walking with Lilly Wynyard (a brother of Colonel W.) in London, and seeing somebody on the other side of the way, he recognised, he thought, the person who had appeared to him and Colonel Wynyard in America. Lilly Wynyard said that the person pointed out was a Mr. Eyre (Hay?), that he and John Wynyard were frequently mistaken for each other, and that money had actually been paid to this Mr. Eyre in mistake."

A famous tale of an appearance is Lord Brougham's. His Lordship was not reckoned precisely a veracious man; on the other hand, this was not the kind of fable he was likely to tell. He was brought up under the regime of common-sense. "On all such subjects my father was very sceptical," he says. To disbelieve Lord Brougham we must suppose either that he wilfully made a false entry in his diary in 1799, or that in preparing his Autobiography in 1862, he deliberately added a falsehood--and then explained his own marvel away!


"December 19, 1799.

" . . . At one in the morning, arriving at a decent inn (in Sweden), we decided to stop for the night, and found a couple of comfortable rooms. Tired with the cold of yesterday, I was glad to take advantage of a hot bath before I turned in. And here a most remarkable thing happened to me--so remarkable that I must tell the story from the beginning.

"After I left the High School, I went with G---, my most intimate friend, to attend the classes in the University. . . . We actually committed the folly of drawing up an agreement, written with our blood, to the effect that whichever of us died the first should appear to the other, and thus solve any doubts we had entertained of 'the life after death'. G--- went to India, years passed, and," says Lord Brougham, "I had nearly forgotten his existence. I had taken, as I have said, a warm bath, and while lying in it and enjoying the comfort of the heat, I turned my head round, looking towards the chair on which I had deposited my clothes, as I was about to get out of the bath. On the chair sat G---, looking calmly at me. How I got out of the bath I know not, but on recovering my senses I found myself sprawling on the floor. The apparition, or whatever it was that had taken the likeness of G---, had disappeared. . . . So strongly was I affected by it that I have here written down the whole history, with the date, 19th December, and all the particulars as they are now fresh before me. No doubt I had fallen asleep" (he has just said that he was awake and on the point of leaving the bath), "and that the appearance presented so distinctly to my eyes was a dream I cannot for a moment doubt. . . ."