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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


The family now moved to their town house, and the inquest continued, though the raps were only heard near the lady. A Dr. Dubinsky vowed that she made them herself, with her tongue; then, with her pulse. The doctor assailed, and finally shook the faith of Mr. Akutin, who was to furnish a report. "He bribed a servant boy to say that his mistress made the sounds herself, and then pretended that he had caught her trying to deceive us by throwing things." Finally Mr. Akutin reported that the whole affair was a hysterical imposition by Mrs. Shchapoff. Dr. Dubinsky attended her, her health and spirits improved, and the disturbances ceased. But poor Mr. Shchapoff received an official warning not to do it again, from the governor of his province. That way lies Siberia.

"Imagine, then," exclaims Mr. Shchapoff, "our horror, when, on our return to the country in March, the unknown force at once set to work again. And now even my wife's presence was not essential. Thus, one day, I saw with my own eyes a heavy sofa jump off all four legs (three or four times in fact), and this when my aged mother was lying on it." The same thing occurred to Nancy Wesley's bed, on which she was sitting while playing cards in 1717. The picture of a lady of seventy, sitting tight to a bucking sofa, appeals to the brave.

Then the fire-raising began. A blue spark flew out of a wash-stand, into Mrs. Shchapoff's bedroom. Luckily she was absent, and her mother, rushing forward with a water-jug, extinguished a flaming cotton dress. Bright red globular meteors now danced in the veranda. Mr. Portnoff next takes up the tale as follows, Mr. Shchapoff having been absent from home on the occasion described.

"I was sitting playing the guitar. The miller got up to leave, and was followed by Mrs. Shchapoff. Hardly had she shut the door, when I heard, as though from far off, a deep drawn wail. The voice seemed familiar to me. Overcome with an unaccountable horror I rushed to the door, and there in the passage I saw a literal pillar of fire, in the middle of which, draped in flame, stood Mrs. Shchapoff. . . . I rushed to put it out with my hands, but I found it burned them badly, as if they were sticking to burning pitch. A sort of cracking noise came from beneath the floor, which also shook and vibrated violently." Mr. Portnoff and the miller "carried off the unconscious victim".

Mr. Shchapoff also saw a small pink hand, like a child's, spring from the floor, and play with Mrs. Shchapoff's coverlet, in bed. These things were too much; the Shchapoffs fled to a cottage, and took a new country house. They had no more disturbances. Mrs. Shchapoff died in child-bed, in 1878, "a healthy, religious, quiet, affectionate woman".

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