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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XXXIII THE STRANGE CASE OF M. BEZUEL
From CHRISTMAS' "Phantom World"
"In 1695," said M. Bezuel, "being a schoolboy of about fifteen years of age, I became acquainted with the two children of M. Abaquene, attorney, schoolboys like myself. The eldest was of my own age, the second was eighteen months younger; he was named Desfontaines; we took all our walks and all our parties of pleasure together, and whether it was that Desfontaines had more affection for me, or that he was more gay, obliging, and clever than his brother, I loved him the best.
"In 1696, we were walking both of us in the cloister of the Capuchins. He told me that he had lately read a story of two friends who had promised each other that the first of them who died should come and bring news of his condition to the one still living; that the one who died came back to earth, and told his friend surprising things. Upon that, Desfontaines told me that he had a favour to ask me; that he begged me to grant it instantly; it was to make him a similar promise, and on his part he would do the same. I told him that I would not. For several months he talked to me of it, often and seriously; I always resisted his wish. At last, towards the month of August 1696, as he was to leave to go and study at Caen, he pressed me so much with tears in his eyes, that I consented to it. He drew out at that moment two little papers which he had ready written; one was signed with his blood, in which he promised me that in case of his death he would come and bring me news of his condition; in the other, I promised him the same thing. I pricked my finger; a drop of blood came with which I signed my name. He was delighted to have my billet, and embracing me, thanked me a thousand times.
"Some time after, he set off with his tutor. Our separation caused us much grief, but we wrote to each other now and then, and it was but six weeks since I had had a letter from him, when what I am going to relate to you happened to me.
"The 31st of July, 1697, one Thursday,--I shall remember it all my life,--the late M. Sorteville, with whom I lodged, and who had been very kind to me, begged of me to go to a meadow near the Cordeliers, and help his people, who were making hay, and to make haste. I had not been there a quarter of an hour, when, about half-past two, I all of a sudden felt giddy and weak. In vain I lent upon my hay-fork; I was obliged to place myself on a little hay, where I was nearly half an hour recovering my senses. That passed off; but as nothing of the kind had ever occurred to me before, I was surprised at it, and I feared it might be the commencement of an illness. Nevertheless, it did not make much impression upon me during the remainder of the day. It is true, I did not sleep that night so well as usual.
"The next day, at the same hour, as I was conducting to the meadow M. de St Simon, the grandson of M. de Sorteville, who was then ten years old, I felt myself seized on the way with a similar faintness, and I sat down on a stone in the shade. That passed off, and we continued our way; nothing more happened to me that day, and at night I had hardly any sleep.