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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XXXIV THE MARQUIS DE RAMBOUILLET
"The Phantom World"
The Marquis de Rambouillet, eldest brother of the Duchess of Montauzier, and the Marquis de Precy, eldest son of the family of Nantouillet, both of them between twenty and thirty, were intimate friends, and went to the wars, as in France do all men of quality. As they were conversing one day together on the subject of the other world, they promised each other that the first who died should come and bring the news to his companion. At the end of three months the Marquis de Rambouillet set off for Flanders, where the war was then being carried on; and de Precy, detained by a high fever, remained at Paris. Six weeks afterwards de Precy, at six in the morning, heard the curtains of his bed drawn, and turning to see who it was, he perceived the Marquis de Rambouillet in his buff vest and boots; he sprung out of bed to embrace him to show his joy at his return, but Rambouillet, retreating a few steps, told him that these caresses were no longer seasonable, for he only came to keep his word with him; that he had been killed the day before on such an occasion; that all that was said of the other world was certainly true; that he must think of leading a different life; and that he had no time to lose, as he would be killed the first action he was engaged in.
It is impossible to express the surprise of the Marquis de Precy at this discourse; as he could not believe what he heard, he made several efforts to embrace his friend, whom he thought desirous of deceiving him, but he embraced only air; and Rambouillet, seeing that he was incredulous, showed the wound he had received, which was in the side, whence the blood still appeared to flow. After that the phantom disappeared, and left de Precy in a state of alarm more easy to comprehend than describe; he called at the same time his _valet de chambre_, and awakened all the family with his cries. Several persons ran to his room, and he related to them what he had just seen. Everyone attributed this vision to the violence of the fever, which might have deranged his imagination; they begged of him to go to bed again, assuring him that he must have dreamt what he told them.
The Marquis, in despair, on seeing that they took him for a visionary, related all the circumstances I have just recounted; but it was in vain for him to protest that he had seen and heard his friend, being wideawake; they persisted in the same idea until the arrival of the post from Flanders, which brought the news of the death of the Marquis de Rambouillet.
This first circumstance being found true, and in the same manner as de Precy had said, those to whom he had related the adventure began to think that there might be something in it, because Rambouillet having been killed precisely on the eve of the day he had said it, it was impossible de Precy should have known of it in a natural way. This event having spread in Paris, they thought it was the effect of a disturbed imagination, or a made-up story; and whatever might be said by the persons who examined the thing seriously, there remained in people's minds a suspicion, which time alone could disperse: this depended upon what might happen to Marquis de Precy, who was threatened that he should be slain in the first engagement; thus everyone regarded his fate as the _dénouement_ of the piece; but he soon confirmed everything they had doubted the truth of, for as soon as he recovered from his illness he would go to the combat of St Antoine, although his father and mother, who were afraid of the prophecy, said all they could to prevent him; he was killed there, to the great regret of all his family.