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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE GHOST by WILLIAM D. O'CONNOR.
"Much obliged to you, sir. Same to you and many of 'em. Good night, sir." And with Dr. Renton's "good-night" he stole up to bed, thoroughly happy, and determined to obey Miss Renton's future instructions to the letter. The shower of golden light which had been raining for the last two hours had fallen even on him. It would fall all day to-morrow in many places, and the day after, and for long years to come. Would that it could broaden and increase to a general deluge, and submerge the world!
Now the whole house was still, and its master was weary. He sat there, quietly musing, feeling the sweet and tranquil presence near him. Now the fire was screened, the lights were out, save one dim glimmer, and he had lain down on the couch with the letter in his hand, and slept the dreamless sleep of a child.
He slept until the gray dawn of Christmas day stole into the room, and showed him the figure of his friend, a shape of glorious light, standing by his side, and gazing at him with large and tender eyes! He had no fear. All was deep, serene, and happy with the happiness of heaven. Looking up into that beautiful, wan face,--so tranquil,--so radiant; watching, with a childlike awe, the star-fire in those shadowy eyes; smiling faintly, with a great, unutterable love thrilling slowly through his frame, in answer to the smile of light that shone upon the phantom countenance; so he passed a space of time which seemed a calm eternity, till, at last, the communion of spirit with spirit--of mortal love with love immortal--was perfected, and the shining hands were laid on his forehead, as with a touch of air. Then the phantom smiled, and, as its shining hands were withdrawn, the thought of his daughter mingled in the vision. She was bending over him! The dawn, the room, were the same. But the ghost of Feval had gone out from earth, away to its own land!
"Father, dear father! Your eyes were open, and they did not look at me. There is a light on your face, and your features are changed! What is it,--what have you seen?"
"Hush, darling: here--kneel by me, for a little while, and be still. I have seen the dead."
She knelt by him, burying her awe-struck face in his bosom, and clung to him with all the fervor of her soul. He clasped her to his breast, and for minutes all was still.
"Dear child, good and dear child!"
The voice was tremulous and low. She lifted her fair, bright countenance, now convulsed with a secret trouble, and dimmed with streaming tears, to his, and gazed on him. His eyes were shining; but his pallid cheeks, like hers, were wet with tears. How still the room was! How like a thought of solemn tenderness the pale gray dawn! The world was far away, and his soul still wandered in the peaceful awe of his dream. The world was coming back to him,--but oh! how changed!--in the trouble of his daughter's face.
"Darling, what is it? Why are you here? Why are you weeping? Dear child, the friend of my better days,--of the boyhood when I had noble aims, and life was beautiful before me,--he has been here! I have seen him. He has been with me--oh! for a good I cannot tell!"
"Father, dear father!"--he had risen, and sat upon the couch, but she still knelt before him, weeping, and clasped his hands in hers,--"I thought of you and of this letter, all the time. All last night till I slept, and then I dreamed you were tearing it to pieces, and trampling on it. I awoke, and lay thinking of you, and of ----. And I thought I heard you come down stairs, and I came here to find you. But you were lying here so quietly, with your eyes open, and so strange a light on your face. And I knew,--I knew you were dreaming of him, and that you saw him, for the letter lay beside you. O father! forgive me, but do hear me! In the name of this day,--it's Christmas day, father,--in the name of the time when we must both die,--in the name of that time, father, hear me! That poor woman last night,--O father! forgive me, but don't tear that letter in pieces and trample it under foot! You know what I mean--you know--you know. Don't tear it, and tread it under foot."