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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE GHOST by WILLIAM D. O'CONNOR.
"It is very wild. His mind was in a fever-craze. Here is a passage that seems to refer to his own experience of life:--
"'_Your friendship was dear to me. I give you true love. Stocks and returns. You are rich, but I did not wish to be your bounty's pauper. Could I beg? I had my work to do for the world, but oh! the world has no place for souls that can only love and suffer. How many miles to Babylon? Threescore and ten. Not so far--not near so far! Ask starvelings--they know.
* * * * *
I wanted to do the world good, and the world has killed me, Charles._'"
* * * * *
"It frightens me," said Nathalie, as he paused.
"We will read no more," he replied sombrely. "It belongs to the psychology of madness. To me, who knew him, there are gleams of sense in it, and passages where the delirium of the language is only a transparent veil on the meaning. All the remainder is devoted to what he thought important advice to me. But it's all wild and vague. Poor--poor George!"
The phantom still hid its face in its hands, as the doctor slowly turned over the pages of the letter. Nathalie, bending over the leaves, laid her finger on the last, and asked, "What are those closing sentences, father? Read them."
"Oh! that is what he called his 'last counsel' to me. It's as wild as the rest,--tinctured with the prevailing ideas of his career. First he says, '_Farewell--farewell_'; then he bids me take his '_counsel into memory on Christmas day_'; then after enumerating all the wretched classes he can think of in the country, he says: '_These are your sisters and your brothers,--love them all._' Here he says, '_O friend, strong in wealth for so much good, take my last counsel. In the name of the Saviour, I charge you be true and tender to mankind._' He goes on to bid me '_live and labor for the fallen, the neglected, the suffering, and the poor_'; and finally ends by advising me to help upset any, or all, institutions, laws, and so forth, that bear hardly on the fag-ends of society; and tells me that what he calls 'a service to humanity' is worth more to the doer than a service to anything else, or than anything we can gain from the world. Ah, well! poor George."
"But isn't all that true, father?" said Netty; "it seems so."
"H'm," he murmured through his closed lips. Then with a vague smile, folding up the letter, meanwhile, he said, "Wild words, Netty, wild words. I've no objection to charity, judiciously given; but poor George's notions are not mine. Every man for himself, is a good general rule. Every man for humanity, as George has it, and in his acceptation of the principle, would send us all to the almshouse pretty soon. The greatest good of the greatest number,--that's my rule of action. There are plenty of good institutions for the distressed, and I'm willing to help support 'em, and do. But as for making a martyr of one's self, or tilting against the necessary evils of society, or turning philanthropist at large, or any quixotism of that sort, I don't believe in it. We didn't make the world, and we can't mend it. Poor George. Well--he's at rest. The world wasn't the place for him."