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REAL GHOST STORIES (Collected and Edited by William T. Stead) online

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


Midsummer had hardly passed before Mr. Thompson came down to Darlington and offered me the assistant editorship. The proprietor of the _Northern Echo_ kindly waived his right to my services in deference to the request of Mr. Morley. As a result I left the _Northern Echo_ in September, 1880, and my presentiment was fulfilled. At the time when it was first impressed upon my mind, no living being probably anticipated the possibility of such a change occurring in the _Pall Mall Gazette_ as would render it possible for me to become assistant editor, so that the presentiment could in no way have been due to any possible calculation of chances on my part.

_The Editorship of the "Pall Mall Gazette."_

The second presentiment to which I shall refer was also connected with the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and was equally clear and without any suggestion from outward circumstances. It was in October, 1883. My wife and I were spending a brief holiday in the Isle of Wight, and I remember that the great troopers, which had just brought back Lord Wolseley's army from the first Egyptian campaign, were lying in the Solent when we crossed. One morning about noon we were walking in the drizzling rain round St. Catherine's Point. It was a miserable day, the ground slippery and the footpath here and there rather difficult to follow. Just as we were at about the ugliest part of our climb I felt distinctly, as it were, a voice within myself saying: You will have to look sharp and make ready, because by a certain date (which as near as I can recollect was the 16th of March next year) you will have sole charge of the _Pall Mall Gazette_.

I was just a little startled and rather awed because, as Mr. Morley was then in full command and there was no expectation on his part of abandoning his post, the inference which I immediately drew was that he was going to die. So firmly was this impressed upon my mind that for two hours I did not like to speak about it to my wife. We took shelter for a time from the rain, but afterwards, on going home, I spoke on the subject which filled me with sadness, not without reluctance, and said to my wife, "Something has happened to me which has made a great impression upon my mind. When we were beside St. Catherine's Lighthouse I got into my head that Mr. Morley was going to die." "Nonsense," she said, "what made you think that?" "Only this," said I, "that I received an intimation as clear and unmistakable as that which I had when I was going to leave Darlington, that I had to look sharp and prepare for taking the sole charge of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ on March 16th next. That is all, and I do not see how that is likely to happen unless Mr. Morley is going to die." "Nonsense," said my wife, "he is not going to die; he is going to get into Parliament, that is what is going to happen." "Well," said I, "that may be. Whether he dies or whether he gets into Parliament, the one thing certain to me is that I shall have sole charge of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ next year, and I am so convinced of that that when we return to London I shall make all my plans on the basis of that certainty." And so I did. I do not hedge and hesitate at burning my boats.

As soon as I arrived at the _Pall Mall Gazette_ office, I announced to Mr. Thompson, to Mr. Morley, and to Mr. Milner,[7] who was then on the staff, that Mr. Morley was going to be in Parliament before March next year, for I need hardly say that I never mentioned my first sinister intimation. I told Mr. Morley and the others exactly what had happened, namely, that I had received notice to be ready to take sole charge of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ by March 16th next. They shrugged their shoulders, and Mr. Morley scouted the idea. He said he had almost given up the idea of entering Parliament, all preceding negotiations had fallen through, and he had come to the conclusion that he would stick to the _Pall Mall Gazette_. I said that he might come to what conclusion he liked, the fact remained that he was going to go.