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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


"On entering the dining-room my hostess very kindly inquired after my health, naturally surmising that I had omitted Mass from illness, or at least want of rest and consequent indisposition. I merely answered that I had not slept well, and that there was something weighing heavily upon my mind which obliged me to return at once to Woolwich. After the usual regrets and leave-takings, I started by the mid-day boat for England. As the first date mentioned by my visitors gave me time, I travelled by easy stages, and spent more than two days on the road, although I could not remain in Dublin after I had received what appeared to me then, and appears to me still, as a solemn warning.

"On my arrival at Woolwich, as may be easily imagined, my brother clergy were very puzzled at my sudden and unlooked-for return, and concluded that I had lost my reckoning, thinking that I had to resume my duties a week earlier than I was expected to do. The other assistant priest was waiting for my return to start on his vacation--and he did so the very evening of my return. Scarcely, however, had he left the town when the first of my visitors sent in a request for me to go at once to attend him. You may, perhaps, imagine my feelings at that moment. I am sure you cannot realise them as I do even now after the lapse of so many years. Well, I lost no time. I had, in truth, been prepared, except hat and umbrella, from the first hour after my return. I went to consult the books in which all the sick-calls were entered and to speak to our aged, respected sacristan who kept them. He remarked at once, 'You do not know this man, father; his children come to our school, but he is, or has always been, considered as a Protestant.' Expressing my surprise, less at the fact than at his statement, I hurried to the bedside of the sufferer. After the first few words of introduction were over he said, 'I sent for you, father, on Friday morning early and they told me that you were away from home, but that you were expected back in a few days, and I said I would wait.' I found the sick man had been stricken down by inflammation of the lungs, and that the doctor gave no hope of his recovery, yet that he would probably linger some days. I applied myself very earnestly indeed to prepare the poor man for death. Again the next day, and every day until he departed this life, did I visit him and spent not minutes but hours by his bedside.

"A few days after the first summons came the second. The man had previously been a stranger to me, but I recognised him by his name and appearance. As I sat by his bedside he told me, as the former had already done, that he had sent for me, had been told that I was absent, and had declared that he would wait for me. Thus far their cases were alike. In each case there was a great wrong to be undone, a conscience to be set right that had erred and erred deeply--and not merely that, it is probable, from the circumstances of their lives, that it was necessary that their spiritual adviser should have been solemnly warned. They made their peace with God, and I have seldom assisted at a deathbed and felt greater consolation than I did in each and both of these. Even now, after the lapse of many years, I cannot help feeling that I received a very solemn warning in Dublin, and am not far wrong in calling it, the Shadow of Death.--T. O. Fleming."