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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter II. Lord Brougham's Testimony.

"I think it was about the year 1856 as nearly as I can remember, that a party of young men, students of the Royal Academy, and some of them members also, used to meet in a certain room in London, so many evenings in the week, to smoke and chat. One of them--the son of a colonel in the army, long since dead--this only son kept yet a remnant, if no more, of the faith of his childhood, cherished in him by his widowed mother with jealous care, as he detailed to her from time to time fragments of the nightly discussions against the immortality of the soul.

"On one particular evening the conversation drifted into theological matters--this young Academician taking up the positive side, and asserting his belief in a hereafter of weal or woe for all _human_ life.

"Two or three of the others endeavoured to put him down, but he, maintaining his position quietly, provoked a suggestion, half in earnest and half in jest, from one of their number, that the first among them who should die, should appear to the rest of their assembly afterwards in that room at the usual hour of meeting. The suggestion was received with jests and laughter by some, and with graver faces by others--but at last each man solemnly entered into a pledge that if he were the first to die amongst them, he would, if permitted, return for a few brief seconds to this earth and appear to the rest to certify to the truth.

"Before very long one young man's place was empty. No mention being made of the vow that they had taken, probably time enough had elapsed for it to have been more or less, for the present, forgotten.

"The meetings continued. One evening when they were sitting smoking round the fire, one of the party uttered an exclamation, causing the rest to look up. Following the direction of his gaze, each man saw distinctly for himself a _shadowy_ figure, in the likeness of the only absent one of their number, distinctly facing them on the other side of the room. The eyes looked earnestly, with a yearning, sad expression in them, slowly upon each member there assembled, and then vanished as a rainbow fades out of existence from the evening sky.

"For a few seconds no one spoke, then the most confirmed unbeliever among them tried to explain it all away, but his words fell flat, and no one echoed his sentiments; and then the widow's son spoke. 'Poor ---- is dead' he said, 'and has appeared to us according to his vow.' Then followed a comparison of their sensations during the visitation, and all agreed in stating that they felt a cold chill similar to the entrance of a winter fog at door or window of a room which has been warm, and when the appearance had faded from their view the cold breath also passed away.

"I _think_, but will not be positive on _this_, the son of the widow lady died long after this event, but how long or how short a time I never heard; but the facts of the above story were told me by the sister of this young man. I also knew their mother well. She was of a gentle, placid disposition, by no means excitable or likely to credit any superstitious tales. Her son returned home on that memorable evening looking very white and subdued, and, sinking into a chair, he told her he should never doubt again the truths that she had taught him, and a little reluctantly he told her the above, bit by bit, as it were, as she drew it from him."