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A NIGHT OF HORRORS.

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A NIGHT OF HORRORS. It was a most'un seasonable New Year's Eve that found me seated before a bright and cheerful fire, in the cozy drawing-room of the Hepworth's. Mr. Hepworth was a prosperous merchant in one of our Midland towns, and 1, John Collins, bache- lor, manager of the local branch uf the Producers' Balik, was to snd the niy'lit with him and watch the old year out. Our circle consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Hepworth, their only son Georgt,, and Jessie, their youngest daughter, wliiii I would gladly have persuaded to follow the example of her sisters Kate and Maggie and help a lonely bachelor to make a lioiiie. We were cozy, as I said, but we eould not forget what sort of weather it was out of doors. The gale whooping along the verandah and booming down the elkiiiiiiey, tite splashing of sleet oil the shutters, effectually reminded us that this was a winter's night. And our talk insensibly took its tone from the notes of the windy orchestra outside. It was. of course, in order to talk of ghosts, and we began with that subject. "Do you know," said Hepworth, "that they have begun to see ghosts again in that old Sol Fisher house about two miles out of town ? You remember poor Fisher was crazy for some time be. forehedied, and they said his wife kept him chained up for weeks till she got tired of caring for him, and tlien poisoned him. No one saw him for a long time before his death at any rate. After he died she left the house, and there were strange stories of lights and screams and clanking of chains being seen a.nd heard there at night. This nonsense spoiled the sale of the place, and it's vacant yet, though 310 one saw any ghosts for years till a fortnight ago. Since then several parties have told me that they liad certainly seen lights in the house at uncanny liours, and heard wild laughter and shouts, but had not investigated further. It was so far back from the road they said, and they were in a hurry! "More like tramps than ghosts," said George. 4. There have been a lot of small burglaries lately a few miles north of here—farm houses entered through the windows, and loose change, food, and' liquor stolen—nothing that could be identified ill fouiid-regiiiar tramps' work—no 'Science' about it Likely enough they sleep in the haunted liotise' all day, and liave L blow out there, when they return from business towards morning." "Have you never feared burglars here, Mr. Hepworth ?" I said. "Your house is far enough out of town to be rather lonely, and they would naturally suppose it held something w rth stealing." A natural association of ideas made me glance to- wards Jessie, as I remembered that verse of the old .Irish song:— "The cruel watcli-dog, love, is snarling; He takes me for a thief you see- For he knows I'd steal you, Mollie (larlitig- And then transported I should be! Mollie Hawn—Molly Astli are!" "Oh no," said Ilepworth, "they would know that merchants don't keep much caslf in their houses —and they probably would not know that the tea service and spoons are solid. I believe I've more money in the house to-night than I've had for years. I drew out Katie's and Maggie's dividends—about X2, 000 in all—and brought them up, so that 1 could hand them the ctsli when they drive in to-morrow, as the bank will be closed." A slow, stealthy creak on the floor of the veran- dah near the French window—a slight start by all —a movement by Ilepworth towards the window- then Mrs. Ilepworth said, with a forced smile- J-)<)Il,t open it, John. There are all kinds 0) noises abroad to-night—besides, it would blow ouf the lamp!" Jessie led off with a rush in a new direction. Did you ever see any of what the mediums call manifestations,' 1\11'. Collins. -1 Yes, J've seen and heard the usual things— 'furniture moved, shawls taking flight through the air, rappings and scratchings all over the room. • I've even witnessed a 'materialization,' felt 'spirit hands,'and had my pockets filled with something so Iieavy that I could hardly rise." "I hardly know," said she, whether it would be more grewsome to feel a spirit, or to see inanimate things moving of their own accord. I believe either would send nie into hysterics. "They would be awful enough if they happened under circumstances that did not smell so strongly of imposture. Mediums are only clever jugglers- but not to be compared with their Indian rivals These fellows put a boy in a basket, run a sword -tliivsugh it, and soak the floor with blood—then -open the basket and show it empty, while the boy appears from the hack-ground unhurt. IYIIlt WOUI(I you think If such tlllngs happened in this room without the presence of medium or juggler ? "Probably, that I was g-ng crazy, or else that miiul can really influence matler even at adis- lance." Jessie mused a moment—then, as the wind re- joiced in the discovery of some new cranny—"What a war-whoop that was! One could almost fancy the ■spirits of slaughtered Indians- „ "Come, come," said her father, "Hus is growing too dismal, give us some music. So Jessie threw her knitting 011 the piano a big ttilll" soft shawl it was, of that fleecy Shetland Wool- and drove away our mystical fancies with lively Scotch airs and a few of the old" ( hal/sons du (Unuidn:" Then the clock struck twelve—we ex- changed seasonable wishes and adjourned to the din- ingrooni, where we found a well equipped tray tor iUS men folk, and a pitcher of milk for the ladies, who wore the blue ribbon. That picture caught my eye at once, for I like "pJd pieces." It was one of those quaint German ^greyt-eard iugs "—very squat and solid—the front 'formed bv a "broad Silenus-face with flowing beard and impish expression. Jessie told me it had been rriven her bv old Count B who had come to Birmingham to make his fortune, and was now lad to take a clerkship in her father's works. He said it had a history but seemed unwilling to tell ,t" Now," said I there's the face of a medium for You you don't know when lie will be getting up some 'manifestations. And I started, forlfancieC tli;tt I!ei-r (,r(,yi,eLl.,l ,Olellliily (.-losed liis left eye tlrat word! We soozi relired, and neither thoughts of Jessi_; spirits, or burglars kept me from dreamless sleen Dreamless, but not long, for I woke suddenly With a strong impression of having heard a noise what, I could not recall. Then I became conscious of a pungent, depressing smell that seemed to con- fuse my ideas. While trying to get them in order I did hear a noise, apparently made by a chair smartly jammed against Lhe table in the dining room directly be lew me. I understood at once-burglars and chlorofor:n--tJlongh ,I had not recognised the smell when I woke. 1 lighted my lamp, and was scrarablinu- into iliy. IIloSt necessary garments, when quite an uproar broke out in the room below—plate jingling, crockery smashing, a scuffle, and a rattling of chairs! i].ul'they sat down to the liquors and come to blows over the spoil? But then there were n°n°ushed out on the landinc. to find the family .lliar- ii¡li'èrll!û.:=:. it :i.\rust-'r-S:li(í--nepworït¡¡-r- I money's nowhere in my rooiii must have chloro- formed me. Come on, we're tr.o many for them. Jessie, stay with your mother!" "'Oh, we'd die, papa; do let us come with you! "Go in there and lock the door. Come, boys, leave your lamps we only want this one." ho down we went, Ilepworth in advance, revolver in one hand and lamp in the other. As we descended there was a crash of glass and the fall of a hard body as if a stone had been thrown through the window. The dining-100111, as the source of the noise, was ptir first ctre. Entering cautiously we found the chairs in disorder, eatables scattered, decanters up set, a broken pane in the 1'rench window, but no trace of the missile we had heard falling 1 Tliera was silence while George and I armed ourselves with the weapons of the fireside. Tllen our luLir bristled for we heard in the library, which opened off this room, a scuftie, a blow, a thud, and a faint moan! While we stood petritied there came from the hall a sound as if something was being dragged towards the drawing room door. jj We rushed into the library—nothing wrong ap- parently-no one visible. I stepped forward, and recoiled in horror, for I had wet my stockinged foot in a dark red pool that lay beside Hepworth's library chair! There was some liquor left in the decanters and we "fortified" before attacking the drawing-room where we knew the enemy to be hidden. That blood and the "dragging" sound that nearly done for 11s. Meanwhile the enemy were silent But aswej entered the hall, a wild horrid discord rang out from tlie piano, followed by a scuffle and a rap or twoJ We I)-ttised-tlieii, shoving each other along, we' landed all together in the drawing room-and all [covered witli .,g,,ose-skiii." j But the drawing room, all clearly visible, was empty and undisturbed. I'lie curtains JIUIll fl,Lt.-I no one hidden then. The piano stood open as it! was left with Jessie's sliawl in t lieap oil the corner I but no fleshly performer was there. This began to seem worse than burglars. We sidled towards the piano—Ilepworth raised his lamp—and then an aw ful piano—Ilepworth raised his lamp—and then an aw ful thing happened. The shawl was lifted bodily by some invisible force, and hurled straight at the* lamp ex- tinguishing it with a crash of the chimney—and then falling on the floor with the same blow, thud, and ( moan we had heard in the library and which certainly came from no material source! > Hepworth fired instinctively and we retreated with uncontrollable cries of horror—for now we' knew that we had been face to face with no mortal visitant The scuffling and knocking were ie«) peated for a second or two, but nothing followed us.) The first necessity was to hurriedly "fortify" again-tlie second, to re-assure the hysterical women upstairs who naturally thought there had been serious casualities. We brought them down to tho dining 100111 now that the burglar theory was exploded—and told them our blood-curdling experi. ences. After that, even our blue ribbonites did not refuse a little spiritual comfort. And it was then that we first noticed something ominous. "Herri (h-eybeard" was gone! He had not been knocked, off the table or upset—for neither lie, nor any spilt milk, lay on the floor-lie had simply vanished! Ai chill ran through me as I thought of his mysterious history and his fancied leer. What mediaeval spell lay upon him? Of what malignant personality was he the instrument? We men soon decided that, under the asgisof our, womenkind, we could even face the drawing roont again. We did, with all the lamps we could carry, I and found it exactly in statu quo with one awful exception. The shawl had disappeared. <| We shrank back an instant, and then resolved that we would find that shawl if we had to move every piece of furniture in the room. Soon there was a good imitation of an auction room in the middle of the floor-but no shawl. Come boys," said Hepworth, "there's nothing left but that corner ottoman. If it's not there, it's gone to slieol. (Hep- worth's whiskey was seven years old.) Out came the ottoman—and there lay the slittwl! Hesitatingly he stopped-pulled at a corner of it—and sprang bllck- My God—it's as heavy as lead! A shuddering pause, and then—" Well we'll have it out anyhow:" A jerk—a thump—a rumble—and out it came. And out of it rolled, Herr Greybeard —with the same leer on his face that I had fancied before! And then there burst from all our throats an un-I controllable shriek—for lIerr Greybeard was not alow—hebroia/ht with him a body! But it was a shriek of wil(I latigliter for the "body" was the body of a cat! Poor pussy had "t her head jammed in his narrow neck while try. ing to get a drink, and was now, after so many fear. ful antics, stone dead, drowned in the milk she had tried to steal! We need not explain the "manifestations in detail. Anyone who knows the ways of a cat with her heatl stnck fast in a pitcher that wont break, can fill in the particulars. If she hadn't jumped on the piano and got tangled ill that shawl, she might have lived to explain it all herself. litit tiio I)ool of bloo(l? Well, I thought of that myself, and hurried into the library, where I s IIbbed my toe against the heavy bottle that used to hold the purple copying ink. As for the pungent, depressing smell," we found that the back damper of the hall stove has been closed to> tightly, so it was only coal gas after all. And the stolen money? Why of course that was in Hepworth's pocket-book, in the breast-pocket of his overcoat. And his overcoat was where it should be—on the clothes rack in the hall. As we had a g'.ied about the N.P. all the way home the night lie fore, it was 110 wonder he IULlI forgotten to take the cash up-stairs. We breakfasted rather late on New Year's Day, and felt rather seedy. And we had plenty of things to talk over among ourselves and with the married daughters, though neither Mrs. Katie nor Mrs. Maggie, nor their husbands, had any similar tale of ghostly visitations to relate. JSO Jessie and I agreed that we would not dare to face another New Year's Eve without that protec- tion against the "powers of the air" which matri- iiioiiy evideiitly afforded.

SEASON FOR WAITING.

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HORRIBLE DISCOVERY.

A SNAKE IN IA COWS EAR.

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A MW YEAR'S ERROR.

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LITER All Y EXTRACTS. .I

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TIT - B I T S,

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