I stopped an instant, in great surprise, and listened for footsteps, but no sound accompanied the motion. It did not walk, but glided, and must have risen out of the ground, for only a moment before there was nothing visible. I clasped my hands in mute wonder, but my ghost was getting away, and to make its acquaintance I must hurry. Crossing the street I ran after and gained on it. It passed into the shadow of the engine house, on across Sixth street, into the moonlight, then into the shadow, before I overtook it, when lo! it was a mortal woman, barefoot, in a dress which was probably a faded print. Most prints faded then, and this was white, long and scant, making a very ghostly robe, while on her head she carried a bundle tied up in a sheet. She had, of course, come out of Virgin alley, where many laundresses lived, and had just passed out of the shadow when I saw her. We exchanged salutations, and I went home to lie and brood over the unreliable nature of ghosts.
I was trying to get into a proper frame of mind for saying my prayers, but I doubt if they were said that night, as we were soon aroused by the cries of fire. Henry Clay was being burned, in effigy, on the corner of Sixth and Wood streets, to show somebody’s disapproval of his course in the election of John Quincy Adams. The Democratic editor, McFarland, was tried and found guilty of the offense, and took revenge in ridiculing his opponents. Charles Glenn, a fussy old gentleman, member of our church, was an important witness for the prosecution, and in the long, rhyming account published by the defendant, he was thus remembered:
“Then in came Glenn, that man of peace,
And swore to facts as sleek as grease;
By all his Uncle Aleck’s geese,
McFarland burnt the tar-barrel.”
It was before this time that Lafayette revisited Pittsburg, and people went wild to do him honor. The schools paraded for his inspection, and ours was ranged along the pavement in front of the First Presbyterian church, the boys next the curb, the girls next the fence, all in holiday attire, and wearing blue badges. The distinguished visitor passed up between them, leaning on the arm of another gentleman, bowing and smiling as he went. When he came to where I stood, he stepped aside, laid his hand on my head, turned up my face and spoke to me.
I was too happy to know what he said, and in all the years since that day, that hand has lain on my brow as a consecration.
FATHER’S DEATH.—AGE, 6-12.