“‘When you got up,’ he said, ’I felt a cold hand on my back. I thought it was you who wanted to waken me and take me to see my brother, so I pretended to be asleep and lay quiet, supposing that you would go alone when you found me so sound asleep. But when I did not feel you get up, and the cold hand grew to be more than I could bear, I hit out to push your hand away, and felt your place empty—but warm. Then I remembered the follet, and ran upstairs as hard as I could put my feet to the ground: never was I in such a fright!’
“The sick lad died on the following night.”
Here Carden the elder stopped, and Jerome, his son, philosophised on the subject.
Miss Dendy, on the authority of Mr. Elijah Cope, an itinerant preacher, gives this anecdote of similar familiarity with a follet in Staffordshire.
* * * * *
“Fairies! I went into a farmhouse to stay a night, and in the evening there came a knocking in the room as if some one had struck the table. I jumped up. My hostess got up and ‘Good-night,’ says she, ‘I’m off’. ‘But what was it?’ says I. ‘Just a poor old fairy,’ says she; ’Old Nancy. She’s a poor old thing; been here ever so long; lost her husband and her children; it’s bad to be left like that, all alone. I leave a bit o’ cake on the table for her, and sometimes she fetches it, and sometimes she don’t.”
[Some years ago I published in a volume of tales called The Wrong Paradise, a paper styled “My Friend the Beach-comber”. This contained genuine adventures of a kinsman, my oldest and most intimate friend, who has passed much of his life in the Pacific, mainly in a foreign colony, and in the wild New Hebrides. My friend is a man of education, an artist, and a student of anthropology and ethnology. Engaged on a work of scientific research, he has not committed any of his innumerable adventures, warlike or wandering, to print. The following “yarn” he sent to me lately, in a letter on some points of native customs. Of course the description of the Beach-comber, in the book referred to, is purely fictitious. The yarn of “The Thumbless Hand” is here cast in a dialogue, but the whole of the strange experience described is given in the words of the narrator. It should be added that, though my friend was present at some amateur seances, in a remote isle of the sea, he is not a spiritualist, never was one, and has no theory to account for what occurred, and no belief in “spooks” of any description. His faith is plighted to the theories of Mr. Darwin, and that is his only superstition. The name of the principal character in the yarn is, of course, fictitious. The real name is an old but not a noble one in England.]
“Have the natives the custom of walking through fire?” said my friend the Beach-comber, in answer to a question of mine. “Not that I know of. In fact the soles of their feet are so thick-skinned that they would think nothing of it.”