“Bah!” said the Marquis, and walked toward the other end of the gallery.—
* * * * *
Here the narrator paused. The company waited for some time for him to resume his narrative; but he continued silent.
“Well,” said the inquisitive gentleman, “and what did your uncle say then?”
“Nothing,” replied the other.
“And what did the Marquis say farther?”
“And is that all?”
“That is all,” said the narrator, filling a glass of wine.
“I surmise,” said the shrewd old gentleman with the waggish nose—“I surmise it was the old housekeeper walking her rounds to see that all was right.”
“Bah!” said the narrator, “my uncle was too much accustomed to strange sights not to know a ghost from a housekeeper!”
There was a murmur round the table half of merriment, half of disappointment. I was inclined to think the old gentleman had really an afterpart of his story in reserve; but he sipped his wine and said nothing more; and there was an odd expression about his dilapidated countenance that left me in doubt whether he were in drollery or earnest.
“Egad,” said the knowing gentleman with the flexible nose, “this story of your uncle puts me in mind of one that used to be told of an aunt of mine, by the mother’s side; though I don’t know that it will bear a comparison; as the good lady was not quite so prone to meet with strange adventures. But at any rate, you shall have it.”
My aunt was a lady of large frame, strong mind, and great resolution; she was what might be termed a very manly woman. My uncle was a thin, puny little man, very meek and acquiescent, and no match for my aunt. It was observed that he dwindled and dwindled gradually away, from the day of his marriage. His wife’s powerful mind was too much for him; it wore him out. My aunt, however, took all possible care of him, had half the doctors in town to prescribe for him, made him take all their prescriptions, willy nilly, and dosed him with physic enough to cure a whole hospital. All was in vain. My uncle grew worse and worse the more dosing and nursing he underwent, until in the end he added another to the long list of matrimonial victims, who have been killed with kindness.
“And was it his ghost that appeared to her?” asked the inquisitive gentleman, who had questioned the former storyteller.
“You shall hear,” replied the narrator:—My aunt took on mightily for the death of her poor dear husband! Perhaps she felt some compunction at having given him so much physic, and nursed him into his grave. At any rate, she did all that a widow could do to honor his memory. She spared no expense in either the quantity or quality of her mourning weeds; she wore a miniature of him about her neck, as large as a little sun dial; and she had a full-length portrait of him always hanging in her bed chamber. All the world extolled her conduct to the skies; and it was determined, that a woman who behaved so well to the memory of one husband, deserved soon to get another.