My grandfather related the marvellous scene he had witnessed, and the prostrate clothes-press, and the broken handles, bore testimony to the fact. There was no contesting such evidence; particularly with a lad of my grandfather’s complexion, who seemed able to make good every word either with sword or shillelah. So the landlord scratched his head and looked silly, as he was apt to do when puzzled. The landlady scratched—no, she did not scratch her head,—but she knit her brow, and did not seem half pleased with the explanation. But the landlady’s daughter corroborated it by recollecting that the last person who had dwelt in that chamber was a famous juggler who had died of St. Vitus’s dance, and no doubt had infected all the furniture.
This set all things to rights, particularly when the chambermaids declared that they had all witnessed strange carryings on in that room;—and as they declared this “upon their honors,” there could not remain a doubt upon the subject.
“And did your grandfather go to bed again in that room?” said the inquisitive gentleman.
“That’s more than I can tell. Where he passed the rest of the night was a secret he never disclosed. In fact, though he had seen much service, he was but indifferently acquainted with geography, and apt to make blunders in his travels about inns at night, that it would have puzzled him sadly to account for in the morning.”
“Was he ever apt to walk in his sleep?” said the knowing old gentleman.
“Never that I heard of.”
As one story of the kind produces another, and as all the company seemed fully engrossed by the topic, and disposed to bring their relatives and ancestors upon the scene, there is no knowing how many more ghost adventures we might have heard, had not a corpulent old fox-hunter, who had slept soundly through the whole, now suddenly awakened, with a loud and long-drawn yawn. The sound broke the charm; the ghosts took to flight as though it had been cock-crowing, and there was a universal move for bed.
“And now for the haunted chamber,” said the Irish captain, taking his candle.
“Aye, who’s to be the hero of the night?” said the gentleman with the ruined head.
“That we shall see in the morning,” said the old gentleman with the nose: “whoever looks pale and grizzly will have seen the ghost.”
“Well, gentlemen,” said the Baronet, “there’s many a true thing said in jest. In fact, one of you will sleep in a room to-night—”
“What—a haunted room? a haunted room? I claim the adventure—and I—and I—and I,” cried a dozen guests, talking and laughing at the same time.
“No—no,” said mine host, “there is a secret about one of my rooms on which I feel disposed to try an experiment. So, gentlemen, none of you shall know who has the haunted chamber, until circumstances reveal it. I will not even know it myself, but will leave it to chance and the allotment of the housekeeper. At the same time, if it will be any satisfaction to you, I will observe, for the honor of my paternal mansion, that there’s scarcely a chamber in it but is well worthy of being haunted.”