Whether this be a tale of delusion and superstition, or something more than that, it is, at all events, not without a legend for its foundation. There is some obscure and dark rumour of secrets strangely obtained and enviously betrayed by a rival sister, ending in deprivation of reason and death; and that the betrayer still walks by times in the deserted Hall which she rendered tenantless, always prophetic of disaster to those she encounters. So has it been with me, certainly; and more than me, if those who say it say true. It is many, many years since I saw the scene of this adventure; but I have heard that since that time the same mysterious visitings have more than once been renewed; that midnight curtains have been drawn by an arm clothed in rustling silks; and the same form, clad in dark brocade, has been seen gliding along the dark corridors of that ancient, grey, and time-worn mansion, ever prophetic of death or misfortune.
THE GOODWOOD GHOST STORY
(Doubtfully attributed to CHARLES DICKENS)
My wife’s sister, Mrs M——, was left a widow at the age of thirty-five, with two children, girls, of whom she was passionately fond. She carried on the draper’s business at Bognor, established by her husband. Being still a very handsome woman, there were several suitors for her hand. The only favoured one amongst them was a Mr Barton. My wife never liked this Mr Barton, and made no secret of her feelings to her sister, whom she frequently told that Mr Barton only wanted to be master of the little haberdashery shop in Bognor. He was a man in poor circumstances, and had no other motive in his proposal of marriage, so my wife thought, than to better himself.
On the 23rd of August 1831 Mrs M—— arranged to go with Barton to a picnic party at Goodwood Park, the seat of the Duke of Richmond, who had kindly thrown open his grounds to the public for the day. My wife, a little annoyed at her going out with this man, told her she had much better remain at home to look after her children and attend to the business. Mrs M——, however, bent on going, made arrangements about leaving the shop, and got my wife to promise to see to her little girls while she was away.
The party set out in a four-wheeled phaeton, with a pair of ponies driven by Mrs M——, and a gig for which I lent the horse.
Now we did not expect them to come back till nine or ten o’clock, at any rate. I mention this particularly to show that there could be no expectation of their earlier return in the mind of my wife, to account for what follows.