At last a family from the West decided to risk the terrors of this domicile. The nurse, whose story I was listening to, came with them and entered upon her duties without prejudice or any sort of belief in ghosts, general or particular. She held this belief just two weeks. Then her incredulity began to waver. In fact, she saw the light; almost saw the ghost, certainly saw the ghost’s penumbra. It was one night, or rather very early, one morning. She had been sitting up with the baby, who had been suffering from a severe attack of croup. Hot water was wanted, and she started for the kitchen for the purpose of making a fire and putting on the kettle. The gas had not been lit in the hall —they had all been too busy, and she was feeling her way down the front stairs with a box of matches in her hand, when suddenly she heard from somewhere below a sound which she could never describe, and at the same moment saw a light which spread itself through all the lower hall so that every object stood out distinctly.
She did not think of the ghost at first, her thoughts were so full of the child; but when a board creaked in the hall floor, a board that always creaked when stepped on, she remembered the reputation and what had been told her about a creaking board and a light that came and went without human agency. Frightened for a minute, she stood stock-still, then she rushed down. Whatever it was, natural or supernatural, she went to see it; but the light vanished before she passed the lower stair, and only a long-drawn sigh not far from her ear warned her that the space between her and the real hall was not the solitude she was anxious to consider it. A sigh! That meant a person. Striking a match, she looked eagerly down the hall. Something was moving between the two walls. But when she tried to determine its character, it was swallowed up in darkness,—the match had gone out. Anxious for the child and determined to go her way to the kitchen, she now felt about for the gas-fixture and succeeded in lighting up. The whole hall again burst into view but the thing was no longer there; the space was absolutely empty. And so were the other rooms, for she went into every one, lighting the gas as she went; and so was the cellar when she reached it. For she had to go to its extreme length for wood and wait about the kitchen till the water boiled, during which time she searched every nook and cranny. Oh, she was a brave woman, but she did have this thought as she went upstairs: If the child died she would know that she had seen a spirit; if the child got well, that she had been the victim of her own excitement.
And did the child die?
“No, it got well, but the family moved out as soon as it was safe to leave the house. Her employees did not feel as easy about the matter as she did.”
THE STRANGE NEIGHBORS NEXT DOOR