'What is he?--in any business?'
'No, sir--nothing particular; a single gentleman.'
I gave the pot-boy the gratuity earned by his liberal information, and proceeded to Mr. J----, in G---- Street,
which was close by the street that boasted the haunted house. I was lucky enough to find Mr. J---- at home--an
elderly man, with intelligent countenance and prepossessing manners.
I communicated my name and my business frankly. I said I heard the house was considered to be
haunted--that I had a strong desire to examine a house with so equivocal a reputation--that I should be greatly
obliged if he would allow me to hire it, though only for a night. I was willing to pay for that privilege
whatever he might be inclined to ask. 'Sir,' said Mr. J----, with great courtesy, 'the house is at your service,
for as short or as long a time as you please. Rent is out of the question--the obligation will be on my side
should you be able to discover the cause of the strange phenomena which at present deprive it of all value. I
cannot let it, for I cannot even get a servant to keep it in order or answer the door. Unluckily the house is
haunted, if I may use that expression, not only by night, but by day; though at night the disturbances are of a
more unpleasant and sometimes of a more alarming character. The poor old woman who died in it three weeks
ago was a pauper whom I took out of a workhouse, for in her childhood she had been known to some of my
family, and had once been in such good circumstances that she had rented that house of my uncle. She was a
woman of superior education and strong mind, and was the only person I could ever induce to remain in the
house. Indeed, since her death, which was sudden, and the coroner's inquest, which gave it a notoriety in the
neighborhood, I have so despaired of finding any person to take charge of the house, much more a tenant, that
I would willingly let it rent-free for a year to any one who would pay its rates and taxes.'
'How long is it since the house acquired this sinister character?'
'That I can scarcely tell you, but very many years since. The old woman I spoke of said it was haunted when
she rented it between thirty and forty years ago. The fact is, that my life has been spent in the East Indies, and
in the civil service of the Company. I returned to England last year, on inheriting the fortune of an uncle,
among whose possessions was the house in question. I found it shut up and uninhabited. I was told that it was
haunted, that no one would inhabit it. I smiled at what seemed to me so idle a story. I spent some money in
repairing it--added to its old-fashioned furniture a few modern articles--advertised it, and obtained a lodger for
a year. He was a colonel retired on half-pay. He came in with his family, a son and a daughter, and four or
five servants: they all left the house the next day; and, although each of them declared that he had seen
something different from that which had scared the others, a something still was equally terrible to all. I really
could not in conscience sue, nor even blame, the colonel for breach of agreement. Then I put in the old
woman I have spoken of, and she was empowered to let the house in apartments. I never had one lodger who
stayed more than three days. I do not tell you their stories--to no two lodgers have there been exactly the same
phenomena repeated. It is better that you should judge for yourself, than enter the house with an imagination
influenced by previous narratives; only be prepared to see and to hear something or other, and take whatever
precautions you yourself please.'
'Have you never had a curiosity yourself to pass a night in that house?'
'Yes. I passed not a night, but three hours in broad daylight alone in that house. My curiosity is not satisfied
but it is quenched. I have no desire to renew the experiment. You cannot complain, you see, sir, that I am not sufficiently candid; and unless your interest be exceedingly eager and your nerves unusually strong, I honestly
add, that I advise you not to pass a night in that house.'
'My interest is exceedingly keen,' said I, 'and though only a coward will boast of his nerves in situations
wholly unfamiliar to him, yet my nerves have been seasoned in such variety of danger that I have the right to
rely on them--even in a haunted house.'
Mr. J---- said very little more; he took the keys of the house out of his bureau, gave them to me--and, thanking
him cordially for his frankness, and his urbane concession to my wish, I carried off my prize.
Impatient for the experiment, as soon as I reached home, I summoned my confidential servant--a young man
of gay spirits, fearless temper, and as free from superstitious prejudices as any one I could think of.
'F----,' said I, 'you remember in Germany how disappointed we were at not finding a ghost in that old castle,
which was said to be haunted by a headless apparition? Well, I have heard of a house in London which, I have
reason to hope, is decidedly haunted. I mean to sleep there to-night. From what I hear, there is no doubt that
something will allow itself to be seen or to be heard--something, perhaps, excessively horrible. Do you think
if I take you with me, I may rely on your presence of mind, whatever may happen?'
'Oh, sir! pray trust me,' answered F----, grinning with delight.
'Very well; then here are the keys of the house--this is the address. Go now--select for me any bedroom you
please; and since the house has not been inhabited for weeks, make up a good fire--air the bed well--see, of
course, that there are candles as well as fuel. Take with you my revolver and my dagger--so much for my
weapons--arm yourself equally well; and if we are not a match for a dozen ghosts, we shall be but a sorry
couple of Englishmen.'
I was engaged for the rest of the day on business so urgent that I had not leisure to think much on the
nocturnal adventure to which I had plighted my honor. I dined alone, and very late, and while dining, read, as
is my habit. I selected one of the volumes of Macaulay's Essays. I thought to myself that I would take the
book with me; there was so much of the healthfulness in the style, and practical life in the subjects, that it
would serve as an antidote against the influence of superstitious fancy.