My brother, the clergyman, looked over my shoulder before I was aware of him, and discovered that the volume which completely absorbed my attention was a collection of famous Trials, published in a new edition and in a popular form.
He laid his finger on the Trial which I happened to be reading at the moment. I looked up at him; his face startled me. He had turned pale. His eyes were fixed on the open page of the book with an expression which puzzled and alarmed me.
'My dear fellow,' I said, 'what in the world is the matter with you?'
He answered in an odd absent manner, still keeping his finger on the open page.
'I had almost forgotten,' he said. 'And this reminds me.'
'Reminds you of what?' I asked. 'You don't mean to say you know anything about the Trial?'
'I know this,' he said. 'The prisoner was guilty.'
'Guilty?' I repeated. 'Why, the man was acquitted by the jury, with the full approval of the judge! What call you possibly mean?'
'There are circumstances connected with that Trial,' my brother answered, 'which were never communicated to the judge or the jury - which were never so much as hinted or whispered in court. I know them - of my own knowledge, by my own personal experience. They are very sad, very strange, very terrible. I have mentioned them to no mortal creature. I have done my best to forget them. You - quite innocently - have brought them back to my mind. They oppress, they distress me. I wish I had found you reading any book in your library, except that book!'
My curiosity was now strongly excited. I spoke out plainly.
'Surely,' I suggested, 'you might tell your brother what you are unwilling to mention to persons less nearly related to you. We have followed different professions, and have lived in different countries, since we were boys at school. But you know you can trust me.'
He considered a little with himself.
'Yes,' he said. 'I know I can trust you.' He waited a moment, and then he surprised me by a strange question.
'Do you believe,' he asked, 'that the spirits of the dead can return to earth, and show themselves to the living?'
I answered cautiously - adopting as my own the words of a great English writer, touching the subject of ghosts.
'You ask me a question,' I said, 'which, after five thousand years, is yet undecided. On that account alone, it is a question not to be trifled with.'
My reply seemed to satisfy him.
'Promise me,' he resumed, 'that you will keep what I tell you a secret as long as I live. After my death I care little what happens. Let the story of my strange experience be added to the published experience of those other men who have seen what I have seen, and who believe what I believe. The world will not be the worse, and may be the better, for knowing one day what I am now about to trust to your ear alone.'
My brother never again alluded to the narrative which he had confided to me, until the later time when I was sitting by his deathbed. He asked if I still remembered the story of Jromette. 'Tell it to others,' he said, 'as I have told it to you.'
I repeat it after his death - as nearly as I can in his own words.