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Simple things, yet terrible, are the omens and appearances in this haunted county.
I trembled while I told of the ghostly and shadowy hearse which, especially in the winter nights, rolls slowly and silently—an awful thing to see-up and down the roads till it comes to the house where the death is going to happen, and how the farmer once going home from market saw the hearse stop at his own door, and knew that one of his family would die. There were six tall sons, each one strong and brave, and three daughters, each one beautiful ; and there was his wife. Which would be taken? The rest of that story is enough to convert the greatest scoffer, as well as to turn the sinner to repentance. Then there is the wauf, or figure of the person about to die seen by another person. Surely it is a most dreadful thing to have the power of seeing the wauf, for if one sees it, there arises a doubt and difficult question: should the person who is to die be told of it, or not? If he be told, he may fall into despair; and if not, then a great opportunity of seeking grace for the soul is lost. There is also the brag, which may
assume whatever shape it pleases, as a calf, or a bundle of wood, or a hare, or a rick of hay, or anything which its tricksy and mischievous imagination may choose to order, to confound and tease a poor man or woman. And then there are the actual ghosts, whose number is in our country legion—such as Jethro Burnet, the miser, who walks to lament the loss of his money-bags; the wretch who hanged himself, and hath since found no rest; the poor girl who was murdered, and the man who murdered herthe former beside the pool wherein she was cast, and the latter by the gibbet, at Amble, where he was hanged in chains ; Meg of Maldon, who walks of a night between Maldon and Hartington; the poor wretched woman who wanders on Hexham Moor at night, shrieking and crying (at Blanchland she could be heard plainly when the wind was high) because she killed her child with neglect, and now suffers—one knows not for how long—this misery. All these things were certainly intended for our admonition and warning. Again, there are the white figures which sometimes appear to fly from
under the foot of the belated traveller ; there is the strange and well-authenticated story of Nelly the Knocker; that of the Ghost of Silky; that of the fairy changing the little dwarf Hobbie ; how a lad going forth one night to walk with his sweetheart, found her changed into the Devil; with many other strange and true stories, showing what may be expected, and hath already been witnessed in the county.
They listened, as has been told. They looked fearfully about the room. No one thought that in five short years Dilston Hall itself would be left to decay, and, in ten years more, another mournful figure would be added to the troop of Northumberland ghosts.
* This,' said my lord, when I finished, 'is a fitting North-country termination of a Christmas feast ; to sit after supper and tell bugbear tales. Fair narrator ! you have so well done your part, that henceforth, I promise you, I will accept them all. I doubt no longer. If I were to meet Silky herself, I should not be surprised. If I heard Nelly the Knocker, or saw Meg of Maldon walking in the corridor, or the ghost of my greatgrandmother-m'
Nephew,' said Lady Katharine gently, do not mock; the spirits of our ancestors may be round us at this moment, with our guardian angels. Vex them not, lest when we go to join them, they meet us with angry countenance.'
*Enough of ghosts,' said Mr. Howard. • To-morrow is Christmas. It is always the time to think about the next world, and sometimes we may hear these tales, which, true or not, help to keep faith alive; and these are times, Master Frank '—he laid his hand upon the boy's shoulder—when we must rejoice in the present, feast, make other people joyful, and be glad ourselves.'
CHRISTMAS TO TWELFTH NIGHT.
Thus began the Christmas, which we kept with such royal state. It has been stated that this was a political meeting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There was not, during the whole time, one word spoken concerning politics. It is true that my lord treated Tom as a private and especial friend, and showed him a very singular kindness throughout. It is also true that no two gentlemen could be more unlike each other than these two; for, while one was well read and loved books, the other knew little save what he had been taught, and read nothing but Quincy's ' Dispensatory,' and his book on • Farriery. Also, one loved the society of ladies, and the other did not; one cared nothing for drinking, which to the other was