The Gloaming Ghosts by George Barr McCutcheon

PART I

Gloaming had been the home of the Gloames for two centuries at least. Late in the seventeenth century one of the forebears acquired the picturesque acres in Virginia and they have not been without a Gloame as master since that time. At the time when the incidents to be related in this story transpired, Colonel Cassady Gloame was the owner of the famous old estate and he was lord of the countryside. The power of the ancient Gloames was not confined to the rural parts of that vast district in southern Virginia; it was dominant in the county seats for miles around. But that is neither here nor there. The reader knows the traditional influence of every old Virginia family. It is like the royal household of an eastern monarchy. It leads, dominates, and sets the pace for all its little universe. No one cares to learn that the Gloames were the first family of them all; it does not matter especially that old Sir Henry settled there nearly a hundred years before the Revolution; it is simple history that some of the Gloames who followed after him fought like tigers for the country in one war and just as hard against it in another. Let it be understood that Gloaming was two centuries old and that there was no fairer, prouder name in all Virginia than that which had been handed down to Colonel Cassady Gloame, the last of the race.

The rambling old house that faced the river was known from one end of the state to the other, not only for its age, but for its hospitality. The Gloames, whether wild or sedate, had always been famous for the warmth of their hearts. The blood was blue and the hearts were true, is what the world said of the Gloames. The years had made but little change in the seat of the Gloames. The mansion, except for the repairs that time demanded, was virtually the same as in the days of old Sir Henry. Nine generations of Gloames had begun life in the picturesque old house and it had been the pride of each. It had borne good Americans and blue Virginians. The architecture, like its children, seemed perennial. Time made few inroads upon the character of its lines. Its furnishings and its treasures were almost as antique. Decrepit age alone was responsible for the retirement of historic bits of furniture. The plate was as old as the hills, the service as venerable. Gloaming looked to be the great-great-grand-parent of every other habitation in the valley.

Colonel Cassady Gloame was the last of the long and illustrious race. He was going to the grave childless; the name would end with him. True, he would doubtless leave a widow, but what is a widow when one figures on the perpetuation of a name? The Colonel was far past sixty, his wife barely twenty-five. He loved her devotedly and it is only just to say that she esteemed him more highly than any other man in all the world. But there would be no children.

Mrs. Gloame, beautiful, cultured, gay as a butterfly, was the daughter of Judge Garrison of New York. She had been married for five years and she was not yet tired of the yoke. Her youth was cheerfully, loyally given over to the task of making age a joy instead of a burden to this gallant old Virginian. She was a veritable queen in this little Virginia kingdom. Though she was from the North, they loved her in the South; they loved her for the same reason that inspired old Colonel Gloame to give his heart and honour to her keeping—because they could not help it.

The Christmas holidays were always a season of great merriment at Gloaming. There never had been a Christmas Eve without festivities in the good old home of the Gloames. Sometimes, in the long array of years, there may have been sorrow and grief and trouble in the hearts of the inmates, but all such was dissipated when the Christmas bells began to ring. Even that terrible tragedy in the winter of 1769 lifted its shadow long enough to permit the usual happiness to shine through all the last week of the dying year.

There was always a genial house party in holiday times, and Gloaming rang free with the pleasures of the light-hearted. The Colonel himself was the merriest of the merry-makers, second only in enthusiasm to the sunny young wife from the North. The night of December 24, 1897, found the old mansion crowded with guests, most of whom were spending the week with the Gloames. There had been dancing and music and games, and eleven o'clock brought fatigue for even the liveliest of the guests. It was then that pretty Louise Kelly, of the Major Kellys of Richmond, peremptorily commanded the Colonel to tell the oft-told tale of the Gloaming Ghosts.

"Come to order," she cried to the guests in the double parlours.
"Colonel Gloame is going to tell us about those dear old ghosts."

"Now, my dear Louise, I've told that story times without number to every soul in this house," remonstrated the Colonel. "You, to my certain knowledge have been an attentive listener for one hundred and nine times. Even though it brings upon my head the weight of your wrath, I must positively decline to—"

"You have nothing to say about it, Colonel Gloame," declared Miss Kelly definitely. "The first thing required of a soldier is duty. It is your duty to obey when commanded by the officer of the night. In the first place, you've not told the story to every one here. Lieutenant King has just confessed that he never has heard of the Gloaming Ghosts and, furthermore, he laughed when I told him that you boasted of real, live ghosts more than a hundred years old."

"Oh, we are very proud of our ghosts, Lieutenant King," cried Mrs.
Gloame.

"I imagined that people lived in some terror of ghosts," ventured King, a young West Pointer.

"You couldn't drag the Colonel into the south wing up-stairs with a whole regiment of cavalry horses," said old Mr. Gordon, the Colonel's best friend.

"Tush," remonstrated the Colonel.

"There's a real ghost, a white lady who walks on air, who spends her time in the room whose windows look out over the low lands along the river," piped up little Miss Gordon, a grand-daughter in very short dresses.

"How romantic," laughed the Lieutenant.

The Colonel, despite his customary remonstrances, would not have missed telling the story for worlds. He liked to be coaxed. He was in his element when the score or more of eager guests, old and young, crowded into the room about him and implored him to go on with the tale.

"It's a mighty threadbare sort of a ghost we have here, my dear Lieutenant," he admitted at last, and there was a sigh of contentment from the lips of many. They knew the story would be forthcoming. "Poor old thing, I've told about her so often I'm afraid she'll refuse to come and visit us any more."

At this juncture, young Mr. Gates Garrison strolled leisurely into the room, coming from the dining-room where he had lingered with the apples and cider and doughnuts. He was a tall, fair young fellow of twenty-four, a year younger than his sister, the pretty Mrs. Gloame, and a senior in Columbia College. The Colonel stood with his back to the blazing grate, confronting the crowd of eager listeners, who had dragged chairs and settees and cushions from all parts of the house to prepare the auditorium.

"Come here, Gates, and hear the ghost story," cried his sister, making room between herself and Miss Kelly.

"Same old story?" inquired the law student, stifling a yawn.

"Of course; come and sit between us."

"Oh, I'm not afraid of ghosts," replied Gates indifferently.

Miss Kelly looked daggers through her tender blue eyes.

"I wonder what that boy has on his mind?" murmured Mrs. Gloame anxiously.

"Nothing," responded Miss Kelly, sweetly. But the Colonel was beginning.

"Whatever you may think of this story," he began, "I can assure you that there is a very deep mystery attached to Gloaming and as I cannot offer the faintest explanation except to call your attention to the supernatural conditions which exist, I am obliged to admit that I, for one, firmly believe the house is haunted. For several generations the Gloame family, to an individual, has believed in the ghost of the south wing and our faith cannot be shaken. We have the evidence of our ears, our eyes, and of all who have undertaken to explode the theory. I'll be just as brief as possible, Major Harper, so you need not look at your wife's watch. My great-great-grandfather, Godfrey Gloame, was born in this house and he brought a beautiful bride here when he was married twenty-five years afterward. He was, as are all the Gloames, a Virginian of the old type, and he was a fire-eater, so the family records say. When he was married it was to a young lady of wealth and position in the North—a very gay and, if I must say it, a particularly—ah!—unsatisfactory mistress of a home." "What could you expect of a Yankee wife?" asked young Garrison, tantalisingly.

"They were different in those days," responded the grey old narrator, with a smile for his wife. "My great-great-grandmother was a beautiful woman, and she was well aware of that fact. Her husband was a jealous devil, as unreasonable as a jackass, and as stubborn as an ox. To make a long story short, after they had been married five years and had seen enough of the connubial hell to drive them both out of mind, he took a sudden fancy that she was false to him. A young Virginian, in fact, the very man who stood up with him at the wedding, was a frequent visitor at this house and was a decided favourite with my maternal ancestor. Godfrey went to drinking rather heavily, simply because he found it impossible to discover anything wrong in his wife's conduct—I may say that he had watched her, too, ladies and gentlemen. Being too honourable to accuse her of infidelity without having actual proof, he suffered in silence and his cups, all the time allowing the gap between them to grow wider and wider. One night he came home from Richmond late and saw his friend, Harry Heminway, leaving the place on horseback. Inflamed by jealousy, and drink, too, I reckon, he dashed up to his wife's room. I do not know what followed, for no one ever knew, but the next mornin' they found her dead on the bed, her throat cut from ear to ear in a most dreadful manner. He was dead on the floor, the same knife sticking in his breast. Their son, my great-grand-father, the famous General George W. Gloame, then a child of three, was lying on the bed with his mother, asleep."

"What beautiful nerves that kid must have had," muttered Gates.

"And did they never hang the murderer?" asked Lieutenant King.

"Good heavens, no! Didn't I say he had jabbed the knife into his own heart? How could they hang him? Well, all this happened in that room at the far end of the south wing—it's always locked now and has been for a hundred and thirty years. The furniture stands just as it was when that pair occupied the apartment. Now comes the strange part of the story."

"Ugh!" interrupted Miss Kelly, with a shudder. "Just hear how the wind whistles around the house. It positively gives me the shivers."

"Well, within a week after the murder queer things began to happen in that room," the Colonel went on. "Odd noises were to be heard, muffled screams came from behind the closed doors, and finally the people who lived here saw the white, ghostly form of my great-great-grandmother moving about in the room and in the halls. Ever since that time her spirit can be seen up there, for it comes around once in a while to see if anybody desecrates the room by trying to sleep in it. With my own eyes I have seen it—dozens of times. Since my marriage it has not been here, but I expect it almost any night."

George Washington appeared suddenly in the hall door and his stentorian though eminently respectable tones startled the entire assemblage, the Colonel included. There were a dozen little feminine shrieks and more than one man caught his breath sharply. George Washington was the butler at Gloaming.

"Majah Harpeh's kerridge, sah," he announced obsequiously.

"Oh, I'm so glad," gasped Miss Kelly, mightily relieved. Then, in confusion: "I mean, Mrs. Harper, that I'm glad it isn't the ghost, you know."

Half an hour later the parlours were deserted, except for the presence of a tall young man with a far-away, dissatisfied look in his eyes. In all the spare bed chambers guests were preparing for bed. Young Garrison had said good night to all of them and remained below stairs to commune with himself at the midnight hour.

For many minutes he sat before the fireplace, staring moodily at the flames. Gates Garrison admitted reluctantly that it was all very nice at Gloaming, that it was "a bully place to spend the holidays and all that, you know," but for a very well-defined reason he was wishing they were over and he was back in New York once more. He was in love. It is not unusual for a young man of his age to be desperately in love and it is by no means unusual that he should be in love with the most impossible of persons. Gates Garrison's affections at this period of his life were the property in fee simple of a very pretty and decidedly popular member of the chorus at Weber & Field's. After convincing himself that he was quite alone in the huge old parlour, the hopeless Mr. Garrison guiltily drew from the inside pocket of his coat a thick and scrawly letter. Then he did things to this letter that in after years he would blush to acknowledge, if they remained a part of his memory. He kissed the scribble—undeniably. Then, with rapt eyes, he reread the lengthy missive from "Dolly." It had come in the morning mail and he had read it a dozen times. The reader is left to conjecture just what the letter contained. Mr. Garrison's thoughts were running something like this:

"Lord, if my sister knew about you, Dolly, she'd have so many fits that you couldn't count them. They think I'm an absolute stick when it comes to girls. If they only knew! What the deuce did I do with that photograph—ah, here it is. Inside vest pocket, left-hand side—just where it belongs."

He pulled a small photograph from his vest pocket and sat gazing at it rapturously. It was the portrait of the fair Dolly in tights. After a long scrutiny of this rather picturesque product of nature and the photographer, he arose and, with a sigh, turned off all the lights in the room, still holding the picture in his hand. The fire in the grate was now the only means of illumination in the parlour and the halls were dark. Reconsidering his impulse to go to bed, he threw himself in a chair before the grate, his elbow resting on the mahogany table at its right. There he devoted himself to—dreams. A wave of cold air crossing his back brought him from dreamland.

"Some one must have left a door open," he grumbled. He looked up and down the hall and then resumed his seat before the fire. A moment later the chilly draft struck him again. "Confound it! There's a devil of a draft from somewhere. It goes clean through me. Must be a crack in the floor. That's the trouble with these shacks that somebody's grandfather built before the flood." He vigorously poked up the fire and drew his chair a little closer to the circle of warmth.

Had he turned his head for an instant as he sat down he could have seen that he was not alone in the room. A tall, shadowy woman in white was standing in the hall door, looking pensively in upon him. For a full minute she stood there, hesitating between modesty and curiosity, and then turned as if to glide away.

Reconsidering, she smiled defiantly and more or less nervously, and then turned back into the room. Of course, he did not hear her as she approached. The mere fact that her filmy white dress was of the fashion in vogue before the Revolution should prove her identity to the reader. She was the Gloaming Ghost.

Gates Garrison was softly, tenderly addressing the photograph of the airy but not ethereal Dolly. The words were not for the ears of others. Even the infatuated lover would have despised the strain of softness in his tones had he known there was a hearer.

"If you could but speak to me," he was saying to the picture, "you'd make me happy, I know. You'd tell me that you love me. You'd tell me that you hate that meddlesome old man Ellison. You've got it just as bad as I have, haven't you, Dolly?"

"What a real woman she seems to be," exclaimed a soft silvery voice at his shoulder. Garrison whirled and looked up into the beautiful face of the ghost.

"Great Heaven!" he gasped, struggling to his feet, his eyes riveted to the face of the wraith.

"Only a part of it, my dear sir," corrected the ghost, with a rare smile in which courage struggled with diffidence. "Dear me, why do you stare at me so rudely?"

She was standing directly before him now, tall and straight. He was hanging to the mantelpiece, almost speechless.

"Who—what in Heaven's name are you?" he cried.

"Why, don't you know me? I am Mrs. Godfrey Gloame," she replied, a touch of resentment in her voice.

"The—the ghost?"

"That's what they call me," she admitted sadly. "It's such a horrid thing to be called, too. In reality, I'm merely a visitor from another world. There are many more of my kind in this room at this instant, sir, but you cannot see them. They are visible to me, however. If it interests you in the least, I can tell you that you are surrounded by ghosts. Please don't run! They can not hurt you. Why should they, even if they could? What a big, strong man you are to be afraid of such perfectly harmless, docile beings as we. Over in that corner, looking from the window, stands my daughter-in-law, Mrs. George Gloame. I saw her husband, my son, sitting in the hallway as I came through. Judging from their attitudes, they've had another of those horrid quarrels. I hope you'll pardon me for disturbing you. You looked so lonely I couldn't resist the desire to come in and see you as I was passing."

Gates was regaining his composure rapidly. The first uncanny shock was wearing off and he was confessing to himself that there was nothing to fear in the spectral bit of loveliness.

"I—I'm sure I appreciate the honour," he said, bowing low.

"Permit me to introduce myself," she went on, and he marvelled at her charm of manner. "I am the great-great-grandmother of Cassady Gloame, and the daughter of Van Rensselaer Brevoort, of New York. He is a millionaire."

"He must be a pretty old millionaire by this time, isn't he?"

"Oh, poor papa has been dead for a hundred and one years."

"Indeed? He isn't here, is he? I'm getting so I don't mind you in the least but I'd rather not meet any male—er—ghosts, if you please." Mrs. Godfrey Gloame laughed unrestrainedly.

"Don't you know that we are nothing but spectral air?" she cried derisively.

"Ah, since you speak of it, I did feel your draft when you came in," he said. "But, if you will pardon me, Mrs. Gloame, there is something uncanny about you just the same. You'll admit that, I'm sure. How would you have felt when you were in the flesh to have had a horrible ghost suddenly walk in upon you?" "Oh, I am horrible, am I?" she said as she leaned toward him with an entrancing smile.

"Heavens, no!" he retracted. "You are a marvel of beauty. I don't wonder that your husband was jealous." She did not appear to have heard the last remark.

"How I used to live in terror of ghosts," she cried, looking about apprehensively. "Would you believe it, sir, up to the time I was married I could not bear the thought of being left alone in the house for a single minute of the night. The darkness, the mystic flicker of the lights, the stillness seemed to swarm with spirits—Oh, you don't know how I suffered with the fear of them."

"And after you got married—what then?"

"I soon had material spirits to contend with."

"How so?"

"That is an extremely personal inquiry, sir."

"I beg pardon if I have overstepped the bounds of politeness."

"I may as well tell you that my husband drank terribly. It's all over the country anyhow, I hear."

"The Gloame pedigree says that you drove him to it."

"I know that is what the Gloames claim, but it is a shameless slander. My poor, dear husband has told me since that he was wrong and he would give all he has on earth to set me aright in that hateful old pedigree. The poor fellow killed himself, you doubtless know. I was never so shocked in my life as when I heard that he had committed such a brutal act." Mrs. Gloame was looking sadly, reminiscently into the fire and there was a trace of tears in her voice.

"But, my dear madam, didn't he begin by slaying you?" exclaimed Gates in surprise.

"To be sure, he did destroy me first or I might have kept him from committing the awful crime of suicide," she said, despondently.

PART II

"But murder is so much worse than suicide," expostulated Garrison. "We hang men for murder, you know."

"I've a notion that it would be difficult to hang them for suicide. But you are quite wrong in your estimation of the crime. You do not know what it is to be murdered, I presume."

"Well, hardly."

"Nor what it is to commit suicide? Well, let me advise you, judging from what I know of the hereafter, get murdered in preference to committing suicide. I'd even suggest that you commit murder, if you are determined to do anything rash."

"And be hanged for it!" laughed Gates.

"You can be hanged or be d——d, just as you like," she said meaningly. "I wish you could talk to my husband if you are thinking of doing anything of the kind. I'm sure your young love affairs must be getting to the suicide stage by this time."

"But I don't want to kill anybody, much less myself. Oh, I beg your pardon," he cried suddenly. "Pray have a chair, Mrs. Gloame. It was unpardonable in me to let you remain standing so long. I've been a trifle knocked out, I mean disconcerted. That's my only excuse."

"You are not expected to know anything about ghost etiquette," she said sweetly, dropping into a chair at the side of the table farthest from the fire. Garrison had some fear that her vapoury figure might sink through the chair, but he was agreeably surprised to find that it did not. Mrs. Gloame leaned back with a sigh of contentment and deliberately crossed her pretty feet on the fender.

"Won't you sit nearer to the fire?" lie asked. "It's very cold tonight and you must be chilled to the bone. You are not dressed for cold weather." She was attired in a low-necked and sleeveless gown.

"I'm not at all cold and, besides, I did not bring my bones with me." He resumed his seat at the opposite side of the table. "Have you come far tonight?"

"From the graveyard a mile down the river. It is a beautiful cemetery, isn't it?"

"I am quite a stranger in these parts. Besides, I'm not partial to graveyards."

"Oh, dear me," she cried, in confusion. "The idea of my sitting here talking to a total stranger all this time. You must think me extremely bold."

"I am the bold one, madam. It's my first experience, you know, and I think I'm doing pretty well, don't you? By the way, Mrs. Gloame, my name is Gates Garrison, of New York, and my sister is the present Mrs. Gloame."

"The pretty young thing with the old Gloame husband?"

"Can't say she's pretty, you know. She's my sister."

"I passed her in the hall tonight."

"The dev—the deuce you did!" cried Gates, coming to his feet in alarm. "Then she must be lying out there in a dead faint." He was starting for the door when she recalled him.

"Oh, she did not see me. She merely shivered and asked a servant to close the door. An ill wind seems to be a north wind, so far as ghosts are concerned," she concluded pathetically. "So you are from New York. Dear New York; I haven't been there in a hundred and thirty-five years, I dare say. One in my position rather loses count of the years, you know. I suppose the place is greatly changed. And your lady-love lives there, too, I see."

"My lady-love?" demanded Gates, taken back.

"Yes, the girl who is so well dressed from her shoulders up," with a tantalising smile.

"You mean—this?" he asked, turning a fiery red as he tried to slip the picture of Dolly under a book.

"Let me see it, please. Who is she?" He was ashamed, but he held out the picture. A poorly disguised look of disgust crossed the startled features of Mrs. Godfrey Gloame.

"She's—a friend of the Colonel's," said Gates promptly.

"I should think his wife would do well to be on her guard. This is the first time I ever saw such a costume. In my day a woman would not have dared to do such a thing. Don't you know her?"

"Oh, casually," answered he, looking away.

"I'm glad to hear that. She is nothing to you, then?"

He shook his head in fine disdain.

"I don't care much for you men in these days, Mr. Garrison," she said.

"You're not complimentary."

"When I compare the men of my day—men like Godfrey—with the men of today, I thank Heaven I had the honour to be killed by a gentleman. You don't know how many unhappy wives I meet in the cemetery."

"Well, there are no women like you in this day, either. You are beautiful, glorious," he cried, leaning toward her eagerly. She shrank back with a laugh, holding her hands between his face and her own.

"How lovely," she sighed. "But keep away, please."

"Well, I should say," he exclaimed, his teeth almost chattering, so cold was the air that fanned his face. "I never got such a frost from a woman in all my life."

"If my husband had heard your words of flattery he would have created a terrible disturbance. He was fearfully jealous—a perfect devil when the spell came over him."

"A devil then and a devil now, I may infer."

"Oh, no; you do him an injustice. Godfrey really was an angel, and if he had not killed himself I think he would not now be in such an uncertain position. He is still on probation, you see."

"Between two fires, as it were."

"I think not. The last time I saw him he was shivering."

"I don't wonder," said Gates, ruefully, recalling the chill of a moment since. "Does he ever come here?"

"Not often. There are so many unpleasant associations, he says. It was here that the funeral took place and he has expressed very strong exceptions to the sermon of a minister who alluded to him as an unfortunate victim of his own folly. The idea! It would have been folly, indeed, for Godfrey to have lived after I was dead. Every woman in Virginia would have been crazy to marry him. And then one of the pall-bearers did not suit him. He had cheated Godfrey in a horse trade, I think."

"I should like to have known Godfrey Gloame."

"You would have admired him. He was the best pistol shot, the bravest man in all Virginia. Three times he fought duels, coming off victorious each time. He would have been an ideal husband if he had not been so indolent, so dissipated, and so absurdly jealous of Harry Heminway. I shall never forgive him for killing me on account of poor Harry."

"Is that why he killed you?" asked Gates eagerly.

"He said so at the time, but he was sorry for it afterward. That is usually the way with jealous men."

"Whew!" exclaimed the man, starting up. "There's another draft, didn't you feel it?"

"It is my husband coming, I know his footstep," she said delightedly, looking toward the door.

"Holy smoke!" cried Gates, in alarm.

"Don't let him hear you speak of smoke. He is very touchy about it just now. Ah, come in, Godfrey, dear."

She crossed to the door to meet the tall, grey young man in the eighteenth century costume, Garrison looking on with open mouth, and rising hair.

Godfrey Gloame was a handsome fellow, albeit he was as transparent as glass. His hair was powdered with all the care of a dandy and his garments hung properly upon his frame. He kissed his wife and then glared at young Mr. Garrison.

"Who is this man, Beatrice?" he demanded, his hand going to his sword hilt. Mrs. Gloame caught the hand and there was passionate entreaty in her eyes. "Speak, woman! What are you doing here with him at this time of night?"

"Now, don't be cross, Godfrey," she pleaded. "It's only Mr. Garrison."

"And who the devil is Mr. Garrison?"

"What a very disagreeable ghost," muttered Gates, remembering that ghosts are harmless.

Mrs. Gloame led the unruly Godfrey up to the table and, in a delightfully old-fashioned way, introduced the two gentlemen.

"Mr. Garrison is the brother of my successor, the present mistress of
Gloaming," she said.

"And a devilish pretty woman, too. I've seen her frequently. By the way, I stopped in her bedchamber as I came through. But that's neither here or there. What are you doing here with this young whipper-snapper, Beatrice?"

"Let me explain, Mr. Gloame," began Gates hastily.

"I desire no explanation from you, sah," interposed Godfrey, towering with dignity. "You would explain just as all men do under like circumstances. Beatrice, I demand satisfaction."

"Be rational, Godfrey, for once in your life. It is beneath my dignity to respond to your insult," said Mrs. Gloame proudly.

"Good for you, Mrs. Gloame," cried Garrison approvingly. "You would be a bully actress."

"Sah, you insult my wife by that remark," roared Godfrey Gloame, and this time the sword was unsheathed.

"Oh, I'm not afraid of you, old chap," said Gates bravely. "You're nothing but wind, you know. Be calm and have a chair by the fire. Your wife says you have chills."

"I do not require an invitation to sit down in my own house, sah. I am
Godfrey Gloame, sah, of Gloaming, sah."

"You mean you were—you are now his shade," said Gates. "Ah, that's the word I've been trying to think of—shade! You are shades—that's it—shades, not ghosts. Yes, Mr. Gloame, I've heard all about your taking off and I am sure that you were a bit too hasty. You had no license to be jealous of your wife—she assures me of it, and from what I've seen of her I'd be willing to believe anything she says."

"Ah, too true, too true! I always was and always will be a fool. It was she who should have slain me. Will you ever forgive me, Beatrice, forgive me fully?" said Godfrey, in deep penitence.

"I can forgive everything but the fact that you were so shockingly drunk the night you killed us," said she, taking his hands in hers.

"Oh, that was an awful spree! My head aches to think of it."

"It was not the murder I condemn so much as the condition you were in when you did it," she complained. "Mr. Garrison, you do not know how humiliating it is to be killed by a man who is too drunk to know where the jugular vein is located. My neck was slashed—oh, shockingly!"

"Yes, my dear sah, if I must admit it, I did it in a most bungling mannah," admitted her husband. "Usually I am very careful in matters of importance, and I am only able to attribute the really indecent butchery to the last few sups I took from General Bannard's demijohn. My hand was very unsteady, wasn't it, dearest?"

"Miserably so. See, Mr. Garrison, on my neck you can see the five scars, indications of his ruthlessness. One stroke should have been sufficient, a doctor told me afterwards. This one, the last,—do you see it? Well, it was the only capable stroke of them all. Just think of having to go through eternity with these awful scars on my neck. And it was beautiful, too, wasn't it, Godfrey?"

Garrison thought it must have been the prettiest neck ever given to woman.

"Divine!" cried Mr. Gloame warmly. "My dear sah, there never lived a woman who had the arms, the neck, and shoulders that my wife possessed. I speak reservedly, too, sah, for since my demise I have seen thousands. A shade has some privileges, you know."

"Godfrey Gloame!" cried his wife, suspiciously. "What have you been doing? Have you been snooping into the privacy of—"

"Now, my dear girl, do not be too hasty in your conclusions. You'll observe, Mr. Garrison, that I am not the only jealous one. I have merely seen some shoulders. Very ordinary ones, too, I'll say. Oh, I am again reminded that I want an explanation for your damnably improper conduct tonight, madam. This thing of meeting a man here at twelve o'clock is—"

"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Gloame anxiously. "It is not twelve, is it! I must hasten away by a quarter after twelve."

"It lacks considerable of that hour," said Gates. Turning to Godfrey Gloame, who was leaning against the mantel, he went on to explain: "You see, sir, I was reading here and your wife dropped in—blew in, I might say—all without my knowledge, very much as you did. She had had no invitation, we had made no date—I mean arrangement—and I was paralysed at first. Your wife is a perfect stranger to me. There is a disparity in our ages that ought to protect her. I am twenty-four and she is at least a hundred and fifty."

"Sir! I am but twenty-five!" exclaimed Mrs. Gloame indignantly.

"Madam, I must remind you that you have a great-great-grandson in Colonel Gloame the present, who, by the way, is very proud of his ancestry. But pardon my jesting, please. Would you like a little brandy or a glass of wine? It is a cold night, even for shades. Let me prepare a toddy—it won't take a minute, and I know how to get up a cracker-jack. New thing in all of the New York clubs."

After a moment of indecision the two Gloames sank into chairs beside the table. Godfrey waved his hand pleasantly, courteously, to the young New Yorker.

"My dear sah," he said, "your explanation of this rather unaccountable situation is entirely acceptable. I see the position clearly, just as it is, and I humbly apologise for afflicting you with an insinuation. Beatrice, I crave your forgiveness again. Your proffer of the toddy, Mr. Garrison, is timely and I should be happy to place my approval upon your particular concoction."

"Godfrey," cried his wife in distress, "you swore you would never drink another drop."

"But this shall be the last," he pleaded, "so help me—so help me—Moses."

Garrison set to work with the Colonel's decanters, concocting a brew over the spirit lamp, the two wraiths looking on in silent admiration.

"How like you Mr. Garrison is, Godfrey," said Mrs. Gloame.

"Except the water, my dear," agreed Godfrey, taking it for granted that she referred to his ability to mix drinks. "Do you use the water to cleanse the goblet, Mr. Garrison?"

"Chief ingredient, Mr. Gloame," explained Gates, and Godfrey's heart sank heavily.

"By the way, have a cigarette while I am busy with this."

He tossed his cigarette case to Godfrey, who inspected it and the contents curiously.

"Are they to smoke, sah?"

"Certainly, light up, if Mrs. Gloame doesn't object."

"It used to be we had nothing but tobacco to smoke," said Godfrey
Gloame, lighting a cigarette from a coal in the grate.

"Will it make him ill?" asked Mrs. Gloame. "He has a very frail stomach."

"I think the smoke will mix very nicely with his stomach," said Gates. "For want of something better to say, I'll ask you how you spent the summer."

"For my part, I stayed at home with the old complaint: nothing to wear," said Mrs. Gloame. "I am curious to know where my husband was, however."

"Well, I didn't need anything to wear," said he, naively. "My summer was spent a long way from heaven, and I have just this much to say to you mortals: you did not know what you were talking about when you said that the past summer was hotter than—excuse me, Beatrice; I almost uttered a word that I never use in the presence of a lady."

"You don't mean to say you have gone to—to—oh, you poor boy!" cried
Mrs. Gloame, throwing her arms about her husband's neck.

"Not yet, dearest," said Godfrey consolingly. "I was merely spending a season with an old friend, Harry Heminway. He asked about you and I told him you were so far above him that he ought to be ashamed to utter your name. Ah, Mr. Garrison has finished the toddy."

Garrison ceremoniously filled the goblets and handed them to his guests. Godfrey Gloame arose grandly, holding his glass aloft.

"Well, Mr. Garrison," he said, "I can only say to you that I am glad to have met you and that I am sincerely sorry we have not been friends before. You have given us a very pleasant evening, quite unexpectedly, and I drink to your very good health." "Hold, sir!" cried Gates. "I am sure you will allow me to suggest an amendment. Let us drink to the everlasting joy of the fair woman who is your wife. May her shadow never grow less."

"Thank you," said she, "I bid you drink, gentlemen, and share the joy with me. Ah!" as she set the goblet down, "that is delicious."

"Superb!" cried her husband. "My dear sah, it thrills me, it sends a warmth through me that I have not experienced in a hundred and thirty-five years. How long do you expect to remain at Gloaming?"

"One week longer."

"I shall come again if you will but prepare another like this."

"You swore that this would be your last, Godfrey; are you as vacillating as ever!" cried his wife.

"I—oh, dearest, a few of these won't hurt me—you know they won't," came earnestly from the other wraith.

"If you touch another I shall despise you forever and forever," she cried firmly. "Take your choice, Godfrey Gloame."

"It's plain that I am doomed to eternal punishment, whichever way you put it," mourned poor Godfrey. "Take away the glasses, Mr. Garrison. I'll no more of it if my wife so disposes."

"Noble fellow," said Gates. "Have another cigarette!"

"Stay! I have heard that they are worse than liquor," objected Mrs.
Gloame.

"I don't know but you are right," supplemented Gates.

"But I must have some sort of a vice, dear," pleaded poor Godfrey.

"Vice may be fashionable on earth, but if that's the case it was fashion that ruined us, you'll remember, Godfrey," she reminded him.

"That's worth thinking about," mused Garrison. "There is something deep in that observation. You spooks are—"

"'Spooks!" cried the Gloames, arising in deep resentment.

"I mean shades," apologised Gates. "You do say—"

"Pardon me," interrupted Godfrey, nervously, "but can you tell me what time it is?"

"Ten minutes after twelve, sir." "Oh, we must be going," cried Mrs.
Gloame.

"What's the rush?" demanded Gates.

"We cannot stay out after twelve-fifteen, sah. We get an extra fifteen minutes on Christmas Eve, you know," explained Godfrey.

"We are led to believe that you stay out till the cock crows," said
Gates.

"Oh, these absurd superstitions," cried Mrs. Gloame merrily. "How ignorant the people are. Are you going my way, Godfrey?"

"Yes, dear, and I care not what the direction may be. Good-night, Mr.
Garrison."

"Good-night," added the beautiful Mrs. Gloame, "and a Merry Christmas.
I sincerely hope we have not annoyed you."

"I have never enjoyed anything so hugely. No one will believe me when I tell this story at the club. Merry Christmas to both of you. You'll come again, won't you?"

They were at the door and looking back at him.

"If you care to come to the room in the south wing, you will find me there at most any time, Mr. Garrison," was her parting invitation. Gates was positive he heard Godfrey swear softly as they glided away in the darkness.

And no one did believe him when he told the story at the club.