The Ghost Club, by John Kendrick Bangs
AN UNFORTUNATE EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF NO. 5010
Number 5010 was at the time when I received the details of this story from
his lips a stalwart man of thirty-eight, swart of hue, of pleasing
address, and altogether the last person one would take for a convict
serving a term for sneak-thieving. The only outer symptoms of his actual
condition were the striped suit he wore, the style and cut of which are
still in vogue at Sing Sing prison, and the closely cropped hair, which
showed off the distinctly intellectual lines of his head to great
advantage. He was engaged in making shoes when I first saw him, and so
impressed was I with the contrast between his really refined features and
grace of manner and those of his brutish-looking companions, that I asked
my guide who he was, and what were the circumstances which had brought him
to Sing Sing.
"He pegs shoes like a gentleman," I said.
"Yes," returned the keeper. "He's werry troublesome that way. He thinks
he's too good for his position. We can't never do nothing with the boots
"Why do you keep him at work in the shoe department?" I queried.
"We haven't got no work to be done in his special line, so we have to put
him at whatever we can. He pegs shoes less badly than he does anything
"What was his special line?"
"He was a gentleman of leisure travellin' for his health afore he got into
the toils o' the law. His real name is Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe,
of Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire. He landed in this country of a
Tuesday, took to collectin' souvenir spoons of a Friday, was jugged the
same day, tried, convicted, and there he sets. In for two years more."
"How interesting!" I said. "Was the evidence against him conclusive?"
"Extremely. A half-dozen spoons was found on his person."
"He pleaded guilty, I suppose?"
"Not him. He claimed to be as innocent as a new-born babe. Told a
cock-and-bull story about havin' been deluded by spirits, but the judge
and jury wasn't to be fooled. They gave him every chance, too. He even
cabled himself, the judge did, to Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire, at
his own expense, to see if the man was an impostor, but he never got no
reply. There was them as said there wasn't no such place as
Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea in Warwickshire, but they never proved it."
"I should like very much to interview him," said I.
"It can't be done, sir," said my guide. "The rules is very strict."
"You couldn't—er—arrange an interview for me," I asked, jingling a bunch
of keys in my pocket.
He must have recognized the sound, for he colored and gruffly replied, "I
has me orders, and I obeys 'em."
"Just—er—add this to the pension fund," I put in, handing him a
five-dollar bill. "An interview is impossible, eh?"
"I didn't say impossible," he answered, with a grateful smile. "I said
against the rules, but we has been known to make exceptions. I think I can
fix you up."
Suffice it to say that he did "fix me up," and that two hours later 5010
and I sat down together in the cell of the former, a not too commodious
stall, and had a pleasant chat, in the course of which he told me the
story of his life, which, as I had surmised, was to me, at least,
exceedingly interesting, and easily worth twice the amount of my
contribution to the pension fund under the management of my guide of the
"My real name," said the unfortunate convict, "as you may already have
guessed, is not 5010. That is an alias forced upon me by the State
authorities. My name is really Austin Merton Surrennes."
"Ahem!" I said. "Then my guide erred this morning when he told me that in
reality you were Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe, of
Number 5010 laughed long and loud. "Of course he erred. You don't suppose
that I would give the authorities my real name, do you? Why, man, I am a
nephew! I have an aged uncle—a rich millionaire uncle—whose heart and
will it would break were he to hear of my present plight. Both the heart
and will are in my favor, hence my tender solicitude for him. I am
innocent, of course—convicts always are, you know—but that wouldn't make
any difference. He'd die of mortification just the same. It's one of our
family traits, that. So I gave a false name to the authorities, and
secretly informed my uncle that I was about to set out for a walking trip
across the great American desert, requesting him not to worry if he did
not hear from me for a number of years, America being in a state of
semi-civilization, to which mails outside of certain districts are
entirely unknown. My uncle being an Englishman and a conservative
gentleman, addicted more to reading than to travel, accepts the
information as veracious and suspects nothing, and when I am liberated I
shall return to him, and at his death shall become a conservative man of
wealth myself. See?"
"But if you are innocent and he rich and influential, why did you not
appeal to him to save you?" I asked.
"Because I was afraid that he, like the rest of the world, would decline
to believe my defence," sighed 5010. "It was a good defence, if the judge
had only known it, and I'm proud of it."
"But ineffectual," I put in. "And so, not good."
"Alas, yes! This is an incredulous age. People, particularly judges, are
hard-headed practical men of affairs. My defence was suited more for an
age of mystical tendencies. Why, will you believe it, sir, my own lawyer,
the man to whom I paid eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents for
championing my cause, told me the defence was rubbish, devoid even of
literary merit. What chance could a man have if his lawyer even didn't
believe in him?"
"None," I answered, sadly. "And you had no chance at all, though
"Yes, I had one, and I chose not to take it. I might have proved myself
non compos mentis; but that involved my making a fool of myself in
public before a jury, and I have too much dignity for that, I can tell
you. I told my lawyer that I should prefer a felon's cell to the richly
furnished flat of a wealthy lunatic, to which he replied, 'Then all is
lost!' And so it was. I read my defence in court. The judge laughed, the
jury whispered, and I was convicted instanter of stealing spoons, when
murder itself was no further from my thoughts than theft."
"But they tell me you were caught red-handed," said I. "Were not a
half-dozen spoons found upon your person?"
"In my hand," returned the prisoner. "The spoons were in my hand when I
was arrested, and they were seen there by the owner, by the police, and by
the usual crowd of small boys that congregate at such embarrassing
moments, springing up out of sidewalks, dropping down from the heavens,
swarming in from everywhere. I had no idea there were so many small boys
in the world until I was arrested, and found myself the cynosure of a
million or more innocent blue eyes."
"Were they all blue-eyed?" I queried, thinking the point interesting from
a scientific point of view, hoping to discover that curiosity of a morbid
character was always found in connection with eyes of a specified hue.
"Oh no; I fancy not," returned my host. "But to a man with a load of
another fellow's spoons in his possession, and a pair of handcuffs on his
wrists, everything looks blue."
"I don't doubt it," I replied. "But—er—just how, now, could you defend
yourself when every bit of evidence, and—you will excuse me for saying
so—conclusive evidence at that, pointed to your guilt?"
"The spoons were a gift," he answered.
"But the owner denied that."
"I know it; that's where the beastly part of it all came in. They were not
given to me by the owner, but by a lot of mean, low-down,
Number 5010's anger as he spoke these words was terrible to witness, and
as he strode up and down the floor of his cell and dashed his arms right
and left, I wished for a moment that I was elsewhere. I should not have
flown, however, even had the cell door been open and my way clear, for his
suggestion of a supernatural agency in connection with his crime whetted
my curiosity until it was more keen than ever, and I made up my mind to
hear the story to the end, if I had to commit a crime and get myself
sentenced to confinement in that prison for life to do so.
Fortunately, extreme measures of this nature were unnecessary, for after a
few moments Surrennes calmed down, and seating himself beside me on the
cot, drained his water-pitcher to the dregs, and began.
"Excuse me for not offering you a drink," he said, "but the wine they
serve here while moist is hardly what a connoisseur would choose except
for bathing purposes, and I compliment you by assuming that you do not
wish to taste it."
"Thank you," I said. "I do not like to take water straight, exactly. I
always dilute it, in fact, with a little of this."
Here I extracted a small flask from my pocket and handed it to him.
"Ah!" he said, smacking his lips as he took a long pull at its contents,
"that puts spirit into a man."
"Yes, it does," I replied, ruefully, as I noted that he had left me very
little but the flask; "but I don't think it was necessary for you to
deprive me of all mine."
"No; that is, you can't appreciate the necessity unless you—er—you have
suffered in your life as I am suffering. You were never sent up yourself?"
I gave him a glance which was all indignation. "I guess not," I said. "I
have led a life that is above reproach."
"Good!" he replied. "And what a satisfaction that is, eh? I don't believe
I'd be able to stand this jail life if it wasn't for my conscience, which
is as clear and clean as it would be if I'd never used it."
"Would you mind telling me what your defence was?" I asked.
"Certainly not," said he, cheerfully. "I'd be very glad to give it to you.
But you must remember one thing—it is copyrighted."
"Fire ahead!" I said, with a smile. "I'll respect your copyright. I'll
give you a royalty on what I get for the story."
"Very good," he answered. "It was like this. To begin, I must tell you
that when I was a boy preparing for college I had for a chum a brilliant
fun-loving fellow named Hawley Hicks, concerning whose future various
prophecies had been made. His mother often asserted that he would be a
great poet; his father thought he was born to be a great general; our
head-master at the Scarberry Institute for Young Gentlemen prophesied the
gallows. They were all wrong; though, for myself, I think that if he had
lived long enough almost any one of the prophecies might have come true.
The trouble was that Hawley died at the age of twenty-three. Fifteen years
elapsed. I was graduated with high honors at Brazenose, lived a life of
elegant leisure, and at the age of thirty-seven broke down in health. That
was about a year ago. My uncle, whose heir and constant companion I was,
gave me a liberal allowance, and sent me off to travel. I came to America,
landed in New York early in September, and set about winning back the
color which had departed from my cheeks by an assiduous devotion to such
pleasures as New York affords. Two days after my arrival, I set out for an
airing at Coney Island, leaving my hotel at four in the afternoon. On my
way down Broadway I was suddenly startled at hearing my name spoken from
behind me, and appalled, on turning, to see standing with outstretched
hands no less a person than my defunct chum, Hawley Hicks."
"Impossible," said I.
"Exactly my remark," returned Number 5010. "To which I added, 'Hawley
Hicks, it can't be you!'
"'But it is me,' he replied.
"And then I was convinced, for Hawley never was good on his grammar. I
looked at him a minute, and then I said, 'But, Hawley, I thought you were
"'I am,' he answered. 'But why should a little thing like that stand
"'It shouldn't, Hawley,' I answered, meekly; 'but it's condemnedly
unusual, you know, for a man to associate even with his best friends
fifteen years after they've died and been buried.'
"'Do you mean to say, Austin, that just because I was weak enough once to
succumb to a bad cold, you, the dearest friend of my youth, the closest
companion of my school-days, the partner of my childish joys, intend to go
back on me here in a strange city?'
"'Hawley,' I answered, huskily, 'not a bit of it. My letter of credit, my
room at the hotel, my dress suit, even my ticket to Coney Island, are at
your disposal; but I think the partner of your childish joys ought first
to be let in on the ground-floor of this enterprise, and informed how the
deuce you manage to turn up in New York fifteen years subsequent to your
obsequies. Is New York the hereafter for boys of your kind, or is this
some freak of my imagination?'"
"That was an eminently proper question," I put in, just to show that while
the story I was hearing terrified me, I was not altogether speechless.
"It was, indeed," said 5010; "and Hawley recognized it as such, for he
replied at once.
"'Neither,' said he. 'Your imagination is all right, and New York is
neither heaven nor the other place. The fact is, I'm spooking, and I can
tell you, Austin, it's just about the finest kind of work there is. If you
could manage to shuffle off your mortal coil and get in with a lot of
ghosts, the way I have, you'd be playing in great luck.'
"'Thanks for the hint, Hawley,' I said, with a grateful smile; 'but, to
tell you the truth, I do not find that life is entirely bad. I get my
three meals a day, keep my pocket full of coin, and sleep eight hours
every night on a couch that couldn't be more desirable if it were studded
with jewels and had mineral springs.'
"'That's your mortal ignorance, Austin,' he retorted. 'I lived long enough
to appreciate the necessity of being ignorant, but your style of existence
is really not to be mentioned in the same cycle with mine. You talk about
three meals a day, as if that were an ideal; you forget that with the
eating your labor is just begun; those meals have to be digested, every
one of 'em, and if you could only understand it, it would appall you to
see what a fearful wear and tear that act of digestion is. In my life you
are feasting all the time, but with no need for digestion. You speak of
money in your pockets; well, I have none, yet am I the richer of the two.
I don't need money. The world is mine. If I chose to I could pour the
contents of that jeweller's window into your lap in five seconds, but cui
bono? The gems delight my eye quite as well where they are; and as for
travel, Austin, of which you have always been fond, the spectral method
beats all. Just watch me!'
"I watched him as well as I could for a minute," said 5010; "and then he
disappeared. In another minute he was before me again.
"'Well,' I said, 'I suppose you've been around the block in that time,
"He roared with laughter. 'Around the block?' he ejaculated. 'I have done
the Continent of Europe, taken a run through China, haunted the Emperor of
Japan, and sailed around the Horn since I left you a minute ago.'
"He was a truthful boy in spite of his peculiarities, Hawley was," said
Surrennes, quietly, "so I had to believe what he said. He abhorred lies."
"That was pretty fast travelling, though," said I. "He'd make a fine
"That's so. I wish I'd suggested it to him," smiled my host. "But I can
tell you, sir, I was astonished. 'Hawley,' I said, 'you always were a fast
youth, but I never thought you would develop into this. I wonder you're
not out of breath after such a journey.'
"'Another point, my dear Austin, in favor of my mode of existence. We
spooks have no breath to begin with. Consequently, to get out of it is no
deprivation. But, I say,' he added, 'whither are you bound?'
"'To Coney Island to see the sights,' I replied. 'Won't you join me?'
"'Not I,' he replied. 'Coney Island is tame. When I first joined the
spectre band, it seemed to me that nothing could delight me more than an
eternal round of gayety like that; but, Austin, I have changed. I have
developed a good deal since you and I were parted at the grave.'
"'I should say you had,' I answered. 'I doubt if many of your old friends
would know you.'
"'You seem to have had difficulty in so doing yourself, Austin,' he
replied, regretfully; 'but see here, old chap, give up Coney Island, and
spend the evening with me at the club. You'll have a good time, I can
"'The club?' I said. 'You don't mean to say you visions have a club?'
"'I do indeed; the Ghost Club is the most flourishing association of
choice spirits in the world. We have rooms in every city in creation; and
the finest part of it is there are no dues to be paid. The membership list
holds some of the finest names in history—Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer,
Napoleon Bonaparte, Caesar, George Washington, Mozart, Frederick the
Great, Marc Antony—Cassius was black-balled on Caesar's account—Galileo,
"'You admit the Chinese, eh?' I queried.
"'Not always,' he replied. 'But Con was such a good fellow they hadn't the
heart to keep him out; but you see, Austin, what a lot of fine fellows
there are in it.'
"'Yes, it's a magnificent list, and I should say they made a pretty
interesting set of fellows to hear talk,' I put in.
"'Well, rather,' Hawley replied. 'I wish you could have heard a debate
between Shakespeare and Caesar on the resolution, "The Pen is mightier than
the Sword;" it was immense.'
"'I should think it might have been,' I said. 'Which won?'
"'The sword party. They were the best fighters; though on the merits of
the argument Shakespeare was 'way ahead.'
"'If I thought I'd stand a chance of seeing spooks like that, I think I'd
give up Coney Island and go with you,' I said.
"'Well,' replied Hawley, 'that's just the kind of a chance you do stand.
They'll all be there to-night, and as this is ladies' day, you might meet
Lucretia Borgia, Cleopatra, and a few other feminine apparitions of
"'That settles it. I am yours for the rest of the day,' I said, and so we
adjourned to the rooms of the Ghost Club.
"These rooms were in a beautiful house on Fifth Avenue; the number of the
house you will find on consulting the court records. I have forgotten it.
It was a large, broad, brown-stone structure, and must have been over one
hundred and fifty feet in depth. Such fittings I never saw before;
everything was in the height of luxury, and I am quite certain that among
beings to whom money is a measure of possibility no such magnificence is
attainable. The paintings on the walls were by the most famous artists of
our own and other days. The rugs on the superbly polished floors were
worth fortunes, not only for their exquisite beauty, but also for their
extreme rarity. In keeping with these were the furniture and bric-a-brac.
In short, my dear sir, I had never dreamed of anything so dazzlingly, so
superbly magnificent as that apartment into which I was ushered by the
ghost of my quondam friend Hawley Hicks.
"At first I was speechless with wonder, which seemed to amuse Hicks very
"'Pretty fine, eh?' he said, with a short laugh.
"'Well,' I replied, in a moment, 'considering that you can get along
without money, and that all the resources of the world are at your
disposal, it is not more than half bad. Have you a library?'
"I was always fond of books," explained 5010 in parenthesis to me, "and so
was quite anxious to see what the club of ghosts could show in the way of
literary treasures. Imagine my surprise when Hawley informed me that the
club had no collection of the sort to appeal to the bibliophile.
"'No,' he answered, 'we have no library.'
"'Rather strange,' I said, 'that a club to which men like Shakespeare,
Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, and other deceased literati belong should be
deficient in that respect.'
"'Not at all,' said he. 'Why should we want books when we have the men
themselves to tell their tales to us? Would you give a rap to possess a
set of Shakespeare if William himself would sit down and rattle off the
whole business to you any time you chose to ask him to do it? Would you
follow Scott's printed narratives through their devious and tedious
periods if Sir Walter in spirit would come to you on demand, and tell you
all the old stories over again in a tenth part of the time it would take
you to read the introduction to one of them?'
"'I fancy not,' I said. 'Are you in such luck?'
"'I am,' said Hawley; 'only personally I never send for Scott or
Shakespeare. I prefer something lighter than either—Douglas Jerrold or
Marryat. But best of all, I like to sit down and hear Noah swap animal
stories with Davy Crockett. Noah's the brightest man of his age in the
club. Adam's kind of slow.'
"'How about Solomon?' I asked, more to be flippant than with any desire
for information. I was much amused to hear Hawley speak of these great
spirits as if he and they were chums of long standing.
"'Solomon has resigned from the club,' he said, with a sad sigh. 'He was a
good fellow, Solomon was, but he thought he knew it all until old Doctor
Johnson got hold of him, and then he knuckled under. It's rather rough for
a man to get firmly established in his belief that he is the wisest
creature going, and then, after a couple of thousand years, have an
Englishman come along and tell him things he never knew before, especially
the way Sam Johnson delivers himself of his opinions. Johnson never cared
whom he hurt, you know, and when he got after Solomon, he did it with all
"I wonder if Boswell was there?" I ventured, interrupting 5010 in his
extraordinary narrative for an instant.
"Yes, he was there," returned the prisoner. "I met him later in the
evening; but he isn't the spook he might be. He never had much spirit
anyhow, and when he died he had to leave his nose behind him, and that
"Of course," I answered. "Boswell with no nose to stick into other
people's affairs would have been like Othello with Desdemona left out.
But go on. What did you do next?"
"Well," 5010 resumed, "after I'd looked about me, and drunk my fill of
the magnificence on every hand, Hawley took me into the music-room, and
introduced me to Mozart and Wagner and a few other great composers. In
response to my request, Wagner played an impromptu version of 'Daisy
Bell' on the organ. It was great; not much like 'Daisy Bell,' of course;
more like a collision between a cyclone and a simoom in a tin-plate
mining camp, in fact, but, nevertheless, marvellous. I tried to remember
it afterwards, and jotted down a few notes, but I found the first bar
took up seven sheets of fool's-cap, and so gave it up. Then Mozart tried
his hand on a banjo for my amusement, Mendelssohn sang a half-dozen of
his songs without words, and then Gottschalk played one of Poe's weird
stories on the piano.
"Then Carlyle came in, and Hawley introduced me to him. He was a gruff
old gentleman, and seemingly anxious to have Froude become an eligible,
and I judged from the rather fierce manner in which he handled a club he
had in his hand, that there were one or two other men of prominence still
living he was anxious to meet. Dickens, too, was desirous of a two-minute
interview with certain of his at present purely mortal critics; and,
between you and me, if the wink that Bacon gave Shakespeare when I spoke
of Ignatius Donnelly meant anything, the famous cryptogrammarian will do
well to drink a bottle of the elixir of life every morning before
breakfast, and stave off dissolution as long as he can. There's no
getting around the fact, sir," Surrennes added, with a significant shake
of the head, "that the present leaders of literary thought with critical
tendencies are going to have the hardest kind of a time when they cross
the river and apply for admission to the Ghost Club. I don't ask for
any better fun than that of watching from a safe distance the initiation
ceremonies of the next dozen who go over. And as an Englishman, sir, who
thoroughly believes in and admires Lord Wolseley, if I were out of jail
and able to do it, I'd write him a letter, and warn him that he would
better revise his estimates of certain famous soldiers no longer living
if he desires to find rest in that mysterious other world whither he must
eventually betake himself. They've got their swords sharpened for him,
and he'll discover an instance when he gets over there in which the sword
is mightier than the pen.
"After that, Hawley took me up-stairs and introduced me to the spirit of
Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom I passed about twenty-five minutes talking
over his victories and defeats. He told me he never could understand how a
man like Wellington came to defeat him at Waterloo, and added that he had
sounded the Iron Duke on the subject, and found him equally ignorant.
"So the afternoon and evening passed. I met quite a number of famous
ladies—Catherine, Marie Louise, Josephine, Queen Elizabeth, and others.
Talked architecture with Queen Anne, and was surprised to learn that she
never saw a Queen Anne cottage. I took Peg Woffington down to supper, and
altogether had a fine time of it."
"But, my dear Surrennes," I put in at this point, "I fail to see what this
has to do with your defence in your trial for stealing spoons."
"I am coming to that," said 5010, sadly. "I dwell on the moments passed at
the club because they were the happiest of my life, and am loath to speak
of what followed, but I suppose I must. It was all due to Queen Isabella
that I got into trouble. Peg Woffington presented me to Queen Isabella in
the supper-room, and while her majesty and I were talking, I spoke of how
beautiful everything in the club was, and admired especially a half-dozen
old Spanish spoons upon the side-board. When I had done this, the Queen
called to Ferdinand, who was chatting with Columbus on the other side of
the room, to come to her, which he did with alacrity. I was presented to
the King, and then my troubles began.
"'Mr. Surrennes admires our spoons, Ferdinand,' said the Queen.
"The King smiled, and turning to me observed, 'Sir, they are yours.
Er—waiter, just do these spoons up and give them to Mr. Surrennes.'
"Of course," said 5010, "I protested against this; whereupon the King
"'It is a rule of our club, sir, as well as an old Spanish custom, for us
to present to our guests anything that they may happen openly to admire.
You are surely sufficiently well acquainted with the etiquette of club
life to know that guests may not with propriety decline to be governed by
the regulations of the club whose hospitality they are enjoying.'
"'I certainly am aware of that, my dear King,' I replied, 'and of course I
accept the spoons with exceeding deep gratitude. My remonstrance was
prompted solely by my desire to explain to you that I was unaware of any
such regulation, and to assure you that when I ventured to inform your
good wife that the spoons had excited my sincerest admiration, I was not
hinting that it would please me greatly to be accounted their possessor.'
"'Your courtly speech, sir,' returned the King, with a low bow, 'is ample
assurance of your sincerity, and I beg that you will put the spoons in
your pocket and say no more. They are yours. Verb. sap.'
"I thanked the great Spaniard and said no more, pocketing the spoons with
no little exultation, because, having always been a lover of the quaint
and beautiful, I was glad to possess such treasures, though I must confess
to some misgivings as to the possibility of their being unreal. Shortly
after this episode I looked at my watch and discovered that it was getting
well on towards eleven o'clock, and I sought out Hawley for the purpose of
thanking him for a delightful evening and of taking my leave. I met him in
the hall talking to Euripides on the subject of the amateur stage in the
United States. What they said I did not stop to hear, but offering my hand
to Hawley informed him of my intention to depart.
"'Well, old chap,' he said, affectionately, 'I'm glad you came. It's
always a pleasure to see you, and I hope we may meet again some time
soon.' And then, catching sight of my bundle, he asked, 'What have you
"I informed him of the episode in the supper-room, and fancied I perceived
a look of annoyance on his countenance.
"'I didn't want to take them, Hawley,' I said; 'but Ferdinand insisted.'
"'Oh, it's all right!' returned Hawley. 'Only I'm sorry! You'd better get
along home with them as quickly as you can and say nothing; and, above
all, don't try to sell them.'
"'But why?' I asked. 'I'd much prefer to leave them here if there is any
question of the propriety of my—'
"Here," continued 5010, "Hawley seemed to grow impatient, for he stamped
his foot angrily, and bade me go at once or there might be trouble. I
proceeded to obey him, and left the house instanter, slamming the door
somewhat angrily behind me. Hawley's unceremonious way of speeding his
parting guest did not seem to me to be exactly what I had a right to
expect at the time. I see now what his object was, and acquit him of any
intention to be rude, though I must say if I ever catch him again, I'll
wring an explanation from him for having introduced me into such bad
"As I walked down the steps," said 5010, "the chimes of the neighboring
church were clanging out the hour of eleven. I stopped on the last step to
look for a possible hansom-cab, when a portly gentleman accompanied by a
lady started to mount the stoop. The man eyed me narrowly for a moment,
and then, sending the lady up the steps, he turned to me and said,
"'What are you doing here?'
"'I've just left the club,' I answered. 'It's all right. I was Hawley
Hicks's guest. Whose ghost are you?'
"'What the deuce are you talking about?' he asked, rather gruffly, much to
my surprise and discomfort.
"'I tried to give you a civil answer to your question,' I returned,
"'I guess you're crazy—or a thief,' he rejoined.
"'See here, friend,' I put in, rather impressively, 'just remember one
thing. You are talking to a gentleman, and I don't take remarks of that
sort from anybody, spook or otherwise. I don't care if you are the ghost
of the Emperor Nero, if you give me any more of your impudence I'll
dissipate you to the four quarters of the universe—see?'
"Then he grabbed me and shouted for the police, and I was painfully
surprised to find that instead of coping with a mysterious being from
another world, I had two hundred and ten pounds of flesh and blood to
handle. The populace began to gather. The million and a half of small
boys of whom I have already spoken—mostly street gamins, owing to the
lateness of the hour—sprang up from all about us. Hansom-cab drivers,
attracted by the noise of our altercation, drew up to the sidewalk to
watch developments, and then, after the usual fifteen or twenty minutes,
the blue-coat emissary of justice appeared.
"'Phat's dthis?' he asked.
"'I have detected this man leaving my house in a suspicious manner,' said
my adversary. 'I have reason to suspect him of thieving.'
"'Your house!' I ejaculated, with fine scorn. 'I've got you there; this
is the house of the New York Branch of the Ghost Club. If you want it
proved,' I added, turning to the policeman, 'ring the bell, and ask.'
"'Oi t'ink dthat's a fair prophosition,' observed the policeman. 'Is the
"'Oh, come now!' cried my captor. 'Stop this nonsense, or I'll report you
to the department. This is my house, and has been for twenty years. I want
this man searched.'
"'Oi hov no warrant permithin' me to invistigate the contints ov dthe
gintlemon's clothes,' returned the intelligent member of the force. 'But
av yez 'll take yer solemn alibi dthat yez hov rayson t' belave the
gintlemon has worked ony habeas corpush business on yure propherty, oi'll
jug dthe blag-yard.'
"'I'll be responsible,' said the alleged owner of the house. 'Take him to
"'I refuse to move,' I said.
"'Oi'll not carry yez,' said the policeman, 'and oi'd advoise ye to
furnish yure own locomotion. Av ye don't, oi'll use me club. Dthot's th'
ounly waa yez 'll git dthe ambulanch.'
"'Oh, well, if you insist,' I replied, 'of course I'll go. I have nothing
"You see," added 5010 to me, in parenthesis, "the thought suddenly flashed
across my mind that if all was as my captor said, if the house was really
his and not the Ghost Club's, and if the whole thing was only my fancy,
the spoons themselves would turn out to be entirely fanciful; so I was all
right—or at least I thought I was. So we trotted along to the police
station. On the way I told the policeman the whole story, which impressed
him so that he crossed himself a half-dozen times, and uttered numerous
ejaculatory prayers—'Maa dthe shaints presharve us,' and 'Hivin hov
mershy,' and others of a like import.
"'Waz dthe ghosht ov Dan O'Connell dthere?' he asked.
"Yes,' I replied. 'I shook hands with it.'
"'Let me shaak dthot hand,' he said, his voice trembling with emotion, and
then he whispered in my ear: 'Oi belave yez to be innoshunt; but av yez
ain't, for the love of Dan, oi'll let yez _esh_cape.'
"'Thanks, old fellow,' I replied. 'But I am innocent of wrong-doing, as I
"Alas!" sighed the convict, "it was not to be so. When I arrived at the
station-house, I was dumfounded to learn that the spoons were all too
real. I told my story to the sergeant, and pointed to the monogram,
'G.C.,' on the spoons as evidence that my story was correct; but even
that told against me, for the alleged owner's initials were G.C.—his
name I withhold—and the monogram only served to substantiate his claim
to the spoons. Worst of all, he claimed that he had been robbed on several
occasions before this, and by midnight I found myself locked up in a dirty
cell to await trial.
"I got a lawyer, and, as I said before, even he declined to believe my
story, and suggested the insanity dodge. Of course I wouldn't agree to
that. I tried to get him to subpoena Ferdinand and Isabella and Euripides
and Hawley Hicks in my behalf, and all he'd do was to sit there and shake
his head at me. Then I suggested going up to the Metropolitan Opera-house
some fearful night as the clock struck twelve, and try to serve papers on
Wagner's spook—all of which he treated as unworthy of a moment's
consideration. Then I was tried, convicted, and sentenced to live in this
beastly hole; but I have one strong hope to buoy me up, and if that is
realized, I'll be free to-morrow morning."
"What is that?" I asked.
"Why," he answered, with a sigh, as the bell rang summoning him to his
supper—"why, the whole horrid business has been so weird and uncanny that
I'm beginning to believe it's all a dream. If it is, why, I'll wake up,
and find myself at home in bed; that's all. I've clung to that hope for
nearly a year now, but it's getting weaker every minute."
"Yes, 5010," I answered, rising and shaking him by the hand in parting;
"that's a mighty forlorn hope, because I'm pretty wide awake myself at
this moment, and can't be a part of your dream. The great pity is you
didn't try the insanity dodge."
"Tut!" he answered. "That is the last resource of a weak mind."