The Haunted House on Duchess Street

by John Charles Dent

 

BEING A NARRATION OF CERTAIN STRANGE EVENTS ALLEGED TO HAVE TAKEN PLACE AT YORK, UPPER CANADA, IN OR ABOUT THE YEAR 1823.

                "O'er all there hung the Shadow of a Fear;
                 A sense of mystery the spirit daunted;
                And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
                 The place is haunted."—HOOD.

I.—OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.

I suppose there are at least a score of persons living in Toronto at the present moment who remember that queer old house on Duchess street. Not that there was anything specially remarkable about the house itself, which indeed, in its best days, presented an aspect of rather snug respectability. But the events I am about to relate invested it with an evil reputation, and made it an object to be contemplated at a safe distance, rather than from any near approach. Youngsters on their way to school were wont to eye it askance as they hurried by on their way to their daily tasks. Even children of a larger growth manifested no unbecoming desire to penetrate too curiously into its inner mysteries, and for years its threshold was seldom or never crossed by anybody except Simon Washburn or some of his clerks, who about once in every twelvemonth made a quiet entry upon the premises and placed in the front windows announcements to the effect that the place was "For Sale or To Let." The printing of these announcements involved a useless expenditure of capital, for, from the time when the character of the house became matter of notoriety, no one could be induced to try the experiment of living in it. In the case of a house, no less than in that of an individual, a bad name is more easily gained than lost, and in the case of the house on Duchess street its uncanny repute clung to it with a persistent grasp which time did nothing to relax. It was distinctly and emphatically a place to keep away from.

The house was originally built by one of the Ridout family—I think by the Surveyor-General himself—soon after the close of the war of 1812, and it remained intact until a year or two after the town of York became the city of Toronto, when it was partly demolished and converted into a more profitable investment. The new structure, which was a shingle or stave factory, was burned down in 1843 or 1844, and the site thenceforward remained unoccupied until comparatively recent times. When I visited the spot a few weeks since I encountered not a little difficulty in fixing upon the exact site, which is covered by an unprepossessing row of dark red brick, presenting the aspect of having stood there from time immemorial, though as I am informed, the houses have been erected within the last quarter of a century. Unattractive as they appear, however, they are the least uninviting feature in the landscape, which is prosaic and squalid beyond description. Rickety, tumble-down tenements of dilapidated lath and plaster stare the beholder in the face at every turn. During the greater part of the day the solitude of the neighbourhood remains unbroken save by the tread of some chance wayfarer like myself, and a general atmosphere of the abomination of desolation reigns supreme. Passing along the unfrequented pavement, one finds it difficult to realize the fact that this was once a not unfashionable quarter of the capital of Upper Canada.

The old house stood forty or fifty feet back from the roadway, on the north side, overlooking the waters of the bay. The lot was divided from the street by a low picket fence, and admission to the enclosure was gained by means of a small gate. In those remote times there were few buildings intervening between Duchess street and the water front, and those few were not very pretentious; so that when the atmosphere was free from fog you could trace from the windows of the upper story the entire hithermost shore of the peninsula which has since become The Island. The structure itself, like most buildings then erected in York, was of frame. It was of considerable dimensions for those days, and must have contained at least eight or nine rooms. It was two stories high, and had a good deal of painted fret-work about the windows of the upper story. A stately elm stood immediately in the rear, and its wide-spreading branches overshadowed the greater part of the back yard and outbuildings. And that is all I have been able to learn about the exterior aspect of the place.

II.—INSIDE THE HOUSE.

A small porch-door, about half way down the western side, furnished the ordinary mode of entrance to and exit from the house. This door opened into an apartment which served the double purpose of sitting-room and dining-room, and which was connected by an inner door with the kitchen and back premises. There was, however, a rather wide-mouthed front entrance, approached by a short flight of wooden steps, and opening into a fair-sized hall. To the right of the hall, as you entered, a door opened into what served as a drawing-room, which was seldom used, as the occupants of the house were not given to receiving much fashionable company. To the left of the hall, another door opened into the dining-room already mentioned. A stairway facing the front entrance, conducted you to the upper story, which consisted of several bed-rooms and a large apartment in front. This latter must have been by long odds the pleasantest room in the house. It was of comfortable dimensions, well lighted, and cheerful as to its outlook. Two front windows commanded a prospect of the bay and the peninsula, while a third window on the eastern side overlooked the valley of the Don, which was by no means the stagnant pool which it was destined to become in later years. The only entrance to this chamber was a door placed directly to the right hand at the head of the stairway, which stairway, it may be mentioned, consisted of exactly seventeen steps. A small bedroom in the rear was accessible only by a separate door at the back of the upper hallway, and was thus not directly connected with the larger apartment.

I am not informed as to the precise number and features of the other rooms in the upper story, except that is they were bedrooms; nor is any further information respecting them essential to a full comprehension of the narrative. Why I have been so precise as to what may at first appear trivial details will hereafter appear.

III.—THE TENANTS OF THE HOUSE.

As already mentioned, the house was probably built by Surveyor-General Ridout;—but it does not appear that either he or any member of his family ever resided there. The earliest occupant of whom I have been able to find any trace was Thomas Mercer Jones—the gentleman, I presume, who was afterwards connected with the Canada Land Company. Whether he was the first tenant I am unable to say, but a gentleman bearing that name dwelt there during the latter part of the year 1816, and appears to have been a well-known citizen of Little York. In 1819 the tenant was a person named McKechnie, as to whom I have been unable to glean any information whatever beyond the bare fact that he was a pewholder in St. James's church. He appears to have given place to one of the numerous members of the Powell family.

But the occupant with whom this narrative is more immediately concerned was a certain ex-military man named Bywater, who woke up the echoes of York society for a few brief months, between sixty and seventy years ago, and who, after passing a lurid interval of his misspent life in this community, solved the great problem of human existence by falling down stairs and breaking his neck. Captain Stephen Bywater was a mauvais sujet of the most pronounced stamp. He came of a good family in one of the Midland Counties of England; entered the army at an early age, and was present on a certain memorable Sunday at Waterloo, on which occasion he is said to have borne himself gallantly and well. But he appears to have had a deep vein of ingrained vice in his composition, which perpetually impelled him to crooked paths. Various ugly stories were current about him, for all of which there was doubtless more or less foundation. It was said that he had been caught cheating at play, and that he was an adept in all the rascalities of the turf. The deplorable event which led to the resignation of his commission made considerable noise at the time of its occurrence. A young brother officer whom he had swindled out of large sums of money, was forced by him into a duel, which was fought on the French coast, in the presence of two seconds and a military surgeon. There seems to have been no doubt that the villainous captain fired too soon. At any rate, the youth who had been inveigled into staking his life on the issue was left dead on the field, while the aggressor rode off unscathed, followed by the execrations of his own second. A rigid enquiry was instituted, but the principal witnesses were not forthcoming, and the murderer—for as such he was commonly regarded—escaped the punishment which everybody considered he had justly merited. The severance of his connection with the army was a foregone conclusion, and he was formally expelled from his club. He was socially sent to Coventry, and his native land soon became for him a most undesirable place of abode. Then he crossed the Atlantic and made his way to Upper Canada, where, after a while, he turned up at York, and became the tenant of the house on Duchess street.

At the time of his arrival in this country, which must have been some time in 1822, or perhaps early in 1823, Captain Bywater was apparently about forty years of age. He was a bachelor and possessed of some means. For a very brief period he contrived to make his way into the select society of the Provincial capital; but it soon became known that he was the aristocratic desperado who had so ruthlessly shot down young Remy Errington on the sands near Boulogne, and who had the reputation of being one of the most unmitigated scamps who ever wore uniform. York society in those days could swallow a good deal in a man of good birth and competent fortune, but it could not swallow even a well-to-do bachelor of good family and marriageable age who had been forced to resign his commission, and had been expelled from a not too straight-laced London club, by a unanimous vote of the committee. Captain Bywater was dropped with a suddenness and severity which he could not fail to understand. He received no more invitations from mothers with marriageable daughters, and when he presented himself at their doors informally and forbidden he found nobody at home. Ladies ceased to recognise him on the street, and gentlemen received his bows with a response so frigid that he readily comprehended the state of affairs. He perceived that his day of grace was past, and accepted his fate with a supercilious shrug of his broad shoulders.

But the Captain was a gregarious animal, to whom solitude was insupportable. Society of some sort was a necessity of his existence, and as the company of ladies and gentlemen, was no longer open to him, he sought consolation among persons of a lower grade in the social scale. He began to frequent bar-rooms and other places of public resort, and as he was free with his money he had no difficulty in finding companions of a certain sort who were ready and willing enough to drink at his expense, and to listen to the braggadocio tales of the doughty deeds achieved by him during his campaign in the Peninsula. In a few weeks he found himself the acknowledged head and front of a little coterie which assembled nightly at the George Inn, on King street. This, however, did not last long, as the late potations and ribald carousings of the company disturbed the entire neighborhood, and attracted attention to the place. The landlord received a stern admonition to keep earlier hours and less uproarious guests. When Boniface sought to carry this admonition into effect Captain Bywater mounted his high horse, and adjourned to his own place, taking his five or six boon companions with him. From that time forward the house on Duchess street was the regular place of meeting.

IV.—THE ORGIES IN THE HOUSE.

Captain Bywater, upon his first arrival at York, had taken up his quarters at a public house. The York inns of the period had an unenviable reputation, and were widely different from the Queen's and Rossin of the present day. Some of my readers will doubtless remember John Gait's savage fling at them several years later. To parody Dr. Johnson's characterization of the famous leg of mutton, they were ill-looking, ill-smelling, ill-provided and ill-kept. In a word, they were unendurable places of sojourn for a man of fastidious tastes and sensitive nerves. Perhaps the Captain's tastes were fastidious, though I can hardly believes that his nerves were sensitive. Possibly he wished to furnish clear evidence that he was no mere sojourner in a strange land, but that he had come here with a view to permanent settlement. At all events his stay at an inn was of brief duration. He rented the house on Duchess street and furnished it in a style which for those days might be called expensive, more especially for a bachelor's establishment. The greater part of the furniture was sent up from Montreal, and the Captain proclaimed his intention of giving a grand house-warming at an early date. He had hardly become settled in the place, however, before his character and antecedent life became known, as already mentioned, and the project was abandoned.

His household consisted of a man-servant named Jim Summers, whom he had picked up at Montreal, and the wife of the latter, who enjoyed the reputation of being an excellent cook, in which capacity she was afterwards employed at the Government House during the regime of Sir John Colborne. At first this couple had a tolerably easy time of it. The Captain was not exigeant, and allowed them to run the establishment pretty much as they chose. He always rose late, and went out immediately after breakfast, accompanied by his large Newfoundland dog Nero, the only living possession he had brought with him from beyond the sea. Master and dog were seen no more until dinner-time, which was five o'clock. Between seven and eight in the evening the pair would betake themselves to the George, where the Captain drank and howled himself hoarse until long past midnight. But he was a seasoned vessel, and generally had pretty fair control over his limbs. He could always find his way home without assistance, and used to direct his man not to wait up for him. The dog was his companion whenever he stirred out of doors.

But when the venue was changed from the tap-room of the George Inn to the Captain's own house, the troubles of Jim Summers and his wife began. The guests commonly arrived within a few minutes of each other, and were all in their places by eight o'clock. They met in the large upper room, and their sessions were prolonged far into the night, or rather into the morning, for it happened often enough that daylight peeped in through the eastern window and found the company still undispersed. Ribald jests, drunken laughter and obscene songs were kept up the whole night through. The quantity of rum, whisky, brandy and beer consumed in the course of a week must have been something to wonder at. The refreshments were provided at the expense of the host, and as it was Jim's business to keep up the supply of spirits, lemons and hot water, he had no sinecure on his hands. It might well be supposed that he might, if so minded, have found a more congenial situation, but as a matter of fact, he was not over scrupulous as to the nature of his employment, and probably had his full share of the fun. The Captain paid good wages, and was lavish in gratuities when he was in good humor. On the whole Jim considered that he had not such a bad place of it, and was by no means disposed to quarrel with his bread and butter. His wife took a different view of affairs, and ere long refused to remain on the premises during the nightly orgies. This difficulty was got over by an arrangement whereby she was permitted to quit the house at eight o'clock in the evening, returning on the following morning in time to prepare the Captain's breakfast. She spent her nights with a married sister who lived a short distance away, and by this means she avoided what to any woman of respectability must have been an unbearable infliction.

The orgies, in process of time, became a reproach to the neighborhood and a scandal to the town. They were, however, kept up with few interruptions, for several months. More than one townsman declared that so intolerable a nuisance must be abated, but no one liked to be the first to stir in such an unpleasant business, and the bacchanalians continued to "vex with mirth the drowsy ear of night," unchecked by more cleanly-living citizens. But just about the time when these carousings had become absolutely intolerable to the community, they were put a stop to without any outside interference.

V.—THE CATASTROPHE IN THE HOUSE.

On a certain Sunday night, which was destined to be memorable in the annals of the Duchess street house, the number of Captain Bywater's guests was smaller than usual. They consisted of only three persons:

1. Henry John Porter, an articled clerk in the office of Simon Washburn. Mr. Washburn was a well-known lawyer of those times, whose office was on the corner of Duke and George streets. He acted professionally for the Ridout family, and had the letting and sale of the Duchess street property. It was probably through this circumstance that his clerk had become acquainted with Captain Bywater.

2. James McDougall, who was employed in some subordinate capacity in the Civil Service.

3. Alfred Jordan Pilkey, whose occupation seems to have been nothing in particular.

What had become of the other regular attendants does not appear. Not only were the guests few in number on this particular evening, but the proceedings themselves seem to have been of a much less noisy character than ordinary. It was noticed that the host was somewhat out of humor, and that he displayed signs of ill-temper which were not usual with him. His demeanor reflected itself upon his company, and the fun was neither fast nor furious. In fact the time passed somewhat drearily, and the sederunt broke up at the unprecedentedly early hour of eleven o'clock. The man-servant saw the company out, locked the door, and repaired to the room up-stairs where his master still lingered, to see if anything more was required of him.

The Captain sat in a large armchair by the fire, sipping a final glass of grog. He seemed gloomy and dispirited, as though he had something on his mind. In response to Jim's enquiry whether he wanted anything he growled out: "No, go to bed, and be hanged to you." Jim took him at his word, so far as the first clause of the injunction was concerned. He went to bed in his room on the opposite side of the hallway. In passing through the hall he perceived Nero lying asleep on the mat in front of his master's bedroom, which was the small room in the rear of the large apartment where the meetings were held.

Jim had not been in bed many minutes and was in a tranquil state between sleeping and waking, when he heard his master emerge from the front room, and pass along the hallway, as though about to enter his bed-chamber. Another moment and he was roused from his half-somnolent condition by the hearing of the sharp report of a pistol shot, followed by a sound from Nero, something between a moan and a howl. He sprang to the floor, but ere he could make his way into the hall he was well-nigh stunned by hearing a tremendous crash, as though some large body had been hurled violently down the stairs from top to bottom. A vague thought of robbers flashed through his brain, and he paused for a moment, as he himself afterwards admitted, half paralyzed with fright. He called aloud upon his master and then upon the dog, but received no response from either. The crash of the falling body was succeeded by absolute silence. Pulling his nerves together he struck a match, lighted his candle and passed in fear and trembling into the hallway. The first sight that greeted his eyes was the seemingly lifeless body of Nero lying stretched out at the head of the stairs. Upon approaching the body he found blood trickling from a wound in the poor brute's throat. One of the Captain's pistols lay on the floor, close by. But where was the Captain himself? Shading his eyes and holding the candle before him he peered fearfully down the stairway, but the darkness was too profound to admit of his seeing to the bottom. By this time a foreshadowing of the truth had made its way to his understanding. He crept gingerly down the stairs, slowly step by step, holding the candle far in advance, and anon calling upon his master by name. He had passed more than half the way down before he received full confirmation of his forebodings.

There, lying at full length across the hallway, between the foot of the stairs and the front door, was the body of Remy Errington's murderer, with the sinister, evil face turned up to the ceiling. His left arm, still grasping a candlestick, was doubled under him, and his body, in its impetuous descent, had torn away the lower portion of the balustrade. The distraught serving-man raised the head on his arm, and, by such means as occurred to him, sought to ascertain whether any life still lingered there. He could find no pulsation at the wrist, but upon applying his ear to the left side he fancied he could detect a slight fluttering of the heart. Then he rushed to the kitchen, and returned with a pitcher of water, which he dashed in the prostrate face. As this produced no apparent effect he ran back upstairs to his bedroom, threw on part of his clothes, and made his way at full speed to the house of Dr. Pritchard on Newgate street.

The doctor was a late bird, and had not retired to rest. He at once set out for Duchess street, Jim Summers going round by the house of his sister-in-law on Palace street to arouse his wife, who slept there. Upon receiving his wife's promise to follow him as soon as she could huddle on her clothing, Jim ran on in advance, and reached the Duchess street house, only a minute or two later than Dr. Pritchard. The doctor had been there long enough, however, to ascertain that the Captain's neck was broken, and that he was where no human aid could reach him. He would preside over no more orgies in the large room on the upper story.

VI.—THE INQUEST IN THE HOUSE.

There was an inquest. That, under the circumstances, was a matter of course, but nothing of importance was elicited beyond what has already been noted. Porter, Macdougall and Pilkey all attended, and gave evidence to the effect, that Captain Bywater was tolerably drunk when they left him at eleven, but that he was upon the whole the most sober of the party and appeared quite capable of taking care of himself. They had noticed his uncongenial mood, but could afford no conjecture as to the cause. It was impossible to suspect anything in the shape of foul play. The obvious conclusion to be arrived at was that the Captain's long drinking bouts had produced their legitimate result, and that at the moment when he met his death he was suffering from, or on the verge of delirium tremens. He generally carried a loaded pistol in his breast pocket. He had found the dog asleep on the mat before his bedchamber. It was probably asleep, or, at all events, it did not hasten to get out of his way, and in a moment of insane fury or drunken stupidity he had drawn forth his weapon, and shot the poor brute dead. He had just then been standing near the top of the stairs. The quantity of liquor he had drunk was sufficient to justify the conclusion that he was not as steady on his pins as a sober man would have been. He had over-balanced himself, and—and that was the whole story. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict in accordance with the facts, and the Captain's body was put to bed with the sexton's spade.

A will, drawn up in due form in the office of Mr. Washburn, and properly signed and attested, had been made by the deceased a short time after taking possession of the place on Duchess street. His fortune chiefly consisted of an income of five hundred pounds sterling per annum, secured on real estate situated in Gloucestershire, England. This income lapsed upon his death, and it had thus been unnecessary to make any testamentary provision respecting it, except as to the portion which should accrue between the last quarter-day and the death of the testator. This portion was bequeathed to an elder brother residing in Gloucestershire. All the other property of the deceased was bequeathed to Mr. Washburn, in trust to dispose of such personal belongings as did not consist of ready money, and to transmit the proceeds, together with all the cash in hand, to the said elder brother in Gloucestershire.

The latter provisions were duly carried into effect by Mr. Washburn within a few days after the funeral, and it might well have been supposed that the good people of York had heard the last of Captain Bywater and his affairs.

But they hadn't.

VII.—THE BLACK DOG AND HIS MASTER.

At the sale of Captain Bywater's effects a portion of the furniture belonging to the dining-room, kitchen and one bedroom were purchased by Jim Summers, who, with his wife, continued to reside in the Duchess street house pending the letting of it to a new tenant. These temporary occupants thus lived in three rooms, their sleeping apartment being on the upper story at the northern side of the house, and on the opposite side of the hall from the large room which had been the scene of so much recent dissipation. All the rest of the house was left bare, and the doors of the unoccupied rooms were kept locked. Summers found employment as porter and assistant in Hammell's grocery store, but his wife was always on hand to show the premises to anyone who might wish to see them.

All went on quietly until nearly a month after the funeral. Mrs. Summers had an easy time of it, as no intending tenants presented themselves, and her only visitor was her married sister, who occasionally dropped in for an hour's chat. Jim was always at home by seven in the evening, and the time glided by without anything occurring to disturb the smooth current of their lives.

But this state of things was not to be of long continuance. One night when Mr. Washburn was busy over his briefs in his study at home he was disturbed by a loud knocking at his front door. As it was nearly midnight, and as everyone else in the house had retired to rest, he answered the summons in person. Upon unfastening the door he found Jim and his wife at the threshold. They were only half dressed, and their countenances were colorless as Pallida Mors. They stumbled impetuously into the hall, and were evidently laboring under some tremendous excitement. The lawyer conducted them into the study, where they poured into his astonished ears a most singular tale.

Their story was to the effect that they had been disturbed for several nights previously by strange and inexplicable noises in the house occupied by them on Duchess street. They had been aroused from sleep at indeterminate hours by the sound of gliding footsteps just outside of the door of their bedroom. Once they had distinctly heard the sound of voices, which seemed to come from the large front room across the hall. As the door of that room was last closed and locked, they had not been able to distinguish the particular words, but they both declared that the voice was marvellously like that of Captain Bywater. They were persons of fairly steady nerves, but their situation, all things considered, was solitary and peculiar, and they had not by any means relished these unaccountable manifestations. On each occasion, however, they had controlled themselves sufficiently to institute a vigorous investigation of the premises, but had discovered nothing to throw any light upon the subject. They had found all the doors and the windows securely fastened and there was no sign of the presence of anything or anybody to account for the gliding footsteps.

They had unlocked and entered the front room, and found it bare and deserted as it had been left ever since the removal of the furniture after the sale. They had even gone to the length of unlocking and entering every other room in the house, but had found no clue to the mysterious sounds which had disturbed them. Then they had argued themselves into the belief that imagination had imposed upon them, or that there was some natural but undiscovered cause for what had occurred. They were reluctant to make themselves the laughingstock of the town by letting the idea get abroad that they were afraid of ghosts, and they determined to hold their tongues. But the manifestations had at last assumed a complexion which rendered it impossible to pursue such a course any longer, and they vehemently protested that they would not pass another night in the accursed house for any bribe that could be offered them.

They had spent the preceding evening at home, as usual, and had gone to bed a little before ten o'clock. The recent manifestations had probably left some lingering trace upon their nerves, but they had no premonitions of further experiences of the same character, and had soon dropped asleep. They knew not how long they had slept when they were suddenly and simultaneously rendered broad awake by a succession of sounds which could not possibly be explained by any reference to mere imagination. They heard the voice of their late master as distinctly as they had ever heard it during his life. As before, it emanated from the front room, but this time there was no possibility of their being deceived, as they caught not only the sound of his voice, but also certain words which they had often heard from his lips in bygone times. "Don't spare the liquor, gentlemen," roared the Captain, "there's plenty more where that came from. More sugar and lemon, you scoundrel, and be handy there with the hot water." Then was heard the jingling of glasses and loud rapping as if made with the knuckles of the hand upon the table. Other voices were now heard joining in conversation, but too indistinctly for the now thoroughly frightened listeners to catch any of the actual words. There could, however, be no mistake. Captain Bywater had certainly come back from the land of shadows and re-instituted the old orgies in the old spot. The uproar lasted for at least five minutes, when the Captain gave one of his characteristic drunken howls, and of a sudden all was still and silent as the grave.

As might naturally have been expected, the listeners were terror-stricken. For a few moments after the cessation of the disturbance, they lay there in silent, open-mouthed wonderment and fear. Then, before they could find their voices, their ears were assailed by a loud noise in the hall below, followed by the muffled "bow-wow" of a dog, the sound of which seemed to come from the landing at the head of the stairway. Jim could stand the pressure of the situation no longer. He sprang from the bed, lighted a candle, and rushed out into the hall. This he did, as he afterwards admitted, not because he felt brave, but because he was too terrified to remain in bed, and seemed to be impelled by a resolve to face the worst that fate might have in store for him. Just as he passed from the door into the hall, a heavy footstep was heard slowly ascending the stairs. He paused where he stood, candle in hand. The steps came on, on, on, with measured tread. A moment more and he caught sight of the ascending figure. Horror of horrors! It was his late master—clothes, cane and all—just as he had been in life; and at the head of the stairs stood Nero, who gave vent to another low bark of recognition. When the Captain reached the landing place he turned halfway round, and the light of the candle fell full on his face. Jim saw the whole outline with the utmost clearness, even to the expression in the eyes, which was neither gay nor sad, but rather stolid and stern—just what he had been accustomed to see there. The dog crouched back against the wall, and after a brief halt near the stair-head, Captain Bywater turned the knob of his bed-room door and passed in. The dog followed, the door was closed, and once more all was silent. Jim turned and encountered the white face of his wife. She had been standing behind him all the while, and had seen everything just as it had been presented to his own eyes. Moreover, impelled by some inward prompting for which she could never account, she had counted the footsteps as they had ascended the stairs. They had been exactly seventeen!

The pair re-entered their room and took hurried counsel together. They had distinctly seen the Captain turn the knob and pass into his bed-room, followed by the semblance of Nero. As they well knew, the door of that room was locked, and the key was at that moment in the pocket of Mrs. Summers' dress. In sheer desperation they resolved at all hazards to unlock the door and enter the room. Mrs. Summers produced the key and handed it to her husband. She carried the candle and accompanied him to the stair-head. He turned the lock and pushed the door wide open before him, and both advanced into the room. It was empty, and the window was found firmly fastened on the inside, as it had been left weeks before.

They returned to their own bedroom, and agreed that any further stay in such a house of horrors was not to be thought of. Hastily arraying themselves in such clothing as came readily to hand, they passed down the stair-way, unbolted the front door, blew out the light, and made their way into the open air. Then they relocked the door from outside and left the place. Their intended destination was the house of Mrs. Summers' sister, but they determined to go round by Mr. Washburn's and tell him their story, as they knew he kept late hours and would most likely not have gone to bed.

Mr. Washburn, stolid man of law though he was, could not listen to such a narrative without perceptable signs of astonishment. After thinking over the matter a few moments, he requested his visitors to pass the night under his roof, and to keep their own counsel for the present about their strange experiences. As he well knew, if the singular story got wind there would be no possibility of finding another tenant for the vacant house. The young couple acceded to the first request, and promised compliance with the second. They were then shown to a spare room, and the marvels of that strange night were at an end.

Next morning at an early hour the lawyer and the ex-serving man proceeded to the Duchess street house. Everything was as it had been left the night before, and no clue could be found to the mysterious circumstances so solemnly attested to by Jim Summers and his spouse. The perfect sincerity of the couple could not be doubted, but Mr. Washburn was on the whole disposed to believe that they had in some way been imposed upon by designing persons who wished to frighten them off the premises, or that their imaginations had played them a scurvy trick. With a renewed caution as to silence he dismissed them, and they thenceforth took up their abode in the house of Mrs. Summers' sister on Palace street.

Mr. and Mrs. Summers kept their mouths as close as, under the circumstances, could reasonably have been expected of them. But it was necessary to account in some way for their sudden desertion of the Duchess street house, and Mrs. Summers' sister was of an inquisitive disposition. By degrees she succeeded in getting at most of the facts, but to do her justice she did not proclaim them from the housetops, and for some time the secret was pretty well kept. The story would probably not have become generally known at all, but for a succession of circumstances which took place when the haunted house had been vacant about two months.

An American immigrant named Horsfall arrived at York with a view of settling there and opening out a general store. He was a man of family and of course required a house to live in. It so happened that the store rented to him on King street had no house attached to it, and it was therefore necessary for him to look out for a suitable place elsewhere. Hearing that a house on Duchess street was to let, he called and went over the premises with Mr. Washburn, who naturally kept silent as to the supernatural appearances which had driven the Summerses from the door in the middle of the night. The inspection proved satisfactory, and Mr. Horsfall took the place for a year. His household consisted of his wife, two grown-up daughters, a son in his fifteenth year, and a black female servant. They came up from Utica in advance of Mr. Horsfall's expectations, and before the house was ready for them, but matters were pushed forward with all possible speed, and on the evening of the second day after their arrival they took possession of the place. The furniture was thrown in higgledy-piggledy, and all attempts to put things to rights were postponed until the next day. The family walked over after tea from the inn at which they had been staying, resolving to rough it for a single night in their new home in preference to passing another night amid countless swarms of "the pestilence that walketh in darkness." Two beds were hastily made up on the floor of the drawing-room, one for the occupation of Mr. and Mrs. Horsfall, and the other for the two young women. A third bed was hastily extemporized on the floor of the dining-room for the occupation of Master George Washington, and Dinah found repose on a lounge in the adjacent kitchen. The entire household went to bed sometime between ten and eleven o'clock, all pretty well tired, and prepared for a comfortable night's rest. They had been in bed somewhat more than an hour when the whole family was aroused by the barking of a dog in the lower hall. This was, not unnaturally, regarded as strange, inasmuch as all the doors and windows had been carefully fastened by Mr. Horsfall before retiring, and there had certainly been no dog in the house then. The head of the family lost no time in lighting a candle and opening the door into the hall. At the same moment young G. W. opened the door on the opposite side. Yes, there, sure enough, was a large, black Newfoundland dog, seemingly very much at home, as though he belonged to the place. As the youth advanced towards him he retreated to the stairway, up which he passed at a great padding pace. How on earth had he gained an entrance? Well, at all events he must be got rid of; but he looked as if he would be an awkward customer to tackle at close quarters and Mr. Horsfall deemed it prudent to put on a part of his clothing before making any attempt to expel him. While he was dressing, the tread of the animal on the floor of the upper hall could be distinctly heard, and ever and anon he emitted a sort of low, barking sound, which was ominous of a disposition to resent any interference with him. By this time all the members of the household were astir and clustering about the lower hall. Mr. Horsfall, with a lighted candle in one hand and a stout cudgel in the other, passed up the stairs and looked along the passage. Why, what on earth had become of the dog! It was nowhere to be seen! Where could it have hidden itself? It was certainly too large an animal to have taken refuge in a rat-hole. Had it entered one of the rooms? Impossible, for they were all closed, though not locked. Mr. H. himself having unlocked them in the course of the afternoon, when some furniture had been taken into them. He, however, looked into each room in succession, only to find "darkness there and nothing more." Then he concluded that the brute must have gone down stairs while he had been putting on his clothes in the room below. No, that could not be, for George Washington had never left the foot of the stairway from the moment the dog first passed up. Had it jumped through one of the windows? No, they were all fast and intact. Had it gone up the chimney of the front room? No; apart from the absurdity of the idea, the hole was not large enough to admit of a dog one-fifth its size. In vain the house was searched through and through. Not a sign of the huge disturber of the domestic peace was to be seen anywhere.

After a while, Mr. Horsfall, at a loss for anything better to exercise his faculties upon, opened both the front and back doors and looked all over the premises, alternately calling Carlo! Watch! and every other name which occurred to him as likely to be borne by a dog. There was no response, and in sheer disgust he re-entered the house and again sought his couch. In a few minutes more the household was again locked in slumber. But they were not at the end of their annoyances. About half an hour after midnight they were once more aroused.—this time by the sound of loud voices in the large upper room. "I tell you we will all have glasses round," roared a stentorian voice—"I will knock down the first man who objects!" Everybody in the house heard the voice and the words. This was apparently more serious than the dog. Mr. H. regretted that he had left his pistols at the inn, but he determined to rid the place of the intruders whoever they might be. Grasping the cudgel he again made his way up-stairs, candle in hand. When more than half way up he caught sight of a tall, heavily-built, red-faced man, who had apparently emerged from the larger room, and who was just on the point of opening the door of the back bedroom. "Who are you, you scoundrel?" exclaimed Mr. H. The man apparently neither saw nor heard him, but opened the door with tranquil unconcern and passed into the room. Mr. H. followed quickly at his very heels—only to find that he had been beguiled with a counterfeit, and that there was no one there. Then he stepped back into the hallway, and entered the larger room with cudgel raised, fully expecting to find several men there. To his unspeakable astonishment he found nobody. Again he hurried from room to room, upstairs and downstairs. Again he examined the doors and windows to see if the fastenings had been tampered with. No, all was tight and snug. The family were again astir, hurrying hither and thither, in quest of they knew not what; but they found nothing to reward their search, and after a while all gathered together half-clad in the dining room, where they began to ask each other what these singular disturbances could mean.

Mr. Horsfall was a plain, matter of fact personage, and up to this moment no idea of any supernatural visitation had so much as entered his mind. Even now he scouted the idea when it was timidly broached by his wife. He, however, perceived plainly enough that this was something altogether out of the common way, and he announced his intention of going to bed no more that night. The others lay down again, but we may readily believe that they slept lightly, if at all, though nothing more occurred to disturb them. Soon after daylight all the family rose and dressed for the day. Once more they made tour after tour through all the rooms, only to find that everything remained precisely as it had been left on the preceding night.

After an early breakfast Mr. H. proceeded to the house of Mr. Washburn, where he found that gentleman was still asleep, and that he could not be disturbed. The visitor was a patient man and declared his intention of waiting. In about an hour Mr. Washburn came down stairs, and heard the extraordinary story which his tenant had to relate. He had certainly not anticipated anything of this sort, and gave vehement utterance to his surprise. In reply to Mr. H.'s enquiries about the house, however, he gave him a brief account of the life and death of Captain Bywater, and supplemented the biography by a narration of the singular experiences of Jim Summers and his wife. Then the American fired up, alleging that his landlord had had no right to let him the house, and to permit him to remove his family into it, without acquainting him with the facts beforehand. The lawyer admitted that he had perhaps been to blame, and expressed his regret. The tenant declared that he then and there threw up his tenancy, and that he would vacate the house in the course of the day. Mr. Washburn felt that a court of law would probably hesitate to enforce a lease under such circumstances, and assented that the arrangement between them should be treated as cancelled.

VIII.—THE LAST OF THE HOUSE.

And cancelled it was. Mr. Horsfall temporarily took his family and his other belongings back to the inn, but soon afterwards secured a house where no guests, canine, or otherwise, were in the habit of intruding themselves uninvited in the silent watches of the night. He kept a store here for some years, and, I believe, was buried at York. A son of his, as I am informed—probably the same who figures in the foregoing narrative—is, or lately was, a well-to-do resident of Syracuse, N. Y.

Mr. Horsfall made no secret of his reasons for throwing up his tenancy, and his adventures were soon noised abroad throughout the town. He was the last tenant of the sombre house. Thenceforward no one could be induced to rent it or even to occupy it rent free. It was commonly regarded as a whisht, gruesome spot, and was totally unproductive to its owners. Its subsequent history has already been given.

And now what more is there to tell? Only this: that the main facts of the foregoing story are true. Of course I am not in a position to vouch for them from personal knowledge, any more than I am in a position to personally vouch for the invasion of England by William of Normandy. But they rest on as good evidence as most other private events of sixty-odd years ago, and there is no reason for doubting their literal truth. With regard to the supernatural element, I am free to confess that I am not able to accept it in entirety. This is not because I question the veracity of those who vouch for the alleged facts, but because I have not received those facts at first hand, and because I am not very ready to believe in the supernatural at all. I think that, in the case under consideration, an intelligent investigation at the time might probably have brought to light circumstances as to which the narrative, as it stands, is silent. Be that as it may, the tale is worth the telling, and I have told it.