Mark of the Spirit Hand by Charles M. Skinner
Andover, New Jersey, was quaint and quiet in the days before the
Revolution—it is not a roaring metropolis, even yet—and as it offered
few social advantages there was more gathering in taprooms and more
drinking of flip than there should have been. Among those who were not
averse to a cheering cup were three boon companions, Bailey, Hill, and
Evans, farmers of the neighborhood. They loved the tavern better than the
church, and in truth the church folk did not love them well, for they
were suspected of entertaining heresies of the most forbidden character.
It was while they were discussing matters of belief over their glasses
that one of them proposed, in a spirit of bravado, that whichever of the
trio might be first to die should come back from the grave and reveal
himself to the others—if he could—thus settling the question as to
whether there was a future.
Not long after this agreement—for consent was unanimous—Hill departed
this life. His friends lamented his absence, especially at the tavern,
but they anticipated no attempt on his part to express the distinguished
consideration that he had felt for his old chums. Some weeks passed, yet
there was no sign, and the two survivors of the party, as they jogged
homeward to the house where both lived, had begun to think and speak less
frequently of the absent one. But one night the household was alarmed by
a terrible cry. Bailey got a light and hurried to the bedside of his
friend, whom he found deathly white and holding his chest as if in pain.
"He has been here!" gasped Evans. "He stood here just now."
"Who?" asked Bailey, a creep passing down his spine.
"Hill! He stood there, where you are now, and touched me with a hand that
was so cold—cold—" and Evans shivered violently. On turning back the
collar of his shirt the impression of a hand appeared on the flesh near
the shoulder: a hand in white, with one finger missing. Hill had lost a
finger. There was less of taverns after that night, for Evans carried the
token of that ghostly visit on his person until he, too, had gone to
solve the great secret.