A Russian Ghost


 The following story is vouched for by Mr. W. D. Addison, of Riga, and sent by him to Mr. W. T. Stead, who published it in Borderland: “It was in February 1884, that the incidents I am about to relate occurred to me, and the story is well-known to my immediate friends. “Five weeks previously my wife had presented me with our first baby, and our house being a small one, I had to sleep on a bed made up in the drawing-room—a spacious but cozy apartment, and the last place in which one would expect ghosts to select for their wanderings. “On the night in question, I retired to my couch soon after ten and fell asleep almost the moment I was between the sheets. “Instead of sleeping as I am thankful to say, is my habit, straight through till morning, I woke up after a short dreamless sleep with the dim consciousness upon me that someone had called me by name. I was just turning the idea over in my mind when all doubts were solved by my hearing my name pronounced in a faint whisper, ‘Willy.’ Now the nurse who was in attendance on the baby, and who slept in the dressing room adjoining our bedroom, had been ill for the past few days, and on the previous evening my wife had come and asked me to assist her with the baby. As soon, therefore, as I heard this whisper, I turned around thinking, ‘Ah, it is the baby again.’

 

 

“The room had three windows in it, the night was moonless but starlit; there was snow on the ground, and therefore, ‘snowlight,’ and the blinds being up the room was by no means dark. “The first thing I noticed on turning round was the figure of a woman close to the foot of the bed, and whom (following the bent of my thoughts) I supposed to be my wife. ‘What is up?’ I asked, but the figure remained silent and motionless, and my eyes being more accustomed to the dimness, I noticed that it had a gray-looking shawl over its head and shoulders and that it was too short in stature to be my wife. I gazed at it silently, wondering who it could be; apparitions and ghosts were far from my thoughts, and the mistiness of the outlines of this silent figure did not strike me at the moment as it did afterward.

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“I again addressed it, this time in the language of the country, ‘What do you want?’ Again no answer. And now it occurred to me that our servant girl sometimes walked in her sleep and that this was she. Behind the head of my bed stood a small table, and I reached around for the match-box which was on it, never removing my eyes from the supposed somnambulist. The match-box was now in my hands, but just as I was taking out a match, the figure, to my astonishment, seemed to rise up from the floor, and move backward toward the end window; at the same time it faded rapidly and became blurred with the gray light streaming in at the window, and ’ere I could strike the match it was gone. I lit the candle, jumped out of bed, and ran to the door: it was fastened! To the left of the drawing-room, there was a boudoir, separated only by a curtain, this room was empty too, and the door likewise fastened.

 

 

 

“I rubbed my eyes. I was puzzled. It struck me now for the first time that the figure was hazy looking, also that my wife was the only person who called me ‘Willy,’ and certainly the only person who could give the word its English pronunciation. I first searched both drawing-room and boudoir, and then, opening the door, stepped into the passage, and went to my wife’s door and listened. The baby was crying and my wife was up, so I knocked and was admitted. Knowing her to be strong-minded and not nervous, I quietly related my experience. She expressed astonishment and asked if I was not afraid to return to my bed in the drawing-room. However, I was not, and after chatting for a few moments went back to my quarters, fastened the door, and getting into bed, thought the whole matter over very quietly. I could think of no explanation of the occurrence, and, feeling sleepy, blew out the light and was soon sound asleep again.

 

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“After a short but sound and dreamless slumber, I was again awakened, this time with my face towards the middle window; and there, close up against it, was the figure again, and owing to its propinquity to the light, it appeared to be a very dark object. “I at once reached out for the matches, but in doing so upset the table, and down it went with my candlestick, my watch, keys, etc., making a terrific crash. As before, I had kept my eyes fixed on the figure, and I now observed that, whatever it was, it was advancing straight towards me, and in another moment retreat to the door would be cut off. It was not a comfortable idea to cope with the unknown in the dark, and in an instant, I had seized the bedclothes, and grasping a corner of them in each hand, and holding them up before me, I charged straight at the figure. (I suppose I thought that, by smothering the head of my supposed assailant, I could best repel the coming attack.)

 

“The next moment I had landed on my knees on a sofa by the window with my arms on the window-sill, and with the consciousness that ‘it’ was now behind me—I have passed through it. With a bound, I faced round and was immediately immersed in darkness impalpable to the touch, but so dense that it seemed to be weighing me down and squeezing me from all sides. I could not stir; the bedclothes which I had seized as described hung over my left arm, the other was free but seemed pressed down by a benumbing weight. I essayed to cry for help, but realized for the first time in my life what it means for the ‘tongue to cleave to the roof of the mouth’; my tongue seemed to have become dry and to have swelled to a thickness of some inches; it stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I could not ejaculate a syllable. At last, after an appalling struggle, I succeeded in uttering, and I know that disjointed words, half prayer, half execrations of fear, left my lips, then my mind seemed to make one frantic effort, there seemed to come to a wrench like an electric shock and my limbs were free; it was as tho’ I tore myself out of something. In a few seconds, I had reached and opened the door and was in the passage, listening to the hammerings of my heartbeats. All fear was gone from me, but I felt as though I had run miles for my life and that another ten yards of it would have killed me.

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“I again went to the door of my wife’s room, and, hearing that she was up with the baby, I knocked and she opened. She is a witness to the state I was in: the drops rolling down my face, my hair was damp, and the beatings of my heart were audible some paces off. I can offer no explanations of what I saw, but as soon as my story became known, the people who had occupied the house previously told me that they had once put a visitor in that same drawing-room, who had declared the room to be haunted and had refused to stay in it....”

 

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