The Gloaming Ghosts by George Barr McCutcheon
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Nothing," responded Miss Kelly, sweetly. But the Colonel was
"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,
"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
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
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.
"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
"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."
"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.
"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."
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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 he cross, Godfrey," she pleaded. "It's only Mr.
"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-
"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,
"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
"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—
Garrison set to work with the Colonel's decanters, concocting a
brew over the spirit lamp, the two wraiths looking on in silent
"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
"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
"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,
"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.
"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.
"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
"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,
"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.