Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Haunted House by Walter Hubbell


Can I help you?
The manifestations described in this story commenced one year ago. No person has yet been able to ascertain their cause. Scientific men from all parts of Canada and the United States have investigated them in vain. Some people think that electricity is the principal agent; others, mesmerism; whilst others again, are sure they are produced by the devil. Of the three supposed causes, the latter is certainly the most plausible theory, for some of the manifestations are remarkably devilish in their appearance and effect. For instance, the mysterious setting of fires, the powerful shaking of the house, the loud and incessant noises and distinct knocking, as if made by invisible sledge-hammers, on the walls; also, the strange actions of the household furniture, which moves about in the broad daylight without the slightest visible cause. As these strange things only occur while Miss Esther Cox is present, she has become known as the "Amherst Mystery" throughout the entire country. The author of this work lived for six weeks in the haunted house, and considers it his duty to place the entire matter before the public in its true light, having been requested to do so by the family of Miss Cox. THE HAUNTED HOUSE. CHAPTER I. THE HOME OF ESTHER COX. Amherst, Nova Scotia, is a beautiful little village on the famous Bay of Fundy; has a population of about three thousand souls, and contains four churches, an academy, a music hall, a large iron foundry, a large shoe factory, and more stores of various kinds than any village of its size in the Province. The private residences of the more wealthy inhabitants are very picturesque in their appearance, being surrounded by beautifully laid out lawns, containing ornamental trees of various kinds and numerous beds of flowers of choice and sometimes very rare varieties. The residences of Parson Townsend, Mr. Robb, Doctor Nathan Tupper, and Mr. G.G. Bird, proprietor of the Amherst book store; also that of Mr. Amos Purdy, the village Post Master, and others too numerous to mention, are sure to attract the visitor's attention and command his admiration. On Princess street, near Church, there stands a neat two story cottage, painted yellow. It has in front a small yard, which extends back to the stable. The tidy appearance of the cottage and its pleasant situation are sure to attract a stranger's attention. Upon entering the house everything is found to be so tastefully arranged, so scrupulously clean, and so comfortable, that the visitor feels at home in a moment, being confident that everything is looked after by a thrifty housewife. The first floor consists of four rooms, a parlor containing a large bay window, filled with beautiful geraniums of every imaginable color and variety, is the first to attract attention; then the dining room, with its old fashioned clock, its numerous home made rugs, easy chairs, and commodious table, makes one feel like dining, especially if the hour is near twelve; for about that time of day savory odors are sure to issue from the adjoining kitchen. The kitchen is all that a room of the kind in a village cottage should be, is not very large, and contains an ordinary wood stove, a large pine table, and a small washstand, has a door opening into the side yard near the stable, and another into the wash shed, besides the one connecting it with the dining room, making three doors in all, and one window. The fourth room is very small, and is used as a sewing room; it adjoins the dining room, and the parlor, and has a door opening into each. Besides the four rooms on the first floor, there is a large pantry, having a small window about four feet from the floor, the door of this pantry opens into the dining room. Such is the arrangement of the first floor. Upon ascending a short flight of stairs, and turning to the left, you find yourself in the second story of the cottage, which consists of an entry and four small bed rooms, all opening into the entry. Each one of the rooms has one window, and only one door. Two of these little bed rooms face towards the street, and the other two towards the back of the cottage. They, like the rest of the house, are conspicuous for their neat, cosy aspect, being papered and painted, and furnished with ordinary cottage furniture. In fact everything about the little cottage will impress a casual observer with the fact that its inmates are happy, and evidently at peace with God and man. This humble cottage is the home of Daniel Teed, shoemaker. Everybody knows and respects honest hard working Dan, who never owes a dollar if he can help it, and never allows his family to want for any comfort that can be procured, with his hard earned salary as foreman of the Amherst Shoe Factory. Dan's family consists of his wife Olive, as good a soul as ever lived, always hard at work. From early morning until dusky eve she is on her feet. It has always been a matter of gossip and astonishment, among the neighbors, as to how little Mrs. Teed, for she is by no means what you would call a large woman, could work so incessantly without becoming weary and resting for an hour or so after dinner. But she works on all the same, never rests, and they still look on her with astonishment. Dan and Olive have two little boys. Willie, the eldest, is _five_ years old; he is a strong, healthy looking lad, with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes, and brown curly hair; his principal amusements are throwing stones, chasing the chickens, and hurting his little brother. George, the youngest of Dan's boys, is the finest boy of his age in the village and is only a little over a year old; his merry little laugh, winning ways, and cunning actions to attract attention have made him a favorite with all who visit at the cottage. Besides his wife and two little boys, Dan has under his honest roof and protection his wife's two sisters,--Jane and Esther Cox--who board with him. Jane is a lady-like, self-possessed young woman of about twenty-two, and is quite a beauty; her hair is very light brown and reaches below her waist when she allows it to fall in graceful tresses--at other times she wears it in the Grecian style; her eyes are of a greyish hue; a clear complexion and handsome teeth add to her fine appearance. In fact, Jane Cox is one of the village belles, and has hosts of admirers, not of the male sex alone, for she is also popular among the ladies; she is a member and regular attendant of Parson Townsend's Church, which, by the way, the good Parson has had under his care for about forty-five years. Esther Cox, Dan's other sister in-law, is such a remarkable girl in every respect that I must give as complete a description of her as possible. She was born in Upper Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, on March 28th, 1860, and is consequently in her eighteenth year. Esther has always been a queer girl. When born she was so small that her good, kind grandmother, who raised her, (her mother having died when she was three weeks old) had to wash and dress her on a pillow, and in fact keep her on it all the time until she was nine months old, at which age her weight was only five pounds. When she was quite a little girl her father, Archibald T. Cox, married again, and moved to East Machias, Maine, where he has since resided. Having followed his second wife to the grave, he married a third with whom he is now living. Esther's early years having been spent with her grandmother, she very naturally became grave and old-fashioned, without knowing how or why. Like all little girls, she was remarkably susceptible to surrounding influences, and the sedate manner and actions of the old lady made an early impression on Esther that will cling to her through life. In person Esther is of low stature and rather inclined to be stout; her hair is curly, of a dark brown color, and is now short, reaching only to her shoulders; her eyes are large and grey, with a bluish tinge, and an earnest expression which seems to say, "why do you stare at me so; I can not help it if I am not like other people." Her eye-brows and eye-lashes are dark and well marked, that is to say, the lashes are long and the eye-brows very distinct. Her face is what can be called round, with well shaped features; she has remarkably handsome teeth, and a pale complexion. Her hands and feet are small and well shaped, and although inclined to be stout, she is fond of work, and is a great help to her sister Olive, although she sometimes requires a little urging. Although Esther is not possessed of the beauty that Jane is famous for, still there is something earnest, honest and attractive about this simple-hearted village maiden, that wins for her lots of friends of about her own age; in fact, she is quite in demand among the little children of the neighborhood also, who are ever ready to have a romp and a game with _Ester_, as they all call her. The truth is, a great many of the grown up inhabitants of the village call her _Ester_ also, dropping the _h_ entirely, a habit common in Nova Scotia. Esther's disposition is naturally mild and gentle. She can at times, however, be very self-willed, and is bound to have her own way when her mind is made up. If asked to do anything she does not feel like doing she becomes very sulky and has to be humored at times to keep peace in the family. However, all things considered, she is a good little girl and has always borne a good reputation in every sense of the word. There are two more boarders in the little cottage, who require a passing notice. They are William Cox and John Teed. William is the brother of Olive, Jane, and Esther, and is a shoemaker by trade, and one of Dan's workmen in the factory. The other boarder, John Teed, is Dan's brother. John, like his brother, is an honest, hard working young man, has been raised a farmer, an occupation he still follows when not boarding with Dan in Amherst. As the reader may, perhaps, be anxious to know how Dan, good, honest hard working Dan, and, his thrifty little wife Olive, look, I will endeavor to give a short description of each. So here goes. Dan is about thirty-five years old, and stands five feet eight in his stockings. He has light brown hair, rather thin on top, a well shaped head, blue eyes, well defined features, a high nose, and wears a heavy moustache and bushy side whiskers; his complexion is florid; rheumatism of several years standing has given him a slight halt in the left leg. He does his work, spends his salary as he should, and leads a Christian life, has a pew in the Wesleyan Church of which Rev. R.A. Temple is pastor, belongs to a temperance society, and, I dare say, when he dies will be well rewarded in the next world. Olive, as I have already said, is not a very large woman. She is good and honest, like her husband, and goes to church with him as a wife should. Her hair is dark brown, eyes grey, complexion pale and slightly freckled. Although not as beautiful as Jane, nor at any time as sulky as Esther can be, she has those motherly traits of character which command respect. Being older than her sisters she is looked up to by them for advice when they think they need it, and consolation when they are in sorrow. Olive's wise little head is sure to give the right advice at the right time, and in the family of the cottage her word is law. I do not mean to say that she rules her husband. No! Dan is far from being a hen-pecked man, but, as two heads are always better than one, Dan often takes her advice and profits by it. Such is the cottage and household of honest Dan Teed. To-day is cool and pleasant. The hour is nearly twelve noon--the hour for dinner in the cottage. Esther is seated on the parlor floor playing with George to keep him from running out in the hot sun. Willie is out in the yard near the stable tormenting a poor hen, who has had a log of wood tied to one of her legs by Olive to prevent her from setting in the cow's stall; but master Willie seems to think she has been tied so that he may have a good time banging her over the head with a small club, which he is doing in a way that means business. Suddenly his mother comes out of the kitchen, and after soundly boxing his ears, sends him howling into the house, much to the relief of the poor hen who has just fallen over with exhaustion and fright, but upon finding her tormentor gone is soon herself again. Presently Olive hears Dan at the gate, and comes to the front door to meet him and tell him that dinner is almost ready, remarking that he cannot guess what she has for dessert. Honest Dan replies that no matter what it is he is hungry and will eat it, for he has been working hard. So in he goes to wash his hands and face at the wash-stand in the kitchen. Jane is coming down the street. Esther, who is seated on a chair with George on her lap, sees her sister from the bay window in the parlor. Jane has a position in Mr. Jas. P. Dunlap's establishment, and goes to her work every morning at seven o'clock. As soon as Esther sees Jane she takes George up in her arms and runs in to tell Olive that Jane is coming, and suggests that dinner be served at once, for _she_ feels hungry. So Olive, with Esther's assistance, puts the dinner on the table, and they all sit down to enjoy the meal, and a good substantial meal it is; plenty of beef-steak and onions, plenty of hot mashed potatoes, plenty of boiled cabbage, and an abundance of home made bread and fresh butter made that very morning from the rich cream of Dan's red cow. Little George, who is seated in his high chair at his mother's right hand, commences to kick the bottom of the table in such a vigorous manner that not one word can be heard, for he makes a terrible noise, the toes of his shoes being faced with copper to prevent the youngster from wearing them out too soon. Olive asks Esther to please get the old pink scarf and tie his feet so that he will be unable to make such a racket, Esther does not move, but upon being requested a second time gets up rather reluctantly, goes to the hat rack in the hall, gets the scarf and ties the little fellow's feet, as requested. Upon reseating herself at the table it is noticeable that she has a sulky expression, for she does not like to be disturbed while enjoying dinner, nor in fact any meal, for the simple reason that her appetite is voracious, being particularly fond of pickles, and she has been known to drink a cupful of vinegar in a day. All ate in silence for some minutes, when Jane inquires if the cow was milked again last night? "Yes," says Dan, and "I only wish I could find out who does it; it would not be well for him, I can tell you. This is the tenth time this fortnight that she has been milked. Oh! if it was not for this rheumatism in my hip, I would stay up some night and catch the thief in the act, have him arrested, and--" "And then," remarks Esther, with an eye to the financial part of the milk question, "we should have just two quarts more to sell every day; that would be--let me see how much it would come to." "Never mind," remarks John Teed, "how much it would come to, just hand me that dish of potatoes, please. They are so well mashed that I must eat some more. I can't bear potatoes with lumps all through them, can you Jane." "No, John, I cannot," replies Jane. "Neither can I," joins in William Cox; "if I ever marry I hope my wife will be as good a cook as Olive; if she prove so I shall be satisfied." "Gim me 'nother piece of meat, do you hear," is the exclamation which comes from master Willie. "Ask as a good boy should," remarks Dan, "and you shall have it." "Gim me 'nother piece of meat, do you hear," says the young rascal a second time, louder than before. A good sound box on the ear from his father, prevents further remarks coming from the unruly boy during the rest of the meal. However, after a slight pause, Dan gives him a piece of beef-steak, his mother in the meantime says: "I wonder how that boy learns to be so rude." "Why," replies John Teed, "by playing with those bad boys down near the carriage factory. I saw him there about nine o'clock this morning, and what's more, I can tell you that unless he keeps away from them he will be ruined." "I'm going to take him in hand as soon as he gets a little older and make him toe the mark," says Dan. "Well Mudge,"--Dan nearly always calls his wife Mudge, for a pet name--"give me another cup of tea, woman, and then I'll go back to the factory, that is as soon as I have taken a pull or two at my pipe." "What! are you going without eating some of the bread pudding I went to the trouble of making because I thought you would like it?" asks Olive. "Oh, you've got pudding have you; all right, I'll have some if it's cold," replies Dan. "Oh, yes, it's cold enough by this time. Come, Esther, help me to clear away these dishes, and you, Jane, please bring in the pudding, it is out on the door-step near the rain-water barrel." The dishes having been cleared away, and the pudding brought, all ate a due share, and after some further conversation about the midnight milker of the cow, Esther remarks that she believes the thief to be one of the Micmac Indians from the camp up the road. Everybody laughs at such a wild idea, and they all leave the table. Esther, takes George from his chair, after first untying his feet, and then helps Olive to remove the dishes to the kitchen, where she washes them, and then goes to the sofa in the parlor to take a nap. Dan in the meantime has enjoyed his smoke and gone back to the factory, as has also William Cox. John Teed has gone up the Main Street to see his sister Maggie, and Jane has returned to Mr. Dunlap's. Willie is out in the street again with the bad boys, and Olive has just commenced to make a new plaid dress for George, who has gone to sleep in his little crib in the small sewing-room. Esther, after sleeping for about an hour, comes into the dining room where Olive is sewing and says, "Olive, I am going out to take a walk, and if Bob should come while I am out, don't forget to tell him that I will be in this evening, and shall expect him." "All right Esther," says her sister, "but you had better be careful about Bob, and how you keep company with him; you know what we heard about him only the day before yesterday." "Oh, I don't believe a word of it," replied Esther. She looked at her sister for a moment, and then said in an injured tone, "I guess I am old enough to take care of myself. What! half-past two already? I must be off;" and off she went. Supper being over, Esther put on her brown dress and took her accustomed seat on the front door step to talk to Dan, as he smoked his evening pipe. Jane dressed in her favorite white dress, trimmed with black velvet, her beautiful hair fastened in a true Grecian coil, and perfectly smooth at the temples, is in the parlor attending to her choice plants, presently her beau comes to spend the evening with her. So the evening passes away. Olive has sung little George to sleep, carried him up to bed and retired herself. Dan has smoked his pipe and retired also. It was now ten o'clock. Esther still sat on the front step humming the tune of a well known Wesleyan hymn to herself as she gazed up at the stars, for it must be remembered that although she was not by any means pious, still, like a dutiful girl, she went to church with Dan and Olive. As the girl was just passing into womanhood, and felt that she must love something, it was perfectly natural for her to sit there and wait for Bob to make his appearance. About half-past ten Jane's beau took his departure, and Jane not having anything further to keep her up, decided to retire, and advised Esther to follow her example. Esther took a last look up and down the street, and then went into the house with much reluctance. After locking the front door the girls went into the dining room and Jane lighted the lamp. Esther had taken off her shoes and thrown them on the floor, as was her custom, when it suddenly occurred to her that there was butter-milk in the cellar, and the same instant she made up her mind to have some. Taking the lamp from Jane, she runs into the cellar in her stocking feet, drinks about a pint of butter-milk and runs up again, telling her sister, who has been meanwhile in the dark dining room, that a large rat passed between her feet while in the cellar. "Come right up to bed you silly girl," said Jane, "and don't be talking about rats at this time of night." So Jane took the lamp and Esther picked up her shoes, and they went to their bed-room. After closing the door of their room, "Esther," said Jane, "you are foolish to think anything at all about Bob." "Oh, mind your own business, Jane," Esther replied "let's say our prayers and retire;" and so they did.
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