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A TALE OF THE HOUSE OF YVERY.
“Who art thou, strange being ? Speak. “mortal, spectre, devil ? ”—CALDERON.
Robert Perceval, the second son of the Right Honourable Sir John Perceval, Bart., was a youth of rare talent, but a libertine and a duellist. In the course of his brief career,-for, as we shall presently see, he was murdered at the age of nineteen,-he had fought as many battles as he could number years, and in most he had been successful-escaping with little damage to himself, while, in many instances, the result was fatal to his adversaries. Such characters, however, were by no means uncommon in the times of Charles the Second, to which age he belonged; for debauchery had then almost attained to the dignity of a virtue.
Being a younger brother, Robert Perceval studied, or was supposed to study, the law, as one of the few gentlemanly roads to wealth and distinction. With this view he took chambers in Lincoln's Inn, and here it was that the singular occurrence took place, which was rendered yet more extraordinary by its consequences.
In general Robert did not much trouble his head about the subtleties of the law, yet there were times and seasons when, either from caprice, or from very weariness of pleasure,-used up, we now call it,-he would play the hard-working student, and read with as much diligence as if he had aspired to the woolsack. The present was one of them. So deeply was he wrapped up in the dull volume before him, that he still read on when the clock began to strike the hour of midnight. The effect produced was wonderful. It seemed to him as if the clock, instead of being distant, was striking close in his ear, and, startled for the moment by this delusion,-for it could hardly be anything else,-he looked up. What was his surprise to see a figure in the room, planted between himself and the door, who had entered, he knew not how, and who, to judge from appearances, had come with no good intention ; for he was so completely muffled up in a long cloak, as to defy recognition.
“Who are you? What do you want ?” were his first hasty exclamations, while, at the same time, he half unsheathed his sword.
The figure neither spoke nor moved. - This must be a trick of some of
tavern friends," thought Robert, “but as I am in no mood for joking, it's like they may get the worst of it.”
There was a low, hollow laugh, but still the figure neither spoke nor moved. Robert, at no time remarkable for patience, now lost all temper, and, unsheathing his sword with the rapidity of lightning made a desperate pass at the intruder. The weapon met with no resistance, and when he drew it back again was as bright as ever. single drop of blood stained it.
Robert, for awhile, continued gazing in utter amazement, and it must be even owned that a momentary thrill of awe curdled his blood, and made the hair rise upon his head; but he was amongst the bravest of the brave notwithstanding, and, when the first surprise was over, regained sufficient courage, like Calderon's Ludovico, to question his mysterious tormentor, and, like him too, when he received no answer, to bring his adversary to close qnarters.
“ Still no answer ? Thus I dare then cast aside that cloak of thine." But now followed a material
difference. The hero of the Spanish drama, upon tearing aside his visitor's cloak, discovered a mouldering skeleton, that addressed him with the voice of life, saying :
“ Knowest thou not thyself? See in me thine own resemblance.
I am Ludovico Quino!' Whereas, Robert “ saw his own apparition, bloody and ghostly, whereat he was so astonished that he immediately swooned away; but recovering, he saw the spectre walk out again, and vanish downstairs." At the same time, it must be owned, that a deeper meaning lurks under the skeleton of the Spanish poet.
“ When," continues the old narrator, "he was recovered of his fright, he undressed himself and went to bed, but in extraordinary uneasiness, so that he could not sleep, but rose early, and putting on his clothes, went to his uncle and guardian, Sir Robert Southwell, who lived in Spring Gardens. It was so early that Sir Robert was not yet stirring, but nevertheless he went into his room and waked him. It was a freedom he was not used to take, and Sir Robert was surprised ; but asking him, what made him there so early?-_the youth, still in consternation, replied, he had that night seen his ghost; and told him all the particulars as I have related them. Sir Robert, at first, chid him for reporting an idle dream, the effect of an ill life and guilty conscience,- for he loved pleasure, and followed it too much,-but observing the disorder he was in, and having repeated the story to him, he grew very serious, and desired his nephew would take care of himself, and recollect if he had given occasion to any person to revenge himself on him, for this might be a true presage of what was to befall him."
Now here is a ghost story, quite complete, so far as human evidence can make such a thing complete, in opposition to human reason. The particulars are delivered, and word for word, as they were minuted down by the Earl of Egmont, upon a conversation which Sir Robert Southwell had with him immediately before his death. It only remains to see how far the warning was borne out by the result, and whether in truth the ghost was an honest ghost.
Days passed without any particular occurrence, and the wholesome awe imprinted upon Robert's mind had already grown much too faint to serve as the slightest check upon his pleasures. As usual, he drank and quarrelled, slept by day and woke by night, and passed his time in the way that Captain Marryatt's Irishman pronounced to be the whole end and aim of life—that is to say, in getting into scrapes and getting out of them