Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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As published in The Evening Express, Cardiff, Wales, 4 November 1907

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
Version Date: 2024-06-07

Produced by Paul Moulder and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

MY Uncle Bayle was a man whom every one loved and welcomed as a visitor. A lawyer by profession and pressed with business, he never let a fortnight pass without he came to see our mother, and there were many of us to greet him, for Uncle Bayle was the eldest of thirteen children, all of them, with one or two exceptions, living with their own or their children's children in the neighbourhood of the family home, my sister and myself with our infirm but pious and courageous mother, whom Uncle Bayle came to see.

"Uncle," said Dorothy one evening, the prettiest and bravest of all our cousins, "tell us a ghost story, please. We have heard all the others."

ONE cold autumn evening, said my uncle, some forty years ago, I was returning from Toulouse, where I had been called on business. I was travelling fast and had already passed Auterive, where some friends had urged me to stay the night, but I was in a hurry to reach Saverdon, three leagues farther on, and continued my route. Just in front of the monastery of Bolbonne, in the forest of Bourien, one of those furious tempests which spring up in the heart of the mountains without a moment's warning fell upon me. In less than no time it was as black as midnight, and the road invisible. There was nothing for it but to turn about and ask for shelter at Bolbonne. In a little while my horse stopped, and I saw that we were before the door of an inn. I entered.

The company was numerous, and composed of merchants, Spanish students, and the sportsmen of the neighbourhood, surprised, like myself, at the storm.

"Truly," said one of the hunters, "the weather's devilish—a regular witches' sabbat."

"Pardon me," cried a voice in a distant corner, "witches and goblins hold sabbats on moonlight nights, and not in storms."

We all turned to see who had spoken, and saw that it was a Spanish merchant. None of us seemed disposed at first to answer a remark made with such solemn gravity. In fact, we were as silent as owls, until as suddenly my neighbour on the right, a young man of frank and pleasing appearance, burst into a fit of laughter.

"Really," said he, indicating the merchant who had spoken first, "it seems as if that gentleman understood the habits of goblins. Perhaps, they've told you," turning to him, scornfully, "how much they dislike to be wet and muddy."

The Spaniard gave him a terrible look.

"You speak too lightly, young man," said he, "far too lightly of things you know nothing about."

"Perhaps you would have me believe that ghosts exist?"

"Perhaps," said the other; "if you are brave enough to look and see. Here's a purse," he continued, rising and approaching the table, "containing 30 golden quadrupels. I wager them all that in an hour's time I call before you the face of any one of your friends, even if he has been dead a dozen years, whom you may name to me. Moreover, when you have recognised him, he shall approach, embrace, and salute you with a kiss. Do you agree?"

And as he asked the question the manner of the man was so impressive and stern that we involuntarily trembled. My neighbour only remained unmoved.

"And you can do all that?" he cried.

"Yes," answered the Spaniard, "and willingly part with my 30 quadrupels beside if I do not, provided you will lose a similar amount if I hold to my promise and make you believe."

The offer was at once accepted.

To guard against trickery and deception, we decided to use a little pavilion situated in the outer garden, perfectly isolated and bare of everything but a chair and a table. After assuring ourselves that there were no other issues than a door and a window, the student entered, and we left him to his fate, not, however, without placing beside him all the necessary writing materials and extinguishing the lights.

When everything was ready and we had arranged ourselves in a circle round the door, the Spaniard, who had waited in absolute silence till all was done, began to sing in a low sweet voice.

Then, elevating his voice, he called to the student shut up within the pavilion:—

"You have told me," said he, "that you desire to have a visit from the spirit of your friend, Francis Viatal, drowned three years ago while crossing the ferry of Pensagnoles. Now, what do you see?"

"I see nothing," replied the student; "but, stay, a white light begins to lift itself yonder by the window, formless, shifting, and like a floating cloud."

After a moment's silence, the Spaniard began to sing again, his voice deeper and gloomier than before.

"What do you see now?" he cried, "you who wish to sound the mysteries of the tomb; what do you see now?"

"Nothing," replied the student as calm and as cool as ever.

"And are you not afraid?" cried the Spaniard, his manner more scornful and insulting still.

"I'm not afraid," came the clear, brave voice of the prisoner within, while we, standing on the outside and in sight of the infernal sorcerer's incantations, scarcely dared to look at each other, so great was our dismay and surprise.

And, again ceasing his song, he put his terrible question:—

"What do you see now?"

"The phantom advancing—he raises the veil—it is Francis—Francis Viatal—he approaches the table—he writes—he has written his name—"

But before he could say more, the Spaniard resumed, his voice wild and howling:—

"Are you afraid now? Are you afraid now?" he repeated almost with frenzy. A shuddering cry, dying away in a moan, was the student's only answer.

"I warned him," was the Spaniard's only answer. "I warned him how it would be. You see, messieurs," turning to address us, "that I have gained the wager. But let him keep the money. I am content with the lesson given him. He will be wiser in future."

And with a grave inclination, he walked away, leaving us thunderstruck at the door of the pavilion, behind which the sounds of moans still continued.

At last we opened it, to find the student writhing upon the floor, a paper signed with the name of Francis Viatal on the table beside him. It was at least an hour before he recovered sufficiently to be about again. Then, furious with rage at the treatment he had received from the sorcerer, he insisted upon having him brought before him.

But the merchant was not to be found, either in or out of the inn.

"But I will find him," cried the student, "and I will kill him on the spot for the impious performance in which he has made me assist."

And soon after, learning from the stable boy that the merchant had saddled his horse himself, and departed some time ago, he followed him, still swearing instant vengeance.

WE never saw him—in fact, we never saw either of them again, as I tell you. No more were the 30 beautiful quadrupels which I and the other guests of the inn had put together to make up the sum of the Spaniard's wager. The two rascals had carried them off between them after playing before us a comedy which we were simpletons enough to believe, but which I found very dear at the time, when I had considerably less money to spare than I have at present.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.