A Victorian Ghost Story:
As promised to Mary Alice.
From the memoirs of Ann Raney Coleman, an Englishwoman who moved to Texas in 1832 (at age 21) with her parents and sister. She and her first husband, John Thomas, bought a plantation on the Brazos River from a Mr. Bailey:
"I must state that Mr Bailey was much addicted to drinking spirituous liquors and was insane during these times. In one of his drinking fits, he set fire to all his out houses, barn and stables. His dwelling house was only preserved by the entreaties of a favorite daughter. On getting sober and finding the mischief he had done, he determined on selling his place, which had been bought by two other gentlemen previous to my husband's purchasing it. Mr. W. being the last gentleman who owned it, and it sold for a little less money every time, and when we got it, it was quite a bargain, being eleven hundred acres in the whole. Mr. W. lived six months upon the place and sold it to Mr. T. for several hundred dollars less than he gave for it.
"After Mr. B. sold his place, he went to Brazoria to open a hotel and lived but a short time. He made a will which was a singular one. He was buried standing upright with his face to the west, and his gun in his arms, ready for a march. This was done and he requested to be buried upon the place that formerly belonged to him, which was done, in a pecan grove close to the house."
Ann and her husband and household arrive to take up residence.
"On arriving everyone of us was tired and thirsty. I took a survey of the place, which had a wild and gloomy appearance, such as you often read of in enchanted places. The dwelling house was painted red, a kitchen smoke house and some outbuildings; a pecan orchard about a quarter of a mile long led like an avenue up to the house, having to cross a big pond of water before entering the grove. This pond was sometimes deep enough to sail a boat. Wild ducks, turkeys, cranes and other wild fowl were plentiful at this pond most of the year. In the grove close to the house was the grave of Mr. B., the first occupant of the place. It was about as large around as a wash tub bottom.
"I often took a walk in the grove and visited this spot. A strange whim, I thought, but a much stranger man when I visited him and his family during his life-time. I would say, "How are you today, Mr. B?" "Oh, madam, I am in sack cloth and ashes." This was when he had been drinking to excess and was repenting. I often went to see them as they had been kind to my father..." who had gone to America alone, ahead of the family.
"My husband had employed an overseer to help him by the name of George Paine." They also had a house servant, Malinda.
"One morning my husband left home on business and told me he would not return for a week. Some three days after he was gone, after going to bed at night, the clock struck eleven. I was startled at someone walking in my room, with light shoes on. I spoke to Malinda who was sleeping in the room with me, in another bed. I called; she did not answer. I called again; still she was silent. I lay in my bed, the perspiration standing in big drops upon my forehead. I made an effort to rise, but it was fruitless. I was held back as with an iron chain. I had seen a face I knew, a stranger (Phoneme[I think this means her phrase "a face I knew, a stranger" is from the writings of Phoneme---MKD]). I knew he was dead which made me more afraid. I lay still as death until morning. After seeing the face, I heard no more noise in the room.
"It was a long night to me. At daylight, I woke Malinda. "Why did you not answer me last night when I spoke to you?" "I was afraid, for the spirits were walking here last night in our room. Did you not hear?" "Yes," I replied, without saying what I saw. On hearing footsteps she was too afraid to speak. "Now, Mrs., I will tell you what the folks say. This place is haunted by Mr. B. and our men cannot milk the cows at night, for he is there and troubles them so much they can scarcely milk the cows at all. Jim cannot go home at night to see his wife, but he meets his master in the road and he will not let him pass." Jim was one of Mr. B's servants and was hired to us for the year, and was at this time owned by Mr. B's daughter who lived about a mile from us. Jim was always permitted to go see his wife before the sunset. This I had noticed, but did not know the reason. My husband had forbid the servants to tell me the report that the place was haunted, as he knew I would not like to live there.
"The next day I removed my bedclothes into the other room, the bedstead being a fixture to the house and the identical one Mr. B. used to sleep in before he sold his place. Mr. Paine, our overseer, slept in the gallery under a pair of stairs made to go into a bedroom where strangers slept of a night. On asking Mr. paine if he heard any noise in the night, he replied he did not. On the arrival of my husband he was quite surprised to find me sleeping in the next room adjoining the one we occupied. On asking me my reason for changing and receiving no other satisfactory answer than I did not like to sleep in that room, he laughed and said, "I expect you have seen Mr. B., who they say is a constant visitor at this place. If he is anywhere about I should like to see him and shake hands with him," replied my husband, "as myself and him were always good friends in his life time." I said, "I hope if there are such things that God will permit you to see them, that you may not be hardened in unbelief, and let you know there is nothing impossible with God." I knew that my husband did not believe in anything supernatural."
Mr. T. [her husband] slept in the room alone and was not very well for a few days after he came home; therefore, he did not rest well. The third night after he came home, about midnight, I heard him say, "Mr. Paine, come in my room. Come quick!" He then called Malinda to bring a light, as she slept in my room. Malinda not waking, I got up and lit the candle, and went into my husband's room. He was sitting on the side of his bed as pale as death. Mr. Paine entered at the front door at the same time I came in with the light at the other door, being afraid to go into the room in the dark. When Mr. Paine came in,, he entered pistol in hand and looked very much frightened. I asked Mr. T. what was the matter. He replied, "A few minutes ago there was a man in the room. As the moon shone full upon his face and I saw it plain enough to know who it was." He said it was Mr. B. "Are you not mistaken," I said. "No," he replied, "I have heard a noise in that bedroom all night, like someone getting out and in." "I was up in the night," continued my husband, "and something brushed my feet like a cat." I laughed a little at this last remark and said, "Perhaps it was a cat." But a search being made, no cat was found. Mr. T. said that as soon as the light appeared, Mr. B. disappeared. Mr. T. and Mr. Paine had laughed not a little at my having seen "the old man" as they called him. I could now laugh at them in return. As they were both too afraid to sleep alone, they both came in my room to sleep, and it was a week before Mr. Paine could be prevailed upon to sleep in his own bed under the stairs. My husband never jested with me or anyone else after this about ghosts."