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All Silent in the Night

By Bessie Wallace

First published in the Old Cornwall Journal Volume 3 No. 10

When my mother was a little girl, round about 1860, she lived in the Manor House at Crane, near Camborne. Two doors away lived an old gentleman, his wife, and their housekeeper. They were very wealthy, but also a bit of a mystery. The old gentleman was very fond of my grandfather and always called him "my good man." If their was any illness or trouble he always came to him for help or advice.

One night after my mother had been in bed and asleep for some hours, she awoke with a start, for she heard a soft patter of muffled footfalls in the townplace. It sounded, she said, "like feet walking in the snow." She looked out of her bedroom window and there was what seemed to be a funeral going silently into this old gentleman's house. It gave my mother a fright, you may believe, for she was only about ten or eleven years old at the time. She ran into her parents bedroom and told them what she had seen. Ghostly or not, it was plain that she was upset very much by this "funeral," so when the morning came my grandfather said, "I am going in to see what's the meaning of this, for this isn't the first time that strange things have taken place in this townplace after neighbours have gone to bed.  When he went along to the house and knocked at the door, the old gentleman himself opened it and said, "Good morning, my good man, what has brought you here so early?" so my grandfather told him what my other told him she had seen. "now sit down my friend," he said, "and I will tell you what happened, but don't mention it to any one, make a promise." My grandfather promised and he went on, "Now, a few kegs of spirit, including a good drop of rum - I believe you like rum - have just been landed at Gwithian, and last night they were smuggled up here where I have a safe place for them. The men had stuff wound about their feet, so they shouldn't make a noise, that's how they were so quiet, but I am very sorry your little maid is upset, thinking they were ghosts. Tell her that when she goes to bed she must close her eyes and go to sleep and not look out of the window whatever she hears ; it is not always wise tell her, for strange things happen when people are asleep." Then he called his house-keeper and to her he said, "Elizabeth, go up in the loft and cull over the hoard and bring down a bit of good fruit for the little maid is sick and she dearly loved apples." He also filled a bottle with smuggled rum for my grandfather and giving it to him said,  "Now, if you hear or see anything that's strange and out of the ordinary you'll know to say nothing about it."

The old gentleman was then already between 80 and 90 years of age and didn't live many years after. When he passed on, a lot of ghostly sounds and sights came to an end and it was safe to tell my mother what they had all meant.

 

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