St. Andrews Ghost Stories/The Appariton of Sir Rodger de Wanklyn

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3072085St. Andrews Ghost Stories — The Appariton of Sir Rodger de WanklynWilliam Thomas Linskill

The Appariton of Sir Rodger de Wanklyn.

I am very fond indeed of Christmas time. There has been little snow this season. I think it has forgotten how to snow in these days. Still, I always feel Christmassy. I think of the good old coaching days, when there was really snow, of Washington, Irving, and good old Dickens and Scott, of the yule log and the family gatherings and re-unions, of the wassail bowl, of frumenty and plum porridge, and mince pies, plum puddings, and holly and mistletoe and big dances in the servants' hall, of good old ancestral ghosts and hearty good cheer.

I am sitting to-day in a cosy armchair (of the old school, no modern fake) talking to my old friend, Theophilus Greenbracket. Filus, as I call him, is a clever man of many parts; he is a great traveller and sportsman, and takes a deep interest in every mortal thing. There is nothing of the kill joy or fossil about Greenbracket; he is up-to-date and true blue.

He is sitting opposite me smoking a gigantic cigar and imbibing rum punch, and talking hard; he always talks hard, but is never a bore, and never palls on one in the slightest degree. He has an enormous dog at his feet, with a fierce, vindictive expression, which belies its real nature, as it is gentle with everything and everybody, except cats and rats. Greenbracket is, among many other things, a great spiritualist and visionary, and possesses all kinds of mediumistic appliances, such as pythos, planchettes and ouijas, which he works with his old butler, Amos Bradleigh, who is another spirit hunter.

"By the bye," said Greenbracket, "I am at present taking lessons in music with Mr Easeboy." He says this so suddenly that he makes me jump, as we were talking about sea serpents and the probability of their existence.

"Are you indeed, old chap," I said.

"Yes, thorough bass, and consecutive fifths and harmony and all that sort of thing, you know. He has a pupil, Macbeth Churchtimber, who has just written a thundering pretty waltz called "Eleanor Wynne."

"I thought Churchtimber," I mildly suggested, "only played severe classical stuff."

"Oh, yes," replied my friend, "but he occasionally touches on a lighter theme, and has even written a comic song, called, 'I lay beside a milestone with a sunflower on my brow.'"

"I must try it someday," I said, "but how about your ghosts? Have you seen any lately?"

"There was one here a few minutes ago," said Greenbracket, "a tall man in armour sitting in that corner over there."

"What rubbish," I said, quite crossly, "you dream things, or drink, or eat too much."

"No I don't," said Greenbracket, "do you really mean to to tell that you felt no sensation just now, no pricking or tingling feeling, or a chilly sensation down your back?"

"Certainly not, nothing of the kind," I replied.

"Well, that is queer," he said, "I know you don't see these things, but I fancied you would have felt a strange presence in some way. I don't know who the man in armour was. I have not seen him before, but my butler has, at all events. It was not Sir Roger de Wanklyn."

"Who the ———— is he?" I queried.

"Oh," said my host, "he is the earth-bound spirit of an architect who lived in St Andrews at the time that James the Fifth married Mary of Lorraine in the Cathedral; he says he was present at the ceremony and can describe it all. A gay pageant it was and much revelry."

"If you can get all this sort of curious information, which I don't exactly credit, why on earth can't you find out something practical and useful, for instance, where the secret underground hiding place is, and where all the tons of valuable ornaments, papers, and vestments are concealed?"

"My, dear friend," said Greenbracket solemnly, "these people won't be pumped; they only tell you what they choose to, or are permitted to reveal."

"If they really do turn up and talk to you as you say they do, why on earth can't you get them to talk some useful sense?"

"I really can't force their confidence," said Greenbracket, "all they do tell me voluntarily is most interesting and absorbing. This Sir Rodger planned numerous very important structural alterations in the Cathedral and elsewhere."

"It is all very odd to me," I said, "one meets people with strange ideas. I met a man years ago at Aberystwith who was a firm believer in the transmigration of souls. He said he quite remembered being a cab horse in Glasgow, and was certain when he left this planet he would become a parrot in Mars."

"I don't understand that sort of thing a bit," said my extraordinary friend, Greenbracket, "but Sir Rodger de Wanklyn has sometimes to visit the Valley of Fire and Frost, where there are mighty furnaces on one side of him and ice and snow on the other and it is very painful."

"I had that sort of experience the other day," I remarked, "at a meeting. On one side was a furnace of a fire and on the other a window wide open with a biting frost wind blowing in."

"Tuts," said Greenbracket "that's here; I am talking of the spirit world."

"Hang! your spirit stuff. Has your butler, Amos Bradleigh, seen any spookey things lately?"

"Yes, he is much annoyed by the spirit of an evil old housekeeper here who lost her life by falling downstairs, and she is continually pushing him down my cellar stairs. He is furious."

"Is this butler of yours any connection of Jeremiah Anklebone?" I asked.

"Yes, he is a cousin," said Greenbracket; "all that family have second sight, and see and dream strange things."

"And who," I asked, "may this housekeeper be who pitched your butler down stairs?"

"Oh," said Greenbracket, "she's a badly constituted raith, and her name is Annibal Strongthorn. She was housekeeper ages ago to this Sir Roger de Wanklyn in this very old house we are in."

"What happened to this Sir Roger? Has he told you?"

"Oh! yes he fell over the cliffs."

"Bless me, and did this old housekeeper woman push him over. Was she a murderess?"

"Oh, how can I tell," said Greenbracket peevishly, "he has told me nothing of the kind."

"Well, old fellow," I said, "you really do not get much interesting information out of your ghostly friends, but what I like about you is that all your numerous ghosts come straight to you, straight to head-quarters at once—you don't go fooling about with chairs and tables and sideboards and other pieces of timber in an idiotic way. If, as some people say, they can get chairs and tables and other articles of furniture to follow them about, why don't they go in for cheap furniture removals at night when the streets are empty?"

"Don't make a joke of everything," said Greenbracket, "I do see and converse with departed spirits. I do not ask them to come; they come to me, and half of them I have never heard of before or thought of either."

"May I ask, my good friend Greenbracket, what sort of clothes they wear when they pay you these visits; for instance, what does your latest apparition, Sir Rodger, clothe himself in?"

"Bless me!" said Theophilus, "why in the dress of his times, of course—a jerken, doublet, and hose, a rapier, and all that sort of thing; sometimes he wears a sort of coarse fustian cassock with a double breast."

"I can't make out," I said to my spiritualistic friend, "where these clothes come from. Have they got a sort of theatrical wardrobe wherever they are existing? If so, why can't the ghosts of old world clothes come alone? In such a case you might see a modern suit of evening togs, or armour, or boots and spurs, or military dress walk into your room without anything inside them; or you might, with a stretch of imagination, see a suit of pyjamas, or a pair of slippers going about the place."

"Shut up talking like that," said Theophilus, "you don't possess the sense—I mean the extra sense to see these beings; but read this document I have written out. Surely it will convince you that I really do get valuable inspirations from other worlds, but, mind, keep it a strict secret at present."

"All right, I promise you," I murmured placidly. Then I perused carefully the more than extraordinary document he had handed me.

"It is very curious," I said, "if it be one bit true; and if genuine, might be extremely useful. Mind my lips are sealed. But from whom did you obtain this remarkable story?"

"From Sir Rodger de Wanklyn, the Cathedral architect," he replied, and off I went quite full of my queer friend, Greenbracket, and of Annabel Strongthorn, Amos Bradleigh, and his cousin Anklebone, and particularly Rodger de Wanklyn.