Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Fitz-James O'Brien: The pot od tulips

Fitz-James O'Brien


TWENTY-EIGHT years ago I went to spend the summer at an old Dutch villa which then lifted its head from the wild country that, in present days, has been tamed down into a site for a Crystal Palace. Madison Square was then a wilderness of fields and scrub oak, here and there diversified with tall and stately elms. Worthy citizens who could afford two establishments rusticated in the groves that then flourished where ranks of brown-stone porticos now form the landscape ; and the locality of Fortieth Street, where my summer palace stood, was justly looked upon as at an enterprising distance from the city.

I had an imperious desire to live in this house ever since I can remember. I had often seen it when a boy,
and its cool verandas and quaint garden seemed, whenever I passed, to attract me irresistibly. In after years, when I grew up to man's estate, I was not sorry, therefore, when one summer, fatigued with the labors of my business, I beheld a notice in the papers intimating that it was to be let furnished. I hastened to my dear friend, Jaspar Joye, painted the delights of this rural retreat in the most glowing colors, easily obtained his assent to share the enjoyments and the expense with me, and a month afterward we were taking our ease in this new paradise.

Independent of early associations, other interests attached me to this house. It was somewhat historical, and had given shelter to George Washington on the occasion of one of his visits to the city. Furthermore, I knew the descendants of the family to whom it had originally belonged. Their history was strange and mournful, and it seemed to me as if their individuality was somehow shared by the edifice. It had been built by a Mr. Van Koeren, a gentleman of Holland, the younger son of a rich mercantile firm at the Hague, who had emigrated to this country in order to establish a branch of his father's business in New York, which even then gave indications of the prosperity it has since reached with such marvellous rapidity. He had brought with him a fair young Belgian wife ; a loving girl, if I may believe her portrait, with soft brown eyes, chestnut hair, and a deep, placid contentment spreading over her fresh and innocent features. Her son, Alain Van Koeren, had her picture an old miniature in a red gold frame as well as that of his father \ and in truth, when looking on the two, one could not conceive a greater contrast than must have existed between husband and wife. Mr. Van Koeren must have been a man of terrible will and gloomy temperament. His face in the picture is dark and austere, his eyes deep-sunken, and burning as if with a slow, inward fire. The lips are thin and compressed, with much determination of purpose ; and his chin, boldly salient, is brimful of power and resolution. When first I saw those two pictures I sighed inwardly and thought, " Poor child ! you must often have sighed for the sunny meadows of Brussels, in the long, gloomy nights spent in the company of that terrible man ! "


I was not far wrong, as I afterward discovered. Mr.
and Mrs. Van Koeren were very unhappy. Jealousy was
his monomania, and he had scarcely been married before
his girl-wife began to feel the oppression of a gloomy and
ceaseless tyranny. Every man under fifty, whose hair
was not white and whose form was erect, was an object of
suspicion to this Dutch Bluebeard. Not that he was vul-
garly jealous. He did not frown at his wife before stran-
gers, or attack her with reproaches in the midst of her
festivities. He was too well-bred a man to bare his pri-
vate woes to the world. But at night, when the guests
had departed and the dull light of the quaint old Flemish
lamps but half illuminated the nuptial chamber, then it
was that with monotonous invective Mr. Van Koeren
crushed his wife. And Marie, weeping and silent, would
sit on the edge of the bed listening to the cold, trenchant
irony of her husband, who, pacing up and down the room,
would now and then stop in his walk to gaze with his
burning eyes upon the pallid face of his victim. Even
the evidences that Marie gave of becoming a mother did
not check him. He saw in that coming event, which most
husbands anticipate with mingled joy and fear, only an
approaching incarnation of his dishonor. He watched
with a horrible refinement of suspicion for the arrival of
that being in whose features he madly believed he should
but too surely trace the evidences of his wife's crime.

Whether it was that these ceaseless attacks wore out
her strength, or that Providence wished to add another
chastening misery to her burden of woe, I dare not spec-
ulate ; but it is certain that one luckless night Mr. Van
Koeren learned with fury that he had become a father
two months before the allotted time. During his first
paroxysm of rage, on the receipt of intelligence which
seemed to confirm all his previous suspicions, it was, I


believe, with difficulty that he was prevented from slaying
both the innocent causes of his resentment. The caution
of his race and the presence of the physicians induced him,
however, to put a curb upon his furious will until reflec-
tion suggested quite as criminal, if not as dangerous, a
vengeance. As soon as his poor wife had recovered from
her illness, unnaturally prolonged by the delicacy of con-
stitution induced by previous mental suffering, she was
astonished to find, instead of increasing his persecutions,
that her husband had changed his tactics and treated her
with studied neglect. He rarely spoke to her except on
occasions when the decencies of society demanded that he
should address her. He avoided her presence, and no
longer inhabited the same apartments. He seemed, in
short, to strive as much as possible to forget her existence.
But if she did not suffer from personal ill-treatment it was
because a punishment more acute was in store for her. If
Mr. Van Koeren had chosen to affect to consider her be-
neath his vengeance, it was because his hate had taken
another direction, and seemed to have derived increased
intensity from the alteration. It was upon the unhappy
boy, the cause of all this misery, that the father lavished
a terrible hatred. Mr. Van Koeren seemed determined,
that, if this child sprang from other loins than his, the
mournful destiny which he forced upon him should am-
ply avenge his own existence and the infidelity of his
mother. While the child was an infant his plan seemed
to have been formed. Ignorance and neglect were the
two deadly influences with which he sought to assassinate
the moral nature of this boy ; and his terrible campaign
against the virtue of his own son was, as he grew up, car-
ried into execution with the most consummate generalship.
He gave him money, but debarred him from education.


He allowed him liberty of action, but withheld advice. It
was in vain that his mother, who foresaw the frightful
consequences of such a training, sought in secret by every
means in her power to nullify her husband's attempts.
She strove in vain to seduce her son into an ambition to
be educated. She beheld with horror all her agonized
efforts frustrated, and saw her son and only child becom-
ing, even in his youth, a drunkard and a libertine. In
the end it proved too much for her strength ; she sick-
ened, and went home to her sunny Belgian plains. There
she lingered for a few months in a calm but rapid decay,
whose calmness was broken but by the one grief; until
one autumn day, when the leaves were falling from the
limes, she made a little prayer for her son to the good God,
and died. Vain orison ! Spendthrift, gamester, libertine,
and drunkard by turns, Alain Van Koeren's earthly des-
tiny was unchangeable. The father, who should have
been his guide, looked on each fresh depravity of his son's
with a species of grim delight. Even the death of his
wronged wife had no effect upon his fatal purpose. He
still permitted the young man to run blindly to destruc-
tion by the course into which he himself had led him.

As years rolled by, and Mr. Van Koeren himself ap-
proached to that time of life when he might soon expect
to follow his persecuted wife, he relieved himself of the
hateful presence of his son altogether. Even the link of
a systematic vengeance, which had hitherto united them,
was severed, and Alain was cast adrift without either
money or principle. The occasion of this final separation
between father and son was the marriage of the latter
with a girl of humble, though honest extraction. This
was a good excuse for the remorseless Van Koeren, so he
availed himself of it by turning his son out of doors.


From that time forth they never met. Alain lived a life
of meagre dissipation, and soon died, leaving behind him
one child, a daughter. By a coincidence natural enough,
Mr. Van Koeren's death followed his son's almost imme-
diately. He died as he had lived, sternly. But those
who were around his couch in his last moments men-
tioned some singular facts connected with the manner of
his death. A few moments before he expired, he raised
himself in the bed, and seemed as if conversing with some
person invisible to the spectators. His lips moved as if
in speech, and immediately afterward he sank back, bathed
in a flood of tears. " Wrong ! wrong ! " he was heard to
mutter, feebly ; then he implored passionately the forgive-
ness of some one who, he said, was present. The death
struggle ensued almost immediately, and in the midst of
his agony he seemed wrestling for speech. All that could
be heard, however, were a few broken words. " I was
wrong. My unfounded For God's sake look in
You will find " Having uttered these fragmentary
sentences, he seemed to feel that the power of speech had
passed away forever. He fixed his eyes piteously on those
around him, and, with a great sigh of grief, expired. I
gathered these facts from his granddaughter and Alain's
daughter, Alice Van Koeren, who had been summoned by
some friend to her grandfather's dying couch when it was
too late. It was the first time she had seen him, and
then she saw him die.

The results of Mr. Van Koeren's death were a nine
days' wonder to all the merchants in New York. Beyond
a small sum in the bank, and the house in which he lived,
which was mortgaged for its full value, Mr. Van Koeren
had died a pauper ! To those who knew him and knew
his affairs, this seemed inexplicable. Five or six years


before his death he had retired from business with a for-
tune of several hundred thousand dollars. He had lived
quietly since then, was known not to have speculated,
and could not have gambled. The question then was,
where had his wealth vanished to. Search was made in
every secretary, in every bureau, for some document
which might throw a light on the mysterious disposition
that he had made of his property. None was found.
Neither will, nor certificates of stock, nor title deeds, nor
bank accounts, were anywhere discernible. Inquiries were
made at the .offices of companies in which Mr. Van Koeren
was known to be largely interested ; he had sold out his
stock years ago. Real estate that had been believed to
be his was found on investigation to have passed into
other hands. There could be no doubt that for some
years past Mr. Van Koeren had been steadily converting all
his property into money, and what he had done with that
money no one knew. Alice Van Koeren and her mother,
who at the old gentleman's death were at first looked on
as millionnaires, discovered, when all was over, that they
were no better off than before. It was evident that the
old man, determined that one whom, though bearing his
name, he believed not to be of his blood, should never in-
herit his wealth or any share of it, had made away with
his fortune before his death, a posthumous vengeance
which was the only one by which the laws of the State of
New York relative to inheritance could be successfully
evaded.

I took a peculiar interest in the case, and even helped
to make some researches for the lost property, not so
much, I confess, from a spirit of general philanthropy, as
from certain feelings which I experienced toward Alice
Van Koeren, the heir to this invisible estate. I had long


known both her and her mother, when they were living
in honest poverty and earning a scanty subsistence by
their own labor; Mrs. Van Koeren working as an em-
broideress, and Alice turning to account, as a preparatory
governess, the education which her good mother, spite of
her limited means, had bestowed on her.

In a few words, then, I loved Alice Van Koeren, and
was determined to make her my wife as soon as my means
would allow me to support a fitting establishment. My
passion had never been declared. I was content for the
time with the secret consciousness of my own love, and
the no less grateful certainty that Alice returned it, all
unuttered as it was. I had, therefore, a double interest
in passing the summer at the old Dutch villa, for I felt it
to be connected somehow with Alice, and I could not for-
get the singular desire to iuhabit it which I had so often
experienced as a boy.

It was a lovely day in June when Jasper Joye and my-
self took up our abode in our new residence ; and as we
smoked our cigars on the piazza in the evening we felt
for the first time the unalloyed pleasure with which a
townsman breathes the puie air of the country.

The house and grounds had a quaint sort of beauty
that to me was eminently pleasing. Landscape garden-
ing, in the modern acceptation of the term, was then
almost unknown in this country, and the " laying out " of
the garden that surrounded our new home would doubt-
less have shocked Mr. London, the late Mr. Downing, or
Sir Thomas Dick Lauder. It was formal and artificial to
the last degree. The beds were cut into long parallelo-
grams, rigid and severe of aspect, and edged with prim
rows of stiff dwarf box. The walks, of course, crossed al-
ways at right angles, and the laurel and cypress trees that


grew here and there were clipped into cones, and spheres,
and rhomboids. It is true that, at the time my friend
and I hired the house, years of neglect had restored to
this formal garden somewhat of the raggedness of nature.
The box edgings were rank and wild. The clipped trees,
forgetful of geometric propriety, flourished into unauthor-
ized boughs and rebel offshoots. The walks were green
with moss, and the beds of Dutch tulips, which had been
planted in the shape of certain gorgeous birds, whose
colors were represented by masses of blossoms, each of a
single hue, had transgressed their limits, and the purple of
a parrot's wings might have been seen running recklessly
into the crimson of his head ; while, as bulbs, however
well-bred, will create other bulbs, the flower-birds of this
queer old Dutch garden became in time abominably dis-
torted in shape ; flamingoes with humps, golden pheas-
ants with legs preternaturally elongated, macaws afflicted
with hydrocephalus, each species of deformity being
proportioned to the rapidity with which the roots had
spread in some particular direction. Still, this strange
mixture of raggedness and formality, this conglomerate
of nature and art, had its charms. It was pleasant to
watch the struggle, as it were, between the opposing ele-
ments, and to see nature triumphing by degrees in every
direction.

The house itself was pleasant and commodious. Rooms
that, though not lofty, were spacious ; wide windows, and
cool piazzas extending over the four sides of the build-
ing; and a collection of antique carved furniture, some
of which, from its elaborateness, might well have come
from the chisel of Master Grinling Gibbons. There was
a mantel-piece in the dining-room, with which I remem-
ber being very much struck when first I came to take



possession. It was a singular and fantastical piece of
carving. It was a perfect tropical garden, menagerie,
and aviary, in one. Birds, beasts, and flowers were sculp-
tured on the wood with exquisite correctness of detail,
and painted with the hues of nature. The Dutch taste for
color was here fully gratified. Parrots, love-birds, scar-
let lories, blue-faced baboons, crocodiles, passion-flowers,
tigers, Egyptian lilies, and Brazilian butterflies, were all
mixed in gorgeous confusion. The artist, whoever he
was, must have been an admirable naturalist, for the
ease and freedom of his carving were only equalled by
the wonderful accuracy with which the different animals
were represented. Altogether it was one of those oddi-
ties of Dutch conception, whose strangeness was in this
instance redeemed by the excellence of the execution.

Such was the establishment that Jasper Joye and my-
self were to inhabit for the summer months.

" What a strange thing it was," said Jasper, as we
lounged on the piazza together the night of our arrival,
"that old Van Koeren's property should never have
turned up!"

"It is a question with some people whether he had
any at his death," I answered.

" Pshaw ! every one knows that he did not or could
not have lost that with which he retired from business."

" It is strange," said I, thoughtfully ; " yet every possi-
ble search has been made for documents that might throw
light on the mystery. I have myself sought in every
quarter for traces of this lost wealth, but in vain."

" Perhaps he buried it,'* suggested Jasper, laughing ; " if
so, we may find it here in a hole one fine morning."

" I think it much more likely that he destroyed it," I
replied. "You know he never could be got to believe



that Alain Van Koeren was his son, and I believe him
quite capable of having flung all his money into the sea
in order to prevent those whom he considered not of his
blood inheriting it, which they must have done under our
laws."

" I am sorry that Alice did not become an heiress, both
for your sake and hers. She is a charming girl."

Jasper, from whom I concealed nothing, knew of my
love.

'.'As to that," I answered, "it is little matter. I shall
in a year or two be independent enough to marry, and
can afford to let Mr. Van Koeren's cherished gold sleep
wherever he has concealed it."

" Well, I 'm off to bed," said Jasper, yawning. " This
country air makes one sleepy early. Be on the lookout
for trap-doors and all that sort of thing, old fellow.
Who knows but the old chap's dollars will turn up.
Good night ! "*

" Good night, Jasper ! "

So we parted for the night. He to his room, which lay
on the west side of the building ; I to mine on the east,
situated at the end of a long corridor and exactly opposite
to Jasper's.

The night was very still and warm. The clearness
with which I heard the song of the katydid and the
croak of the bull-frog seemed to make the silence more
distinct. The air was dense and breathless, and, although
longing to throw wide my windows, I dared not ; for, out-
side, the ominous trumpetings of an army of mosquitoes
sounded threateningly.

I tossed on my bed oppressed with the heat ; kicked
the sheets into every spot where they ought not to be ;
turned my pillow every two minutes in the hope of find-


ing a cool side ; in short, did everything that a man
does when he lies awake on a very hot night and cannot
open his window.

Suddenly, in the midst of my miseries, and when I had
made up my mind to fling open the casement in spite of
the legion of mosquitoes that I knew were hungrily wait-
ing outside, I felt a continuous stream of cold air blowing
upon my face. Luxurious as the sensation was, I could
not help starting as I felt it. Where could this draught
come from ] The door was closed ; so were the windows.
It did not come from the direction of the fireplace, and,
even if it did, the air without was too still to produce so
strong a current. I rose in my bed and gazed round the
room, the whole of which, though only lit by a dim
twilight, was still sufficiently visible. I thought at first
it was a trick of Jasper's, who might have provided him-
self with a bellows or a long tube ; but a careful inves-
tigation of the apartment convinced me that no one was
present. Besides, I had locked the door, and it was not
likely that any one had been concealed in the room be-
fore I entered it. It was exceedingly strange ; but still
the draught of cool wind blew on my face and chest,
every now and then changing its direction, sometimes
on one side, sometimes on the other. I am not consti-
tutionally nervous, and had been too long accustomed
to reflect on philosophical subjects to become the prey
of fear in the presence of mysterious phenomena. I had
devoted much time to the investigation of what are popu-
larly called supernatural matters, by those who have not
reflected or examined sufficiently to discover that none
of these apparent miracles are sw/?er-natural, but all, how-
ever singular, directly dependent on certain natural laws.
I became speedily convinced, therefore, as I sat up in my



bed peering into the dim recesses of my chamber, that
this mysterious wind was the effect or forerunner of a
supernatural visitation, and I mentally determined to in-
vestigate it, as it developed itself, with a philosophical
calmness.

" Is any one in this room ? v I asked, as distinctly as I
could. No reply; while the cool wind still swept over
my cheek. I knew, in the case of Elizabeth Eslinger,
who was visited by an apparition while in the Weinsberg
jail, and whose singular and apparently authentic experi-
ences were made the subject of a book by Dr. Kerner,
that the manifestation of the spirit was invariably accom-
panied by such a breezy sensation as I now experienced.
I therefore gathered my will, as it were, into a focus, and
endeavored, as much as lay in my power, to put myself
in accord with the disembodied spirit, if such there were,
knowing that on such conditions alone would it be enabled
to manifest itself to me.

Presently it seemed as if a luminous cloud was gather-
ing in one corner of the room, a sort of dim phos-
phoric vapor, shadowy and ill-defined. It changed its po-
sition frequently, sometimes coming nearer and at others
retreating to the furthest end of the room. As it grew
intenser and more radiant, I observed a sickening and
corpse-like odor diffuse itself through the chamber, and,
despite my anxiety to witness this phenomenon undis-
turbed, I could with difficulty conquer a feeling of faint-
ness which oppressed me.

The luminous cloud now began to grow brighter and
brighter as I gazed. The horrible odor of which I have
spoken did not cease to oppress me, and gradually I could
discover certain lines making themselves visible in the
midst of this lambent radiance. These lines took the



form of a human figure, a tall man, clothed in a long
dressing-robe, with a pale countenance, burning eyes, and
a very bold and prominent chin. At a glance I recog-
nized the original of the picture of old Van Koeren that I
had seen with Alice. My interest was now aroused to the
highest point ; I felt that I stood face to face with a spirit,
and doubted not that I should learn the fate of the old
man's mysteriously concealed wealth.

The spirit presented a very strange appearance. He
himself was not luminous, except some tongues of fire
that seemed to proceed from the tips of his fingers, but
was compleiely surrounded by a thin gauze of light, so to
speak, through which his outlines were visible. His head
was bare, and his white hair fell in huge masses around
his stern, saturnine face. As he moved on the floor, I
distinctly heard a strange crackling sound, such as one
hears when a substance has been overcharged with elec-
tricity. But the circumstance that seemed to me most
incomprehensible connected with the apparition was that
Yan Koeren held in both hands a curiously painted
flower-pot, out of which sprang a number of the most
beautiful tulips in full blossom. He seemed very uneasy
and agitated, and moved about the room as if in pain,
frequently bending over the pot of tulips as if to inhale
their odor, then holding it out to me, seemingly in the
hope of attracting my attention to it. I was, I confess,
very much puzzled. I knew that Mr. Van Koeren had
in his lifetime devoted much of his leisure to the cul-
tivation of flowers, importing from Holland the most
expensive and rarest bulbs ; but how this innocent fancy
could trouble him after death I could not imagine. I
felt assured, however, that some important reason lay at
the bottom of this spectral eccentricity, and determined
to fathom it if I could.


" What brings you here 1 w I asked audibly ; directing
mentally, however, at the same time, the question to the
spirit with all the power of my will. He did not seem
to hear me, but still kept moving uneasily about, with
the crackling noise I have mentioned, and holding the
pot of tulips toward me.

" It is evident," I said to myself, " that I am not suffi-
ciently in accord with this spirit for him to make himself
understood by speech. He has, therefore, recourse to
symbols. The pot of tulips is a symbol. But of what 1 "

Thus reflecting on these things I continued to gaze
upon the spirit. While observing him attentively, he
approached my bedside by a rapid movement, and laid
one hand on my arm. The touch was icy cold, and
pained me at the moment. Next morning my arm was
swollen, and marked with a round blue spot. Then, pass-
ing to my bedroom-door, the spirit opened it and went
out, shutting it behind him. Catching for a moment
at the idea that I was the dupe of a trick, I jumped
out of bed and ran to the door. It was locked with the
key on the inside, and a brass safety-bolt, which lay above
the lock, shot safely home. All was as I had left it on
going to bed. Yet I declare most solemnly, that, as the
ghost made his exit, I not only saw the door open, but /
saw the corridor outside, and distinctly observed a large pic-
ture of William of Orange that hung just opposite to my room.
This to me was the most curious portion of the phenom-
ena I had witnessed. Either the door had been opened by
the ghost, and the resistance of physical obstacles over-
come in some amazing manner, because in this case the
bolts must have been replaced when the ghost was out-
side the door, or he must have had a sufficient mag-
netic accord with my mind to impress upon it the belief



that the door was opened, and also to conjure up in my
brain the vision of the corridor and the picture, features
that I should have seen if the door had been opened by
any ordinary physical agency.

The next morning at breakfast I suppose my manner
must have betrayed me, for Jasper said to me, after star-
ing at me for some time, " Why, Harry Escott, what 's the
matter with you 1 You look as if you had seen a ghost ! "

" So I have, Jasper."

Jasper, of course, burst into laughter, and said he 'd
shave my head and give me a shower-bath.

" Well, you may laugh," I answered ; " but you shall
see it to-night, Jasper."

He became serious in a moment, I suppose there
was something earnest in my manner that convinced him
that my words were not idle, and asked me to explain.
I described ray interview as accurately as I could.

" How did you know that it was old Van Koeren 1 " he
asked.

" Because I have seen his picture a hundred times with
Alice," I answered, " and this apparition was as like it as
it was possible for a ghost to be like a miniature."

" You must not think I 'm laughing at you, Harry, he
continued, " but I wish you would answer this. We have
all heard of ghosts, ghosts of men, women, children,
dogs, horses, in fact every living animal ; but hang me
if ever I heard of the ghost of a flower-pot before."

" My dear Jasper, you would have heard of such things
if you had studied such branches of learning. All the
phenomena I witnessed last night are supportable by
well-authenticated facts. The cool wind has attended the
appearance of more than one ghost, and Baron Reichen-
bach asserts that his patients, who you know are for the


most part sensitive to apparitions, invariably feel this
wind when a magnet is brought close to their bodies.
With regard to the flower-pot about which you make so
merry, it is to me the least wonderful portion of the appa-
rition. When a ghost is unable to find a person of suffi-
cient receptivity, in order to communicate with him by
speech it is obliged to have recourse to symbols to ex-
press its wishes. These it either creates by some mys-
terious power out of the surrounding atmosphere, or it
impresses, by magnetic force on the mind of the person
it visits, the form of the symbol it is anxious to have
represented. There is an instance mentioned by Jung
Stilling of a student at Brunswick, who appeared to a
professor of his college, with a picture in his hands, which
picture had a hole in it that the ghost thrust his head
through. For a long time this symbol was a mystery ;
but the student was persevering, and appeared every
night with his head through the picture, until at last
it was discovered that, before he died, he had got some
painted slides for a magic lantern from a shopkeeper in
the town, which had not been paid for at his death ; and
when the debt had been discharged, he and his picture
vanished forevermore. Now here was a symbol distinctly
bearing on the question at issue. This poor student could
find no better way of expressing his uneasiness at the
debt for the painted slides than by thrusting his head
through a picture. How he conjured up the picture I
cannot pretend to explain, but that it was used as a sym-
bol is evident."

" Then you think the flower-pot of old Van Koeren is
a symbol 1 "

" Most assuredly, the pot of tulips he held was intended
to express that which he could not speak. I think it



must have had some reference to his missing property,
and it is our business to discover in what manner."

" Let us go and dig up all the tulip beds," said Jasper,
" who knows but he may have buried his money in one
of them 1 "

I grieve to say that I assented to Jasper's proposition,
and on that eventful day every tulip in that quaint old
garden was ruthlessly uprooted. The gorgeous macaws,
and ragged parrots, and long-legged pheasants, so cun-
ningly formed by those brilliant flowers, were that day
exterminated. Jasper and I had a regular battue amidst
this floral preserve, and many a splendid bird fell before
our unerring spades. We, however, dug in vain. No
secret coffer turned up out of the deep mould of the
flower-beds. We evidently were not on the right scent.
Our researches for that day terminated, and Jasper and
myself waited impatiently for the night.

It was arranged that Jasper should sleep in my room.
I had a bed rigged up for him near my own, and I was to
have the additional assistance of his senses in the inves-
tigation of the phenomena that we so confidently expected
to appear.

The night came. We retired to our respective couches,
after carefully bolting the doors, and subjecting the entire
apartment to the strictest scrutiny, rendering it totally
impossible that a secret entrance should exist unknown
to us. We then put out the lights, and awaited the
apparition.

We did not remain in suspense long. About twenty
minutes after we retired to bed, Jasper called out, " Har-
ry, I feel the cool wind ! "

" So do I," I answered, for at that moment a light
breeze seemed to play across my temples.


" Look, look, Harry ! " continued Jasper in a tone of
painful eagerness, " I see a light there in the corner ! "

It was the phantom. As before, the luminous cloud
appeared to gather in the room, growing more and more
intense each minute. Presently the dark lines mapped
themselves out, as it were, in the midst of this pale, radi-
ant vapor, and there stood Mr. Van Koeren, ghastly and
mournful as ever, with the pot of tulips in his hands.

" Do you see it V' I asked Jasper.

" My God ! yes," said Jasper, in a low voice. " How
terrible he looks ! "

" Can you speak to me, to-night 1 " I said, addressing
the apparition, and again concentrating my will upon my
question. " If so, unburden yourself. We will assist
you, if we can."

There was no reply. The ghost preserved the same
sad, impassive countenance ; he had heard me not. He
seemed in great distress on this occasion, moving up and
down, and holding out the pot of tulips imploringly toward
me, each motion of his being accompanied by the crack-
ling noise and the corpse-like odor. I felt sorely troubled
myself to see this poor spirit torn by an endless grief, so
anxious to communicate to me what lay on his soul, and
yet debarred by some occult power from the privilege.

"Why, Harry," cried Jasper after a silence, during
which we both watched the motions of the ghost intently,
" why, Harry, my boy, there are two of them ! "

Astonished by his words, I looked around, and became
immediately aware of the presence of a second luminous
cloud, in the midst of which I could distinctly trace the
figure of a pale but lovely woman. I needed no second
glance to assure me that it was the unfortunate wife of
Van Koeren.


" It is his wife, Jasper," I replied ; " I recognize her,
as I have recognized her husband, by the portrait."

" How sad she looks ! " exclaimed Jasper in a low voice.

She did indeed look sad. Her face, pale and mournful,
did not, however, seem convulsed with sorrow, as was
her husband's. She seemed to be oppressed with a calm
grief, and gazed with a look of interest that was pain-
ful in its intensity, on Van Koeren. It struck me, from
his air, that, though she saw him, he did not see her.
His whole attention was concentrated on the pot of tu-
lips, while Mrs. Van Koeren, who floated at an elevation
of about three feet from the floor, and thus overtopped
her husband, seemed equally absorbed in the contempla-
tion of his slightest movement. Occasionally she would
turn her eyes on me, as if to call my attention to her
companion, and then, returning, gaze on him with a sad,
womanly, half-eager smile, that to me was inexpressibly
mournful.

There was something exceedingly touching in this
strange sight ; these two spirits so near, yet so distant.
The sinful husband torn with grief and weighed down
with some terrible secret, and so blinded by the grossness
of his being as to be unable to see the wife-angel who was
watching over him ; while she, forgetting all her wrongs,
and attracted to earth by perhaps the same human sym-
pathies, watched from a greater spiritual height, and with
a tender interest, the struggles of her suffering spouse.

"By Jove !" exclaimed Jasper, jumping from his bed,
" I know what it means now."

" What does it mean ] " I asked, as eager to know as
he was to communicate.

"Well, that flower-pot that the old chap is holding "
Jasper, I grieve to say, was rather profane.



" Well, what of that flower-pot ? "

" Observe the pattern. It has two handles made of red
snakes, whose tails twist round the top and form a rim.
It contains tulips of three colors, yellow, red, and purple."

"I see all that as well as you do. Let us have the
solution."

" Well, Harry, my boy ! don't you remember that there
is just such a flower-pot, tulips, snakes and all, carved on
the queer old painted mantel-piece in the dining-room *

" So there is ! " and a gleam of hope shot across my
brain, and my heart beat quicker.

" Now as sure as you are alive, Harry, the old fellow has
concealed something important behind that mantel-piece."

"Jasper, if ever I am Emperor of France, I will make
you chief of police; your inductive reasoning is mag-
nificent."

Actuated by the same impulse, and without another
word, we both sprang out of bed and lit a candle. The
apparitions, if they remained, were no longer visible in
the light. Hastily throwing on some clothes, we rushed
down stairs to the dining-room, determined to have the
old mantel-piece down without loss of time. We had
scarce entered the room when we felt the cool wind
blowing on our faces.

"Jasper," said I, "they are here !,"

" Well," answered Jasper, " that only confirms my sus-
picions that we are 011 the right track this time. Let us
go to work. See ! here 's the pot of tulips."

This pot of tulips occupied the centre of the mantel-
piece, and served as a nucleus round which all the fantas-
tic animals sculptured elsewhere might be said to gather.
It was carved on a species of raised shield, or boss, of
wood, that projected some inches beyond the plane of the



remainder of the mantel-piece. The pot itself was painted
a brick color. The snakes were of bronze color, gilt, and
the tulips yellow, red, and purple were painted after
nature with the most exquisite accuracy.

For some time Jasper and myself tugged away at this
projection without any avail. We were convinced that it
was a movable panel of some kind, but yet were totally
unable to move it. Suddenly it struck me that we had
not yet twisted it. I immediately proceeded to apply all
my strength, and after a few seconds of vigorous exertion
I had the satisfaction of finding it move slowly round.
After giving it half a dozen turns, to my astonishment the
long upper panel of the mantel-piece fell out toward us,
apparently on concealed hinges, after the manner of
the portion of escritoires that is used as a writing-table.
Within were several square cavities sunk in the wall,
and lined with wood. In one of these was a bundle
of papers.

We seized these papers with avidity, and hastily glanced
over them. They proved to be documents vouching for
property to the amount of several hundred thousand dol-
lars, invested in the name of Mr. Van Koeren in a certain
firm at Bremen, who, no doubt, thought by this time
that the money would remain unclaimed forever. The
desires of these poor troubled spirits were accomplished.
Justice to the child had been given through the instru-
mentality of the erring father.

The formulas necessary to prove Alice and her mother
sole heirs to Mr. Van Koeren's estate were briefly gone
through, and the poor governess passed suddenly from the
task of teaching stupid children to the envied position of
a great heiress. I had ample reason afterward for think-
ing that her heart did not change with her fortunes.



That Mr. Van Koeren became aware of his wife's inno-
cence, just before he died, I have no doubt. How this
was manifested I cannot of course say, but I think it
highly probably that his poor wife herself was enabled at
the critical moment of dissolution, when the link that
binds body and soul together is attenuated to the last
thread, to put herself in accord with her unhappy hus-
band. Hence his sudden starting up in his bed, his ap-
parent conversation with some invisible being, and his
fragmentary disclosures, too broken, however, to be com-
prehended.

The question of apparitions has been so often discussed
that I feel no inclination to enter here upon the truth or
fallacy of the ghostly theory. I myself believe in ghosts.
Alice my wife believes in them firmly ; and if it
suited me to do so I could overwhelm you with a scien-
tific theory of my own on the subject, reconciling ghosts
and natural phenomena.

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