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The Ghost in the Cap’n Brown House
by [?]

“Now, Sam, tell us certain true, is there any such things as ghosts?”

“Be there ghosts?” said Sam, immediately translating into his vernacular grammar: “wal, now, that are’s jest the question, ye see.” “Well, grandma thinks there are, and Aunt Lois thinks it’s all nonsense. Why, Aunt Lois don’t even believe the stories in Cotton Mather’s ‘Magnalia.'”

“Wanter know?” said Sam, with a tone of slow, languid meditation.

We were sitting on a bank of the Charles River, fishing. The soft melancholy red of evening was fading off in streaks on the glassy water, and the houses of Oldtown were beginning to loom through the gloom, solemn and ghostly. There are times and tones and moods of nature that make all the vulgar, daily real seem shadowy, vague, and supernatural, as if the outlines of this hard material present were fading into the invisible and unknown. So Oldtown, with its elm-trees, its great square white houses, its meeting-house and tavern and blacksmith’s shop and milly which at high noon seem as real and as commonplace as possible, at this hour of the evening were dreamy and solemn. They rose up blurred, indistinct, dark; here and there winking candles sent long lines of light through the shadows, and little drops of unforeseen rain rippled the sheeny darkness of the water.

“Wal, you see, boys, in them things it’s jest as well to mind your granny. There’s a consid’able sight o’ gumption in grandmas. You look at the folks that’s alius tellin’ you what they don’t believe,–they don’t believe this, and they don’t believe that,–and what sort o’ folks is they? Why, like yer Aunt Lois, sort o’ stringy and dry. There ain’t no ‘sorption got out o’ not believin’ nothin’.

“Lord a massy! we don’t know nothin’ ’bout them things. We hain’t ben there, and can’t say that there ain’t no ghosts and sich; can we, now?”

We agreed to that fact, and sat a little closer to Sam in the gathering gloom.

“Tell us about the Cap’n Brown house, Sam.”

“Ye didn’t never go over the Cap’n Brown house?”

No, we had not that advantage.

“Wal, yer see, Cap’n Brown he made all his money to sea, in furrin parts, and then come here to Oldtown to settle down.

“Now, there ain’t no knowin’ ’bout these ‘ere old ship-masters, where they’s ben, or what they’s ben a doin’, or how they got their money. Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell ye no lies, is ’bout the best philosophy for them. Wal, it didn’t do no good to ask Cap’n Brown questions too close, ’cause you didn’t git no satisfaction. Nobody rightly knew ’bout who his folks was, or where they come from; and, ef a body asked him, he used to say that the very fust he know’d ’bout himself he was a young man walkin’ the streets in London.

“But, yer see, boys, he hed money, and that is about all folks wanter know when a man comes to settle down. And he bought that ‘are place, and built that ‘are house. He built it all sea-cap’n fashion, so’s to feel as much at home as he could. The parlor was like a ship’s cabin. The table and chairs was fastened down to the floor, and the closets was made with holes to set the casters and the decanters and bottles in, jest’s they be at sea; and there was stanchions to hold on by; and they say that blowy nights the cap’n used to fire up pretty well with his grog, till he hed about all he could carry, and then he’d set and hold on, and hear the wind blow, and kind o’ feel out to sea right there to hum. There wasn’t no Mis’ Cap’n Brown, and there didn’t seem likely to be none. And whether there ever hed been one, nobody know’d. He hed an old black Guinea nigger-woman, named Quassia, that did his work. She was shaped pretty much like one o’ these ‘ere great crookneck-squashes. She wa’n’t no gret beauty, I can tell you; and she used to wear a gret red turban and a yaller short gown and red petticoat, and a gret string o’ gold beads round her neck, and gret big gold hoops in her ears, made right in the middle o’ Africa among the heathen there. For all she was black, she thought a heap o’ herself, and was consid’able sort o’ predominative over the cap’n. Lordy massy! boys, it’s alius so. Get a man and a woman together,–any sort o’ woman you’re a mind to, don’t care who ’tis,–and one way or another she gets the rule over him, and he jest has to train to her fife. Some does it one way, and some does it another; some does it by jawin’ and some does it by kissin’, and some does it by faculty and contrivance; but one way or another they allers does it. Old Cap’n Brown was a good stout, stocky kind o’ John Bull sort o’ fellow, and a good judge o’ sperits, and allers kep’ the best in them are cupboards o’ his’n; but, fust and last, things in his house went pretty much as old Quassia said.