Изображения страниц

and down stairs at all hours of the night, sounds like that of dancing in an empty room the door of which was locked, gobling like a turkey cock, but most frequently a knocking about the beds at night, and in different parts of the house. Mrs. Wesley would at first have persuaded the children and servants that it was occasioned by rats within doors, and mischievous persons without, and her husband had recourse to the same ready solution : or some of his daughters, he supposed, sate up late and made a noise ; and a hint that their lovers might have something to do with the mystery, made the young ladies heartily hope he might soon be convinced that there was more in the matter than he was disposed to believe. In this they were not disappointed, for on the next night, a little after midnight, he was awakened by nine loud and distinct knocks, which seemed to be in the next room, with a pause at every third stroke. He rose and went to see if he could discover the cause, but could perceive nothing ; still he thought it might be some person out of doors, and relied upon a stout mastiff to rid them of this nuisance. But the dog, which upon the first disturbance had barked yiolently, was ever afterwards cowed by it, and seeming more terrified than any of the children, came whining himself to his master and mistress, as if to seek protection in a human presence. And when the man-servant, Robin Brown, took the mastiff at night into his room, to be at once a guard and a companion, as soon as the latch began to jar as usual, the dog crept into bed, and barked and howled so as to alarm the house.

The fears of the family for Mr. Wesley's life being removed as soon as he had heard the mysterious noises, they began to apprehend that one of the sons had met with a violent death, and more particularly Samuel the eldest. The father, therefore, one night after several deep groans had been heard, adjured it to speak if it had power, and tell him why it troubled the house; and upon this three distinct knockings were made. He then questioned it if it were Samuel his son, bidding it, if it were, and could not speak, to knock again : but to their great comfort there was no farther knocking that night; and when they heard that Samuel and the two boys were safe and well, the visitations of the goblin became rather a matter of curiosity and amusement than of alarm. Emilia gave it the name of old Jeffery, and by this name he was now known as a harmless, though by no means an agreeable inmate of the parsonage. Jeffery was not a malicious goblin, but he was easily offended. Before Mrs. Wesley was satisfied that there was something supernatural in the noises, she recollected that one of her neighbours had frightened the rats from his dwelling by blowing a horn there : the horn, therefore, was borrowed, and blown stoutly about the house for half a day, greatly against the judgement of one of the sisters, who maintained that if it was any thing supernatural it would certainly be very angry and more trouble. some. Her opinion was verified by the event : Jeffery had never till then begun his operations during the day: from that time he came by day as well as by night, and was louder than before. And he never entered Mr. Wesley's study till the owner one day rebuked him sharply, called him a deaf and dumb devil, and bade him cease to disturb the innocent children, and come to him in his study, if he had any thing to say. This was a sort of defiance, and Jeffery therefore took him at his word. No other person in the family ever felt the goblin, but Mr. Wesley was thrice pushed by it with considerable force.

So he himself relates, and his evidence is clear and distinct. He says also, that once or twice when he spoke to it, he heard two or three feeble squeaks, a little louder than the chirping of a bird, but not like the noise of rats. What is said of an actual appearance is not so well confirmed. Mrs. Wesley thought she saw something run from under the bed, and thought it most like a badger, but she could not well say of what shape; and the man saw something like a white rabbit, which came from behind the oven, with its ears flat upon the neck, and its little scut standing straight up. A shadow

A shadow may possibly explain the first of these appearances; the other may be imputed to that proneness which ignorant persons so commonly evince to exaggerate in all uncommon cases. These circumstances, therefore, though apparently silly in themselves, in no degree invalidate the other parts of the story, which rest upon the concurrent testimony of many intelligent witnesses. The door was once violently pushed against Emilia, when there was no person on the outside ; the latches were frequently lifted up ; the windows clattered always before Jeffery entered a room, and whatever iron or brass was there, rung and jarred exceedingly. It was observed also that the wind commonly rose after any of his noises, and increased with it, and whistled loudly' around the house. Mr. Wesley's trencher (for it was before our potteries had pushed their ware into every village throughout the kingdom) danced one day upon the table, to his no small amazement; and the handle of Robin's hand-mill, at another time, was turned round with great swiftness : unluckily Robin had just done grinding : nothing vexed him, he said, but that the mill was empty; if there had been corn in it, Jeffery might have ground his heart out before he would have disturbed him. It was plainly a Jacobite goblin, and seldom suffered Mr. Wesley to pray for the King and the Prince of Wales without disturbing the family prayers. Mr. Wesley was sore upon this subject, and became angry, and therefore repeated the prayer. But when Samuel was informed of this, his remark was, “ As to the devil's being an enemy to King George, were I the king myself, I should rather Old Nick should be my enemy

than my friend.” The children were the only persons who were distressed by these visitations: the manner in which they were affected is remarkable: when the noises began they appeared to be frightened in their sleep, a sweat came over them, and they panted and trembled till the disturbance was so loud as to waken them. Before it ceased, the family had become quite accustomed to it, and were

tired with hearing or speaking of it.

• Send me some news,” said one of the sisters to her brother Samuel, “ for we are secluded from the sight or hearing of any versal thing, except Jeffery."

An author who in this age relates such a story, and treats it as not utterly incredible and absurd, must expect to be ridiculed ; but the testimony upon which it rests is far too strong to be set aside because of the strangeness of the relation. The letters which passed at the time between Samuel Wesley and the family at Epworth, the journal which Mr. Wesley kept of these remarkable transactions, and the evidence concerning them which John afterwards collected, fell into the hands of Dr. Priestley, and were * published by him as being “ perhaps the best authenticated and best told story of the kind that is any where extant.” He observes in favour of the story, “ that all the parties seem to have been sufficiently void of fear, and also free from credulity, except the general belief that such things were supernatural.” But he argues, that where no good end was to be answered, we may safely conclude that no miracle was wrought; and he supposes, as the most probable solution, that it was a trick of the servants, assisted by some of the neighbours, for the sake of amusing themselves and puzzling the family. In reply to this it may safely be asserted, that many of the circumstances cannot be explained by any

These papers are inserted among the Notes and Rhustrations at the end of the Volume, that the Reader may have before him the original documents relating to this remarkable atfair.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »