THE KEARNY STREET GHOST STORY
Disembodied spirits have been on the rampage now for more than a month past in the house of one Albert Krum, in Kearny street - so much so that the family find it impossible to keep a servant forty-eight hours. The moment a new and unsuspecting servant-maid gets fairly to bed and her light blown out, one of those dead and damned scalliwags takes her by the hair and just "hazes" her; grabs her by the waterfall and snakes her out of bed and bounces her on the floor two or three time; other disorderly corpses shy old boots at her head, and bootjacks, and brittle chamber furniture - washbowls, pitchers, hair-oil, teeth brushes, hoop-skirts - anything that comes handy those phantoms seize and hurl at Bridget, and pay no more attention to her howling than if it were music. The spirits tramp, tramp, tramp, about the house at dead of night, and when a light is struck the footsteps cease and the promenader is not visible, and just as soon as the light is out that dead man goes waltzing around again. They are a bloody lot. The young lady of the house was lying in bed one night with the gas turned down low, when a figure approached her through the gloom, whose ghastly aspect and solemn carriage chilled her to the heart. What do you suppose she did? - jumped up and seized the intruder? - threw a slipper at him? - "laid" him with a misquotation from Scripture? No - none of these. But with admirable presence of mind she covered up her head and yelled. That is what she did. Few young women would have thought of doing that. The ghost came and stood by the bed and groaned - a deep, agonizing, heart-broken groan - and laid a bloody kitten on the pillow by the girl's head. And then it groaned again, and sighed, "Oh, God, and must it be?" and bet another bloody kitten. It groaned a third time in sorrow and tribulation, and went one kitten better. And thus the sorrowing spirit stood there, moaning in its anguish and unloading its mewing cargo, until it had stacked up a whole litter of nine little bloody kittens on the girl's pillow, and then, still moaning, moved away and vanished.
When lights were brought, there were the kittens, with the finger marks of bloody hands upon their white fur - and the old mother cat, that had come after them, swelled her tail in mortal fear and refused to take hold of them. What do you think of that? what would you think of a ghost that came to your bedside at dead of night and had kittens?
[reprinted in Mark Twain's San Francisco, edited by Bernard Taper, (McGraw Hill, 1963), pp. 195-96 as reprinted in the Golden Era, JAN. 28, 1866]
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