man in jacket smoking a cigarette

The Phantom Coach

The Phantom Coach

by Amelia Edwards

Me
Thank God!
Old Man
What for?
Me
Well — for you. I had begun to fear I should be lost in the snow.
Old Man
Eh, then, folks do get cast away hereabouts fra’ time to time, an’ what’s to hinder you from bein’ cast away likewise, if the Lord’s so minded?
Me
If the Lord is so minded that you and I shall be lost together, friend, we must submit. But I don’t mean to be lost without you. How far am I now from Dwolding?
Old Man
A gude twenty mile, more or less.
Me
And the nearest village?
Old Man
The nearest village is Wyke, an’ that’s twelve mile t’other side.
Me
Where do you live, then?
Old Man
Out yonder; thataway, see?
Me
You’re going home, I presume?
Old Man
Maybe I am.
Me
Then I’m going with you.
Old Man
Nope. It ain’t o’ no use. He ‘ont let you in — not he.
Me
We’ll see about that. Who’s he?
Old Man
The master.
Me
Who is the master?
Old Man
That’s naught to you.
Me
Well, well; you lead the way, and I’ll engage to see that the master gives me shelter and supper tonight.
Old Man
Eh, you can try him. I’m off!
Huge Dog
Ruff, ruff, rrruff! Grr!
Me
Where’d you come from, boy?
Huge Dog
Roof-roof!
Me
Old Man, One more thing, Is this the house?
Old Man
Ay, it’s the house. Down, Boy! I’ll just find the key.
Me
Why it looks like the door of a prison. Let me past, there, old fellow. Why does it have the look of a barn inside? Those agricultural implements, flour sacks, casks, and rows of hams and herbs hanging?
Old Man
Tis naught of concern to thee!
Me
Then what is under the dingy cover there, reaching half way to the rafters? Let’s have a peek under here, eh?
Old Man
Tis naught. Put that cover cloth down.
Me
Tis naught, aye, but —  a telescope! A Big one, and on wheels!
Old Man
Clear off!
Me
The tube is made of painted wood, bound with bands of metal and rudely fashioned; the speculum, so far as I can estimate in this dim light, measures at least fifteen inches in diameter.  [Ring-Ring]
Old Man
That’s for you, tee-hee! Yonder’s his room.
Me
Did you mean to point to that low black door at the opposite side of the hall? I’ll try knocking at it then!

I crossed over, rapped somewhat loudly, and went in, without waiting for an invitation. A huge, white-haired old man rose from a table covered with books and papers, and confronted me sternly.

Master
Who are you? How came you here? What do you want?
Me
James Murray, barrister-at-law. On foot across the moor. Meat, drink, and sleep.
Master
Mine is not a house of entertainment, sir! Jacob, how dared you admit this stranger?
Old Man
I didn’t admit him. He followed me over the muir, and shouldered his way in before me. I’m no match for six foot two.
Master
And pray, sir, by what right have you forced an entrance into my house?
Me
The same by which I should have clung to your boat if I were drowning. The right of self-preservation.
Master
Self-preservation?
Me
There’s an inch of snow on the ground already, and it would be deep enough to cover my body before daybreak. Just look out there!
Master
It is true. You can stay, if you choose, till morning. Jacob, serve the supper.