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in love with her husband), and that was her gift for writ-
ing—her passion for literature. When Mrs. Simpson at 
one and the same moment lowered the rent and men-
tioned Sterne, the bargain was struck and the rooms 
taken. The ghost must be endured.

That necessity arose indeed the very first night the 
Mathews went to bed. As York Minster struck the first 
chimes of midnight, three powerful blows resounded on 
the wall at the back of the young couple's bed. The 
same thing happened night after night. York Minster 
had only to begin striking twelve and the ghost struck 
three. Watch was set; experiments were made; but 
whether it was the ghost of Sterne or the malevolence 
of some ill-wisher, no cause could be discovered, and the 
young people could only move their bed, and shift their 
bedtime, which, as the playhouse hours were late, and 
Charles had a passion for reading or talking late at night, 
was a matter of not much difficulty. Such courage 
could hardly have been expected of so frail a woman. 
But unfortunately Eliza had a reason for tolerating 
ghosts if they reduced the rent which she dared not tell 
her husband. Every week, like the honest and affec-
tionate creature he was, he poured his salary—twenty-
five shillings—into her lap, and every week she assured 
him that twenty-five shillings was ample—all their bills 
were paid. But every week a certain number, an 
increasing number, for all she could do to keep their 
expenses down, were slipped, unpaid, into Sterne's table 
drawer. Eliza perhaps had some inkling of the fact 
that her husband had married her impetuously in the 
goodness of his heart, from pity that the only child of 
the late Dr. Strong should have to support herself by 
inculcating the principles of arithmetic into the 
daughters of the gentlemen of Swansea. At any rate, 
she was determined that he should never suffer for his 
generosity. Comforts he must have, and if twenty-five 
shillings a week were not enough to pay for them, she 
would pay for them herself out of her own earnings. 
She was confident that she could do it. She would 
write a novel, a novel like “Tristram Shandy” perhaps, 
save that her knowledge of life was unfortunately 
limited, which would set all London in a roar. 
And then she would come to her husband with 
the bills receipted and her deception confessed, and 
give him the proceeds of her famous novel to 
do what he liked with. But that day was still far 
distant—at present she must work. While Charles was 
acting and reading, while Charles, who loved talk and 
hated bedtime, was gossiping and chattering and taking 
off odd characters, so that he was famous in the green
room whatever he might be upon the stage, Eliza 
wrote. She wrote every kind of piece—novels, sonnets, 
elegies, love songs. The publishers took them, the 
publishers printed them, but they never paid her a penny 
for them, and on she toiled, always carefully concealing 
her work from her husband, so that his surprise when the 
day of revelation came might be entire.

Meanwhile, the bills accumulated, and act as 
Charles might (and there were some young ladies in 
York who thought him the finest comic actor they had 
ever seen, and would stand a whole evening in the 
wings to hear him), his salary remained twenty-five 
shillings and no more. It was useless for the ghost to 
knock; useless for Eliza's back to ache; useless for her 
good brother-in-law William to implore her to write 
everything twice over, peruse the best works of the best 
authors, and find mottoes for all her chapters—she 
had no choice; write she must. Surely the novel she 
was now engaged on—“What Has Been”—promised 
better than the others, and with a little help from 
William, who knew Mr. Wordsworth and could perhaps 
solicit the favours of reviewers, might, indeed must, 
bring her fame. Sitting where Sterne had sat, writing 
where Sterne had written, the omens were auspicious.

There, at any rate, long after the ghost had knocked 
thrice and York Minster had tolled twelve times, she 
sat writing. She neglected to take exercise. She never 
allowed herself to stand in the wings a whole evening to 
see her Charles in his comic parts. At last signs of 
exhaustion become apparent. Alarmed by her wasted 
looks, Charles brought a doctor to see her. But one 

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glance was enough. Nothing could now be done. What-
ever the cause, lack of exercise or lack of food, or 
whether the nervous strain of hearing those three taps 
delivered nightly had hopelessly injured her constitution, 
consumption was far advanced; and all the doctor could 
do was to prescribe apothecaries' stuff, which, expensive 
as it was, Charles feared to be useless.

Eliza was now confined to bed. Her projects had 
totally failed. “What Has Been” appeared, but, 
even corrected and at least partially supplied with 
mottoes by the kindness of Mr. William Mathews, 
failed like its predecessors, and she was at an end of 
her resources. Even so, the worst was still to come. 
The butcher or the baker stopped Charles in the street 
and demanded payment. The drawer and its bills had 
to be revealed. The whole of her miserable, innocent, 
overwhelming deception must be confessed. Charles 
took the blow like an angel, said not a word of com-
plaint, though the bills were to hang about his neck for 
years to come. And now, for the first time, the ghost 
fell silent. York Minster struck midnight and there 
was no reply. But really the silence was worse than the 
sound! To lie and wait for the three stout strokes as 
York Minster struck twelve and then to hear nothing—
that seemed to convey a more appalling message than 
the blow itself—as if the enemy had worked its will 
and gone its way. But this very silence inspired Eliza 
Mathews with a desperate courage. With the ghost 
quiescent, the novels unsold, the bills unpaid, Charles 
all day at the playhouse, often cast down by his failure 
and the thought of his father's displeasure—for the 
God-fearing bookseller in the Strand, where the whole 
house was hung with portraits of the Saints framed in 
ebony and canting humbugs bamboozled the simple old 
tradesman out of his livelihood, had been justified in his 
warnings—with all this that she had caused, or failed 
to prevent, to oppress her and the daily decline of her 
own health to appal, Eliza framed a terrible and 
desperate resolve. There was a girl at the playhouse 
for whom she had an affection, a singer who was friend-
less as Eliza herself had been, and timid and charming. 
For this young woman, Anne Jackson by name, Eliza 
sent. She was better, Eliza claimed, as Anne came in, 
and indeed her looks confirmed it; much better, because 
of an idea that had come to her, which she counted on
her friend's help to carry out. First, before her husband 
came back, she wished to be propped up in bed in order, 
she said mysteriously, “to be able to look at you both 
while I reveal my project.” Directly Charles Mathews 
appeared and exclaimed in his turn at her sparkle, her 
animation, she began. Sitting up, forced often to pause 
for breath, she said how she knew her fate; death was 
inevitable; how the thought of her husband's loneliness 
oppressed her—worse, the thought that he would marry 
again a woman who did not understand him. Here she 
paused exhausted, and Charles looked at Anne and Anne 
at Charles, as if to ask had she lost her reason? On she 
went again. It was even worse, she said, to think of 
Anne left in her youth and inexperience without such 
help as she, Eliza, might have given her. Thoughts of 
this kind embittered her last moments. Surely, then, 
they would grant the last request she would ever make? 
She took her husband's hand and kissed it; then took 
her friend's and kissed that too “in a solemn manner, 
which I remember made me tremble all over,” and at 
last framed her terrible request. Would they, there and 
then, pledge themselves to marry each other when she 
was dead?

Both were flabbergasted. Anne burst into floods 
of tears. Never, she cried, never could she contemplate 
marriage with Mr. Mathews! She esteemed him; she 
admired him; she thought him the first comic actor 
of the age; that was all. Charles himself fairly scolded 
the dying woman for putting them in such an awful 
predicament. He ran after the sobbing girl to implore 
her to believe that it was none of his doing—that his 
wife was raving and no longer knew what she said. And 
so Eliza died. For months a coldness, an awkwardness, 
existed between the widower and his wife's friend. They 
scarcely met. Then at the same moment on the same 
night, the same vision visited them, far apart as they