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Title: A Stable for Nightmares - or Weird Tales
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873, Young, Charles L. (Charles Lawrence), Sir, 1839-1887
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Stable for Nightmares - or Weird Tales" ***

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    A STABLE FOR NIGHTMARES

    [Illustration: A STABLE FOR NIGHTMARES]

    A STABLE FOR NIGHTMARES

    OR

    WEIRD TALES

    BY

    J. SHERIDAN LE FANU
    AUTHOR OF “UNCLE SILAS,” “HOUSE BY THE CHURCHYARD,”

    SIR CHARLES YOUNG, BART.

    AND OTHERS

    Illustrated

    NEW YORK NEW AMSTERDAM BOOK COMPANY
    156 FIFTH AVENUE
    1896


    Copyright, 1896,
    by
    NEW AMSTERDAM BOOK COMPANY



    TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                    PAGE

    DICKON THE DEVIL,                                  9

    A DEBT OF HONOR,                                  27

    DEVEREUX’S DREAM,                                 59

    CATHERINE’S QUEST,                                89

    HAUNTED,                                         115

    PICHON AND SONS, OF THE CROIX ROUSSE,            135

    THE PHANTOM FOURTH,                              163

    THE SPIRIT’S WHISPER,                            185

    DR. FEVERSHAM’S STORY,                           209

    THE SECRET OF THE TWO PLASTER CASTS,             229

    WHAT WAS IT?                                     241



DICKON THE DEVIL.


About thirty years ago I was selected by two rich old maids to visit a
property in that part of Lancashire which lies near the famous forest of
Pendle, with which Mr. Ainsworth’s “Lancashire Witches” has made us so
pleasantly familiar. My business was to make partition of a small
property, including a house and demesne to which they had, a long time
before, succeeded as coheiresses.

The last forty miles of my journey I was obliged to post, chiefly by
cross-roads, little known, and less frequented, and presenting scenery
often extremely interesting and pretty. The picturesqueness of the
landscape was enhanced by the season, the beginning of September, at
which I was travelling.

I had never been in this part of the world before; I am told it is now a
great deal less wild, and, consequently, less beautiful.

At the inn where I had stopped for a relay of horses and some
dinner—for it was then past five o’clock—I found the host, a hale old
fellow of five-and-sixty, as he told me, a man of easy and garrulous
benevolence, willing to accommodate his guests with any amount of talk,
which the slightest tap sufficed to set flowing, on any subject you
pleased.

I was curious to learn something about Barwyke, which was the name of
the demesne and house I was going to. As there was no inn within some
miles of it, I had written to the steward to put me up there, the best
way he could, for a night.

The host of the “Three Nuns,” which was the sign under which he
entertained wayfarers, had not a great deal to tell. It was twenty
years, or more, since old Squire Bowes died, and no one had lived in the
Hall ever since, except the gardener and his wife.

“Tom Wyndsour will be as old a man as myself; but he’s a bit taller, and
not so much in flesh, quite,” said the fat innkeeper.

“But there were stories about the house,” I repeated, “that, they said,
prevented tenants from coming into it?”

“Old wives’ tales; many years ago, that will be, sir; I forget ’em; I
forget ’em all. Oh yes, there always will be, when a house is left so;
foolish folk will always be talkin’; but I han’t heard a word about it
this twenty year.”

It was vain trying to pump him; the old landlord of the “Three Nuns,”
for some reason, did not choose to tell tales of Barwyke Hall, if he
really did, as I suspected, remember them.

I paid my reckoning, and resumed my journey, well pleased with the good
cheer of that old-world inn, but a little disappointed.

We had been driving for more than an hour, when we began to cross a wild
common; and I knew that, this passed, a quarter of an hour would bring
me to the door of Barwyke Hall.

The peat and furze were pretty soon left behind; we were again in the
wooded scenery that I enjoyed so much, so entirely natural and pretty,
and so little disturbed by traffic of any kind. I was looking from the
chaise-window, and soon detected the object of which, for some time, my
eye had been in search. Barwyke Hall was a large, quaint house, of that
cage-work fashion known as “black-and-white,” in which the bars and
angles of an oak framework contrast, black as ebony, with the white
plaster that overspreads the masonry built into its interstices. This
steep-roofed Elizabethan house stood in the midst of park-like grounds
of no great extent, but rendered imposing by the noble stature of the
old trees that now cast their lengthening shadows eastward over the
sward, from the declining sun.

The park-wall was gray with age, and in many places laden with ivy. In
deep gray shadow, that contrasted with the dim fires of evening
reflected on the foliage above it, in a gentle hollow, stretched a lake
that looked cold and black, and seemed, as it were, to skulk from
observation with a guilty knowledge.

I had forgot that there was a lake at Barwyke; but the moment this
caught my eye, like the cold polish of a snake in the shadow, my
instinct seemed to recognize something dangerous, and I knew that the
lake was connected, I could not remember how, with the story I had heard
of this place in my boyhood.

I drove up a grass-grown avenue, under the boughs of these noble trees,
whose foliage, dyed in autumnal red and yellow, returned the beams of
the western sun gorgeously.

We drew up at the door. I got out, and had a good look at the front of
the house; it was a large and melancholy mansion, with signs of long
neglect upon it; great wooden shutters, in the old fashion, were barred,
outside, across the windows; grass, and even nettles, were growing thick
on the courtyard, and a thin moss streaked the timber beams; the plaster
was discolored by time and weather, and bore great russet and yellow
stains. The gloom was increased by several grand old trees that crowded
close about the house.

I mounted the steps, and looked round; the dark lake lay near me now, a
little to the left. It was not large; it may have covered some ten or
twelve acres; but it added to the melancholy of the scene. Near the
centre of it was a small island, with two old ash-trees, leaning toward
each other, their pensive images reflected in the stirless water. The
only cheery influence of this scene of antiquity, solitude, and neglect
was that the house and landscape were warmed with the ruddy western
beams. I knocked, and my summons resounded hollow and ungenial in my
ear; and the bell, from far away, returned a deep-mouthed and surly
ring, as if it resented being roused from a score years’ slumber.

A light-limbed, jolly-looking old fellow, in a barracan jacket and
gaiters, with a smirk of welcome, and a very sharp, red nose, that
seemed to promise good cheer, opened the door with a promptitude that
indicated a hospitable expectation of my arrival.

There was but little light in the hall, and that little lost itself in
darkness in the background. It was very spacious and lofty, with a
gallery running round it, which, when the door was open, was visible at
two or three points. Almost in the dark my new acquaintance led me
across this wide hall into the room destined for my reception. It was
spacious, and wainscoted up to the ceiling. The furniture of this
capacious chamber was old-fashioned and clumsy. There were curtains
still to the windows, and a piece of Turkey carpet lay upon the floor;
those windows were two in number, looking out, through the trunks of the
trees close to the house, upon the lake. It needed all the fire, and all
the pleasant associations of my entertainer’s red nose, to light up this
melancholy chamber. A door at its farther end admitted to the room that
was prepared for my sleeping apartment. It was wainscoted, like the
other. It had a four-post bed, with heavy tapestry curtains, and in
other respects was furnished in the same old-world and ponderous style
as the other room. Its window, like those of that apartment, looked out
upon the lake.

Sombre and sad as these rooms were, they were yet scrupulously clean. I
had nothing to complain of; but the effect was rather dispiriting.
Having given some directions about supper—a pleasant incident to look
forward to—and made a rapid toilet, I called on my friend with the
gaiters and red nose (Tom Wyndsour), whose occupation was that of a
“bailiff,” or under-steward, of the property, to accompany me, as we had
still an hour or so of sun and twilight, in a walk over the grounds.

It was a sweet autumn evening, and my guide, a hardy old fellow, strode
at a pace that tasked me to keep up with.

Among clumps of trees at the northern boundary of the demesne we lighted
upon the little antique parish church. I was looking down upon it, from
an eminence, and the park-wall interposed; but a little way down was a
stile affording access to the road, and by this we approached the iron
gate of the churchyard. I saw the church door open; the sexton was
replacing his pick, shovel, and spade, with which he had just been
digging a grave in the churchyard, in their little repository under the
stone stair of the tower. He was a polite, shrewd little hunchback, who
was very happy to show me over the church. Among the monuments was one
that interested me; it was erected to commemorate the very Squire Bowes
from whom my two old maids had inherited the house and estate of
Barwyke. It spoke of him in terms of grandiloquent eulogy, and informed
the Christian reader that he had died, in the bosom of the Church of
England, at the age of seventy-one.

I read this inscription by the parting beams of the setting sun, which
disappeared behind the horizon just as we passed out from under the
porch.

“Twenty years since the Squire died,” said I, reflecting, as I loitered
still in the churchyard.

“Ay, sir; ’twill be twenty year the ninth o’ last month.”

“And a very good old gentleman?”

“Good-natured enough, and an easy gentleman he was, sir; I don’t think
while he lived he ever hurt a fly,” acquiesced Tom Wyndsour. “It ain’t
always easy sayin’ what’s in ’em, though, and what they may take or turn
to afterward; and some o’ them sort, I think, goes mad.”

“You don’t think he was out of his mind?” I asked.

“He? La! no; not he, sir; a bit lazy, mayhap, like other old fellows;
but a knew devilish well what he was about.”

Tom Wyndsour’s account was a little enigmatical; but, like old Squire
Bowes, I was “a bit lazy” that evening, and asked no more questions
about him.

We got over the stile upon the narrow road that skirts the churchyard.
It is overhung by elms more than a hundred years old, and in the
twilight, which now prevailed, was growing very dark. As side-by-side we
walked along this road, hemmed in by two loose stone-like walls,
something running toward us in a zig-zag line passed us at a wild pace,
with a sound like a frightened laugh or a shudder, and I saw, as it
passed, that it was a human figure. I may confess, now, that I was a
little startled. The dress of this figure was, in part, white: I know I
mistook it at first for a white horse coming down the road at a gallop.
Tom Wyndsour turned about and looked after the retreating figure.

“He’ll be on his travels to-night,” he said, in a low tone. “Easy served
with a bed, _that_ lad be; six foot o’ dry peat or heath, or a nook in a
dry ditch. That lad hasn’t slept once in a house this twenty year, and
never will while grass grows.”

“Is he mad?” I asked.

“Something that way, sir; he’s an idiot, an awpy; we call him ‘Dickon
the devil,’ because the devil’s almost the only word that’s ever in his
mouth.”

It struck me that this idiot was in some way connected with the story of
old Squire Bowes.

“Queer things are told of him, I dare say?” I suggested.

“More or less, sir; more or less. Queer stories, some.”

“Twenty years since he slept in a house? That’s about the time the
Squire died,” I continued.

“So it will be, sir; not very long after.”

“You must tell me all about that, Tom, to-night, when I can hear it
comfortably, after supper.”

Tom did not seem to like my invitation; and looking straight before him
as we trudged on, he said:

“You see, sir, the house has been quiet, and nout’s been troubling folk
inside the walls or out, all round the woods of Barwyke, this ten year,
or more; and my old woman, down there, is clear against talking about
such matters, and thinks it best—and so do I—to let sleepin’ dogs be.”

He dropped his voice toward the close of the sentence, and nodded
significantly.

We soon reached a point where he unlocked a wicket in the park wall, by
which we entered the grounds of Barwyke once more.

The twilight deepening over the landscape, the huge and solemn trees,
and the distant outline of the haunted house, exercised a sombre
influence on me, which, together with the fatigue of a day of travel,
and the brisk walk we had had, disinclined me to interrupt the silence
in which my companion now indulged.

A certain air of comparative comfort, on our arrival, in great measure
dissipated the gloom that was stealing over me. Although it was by no
means a cold night, I was very glad to see some wood blazing in the
grate; and a pair of candles aiding the light of the fire, made the room
look cheerful. A small table, with a very white cloth, and preparations
for supper, was also a very agreeable object.

I should have liked very well, under these influences, to have listened
to Tom Wyndsour’s story; but after supper I grew too sleepy to attempt
to lead him to the subject; and after yawning for a time, I found there
was no use in contending against my drowsiness, so I betook myself to my
bedroom, and by ten o’clock was fast asleep.

What interruption I experienced that night I shall tell you presently.
It was not much, but it was very odd.

By next night I had completed my work at Barwyke. From early morning
till then I was so incessantly occupied and hard-worked, that I had no
time to think over the singular occurrence to which I have just
referred. Behold me, however, at length once more seated at my little
supper-table, having ended a comfortable meal. It had been a sultry day,
and I had thrown one of the large windows up as high as it would go. I
was sitting near it, with my brandy and water at my elbow, looking out
into the dark. There was no moon, and the trees that are grouped about
the house make the darkness round it supernaturally profound on such
nights.

“Tom,” said I, so soon as the jug of hot punch I had supplied him with
began to exercise its genial and communicative influence; “you must tell
me who beside your wife and you and myself slept in the house last
night.”

Tom, sitting near the door, set down his tumbler, and looked at me
askance, while you might count seven, without speaking a word.

“Who else slept in the house?” he repeated, very deliberately. “Not a
living soul, sir;” and he looked hard at me, still evidently expecting
something more.

“That _is_ very odd,” I said, returning his stare, and feeling really a
little odd. “You are sure _you_ were not in my room last night?”

“Not till I came to call you, sir, this morning; I can make oath of
that.”

“Well,” said I, “there was some one there, _I_ can make oath of that. I
was so tired I could not make up my mind to get up; but I was waked by a
sound that I thought was some one flinging down the two tin boxes in
which my papers were locked up violently on the floor. I heard a slow
step on the ground, and there was light in the room, although I
remembered having put out my candle. I thought it must have been you,
who had come in for my clothes, and upset the boxes by accident. Whoever
it was, he went out, and the light with him. I was about to settle
again, when, the curtain being a little open at the foot of the bed, I
saw a light on the wall opposite; such as a candle from outside would
cast if the door were very cautiously opening. I started up in the bed,
drew the side curtain, and saw that the door _was_ opening, and
admitting light from outside. It is close, you know, to the head of the
bed. A hand was holding on the edge of the door and pushing it open; not
a bit like yours; a very singular hand. Let me look at yours.”

He extended it for my inspection.

“Oh no; there’s nothing wrong with your hand. This was differently
shaped; fatter; and the middle finger was stunted, and shorter than the
rest, looking as if it had once been broken, and the nail was crooked
like a claw. I called out, “Who’s there?” and the light and the hand
were withdrawn, and I saw and heard no more of my visitor.”

“So sure as you’re a living man, that was him!” exclaimed Tom Wyndsour,
his very nose growing pale, and his eyes almost starting out of his
head.

“Who?” I asked.

“Old Squire Bowes; ’twas _his_ hand you saw; the Lord a’ mercy on us!”
answered Tom. “The broken finger, and the nail bent like a hoop. Well
for you, sir, he didn’t come back when you called, that time. You came
here about them Miss Dymock’s business, and he never meant they should
have a foot o’ ground in Barwyke; and he was making a will to give it
away quite different, when death took him short. He never was uncivil to
no one; but he couldn’t abide them ladies. My mind misgave me when I
heard ’twas about their business you were coming; and now you see how it
is; he’ll be at his old tricks again!”

With some pressure, and a little more punch, I induced Tom Wyndsour to
explain his mysterious allusions by recounting the occurrences which
followed the old Squire’s death.

“Squire Bowes, of Barwyke, died without making a will, as you know,”
said Tom. “And all the folk round were sorry; that is to say, sir, as
sorry as folk will be for an old man that has seen a long tale of years,
and has no right to grumble that death has knocked an hour too soon at
his door. The Squire was well liked; he was never in a passion, or said
a hard word; and he would not hurt a fly; and that made what happened
after his decease the more surprising.

“The first thing these ladies did, when they got the property, was to
buy stock for the park.

“It was not wise, in any case, to graze the land on their own account.
But they little knew all they had to contend with.

“Before long something went wrong with the cattle; first one, and then
another, took sick and died, and so on, till the loss began to grow
heavy. Then, queer stories, little by little, began to be told. It was
said, first by one, then by another, that Squire Bowes was seen, about
evening time, walking, just as he used to do when he was alive, among
the old trees, leaning on his stick; and, sometimes, when he came up
with the cattle, he would stop and lay his hand kindly like on the back
of one of them; and that one was sure to fall sick next day, and die
soon after.

“No one ever met him in the park, or in the woods, or ever saw him,
except a good distance off. But they knew his gait and his figure well,
and the clothes he used to wear; and they could tell the beast he laid
his hand on by its color—white, dun, or black; and that beast was sure
to sicken and die. The neighbors grew shy of taking the path over the
park; and no one liked to walk in the woods, or come inside the bounds
of Barwyke; and the cattle went on sickening and dying, as before.

“At that time there was one Thomas Pyke; he had been a groom to the old
Squire; and he was in care of the place, and was the only one that used
to sleep in the house.

“Tom was vexed, hearing these stories; which he did not believe the half
on ’em; and more especial as he could not get man or boy to herd the
cattle; all being afeared. So he wrote to Matlock, in Derbyshire, for
his brother, Richard Pyke, a clever lad, and one that knew nout o’ the
story of the old Squire walking.

“Dick came; and the cattle was better; folk said they could still see
the old Squire, sometimes, walking, as before, in openings of the wood,
with his stick in his hand; but he was shy of coming nigh the cattle,
whatever his reason might be, since Dickon Pyke came; and he used to
stand a long bit off, looking at them, with no more stir in him than a
trunk o’ one of the old trees, for an hour at a time, till the shape
melted away, little by little, like the smoke of a fire that burns out.

“Tom Pyke and his brother Dickon, being the only living souls in the
house, lay in the big bed in the servants’ room, the house being fast
barred and locked, one night in November.

“Tom was lying next the wall, and, he told me, as wide awake as ever he
was at noonday. His brother Dickon lay outside, and was sound asleep.

“Well, as Tom lay thinking, with his eyes turned toward the door, it
opens slowly, and who should come in but old Squire Bowes, his face
lookin’ as dead as he was in his coffin.

“Tom’s very breath left his body; he could not take his eyes off him;
and he felt the hair rising up on his head.

“The Squire came to the side of the bed, and put his arms under Dickon,
and lifted the boy—in a dead sleep all the time—and carried him out
so, at the door.

“Such was the appearance, to Tom Pyke’s eyes, and he was ready to swear
to it, anywhere.

“When this happened, the light, wherever it came from, all on a sudden
went out, and Tom could not see his own hand before him.

“More dead than alive, he lay till daylight.

“Sure enough his brother Dickon was gone. No sign of him could he
discover about the house; and with some trouble he got a couple of the
neighbors to help him to search the woods and grounds. Not a sign of him
anywhere.

“At last one of them thought of the island in the lake; the little boat
was moored to the old post at the water’s edge. In they got, though with
small hope of finding him there. Find him, nevertheless, they did,
sitting under the big ash-tree, quite out of his wits; and to all their
questions he answered nothing but one cry—‘Bowes, the devil! See him;
see him; Bowes, the devil!’ An idiot they found him; and so he will be
till God sets all things right. No one could ever get him to sleep under
roof-tree more. He wanders from house to house while daylight lasts; and
no one cares to lock the harmless creature in the workhouse. And folk
would rather not meet him after nightfall, for they think where he is
there may be worse things near.”

A silence followed Tom’s story. He and I were alone in that large room;
I was sitting near the open window, looking into the dark night air. I
fancied I saw something white move across it; and I heard a sound like
low talking, that swelled into a discordant shriek—“Hoo-oo-oo! Bowes,
the devil! Over your shoulder. Hoo-oo-oo! ha! ha! ha!” I started up, and
saw, by the light of the candle with which Tom strode to the window, the
wild eyes and blighted face of the idiot, as, with a sudden change of
mood, he drew off, whispering and tittering to himself, and holding up
his long fingers, and looking at them as if they were lighted at the
tips like a “hand of glory.”

Tom pulled down the window. The story and its epilogue were over. I
confessed I was rather glad when I heard the sound of the horses’ hoofs
on the courtyard, a few minutes later; and still gladder when, having
bidden Tom a kind farewell, I had left the neglected house of Barwyke a
mile behind me.



A DEBT OF HONOR.

A GHOST STORY.


Hush! what was that cry, so low but yet so piercing, so strange but yet
so sorrowful? It was not the marmot upon the side of the Righi—it was
not the heron down by the lake; no, it was distinctively human. Hush!
there it is again—from the churchyard which I have just left!

Not ten minutes have elapsed since I was sitting on the low wall of the
churchyard of Weggis, watching the calm glories of the moonlight
illuminating with silver splendor the lake of Lucerne; and I am certain
there was no one within the inclosure but myself.

I am mistaken, surely. What a silence there is upon the night! Not a
breath of air now to break up into a thousand brilliant ripples the long
reflection of the August moon, or to stir the foliage of the chestnuts;
not a voice in the village; no splash of oar upon the lake. All life
seems at perfect rest, and the solemn stillness that reigns about the
topmost glaciers of S. Gothard has spread its mantle over the warmer
world below.

I must not linger; as it is, I shall have to wake up the porter to let
me into the hotel. I hurry on.

Not ten paces, though. Again I hear the cry. This time it sounds to me
like the long, sad sob of a wearied and broken heart. Without staying to
reason with myself, I quickly retrace my steps.

I stumble about among the iron crosses and the graves, and displace in
my confusion wreaths of immortelles and fresher flowers. A huge
mausoleum stands between me and the wall upon which I had been sitting
not a quarter of an hour ago. The mausoleum casts a deep shadow upon the
side nearest to me. Ah! something is stirring there. I strain my
eyes—the figure of a man passes slowly out of the shade, and silently
occupies my place upon the wall. It must have been his lips that gave
out that miserable sound.

What shall I do? Compassion and curiosity are strong. The man whose
heart can be rent so sorely ought not to be allowed to linger here with
his despair. He is gazing, as I did, upon the lake. I mark his
profile—clear-cut and symmetrical; I catch the lustre of large eyes.
The face, as I can see it, seems very still and placid. I may be
mistaken; he may merely be a wanderer like myself; perhaps he heard the
three strange cries, and has also come to seek the cause. I feel
impelled to speak to him.

I pass from the path by the church to the east side of the mausoleum,
and so come toward him, the moon full upon his features. Great heaven!
how pale his face is!

“Good-evening, sir. I thought myself alone here, and wondered that no
other travellers had found their way to this lovely spot. Charming, is
it not?”

For a moment he says nothing, but his eyes are full upon me. At last he
replies:

“It is charming, as you say, Mr. Reginald Westcar.”

“You know me?” I exclaim, in astonishment.

“Pardon me, I can scarcely claim a personal acquaintance. But yours is
the only English name entered to-day in the Livre des Étrangers.”

“You are staying at the Hôtel de la Concorde, then?”

An inclination of the head is all the answer vouchsafed.

“May I ask,” I continue, “whether you heard just now a very strange cry
repeated three times?”

A pause. The lustrous eyes seem to search me through and through—I can
hardly bear their gaze. Then he replies.

“I fancy I heard the echoes of some such sounds as you describe.”

The _echoes_! Is this, then, the man who gave utterance to those cries
of woe! is it possible? The face seems so passionless; but the pallor of
those features bears witness to some terrible agony within.

“I thought some one must be in distress,” I rejoin, hastily; “and I
hurried back to see if I could be of any service.”

“Very good of you,” he answers, coldly; “but surely such a place as this
is not unaccustomed to the voice of sorrow.”

“No doubt. My impulse was a mistaken one.”

“But kindly meant. You will not sleep less soundly for acting on that
impulse, Reginald Westcar.”

He rises as he speaks. He throws his cloak round him, and stands
motionless. I take the hint. My mysterious countryman wishes to be
alone. Some one that he has loved and lost lies buried here.

“Good-night, sir,” I say, as I move in the direction of the little
chapel at the gate. “Neither of us will sleep the less soundly for
thinking of the perfect repose that reigns around this place.”

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“The dead,” I reply, as I stretch my hand toward the graves. “Do you not
remember the lines in ‘King Lear’?

    “‘After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.’”

“But _you_ have never died, Reginald Westcar. You know nothing of the
sleep of death.”

For the third time he speaks my name almost familiarly, and—I know not
why—a shudder passes through me. I have no time, in my turn, to ask him
what he means; for he strides silently away into the shadow of the
church, and I, with a strange sense of oppression upon me, returned to
my hotel.

       *       *       *       *       *

The events which I have just related passed in vivid recollection
through my mind as I travelled northward one cold November day in the
year 185—. About six months previously I had taken my degree at Oxford,
and had since been enjoying a trip upon the continent; and on my return
to London I found a letter awaiting me from my lawyers, informing me
somewhat to my astonishment, that I had succeeded to a small estate in
Cumberland. I must tell you exactly how this came about. My mother was a
Miss Ringwood, and she was the youngest of three children: the eldest
was Aldina, the second was Geoffrey, and the third (my mother) Alice.
Their mother (who had been a widow since my mother’s birth) lived at
this little place in Cumberland, and which was known as The Shallows;
she died shortly after my mother’s marriage with my father, Captain
Westcar. My aunt Aldina and my uncle Geoffrey—the one at that time aged
twenty-eight, and the other twenty-six—continued to reside at The
Shallows. My father and mother had to go to India, where I was born, and
where, when quite a child, I was left an orphan. A few months after my
mother’s marriage my aunt disappeared; a few weeks after that event, and
my uncle Geoffrey dropped down dead, as he was playing at cards with Mr.
Maryon, the proprietor of a neighboring mansion known as The Mere. A
fortnight after my uncle’s death, my aunt Aldina returned to The
Shallows, and never left it again till she was carried out in her coffin
to her grave in the churchyard. Ever since her return from her
mysterious disappearance she maintained an impenetrable reserve. As a
schoolboy I visited her twice or thrice, but these visits depressed my
youthful spirits to such an extent, that as I grew older I excused
myself from accepting my aunt’s not very pressing invitations; and at
the time I am now speaking of I had not seen her for eight or ten years.
I was rather surprised, therefore, when she bequeathed me The Shallows,
which, as the surviving child, she inherited under her mother’s
marriage settlement.

But The Shallows had always exercised a grim influence over me, and the
knowledge that I was now going to it as my home oppressed me. The road
seemed unusually dark, cold, and lonely. At last I passed the lodge, and
two hundred yards more brought me to the porch. Very soon the door was
opened by an elderly female, whom I well remembered as having been my
aunt’s housekeeper and cook. I had pleasant recollections of her, and
was glad to see her. To tell the truth, I had not anticipated my visit
to my newly acquired property with any great degree of enthusiasm; but a
very tolerable dinner had an inspiriting effect, and I was pleased to
learn that there was a bin of old Madeira in the cellar. Naturally I
soon grew cheerful, and consequently talkative; and summoned Mrs. Balk
for a little gossip. The substance of what I gathered from her rather
diffusive conversation was as follows:

My aunt had resided at The Shallows ever since the death of my uncle
Geoffrey, but she had maintained a silent and reserved habit; and Mrs.
Balk was of opinion that she had had some great misfortune. She had
persistently refused all intercourse with the people at The Mere. Squire
Maryon, himself a cold and taciturn man, had once or twice showed a
disposition to be friendly, but she had sternly repulsed all such
overtures. Mrs. Balk was of opinion that Miss Ringwood was not “quite
right,” as she expressed it, on some topics; especially did she seem
impressed with the idea that The Mere ought to belong to her. It
appeared that the Ringwoods and Maryons were distant connections; that
The Mere belonged in former times to a certain Sir Henry Benet; that he
was a bachelor, and that Squire Maryon’s father and old Mr. Ringwood
were cousins of his, and that there was some doubt as to which was the
real heir; that Sir Henry, who disliked old Maryon, had frequently said
he had set any chance of dispute at rest, by bequeathing the Mere
property by will to Mr. Ringwood, my mother’s father; that, on his
death, no such will could be found; and the family lawyers agreed that
Mr. Maryon was the legal inheritor, and my uncle Geoffrey and his
sisters must be content to take the Shallows, or nothing at all. Mr.
Maryon was comparatively rich, and the Ringwoods poor, consequently they
were advised not to enter upon a costly lawsuit. My aunt Aldina
maintained to the last that Sir Henry had made a will, and that Mr.
Maryon knew it, but had destroyed or suppressed the document. I did not
gather from Mrs. Balk’s narrative that Miss Ringwood had any foundation
for her belief, and I dismissed the notion at once as baseless.

“And my uncle Geoffrey died of apoplexy, you say, Mrs. Balk?”

“_I_ don’t say so, sir, no more did Miss Ringwood; but _they_ said so.”

“Whom do you mean by _they_?”

“The people at The Mere—the young doctor, a friend of Squire Maryon’s,
who was brought over from York, and the rest; he fell heavily from his
chair, and his head struck against the fender.”

“Playing at cards with Mr. Maryon, I think you said.”

“Yes, sir; he was too fond of cards, I believe, was Mr. Geoffrey.”

“Is Mr. Maryon seen much in the county—is he hospitable?”

“Well, sir, he goes up to London a good deal, and has some friends down
from town occasionally; but he does not seem to care much about the
people in the neighborhood.”

“He has some children, Mrs. Balk?”

“Only one daughter, sir; a sweet pretty thing she is. Her mother died
when Miss Agnes was born.”

“You have no idea, Mrs. Balk, what my aunt Aldina’s great misfortune
was?”

“Well, sir, I can’t help thinking it must have been a love affair. She
always hated men so much.”

“Then why did she leave The Shallows to me, Mrs. Balk?”

“Ah, you are laughing, sir. No doubt she considered that The Mere ought
to belong to you, as the heir of the Ringwoods, and she placed you here,
as near as might be to the place.”

“In hopes that I might marry Miss Maryon, eh, Mrs. Balk?”

“You are laughing again, sir. I don’t imagine she thought so much of
that, as of the possibility of your discovering something about the
missing will.”

I bade the communicative Mrs. Balk good night and retired to my
bedroom—a low, wide, sombre, oak-panelled chamber. I must confess that
family stories had no great interest for me, living apart from them at
school and college as I had done; and as I undressed I thought more of
the probabilities of sport the eight hundred acres of wild shooting
belonging to The Shallows would afford me, than of the supposed will my
poor aunt had evidently worried herself about so much. Thoroughly tired
after my long journey, I soon fell fast asleep amid the deep shadows of
the huge four-poster I mentally resolved to chop up into firewood at an
early date, and substitute for it a more modern iron bedstead.

How long I had been asleep I do not know, but I suddenly started up, the
echo of a long, sad cry ringing in my ears.

I listened eagerly—sensitive to the slightest sound—painfully
sensitive as one is only in the deep silence of the night.

I heard the old-fashioned clock I had noticed on the stairs strike
three. The reverberation seemed to last a long time, then all was silent
again. “A dream,” I muttered to myself, as I lay down upon the pillow;
“Madeira is a heating wine. But what can I have been dreaming of?”

Sleep seemed to have gone altogether, and the busy mind wandered among
the continental scenes I had lately visited. By and by I found myself in
memory once more within the Weggis churchyard. I was satisfied; I had
traced my dream to the cries that I had heard there. I turned round to
sleep again. Perhaps I fell into a doze—I cannot say; but again I
started up at the repetition, as it seemed outside my window, of that
cry of sadness and despair. I hastily drew aside the heavy curtains of
my bed—at that moment the room seemed to be illuminated with a dim,
unearthly light—and I saw, gradually growing into human shape, the
figure of a woman. I recognized in it my aunt, Miss Ringwood.
Horror-struck, I gazed at the apparition; it advanced a little—the lips
moved—I heard it distinctly say:

“_Reginald Westcar, The Mere belongs to you. Compel John Maryon to pay
the debt of honor!_”

I fell back senseless.

When next I returned to consciousness, it was when I was called in the
morning; the shutters were opened, and I saw the red light of the
dawning winter sun.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a strange sympathy between the night and the mind. All one’s
troubles represent themselves as increased a hundredfold if one wakes in
the night, and begins to think about them. A muscular pain becomes the
certainty of an incurable internal disease; and a headache suggests
incipient softening of the brain. But all these horrors are dissipated
with the morning light, and the after-glow of a cold bath turns them
into jokes. So it was with me on the morning after my arrival at The
Shallows. I accounted most satisfactorily for all that had occurred, or
seemed to have occurred, during the night; and resolved that, though the
old Madeira was uncommonly good, I must be careful in future not to
drink more than a couple of glasses after dinner. I need scarcely say
that I said nothing to Mrs. Balk of my bad dreams, and shortly after
breakfast I took my gun, and went out in search of such game as I might
chance to meet with. At three o’clock I sent the keeper home, as his
capacious pockets were pretty well filled, telling him that I thought I
knew the country, and should stroll back leisurely. The gray gloom of
the November evening was spreading over the sky as I came upon a small
plantation which I believed belonged to me. I struck straight across it;
emerging from its shadows, I found myself by a small stream and some
marshy land; on the other side another small plantation. A snipe got up,
I fired, and tailored it. I marked the bird into this other plantation,
and followed. Up got a covey of partridges—bang, bang—one down by the
side of an oak. I was about to enter this covert, when a lady and
gentleman emerged, and, struck with the unpleasant thought that I was
possibly trespassing, I at once went forward to apologize.

Before I could say a word, the gentleman addressed me.

“May I ask, sir, if I have given you permission to shoot over my
preserves?”

“I beg to express my great regret, sir,” I replied, as I lifted my hat
in acknowledgment of the lady’s presence, “that I should have trespassed
upon your land. I can only plead, as my excuse, that I fully believed I
was still upon the manor belonging to The Shallows.”

“Gentlemen who go out shooting ought to know the limits of their
estates,” he answered harshly; “the boundaries of The Shallows are well
defined, nor is the area they contain so very extensive. You have no
right upon this side the stream, sir; oblige me by returning.”

I merely bowed, for I was nettled by his tone, and as I turned away I
noticed that the young lady whispered to him.

“One moment, sir,” he said, “my daughter suggests the possibility of
your being the new owner of The Shallows. May I ask if this is so?”

It had not occurred to me before, but I understood in a moment to whom I
had been speaking, and I replied:

“Yes, Mr. Maryon—my name is Westcar.”

Such was my introduction to Mr. and Miss Maryon. The proprietor of The
Mere appeared to be a gentleman, but his manners were cold and reserved,
and a careful observer might have remarked a perpetual restlessness in
the eyes, as if they were physically incapable of regarding the same
object for more than a moment. He was about sixty years of age,
apparently; and though he now and again made an effort to carry himself
upright, the head and shoulders soon drooped again, as if the weight of
years, and, it might be, the memory of the past, were a heavy load to
carry. Of Miss Maryon it is sufficient to say that she was nineteen or
twenty, and it did not need a second glance to satisfy me that her
beauty was of no ordinary kind.

I must hurry over the records of the next few weeks. I became a frequent
visitor at The Mere. Mr. Maryon’s manner never became cordial, but he
did not seem displeased to see me; and as to Agnes,—well, she certainly
was not displeased either.

I think it was on Christmas Day that I suddenly discovered that I was
desperately in love. Miss Maryon had been for two or three days confined
to her room by a bad cold, and I found myself in a great state of
anxiety to see her again. I am sorry to say that my thoughts wandered a
good deal when I was at church upon that festival, and I could not help
thinking what ample room there was for a bridal procession up the
spacious aisle. Suddenly my eyes rested upon a mural tablet, inscribed,
“To the memory of Aldina Ringwood.” Then with a cold thrill there came
back upon me what I had almost forgotten, the dream, or whatever it was,
that had occurred on that first night at The Shallows; and those strange
words—“The Mere belongs to you. Compel John Maryon to pay the debt of
honor!” Nothing but the remembrance of Agnes’ sweet face availed for the
time to banish the vision, the statement, and the bidding.

Miss Maryon was soon down-stairs again. Did I flatter myself too much in
thinking that she was as glad to see me as I was to see her? No—I felt
sure that I did not. Then I began to reflect seriously upon my position.
My fortune was small, quite enough for me, but not enough for two; and
as she was heiress of The Mere and a comfortable rent-roll of some six
or eight thousand a year, was it not natural that Mr. Maryon expected
her to make what is called a “good match“? Still, I could not conceal
from myself the fact, that he evinced no objection whatever to my
frequent visits at his house, nor to my taking walks with his daughter
when he was unable to accompany us.

One bright, frosty day I had been down to the lake with Miss Maryon, and
had enjoyed the privilege of teaching her to skate; and on returning to
the house, we met Mr. Maryon upon the terrace, He walked with us to the
conservatory; we went in to examine the plants, and he remained outside,
pacing up and down the terrace. Both Agnes and myself were strangely
silent; perhaps my tongue had found an eloquence upon the ice which was
well met by a shy thoughtfulness upon her part. But there was a lovely
color upon her cheeks, and I experienced a very considerable and unusual
fluttering about my heart. It happened as we were standing at the door
of the conservatory, both of us silently looking away from the flowers
upon the frosty view, that our eyes lighted at the same time upon Mr.
Maryon. He, too, was apparently regarding the prospect, when suddenly he
paused and staggered back, as if something unexpected met his gaze.

“Oh, poor papa! I hope he is not going to have one of his fits!”
exclaimed Agnes.

“Fits! Is he subject to such attacks?” I inquired.

“Not ordinary fits,” she answered hurriedly; “I hardly know how to
explain them. They come upon him occasionally, and generally at this
period of the year.”

“Shall we go to him?” I suggested.

“No; you cannot help him; and he cannot bear that they should be
noticed.”

We both watched him. His arms were stretched up above his head, and
again he recoiled a step or two. I sought for an explanation in Agnes’
face.

“A stranger!” she exclaimed. “Who can it be?”

I looked toward Mr. Maryon. A tall figure of a man had come from the
farther side of the house; he wore a large, loose coat and a kind of
military cap upon his head.

“Doubtless you are surprised to see me, John,” we heard the new-comer
say, in a confident voice, “but I am not the devil, man, that you should
greet me with such a peculiar attitude.” He held out his hand, and
continued, “Come, don’t let the warmth of old fellowship be all on one
side, this wintry day.”

We could see that Mr. Maryon took the proffered right hand with his left
for an instant, then seemed to shrink away, but exchanged no word of
this greeting.

“I don’t understand this,” said Agnes, and we both hurried forward. The
stranger, seeing Agnes approach, lifted his cap.

“Ah, your daughter, John, no doubt. I see the likeness to her lamented
mother. Pray introduce me.”

Mr. Maryon’s usually pallid features had assumed a still paler hue, and
he said in a low voice:

“Colonel Bludyer—my daughter.” Agnes barely bowed.

“Charmed to renew your acquaintance, Miss Maryon. When last I saw you,
you were quite a baby; but your father and I are very old friends—are
we not, John?”

Mr. Maryon vaguely nodded his head.

“Well, John, you have often pressed your hospitality upon me, but till
now I have never had an opportunity of availing myself of your kind
offers; so I have brought my bag, and intend at last to give you the
pleasure of my company for a few days.”

I certainly should have thought that a man of Mr. Maryon’s disposition
would have resented such conduct as this, or, at all events, have given
this self-invited guest a chilling welcome. Mr. Maryon, however, in a
confused and somewhat stammering tone, said that he was glad Colonel
Bludyer had come at last, and bade his daughter go and make the
necessary arrangements. Agnes, in silent astonishment, entered the
house, and then Mr. Maryon turned to me hastily and bade me good-by. In
a by no means comfortable frame of mind I returned to The Shallows.

The sudden advent of this miscellaneous colonel was naturally somewhat
irritating to me. Not only did I regard the man as an intolerable bore,
but I could not help fancying that he was something more than an old
friend of Mr. Maryon’s; in fact, I was led to judge, by Mr. Maryon’s
strange conduct, that this Bludyer had some power over him which might
be exercised to the detriment of the Maryon family, and I was convinced
there was some mystery it was my business to penetrate.

The following day I went up to The Mere to see if Miss Maryon was
desirous of renewing her skating lesson. I found the party in the
billiard-room, Agnes marking for her father and the Colonel. Mr. Maryon,
whom I knew to be an exceptionally good player, seemed incapable of
making a decent stroke; the Colonel, on the other hand, could evidently
give a professional fifteen, and beat him easily. We all went down to
the lake together. I had no chance of any quiet conversation with Agnes;
the Colonel was perpetually beside us.

I returned home disgusted. For two whole days I did not go near The
Mere. On the third day I went up, hoping that the horrid Colonel would
be gone. It was beginning to snow when I left The Shallows at about two
o’clock in the afternoon, and Mrs. Balk foretold a heavy storm, and bade
me not be late returning.

The black winter darkness in the sky deepened as I approached The Mere.
I was ushered again into the billiard-room. Agnes was marking, as upon
the previous occasion, but two days had worked a sad difference in her
face. Mr. Maryon hardly noticed my entrance; he was flushed, and playing
eagerly; the Colonel was boisterous, declaring that John had never
played better twenty years ago. I relieved Agnes of the duty of marking.
The snow fell in a thick layer upon the skylight, and the Colonel became
seriously anxious about my return home. As I did not think he was the
proper person to give me hints, I resolutely remained where I was,
encouraged in my behavior by the few words I gained from Agnes, and by
the looks of entreaty she gave me. I had always considered Mr. Maryon to
be an abstemious man, but he drank a good deal of brandy and soda during
the long game of seven hundred up, and when he succeeded in beating the
Colonel by forty-three, he was in roaring spirits, and insisted upon my
staying to dinner. Need I say that I accepted the invitation?

I made such toilet as I could in a most unattainable chamber that was
allotted to me, and hurried back to the drawing-room in the hope that I
might get a few private words with Agnes. I was not disappointed. She,
too, had hurried down, and in a few words I learned that this
abominable Bludyer was paying her his coarse attentions, and with,
apparently, the full consent of Mr. Maryon. My indignation was
unbounded. Was it possible that Mr. Maryon intended to sacrifice this
fair creature to that repulsive man?

Mr. Maryon had appeared in excellent spirits when dinner began, and the
first glass or two of champagne made him merrier than I thought it
possible for him to be. But by the time the dessert was on the table he
had grown silent and thoughtful; nor did he respond to the warm
eulogiums the Colonel passed upon the magnum of claret which was set
before us.

After dinner we sat in the library. The Colonel left the room to fetch
some cigars he had been loudly extolling. Then Agnes had an opportunity
of whispering to me.

“Look at papa—see how strangely he sits—his hands clenching the arms
of the chair, his eyes fixed upon the blazing coals! How old he seems to
be to-night! His terrible fits are coming on—he is always like this
toward the end of January!” The Colonel’s return put an end to any
further confidential talk.

When we separated for the night, I felt that my going to bed would be
purposeless. I felt most painfully wide awake. I threw myself down upon
my bed, and worried myself by trying to imagine what secret there could
be between Maryon and Bludyer—for that a secret of some kind existed, I
felt certain. I tossed about till I heard the stroke of one. A dreadful
restlessness had come upon me. It seemed as if the solemn night-side of
life was busy waking now, but the silence and solitude of my antique
chamber became too much for me. I rose from my bed, and paced up and
down the room. I raked up the dying embers of the fire, and drew an
arm-chair to the hearth. I fell into a doze. By and by I woke up
suddenly, and I was conscious of stealthy footsteps in the passage. My
sense of hearing became painfully acute. I heard the footsteps
retreating down the corridor, until they were lost in the distance. I
cautiously opened the door, and, shading the candle with my hand, looked
out—there was nothing to be seen; but I felt that I could not remain
quietly in my room, and, closing the door behind me, I went out in
search of I knew not what.

The sitting-rooms and bedrooms in ordinary use at The Mere were in the
modern part of the house; but there was an old Elizabethan wing which I
had often longed to explore, and in this strange ramble of mine I soon
had reason to be satisfied that I was well within it. At the end of an
oak-panelled narrow passage a door stood open, and I entered a low,
sombre apartment fitted with furniture in the style of two hundred years
ago. There was something awfully ghostly about the look of this room. A
great four-post bedstead, with heavy hangings, stood in a deep recess; a
round oak table and two high-backed chairs were in the centre of the
room. Suddenly, as I gazed on these things, I heard stealthy footsteps
in the passage, and saw a dim light advancing. Acting on a sudden
impulse, I extinguished my candle and withdrew into the shadow of the
recess, watching eagerly. The footsteps came nearer. My heart seemed to
stand still with expectation. They paused outside the door, for a
moment really—for an age it seemed to me. Then, to my astonishment, I
saw Mr. Maryon enter. He carried a small night-lamp in his hand. Another
glance satisfied me that he was walking in his sleep. He came straight
to the round table, and set down the lamp. He seated himself in one of
the high-backed chairs, his vacant eyes staring at the chair opposite;
then his lips began to move quickly, as if he were addressing some one.
Then he rose, went to the bureau, and seemed to take something from it;
then he sat down again. What a strange action of his hands! At first I
could not understand it; then it flashed upon me that in this dream of
his he must be shuffling cards. Yes, he began to deal; then he was
playing with his adversary—his lips moving anxiously at times.

A look of terrible eagerness came over the sleepwalker’s countenance.
With nimble fingers he dealt the cards, and played. Suddenly with a
sweep of his hand he seemed to fling the pack into the fireplace,
started from his seat, grappled with his unseen adversary, raised his
powerful right hand, and struck a tremendous blow. Hush! more footsteps
along the passage! Am I deceived? From my concealment I watch for what
is to follow. Colonel Bludyer comes in, half dressed, but wide awake.

“You maniac!” I hear him mutter: “I expected you were given to such
tricks as these. Lucky for you no eyes but mine have seen your abject
folly. Come back to your room.”

Mr. Maryon is still gazing, his arms lifted wildly above his head, upon
the imagined foe whom he had felled to the ground. The Colonel touches
him on the shoulder, and leads him away, leaving the lamp. My reasoning
faculties had fully returned to me. I held a clue to the secret, and for
Agnes’ sake it must be followed up. I took the lamp away, and placed it
on a table where the chamber candlesticks stood, relit my own candle,
and found my way back to my bedroom.

The next morning, when I came down to breakfast, I found Colonel Bludyer
warming himself satisfactorily at the blazing fire. I learned from him
that our host was far from well, and that Miss Maryon was in attendance
upon her father; that the Colonel was charged with all kinds of
apologies to me, and good wishes for my safe return home across the
snow. I thanked him for the delivery of the message, while I felt
perfectly convinced that he had never been charged with it. However that
might be, I never saw Mr. Maryon that morning; and I started back to The
Shallows through the snow.

For the next two or three days the weather was very wild, but I
contrived to get up to The Mere, and ask after Mr. Maryon. Better, I was
told, but unable to see any one. Miss Maryon, too, was fatigued with
nursing her father. So there was nothing to do but to trudge home again.

“_Reginald Westcar, The Mere is yours. Compel John Maryon to pay the
debt of honor!_”

Again and again these words forced themselves upon me, as I listlessly
gazed out upon the white landscape. The strange scene that I had
witnessed on that memorable night I passed beneath Mr. Maryon’s roof had
brought them back to my memory with redoubled force, and I began to
think that the apparition I had seen—or dreamed of—on my first night
at The Shallows had more of truth in it than I had been willing to
believe.

Three more days passed away, and a carter-boy from The Mere brought me a
note. It was Agnes’ handwriting. It said:

“DEAR MR. WESTCAR: Pray come up here, if you possibly can. I cannot
understand what is the matter with papa; and he wishes me to do a
dreadful thing. Do come. I feel that I have no friend but you. I am
obliged to send this note privately.”

I need scarcely say that five minutes afterward I was plunging through
the snow toward The Mere. It was already late on that dark February
evening as I gained the shrubbery; and as I was pondering upon the best
method of securing admittance, I became aware that the figure of a man
was hurrying on some yards in front of me. At first I thought it must be
one of the gardeners, but all of a sudden I stood still, and my blood
seemed to freeze with horror, as I remarked that the figure in front of
me _left no trace of footmarks on the snow_! My brain reeled for a
moment, and I thought I should have fallen; but I recovered my nerves,
and when I looked before me again, it had disappeared. I pressed on
eagerly. I arrived at the front door—it was wide open; and I passed
through the hall to the library. I heard Agnes’ voice.

“No, no, papa. You must not force me to this! I cannot—will not—marry
Colonel Bludyer!”

“You _must_,” answered Mr. Maryon, in a hoarse voice; “you _must_ marry
him, and save your father from something worse than disgrace!”

Not feeling disposed to play the eavesdropper, I entered the room. Mr.
Maryon was standing at the fireplace. Agnes was crouching on the ground
at his feet. I saw at once that it was no use for me to dissemble the
reason of my visit, and, without a word of greeting, I said:

“Miss Maryon, I have come, in obedience to your summons. If I can
prevent any misfortune from falling upon you I am ready to help you,
with my life. You have guessed that I love you. If my love is returned I
am prepared to dispute my claim with any man.”

Agnes, with a cry of joy, rose from her knees, and rushed toward me. Ah!
how strong I felt as I held her in my arms!

“I have my answer,” I continued. “Mr. Maryon, I have reason to believe
that your daughter is in fear of the future you have forecast for her. I
ask you to regard those fears, and to give her to me, to love and
cherish as my wife.”

Mr. Maryon covered his face with his hands; and I could hear him murmur,
“Too late—too late!”

“No, not too late,” I echoed. “What is this Bludyer to you, that you
should sacrifice your daughter to a man whose very look proclaims him a
villain? Nothing can compel you to such a deed—not even a _debt of
honor_!”

What it was impelled me to say these last words I know not, but they had
an extraordinary effect upon Mr. Maryon. He started toward me, then
checked himself; his face was livid, his eyeballs glaring, and he threw
up his arms in the strange manner I had already witnessed.

“What is all this?” exclaimed a harsh voice behind me. “Mr. Westcar
insulting Miss Maryon and her father! it is time for me to interfere.”
And Colonel Bludyer approached me menacingly. All his jovial manner and
fulsome courtesy was gone; and in his flushed face and insolent look the
savage rascal was revealed.

“You will interfere at your peril,” I replied. “I am a younger man than
you are, and my strength has not been weakened by drink and dissipation.
Take care.”

The villain drew himself up to his full height; and, though he must have
been at least some sixty years of age, I felt assured that I should meet
no ordinary adversary if a personal struggle should ensue. Agnes
fainted, and I laid her on a sofa.

“Miss Maryon wants air,” said the Colonel, in a calmer voice. “Excuse
me, Mr. Maryon, if I open a window.” He tore open the shutters, and
threw up the sash. “And now, Mr. Westcar, unless you are prepared to be
sensible, and make your exit by the door, I shall be under the
unpleasant necessity of throwing you out of the window.”

The ruffian advanced toward me as he spoke. Suddenly he paused. His jaw
dropped; his hair seemed literally to stand on end; his white lips
quivered; he shook, as with an ague; his whole form appeared to shrink.
I stared in amazement at the awful change. A strange thrill shot through
me, as I heard a quiet voice say:

“Richard Bludyer, your grave is waiting for you. Go.”

The figure of a man passed between me and him. The wretched man shrank
back, and, with a wild cry, leaped from the window he had opened.

All this time Mr. Maryon was standing like a lifeless statue.

In helpless wonder I gazed at the figure before me. I saw clearly the
features in profile, and, swift as lightning, my memory was carried back
to the unforgotten scene in the churchyard upon the Lake of Lucerne, and
I recognized the white face of the young man with whom I there had
spoken.

“John Maryon,” said the voice, “this is the night upon which, a quarter
of a century ago, you killed me. It is your last night on earth. You
must go through the tragedy again.”

Mr. Maryon, still statue-like, beckoned to the figure, and opened a
half-concealed door which led into his study. The strange but opportune
visitant seemed to motion to me with a gesture of his hand, which I felt
I must obey, and I followed in this weird procession. From the study we
mounted by a private staircase to a large, well-furnished bed-chamber.
Here we paused. Mr. Maryon looked tremblingly at the stranger, and said,
in a low, stammering voice:

“This is my room. In this room, on this night, twenty-five years ago,
you told me that you were certain Sir Henry Benet’s will was in
existence, and that you had made up your mind to dispute my possession
to this property. You had discovered letters from Sir Henry to your
father which gave you a clue to the spot where that will might be found.
You, Geoffrey Ringwood, of generous and extravagant nature, offered to
find the will in my presence. It was late at night, as now; all the
household slept. I accepted your invitation, and followed you.”

Mr. Maryon ceased; he seemed physically unable to continue. The terrible
stranger, in his low, echoing voice, replied:

“Go on; confess all.”

“You and I, Geoffrey, had been what the world calls friends. We had been
much in London together; we were both passionately fond of cards. We had
a common acquaintance, Richard Bludyer. He was present on the 2d of
February, when I lost a large sum of money to you at _écarté_. He hinted
to me that you might possibly use these sums in instituting a lawsuit
against me for the recovery of this estate. Your intimation that you
knew of the existence of the will alarmed me, as it had become necessary
for me to remain owner of The Mere. As I have said, I accepted your
invitation, and followed you to Sir Henry Benet’s room; and now I follow
you again.”

As he said these words, Geoffrey Ringwood, or his ghost, passed silently
by Mr. Maryon, and led the way into the corridor. At the end of the
corridor all three paused outside an oak door which I remembered well. A
gesture from the leader made Mr. Maryon continue:

“On this threshold you told me suddenly that Bludyer was a villain, and
had betrayed your sister Aldina; that she had fled with him that night;
that he could never marry her, as you had reason to know he had a wife
alive. You made me swear to help you in your vengeance against him. We
entered the room, as we enter it now.”

Our leader had opened the door of the room, and we were in the same
chamber I had wandered to when I had slept at The Mere. The figure of
Geoffrey Ringwood paused at the round table, and looked again at Mr.
Maryon, who proceeded:

“You went straight to the fifth panel from the fireplace, and then
touched a spring, and the panel opened. You said that the will giving
this property to your father and his heirs was to be found there. I was
convinced that you spoke the truth, but, suddenly remembering your love
of gambling, I suggested that we should play for it. You accepted at
once. We searched among the papers, and found the will. We placed the
will upon the table, and began to play. We agreed that we would play up
to ten thousand pounds. Your luck was marvellous. In two hours the limit
was reached. I owed you ten thousand pounds, and had lost The Mere. You
laughed, and said, ‘Well, John, you have had a fair chance. At ten
o’clock this morning I shall expect you to pay me _your debt of honor_.’
I rose; the devil of despair strong upon me. With one hand I swept the
cards from the table into the fire, and with the other seized you by the
throat, and dealt you a blow upon the temple. You fell dead upon the
floor.”

Need I say that as I heard this fearful narrative, I recognized the
actions of the sleep-walker, and understood them all?

“To the end!” said the hollow voice. “Confess to the end!”

“The doctor who examined your body gave his opinion, at the inquest,
that you had died of apoplexy, caused by strong cerebral excitement. My
evidence was to the effect that I believed you had lost a very large sum
of money to Captain Bludyer, and that you had told me you were utterly
unable to pay it. The jury found their verdict accordingly, and I was
left in undisturbed possession of The Mere. But the memory of my crime
haunted me as only such memories can haunt a criminal, and I became a
morose and miserable man. One thing bound me to life—my daughter. When
Reginald Westcar appeared upon the scene I thought that the debt of
honor would be satisfied if he married Agnes. Then Bludyer reappeared,
and he told me that he knew that I had killed you. He threatened to
revive the story, to exhume your body, and to say that Aldina Ringwood
had told him all about the will. I could purchase his silence only by
giving him my daughter, the heiress of The Mere. To this I consented.”

As he said these last words, Mr. Maryon sunk heavily into the chair.

The figure of Geoffrey Ringwood placed one ghostly hand upon his left
temple, and then passed silently out of the room. I started up, and
followed the phantom along the corridor—down the staircase—out at the
front door, which still stood open—across the snow-covered lawn—into
the plantation; and then it disappeared as strangely as I first had seen
it; and, hardly knowing whether I was mad or dreaming, I found my way
back to The Shallows.

       *       *       *       *       *

For some weeks I was ill with brain-fever. When I recovered I was told
that terrible things had happened at The Mere. Mr. Maryon had been
found dead in Sir Henry Benet’s room—an effusion of blood upon the
brain, the doctors said—and the body of Colonel Bludyer had been
discovered in the snow in an old disused gravel-pit not far from the
house.

       *       *       *       *       *

A year afterward I married Agnes Maryon; and, if all that I had seen and
heard upon that 3d of February was not merely the invention of a fevered
brain, the debt of honor was at last discharged, for I, the nephew of
the murdered Geoffrey Ringwood, became the owner of The Mere.



DEVEREUX’S DREAM.


I give you this story only at second-hand; but you have it in
substance—and he wasted few words over it—as Paul Devereux told it me.

It was not the only queer story he could have told about himself if he
had chosen, by a good many, I should say. Paul’s life had been an
eminently unconventional one: the man’s face certified to that—hard,
bronzed, war-worn, seamed and scarred with strange battle-marks—the
face of a man who had dared and done most things.

It was not his custom to speak much of what he had done, however.
Probably only because he and I were little likely to meet again that he
told me this I am free to tell you now.

We had come across one another for the first time for years that
afternoon on the Italian Boulevart. Paul had landed a couple of weeks
previously at Marseilles from a long yacht-cruise in southern waters,
the monotony of which we heard had been agreeably diversified by a
little pirate-hunting and slaver-chasing—the evil tongues called it
piracy and slave-running; and certainly Devereux was quite equal to
either _métier_; and he was about starting on a promising little
filibustering expedition across the Atlantic, where the chances were he
would be shot, and the certainty was that he would be starved. So
perhaps he felt inclined to be a trifle more communicative than usual,
as we sat late that night over a blazing pyre of logs and in a cloud of
Cavendish. At all events he was, and after this fashion.

I forget now exactly how the subject was led up to. Expression of some
philosophic incredulity on my part regarding certain matters, followed
by a ten-minutes’ silence on his side pregnant with unwonted words to
come—that was it, perhaps. At last he said, more to himself, it seemed,
than to me:

“‘Such stuff as dreams are made of.’ Well, who knows? You’re a Sadducee,
Bertie; you call this sort of thing, politely, indigestion. Perhaps
you’re right. But yet I had a queer dream once.”

“Not unlikely,” I assented.

“You’re wrong; I never dream, as a rule. But, as I say, I had a queer
dream once; and queer because it came literally true three years
afterward.”

“Queer indeed, Paul.”

“Happens to be true. What’s queerer still, my dream was the means of my
finding a man I owed a long score, and a heavy one, and of my paying him
in full.”

“Bad for the payee!” I thought.

Paul’s face had grown terribly eloquent as he spoke those last words. On
a sudden the expression of it changed—another memory was stirring in
him. Wonderfully tender the fierce eyes grew; wonderfully tender the
faint, sad smile, that was like sunshine on storm-scathed granite. That
smile transfigured the man before me.

“Ah, poor child—poor Lucille!” I heard him mutter.

That was it, was it? So I let him be. Presently he lifted his head. If
he had let himself get the least thing out of hand for a moment, he had
got back his self-mastery the next.

“I’ll tell you that queer story, Bertie, if you like,” he said.

The proposition was flatteringly unusual, but the voice was quite his
own.

“Somehow I’d sooner talk than think about—_her_,” he went on after a
pause.

I nodded. He might talk about this, you see, but _I_ couldn’t. He began
with a question—an odd one:

“Did you ever hear I’d been married?”

Paul Devereux and a wife had always seemed and been to me a most
unheard-of conjunction. So I laconically said:

“No.”

“Well, I was once, years ago. She was my wife—that child—for a week.
And then——”

I easily filled up the pause; but, as it happened, I filled it up
wrongly; for he added:

“And then she was murdered.”

I was not unused to our Paul’s stony style of talk; but this last
sentence was sufficiently startling.

“Eh?”

“Murdered—in her sleep. They never found the man who did it either,
though I had Durbec and all the Rue de Jérusalem at work. But I forgave
them that, for I found the man myself, and killed him.”

He was filling his pipe again as he told me this, and he perhaps rammed
the Cavendish in a little tighter, but that was all. The thing was a
matter of course; I knew my Paul, well enough to know that. Of course he
killed him.

“Mind you,” he continued, kindling the black _brûle-gueule_ the
while—“mind you, I’d never seen this man before, never known of his
existence, except in a way that—however, it was this way.”

He let his grizzled head drop back on the cushions of his chair, and his
eyes seemed to see the queer story he was telling enacted once more
before him in the red hollows of the fire.

“As I said, it was years ago. I was waiting here in Paris for some
fellows who were to join me in a campaign we’d arranged against the
African big game. I never was more fit for anything of that sort than I
was then. I only tell you this to show you that the thing can’t be
accounted for by my nerves having been out of order at all.

“Well: I was dining alone that day, at the Café Anglais. It was late
when I sat down to my dinner in the little salon as usual. Only two
other men were still lingering over theirs. All the time they stayed
they bored me so persistently with some confounded story of a murder
they were discussing, that I was once or twice more than half-inclined
to tell them so. At last, though, they went away.

“But their talk kept buzzing abominably in my head. When the waiter
brought me the evening paper, the first thing that caught my eye was a
circumstantial account of the _probable_ way the fellow did his murder.
I say probable, for they never caught him; and, as you will see
directly, they could only suppose how it occurred.

“It seemed that a well-known Paris banker, who was ascertained beyond
doubt to have left one station alive and well, and with a couple of
hundred thousand francs in a leathern _sac_ under his seat, arrived at
the next station the train stopped at with his throat cut and _minus_
all his money, except a few bank-notes to no great amount, which the
assassin had been wise enough to leave behind him. The train was a night
express on one of the southern lines; the banker travelled quite alone,
in a first-class carriage; and the murder must have taken place between
midnight and 1 A.M. next morning. The newspapers supposed—rightly
enough, I think—that the murderer must have entered the carriage _from
without_, stabbed his victim in his sleep—there were no signs of any
struggle—opened the _sac_, taken what he wanted, and retreated, loot
and all, by the way he came. I fully indorsed my particular writer’s
opinion that the murderer was an uncommonly cool and clever individual,
especially as I fancy he got clear off and was never afterward laid
hands on.

“When I had done that I thought I had done with the affair altogether.
Not at all. I was regularly ridden with this confounded murder. You see
the banker was rather a swell; everybody knew him: and that, of course,
made it so shocking. So everybody kept talking about him: they were
talking about him at the Opera, and over the _baccarat_ and _bouillotte_
at La Topaze’s later. To escape him I went to bed and smoked myself to
sleep. And then a queer thing came to pass: I had a dream—I who never
dream; and this is what I dreamed:

“I saw a wide, rich country that I knew. A starless night hung over it
like a pall. I saw a narrow track running through it, straight, both
ways, for leagues. Something sped along this track with a hurtling rush
and roar. This something that at first had looked like a red-eyed devil,
with dark sides full of dim fire, resolved itself, as I watched it,
presently, into a more conventional night express-train. It flew along,
though, as no express-train ever travelled yet; for all that, I was able
to keep it quite easily in view. I could count the carriages as they
whirled by. One—two—three—four—five—six; but I could only see
distinctly into one. Into that one with perfect distinctness. Into that
one I seemed forced to look.

“It was the fourth carriage. Two people were in it. They sat in opposite
corners; both were sleeping. The one who sat facing forward was a
woman—a girl, rather. I could see that; but I couldn’t see her face.
The blind was drawn across the lamp in the roof, and the light was very
dim; moreover, this girl lay back in the shadow. Yet I seemed to know
her, and I knew that her face was very fair. She wore a cloak that
shrouded her form completely, yet her form was familiar to me.

“The figure opposite to her was a man’s. Strangely familiar to me too
this figure was. But, as he slept, his head had sunk upon his breast,
and the shadow cast upon his face by the low-drawn travelling-cap he
wore hid it from me. Yet if I had seemed to know the girl’s face, I was
certain I knew the man’s. But as I could see, so I could remember,
neither. And there was an absolute torture in this which I can’t explain
to you,—in this inability, and in my inability to wake them from their
sleep.

“From the first I had been conscious of a desire to do that. This desire
grew stronger every second. I tried to call to them, and my tongue
wouldn’t move. I tried to spring toward them, to thrust out my arms and
touch them, and my limbs were paralyzed. And then I tried to shut my
eyes to what I _knew_ must happen, and my eyes were held open and
dragged to look on in spite of me. And I saw this:

“I saw the door of the carriage where these two sleepers, whose sleep
was so horribly sound, were sitting—I saw this door open, and out of
the thick darkness another face look in.

“The light, as I have said, was very dim, but I could see his face as
plainly as I can see yours. A large yellow face it was, like a wax mask.
The lips were full, and lustful and cruel. The eyes were little eyes of
an evil gray. Thin yellow streaks marked the absence of the eyebrows;
thin yellow hair showed itself under a huge fur travelling-cap. The
whole face seemed to grow slowly into absolute distinctness as I looked,
by the sort of devilish light that it, as it were, radiated. I had
chanced upon a good many damnable visages before then; but there was a
cold fiendishness about this one such as I had seen on no man’s face,
alive or dead, till then.

“The next moment the man this face belonged to was standing in the
carriage, that seemed to plunge and sway more furiously, as though to
waken them that still slept on. He wore a long fur travelling-robe, girt
about the waist with a fur girdle. Abnormally tall and broad as he was,
he looked in this dress gigantic. Yet there was a marvellous cat-like
lightness and agility about all his movements.

“He bent over the girl lying there helpless in her sleep. I don’t make
rash bargains as a rule, but I felt I would have given years of my life
for five minutes of my lost freedom of limb just then. I tell you the
torture was infernal.

“The assassin—I knew he was an assassin—bent awhile, gloatingly, over
the girl. His great yellow hands were both bare, and on the forefinger
of the right hand I could see some great stone blazing like an evil eye.
In that right hand there gleamed something else. I saw him draw it
slowly from his sleeve, and, as he drew it, turn round and look at the
other sleeper with an infernal triumphant malignity and hate the Devil
himself might have envied. But the man he looked at slept heavily on.
And then—God! I feel the agony I felt in my dream then now!—then I saw
the great yellow hand, with the great evil eye upon it, lifted
murderously, and the bright steel it held shimmer as the assassin turned
again and bent his yellow face down closer to that other face hidden
from me in the shadow—the girl’s face, that I knew was so fair.

“How can I tell this?... The blade flashed and fell.... There was the
sound of a heavy sigh stifled under a heavy hand....

“Then the huge form of the assassin was reared erect, and the bloated
yellow face seemed to laugh silently, while the hand that held the
steel pointed at the sleeping man in diabolical menace.

“And so the huge form and the bloated yellow face seemed to fade away
while I watched.

“The express rushed and roared through the blinding darkness without;
the sleeping man slept on still; till suddenly a strong light fell full
upon him, and he woke.

“And then I saw why I had been so certain that I knew him. For as he
lifted his head, I saw his face in the strong light.

“_And the face was my own face; and the sleeper was myself!_”

Paul Devereux made a pause in his queer story here. Except when he had
spoken of the girl, he had spoken in his usual cool, hard way. The pipe
he had been smoking all the time was smoked out. He took time to fill
another before he went on. I said never a word, for I guessed who the
sleeping girl was.

“Well,” Paul remarked presently, “that was a devilish queer dream,
wasn’t it? You’ll account for it by telling me I’d been so pestered with
the story of the banker’s murder that I naturally had nightmare;
perhaps, too, that my digestion was out of order. Call it a nightmare,
call it dyspepsia, if you like. I _don’t_, because—— But you’ll see
why I don’t directly.

“At the same moment that my dream-self awoke in my dream, my actual self
woke in reality, and with the same ghastly horror.

“I say the _same_ horror, for neither then nor afterward could I
separate my one self from my other self. They seemed identical; so that
this queer dream made a more lasting impression upon me than you’d
think. However, in the life I led that sort of thing couldn’t last very
long. Before I came back from Africa I had utterly forgotten all about
it. Before I left Paris, though, and while it was quite fresh in my
memory, I sketched the big murderer just as I had seen him in my dream.
The great yellow face, the great broad frame in the fur travelling-robe,
the great hand with the great evil eye upon it—everything, carefully
and minutely, as though I had been going to paint a portrait that I
wanted to make lifelike. I think at the time I had some such intention.
If I had, I never fulfilled it. But I made the sketch, as I say,
carefully; and then I forgot all about it.

“Time passed—three years nearly. I was wintering in the south of France
that year. There it was that I met her—Lucille. Old D’Avray, her
father, and I had met before in Algeria. He was dying now. He left the
child on his death-bed to me. The end was I married her.

“Poor little thing! I think I might have made her happy—who knows? She
used to tell me often she was happy with me. Poor little thing!

“Well, we were to come straight to London. That was Lucille’s notion.
She wanted to go to my London first—nowhere else. Now I would rather
have gone anywhere else; but, naturally, I let the child have her way.
She seemed nervously eager about it, I remembered afterward; seemed to
have a nervous objection to every other place I proposed. But I saw or
suspected nothing to make me question her very closely, or the reasons
for her preference for our grimy old Pandemonium. What could I suspect?
Not the truth. If I only had! If I had only guessed what it was that
made her, as she said, long to be safe there already. Safe? What had she
to fear with me? Ah, what indeed!

“So we started on our journey to England. It was a cold, dark night,
early in March. We reached Lyons somewhere about seven. I should have
stayed there that night but for Lucille. She entreated me so earnestly
and with such strange vehemence to go on by the night-mail to Paris,
that at last, to satisfy her, I consented; though it struck me
unpleasantly at the time that I had let her travel too long already, and
that this feverishness was the consequence of over-fatigue. But she
became pacified at once when I told her it should be as she wanted; and
declared she should sleep perfectly well in the carriage with me beside
her. She should feel quite safe then, she said.

“Safe! Where safer? you might ask. Nowhere, I believe. Alone with
me—surely nowhere safer. The Paris express was a short train that
night; but I managed to secure a compartment for ourselves. I left
Lucille in her corner there while I went across to the _buffet_ to fill
a flask. I was gone barely five minutes; but when I came back the change
in the child’s face fairly startled me. I had seen it last with the
smile it always wore for me on it, looking so childishly happy in the
lamp-light. Now it was all gray-pale and distorted; and the great blue
eyes told me directly with what.

“Fear—sudden, terrible fear—I thought. But _fear_? Fear of what? I
asked her. She clung close to me half-sobbing awhile before she could
answer; and then she told me—nothing. There was nothing the matter;
only she had felt a pain—a cruel pain—at her heart; and it had
frightened her. Yes, that was it; it had frightened her, but it had
passed; and she was well, quite well again now.

“All this time her eyes seemed to be telling me another story; but I
said nothing; she was obviously too excited already. I did my best to
soothe her, and I succeeded. She told me she felt quite well once more
before we started. No, she had rather, much rather go on to Paris, as I
had promised her she should. She should sleep all the way, if no one
came into the carriage to disturb her. No one could come in? Then
nothing could be better.

“And so it was that she and I started that night by the Paris mail.

“I made her up a bed of rugs and wraps upon the cushions; but she had
rather rest her head upon my shoulder, she said, and feel my arm about
her; nothing could hurt her then. Ah, strange how she harped on that.

“She lay there, then, as she loved best—with her head resting on my
shoulder, not sleeping much or soundly; uneasily, with sudden waking
starts, and with glances round her; till I would speak to her. And then
she would look up into my face and smile; and so drop into that uneasy
sleep again. And I would think she was over-tired, that was all; and
reproach myself with having let her come on. And three or four hours
passed like this; and then we had got as far as Dijon.

“But the child was fairly worn out now; and she offered no opposition
when I asked her to let me pillow her head on something softer than my
shoulder. So I folded, a great thick shawl she was too well cloaked to
need, and she made that her pillow.

“We were rushing full swing through the wild, dark night, when she
lifted up her face and bade me kiss her and bid her sleep well. And I
put my arm round her, and kissed the child’s loving lips—for the last
time while she lived. Then I flung myself on the seat opposite her; and,
watching her till she slept soundly and peacefully, slept at last myself
also. I had drawn the blind across the lamp in the roof, and the light
in the carriage was very dim.

“How long I slept I don’t know; it couldn’t have been more than an hour
and a half, because the express was slackening speed for its first halt
beyond Dijon. I had slept heavily I knew; but I woke with a sudden,
sharp sense of danger that made me broad awake, and strung every nerve
in a moment. The sort of feeling you have when you wake on a prairie,
where you have come across ‘Indian sign;’ on outpost-duty, when your
_feldwebel_ plucks gently at your cloak. You know what I mean.

“I was on my feet at once. As I said, the light in the carriage was very
dim, and the shadow was deepest where Lucille lay. I looked there
instinctively. She must have moved in her sleep, for her face was turned
away from me; and the cloak I had put so carefully about her had partly
fallen off. But she slept on still. Only soundly, very soundly; she
scarcely seemed to breathe. And—_did_ she breathe?

“A ghastly fear ran through my blood, and froze it. I understood why I
had wakened. In my nostrils was an awful odor that I knew well enough. I
bent over her; I touched her. Her face was very cold; her eyes glared
glassily at me; my hands were wet with something. My hands were wet with
blood—her blood!

“I tore away the blind from the lamp, and then I could see that my wife
of a week lay there stabbed straight to the heart—dead—dead beyond
doubting; murdered in her sleep.”

Devereux’s stern, low voice shook ever so little as he spoke those last
words; and we both sat very silent after them for a good while. Only
when he could trust his utterance again he went on.

“A curious piece of devilry, wasn’t it? That child—whom had she ever
harmed? Who could hate her like this? I remember I thought that, in a
dull, confused sort of way, when I found myself alone in that carriage
with her lying dead on the cushions before me. _Alone_ with her—you
understand? It was confusing.

“I pass over what immediately followed. The express came duly to a halt;
and then I called people to me, and—and the Paris express went on
without that particular carriage.

“The inquiry began before some local authority next day. Very little
came of it. What could come of it, unless they had convicted _me_ of the
murder of this child I would have given my own life to save?

“They might have done that at home; but they knew better here, and
didn’t. They couldn’t find me the actual assassin, however; though I
believe they did their best. All they found was his weapon, which he
most purposely have left behind. I asked for this, and got it. It gave
their police no clue; and it gave me none. But I had a fancy for it.

“It was a plain, double-edged, admirably-tempered dagger—a very
workmanlike article indeed. On the cross hilt of it I swore one day that
I would live thenceforth for one thing alone—the discovery of the
murderer of old D’Avray’s child, whom I had promised him to care for
before all. When I had found this man, whoever he was, I also swore that
I would kill him. Kill him myself, you understand; without any of the
law’s delay or uncertainty, without troubling _bourreau_ or hangman.
Kill him as he had killed her—to do this was what I meant to live for.
There was war to the knife between him and me.

“I started, of course, under one heavy disadvantage. He knew me,
probably, whereas I didn’t know him at all. When he found that his
amiable intention of fixing the crime on me had been frustrated, it
must, I imagined, have occurred to him that the said crime might
eventually be fixed by me on him. And he had proved himself to be a
person who didn’t stick at trifles. It behooved me, therefore, to go to
work cautiously. But I hadn’t fought Indians for nothing; and I _was_
very cautious. I waited quiet till I got a clue. It was a curious one;
and I got it in this way. It struck me one day, suddenly, that I had
heard of a murder precisely similar to this already. I could not at
first call the thing to mind; but presently I remembered—my dream. And
then I asked myself this: _Had not this murder been done before my eyes
three years ago?_

“I came to the conclusion that the circumstances of the murder in my
dream were absolutely identical with the circumstances of the actual
crime. Yes; the girl whose face in that dream I had never been able to
see was Lucille. Yes; the assassin whose face I had seen so plainly in
that dream was the real assassin. In short, I believe that the murder
had been _rehearsed_ before me three years previous to its actual
committal.

“Now this sounds rather wild. Yet I came to this conviction quite coolly
and deliberately. It _was_ a conviction. Assuming it to be true, the
odds against me grew shorter directly; _for I had the portrait of the
man I wanted drawn by myself the day after I had seen him in my dream_.
And the original of that portrait was a man not to be easily mistaken,
supposing him to exist at all. The day I came across that sketch of him
in that old forgotten sketch-book of mine, I was as sure he did exist as
that I was alive myself. What I had to do was to find this man, and then
I never doubted I should find the man I wanted. You see how the odds had
shortened. If he knew me I knew him now, and he had no notion that I did
know him. It was a good deal fairer fight between us.

“I fought it out alone. My story was hardly one the Rue de Jérusalem
would have acted upon; and, besides, I wanted no interference. So, with
the portrait before me, I sat down and began to consider who this man
was, and why he had murdered that child. The big, burly frame, the heavy
yellow face, the sandy-yellow hair, the physiognomy generally, was
Teutonic. My man I put down as a North German. Now there were, and are
probably, plenty of men who would have no objection whatever to put a
knife into me, if they got the chance; but this man, whom I had never
met, could have had no such quarrel as theirs with me. His quarrel with
me must have been, then, Lucille. Yes, that was it—Lucille. I began to
see clearly: a thwarted, devilish passion—a cool, infernal revenge. The
child had feared something of this sort; had perhaps seen him that
night. This explained her nervous terror, her nervous anxiety to stop
nowhere, to travel on. In that carriage of that express-train, alone
with me—where could she be safer? This accounted, too, for her anxiety
to reach England. He would not dare follow her there, she had thought,
or, at least, could not without my noticing him. And then she would have
told me. She had not told me before evidently because she had feared for
_me_ too, in a quarrel with this man. She must, innocent child as she
was, have had some instinctive knowledge of what he was capable.... Ay,
a cool, infernal revenge, indeed. To kill her; to fix the murder on me.
That dagger he had left behind.... The apparent impossibility of any
one’s entering the carriage as he must have entered it at all, to say
nothing of the almost absolute impossibility of his doing so without
disturbing either of us,—you see it might have gone hard with me if a
British jury had had to decide on the case.

“Well, to cut this as short as may be, I made up my mind that the man I
wanted was a North German; that he had conceived a hideous passion for
Lucille before I knew her; that she had shrunk from it and him so
unmistakably, that he knew he had no chance; that my taking her away as
my wife, to which he might have been a witness, drove him to as hideous
a revenge; that, hearing we were going to England, and seeing that we
were likely to stop nowhere on the way, and so give him a chance of
doing what he had made up his mind to do, he had decided to do what he
had done as he had done it,—counting on finding us asleep as he had
found us, or on his strength if it came to a fight between him and me;
but coolly reckless enough to brave everything in any case. And the
devil aiding, he had in great part and only too well succeeded. He was
now either so far satisfied that, if I made no move against him—and
how, he might think, could I?—he, feeling himself all safe, would let
me be; or, on the other hand, he did not feel safe, and was not
satisfied, and was arranging for my being disposed of by and by. I
considered the latter frame of mind as his most probable one; I went to
work cautiously, as I say. I ascertained that Lucille had made no
mention of any obnoxious _prétendant_ at any time; I didn’t expect to
find she had, her terror of the man was too intense. But this man must
have met her somewhere—where?

“When old D’Avray came home to die, his daughter was just leaving her
Paris _pensionnat_. All through his last illness he had seen no visitor
but me, and Lucille had never quitted him. Besides, I had been there all
the time. I presumed, then, that this man and she had met in Paris; and
I believe they were only likely to have met at one of the half-dozen
houses where the child would now and again be asked. I got a list of
all these. One name only struck me; it happened to be a German
name—Steinmetz. I wondered if Monsieur Steinmetz was my man. In the
mean time, who was he? I had no trouble in finding that out: Monsieur
Steinmetz was a German banker of good standing and repute, reasonably
well off, and recently left a widower. Personally? _Dame_, personally
Monsieur Steinmetz was a great man and a fat, with a big face and blond
hair, and the appearance of what he really was—a _bon vivant_ and a
_bon enfant_ yet _n’avait jamais fait de mal à personne—allez!_—All,
yes; in effect, Madame had died about a year ago, and Monsieur had been
inconsolable for a long time. He had changed his residence now, and
inhabited a house in one of the new streets off the Champs Elysées.

“From another source I discovered that in the lifetime of Madame
Steinmetz Lucille was frequently at the house. She had ceased to come
there about the date of the commencement of Madame’s sudden illness. I
got this information by degrees, while I lay _perdu_ in an old haunt of
mine in the Pays Latin yonder; for I had always had an idea that I
should find the man I wanted in Paris. When I had got it, I thought I
should like to see Monsieur Steinmetz, the agreeable banker. One night I
strolled up as far as his new residence in the street off the Champs
Elysées. Monsieur Steinmetz lived on the first-floor. There was a
brilliant light there: Monsieur Steinmetz was entertaining friends, it
seemed.

“It was a fine night; I established myself out of sight under the
doorway of an unfinished house opposite, and waited. I don’t know why;
perhaps I fancied that when his friends were gone, the fineness of the
night might induce Monsieur Steinmetz to take a stroll, and that then I
should be able to gratify my curiosity. You see, I knew that if he were
my man, I should know him directly. I waited a good while: shadows
crossed the lighted blinds; once a big, broad shadow appeared there,
that made me fancy I mightn’t have been waiting for nothing after all,
somehow. Presently Monsieur Steinmetz’s guests departed, and in a little
while after there appeared on the little balcony of Monsieur Steinmetz’s
apartment _the man I wanted_. There was a moon that night, and the cold
white light fell on the great yellow face, with the full lustful lips,
and the full cruel chin, just as I had seen the light fall on it in my
dream. It was the same face, Bertie; the same face, the same man. I
couldn’t be mistaken. I had no doubt; I _knew_ that the assassin of my
wife, of that tender, innocent, helpless child, stood there, twenty
yards from me, on that balcony.

“I had got myself pretty well in hand; and it was as well. I never
moved. The face I knew turned presently toward the spot where I stood
hidden,—the face I had seen in my dream, beyond all doubting. The evil
gray eyes glanced carelessly into the shadow, and up and down the quiet
street; and then Monsieur Steinmetz, humming an air, got inside the
window again, and closed it after him. Once more the great burly shadow
that had at first told me I should not wait in that dark doorway in vain
crossed the blinds; and then it disappeared. I saw my man no more that
night; but I had seen enough. I knew who he was now, and where to find
him.

“As I walked along home I thought what I would do. I quite meant to kill
Monsieur Steinmetz; but I also meant to have no _démêlés_ with an
Impérial Procureur and the Cour d’Assizes for doing so. I didn’t want to
murder him, either. I thought I would wait a little for the chance of a
suitable opportunity for settling my business satisfactorily. And I did
wait. I turned this delay to account, and got together a case of
circumstantial evidence against my man that, though perhaps it might
have broken down in a law-court, would have been alone amply sufficient
for me.

“The reason why Lucille’s visits to the banker’s house ceased was, it
appeared, because Madame Steinmetz had conceived all at once a jealous
dislike to her. How far this was owing to Lucille herself I could well
understand; but I could understand Madame’s jealousy equally well.
Madame’s illness, strangely sudden, dated from the cessation of
Lucille’s visits. Was it hard to find a _cause_ for that illness—a
cause for the wife’s subsequent suspected death? I thought not. Then had
followed Lucille’s departure from Paris. The child’s anxiety for her
father hid her _other fear_ from his eyes and mine; but that fear must
have been on her then. With us she forgot it in time; yet it or another
reason had always prevented all mention of what had occasioned it. She
became my wife. At that very time I easily ascertained that Steinmetz
was absent from Paris; less easily, but indubitably, that he had, at all
events, been as far south as Lyons. At Lyons it must have been that
Lucille first discovered he was dogging us. Hence her alarm, which I had
remembered, and her anxiety to proceed on our journey without stopping
for the night, as I had previously arranged. The morning after the
murder Steinmetz reappeared in Paris. From the hour at which he was seen
at the _gare_, it was certain that he had travelled by the night express
train in which Lucille and I had started from Lyons; and he wore that
morning a travelling-coat of fur in all respects similar to the one I
remembered so well.

“If I had ever had any doubt of my man after actually seeing him, I
should probably have convinced myself that he was my man by the general
tendency of these facts, which I got at slowly and one by one. But I had
no need of such evidence; and of course no case, even with such
evidence, for a court of law. However, courts of law I had never
intended to trouble in the matter.

“The opportunity I was waiting was some time before it offered. Monsieur
Steinmetz was a man of regular habits, I found—from his first-floor in
the street off the Champs Elysées, every morning at eleven, to the
Bourse; thence to his bureau hard by till four; from his bureau to his
café, where he read papers and played dominoes till six; and then home
slowly by the Boulevarts. He might consider himself tolerably safe from
me while he led this sort of life, even supposing he was aware he was
incurring any danger. I don’t think he troubled much about that; till
one night, when, over the count of the beloved domino-points, his eyes
met mine fixed right upon him. I had arranged this little surprise to
see how it would affect him.

“Perhaps my gaze may have expressed something more than the mere
distraction I intended; but I noticed—though a more indifferent
observer might easily have failed to notice—how the great yellow face,
expanded in childish interest in the childish game, seemed suddenly to
grow gray and harden; how the fat smile became a cruel baring of sharp
white teeth; how the fat chin squared itself. The man knew me, and
scented danger.

“A moment’s reflection convinced Monsieur Steinmetz, though, that it
could be by no means so certain that I knew him; five minutes’
observation of me more than half satisfied him that I did not. Yet what
did I want there? What was I doing in Paris? This might concern him
nearly, he must have thought.

“I kept my own face in order, and watched his. It wasn’t an easy one to
read; but you see I had studied it closely, and in a way he couldn’t
have dreamed of. Monsieur Steinmetz was outwardly his wonted self, but
inwardly not quite comfortable when he rose; and I saw the evil eye
gleam on his great yellow finger as he took out his purse to pay the
_garçon_, just as I had seen it when that finger pointed at _myself_ in
my dream. I felt curious sensations, Bertie, as I sat there and looked
abstractedly at Monsieur Steinmetz. I wondered how long it would be
before——But my time hadn’t come yet. He went out without another
glance at me. I saw his huge form on the other side of the street when I
left the café in my turn. This I had expected. Monsieur Steinmetz was
naturally curious. It was hardly possible that I could know him; but it
was quite certain that he ought to know all about me. So, when I moved
on, he moved on; in short, Monsieur Steinmetz dogged me up one street
and down another, till he finally dogged me home to my hiding-place in
the Pays Latin. He did it very well, too—much better than you would
have expected from so apparently unwieldy a _mouchard_. But I
_remembered_ how lightly he could move.

“Next day I had, of course, disappeared from my old quarters, and gone
no one knew where. I suppose Monsieur Steinmetz didn’t like this fact
when he heard of it. It might have seemed suspicious. Suppose I _had_
recognized him? In that case I had evidently a little game of my own,
and was as evidently desirous to keep it dark. He was a cool hand; but I
fancy my man began to get a little uneasy. He took some trouble to find
me again. After a while I permitted him to do that. Once found, he
seemed determined that I should not be lost sight of again for want of
watching. I permitted that, too; it helped play my game, and I wanted to
bring it to an end. To which intent, Monsieur Steinmetz got to hear from
sources best known to himself as much of my plans as should bring him to
the state I wanted. That was a murderous state. I wanted to get him to
think that I was dangerous enough to be worth putting out of the way. I
presume he was aware there were, or would be, weak joints in his armor,
impenetrable as it seemed; and he preferred not risking the ordeal of
legal battle if he could help it. At all events, he elected at last to
rid himself of a person who might be dangerous, and was troublesome, by
the shortest and the simplest means.

“I say so because when, believing my man was ripe for this, I left Paris
about midday for a certain secluded little spot on the sea-coast, I saw
one of Monsieur Steinmetz’s employees on the platform; and because,
two days after my arrival in my secluded spot, I met Monsieur Steinmetz
in person, newly arrived also. Now this was exactly what I had intended
and anticipated. Monsieur Steinmetz had come down there to put me out of
his way, if he could. He passed me, leisurely strolling in the opposite
direction, humming his favorite _aria_, bigger and yellower than ever,
the evil eye fiery on his finger. His own eyes shot me as evil fire; but
he said nothing.... I saw he was ripe, though.... My time was close at
hand.

“It came. Monsieur Steinmetz and I met once more in the very place where
I, knowing my ground, had intended we should meet. It was a dip in the
cliffs like a hollowed palm, and just there the cliff jutted out a good
bit, with a sheer fall on to the rocks below. It was a gray afternoon,
at the end of summer. The wind was rising fast; there was a thunder of
heavy waves already.

“I think he had been dogging me; but I hadn’t chosen to let him get up
to me till now. We were quite out of sight when he had reached the level
bottom of the dip, where I had halted—quite out of sight, and quite
alone. To do him justice, he came on steadily enough. His face was liker
the sketch I had made of it, liker the face I had seen in my dream, than
it had ever looked before. Evidently he had made up his mind.... At
last, then!... Well, I had been waiting long!... He was close beside me.

“‘_Ah! bon jour, cher Monsieur Steinmetz._’

“‘So?’ he said, his little eyes contracting like a cobra’s. ‘Ah!
Monsieur knows my name?’

“‘Among other things about you—yes.’

“‘So!’ The yellow face was turning grayer and harder every minute—liker
and liker to my likeness of it. ‘And what other things? Has it never
appeared to you that this you do, have been doing—this meddling, may be
dangerous, _hein_?’

“He had changed his tone, as he had changed the person in which he
addressed me. Yes, he had certainly made up his mind. And his big right
hand was hidden inside his waistcoat, so that I could not see the evil
eye I knew was on his finger.

“‘Dangerous?’ he repeated slowly.

“‘Possibly.’

“‘Ay, surely; I shall crush you!’

“‘Try.’

“‘In good time; wait. You plot against me. Take care; I am strong; I
warn you. There must be an end of this, you understand, or——’

“He nodded his big head significantly.

“‘You are right,’ I told him; ‘there must be an end. It is coming.’

“‘So?’

“‘Yes; I know you. You know me now.’

“‘I know you. What do you want?’

“‘To kill you.’

“‘So?’

“‘Yes; as you killed her.’

“‘As I killed her? That is it, then? You know that?’

“‘I know that.’

“‘Well, it is true. I killed her. Now you can guess what I am going to
do to you—to you, curse you!—whom she loved.’

[Illustration: “THE GREAT YELLOW FACE LOOKED SILENTLY UP AT ME; AND
THEN—THEN IT DISAPPEARED.”]

“The very face I had seen in my dream now, Bertie, the very face! There
was something besides the evil eye that gleamed in his right hand when
he drew it from his breast. Once more he spoke.

“‘Yes, I killed her. I meant worse for you. You escaped that; but you
will not escape me now. Fool! were you mad to do this? Did not I hate
you enough? And I would have let you be. Ah, die, then, if you will have
it so!’

“His heavy right arm swung high as he spoke, and I saw the sharp steel
gleam as it turned to fall. And I twisted from his grip, and caught the
falling arm, and bent it till the dagger dropped to the ground. And
then, for a fierce, desperate, devilish minute, I had him in my clutch,
dragging him nearer the smooth, slippery edge. He was no match for me at
this I knew, and he knew; but he held me with the hold of his despair,
and I could not loose myself. Both of us together, he meant; but not I.
Yet I only freed myself just as he rolled exhausted, but clutching at
the tough, short bushes wildly, toward the brink, and partly over it....
Only the hold of his hands between him and his death. And I knelt above
him, with the knife in my hand that was stained with _her_ blood.

“The great yellow face, ashen now in its mortal agony, looked silently
up at me—for three or four awful seconds; and then—then it
disappeared.

“Bah!” Paul concluded, “that was the end of it.”



CATHERINE’S QUEST.


Imagine to yourself an old, rambling, red-brick house, with odd corners
and gables here and there, all bound and clasped together with ivy, and
you have Craymoor Grange. It was built long before Queen Elizabeth’s
time, and that illustrious monarch is said to have slept in it in one of
her royal progresses—as where has she not slept?

There still remain some remnants of bygone ages, although it has been
much modernized and added to in later days. Among these are the
brewhouse and laundry—formerly, it is said, dining-hall and ball-room.
The latter of these is chiefly remarkable for an immense arched window,
such as you see in churches, with five lights.

When we came to the Grange this window had been partially blocked up,
and in front of it, up to one-third of its height, was a wooden daïs, or
platform, on which stood a cumbrous mangle, left there, I suppose, by
the last tenants of the house.

Of these last tenants we knew very little, for it was so long since it
had been inhabited that the oldest authority in the village could not
remember it.

There were, however, some half-defaced monuments in the village church
of Craymoor, bearing the figures and escutcheons of knights and dames of
“the old family,” as the villagers said; but the inscriptions were worn
and almost illegible, and for some time we none of us took the pains to
decipher them.

We first came to Craymoor Grange in the summer of 1849, my husband
having discovered the place in one of his rambles, and taken a fancy to
it. At first I certainly thought we could never make it our home, it was
so dilapidated and tumble-down; but by the time winter came on we had
had several repairs done and alterations made, and the rooms really
became quite presentable.

As our family was small we confined ourselves chiefly to the newest part
of the house, leaving the older rooms to the mice, dust, and darkness.
We made use of two of the old rooms, however, one as a servants’ bedroom
and the other as an extra spare chamber, in case of many visitors. For
myself, though I hope I am neither nervous nor superstitious, I confess
that I would rather sleep in “our wing,” as we called the part of the
house we inhabited, than in any of the old rooms.

When Catherine l’Estrange came to us, however, during our first
Christmas at Craymoor, I found that she was troubled with no such
fancies, but declared that she delighted in queer old rooms, with
raftered ceilings and deep window-seats, such as ours, and begged to be
allowed to occupy the spare chamber. This I readily acceded to, as we
had several visitors, and needed all the available rooms.

As my story has principally to do with Catherine l’Estrange, I suppose I
ought to speak more fully about her. She was an old school-friend of my
daughter Ella, and at the time of which I am speaking was just
one-and-twenty, and the merriest girl I ever knew. She had stayed with
us once or twice before we came to the Grange, but we then knew no other
particulars concerning her family, than that her father had been an
Indian officer, and that he and her mother had both died in India when
she was about six years old, leaving her to the care of an aunt living
in England.

I now, after a long, and I fear a tedious, preamble, come to my story.

On the eve of the new year of 1850, Catherine had a very bad sore
throat, and was obliged, though sorely against her inclination, to stay
in bed all day, and forego our small evening gayety.

At about 6 o’clock P.M., Ella took her some tea, and fearing she would
be dull, offered to stay with her during the evening. This, however,
Catherine would not hear of. “You go and entertain your company,” said
she laughingly, “and leave me to my own devices; I feel very lazy, and I
dare say I shall go to sleep.” As she had not slept much on the
preceding night, Ella thought it was the best thing she could do; so she
went out by the door leading on to the corridor, first placing the
night-lamp on a table behind the door opening on to the laundry, so that
it might not shine in her face.

She did not again visit Catherine’s room until reminded to do so by my
son George, at about half-past ten. She then rapped at the door, and
receiving no answer, opened it softly, and approached the bed. Catherine
lay quite still, and Ella imagined her to be asleep. She therefore
returned to the drawing-room without disturbing her.

As it was New Year’s eve, we stayed up “to see the old year out and the
new year in,” and at a few minutes to twelve we all gathered round the
open window on the stairs to hear the chimes ring out from the village
church.

We were all listening breathlessly as the hall-clock struck twelve, when
a piercing cry suddenly echoed through the house, causing us all to
start in alarm. I knew that it could only proceed from Catherine’s room,
for the servants were all assembled at the window beneath us, listening,
like ourselves, for the chimes. Thither therefore I flew, followed by
Ella, and we found poor Catherine in a truly pitiable state.

She was deadly pale, in an agony of terror, and the perspiration stood
in large drops upon her forehead. It was some time before we could
succeed at all in composing her, and her first words were to implore us
to take her into another room.

She was too weak to stand, so we wrapped her in blankets, and carried
her into Ella’s bedroom. I noticed that as she was taken through the
laundry she shuddered, and put her hands before her eyes. When she was
laid on Ella’s bed she grew calmer, and apologized for the trouble she
had caused, saying that she had had a dreadful dream.

With this explanation we were fain to be content, though I thought it
hardly accounted for her excessive terror. I had observed, however, that
any allusion to what had passed caused her to tremble and turn pale
again, and I thought it best to refrain from exciting her further.

When morning came I found Catherine almost her usual self again; but I
persuaded her to remain in bed until the evening, as her cold was not
much better. Ella’s curiosity to hear the dream which had so much
excited her friend could now no longer be restrained; but whenever she
asked to hear it, Catherine said, “Not now; another time, perhaps, I may
tell you.”

When she came down to dinner in the evening, we noticed that she was
peculiarly silent, and we endeavored to rally her into her usual
spirits, but in vain. She tried to laugh and to appear merry, poor
child; but there was evidently something on her mind.

At last, as we all sat round the fire after dinner, she spoke. She
addressed herself to my husband, but the tone of her voice caused us all
to listen.

“Mr. Fanshawe, I have something to ask of you,” said she, and then
paused.

“Ask on,” said Mr. Fanshawe.

“I know that you will think the request I am going to make a peculiar
one; but I have a particular reason for making it,” continued she. “It
is that you will have the wooden daïs in front of the laundry window
removed.”

Mr. Fanshawe certainly was taken aback, as were we all. When he had
mastered his bewilderment, and assured himself that he had heard
aright—

“It is, indeed, a strange request, my dear Catherine,” said he; “what
can be your reason for asking such a thing?”

“If you will only have it done, and not question me, you will understand
my reason,” answered Catherine.

Mr. Fanshawe demurred, however, thinking it some foolish whim, and at
last Catherine said:

“I must tell you why I wish it done, then: I am sure we shall discover
something underneath.”

At this we all looked at one another in extreme bewilderment.

“Discover something underneath? No doubt we should—cobwebs, probably,
and dust and spiders,” answered Mr. Fanshawe, much amused.

But Catherine was not to be laughed down.

“Only do as I wish,” said she beseechingly, “and you will see. If you
find nothing underneath the daïs but cobwebs and dust, then you may
laugh at me as much as you like.” And I saw that she was serious, for
tears were actually gathering in her eyes. Of course we were all very
anxious to know what Catherine expected to find, and how she came to
suspect that there was anything to be found; but she would not say, and
begged us all not to question her.

And now George took upon himself to interfere.

“Let us do as Catherine wishes, father,” said he; “the daïs spoils the
laundry, and would be much better away.”

“Well, well,” said Mr. Fanshawe, “do as you like, only I shall expect my
share of the treasure that is found.—And now,” added he, “you must have
a glass of wine to warm you, Catherine, for you look sadly pale, child.”

Here the conversation changed, though we often alluded to the subject
again during the evening.

The next morning the first thing in all our thoughts was Catherine’s
singular request.

I think Mr. Fanshawe had hoped she would have forgotten it, but such
was not the case; on the contrary, she enlisted George’s services the
first thing after breakfast to carry out her design, and they left the
room together, accompanied by Ella.

It was a snowy morning, and Mr. Fanshawe was obliged to be away from
home all day on business, so I was quite at a loss how to entertain my
numerous guests successfully. Happily for me, however, the mystery
attendant on the removal of the daïs in the laundry charmed them all;
and I have to thank Catherine for contributing to their amusement much
better than I could possibly have done.

Not long after the disappearance of Catherine, Ella, and George, a
message was sent to us in the drawing-room requesting our presence in
the laundry; and on all flocking there with more or less eagerness, we
found a fire burning on the old-fashioned hearth and chairs arranged
round it.

It appeared that with the help of Sam, our factotum, who was a kind of
Jack-of-all-trades, George had succeeded in loosening the planks of the
daïs, which, although strongly put together, were rotten and worm-eaten,
and that we were now summoned to be witnesses of its removal. We found
Catherine trembling with a strange eagerness, and her face quite pale
with excitement. This was shared by Ella and George; and, judging by the
important expression on their faces, I fancied they were let further
into the secret than any one else.

We all sat down in the chairs placed for our accommodation, and the wild
whistling of the wind in the huge chimney, together with the sheets of
snow which darkened the window-panes, enhanced the mystery of the whole
affair, while George and his coadjutor worked lustily on.

At length, after a great deal of panting and puffing, George was heard
to exclaim, “Now for the tug of war!” and there followed a minute’s
pause, and then a crash as the loosened planks were torn asunder, and a
cloud of dust enveloped both workmen and spectators.

Involuntarily we all started forward, and a moment of the direst
confusion ensued, during which the boys of our party greatly endangered
their limbs among the broken boards.

“By George!” exclaimed my son at last—in his eagerness invoking his
patron saint—as he stumbled upon something, “there is something here
and no mistake;” and, hastily clearing away the rubbish and clinging
cobwebs, he disclosed to view what proved on examination to be an
immense oaken chest, about four feet in height, heavily carved, and
ornamented with brass mouldings corroded with age and damp.

Here was a piece of excitement indeed; never in my most imaginative
moments had I thought of anything so mysterious as this. The most
sceptical among us grew interested.

“Oh, do open it!” cried Ella, when the first exclamations of surprise
were over.

“Easier to say than to do, miss,” replied Sam, exerting his Herculean
strength in vain. With the aid of a hammer and the kitchen-poker,
however, he at last succeeded in forcing it open. We all pressed forward
eagerly to peer inside. There was something in it certainly, but we none
of us could determine what, until Sam, who was the boldest of us all,
thrust in his hand and brought forth—something which caused the bravest
to start with horror, while poor Catherine sank down, white and
trembling, upon the littered floor. It was a bone, to which adhered
fragments of decaying silk.

The consternation and conjectures which followed can be better imagined
than described. Seeing the effects of the discovery upon Catherine, and
indeed upon all, I bade Sam replace it in the chest, which George closed
again, to be left until Mr. Fanshawe came home and could investigate the
matter.

The rest of the day I passed in attending to Catherine, who seemed much
shocked and overcome by what she had seen, and in trying to divert my
guests’ thoughts from the subject, and dispel the gloom which had
gathered over all. In this I succeeded only partially, and never did I
welcome my husband’s return more gladly than on that evening.

On his arrival I would not let him be disturbed by the relation of what
had happened until he had finished his dinner, and it was not till we
were gathered as usual round the fire that George related the whole
story to him.

When he ended the two gentlemen left the room together, in order that
Mr. Fanshawe might verify by his own eyes what he would hardly believe.

They were some time gone, and on their return I noticed that my husband
held in his hand an old piece of soiled parchment, with mouldy seals
affixed to it.

“We certainly have discovered much more than I thought for, Catherine,”
said he, “and possibly more than you thought for either.” Here he paused
for her to reply, but she did not.

“The bones are most probably those of some animal,” added he—I fancied
I could detect a certain anxiety in his tone that belied what he said;
“but in order to quell the active imaginations which I can see are
running away with some of you”—here he looked round with a smile—“I
will send for Dr. Driscoll to come and examine them to-morrow. I have
also found a piece of parchment in the chest,” he added; “but I have not
yet looked at its contents.”

“Before you do that, Mr. Fanshawe, and before you send for the surgeon,”
interrupted Catherine suddenly in a clear voice, “I think I can tell you
all about the bones found in the chest, and how I guessed them to be
there.”

“I should certainly be very glad to be told,” my husband admitted, much
surprised; “though how you can possibly know, I cannot surmise.”

“Listen, and I will tell you,” answered Catherine; and feeling very glad
that our curiosity was at last to be gratified, we all “pricked up our
ears,” as George would say, to listen.

I here transcribe Catherine’s story word for word, as my son George
subsequently wrote it down from her dictation.

       *       *       *       *       *

“You all remember,” she began, “my alarming you on New Year’s eve at
midnight, and that I told you I was disturbed by a dreadful dream.

“I said so because I thought you would make fun of me if I called it a
vision; and yet it was much more like a vision, for I seemed to see it
waking, and it was more vivid and consecutive than any dream I ever had.

“Before I try to describe it, I want you all to understand that I seemed
intuitively to comprehend what I saw, and to recognize all the figures
which appeared before me, and their relation to one another, though I am
sure I never beheld them before in my life.

“When Ella left me that night, I lay propped up with pillows, staring
idly at the strange shadows thrown by the hidden lamp across the laundry
ceiling and over the floor. As I looked it seemed to me that a change
came over the room—a most unaccountable change.

“Instead of the blocked-up window, the rusty mangle, and the daïs at the
farther end, I saw the window clear and distinct from top to bottom, and
in front of a deep window-seat at its base stood an oaken chest, exactly
corresponding to the one discovered this morning. The room seemed
brilliantly lighted, and everything was clearly and distinctly visible;
and not only was it changed, but also peopled.

“Many figures passed up and down; brocaded silks swept the floor, and
old-world forms of men in strange costumes bowed in courtly style to the
dames by their side. Among all these figures I noticed only one couple
particularly, and I knew them to be bride and bridegroom. The man was
tall and broad, with dark hair and eyes, and a sensual and cruel face.
He seemed, however, to be quite enslaved by the woman by his side, whom
I hardly even now like to think of, there was something to me so
repellent in her presence.

“She was tall and of middle age, and would have been handsome were it
not for a sinister expression in her dark flashing eyes, which was
enhanced by the black eyebrows which met over them.

“She reminded me irresistibly of the effigy on the stone monument in
Craymoor church, which Ella and I named “the wicked woman.”

“As I gazed on the strange scene before me I presently became aware of
three other figures which I had not noticed before. They were standing
in a small arched doorway in one corner of the room (where the servants’
bedroom now is) furtively watching the gay company. One was a pale,
careworn woman, apparently of about five-and-thirty, still beautiful,
though haggard and mournful-looking, with blue eyes and a fair
complexion.

“Her hands rested on the shoulders of two children, one a boy and the
other a girl, of about ten and eleven years of age respectively. They
much resembled their mother, and, like her, they were meanly dressed,
though no poverty of attire could hide the nobility of their aspect. I
noticed that the mother’s eyes rested chiefly on the face of the tall
stately man before mentioned, who seemed unaware or careless of her
presence; and instinctively I knew him to be the father of her children
and the blighter of her life.

“As I looked and beheld all this, the lights vanished, the company
disappeared, and the room became dark and deserted. No, not quite
deserted, for I presently distinguished, seated on the window-seat by
the old oaken chest, the fair woman and her children again.

“The moonlight now streamed through the window upon the woman’s face,
making it appear more ghastly and haggard than before. In her long thin
fingers she was holding up to the light a necklace of large pearls,
curiously interwoven in a diamond pattern, and on this the children’s
eyes were fixed.

“She then hung it on the girl’s fair neck, who hid it in her bosom. Both
children then twined their arms round their mother and kissed her
repeatedly, while her head sank lower and lower, and the paleness of
death overspread her features.

“This scene faded away as the other had done, and I saw the fair woman
no more.

“Then it seemed to me that many figures passed and repassed before the
window—the wicked woman (as I shall call her to distinguish her),
accompanied by a boy the image of herself, whom I knew to be her son. He
was apparently older than the fair-haired children, who also passed to
and fro, attired as servants, and generally employed in some menial
work.

“At last the wicked woman’s son, with haughty gestures, ordered the
other boy to pick up something that lay on the ground, and when he
refused, he raised his cane as though to strike him. Before he could do
so, however, the boy flew at him, and they engaged in a fierce struggle.

“In the midst of this the wicked woman, whom I had learned to dread,
came forward and separated them; after which she pointed imperiously to
the door, and signed to the younger boy to go out.

“He obeyed her mandate, but first threw his arms round his sister in a
last embrace, and she detached the pearl necklace from off her neck and
gave it to him. He then went out, waving a last adieu to her, and I saw
him no more.

“Confused images seemed to crowd before me after this, and I remember
nothing clearly until I beheld an infirm and tottering figure led away
through the arched doorway, in whom I recognized the tall and stately
man I had first seen in company with the wicked woman, but who was now
an old man, apparently being supported to his bed to die. As he passed
out he laid one trembling hand upon the head of the fair girl, now a
blooming woman, and a softer shade came over his face. This the wicked
woman noted, and she marked her disapproval by a vindictive frown.

“She also was older-looking, but age had in no degree softened her
features; on the contrary, they appeared to me to wear a harsher
expression than before.

“In the next scene which came before me, the wicked woman’s son was
evidently making love to the girl. Both were standing by the old
window-seat, but her face was resolutely turned away from him, and when
she at last looked at him it was with an expression of uncontrollable
horror and dislike.

“Again this scene changed as those before it had done; the young man was
gone, and only the light of a grated lantern illumined the room, or
rather made darkness visible. The wicked woman was the only occupant of
the laundry; she was kneeling by the oaken chest, trying to raise the
heavy lid. In her left hand she held a piece of parchment, with large
red seals pendent from it. I knew it to be the old man’s will which she
was hiding, thus defrauding the just claimants of their rights.

“Her hands trembled, and her whole appearance denoted guilty
trepidation. At length, however, the lid was raised, but just as she was
about to replace the parchment in the chest, a figure glided silently
from a dark corner of the window-seat and confronted her. It was the
fair girl, pale, resolute, and extending her hand to claim the will.

“After the first guilty start, which caused her to drop the parchment
into the chest, the wicked woman hurriedly tried to close the lid. Her
efforts were frustrated, however, by the girl, who leaned with all her
force upon it, keeping it back, and still held out her hand as before.

“There followed a pause, which seemed to me very long, but which could
in reality have only lasted a minute.

“It was broken by the wicked woman, who, hastily casting a glance behind
her into the gloom of the darkened chamber, then seized the girl by the
arm and dragged her with all her force into the chest. It was but the
work of a moment, for the woman was much the more powerful of the two,
and the poor victim was too much taken by surprise to make much
resistance. I saw one despairing look in her face as her murderess
flashed the lantern before it with a hideous gleam of triumph.

“Then the lid was pressed down upon her, and I saw no more, only I felt
an unutterable terror, and tried in vain to scream.

“This was not all the vision, however, for before I had mastered my
terror the scene was superseded by another.

“This time it was twilight, and the wicked woman and her son were
together. The son seemed to be talking eagerly, and grew more and more
excited, while the mother stood still and erect, with a malicious smile
upon her lips. Presently she moved toward the chest with a fell purpose
in her eyes, unlocked it with a key which hung from her girdle, raised
the lid and disclosed the contents.

“I understood it all now: the son was asking for the girl whom he had
loved, and whom on his return home he missed, and the wicked woman,
enraged at hearing for the first time that he had loved her, was
determined to have her revenge.

“He should see her again.

“On beholding the dread contents of the chest, the man staggered back
horrified; then, doubtless comprehending the case, he turned suddenly
upon the murderess, and threw his arm around her, and there ensued a
struggle terrible to witness.

“Her proud triumphant glance of malice was now succeeded by one of
abject fear, and, as his strength began to gain the mastery, of despair.

“His iron frame heaved for a moment with the violence of his efforts,
the next he had forced her down into the chest upon the mouldering body
of her victim. I saw her eyes light up with the terror of death for one
second, and then her screams were stifled forever beneath the massive
lid.

“The horror of this scene was too much for me; I found voice to scream
at last, and I suppose it was my cry which alarmed you all.”

When Catherine ceased speaking there was a profound silence for a
minute, which Mr. Fanshawe was the first to break as he said with a
peculiar intonation in his voice, “It is very strange, very
unaccountable,” reëchoing all our thoughts.

Now it happened that Mr. Fleet, our family lawyer, was among our guests
that Christmas-time, and since the discovery of the chest and bones had
taken a great interest in the whole affair. He now questioned and
cross-questioned Catherine, and seemed quite satisfied with the result.

“This would have made a fine case,” said he, “if only it had been a
question of the right of succession, for any lawyer to make out; but
unfortunately the events are too long past to have any bearing upon the
present.” (There Mr. Fleet was wrong, though we none of us knew it at
the time.)

We now all launched forth into conjectures and opinions, during which
Catherine lay still and weary upon the sofa. I saw this, and thought it
quite time to put an end to the day’s adventures by suggesting a
retirement for the night, and we were soon all dispersed to dream of the
mysterious vision and discovery.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think we were none of us sorry when morning dawned without any further
tragedy (by _us_, I mean the female part of the establishment).

When I came down to breakfast I found Mr. Fleet very active on the
subject of the night before.

“A surgeon ought to be immediately sent for to pronounce an opinion on
the contents of the chest,” he said; and Dr. Driscoll presently came,
and after examining the bones minutely, decided that they were, as we
thought, those of two females, who might have been from one to two
hundred years dead.

Mr. Fleet next offered to decipher the will, for such he imagined the
parchment to be, and he and Mr. Fanshawe were closeted together for some
time.

When they at last appeared again, they looked much interested and
excited, and led me away to inform me of the result of their
examination.

They told me that the document had proved to be a will, but that there
was a circumstance connected with it which greatly added to the mystery
of the whole business. This was the mention of the name of L’Estrange. I
was, of course, as much surprised as they, and heard the will read with
great interest.

I cannot remember the technical terms in which it was expressed. Mr.
Fleet read me the translation he had made, for the original was in old
English; but it was to this effect:

It purported to be the will of Reginald, Viscount St. Aubyn, in which he
bequeathed all his inheritance to his lawful son Francis St.
Aubyn—commonly known by the name of Francis l’Estrange—and to his
heirs forever. It was signed Reginald, Viscount St. Aubyn, and the
witnesses were John Murray and Phœbe Brett, who in the old copy had
each affixed their mark.

Mr. Fleet affirmed that it was a perfectly legal document, but this was
not all it contained.

There was an appendix which our lawyer translated as follows:

“In order to avoid all disputes and doubts which might otherwise arise,
I do hereby declare that my lawful wife was Editha, youngest daughter of
Francis l’Estrange, Baronet, and that the register of our marriage may
be seen in the church of St. Andrew, Haslet. By this marriage we had two
children, a son Francis, and a daughter Catherine, commonly called
Francis and Catherine l’Estrange. And I hereby declare that Agatha
Thornhaugh was not legally married to me as she imagined, my lawful wife
being alive at the time; neither do I leave to her son by her first
husband, Ralph Thornhaugh, any part or share in my inheritance.”

Both the will and the writing at the foot of it were dated the 14th of
May, 1668.

This accumulation of mysteries caused me for a time to feel quite
bewildered and unable to think, but Mr. Fleet was in his element.

“Here is a case worth entering into,” said he, and he further went on to
state that he had no doubt that the L’Estranges mentioned in the will
were our Catherine’s ancestors, the Christian names being similar
rendering it more than probable. She was most likely a direct descendant
of Francis l’Estrange, the heir mentioned in the will, who was no doubt
also the fair-haired boy Catherine had seen in her vision.

The bones were those of his sister, the murdered Catherine l’Estrange,
and of her murderess Agatha Thornhaugh, herself immured by her own son;
but the matter ought not to rest on mere surmise, and the first place to
go to for corroborating evidence was Craymoor church.

The rapidity with which Mr. Fleet came to his conclusions increased my
bewilderment, and I was at a loss to know what evidence he expected to
gain from Craymoor church. He reminded me, however, of Catherine’s
statement that “the wicked woman” of her vision resembled the effigy on
the monument there.

Thither, then, the lawyer repaired, accompanied by Mr. Fanshawe and
George. It was thought best to keep the sequel of the story from
Catherine and the others until it was explained more fully, as Mr. Fleet
boldly affirmed it should be. I awaited anxiously the result of their
researches, and they exceeded I think even our good investigator’s
hopes.

Not only had they deciphered the inscription round the old monument, but
with leave from the clergyman and the assistance of the sexton they had
disinterred the coffin and found it to be filled with stones.

I am aware that this was rather an illegal proceeding, but as Mr. Fleet
was only acting _en amateur_ and not professionally, he did not stick at
trifles.

The inscription was in Latin, and stated that the tomb was erected in
memory of Agatha, wife of Reginald, Viscount St. Aubyn, who was buried
beneath, and who died on the 31st day of December, 1649—exactly two
hundred years before the day on which Catherine had seen the vision.

I could not help thinking it shocking that the villagers had for two
centuries been worshipping in the presence of a perpetual lie, but Mr.
Fleet thought only of the grand corroboration of his “case.” He applied
to Mr. Fanshawe to take the next step, namely, to write to Catherine’s
aunt and only living relative, to tell her the whole story, and beg
her to assist in elucidating matters by giving all the information she
could respecting the L’Estrange family.

This was done, and we anxiously awaited the answer. Meantime, all my
guests were clamorous to hear the contents of the will, and I had to
appease them as best I could, by promising that they should know all
soon.

In a few days, old Miss l’Estrange’s answer came. She said her brother,
father, and grandfather had all served in India, and that she believed
her great-grandfather, who was a Francis l’Estrange, to have passed most
of his life abroad, there having been a cloud over his early youth. What
this was, however, she could not say. She affirmed that the L’Estranges
had in old times resided in ——shire; and she further stated that her
father’s family had consisted of herself and her brother, whose only
child Catherine was.

This was certainly not much information, but it was enough for our
purpose. We no longer remained in doubt as to the truth of Mr. Fleet’s
version of the story, and when he himself told it to all our
family-party one evening, every one agreed that he had certainly
succeeded in making out a very clever case.

As for Catherine, on being told that the figures she had beheld in the
vision were thought to be those of her ancestors, she was not so much
surprised as I expected, but said that she had had a presentiment all
along that the tragedies she had witnessed were in some way connected
with her own family.

I must not forget to say that on ascertaining that the parish church of
Haslet was still standing, we searched the register, and another link of
evidence was made clear by the finding of the looked-for entry.

There remains little more to be told. The charge of the old will was
committed to Mr. Fleet, and Catherine’s story has been carefully laid up
among the archives of our family. I say advisedly of _our_ family, for
the line of the L’Estranges, alias St. Aubyns, has been united to ours
by the marriage of Catherine to my son George, which took place in 1850.

I who write this am an old woman now, but I still live with my son and
daughter-in-law.

George has bought Craymoor Grange, thus rendering justice after the
lapse of two centuries, and restoring the inheritance of her fathers to
the rightful owner.

I have but one more incident to relate, and I have done. A short time
ago, old Miss l’Estrange died, bequeathing all her worldly possessions
to Catherine. Among these were some old family relics. Catherine was
looking over them as George unpacked them, and she presently came to a
miniature of a young and beautiful girl with fair hair and blue eyes,
and a wistful expression, and with it a necklace of pearls strung in a
diamond pattern. On seeing these she became suddenly grave, and handing
them to me, said: “They are the same; the young girl, and the pearl
necklace I told you of.” No more was said at the time, for the children
were present, and we had always avoided alluding to the horrible family
tragedy before them; but if we had still retained any doubt about its
truth—which we had not—this would have set it at rest.

If you were to visit Craymoor Grange now, you would find no old laundry.
The part of the house containing it has been pulled down, and children
play and chickens peckett on the ground where it once stood.

The oaken chest has also long since been destroyed.



HAUNTED.


Some few years ago one of those great national conventions which draw
together all ages and conditions of the sovereign people of America was
held in Charleston, South Carolina.

Colonel Demarion, one of the State Representatives, had attended that
great national convention; and, after an exciting week, was returning
home, having a long and difficult journey before him.

A pair of magnificent horses, attached to a light buggy, flew merrily
enough over a rough-country for a while; but toward evening stormy
weather reduced the roads to a dangerous condition, and compelled the
Colonel to relinquish his purpose of reaching home that night, and to
stop at a small wayside tavern, whose interior, illuminated by blazing
wood-fires, spread a glowing halo among the dripping trees as he
approached it, and gave promise of warmth and shelter at least.

Drawing up to this modest dwelling, Colonel Demarion saw through its
uncurtained windows that there was no lack of company within. Beneath
the trees, too, an entanglement of rustic vehicles, giving forth red
gleams from every dripping angle, told him that beasts as well as men
were cared for. At the open door appeared the form of a man, who, at the
sound of wheels, but not seeing in the outside darkness whom he
addressed, called out, “’Tain’t no earthly use a-stoppin’ here.”

Caring more for his chattels than for himself, the Colonel paid no
further regard to this address than to call loudly for the landlord.

At the tone of authority, the man in outline more civilly announced
himself to be the host; yet so far from inviting the traveller to
alight, insisted that the house was “as full as it could pack;” but that
there was a place a little farther down the road where the gentleman
would be certain to find excellent accommodation.

“What stables have you here?” demanded the traveller, giving no more
heed to this than to the former announcement; but bidding his servant to
alight, and preparing to do so himself.

“Stables!” repeated the baffled host, shading his eyes so as to
scrutinize the newcomer, “_stables_, Cap’n?”

“Yes, _stables_. I want you to take care of my horses; _I_ can take care
of myself. Some shelter for cattle you must have by the look of these
traps,” pointing to the wagons. “I don’t want my horses to be kept
standing out in this storm, you know.”

“No, Major. Why no, cert’n’y; Marion’s ain’t over a mile, and——”

“Conf—!” muttered the Colonel; “but it’s over the _river_, which I
don’t intend to ford to-night under any consideration.”

So saying, the Colonel leaped to the ground, directing his servant to
cover the horses and then get out his valise; while the host, thus
defeated, assumed the best grace he could to say that he would see what
could be done “for the _horses_.”

“I am a soldier, my man,” added the Colonel in a milder tone, as he
stamped his cold feet on the porch and shook off the rain from his
travelling-gear; “I am used to rough fare and a hard couch: all we want
is shelter. A corner of the floor will suffice for me and my rug; a
private room I can dispense with at such times as these.”

The landlord seemed no less relieved at this assurance than mollified by
the explanation of a traveller whom he now saw was of a very different
stamp from those who usually frequented the tavern. “For the matter of
_stables_, his were newly put up, and first-rate,” he said; and
“cert’n’y the Gen’ral was welcome to a seat by the fire while ’twas
a-storming so fierce.”

Colonel Demarion gave orders to his servant regarding the horses, while
the landlord, kicking at what seemed to be a bundle of sacking down
behind the door, shouted—“Jo! Ho, Jo! Wake up, you sleepy-headed
nigger! Be alive, boy, and show this gentleman’s horses to the stables.”
Upon a repetition of which charges a tall, gaunt, dusky figure lifted
itself from out of the dark corner, and grew taller and more gaunt as it
stretched itself into waking with a grin which was the most visible part
of it, by reason of two long rows of ivory gleaming in the red glare.
The hard words had fallen as harmless on Jo’s ear-drum as the kicks upon
his impassive frame. To do Jo’s master justice, the kicks were not
vicious kicks, and the rough language was but an intimation that
dispatch was needed. Very much of the spaniel’s nature had Jo; and as he
rolled along the passage to fetch a lantern, his mouth expanded into a
still broader grin at the honor of attending so stately a gentleman.
Quick, like his master, too, was Jo to discriminate between “real
gentlefolks” and the “white trash” whose rough-coated, rope-harnessed
mules were the general occupants of his stables.

“Splendid pair, sir,” said the now conciliating landlord. “Shove some o’
them mules out into the shed, Jo (which your horses ’ll feel more to hum
in my new stalls, Gen’ral).”

Again cautioning his man Plato not to leave them one moment, Colonel
Demarion turned to enter the house.

“You’ll find a rough crowd in here, sir,” said the host, as he paused on
the threshold; “but a good fire, anyhow. ’Tain’t many of these loafers
as understand this convention business—I _pre_sume, Gen’ral, you’ve
attended the convention—they all on ’em _thinks_ they does, tho’. Fact
most on ’em thinks they’d orter be on the committee theirselves. Good
many on ’em is from Char’ston to-day, but is in the same fix as yerself,
Gen’ral—can’t get across the river to-night.”

“I see, I see,” cried the statesman, with a gesture toward the
sitting-room. “Now what have you got in your larder, Mr. Landlord? and
send some supper out to my servant; he must make a bed of the
carriage-mats to-night.”

The landlord introduced his guest into a room filled chiefly with that
shiftless and noxious element of Southern society known as “mean
whites.” Pipes and drinks, and excited arguments, engaged these people
as they stood or sat in groups. The host addressed those who were
gathered round the log-fire, and they opened a way for the new-comer,
some few, with republican freedom, inviting him to be seated, the rest
giving one furtive glance, and then, in antipathy born of envy, skulking
away.

The furniture of this comfortless apartment consisted of sloppy,
much-jagged deal tables, dirty whittled benches, and a few uncouth
chairs. The walls were dirty with accumulated tobacco stains, and so
moist and filthy was the floor, that the sound only of scraping seats
and heavy footsteps told that it was of boards and not bare earth.

Seated with his back toward the majority of the crowd, and shielded by
his newspaper, Colonel Demarion sat awhile unobserved; but was presently
recognized by a man from his own immediate neighborhood, when the
information was quickly whispered about that no less a person than their
distinguished Congressman was among them.

This piece of news speedily found its way to the ears of the landlord,
to whom Colonel Demarion was known by name only, and forthwith he
reappeared to overwhelm the representative of his State with apologies
for the uncourteous reception which had been given him, and to express
his now very sincere regrets that the house offered no suitable
accommodation for the gentleman. Satisfied as to the safety of his
chattels, the Colonel generously dismissed the idea of having anything
either to resent or to forgive; and assured the worthy host that he
would accept of no exclusive indulgences.

In spite of which the landlord bustled about to bring in a separate
table, on which he spread a clean coarse cloth, and a savory supper of
broiled ham, hot corncakes, and coffee; every few minutes stopping to
renew his apologies, and even appearing to grow confidentially
communicative regarding his domestic economies; until the hungry
traveller cut him short with “Don’t say another word about it, my
friend; you have not a spare sleeping-room, and that is enough. Find me
a corner—a clean corner”—looking round upon the most unclean corners
of that room—“perhaps up-stairs somewhere, and——”

“Ah! _upsta’rs_, Gen’ral. Now, that’s jest what I had in my mind to ax
you. Fact is ther’ _is_ a spar’ room upsta’rs, as comfortable a room as
the best of folks can wish; but——”

“But it’s crammed with sleeping folks, so there’s an end of it,” cried
the senator, thoroughly bored.

“No, sir, ain’t no person in it; and ther’ ain’t no person likely to be
in it ’cept ’tis _yerself_, Colonel Demarion. Leastways——”

After a good deal of hesitation and embarrassment, the host, in
mysterious whispers, imparted the startling fact that this most
desirable sleeping room was _haunted_; that the injury he had sustained
in consequence had compelled him to fasten it up altogether; that he had
come to be very suspicious of admitting strangers, and had limited his
custom of late to what the bar could supply, keeping the matter hushed
up in the hope that it might be the sooner forgotten by the neighbors;
but that in the case of Colonel Demarion he had now made bold to mention
it; “as I can’t but think, sir,” he urged, “you’d find it prefer’ble to
sleepin’ on the floor or sittin’ up all night along ov these loafers.
Fer if ’tis any deceivin’ trick got up in the house, maybe they won’t
try it on, sir, to a gentleman of your reputation.”

Colonel Demarion became interested in the landlord’s confidences, but
could only gather in further explanation that for some time past all
travellers who had occupied that room had “made off in the middle of the
night, never showin’ their faces at the inn again;” that on endeavoring
to arrest one or more in their nocturnal flight, they—all more or less
terrified—had insisted on escaping without a moment’s delay, assigning
no other reason than that they had seen a ghost. “Not that folks seem to
get much harm by it, Colonel—not by the way they makes off without
paying a cent of money!”

Great indeed was the satisfaction evinced by the victim of unpaid bills
on the Colonel’s declaring that the haunted chamber was the very room
for him. “If to be turned out of my bed at midnight is all I have to
fear, we will see who comes off master in my case. So, Mr. Landlord, let
the chamber be got ready directly, and have a good fire built there at
once.”

The exultant host hurried away to confide the great news to Jo, and with
him to make the necessary preparations. “Come what will, Jo, Colonel
Demarion ain’t the man to make off without paying down good money for
his accommodations.”

In reasonable time, Colonel Demarion was beckoned out of the public
room, and conducted up-stairs by the landlord, who, after receiving a
cheerful “good-night,” paused on the landing to hear his guest bolt and
bar the door within, and then push a piece of furniture against it.
“Ah,” murmured the host, as a sort of misgiving came over him, “if a
apparishum has a mind to come thar, ’tain’t all the bolts and bars in
South Carolina as ’ll kip’en away.”

But the Colonel’s precaution of securing his door, as also that of
placing his revolvers in readiness, had not the slightest reference to
the reputed ghost. Spiritual disturbances of such kind he feared not.
Spirits _tangible_ were already producing ominous demonstrations in the
rooms below, nor was it possible to conjecture what troubles these might
evolve. Glad enough to escape from the noisy company, he took a survey
of his evil-reputed chamber. The only light was that of the roaring,
crackling, blazing wood-fire, and no other was needed. And what
storm-benighted traveller, when fierce winds and rains are lashing
around his lodging, can withstand the cheering influences of a glorious
log-fire? especially if, as in that wooden tenement, that fire be of
abundant pine-knots. It rivals the glare of gas and the glow of a
furnace; it charms away the mustiness and fustiness of years, and causes
all that is dull and dead around to laugh and dance in its bright light.

By the illumination of just such a fire, Colonel Demarion observed that
the apartment offered nothing worthier of remark than that the furniture
was superior to anything that might be expected in a small wayside
tavern. In truth, the landlord had expended a considerable sum in
fitting up this, his finest chamber, and had therefore sufficient reason
to bemoan its unprofitableness.

Having satisfied himself as to his apparent security, the senator
thought no more of spirits palpable or impalpable; but to the far graver
issues of the convention his thoughts reverted. It was yet early; he
lighted a cigar, and in full appreciation of his retirement, took out
his note-book and plunged into the affairs of state. Now and then he was
recalled to the circumstances of his situation by the swaggering tread
of unsteady feet about the house, or when the boisterous shouts below
raged above the outside storm; but even then he only glanced up from his
papers to congratulate himself upon his agreeable seclusion.

Thus he sat for above an hour, then he heaped fresh logs upon the
hearth, looked again to his revolvers, and retired to rest.

The house-clock was striking twelve as the Colonel awoke. He awoke
suddenly from a sound sleep, flashing, as it were, into full
consciousness, his mind and memory clear, all his faculties invigorated,
his ideas undisturbed, but with a perfect conviction that he was not
alone.

He lifted his head. A man was standing a few feet from the bed, and
between it and the fire, which was still burning, and burning brightly
enough to display every object in the room, and to define the outline of
the intruder clearly. His dress also and his features were plainly
distinguishable: the dress was a travelling-costume, in fashion somewhat
out of date; the features wore a mournful and distressed expression—the
eyes were fixed upon the Colonel. The right arm hung down, and the hand,
partially concealed, might, for aught the Colonel knew, be grasping one
of his own revolvers; the left arm was folded against the waist. The man
seemed about to advance still closer to the bed, and returned the
occupant’s gaze with a fixed stare.

“Stand, or I’ll fire!” cried the Colonel, taking in all this at a
glance, and starting up in his bed, revolver in hand.

The man remained still.

“What is your business here?” demanded the statesman, thinking he was
addressing one of the roughs from below.

The man was silent.

“Leave this room, if you value your life,” shouted the indignant
soldier, pointing his revolver.

The man was motionless.

“RETIRE! or by heaven I’ll send a bullet through you!”

But the man moved not an inch.

The Colonel fired. The bullet lodged in the breast of the stranger, but
he started not. The soldier leaped to the floor and fired again. The
shot entered the heart, pierced the body, and lodged in the wall beyond;
and the Colonel beheld the hole where the bullet had entered, and the
firelight glimmering through it. And yet the intruder stirred not.
Astounded, the Colonel dropped his revolver, and stood face to face
before the unmoved man.

“Colonel Demarion,” spake the deep solemn voice of the perforated
stranger, “in vain you shoot me—I am dead already.”

The soldier, with all his bravery, gasped, spellbound. The firelight
gleamed through the hole in the body, and the eyes of the shooter were
riveted there.

“Fear nothing,” spake the mournful presence; “I seek but to divulge my
wrongs. Until my death shall be avenged my unquiet spirit lingers here.
Listen.”

Speechless, motionless was the statesman; and the mournful apparition
thus slowly and distinctly continued:

“Four years ago I travelled with one I trusted. We lodged here. That
night my comrade murdered me. He plunged a dagger into my heart while I
slept. He covered the wound with a plaster. He feigned to mourn my
death. He told the people here I had died of heart complaint; that I had
long been ailing. I had gold and treasures. With my treasure secreted
beneath his garments he paraded mock grief at my grave. Then he
departed. In distant parts he sought to forget his crime; but his stolen
gold brought him only the curse of an evil conscience. Rest and peace
are not for him. He now prepares to leave his native land forever. Under
an assumed name that man is this night in Charleston. In a few hours he
will sail for Europe. Colonel Demarion, you must prevent it. Justice and
humanity demand that a murderer roam not at large, nor squander more of
the wealth that is by right my children’s.”

The spirit paused. To the extraordinary revelation the Colonel had
listened in rapt astonishment. He gazed at the presence, at the
firelight glimmering through it—through the very place where a human
heart would be—and he felt that he was indeed in the presence of a
supernatural being. He thought of the landlord’s story; but while
earnestly desiring to sift the truth of the mystery, words refused to
come to his aid.

“Do you hesitate?” said the mournful spirit. “Will _you_ also flee, when
my orphan children cry for retribution?” Seeming to anticipate the will
of the Colonel, “I await your promise, senator,” he said. “There is no
time to lose.”

With a mighty effort, the South Carolinian said, “I promise. What would
you have me do?”

In the same terse, solemn manner, the ghostly visitor gave the real and
assumed names of the murderer, described his person and dress at the
present time, described a certain curious ring he was then wearing,
together with other distinguishing characteristics: all being carefully
noted down by Colonel Demarion, who, by degrees, recovered his
self-possession, and pledged himself to use every endeavor to bring the
murderer to justice.

Then, with a portentous wave of the hand, “It is well,” said the
apparition. “Not until the spirit of my murderer shall be separated from
the mortal clay can _my_ spirit rest in peace.” And vanished.

Half-past six in the morning was the appointed time for the steamer to
leave Charleston; and the Colonel lost not a moment in preparing to
depart. As he hurried down the stairs he encountered the landlord,
who—his eyes rolling in terror—made an attempt to speak. Unheeding,
except to demand his carriage, the Colonel pushed past him, and effected
a quick escape toward the back premises, shouting lustily for “Jo” and
“Plato,” and for his carriage to be got ready immediately. A few minutes
more, and the bewildered host was recalled to the terrible truth by the
noise of the carriage dashing through the yard and away down the road;
and it was some miles nearer Charleston before the unfortunate man
ceased to peer after it in the darkness—as if by so doing he could
recover damages—and bemoan to Jo the utter ruin of his house and
hopes.

Thirty miles of hard driving had to be accomplished in little more than
five hours. No great achievement under favorable circumstances; but the
horses were only half refreshed from their yesterday’s journey, and
though the storm was over, the roads were in a worse condition than
ever.

Colonel Demarion resolved to be true to his promise; and fired by a
curiosity to investigate the extraordinary communication which had been
revealed to him, urged on his horses, and reached the wharf at
Charleston just as the steamer was being loosed from her moorings.

He hailed her. “Stop her! Business with the captain! STOP HER!”

Her machinery was already in motion; her iron lungs were puffing forth
dense clouds of smoke and steam; and as the Colonel shouted—the crowd
around, from sheer delight in shouting, echoing his “Stop her! stop
her!”—the voices on land were confounded with the voices of the
sailors, the rattling of chains, and the haulings of ropes.

Among the passengers standing to wave farewells to their friends on the
wharf were some who recognised Colonel Demarion, and drew the captain’s
attention toward him; and as he continued vehemently to gesticulate,
that officer, from his post of observation, demanded the nature of the
business which should require the ship’s detention. Already the steamer
was clear of the wharf. In another minute she might be beyond reach of
the voice; therefore, failing by gestures and entreaties to convince the
captain of the importance of his errand, Colonel Demarion, in
desperation, cried at the top of his voice, “A murderer on board! For
God’s sake, STOP!” He wished to have made this startling declaration in
private, but not a moment was to be lost; and the excitement around him
was intense.

In the midst of the confusion another cry of “Man overboard!” might have
been heard in a distant part of the ship, had not the attention of the
crowd been fastened on the Colonel. Such a cry was, however, uttered,
offering a still more urgent motive for stopping; and the steamer being
again made fast, Colonel Demarion was received on board.

“Let not a soul leave the vessel!” was his first and prompt suggestion;
and the order being issued he drew the captain aside, and concisely
explained his grave commission. The captain thereupon conducted him to
his private room, and summoned the steward, before whom the details were
given, and the description of the murderer was read over. The steward,
after considering attentively, seemed inclined to associate the
description with that of a passenger whose remarkably dejected
appearance had already attracted his observation. In such a grave
business it was, however, necessary to proceed with the utmost caution,
and the “passenger-book” was produced. Upon reference to its pages, the
three gentlemen were totally dismayed by the discovery that the name of
this same dejected individual was that under which, according to the
apparition, the murderer had engaged his passage.

“I am here to charge that man with murder,” said Colonel Demarion. “He
must be arrested.”

Horrified as the captain was at this astounding declaration, yet, on
account of the singular and unusual mode by which the Colonel had become
possessed of the facts, and the impossibility of proving the charge, he
hesitated in consenting to the arrest of a passenger. The steward
proposed that they should repair to the saloons and deck, and while
conversing with one or another of the passengers, mention—as it were
casually—in the hearing of the suspected party his own proper name, and
observe the effect produced on him. To this they agreed, and without
loss of time joined the passengers, assigning some feasible cause for a
short delay of the ship.

The saloon was nearly empty, and while the steward went below, the other
two repaired to the deck, where they observed a crowd gathered seaward,
apparently watching something over the ship’s side.

During the few minutes which had detained the captain in this
necessarily hurried business, a boat had been lowered, and some sailors
had put off in her to rescue the person who was supposed to have fallen
overboard; and it was only now, on joining the crowd, that the captain
learned the particulars of the accident. “Who was it?” “What was he
like?” they exclaimed simultaneously. That a man had fallen overboard
was all that could be ascertained. Some one had seen him run across the
deck, looking wildly about him. A splash in the water had soon afterward
attracted attention to the spot, and a body had since been seen
struggling on the surface. The waves were rough after the storm, and
thick with seaweed, and the sailors had as yet missed the body. The two
gentlemen took their post among the watchers, and kept their eyes
intently upon the waves, and upon the sailors battling against them. Ere
long they see the body rise again to the surface. Floated on a powerful
wave, they can for the few moments breathlessly scrutinize it. The color
of the dress is observed. A face of agony upturned displays a peculiar
contour of forehead; the hair, the beard; and now he struggles—an arm
is thrown up, and a remarkable ring catches the Colonel’s eye. “Great
heavens! The whole description tallies!” The sailors pull hard for the
spot, the next stroke and they will rescue——

A monster shark is quicker than they. The sea is tinged with blood. The
man is no more!

Shocked and silent, Colonel Demarion and the captain quitted the deck
and resummoned the steward, who had, but without success, visited the
berths and various parts of the ship for the individual in question.
Every hole and corner was now, by the captain’s order carefully
searched, but in vain; and as no further information concerning the
missing party could be obtained, and the steward persisted in his
statement regarding his general appearance, they proceeded to examine
his effects. In these he was identified beyond a doubt. Papers and
relics proved not only his guilt but his remorse; remorse which, as the
apparition had said, permitted him no peace in his wanderings.

Those startling words, “A murderer on board!” had doubtless struck fresh
terror to his heart and, unable to face the accusation, he had thus
terminated his wretched existence.

Colonel Demarion revisited the little tavern, and on several occasions
occupied the haunted chamber; but never again had he the honor of
receiving a midnight commission from a ghostly visitor, and never again
had the landlord to bemoan the flight of a non-paying customer.



PICHON & SONS, OF THE CROIX ROUSSE.


Giraudier, _pharmacien, première classe_, is the legend, recorded in
huge, ill-proportioned letters, which directs the attention of the
stranger to the most prosperous-looking shop in the grand _place_ of La
Croix Rousse, a well-known suburb of the beautiful city of Lyons, which
has its share of the shabby gentility and poor pretence common to the
suburban commerce of great towns.

Giraudier is not only _pharmacien_ but _propriétaire_, though not by
inheritance; his possession of one of the prettiest and most prolific of
the small vineyards in the beautiful suburb, and a charming inconvenient
house, with low ceilings, liliputian bedrooms, and a profusion of
_persiennes_, _jalousies_, and _contrevents_, comes by purchase. This
enviable little _terre_ was sold by the Nation, when that terrible
abstraction transacted the public business of France; and it was bought
very cheaply by the strong-minded father of the Giraudier of the
present, who was not disturbed by the evil reputation which the place
had gained, at a time the peasants of France, having been bullied into a
renunciation of religion, eagerly cherished superstition. The Giraudier
of the present cherishes the particular superstition in question
affectionately; it reminds him of an uncommonly good bargain made in his
favor, which is always a pleasant association of ideas, especially to a
Frenchman, still more especially to a Lyonnais; and it attracts
strangers to his _pharmacie_, and leads to transactions in _Grand
Chartreuse_ and _Créme de Roses_, ensuing naturally on the narration of
the history of Pichon & Sons. Giraudier is not of aristocratic
principles and sympathies; on the contrary, he has decided republican
leanings, and considers _Le Progrès_ a masterpiece of journalistic
literature; but, as he says simply and strongly, “it is not because a
man is a marquis that one is not to keep faith with him; a bad action is
not good because it harms a good-for-nothing of a noble; the more when
that good-for-nothing is no longer a noble, but _pour rire_.” At the
easy price of acquiescence in these sentiments, the stranger hears one
of the most authentic, best-remembered, most popular of the many
traditions of the bad old times “before General Bonaparte,” as
Giraudier, who has no sympathy with any later designation of _le grand
homme_, calls the Emperor, whose statue one can perceive—a speck in the
distance—from the threshold of the _pharmacie_.

The Marquis de Sénanges, in the days of the triumph of the great
Revolution, was fortunate enough to be out of France, and wise enough to
remain away from that country, though he persisted, long after the old
_régime_ was as dead as the Ptolemies, in believing it merely suspended,
and the Revolution a lamentable accident of vulgar complexion, but
happily temporary duration. The Marquis de Sénanges, who affected the
_style régence_, and was the politest of infidels and the most refined
of voluptuaries, got on indifferently in inappreciative foreign parts;
but the members of his family—his brother and sisters, two of whom were
guillotined, while the third escaped to Savoy and found refuge there in
a convent of her order—got on exceedingly ill in France. If the
_ci-devant_ Marquis had had plenty of money to expend in such feeble
imitations of his accustomed pleasures as were to be had out of Paris,
he would not have been much affected by the fate of his relatives. But
money became exceedingly scarce; the Marquis had actually beheld many of
his peers reduced to the necessity of earning the despicable but
indispensable article after many ludicrous fashions. And the duration of
this absurd upsetting of law, order, privilege, and property began to
assume unexpected and very unpleasant proportions.

The Château de Sénanges, with its surrounding lands, was confiscated to
the Nation, during the third year of the “emigration” of the Marquis de
Sénanges; and the greater part of the estate was purchased by a thrifty,
industrious, and rich _avocat_, named Prosper Alix, a widower with an
only daughter. Prosper Alix enjoyed the esteem of the entire
neighborhood. First, he was rich; secondly, he was of a taciturn
disposition, and of a neutral tint in politics. He had done well under
the old _régime_ and, he was doing well under the new—thank God, or the
Supreme Being, or the First Cause, or the goddess Reason herself, for
all;—he would have invoked Dagon, Moloch, or Kali, quite as readily as
the Saints and the Madonna, who has gone so utterly out of fashion of
late. Nobody was afraid to speak out before Prosper Alix; he was not a
spy; and though a cold-hearted man, except in the instance of his only
daughter, he never harmed anybody.

Very likely it was because he was the last person in the vicinity whom
anybody would have suspected of being applied to by the dispossessed
family, that the son of the Marquis’ brother, a young man of promise, of
courage, of intellect, and of morals of decidedly a higher calibre than
those actually and traditionally imputed to the family, sought the aid
of the new possessor of the Château de Sénanges, which had changed its
old title for that of the Maison Alix. The father of M. Paul de Sénanges
had perished in the September massacres; his mother had been guillotined
at Lyons; and he—who had been saved by the interposition of a young
comrade, whose father had, in the wonderful rotations of the wheel of
Fate, acquired authority in the place where he had once esteemed the
notice of the nephew of the Marquis a crowning honor for his son—had
passed through the common vicissitudes of that dreadful time, which
would take a volume for their recital in each individual instance.

Paul de Sénanges was a handsome young fellow, frank, high-spirited, and
of a brisk and happy temperament; which, however, modified by the many
misfortunes he had undergone, was not permanently changed. He had plenty
of capacity for enjoyment in him still; and as his position was very
isolated, and his mind had become enlightened on social and political
matters to an extent in which the men of his family would have
discovered utter degradation and the women diabolical possession, he
would not have been very unhappy if, under the new condition of things,
he could have lived in his native country and gained an honest
livelihood. But he could not do that, he was too thoroughly “suspect;”
the antecedents of his family were too powerful against him: his only
chance would have been to have gone into the popular camp as an extreme,
violent partisan, to have out-Heroded the revolutionary Herods; and that
Paul de Sénanges was too honest to do. So he was reduced to being
thankful that he had escaped with his life, and to watching for an
opportunity of leaving France and gaining some country where the reign
of liberty, fraternity, and equality was not quite so oppressive.

The long-looked-for opportunity at length offered itself, and Paul de
Sénanges was instructed by his uncle the Marquis that he must contrive
to reach Marseilles, whence he should be transported to Spain—in which
country the illustrious emigrant was then residing—by a certain named
date. His uncle’s communication arrived safely, and the plan proposed
seemed a secure and eligible one. Only in two respects was it calculated
to make Paul de Sénanges thoughtful. The first was, that his uncle
should take any interest in the matter of his safety; the second, what
could be the nature of a certain deposit which the Marquis’s letter
directed him to procure, if possible, from the Château de Sénanges. The
fact of this injunction explained, in some measure, the first of the two
difficulties. It was plain that whatever were the contents of this
packet which he was to seek for, according to the indications marked on
a ground-plan drawn by his uncle and enclosed in the letter, the Marquis
wanted them, and could not procure them except by the agency of his
nephew. That the Marquis should venture to direct Paul de Sénanges to
put himself in communication with Prosper Alix, would have been
surprising to any one acquainted only with the external and generally
understood features of the character of the new proprietor of the
Château de Sénanges. But a few people knew Prosper Alix thoroughly, and
the Marquis was one of the number; he was keen enough to know in theory
that, in the case of a man with only one weakness, that is likely to be
a very weak weakness indeed, and to apply the theory to the _avocat_.
The beautiful, pious, and aristocratic mother of Paul de Sénanges—a
lady to whose superiority the Marquis had rendered the distinguished
testimony of his dislike, not hesitating to avow that she was “much too
good for _his_ taste”—had been very fond of, and very kind to, the
motherless daughter of Prosper Alix, and he held her memory in reverence
which he accorded to nothing beside, human or divine, and taught his
daughter the matchless worth of the friend she had lost. The Marquis
knew this, and though he had little sympathy with the sentiment, he
believed he might use it in the present instance to his own profit, with
safety. The event proved that he was right. Private negotiations, with
the manner of whose transaction we are not concerned, passed between the
_avocat_ and the _ci-devant_ Marquis; and the young man, then leading a
life in which skulking had a large share, in the vicinity of Dijon, was
instructed to present himself at the Maison Alix, under the designation
of Henri Glaire, and in the character of an artist in house-decoration.
The circumstances of his life in childhood and boyhood had led to his
being almost safe from recognition as a man at Lyons; and, indeed, all
the people on the _ci-devant_ visiting-list of the château had been
pretty nearly killed off, in the noble and patriotic ardor of the
revolutionary times.

The ancient Château de Sénanges was proudly placed near the summit of
the “Holy Hill,” and had suffered terrible depredations when the church
at Fourvières was sacked, and the shrine desecrated with that ingenious
impiety which is characteristic of the French; but it still retained
somewhat of its former heavy grandeur. The château was much too large
for the needs, tastes, or ambition of its present owner, who was too
wise, if even he had been of an ostentatious disposition, not to have
sedulously resisted its promptings. The jealousy of the nation of
brothers was easily excited, and departure from simplicity and frugality
was apt to be commented upon by domiciliary visits, and the eager
imposition of fanciful fines. That portion of the vast building occupied
by Prosper Alix and the _citoyenne_ Berthe, his daughter, presented an
appearance of well-to-do comfort and modest ease, which contrasted with
the grandiose proportions and the elaborate decorations of the wide
corridors, huge flat staircases, and lofty panelled apartments. The
_avocat_ and his daughter lived quietly in the old place, hoping, after
a general fashion, for better times, but not finding the present very
bad; the father becoming day by day more pleasant with his bargain, the
daughter growing fonder of the great house, and the noble _bocages_, of
the scrappy little vineyards, struggling for existence on the sunny
hill-side, and the place where the famous shrine had been. They had
done it much damage; they had parted its riches among them; the once
ever-open doors were shut, and the worn flags were untrodden; but
nothing could degrade it, nothing could destroy what had been, in the
mind of Berthe Alix, who was as devout as her father was unconcernedly
unbelieving. Berthe was wonderfully well educated for a Frenchwoman of
that period, and surprisingly handsome for a Frenchwoman of any. Not too
tall to offend the taste of her compatriots, and not too short to be
dignified and graceful, she had a symmetrical figure, and a small,
well-poised head, whose profuse, shining, silken dark-brown hair she
wore as nature intended, in a shower of curls, never touched by the hand
of the coiffeur,—curls which clustered over her brow, and fell far down
on her shapely neck. Her features were fine; the eyes very dark, and the
mouth very red; the complexion clear and rather pale, and the style of
the face and its expression lofty. When Berthe Alix was a child, people
were accustomed to say she was pretty and refined enough to belong to
the aristocracy; nobody would have dared to say so now, prettiness and
refinement, together with all the other virtues admitted to a place on
the patriotic roll, having become national property.

Berthe loved her father dearly. She was deeply impressed with the sense
of her supreme importance to him, and fully comprehended that he would
be influenced by and through her when all other persuasion or argument
would be unavailing. When Prosper Alix wished and intended to do
anything rather mean or selfish, he did it without letting Berthe know;
and when he wished to leave undone something which he knew his daughter
would decide ought to be done, he carefully concealed from her the
existence of the dilemma. Nevertheless, this system did not prevent the
father and daughter being very good and even confidential friends.
Prosper Alix loved his daughter immeasurably, and respected her more
than he respected any one in the world. With regard to her persevering
religiousness, when such things were not only out of fashion and date,
but illegal as well, he was very tolerant. Of course it was weak, and an
absurdity; but every woman, even his beautiful, incomparable Berthe, was
weak and absurd on some point or other; and, after all, he had come to
the conclusion that the safest weakness with which a woman can be
afflicted is that romantic and ridiculous _faiblesse_ called piety. So
these two lived a happy life together, Berthe’s share of it being very
secluded, and were wonderfully little troubled by the turbulence with
which society was making its tumultuous way to the virtuous serenity of
republican perfection.

The communication announcing the project of the _ci-devant_ Marquis for
the secure exportation of his nephew, and containing the skilful appeal
before mentioned, grievously disturbed the tranquillity of Prosper, and
was precisely one of those incidents which he would especially have
liked to conceal from his daughter. But he could not do so; the appeal
was too cleverly made; and utter indifference to it, utter neglect of
the letter, which naturally suggested itself as the easiest means of
getting rid of a difficulty, would have involved an act of direct and
uncompromising dishonesty to which Prosper, though of sufficiently
elastic conscience within the limit of professional gains, could not
contemplate. The Château de Sénanges was indeed his own lawful property;
his without prejudice to the former owners, dispossessed by no act of
his. But the _ci-devant_ Marquis—confiding in him to an extent which
was quite astonishing, except on the _pis-aller_ theory, which is so
unflattering as to be seldom accepted—announced to him the existence of
a certain packet, hidden in the château, acknowledging its value, and
urging the need of its safe transmission. This was not his property. He
heartily wished he had never learned its existence, but wishing that was
clearly of no use; then he wished the nephew of the _ci-devant_ might
come soon, and take himself and the hidden wealth away with all possible
speed. This latter was a more realizable desire, and Prosper settled his
mind with it, communicated the interesting but decidedly dangerous
secret to Berthe, received her warm sanction, and transmitted to the
Marquis, by the appointed means, an assurance that his wishes should be
punctually carried out. The absence of an interdiction of his visit
before a certain date was to be the signal to M. Paul de Sénanges that
he was to proceed to act upon his uncle’s instructions; he waited the
proper time, the reassuring silence was maintained unbroken, and he
ultimately set forth on his journey, and accomplished it in safety.

Preparations had been made at the Maison Alix for the reception of M.
Glaire, and his supposed occupation had been announced. The apartments
were decorated in a heavy, gloomy style, and those of the _citoyenne_ in
particular (they had been occupied by a lady who had once been
designated as _feue Madame la Marquise_, but who was referred to now as
_la mère du ci-devant_) were much in need of renovation. The alcove, for
instance, was all that was least gay and most far from simple. The
_citoyenne_ would have all that changed. On the morning of the day of
the expected arrival, Berthe said to her father:

“It would seem as if the Marquis did not know the exact spot in which
the packet is deposited. M. Paul’s assumed character implies the
necessity for a search.”

M. Henri Glaire arrived at the Maison Alix, was fraternally received,
and made acquainted with the sphere of his operations. The young man had
a good deal of both ability and taste in the line he had assumed, and
the part was not difficult to play. Some days were judiciously allowed
to pass before the real object of the masquerade was pursued, and during
that time cordial relations established themselves between the _avocat_
and his guest. The young man was handsome, elegant, engaging, with all
the external advantages, and devoid of the vices, errors, and hopeless
infatuated unscrupulousness, of his class; he had naturally quick
intelligence, and some real knowledge and comprehension of life had been
knocked into him by the hard-hitting blows of Fate. His face was like
his mother’s, Prosper Alix thought, and his mind and tastes were of the
very pattern which, in theory, Berthe approved. Berthe, a very
unconventional French girl—who thought the new era of purity, love,
virtue, and disinterestedness ought to do away with marriage by barter
as one of its most notable reforms, and had been disenchanted by
discovering that the abolition of marriage altogether suited the taste
of the incorruptible Republic better—might like, might even love, this
young man. She saw so few men, and had no fancy for patriots; she would
certainly be obstinate about it if she did chance to love him. This
would be a nice state of affairs. This would be a pleasant consequence
of the confiding request of the _ci-devant_. Prosper wished with all his
heart for the arrival of the concerted signal, which should tell Henri
Glaire that he might fulfil the purpose of his sojourn at the Maison
Alix, and set forth for Marseilles.

But the signal did not come, and the days—long, beautiful, sunny,
soothing summer-days—went on. The painting of the panels of the
_citoyenne’s_ apartment, which she vacated for that purpose, progressed
slowly; and M. Paul de Sénanges, guided by the ground-plan, and aided by
Berthe, had discovered the spot in which the jewels of price, almost the
last remnants of the princely wealth of the Sénanges, had been hidden by
the _femme-de-chambre_ who had perished with her mistress, having
confided a general statement of the fact to a priest, for transmission
to the Marquis. This spot had been ingeniously chosen. The
sleeping-apartment of the late Marquis was extensive, lofty, and
provided with an alcove of sufficiently large dimensions to have formed
in itself a handsome room. This space, containing a splendid but gloomy
bed, on an estrade, and hung with rich faded brocade, was divided from
the general extent of the apartment by a low railing of black oak,
elaborately carved, opening in the centre, and with a flat wide bar
along the top, covered with crimson velvet. The curtains were contrived
to hang from the ceiling, and, when let down inside the screen of
railing, they matched the draperies which closed before the great stone
balcony at the opposite end of the room. Since the _avocat’s_ daughter
had occupied this palatial chamber, the curtains of the alcove had never
been drawn, and she had substituted for them a high folding screen of
black-and-gold Japanese pattern, also a relic of the grand old times,
which stood about six feet on the outside of the rails that shut in her
bed. The floor was of shining oak, testifying to the conscientious and
successful labors of successive generations of _frotteurs_; and on the
spot where the railing of the alcove opened by a pretty quaint device
sundering the intertwined arms of a pair of very chubby cherubs, a
square space in the floor was also richly carved.

The seekers soon reached the end of their search. A little effort
removed the square of carved oak, and underneath they found a casket,
evidently of old workmanship, richly wrought in silver, much tarnished
but quite intact. It was agreed that this precious deposit should be
replaced, and the carved square laid down over it, until the signal for
his departure should reach Paul. The little baggage which under any
circumstances he could have ventured to allow himself in the dangerous
journey he was to undertake, must be reduced, so as to admit of his
carrying the casket without exciting suspicion.

The finding of the hidden treasure was not the first joint discovery
made by the daughter of the _avocat_ and the son of the _ci-devant_. The
cogitations of Prosper Alix were very wise, very reasonable; but they
were a little tardy. Before he had admitted the possibility of mischief,
the mischief was done. Each had found out that the love of the other was
indispensable to the happiness of life; and they had exchanged
confidences, assurances, protestations, and promises, as freely, as
fervently, and as hopefully, as if no such thing as a Republic, one and
indivisible, with a keen scent and an unappeasable thirst for the blood
of aristocrats, existed. They forgot all about “Liberty, Fraternity, and
Equality”—these egotistical, narrow-minded young people;—they also
forgot the characteristic alternative to those unparalleled
blessings—“Death.” But Prosper Alix did not forget any of these things;
and his consternation, his provision of suffering for his beloved
daughter, were terrible, when she told him, with a simple noble
frankness which the _grandes dames_ of the dead-and-gone time of great
ladies had rarely had a chance of exhibiting, that she loved M. Paul de
Sénanges, and intended to marry him when the better times should come.
Perhaps she meant when that alternative of _death_ should be struck off
the sacred formula;—of course she meant to marry him with the sanction
of her father, which she made no doubt she should receive.

Prosper Alix was in pitiable perplexity. He could not bear to terrify
his daughter by a full explanation of the danger she was incurring; he
could not bear to delude her with false hope. If this young man could be
got away at once safely, there was not much likelihood that he would
ever be able to return to France. Would Berthe pine for him, or would
she forget him, and make a rational, sensible, rich, republican
marriage, which would not imperil either her reputation for pure
patriotism or her father’s? The latter would be the very best thing that
could possibly happen, and therefore it was decidedly unwise to
calculate upon it; but, after all, it was possible; and Prosper had not
the courage, in such a strait, to resist the hopeful promptings of a
possibility. How ardently he regretted that he had complied with the
prayer of the _ci-devant_! When would the signal for Mr. Paul’s
departure come?

Prosper Alix had made many sacrifices, had exercised much self-control
for his daughter’s sake; but he had never sustained a more severe trial
than this, never suffered more than he did now, under the strong
necessity for hiding from her his absolute conviction of the
impossibility of a happy result for this attachment, in that future to
which the lovers looked so fearlessly. He could not even make his
anxiety and apprehension known to Paul de Sénanges; for he did not
believe the young man had sufficient strength of will to conceal
anything so important from the keen and determined observation of
Berthe.

The expected signal was not given, and the lovers were incautious. The
seclusion of the Maison Alix had all the danger, as well as all the
delight, of solitude, and Paul dropped his disguise too much and too
often. The servants, few in number, were of the truest patriotic
principles, and to some of them the denunciation of the _citoyen_, whom
they condescended to serve because the sacred Revolution had not yet
made them as rich as he, would have been a delightful duty, a
sweet-smelling sacrifice to be laid on the altar of the country. They
heard certain names and places mentioned; they perceived many things
which led them to believe that Henri Glaire was not an industrial artist
and pure patriot, worthy of respect, but a wretched _ci-devant_,
resorting to the dignity of labor to make up for the righteous
destruction of every other kind of dignity. One day a gardener, of less
stoical virtue than his fellows, gave Prosper Alix a warning that the
presence of a _ci-devant_ upon his premises was suspected, and that he
might be certain a domiciliary visit, attended with dangerous results to
himself, would soon take place. Of course the _avocat_ did not commit
himself by any avowal to this lukewarm patriot; but he casually
mentioned that Henri Glaire was about to take his leave. What was to be
done? He must not leave the neighborhood without receiving the
instructions he was awaiting; but he must leave the house, and be
supposed to have gone quite away. Without any delay or hesitation,
Prosper explained the facts to Berthe and her lover, and insisted on the
necessity for an instant parting. Then the courage and the readiness of
the girl told. There was no crying, and very little trembling; she was
strong and helpful.

“He must go to Pichon’s, father,” she said, “and remain there until the
signal is given.—Pichon is a master-mason, Paul,” she continued,
turning to her lover, “and his wife was my nurse. They are avaricious
people; but they are fond of me in their way, and they will shelter you
faithfully enough, when they know that my father will pay them
handsomely. You must go at once, unseen by the servants; they are at
supper. Fetch your valise, and bring it to my room. We will put the
casket in it, and such of your things as you must take out to make room
for it, we can hide under the plank. My father will go with you to
Pichon’s, and we will communicate with you there as soon as it is safe.”

Paul followed her to the large gloomy room where the treasure lay, and
they took the casket from its hiding-place. It was heavy, though not
large, and an awkward thing to pack away among linen in a small valise.
They managed it, however, and, the brief preparation completed, the
moment of parting arrived. Firmly and eloquently, though in haste,
Berthe assured Paul of her changeless love and faith, and promised him
to wait for him for any length of time in France, if better days should
be slow of coming, or to join him in some foreign land, if they were
never to come. Her father was present, full of compassion and misgiving.
At length he said:

“Come, Paul, you must leave her; every moment is of importance.”

The young man and his betrothed were standing on the spot whence they
had taken the casket; the carved rail with the heavy curtains might have
been the outer sanctuary of an altar, and they bride and bridegroom
before it, with earnest, loving faces, and clasped hands.

“Farewell, Paul,” said Berthe; “promise me once more, in this the moment
of our parting, that you will come to me again, if you are alive, when
the danger is past.”

“Whether I am living or dead, Berthe,” said Paul de Sénanges, strongly
moved by some sudden inexplicable instinct, “I will come to you again.”

In a few more minutes, Prosper Alix and his guest, who carried, not
without difficulty, the small but heavy leather valise, had disappeared
in the distance, and Berthe was on her knees before the _prie-dieu_ of
the _ci-devant_ Marquise, her face turned toward the “Holy Hill” of
Fourvières.

Pichon, _mâitre_, and his sons, _garçons-maçons_, were well-to-do
people, rather morose, exceedingly avaricious, and of taciturn
dispositions; but they were not ill spoken of by their neighbors. They
had amassed a good deal of money in their time, and were just then
engaged on a very lucrative job. This was the construction of several of
the steep descents, by means of stairs, straight and winding, cut in the
face of the _côteaux_, by which pedestrians are enabled to descend into
the town. Pichon _père_ was a _propriétaire_ as well; his property was
that which is now in the possession of Giraudier, _pharmacien, première
classe_, and which was destined to attain a sinister celebrity during
his proprietorship. One of the straightest and steepest of the stairways
had been cut close to the _terre_ which the mason owned, and a massive
wall, destined to bound the high-road at the foot of the declivity, was
in course of construction.

When Prosper Alix and Paul de Sénanges reached the abode of Pichon, the
master-mason, with his sons and workmen, had just completed their day’s
work, and were preparing to eat the supper served by the wife and
mother, a tall, gaunt woman, who looked as if a more liberal scale of
housekeeping would have done her good, but on whose features the stamp
of that devouring and degrading avarice which is the commonest vice of
the French peasantry, was set as plainly as on the hard faces of her
husband and her sons. The _avocat_ explained his business and introduced
his companion briefly, and awaited the reply of Pichon _père_ without
any appearance of inquietude.

“You don’t run any risk,” he said; “at least, you don’t run any risk
which I cannot make it worth your while to incur. It is not the first
time you have received a temporary guest on my recommendation. You know
nothing about the citizen Glaire, except that he is recommended to you
by me. I am responsible; you can, on occasion, make me so. The citizen
may remain with you a short time; can hardly remain long. Say, citizen,
is it agreed? I have no time to spare.”

It was agreed, and Prosper Alix departed, leaving M. Paul de Sénanges,
convinced that the right, indeed the only, thing had been done, and yet
much troubled and depressed.

Pichon _père_ was a short, squat, powerfully built man, verging on
sixty, whose thick, dark grizzled hair, sturdy limbs, and hard hands, on
which the muscles showed like cords, spoke of endurance and strength; he
was, indeed, noted in the neighborhood for those qualities. His sons
resembled him slightly, and each other closely, as was natural, for they
were twins. They were heavy, lumpish fellows, and they made but an
ungracious return to the attempted civilities of the stranger, to whom
the offer of their mother to show him his room was a decided relief. As
he rose to follow the woman, Paul de Sénanges lifted his small valise
with difficulty from the floor, on which he had placed it on entering
the house, and carried it out of the room in both his arms. The
brothers followed these movements with curiosity, and, when the door
closed behind their mother and the stranger, their eyes met.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty-four hours had passed away, and nothing new had occurred at the
Maison Alix. The servants had not expressed any curiosity respecting the
departure of the citizen Glaire, no domiciliary visit had taken place,
and Berthe and her father were discussing the propriety of Prosper’s
venturing, on the pretext of an excursion in another direction, a visit
to the isolated and quiet dwelling of the master-mason. No signal had
yet arrived. It was agreed that after the lapse of another day, if their
tranquillity remained undisturbed, Prosper Alix should visit Paul de
Sénanges. Berthe, who was silent and preoccupied, retired to her own
room early, and her father, who was uneasy and apprehensive, desperately
anxious for the promised communication from the Marquis, was relieved by
her absence.

The moon was high in the dark sky, and her beams were flung across the
polished oak floor of Berthe’s bedroom, through the great window with
the stone balcony, when the girl, who had gone to sleep with her lover’s
name upon her lips in prayer, awoke with a sudden start, and sat up in
her bed. An unbearable dread was upon her; and yet she was unable to
utter a cry, she was unable to make another movement. Had she heard a
voice? No, no one had spoken, nor did she fancy that she heard any
sound. But within her, somewhere inside her heaving bosom, something
said, “Berthe!”

And she listened, and knew what it was. And it spoke, and said:

“I promised you that, living or dead, I would come to you again. And I
have come to you; but not living.”

She was quite awake. Even in the agony of her fear she looked around,
and tried to move her hands, to feel her dress and the bedclothes, and
to fix her eyes on some familiar object, that she might satisfy herself,
before this racing and beating, this whirling and yet icy chilliness of
her blood should kill her outright, that she was really awake.

“I have come to you; but not living.”

What an awful thing that voice speaking within her was! She tried to
raise her head and to look toward the place where the moonbeams marked
bright lines upon the polished floor, which lost themselves at the foot
of the Japanese screen. She forced herself to this effort, and lifted
her eyes, wild and haggard with fear, and there, the moonbeams at his
feet, the tall black screen behind him, she saw Paul de Sénanges. She
saw him; she looked at him quite steadily; she rose, slowly, with a
mechanical movement, and stood upright beside her bed, clasping her
forehead with her hands, and gazing at him. He stood motionless, in the
dress he had worn when he took leave of her, the light-colored
riding-coat of the period, with a short cape, and a large white cravat
tucked into the double breast. The white muslin was flecked, and the
front of the riding-coat was deeply stained, with blood. He looked at
her, and she took a step forward—another—then, with a desperate
effort, she dashed open the railing and flung herself on her knees
before him, with her arms stretched out as if to clasp him. But he was
no longer there; the moonbeams fell clear and cold upon the polished
floor, and lost themselves where Berthe lay, at the foot of the screen,
her head upon the ground, and every sign of life gone from her.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Where is the citizen Glaire?” asked Prosper Alix of the _citoyenne_
Pichon, entering the house of the master-mason abruptly, and with a
stern and threatening countenance. “I have a message for him; I must see
him.”

“I know nothing about him,” replied the _citoyenne_, without turning in
his direction, or relaxing her culinary labors. “He went away from here
the next morning, and I did not trouble myself to ask where; that is his
affair.”

“He went away? Without letting me know! Be careful, _citoyenne_; this is
a serious matter.”

“So they tell me,” said the woman with a grin, which was not altogether
free from pain and fear; “for you! A serious thing to have a _suspect_
in your house, and palm him off on honest people. However, he went away
peaceably enough when he knew we had found him out, and that we had no
desire to go to prison, or worse, on his account, or yours.”

She was strangely insolent, this woman, and the listener felt his
helplessness; he had brought the young man there with such secrecy, he
had so carefully provided for the success of concealment.

“Who carried his valise?” Prosper Alix asked her suddenly.

“How should I know?” she replied; but her hands lost their steadiness,
and she upset a stew-pan; “he carried it here, didn’t he? and I suppose
he carried it away again.”

Prosper Alix looked at her steadily—she shunned his gaze, but she
showed no other sign of confusion; then horror and disgust of the woman
came over him.

“I must see Pichon,” he said; “where is he?”

“Where should he be but at the wall? he and the boys are working there,
as always. The citizen can see them; but he will remember not to detain
them; in a little quarter of an hour the soup will be ready.”

The citizen did see the master-mason and his sons, and after an
interview of some duration he left the place in a state of violent
agitation and complete discomfiture. The master-mason had addressed to
him these words at parting:

“I assert that the man went away at his own free will; but if you do not
keep very quiet, I shall deny that he came here at all—you cannot prove
he did—and I will denounce you for harboring a _suspect_ and
_ci-devant_ under a false name. I know a De Sénanges when I see him as
well as you, citizen Alix; and, wishing M. Paul a good journey, I hope
you will consider about this matter, for truly, my friend, I think you
will sneeze in the sack before I shall.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“We must bear it, Berthe, my child,” said Prosper Alix to his daughter
many weeks later, when the fever had left her, and she was able to talk
with her father of the mysterious and frightful events which had
occurred. “We are utterly helpless. There is no proof, only the word of
these wretches against mine, and certain destruction to me if I speak.
We will go to Spain, and tell the Marquis all the truth, and never
return, if you would rather not. But, for the rest, we must bear it.”

“Yes, my father,” said Berthe submissively, “I know we must; but God
need not, and I don’t believe He will.”

The father and the daughter left France unmolested, and Berthe “bore it”
as well as she could. When better times come they returned, Prosper Alix
an old man, and Berthe a stern, silent, handsome woman, with whom no one
associated any notions of love or marriage. But long before their return
the traditions of the Croix Rousse were enriched by circumstances which
led to that before-mentioned capital bargain made by the father of the
Giraudier of the present. These circumstances were the violent death of
Pichon and his two sons, who were killed by the fall of a portion of the
great boundary-wall on the very day of its completion, and the
discovery, close to its foundation, at the extremity of Pichon’s
_terre_, of the corpse of a young man attired in a light-colored
riding-coat, who had been stabbed through the heart.

Berthe Alix lived alone in the Château de Sénanges, under its restored
name, until she was a very old woman. She lived long enough to see the
golden figure on the summit of the “Holy Hill,” long enough to forget
the bad old times, but not long enough to forget or cease to mourn the
lover who had kept his promise, and come back to her; the lover who
rested in the earth which once covered the bones of the martyrs, and who
kept a place for her by his side. She has filled that place for many
years. You may see it, when you look down from the second gallery of the
bell-tower at Fourvières, following the bend of the outstretched golden
arm of Notre Dame.

The château was pulled down some years ago, and there is no trace of its
former existence among the vines.

Good times, and bad times, and again good times have come for the Croix
Rousse, for Lyons, and for France, since then; but the remembrance of
the treachery of Pichon & Sons, and of the retribution which at once
exposed and punished their crime, outlives all changes. And once, every
year, on a certain summer night, three ghostly figures are seen, by any
who have courage and patience to watch for them, gliding along by the
foot of the boundary-wall, two of them carrying a dangling corpse, and
the other, implements for mason’s work and a small leather valise.
Giraudier, _pharmacien_, has never seen these ghostly figures, but he
describes them with much minuteness; and only the _esprits forts_ of the
Croix Rousse deny that the ghosts of Pichon & Sons are not yet laid.



THE PHANTOM FOURTH.


They were three.

It was in the cheap night-service train from Paris to Calais that I
first met them.

Railways, as a rule, are among the many things which they do _not_ order
better in France, and the French Northern line is one of the worst
managed in the world, barring none, not even the Italian _vie ferrate_.
I make it a rule, therefore, to punish the directors of, and the
shareholders in, that undertaking to the utmost within my limited
ability, by spending as little money on their line as I can help.

It was, then, in a third-class compartment of the train that I met the
three.

Three as hearty, jolly-looking Saxon faces, with stalwart frames to
match, as one would be likely to meet in an hour’s walk from the
Regent’s Park to the Mansion House.

One of the three was dark, the other two were fair. The dark one was the
senior of the party. He wore an incipient full beard, evidently in
process of training, with a considerable amount of grizzle in it.

The face of one of his companions was graced with a magnificent flowing
beard. The third of the party, a fair-haired youth of some twenty-three
or four summers, showed a scrupulously smooth-shaven face.

They looked all three much flushed and slightly excited, and, I must
say, they turned out the most boisterous set of fellows I ever met.

They were clearly gentlemen, however, and men of education, with
considerable linguistic acquirements; for they chatted and sang, and
declaimed and “did orations” all the way from Paris to Calais, in a
slightly bewildering variety of tongues.

Their jollity had, perhaps, just a little over-tinge of the slap-bang
jolly-dog style in it; but there was so much heartiness and good-nature
in all they said and in all they did, that it was quite impossible for
any of the other occupants of the carriage to vote them a nuisance; and
even the sourest of the officials, whom they chaffed most unmercifully
and unremittingly at every station on the line, took their punishment
with a shrug and a grin. The only person, indeed, who rose against them
in indignant protestation was the head-waiter at the Calais station
refreshment-room, to whom they would persist in propounding puzzling
problems, such as, for instance, “If you charge two shillings for
one-and-a-half-ounce slice of breast of veal, how many fools will it
take to buy the joint off you?”—and what _he_ got by the attempt to
stop their chaff was a caution to any other sinner who might have felt
similarly inclined.

As for me, I could only give half my sense of hearing to their
utterings, the other half being put under strict sequester at the time
by my friend O’Kweene, the great Irish philosopher, who was delivering
to me, for my own special behoof and benefit, a brilliant, albeit
somewhat abstruse, dissertation on the “visible and palpable outward
manifestations of the inner consciousness of the soul in a trance;”
which occupied all the time from Paris to Calais, full eight hours, and
which, to judge from my feelings at the time, would certainly afford
matter for three heavy volumes of reading in bed, in cases of inveterate
sleeplessness—a hint to enterprising publishers.

My friend O’Kweene, who intended to stay a few days at Calais, took
leave of me on the pier, and I went on board the steamer that was to
carry us and the mail over to Dover.

Here I found our trio of the railway-car, snugly ensconced under an
extemporized awning, artfully constructed with railway-rugs and
greatcoats, supported partly against the luggage, and partly upon
several oars, purloined from the boats, and turned into tent-poles for
the nonce—which made the skipper swear wofully when he found it out
some time after.

The three were even more cheery and boisterous on board than they had
been on shore. From what I could make out in the dark, they were
discussing the contents of divers bottles of liquor; I counted four dead
men dropped quietly overboard by them in the course of the hour and a
half we had to wait for the arrival of the mail-train, which was late,
as usual on this line.

At last we were off, about half-past two o’clock in the morning. It was
a beautiful, clear, moonlit night, so clear, indeed, that we could see
the Dover lights almost from Calais harbor. But we had considerably more
than a capful of wind, and there was a turgent ground-swell on, which
made our boat—double-engined, and as trim and tidy a craft as ever sped
across the span from shore to shore—behave rather lively, with sportive
indulgence in a brisk game of pitch-and-toss that proved anything but
comfortable to most of the passengers.

When we were steaming out of Calais harbor, our three friends, emerging
from beneath their tent, struck up in chorus Campbell’s noble song, “Ye
Mariners of England,” finishing up with a stave from “Rule, Britannia!”

But, alas for them! however loudly their throats were shouting forth the
sway proverbially held by Albion and her sons over the waves, on this
occasion at least the said waves seemed determined upon ruling these
particular three Britons with a rod of antimony; for barely a few
seconds after the last vibrating echoes of the “Britons never, never,
never shall be slaves!” had died away upon the wind, I beheld the three
leaning lovingly together, in fast friendship linked, over the rail,
conversing in deep ventriguttural accents with the denizens of Neptune’s
watery realm.

We had one of the quickest passages on record—ninety-three minutes’
steaming carried us across from shore to shore. When we were just on the
point of landing, I heard the dark senior of the party mutter to his
companions, in a hollow whisper and mysterious manner, “He is gone
again;” to which the others, the bearded and the smooth-shaven,
responded in the same way, with deep sighs of evident relief, “Ay,
marry! so he is at last.”

This mysterious communication roused my curiosity. Who was the party
that was said to be gone at last? Where had he come from? where had he
been hiding, that _I_ had not seen him? and where was he gone to now? I
determined to know; if but the opportunity would offer, to screw, by
cunning questioning, the secret out of either of the three.

Fate favored my design.

For some inscrutable reason, known only to the company’s officials, we
cheap-trainers were not permitted to proceed on our journey to London
along with the mail, but were left to kick our heels for some two hours
at the Dover station.

I went into the refreshment-room to look for my party; I had a notion I
should find them where the Briton’s unswerving and unerring instinct
would be most likely to lead them. It turned out that I was right in my
conjecture. There they were, seated round a table with huge bowls of
steaming tea and monster piles of buttered toast and muffins spread on
the festive board before them. Ay, indeed, there they were; but _quantum
mutati ab illis_! how strangely changed from the noisy, rollicking set I
had known them in the railway-car and on board the steamer, ere yet the
demon of sea-sickness had claimed them for his own! How ghastly sober
they looked now, to be sure! And how sternly and silently bent upon
devoting themselves to the swilling of the Chinese shrub infusion and to
the gorging of indigestible muffins. It was quite clear to me that it
would have been worse than folly to venture upon addressing them while
thus absorbed in absorbing. So I resolved to await a more favorable
opening, and went out meanwhile to walk on the platform.

A short time I was left in solitary possession of the promenade; then I
became suddenly aware that another traveller was treading the same
ground with me—it was the dark elderly leader of the three. I glanced
at him as he passed me under one of the lamps. He looked pale and sad.
The furrowed lines on his brow bespoke deliberation deep and pondering
profound. All the infinite mirth of the preceding few hours had departed
from him, leaving him but a wretched wreck of his former reckless self.

“A fine night, sir,” I said to break the ice—“for the season of the
year,” I added by way of a saving clause, to tone down the absoluteness
of the assertion.

He looked at me abstractedly, merely reëchoing my own words, “A fine
night, sir, for the season of the year.”

“Why look ye so sad now, who were erst so jolly?” I bluntly asked,
determined to force him into conversation.

“Ay, indeed, why so sad now?” he replied, looking me full in the face;
then, suddenly clasping my arm with a spasmodic grip, he continued
hurriedly, “I think I had best confide our secret to you. You seem a man
of thought. I witnessed and admired the patient attention with which you
listened to your friend’s abstruse talk in the railway-car. Maybe you
can find the solution of a mystery which defies the ponderings of our
poor brains—mine and my two friends.”

Then he proceeded to pour into my attentive ear this gruesome tale of
mystery:

“We three—that is, myself, yon tall bearded Briton,” pointing to the
glass door of the refreshment-room, “whose name is Jack Hobson, and
young Emmanuel Topp, junior partner in a great beer firm, whom you may
behold now at his fifth bowl of tea and his seventh muffin—are
teetotallers——”

“Teetotallers!” I could not help exclaiming. “Lord bless me! that is
certainly about the last thing I should have taken you for, either of
you.”

“Well,” he replied with some slight confusion, “at least, we _were
total_ teetotallers, though I admit we can now only claim the character
of partial abstainers. The fact is, when, about a fortnight ago, we were
discussing the plan of our projected visit to the great Paris
Exhibition, Topp suggested that while in France we should do as the
French do, to which Jack Hobson assented, remarking that the French knew
nothing about tea, and that a Frenchman’s tea would be sure to prove an
Englishman’s poison. So we resolved to suspend the pledge during our
visit to France.

“It was on the second day after our arrival in Paris. We were dining in
a private cabinet at Désiré Beaurain’s, one of the leading restaurants
on the fashionable side of the Montmartre—Italiens Boulevard. Our
dinner was what an Irishman might call a most ‘illigant’ affair. We had
sipped several bottles of Sauterne, and tasted a few of Tavel, and we
were just topping the entertainment with a solitary bottle of champagne,
when I became suddenly aware of the presence of another party in the
room—a _fourth man_—who sat him down at our table, and helped himself
liberally to our liquor. From what I ascertained afterward from Jack
Hobson and Emmanuel Topp, the intruder’s presence became revealed to
them also, either about the same time or a little later. What was he
like? I cannot tell. His figure and face remained indistinct
throughout—phantom-like. His features seemed endowed with a stronge
weird mobility that would defyingly elude the fixing grasp of our eager
eyes. Now, and to my two companions, he would look marvellously like me;
then, to me, he would stalk and rave about in the likeness of Jack
Hobson; again, he would seem the counterfeit of Emmanuel Topp; then he
would look like all the three of us put together; then like neither of
us, nor like anybody else. Oh, sir, it was a woful thing to be haunted
by this phantom apparition. Yet the strangest part of the affair was
that neither of us seemed to feel a whit surprised at the dread
presence; that we quietly and uncomplainingly let him drink our wine,
and actually give orders for more; that we never objected, in fact, to
any of his sayings and doings. What seemed also strange was that the
waiter, while yet receiving and executing his orders, was evidently
pretending to ignore his presence. But then, as I dare say you know as
well as I do, French waiters are _such_ actors!

“Well, to resume, there he was, this fourth man, seated at our table and
feasting at our expense. And the pranks that he would play us—they were
truly stupendous. He began his little game by ordering in half-a-dozen
of champagne. And when the waiter seemed slightly doubtful and
hesitating about executing the order, Topp, forsooth, must put in his
oar, and indorse the command, actually pretending that _I_, who am now
speaking to you, and who am the very last man in the world likely to
dream of such a preposterous thing, had given the order, and that I was
a jolly old brick, and the best of boon companions. Surprise at this
barefaced assertion kept me mute, and so, of course, the champagne was
brought in, and I thought the best thing to do under the circumstances
was to have my share of it at least; and so I had—my fair share; but,
bless you, it was nothing to what that fourth man drank of it. In fact,
the amount of liquor _he_ would swill on this and on the many subsequent
occasions he intruded his presence upon us, was a caution.

“We paid our little bill without grumbling, though the presence of the
fourth man at our table had added rather heavily to the _addition_, as
they call bills at French restaurants.

“We sallied forth into the street to get a whiff of fresh air. _He_, the
demon, pertinaciously stuck to us; he familiarly linked his arm through
mine, and, suggesting coffee as rather a good thing to take after
dinner, took us over to the Café du Cardinal, where he, however, took
none of the Arabian beverage himself (there being only three cups placed
for us, as I distinctly saw), but drank an interminable succession of
_chasse-café_, utterly regardless of the divisional lines of the cognac
_carafon_. Part of these he would take neat, another portion he would
burn over sugar, gloating glaringly over the bluish flame, while gleams
of demoniac delight would flit across his ever-changing features. Jack
Hobson and Topp, I am sorry to say, joined him with a will in this
double-distilled debauch; and when I attempted to remonstrate with them,
they brazenly asserted that _I_, who am now speaking to you, who have
always, publicly and privately, declared brandy to be the worst of evil
spirits, had taken more of it, to my own cheek, as they slangily
expressed it, than the two of them together; and the waiter, who had
evidently been bribed by them, boldly maintained that _le vieux
monsieur_, as he had the impudence to call me, had swallowed _plus de
trois carafons de fine_; whereupon the fourth man, stepping up to him,
punched his head, which served him right. Now you will hardly believe me
when I tell you that at that very instant Topp forced me back into my
chair, while Jack Hobson pinioned my arms from behind, and the waiter
had the unblushing effrontery to stamp and rave at me like a maniac,
demanding satisfaction or compensation at my hands for the unprovoked
assault committed upon him by _me, coram populo_!—by _me_, who, I beg
to assure you, am the most peaceable man living, and am actually famed
for the mildness of my disposition and the sweetness and suavity of my
temper. And, would you believe it? everybody present, waiters and
guests, and my own two bosom-friends, joined in the conspiracy against
me, and I actually had to give the wretch of a waiter ten francs as a
plaster for his broken pate, and a salve for his wounded honor! Where
was the real culprit all this time, you ask me—the fourth man? Why, he
quietly stood by grinning, and they all and every one of them pretended
not to see him, though Topp and Jack Hobson next morning confessed to me
that they certainly had an indistinct consciousness of the presence
throughout of this miserable intruder.

“How we finished that night I remember not; nor could Jack Hobson or
Emmanuel Topp. All we could conscientiously stand by, if we were
questioned, is that we awoke next morning—the three of us—with some
slight swimming in our heads, and a hazy recollection of a gorgeous
dream of brilliant lights and sounds of music and revelry, and bright
visions of groves and grottoes, and dancing houris (or hussies, as moral
Jack Hobson calls the poor things), and a hot supper at a certain place
in the Passage des Princes, of which I think the name is Peter’s.

“I will not tire your courteous patience by a detailed narrative of our
experiences day after day, during our fortnight’s stay in Paris. Suffice
it to tell you that from that time forward to yesterday, when we left,
the _fourth man_, as we, by mutual consent, agreed to call the phantom
apparition, came in regularly to our dinner; with the dessert or a
little after; that he would constantly suggest a fresh supply of Côte
St. Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent, Beaune, Chambertin, Roederer Carte Blanche,
and a variety of other, generally rather more than less expensive,
wines—and that he somehow would manage to make us have them, too.

“Then he would sally forth with us to the café, where he would indulge
in irritating chaff of the waiters, and in slighting comments upon the
great French nation in general, and the Parisians in particular, and
upon their institutions and manners and customs.

“He would insist upon singing the Marseillaise; he would speak
disparagingly of the Emperor, whom he would irreverently call Lambert;
he would pass cutting and unsavory remarks upon the glorious system of
the night-carts; he would call down the judgment of Heaven upon the
devoted head of poor Mr. Haussmann; he would go up to some unhappy
sergent-de-ville, who might, however unwittingly, excite his ire, and
tell him a bit of his mind in English, with sarcastic allusions to his
cocket-hat and his toasting-fork, and polite inquiries after the health
of _ce cher_ Monsieur Lambert, or the whereabouts of _cet excellent_
Monsieur Godinot. The worst of the matter was that I suppose for the
reason that man is an imitative animal, a sort of _πιθηκος μυωρος_, or
Monboddian monkey minus the tail—my two companions were, somehow,
always sure to join the wretch in his evil behavior, and to go on
just as bad as he did. No wonder, then, that we got into no end of
rows, and it is a marvel to me now, how ever we have managed to get
off with a whole skin to our bodies.

“He would insist upon taking us to Mabille, the Closerie des Lilas, and
the Châteaurouge, where he would indulge in the maddest pranks and
antics, and somehow lead us to join in the wildest dances, and make us
lift our legs as high as the highest lifter among the _habitués_, male
or female.

“One night, at about half-past two in the morning (_Hibernicè_), he had
the cool assurance to drag us along with him to the then closed entrance
to the Passage des Princes, where he frantically shook the gate, and
insisted to the frightened concierge, who came running up in his
night-shirt, that Peter’s must and ought to be open still, as _we_ had
not had our supper yet; and Topp and Jack Hobson, forsooth, must join in
the row. I have no distinct recollection of whether it was our phantom
guest or either of my companions that madly strove to detain the hastily
retreating form of the concierge by a desperate clutch at the tail of
his shirt; I only remember that the garment gave way in the struggle,
and that the unhappy functionary was reduced nearly altogether to the
primitive buff costume of the father of man in Paradise ere he had put
his teeth into that unlucky apple of which, the pips keep so
inconveniently sticking in poor humanity’s gizzard to the present day.
And what I remember also to my cost is, that the sergent-de-ville, whom
the bereaved man’s shouts of distress brought to the scene, fastened
upon _me_, the most inoffensive of mortals, for a compensation fine of
twenty francs, as if _I_ had been the culprit. And deuced glad we were,
I assure you, to get off without more serious damage to our pocket and
reputation than this, and a copious volley of _sacrés ivrognes Anglais_,
fired at us by the wretched concierge and his friend of the police, who,
I am quite sure, went halves with him in the compensation. Ah! they are
a lawless set, these French.

“On another occasion we three went to the Exhibition, where we visited
one of our colonial departments, in company with several English
friends, and some French gentlemen appointed on the wine jury. We went
to taste a few samples of colonial wines. _He_ was not with us _then_.
Barely, however, had we uncorked a poor dozen bottles, which turned out
rather good for colonial, though a little raw and slightly uneducated,
when _who_ should stalk in but our fourth man, as jaunty and
unconcerned as ever. Well, _he_ fell to tasting, and he soon grew
eloquent in praise of the colonial juice, which he declared would, in
another twenty years’ time, be fit to compete successfully with the best
French vintages. Of course, the French gentlemen with us could not stand
_this_; they spoke slightingly of the British colonial, and one of them
even went so far as to call it rotgut. I cannot say whether it was the
spirit of the uncompromising opinion thus pronounced, or the coarsely
indelicate way in which the judgment of our French friend was expressed,
that riled our phantom guest—enough, it brought him down in full force
upon the offender and his countrymen, with most fluent French
vituperation and an unconscionable amount of bad jokes and worse puns,
finishing up with a general address to them as members of the
_disgusting_ jury, instead of jury of _dégustation_. Now, this I should
not have minded so much; for, I must confess, I felt rather nettled at
the national conceit and prejudice of these French. But the wretch, in
the impetuous utterance of his invective, must somehow—though I was not
aware of it at the time—have mimicked my gestures and imitated the very
tones and accent of my voice so closely as to deceive even some of my
English companions: or how else to account for the fact of their calling
me a noisy brawler and a pestilent nuisance? _me_, the gentlest and
mildest-spoken of mortals!

“Before our departure from London we had calculated our probable
expenses on a most liberal scale, and we had made comfortable provision
accordingly for a few weeks’ stay in Paris. But with the additional
heavy burden of the franking of so copious an imbiber as our fourth man
thus unexpectedly thrown on our shoulders, it was no great wonder that
we should find our resources go much faster than we had anticipated; so
we had already been forcedly led to bethink ourselves of shortening our
intended stay in the French capital when a fresh exploit of the phantom
fourth, climaxing all his past misdeeds, brought matters to a crisis.

“It was the day before yesterday, the 4th of September. We had been
dining at Marigny, and dancing at Mabille. Our eccentric guest had come
in, as usual, with the champagne, and had of course, after dinner, taken
us over to the enchanted gardens. We were all very jolly. _He_ suggested
supper at the Cascades, in the Bois de Boulogne. We chartered a _fiacre_
to take us there and back. We supped rather copiously. _He_ somehow made
our coachman drunk, and took upon himself to drive us home. Need I tell
you that he upset us in the Avenue de l’Impératrice, and that we had to
walk it, and pretty fast too? It was a mercy there were no bones broken.

“Well, as we were walking along, just barely recovering from the shock
of the accident, he suddenly took some new whim into his confounded
noddle. Nothing would do for him but he must drag us along with him to
the great entrance of the Elysée Napoléon (which erst was, and maybe is
soon likely to be once more, the Elysée Bourbon), where he had the
brazen impudence to claim admittance, as the Emperor, he pretended, had
been graciously pleased to offer us the splendid hospitality of that
renowned mansion. What further happened here, neither I nor either of
my friends can tell. Our recollections from this period till next
morning are doubtful and indistinct. All we can state for certain is,
that yesterday morning we awoke, the three of us, in a most wretched
state, in a strange, nasty place. We learn soon after from a gentleman
in a cocked hat, who came to visit us on business, that the imperial
hospitality which we had claimed last night had indeed been extended to
us—only in the _violon_, instead of the Elysée. Our phantom guest was
gone: he would alway, somehow sneak away in the morning, when there was
nothing left for him to drink—the guzzling villain!

“The gentleman in the cocked-hat pressingly invited us to pay a visit to
the Commissaire du Quartier. That formidable functionary received us
with the customary French-polished veneer of urbanity which, as a rule,
constitutes the _suaviter in modo_ of the higher class of Gallic
officials. He read us a severe lecture, however, upon the alleged
impropriety of our conduct; and when I ventured to protest that it was
not to us the blame ought to be imputed, but to the _quatrième_, he
mistook my meaning, and, ere I could explain myself, he cut me short
with a polite remark that the French used the cardinal instead of the
ordinal numbers in stating the days of the month, with the exception of
the first, and that he had had too much trouble with our countrymen (he
took us for Yankees!) on the 4th of July, to be disposed to look with an
over-lenient eye upon the vagaries we had chosen to commit on the 4th of
September, which he supposed was another great national day with us. He
would, however, let us off this time with a simple reprimand, upon
payment of one hundred francs, compensation for damage done to the
coach—drunken cabby having turned up, of course, to testify against us.
Well, we paid the money, and handed the worthy magistrate twenty francs
besides, for the benefit of the poor, by way of acknowledgment for the
imperial hospitality we had enjoyed. We were then allowed to depart in
peace.

“Now, you’ll hardly believe it, I dare say, but it is the truth
notwithstanding, that we three, who have been fast friends for years,
actually began to quarrel among ourselves now, mutually imputing to one
another the blame of all our misadventures and misfortunes since our
arrival in Paris, while yet we clearly knew and felt, each and every of
us, that it was all the doings of that phantom fourth.

“One thing, however, we all agreed to do—to leave Paris by the first
train.

“To fortify ourselves for the coming journey, we went to indulge in the
luxury of a farewell breakfast at Désiré Beaurain’s. Of course we
emptied a few bottles to our reconciliation. I do not exactly remember
how many, but this I _do_ remember, that our irrepressible incubus
walked in again, and took his place in the midst of us rather sooner
even than he had been wont to do; and he never left us from that time to
the moment of our landing at Dover harbor, when he took his, I hope and
trust final, departure with a ghastly grin.

“I dare say you must have thought us a most noisy and obstreperous lot:
well, with my hand on my heart, I can assure you, on my conscience,
that a quieter and milder set of fellows than us three you are not
likely to find on this or the other side the Channel. But for that
mysterious phantom fourth——”

Here the whistle sounded, and the guard came up to us with a hurried,
“Now then, gents, take your seats, please; train is off in half a
minnit!”

“What can have become of Topp and Jack Hobson?” muttered my new friend,
looking around him with eager scrutiny. “I should not wonder if they
were still refreshing.” And he started off in the direction of the
refreshment-room.

I took my seat. Immediately after the train whirled off. I cannot say
whether the three were left behind; all I know is that I did not see
them get out at London Bridge.

Remembering, however, that the appalling secret of the supernatural
visitation which had thus harassed my three fellow-travellers had been
confided to me under the impression that I might be likely to find a
solution of the mystery, I have ever since deeply pondered thereon.

Shallow thinkers, and sneerers uncharitably given, may, from a
consideration of the times, places, and circumstances at and under which
the abnormal phenomena here recited were stated to have been observed,
be led to attribute them simply to the promptings and imaginings of
brains overheated by excessive indulgence in spirituous liquors. But I,
striving to be mindful always of the great scriptural injunction to
judge not, lest we be judged, and opportunely remembering my friend
O’Kweene’s learned dissertation above alluded to, feel disposed to
pronounce the apparition of the phantom of the fourth man, and all the
sayings, doings, and demeanings of the same, to have been simply so many
visible and palpable outward manifestations of the inner consciousness
of the souls of the three, and more notably of that of the elderly
senior of the party, in a succession of vino-alcoholic trances.

My friend O’Kweene is, of course, welcome to such credit as may attach
to this attempted solution of mine.



THE SPIRIT’S WHISPER.


Yes, I have been haunted!—haunted so fearfully that for some little
time I thought myself insane. I was no raving maniac; I mixed in society
as heretofore, although perhaps a trifle more grave and taciturn than
usual; I pursued my daily avocations; I employed myself even on literary
work. To all appearance I was one of the sanest of the sane; and yet all
the while I considered myself the victim of such strange delusions that,
in my own mind, I fancied my senses—and one sense in particular—so far
erratic and beyond my own control that I was, in real truth, a madman.
How far I was then insane it must be for others, who hear my story, to
decide. My hallucinations have long since left me, and, at all events, I
am now as sane as I suppose most men are.

My first attack came on one afternoon when, being in a listless and an
idle mood, I had risen from my work and was amusing myself with
speculating at my window on the different personages who were passing
before me. At that time I occupied apartments in the Brompton Road.
Perhaps, there is no thoroughfare in London where the ordinary
passengers are of so varied a description or high life and low life
mingle in so perpetual a medley. South-Kensington carriages there jostle
costermongers’ carts; the clerk in the public office, returning to his
suburban dwelling, brushes the laborer coming from his work on the
never-ending modern constructions in the new district; and the ladies of
some of the surrounding squares flaunt the most gigantic of _chignons_,
and the most exuberant of motley dresses, before the envying eyes of the
ragged girls with their vegetable-baskets.

There was, as usual, plenty of material for observation and conjecture
in the passengers, and their characters or destinations, from my window
on that day. Yet I was not in the right cue for the thorough enjoyment
of my favorite amusement. I was in a rather melancholy mood. Somehow or
other, I don’t know why, my memory had reverted to a pretty woman whom I
had not seen for many years. She had been my first love, and I had loved
her with a boyish passion as genuine as it was intense. I thought my
heart would have broken, and I certainly talked seriously of dying, when
she formed an attachment to an ill-conditioned, handsome young
adventurer, and, on her family objecting to such an alliance, eloped
with him. I had never seen the fellow, against whom, however, I
cherished a hatred almost as intense as my passion for the infatuated
girl who had flown from her home for his sake. We had heard of her being
on the Continent with her husband, and learned that the man’s shifty
life had eventually taken him to the East. For some years nothing more
had been heard of the poor girl. It was a melancholy history, and its
memory ill-disposed me for amusement.

A sigh was probably just escaping my lips with the half-articulated
words, “Poor Julia!” when my eyes fell on a man passing before my
window. There was nothing particularly striking about him. He was tall,
with fine features, and a long, fair beard, contrasting somewhat with
his bronzed complexion. I had seen many of our officers on their return
from the Crimea look much the same. Still, the man’s aspect gave me a
shuddering feeling, I didn’t know why. At the same moment, a whispering,
low voice uttered aloud in my ear the words, “It is he!” I turned,
startled; there was no one near me, no one in the room. There was no
fancy in the sound; I had heard the words with painful distinctness. I
ran to the door, opened it—not a sound on the staircase, not a sound in
the whole house—nothing but the hum from the street. I came back and
sat down. It was no use reasoning with myself; I had the ineffaceable
conviction that I had heard the voice. Then first the idea crossed my
mind that I might be the victim of hallucinations. Yes, it must have
been so, for now I recalled to mind that the voice had been that of my
poor lost Julia; and at the moment I heard it I had been dreaming of
her. I questioned my own state of health. I was well; at least I had
been so, I felt fully assured, up to that moment. Now a feeling of
chilliness and numbness and faintness had crept over me, a cold sweat
was on my forehead. I tried to shake off this feeling by bringing back
my thoughts to some other subject. But, involuntarily as it were, I
again uttered the words, “Poor Julia!” aloud. At the same time a deep
and heavy sigh, almost a groan, was distinctly audible close by me. I
sprang up; I was alone—quite alone. It was, once more, an
hallucination.

By degrees the first painful impression wore away. Some days had passed,
and I had begun to forget my singular delusion. When my thoughts aid
revert to it, the recollection was dismissed as that of a ridiculous
fancy. One afternoon I was in the Strand, coming from Charing Cross,
when I was once more overcome by that peculiar feeling of cold and
numbness which I had before experienced. The day was warm and bright and
genial, and yet I positively shivered. I had scarce time to interrogate
my own strange sensations when a man went by me rapidly. How was it that
I recognized him at once as the individual who had only passed my window
so casually on that morning of the hallucination? I don’t know, and yet
I was aware that this man was the tall, fair passer-by of the Brompton
Road. At the same moment the voice I had previously heard whispered
distinctly in my ear the words, “Follow him!” I stood stupefied. The
usual throngs of indifferent persons were hurrying past me in that
crowded thoroughfare, but I felt convinced that not one of these had
spoken to me. I remained transfixed for a moment. I was bent on a matter
of business in the contrary direction to the individual I had remarked,
and so, although with unsteady step, I endeavored to proceed on my way.
Again that voice said, still more emphatically, in my ear, “Follow him!”
I stopped involuntarily. And a third time, “Follow him!” I told myself
that the sound was a delusion, a cheat of my senses, and yet I could not
resist the spell. I turned to follow. Quickening my pace, I soon came up
with the tall, fair man, and, unremarked by him, I followed him. Whither
was this foolish pursuit to lead me? It was useless to ask myself the
question—I was impelled to follow.

I was not destined to go very far, however. Before long the object of my
absurd chase entered a well-known insurance-office. I stopped at the
door of the establishment. I had no business within, why should I
continue to follow? Had I not already been making a sad fool of myself
by my ridiculous conduct? These were my thoughts as I stood heated by my
quick walk. Yes, heated; and yet, once more, came the sudden chill. Once
more that same low but now awful voice spoke in my ear: “Go in!” it
said. I endeavored to resist the spell, and yet I felt that resistance
was in vain. Fortunately, as it seemed to me, the thought crossed my
mind that an old acquaintance was a clerk in that same insurance-office.
I had not seen the fellow for a great length of time, and I never had
been very intimate with him. But here was a pretext; and so I went in
and inquired for Clement Stanley. My acquaintance came forward. He was
very busy, he said. I invented, on the spur of the moment, some excuse
of the most frivolous and absurd nature, as far as I can recollect, for
my intrusion.

“By the way,” I said, as I turned to take my leave, although my question
was “by the way” of nothing at all, “who was that tall, fair man who
just now entered the office?”

“Oh, that fellow?” was the indifferent reply; “a Captain Campbell, or
Canton, or some such name; I forget what. He is gone in before the
board—insured his wife’s life—and she is dead; comes for a settlement,
I suppose.”

There was nothing more to be gained, and so I left the office. As soon
as I came without into the scorching sunlight, again the same feeling of
cold, again the same voice—“Wait!” Was I going mad? More and more the
conviction forced itself upon me that I was decidedly a monomaniac
already. I felt my pulse. It was agitated and yet not feverish. I was
determined not to give way to this absurd hallucination; and yet, so far
was I out of my senses, that my will was no longer my own. Resolved as I
was to go, I listened to the dictates of that voice and waited. What was
it to me that this Campbell or Canton had insured his wife’s life, that
she was dead, and that he wanted a settlement of his claim? Obviously
nothing; and I yet waited.

So strong was the spell on me that I had no longer any count of time. I
had no consciousness whether the period was long or short that I stood
there near the door, heedless of all the throng that passed, gazing on
vacancy. The fiercest of policemen might have told me to “move on,” and
I should not have stirred, spite of all the terrors of the “station.”
The individual came forth. He paid no heed to me. Why should he? What
was I to him? This time I needed no warning voice to bid me follow. I
was a madman, and I could not resist the impulses of my madness. It was
thus, at least I reasoned with myself. I followed into Regent Street.
The object of my insensate observation lingered, and looked around as if
in expectation. Presently a fine-looking woman, somewhat extravagantly
dressed, and obviously not a lady, advanced toward him on the pavement.
At the sight of her he quickened his step, and joined her rapidly. I
shuddered again, but this time a sort of dread was mingled with that
strange shivering. I knew what was coming, and it came. Again that voice
in my ear. “Look and remember!” it said. I passed the man and woman as
they stopped at their first meeting!

“Is all right, George?” said the female.

“All right, my girl,” was the reply.

I looked. An evil smile, as if of wicked triumph, was on the man’s face,
I thought. And on the woman’s? I looked at her, and I remembered. I
could not be mistaken. Spite of her change in manner, dress, and
appearance, it was Mary Simms. This woman some years before, when she
was still very young, had been a sort of humble companion to my mother.
A simple-minded, honest girl, we thought her. Sometimes I had fancied
that she had paid me, in a sly way, a marked attention. I had been
foolish enough to be flattered by her stealthy glances and her sighs.
But I had treated these little demonstrations of partiality as due only
to a silly girlish fancy. Mary Simms, however, had come to grief in our
household. She had been detected in the abstraction of sundry jewels and
petty ornaments. The morning after discovery she had left the house, and
we had heard of her no more. As these recollections passed rapidly
through my mind I looked behind me. The couple had turned back. I turned
to follow again; and spite of carriages and cabs, and shouts and oaths
of drivers, I took the middle of the street in order to pass the man and
woman at a little distance unobserved. No; I was not mistaken. The woman
was Mary Simms, though without any trace of all her former
simple-minded airs; Mary Simms, no longer in her humble attire, but
flaunting in all the finery of overdone fashion. She wore an air of
reckless joyousness in her face; and yet, spite of that, I pitied her.
It was clear she had fallen on the evil ways of bettered
fortune—bettered, alas! for the worse.

I had an excuse now, in my own mind, for my continued pursuit, without
deeming myself an utter madman—the excuse of curiosity to know the
destiny of one with whom I had been formerly familiar, and in whom I had
taken an interest. Presently the game I was hunting down stopped at the
door of the Grand Café. After a little discussion they entered. It was a
public place of entertainment; there was no reason why I should not
enter also. I found my way to the first floor. They were already seated
at a table, Mary holding the _carte_ in her hand. They were about to
dine. Why should not I dine there too? There was but one little
objection,—I had an engagement to dinner. But the strange impulse which
overpowered me, and seemed leading me on step by step, spite of myself,
quickly overruled all the dictates of propriety toward my intended
hosts. Could I not send a prettily devised apology? I glided past the
couple, with my head averted, seeking a table, and I was unobserved by
my old acquaintance. I was too agitated to eat, but I made a semblance,
and little heeded the air of surprise and almost disgust on the
bewildered face of the waiter as he bore away the barely touched dishes.
I was in a very fever of impatience and doubt what next to do. They
still sat on, in evident enjoyment of their meal and their constant
draughts of sparkling wine. My impatience was becoming almost unbearable
when the man at last rose. The woman seemed to have uttered some
expostulation, for he turned at the door and said somewhat harshly
aloud, “Nonsense; only one game and I shall be back. The waiter will
give you a paper—a magazine—something to while away the time.” And he
left the room for the billiard-table, as I surmised.

Now was my opportunity. After a little hesitation, I rose, and planted
myself abruptly on the vacant seat before the woman.

“Mary,” I said.

She started, with a little exclamation of alarm, and dropped the paper
she had held. She knew me at once.

“Master John!” she exclaimed, using the familiar term still given me
when I was long past boyhood; and then, after a lengthened gaze, she
turned away her head. I was embarrassed at first how to address her.

“Mary,” I said at last, “I am grieved to see you thus.”

“Why should you be grieved for me?” she retorted, looking at me sharply,
and speaking in a tone of impatient anger. “I am happy as I am.”

“I don’t believe you,” I replied.

She again turned away her head.

“Mary,” I pursued, “can you doubt, that, spite of all, I have still a
strong interest in the companion of my youth?”

She looked at me almost mournfully, but did not speak. At that moment I
probably grew pale; for suddenly that chilly fit seized me again, and
my forehead became clammy. That voice sounded again in my ear: “Speak
of him!” were the words it uttered. Mary gazed on me with surprise, and
yet I was assured that _she_ had not heard that voice, so plain to me.
She evidently mistook the nature of my visible emotion.

“O Master John!” she stammered, with tears gathering in her eyes,
reverting again to that name of bygone times, “if you had loved me
then—if you had consoled my true affection with one word of hope, one
look of loving-kindness—if you had not spurned and crushed me, I should
not have been what I am now.”

I was about to make some answer to this burst of unforgotten passion,
when the voice came again: “Speak of him!”

“You have loved others since,” I remarked, with a coldness which seemed
cruel to myself. “You love _him_ now.” And I nodded my head toward the
door by which the man had disappeared.

“Do I?” she said, with a bitter smile. “Perhaps; who knows?”

“And yet no good can come to you from a connection with that man,” I
pursued.

“Why not? He adores me, and he is free,” was her answer, given with a
little triumphant air.

“Yes,” I said, “I know he is free: he has lately lost his wife. He has
made good his claim to the sum for which he insured her life.”

Mary grew deadly pale. “How did you learn this? what do you know of
him?” she stammered.

I had no reply to give. She scanned my face anxiously for some time;
then in a low voice she added, “What do you suspect?”

I was still silent, and only looked at her fixedly.

“You do not speak,” she pursued nervously. “Why do you not speak? Ah,
you know more than you would say! Master John, Master John, you might
set my tortured mind at rest, and clear or confirm those doubts which
_will_ come into my poor head, spite of myself. Speak out—O, do speak
out!”

“Not here; it is impossible,” I replied, looking around. The room as the
hour advanced, was becoming more thronged with guests, and the full
tables gave a pretext for my reticence, when in truth I had nothing to
say.

“Will you come and see me—will you?” she asked with earnest entreaty.

I nodded my head.

“Have you a pocketbook? I will write you my address; and you will
come—yes, I am sure you will come!” she said in an agitated way.

I handed her my pocketbook and pencil; she wrote rapidly.

“Between the hours of three and five,” she whispered, looking uneasily
at the door; “_he_ is sure not to be at home.”

I rose; Mary held out her hand to me, then withdrew it hastily with an
air of shame, and the tears sprang into her eyes again. I left the room
hurriedly, and met her companion on the stairs.

That same evening, in the solitude of my own room, I pondered over the
little event of the day. I had calmed down from my state of excitement.
The living apparition of Mary Simms occupied my mind almost to the
exclusion of the terrors of the ghostly voice which had haunted me, and
my own fears of coming insanity. In truth, what was that man to me?
Nothing. What did his doings matter to such a perfect stranger as
myself? Nothing. His connection with Mary Simms was our only link; and
in what should that affect me? Nothing again. I debated with myself
whether it were not foolish of me to comply with my youthful companion’s
request to visit her; whether it were not imprudent in me to take any
further interest in the lost woman; whether there were not even danger
in seeking to penetrate mysteries which were no concern of mine. The
resolution to which I came pleased me, and I said aloud, “No, I will not
go!”

At the same moment came again the voice like an awful echo to my
words—“Go!” It came so suddenly and so imperatively, almost without any
previous warning of the usual shudder, that the shock was more than I
could bear. I believe I fainted; I know I found myself, when I came to
consciousness, in my arm-chair, cold and numb, and my candles had almost
burned down into their sockets.

The next morning I was really ill. A sort of low fever seemed to have
prostrated me, and I would have willingly seized so valid a reason for
disobeying, at least for that day—for some days, perhaps—the
injunction of that ghostly voice. But all that morning it never left me.
My fearful chilly fit was of constant recurrence, and the words “Go! go!
go!” were murmured so perpetually in my ears—the sound was one of such
urgent entreaty—that all force of will gave way completely. Had I
remained in that lone room, I should have gone wholly mad. As yet, to my
own feelings, I was but partially out of my senses.

I dressed hastily; and, I scarce know how—by no effort of my own will,
it seemed to me—I was in the open air. The address of Mary Simms was in
a street not far from my own suburb. Without any power of reasoning, I
found myself before the door of the house. I knocked, and asked a
slipshod girl who opened the door to me for “Miss Simms.” She knew no
such person, held a brief shrill colloquy with some female in the
back-parlor, and, on coming back, was about to shut the door in my face,
when a voice from above—the voice of her I sought—called down the
stairs, “Let the gentleman come up!”

I was allowed to pass. In the front drawing-room I found Mary Simms.

“They do not know me under that name,” she said with a mournful smile,
and again extended, then withdrew, her hand.

“Sit down,” she went on to say, after a nervous pause. “I am alone now;
told I adjure you, if you have still one latent feeling of old kindness
for me, explain your words of yesterday to me.”

I muttered something to the effect that I had no explanation to give. No
words could be truer; I had not the slightest conception what to say.

“Yes, I am sure you have; you must, you will,” pursued Mary excitedly;
“you have some knowledge of that matter.”

“What matter?” I asked.

“Why, the insurance,” she replied impatiently. “You know well what I
mean. My mind has been distracted about it. Spite of myself, terrible
suspicions have forced themselves on me. No; I don’t mean that,” she
cried, suddenly checking herself and changing her tone; “don’t heed
what I said; it was madness in me to say what I did. But do, do, do tell
me all you know.”

The request was a difficult one to comply with, for I knew nothing. It
is impossible to say what might have been the end of this strange
interview, in which I began to feel myself an unwilling impostor; but
suddenly Mary started.

“The noise of the latchkey in the lock!” she cried, alarmed; “He has
returned; he must not see you; you must come another time. Here, here,
be quick! I’ll manage him.”

And before I could utter another word she had pushed me into the back
drawing-room and closed the door. A man’s step on the stairs; then
voices. The man was begging Mary to come out with him, as the day was so
fine. She excused herself; he would hear no refusal. At last she
appeared to consent, on condition that the man would assist at her
toilet. There was a little laughter, almost hysterical on the part of
Mary, whose voice evidently quivered with trepidation.

Presently both mounted the upper stairs. Then the thought stuck me that
I had left my hat in the front room—a sufficient cause for the woman’s
alarm. I opened the door cautiously, seized my hat, and was about to
steal down the stairs, when I was again spellbound by that numb cold.

“Stay!” said the voice. I staggered back to the other room with my hat,
and closed the door.

Presently the couple came down. Mary was probably relieved by
discovering that my hat was no longer there, and surmised that I had
departed; for I heard her laughing as they went down the lower flight.
Then I heard them leave the house.

I was alone in that back drawing-room. Why? what did I want there? I was
soon to learn. I felt the chill invisible presence near me; and the
voice said, “Search!”

The room belonged to the common representative class of back
drawing-rooms in “apartments” of the better kind. The only one
unfamiliar piece of furniture was an old Indian cabinet; and my eye
naturally fell on that. As I stood and looked at it with a strange
unaccountable feeling of fascination, again came the voice—“Search!”

I shuddered and obeyed. The cabinet was firmly locked; there was no
power of opening it except by burglarious infraction; but still the
voice said, “Search!”

A thought suddenly struck me, and I turned the cabinet from its position
against the wall. Behind, the woodwork had rotted, and in many portions
fallen away, so that the inner drawers were visible. What could my
ghostly monitor mean—that I should open those drawers? I would not do
such a deed of petty treachery. I turned defiantly, and addressing
myself to the invisible as if it were a living creature by my side, I
cried, “I must not, will not, do such an act of baseness.”

The voice replied, “Search!”

I might have known that, in my state of what I deemed insanity,
resistance was in vain. I grasped the most accessible drawer from
behind, and pulled it toward me. Uppermost within it lay letters: they
were addressed to “Captain Cameron,”—“Captain George Cameron.” That
name!—the name of Julia’s husband, the man with whom she had eloped;
for it was he who was the object of my pursuit.

My shuddering fit became so strong that I could scarce hold the papers;
and “Search!” was repeated in my ear.

Below the letters lay a small book in a limp black cover. I opened this
book with trembling hand; it was filled with manuscript—Julia’s
well-known handwriting.

“Read!” muttered the voice. I read. There were long entries by poor
Julia of her daily life; complaints of her husband’s unkindness,
neglect, then cruelty. I turned to the last pages: her hand had grown
very feeble now, and she was very ill. “George seems kinder now,” she
wrote; “he brings me all my medicines with his own hand.” Later on: “I
am dying; I know I am dying: he has poisoned me. I saw him last night
through the curtains pour something in my cup; I saw it in his evil eye.
I would not drink; I will drink no more; but I feel that I must die.”

These were the last words. Below were written, in a man’s bold hand, the
words “Poor fool!”

This sudden revelation of poor Julia’s death and dying thoughts unnerved
me quite. I grew colder in my whole frame than ever.

“Take it!” said her voice. I took the book, pushed back the cabinet into
its place against the wall, and, leaving that fearful room, stole down
the stairs with trembling limbs, and left the house with all the
feelings of a guilty thief.

For some days I perused my poor lost Julia’s diary again and again. The
whole revelation of her sad life and sudden death led but to one
conclusion,—she had died of poison by the hands of her unworthy
husband. He had insured her life, and then——

It seemed evident to me that Mary Simms had vaguely shared suspicions of
the same foul deed. On my own mind came conviction. But what could I do
next? how bring this evil man to justice? what proof would be deemed to
exist in those writings? I was bewildered, weak, irresolute. Like
Hamlet, I shrank back and temporized. But I was not feigning madness; my
madness seemed but all too real for me. During all this period the
wailing of that wretched voice in my ear was almost incessant. O, I must
have been mad!

I wandered about restlessly, like the haunted thing I had become. One
day I had come unconsciously and without purpose into Oxford Street. My
troubled thoughts were suddenly broken in upon by the solicitations of a
beggar. With a heart hardened against begging impostors, and under the
influence of the shock rudely given to my absorbing dreams, I answered
more hardly than was my wont. The man heaved a heavy sigh, and sobbed
forth, “Then Heaven help me!” I caught sight of him before he turned
away. He was a ghastly object, with fever in his hollow eyes and sunken
cheeks, and fever on his dry, chapped lips. But I knew, or fancied I
knew, the tricks of the trade, and I was obdurate. Why, I asked myself,
should the cold shudder come over me at such a moment? But it was so
strong on me as to make me shake all over. It came—that maddening
voice. “Succor!” it said now. I had become so accustomed already to
address the ghostly voice that I cried aloud, “Why, Julia, why?” I saw
people laughing in my face at this strange cry, and I turned in the
direction in which the beggar had gone. I just caught sight of him as he
was tottering down a street toward Soho. I determined to have pity for
this once, and followed the poor man. He led me on through I know not
what streets. His steps was hurried now. In one street I lost sight of
him; but I felt convinced he must have turned into a dingy court. I made
inquiries, but for a time received only rude jeering answers from the
rough men and women whom I questioned. At last a little girl informed me
that I must mean the strange man who lodged in the garret of a house she
pointed out to me. It was an old dilapidated building, and I had much
repugnance on entering it. But again I was no master of my will. I
mounted some creaking stairs to the top of the house, until I could go
no further. A shattered door was open; I entered a wretched garret; the
object of my search lay now on a bundle of rags on the bare floor. He
opened his wild eyes as I approached.

“I have come to succor,” I said, using unconsciously the word of the
voice; “what ails you?”

“Ails me?” gasped the man; “hunger, starvation, fever.”

I was horrified. Hurrying to the top of the stairs, I shouted till I had
roused the attention of an old woman. I gave her money to bring me food
and brandy, promising her a recompense for her trouble.

“Have you no friends?” I asked the wretched man as I returned.

“None,” he said feebly. Then as the fever rose in his eyes and even
flushed his pallid face, he said excitedly, “I had a master once—one I
perilled my soul for. He knows I am dying; but, spite of all my letters,
he will not come. He wants me dead, he wants me dead—and his wish is
coming to pass now.”

“Cannot I find him—bring him here?” I asked.

The man stared at me, shook his head, and at last, as if collecting his
faculties with much exertion, muttered, “Yes; it is a last hope; perhaps
you may, and I can be revenged on him at least. Yes revenged. I have
threatened him already.” And the fellow laughed a wild laugh.

“Control yourself,” I urged, kneeling by his side; “give me his
name—his address.”

“Captain George Cameron,” he gasped, and then fell back.

“Captain George Cameron!” I cried. “Speak! what of him?”

But the man’s senses seemed gone; he only muttered incoherently. The old
woman returned with the food and spirits. I had found one honest
creature in that foul region. I gave her money—provide her more if she
would bring a doctor. She departed on her new errand. I raised the man’s
head, moistened his lips with the brandy, and then poured some of the
spirit down his throat. He gulped at it eagerly, and opened his eyes;
but he still raved incoherently, “I did not do it, it was he. He made me
buy the poison; he dared not risk the danger himself, the coward! I knew
what he meant to do with it, and yet I did not speak; I was her murderer
too. Poor Mrs. Cameron! poor Mrs. Cameron! do you forgive?—can you
forgive?” And the man screamed aloud and stretched out his arms as if to
fright away a phantom.

I had drunk in every word, and knew the meaning of those broken accents
well. Could I have found at last the means of bringing justice on the
murderer’s head? But the man was raving in a delirium, and I was obliged
to hold him with all my strength. A step on the stairs. Could it be the
medical man I had sent for? That would be indeed a blessing. A man
entered—it was Cameron!

He came in jauntily, with the words, “How now, Saunders, you rascal!
What more do you want to get out of me?”

He started at the sight of a stranger.

I rose from my kneeling posture like an accusing spirit. I struggled for
calm; but passion beyond my control mastered me, and was I not a madman?
I seized him by the throat, with the words, “Murderer! poisoner! where
is Julia?” He shook me off violently.

“And who the devil are you, sir?” he cried.

“That murdered woman’s cousin!” I rushed at him again.

“Lying hound!” he shouted, and grappled me. His strength was far beyond
mine. He had his hand on my throat; a crimson darkness was in my eyes; I
could not see, I could not hear; there was a torrent of sound pouring in
my ears. Suddenly his grasp relaxed. When I recovered my sight, I saw
the murderer struggling with the fever-stricken man, who had risen from
the floor, and seized him from behind. This unexpected diversion saved
my life; but the ex-groom was soon thrown back on the ground.

“Captain George Cameron,” I cried, “kill me, but you will only heap
another murder on your head!”

He advanced on me with something glittering in his hand. Without a word
he came and stabbed at me; but at the same moment I darted at him a
heavy blow. What followed was too confused for clear remembrance. I
saw—no, I will say I fancied that I saw—the dim form of Julia Staunton
standing between me and her vile husband. Did he see the vision too? I
cannot say. He reeled back, and fell heavily to the floor. Maybe it was
only my blow that felled him. Then came confusion—a dream of a crowd of
people—policemen—muttered accusations. I had fainted from the wound in
my arm.

Captain George Cameron was arrested. Saunders recovered, and lived long
enough to be the principal witness on his trial. The murderer was found
guilty. Poor Julia’s diary, too, which I had abstracted, told fearfully
against him. But he contrived to escape the gallows; he had managed to
conceal poison on his person, and he was found dead in his cell. Mary
Simms I never saw again. I once received a little scrawl, “I am at peace
now, Master John. God bless you!”

I have had no more hallucinations since that time; the voice has never
come again. I found out poor Julia’s grave, and, as I stood and wept by
its side, the cold shudder came over me for the last time. Who shall
tell me whether I was once really mad, or whether I was not?



DOCTOR FEVERSHAM’S STORY.


“I have made a point all my life,” said the doctor, “of believing
nothing of the kind.”

Much ghost-talk by firelight had been going on in the library at
Fordwick Chase, when Doctor Feversham made this remark.

“As much as to say,” observed Amy Fordwick, “that you are afraid to
tackle the subject, because you pique yourself on being strong-minded,
and are afraid of being convinced against your will.”

“Not precisely, young lady. A man convinced against his will is in a
different state of mind from mine in matters like these. But it is true
that cases in which the supernatural element appears at first sight to
enter are so numerous in my profession, that I prefer accepting only the
solutions of science, so far as they go, to entering on any wild
speculations which it would require more time than I should care to
devote to them to trace to their origin.”

“But without entering fully into the why and wherefore, how can you be
sure that the proper treatment is observed in the numerous cases of
mental hallucination which must come under your notice?” inquired
Latimer Fordwick, who was studying for the Bar.

“I content myself, my young friend, with following the rules laid down
for such cases, and I generally find them successful,” answered the old
Doctor.

“Then you admit that cases have occurred within your knowledge of which
the easiest apparent solution could be one which involved a belief in
supernatural agencies?” persisted Latimer, who was rather prolix and
pedantic in his talk.

“I did not say so,” said the Doctor.

“But of course he meant us to infer it,” said Amy. “Now, my dear old
Doctor, do lay aside professional dignity, and give us one good
ghost-story out of your personal experience. I believe you have been
dying to tell one for the last hour, if you would only confess it.”

“I would rather not help to fill that pretty little head with idle
fancies, dear child,” answered the old man, looking fondly at Amy, who
was his especial pet and darling.

“Nonsense! You know I am even painfully unimaginative and
matter-of-fact; and as for idle fancies, is it an idle fancy to think
you like to please me?” said Amy coaxingly.

“Well, after all, you have been frightening each other with so many
thrilling tales for the last hour or two, that I don’t suppose I should
do much harm by telling you a circumstance which happened to me when I
was a young man, and has always rather puzzled me.”

A murmur of approval ran round the party. All disposed themselves to
listen; and Doctor Feversham, after a prefatory pinch of snuff, began.

“In my youth I resided for some time with a family in the north of
England, in the double capacity of secretary and physician. While I was
going through the hospitals of Paris I became acquainted with my
employer, whom I will call Sir James Collingham, under rather peculiar
circumstances, which have nothing to do with my story. He had an only
daughter, who was about sixteen when I first entered the family, and it
was on her account that Sir James wished to have some person with a
competent knowledge of medicine and physiology as one of his household.
Miss Collingham was subject to fits of a very peculiar kind, which threw
her into a sort of trance, lasting from half an hour to three or even
four days, according to the severity of the visitation. During these
attacks she occasionally displayed that extraordinary phenomenon which
goes by the name of clairvoyance. She saw scenes and persons who were
far distant, and described them with wonderful accuracy. Though quite
unconscious of all outward things, and apparently in a state of the
deepest insensibility, she would address remarks to those present which
bore reference to the thoughts then occupying their minds, though they
had given them no outward expression; and her remarks showed an insight
into matters which had perhaps been carefully kept secret, which might
truly be termed preternatural. Under these circumstances, Sir James was
very unwilling to bring her into contact with strangers when it could
possibly be avoided; and the events which first brought us together,
having also led to my treating Miss Collingham rather successfully in a
severe attack of her malady, induced her father to offer me a position
in his household which, as a young, friendless man, I was very willing
to accept.

“Collingham-Westmore was a very ancient house of great extent, and but
indifferently kept in repair. The country surrounding it is of great
natural beauty, thinly inhabited, and, especially at the time I speak
of, before railways had penetrated so far north, somewhat lonely and
inaccessible. A group of small houses clustered round the village church
of Westmorton, distant about three miles from the mansion of the
Collingham family; and a solitary posting-house, on what was then the
great north road, could be reached by a horseman in about an hour,
though the only practicable road for carriages was at least fifteen
miles from the highway to Collingham-Westmore. Wild and lovely in the
eyes of an admirer of nature were the hills and ‘cloughs’ among which I
pursued my botanical studies for many a long, silent summer day. My
occupations at the mansion—everybody called it the mansion, and I must
do so from force of habit, though it sounds rather like a house-agent’s
advertisement—were few and light; the society was not particularly to
my taste, and the fine old library only attracted me on rainy days, of
which, truth to say, we had our full share.

“The Collingham family circle comprised a maiden aunt of Sir James, Miss
Patricia, a stern and awful specimen of the female sex in its fossil
state; her ward, Miss Henderson, who, having long passed her pupilage,
remained at Collingham-Westmore in the capacity of gouvernante and
companion to the young heiress; the heiress aforesaid, and myself. A
priest—did I say that the Collinghams still professed the old
religion?—came on Sundays and holydays to celebrate mass in the gloomy
old chapel; but neighbors there were none, and only about half-a-dozen
times during the four years I was an inmate of the mansion were
strangers introduced into the family party.”

“How dreadfully dull it must have been!” exclaimed Amy sympathetically.

“It _was_ dull,” answered the Doctor. “Even with my naturally cheerful
disposition, and the course of study with which I methodically filled up
all my leisure hours except those devoted to out-of-door exercise, the
gloom of the old mansion weighed upon me till I sometimes felt that I
must give up my situation at all risks, and return to the world, though
it were to struggle with poverty and friendlessness.

“There was no lack of dismal legends and superstitions connected with
the mansion, and every trifling circumstance that occurred was twisted
into an omen or presage, whether of good or evil, by the highly wrought
fancy of Miss Patricia. These absurdities, together with the past
grandeur of their house, and the former glories of their religion,
formed the staple subjects of conversation when the family was
assembled; and as I became more intimately acquainted with the state of
my patient, I felt convinced that the atmosphere of gloomy superstition
in which she had been reared had fostered, even if it had not altogether
been the cause of, her morbid mental and bodily condition.

“Among the many legends connected with the mansion, one seemed to have a
peculiar fascination for Miss Collingham, perhaps because it was the
most ghastly and repulsive. One wing of the house was held to be haunted
by the spirit of an ancestress of the family, who appeared in the shape
of a tall woman, with one hand folded in her white robe and the other
pointing upward. It was said, that in a room at the end of the haunted
wing this lady had been foully murdered by her jealous husband. The
window of the apartment overhung the wild wooded side of one of the
‘cloughs’ common in the country; and tradition averred that the victim
was thrown from this window by her murderer. As she caught hold of the
sill in a last frantic struggle for life, he severed her hand at the
wrist, and the mutilated body fell, with one fearful shriek, into the
depth below. Since then, a white shadowy form has forever been sitting
at the fatal window, or wandering along the deserted passages of the
haunted wing with the bleeding stump folded in her robe; and in moments
of danger or approaching death to any member of the Collingham family,
the same long, wild shriek rises slowly from the wooded cliff and peals
through the mansion; while to different individuals of the house, a pale
hand has now and then been visible, laid on themselves or some other of
the family, a never-failing omen of danger or death.

“I need not tell you how false and foolish all this dreary superstition
appeared to me; and I exerted all my powers of persuasion to induce Miss
Patricia to dwell less on these and similar themes in the presence of
Miss Collingham. But there seemed to be something in the very air of the
gloomy old mansion which fostered such delusions; for when I spoke to
Father O’Connor the priest, and urged on him the pernicious effect which
was thus produced on my patient’s mind, I found him as fully imbued with
the spirit of credulity as the most hysterical housemaid of them all. He
solemnly declared to me that he had himself repeatedly seen the pale
lady sitting at the fatal window, when on his way to and from his home
beyond the hills; and moreover, that on the death of Lady Collingham,
which occurred at her daughter’s birth, he had heard the long, shrill
death-scream echo through the mansion while engaged in the last offices
of the Church by the bedside of the dying lady.

“So I found it impossible to fight single-handed against these adverse
influences, and could only endeavor to divert the mind of my patient
into more healthy channels of thought. In this I succeeded perfectly.
She became an enthusiastic botanist, and our rambles in search of the
rare and lovely specimens which were to be found among the woods and
moors surrounding her dwelling did more for her health, both of body and
mind, than all the medical skill I could bring to bear on her melancholy
case.

“Four years had elapsed since I first took up my abode at
Collingham-Westmore. Miss Collingham had grown from a sickly child into
a singularly graceful young woman, full of bright intelligence, eager
for information, and with scarcely an outward trace remaining of her
former fragile health. Still those mysterious swoons occasionally
visited her, forming an insurmountable obstacle to her mingling in
general society, which she was in all other respects so well fitted to
adorn. They occurred without any warning or apparent cause; one moment
she would be engaged in animated conversation, and the next, white and
rigid as a statue, she would fall back in her chair insensible to all
outward objects, but rapt and carried away into a world of her own,
whose visions she would sometimes describe in glowing language, although
she retained no recollection whatever of them when she returned, as
suddenly and at as uncertain a period, to her normal condition. On one
of these occasions we were sitting, after dinner, in a large apartment
called the summer dining-room. Fruit and wine were on the table, and the
last red beams of the setting sun lighted up the distant woods, which
were in the first flush of their autumn glory. I turned to remark on the
beautiful effect of light to Miss Collingham, and at the very moment I
did so she fell back in one of her strange swoons. But instead of the
death-like air which her features usually assumed, a lovely smile
lighted them up, and an expression of ecstasy made her beauty appear for
the moment almost superhuman. Slowly she raised her right hand, and
pointed in the direction of the setting sun. ‘He is coming,’ she said in
soft, clear tones; ‘life and light are coming with him,—life and light
and liberty!’

“Her hand fell gently by her side; the rapt expression faded from her
countenance, and the usual death-like blank overspread it. This trance
passed away like others, and by midnight the house was profoundly still.
Soon after that hour a vociferous peal at the great hall-bell roused
most of the inmates from sleep. My rooms were in a distant quarter of
the house, and a door opposite to that of my bedroom led to the haunted
wing, but was always kept locked. I started up on hearing a second ring,
and looked out, in hopes of seeing a servant pass, and ascertaining the
cause of this unusual disturbance. I saw no one, and after listening for
a while to the opening of the hall-door, and the sound of distant
voices, I made up my mind that I should be sent for if wanted, and
re-entered my room. As I was closing the door, I was rather startled to
see a tall object, of grayish-white color and indistinct form, issue
from the gallery whose door, as I said before, had always been locked in
my recollection. For a moment I felt as though rooted to the spot, and a
strange sensation crept over me. The next, all trace of the appearance
had vanished, and I persuaded myself that what I had seen must have been
some effect of light from the open door of my room.

“The cause of the nightly disturbance appeared at breakfast on the
following morning in the shape of a remarkably handsome young man, who
was introduced by Sir James as his nephew, Don Luis de Cabral, the son
of an only sister long dead, who had married a Spaniard of high rank.
Don Luis showed but little trace of his southern parentage. If I may so
express it, all the depth and warmth of coloring in that portion of his
blood which he inherited from his Spanish ancestors came out in the
raven-black hair and large lustrous dark eyes, which impressed you at
once with their uncommon beauty. For the rest, he was a fine well-grown
young man, no darker in complexion than an Englishman might well be, and
with a careless, happy boyishness of manner, which won immediately on
the regard of strangers, and rendered his presence in the house like
that of a perpetual sunbeam. We all wondered, after a little while, what
we had done before Luis came among us. He was as a son to Sir James;
Miss Patricia softened to this new and pleasing interest in her
colorless existence as I could not have believed it was in her
fossilized nature to do; Miss Henderson became animated, almost young,
under the reviving influence of the youth and joyousness of our new
inmate; and I own that I speedily attached myself with a warm and
affectionate regard to the happy, unselfish nature that seemed to
brighten all who came near it.

“But the most remarkable effect of the presence of Don Luis de Cabral
among us was visible in Miss Collingham. ‘Love at first sight,’ often
considered as a mere phrase, was, in the case of these two young
creatures, an unmistakable reality. From the moment of their first
meeting, the cousins were mutually drawn toward each other; and seeing
the bright and wonderful change wrought by the presence of Don Luis in
Blanche Collingham, I could not but remember, with the interest that
attaches to a curious psychological phenomenon, the words she uttered in
her trance on the eve of his arrival. ‘Life, light, and liberty,’
indeed, appeared given to all that was best and brightest in her nature.
Her health improved visibly, and her beauty, always touching, became
radiant in its full development. My duties toward her were now merely
nominal; and when, about two months later, Sir James announced to me her
approaching marriage, and confessed that it was with this object he had
invited Don Luis to come and make the acquaintance of his English
relations, the strong opinions I entertained against the marriage of
first cousins, and also on the especial inadvisability of any project of
marriage in the case of Miss Collingham, could not prevent my hearty
rejoicing in the fair prospect of happiness in which two persons who
deeply interested me were indulging.

“Winter set in early and severely that year among our northern hills,
and with a view to Blanche’s removal from its withering influence, which
I always considered prejudicial to her, the preparations for the
marriage were hurried on, and the ceremony was fixed to take place about
the middle of December. The travelling-carriage which was to convey the
young couple on their way southward was to arrive at the nearest
railway-station—then more than thirty miles distant—a week before the
marriage; and as some important portions of the trousseau, together with
a valuable package of jewels intended by Don Luis as presents for his
bride, were expected at the same time, the young man announced his
intention of riding across the hills to ——, in order to superintend
the conveyance of the carriage and its contents along the rough mountain
roads that it must traverse.

“We were all sitting around the great fireplace in the winter parlor on
the evening before his departure. Miss Collingham had been languid and
depressed throughout the day, and often adverted to the long wintry ride
he was to undertake in a strain of apprehension at which Don Luis
laughed gayly. To divert her mind, he recounted various adventures
which had befallen him in foreign lands, with a vigorous simplicity of
description which enchained her attention and interested us all.

“Suddenly, so sitting, Miss Collingham leaned forward, and in a changed,
eager voice exclaimed, ‘Luis, take away your hand from your throat!’

“We looked. Luis’ hands were lying one over the other on his knee in a
careless attitude that was habitual to him.

“‘Take it away, I say! Oh, take it away!’

“Miss Collingham started to her feet as she uttered these words almost
in a shriek, and then fell back rigid and senseless, her outstretched
hand still pointing to her betrothed.

“The fit was a severe one, but by morning it had yielded to remedies,
and Luis set off early on his ride, to make the most of the short
daylight, and intending to return with the carriage on the morrow. All
that day Miss Collingham remained in a half-conscious state. It was a
dreary day of gloom, with a piercing north wind, and toward evening the
snow began to fall in those close, compact flakes which forebode a heavy
storm. We were glad to think that Luis must have reached his destination
before it began; but when the next morning dawned on a wide expanse of
snow, and the air was still thick with fast-falling flakes, it was
feared that the state of the roads would preclude all hope of the
arrival of the carriage on that day.

“My patient took no heed of the untoward state of the weather. She was
still in a drowsy condition, very unlike that which usually succeeded
her attacks, and Miss Henderson, who had watched by her through the
night, told me she spoke more than once in a strange, excited manner, as
though carrying on a conversation with some one whom she appeared to see
by her bedside. As the good lady, however, could give but a very
imperfect and incoherent account of what had passed, I was left in some
doubt as to whether Miss Collingham had seen more or Miss Henderson less
than there really was to be seen, as I had before had reason to believe
that she was not a very vigilant nurse.

“So the hours went on, and night closed in. Sir James began to feel some
uneasiness at the non-appearance, not only of Don Luis, but also of the
priest, who was to have arrived at Collingham-Westmore on that day.

“On questioning some of the servants who had been out of the house, the
absence of Father O’Connor at least was satisfactorily accounted for:
they all declared that it would be quite impossible for those best
acquainted with the hills to find their way across them in the blinding
drifts which had never ceased throughout the day. We concluded that
Father O’Connor and Don Luis were alike storm-stayed, and had no remedy
but patience.

“Late in the evening—it must have been near midnight—I was in Miss
Collingham’s dressing-room with Miss Patricia, who intended to watch by
her through the night. We were talking by the fire, of the snow-storm
which still continued, and of the hindrance it might prove to the
marriage—the day fixed for which was now less than a week
distant—when we heard a voice in the adjoining room, where we imagined
the object of our care to be sleeping. We went in. Miss Collingham was
sitting up in bed, her eyes wide open, in one of her rigid fits. She was
speaking rapidly in a low tone, unlike her usual voice.

“‘You cannot get through all that snow,’ she said. ‘Get help; there are
men not far off with spades. Oh, be careful! You are off the road! Stop,
stop! that is the way to Armstrong’s Clough. Does not the postboy know
the road? He is bewildered. I tell you it is madness to go on. See, one
of the horses has fallen; he kicks—he will hit you! Oh, how dark it is!
And the snow covers your lantern, and you cannot see the edge. Now the
horse is up again, but he cannot go on. Do not beat him, Luis; it is not
his fault, poor beast; the snow is too thick, and you are on rough
ground. Now he rears—he backs—the other one backs also—the wheel of
the carriage is over the edge—ah!’

“The scream with which these wild, hurried words ended seemed to be
taken up and echoed from a distance. Miss Patricia stared at me with a
ghastly white face of horror, and I felt my blood curdle as that long,
shrill, unearthly shriek pealed through the silent passages. It grew
louder and nearer, and seemed to sweep through the room, dying away in
the opposite direction. Miss Patricia fell forward without a word in a
dead faint.

“I looked at Miss Collingham; she had not moved, or shown any sign of
hearing or heeding that awful sound. In a few seconds the room was
filled with terrified women, roused from their sleep by the weird cry
which rang through the house. Miss Patricia was conveyed by some of them
to her own room, where, after much difficulty, we restored her to
consciousness. Her first act was to grasp me by the arm.

“‘Mr. Feversham, for the love of the Holy Virgin do not leave me! I have
seen that which I cannot look upon and live.’

“I soothed her as best I might, and at last persuaded her to allow me to
leave her with her own maid in order to visit my other patient,
promising to return shortly.

“I found no change whatever in Miss Collingham. Sir James was in the
room trying to establish some degree of calmness and order among the
terrified women. We succeeded in persuading most of them to take a
restorative and return to bed, and leaving two of the most
self-possessed to watch beside Miss Collingham, who was still completely
insensible, we went together to Miss Patricia’s room.

“‘Brother, I have seen her!’ she exclaimed on Sir James’ entrance.

“‘Seen who, my dear Patricia?’

“‘The pale lady—the spectre of our house,’ she replied, shuddering from
head to foot. ‘She passed through the room, her hand upraised, and the
blood-spots on her garment. Oh, James! my time is come, and Father
O’Connor is not here.’

“Sir James did not attempt to combat his sister’s superstitious terrors,
but appeared, on the contrary, almost as deeply impressed as herself,
and questioned her closely about the apparition. Her answers led to some
mention of the strange vision which Miss Collingham was describing in
her trance just before the scream was heard. At Sir James’ request I put
down in writing, as nearly as I could remember, all she had said, and so
great was the impression it made on my mind that I believe I recalled
her very words. Knowing all we did of her abnormal condition while in a
state of trance, it was impossible not to fear that she might have been
describing a scene that was actually occurring at the time; and Sir
James determined to send out a party, as soon as daylight came, on the
road by which Don Luis must arrive.

“The morning dawned brightly, with a keen frost, and several men were
sent off along the road to —— with the first rays of light.

“Some hours afterward Father O’Connor arrived, having made his way with
considerable difficulty across the hill. Miss Patricia claimed his first
attention, for my unhappy charge remained senseless and motionless as
ever.

“After a long conference, he came to me with grave looks.

“‘She is at the window this day,’ he said, shaking his head sorrowfully,
when I had told him my share of the last night’s singular experiences.
‘The pale lady is there; I saw her as I came by the bridge as plainly as
now I see you. We shall have evil tidings of that poor lad before
nightfall, or I am strangely mistaken.’

“Evil tidings indeed they were that reached us on the return of some of
the exploring-party. They were first attracted from following as nearly
as they could the line of road, blocked as it was with drifts of snow by
hearing the howling of a dog at some little distance, in the direction
of the precipitous ravine which went by the name of ‘Armstrong’s
Clough.’ Following the sound, they came upon traces of wheels in the
hill-side, where no carriage could have gone had it not been for the
deep snow which concealed and smoothed away the inequalities of the
ground. These marks were traced here and there till they led to the
verge of the precipice, where a struggle had evidently taken place, and
masses of snow had been dislodged and fallen into the ravine.

“Looking below, the only thing they could see in the waste of snow was a
little dog, who was known to be in the habit of running with the
post-horses from ——, which was scraping wildly in the snow and filling
the air with its dismal howlings. A considerable circuit had to be made
before the bottom of the clough could be reached, and then the whole
tragedy was revealed. There lay the broken carriage, the dead horses,
and two stiffened corpses under the snow, that had drifted over and
around them.

“I need not pursue the melancholy story; I was an old fool for telling
it to you,” said the Doctor.

“But Miss Collingham—what became of her?” asked an eager listener.

“Well, she did not recover,” answered the Doctor with a slight trembling
in his voice. “It was a sad matter altogether; and within a short time
she lay beside her betrothed in the family vault below the chapel. Sir
James broke up his establishment and went abroad, and I never saw any of
the family again.”

“And what did you do, Doctor?”

“I went to London, to seek my fortune as best I might; and I hope you
may all prosper as well, my young friends.”

“And is it all really true?” asked Amy, who had listened with breathless
attention.

“That is the worst of it; it really is,” said the Doctor.



THE SECRET OF THE TWO PLASTER CASTS.


Years before the accession of her Majesty Queen Victoria, and yet at not
so remote a date as to be utterly beyond the period to which the
reminiscences of our middle-aged readers extend, it happened that two
English gentlemen sat at table on a summer’s evening, after dinner,
quietly sipping their wine and engaged in desultory conversation. They
were both men known to fame. One of them was a sculptor whose statues
adorned the palaces of princes, and whose chiselled busts were the pride
of half the nobility of his nation; the other was no less renowned as an
anatomist and surgeon. The age of the anatomist might have been guessed
at fifty, but the guess would have erred on the side of youth by at
least ten years. That of the sculptor could scarcely be more than
five-and-thirty. A bust of the anatomist, so admirably executed as to
present, although in stone, the perfect similitude of life and flesh,
stood upon a pedestal opposite to the table at which sat the pair, and
at once explained at least one connecting-link of companionship between
them. The anatomist was exhibiting for the criticism of his friend a
rare gem which he had just drawn from his cabinet: it was a crucifix
magnificently carved in ivory, and incased in a setting of pure gold.

“The carving, my dear sir,” observed Mr. Fiddyes, the sculptor, “is
indeed, as you say, exquisite. The muscles are admirably made out, the
flesh well modelled, wonderfully so for the size and material; and
yet—by the bye, on this point you must know more than I—the more I
think upon the matter, the more I regard the artistic conception as
utterly false and wrong.”

“You speak in a riddle,” replied Dr. Carnell; “but pray go on, and
explain.”

“It is a fancy I first had in my student-days,” replied Fiddyes.
“Conventionality, not to say a most proper and becoming reverence,
prevents people by no means ignorant from considering the point. But
once think upon it, and you at least, of all men, must at once perceive
how utterly impossible it would be for a victim nailed upon a cross by
hands and feet to preserve the position invariably displayed in figures
of the Crucifixion. Those who so portray it fail in what should be their
most awful and agonizing effect. Think for one moment, and imagine, if
you can, what would be the attitude of a man, living or dead, under this
frightful torture.”

“You startle me,” returned the great surgeon, “not only by the truth of
your remarks, but by their obviousness. It is strange indeed that such a
matter should have so long been overlooked. The more I think upon it the
more the bare idea of actual crucifixion seems to horrify me, though
heaven knows I am accustomed enough to scenes of suffering. How would
you represent such a terrible agony?”

“Indeed I cannot tell,” replied the sculptor; “to guess would be almost
vain. The fearful strain upon the muscles, their utter helplessness and
inactivity, the frightful swellings, the effect of weight upon the
racked and tortured sinews, appal me too much even for speculation.”

“But this,” replied the surgeon, “one might think a matter of
importance, not only to art, but, higher still, to religion itself.”

“Maybe so,” returned the sculptor. “But perhaps the appeal to the senses
through a true representation might be too horrible for either the one
or the other.”

“Still,” persisted the surgeon, “I should like—say for
curiosity—though I am weak enough to believe even in my own motive as a
higher one—to ascertain the effect from actual observation.”

“So should I, could it be done, and of course without pain to the
object, which, as a condition, seems to present at the outset an
impossibility.”

“Perhaps not,” mused the anatomist; “I think I have a notion. Stay—we
may contrive this matter. I will tell you my plan, and it will be
strange indeed if we two cannot manage to carry it out.”

The discourse here, owing to the rapt attention of both speakers,
assumed a low and earnest tone, but had perhaps better be narrated by a
relation of the events to which it gave rise. Suffice it to say that the
Sovereign was more than once mentioned during its progress, and in a
manner which plainly told that the two speakers each possessed
sufficient influence to obtain the assistance of royalty, and that such
assistance would be required in their scheme.

The shades of evening deepened while the two were still conversing. And
leaving this scene, let us cast one hurried glimpse at another taking
place contemporaneously.

Between Pimlico and Chelsea, and across a canal of which the bed has
since been used for the railway terminating at Victoria Station, there
was at the time of which we speak a rude timber footway, long since
replaced by a more substantial and convenient erection, but then known
as the Wooden Bridge. It was named shortly afterward Cutthroat Bridge,
and for this reason.

While Mr. Fiddyes and Dr. Carnell were discoursing over their wine, as
we have already seen, one Peter Starke, a drunken Chelsea pensioner, was
murdering his wife upon the spot we have last indicated. The coincidence
was curious.

       *       *       *       *       *

In those days the punishment of criminals followed closely upon their
conviction. The Chelsea pensioner whom we have mentioned was found
guilty one Friday and sentenced to die on the following Monday. He was a
sad scoundrel, impenitent to the last, glorying in the deeds of
slaughter which he had witnessed and acted during the series of
campaigns which had ended just previously at Waterloo. He was a tall,
well-built fellow enough, of middle age, for his class was not then, as
now, composed chiefly of veterans, but comprised many young men, just
sufficiently disabled to be unfit for service. Peter Starke, although
but slightly wounded, had nearly completed his term of service, and had
obtained his pension and presentment to Chelsea Hospital. With his life
we have but little to do, save as regards its close, which we shall
shortly endeavor to describe far more veraciously, and at some greater
length than set forth in the brief account which satisfied the public of
his own day, and which, as embodied in the columns of the few journals
then appearing, ran thus:

    “On Monday last Peter Starke was executed at Newgate for the
    murder at the Wooden Bridge, Chelsea, with four others for
    various offences. After he had been hanging only for a few
    minutes a respite arrived, but although he was promptly cut
    down, life was pronounced to be extinct. His body was buried
    within the prison walls.”

Thus far history. But the conciseness of history far more frequently
embodies falsehood than truth. Perhaps the following narration may
approach more nearly to the facts.

A room within the prison had been, upon that special occasion and by
high authority, allotted to the use of Dr. Carnell and Mr. Fiddyes, the
famous sculptor, for the purpose of certain investigations connected
with art and science. In that room Mr. Fiddyes, while wretched Peter
Starke was yet swinging between heaven and earth, was busily engaged in
arranging a variety of implements and materials, consisting of a large
quantity of plaster-of-Paris, two large pails of water, some tubs, and
other necessaries of the moulder’s art. The room contained a large deal
table, and a wooden cross, not neatly planed and squared at the angles,
but of thick, narrow, rudely-sawn oaken plank, fixed by strong, heavy
nails. And while Mr. Fiddyes was thus occupied, the executioner
entered, bearing upon his shoulders the body of the wretched Peter,
which he flung heavily upon the table.

“You are sure he is dead?” asked Mr. Fiddyes.

“Dead as a herring,” replied the other. “And yet just as warm and limp
as if he had only fainted.”

“Then go to work at once,” replied the sculptor, as turning his back
upon the hangman, he resumed his occupation.

The “work” was soon done. Peter was stripped and nailed upon the timber,
which was instantly propped against the wall.

“As fine a one as ever I see,” exclaimed the executioner, as he regarded
the defunct murderer with an expression of admiration, as if at his own
handiwork, in having abruptly demolished such a magnificent animal.
“Drops a good bit for’ard, though. Shall I tie him up round the waist,
sir?”

“Certainly not,” returned the sculptor. “Just rub him well over with
this oil, especially his head, and then you can go. Dr. Carnell will
settle with you.”

“All right, sir.”

The fellow did as ordered, and retired without another word; leaving
this strange couple, the living and the dead, in that dismal chamber.

Mr. Fiddyes was a man of strong nerve in such matters. He had been too
much accustomed to taking posthumous casts to trouble himself with any
sentiment of repugnance at his approaching task of taking what is called
a “piece-mould” from a body. He emptied a number of bags of the white
powdery plaster-of-Paris into one of the larger vessels, poured into it
a pail of water, and was carefully stirring up the mass, when a sound of
dropping arrested his ear.

_Drip, drip._

“There’s something leaking,” he muttered, as he took a second pail, and
emptying it, again stirred the composition.

_Drip, drip, drip._

“It’s strange,” he soliloquized, half aloud. “There is no more water,
and yet——”

The sound was heard again.

He gazed at the ceiling; there was no sign of damp. He turned his eyes
to the body, and something suddenly caused him a violent start. The
murderer was bleeding.

The sculptor, spite of his command over himself, turned pale. At that
moment the head of Starke moved—clearly moved. It raised itself
convulsively for a single moment; its eyes rolled, and it gave vent to a
subdued moan of intense agony. Mr. Fiddyes fell fainting on the floor as
Dr. Carnell entered. It needed but a glance to tell the doctor what had
happened, even had not Peter just then given vent to another low cry.
The surgeon’s measures were soon taken. Locking the door, he bore a
chair to the wall which supported the body of the malefactor. He drew
from his pocket a case of glittering instruments, and with one of these,
so small and delicate that it scarcely seemed larger than a needle, he
rapidly, but dexterously and firmly, touched Peter just at the back of
the neck. There was no wound larger than the head of a small pin, and
yet the head fell instantly as though the heart had been pierced. The
doctor had divided the spinal cord, and Peter Starke was dead indeed.

A few minutes sufficed to recall the sculptor to his senses. He at first
gazed wildly upon the still suspended body, so painfully recalled to
life by the rough venesection of the hangman and the subsequent friction
of anointing his body to prevent the adhesion of the plaster.

“You need not fear now,” said Dr. Carnell; “I assure you he is dead.”

“But he _was_ alive, surely!”

“Only for a moment, and even that scarcely to be called life—mere
muscular contraction, my dear sir, mere muscular contraction.”

The sculptor resumed his labor. The body was girt at various
circumferences with fine twine, to be afterward withdrawn through a
thick coating of plaster, so as to separate the various pieces of the
mould, which was at last completed; and after this Dr. Carnell skilfully
flayed the body, to enable a second mould to be taken of the entire
figure, showing every muscle of the outer layer.

The two moulds were thus taken. It is difficult to conceive more ghastly
appearances than they presented. For sculptor’s work they were utterly
useless; for no artist except the most daring of realists would have
ventured to indicate the horrors which they presented. Fiddyes refused
to receive them. Dr. Carnell, hard and cruel as he was, for kindness’
sake, in his profession, was a gentle, genial father of a family of
daughters. He received the casts, and at once consigned them to a
garret, to which he forbade access. His youngest daughter, one
unfortunate day, during her father’s absence, was impelled by feminine
curiosity—perhaps a little increased by the prohibition—to enter the
mysterious chamber.

Whether she imagined in the pallid figure upon the cross a celestial
rebuke for her disobedience, or whether she was overcome by the mere
mortal horror of one or both of those dreadful casts, can now never be
known. But this is true: she became a maniac.

The writer of this has more than once seen (as, no doubt, have many
others) the plaster effigies of Peter Starke, after their removal from
Dr. Carnell’s to a famous studio near the Regent’s Park. It was there
that he heard whispered the strange story of their origin. Sculptor and
surgeon are now both long since dead, and it is no longer necessary to
keep _the secret of the two plaster casts_.



WHAT WAS IT?


It is, I confess, with considerable diffidence that I approached the
strange narrative which I am about to relate. The events which I purpose
detailing are of so extraordinary a character that I am quite prepared
to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and scorn. I accept all
such beforehand. I have, I trust, the literary courage to face unbelief.
I have, after mature consideration, resolved to narrate, in as simple
and straightforward a manner as I can compass, some facts that passed
under my observation, in the month of July last, and which, in the
annals of the mysteries of physical science, are wholly unparalleled.

I live at No. — Twenty-sixth Street, in New York. The house is in some
respects a curious one. It has enjoyed for the last two years the
reputation of being haunted. The house is very spacious. A hall of noble
size leads to a large spiral staircase winding through its centre, while
the various apartments are of imposing dimensions. It was built some
fifteen or twenty years since by Mr. A——, the well-known New York
merchant, who five years ago threw the commercial world into convulsions
by a stupendous bank fraud. Mr. A——, as every one knows, escaped to
Europe, and died not long after, of a broken heart. Almost immediately
after the news of his decease reached this country and was verified,
the report spread in Twenty-sixth Street that No. — was haunted. Legal
measures had dispossessed the widow of its former owner, and it was
inhabited merely by a care-taker and his wife, placed there by the
house-agent into whose hands it had passed for purposes of renting or
sale. These people declared that they were troubled with unnatural
noises. Doors were opened without any visible agency. The remnants of
furniture scattered through the various rooms were, during the night,
piled one upon the other by unknown hands. Invisible feet passed up and
down the stairs in broad daylight, accompanied by the rustle of unseen
silk dresses, and the gliding of viewless hands along the massive
balusters. The care-taker and his wife declared they would live there no
longer. The house-agent laughed, dismissed them, and put others in their
place. The noises and supernatural manifestations continued. The
neighborhood caught up the story, and the house remained untenanted for
three years. Several persons negotiated for it; but, somehow, always
before the bargain was closed they heard the unpleasant rumors and
declined to treat any further.

It was in this state of things that my landlady, who at that time kept a
boarding-house in Bleecker Street, and who wished to move farther up
town, conceived the bold idea of renting No. — Twenty-sixth Street.
Happening to have in her house rather a plucky and philosophical set of
boarders, she laid her scheme before us, stating candidly everything she
had heard respecting the ghostly qualities of the establishment to which
she wished to remove us. With the exception of two timid persons—a
sea-captain and a returned Californian, who immediately gave notice that
they would leave—all of Mrs. Moffat’s guests declared that they would
accompany her in her incursion into the abode of spirits.

Our removal was effected in the month of May, and we were charmed with
our new residence.

Of course we had no sooner established ourselves at No. — than we began
to expect the ghosts. We absolutely awaited their advent with eagerness.
Our dinner conversation was supernatural. I found myself a person of
immense importance, it having leaked out that I was tolerably well
versed in the history of supernaturalism, and had once written a story
the foundation of which was a ghost. If a table or wainscot panel
happened to warp when we were assembled in the large drawing-room, there
was an instant silence, and every one was prepared for an immediate
clanking of chains and a spectral form.

After a month of psychological excitement, it was with the utmost
dissatisfaction that we were forced to acknowledge that nothing in the
remotest degree approaching the supernatural had manifested itself.

Things were in this state when an incident took place so awful and
inexplicable in its character that my reason fairly reels at the bare
memory of the occurrence. It was the tenth of July. After dinner was
over I repaired, with my friend Dr. Hammond, to the garden to smoke my
evening pipe. Independent of certain mental sympathies which existed
between the doctor and myself, we were linked together by a vice. We
both smoked opium. We knew each other’s secret and respected it. We
enjoyed together that wonderful expansion of thought, that marvellous
intensifying of the perceptive faculties, that boundless feeling of
existence when we seem to have points of contact with the whole
universe—in short, that unimaginable spiritual bliss, which I would not
surrender for a throne, and which I hope you, reader, will never—never
taste.

On the evening in question, the tenth of July, the doctor and myself
drifted into an unusually metaphysical mood. We lit our large
meerschaums, filled with fine Turkish tobacco, in the core of which
burned a little black nut of opium, that, like the nut in the fairy
tale, held within its narrow limits wonders beyond the reach of kings;
we paced to and fro, conversing. A strange perversity dominated the
currents of our thoughts. They would not flow through the sun-lit
channels into which we strove to divert them. For some unaccountable
reason, they constantly diverged into dark and lonesome beds, where a
continual gloom brooded. It was in vain that, after our old fashion, we
flung ourselves on the shores of the East, and talked of its gay
bazaars, of the splendors of the time of Haroun, of harems and golden
palaces. Black afreets continually arose from the depths of our talk,
and expanded, like the one the fisherman released from the copper
vessel, until they blotted everything bright from our vision.
Insensibly, we yielded to the occult force that swayed us, and indulged
in gloomy speculation. We had talked some time upon the proneness of the
human mind to mysticism, and the almost universal love of the terrible,
when Hammond suddenly said to me, “What do you consider to be the
greatest element of terror?”

The question puzzled me. That many things were terrible, I knew. But it
now struck me, for the first time, that there must be one great and
ruling embodiment of fear—a King of Terrors, to which all others must
succumb. What might it be? To what train of circumstances would it owe
its existence?

“I confess, Hammond,” I replied to my friend, “I never considered the
subject before. That there must be one Something more terrible than any
other thing, I feel. I cannot attempt, however, even the most vague
definition.”

“I am somewhat like you, Harry,” he answered. “I feel my capacity to
experience a terror greater than anything yet conceived by the human
mind—something combining in fearful and unnatural amalgamation hitherto
supposed incompatible elements. The calling of the voices in Brockden
Brown’s novel of ‘Wieland’ is awful; so is the picture of the Dweller on
the Threshold, in Bulwer’s ‘Zanoni;’ but,” he added, shaking his head
gloomily, “there is something more horrible still than these.”

“Look here, Hammond,” I rejoined, “let us drop this kind of talk, for
Heaven’s sake! We shall suffer for it, depend on it.”

“I don’t know what’s the matter with me to-night,” he replied, “but my
brain is running upon all sorts of weird and awful thoughts. I feel as
if I could write a story like Hoffman, to-night, if I were only master
of a literary style.”

“Well, if we are going to be Hoffmanesque in our talk, I’m off to bed.
Opium and nightmares should never be brought together. How sultry it
is! Good-night, Hammond.”

“Good-night, Harry. Pleasant dreams to you.”

“To you, gloomy wretch, afreets, ghouls, and enchanters.”

We parted, and each sought his respective chamber. I undressed quickly
and got into bed, taking with me, according to my usual custom, a book
over which I generally read myself to sleep. I opened the volume as soon
as I had laid my head upon the pillow, and instantly flung it to the
other side of the room. It was Goudon’s “History of Monsters,”—a
curious French work, which I had lately imported from Paris, but which,
in the state of mind I had then reached, was anything but an agreeable
companion. I resolved to go to sleep at once; so, turning down my gas
until nothing but a little blue point of light glimmered on the top of
the tube, I composed myself to rest.

The room was in total darkness. The atom of gas that still remained
alight did not illuminate a distance of three inches round the burner. I
desperately drew my arm across my eyes, as if to shut out even the
darkness and tried to think of nothing. It was in vain. The confounded
themes touched on by Hammond in the garden kept obtruding themselves on
my brain. I battled against them. I erected ramparts of would-be
blankness of intellect to keep them out. They still crowded upon me.
While I was lying still as a corpse, hoping that by a perfect physical
inaction I should hasten mental repose, an awful incident occurred. A
Something dropped, as it seemed, from the ceiling, plumb upon my chest,
and the next instant I felt two bony hands encircling my throat,
endeavoring to choke me.

I am no coward, and am possessed of considerable physical strength. The
suddenness of the attack, instead of stunning me, strung every nerve to
its highest tension. My body acted from instinct, before my brain had
time to realize the terrors of my position. In an instant I wound two
muscular arms around the creature, and squeezed it, with all the
strength of despair, against my chest. In a few seconds the bony hands
that had fastened on my throat loosened their hold, and I was free to
breathe once more. Then commenced a struggle of awful intensity.
Immersed in the most profound darkness, totally ignorant of the nature
of the Thing by which I was so suddenly attacked, finding my grasp
slipping every moment, by reason, it seemed to me, of the entire
nakedness of my assailant, bitten with sharp teeth in the shoulder,
neck, and chest, having every moment to protect my throat against a pair
of sinewy, agile hands, which my utmost efforts could not confine—these
were a combination of circumstances to combat which required all the
strength, skill, and courage that I possessed.

At last, after a silent, deadly, exhausting struggle, I got my assailant
under by a series of incredible efforts of strength. Once pinned, with
my knee on what I made out to be its chest, I knew that I was victor. I
rested for a moment to breathe. I heard the creature beneath me panting
in the darkness, and felt the violent throbbing of a heart. It was
apparently as exhausted as I was; that was one comfort. At this moment I
remembered that I usually placed under my pillow, before going to bed,
a large yellow silk pocket-handkerchief. I felt for it instantly; it was
there. In a few seconds more I had, after a fashion, pinioned the
creature’s arms.

I now felt tolerably secure. There was nothing more to be done but to
turn on the gas, and, having first seen what my midnight assailant was
like, arouse the household. I will confess to being actuated by a
certain pride in not giving the alarm before; I wished to make the
capture alone and unaided.

Never losing my hold for an instant, I slipped from the bed to the
floor, dragging my captive with me. I had but a few steps to make to
reach the gas-burner; these I made with the greatest caution, holding
the creature in a grip like a vice. At last I got within arm’s length of
the tiny speck of blue light which told me where the gas-burner lay.
Quick as lightning I released my grasp with one hand and let on the full
flood of light. Then I turned to look at my captive.

I cannot even attempt to give any definition of my sensations the
instant after I turned on the gas. I suppose I must have shrieked with
terror, for in less than a minute afterward my room was crowded with the
inmates of the house. I shudder now as I think of that awful moment. _I
saw nothing!_ Yes; I had one arm firmly clasped round a breathing,
panting, corporeal shape, my other hand gripped with all its strength a
throat as warm, and apparently fleshly, as my own; and yet, with this
living substance in my grasp, with its body pressed against my own, and
all in the bright glare of a large jet of gas, I absolutely beheld
nothing! Not even an outline—a vapor!

I do not, even at this hour, realize the situation in which I found
myself. I cannot recall the astounding incident thoroughly. Imagination
in vain tries to compass the awful paradox.

It breathed. I felt its warm breath upon my cheek. It struggled
fiercely. It had hands. They clutched me. Its skin was smooth, like my
own. There it lay, pressed close up against me, solid as stone—and yet
utterly invisible!

I wonder that I did not faint or go mad on the instant. Some wonderful
instinct must have sustained me; for absolutely, in place of loosening
my hold on the terrible Enigma, I seemed to gain an additional strength
in my moment of horror, and tightened my grasp with such wonderful force
that I felt the creature shivering with agony.

Just then Hammond entered my room at the head of the household. As soon
as he beheld my face—which, I suppose, must have been an awful sight to
look at—he hastened forward, crying, “Great Heaven, what has happened?”

“Hammond! Hammond!” I cried, “come here. Oh, this is awful! I have been
attacked in bed by something or other, which I have hold of; but I can’t
see it—I can’t see it!”

Hammond, doubtless struck by the unfeigned horror expressed in my
countenance, made one or two steps forward with an anxious yet puzzled
expression. A very audible titter burst from the remainder of my
visitors. This suppressed laughter made me furious. To laugh at a human
being in my position! It was the worst species of cruelty. _Now_, I can
understand why the appearance of a man struggling violently, as it would
seem, with an airy nothing, and calling for assistance against a vision,
should have appeared ludicrous. _Then_, so great was my rage against the
mocking crowd that had I the power I would have stricken them dead where
they stood.

“Hammond! Hammond!” I cried again, despairingly, “for God’s sake come to
me. I can hold the—the thing but a short while longer. It is
overpowering me. Help me! Help me!”

“Harry,” whispered Hammond, approaching me, “you have been smoking too
much opium.”

“I swear to you, Hammond, that this is no vision,” I answered, in the
same low tone. “Don’t you see how it shakes my whole frame with its
struggles? If you don’t believe me convince yourself. Feel it—touch
it.”

Hammond advanced and laid his hand in the spot I indicated. A wild cry
of horror burst from him. He had felt it!

In a moment he had discovered somewhere in my room a long piece of cord,
and was the next instant winding it and knotting it about the body of
the unseen being that I clasped in my arms.

“Harry,” he said, in a hoarse, agitated voice, for, though he preserved
his presence of mind, he was deeply moved, “Harry, it’s all safe now.
You may let go, old fellow, if you’re tired. The Thing can’t move.”

I was utterly exhausted, and I gladly loosed my hold.

[Illustration: “BOTH OF US—CONQUERING OUR FEARFUL REPUGNANCE TO TOUCH
THE INVISIBLE CREATURE—LIFTED IT FROM THE GROUND, MANACLED AS IT WAS,
AND TOOK IT TO MY BED.”]

Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord, that bound the Invisible,
twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he
beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a
vacant space. I never saw a man look so thoroughly stricken with awe.
Nevertheless his face expressed all the courage and determination which
I knew him to possess. His lips, although white, were set firmly, and
one could perceive at a glance that, although stricken with fear, he was
not daunted.

The confusion that ensued among the guests of the house who were
witnesses of this extraordinary scene between Hammond and myself—who
beheld the pantomime of binding this struggling Something—who beheld me
almost sinking from physical exhaustion when my task of jailer was
over—the confusion and terror that took possession of the bystanders,
when they saw all this, was beyond description. The weaker ones fled
from the apartment. The few who remained clustered near the door and
could not be induced to approach Hammond and his Charge. Still
incredulity broke out through their terror. They had not the courage to
satisfy themselves, and yet they doubted. It was in vain that I begged
of some of the men to come near and convince themselves by touch of the
existence in that room of a living being which was invisible. They were
incredulous, but did not dare to undeceive themselves. How could a
solid, living, breathing body be invisible, they asked. My reply was
this. I gave a sign to Hammond, and both of us—conquering our fearful
repugnance to touch the invisible creature—lifted it from the ground,
manacled as it was, and took it to my bed. Its weight was about that of
a boy of fourteen.

“Now, my friends,” I said, as Hammond and myself held the creature
suspended over the bed, “I can give you self-evident proof that here is
a solid, ponderable body, which, nevertheless, you cannot see. Be good
enough to watch the surface of the bed attentively.”

I was astonished at my own courage in treating this strange event so
calmly; but I had recovered from my first terror, and felt a sort of
scientific pride in the affair, which dominated every other feeling.

The eyes of the bystanders were immediately fixed on my bed. At a given
signal Hammond and I let the creature fall. There was the dull sound of
a heavy body alighting on a soft mass. The timbers of the bed creaked. A
deep impression marked itself distinctly on the pillow, and on the bed
itself. The crowd who witnessed this gave a low cry, and rushed from the
room. Hammond and I were left alone with our Mystery.

We remained silent for some time, listening to the low irregular
breathing of the creature on the bed and watching the rustle of the
bed-clothes as it impotently struggled to free itself from confinement.
Then Hammond spoke.

“Harry, this is awful.”

“Ay, awful.”

“But not unaccountable.”

“Not unaccountable! What do you mean? Such a thing has never occurred
since the birth of the world. I know not what to think, Hammond. God
grant that I am not mad and that this is not an insane fantasy!”

“Let us reason a little, Harry. Here is a solid body which we touch but
which we cannot see. The fact is so unusual that it strikes us with
terror. Is there no parallel, though, for such a phenomenon? Take a
piece of pure glass. It is tangible and transparent. A certain chemical
coarseness is all that prevents its being so entirely transparent as to
be totally invisible. It is not _theoretically impossible_, mind you, to
make a glass which shall not reflect a single ray of light—a glass so
pure and homogeneous in its atoms that the rays from the sun will pass
through it as they do through the air, refracted but not reflected. We
do not see the air, and yet we feel it.”

“That’s all very well, Hammond, but these are inanimate substances.
Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. This thing has a heart
that palpitates—a will that moves it—lungs that play, and inspire and
respire.”

“You forget the phenomena of which we have so often heard of late,”
answered the doctor gravely. “At the meetings called ‘spirit circles,’
invisible hands have been thrust into the hands of those persons round
the table—warm, fleshly hands that seemed to pulsate with mortal life.”

“What? Do you think, then, that this thing is——”

“I don’t know what it is,” was the solemn reply; “but please the gods I
will, with your assistance, thoroughly investigate it.”

We watched together, smoking many pipes, all night long, by the bedside
of the unearthly being that tossed and panted until it was apparently
wearied out. Then we learned by the low, regular breathing that it
slept.

The next morning the house was all astir. The boarders congregated on
the landing outside my room, and Hammond and myself were lions. We had
to answer a thousand questions as to the state of our extraordinary
prisoner, for as yet not one person in the house except ourselves could
be induced to set foot in the apartment.

The creature was awake. This was evidenced by the convulsive manner in
which the bed-clothes were moved in its efforts to escape. There was
something truly terrible in beholding, as it were, those second-hand
indications of the terrible writhings and agonized struggles for liberty
which themselves were invisible.

Hammond and myself had racked our brains during the long night to
discover some means by which we might realize the shape and general
appearance of the Enigma. As well as we could make out by passing our
hands over the creature’s form, its outlines and lineaments were human.
There was a mouth; a round, smooth head without hair; a nose, which,
however, was little elevated above the cheeks; and its hands and feet
felt like those of a boy. At first we thought of placing the being on a
smooth surface and tracing its outlines with chalk, as shoemakers trace
the outline of the foot. This plan was given up as being of no value.
Such an outline would give not the slightest idea of its conformation.

A happy thought struck me. We would take a cast of it in
plaster-of-Paris. This would give us the solid figure, and satisfy all
our wishes. But how to do it. The movements of the creature would
disturb the setting of the plastic covering, and distort the mould.
Another thought. Why not give it chloroform? It had respiratory
organs—that was evident by its breathing. Once reduced to a state of
insensibility, we could do with it what we would. Doctor X—— was sent
for; and after the worthy physician had recovered from the first shock
of amazement, he proceeded to administer the chloroform. In three
minutes afterward we were enabled to remove the fetters from the
creature’s body, and a modeller was busily engaged in covering the
invisible form with the moist clay. In five minutes more we had a mould,
and before evening a rough fac-simile of the Mystery. It was shaped like
a man--distorted, uncouth, and horrible, but still a man. It was small,
not over four feet and some inches in height, and its limbs revealed a
muscular development that was unparalleled. Its face surpassed in
hideousness anything I had ever seen. Gustave Doré, or Callot, or Tony
Johannot, never conceived anything so horrible. There is a face in one
of the latter’s illustrations to _Un Voyage où il vous plaira_, which
somewhat approaches the countenance of this creature, but does not equal
it. It was the physiognomy of what I should fancy a ghoul might be. It
looked as if it was capable of feeding on human flesh.

Having satisfied our curiosity, and bound every one in the house to
secrecy, it became a question what was to be done with our Enigma? It
was impossible that we should keep such a horror in our house; it was
equally impossible that such an awful being should be let loose upon the
world. I confess that I would have gladly voted for the creature’s
destruction. But who would shoulder the responsibility? Who would
undertake the execution of this horrible semblance to a human being? Day
after day this question was deliberated gravely. The boarders all left
the house. Mrs. Moffat was in despair, and threatened Hammond and myself
with all sorts of legal penalties if we did not remove the Horror. Our
answer was, “We will go if you like, but we decline taking this creature
with us. Remove it yourself if you please. It appeared in your house. On
you the responsibility rests.” To this there was, of course, no answer.
Mrs. Moffat could not obtain for love or money a person who would even
approach the Mystery.

At last it died. Hammond and I found it cold and stiff one morning in
the bed. The heart had ceased to beat, the lungs to inspire. We hastened
to bury it in the garden. It was a strange funeral, the dropping of that
viewless corpse into the damp hole. The cast of its form I gave to
Doctor X——, who keeps it in his museum in Tenth Street.

As I am on the eve of a long journey from which I may not return, I have
drawn up this narrative of an event the most singular that has ever come
to my knowledge.


    +------------------------------------------------------------------+
    |Transcriber’s Note:                                               |
    |                                                                  |
    |The words peckett (page 11), stronge (page 170) and Boulevart(s)  |
    |(pages 59 and 80), the use of both L’Estrange and l’Estrange, and |
    |variations in hyphenated words have been retained as in the       |
    |original book.                                                    |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  21 “Derybshire” changed to “Derbyshire”                     |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  22 “felt their hair” changed to “felt the hair”             |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  46 “Come baack to” changed to “Come back to”                |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  48 Added “ before Dear Mr. Westcar                          |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  61 “sufficiently start ling” changed to                     |
    |         “sufficiently startling”                                 |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  84 Changed “ to ‘ before And what other                     |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page  95 Removed “ before together with                           |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 115 “dangerous conditon” changed to “dangerous condition”    |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 120 “keeeping the matter” changed to “keeping the matter”    |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 123 Added “ after new stalls, Gen’ral).                      |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 127 “beyond each” changed to “beyond reach”                  |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 138 “tradionally imputed” changed to “traditionally imputed” |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 152 “by which pedestrains” changed to “by which pedestrians” |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 164 “buy the joint of you” changed to “buy the joint off you”|
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 191 “was on the the man’s” changed to “was on the man’s”     |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 219 “Miss Collingwood had been languid” changed to           |
    |         “Miss Collingham had been languid”                       |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 220 Added “ before Miss Collingham started                   |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 232 Removed “ before The shades of evening                   |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 233 “Ferhaps the following” changed to                       |
    |         “Perhaps the following”                                  |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 235 “it gavevent to” changed to “it gave vent to”            |
    |                                                                  |
    |Page 250 “my rage are against” changed to “my rage against”       |
    +------------------------------------------------------------------+





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