Obrazy na stronie

ceeded. These were my words. On I was perhaps dilatory. Yesyes, it these lands there can be but one is all perfectly right, and I have not Squire."

the smallest reason to complain." I could not listen in quietness. I “But what—what?—for heaven's rose from my chair again in dismay sake, tell me! You are not about to and apprehension. " You mean to do anything ?- what are you about to withdraw-to leave the house to do?” cried I. abdicate ?" I gasped, scarcely know- “Sir, you are excited,” said the ing what I said.

Squire. “I am about to do nothing “Sir," said the Squire, looking up which I am not quite prepared for. with authority, “ I mean to cease.". Pardon me for reminding you.

You it is impossible to give the small- are a stranger-you are in the counest idea of the horror of these words, try—and in this quiet district we spoken in this strange silent house keep early hours. Do me the favour in the dark room, with its line of to ring for lights; the bell is close long dull windows letting in a colour- to your hand; and as our avenue is of less ghostly twilight, and the tremu- the darkest, Joseph will guide to the lous limes quivering at the oriel. I postern." cried aloud, yet it was only in a I rang the bell, as I was desired, whisper: “Why-what-how is this! with passive obedience. I was struck Murder-suicide! Good heaven, what dumb with amaze and bewilderdo you mean?"

ment, half angry at this sudden dis"Be seated, sir,” said my com- missal, and half disposed to remain panion, authoritatively. “I trust I in spite of it; but I was a stranger, speak to a gentleman, and a man of indebted to my companion's courtesy honour. Do I betray any unseemly for my introduction here, and withagitation? The means are our secret out the slightest claim upon him. -the fact is as I tell you. To-mor- Lights appeared, as if by magic, row, sir, my son will be Squire of in an instant, and Joseph lingered Witcherley, and I shall have ful- waiting for orders. Take

your filled the vow and the destiny of my lantern and light the gentleman to

the end of the avenue," said the How I managed to sit down quietly Squire, coming briskly out of the again in this ghastly half-light at the recess, and arranging for himself a domestic table of a man who had just chair and a newspaper at the table. made a statement so astounding, and Then he held out his hand to me, under a roof where the implements shook mine heartily, and dismissed of murder might be waiting, or theme with the condescending, but draught of the suicide prepared, I authoritative bow of a monarch. I cannot tell: yet I did so, overawed muttered something about remains by the quietness of my companion, ing—about service and assistance in presence of whom, though my head but the old gentleman took no furthrobbed and my veins swelled, it ther notice of me, and sat down to seemed impossible to say a word. his newspaper with dignified impeneI sat looking at him in silence, re- trability. Having no resource but volving a hundred wild schemes of to follow Joseph, I went out with no rescue. In England, and the nine- small amount of discomposure. And teenth century! It was not possible; looking back to the placid old figure yet I could not help the shuddering at the table, with his lamp and his sense of reality which crept upon paper, and struck with the overme. “And your son?” I exclaimed, whelming incongruity of ideas, the abruptly, with & renewed sense of mysterious horror of the story, and horror-the son's sullen and guilty the composed serenity of the scene, shame returning in strong confirma- went out after my guide in perfect tion before my eyes.

bewilderment, ready to believe that “My son," said the Squire, with my senses had deceived me—that again a natural sigh—“,

'yes. I con- my host laboured under some extrafess it has hitherto been the father ordinary delusion-anything rather who has taken the initiative in this than that this was true. matter; but my boy know his rights. The avenue was black as midVOL. XXXI.




night; darkness was no description horse's hoofs upon the road, and of the pitchy gloom of this narrow turned round eagerly, with the inpath, with its crowd of overshadow- tention of addressing the passenger, ing trees; and not even the wavering whoever it might be. Raising iny light of Joseph's lantern, cast upon eyes, though it was impossible to see the ground at my feet, secured me anything, I cried, " Hold—wait-let from frequent collisions with the big me speak to you !" when, with an boles of those gigantic elms. The effect, like a suddenly displayed lanwind too, unlike a summer breeze, tern, the moon broke out through came chill and ghostly up the con- the clouds. My eyes had been strainfined road, and rain was beginning ing, in the darkness, to the unseen to fall. I presume the old servant face; now, when this fitful illuminascarcely heard my questions, amid tion revealed it, I started back in the universal rustle of the leaves and confusion. It was the same ashamed patter of the rain. He did not sullen resentful face which had answer, at all events, except by lowered upon me at the Squire's directions and injunctions to take table-his son-and instead of

I caught him by the arm at pausing when he perceived me, the last, when we came to the door. young man touched his horse smartly "Do you know of anything that is with his whip, and plunged away, at about to happen-quick-tell me!" a heavy gallop, into the night. I I cried, my excitement coming to a think this last incident filled up the climax. The lantern almost fell measure of my confused and bewilfrom Joseph's hand, but I could not dering excitement. I turned from see his face.

the gate at once, and pushed back “A many things happen nowa- towards the Witcherley Arms. days," said Joseph, “but I reckon Reaching them, I went in with the master wants me more nor you, sir, if full intention of rousing the country, that be all."

and returning in force, to gain an “Your master! it is your master I entrance to the manor-house, and am concerned about,” cried I. “You save the old man in his own despite. look like an old servant-do you But when I went into the dull public know what all this means? Is the room, with its two flaring melancholy old man safe? If there's any dan- candles, its well-worn country paper, ger, tell me, and I'll go back with which one clown was spelling over, you and watch all night."

and another listening to-when, in “Danger! the Squire's in his my haste and heat, I came within this own house," said Joseph, “ and not a cheerless, lifeless atmosphere, heard servant in it but's been there for the fall of the monotonous slow twenty years. Thank you all the voices, and saw the universal stagsame; but mind your own business, nation of life, my excitement relaxed young gentleman, and ride betimes in spite of myself. In this scene, so in the morning, and never think on’t coldly, dully commonplace—in this again, whate'er ye may have heard ordinary, unvaried stream of existo-night."

tence, it was impossible: there was Saying which, Joseph closed ab- no room for mysteries and horrors ruptly in my face the postern-door, here. at which we had been standing, and Yet within the little bar on the through the open ironwork of the other side of the passage, the landclosed gates I saw his light gleam lord and his wife were peering out at hastily, as he hurried up the ave- me with a half-scared curiosity, and

His manner and words ex- holding consultations together in an cited instead of subduing my agi- excited and uneasy restlessness, sometated curiosity. I stood irresolute thing like

Stimulated once in the rain and the darkness, gazing more by seeing this, I hastened up to through the iron gate, which now I them, and though they both retreated could distinguish only by touch, and before me, and made vain attempts could not see, though I was close to to conceal their curiosity and eagerit. What was to be done? What ness, my own mind was too much could I do? Just then I heard a roused to be easily deceived. I asked


my own.


hastily if there was any constabulary queer, that's what they are,” said the force in the neighbourhood-soldiers, woman, answering me eagerly, while county police, protectors of the peace. her husband hung back, and made

The woman uttered a faint excla- no response. “It comes strange to mation of terror; but the landlord, the likes of you; for it takes a deal with a certain stupid adroitness, of studyin' to larn Witcherley ways." which I could not help remarking, “Witcherley ways—in the family took up my question. “Polis! Lord a delusion-a monomania,” said I a' mercy! the gentleman's been rob- to myself. Certainly this looked the bed. Ise a constable mysel'.” most reasonable explanation. Yes,

"I have not been robbed; but I to be sure; everybody had heard of suspect you know more than I do," such. I received the idea eagerly, cried I, impatiently. * Your old and calmed down at once. After all, Squire is in some mysterious danger. the wonder was, that it had never If you're a constable, rouse half-a- struck me before; and then the confudozen men in the neighbourhood, and sion of the young man-the anxiety of come up with me to the manor-house Joseph. No doubt, they trembled —if you're a constable! I should say, for the exhibition of this incipient if you're a man, make haste and fol- madness-no doubt, they were afraid low me. Do you hear? At this very of the narrative with which the unmoment the old man may be in peril fortunate old gentleman was sure to of his life.”

horrify a new listener. I became “What's wrong, sir? what's wrong? easy in my mind” as I reIt cannot be rabbers, for rubbers volved all this. Monomaniacs, too, could ne'er reach to the manor house," are so gravely reasonable in most said the wife, interposing. “Bless cases, and have so much method in and preserve us! is't the Russians or their madness. I returned to the the French, or the pitmen, or what's dull public-room with restored comwrong? and if he's off and away to posure, and thinking it all over, in the manor, who'll mind his own the lifeless silence, in this place where house ?"

it seemed impossible that anything "I am sure you know what I mean," could happen, could almost have cried I. “Your old master is in dan- laughed at myself for my own fears. ger. I cannot tell you what danger. By-and-by the house was shut up, You know better than I do. Can you and I transferred my quarters to the look on quietly, and see the Squire gable-room, which I was to occupy lose his life ?"

for the night. It was a well-sized "I know nought about the Squire's apartment, somewhat bare, but very life," said Giles sullenly, after a pause; clean, and sufficiently comfortable, " and no more do you, sir, that's a very much like the best bedroom of stranger to Witcherley ways. The a humble country inn, which it was. Squire's got his own about him that The bow-window—the only window won't see wrong to him. It's no ado in the room-looked out into sheer omine, and it's no ado o'


and darkness, a heavy visible gloom; the I'm not agoing on a fool's errand for night was somewhat wild, and dismal any man, let alone a strange gentle- with wind and rain, and, in spite of man I never set eyes on afore. Do the homely comfort of my surroundyou think I'd go and anger the Squire ings, I have seldom spent a more in his own house, because summat miserable night. Dreary old stories skeared a traveller? I'm not agoing revived out of the oblivion of childto do no such foolishness. If the hood; tales of the creeping stream of Squire takes notions, what's that to a blood from some closed door, the apstranger like you, that'll may be never palling pistol-shot, the horror of the see him again ?"

death-gasp and cry, forced themselves * Takes notions ?" I caught at on my memory; and when I slept, it this new idea with infinite relief. was only to see visions of the Squire, “What do you mean? Does the or of some one better known to mo Squire take notions? Is it all a delu- in his place, standing in ghastly solision of his ? Is that what you mean?" tude with the knife or the poison,

“Sir, it's in the family; they're struggling with assassins, or stretched upon a horrible deathbed, red with money vehemently on the ground murder. Through these feverish fan- with an expression of disgust, and cies came the rounds of the night; shook his clenched hand after the the creeping silence, which, like the disappearing figure; but thinking darkness, was not negative, but posi- better of it by-and-by, and relenting tive; the dismal creaking of the sign towards the honest coin, picked it among the great boughs of the elm- up deliberately, piece by piece, and tree; the rush of rain against the hastily disappeared within the house. window; the moaning and sobbing My toilette did not occupy me much echoes of the wind. These terrors, after this incident, and as soon as I however, waking and sleeping, did had hastily completed it, I hurried not make me watch for and start up down stairs. Giles was in the pasto meet the earliest dawn, as might sage, giving directions, intermixed have been supposed; on the contrary, with a low growl of half-spoken I fell into a heavy slumber as the curses. When he saw me, he sudmorning broke, and slept late and denly stopped, and retreated within long, undisturbed by the early sounds his little bar. I followed him anxof rustical awakening. When I iously. “What has happened ? roused myself at last, it was ten what of the Squire?" o'clock — à pale, wet, melancholy “The Squire?-it's none o' my busimorning, the very ghost and shadow ness—nor yours neither. Mind your of the more dismal night.

breakfast and your train, young genI cannot tell whether the story of tleman, and don't you bother about the evening was the first thing which Witcherley— Missus, you're wanted ! occurred to my mind when I awoke. I've enow on my own hands." Indeed, I rather think not, but that Saying which Giles fled, and left me a more everyday and familiar appre- unanswered and unsatisfied. Turning hension, the dread of once more los- to his wife, who appeared_immeing the train, was the earliest thought diately with my breakfast, I found which occupied me, despite all the her equally impracticable. She, poor horrors of the night. But my mind woman, seemed able for nothing but immediately rebounded with excite- to wring her hands, wipe her eyes ment and eagerness into the former with an apron, and answer to my channel, when I looked out from my enger inquiries, “Don't you meddle window. Immediately under it, in in it--don't you, then! O Lord! it's the pale drizzle of rain, stood the Witcherley ways.” Squire's son, dressed as his father had It was impossible to bear this tanbeen, in a blue coat with gilt buttons, talising bewilderment. I took my hat, but new, and of the latest fashion, and rushed out, equally indifferent to and with a white favour on the train and breakfast. The same bumpbreast. His face was flushed with kins stood still loitering in the highrude half-concealed exultation; his road, in the rain; and, scared and manner seemed arrogant and autho- awe-stricken as they seemed, were ritative, but still he had not lost the still able to divert the main subject of downlooking, sullen, resentful shame their slow thoughts, with some dull of the previous night. He was put- observation of myself, as I rushed ting money in the hand of Giles, who past. I did not pause, however, to stood by with a scowl upon his face, ask any fruitless questions of this and touched his hat with a still more mazed chorus of spectators, but hursullen unwillingness. Several other ried along the road to the little posternmen, a heaving little rustic crowd, lin- gate. To my surprise, I found the gered around, eyeing the young man great gates open, and another little askance with looks of scared and circle of bystanders, children and unfriendly curiosity. “Let them women, standing by. I hastened up drink our health, and see that the the dark avenue, when the rain patbells are rung."

::" I heard only these tered and the leaves rustled in the words distinctly, and the young pallid daylight, as they had done squire strode away towards the ma- in the blank night. Everything renor-house. When he was out of sight, mained exactly as it was yesterday, my phlegmatic landlord threw his when I passed up this same tortuous road with the Squire. I rushed on “No," cried I, raising my voirc, with growing excitement, unable to and shaking the old man off-“No, restrain myself. The hall-door stood I'll ascertain the truth before I move slightly ajar. I pushed it open, and a step. I will not leave the house. entered with a hasty step, which Here, go call your new master ; I'll echoed upon the paved hall as though wait for him where I sate with his the house were vacant. Roused from father yesterday.

His father, poor & corner by the sound, Joseph rose old man, what have you done with and came forward to meet me. The him? I will not move a step till I poor fellow looked very grave and search this mystery out." solemn, and had been sitting in for- I pushed my way as I spoke into lorn solitude, reading in this chilly the dining-room, Joseph following uninhabited hall. But at sight of and opposing me feebly. The ap me the cautiousness of suspicion pearance of the silent untenanted seemed to inspire Joseph. He quick- room moved me with a new_and ened his pace, and came forward re- mysterious thrill of horror. There solutely, keeping himself between me it lay unaltered, undisturbed, in the and the dining-room door.

very same formal arrangement as "I want to see your master-your when I left it last night; the pormasterbeg him to see me for a mo- traits looking darkly from the walls, ment; I will not detain him," said I. the tender lime-leaves flickering

"My master ?" Joseph paused and round the oriel, the long vacant dinlooked at me earnestly, as if to ascer- ing-table shining dully in the subtain how much or how little I knew. dued light. Every chair stood as it

"My master, sir, was married this had stood yesterday—the very newsmorning. I couldn't make so bold paper lay upon the table. But where as to disturb him; perhaps you could was the old Squire ? call another day.”

I turned round upon Joseph sud" Married! Now, Joseph,” said I, denly—“He sat there, just there, trying what an appeal" would do, last night. You are as conscious of "you know it is in vain to atteinp it as I am. I want to know where deceiving me ; your master's son is he is now." married, but I do not want him : I A kind of hysteric sob of terror want to see the old Squire."

escaped from the old servant's breast. " There's no old Squire, sir,” said He retreated hastily, covering his Joseph, with a husky voice, " there eyes with his hand, yet casting looks ain't. I tell you true; you're dream- of horror at the vacant elbow-chair. ing. My master's a young gentle- "I'll go, sir-I'll go—I'll call my man, and married this morning. It's master,” he said, with a cracked unno good coming here,” cried the old steady' voice; and he went out of servant, growing excited, “to make the room, not daring, as I fancied, trouble, and disturb a quiet house. to turn his back upon the ghostly My master's a young gentleman- empty seat. I, in my excitement, younger than yourself; there can be paced up and down the room, with but one Squire."

all my private sense of wrong and "Joseph, what do you mean ?" horror, and all my public sentiment cried I." Do you forget what I saw of justice, giving authority to my and heard-do you forget that I was stop. It did not occur to me that I here and dined with your old inaster had no right to enter another man's last night? Where is he? What have house after this fashion, or that I Fou done with him? I'll rouse the ran any risk in doing so.

I was country. I'll have you all indicted excited beyond the reach of all perfor murder, every soul in the house. sonal consideration . I thought of Where is the old Squire ?”

nothing but the od Squire; here He laid his hand upon my shoulder only last night I hack sat at his table, fiercely, trembling himself, however, joined him in convisation, and listas he did so, with the tremor of ened to his story, an' where—where weakness.

hold your-ghastly confirmati n to that tale tongue-will you be quiet—will you of horror—where wa he now? leave this house ?"

I had heard Jose h's step, timid

• Will you

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