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CHAPTER 1. ‘ Large and roomy ; well furnished ; good garden ; healthy neighborhood ; within easy reach of a railroad station ; good boys’ school near; not far from London ; cheap ! ’ Thus, with something more than a suspicion of scorn in her voice, my sister Margaret ran off on her fingers the list of my requirements for a house.

‘You want every comfort,’ continued my sister, ‘ and you don’t want to pay for every comfort. I believe you Anglo-Indians think we live upon nothing in England.’

Her husband came in as she spoke. Turning to him she ran over again, with a slight exaggeration and a deeper infusion of contempt, the catalogue given above. He took a seat. ‘ Difficult,’ lie said, oracularly, ‘but it might be done. -1 have it,’ said he, turning to his wife.

‘What? The right house ! Then you are cleverer than I thought you.’ ‘ Do you remember the story Williams told us yesterday ? ’ ‘ Now, James,’said my sister, rising to her feet and looking at her husband severely, ‘ if you advise Eleanor to take that house you do it on your own responsibility. I wash my hands of it.’ ‘ Sit down again, Margaret,’ he said, ‘Be reasonable, my dear. Is there any sufficient reason why Eleanor should not take that house ? ’

‘There is one very good reason—she will have to do the housework herself No servant will stay a week.’ ‘ She has an Indian servant, at any rale, who must stand by her.’ ‘ But think of herself, of her feelings. You smile, James. Oh, yes, I know you think me absurd. Very likely I am absurd. But remember this—there’s no smoke without some fire. Beside, I know the last tenants. Mrs Green is not an idiot. She told me—’

‘ Stay a moment,’ said my brother-in-law, and he addressed himself to me. ‘ Eleanor, tell me the truth ; are you a believer in ghosts ? ’ * Does this mean .that the eligible house is haunted?’ I exclaimed, much stimulated by what I had heard. ‘lf so, I will take it at once. Write to the agent for me, James.’ ‘ I do believe you are all going mad,’ said my worthy sister, holding up her hands in horror. ‘James, you are a sensible man. You know things ought not to be done in a hurry. Eleanor, listen to what I heard from the last tenant. She told me with her own lips —its none of vour second-hand

stones ‘ No,’ I interrupted. ‘ Don't tell me. If there is a ghost it will show itself. If there is not I might be set thinking of your story, and might imagine it; or at least,’ —correcting myself—‘ I might be betrayed into telling somebody else. Somebody else might imagine it.’ My brother-in-law thereupon entered into rn elaboiate description of the house, which had everything I could desire, and he believed I could have it for a rent which was so small, considering its advantages, as to seem nearly nominal. ‘ The fact is,’ he said, ‘ their principal object is to have the thing off their hands. Tenants have been coming and tenants have been going; and some have paid and some have not paid. The place has got a bad name in the neighborhood. The owners, however, think that if a respectable tenant comes and stays for some time it will have a good effect on the public mind. But, as Margaret says, you must count the cost. Your servants will be sure to hear the ghost story. They will see visions and dream dreams. You may have to do a good deal of the work yourself. By-the-by, there is an old housekeeper, a Mrs Weevil, who lives in the lower rooms.’ ‘ Could we not get rid of her ?’ I said. ‘ She might tell the servants.’ ‘ I am afraid that would be easier said than done,’ he answered. ‘ She has some claim upo i the family. But *

is a quiet old soul, who i iterferes with nobody. You might warn her you know.’ ‘ Well,’ I said, ‘ let us write to the agent, and see what can be done.’ The result of this was that, a week or two later, on a placid afternoon in the month of August, I drove up with my children, servants and luggage before the deep porch of one of "those moderately sized country houses which abound in the county "of Surrey. It was to be my home for the next ■ months—servants and ghosts .pefsnit-

For once description and the... expect « tation that followed hard upon it weje* > I felt, abundantly justified. My earthly paradise was a paradise indeed, ;> apd joyfully, on the evening of our arrival, I sat and wrote to my husband of ohr/ good fortune. The house was beautLT fully situated, and was itself picturesque, with its deep porch in front, and.the, neat balcony that surmounted it. It was an irregular building, and its red brick walls were half smothered swilh ’ ivy and clematis. Beyond the garden' in front was a broad fawn, bounded by the grand old beeches and elnjs which, form a belt round Lord B—’s estate. During the first few. weeks nothing happened to change aiy good opihoin ' ! of the house.

There was one circumstances I did, * not like; but I persuaded myself that it was trivial, and to be affected,by. it, proved ultra-sensitiveness; : besides J had been warned beforehand. Two of the lower rooms were occupied by old woman. She -was a was told, of our landlord’s. ’Many,/.', years ago she had been housekeeper/: to some relatives of his, who U|ed in the house, and she had lived irf it ever since. I wished to see her.a rid Halvah some conversation with hen ; I'dislikedv "**■ in the first place, that any, one. whpm^; > I knew nothing of should be in my house; and in the second place, I was anxious to warn her to keep the ghost story (whatever that might be) secrete ? My three English servants were tiorth*" country girls. I had taken good that they should be utter. strangers? to the neighborhood but I knew If a possibility of seeing a ghost were. sug-- T gested to them they would soon make I the possibility a certainty, and thep trouble would begin. I sent a polite message, ., Mrs Weevil, asking for an interview ; and she came to, my room. She was pot a prepossessing woman. Her age might be somewhere between 60 and jo ; and as she dropped an awful courtesy 'dn entering, I felt she was giving me an;, homage which she did not pay willingly. I said that I understood that she had permission from the owner of the. hous<a to occupy certain rooms in it. ' ;

‘Yes, ma’am,’ she said; ‘but niot • from the owner as is the owUer of lhe-“ ’ouse now, ma’am.’ T r She manifested, I thought, a-cer|airf' J" little concealed sulkiness as T ‘ webP 6A * to ask her if she cou!d> not be - induced \ to find accommodation ’Tor iielrself iud. some of the cottages on the adjoining estate, so as to give us the house to ourselves. She stubbornly refused. ‘No ma’am,’ she , went,on to say, , ‘ l am an old woman as has for nigh twenty years, ,and j never gives trouble to no one. I only wishes to be. . let alone; and I means to stay ma’am —yes, 1 means to stay.’ . 1 . ; I saw that it, would serve no pur- 1 pose at present to try to dissuade her yd and as I did not wish to quarrel with her, I changed the conve’rsatibn. I said I understood that there were some l) foolish stories current about the JiquStihT being haunted, and 1 hoped, whatever she thought of it, that she would say_ nothing to my servants on .the sybjoefe‘lf your servants ’lTlet ma’am, I’ll let them alone. I has no . wish to meddle with any lady’s set- / vants.’ d i a.

I then permitted her to gor She was certainly no trouble, about the house; and she was very seldom seen either by me or the serVantsr !K SSS J “ only went out occasionallyy make such purchases as her necessitiesmight require, locking the door of her rooms both in going and returning. A month passed by. People iii <hfe‘T neighborhood began to call, They all praised the house and grounds; but they all looked mysterious* and-'one and another hmted: ‘You won’t here over the winter.’ J My answer was a smile. But the,,?; winter came. Flowers faded.; trees ; ,- grew red, golden, brown; and at last] their shivering leaves fell to - It was an early.winter,,; In Novembfee the cold was intense, and the, daX s i:t were short and gloomy. Many years have passed by since I had spent A winter in England, and I felt the cold ~ , very much, I made the best of things, however, muffled myself and the child- ;: ren in flannel, keeping the doors and windows closed, and having large fires in the rooms and hall. In spite pfall I could do, two of them fell ill, for their ayah (Indian nurse) was suffering at the moment from a severe, cold, which rendered her almost incapable of helping me. Such was my position, when, »pne]-'‘ morning, my housemaid asked to see me. 1 knew what this meant ;>and was not surprised to hear that she intended to leave us that very day. j Her mother wanted her, she said. I asked ./ her mother’s reason. She was impenetrable. 1 offered her wages. She said, trembling that she would not stay if I, were to offer her a hundred pounds,* . I began to perceive that the news olf the' ghost story had got abroad; and I f asked her if there was anything in thej. house of which she was afraid ; but |o this question she was dumb.*" I sdiid "I would see her again, and sat down to think, with my sick child in* my lap.

Even while I was thinking, there camea knock at the door of my room." ."J ; cried out ‘Come in,’ but my heart/ ' sank. : My cook was at the door. : The‘girt ' 1 who helped in the kitchen and liousfe T was behind her. Both looked scared" and announced that they. wete*gsi|gT did not know what 'to do, :fTp , gain time I ordered them backito’ thellt I work. I had no money in the house, I said. The bank, as they kheW/ ! vrtls ( some. miles distant, They- , right to leave me without; .q#® : ~jiptK^,^* a in fact, I would not let them gosaid, and hoped they : wcrt a! tmie. But late-that eveninggtife came to me with cbnsternattdn : face. AH the English servants had left me! ...r,; u / By. that time the cwei«/ in bed and everything was still. 1 bade

the ayah go to her room with the younger children, and, after locking my bed-room door, sat alone, thinking. I had passed through an exciting day. The night was chilly ; and I was tired and not very well. That the warmth of the fire and the comfort of my favorite lounging chair, should presently cause a delightful sense of indifference to all and every annoyance need not be considered wonderful. As I sat there I gave way to the pleasant compulsion, and was soon, I imagine, fast asleep. 1 say I imagine, because there was no witness present; and of what we do, or what we don’t do, in that strange indefinite border land of sensation which separate waking time from sleeping time, we can never be perfectly certain. {To be continued.)

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Bibliographic details

THE HAUNTED HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 296, 18 March 1881

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THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 296, 18 March 1881

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