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CHAPTER. I. — (Continued.)

So far as I know, I slept for some considerable time. It was a sensation, I believe, of my feet waxing cold that first loosened the bonds of slumber. While I was in that semi-conscious state, which had a peculiar discomfort, I became dimly al've to the fact that there was in the room some presence other than my own. There was movement—a stirring in the air, as if some creature had come in. The events of the day returned to my memory, which was still only half alive. I started up, rubbing my eyes, for I could not be at ail sure that I was awake and in my right mind. When I went asleep I was alone Yes, certainly. But even if it were not so, what strange, pale face was this now gazing at me across the dimilylighted space of the shadowy room? i was but half awake. My nerves were in an excited state. The ghost in the house had been my last conscious idea. And now this strange fac£, which seemed to be advancing on out of the gloom—was it a creation of my own fancy ? Or was it someone playing a trick upon me? In any case, now was my time to fathom the mystery. Trying to be courageous and gather my wits together. I advanced. The face receded, and passed into the deeper shadow, till it appeared to be suddenly swallowed up in the draperies of the heavily curtained window. I rushed forward, but was not swift enough. Before I touched the curtains the face had disappeared. I was certain, however, perfectly certain, that as I drew the curtain open I felt resistance to my hand, and at the same time a gust of colder air rushed against my face, as if from an open window. At first I felt as if about to faint; but my will, fortunately, was strong, and I threw the curtain aside and put my hand on the window. It was closed. I tried the bar, which could only be fixed from the inside, and it was as I had left it early in the evening. At this discovery my agitation overpowered me; my head swam, and I fainted. When I recovered consciousness I was lying in the broad recess of the curtained window, and I felt a trickling sensation on my forehead, and suspected, what I afterwards found to be the case, that I had struck my head on some article of furniture and was bleeding. This involuntary blood-let-ting helped to revive me, and 1 sat up.

Fora few minutes I remained partly stunned and bewildered. I felt a creeping sensation, as if I had been struck by a frost wind. After a while my heart began to beat less audibly, and 1 rose to my feet. At that moment the embers of the fire suddenly sank into the bottom of the grate, sending up a faint flickering light, which was absolute cheerfulness as contrasted with the horrible semi-darkness that had hitherto prevailed. I felt my courage returning, and managed to ring the bell. The ayah came, alarmed that I should have summoned her at an hour when she supposed I had retired to rest. I did not tell her what I had witnessed, only

asked her to light, a candle. She did so, and as the light fell upon my face, she gave a light scream. I had forgot for the moment that blood was trick-

ling from the wound I had received, or I should not have asked her to light the candle. As it was, I had to make the best excuse I could in answer to her inquiries. I said I must have slept long by the fire, and in moving about the darkened room had fallen and hurt myself. The wound, however, was found to be a mere scratch ; and in a few minutes the ayah had succeeded in removing from my face all marks of the disaster. I asked her to leave the candle with me, and allow me to retire to rest. She did so; and after the door was closed upon her I proceeded with the candle to examine the window more minutely. The mystery was as much a mystery as ever. The window had certainly not been opened by any one, and no trace was visible on the walls

of any possible means of egress or ingress. I felt more nervous than ever, and was about to turn and quit the room altogether, so much did my fears oppress me, when something lying on the floor within (he recess attracted my attention. I stooped and picked it up. It was a small piece of white cloth —a few inches square—very frail in the

texture, as if half rotted with damp or age, and adorned with a peculiar kind of embroidery such as I thought I had seen before, but could not recall where. On one edge there was a hem ; the other three edges being torn and jagged. It looked like a piece of cloth wrenched out of a garment by the foot being suddenly placed upon it. I felt I had made a discovery. Returning to the fireplace, I sat down to think. It seemed clear to me now that my visitant, how ever he or she

had effected an entrance, was no spirit. The piece of linen was certainly not lying there when I had closed and barred the window for the night; nor could it belong to the apparel of any

member of my household. It was no unlikely that it was part of the loose garment of dingy white which I now remembered ray strange visitant wore. I am naturally strong-minded, and gradually began to recover my composure. I said to myself: ‘ I shall find out the secret. The first link of the chain is between my fingers. I never before heard of ghosts tramping bits out of their drapery, and no doubt the ghost I saw had been nearly as much afraid as myself when I so .suddenly approached it, and had not got away without a little flurry. This accounts, too,’ I thought, ‘ for the resistance to which I felt to my hand when I first laid hold of the window curtains.’

I was more than ever persuaded that a trick was being played upon me. I did not feel, however, as if I could sleep in the room that night. If my visitor was, os I suspected, a mortal like myself, there is no saying what he or she might be induced to attempt, should the desire of revenge prompt a second visit. My life was not safe in such circumstances, when a barren window and a locked door were not sufficient to protect me from intrusion. I resolved for that night to occupy the bedroom where my two eldest children slept, which I could reach without disturbing the rest of the house. I was about to take up my candle and go when I imagined I heard a sound behind me. In my state of ner- ■ vousness I started and almost dropped . the candle. I looked towards the window, but the curtains hung motionless, and were parted as I had left them. A thought struck me. If my visitor were to return after I had retired, how should I know? I pondered the .matter a little, and then proceeded to action. Trickery must in this: Case be met by trickery. I went to my work- .

box, took out a real of thread and drew off a few yards. There were curtainfasteners on each side of the window about two feet from the floor, and between these I stretched and made fast the length of thread, so that no one could enter the room from the window recess in the course of thef night withy out unconsciously breaking the frail barrier I had erected. This would afford me sufficient proof as to whether the privacy of my sleeping room had again been invaded. Taking up rriy candle and the bit of cloth, I then passed quietly out, locking the door of the room, and carrying the key with me. I felt myself stronger in the presence of my children, and soon managed to fall asleep.

CHAPTER 11. My first quest next morning on leaving the apartment where I had slept was for the purpose of ascertaining whether my bedroom had been again entered after I had left it on the previous evening. I unlocked the door and cautiously looked in. Enough light came through between the drawn curtains to show me that the room was apparently as I had left it. I advanced to the window and found the thread there, unbroken, and evidently untouched. I must confess I felt somewhat disappointed. My fears had probably exaggerated my conceptions of the danger, and I had anticipated a second visit as more than probable. After thinking, however, I came to the conclusion that it was better as it was. Had my strange visitor for any purpose entered my room a second time, and found that I had quitted it, the effect might have been the reverse of favorable to a discovery of the trickery, which discovery could best be forwarded by my making as little change in my usual habits as possible. It was not improbable, seeing that no suspicion had been aroused by the knowledge that I had changed my sleeping apartment, that the “ ghost ” might be emboldened to pay me a visit on the following night; and by that time I hoped to be able to arrange for the interception of my strange visitor, and the detection of the trick. In the course of the morning I made up my mind how I should proceed. Mrs Wevil generally left after breakfast on her errands to the neighboring village or elsewhere, not generally returning for a few hours; and I thought this a good time to obtain an interview with Andrew, the old gardener, who, I saw, was engaged jn trimming the walks in front of the door, I had no doubt now that what I had seen had been also appearing to the servants who had so suddenly departed on the previous evening; and I had no doubt also that Andrew knew the whole story about the ghost having been again seen in the house. I opened the parlor window and spoke with him over the balcony. ‘ Will you come up-stairs, Andrew ? I should like to speak to you.’ He stood for a moment in hesitation, scratching his head. I think he would have preferred anything to entering my house at that moment; but evidently he did not see his way to refusing. A few moments later he was in the

drawing-room. ‘ Andrew,’ I began, with some intentional solemnity of manner, ‘ you see the position lam in.’ His expression indicated that he considered the position an exceedingly unpleasant one. ‘ The story has got about,’ 1 went on, ‘ that this house is haunted.’ He turned pale. ‘You think it is haunted?’ I asked, looking at him fixedly. He hesitated a few moments, shook his head slowly, and succeeded finally in saying, ‘W’at is folks to think ma’am ? ’

‘ I acknowledge,’ I answered, ‘ that the thing has a queer look. When ■ people appear, and vanish as suddenly. as they came, it is difficult to think of them as creatures of flesh and blood like ourselves.’ ‘ ’ Tain’t possible-like,’ was Andrew’s comment; and I observed that with the words his face took a more healthy hue. The quiet tone I assumed reassured him. Ghosts, when they can be reasoned about, lose half their terrors. ‘No,’ I answered him; ‘it is not possible. But Andrew, if we look at these things from another point of view—‘Be there another ? ’ he eagerly asked, as I paused to allow him time for expression of opinion. ‘Yes,’ I srid, ‘there is another. Before I believe in your interpretation, Andrew —Before I can believe it possible that spirits can wander about the world with no other reason than to frighten people, I must test mine.” His eyes, awakened to new interest;, were looking at mine veiy enquiringly. I explained at once. i'tti&iAr

is this. I suspect a trick. Somebody has a spite against the owner of this house —somebody has an interest :n keeping it empty.’ (To be continued.)

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Bibliographic details

THE HAUNTED HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 297, 19 March 1881

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THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 297, 19 March 1881

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