THE HAUNTD HOUSE.
CH\PTER ll.—(Continued.) Andrew was naturally shrewd. As I spoke there came into his face a new look of keenness. He smiled. * There has been queer things done,’ he observed, with a cautious impartiality. ‘ You have been here some weeks,’ I said, ‘ have you heard anything during that time about this house; about the’' people who own it? lam told they lifred here once.’
Thus stimulated, Andrew t(M“tnef tK ' * that the house and grounds had originally belonged to Lord B——, father of the present .lord, whose park was commanded by our front windows. . On the marriage of a favorite sister with/ Mr Roupel, a man somewhat beneath her in position, he gave her the house. ' Here the married pair lived, in much unhappiness, it was said ; and here their only child, a daughter, was born. After running through his wife’s .money; the husband died. When left alone, the widow, and her now grown-up daughter, determined to let their house Tand live abroad. The rent of their furnished house, with its excellent gar-, ■ > den, would bring them an income sufficint to enable them to live quietly in some foreign town. But while this ' ! project was being discussed, the widow died suddenly and mysteriously. An inquest was held over her; for strange suspicions were circulated abroad. The • verdict was that she had died of the family complaint, heart disease. - But there were those who still spoke mysteriously about the circumstances of the death, and declared that the poor lady had met with foul play. ■, a Now, this was the germ of the ghost 7 story; for it was said far and near that Mrs. Roupel, if she had really been ' murdered —and murdered by her own child, as some dared to whisper—would never rest in her grave. And when singular appearances came and went, and strange sounds were heard in the house, now empty save for an ancient ' housekeeper, the suspicion scarcely spoken of at first above the breath, so dark it was and monstrous, was by-and- T by openly discussed. ; i On this part of the story old Andrew was very ready to dilate. He warmed to the theme indeed, and would willingly have given me, had I desired it, a full and particular account of the various people who from time to time had been driven from the premises. But I, holding still to my point, that trickery had to do with it, restrained his flow of ! language, and endeavored by close questioning to find out what he knew about the daughter of Mrs Roupel, who, if his story were true, was the present owner of the haunted house. : ■ I elicited the following facts: Miss Roupel was xg years of age about the , time of her mother’s death. She .was i then a young lady of high spirit and cheerful temper; she was accomplished, i witty, and unusually attractive in appearance. Thus, in spite of the drawbacks entailed by poverty, and a sad, melancholy mother, the young lady was not without suitors. The suit of one oL: these was, according to her mother and ■ herself—they remembered their antecedents and were proud—little short of an impertinence ; for the;man was neither more nor less than Lord B ——'s house-steward. The old house- • keeper, to whom, before he bestowed the house upon his sister, the old lord had apportioned two rooms, was Mrs Weevil, the steward’s mother.
It was natural that Miss Roupel, niece of his former employer, should reject his suit with disdain. It was, perhaps, that the rejection, embittered, by contempt, should sink deeper mid the steward’s soul. The fact : was that from the day when he was forbidden the house where his mother lived thie young man changed. People spoke of his black looks, of his way, of his cruel cynical speeches, and dieted a bad end for him. - -, r Meanwhile, Miss Roupel, now left alone by her mother’s death, married Mr. Egerton, a man, from a monetary point of view, scarcely more eligible than the steward. He was a lieutenant in the navy, but as he had nothing in the world but his pay, they carried on Mrs Roupel’s plan of letting the house furnished, believing it would, bring c them a sufficient income to enable the young wife to live in comfort while ’ her husband was away from her. But,' as Andrew remarked, if this washer,j belief she must have been * often sore pinched,’ for the house could have : brought in’very little. I thanked him for his story. * Now,’ I said, you must do something moire : for me. Go to the village at Once.Find the carpenter and blacksmith. Tell them I want them on important business. There must be no delay. I will pay them well for their work. : Do you understand ? ’ For the olcFman was staring at me as if he thought I had taken leave of my senses. ‘ I understan’,’ he said slowly. ‘ But what will you be wanting with them, ma’am ? ’
‘ You will know' all in good time. " They must bring their tools. Now, go, Andrew —go quickly. And mind, Andrew,’ I added, say nothing to anyone of your errand; and bring the joiner and blacksmith in by the back entrance, for I do not want them to be seen coming here to-day by everybody.’ Notwithstanding these bold words, I ; must confess that when Andrew started on his message, and I was left alone—for the ayah had gone to the village- i I felt a little uneasy. I did not believe * m spiritual presences, but I in wickedness driven to desperation. . I was bidding defiance to a foe of whose resources I was utterly ignorant. . What if my defiance should be taken up? Mentally, I felt strong enough; i physically, I was conscious of being weak; but I set about ihe performance of my household duties, which occupied my time fully till the return of Andrew. '
I took him, as also the joiner fcpd blacksmith, into the parlor and told, them my experience of the previous - £ evening. Andrew exhibited symptoms of alarm ; but I found the joiner a sensible man , and inclined, after what - I told him, to take a similar viewwith’ ; * myself of the situation, namely, that we ' were being made the subjects bfstpme , diabolical trickery, in order to, drive us', / out of the house. He asked; about, Mrs Weevil, and if I had ever been In her rooms. I said I had- Sot; QHe
proposed at once ? to visit’ them,, the door of her apartment wis, 1
locked; but the blacksmith had luilc difficulty in successfully picking the lock, and in effecting an entrance for us—Andrew being meanwhile sent to Jceep a lookout in the garden that no one approached the house unawares. There was nothing to attract attention in Mrs Weevil’s apartments. The joiner carefully examined them; but no means of egress from either of the looms could be discovered, save the door by which we had entered, the windows having iron gratings on. We took the utmost care that nothing was disarranged; and any piece of furniture or apparel which which we had occasion to disturb was replaced exactly as found. Previous to this, I should have mentioned, both the joiner and blacksmith had ttoade a particular examination of the bow-window of my bedroom; but had failed'to find anything, to awaken suspicion in the slightest. Our search had so far been entirely fruitless ; and I was beginning to feel .more perplexed than ever, as, after what Andrew had told me of Mrs Weevil,, and of her son’s former relations to the owner of the house, I had somewhat begun to connect her in my mind with the mysterious appearance which had given it such a bad fame. We were in the act of quitting the housekeeper’s sitting-room, afraid that she might return before we had time to re-fasten the door, when I noticed the blacksmith kneel down on the floor of the inner apartment and examine the foot of one of the bed-posts. It was an ancient Elizabethan, with heavy faded hangings, and stood on a floor covered with a carpet, put of which long usei had extracted almost all traces of its original pattern. At at signal, the joiner stooped down beside him ; and I then observed that the caster at the foot of the bed-post was glistening with oil as if it had but recently been lubricated ; and we all three then noticed that there was a distinct dark oily streak along the carpet, as if the bed had been moved forward obliquely for a few, feet from where it stood, and then been moved back again. The joiner at once rose ; and taking hold of the bed, he found that he could pull it forward easily and without making the slightest noise, till it was about a foot from the wall against which it stood. At this point, we noticed that the bed seemed to dip slightly to one side, as if something were yielding to its weight; and at the same moment we observed a panelling silently open in that part of the wall which had formerly been hid behind the hangings. (To be continued.)
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 298, 21 March 1881
THE HAUNTD HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 298, 21 March 1881
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