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THE HAUNTED HOUSE.

————— CHAPTER \l.—(Continued.) I was in a high state of excitement, and with difficulty could suppress my feelings, but stood silent as the two men went round and looked into the opening thus discovered. They asked for a candle, which I presently brought them ; when we found that the recess was a small place, about five feet high and two deep, and that it was formed of solid mason-work on all sides but the front. A box large enough to fill the whole space of the bottom, was attached to the wall by strong iron staples, as if to prevent its removal; but, curiously enough, the box itself was not locked, though supplied with a hasp and padlock. The lid was at once lifted, when we saw stuffed into it, as if hurriedly, a mass of white garment, which we found to be an old chasuble or surplice, that must have formed at one time part of the ceremonial robes of a priest. We brought it forth to the light and examined it, and there, in the garment, we found that a piece had been torn out, which was exactly fitted by the bit of white embroidered cloth which I had picked up in my bed-room the previous evening. This was evidence indisputable that, whoever or whatever my ghostly visitor was, here at least was the garment that had been worn on that occasion : the more so, that attached to the upper part of the garment was a kind of hood which, when drawn over the head and free, would give in dim and uncertain light the grim aspect that I had seen on the previous evening. I felt within me a burning indignation that for years the peace and happiness of successive families in the house should have been destroyed by the wretched trickery of so depraved old woman, in her malicious desire to injure the young lady who owned the house, by depriving her of the income that would otherwise have been derived from it.

My first impulse was to leave things as they were in the apartment till the arrival of the old hag and confront her at once with the evidences we had discovered of her malevolent practices ; but on a second examination of the box it was found that it contained a false bottom, easily removed, under which were found a pair of loaded pistols.’ This struck us as being scarcely in keeping with the idea that Mrs Weevil alone was cognizant of the mischievous

if«r -*•, . 'operations which had been earned on here for so many years. These were rather the weapons of a person who was both able and willing to use them should an emergency offer. And what was still more puzzling, while we had thus hr discovered the means by which the ghostly reputation of the house had been maintained, there was as yet no trace of the manner in which access was gained, cither to the bed-room which I occupied, or to any other parts of the house which had been sd mysteriously visited. In these circumstances, it was agreed at once to replace every tiling as we had except that the blacksmith, took-the precaution of drawing the charge out of both pistols, stuffing thd* barrels afterward to the required depth with paper, so that on being probed ttyey might still appear as if loaded. This done, the bed was removed back to its place, when the panneling of itself dosed as before. We then left the apartment, the door of which was, though not without some difficulty, so fastened as not readily to excite the woman’s suspicion that it had been tampered with.

1 1 viTi'i no'// two hours after noon, and Mrs Weevil might return at any moment. The two men therefore departed, but first arranged with me that they should return after dusk, bringing the village constable along with them, to await with me the events of. the evening ; as I felt certain somehow that the “ ghost ” would again appear, with the object of driving me from the house, as other tenants had been driven before.

Like his namesake in “ Bob Roy,” the old gardener Andrew was not a very good keeper of secrets ; hence it \yas proposed that the joiner and blacksmith should take him along with them to the village, and keep him under surveillance til the evening. I was glad when I saw them all out of the place, without, so far as I knew, being seen by anyone, and still more glad the ayah shortly afterwards returned with the children, as I could not help feeling timorous and alarmed? jn the house by myself, considering what we had discovered, and especially what We failed to discover, namely, how the persons playing the ghost could obtain access to different parts of the house so freely as report represented, and I had myself in one instance painfully experienced.

CHAPTER 111. Unl’ke her usual practice, Mrs Wfcevil did not return to the house that day till late on in the afternoon j and after she had entered her rooms I. could hear her bustling about with an activity. and noise quite unprecedented in my expedience of her habitsi This - father alarmed me. I was afraid she had suspected, from qhe appearance of her rooms, notwithstanding jqqr removing all traces of our presence, that someone had been there' in her absence ; and this might Be sufficient to defeat my hopes of bringing to light the trickery that had been so long and so systematically practised. But I was still more astonished when, about an hour after her return,-■ she message to me by ihe ayah jthab sheiW/ished to speak to me, if I would grant her an interview. At first, I scarcely knew ~

what answer to make. Were I to refuse to see her, this might completp the suspicion which she perhaps entertained ; and. if I did see her, I was afraid that I might by some word or look betray the knowledge of which ' I had become possessed, I thought updh the whole I , had better see her, and answered accordingly. As she entered, the room,\yith a basket over'her arm’ 'she dropped a codftsey; and from the flow of words with whiter she at once opened TlVe i conversation, she seemed to put on a frankness of manner which I had not before observed in any slight intercourse f had had with her,,,..... W:jri *

‘Yes, ma’am,’ she went, on. ‘ I .were just a-comin’, ma’anr/to' ! sSy as i°would be goin’ from the ’ouse for a few days; my son, as is steward to Lord B , being took very badly last night, ma’am.; and as he have no one to waft upon him, it holds as I, ma’am, as his mother, must do my dooty—yes, ma’am.’ All this she said without oned stopping to take breath; and . I could got help observing that she was sligb'tly flurried in my presence, and seemed 1 to keep talking as much to hide her . uneasiness as to enlighten me regarding her errand. I said I was very sorry to hear that her son was ill, and that it was very proper she should, ; irr the circumstances, attend to him. ‘But,’ I asked, ‘has he no servant in the house ?’ . . .

‘ Not presently,ma’am,’she answered; ‘leastways, the ’ousemaid have gone away over to Brookford for a few days to see her mother, who ustays there, ma’am—yes. ma’am ;” and she courtesied again in the excess of her civility. {To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18810323.2.13

Bibliographic details

THE HAUNTED HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 300, 23 March 1881

Word Count
1,257

THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 300, 23 March 1881

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