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* - CHAPTER ll.— (Continued.) r After I had dismissed her 1 did not > know what to think. This was an I interference with my plans on which I had not counted. I had no one to ; advise with me, and felt much perplexed. As evening approached and ’ the gloom of twilight, 1 had a strange . nervous feeling, such as I had only once before experienced, and that wait in India, during the terrible days whet* the mutiny was at its height, and every footfall made us start, as if the next 1 moment were to be our last. As the dusk deepened my anxiety increased; and when at length the ayah conducted the joiner, as I had before instructed her. to my room, I was almost too overpowered to speak. Andrew and the blacksmith were for the time detained in the kitchen, as I wished to talk the matter over with the joiner, as the most intelligent of the three. As he entered my room I was surprised to find a second person' behind him, whom he introduced to me as Mr Burrowes, the district inspector of police/ who had been on an official visit to the village that day, and who, when he heard the story, volunteered his ser r vices in place of the constable. His presence at once gave me great relief; and this was enhanced when I found h e had had long experience in the London detective force, and was entering with' the enthusiasm of his profession info pur plans. Hie had heard already from the joiner what had passed that day ; complimented me highly on the pre : sence of ipind I had displayed on thf previous evening, qnq expressed hi§ acquiescence iq everything that we hqtj since done. When, however, I mentioned to him ray unexpected interview that afternoon with Mrs. Weevil, and that she had left the house, he iyas a good deal takeq aback. He questioned me a gqod deal as to her mariner aqd appestfstftceiflrai she was in my room, and as to whether she was much affected by her son’fr illness. I answered his several questions to the best of my ability, and he, after thinking awhile, pacing up and down the room, turned to me and' said :

‘Let everything be carried out as you formerly proposed. See that your family retire to rest at their usual time, with as little appearance as pos

sible of anything unusual going ‘ on. If the woman has taken alarm nothing

has been lost by waiting till to-morrow, when her rooms can be more carefully

examined by daylight. In the first, place will you show me the bed-room, in which you were disturbed last night?’;

I conducted him thither, the joiner , .f following, and after he had ascertained; where, to use his own expression, I had - first seen the ‘ party,’ and whejejand how the parly had disappeared, he at once intimated his plans. He £ I was to retire to my room as usual, seat myself in my chair by the . fire - on the previous evening, and either

sleep or appear to sleep, ■ as was tnost ■ * agreeable to myself. Beyond the - window stood a large wardrobe 1 , which, alter the house was t alV s qi^|bt/'fie and the joiner would selves, the blacksmith and the gardener being set: as a guard upon tfior the housekeeper’s "room village" constable, he would keep watct^mM^^^^^^^H

the house, but so as not to be readil, discovered. The duties of the household, in il.e absence of my servants, fell somewhat heavily on the ayah and myself; and the time passed quickly for me as I bustled about, seeing the children put to bed; after which the ayah also retired. During all this time everything had been carried on in our customary ftay. Mr Burrowes and the rest of the helpers betook themselves for the time to a distant apartment up stairs, and the, house had resounded all the evening with the mingled sounds of laughter and noise inseparable from a large family of children like ours. But now all was silent, the men had slipped quietly to their different posts; Mr Burrowes and the joiner were, I knew, in the wardrobe at the other end of my bedroom; , and I was seated in my .loungingcbair, as on the previous evening. As I sat in this position thinking, I. could not help observing to myself how near we were all to making ourselves ridiculous. The old woman whom I had suspected was out of the house ; ;qo one else but ordinary members of 'the household and the watchers could possibly be in it ; and there was I, sitting at my bedroom fire, makingbelieve to sleep, all hoping to catch, we did not know what. The humor of the situation so strongly affected me at one time, that I could scarcely refrain from bursting into laughter. But the thought of Mr Burrows having put himself to so'much trouble on ray

account, combinedwith a remembrance of what I had experienced during the pastaLf-hours, gradually sobered my feedings ; and I shortly found my thoughts floating away in the dim remembrances to my life in India ; to my distant- husband; to our long separation ; to the terrible nights and days of that fearful mutiny, whose horrors still rose up before me ; to ■ - There was a thud on the floor, and I started. 1 had been asleep, and in my slumber had knocked a book off the small table at my elbow. The fire was burning low, and I rose in a confused state to trim "it, when my eyes fell upon what I had seen on the jjreyiqas evening. In the imperfect light it seemed taller and more ghastlylodkirig, than even before, and was approaching me from behind. As my eyek'feli upoii’if, I gave a loud shriek atfd /taught hold of the chair to sup.pprt me. As I did so I saw the figure gradually recede from me, and the room seemed to grow;, suddenly darker. I am certain that, left to myself, I should have fainted right away, for the whole thing had been so sudden and found me so unprepared that in my confusion I forgot all about the business of the night. But just as the ,wjijte figure seemed to be approaching the curtained windows I saw two dark, .figures dash quickly upon it from be ■hind, then a sharp and violent struggle, in which all three rolled on the floor, as if locked together in a deadly embrace. The white figure had managed jtq wrench one arm loose, and in another moment there was the sharp click of a pistol. Thanks to our forethought, the weapon was harmless. By this time the noise of the struggle that was going had brought the blacksmith and Andrew up to my apartments, and with their help the white figure was in a few seconds manacled and led forward to the light, his white garment—an old surplice—hanging in tatters about him. He was at once known to the majority of the company—it was the steward ! . r He turned his back on me with a stifled oath.

■Leaving him now helpless, with his hands fast behind his back, in charge of the blacksmith, Mr Burrowes led the way to the housekeepers rooms below, the door of which was found to be Ipcked. It was at once burst open, and taking a candle with us we entered. The outer room was in the same condition as 1 had seen it during the day ; but the inner door showed the bed drawn forward, and the panellin g of the recess which we had discovered standing open. Nobody was there. Taking the candle forward to examine the recess, Mr Burrows found the box had a movable bottom in addition to that which wef had discovered, and that by its removal an opening sufficient for one person at a time led down a trapdoor into the cellars below. Mr Burro wes> and the joiner at once descended, taking the light with them, the rest of us waiting as directed in the outer apartment, or watching the lobbies that led to it. In a few minutes I heard sudden footsteps in my bedroom, and pishing thither, found that, Mr Burrowes ancl the joiner had reached it from the cellars, into which the trapdoors led, the whole of {he woodwork of one side of |he window of my room being ingeniously made to mbvp back poop hjnggs Ijke a door, yet so constructed that it could not be opened by anyonein theTOom.When the steward wasjsearched, there was found on him, besides the pistols, a bunch of duplicate keys} which could open any chamber, or other Ipckfast place, ip the house. The Constable haying been called jn from the garden, the steward, who Had- hitherto stood silent and sullen, Wtth'4 dark expression of malice and revenge upon his face, was handed over to him, and he was instructed by hia superior to convey him to the local police office and place him in a cell. The blacksmith he ordered to accompany the Constable and see that the prisoner did not effect an escape. Meantime the gardener, who, since the * * ghost ’ had been discovered to be but, flesh and. blood like himself, had become as bold as a lion, volunteered to stay in the-house with us all night, and help me to soothe the fears of my poor -'terrified - children* while Mr accompanied by the joiner, prdbeedea to the house of the steward. I need not burden the reader with details, but I may mention that in answer to a quiet tap at the window, the door- of the;'house was immediately evened, and' old Mrs Weevil was at

oriee ‘in the grip of the officer. She was absolutely thunderstruck, and quite lost her presence of mind. Without telling heri: i any thing of what had happened, Mr Burrdwes asked for her Son„ the steward. At first she iwutate# then said he was ill in bed. said Mrißtirrowes j ‘ he is not hnf heiis'] safe! enoiighbv this in .the police office ; so you had broke

reader-can guess in • great measure for himself; but the sum of her story was this. The mother, equally with the son, hated Miss Roupel for despising his addresses, and took the means we have seen m order to drive each successive tenant out of the house. She also admitted that after the sudden death of Mrs Roupel, it was they who had spread the stories charging foul plry against the daughter. In answer to a question from Mrs Burrowes she confessed that it was she who had played the ghost on the previous evening; but she bad never before shown herself to anyone who did not at once flee and quit the house. My attempt to get hold of her therefore had so alaimed her that she had great difficulty in escaping; and next morning had gone to her son and told him she dare not play the part of ghost any longer, as the present tenant was likely to stand her ground, and they would in that way be found out. They ' were both enraged at thus being baffled in tbetr long-cherished course of malicious practices against Miss Roupel ; and her son determined to take out his revenge upon me that night by first frightening me and then robbing the house, after which they were resolved to take the first opportunity of quitting that part of the country. Their cupidity had been aroused by the sight of some trinkets in Indian jewellery which I possessed; hence the design to rob me. In order to cover their purpose, the old hag was sent to me with the story of her son being ill, and, as he had secret means of access to the house, he readily effected an entrance after he supposed the family asleep. It was her son who had first put her upon these evil practices—had brought the old surplice from Lord B ’s house, in which either of them, as occasion offered, was in the habit of terrifying the inmates, and thus depriving the innocent object of their hatred of her chief means of livelihood.

Mr Burrowes did not trouble to apprehend the old woman at that time, but he took care that she should not leave the country till after the trial of her son for housebreaking and felony, when she had to appear against him as a witness. He was found guilty and sent to a penal settlement. Mrs Weevil, ashamed to show her face in the neighborhood, departed no one knew whither.

As for the ghost story, as soon as its salient points were known in the neighbourhood the house not only lost its bad character, but I became for the time quite a heroine, everybody praising my courage and sagacity. I had the pleasure, some weeks later, of entertaining in the house Mrs Richard Egerton, the former Miss Roupel, whom the neighborhood, conscious of unjust condemnation, received with open arms. After the terms of my tenancy expired, the charming house let for a more suitable rent, and ever since, I believe, it has formed an adequate source of income to its worthy owners. — Chambers' Journal.

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Bibliographic details

THE HAUNTED HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 301, 24 March 1881

Word Count

THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 301, 24 March 1881

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