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A STRANGE BED

(Continued.)

On the > kidding were; three doors. Passing the first two, we entered, the third, at the. end of, .the. passage."' It was a room of better appearance . than I had expected. True, the walls were whitewashed, the well-worn carpet only half covered the floor, and the furniture was scanty, including, .besides the bed, only, one chair, a dressing-table, and a washstand ; still, everything looked fresh and clean, and there was an air of homely country comfort about it that pleased me. The solitary chair was a spacious armed one, covered with .chintz—one of those easy old-fashioned chairs which seem to invite one with open arms to take a seat in their soft laps—arid the bed, an antiquated fourposter, with faded green hangings trimmed with yellow braid> promised to justify all the eulogiums of its proprietor. With its snowy sheets, large square pillow, and warm knitted coverlet, it looked a most inviting restingplace for a weary man. The very sight of it appeared to act on my as a soporific;' I felt-so? drowsy that I ciould hardly keep my eyes open as I glahCea found the room. ,

‘ Have you everything you require, sir ? Can Ido anything more for you ?’ enquired my host, as he stood near the door, with his head a little on one side, slo.vly rubbing ; his (hands, .and regarding me with his bland, perpetual smile.

‘ Nothing more. Call me in the morning at about six.’ ‘ Very good sir. There is a lock to your door, and a bolt also,’ he added, as he was passing, through. , * All right. Good night; ’ and, stretching my arms and giving a tremendous yawn, I transferred the pistols from my pocket to the dressing table before the window.

Just then the landlord, who was not fairly out of the room, returned. ‘ I beg your pardon, sir; I want to see if the window’s fastened properly. If it. aint, it rattles when the : wind blows; ’ and, calling to'Joyce, who was outside, to hold the light, he leaned over the dressing table, fumbling with the hasp of the casement. As I stood aside, unfastening my neck-tie, the girl, glancing at her master, whose back was turned, took a step towards me, raised her lips to my ear, and whispered rapidly—- ‘ Don’t go to bed yet, and don’t lock your door.’ ‘There’s all—fast ; now,’ said her master the next moment, giving the casement a pull to test it; ‘arid now I wish you a good night, sir, and a sound sleep—but that you are sure to have in the Green Bed.’ And, smiling to the last, he disappeared. ‘ Don’t go to bed yet, and don’t lock your door.’ I repeated the sentence mechanically, standing astounded where they had left me, with my neck-tie in my hand.

I was wide awake now-—that mysterious whisper had roused me as effectually as a douche of cold water wide awake, and particularly uncomfortable. What did it mean ? Did the girl suspect her master’s honesty? Had I fallen among thieves —or worse? I turned hot and cold at the thought. Involuntarily my hand , wept into the breast-pocket of my coat; arid I drew a breath of relief at finding the precious pocket-book still safe. But the girl’s warning, if warning it was, was unintelligible ; what did she mean by bidding me not to lock my door? I puzzled over it till I was completely bewildered and more .uncomfortable than ever ; .t(h£n 'the (thought occrirred to me that there might be another concealed entrance to the room,* and l , taking up the candle, I proceeded to reconnoitre my quarters. I first inspected the door-ya,remark-ably strong one, with iron clamps, and

tiQt-otiMlflip6felSpk but a heavy bolt as theh I went to the window/: which looked out upon the yard,;at the side 1 of the house, and was a casement opening all in one piece like a dbor—plainly it would be impossible to open it from the outside without employing force. I next went roun4 the walls, tapping them to find if they sounded hollow anywhere; no, they were composed of good solid honest bricks and mortar. Then I turned up the loose carpet, to make sure that no trap-doors were *in "the' floor. Finally, after ascertaining at a glance that there was neither cupboard or fireplace in* the -room, -1- examined the much vaunted Green Bed; somehow had become an objept. of vague suspicion to it, under it—l could not look behind it, as it stood close, against tfie,, wall— / got on to the chair to satisfy myself f that there was no mattrass on. the . top to descend and smother rne, as I had 7, read in sofiie traveller’s tale—sniffed thb ‘ pillow, which was 1 reddent of no stupefying drugs, bat had the wholesome smell of the grass on which its ■tover had been dried, and ivith a' ‘ half laugh at myself for the precaution, turned down the clothes Jto make sure that no diabolical machine was secreted between the sheets. No ; the bed was what it appeared to be—a comfortable country bed, and nothing more. My citadel was impregnable, and whoever wished to attack me must Come through the keyhole to do it I was so much reassured by this discovery that I felt inclined to laugh at ’ my late fears. No doubt the girl Joyce . was deranged;' as her master had said, v and as her own strange looks and ways seemed to testify, and this was raeteljl cne of her ‘ odd notions ’; in that case I need alarm myself no farther. Still, I could not bring myself to disregard her warning altogether, so I compromised the matter by resolving that I would leave the door unlocked for half an hour or so, and watch ; then, if nothing happened, I would just lock and bolt it, put'the my pillow, and* the pistol -Within reach of my hand, and turn into bed. So, settling myself comfortably into the arnvehair, I prepared to watch. ~ . It was a remarkably comfortable, chair, and now that I was na longer in motion, the old drowsiness: returned more heavily , than ever. Before the fipt five minutes of my solitary vigil had expired, I found myself nodding, now sideways, now forwards; starting up now and then with a jerk that almost dislocated my fuff jading.* forward again, to wake next moment in the middle pf \an

snore. ■ , 7 , , i , \ At last, after dozinggqd waking for ten minutes or so, an<3 grqjving more,: deadly drowsy every moment, I began to cast longing-eyes -at the* bed-treat’ me, Hojy teaming, jt warm coverlet and soft pillow 1 Could I not watch just as well in a horizontal position ? ? *»T- "WoVtlcf n4t? bfed,’ no; but;might I Hut just stretch my- ! self on it for a few‘moments? ; I'was *• conscious of these but so . - stupefied with, sleep that 1 was not conscious'of having acted, upon ; them till I foundrayself stretched upon the bed, my . limbs sinking in its soft'’embraces, my head resting oil its snowy pillow, with its faint fragrance of grass and clover,; suggestive of summer Sir ’and sunshine.’ ‘ By a preternatural effort 1 managed to keep my eyes' open for ' about three minutes ; then they slowly Closed, and my thoughts began to wand'er vaguely. I was on the rnopr again,, shut in by , the ever-descending White curtain; then Joyce’s pale face seemed to drift; past me with-the drifting snow; then 1 1 1 myself drifted away, and was lost in a. sea of oblivion. '

I suppose my sleep lasted half an • hour or so,..when I woke with a violent start to find a hand on my shoulder and a white face-bent over my own. As I unclosed my lips to'' speak,' she laid her, hand on them. ’ ‘ Hush. ’ I struggled into a sitting posture and looked at her; the confusion of vague alarm and shdden awakening j were upon me, and at first I almost’ fancied she was part of a dream. ‘ What is it? What do you frant ? ’ I whispered. As she ,paused for a moment, listen- . ing tasome fancied noisieS down-stabs,. I could distinctly hear the beating of her heart. She bent her heat} again, and put her lips close to my ear. * I want to save you from a dreadful death ! ’

I could not speak, I could only ask with my eyes what she meant. Looking straight into them, her face, but a few inches from mine, she whispered—--IDo you remember what-the master said just now ? “ Those that sleep in the Green Bed always sleep sound." ’

I nodded. She smiled^—a smile that made me shiver.

‘Aye, they sleep sound enough, for they never wake.” ‘ Good heavens 1 What—— ’ She put her, hand to my lips again. ‘ Hush 1 I cannot tell you; I s will show you. Come.’

I was off the bed in a moment; She took me by the wrist—the touch of her icy fingers chilled my veins—and, faking,the candle in her band, led me from *the room to the landing outside. Noiselessly opening the door of the chamber next to mine, she signed to me to enter.

It was of about the same size as that I had just left, and was apparently used as a lumber-room, as it contained" ! no furniture but a dismantled bedstead,' a rickety table, and one or two, broken ~ chairs. In the wall which divided it from the room I had occupied were the folding doors of a large cupboard, about four feet wide, opening at about as many feet from the floor, and extending to within a few inches ’of the ceiling. Setting down the candle on the table, Joyce opened the doors, which were / not locked, and disclosed an unusually t shallow cupboard; its depth little more ■ than the thickness of the wall, without any shelves; and containing nothing but a large heavy, thickly stuffed pillow dr cushion. She removed it—l saw her shudder as she touched it—and then putting her hantLloanangLeof - at the back of the clipboard, revealed :. that It was no wall, but.a door. On pressing a spring it . .opened, inwards, leaving an aperture as large as the cupboard itself, through Chichi saw, Waif * lost in the shadow, the room I had

'just left; “ / Jojrce' 'tritri.n^ed,iHe. ! aind. raised it ;* : and'then I made a discpviffy ; whjc$ i ;','| ■startled me The,dQ9iwas»inf*ct,;th l e i back of the bed on which I had beetl e

lying, which opened on cu..c... hinges just an inch or two tin* level of the bolster. Putting in my hand, I touched the pillow, which was still warm from the contact of my head. I began to understand, and felt myself turning a shade paler as I looked enquiringly at my companion. She set the candle down again. * Those spirits they gave you,’ she began, were ’ * Were drugged ? ’ I said quickly. She nodded. * There was no more of the stuff in the house —that was what made the master so angry when I upset the table. Suppose you had taken the spirits; suppose you were lying there in a deadly stupor- ’ She broke off, and the remainder of her revelation was made in dumb show. She pointed to the place where my head had been lying a few moments before, and then, taking the heavy cushion, leaned over _ the sill of the doof, put the cushion softly and Stealthily down on the spot, and held it down i tightly, pressing on it with all all her weight. It was only that of a slight girl j but suppose that murderous pillow had been held in its place by two pairs of hands —and those the hands of powerful men —pressed down upon my upturned face as I lay there insensible! There was a deadly horror in the thought, that made me feel cold and sick. I turned away from the opening, and leaned against the table, trying to steady my nerves. ..... (To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18810525.2.12

Bibliographic details

A STRANGE BED, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 353, 25 May 1881

Word Count
1,984

A STRANGE BED Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 353, 25 May 1881

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