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pened to be the only one who had given proof of the agility which fear sometimes produces.
Presently they were once more seated round the fire, with the addition of Stephen Falconer, when the church bell began to toll the midnight hour.
'Now for your story, Mr. Carliel, said Hugh Buckner, and then we will go to bed. Tell us what happened to your uncle.'
'Well,' replied Mr. Carliel, if Mrs. Dagleish will suffer such late hours in her house-' 19
'Oh!' interrupted Mrs. Dagleish, it's Christmas time, so we may stretch a point;' and the cups were forthwith replenished with elder wine from a capacious jug which stood upon the hob. Mr. Carliel then began:
'My uncle, Dr. de Burgh, was a great reader, you must know, and very fond of poring over his books when all the rest of the family were in bed. One December night, as he was thus sitting alone in his study, the door of which was carefully locked (for he was terribly afraid of theives, and always had a pair of loaded pistols on the table at such times,) he had laid down his book to snuff the candles, when he saw sitting in an elbow-chair on the other side of the fire-place an elderly gentleman in a black velvet gown. His face was exceedingly thin and pale, shaded by long grey hair, which descended to his shoulders, and in his hand he held a small branch of rosemary. His eyes were fixed upon my uncle with a mild, benignant expression; and a smile of the same character gently spread itself over his countenance, when he perceived the alarm which his presence created.
""Who are you?" said the Doctor, looking towards the door to see whether by any chance he had that night forgotten to fasten it; but it was closed, and the key turned in it as usual.'
""I am come," said the mysterious visitor, 'to do an act of chari. ty and justice through your means; and I have selected you for the office, because I know your integrity.'
The voice of the speaker was low and solemn, but nothing ghost-like. The Doctor repeated his question, however, as to who he was, with the additional inquiry of whence he came, and how he got into the room; for he did not then suppose it to be a spectre. The old gentleman remained silent, but looked displeased; and my uncle, resolving to clear up the mystery, thought he would ring for the servants, who had not long gone to bed. He found, however, that he had no power to move from his chair.'
'Rather unpleasant,' observed Simon Barnardiston.
'Particularly to persons who like to spring out of their chairs,' remarked Hugh Buckner, significantly.
'There, hold you tongue,' said Mary Falconer, impatiently, and let Mr. Carliel go on.'
When the apparition perceived the Doctor's agitation, it addressed him in a tone of great gentleness, and begged he would not be alarmed, as it had no intention to do him the least injury.'
"In the name of God who are you?" said the Doctor.
""Were I to tell you," replied the apparition, "it would be of no use, for you do not know me. Listen to my errand. When I was of this world, I lived in the county of, where I died possessed of large estates. These now belong to my grandson; but a suit has
been commenced by my two nephews, the sons of my younger brother, to wrest them from him. You must prevent it."
"I!" exclaimed my uncle.
"You. It is for that purpose I am here. My words surprise you, and you are incredulous. Attend to what I am now going to say. The grand deed of settlement, the conveyance of the inheritance, is lost, and, for want of this deed, my grandson cannot maintain his right."
"Well," said my uncle, "and what can I do?"
"This," rejoined the spectre: "go down to my grandson's house, and I will give you such instructions as shall enable you to find it for him."
"Why not give those instructions to your grandson himself ?" said the Doctor, becoming a little more at his ease with his unknown guest.
""Ask me not about that: there are divers reasons (some of which you may know hereafter) why I have preferred to do it through you. Your answer, therefore-will you undertake the office?"
'After some further discourse, my uncle consented, and then the spectre disclosed his name, the residence of his grandson, and such other particulars as were necessary to enable him to fulfil his mission.
"When you arrive," continued the old gentleman, "you can say you have seen me, but without mentioning where, or under what circumstances. I will prepare him for your visit. Ask to see the house, and in going over it you will come to an upper room or loft, filled with lumber. In one corner of this room there is an old chest with a broken lock. and a key in it, which can neither be turned in the lock nor pulled out of it. In that chest lies the grand deed which conveys the inheritance, and without the production of which my grandson and his family will be ruined. One thing more I would mention, which I wish you to take down in writing."
My uncle drew to the table, and spreading a sheet of paper before him, sat with his pen ready to write whatever the spectre might dictate. Several minutes elapsed, during which not a word was spoken, when raising his eyes, he perceived the chair empty! The vision had disappeared He looked around the room, examined the door and windows, but could discover nothing which indicated how it had made its exit.'
'I suppose the candles burned tolerably blue,' remarked Simon Barnardiston.
Of course,' responded Hugh Buckner.
And what did your uncle do?' inquired Mary Falconer.
Why he went down to the old gentleman's grandson, by whom he was received with unexpected civility, though a perfect stranger to him. In the course of conversation, he mentioned that he knew his grandfather, and that he was aware of the circumstances under which it was likely he would be troubled in his possession of the
"Ay," observed the gentleman, shaking his head; "my father died so young, and my grandfather left his affairs so confused, that for want of one principal writing, I am in danger of being dispossessed of this fine property by my cousins."
"It is to be hoped you will be able to find it," said my uncle. "I think I shall," replied the gentleman, looking significantly at the Doctor, "now you are come."
"I!" exclaimed my uncle, in great astonishment.
"Yes, you. I had a dream last night, in which I saw a stranger resembling yourself, who said he had come to assist me in the search."
"“Very odd,” said the Doctor, "that you should have had such a dream. But I suppose you have already examined every place where it was at all likely the writing could have been deposited ?"
Every drawer, every box, every cupboard, every chest, every nook and corner in the house, from top to bottom," replied the gentleman.
"“And what did you do with the boxes and chests after you had thus ransacked them?"
"I piled them up in an old loft full of rubbish, which leads out upon the clock turret."
""I should like to see that old loft," said the Doctor.
""That you may; but it is not there you'll find the deed of settlement, I promise you."
"Perhaps not," rejoined my uncle, musing.
""Certainly not," answered the gentleman. "However, if you'll follow me, I'll show you the place."
'So away they went, and when they entered the room, my uncle found everything just as the old gentleman had described, including the old chest with the rusty lock upon it, and the key-which would neither turn round nor come out."
'How wonderful!' exclaimed Mrs. Dagleish.
"Yes,' continued Mr. Carliel; and, what was yet more wonderful, my uncle saw the old gentleman himself seated near the window, smiling at him, and silently encouraging him by his gestures to proceed with his task; but he had sufficient self-command to suppress every expression of astonishment. He glanced at his companion to observe whether he was aware of his grandfather's presence, and perceiving him quite unmoved, he was satisfied the spectre was visible only to himself.
"And you say you have ransacked every trunk and chest in this room?" said the Doctor.
""That's a queer-looking old box, with the key sticking out," he continued.
""Ah!" replied the gentleman, "that disappointed me the most of all. It was full of dusty parchments, and I made sure I should find the one I wanted; but it was not there."
"I have a strange fancy come into my head," said the Doctor, wish you would gratify it."
"What is it?"
"I should like to examine that box myself."
"There's nothing to examine; it's empty."
"Never mind; just indulge me," rejoined my uncle.
""Certainly," said the gentleman; and calling a servant, he bade him drag it out from the heap of chests beneath which it lay. While thus employed, his master addressed him, "Don't you remember that box, Will?"
"Yes, sir," says Will, "that I do. I remember you were so weary
with taking out all the old parchments and examining them, that when you had done you were ready to faint."
'By this time Will had lugged the box out, and it now stood before the Doctor on the middle of the floor, with the lid up, and perfectly empty.
"I told you there was nothing in it," said the gentleman.
""You were right," replied my uncle, chopping his cane to the bottom of the box, and then leaning upon it, as if to support himself. "Have you got a hammer and chisel handy ?" he asked.
""Go and fetch one, Will," said the gentleman.
"In a few minutes Will returned with a hammer and chisel, which he gave the Doctor, who immediately began to knock upon the flat of the bottom.
"Do you hear that?" said he, addressing the gentleman eagerly. ""Hear what? I don't understand you.'
"Why, the chest has a double bottom, sir-a false bottom. Don't you hear how hollow it sounds ?"
"They immediately split the inner bottom open, and there lay the longsought and much-desired parchment spread flat along the whole breadth of the chest.'
'Well, only think!' exclaimed Mrs. Dagleish, lifting up her hands with astonishment. 'No wonder, Mr. Carliel, you didn't know what to say about there being such things as ghosts, after this wonderful appearance of one to your own uncle.'
'It doesn't appear, though,' said Simon Barnardiston, 'that the ghost told him anything about the double bottom. He found that out himself, and that was the principal thing, after all.'
'Not exactly so,' replied Mr. Carliel; 'for whenever my uncle told the story, and he was frequently asked to do so, he always added, "I should never have thought of the double bottom; but the fact is, while I stood looking into the empty box, and thinking I had been made a fool of by the old gentleman, I saw him rise from his seat near the window, and advance towards me. I had much ado to prevent myself from showing a little uneasiness; for I was convinced I had to do with a being of another world, whatever might be the reason of it; and there is a sort of shrinking from such visitors, in spite of ourselves. He stood on the opposite side of the box, close to his grandson, upon whom he looked with an expression of countenance that was quite heavenly in its benevolent and affectionate character, as if rejoicing in the approaching disclosure, that was to relieve him from all further anxiety and danger. My own eyes were fixed steadily upon him, which he perceiving, his countenance immediately changed to an expression of intense satisfaction with me; and motioning me to look into the box, he gently waved his rosemary branch to and fro, when the bottom of it seemed to grow transparent: for I saw, as plainly as it appeared after the false ottom was removed, the parchment lying in the way I have described. The whole of this passed in less than a minute; and when I again directed my look towards him, he had vanished, the same as on his first visit.""
'Well, I suppose it's all true,' remarked Simon Barnardiston, 'because your uncle said so; but it was a deuced roundabout way of doing the thing. Had I been the ghost, I would just have gone
into the loft myself, took out the parchment, and placed it on my grandson's breakfast table some fine morning, instead of troubling the Doctor. I dare say he never gave any of the reasons he promised for sending him on the errand.'
'I believe not,' replied Mr. Carliel. But my uncle had some very good reason, nevertheless, for being satisfied; for the gentleman insisted upon his accepting a thousand-pound bank-note, as a slight acknowledgment of the great and signal service he had rendered him.'
'And depend upon it that was the reason why the old gentleman sent him; that was what he meant when he said there were divers reasons why he preferred doing it through him,' observed Stephen Falconer.
'How that may be, I cannot tell,' said Mr. Carliel; but the fact of the thousand pounds I do know, for I was with the Doctor when he received the letter containing it.'
'You'll think what I'm going to say very foolish,' said Mrs. Dagleish, but if that note had come to me, I wouldn't have touched it for all the world. Anything I bought with it I should have expected would do me no good.'
Pooh!' exclaimed Simon Barnardiston, laughing; it was not the ghost of a bank-note, I dare say.'
Very likely not,' replied Mrs. Dagleish, with increased gravity; 'but I could never have looked upon it like other money.'
'And strange to say,' added Mr. Carliel, it never did my uncle any good; though, for my part, I see no reason why it should have happened so.'
There now!' exclaimed Mrs. Dagleish, casting a look of triumph at Simon.
'He bought a field with it,' continued Mr. Carliel, and built a house there; but before the house was finished, the field was the scene of an awful murder; and after it was finished, it was struck by lightning, and burned down. He re-built it, and planted the field with trees, which all withered away, and nobody would live in the house, because it was said to be haunted; and there it stands to this day, empty and falling to pieces.'
And was the house haunted?' inquired Mary Falconer.
'Don't ask me,' replied Mr. Carliel, shuddering as he spoke. 'I was one of those who used to ridicule the idea of haunted houses; but I lived to change my opinion.'
In what way?' asked Hugh Buckner.
A terrible way too terrible to tell.'
'If Mr. Carliel really did not want to tell how he became a convert to the belief that houses may be haunted, he adopted the worst possible method of seeking his end; for his mysterious words and disturbed manner excited the most lively curiosity in his auditors, one and all of whom beset him with entreaties to go on. These he resisted as long as he could; but a taunt from Simon Barnardiston, insinuating that he had nothing to tell, made him resolve to relate his adventure with the SCREAMING WOMAN; and so eager was the little circle to have it, that nobody thought this time of asking about the hour; the only preparation for the story being a little closer drawing together of chairs, a glance or two at the door by Mary Falconer, her brother, and Hugh Buckner, and an adroit turning