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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Henry James
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
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Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
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Collected Stories
Henry James



Table of Contents

The Ghostly Rental
The Romance of Certain Old Clothes




THE GHOSTLY RENTAL

I was in my twenty-second year, and I had just left college. I was at
liberty to choose my career, and I chose it with much promptness. I
afterward renounced it, in truth, with equal ardor, but I have never
regretted those two youthful years of perplexed and excited, but also
of agreeable and fruitful experiment. I had a taste for theology, and
during my college term I had been an admiring reader of Dr. Channing.
This was theology of a grateful and succulent savor; it seemed to
offer one the rose of faith delightfully stripped of its thorns. And
then (for I rather think this had something to do with it), I had
taken a fancy to the old Divinity School. I have always had an eye to
the back scene in the human drama, and it seemed to me that I might
play my part with a fair chance of applause (from myself at least), in
that detached and tranquil home of mild casuistry, with its
respectable avenue on one side, and its prospect of green fields and
contact with acres of woodland on the other. Cambridge, for the lovers
of woods and fields, has changed for the worse since those days, and
the precinct in question has forfeited much of its mingled pastoral
and scholastic quietude. It was then a College-hall in the woods--a
charming mixture.

What it is now has nothing to do with my story; and I have no doubt
that there are still doctrine-haunted young seniors who, as they
stroll near it in the summer dusk, promise themselves, later, to taste
of its fine leisurely quality. For myself, I was not disappointed. I
established myself in a great square, low-browed room, with deep
window-benches; I hung prints from Overbeck and Ary Scheffer on the
walls; I arranged my books, with great refinement of classification,
in the alcoves beside the high chimney-shelf, and I began to read
Plotinus and St. Augustine. Among my companions were two or three men
of ability and of good fellowship, with whom I occasionally brewed a
fireside bowl; and with adventurous reading, deep discourse, potations
conscientiously shallow, and long country walks, my initiation into
the clerical mystery progressed agreeably enough.

With one of my comrades I formed an especial friendship, and we passed
a great deal of time together. Unfortunately he had a chronic weakness
of one of his knees, which compelled him to lead a very sedentary
life, and as I was a methodical pedestrian, this made some difference
in our habits. I used often to stretch away for my daily ramble, with
no companion but the stick in my hand or the book in my pocket. But in
the use of my legs and the sense of unstinted open air, I have always
found company enough. I should, perhaps, add that in the enjoyment of
a very sharp pair of eyes, I found something of a social pleasure. My
eyes and I were on excellent terms; they were indefatigable observers
of all wayside incidents, and so long as they were amused I was
contented. It is, indeed, owing to their inquisitive habits that I
came into possession of this remarkable story. Much of the country
about the old College town is pretty now, but it was prettier thirty
years ago. That multitudinous eruption of domiciliary pasteboard which
now graces the landscape, in the direction of the low, blue Waltham
Hills, had not yet taken place; there were no genteel cottages to put
the shabby meadows and scrubby orchards to shame--a juxtaposition by
which, in later years, neither element of the contrast has gained.
Certain crooked cross-roads, then, as I remember them, were more
deeply and naturally rural, and the solitary dwellings on the long
grassy slopes beside them, under the tall, customary elm that curved
its foliage in mid-air like the outward dropping ears of a girdled
wheat-sheaf, sat with their shingled hoods well pulled down on their
ears, and no prescience whatever of the fashion of French roofs--
weather-wrinkled old peasant women, as you might call them, quietly
wearing the native coif, and never dreaming of mounting bonnets, and
indecently exposing their venerable brows.

That winter was what is called an "open" one; there was much cold, but
little snow; the roads were firm and free, and I was rarely compelled
by the weather to forego my exercise. One gray December afternoon I
had sought it in the direction of the adjacent town of Medford, and I
was retracing my steps at an even pace, and watching the pale, cold
tints--the transparent amber and faded rose-color--which curtained, in
wintry fashion, the western sky, and reminded me of a sceptical smile
on the lips of a beautiful woman. I came, as dusk was falling, to a
narrow road which I had never traversed and which I imagined offered
me a short cut homeward. I was about three miles away; I was late, and
would have been thankful to make them two. I diverged, walked some ten
minutes, and then perceived that the road had a very unfrequented air.
The wheel-ruts looked old; the stillness seemed peculiarly sensible.
And yet down the road stood a house, so that it must in some degree
have been a thoroughfare. On one side was a high, natural embankment,
on the top of which was perched an apple-orchard, whose tangled boughs
made a stretch of coarse black lace-work, hung across the coldly rosy
west. In a short time I came to the house, and I immediately found
myself interested in it. I stopped in front of it gazing hard, I
hardly knew why, but with a vague mixture of curiosity and timidity.
It was a house like most of the houses thereabouts, except that it was
decidedly a handsome specimen of its class. It stood on a grassy
slope, it had its tall, impartially drooping elm beside it, and its
old black well-cover at its shoulder. But it was of very large
proportions, and it h--a striking look of solidity and stoutness of
timber. It had lived to a good old age, too, for the wood-work on its
door-way and under its eaves, carefully and abundantly carved,
referred it to the middle, at the latest, of the last century.

All this had once been painted white, but the broad back of time,
leaning against the door-posts for a hundred years, had laid bare the
grain of the wood. Behind the house stretched an orchard of apple-
trees, more gnarled and fantastic than usual, and wearing, in the
deepening dusk, a blighted and exhausted aspect. All the windows of
the house had rusty shutters, without slats, and these were closely
drawn. There was no sign of life about it; it looked blank, bare and
vacant, and yet, as I lingered near it, it seemed to have a familiar
meaning--an audible eloquence. I have always thought of the impression
made upon me at first sight, by that gray colonial dwelling, as a
proof that induction may sometimes be near akin to divination; for
after all, there was nothing on the face of the matter to warrant the
very serious induction that I made.

I fell back and crossed the road. The last red light of the sunset
disengaged itself, as it was about to vanish, and rested faintly for a
moment on the time-silvered front of the old house. It touched, with
perfect regularity, the series of small panes in the fan-shaped window
above the door, and twinkled there fantastically. Then it died away,
and left the place more intensely somber. At this moment, I said to
myself with the accent of profound conviction--"The house is simply
haunted!"

Somehow, immediately, I believed it, and so long as I was not shut up
inside, the idea gave me pleasure. It was implied in the aspect of the
house, and it explained it. Half an hour before, if I had been asked,
I would have said, as befitted a young man who was explicitly
cultivating cheerful views of the supernatural, that there were no
such things as haunted houses. But the dwelling before me gave a vivid
meaning to the empty words: it had been spiritually blighted.

The longer I looked at it, the intenser seemed the secret that it
held. I walked all round it, I tried to peep here and there, through a
crevice in the shutters, and I took a puerile satisfaction in laying
my hand on the door-knob and gently turning it. If the door had
yielded, would I have gone in?---would I have penetrated the dusty
stillness? My audacity, fortunately, was not put to the test. The
portal was admirably solid, and I was unable even to shake it. At last
I turned away, casting many looks behind me. I pursued my way, and,
after a longer walk than I had bargained for, reached the high-road.
At a certain distance below the point at which the long lane I have
mentioned entered it, stood a comfortable, tidy dwelling, which might
have offered itself as the model of the house which is in no sense
haunted--which has no sinister secrets, and knows nothing but blooming
prosperity. Its clean white paint stared placidly through the dusk,
and its vine-covered porch had been dressed in straw for the winter.
An old, one-horse chaise, freighted with two departing visitors, was
leaving the door, and through the undraped windows, I saw the lamp-lit
sitting-room, and the table spread with the early "tea," which had
been improvised for the comfort of the guests. The mistress of the
house had come to the gate with her friends; she lingered there after
the chaise had wheeled creakingly away, half to watch them down the
road, and half to give me, as I passed in the twilight, a questioning
look. She was a comely, quick young woman, with a sharp, dark eye, and
I ventured to stop and speak to her.

"That house down that side-road," I said, "about a mile from here--the
only one--can you tell me whom it belongs to?"

She stared at me a moment, and, I thought, colored a little. "Our
folks never go down that road," she said, briefly.

"But it's a short way to Medford," I answered.

She gave a little toss of her head. "Perhaps it would turn out a long
way. At any rate, we don't use it."

This was interesting. A thrifty Yankee household must have good
reasons for this scorn of time-saving processes. "But you know the
house, at least?" I said.

"Well, I have seen it."

"And to whom does it belong?"

She gave a little laugh and looked away, as if she were aware that, to
a stranger, her words might seem to savor of agricultural
superstition. "I guess it belongs to them that are in it."

"But is there any one in it? It is completely closed."

"That makes no difference. They never come out, and no one ever goes
in." And she turned away.

But I laid my hand on her arm, respectfully. "You mean," I said, "that
the house is haunted?"

She drew herself away, colored, raised her finger to her lips, and
hurried into the house, where, in a moment, the curtains were dropped
over the windows.

For several days, I thought repeatedly of this little adventure, but I
took some satisfaction in keeping it to myself. If the house was not
haunted, it was useless to expose my imaginative whims, and if it was,
it was agreeable to drain the cup of horror without assistance. I
determined, of course, to pass that way again; and a week later--it
was the last day of the year--I retraced my steps. I approached the
house from the opposite direction, and found myself before it at about
the same hour as before. The light was failing, the sky low and gray;
the wind wailed along the hard, bare ground, and made slow eddies of
the frost-blackened leaves. The melancholy mansion stood there,
seeming to gather the winter twilight around it, and mask itself in
it, inscrutably. I hardly knew on what errand I had come, but I had a
vague feeling that if this time the door-knob were to turn and the
door to open, I should take my heart in my hands, and let them close
behind me. Who were the mysterious tenants to whom the good woman at
the corner had alluded? What had been seen or heard---what was
related? The door was as stubborn as before, and my impertinent
fumblings with the latch caused no upper window to be thrown open, nor
any strange, pale face to be thrust out. I ventured even to raise the
rusty knocker and give it half-a-.dozen raps, but they made a flat,
dead sound, and aroused no echo. Familiarity breeds contempt; I don't
know what I should have done next, if, in the distance, up the road
(the same one I had followed), I had not seen a solitary figure
advancing. I was unwilling to be observed hanging about this ill-famed
dwelling, and I sought refuge among the dense shadows of a grove of
pines near by, where I might peep forth, and yet remain invisible.
Presently, the new-coiner drew near, and I perceived that he was
making straight for the house. He was a little, old man, the most
striking feature of whose appearance was a voluminous cloak, of a sort
of military cut. He carried a walking-stick, and advanced in a slow,
painful, somewhat hobbling fashion, but with an air of extreme
resolution. He turned off from the road, and followed the vague wheel-
track, and within a few yards of the house he paused. He looked up at
it, fixedly and searchingly, as if he were counting the windows, or
noting certain familiar marks. Then he took off his hat, and bent over
slowly and solemnly, as if he were performing an obeisance. As he
stood uncovered, I had a good look at him. He was, as I have said, a
diminutive old man, but it would have been hard to decide whether he
belonged to this world or to the other. His head reminded me, vaguely,
of the portraits of Andrew Jackson. He had a crop of grizzled hair, as
still as a brush, a lean, pale, smooth-shaven face, and an eye of
intense brilliancy, surmounted with thick brows, which had remained
perfectly black. His face, as well as his cloak, seemed to belong to
an old soldier; he looked like a retired military man of a modest
rank; but he struck me as exceeding the classic privilege of even such
a personage to be eccentric and grotesque. When he had finished his
salute, he advanced to the door, fumbled in the folds of his cloak,
which hung down much further in front than behind, and produced a key.
This he slowly and carefully inserted into the lock, and then,
apparently, he turned it. But the door did not immediately open; first
he bent his head, turned his ear, and stood listening, and then he
looked up and down the road. Satisfied or re-assured, he applied his
aged shoulder to one of the deep-set panels, and pressed a moment. The
door yielded--opening into perfect darkness. He stopped again on the
threshold, and again removed his hat and made his bow. Then he went
in, and carefully closed the door behind him.

Who in the world was he, and what was his errand? He might have been a
figure out of one of Hoffmann's tales. Was he vision or a reality--an
inmate of the house, or a familiar, friendly visitor? What had been
the meaning, in either case, of his mystic genuflexions, and how did
he propose to proceed, in that inner darkness? I emerged from my
retirement, and observed narrowly, several of the windows. In each of
them, at an interval, a ray of light became visible in the chink
between the two leaves of the shutters. Evidently, he was lighting up;
was he going to give a party--a ghostly revel? My curiosity grew
intense, but I was quite at a loss how to satisfy it. For a moment I
thought of rapping peremptorily at the door; but I dismissed this idea
as unmannerly, and calculated to break the spell, if spell there was.
I walked round the house and tried, without violence, to open one of
the lower windows. It resisted, but I had better fortune, in a moment,
with another. There was a risk, certainly, in the trick I was
playing--a risk of being seen from within, or (worse) seeing, myself,
something that I should repent of seeing. But curiosity, as I say, had
become an inspiration, and the risk was highly agreeable. Through the
parting of the shutters I looked into a lighted room--a room lighted
by two candles in old brass flambeaux, placed upon the mantel-shelf.
It was apparently a sort of back parlor, and it had retained all its
furniture. This was of a homely, old-fashioned pattern, and consisted
of hair-cloth chairs and sofas, spare mahogany tables, and framed
samplers hung upon the walls. But although the room was furnished, it
had a strangely uninhabited look; the tables and chairs were in rigid
positions, and no small, familiar objects were visible. I could not
see everything, and I could only guess at the existence, on my right,
of a large folding-door. It was apparently open, and the light of the
neighboring room passed through it. I waited for some time, but the
room remained empty.

At last I became conscious that a large shadow was projected upon the
wall opposite the folding-door---the shadow, evidently, of a figure in
the adjoining room. It was tall and grotesque, and seemed to represent
a person sitting perfectly motionless, in profile. I thought I
recognized the perpendicular bristles and far-arching nose of my
little old man. There was a strange fixedness in his posture; he
appeared to be seated, and looking intently at something. I watched
the shadow a long time, but it never stirred. At last, however, just
as my patience began to ebb, it moved slowly, rose to the ceiling, and
became indistinct. I don't know what I should have seen next, but by
an irresistible impulse, I closed the shutter. Was it delicacy?--was
it pusillanimity? I can hardly say. I lingered, nevertheless, near the
house, hoping that my friend would re-appear. I was not disappointed;
for he at last emerged, looking just as when he had gone in, and
taking his leave in the same ceremonious fashion. (The lights, I had
already observed, had disappeared from the crevice of each of the
windows.) He faced about before the door, took off his hat, and made
an obsequious bow. As he turned away I had a hundred minds to speak to
him, but I let him depart in peace. This, I may say, was pure
delicacy;--you will answer, perhaps, that it came too late. It seemed
to me that he had a right to resent my observation; though my own
right to exercise it (if ghosts were in the question) struck me as
equally positive. I continued to watch him as he hobbled softly down
the bank, and along the lonely road. Then I musingly retreated in the
opposite direction. I was tempted to follow him, at a distance, to see
what became of him; but this, too, seemed indelicate; and I confess,
moreover, that I felt the inclination to coquet a little, as it were,
with my discovery--to pull apart the petals of the flower one by one.

I continued to smell the flower, from time to time, for its oddity of
perfume had fascinated me.

I passed by the house on the crossroad again, but never encountered
the old man in the cloak or any other way-farer. It seemed to keep
observers at a distance, and I was careful not to gossip about it: one
inquirer, I said to myself, may edge his way into the secret, but
there is no room for two. At the same time, of course, I would have
been thankful for any chance sidelight that might fall across the
matter--though I could not well see whence it was to come. I hoped to
meet the old man in the cloak elsewhere, but as the days passed by
without his re-appearing, I ceased o expect it. And yet I reflected
that he probably lived n that neighorhood, inasmuch as he had made his
pilgrimage to the vacant house on foot. If he had come from a
distance, he would have been sure to arrive in some old deep-hooded
gig with yellow wheels--a vehicle as venerably grotesque as himself.
One day I took a stroll in Mount Auburn cemetery--an institution at
that period in its infancy, and full of a sylvan charm which it has
now completely forfeited. It contained more maple and birch than
willow and cypress, and the sleepers had ample elbow room. It was not
a city of the dead, but at the most a village, and a meditative
pedestrian might stroll there without too importunate reminder of the
grotesque side of our claims to posthumous consideration. I had come
out to enjoy the first foretaste of Spring--one of those mild days of
late winter, when the torpid earth seems to draw the first long breath
that marks the rupture of the spell of sleep. The sun was veiled in
haze, aid yet warm, and the frost was oozing from its deepest lurking-
place. I had been treading for half an hour the winding ways of the
cemetery, when suddenly I perceived a familiar figure seated on a
bench against a southward-facing evergreen hedge. I call the figure
familiar, because I had seen it often in memory and in fancy; in fact,
I had beheld it but once. Its back was turned to me, but it wore a
voluminous cloak, which there was no mistaking. Here, at last, was my
fellow-visitor at the haunted house, and here was my chance, if I
wished to approach him! I made a circuit, and came toward him from in
front. He saw me, at the end of the alley, and sat motionless, with
his hands on the head of his stick, watching me from under his black
eyebrows as I drew near. At a distance these black eyebrows looked
formidable; they were the only thing I saw in his face. But on a
closer view I was re-assured, simply because I immediately felt that
no man could really be as fantastically fierce as this poor old
gentleman looked. His face was a kind of caricature of martial
truculence. I stopped in front of him, and respectfully asked leave to
sit and rest upon his bench. He granted it with a silent gesture, of
much dignity, and I placed myself beside him. In this position I was
able, covertly, to observe him. He was quite as much an oddity in the
morning sunshine, as he had been in the dubious twilight. The lines in
his face were as rigid as if they had been hacked out of a block by a
clumsy wood-carver. His eyes were flamboyant, his nose terrific, his
mouth implacable. And yet, after awhile, when he slowly turned and
looked at me, fixedly, I perceived that in spite of this portentous
mask, he was a very mild old man. I was sure he even would have been
glad to smile, but, evidently, his facial muscles were too stiff--they
had taken a different fold, once for all. I wondered whether he was
demented, but I dismissed the idea; the fixed glitter in his eye was
not that of insanity. What his face really expressed was deep and
simple sadness; his heart perhaps was broken, but his brain was
intact. His dress was shabby but neat, and his old blue cloak had
known half a century's brushing.

I hastened to make some observation upon the exceptional softness of
the day, and he answered me in a gentle, mellow voice, which it was
almost startling to hear proceed from such bellicose lips.

"This is a very comfortable place," he presently added.

"I am fond of walking in graveyards," I rejoined deliberately;
flattering myself that I had struck a vein that might lead to
something.

I was encouraged; he turned and fixed me with his duskily glowing
eyes. Then very gravely,---"Walking, yes. Take all your exercise now.
Some day you will have to settle down in a graveyard in a fixed
position."

"Very true," said I. "But you know there are some people who are said
to take exercise even after that day."

He had been looking at me still; at this he looked away.

"You don't understand?" I said, gently.

He continued to gaze straight before him.

"Some people, you know, walk about after death," I went on.

At last he turned, and looked at me more portentously than ever. "You
don't believe that," he said simply.

"How do you know I don't?"

"Because you are young and foolish." This was said without acerbity--
even kindly; but in the tone of an old man whose consciousness of his
own heavy experience made everything else seem light.

"I am certainly young," I answered; "but I don't think that, on the
whole, I am foolish. But say I don't believe in ghosts--most people
would be on my side."

"Most people are fools!" said the old man.

I let the question rest, and talked of other things. My companion
seemed on his guard, he eyed me defiantly, and made brief answers to
my remarks; but I nevertheless gathered an impression that our meeting
was an agreeable thing to him, and even a social incident of some
importance.

He was evidently a lonely creature, and his opportunities for gossip
were rare. He had had troubles, and they had detached him from the
world, and driven him back upon himself; but the social chord in his
antiquated soul was not entirely broken, and I was sure he was
gratified to find that it could still feebly resound. At last, he
began to ask questions himself; he inquired whether I was a student.

"I am a student of divinity," I answered.

"Of divinity?"

"Of theology. I am studying for the ministry."

At this he eyed me with peculiar intensity after which his gaze
wandered away again. "There are certain things you ought to know,
then," he said at last.

"I have a great desire for knowledge," I answered. "What things do you
mean?"

He looked at me again awhile, but without heeding my question.

"I like your appearance," he said. "You seem to me a sober lad."

"Oh, I am perfectly sober!" I exclaimed yet departing for a moment
from my soberness.

"I think you are fair-minded," he went on.

"I don't any longer strike you as foolish, then?" I asked.

"I stick to what I said about people who deny the power of departed
spirits to return. They are fools!" And he rapped fiercely with his
staff on the earth.

I hesitated a moment, and then, abruptly, "You have seen a ghost!" I
said.

He appeared not at all startled.

"You are right, sir!" he answered with great dignity. "With me it's
not a matter of cold theory--I have not had to pry into old books to
learn what to believe. I know! With these eyes I have beheld the
departed spirit standing before me as near as you are!" And his eyes,
as he spoke, certainly looked as if they had rested upon strange
things.

I was irresistibly impressed--I was touched with credulity.

"And was it very terrible?" I asked.

"I am an old soldier--I am not afraid!"

"When was it?--where was it?" I asked.

He looked at me mistrustfully, and I saw that I was going too fast.

"Excuse me from going into particulars," he said. "I am not at liberty
to speak more fully. I have told you so much, because I cannot bear to
hear this subject spoken of lightly. Remember in future, that you have
seen a very honest old man who told you--on his honor--that he had
seen a ghost!" And he got up, as if he thought he had said enough.
Reserve, shyness, pride, the fear of being laughed at, the memory,
possibly, of former strokes of sarcasm--all this, on one side, had its
weight with him; but I suspected that on the other, his tongue was
loosened by the--garrulity of old age, the sense of solitude, and the
need of sympathy--and perhaps, also, by the friend-liness which he had
been so good as to express toward myself. Evidently it would be unwise
to press him, but I hoped to see him again.

"To give greater weight to my words," he added, "let me mention my
name--Captain Diamond, sir. I have seen service."

"I hope I may have the pleasure of meeting you again," I said.

"The same to you, sir!" And brandishing his stick portentously--though
with the friendliest intentions--he marched stiffly away.

I asked two or three persons--selected with discretion--whether they
knew anything about Captain Diamond, but they were quite unable to
enlighten me. At last, suddenly, I smote my forehead, and, dubbing
myself a dolt, remembered that I was neglecting a source of
information to which I had never applied in vain. The excellent person
at whose table I habitually dined, and who dispensed hospitality to
students at so much a week, had a sister as good as herself, and of
conversational powers more varied. This sister, who was known as Miss
Deborah, was an old maid in all the force of the term. She was
deformed, and she never went out of the house; she sat all day at the
window, between a bird-cage and a flower-pot, stitching small linen
articles---mysterious bands and frills. She wielded, I was assured, an
exquisite needle, and her work was highly prized. In spite of her
deformity and her confinement, she had a little, fresh, round face,
and an imperturbable serenity of spirit. She had also a very quick
little wit of her own, she was extremely observant, and she had a high
relish for a friendly chat. Nothing pleased her so much as to have
you--especially, I think, if you were a young divinity student--move
your chair near her sunny window, and settle yourself for twenty
minutes' "talk." "Well, sir," she used always to say "what is the
latest monstrosity in Biblical criticism?"--for she used to pretend to
be horrified at the rationalistic tendency of the age. But she was an
inexorable little philosopher, and I am convinced that she was a
keener rationalist than any of us, and that, if she had chosen, she
could have propounded questions that would have made the boldest of us
wince. Her window commanded the whole town--or rather, the whole
country. Knowledge came to her as she sat singing, with her little,
cracked voice, in her low rocking-chair. She was the first to learn
everything, and the last to forget it. She had the town gossip at her
fingers' ends, and she knew everything about people she had never
seen. When I asked her how she had acquired her learning, she said
simply--"Oh, I observe!" "Observe closely enough," she once said, "and
it doesn't matter where you are. You may be in a pitch-dark closet.
All you want is something to start with; one thing leads to another,
and all things are mixed up. Shut me up in a dark closet and I will
observe after a while, that some places in it are darker than others.
After that (give me time), and I will tell you what the President of
the United States is going to have for dinner."

Once I paid her a compliment. "Your observation," I said, "is as fine
as your needle, and your statements are as true as your stitches."

Of course Miss Deborah had heard of Captain Diamond. He had been much
talked about many years before, but he had survived the scandal that
attached to his name.

"What was the scandal?" I asked.

"He killed his daughter."

"Killed her?" I cried; "how so?"

"Oh, not with a pistol, or a dagger, or a dose of arsenic! With his
tongue. Talk of women's tongues! He cursed her--with some horrible
oath--and she died!"

"What had she done?"

"She had received a visit from a young man who loved her, and whom he
had forbidden the house."

"The house," I said--"ah yes! The house is out in the country, two or
three miles from here, on a lonely cross-road."

Miss Deborah looked sharply at me, as she bit her thread.

"Ah, you know about the house?" she said.

"A little," I answered; "I have seen it. But I want you to tell me
more."

But here Miss Deborah betrayed an incommunicativeness which was most
unusual.

"You wouldn't call me superstitious, would you?" she asked.

"You?--you are the quintessence of pure reason."

"Well, every thread has its rotten place, and every needle its grain
of rust. I would rather not talk about that house."

"You have no idea how you excite my curiosity!" I said.

"I can feel for you. But it would make me very nervous."

"What harm can come to you?" I asked.

"Some harm came to a friend of mine." And Miss Deborah gave a very
positive nod.

"What had your friend done?"

"She had told me Captain Diamond's secret, which he had told her with
a mighty mystery. She had been an old flame of his, and he took her
into his confidence. He bade her tell no one, and assured her that if
she did, something dreadful would happen to her."

"And what happened to her?"

"She died."

"Oh, we are all mortal!" I said. "Had she given him a promise?"

"She had not taken it seriously, she had not believed him. She
repeated the story to me, and three days afterward, she was taken with
inflammation of the lungs. A month afterward, here where I sit now, I
was stitching her grave-clothes. Since then, I have never mentioned
what she told me."

"Was it very strange?"

"It was strange, but it was ridiculous too. It is a thing to make you
shudder and to make you laugh, both. But you can't worry it out of me.
I am sure that if I were to tell you, I should immediately break a
needle in my finger, and die the next week of lock-jaw."

I retired, and urged Miss Deborah no further; but every two or three
days, after dinner, I came and sat down by her rocking chair. I made
no further allusion to Captain Diamond; I sat silent, clipping tape
with her scissors. At last, one day, she told me I was looking poorly.
I was pale.

"I am dying of curiosity," I said. "I have lost my appetite. I have
eaten no dinner."

"Remember Bluebeard's wife!" said Miss Deborah.

"One may as well perish by the sword as by famine!" I answered.

Still she said nothing, and at last I rose with a melo-dramatic sigh
and departed. As I reached the door she called me and pointed to the
chair I had vacated. "I never was hard-hearted," she said. "Sit down,
and if we are to perish, may we at least perish together." And then,
in very few words, she communicated what she knew of Captain Diamond's
secret. "He was a very high-tempered old man, and though he was very
fond of his daughter, his will was law. He had picked out a husband
for her, and given her due notice. Her mother was dead, and they lived
alone together. The house had been Mrs. Diamond's own marriage
portion; the Captain, I believe, hadn't a penny. After his marriage
they had come to live there, and he had begun to work the farm. The
poor girl's lover was a young man with whiskers from Boston. The
Captain came in one evening and found them together; he collared the
young man, and hurled a terrible curse at the poor girl. The young man
cried that she was his wife, and he asked her if it was true. She
said, No! Thereupon Captain Diamond, his fury growing fiercer,
repeated his imprecation, ordered her out of the house, and disowned
her forever. She swooned away, but her father went raging off and left
her. Several hours later, he came back and found the house empty. On
the table was a note from the young man telling him that he had killed
his daughter, repeating the assurance that she was his own wife, and
declaring that he himself claimed the sole right to commit her remains
to earth. He had carried the body away in a gig! Captain Diamond wrote
him a dreadful note in answer, saying that he didn't believe his
daughter was dead, but that, whether or no, she was dead to him. A
week later, in the middle of the night, he saw her ghost. Then, I
suppose, he was convinced. The ghost re-appeared several times, and
finally began regularly to haunt the house. It made the old man very
uncomfortable, for little by little his passion had passed away, and
he was given up to grief. He determined at last to leave the place,
and tried to sell it or rent it; but meanwhile the story had gone
abroad, the ghost had been seen by other persons the house had a bad
name, and it was impossible to dispose of it. With the farm, it was
the old man's only property, and his only means of subsistence; if he
could neither live in it nor rent it he was beggared. But the ghost
had no mercy, as he had had none. He struggled for six months, and at
last he broke down. He put on his old blue cloak and took up his
staff, and prepared to wander sway and beg his bread. Then the ghost
relented, and proposed a compromise. 'Leave the house to me!' it said;
'I have marked it for my own. Go off and live elsewhere. But to enable
you to live, I will be your tenant, since you can find no other. I
will hire the house of you and pay you a certain rent.' And the ghost
named a sum. The old man consented, and he goes every quarter to
collect his rent!"

I laughed at this recital, but I confess I shuddered too, for my own
observation had exactly confirmed it. Had I not been witness of one of
the Captain's quarterly visits, had I not all but seen him sit
watching his spectral tenant count out the rent-money, and when he
trudged away in the dark, had he not a little bag of strangely gotten
coin hidden in the folds of his old blue cloak? I imparted none of
these reflections to Miss Deborah, for I was determined that my
observations should have a sequel, and I promised myself the pleasure
of treating her to my story in its full maturity. "Captain Diamond," I
asked, "has no other known means of subsistence?"

"None whatever. He toils not, neither does he spin--his ghost supports
him. A haunted house is valuable property!"

"And in what coin does the ghost pay?"

"In good American gold and silver. It has only this peculiarity---that
the pieces are all dated before the young girl's death. It's a strange
mixture of matter and spirit!"

"And does the ghost do things handsomely; is the rent large?"

"The old man, I believe, lives decently, and has his pipe and his
glass. He took a little house down by the river; the door is sidewise
to the street, and there is a little garden before it. There he spends
his days, and has an old colored woman to do for him. Some years ago,
he used to wander about a good deal, he was a familiar figure in the
town, and most people knew his legend. But of late he has drawn back
into his shell; he sits over his fire, and curiosity has forgotten
him. I suppose he is falling into his dotage. But I am sure, I trust,"
said Miss Deborah in conclusion, "that he won't outlive his faculties
or his powers of locomotion, for, if I remember rightly, it was part
of the bargain that he should come in person to collect his rent."

We neither of us seemed likely to suffer any especial penalty for Miss
Deborah's indiscretion; I found her, day after day, singing over her
work, neither more nor less active than usual. For myself, I boldly
pursued my observations. I went again, more than once, to the great
graveyard, but I was disappointed in my hope of finding Captain
Diamond there. I had a prospect, however, which afforded me
compensation. I shrewdly inferred that the old man's quarterly
pilgrimages were made upon the last day of the old quarter. My first
sight of him had been on the 31 st of December, and it was probable
that he would return to his haunted home on the last day of March.
This was near at hand; at last it arrived. I betook myself late in the
afternoon to the old house on the cross-road, supposing that the hour
of twilight was the appointed season. I was not wrong. I had been
hovering about for a short time, feeling very much like a restless
ghost myself, when he appeared in the same manner as before, and
wearing the same costume. I again concealed myself, and saw him enter
the house with the ceremonial which he had used on the former
occasion. A light appeared successively in the crevice of each pair of
shutters, and I opened the window which had yielded to my importunity
before. Again I saw the great shadow on the wall, motionless and
solemn. But I saw nothing else. The old man re-appeared at last, made
his fantastic salaam before the house, and crept away into the dusk.

One day, more than a month after this, I met him again at Mount
Auburn. The air was full of the voice of Spring; the birds had come
back and were twittering over their Winter's travels, and a mild west
wind was making a thin murmur in the raw verdure. He was seated on a
bench in the sun, still muffled in his enormous mantle, and he
recognized me as soon as I approached him. He nodded at me as if he
were an old Bashaw giving the signal for my decapitation, but it was
apparent that he was pleased to see me.

"I have looked for you here more than once," I said. "You don't come
often."

"What did you want of me?" he asked.

"I wanted to enjoy your conversation. I did so greatly when I met you
here before."

"You found me amusing?"

"Interesting!" I said.

"You didn't think me cracked?"

"Cracked? My dear sir--!" I protested.

"I'm the sanest man in the country. I know that is what insane people
always say; but generally they can't prove it. I can!"

"I believe it," I said. "But I am curious to know how such a thing can
be proved."

He was silent awhile.

"I will tell you. I once committed, unintentionally, a great crime.
Now I pay the penalty. I give up my life to it. I don't shirk it; I
face it squarely, knowing perfectly what it is. I haven't tried to
bluff it off; I haven't begged off from it; I haven't run away from
it. The penalty is terrible, but I have accepted it. I have been a
philosopher!

"If I were a Catholic, I might have turned monk, and spent the rest of
my life in fasting and praying. That is no penalty; that is an
evasion. I might have blown my brains out--I might have gone mad. I
wouldn't do either. I would simply face the music, take the
consequences. As I say, they are awful! I take them on certain days,
four times a year. So it has been these twenty years; so it will be as
long as I last. It's my business; it's my avocation. That's the way I
feel about it. I call that reasonable!"

"Admirably so!" I said. "But you fill me with curiosity and with
compassion."

"Especially with curiosity," he said, cunningly.

"Why," I answered, "if I know exactly what you suffer I can pity you
more."

"I'm much obliged. I don't want your pity; it won't help me. I'll tell
you something, but it's not for myself; it's for your own sake." He
paused a long time and looked all round him, as if for chance eaves-
droppers. I anxiously awaited his revelation, but he disappointed me.
"Are you still studying theology?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," I answered, perhaps with a shade of irritation. "It's a
thing one can't learn in six months."

"I should think not, so long as you have nothing but your books. Do
you know the proverb, 'A grain of experience is worth a pound of
precept?' I'm a great theologian."

"Ah, you have had experience," I murmured sympathetically.

"You have read about the immortality of the soul; you have seen
Jonathan Edwards and Dr. Hopkins chopping logic over it, and deciding,
by chapter and verse, that it is true. But I have seen it with these
eyes; I have touched it with these hands!" And the old man held up his
rugged old fists and shook them portentously. "That's better!" he went
on; "but I have bought it dearly."

"You had better take it from the books--evidently you always will. You
are a very good young man; you will never have a crime on your
conscience." I answered with some juvenile fatuity, that I certainly
hoped I had my share of human passions, good young man and prospective
Doctor of Divinity as I was.

"Ah, but you have a nice, quiet little temper," he said. "So have I--
now! But once I was very brutal--very brutal. You ought to know that
such things are. I killed my own child."

"Your own child?"

"I struck her down to the earth and left her to die. They could not
hang me, for it was not with my hand I struck her. It was with foul
and damnable words. That makes a difference; it's a grand law we live
under! Well, sir, I can answer for it that her soul is immortal. We
have an appointment to meet four times a year, and then I catch it!"

"She has never forgiven you?"

"She has forgiven me as the angels forgive! That's what I can't
stand--the soft, quiet way she looks at me. I'd rather she twisted a
knife about in my heart--O Lord, Lord, Lord!" and Captain Diamond
bowed his head over his stick, and leaned his forehead on his crossed
hands.

I was impressed and moved, and his attitude seemed for the moment a
check to further questions. Before I ventured to ask him anything
more, he slowly rose and pulled his old cloak around him. He was
unused to talking about his troubles, and his memories overwhelmed
him. "I must go my way," he said; "I must be creeping along."

"I shall perhaps meet you here again," I said.

"Oh, I'm a stiff-jointed old fellow," he answered, "and this is rather
far for me to come. I have to reserve myself. I have sat sometimes a
month at a time smoking my pipe in my chair. But I should like to see
you again." And he stopped and looked at me, terribly and kindly.
"Some day, perhaps, I shall be glad to be able to lay my hand on a
young, unperverted soul. If a man can make a friend, it is always
something gained. What is your name?"

I had in my pocket a small volume of Pascal's "Thoughts," on the fly-
leaf of which were written my name and address. I took it out and
offered it to my old friend. "Pray keep this little book," I said. "It
is one I am very fond of, and it will tell you something about me."

He took it and turned it over slowly, then looking up at me with a
scowl of gratitude, "I'm not much of a reader," he said; "but I won't
refuse the first present I shall have received since--my troubles; and
the last. Thank you, sir!" And with the little book in his hand he
took his departure.

I was left to imagine him for some weeks after that sitting solitary
in his arm-chair with his pipe. I had not another glimpse of him. But
I was awaiting my chance, and on the last day of June, another quarter
having elapsed, I deemed that it had come. The evening dusk in June
falls late, and I was impatient for its coming. At last, toward the
end of a lovely summer's day, I revisited Captain Diamond's property.
Everything now was green around it save the blighted or-chard in its
rear, but its own immitigable grayness and sadness were as striking as
when I had first beheld it beneath a December sky. As I drew near it,
I saw that I was late for my purpose, for my purpose had simply been
to step forward on Captain Diamond's arrival, and bravely ask him to
let me go in with him. He had preceded me, and there were lights
already in the windows.

I was unwilling, of course, to disturb him during his ghostly
interview, and I waited till he came forth. The lights disappeared in
the course of time, then the door opened and Captain Diamond stole
out. That evening he made no bow to the haunted house, for the first
object he beheld was his fair-minded young friend planted, modestly
but firmly, near the door-step. He stopped short, looking at me, and
this time his terrible scowl was in keeping with the situation.

"I knew you were here," I said. "I came on purpose."

He seemed dismayed, and looked round at the house uneasily.

"I beg your pardon if I have ventured too far," I added, "but you know
you have encouraged me."

"How did you know I was here?"

"I reasoned it out. You told me half your story, and I guessed the
other half. I am a great observer, and I had noticed this house in
passing. It seemed to me to have a mystery. When you kindly confided
to me that you saw spirits, I was sure that it could only be here that
you saw them."

"You are mighty clever," cried the old man. "And what brought you here
this evening?"

I was obliged to evade this question.

"Oh, I often come; I like to look at the house--it fascinates me."

He turned and looked up at it himself. "It's nothing to look at
outside." He was evidently quite unaware of its peculiar outward
appearance, and this odd fact, communicated to me thus in the
twilight, and under the very brow of the sinister dwelling, seemed to
make his vision of the strange things within more real.

"I have been hoping," I said, "for a chance to see the inside. I
thought I might find you here, and that you would let me go in with
you. I should like to see what you see." He seemed confounded by my
boldness, but not altogether displeased. He laid his hand on my arm.
"Do you know what I see?" he asked.

"How can I know, except as you said the other day, by experience? I
want to have the experience. Pray, open the door and take me in."

Captain Diamond's brilliant eyes expanded beneath their dusky brows,
and after holding his breath a moment, he indulged in the first and
last apology for a laugh by which I was to see his solemn visage
contorted. It was profoundly grotesque, but it was perfectly
noiseless. "Take you in?" he softly growled. "I wouldn't go in again
before my time's up for a thousand times that sum." And he thrust out
his hand from the folds of his cloak and exhibited a small
agglommeration of coin, knotted into the corner of an old silk pocket-
handkerchief. "I stick to my bargain no less, but no more!"

"But you told me the first time I had the pleasure of talking with you
that it was not so terrible."

"I don't say it's terrible--now. But it's damned disagreeable!"

This adjective was uttered with a force that made me hesitate and
reflect. While I did so, I thought I heard a slight movement of one of
the window-shutters above us. I looked up, but everything seemed
motionless. Captain Diamond, too, had been thinking; suddenly he
turned toward the house. "If you will go in alone," he said, "you are
welcome."

"Will you wait for me here?"

"Yes, you will not stop long."

"But the house is pitch dark. When you go you have lights."

He thrust his hand into the depths of his cloak and produced some
matches. "Take take," he said. "You will find two candlesticks with
candles on the table in the hall. Light them, take one in each hand
and go ahead."

"Where shall I go?"

"Anywhere--everywhere. You can trust the ghost to find you." I will
not pretend to deny that by this time my heart was beating. And yet I
imagine I motioned the old man with a sufficiently dignified gesture
to open the door. I had made up my mind that there was in fact a
ghost. I had conceded the premise. Only I had assured myself that once
the mind was prepared, and the thing was not a surprise, it was
possible to keep cool. Captain Diamond turned the lock, flung open the
door, and bowed low to me as I passed in. I stood in the darkness, and
heard the door close behind me. For some moments, I stirred neither
finger nor toe; I stared bravely into the impenetrable dusk. But I saw
nothing and heard nothing, and at last I struck a match. On the table
were two old brass candlesticks rusty from disuse. I lighted the
candles and began my tour of exploration.

A wide staircase rose in front of me, guarded by an antique balustrade
of that rigidly delicate carving which is found so often in old New
England houses. I postponed ascending it, and turned into the room on
my right. This was an old-fashioned parlor, meagerly furnished, and
musty with the absence of human life. I raised my two lights aloft and
saw nothing but its empty chairs and its blank walls. Behind it was
the room into which I had peeped from without, and which, in fact,
communicated with it, as I had supposed, by folding doors. Here, too,
I found myself confronted by no menacing specter. I crossed the hall
again, and visited the rooms on the other side; a dining-room in
front, where I might have written my name with my finger in the deep
dust of the great square table; a kitchen behind with its pots and
pans eternally cold. All this was hard and grim, but it was not
formidable. I came back into the hall, and walked to the foot of the
staircase, holding up my candles; to ascend required a fresh effort,
and I was scanning the gloom above.

Suddenly, with an inexpressible sensation, I became aware that this
gloom was animated; it seemed to move and gather itself together.
Slowly--I say slowly, for to my tense expectancy the instants appeared
ages--it took the shape of a large, definite figure, and this figure
advanced and stood at the top of the stairs. I frankly confess that by
this time I was conscious of a feeling to which I am in duty bound to
apply the vulgar name of fear. I may poetize it and call it Dread,
with a capital letter; it was at any rate the feeling that makes a man
yield ground. I measured it as it grew, and it seemed perfectly
irresistible; for it did not appear to come from within but from
without, and to be embodied in the dark image at the head of the
staircase. After a fashion I reasoned--I remember reasoning. I said to
myself, "I had always thought ghosts were white and transparent; this
is a thing of thick shadows, densely opaque." I reminded myself that
the occasion was momentous, and that if fear were to overcome me I
should gather all possible impressions while my wits remained. I
stepped back, foot behind foot, with my eyes still on the figure and
placed my candles on the table. I was perfectly conscious that the
proper thing was to ascend the stairs resolutely, face to face with
the image, but the soles of my shoes seemed sud-denly to have been
transformed into leaden weights. I had got what I wanted; I was seeing
the ghost. I tried to look at the figure distinctly so that I could
remember it, and fairly claim, afterward, not to have lost my self-
possession. I even asked myself how long it was expected I should
stand looking, and how soon I could honorably retire. All this, of
course, passed through my mind with extreme rapidity, and it was
checked by a further movement on the part of the figure. Two white
hands appeared in the dark perpendicular mass, and were slowly raised
to what seemed to be the level of the head. Here they were pressed
together, over the region of the face, and then they were removed, and
the face was disclosed. It was dim, white, strange, in every way
ghostly. It looked down at me for an instant, after which one of the
hands was raised again, slowly, and waved to and fro before it. There
was something very singular in this gesture; it seemed to denote
resentment and dismissal, and yet it had a sort of trivial, familiar
motion.

Familiarity on the part of the haunting Presence had not entered into
my calculations, and did not strike me pleasantly. I agreed with
Captain Diamond that it was "damned disagreeable." I was pervaded by
an intense desire to make an orderly, and, if possible, a graceful
retreat. I wished to do it gallantly, and it seemed to me that it
would be gallant to blow out my candles. I turned and did so,
punctiliously, and then I made my way to the door, groped a moment and
opened it. The outer light, almost extinct as it was, entered for a
moment, played over the dusty depths of the house and showed me the
solid shadow.

Standing on the grass, bent over his stick, under the early glimmering
stars, I found Captain Diamond. He looked up at me fixedly for a
moment, but asked no questions, and then he went and locked the door.
This duty performed, he discharged the other--made his obeisance like
the priest before the altar--and then without heeding me further, took
his departure.

A few days later, I suspended my studies and went off for the summer's
vacation. I was absent for several weeks, during which I had plenty of
leisure to analyze my impressions of the supernatural. I took some
satisfaction in the reflection that I had not been ignobly terrified;
I had not bolted nor swooned--I had proceeded with dignity.
Nevertheless, I was certainly more comfortable when I had put thirty
miles between me and the scene of my exploit, and I continued for many
days to prefer the daylight to the dark. My nerves had been powerfully
excited; of this I was particularly conscious when, under the
influence of the drowsy air of the sea-side, my excitement began
slowly to ebb. As it disappeared, I attempted to take a sternly
rational view of my experience. Certainly I had seen something--that
was not fancy; but what had I seen? I regretted extremely now that I
had not been bolder, that I had not gone nearer and inspected the
apparition more minutely. But it was very well to talk; I had done as
much as any man in the circumstances would have dared; it was indeed a
physical impossibility that I should have advanced. Was not this
paralyzation of my powers in itself a supernatural influence? Not
necessarily, perhaps, for a sham ghost that one accepted might do as
much execution as a real ghost. But why had I so easily accepted the
sable phantom that waved its hand? Why had it so impressed itself?
Unquestionably, true or false, it was a very clever phantom. I greatly
preferred that it should have been true--in the first place because I
did not care to have shivered and shaken for nothing, and in the
second place because to have seen a well-authenticated goblin is, as
things go, a feather in a quiet man's cap. I tried, therefore, to let
my vision rest and to stop turning it over. But an impulse stronger
than my will recurred at intervals and set a mocking question on my
lips. Granted that the apparition was Captain Diamond's daughter; if
it was she it certainly was her spirit. But was it not her spirit and
something more? The middle of September saw me again established among
the theologic shades, but I made no haste to revisit the haunted
house.

The last of the month approached--the term of another quarter with
poor Captain Diamond---and found me indisposed to disturb his
pilgrimage on this occasion; though I confess that I thought with a
good deal of compassion of the feeble old man trudging away, lonely,
in the autumn dusk, on his extraordinary errand. On the thirtieth of
September, at noonday, I was drowsing over a heavy octavo, when I
heard a feeble rap at my door. I replied with an invitation to enter,
but as this produced no effect I repaired to the door and opened it.
Before me stood an elderly negress with her head bound in a scarlet
turban, and a white handkerchief folded across her bosom. She looked
at me intently and in silence; she had that air of supreme gravity and
decency which aged persons of her race so often wear. I stood
interrogative, and at last, drawing her hand from her ample pocket,
she held up a little book. It was the copy of Pascal's "Thoughts" that
I had given to Captain Diamond.

"Please, sir," she said, very mildly, "do you know this book?"

"Perfectly," said I, "my name is on the fly-leaf."

"It is your name--no other?"

"I will write my name if you like, and you can compare them," I
answered.

She was silent a moment and then, with dignity--"It would be useless,
sir," she said, "I can't read. If you will give me your word that is
enough. I come," she went on, "from the gentleman to whom you gave the
book. He told me to carry it as a token--a token--that is what he
called it. He is right down sick, and he wants to see you."

"Captain Diamond--sick?" I cried. "Is his illness serious?"

"He is very bad--he is all gone."

I expressed my regret and sympathy, and offered to go to him
immediately, if his sable messenger would show me the way. She
assented deferentially, and in a few moments I was following her along
the sunny streets, feeling very much like a personage in the Arabian
Nights, led to a postern gate by an Ethiopian slave. My own
conductress directed her steps toward the river and stopped at a
decent little yellow house in one of the streets that descend to it.
She quickly opened the door and led me in, and I very soon found
myself in the presence of my old friend. He was in bed, in a darkened
room, and evidently in a very feeble state. He lay back on his pillow
staring before him, with his bristling hair more erect than ever, and
his intensely dark and bright old eyes touched with the glitter of
fever. His apartment was humble and scrupulously neat, and I could see
that my dusky guide was a faithful servant. Captain Diamond, lying
there rigid and pale on his white sheets, resembled some ruggedly
carven figure on the lid of a Gothic tomb. He looked at me silently,
and my companion withdrew and left us alone.

"Yes, it's you," he said, at last, "it's you, that good young man.
There is no mistake, is there?"

"I hope not; I believe I'm a good young man. But I am very sorry you
are ill. What can I do for you?"

"I am very bad, very bad; my poor old bones ache so!" and, groaning
portentously, he tried to turn toward me.

I questioned him about the nature of his malady and the length of time
he had been in bed, but he barely heeded me; he seemed impatient to
speak of something else. He grasped my sleeve, pulled me toward him,
and whispered quickly:

"You know my time's up!"

"Oh, I trust not," I said, mistaking his meaning. "I shall certainly
see you on your legs again."

"God knows!" he cried. "But I don't mean I'm dying; not yet a bit.
What I mean is, I'm due at the house. This is rent-day."

"Oh, exactly! But you can't go."

"I can't go. It's awful. I shall lose my money. If I am dying, I want
it all the same. I want to pay the doctor. I want to be buried like a
respectable man."

"It is this evening?" I asked.

"This evening at sunset, sharp."

He lay staring at me, and, as I looked at him in return, I suddenly
understood his motive in sending for me. Morally, as it came into my
thought, I winced. But, I suppose I looked unperturbed, for he
continued in the same tone. "I can't lose my money. Some one else must
go. I asked Belinda; but she won't hear of it."

"You believe the money will be paid to another person?"

"We can try, at least. I have never failed before and I don't know.
But, if you say I'm as sick as a dog, that my old bones ache, that I'm
dying, perhaps she'll trust you. She don't want me to starve!"

"You would like me to go in your place, then?"

"You have been there once; you know what it is. Are you afraid?"

I hesitated.

"Give me three minutes to reflect," I said, "and I will tell you." My
glance wandered over the room and rested on the various objects that
spoke of the threadbare, decent poverty of its occupant. There seemed
to be a mute appeal to my pity and my resolution in their cracked and
faded sparseness. Meanwhile Captain Diamond continued, feebly:

"I think she'd trust you, as I have trusted you; she'll like your
face; she'll see there is no harm in you. It's a hundred and thirty-
three dollars, exactly. Be sure you put them into a safe place."

"Yes," I said at last, "I will go, and, so far as it depends upon me,
you shall have the money by nine o'clock to-night."

He seemed greatly relieved; he took my hand and faintly pressed it,
and soon afterward I withdrew. I tried for the rest of the day not to
think of my evening's work, but, of course, I thought of nothing else.
I will not deny that I was nervous; I was, in fact, greatly excited,
and I spent my time in alternately hoping that the mystery should
prove less deep than it appeared, and yet fearing that it might prove
too shallow. The hours passed very slowly, but, as the afternoon began
to wane, I started on my mission. On the way, I stopped at Captain
Diamond's modest dwelling, to ask how he was doing, and to receive
such last instructions as he might desire to lay upon me. The old
negress, gravely and inscrutably placid, admitted me, and, in answer
to my inquiries, said that the Captain was very low; he had sunk since
the morning.

"You must be right smart," she said, "if you want to get back before
he drops off."

A glance assured me that she knew of my projected expedition, though,
in her own opaque black pupil, there was not a gleam of self-betrayal.

"But why should Captain Diamond drop off'?" I asked. "He certainly
seems very weak; but I cannot make out that he has any definite
disease."

"His disease is old age," she said, sententiously.

"But he is not so old as that; sixty-seven or sixty-eight, at most."

She was silent a moment.

"He's worn out; he's used up; he can't stand it any longer."

"Can I see him a moment?" I asked; upon which she led me again to his
room.

He was lying in the same way as when I had left him, except that his
eyes were closed. But he seemed very "low," as she had said, and he
had very little pulse. Nevertheless, I further learned the doctor had
been there in the afternoon and professed himself satisfied. "He don't
know what's been going on," said Belinda, curtly.

The old man stirred a little, opened his eyes, and after some time
recognized me.

"I'm going, you know," I said. "I'm going for your money. Have you
anything more to say?"

He raised himself slowly, and with a painful effort, against his
pillows; but he seemed hardly to understand me. "The house, you know,"
I said. "Your daughter."

He rubbed his forehead, slowly, awhile, and at last, his comprehension
awoke. "Ah, yes," he murmured, "I trust you. A hundred and thirty-
three dollars. In old pieces--all in old pieces."

Then he added more vigorously, and with a brightening eye: "Be very
respectful--be very polite. If not--if not--" and his voice failed
again.

"Oh, I certainly shall be," I said, with a rather forced smile. "But,
if not?"

"If not, I shall know it!" he said, very gravely. And with this, his
eyes closed and he sunk down again.

I took my departure and pursued my journey with a sufficiently
resolute step. When I reached the house, I made a propitiatory bow in
front of it, in emulation of Captain Diamond. I had timed my walk so
as to be able to enter without delay; night had already fallen. I
turned the key, opened the door and shut it behind me. Then I struck
alight, and found the two candlesticks I had used before, standing on
the tables in the entry. I applied a match to both of them, took them
up and went into the parlor. It was empty, and though I waited awhile,
it remained empty. I passed then into the other rooms on the same
floor, and no dark image rose before me to check my steps. At last, I
came out into the halt again, and stood weighing the question of going
upstairs.

The staircase had been the scene of my discomfiture before, and I
approached it with profound mistrust. At the foot, I paused, looking
up, with my hand on the balustrade. I was acutely expectant, and my
expectation was justified. Slowly, in the darkness above, the black
figure that I had seen before took shape. It was not an illusion; it
was a figure, and the same. I gave it time to define itself, and
watched it stand and look down at me with its hidden face. Then,
deliberately, I lifted up my voice and spoke.

"I have come in place of Captain Diamond, at his request," I said. "He
is very ill; he is unable to leave his bed. He earnestly begs that you
will pay the money to me; I will immediately carry it to him." The
figure stood motionless, giving no sign. "Captain Diamond would have
come if he were able to move," I added, in a moment, appealingly;
"but, he is utterly unable."

At this the figure slowly unveiled its face and showed me a dim, white
mask; then it began slowly to descend the stairs. Instinctively I fell
back before it, retreating to the door of the front sitting-room. With
my eyes still fixed on it, I moved backward across the threshold; then
I stopped in the middle of the room and set down my lights. The figure
advanced; it seemed to be that of a tall woman, dressed in vaporous
black crape. As it drew near, I saw that it had a perfectly human
face, though it looked extremely pale and sad. We stood gazing at each
other; my agitation had completely vanished; I was only deeply
interested.

"Is my father dangerously ill?" said the apparition.

At the sound of its voice--gentle, tremulous, and perfectly human--I
started forward; I felt a rebound of excitement. I drew a long breath,
I gave a sort of cry, for what I saw before me was not a disembodied
spirit, but a beautiful woman, an audacious actress. Instinctively,
irresistibly, by the force of reaction against my credulity, I
stretched out my hand and seized the long veil that muffled her head.
I gave it a violent jerk, dragged it nearly off, and stood staring at
a large fair person, of about five-and-thirty. I comprehended her at a
glance; her long black dress, her pale, sorrow-worn face, painted to
look paler, her very fine eyes,--the color of her father's,---and her
sense of outrage at my movement.

"My father, I suppose," she cried, "did not send you here to insult
me!" and she turned away rapidly, took up one of the candles and moved
toward the door. Here she paused, looked at me again, hesitated, and
then drew a purse from her pocket and flung it down on the floor.
"There is your money!" she said, majestically.

I stood there, wavering between amazement and shame, and saw her pass
out into the hall.

Then I picked up the purse. The next moment, I heard a loud shriek and
a crash of something dropping, and she came staggering back into the
room without her light.

"My father--my father!" she cried; and with parted lips and dilated
eyes, she rushed toward me.

"Your father--where?" I demanded.

"In the hall, at the foot of the stairs."

I stepped forward to go out, but she seized my arm.

"He is in white," she cried, "in his shirt. It's not he!"

"Why, your father is in his house, in his bed, extremely ill," I
answered.

She looked at me fixedly, with searching eyes.

"Dying?"

"I hope not," I stuttered.

She gave a long moan and covered her face with her hands.

"Oh, heavens, I have seen his ghost!" she cried.

She still held my arm; she seemed too terrified to release it. "His
ghost!" I echoed, wondering.

"It's the punishment of my long folly!" she went on.

"Ah," said I, "it's the punishment of my indiscretion--of my
violence!"

"Take me away, take me away!" she cried, still clinging to my arm.
"Not there"--as I was turning toward the hall and the front door--"not
there, for pity's sake! By this door--the back entrance." And
snatching the other candles from the table, she led me through the
neighboring room into the back part of the house. Here was a door
opening from a sort of scullery into the orchard. I turned the rusty
lock and we passed out and stood in the cool air, beneath the stars.

Here my companion gathered her black drapery about her, and stood for
a moment, hesitating. I had been infinitely flurried, but my curiosity
touching her was uppermost. Agitated, pale, picturesque, she looked,
in the early evening light, very beautiful.

"You have been playing all these years a most extraordinary game," I
said.

She looked at me somberly, and seemed disinclined to reply. "I came in
perfect good faith," I went on. "The last time--three months ago--you
remember?--you greatly frightened me."

"Of course it was an extraordinary game," she answered at last. "But
it was the only way."

"Had he not forgiven you?"

"So long as he thought me dead, yes. There have been things in my life
he could not forgive."

I hesitated and then--"And where is your husband?" I asked.

"I have no husband--I have never had a husband."

She made a gesture which checked further questions, and moved rapidly
away. I walked with her round the house to the road, and she kept
murmuring--"It was he--it was he!" When we reached the road she
stopped, and asked me which way I was going. I pointed to the road by
which I had come, and she said--"I take the other. You are going to my
father's?" she added.

"Directly," I said.

"Will you let me know to-morrow what you have found?"

"With pleasure. But how shall I communicate with you?"

She seemed at a loss, and looked about her, "Write a few words," she
said, "and put them under that stone." And she pointed to one of the
lava slabs that bordered the old well. I gave her my promise to
comply, and she turned away. "I know my road," she said. "Everything
is arranged. It's an old story."

She left me with a rapid step, and as she receded into the darkness,
resumed, with the dark flowing lines of her drapery, the phantasmal
appearance with which she had at first appeared to me. I watched her
till she became invisible, and then I took my own leave of the place.
I returned to town at a swinging pace, and marched straight to the
little yellow house near the river. I took the liberty of entering
without a knock, and, encountering no interruption, made my way to
Captain Diamond's room. Outside the door, on a low bench, with folded
arms, sat the sable Belinda.

"How is he?" I asked.

"He's gone to glory."

"Dead?" I cried.

She rose with a sort of tragic chuckle.

"He's as big a ghost as any of them now!".I passed into the room and
found the old man lying there irredeemably rigid and still. I wrote
that evening a few lines which I proposed on the morrow to place
beneath the stone, near the well; but my promise was not destined to
be executed. I slept that night very ill--it was natural---and in my
restlessness left my bed to walk about the room. As I did so I caught
sight, in passing my window, of a red glow in the north-western sky. A
house was on fire in the country, and evidently burning fast. It lay
in the same direction as the scene of my evening's adventures, and as
I stood watching the crimson horizon I was startled by a sharp memory.
I had blown out the candle which lighted me, with my companion, to the
door through which we escaped, but I had not accounted for the other
light, which she had carried into the hall and dropped--heaven knew
where--in her consternation. The next day I walked out with my folded
letter and turned into the familiar cross-road. The haunted house was
a mass of charred beams and smoldering ashes; the well cover had been
pulled off, in quest of water, by the few neighbors who had had the
audacity to contest what they must have regarded as a demon-kindled
blaze, the loose stones were completely displaced, and the earth had
been trampled into puddles.




THE ROMANCE OF CERTAIN OLD CLOTHES

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century there lived in the
Province of Massachusetts a widowed gentlewoman, the mother of three
children, by name Mrs Veronica Wingrave. She had lost her husband
early in life, and had devoted herself to the care of her progeny.
These young persons grew up in a manner to reward her tenderness and
to gratify her highest hopes. The first-born was a son, whom she had
called Bernard, after his father. The others were daughters--born at
an interval of three years apart. Good looks were traditional in the
family, and this youthful trio were not likely to allow the tradition
to perish. The boy was of that fair and ruddy complexion and that
athletic structure which in those days (as in these) were the sign of
good English descent--a frank, affectionate young fellow, a
deferential son, a patronizing brother, a steadfast friend. Clever,
however, he was not; the wit of the family had been apportioned
chiefly to his sisters. The late Mr Wingrave had been a great reader
of Shakespeare, at a time when this pursuit implied more freedom of
thought than at the present day, and in a community where it required
much courage to patronize the drama even in the closet: and he had
wished to call attention to his admiration of the great poet by
calling his daughters out of his favourite plays.

Upon the elder he had bestowed the romantic name of Rosalind, and the
younger he had called Perdita, in memory of a little girl born between
them, who had lived but a few weeks.

When Bernard Wingrave came to his sixteenth year his mother put a
brave face upon it and prepared to execute her husband's last
injunction. This had been a formal command that, at the proper age,
his son should be sent out to England, to complete his education at
the university of Oxford, where he himself had acquired his taste for
elegant literature. It was Mrs Wingrave's belief that the lad's equal
was not to be found in the two hemispheres, but she had the old
traditions of literal obedience. She swallowed her sobs, and made up
her boy's trunk and his simple provincial outfit, and sent him on his
way across the seas. Bernard presented himself at his father's
college, and spent five years in England, without great honour,
indeed, but with a vast deal of pleasure and no discredit. On leaving
the university he made the journey to France.

In his twenty-fourth year he took ship for home, prepared to find poor
little New England (New England was very small in those days) a very
dull, unfashionable residence. But there had been changes at home, as
well as in Mr Bernard's opinions. He found his mother's house quite
habitable, and his sisters grown into two very charming young ladies,
with all the accomplishments and graces of the young women of Britain,
and a certain native-grown originality and wildness, which, if it was
not an accomplishment, was certainly a grace the more.

Bernard privately assured his mother that his sisters were fully a
match for the most genteel young women in the old country; whereupon
poor Mrs Wingrave, you may be sure, bade them hold up their heads.
Such was Bernard's opinion, and such, in a tenfold higher degree, was
the opinion of Mr Arthur Lloyd. This gentleman was a college-mate of
Mr Bernard, a young man of reputable family, of a good person and a
handsome inheritance; which latter appurtenance he proposed to invest
in trade in the flourishing colony. He and Bernard were sworn friends;
they had crossed the ocean together, and the young American had lost
no time in presenting him at his mother's house, where he had made
quite as good an impression as that which he had received and of which
I have just given a hint.

The two sisters were at this time in all the freshness of their
youthful bloom; each wearing, of course, this natural brilliancy in
the manner that became her best. They were equally dissimilar in
appearance and character. Rosalind, the elder--now in her twenty-
second year--was tall and white, with calm grey eyes and auburn
tresses; a very faint likeness to the Rosalind of Shakespeare's
comedy, whom I imagine a brunette (if you will), but a slender, airy
creature, full of the softest, quickest impulses. Miss Wingrave, with
her slightly lymphatic fairness, her fine arms, her majestic height,
her slow utterance, was not cut out for adventures. She would never
have put on a man's jacket and hose; and, indeed, being a very plump
beauty, she may have had reasons apart from her natural dignity.
Perdita, too, might very well have exchanged the sweet melancholy of
her name against something more in consonance with her aspect and
disposition.

She had the cheek of a gypsy and the eye of an eager child, as well as
the smallest waist and lightest foot in all the country of the
Puritans. When you spoke to her she never made you wait, as her
handsome sister was wont to do (while she looked at you with a cold
fine eye), but gave you your choke of a dozen answers before you had
uttered half your thought.

The young girls were very glad to see their brother once more; but
they found themselves quite able to spare part of their attention for
their brother's friend. Among the young men their friends and
neighbours, the belle jeunesse of the Colony, there were many
excellent fellows, several devoted swains, and some two or three who
enjoyed the reputation of universal charmers and conquerors. But the
homebred arts and somewhat boisterous gallantry of these honest
colonists were completely eclipsed by the good looks, the fine
clothes, the punctilious courtesy, the perfect elegance, the immense
information, of Mr Arthur Lloyd. He was in reality no paragon; he was
a capable, honourable, civil youth, rich in pounds sterling, in his
health and complacency and his little capital of uninvested
affections. But he was a gentleman; he had a handsome person; he had
studied and travelled; he spoke French, he played the flute, and he
read verses aloud with very great taste. There were a dozen reasons
why Miss Wingrave and her sister should have thought their other male
acquaintance made but a poor figure before such a perfect man of the
world. Mr Lloyd's anecdotes told our little New England maidens a
great deal more of the ways and means of people of fashion in European
capitals than he had any idea of doing. It was delightful to sit by
and hear him and Bernard talk about the fine people and fine things
they had seen. They would all gather round the fire after tea, in the
little wainscoted parlour, and the two young men would remind each
other, across the rug, of this, that and the other adventure. Rosalind
and Perdita would often have given their ears to know exactly what
adventure it was, and where it happened, and who was there, and what
the ladies had on; but in those days a well-bred young woman was not
expected to break into the conversation of her elders, or to ask too
many questions; and the poor girls used therefore to sit fluttering
behind the more languid--or more discreet--curiosity of their mother.

II That they were both very fine girls Arthur Lloyd was not slow to
discover; but it took him some time to make up his mind whether he
liked the big sister or the little sister best. He had a strong
presentiment--an emotion of a nature entirely too cheerful to be
called a foreboding--that he was destined to stand up before the
parson with one of them; yet he was unable to arrive at a preference,
and for such a consummation a preference was certainly necessary, for
Lloyd had too much young blood in his veins to make a choice by lot
and be cheated of the satisfaction of falling in love. He resolved to
take things as they came--to let his heart speak. Meanwhile he was on
very pleasant footing. Mrs Wingrave showed a dignified indifference to
his 'intentions', equally remote from a carelessness of her daughter's
honour and from that sharp alacrity to make him come to the point,
which, in his quality of young man of property, he had too often
encountered in the worldly matrons of his native islands. As for
Bernard, all that he asked was that his friend should treat his
sisters as his own; and as for the poor girls themselves, however each
may have secretly longed that their visitor should do or say something
'marked', they kept a very modest and contented demeanour.

Towards each other, however, they were somewhat more on the offensive.
They were good friends enough, and accommodating bed-fellows (they
shared the same four-poster), betwixt whom it would take more than a
day for the seeds of jealousy to sprout and bear fruit; but they felt
that the seeds had been sown on the day that Mr Lloyd came into the
house. Each made up her mind that, if she should be slighted, she
would bear her grief in silence, and that no one should be any the
wiser; for if they had a great deal of ambition, they had also a large
share of pride. But each prayed in secret, nevertheless, that upon her
the selection, the distinction, might fall. They had need of a vast
deal of patience, of self-control, of dissimulation. In those days a
young girl of decent breeding could make no advances whatever, and
barely respond, indeed, to those that were made. She was expected to
sit still in her chair, with her eyes on the carpet, watching the spot
where the mystic handkerchief should fall. Poor Arthur Lloyd was
obliged to carry on his wooing in the little wainscoted parlour,
before the eyes of Mrs Wingrave, her son, and his prospective sister-
in-law. But youth and love are so cunning that a hundred signs and
tokens might travel to and fro, and not one of these three pairs of
eyes detect them in their passage. The two maidens were almost always
together, and had plenty of chances to betray themselves. That each
knew she was being watched, made not a grain of difference in the
little offices they mutually rendered, or in the various household
tasks they performed in common.

Neither flinched nor fluttered beneath the silent battery of her
sister's eyes. The only apparent change in their habits was that they
had less to say to each other. It was impossible to talk about Mr
Lloyd, and it was ridiculous to talk about anything else. By tacit
agreement they began to wear all their choice finery, and to devise
such little implements of conquest, in the way of ribbons and top-
knots and kerchiefs, as were sanctioned by indubitable modesty. They
executed in the same inarticulate fashion a contract of fair play in
this exciting game. 'Is it better so?'

Rosalind would ask, tying a bunch of ribbons on her bosom, and turning
about from her glass to her sister. Perdita would look up gravely from
her work and examine the decoration. 'I think you had better give it
another loop,' she would say, with great solemnity, looking hard at
her sister with eyes that added, 'upon my honour!' So they were for
ever stitching and turning their petticoats, and pressing out their
muslins, and contriving washes and ointments and cosmetics, like the
ladies in the household of the vicar of Wakefield. Some three or four
months went by; it grew to be midwinter, and as yet Rosalind knew that
if Perdita had nothing more to boast of than she, there was not much
to be feared from her rivalry. But Perdita by this time--the charming
Perdita--felt that her secret had grown to be tenfold more precious
than her sister's.

One afternoon Miss Wingrave sat alone--that was a rare accident--
before her toilet-glass, combing out her long hair. It was getting too
dark to see; she lit the two candles in their sockets, on the frame of
her mirror, and then went to the window to draw her curtains. It was a
grey December evening; the landscape was bare and bleak, and the sky
heavy with snowclouds. At the end of the large garden into which her
window looked was a wall with a little postern door, opening into a
lane. The door stood ajar, as she could vaguely see in the gathering
darkness, and moved slowly to and fro, as if someone were swaying it
from the lane without. It was doubtless a servant-maid who had been
having a tryst with her sweetheart. But as she was about to drop her
curtain Rosalind saw her sister step into the garden and hum' along
the path which led to the house. She dropped the curtain, all save a
little crevice for her eyes. As Perdita came up the path she seemed to
be examining something in her hand, holding it close to her eyes. When
she reached the house she stopped a moment, looked intently at the
object, and pressed it to her lips.

Poor Rosalind slowly came back to her chair and sat down before her
glass where, if she had looked at it less abstractly, she would have
seen her handsome features sadly disfigured by jealousy. A moment
afterwards the door opened behind her and her sister came into the
room, out of breath, her cheeks aglow with the chilly air.

Perdita started. 'Ah,' said she, 'I thought you were with our mother.'
The ladies were to go to a tea-party, and on such occasions it was the
habit of one of the girls to help their mother to dress.

Instead of coming in, Perdita lingered at the door.

'Come in, come in,' said Rosalind. 'We have more than an hour yet. I
should like you very much to give a few strokes to my hair.' She knew
that her sister wished to retreat, and that she could see in the glass
all her movements in the room. 'Nay, just help me with my hair,' she
said, 'and I will go to mamma.'

Perdita came reluctantly, and took the brush. She saw her sister's
eyes, in the glass, fastened hard upon her hands. She had not made
three passes when Rosalind clapped her own right hand upon her
sister's left, and started out of her chair. "Whose ring is that?" she
cried, passionately, drawing her towards the light.

On the young girl's third finger glistened a little gold ring, adorned
with a very small sapphire.

Perdita felt that she need no longer keep her secret, yet that she
must put a bold face on her avowal. 'It's mine,' she said proudly.

'Who gave it to you?' cried the other.

Perdita hesitated a moment. 'Mr Lloyd.'

'Mr Lloyd is generous, all of a sudden.'

'Ah no,' cried Perdita, with spirit, 'not all of a sudden! He offered
it to me a month ago.'

'And you needed a month's begging to take it?' said Rosalind, looking
at the little trinket, which indeed was not especially elegant,
although it was the best that the jeweller of the Province could
furnish. 'I wouldn't have taken it in less than two.'

'It isn't the ring,' Perdita answered, 'it's what it means!'

'It means that you are not a modest girl!' cried Rosalind. 'Pray, does
your mother know of your intrigue? does Bernard?'

'My mother has approved my "intrigue", as you call it. My Lloyd has
asked for my hand, and mamma has given it. Would you have had him
apply to you, dearest sister?'

Rosalind gave her companion a long look, full of passionate envy and
sorrow. Then she dropped her lashes on her pale cheeks and turned
away. Perdita felt that it had not been a pretty scene; but it was her
sister's fault. However, the elder girl rapidly called back her pride,
and turned herself about again. 'You have my very best wishes,' she
said, with a low curtsey. 'I wish you every happiness, and a very long
life.'

Perdita gave a bitter laugh. 'Don't speak in that tone!' she cried. 'I
would rather you should curse me outright. Come, Rosy,' she added, 'he
couldn't marry both of us.'

'I wish you very great joy,' Rosalind repeated, mechanically, sitting
down to her glass again, 'and a very long life, and plenty of
children.' There was something in the sound of these words not at all
to Perdita's taste, 'Will you give me a year to live at least?' she
said. 'In a year I can have one little boy--or one little girl at
least.

If you will give me your brush again I will do your hair.'

'Thank you,' said Rosalind. 'You had better go to mamma. It isn't
becoming that a young lady with a promised husband should wait on a
girl with none.'

'Nay,' said Perdita good-humouredly, 'I have Arthur to wait upon me.
You need my service more than I need yours.'

But her sister motioned her away, and she left the room. When she had
gone poor Rosalind fell on her knees before her dressing-table, buried
her head in her arms, and poured out a flood of tears and sobs. She
felt very much the better for this effusion of sorrow. When her sister
came back she insisted on helping her to dress--on her wearing her
prettiest things. She forced upon her acceptance a bit of lace of her
own, and declared that now that she was to be married she should do
her best to appear worthy of her lover's choice. She discharged these
offices in stern silence; but, such as they were, they had to do duty
as an apology and an atonement; she never made any other.

Now that Lloyd was received by the family as an accepted suitor
nothing remained but to fix the wedding-day. It was appointed for the
following April, and in the interval preparations were diligently made
for the marriage. Lloyd, on his side, was buss with his commercial
arrangements, and with establishing a correspondence with the great
mercantile house to which he had attached himself in England. He was
therefore not so frequent a visitor at Mrs Wingrave's as during the
months of his diffidence and irresolution, and poor Rosalind had less
to suffer than she had feared from the sight of the mutual endearments
of the young lovers. Touching his future sister-in--law Lloyd had a
perfectly clear conscience. There had not been a particle of love-
making between them, and he had not the slightest suspicion that he
had dealt her a terrible blow. He was quite at his ease; life promised
so well, both domestically and financially. The great revolt of the
Colonies Was not yet in the air, and that his connubial felicity
should take a tragic turn it was absurd, it was blasphemous, to
apprehend. Meanwhile, at Mrs Wingrave's, there was a greater rustling
of silks, a more rapid clicking of scissors and flying of needles,
than ever. The good lady had determined that her daughter should carry
from home the genteelest outfit that her money could buy or that the
country could furnish. All the sage women in the Province were
convened, and their united taste was brought to bear on Perdita's
wardrobe. Rosalind's situation, at this moment, was assuredly not to
be envied. The poor girl had an inordinate love of dress, and the very
best taste in the world, as her sister perfectly well knew. Rosalind
was tall, she was stately and sweeping, she was made to earn stiff
brocade and masses of heavy lace, such as belong to the toilet of a
rich man's wife. But Rosalind sat aloof with her beautiful arms folded
and her head averted, while her mother and sister and the venerable
women aforesaid worried and wondered over their materials, oppressed
by the multitude of their resources. One day there came in a beautiful
piece of white silk, brocaded with heavenly blue and silver sent by
the bridegroom himself--it not being thought amiss in those days that
the husband-elect should contribute to the bride's trousseau. Perdita
could think of no form or fashion which would do sufficient honour to
the splendour of the material.

'Blue's your colour, sister, more than mine,' she said, with appealing
eyes. 'It is a pity it's not for you. You would know what to do with
it.'

Rosalind got up from her place and looked at the great shining fabric,
as it lay spread over the back of a chair. Then she took it up in her
hands and felt it--lovingly, as Perdita could see--and turned about
towards the mirror with it. She let it roll down to her feet, and
flung the other end over her shoulder, gathering it in about her waist
with her white arm, which was bare to the elbow. She threw back her
head, and looked at her image, and a hanging tress of her auburn hair
fell upon the gorgeous surface of the silk. It made a dazzling
picture. The women standing about uttered a little 'Look, look!' of
admiration. 'Yes, indeed,' said Rosalind, quietly, 'blue is my
colour.' But Perdita could see that her fancy had been stirred, and
that she would now fall to work and solve all their silken riddles.
And indeed she behaved very well, as Perdita, knowing her insatiable
love of millinery, was quite ready to declare. Innumerable yards of
lustrous silk and satin, of muslin, velvet and lace, passed through
her cunning hands, without a jealous word coming from her lips. Thanks
to her industry, when the wedding-day came Perdita was prepared to
espouse more of the vanities of life than any fluttering young bride
who had yet received the sacramental blessing of a New England divine.

It had been arranged that the young couple should go out and spend the
first days of their wedded life at the country-house of an English
gentleman--a man of rank and a very kind friend to Arthur Lloyd. He
was a bachelor; he declared he should be delighted to give up the
place to the influence of Hymen. After the ceremony at church--it had
been performed by an English clergyman--young Mrs Lloyd hastened back
to her mother's house to change her nuptial robes for a riding-dress.
Rosalind helped her to effect the change, in the little homely room in
which they had spent their undivided younger years. Perdita then
hurried off to bid farewell to her mother, leaving Rosalind to follow.
Then parting was short; the horses were at the door, and Arthur was
impatient to start. But Rosalind had not followed, and Perdita
hastened back to her room, opening the door abruptly. Rosalind, as
usual, was before the glass, but in a position which caused the other
to stand still, amazed. She had dressed herself in Perdita's cast-off
wedding veil and wreath, and on her neck she had hung the full string
of pearls which the young girl had received from her husband as a
wedding-gift. These things had been hastily laid aside, to await their
possessor's disposal on her return from the country. Bedizened by this
unnatural garb Rosalind stood before the mirror, plunging a long look
into its depths and reading heaven knows what audacious visions.
Perdita was horrified. It was a hideous image of their old rivalry
come to life again. She made a step towards her sister, as if to pull
off the veil and the flowers. But catching her eyes in the glass, she
stopped.

'Farewell, sweetheart,' she said. 'You might at least have waited till
I had got out of the house!' And she hurried away from the room.

Mr Lloyd had purchased in Boston a house which to the taste of those
days appeared as elegant as it was commodious; and here he very soon
established himself with his young wife. He was thus separated by a
distance of twenty miles from the residence of his mother-in-law.
Twenty miles, in that primitive era of roads and conveyances, were as
serious a matter as a hundred at the present day, and Mrs Wingrave saw
but little of her daughter during the first twelvemonth of her
marriage. She suffered in no small degree from Perdita's absence; and
her affliction was not diminished by the fact that Rosalind had fallen
into terribly low spirits and was not to be roused or cheered but by
change of air and company. The real cause of the young lady's
dejection the reader will not be slow to suspect. Mrs Wingrave and her
gossips, however, deemed her complaint a mere bodily ill, and doubted
not that she would obtain relief from the remedy just mentioned. Her
mother accordingly proposed, on her behalf, a visit to certain
relatives on the paternal side, established in New York, who had long
complained that they were able to see so little of their New England
cousins. Rosalind was despatched to these good people, under a
suitable escort, and remained with them for several months. In the
interval her brother Bernard, who had begun the practice of the law,
made up his mind to take a wife. Rosalind came home to the wedding,
apparently cured of her heartache, with bright roses and lilies in her
face and a proud smile on her lips. Arthur Lloyd came over from Boston
to see his brother-in-law married, but without his wife, who was
expecting very soon to present him with an heir. It was nearly a year
since Rosalind had seen him. She was glad--she hardly knew why--that
Perdita had stayed at home. Arthur looked happy, but he was more grave
and important than before his marriage.

She thought he looked 'interesting'--for although the word, in its
modern sense, was not then invented, we may be sure that the idea was.
The truth is, he was simply anxious about his wife and her coming
ordeal, Nevertheless, he by no means failed to observe Rosalind's
beauty and splendour, and to note how she effaced the poor little
bride. The allowance that Perdita had enjoyed for her dress had now
been transferred to her sister, who turned it to wonderful account.

On the morning after the wedding he had a lady's saddle put on the
horse of the servant who had come with him from town, and went out
with the young girl for a ride. It was a keen, clear morning in
January; the ground was bare and hard, and the horses in good
condition--to say nothing of Rosalind, who was charming in her hat and
plume, and her dark blue riding coat, trimmed with fur. They rode all
the morning, lost their way and were obliged to stop for dinner at a
farmhouse. The early winter dusk had fallen when they got home. Mrs
Wingrave met them with a long face. A messenger had arrived at noon
from Mrs Lloyd; she was beginning to be ill, she desired her husband's
immediate return. The young man, at the thought that he had lost
several hours, and that by hard riding he might already have been with
his wife, uttered a passionate oath. He barely consented to stop for a
mouthful of supper, but mounted the messenger's horse and started off
at a gallop.

He reached home at midnight. His wife had been delivered of a little
girl. 'Ah, why weren't you with me?' she said, as he came to her
bedside.

'I was out of the house when the man came. I was with Rosalind,' said
Lloyd, innocently.

Mrs Lloyd made a little moan, and turned away. But she continued to do
very well, and for a week her improvement was uninterrupted. Finally,
however, through some indiscretion in the way of diet or exposure, it
was checked, and the poor lady grew rapidly worse. Lloyd was in
despair. It very soon became evident that she was breathing her last.
Mrs Lloyd came to a sense of her approaching end, and declared that
she was reconciled with death. On the third evening after the change
took place she told her husband that she felt she should not get
through the night. She dismissed her servants, and also requested her
mother to withdraw--Mrs Wingrave having arrived on the preceding day.
She had had her infant placed on the bed beside her, and she lay on
her side, with the child against her breast, holding her husband's
hands. The night-lamp was hidden behind the heavy curtains of the bed,
but the room was illuminated with a red glow from the immense fire of
logs on the hearth.

'It seems strange not to be warmed into life by such a fire as that,'
the young woman said, feebly trying to smile. 'If I had but a little
of it in my veins! But I have given all my fire to this little spark
of mortality.' And she dropped her eyes on her child. Then raising
them she looked at her husband with a long, penetrating gaze. The last
feeling which lingered in her heart was one of suspicion. She had not
recovered from the shock which Arthur had given her by telling her
that in the hour of her agony he had been with Rosalind. She trusted
her husband very nearly as well as she loved him; but now that she was
called away forever she felt a cold horror of her sister. She felt in
her soul that Rosalind had never ceased to be jealous of her good
fortune; and a year of happy security had not effaced the young girl's
image, dressed in her wedding-garments, and smiling with simulated
triumph. Now that Arthur was to be alone, what might not Rosalind
attempt? She was beautiful, she was engaging; what arts might she not
use, what impression might she not make upon the young man's saddened
heart? Mrs Lloyd looked at her husband in silence. It seemed hard,
after all, to doubt of his constancy. His fine eyes were filled with
tears; his face was convulsed with weeping; the clasp of his hands was
warm and passionate. How noble he looked, how tender, how faithful and
devoted! 'Nay,' thought Perdita, 'he's not for such a one as Rosalind.
He'll never forget me. Nor does Rosalind truly care for him; she cares
only for vanities and finery and jewels.' And she lowered her eyes on
her white hands, which her husband's liberality had covered with
rings, and on the lace ruffles which trimmed the edge of her
nightdress. 'She covets my rings and my laces more than she covets my
husband.'

At this moment the thought of her sister's rapacity seemed to cast a
dark shadow between her and the helpless figure of her little girl.
'Arthur,' she said, 'you must take off my rings. I shall not be buried
in them. One of these days my daughter shall wear them--my rings and
my laces and silks. I had them all brought out and shown me today.
It's a great wardrobe--there's not such another in the Province; I can
say it without vanity, now that I have done with it. It will be a
great inheritance for my daughter when she grows into a young woman.
There are things there that a man never buys twice, and if they are
lost you will never again see the like. So you will watch them well.
Some dozen things I have left to Rosalind: I have named them to my
mother. I have given her that blue and silver; it was meant for her; I
wore it only once, I looked ill in it.

But the rest are to be sacredly kept for this little innocent. It's
such a providence that she should be my colour; she can wear my gowns;
she has her mother's eyes. You know the same fashions come back even
twenty years. She can wear my gowns as they are. They will lie there
quietly waiting till she grows into them--wrapped in camphor and rose-
leaves, and keeping their colours in the sweetscented darkness. She
shall have black hair, she shall wear my carnation satin. Do you
promise me, Arthur?'

'Promise you what, dearest?'

'Promise me to keep your poor little wife's old gowns.'

'Are you afraid I shall sell them?'

'No, but that they may get scattered, My mother will have them
properly wrapped up, and you shall lay them away under a double-lock.
Do you know the great chest in the attic, with the iron bands? There
is no end to what it will hold. You can put them all there. My mother
and the housekeeper will do it, and give you the key. And you will
keep the key in your secretary, and never give it to anyone but your
child. Do you promise me?'

'Ah, yes, I promise you,' said Lloyd, puzzled at the intensity with
which his wife appeared to cling to this idea.

'Will you swear?' repeated Perdita.

'Yes, I swear.'

'Well--I trust you--I trust you,' said the poor lady, looking into his
eyes with eyes in which, if he had suspected her vague apprehensions,
he might have read an appeal quite as much as an assurance.

Lloyd bore his bereavement rationally and manfully. A month after his
wife's death, in the course of business, circumstances arose which
offered him an opportunity of going to England.

He took advantage of it, to change the current of his thoughts. He was
absent nearly a year, during which his little girl was tenderly nursed
and guarded by her grandmother. On his return he had his house again
thrown open, and announced his intention of keeping the same state as
during his wife's lifetime. It very soon came to be predicted that he
would marry again, and there were at least a dozen young women of whom
one may say that it was by no fault of theirs that, for six months
after his return, the prediction did not come true. During this
interval he still left his little daughter in Mrs Wingrave's hands,
the latter assuring him that a change of residence at so tender an age
would be full of danger for her health. Finally, however, he declared
that his heart longed for his daughter's presence and that she must be
brought up to town. He sent his coach and his housekeeper to fetch her
home. Mrs Wingrave was in terror lest something should befall her on
the road; and, in accordance with this feeling. Rosalind offered to
accompany her.

She could return the next day. So she went up to town with her little
niece, and Mr Lloyd met her on the threshold of his house, overcome
with her kindness and with paternal joy. Instead of returning the next
day Rosalind stayed out the week; and when at last she reappeared, she
had only come for her clothes. Arthur would not hear of her coming
home, nor would the baby. That little person cried and choked if
Rosalind left her; and at the sight of her grief Arthur lost his wits,
and swore that she was going to die. In fine, nothing would suit them
but that the aunt should remain until the little niece had grown used
to strange faces.

It took two months to bring this consummation about; for it was not
until this period had elapsed that Rosalind took leave of her brother-
in-law. Mrs Wingrave had shaken her head over her daughter's absence;
she had declared that it was not becoming, that it was the talk of the
whole country. She had reconciled herself to it only because, during
the girl's visit, the household enjoyed an unwonted term of peace.
Bernard Wingrave had brought his wife home to live, between whom and
her sister-in-law there was as little love as you please. Rosalind was
perhaps no angel; but in the daily practice of life she was a
sufficiently good-natured girl, and if she quarrelled with Mrs
Bernard, it was not without provocation. Quarrel, however, she did, to
the great annoyance not only of her antagonist, but of the two
spectators of these constant altercations. Her stay in the household
of her brother-in-law, therefore, would have been delightful, if only
because it removed her from contact with the object of her antipathy
at home.

It was doubly--it was ten times--delightful, in that it kept her near
the object of her early passion. Mrs Lloyd's sharp suspicions had
fallen very far short of the truth. Rosalind's sentiment had been a
passion at first, and a passion it remained--a passion of whose
radiant heat, tempered to the delicate state of his feelings, Mr Lloyd
very soon felt the influence. Lloyd, as I have hinted, was not a
modern Petrarch; it was not in his nature to practise an ideal
constancy. He had not been many days in the house with his sister-in-
law before he began to assure himself that she was, in the language of
that day, a devilish fine woman. Whether Rosalind really practised
those insidious arts that her sister had been tempted to impute to her
it is needless to enquire. It is enough to say that she found means to
appear to the very best advantage. She used to seat herself every
morning before the big fireplace in the dining-room, at work upon a
piece of tapestry, with her little niece disporting herself on the
carpet at her feet, or on the train of her dress, and playing with her
woollen balls. Lloyd would have been a very stupid fellow if he had
remained insensible to the rich suggestions of this charming picture.
He was exceedingly fond of his little girl, and was never weary of
taking her in his arms and tossing her up and down, and making her
crow with delight. Very often, however, he would venture upon greater
liberties than the young lady was yet prepared to allow, and then she
would suddenly vociferate her displeasure.

Rosalind, at this, would drop her tapestry, and put out her handsome
hands with the serious smile of the young girl whose virgin fancy has
revealed to her all a mother's healing arts. Lloyd would give up the
child, their eyes would meet, their hands would touch, and Rosalind
would extinguish the little girl's sobs upon the snowy folds of the
kerchief that crossed her bosom. Her dignity was perfect, and nothing
could be more discreet than the manner in which she accepted her
brother-in-law's hospitality. It may almost be said, perhaps, that
there was something harsh in her reserve. Lloyd had a provoking
feeling that she was in the house and yet was unapproachable. Half-an-
hour after supper, at the very outset of the long winter evenings, she
would light her candle, make the young man a most respectful curtsey,
and march off to bed. If these were arts, Rosalind was a great artist.
But their effect was so gentle, so gradual, they were calculated to
work upon the young widower's fancy with a crescendo so finely shaded,
that, as the reader has seen, several weeks elapsed before Rosalind
began to feel sure that her returns would cover her outlay. When this
became morally certain she packed up her trunk and returned to her
mother's house. For three days she waited: on the fourth Mr Lloyd made
his appearance---a respectful but pressing suitor, Rosalind heard him
to the end, with great humility, and accepted him with infinite
modesty. It is hard to imagine that Mrs Lloyd would have forgiven her
husband; but if anything might have disarmed her resentment it would
have been the ceremonious continence of this interview. Rosalind
imposed upon her lover but a short probation. They were married, as
was becoming, with great privacy--almost with secrecy--in the hope
perhaps, as was waggishly remarked at the time, that the late Mrs
Lloyd wouldn't hear of it.

The marriage was to all appearance a happy one, and each party
obtained what each had desired--Lloyd 'a devilish fine woman', and
Rosalind--but Rosalind's desires, as the reader will have observed,
had remained a good deal of a mystery. There were, indeed, two blots
upon their felicity, but time would perhaps efface them. During the
first three years of her marriage Mrs Lloyd failed to become a mother,
and her husband on his side suffered heavy losses of money.

This latter circumstance compelled a material retrenchment in his
expenditure, and Rosalind was perforce less of a fine lady than her
sister had been. She contrived, however, to carry it like a woman of
considerable fashion. She had long since ascertained that her sister's
copious wardrobe had been sequestrated for the benefit of her
daughter, and that it lay languishing in thankless gloom in the dusty
attic. It was a revolting thought that these exquisite fabrics should
await the good pleasure of a little girl who sat in a high chair and
ate bread-and-milk with a wooden spoon. Rosalind had the good taste,
however, to say nothing about the matter until several months had
expired. Then, at last, she timidly broached it to her husband. Was it
not a pity that so much finery should be lost?--for lost it would be,
what with colours fading, and moths eating it up, and the change of
fashions. But Lloyd gave her so abrupt and peremptory a refusal, that
she saw, for the present, her attempt was vain. Six months went by,
however, and brought with them new needs and new visions. Rosalind's
thoughts hovered lovingly about her sister's relies. She went up and
looked at the chest in which they lay imprisoned. There was a sullen
defiance in its three great padlocks and its iron bands which only
quickened her cupidity.

There was something exasperating in its incorruptible immobility. It
was like a grim and grizzled old household servant, who locks his jaws
over a family secret. And then there was a look of capacity in its
vast extent, and a sound as of dense fullness, when Rosalind knocked
its side with the toe of her little shoe, which caused her to flush
with baffled longing. 'It's absurd,' she cried; 'it's improper, it's
wicked'; and she forthwith resolved upon another attack upon her
husband.

On the following day, after dinner, when he had had his wine, she
boldly began it. But he cut her short with great sternness.

'Once for all, Rosalind,' said he, 'it's out of the question. I shall
be gravely displeased if you return to the matter.'

'Very good,' said Rosalind. 'I am glad to learn the esteem in which I
held. Gracious heaven,' she cried, 'I am a very happy woman! It's an
agreeable thing to feel one's self sacrificed to a caprice!' And her
eyes filled with tears of anger and disappointment.

Lloyd had a good-natured man's horror of a woman's sobs, and he
attempted--I may say he condescended--to explain. 'It's not a caprice,
dear, it's a promise,' he said--'an oath.'

'An oath? It's a pretty matter for oaths! and to whom, pray?'

'To Perdita,' said the young man, raising his eyes for an instant, and
immediately dropping them.

'Perdita--ah, Perdita!' and Rosalind's tears broke forth. Her bosom
heaved with stormy sobs--sobs which were the long-deferred sequel of
the violent fit of weeping in which she had indulged herself on the
night when she discovered her sister's betrothal. She had hoped, in
her better moments, that she had done with her jealousy; but her
temper, on that occasion, had taken an ineffaceable hold, 'And pray,
what right had Perdita to dispose of my future?' she cried.

'What right had she to bind you to meanness and cruelty? Ah, I occupy
a dignified place, and I make a very fine figure! I am welcome to what
Perdita has left! And what has she left? I never knew till now how
little! Nothing, nothing, nothing.'

This was very poor logic, but it was very good as a 'scene'. Lloyd put
his arm around his wife's waist and tried to kiss her, but she shook
him off with magnificent scorn. Poor fellow! he had coveted a
'devilish fine woman', and he had got one. Her scorn was intolerable.
He walked away with his ears tingling--irresolute, distracted. Before
him was his secretary, and in it the sacred key which with his own
hand he had turned in the triple lock. He marched up and opened it,
and took the key from a secret drawer, wrapped in a little packet
which he had sealed with his own honest bit of glazonry. Je garde,
said the motto--'I keep.' But he was ashamed to put it back. He flung
it upon the table beside his wife.

'Put it back!' she cried. 'I want it not. I hate it!'

'I wash my hands of it,' cried her husband. 'God forgive me!'

Mrs Lloyd gave an indignant shrug of her shoulders, and swept out of
the room, while the young man retreated by another door. Ten minutes
later Mrs Lloyd returned, and found the room occupied by her little
stepdaughter and the nursery-maid. The key was not on the table. She
glanced at the child. Her little niece was perched on a chair, with
the packet in her hands. She had broken the seal with her own small
fingers. Mrs Lloyd hastily took possession of the key.

At the habitual supper-hour Arthur Lloyd came back from his counting-
room. It was the month of June, and supper was served by daylight. The
meal was placed on the table, but Mrs Lloyd failed to make her
appearance. The servant whom his master sent to call her came back
with the assurance that her room was empty, and that the women
informed him that she had not been seen since dinner. They had, in
truth, observed her to have been in tears, and, supposing her to be
shut up in her chamber, had not disturbed her. Her husband called her
name in various parts of the house, but without response. At last it
occurred to him that he might find her by taking the way to the attic.
The thought gave him a strange feeling of discomfort, and he bade his
servants remain behind, wishing no witness in his quest. He reached
the foot of the staircase leading to the topmost flat, and stood with
his hands on the banisters, pronouncing his wife's name. His voice
trembled. He called again louder and more firmly. The only sound which
disturbed the absolute silence was a faint echo of his own tones,
repeating his question under the great eaves.

He nevertheless felt irresistibly moved to ascend the staircase. It
opened upon a wide hall, lined with wooden closets, and terminating in
a window which looked westward, and admitted the last rays of the sun.
Before the window stood the great chest. Before the chest, on her
knees, the young man saw with amazement and horror the figure of his
wife. In an instant he crossed the interval between them, bereft of
utterance. The lid of the chest stood open, exposing, amid their
perfumed napkins, its treasure of stuffs and jewels. Rosalind had
fallen backward from a kneeling posture, with one hand supporting her
on the floor and the other pressed to her heart.

On her limbs was the stiffness of death, and on her face, in the
fading light of the sun, the terror of something more than death. Her
lips were parted in entreaty, in dismay, in agony; and on her blanched
brow and cheeks there glowed the marks of ten hideous wounds from two
vengeful ghostly hands.



THE END



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