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The Forsaken Inn: A Novel written by Anna Katharine Green who was an American poet and novelist. This book was published in 1890. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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The Forsaken Inn
Anna Katharine Green
CHAPTER I. THE OAK PARLOR.
CHAPTER II. BURRITT.
CHAPTER III. A FEARFUL DISCOVERY.
CHAPTER IV. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
CHAPTER V. AN INTERIM OF SUSPENSE.
PART II. AN OLD ALBANY ROMANCE.
CHAPTER VI. THE RECLUSE.
CHAPTER VII. TWO WOMEN.
CHAPTER VIII. A SUDDEN BETROTHAL.
CHAPTER IX. MARAH.
CHAPTER X. AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS.
CHAPTER XI. HONORA.
CHAPTER XII. EDWIN URQUHART.
CHAPTER XIII. BEFORE THE WEDDING.
CHAPTER XIV. A CASSANDRA AT THE GATE.
CHAPTER XV. THE CATASTROPHE.
CHAPTER XVI. A DREAM ENDED.
PART III. RETRIBUTION.
CHAPTER XVII. STRANGE GUESTS.
CHAPTER XVIII. MRS. TRUAX TALKS.
CHAPTER XIX. IN THE HALLS AT MIDNIGHT.
CHAPTER XX. THE STONE IN THE GARDEN.
CHAPTER XXI. IN THE OAK PARLOR.
CHAPTER XXII. A SURPRISE FOR HONORA.
CHAPTER XXIII. IN THE SECRET CHAMBER.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE MARQUIS.
CHAPTER XXV. MARK FELT.
CHAPTER XXVI. FOR THE LAST TIME.
CHAPTER XXVII. A LAST WORD.
I WAS riding between Albany and Poughkeepsie. It was raining furiously, and my horse, already weary with long travel, gave unmistakable signs of discouragement. I was, therefore, greatly relieved when, in the most desolate part of the road, I espied rising before me the dim outlines of a house, and was correspondingly disappointed when, upon riding forward, I perceived that it was but a deserted ruin I was approaching, whose fallen chimneys and broken windows betrayed a dilapidation so great that I could scarcely hope to find so much as a temporary shelter therein.
Nevertheless, I was so tired of the biting storm that I involuntarily stopped before the decayed and forbidding structure, and was, in truth, withdrawing my foot from the stirrup, when I heard an unexpected exclamation behind me, and turning, saw a chaise, from the open front of which leaned a gentleman of most attractive appearance.
"What are you going to do?" he asked.
"Hide my head from the storm," was my hurried rejoinder. "I am tired, and so is my horse, and the town, according to all appearances, must be at least two miles distant."
"No matter if it is three miles! You must not take shelter in that charnel-house," he muttered; and moved along in his seat as if to show me there was room beside him.
"Why," I exclaimed, struck with sudden curiosity, "is this one of the haunted houses we hear of? If so, I shall certainly enter, and be much obliged to the storm for driving me into so interesting a spot." I thought he looked embarrassed. At all events, I am sure he hesitated for a moment whether or not to ride on and leave me to my fate. But his better impulses seemed to prevail, for he suddenly cried: "Get in with me, and leave mysteries alone. If you want to come back here after you have learned the history of that house, you can do so; but first ride on to town and have a good meal. Your horse will follow easily enough after he is rid of your weight."
It was too tempting an offer to be refused; so thankfully accepting his kindness, I alighted from my horse, and after tying him to the back of the chaise, got in with this genial stranger. As I did so I caught another view of the ruin I had been so near entering.
"Good gracious!" I exclaimed, pointing to the structure that, with its projecting upper story and ghastly apertures, presented a most suggestive appearance, "if it does not look like a skull!"
My companion shrugged his shoulders, but did not reply. The comparison was evidently not a new one to him.
That evening, in a comfortable inn parlor, I read the following manuscript. It was placed in my hands by this kindly stranger, who in so doing explained that it had been written by the last occupant of the old inn I was so nearly on the point of investigating. She had been its former landlady, and had clung to the ancient house long after decay had settled upon its doorstep and desolation breathed from its gaping windows. She died in its north room, and from under her pillow the discolored leaves were taken, the words of which I now place before you.
January 28, 1775.
I do not understand myself. I do not understand my doubts nor can I analyze my fears. When I saw the carriage drive off, followed by the wagon with its inexplicable big box, I thought I should certainly regain my former serenity. But I am more uneasy than ever. I cannot rest, and keep going over and over in my mind the few words that passed between us in their short stay under my roof. It is her face that haunts me. It must be that, for it had a strange look of trouble in it as well as sickness; but neither can I forget his, so fair, so merry, and yet so unpleasant, especially when he glanced at her and—as I could not help but think before they went away—when he glanced at me. I do not like him, and the chills creep over me whenever I remember his laugh, which was much too frequent to be decent, considering how poorly his young wife looked.
They are gone, and their belongings with them; but I am as much afraid as if they were still here. Why? That is what I cannot tell. I sit in the room where they slept, and feel as strange and terrified as if I had encountered a ghost there. I dread to stay and dread to move and write, because I must relieve myself in some way—that is, if I am to have any sleep to-night. Am I ill, or was there something unexplained and mysterious in their actions? Let me go over the past and see.
They came last evening about twilight. I was in the front of the house, and seeing such a good-looking couple in the carriage, and such a pile of baggage with them that they had to have an extra wagon to carry it, I ran out in all haste to welcome them. She had a veil drawn over her face, and it was so thick that I could not see her features, but her figure was slight and graceful, and I took a fancy to her at once, perhaps because she held her arms out when she saw me, as if she thought she beheld in me a friend. He did not please me so well, though there is no gainsaying that he is handsome enough, and speaks, when he wishes to, with a great deal of courtesy. But I thought he ought to give his attention to his young and ailing wife, instead of being so concerned about his baggage. Had that big box of his contained gold, he could not have looked at it more lovingly or been more anxious about its handling. He said it held books; but, pshaw! What is there in books, that a man should love them better than his wife, and watch over their welfare with the utmost concern, while allowing a stranger to help her out of the carriage and up the inn steps?
But I will not dwell any longer upon this. Men are strange beings, and must not be judged by rules that apply to women. Let me see if I can remember when it was that I first saw her face. Ah, yes; it was in the parlor. She had taken a seat there while her husband looked through the house and decided which room to take. There were four empty, and two of them were the choicest and airiest in the inn, but he passed by these and insisted upon taking one that was stuffy with disuse, because it was on the ground floor, and so convenient for us to bring his great box into.
His great box! I was so provoked at this everlasting concern about his great box, that I ran to the parlor, intending to ask the lady herself to interfere. But when I got to the threshold I paused, and did not speak, for the lady—or Mrs. Urquhart, as I presently found she called herself—had risen from her seat and was looking in the glass with an expression so sad and searching that I forgot my errand and only thought of comforting her. But the moment she heard my step she drew down the veil which she had tossed back, and coming quickly toward me, asked if her husband had chosen a room.
I answered in the affirmative, and began to complain that it was not a very cheerful one. But she paid small attention to my words, and presently I found myself following her to the apartment designated. She entered, making a picture, as she crossed the threshold, which I shall not readily forget. For in her short, quick walk down the hall she had torn the bonnet from her head, and though she was not a strictly beautiful woman, she was sufficiently interesting to make her every movement attractive. But that is not all. For some reason the moment possessed an importance for her which I could not measure. I saw it in her posture, in the pallor of her cheeks and the uprightness of her carriage. The sudden halt she made at the threshold, the half-startled exclamation she gave as her eyes fell on the interior, all showed that she was laboring under some secret agitation. But what was the cause of that agitation I have not been able to determine. She went in, but as she did so, I heard her murmur:
"Oak walls! Ah, my soul! It has come soon!"
Not a very intelligible exclamation, you will allow, but as intelligible as her whole conduct. For in another moment every sign of emotion had left her, and she stood quite calm and cold in the center of the room. But her pallor remained, and I cannot make sure now whether this betokened weary resignation or some secret and but half recognized fear.
Had I looked at him instead of at her, I might have understood the situation better. But, though I dimly perceived his form drawn up in the empty space at the left of the door, it was not until she had passed him and flung herself into a chair, that I thought to look in his direction. Then it was too late, for he had turned his face aside and was gazing with rather an obtrusive curiosity at the old-fashioned room, murmuring, as he did so, some such commonplaces to his wife as:
"I hope you are not fatigued, my dear. Fine old house, this. Quite English in style, eh?"
To all of which she answered with a nod or word, till suddenly, without look or warning, she slipped from her chair and lay perfectly insensible upon the dark boards of the worm-eaten floor.
I uttered an exclamation, and so did he; but it was my arms that lifted her and laid her on the bed. He stood as if frozen to his place for a moment, then he mechanically lifted his foot and set it with an air of proprietorship on the box before which he had been standing.
"Strange and inexplicable conduct," thought I, and looked the indignation I could not but feel. Instantly he left his position and hastened to my side, offering his assistance and advice with that heartless officiousness which is so unbearable when life and death are at stake.
I accepted as little of his help as was possible, and when, after persistent effort on my part, I saw her lids fluttering and her breast heaving, I turned to him with as inoffensive an air as my mingled dislike and distrust would admit, and asked how long they had been married. He flushed violently, and with a sudden rage that at once robbed him of that gentlemanly appearance which, in him, was but the veneer to a coarse and brutal nature, he exclaimed:
"—— you! And by what right do you ask that?"
But before I could reply he recovered himself and was all false polish again, bowing with exaggerated politeness, as he exclaimed:
"Excuse me; I have had much to disturb me lately. My wife's health has been very feeble for months, and I am worn out with anxiety and watching. We are now on our way to a warmer climate, where I hope she will be quite restored."
And he smiled a very strange and peculiar smile, that went out like a suddenly extinguished candle, as he perceived her eyes suddenly open, and her gaze pass reluctantly around the room, as if forced to a curiosity against which she secretly rebelled.
"I think Mrs. Urquhart will do very well now," was his hurried remark at this sight. He evidently wished to be rid of me, and though I hated to leave her, I really found nothing to say in contradiction to his statement, for she certainly looked completely restored. I therefore turned away with a heavy heart toward the door, when the young wife, suddenly throwing out her arms, exclaimed:
"Do not leave me in this horrible room alone! I am afraid of it—actually afraid! Couldn't you have found some spot in the house less gloomy, Edwin?"
I came back.
"There are plenty of rooms—" I began.
But he interrupted me without any ceremony.
"I chose this room, Honora, for its convenience. There is nothing horrible about it, and when the lamps are lit you will find it quite pleasant. Do not be foolish. We sleep here or nowhere, for I cannot consent to go upstairs."
She answered nothing, but I saw her eyes go traveling once again around the walls, followed in a furtive way by his. Whereupon I looked about me, too, and tried to get a stranger's impression of the place. I was astonished at its effect upon my imagination. Though I had been in and out of the room fifty times before I had never noticed till now the extreme dismalness and desolation of its appearance.
Once used as an auxiliary parlor, it had that air of uninhabitableness which clings to such rooms, together with a certain something else, equally unpleasant, to which at that moment I could give no name, and for which I could neither find then nor now any sufficient reason. It was paneled with oak far above our heads, and as the walls above had become gray with smoke, there was absolutely no color in the room, not even in the hangings of the gaunt four-poster that loomed dreary and repelling from one end of the room. For here, as elsewhere, time had been at work, and tints that were once bright enough had gradually been subdued by dust and smoke into one uniform dimness. The floor was black, the fireplace empty, the walls without a picture, and yet it was neither from this grayness nor from this barrenness that one recoiled. It was from something else—something that went deeper than the lack of charm or color—something that clung to the walls like a contagion and caught at the heart-strings where they are weakest, smothering hope and awakening horror, till in each faded chair a ghost seemed sitting, gazing at you with immovable eyes that could tell tales, but would not.
There was but one window in the room, and that looked toward the west. But the light that should have entered there was frightened, also, and halted on the ledge without, balked by the thick curtains that heavily enshrouded it. A haunted chamber! or so it appeared at that moment to my somewhat excited fancy, and for the first time in my life, here, I felt a dread of my own house, and experienced the uncanny sensation of some one walking over my grave.
But I soon recovered myself. Nothing of a disagreeable nature had ever happened in this room, nor had we had any special reason for shutting it up, except that it was in an out-of-the-way place, and not usually considered convenient, notwithstanding Mr. Urquhart's opinion to the contrary.
"Never mind," said I, with a last effort to soothe the agitated woman. "We will let in a little light, and dissipate some of these shadows." And I attempted to throw back the curtains of the window, but they fell again immediately and I experienced a sensation as of something ghostly passing between us and the light.
Provoked at my own weakness, I tore the curtains down and flung them into a corner. A straggling beam of sunset color came in, but it looked out of place and forlorn upon that black floor, like a stranger who meets with no welcome. The poor young wife seemed to hail it, however, for she moved instantly to where it lay and stood as if she longed for its warmth and comfort. I immediately glanced at the fireplace.
"I will soon have a rousing fire for you," I declared. "These old fireplaces hold a large pile of wood."
I thought, but I must be mistaken, that he made a gesture as if about to protest, but, if so, reason must have soon come to his aid, for he said nothing, though he looked uneasy, as I moved the andirons forward and made some other trivial arrangements for the fire which I had promised them.
"He thinks I am never going," I muttered to myself, and took pleasure in lingering; for, anxious as I was to have the room heated up for her comfort, I knew that every moment I stayed there would be one less for her to spend with her surly husband alone.
At last I had no further excuse for remaining, and so with the final remark that if the fire failed to give them cheer we had a sitting room into which they could come, I went out. But I knew, even while saying it, that he would not grant her the opportunity of enjoying the sitting room's coziness; that he would not let her out of his sight, if he did out of the room, and that for her to remain in his presence was to be in darkness, solitude and gloom, no matter what walls surrounded her or in what light she stood.
My impressions were not far wrong. Mr. and Mrs. Urquhart came to supper, but that was all. Before the others had finished their roast they had eaten their pudding and gone; and though he had talked, and laughed, and shown his white teeth, the impression left behind them was a depressing one which even Hetty felt, and she has anything but a sensitive nature.
I went to the room once again in the evening. I found them both seated, but in opposite parts of the room; he by his great box, and she in an easy chair which I had caused to be brought down from my own room for her especial use. I did not look at him, but I did at her, and was astonished to see, first, how dignified she was; and next how pretty. Had she been happy and at her ease, I should probably have been afraid of her, for the firelight, which now shone on her wan young cheek, brought out evidences of character and culture in her expression which proved her to be, by birth and training, of a position superior to what one would be led to expect from her husband's aspect and manner. But she was not happy nor at her ease, and wore, instead of the quiet and commanding look of the great lady, such an expression of secret dread that I almost forgot my position of landlady, and should certainly, if he had not been there, fallen at her side and taken her poor, forsaken head upon my breast. But that silent, immovable form, sitting statue-like beside his big box, smiling, for aught I knew, but if so, breathing out a chill that forbade all exhibition of natural feeling, held me in check, as it held her, so that I merely inquired whether there was anything I could do for her; and when she shook her head, starting a tear down her cheek as she did so, I dared do nothing more than give her one look of sympathetic understanding, and start for the door.
A command from him stopped me.
"My wife will need a slight supper before she goes to bed," said he. "Will you be good enough to see that one is brought?"
She roused herself up with quite a startled look of wonder.
"Why, Edwin," she began, "I never have been in the habit—"
But he hushed her at once.
"I know what is best for you," said he. "A small plate of luncheon, Mrs. Truax; and let it be nice and inviting."
I courtesied, gave her another glance, and went out. Her countenance had not lost its look of wonder. Was he going to be considerate, after all?
The lunch was prepared and taken to her.
Not long after this the inn quieted down, and such guests as were in the house prepared for rest. Midnight came; all was dark in room and hall. I was sure of this, for I went through the whole building myself, contrary to my usual habit, which was to leave this task to my man-of-all-work, Burritt. All was dark, all was quiet, and I was just dropping off to sleep, when there shot up suddenly from below a shriek, which was quickly smothered, but not so quickly that I did not recognize in it that tone which is only given by hideous distress or mortal fear.
"It is Mrs. Urquhart!" I cried in terror, to myself; and plunging into my clothes, I hurried down stairs.
All was quiet in the halls, but as I proceeded toward their room I perceived a figure standing near the doorway, which, in another moment, I saw to be that of Burritt. He was trembling like a leaf, and was bent forward, listening.
"Hush!" he whispered; "they are talking. All seems to be right. I just heard him call her darling."
I drew the man away and took his place. Yes; they were talking in subdued but not unkindly tones. I heard him bid her be composed, and caught, as I thought, a light reply that ought to have satisfied me that Mrs. Urquhart had simply suffered from some nightmare horror at which she was as ready to laugh now as he. But my nature is a contradictory one, and I was not satisfied. The echo of her cry was still ringing in my ears, and I felt as if I would give the world for a momentary peep into their room. Influenced by this idea, I boldly knocked, and in an instant—too soon for him not to have been standing near the door—I heard his breath through the keyhole and the words:
"Who is there, and what do you want?"
"We heard a cry," was my response, "and I feared Mrs. Urquhart was ill again."
"Mrs. Urquhart is very well," came hastily, almost gayly, from within. "She had a dream, and was willing that every one should know it. Is not that all?" he said, seemingly addressing his wife.
There was a murmur within, and then I heard her voice. "It was only a dream, dear Mrs. Truax," it said, and convinced against my will, I was about to return to my room, when I brushed against Burritt. He had not moved, and did not look as if he intended to.
"Come," said I, "there is no use of our remaining here."
"Can't help it," was his whispered reply. "In this hall I stay till morning. When I see a lamb in the care of a wolf, I find it hard to sleep. There is a door between us, but please God there shan't be anything more."
And knowing Burritt, I did not try to argue, but went quietly and somewhat thoughtfully to my room, vaguely relieved that I left him behind, though convinced there would be no further need of his services.
And so it was. No more sounds disturbed the house, and when I came down, with the first streak of daylight, I found Burritt gone about his work.
Breakfast was served to the Urquharts in their own room. I had wished to carry it in myself, but I found this inconvenient, and so I sent Hetty. When she came back I asked her how Mrs. Urquhart looked.
"Very well, ma'am," was the quick reply. "And see! I don't think she's as unhappy as we all thought last night, or she wouldn't be giving me a bright new crown."
I glanced at the girl's palm. There was indeed a bright new crown in it.
"Did she give you that?" I inquired.
"Yes, ma'am; she herself. And she laughed when she did it, and said it was for the good breakfast I had brought her."
I was busy at the time, and could not stop to give the girl's words much thought; but as soon as I had any leisure, I went to see for myself how Mrs. Urquhart looked when she laughed.
I was five minutes too late. She had just donned her traveling bonnet and veil, and though I heard her laugh slightly once, I did not see her face.
I saw his, however, and was surprised at the good nature in it. He was quite the gentleman, and if he had not been in such a hurry, would have doubtless made, or endeavored to make, himself very agreeable. But he was just watching his great box carried out to the wagon, and while he took pains to talk to me—was it to keep me from talking to her?—he was naturally a little absentminded. He was in haste, too, and insisted upon placing his wife in the carriage before all his baggage was taken from the room. And she seemed willing to go. I watched her on purpose to see, for I was not yet satisfied that she was not playing a part at his dictation, but I could discover no hint of reluctance in her manner, but rather a quiet alacrity, as if she felt glad to quit a room to which she had taken a dislike.
When I saw this, and noted the light step of her feet, I said to myself that I had been a fool, and lost a little of the interest I had felt for her. Nor did I regain it till after they had driven away, though she showed a consideration for me at the last which I had not expected, leaning from the carriage to give me a good-by pressure of the hand, and even nodding again and again as they disappeared down the road. For the fear which could be dissipated in a night was not the fear with which I had credited her; and of ordinary excitements and commonplace natures I had seen enough in my long experience as landlady to make me unwilling to trouble myself with any more of them.
But when the carriage and its accompanying wagon had quite disappeared, and Mr. and Mrs. Urquhart were virtually as far beyond my reach as if they were already in New York, I became conscious of a great uneasiness. This was the more strange in that there seemed to be no especial cause for it. They had left my house in apparently better spirits than they had entered it, and there was no longer any reason why I should concern myself about them. And yet I did concern myself, and came into the house and into the room they had just vacated, with feelings so unusual that I was astonished at myself, and not a little provoked. I had a vague feeling that the woman who had just left was somehow different from the one I had seen the night before.
But I am a busy woman, and I do not think I should have let this trouble me long if it had not been for Burritt. But when he came into the room after me, and shut the door behind him and stood with his back against it, looking at me, I knew I was not the only one who felt uncomfortable about the Urquharts. Rising from the chairwhere I had been sitting, counting the cost of fitting up that room so as to make it look habitable, I went toward him and met his gaze pretty sharply.
"Well, what is it?" I asked.
"I don't know," was the somewhat sullen reply. "I don't feel right about those folks, and yet—" He stopped and scratched his head—"I don't know what I'm afraid of. Are you sure they left nothing behind them?"
The last words were uttered in such a tone I did not know for a minute what to say.
"Left anything behind them!" I replied. "They left their money, if that is what you mean. I don't know what else they could have left."
Notwithstanding which assertion, I involuntarily glanced about the room as if half expecting to see some one of their many belongings protruding from a hitherto unsearched corner. His gaze followed mine, but presently returned, and we stood again looking at each other.
"Nothing here," said I.
"Where is it, then?" he asked.
I frowned in displeasure.
"Where is what?" I demanded. "You speak like a fool. Explain yourself."
He took a step toward me and lowered his voice. Every one knows Burritt, so I need not describe him. You can all imagine how he looked when he said:
"Did you see me handling of the big box, ma'am?"
I nodded yes.
"Saw how I was the one to help carry it in, and also how I was the one to first take hold on it when he wanted it carried out?" I again nodded yes.
"Well, ma'am, that box was a heavy load to lift into the wagon, but, ma'am"—here his voice became quite sepulchral—"it wasn't as heavy as it was when we lifted it out, and it hadn't the same feel either. Now, what had happened to it, and where is the stuff he took out of it?"
I own I had never in my life felt creepy before that minute. But with his eyes staring at me so impressively, and his voice sunk to a depth that made me lean forward to hear what he had to say, I do declare I felt as if an icy breath had been blown across the roots of my hair.
"Burritt, you want to frighten me," I exclaimed, as soon as I could get my voice. "The box seemed heavier to you than it did just now. There was no change in it, there could not be, or we should find something here to account for it. Remember you did not sleep last night, and lack of rest makes one fanciful."
"It does not make a man feel stronger, though, and I tell you the box was not near so heavy to-day as yesterday. Besides, as I said before, it acted differently under the handling. There was something loose in it to-day. Yesterday it was packed tight."
I shook my head, and tried to throw off the oppression caused by his manner. But seeing his eyes travel to the window, I looked that way too.
"He didn't carry anything out of the door," declared Burritt, at this moment, "because I watched it, and I know. But that window is only three feet from the ground, and I remember now that at the instant I first laid my ear to the keyhole, I heard a strange, grating sound just like that of a window being lowered by a very careful hand. Shall I look outside it, ma'am?"
I replied by going quickly to the window myself, lifting it, which I did with very little trouble, and glancing out. The familiar garden, with its path to the river, lay before me; but though I allowed myself one quick look in its direction, it was to the ground immediately beneath the window that I turned my attention, and it was here that I instantly, and to the satisfaction of both Burritt and myself, discovered unmistakable signs of disturbance. Not only was there the impression of a finely booted foot imprinted in the loose earth, but there was a large stone lying against the house which we were both confident had not been there the day before.
"He went roaming through the garden last night," cried Burritt, "and he brought back that stone. Why?"
I shuddered instead of replying. Then remembering that I had seen the young wife well and happy only a few minutes before, felt confused and mystified beyond any power to express.
"I will have a look at that stone," continued Burritt; and without waiting for my sanction, he vaulted out of the window and lifted the stone.
After a moment's consideration of it he declared:
"It came from the river bank; that is all I can make out of it."
And dropping the stone from his hand, he suddenly darted down the path to the river.
He was not gone long. When he came back, he looked still more doubtful than before.
"If I know that bank," he declared, "there has been more than one stone taken from it, and some dirt. Suppose we examine the floor, ma'am."
We did so, and just where the box had been placed we discovered some particles of sand that were not brought in from the road.
"What does it mean?" I cried.
Burritt did not answer. He was looking out toward the river. Suddenly he turned his eyes upon me and said in his former suppressed tone:
"He filled the box with stone and earth, and these were what we carried out and put into the wagon. But it was full when it came, and very heavy. Now, what was it filled with, and what has become of the stuff?"
It was the question then; it is the question now.
Burritt hints at crime, and has gone so far as to spend all the afternoon searching the river banks. But he has discovered nothing, nor can he explain what it was he looked for or expected to find. Nor are my own thoughts and feelings any clearer. I remember that the times are unsettled, that the spirit of revolution is in the air, and try to be charitable enough to suppose that it was treasure the young husband brought with him, and that all the perturbation and distress which I imagine myself to have witnessed in his behavior and that of his wife were owing to the purpose that they had formed of burying, in this spot, the silver and plate which they were perhaps unwilling to risk to the chances of war. But when I try to stifle my graver fears with this surmise, I recall the fearful nature of the shriek which startled me from my sleep, and repeat, tremblingly, to myself:
"Some one was in mortal agony at the moment I heard that cry. Was it the young wife, or was it—"
April 3, 1791.
IT is sixteen years since I wrote the preceding chapters of this history of mystery and crime. When the pen dropped from my hand—why did it drop? Was it because of some noise I heard?
I imagine so now, and tremble. I did not anticipate ever adding a line to the words I had written. The impulse which had led me to put upon paper my doubts concerning the two Urquharts soon passed, and as nothing ever occurred to recall this couple to my mind, I gradually allowed their name and memory to vanish from my thoughts, only remembering them when chance led me into the oak parlor. Then, indeed, I recollected their manner and my fears, and then I also felt repeated, though every time with fainter and fainter power, the old thrill of undefined terror which stopped my record of that day with the half-finished question as to who had uttered the shriek that had startled me the night before. To-day I again take up my pen. Why? Because to-day, and only since to-day, can I answer this question.
Sixteen years ago! which makes me sixteen years older. My house, too, has aged, and the oak parlor—I never refurnished it—is darker, gloomier, and more forbidding than it was then, and in truth, why should it not be? When I remember what was revealed to me a week ago, I wonder that its walls did not drop fungi, and its chill strike death through the man or woman who was brave enough to enter it. Horrible, horrible room! You shall be torn from my house if the rest of the structure goes with you. Neither I nor another shall ever enter your fatal portal again.
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