"That was a very politic proceeding, Joe; but how could you account to them for the hamper you brought away, and which must have excited suspicion, if not inquiry?"
"Bless you, sir, I wasn't fool enough to let them see the hamper. All they saw was the two bags of corn as I rode out of the gate with. I had filled the hamper on the sly, and hid it in the bushes by the road, until I went by and picked it up."
"Still better, Joe! But your horse? what horse did you ride, and what have you done with him?"
"I rode Dick, which I have tied him fast in the deep woods on the other side of the river. I crossed over the rapids with the help of a pole," explained Joe.
While they were speaking, a step was heard crushing through the dried brushwood, and in another moment Captain Pendleton, pale, sad, and weary, stood before them.
THE VERDICT AND THE VISITOR.
Can such things be, And overcome us like a summer cloud Without our special wonder?—Shakespeare.
"Pendleton! oh! Heaven, Pendleton! What news?" exclaimed Lyon Berners, starting up to greet him.
"Good heaven! Berners! How is this? Another—a servant taken into your confidence, and trusted with the secret of your retreat!" cried Captain Pendleton in dismay.
"He is trustworthy! I will vouch for his fidelity! But oh! Pendleton! What news? what news?" exclaimed Lyon Berners in an agony of impatience.
"The worst that you can anticipate!" cried Captain Pendleton in a voice full of sorrow.
"Oh! my unhappy wife! The coroner's jury have found their verdict then?" groaned Lyon.
Captain Pendleton bowed his head. He was unable to reply in words.
"And that verdict is—Oh! speak I let me hear the worst!—that verdict is—"
"Wilful Murder!" muttered Pendleton in a hoarse and choking voice.
"Against—against—whom?" gasped Lyon Berners white as death.
"Oh Heaven! You know! Do not ask me to sully her name with the words!" cried Captain Pendleton, utterly overcome by his emotions.
"Oh, my unhappy wife! Oh, my lost Sybil!" exclaimed Lyon Berners, reeling under the blow, half-expected though it might have been.
There was silence for a few minutes. Pendleton was the first to recover himself. He went up to his friend, touched him on the shoulder, and said:
"Berners, rouse yourself; the position requires the exertion of your utmost powers of mind and body. Calm yourself, and collect all your faculties. Come now let us sit down here and talk over the situation."
Lyon permitted the captain to draw him away to a little distance, where they both sat down side by side, on a fallen tombstone.
"In the first place, how is your wife, and how does she sustain herself under this overwhelming disaster?" inquired Captain Pendleton, forcing himself to speak composedly.
"I do not think my dear innocent Sybil was able fully to appreciate the danger of her position, even as she stood before the rendering of that false and fatal verdict, she was so strong in her sense of innocence. She seemed to suffer most from the lesser evils involved in her exile from home."
"Where is she, then?"
"Sleeping heavily in the church there; sleeping very heavily, from the united effects of mental and bodily fatigue and excitement."
"Heaven grant that she may sleep long and well. And now, Berners, to our plans. You must know that I kept a horse saddled and tied in the woods down by the river, and as soon as that lying verdict was rendered, I hurried off, leaped into my saddle and galloped here. I forded the river, and have left my horse just below here, at the entrance of this thicket. I must soon mount and away again on your service."
"Oh, my dear Pendleton, how shall I ever repay you?"
"By keeping up a stout heart until this storm-cloud blows over, as it must, in a few days or weeks. But now to business. How came this man Joe here?"
Mr. Berners explained how Joe had overheard all their conversation while they were making their arrangements, and taken pains to co-operate with them, and had followed them here with some necessary provisions. And he, Mr. Berners, closed with a eulogy on Joe's fidelity and discretion.
"I am very glad to hear what you tell me, for it relieves my mind of a very great weight. I knew that there had been a listener to our conversation, for I almost ran against him as I went into the house; but as he made his escape before I could identify him, I was very anxious on the subject. So you may judge what a burden is lifted from my mind by the discovery that he was no other than honest Joe, whom Providence sent in the way. But why he ran from me, I cannot imagine.
"He was a little jealous, a little sulky, and somewhat fearful of being blamed, I suppose. But tell me, Pendleton, has our flight been discovered yet?" inquired Mr. Berners, anxiously.
"No, nor even suspected; at least, not up to the time that I left Black Hall. Mrs. Berners was supposed to be in her chamber. I warned all the men, and requested my sister to caution all the women, against knocking at her door."
"And I, who must have been expected to be on the spot?" asked Lyon.
"You were often asked for. Fortunately for you, there is a well-known weakness in human nature to pretend to know all about everything that may be inquired into. And so, every time you chanced to be inquired for by one party, you were accounted for by another. Some said you were with Mrs. Berners; others that you had gone to Blackville on pressing business connected with the tragedy. And these last authorities came to be believed; so that when I slipped away I left the people momentarily expecting your return."
"Whom did you leave there?"
"Everybody—the coroner's jury and all the guests of the house, who had been detained as witnesses."
"Then all our friends heard the fatal verdict?"
"Was there—a warrant issued?" gasped Lyon Berners, scarcely able to utter the words.
"Ah, yes; the issue of the warrant was the first intimation I had of the fatal nature of the verdict. It was put in the hands of an officer, with orders to be on the watch and serve it as soon as Mrs. Berners should come out of her chamber, but not to knock at the door, or molest her while she remained in it."
Lyon Berners groaned deeply, and buried his face in his hands.
"Come, come! bear up, that you may sustain her!" said Captain Pendleton. "And now listen: Your flight, as I told you, was not suspected up to the time I left Black Hall. It will not be discovered probably until late this evening, when it will be too late for the authorities to take any immediate measures of pursuit. We have, therefore, this afternoon and to-night to perfect our plans. Only you need to bring steady nerves and a clear head to the task."
"What do you suggest, Pendleton?"
"First of all, that during this night, which is ours, all necessary conveniences be brought here to support your life for a few days, for you must not leave this safe refuge immediately—to do so would be to fall into the hands of the law."
"I see that," sighed Mr. Berners.
"I, then, with the help of this faithful Joe, will bring to you here to-night such things as you and Mrs. Berners will actually need, for the few days that you must remain. As to all your affairs at the Hall, I counsel you to give me a written authority to act for you in your absence. I have brought writing materials for the purpose; and when you have written it, I will myself take it and drop it secretly into the post-office at Blackville, so that it may reach me regularly through the mail, and help to mislead everybody to whom I shall show it, into the idea that you have gone away through Blackville. Will you write it now?" inquired Captain Pendleton, drawing from his pocket a rolled writing-case, containing all that was requisite for the work.
"A thousand thanks, Pendleton. I do not see how in the name of Heaven we could have managed without you," replied Berners, as he took the case, unrolled it on his knee, and proceeded to write the required "power of attorney."
"And now," said the Captain, when he received the document, "now we must be getting back. The sun is quite low, and we have much to do. Come, Joe, are you ready?"
"Yes, Massa Capping; ready and waitin' on you too. I ought to be at the mill now, 'fore the miller shuts it up."
Captain Pendleton then shook hands with Mr. Berners, and Joe pulled his front lock of wool by way of a deferential adieu, and both left the spot and disappeared in the thicket.
But it was not until the last sound of their retreating steps, crashing through the dried bushes, had died away, that Lyon Berners turned and went into the church.
As he entered, a singular phenomenon, almost enough to confirm the reputation of the place as "haunted ground," met his view.
All in one instant his eyes took in these things: First, Sybil covered over with the dark riding skirt, and still sleeping by the smouldering fire; but sleeping uneasily, and muttering in her sleep. Secondly, the four prints of the western windows laid in sunshine on the floor. Thirdly, a shadow that slipped swiftly athwart this sunshine, and disappeared as if it had sunk into the floor on the right of the altar. And in the same moment Sybil, with a half-suppressed shriek, started up, and stared wildly around, exclaiming:
"Oh! what is this? Where am I? Who was she?" Lyon Berners hastened to his wife, saying soothingly:
"Sybil, wake up, darling; you have been dreaming."
"But what does all this mean? Where are we? What strange place is this?" she cried, throwing back her long dark hair, and shading her eyes with her hands, as she gazed around.
"Dearest wife, take time to compose yourself, and you will remember all. A sudden and terrible catastrophe has driven us from our home. You have had a heavy sleep since that, and you find it difficult to awake to the truth," said Lyon Berners tenderly, as he sat down by her side, and sought to soothe her.
"Oh! I know now! I remember all now! my fatal fancy ball! Rosa Blondelle's mysterious murder! Our sudden flight! All! O! Heavens, all!" cried Sybil, dropping her face upon her hands.
Lyon Berners put his arm around her, and drew her to his bosom. But he did not speak; he thought it better to leave her to collect herself in silence.
After a few moments, she looked up again, and looked all around the church, and then gazed into her husband's eyes, and inquired:
"But Lyon, who was she? and where has she gone?"
"Who was who, dear Sybil? I don't understand," answered Mr. Berners, in surprise.
"That gipsy-like girl in the red cloak; who was bending over me, and staring into my face, just as you came in?"
"There was no such girl near you, or even in the church, my dear," said Mr. Berners.
"But indeed there was; she started away just as I woke up."
"My dearest Sybil, you have been dreaming."
"Indeed no; I saw her as plainly as I see you now: a girl in a red cloak, with such an elfin face I shall never forget it; such small piercing black eyes; such black eyebrows, depressed towards the nose, and raised high towards the temples, giving such an eldritch, mischievous, even dangerous expression to the whole dark countenance; and such wild black hair streaming around her shoulders."
"A very vivid dream you have had, dear wife, and that is all."
"I tell you no! she was bending over me; looking at me; and she fled away just as I woke up."
"My darling, I will convince you out of your own mouth. She ran away, you say, just as you woke up; therefore you did not see her after you were awake, but only while you slept, in your dreams. Besides, dear, I was here when you woke up, and I saw no one near you, or even in the building," persisted Lyon Berners—though at that moment he did recall to mind the shadow that he had seen slip past all the sunshine on the floor, and disappear as if it had sunk under the slabs on the right side of the altar.
"Lyon," said Sybil, solemnly, "I do not like to contradict you, but as I hope to be saved, I saw that girl, not in a dream, but in reality; and since you do not know anything about her, I begin to think the apparition mysterious and alarming. Let me tell you all about it."
"Well, tell me, dear, if to do so will do you any good," said Mr. Berners indulgently, but incredulously.
"Listen, then. I was in a dead sleep, oh, such a deep dead sleep, that I seemed to be away down in the bottom of some deep cave, when I felt a heavy breathing or panting over my face, and was conscious of somebody leaning over me, and looking at me. I tried to wake, but could not, I could not lift myself up out of that deep dark cave of sleep. But at last I felt a hand near my throat, trying to unfasten this golden locket that contains your miniature. Then I struggled, and succeeded in throwing off the spell and waking up. As soon as I opened my eyes I saw the wild eldritch face, with its keen bright black eyes and queer eyebrows, and snake-like black locks, running down over the red cloak. The instant I saw this, I cried out, and the girl fled, and you hurried up. Now call that a dream if you can, for I tell you I saw that figure start up and run away from me as plainly as I saw you come up. One event was as real as the other," concluded Sybil.
Lyon Berners did not at once reply, for he thought again of the flitting shadow he had seen cross the sunshine, and disappear as if it had sunk into the flagstones on the right side of the altar. And he mentally admitted the bare possibility that some intruder had entered the church and looked upon Sybil in her sleep, and fled at her awakening. But fled whither? The windows were very high, the wall was smooth beneath them; no one could have climbed to them, for there was no foothold or handhold to assist one in the ascent, and there was but the one door by which he himself had entered, at the same moment the strange visitor was said to have fled, and he was quite sure that no one had passed him. Besides, the shadow that he had seen vanished beside the altar, at the upper end of the church. Lyon Berners knew not what to think of all that he had seen and heard within the last quarter of an hour. But one thing was quite certain, that it was absolutely necessary to Sybil's safety to ascertain whether any stranger had really entered the church, or even come upon the premises.
"Well," inquired Sybil, seeing that he still remained silent, "what do you think now, Lyon?"
"I think," he answered promptly, "that I will search the church."
"There is not a hiding-place for anything bigger than a rat or a bird," said his wife, glancing around upon the bare walls, floor, and ceiling.
Nevertheless Lyon Berners walked up to the side of the altar where he had seen the shadow disappear. Sybil followed close behind him. He examined the altar all around. It was built of stonework like the church; that was the reason it had stood so long. But he experienced a great surprise when he looked at the side where the shadow had vanished; for there he found a small iron-grated door, through which he dimly discerned the head of a flight of stone steps, the continuation of which was lost in the darkness below. Glancing over the top of the door, he read, in iron letters, the inscription:
"What is it, dear Lyon?" inquired Sybil, anxiously looking over his shoulder.
"Good Heaven! It is the family vault of the wicked old Dubarrys, who once owned all the land hereabouts, except the Black Valley Manor, and who built this chapel for their sins; for of them it might not be said with truth, that 'all their sons were true, and all their daughters pure,' but just exactly the reverse. However, they are well forgotten now!"
"And this is their family vault?"
"Yes; but I had almost forgotten its existence here."
"Lyon, can my mysterious visitor have hidden herself in that vault?"
"I can search it, at any rate," answered Mr. Berners, wrenching away at the grated door.
But it resisted all his efforts, as if its iron bars had been bedded in the solid masonry.
"No," he answered; "your visitor, if you had one, could not possibly have entered here. See how fast the door is."
"Lyon," whispered Sybil, in a deep and solemn voice, "Lyon, could she possibly have come out from there?"
"Nonsense, dear! Are you thinking of ghosts?"
"This is the 'Haunted Chapel,' you know," whispered Sybil.
"Bosh, my dear; you are not silly enough to believe that!"
"But my strange visitor?"
"You had no visitor, dear Sybil; you had a dream, and your dream had every feature of nightmare in it—the deep, death-like, yet half-conscious and much disturbed sleep; the sense of heavy oppression; the apparition hanging over you; the inability to awake; even the grappling at your throat, and the swift disappearance of the vision immediately upon your full awakening—all well-known features of incubus," replied Mr. Berners. But again he thought of the shadow he had seen; now, however, only to dismiss the subject as an optical illusion.
Sybil sighed deeply.
"It is hard," she said, "that you won't trust to my senses in this affair."
"Sweet wife, I would rather convince you how completely your senses have deceived you. Your imagination has been excited while your nerves were depressed. You have heard the legend of the Haunted Chapel, and while sleeping within it you conjured up the heroine of the story in your dream where she immediately took the form of incubus."
"I!—the legend! What are you talking of, Lyon? I have heard the church called the Haunted Chapel indeed, but I never even knew that there was any story connected with it," exclaimed Sybil, in surprise.
"Really? Never heard the legend of 'Dubarry's Fall'?" inquired Mr. Berners, with equal surprise.
"Never, upon my word."
"Well, it is an old tradition; forgotten like the family with whom it was connected. I heard it in my childhood; but it had slipped my memory until your graphic description of the gipsy girl in the red cloak recalled it to my mind, and led me to believe that your knowledge of the legend had so impressed your imagination as to make it conjure up the heroine of the legend."
"What is the legend? Do tell me, Lyon."
"Not now, dearest. You must first have some coffee, which a faithful friend has provided for us."
"Captain Pendleton?" eagerly inquired Sybil.
"No, dear, our servant Joe. I do not expect to see Captain Pendleton until nightfall," added Lyon Berners, for he tried to anticipate and prevent any troublesome questions that Sybil might ask, as he wished to save her from needless additional pain as long as he possibly could.
"And Joe is here with us?" inquired Sybil, cheerfully.
"No, dear; he has returned home; but will come again to-night."
"But what news did he bring?"
"None. We will hear from Captain Pendleton to-night. Now you must have some coffee; and then I will tell you the 'Legend of the Haunted Chapel'; for that legend, Sybil, may well account for your vision, whether we look on it from my point of view or from yours—as illusion or reality," said Lyon Berners.
"Or, stay," he added, reflectively; "it is too cold for you to sup in the open air. I will bring the things in here."
"Well, let me go with you, to help to bring them in, at least," pleaded Sybil.
"What! are you really afraid to stay here alone?" inquired Lyon, smiling, with an attempt at pleasantry.
"No, indeed; but all smells mouldy inside this old church. At least it does since the sun set, and I would like to go out and get a breath of fresh air," replied Sybil, quite seriously.
"Come, then," said Lyon.
They went out together.
The fire that had been built by Joe was now burnt down to embers; but the coffee-pot sat upon these embers, and the coffee was hot.
Lyon Berners took it up, while Sybil loaded herself with crockery ware and cutlery.
They had turned to go back to the church, when Sybil uttered a half-suppressed cry, and nearly dropped her burden.
"What's the matter?" cried Mr. Berners.
"Look!" exclaimed Sybil.
"At the east window."
Mr. Berners raised his eyes just in time to see a weird young face, with wild black hair, and a bright red mantle, flash downward from the window, as if it had dropped to the floor.
There was no dream now; not even an optical illusion. The reality of the vision was unquestionable.
"This is most strange," exclaimed Mr. Berners.
"It is the same face that bent over me, and woke me up," answered Sybil, with a shudder.
"It is some one who is concealed in the church, and whom we shall be sure to discover, for there is but one exit, by the front door; and if she comes out of that, we shall see her; or if she remains in the building, we shall be sure to find her there. Since I saw the face drop from the window, I have carefully watched the door. Do you also watch it, my dear Sybil; so that the creature, whatever it is, may not pass us," said Mr. Berners, as he strode on rapidly towards the church, followed by his wife.
They entered together, and looked eagerly around.
Though the sun had set some ten minutes before, yet the "after glow" shone in through the six tall gothic window spaces, and revealed clearly every nook and corner of the interior. Their strange inmate or visitor, whichever she might be, was nowhere to be seen.
With an impatient gesture, Mr. Berners set down the coffee-pot, and hurried towards the door of the vault, and looked through the iron grating. But he could see nothing but the top of those stairs, the bottom of which disappeared in the darkness.
He then shook the door; but it firmly resisted all his strength. The bars appeared to be built into the solid masonry.
"This is really confounding to all one's intelligence," exclaimed Lyon Berners, gazing around in perplexity.
"It is, indeed. But it is well that you have seen this mystery with your own eyes, for if you had not done so, you never would have believed in it," said Sybil, gravely shaking her head.
"Nor do I believe in it, now that I have seen it."
"Then you will not trust the united evidence of your own eyes and mine."
"No, Sybil; not for a prodigy so out of nature as that would be," replied Lyon Berners, firmly.
"Well, then, tell me the legend of the Haunted Chapel, for you hinted that that legend must have some connection with this apparition."
"A seeming connection, at the very least; but I cannot tell it to you now—not until you take something to eat and drink, for you have not broken your fast since morning."
"Nor have I hungered since morning," replied Sybil, with a sigh.
Mr. Berners went up to the smouldering embers of the fire that he had lighted in the morning on the stone floor of the church; and he drew together the dying brands, put fresh fuel on them, and soon rekindled the flame.
And the husband and wife sat down beside it; and while Sybil ate and drank with what appetite she could bring to the repast, Lyon Berners, to pass off the heavy time, related to her the legend of the Haunted Chapel.
THE FALL OF THE DUBARRYS.
But, soft! behold, lo, where it comes again! I'll cross it, though it blast me.—Stay, illusion! If thou hast any sound, or use of voice, Speak to me!—SHAKESPEARE.
"The Dubarrys," he began, "were a French Roman Catholic family of distinction. A cadet of that family came over to Virginia among the earliest English settlers of the colony.
"As in the case of the more important among his anglican comrades, he obtained a very large tract of land by Royal patent. He built his hut and fixed his abode here, not a hundred yards from the spot where this church now stands.
"He took an Indian girl for a wife, and continued to live a wild huntsman sort of life in the wilderness; only breaking it sometimes by going down to Jamestown, twice a year, to buy such necessaries of civilized life as the wilderness could not furnish, and to hear news from any ship that might have come in from the old country; and above all, to take a holiday among civilized pleasure-seekers—for such existed even in the primitive settlement of Jamestown.
"In due course of time, a family of half-breed sons and daughters grew up around him, and the little primitive hut gave place to a substantial stone lodge.
"And the country around was becoming settled. The Berners had got a grant of the Black Valley, and had built the first part of Black Hall, which has since been added to in every generation, until it has grown to its present dimensions.
"About this time also, Charles Dubarry was inspired with a certain ambition for his eldest son, a densely ignorant, half-Indian youth of nineteen; and hearing that the two young sons of Richard Berners of Black Hall were to be sent to England to be educated, he proposed that his own 'black boy,' as he called his handsome dark-eyed heir, should go with them. And as the three lads had been forest companions for some years, the proposal of old Dubarry was gladly accepted, and the three young men sailed in company for England.
"They spent ten years in the old world, and returned, as as they had set out, together. It was after their return that the close friendship of a young lifetime was turned to the deadliest enmity. It happened in this manner:
"The country, during their absence, had grown a great deal in population. Every rich valley among these mountains had its white proprietor. In the Valley of the Roses—so named, because at the time it was taken possession of by its first proprietor, it was fairly carpeted and festooned all around and about with the wild-rose vine—dwelt one Gabriel Mayo, a gentleman of fortune, taste, and culture. He had a family of fair daughters, of whom old Charles Dubarry, with his national gallantry and proneness to exaggeration, had said, that 'they were all the most beautiful girls in the world, and each one more beautiful than all the others.'
"Be that as it may, it is certain that there were five lovely maidens, ranging from fifteen years to twenty-one, to choose from. Yet who can account for human caprice, especially in such matters? The three young men—Louis Dubarry, and John and William Berners—all fixed their affections upon Florette Mayo, the youngest beauty.
"Fierce and bitter was the rivalry between the lovers. But the young girl returned the love of John Berners, and married him, and became your ancestress, as you know, Sybil.
"And from that time to the time of the extinction of the American branch of the Dubarry family, a feud, as fierce and bitter, if not as warlike, as any that ever raged between rival barons of the middle ages, prevailed between the Berners and the Dubarrys.
"I come now to the period just before the breaking out of the Old French War, when the first rude stone lodges in these valleys had given place to handsome and spacious manor houses, and when the then proprietor of the Dubarry estate had erected a magnificent dwelling on the site of his first rough cottage. He called the mansion the Chateau Dubarry, a name which the country people quickly changed into Shut-up Dubarry.
"The last name was not inappropriate, for a more morose, solitary, and misanthropical man never lived than Henry Dubarry, the builder of that house. He neither visited nor received visits, but remained selfishly 'shut-up' in the paradise of art and letters that he had created within his dwelling.
"He had a wife, a son, and two daughters, all of whom suffered more or less from this isolation from their fellow-beings. So it was a great relief to the son when he was sent, first to the William and Mary College of Williamsburg for five years, and afterwards to Oxford for five more.
"After the departure of the son and brother, the mother and sisters suffered more and more seriously from the gloom and horror of their isolation, and in the course of years utterly succumbed to it. First the mother died, then the elder sister; and then the younger sister, left alone with her recluse father in that awful house, became a maniac.
"Under these circumstances, the father wrote to his son to come home. But selfishness, not love, ruled that young man, as it had ruled his fathers. He had graduated with honors, and won a 'fellowship' at the University, and he was about to start for the fashionable European tour. He wrote home to this effect, and went on his farther way.
"He remained abroad until summoned home by two events—the deaths of his father and sister, and the necessity of raising money for himself.
"He came home, but not alone. He brought with him a gipsy girl of singular beauty, who seemed to be passionately attached to him, and whom he loved as much as it was in his selfish nature to love anything.
"He placed her at the head of his household, and his simple servants obeyed her as their mistress; and his sociable neighbors, willing to forgive old rebuffs, called upon the young pair.
"But their visits were not kindly received, and not in any case returned. And the report went around the neighborhood, that Philip Dubarry was as morose and selfish as his father had been before him. And so the house was abandoned, as it had been in the days of the old man and the idiot girl.
"But by and by other rumors, darker and more dishonorable to the master and mistress of Shut-up Dubarry, crept out among the people. These rumors were started by the Dubarry servants, in their gossipping with other family servants in the chance meeting in church or village. They were to the effect that Philip Dubarry often quarrelled fiercely with his gipsy wife, and even threatened to send her back to her native county, and that Gentiliska, or Iska, as she was more commonly called, wept and raved and tore her black hair by turns.
"It is the old sad tale, dear Sybil. At length the cultivated scholar and unprincipled villain grew tired of his beautiful but ignorant gipsy wife, who was a wife only in justice and not in law. He frequently left home for long absences. He spent his winters in the cities, and his summers in a round of visits to hospitable country houses, leaving her at all seasons to pine and weep, or rage and tear her hair in the gloomy solitude of Shut-up Dubarry. But for all this, whenever he did condescend to visit his home, she received him with an eagerness of welcome—a perfect self-abandonment to joy, that knew no bounds. And when he left her again, her despair was but the deeper, her anguish the fiercer. And all this was duly reported by that indefatigable corps of reporters, the domestics of the house.
"At last came the crisis. Philip Dubarry sent down an agent who opened the doors of Shut-up Dubarry, and brought into it an army of workmen, to repair, refurnish and decorate the mansion-house. In vain Gentiliska asked questions; the workmen either could not or would not give her any satisfaction. 'It was the master's orders,' they said, and nothing more. To no one in the world were 'the master's' orders more sacred than to his loyal gipsy wife. She bowed in submission, and let the workmen do their will. All the summer season was occupied with the work. But by the first of October the house was thoroughly renewed, within and without, so that it seemed like a palace in the midst of Paradise; and the gipsy wife wandered through the house and grounds in a delight that was only damped by the long-continued absence of her husband.
"At length, near the middle of the month, at the height of the hunting season, Philip Dubarry arrived. But the eager welcome of his wife was met with coldness and petulance, that wounded and enraged her. She gave way to a storm of grief and fury. She wept and raved and tore her hair, as was her way when fiercely excited. But now he had not the least patience with her, or the least mercy on her. He had ceased to love her and to want her, and so, in acting out his selfish and demoniac nature, he did not hesitate to treat her with cruel scorn and ignominy. He told her that she was not his wife, and never had been so. He called her ill names, and bade her pack up and go, he cared not where, so it was out of his sight, for he hated her; and out of his house also, for she dishonored it; and that, after being repaired and refurnished, it must also be purified of her presence, before he could bring into it the fair maiden whom he was about to make his wife.
"Then all her fury suddenly subsided, and she became calm and resolute unto death. She assured him that she never would leave the house; that she was his wife, and the house's mistress; and she had the right to remain, and would remain. Whereupon he broke out into furious oaths, swearing that if she did not go, he would put her out by force. Then she answered, in these memorable words, that have come down to us in tradition:
"'My body you may thrust forth from my home, but my spirit never! Living or dead, in the flesh or the spirit, I will stay in this house as long as its walls shall stand! Nay, though you were to pull this house down to eject me, in the flesh or the spirit, I would enter in and possess the next house you should build! And should you venture to bring here, or there, a bride to supplant me, in the flesh or the spirit I will blast and destroy her. So help me the gods of my people.'
"For a moment the ruthless and dauntless man stood appalled by the awful spirit he had raised in that slight form. But when he did recover himself it was to fall into a transport of fury, in which he seized the girl and hurled her violently through the open window. Fortunately they were on the ground floor, so the fall was not great, and she was, besides, light in form and agile as a cat. She fell on her hands and feet upon a thick carpet of the dead leaves that strewed the lawn.
"For a moment she lay where she had fallen, breathless from the shock; then she lifted herself slowly up. One arm hung useless by her side; it was dislocated at the shoulder joint; but the other was raised to heaven, and she muttered some words in her native tongue, and then turned and walked away until she disappeared in the woods.
"'I hope she'll drown herself according to rule, and there will be an end,' the fiendish wretch was heard to mutter. No one was allowed to follow her. She probably did drown herself, but that was by no means the end. Well, the gipsy girl is said to have kept her word.
"The third day thereafter, as a boy in search of eagle's eggs was climbing the highest fastnesses of the Black Mountain, his eyes were attracted by the glow of something scarlet lying on a ledge of rocks about half way down the course of the Black Torrent. Agile as any chamois hunter of the Alps, the boy let himself down, from point to point, until he reached the ledge, upon which the dead body of the gipsy girl was found. It was crushed by the fall, and sodden by the white foam of the cascade that continually rolled over it.
"The boy hastened away to spread the news. With the greatest difficulty the body was recovered, and conveyed to Shut-up Dubarry. The inquest that sat upon it rendered the simple verdict, 'Found Dead'; for whether the death were accidental or suicidal, or whether it resulted from the fall upon the rocks, or from the waters of the cascade, the Dogberries of that jury could not decide.
"The gipsy girl was buried; and her brutal protector coarsely professed himself to be greatly relieved by her death. And he assembled all his servants before him, and forbade them, under the penalty of his heaviest displeasure, ever to mention the name of Gentiliska to the lady he was about to bring home as his wife. These slaves knew their master, and in great fear and trembling they each and all solemnly promised to obey him. Then he left home for the eastern part of the State from which he was to bring his bride. On this occasion he was gone a month.
"It was in the middle of the month of November that he returned to Shut-up Dubarry, bringing with him his fair young bride. She was a Fairfax, from the county that was named after her family. She was unquestionably a lady of the highest and purest order, and the neighboring gentry, ever pleased to welcome such an one among them, called on her, invited her to their houses, and gave dinner or supper parties in her honor.
"Philip Dubarry, who had recently fretted at the galling 'ban' under which, for the transient love of the gipsy girl, he had voluntarily placed himself, now rejoiced at being delivered from it, and entered with all the zest of novelty into the social pleasures of the place. He loved his beautiful and high-born wife with both passion and pride, and she loved some imaginary hero in his form, and was happy in the illusion. Thus all went merry as a marriage bell until one dark and dismal day in December, when the rain fell in floods and the wind raved around the house, and the state of the weather kept the newly married couple closely confined within doors, his bride turned to him, and inquired quietly:
"'Who is that little dark-haired girl with the piercing black eyes, and in the short red cloak, that I see so often around the house?'
"'What did you say?' inquired Philip Dubarry, in a quavering voice.
"'Who is that little girl in the red cloak, who seems so much at home in the house? Is she deaf and dumb? I speak to her, but she never answers me; generally indeed, she goes away as soon as she perceives that I notice her. Who is she, Phil?' and the young wife looked at her husband for an answer. But his face was that of a corpse, and his form was shaking with an ague fit, for the guilty are ever cowardly.
"But his wife mistook the cause of his agitation. Forgotten in an instant was the question she had asked, and upon which, she had placed no sort of importance; and she went to her husband and took his hand, and gazed into his face, and asked him, for Heaven's sake, to tell her what was the matter.
"He told her a lie. He faltered out between his chattering teeth, that he feared he was struck with a congestive chill; that the sudden and severe change in the weather had affected him;—and more to the same effect.
"She hurried out and prepared a hot drink of brandy, boiling water, and spices, and she brought it to him and made him drink it.
"Under this powerful stimulant he revived. But she had, in the fear and excitement of the hour, utterly forgotten the inquiry she had put to him, and no more would have been said of it, had not he, in fearful interest, resumed the subject.
"'You were asking me about—one of the servants, were you not?' he inquired.
"'Oh, yes. But never mind! sit still, and keep your feet to the fire until you get warm. Never mind about gratifying my foolish curiosity now,' she answered, thoughtfully.
"'My chill is already gone, thanks to your skilful nursing! What chill could resist your warm draughts? But now about your question. What was it?'
"'Oh, nothing much! I only asked you who was the little girl with the red cloak, who is so silent and shy that she never answers me when I speak to her, and always shrinks away whenever she finds herself observed.'
"The trembling wretch was ready with his falsehood. He answered:
"'Oh! she is the child of a poor couple on the mountain, and comes to the house for cold victuals; but she is as you have observed, very shy; so I think you had better leave her to herself.'
"'Yes, but are you sure she is to be trusted? For shy as she is in other matters, she is bold enough to intrude into the most private parts of the house, and at the most untimely hours of the night,' remarked the lady.
"'Indeed!' muttered the guilty man, in a sepulchral tone.
"'Indeed and indeed! Why, only last night, when we came home at midnight, from Mrs. Judge Mayo's ball, when you lingered below stairs to speak to the butler, and I ran up into my own room alone, I saw this strange looking little creature, with the streaming black hair and the red cloak, standing before my dressing-glass! Now what do you think of that?'
"'She—she—she has been a sort of a pet of the family, and has had the run of the house, coming in and out of all the rooms at all hours, like any little dog,' answered the conscious criminal, in a quavering voice.
"'That must be reformed at once!' said the Fairfax bride, drawing herself up with much dignity, and also perhaps with some jealous suspicion.
"'It shall, by my soul! I will give orders to that effect,' quavered Philip Dubarry.
"'Nay, do not take that trouble. It is my prerogative to order my household, and I shall do it,' proudly answered the lady.
"And here the matter might have ended, but for that interest Philip Dubarry felt in the subject. He remembered the most awful threat of his betrayed gipsy wife: 'In the flesh or in the spirit, to dwell in the house as long as its walls should stand! In the flesh or in the spirit, to blast and destroy the bride he should bring there to take her place.' Up to this time he had never had any reason to suppose that the gipsy girl had kept her word. He had never seen nor heard of anything unusual about the house. But now when his wife spoke of this silent inmate in the red cloak, he recognized the portrait all but too well, and his guilty soul quaked with fear. And yet he was not superstitious. He was a son of the eighteenth century, which was much more incredulous of the supernatural than the nineteenth, with all its mysterious spiritual manifestations, can be. He was a scientific and practical man. Yet he shuddered with awe as he listened to the description given by his unconscious wife of this strange visitant. And he could not forbear to question her.
"'Did you speak to the girl when you found her in your room at midnight?' he inquired.
"'Yes, certainly; I asked her how she came to be there so late. But instead of answering my question, she glided silently away.'
"'Have you spoken to any of the servants of this girl's intrusion into parts of the house where she has no business to come?'
"'No, not until this morning; for I never really felt interest enough in the little creature that I only casually met in the passages of the house, until I found her in my bedroom at midnight. So this morning I described her to the housekeeper, and asked who she was, and who gave her liberty to intrude into my bedroom so late. And what do you think old Monica answered?'
"'I'm sure I don't know.'
"'She crossed herself, and cried out, 'Lord have mercy on all our souls! You have seen her!' I inquired, 'Seen who?' But she answered, 'Nothing. Nobody. I don't know what I'm talking about. My head's wool-gathering, I believe.' Nor could any further questioning of mine draw from her any more satisfactory answer. And so I came to you for an explanation. And you tell me that she is Milly Jones, the child of poor parents, living on the mountain, and that she comes here for broken victuals and old clothes. Very well. In future I shall pension the poor family on the mountain, for I would not have any fellow-creature in my reach to suffer want; but I shall do it on condition that Miss Milly Jones stays home, and helps her mother with the family cooking and washing, instead of losing her time by day and her sleep by night in wandering through all the rooms of a gentleman's house, and taking possession of a lady's bed-chamber.'
"You see this bride never imagined a ghost, but strongly suspected a sweetheart, and so she was a little surprised when her husband answered:
"'Do so, my dear; and may Heaven grant that you may get rid of this unpleasant visitor at once and forever.'
"And as he said this, Philip Dubarry arose and went into his library and rung the bell, and to the servant who answered it, he said:
"'Send Monica the housekeeper here.'
"In a few minutes Monica entered the room.
"'Did I not order you, on pain of my heaviest displeasure, never to annoy Mrs. Dubarry by so much as the mention of the gipsy girl's name to her?' sternly demanded Philip Dubarry.
"The old woman fell down upon her knees, and lifted up both her hands, and exclaimed:
"'And no more I haven't, master, not once! But that don't do no good, for she walks!'
"'Who walks, you old fool?'
"'She, the gipsy girl, master. She walks, and the missis sees her as well as we do!'
"'We? Whom do you call "we," you insupportable idiot?'
"'Me and Ben the man-servant, and Betty the chambermaid, and Peggy the parlormaid. All sees her, master. We never, none of us, see her before the missis was brought home; but ever since that, we sees her every day; we sees just as much of her as we used to see when she was alive!' answered the woman, grovelling and weeping.
"'Where do you see her, or fancy you see her, lunatic?' fiercely demanded Philip Dubarry.
"'Everywhere, master! We meets her on the stairs; we sees her sitting at the head of the table, as soon as the meal is ready, and before the mistress comes to take the place; and we sees her lying in the unmade beds of a morning; but always, as soon as we screams, as scream we must, at such an object, master, she vanishes away!' answered the housekeeper.
"Philip Dubarry was awed and almost silenced,—almost, but not quite, for he was the very sort of hero to browbeat others the most fiercely when he was himself the most frightened. He rallied himself.
"'Look you here!' he furiously exclaimed; 'all this that you have just told me is the most wicked and abominable falsehood and absurdity! And now take notice! IF EVER I hear of one more word being uttered on this subject in this house, or out of it, by any one of you, under any circumstances whatever, by my blood, I will make you all wish that you had never been born! Repeat this to your fellow-servants', and order them from me to govern their tongues accordingly. Now go!' he thundered at the poor old woman, who hastily picked herself up, and hurried out of the room."
It was about to speak And then it started like a guilty thing. Upon a fearful summons.—SHAKESPEARE.
"Philip Dubarry remained walking up and down the door, foaming with impotent rage, as well as trembling with a vague and awful terror. He had a practical and scientific mind, and could understand everything that might be governed by known laws. But he could not understand this unwelcome visitant, that had appeared to every one else in the house but himself. He was an arbitrary and despotic man who enforced his will upon all connected with him, and ruled all flesh with a rod of iron. But he could not rule the spirit, and he knew it. He could not lay this ghost of his guilt.
"There was one grain of truth in the ton of falsehood that he had told to his unconscious wife, to account for the apparition seen by her. There really was a Milly Jones, the daughter of a poor family on the mountains, and she really did come occasionally to the house to ask for broken victuals and old clothes; but instead of being a beautiful black-eyed and black-haired little gipsy, in the picturesque red cloak, she was a pale-faced, light-haired, poor-spirited looking creature, in a faded calico frock, and an old plaid shawl; and instead of being the family pet, with the run of the house, she was the family nuisance, strictly prohibited from passing the bounds of the servants' hall.
"So when that day, being a rainy day, and therefore highly favorable for attention to domestic matters, Mistress Alicia Dubarry called the house-steward to her presence, and ordered him to send a small pension of two dollars a week to the Jones family, with an intimation that Miss Milly need not come to collect it, the order was promptly executed, to the satisfaction of all the domestics; and poor Milly, glad to be relieved from her fatiguing journey and degrading mendicity, was seen no more at Shut-up Dubarry.
"But Mrs. Dubarry did not therefore get rid of her visitor. Not more than three days had elapsed since the issuing of her order, when, one evening between the lights, she entered her own bedroom, and saw the girl in the red cloak sitting quietly in the easy-chair beside the fire.
"'How dare you come here, after the message I sent you? Get up and begone, and let me never catch you here again,' angrily demanded the lady.
"The apparition melted into air; but as it disappeared, the words came, like a sigh borne upon the breeze:
"The lady was about to dress for an evening party, and so she paid no attention to any chance sound.
"But the next morning she met the girl in the hall, and the next evening in the parlor; again she passed the figure on the stairs, or encountered it in the drawing-room. The lady lost patience, and sent for the house-steward in her presence.
"'Did I not command that that girl should not come here again?' she sternly demanded.
"'Yes, my lady,' respectfully answered the man.
"'Then how is it that she comes here as much as ever?'
"'My dear lady, she have never entered the house since your ladyship gave the order that she was not so to do.'
"'But she has. I have seen her here at least a half a dozen times.'
"'Dear lady, I dare not contradict you; but poor Milly Jones has been down with the pleurisy for these two weeks past, and could not have got out of her bed, even if your ladyship had ordered her to come.'
"'Isaac, is this true?'
"'True as truth, your ladyship, which you can find it out for yourself by riding up to the hut and seeing the poor girl, which it would be a charity so to do.'
"'And you say she has not been here for a fortnight?'
"'Then, in the name of Heaven, who is it that I meet so often?' slowly and sternly demanded Mrs. Dubarry.
"Old Isaac solemnly shook his gray head, and answered never a word.
"'What do you mean by that? Speak! I will have an answer. Who is this silent girl in the red cloak, I ask?' repeated the lady.
"'Madam, I don't know. And that is what I meant when I shook my head,' replied the old man, trembling.
"'You don't know! do you dare to mock me?'
"'Far from it, my lady; but goodness knows I don't know.'
"'But you have seen her?'
"'Dear, my lady, I don't know who she is, nor dare I speak of her; the master has forbidden us so to do. Dear madam, ask the master; but oh, for pity sake, do not ask me further,' pleaded the old man, very humbly.
"The lady turned white with jealousy. There was but one interpretation she could put upon this mystery.
"'Go and say to your master that I would feel much obliged if he would come to me here,' she said, grimly seating herself.
"The trembling old man went to the kennels, where Mr. Dubarry was busy doctoring a favorite setter, and delivered his message. Dubarry was still enough in love with his three months wife to come quickly at her call.
"'Philip!' exclaimed the lady, as soon as she saw him enter the room, 'once for all, I wish to know who is this girl in the red cloak; and why I am daily insulted with her presence in this house?'
"Dubarry went pale, as usual at the mention of the apparition; but he faltered out with what composure he could command:
"'I—I told you who she is—Milly Jones.'
"'No; begging your pardon, she is not Milly Jones. Milly Jones has been ill with pleurisy, at home on the mountain, for the last two weeks; and I have sent her a pension of two dollars a week. No; this is no Milly Jones, and I insist on knowing who she is!'
"'Then, if she is not Milly Jones, she is a creature of your own imagination, for no other living girl comes to the house,' answered Dubarry doggedly.
"'You will not tell me who she is? Very well. When next I see her, she shall tell me, silent as she is,' said the lady grimly setting her teeth.
"Dubarry arose with a sigh, and went back to his ailing setter; but his thoughts brooded over the subject of the apparition.
"The lady kept her word at a fearful cost. For the remainder of the day, her conduct towards her husband was so cold and repelling as to wound and offend him. So it happened that when the hour for retiring came that night, she went up to her chamber alone. She had but time to reach the room, when all the household was startled by a piercing shriek and a heavy fall.
"Mr. Dubarry, soon followed by all the servants, rushed up stairs to Mrs. Dubarry's bedroom. They found the lady extended on the floor, in a deep swoon. She was raised and laid upon the bed, and proper means taken to revive her. When at length she opened her eyes, and recognized her husband, she signed for every one else to leave the room; and when they had done so, she turned and took his hand and kissed it, and fixed her wild and frightened eyes upon him and whispered in an awe-struck tone:
"'Phil, dear, I wronged you. I took that creature in the red cloak to be a sweetheart of yours, Phil, but it was not; it was—a spectre!'
"There was silence between them for a minute, during which she never took her scared eyes from his pale face. He was the first to speak. Summoning up as much resolution as he could muster, he affected a light laugh, and answered:
"'Spectre! My sweet wife, there is no such thing.'
"'Ah, but—but—if you could have seen what I saw, felt what I felt!'
"'Nonsense, dear one. You were the subject of an optical illusion.'
"'No, I was not. Hush! Let me tell you what happened. I came up into this room. It was warm and ruddy with the fire light and the lamp light; and in the glow I saw the girl standing between the hearth and the bed. I spoke to her, asking her how she dared intrude into my most sacred privacy; and then she silently glided from the spot. But I told her she should not leave the room until she had given some account of herself. And I put forth my hand to stop her, but the moment I did so I received a shock as from some powerful galvanic battery! a tremendous shock that threw me down upon my face. I knew no more until I came to my senses and found myself here, with you watching over me. Now, Philip, tell me that was an optical illusion, if you dare,' said the lady, solemnly.
"'Yes, love, I dare. I tell you that what you saw was an optical illusion.'
"'—But what I felt?'
"'—Was a slight—a very slight attack of catalepsy. Both the vision and the fit, dear, took their rise in some abnormal state of the nervous system,' said Philip Dubarry; and feeling almost pleased with his own explanation of the mystery, he tried to persuade himself that it was the true one."
"But his wife turned her face to the wall, saying, however.
"'Well, at any rate, I am glad that the girl in the red cloak is not flesh and blood, Phil. I would rather she should be an 'optical illusion' or a fit of 'catalepsy,' or even a 'spectre,' than a sweetheart of yours, as I first took, her to be.
"'Be not afraid. You have no living rival, Alicia,' answered her husband.
"And the reconciliation between the husband and the wife was complete from that time forth.
"But somehow the condition of the lady was worse than before.
"She was haunted.
"She knew herself to be haunted; but whether by a spectral illusion or a real spectre, she could not know. In the glow of the fire light, in the shadow of the bed-curtains in the illuminated drawing-room, on the dark staircase, wherever and whenever she found herself alone, the vision of the girl in the red cloak crossed her path. She did not speak to it, or try to stop it again. She did not wish to risk another such an electric shock as should 'cast her shuddering on her face.' But her health wasted under the trial. Her nerves failed. She grew fearful of being left alone for an instant; nothing would induce her to go into any room in the house without an attendant. She contracted a habit of looking fearfully over her shoulder, and sometimes suddenly screaming.
"Nor was the mistress of the house the only sufferer from this 'abnormal state of the nervous system,' as the master of the house preferred to call the mystery. The servants grew so much afraid to move about the building alone, that their usefulness was much impaired. And at length one after another ran away, and took to the woods and mountain caves, preferring to starve or beg rather than live in luxury in the haunted house. New servants were procured to supply the places of the old ones, until the latter could be brought back; but none of them stayed long; nothing could induce them to remain in the 'haunted house.' The story of the gipsy girl's ghost got around in the neighborhood. Not all the despotic power of Mr. Dubarry could prevent this. The house came to be pointed out and avoided by the ignorant and superstitious, as a haunted and accursed spot. Even the more intelligent and enlightened portion of the community gradually forsook it; for it was not very agreeable to visit a family where the mistress was so full of 'flaws and starts' that, even at the head of her own table, she would often startle the whole company by suddenly looking over her right shoulder and uttering a piercing scream.
"And so the house was abandoned by high and low, rich and poor alike. And the worthy gossips of the neighborhood wisely nodded over their tea-cups, and declared that the deserted condition of the house was but a just retribution for the sins of its master.
"And in the meantime the health of the mistress grew worse and worse. The most serious fears were entertained for her life and reason, death or insanity seeming to be the most probable issue of her malady. Medical advice was called in. The doctor, either in complaisance or sincerity, agreed with Mr. Dubarry's theory of the patient's condition, ascribing her illness to an 'abnormal state of the nervous system,' and he advised change of air and scene, and he held forth good hopes that within a very few months, when the young wife should become a mother, her health might be perfectly reestablished.
"Under these circumstances, early in the new year, Mr. Dubarry took his wife to Williamsburg, to spend the winter among the gayeties of the colonial Governor's court.
"The haunted house was shut up, and left to itself. Not a man or woman could be found to live in it, for love or money.
"In the glories of the colonial capital, Mrs. Dubarry completely recovered from her nervous malady. She was visited by no more 'optical illusions' or 'cataleptic' fits. She even grew to regard her former visitations in the same way in which her husband pretended to view them—as mere nervous phenomena. And as the fashionable season at Williamsburg closed, and as the spring opened, Mrs. Dubarry expressed an ardent desire to return to 'Shut-up Dubarry' for her confinement. 'The heir of the manor should be born on the manor,' she said.
"Mr. Dubarry had great doubts about the safety of this measure, and attempted to dissuade his wife from it; but she was firm in her purpose, and so she carried it.
"It was early in the royal month of June that the young wife was taken back to her country home. Shut-up Dubarry looked as little like a 'haunted house' as any house could look: waving woods, sparkling waters, blossoming trees, blooming flowers, singing birds—all the richness, beauty and splendor of summer turned it into a paradise. Besides, Mrs. Dubarry brought down half a dozen young cousins of both sexes with her, and they filled the house with youthful life. Under these circumstances, the old servants were tempted back. And all went on very well until one day one of the young girls suddenly spoke out at the full breakfast-table, and asked:
"'Alicia, who is that strange, silent girl, in the red cloak, that is always following you about?'
"Mrs. Dubarry grew deadly pale, sat down the cup that she had held in her hand, but she did not attempt to speak.
"'Have I said anything wrong? I did not mean to do so. I am sure I beg pardon, if I have,' faltered the young cousin, looking from the pale face of Mrs. Dubarry to the troubled countenance of Mr. Dubarry.
"'I am very sorry if I have said anything wrong,' repeated the little cousin, in dismay.
"'No, no, you have said nothing amiss; but it is a very painful subject; let us drop it,' replied Mr. Dubarry rather inconsistently. And every one around the table silently wondered what the matter could be.
"When breakfast was over, and the husband and wife found themselves alone together, Mrs. Dubarry seized his arm, and whispered:
"'Oh, Philip! the spectre has not gone!'
"'My dearest Alicia! you have not fancied that you have seen it lately?'
"'No, no; but she has seen it! Kitty has seen it always following me! She took it for a real girl, as I did at first!'
"What could Philip Dubarry say to all this? Only one thing:
"'My darling, I cannot have your nerves shaken in this manner. You had no such visitations as these while we stayed at Williamsburg. And so to Williamsburg we will return immediately. Tell your maid to pack up this afternoon, and we will set out to-morrow. No objections, Alicia! for I tell you we must go.'
"She saw that his resolution was fixed, and she made no opposition to it. She rang for her maid, and gave the necessary directions. And then, feeling very unwell, she sent down an excuse to her company, and retired to bed.
"At twelve o'clock that night, while the young people were enjoying themselves in some round game in the drawing-room, and Mr. Dubarry was doing all that he could to promote their entertainment, the whole party was startled by a terrific cry coming from Mrs. Dubarry's chamber. All paused for a breathless instant, and then rushed tumultuously up the stairs. At the door of the bed-chamber, Mr. Dubarry turned around and waved them all back. Then he entered the chamber alone. All seemed quiet there then. The moonlight came flickering through the vine leaves on the outside of the open window, and fell fitfully upon the face and form of Alicia Dubarry, who was sitting up in bed, staring straight before her.
"Mr. Dubarry locked the door before he approached the bed.
"'Alicia,' he said, 'my dear Alicia, what is the matter?'
"'It is doom! It is doom!' she answered in an awful voice, without removing her eyes from some object between the foot of the bed and the moonlit window.
"'Compose yourself, dear wife, and tell me what has happened.'
"'Look! Look! for yourself!' she cried, her finger extended, and following the direction of her eyes.
"'My sweet Alicia, there is nothing there but the tremulous shadow of the vine leaves cast by the moonlight,' said Mr. Dubarry, persuasively, as he went and drew the curtain before the window, and then struck a match and lighted a lamp.
"But her eyes were never removed from the spot where she had gazed.
"'It is there yet!' she cried.
"'What is there, good Alicia? there is nothing there, indeed!'
"'Yes, the dead woman and dead child! Do you not see them?'
"'See! no! you are in one of your nervous attacks; but to-morrow we will leave this place, and you will have no more of them.'
"'Hush! No! I shall never leave this place again.'
"'You shall start by sunrise to-morrow.'
"'Hush! listen! I will tell you what happened. I was sleeping well, very well, when suddenly I was awakened with a tremendous shock. I started up in bed and saw her—the terrible girl! She was standing at the foot of the bed looking at me, and pointing to something that lay upon the floor. I looked and saw—there it is yet!—the dead woman, with the dead babe on her bosom! I shrieked aloud, for I knew the woman was myself, and the babe was my own! And as I shrieked, she vanished, as she always does; but the dead woman and child remained! And there they are yet! Oh! cover them over, Philip! cover them over! Cover them from my sight, for I have no power to withdraw my eyes from them,' she exclaimed in wild excitement.
"Almost beside himself with distress, Philip Dubarry seized a large table cover and threw it down over the spot upon which her eyes were fixed.
"'Ah! it is of no use! it is of no use! I see them still! they rise above the covering! they lie upon it!' she cried, in terrific emotion, shaking as if with an ague fit.
"'Lie down,' said Philip Dubarry, compelling himself to be calm, for the sake of trying to calm her. And he took her and laid her back upon the pillow. But still she raved, like one in high fever and delirium.
"'I have received my sentence! I am doomed! I am doomed! I have seen my own corpse, and the corpse of my child!' she cried. And then a violent convulsion seized her.
"Nearly maddened by terror and despair, Philip Dubarry rushed from the room and loudly called for assistance. The chamber was soon filled with the members of the household, not one of whom knew what to do, until the entrance of the old housekeeper, who sent everybody out, and requested Mr. Dubarry to dispatch a carriage for the family physician.
"Before morning the doctor arrived. But the convulsions and the delirium of the lady increased in violence until just at the dawn of day, when she gave birth to an infant boy, who breathed and died.
"Then, just before her own death, she recovered her senses and grew very calm. She asked to see her child. When the nurse brought it, she kissed its cold face, and bade her lay it by her side. Then the lady called her husband, and whispered so faintly that he had to lean his ear to her lips to hear her words. She said:
"'The vision is realized in the dead mother and the dead babe! But, Philip! for whose sin do we die?'
"Before he could make a reply, if any reply had been possible, she was gone.
"The mother and babe were buried together. The company at Shut-up Dubarry broke up in the greatest consternation. The story of the vision, real or imaginary, that had caused the lady's death, got out. All the neighborhood talked of it, and connected it with the fate of the hardly used gipsy girl, whose spirit was said to haunt the house.
"Mr. Dubarry became a prey to the most poignant grief and remorse. He shut himself up in his desolate house, where he was abandoned by all his neighbors, and by all his servants, with the exception of the old housekeeper and house-steward, whose devotion to the family they had served so long, retained them still in the service of its last and most unhappy representative.
"But awful stories crept out from that house of gloom. 'Twas said that the master was always followed by the spectre of the gipsy girl—that he could be heard in the dead of night walking up and down the hall outside of his chamber door, raving in frenzy, or expostulating with some unknown and unseen being, who was said to be the spectre that haunted the house.
"At length, unable to endure the misery of solitude and superstitious terrors, Mr. Dubarry took an aged Catholic priest to share his home. Under the influence of Father Ingleman, Philip Dubarry became a penitent and a devotee. At that time this church was but a rude chapel, erected over the old family vault. But now, by the advice of the old priest, Mr. Dubarry rebuilt and enlarged the chapel, for the accommodation of all the Catholics in the neighborhood. He also added a priest's house. And Father Ingleman said mass every Sunday, while waiting for another priest to be appointed to the charge.
"This rebuilding and remodelling amused the miserable master of the manor, during the latter part of the summer and the autumn following his wife's death. But with the coming of the winter, returned all his gloom and horror. And the good old priest, so far from being able to help his patron, was himself so much affected in health and spirits by this condition of the house, that he begged and obtained leave to retire to the little dwelling beside the church.
"The awful winter passed away.
"But on one stormy night in March, the mansion house took fire. It was said that the haunted master of the house, in a fit of desperation, actually set it on fire, with the purpose of burning out the ghost. At all events, it seems certain that he would permit nothing to be done to stop the flames.
"The house was burned to the ground. The houseless master took refuge with Father Ingleman, in the priest's dwelling by the church. But there also the spectre followed him, nor could all the exorcisms of Father Ingleman with 'candle, bell, and book,' avail to lay the disturbed spirit.
"Philip Dubarry, half a maniac by this time, sent away the priest, pulled down the priest's house, and took up his abode in the body of the church itself, which was thenceforward deserted by all others. But here also the spectre was supposed to have followed him. At length he disappeared. No one knew whither he went. Some said that he had gathered together his money and departed for a foreign country; others, that he had drowned himself in the Black River, though his body never was found. Some said that he had cast himself down headlong from some mountain crest, and his bones were bleaching in some inaccessible ravine; while others, again, did not hesitate to say that the devil had flown away with him bodily.
"The fate of the last of the Dubarrys is unknown. The estate, unclaimed, is held in abeyance. The house, burned to the ground, has never been restored. The church, thereafter known as the Haunted Chapel, has crumbled into the ruin that you see. And such, dear Sybil, is the story of the 'Fall of the Dubarrys.'"
Still the wood is dim and lonely, Still the plashing fountains play, But the past with all its beauty, Whither has it fled away? Hark! the mournful echoes say, Fled away!—A.A. PROCTOR.
"And the apparition that we both saw was like that of the gipsy girl in the ghostly legend," said Sybil, musingly.
"Yes; in the matter of the red cloak—a very common garment, dear Sybil. Such a resemblance reminds us of Paganini's portrait which the child said was like him, 'about the fiddle,'" replied Lyon Berners, with an effort towards pleasantry, which was very far indeed from his heart; for he was oppressed with grief and dread. He was anxiously looking forward to the arrival of Captain Pendleton; and fearing for the effect his disclosures must have upon his beloved Sybil, who seemed still so utterly unable to realize her position. She seemed almost satisfied now, so that Lyon was near her, and she was the only object of his care. So disengaged was her mind, at this hour, from all real appreciation of her situation, that she had leisure to feel interested in the tale that Lyon had told her. She again reverted to it.
"But the likeness was not only in the red cloak, it was in the whole gipsy style. I spoke of that, even before you had told me anything about the gipsy girl," persisted Sybil.
Before Lyon could answer her, steps were heard approaching.
"There is Pendleton," exclaimed Mr. Berners, and he arose and hurried forward to meet the visitor.
"Hush! come out here a moment," he whispered, drawing Captain Pendleton outside the chapel. "Sybil knows nothing of that verdict as yet. I wish to keep it from her knowledge as long as possible—for ever, if possible. So if you have any more bad news to tell, tell it now, and here, to me," he added.
"Berners," began the Captain—but then he paused in pity.
"Go on," said Lyon.
"My friend, the flight of your wife and yourself if not absolutely ascertained, is strongly suspected. An officer watches your closed chamber door. Two others have been dispatched to Blackville, to watch the ferry. By to-morrow morning the flight, so strongly suspected now, will be fully discovered. This is all I have to say in private. And now, perhaps we had better not linger any longer here, lest Mrs. Berners may suspect something, if possible, even more alarming than the truth," said Captain Pendleton.
"You are quite right," admitted Lyon Berners, and they entered the chapel together.
Sybil sprang up to meet them.
"What news, Captain? Is the murderer discovered? May we return home?" she eagerly inquired.
"No, madam; the murderer has not yet been discovered, nor do I think it would be prudent in you yet to return home," replied the Captain, feeling relieved that her questions had taken forms that enabled him to reply truly to them without divulging the alarming intelligence of the verdict of the coroner's jury.
He unstrapped a portmanteau from his shoulders and threw it down near the fire, and seated himself upon it. Then turning to Mr. Berners, he said:
"I have made arrangements with your faithful Joe to bring certain necessaries to this place to-night. They cannot, you know, be brought to this spot by the same direct route that we took in coming here. But as soon as the moon goes down, which will be about one o'clock, Joe will launch a boat just below Black Hall and come across the river with all that is most needed. There he will find a cart and horse waiting for him. He will load the cart and drive it up here to the entrance of the thicket."
"But that cart, Pendleton?"
"Yes! you will wonder how I got it there without exciting suspicion. It was done in this way. I ordered Joe to bring it boldly up in front of the house, and to put in it the boxes containing my own and my sister's masquerade dresses, and to take them over to our place. Joe understood and obeyed me, and drove the cart to Blackville, and crossed the river at the ferry, under the very eyes of the constable stationed there to watch. He brought the cart down this bank, and left it concealed in a clearing of the wood. He will watch his opportunity, as soon as it is dark enough to swim across the river, and launch the boat and fill it with the necessaries that he will secretly obtain from Black Hall. It is a business that will require considerable tact and discretion; or at least, great secretiveness and cautiousness," added Captain Pendleton.
"And these, Joe, like all his race, possesses in excess," observed Lyon Berners.
"Are the guests all gone away from the house?" inquired Sybil.
"Nearly all. My sister remains there for the present to watch your interests, Mrs. Berners. The old Judge also, to superintend legal processes; but even he will go away in the morning, I think."
While they spoke, a loud sneeze and then a cough was heard outside, and then Joe walked in, with a doubled up mattress on his head.
"This here is moving under difficulties, Master," he panted, as he laid the mattress down on the stone floor.
"How ever did you get that along the narrow path through the thicket, Joe?" inquired Sybil.
"You may well ax that, Missis. I had to lay it down endways, and drag it. Howsever, I has got all the things through the worst part of the way now, and they's all out in the church-yard," answered Joe, recovering his breath, and starting for the remaining goods.
He soon returned, bringing in a small assortment of bedding, clothing, and so forth. And in another trip he brought in a small supply of food and a few cooking utensils.
"That's all. And now, Miss Sybil, if you would only let me live here along o' you and Marse Lyon, and wait on to you bofe, I could make myself very much satisfied into my own mind," he said, as he laid down the last articles, and stood to rest himself.
"But you know, Joe, that you can serve us better by remaining at Black Hall," said Sybil, kindly.
"Now, Marser Capping Pendulum, I hope them there fineries in the boxes, as you told me to bring away, for a blind from our place, won't take no harm along of being left out in the woods all night, for it was there underneaf of a pile of leaves and bushes as I was obligated for to leave them."
"They'll not take cold, at all events, Joe," said Captain Pendleton, good-naturedly.
By this time, the fire on the stone floor had become so low that it was quite dark in the chapel. But among the little necessities of life brought by Joe, was a small silver candlestick and a few slim wax candles. One of these was lighted, and gleamed faintly around, striking strangely upon the faces of the group gathered near the smouldering fire.
The friends sat and talked together, and arranged as far as they could their plans for future movements. It was not until near day that Captain Pendleton arose to depart, saying:
"Well, Berners, I do dislike to leave you and Mrs. Berners here alone again, especially as I fear that you will not go to sleep, as you ought to do. I see that Mrs. Berners' eyes are still wide open—"
"I slept so long in the afternoon," put in Sybil.
"But, at all events, I am forced to leave you before light. It is not quite safe now to be seen in open daylight, travelling this road so often. To-night I will come again, and bring you further news, and perhaps more comfort. Come, Joe."
Joe, who had fallen asleep over the fire, now slowly woke up and lifted himself from the floor.
The Captain shook hands with his friends, and followed by Joe, left the Chapel.
Sybil then went and spread out the mattress, and put the pillows and covering upon it, and persuaded Lyon to lie down and try to sleep, as he had not slept for two nights past. She said that she herself could not sleep, but that she would sit close by him, so as to be ready to arouse him, on the slightest indication of danger.
Very reluctantly he yielded to her pleadings, and stretched himself upon the mattress. She went and gathered the smouldering coals and brands together, so that the fire might not go entirely out, and then she returned and sat down beside her husband.
He took her hand in his, and clasping it protectingly, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
She sat watching the little fire, and brooding almost to insanity over the strange revolution that a few hours had made in her life, driving her so suddenly from her own hereditary manor-house, her home of wealth and honor and safety, out into the perilous wilderness, a fugitive from the law.
Yet not once did Sybil's imagination take in the extreme horror of her position. She thought that she had been brought away by her husband to be saved from the affront of an arrest, and the humiliation of a few days imprisonment. That anything worse than this could happen to her, she never even dreamed. But even this to the pure, proud Sybil would have been almost insupportable mortification and misery. To escape all this she was almost willing to incur the charge of having fled from justice, and to endure the hardships of a fugitive's life.
And oh! through all there was one consolation so great, that it was enough to compensate for all the wretchedness of her position. She was assured of her husband's love, beyond all possibility of future doubt. He was by her side, never to leave her more!
This was enough! She closed her hand around the beloved hand that held hers, and felt a strange peace and joy, even in the midst of her exile and danger.
Perhaps in this stillness she slumbered a while, for when she lifted her head, the chapel, that had been dark before, but for the gleaming of the little fire, was now dimly filled with the gray light of dawn.
She saw the shapes of the pointed windows against the background of heavy shadows and pale lights, and she knew that day was coming. She did not stir from the spot, lest she should wake her husband, whose hand held hers. All was still in the chapel, so still that even the faint sweet sounds of wakening nature could be heard—the stirring of the partridge in her cover, the creeping of the squirrel from her hole, the murmur of the little brook, the rustle of the leaves, and, farther off, the deep thunder of the cascade, and the detonating echoes of the mountains.
Sybil sat motionless, and almost breathless, lest she should disturb her beloved sleeper. But the next moment she could scarcely forbear screaming aloud; for there passed along the wall before her a figure that, even in the dim light, she recognized as the strange visitant of the preceding day. It came from the direction of the altar, and glided past each of the four windows and vanished through the door. When Sybil had repressed her first impulse to scream, self-control was easy, so she sat quietly holding her husband's hand, though much amazed by what she had again seen.
Day broadened, and soon the rays of the rising sun, striking through the east windows, and lighting on the face of the sleeper, awoke him.
He looked into the face of his wife, and then along the walls of the chapel, with a bewildered expression of countenance. This had been his first sleep for two nights, and it had been so deep that he had utterly forgotten the terrible drama of the two last preceding days, and could not at once remember what had happened, or where he was. But as he again turned and looked into Sybil's face, full memory of all flashed back upon him. But he did not allude to the past; he merely said to Sybil:
"You have not slept, love."
"I have not wished to do so," she answered.
"This is a very primitive sort of life we are living, love," he said, with a smile, as he arose from the mattress.
"But it is not at all an unhappy one," answered Sybil; "for, oh, since you are with me, I do not care much about anything else. Destiny may do what she pleases, so that she does not part us. I can bear exile, hunger, cold, fatigue, pain—anything but parting, Lyon!"
"Do not fear that, love; we will never part for a single day, if I can help it."
"Then let anything else come. I can bear it cheerfully," smiled Sybil. While they talked they were working also. Sybil was folding up the bedclothes, and Lyon was looking about for a bucket, to fetch water from the fountain. He soon found one, and went upon his errand.
Sybil followed him with two towels. They washed their hands and faces in the stream, and dried them on the towels. And then they went higher up the glen, and caught a bucketful of delightful water from the crystal spring that issued from the rocks.
They returned to the chapel, and together they made the fire and prepared the breakfast.
It was not until they were seated at their primitively arranged breakfast, which was laid upon the flagstones of the chapel floor—it was not, in fact, until they had nearly finished their simple meal, that Sybil told Lyon of the apparition she had seen in the early dawn, to come up as if from the floor to the right of the altar, and glide along the east wall of the chapel, past the four gothic windows, and disappear through the door.
"It was a morning dream, dear Sybil; nothing more," said Lyon, sententiously; for in the broad daylight he believed in nothing supernatural, even upon the evidence of his own senses.
"If that were a morning dream, then the sight that we saw together yesterday was but a dream, and you are but a dream, and life itself is but a dream," replied Sybil, earnestly.
"Well, at all events, what we have both, either separately or together, seen and experienced, must be something perfectly natural and commonplace, although we may not either of us be able to understand or explain it. My private opinion and worse misgiving is, that there is some woman concealed about the place. If ever I find myself in arm's length of that little gipsy, I shall intercept her, even at the risk of receiving such a spiritual-shock as that which struck Mrs. Alicia Dubarry to the ground," said Lyon, facetiously; for he might well make a jest of this lighter affair of the chapel mystery to veil the deep anxiety he felt in the heavy matter of their affliction.
The husband and wife passed this second day of hiding tediously enough. She made the little housekeeping corner of the chapel tidy, by folding up and putting aside all their bedclothes and garments, and by washing and arranging their few cooking utensils. He brought in wood and brush, which he broke up and piled in another corner, to have it near at hand to replenish the fire. Also, he brought water from the spring; and then with no other instrument than his pocket-knife, he made a trap and set it to catch rabbits.
Then they rambled together through the wilderness around the chapel, and the better they grew acquainted with the wild neighborhood, the surer they felt of their safety in its profound solitude.
Their only anxiety connected with their security in this place, was upon the subject of the mysterious visitant. It was incomprehensible by any known law of nature.
They talked of this mystery. They reverted to all the so-called "authenticated ghost stories" that they had ever read or heard, and that they had hitherto set down to be either impostures or delusions.
But now here was a fact in their own experience that utterly confounded their judgment, and the end of their discussion on the subject left them just where they had been at its commencement. They resolved, however, to divulge the whole matter to Captain Pendleton, to whom they had not yet even hinted it, and to ask his counsel; and they looked forward with impatience to the evening visit of this devoted friend.
As it was growing cold towards the setting of the sun they turned their steps again towards the chapel. It was quite dark when they reached it. Their fire had nearly gone out, but he replenished it, and she began to prepare the evening meal.
While she was still engaged in this work, the sound of approaching footsteps warned them that Captain Pendleton was near. Lyon Berners went out to meet him.
A GHASTLY PROCESSION.
If charnel-houses and our graves must send Those that we bury back, our monuments Shall be the maws of kites.—SHAKESPEARE.
"Well?" exclaimed Mr. Berners, eagerly.
"Well, the flight is now discovered beyond all doubt. Search-warrants have been issued. My house is to be searched among the rest," replied Captain Pendleton.
"Arrangements are being made for the funeral of the dead woman. They will bury her the day after to-morrow in the church-yard at Blackville."
"And what else?"
"Nothing, but that I would not permit Joe to accompany me to-night. More precaution is now necessary to insure your safety."
"And that is all?"
"Then come in and see Sybil."
They went in together, where Mrs. Berners greeted Captain Pendleton with her usual courtesy, and then immediately repeated her anxious questions.
"Has the murderer been discovered? May we go home?"
"Not yet, dear Madam!" answered Pendleton to both questions, as he sat down by the fire.
"I have something to tell you, Pendleton, and to ask your advice about," began Lyon Berners. And he related the mysterious vision that had thrice crossed their path.
"Oh! it is a form of flesh and blood! We don't believe in apparitions at this age of the world! But this indeed must be looked to! If you have seen her here three times, of course she has seen you," said Captain Pendleton in much anxiety.
"Most certainly she knows of our presence here, if she knows nothing else about us," replied Mr. Berners.
"Then it is useless to attempt to conceal yourselves from her. She must be laid hold of, talked with, and won or bribed to keep our secret—to help us if possible. We must find out whether she will serve our purpose. If she will, it will be all quite right, and you may remain here until it is safe to depart; but if she will not, it will be all entirely wrong, and you must leave this place at all hazards," concluded Captain Pendleton.