BY "THE DUCHESS"
The Haunted Chamber
BY "THE DUCHESS"
The sun has "dropped down," and the "day is dead." The silence and calm
of coming night are over everything. The shadowy twilight lies softly on
sleeping flowers and swaying boughs, on quiet fountains--the marble
basins of which gleam snow-white in the uncertain light--on the glimpse
of the distant ocean seen through the giant elms. A floating mist hangs
in the still warm air, making heaven and earth mingle in one sweet
The ivy creeping up the ancient walls of the castle is rustling and
whispering as the evening breeze sweeps over it. High up the tendrils
climb, past mullioned windows and quaint devices, until they reach even
to the old tower, and twine lovingly round it, and push through the long
apertures in the masonry of the walls of the haunted chamber.
It is here that the shadows cast their heaviest gloom. All this corner
of the old tower is wrapped in darkness, as though to obscure the scene
of terrible crimes of past centuries.
Ghosts of dead-and-gone lords and ladies seem to peer out mysteriously
from the openings in this quaint chamber, wherein no servant, male or
female, of the castle has ever yet been known to set foot. It is full of
dire horrors to them, and replete with legends of by-gone days and
grewsome sights ghastly enough to make the stoutest heart quail.
In the days of the Stuarts an old earl had hanged himself in that room,
rather than face the world with dishonor attached to his name; and
earlier still a beauteous dame, fair but frail, had been incarcerated
there, and slowly starved to death by her relentless lord. There was
even in the last century a baronet--the earldom had been lost to the
Dynecourts during the Commonwealth--who, having quarreled with his
friend over a reigning belle, had smitten him across the cheek with his
glove, and then challenged him to mortal combat. The duel had been
fought in the luckless chamber, and had only ended with the death of
both combatants; the blood stains upon the flooring were large and deep,
and to this day the boards bear silent witness to the sanguinary
character of that secret fight.
Just now, standing outside the castle in the warmth and softness of the
dying daylight, one can hardly think of by-gone horrors, or aught that
is sad and sinful.
There is an air of bustle and expectancy within-doors that betokens
coming guests; the servants are moving to and fro noiselessly but
busily, and now and then the stately housekeeper passes from room to
room uttering commands and injunctions to the maids as she goes. No less
occupied and anxious is the butler, as he surveys the work of the
footmen. It is so long since the old place has had a resident master,
and so much longer still since guests have been invited to it, that the
household are more than ordinarily excited at the change now about to
Sir Adrian Dynecourt, after a prolonged tour on the Continent and
lingering visits to the East, has at last come home with the avowed
intention of becoming a staid country gentleman, and of settling down
to the cultivation of turnips, the breeding of prize oxen, and the
determination to be the M.F.H. when old Lord Dartree shall have
fulfilled his declared intention of retiring in his favor. He is a tall
young man, lithe and active. His skin, though naturally fair, is bronzed
by foreign travel. His hair is a light brown, cut very close to his
head. His eyes are large, clear, and honest, and of a peculiarly dark
violet; they are beautiful eyes, winning and sweet, and steady in their
glance. His mouth, shaded by a drooping fair mustache, is large and
firm, yet very prone to laughter.
It is quite the end of the London season, and Sir Adrian has hurried
down from town to give directions
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