|Chapter Seventh continued
The Monks of Monk Hall
A NIGHT IN MONK-HALL*
Six years ago, in 1836, on a foggy night in spring, at the hour of one o' clock, I found myself reposing in one of
the chambers of this mansion, on an old-fashioned bed, side by side with a girl, who, before her seduction, had
resided in my native village. It was one o' clock when I was aroused by a hushed sound, like the noise of a
distant struggle. I awoke, started up in bed, and looked round. The room was entirely without light, save from
the fire-place, where a few pieces of half-burned wood, emitted a dim and uncertain flame. Now it flashed up
brightly, giving a strange lustre to the old furniture of the room, the high-backed mahogany chairs, the antiquated
bureau, and the low ceiling, with heavy cornices around the walls. Again the flame died away and all
was darkness. I listened intently. I could hear no sound, save the breathing of the girl who slept by my side. And
as I listened, a sudden awe came over me. True, I heard no noise, but that my sleep had been broken by a most
appaling sound, I could not doubt. And the stories I had heard of Monk-hall came over me. Years before, in my
native village, a wild rollicking fellow, Paul Western, Cashier of the County Bank, had indulged my fancy with
strange stories of a brothel, situated in the outskirts of Philadelphia. Paul was a wild fellow, rather good looking,
and went often to the city on business. He spoke of Monk-hall as a place hard to find, abounding in mysteries,
and darkened by hideous crimes committed within its walls. It had three stories of chambers beneath the earth,
as well as above. Each of these chambers was supplied with trap-doors, through the which the unsuspecting
man might be flung by his murderer, without a moment's warning. There was but one range of rooms above the
ground, where these trap-doors existed. From the garret to the first story, all in the same line, like the hatchways
in a storehouse, sank this range of trap-doors, all carefully concealed by the manner in which the carpets were
fixed. A secret spring in the wall of any one of these chambers, communicated with the spring hidden beneath
the carpet. The spring in the wall might be so arranged, that a single footstep pressed on the spring, under the
carpet, would open the trap-door, and plunge the victim headlong through the aperture. In such cases no man
could stride across the floor without peril of his life. Beneath the ground another range of trap-doors were
placed in the same manner, in the floors of three stories of the subterranean chambers. They plunged the victim—
God knows where! With such arrangements for murder above and beneath the earth, might there not exist
hideous pits or deep wells, far below the third story under ground, where the body of the victim would rot in
darkness forever? As I remembered these details, the connection between Paul Western, the cheerful bachelor,
and Emily Walraven, the woman who was sleeping at my side, flashed over my mind. The child of one of the
first men of B——, educated without regard to expense by the doating father, with a mind singularly masculine,
and a tall queenly form, a face distinguished for its beauty and a manner remarkable for its ladylike elegance,
poor Emily had been seduced, some three years before, and soon after disappeared from the town. Her seducer
no one knew, though from some hints dropped casually by my friend Paul, I judged that he at least could tell.
Rumors came to the place, from time to time in relation to the beautiful but fallen girl. One rumor stated that she
was now living as the mistress of a wealthy planter, who made his residence at times in Philadelphia. Another
declared that she had become a common creature of the town, and this—great God, how terrible!—killed her
poor father. The rumor flew round the village to-day—next Sunday old Walraven was dead and buried. They
say that in his dying hour he charged Paul Western with his daughter's shame, and shrieked a father's curse upon
his head. He left no property, for his troubles had preyed on his mind until he neglected his affairs, and he died
Well two years passed on, and no one heard a word more of poor Emily. Suddenly in the spring of 1836,
when this town as well as the whole Union was convulsed with the fever of speculation, Paul Western, after a
visit to Philadelphia, with some funds of the Bank, amounting to near thirty thousand dollars, in his possession,
suddenly disappeared, no one knew whither. My father was largely interested in the bank. He despatched me to
town, in order that I might make a desperate effort to track up the footsteps of Western. Some items in the
papers stated that the Cashier had fled to Texas, others that he had been drowned by accident, others that he
had been spirited away. I alone possessed a clue to the place of his concealment—thus ran my thoughts at all
events—and that clue was locked in the bosom of Emily Walraven, the betrayed and deeply-injured girl.
Sometime before his disappearance, and after the death of old Walraven, Paul disclosed to me, under a solemn
pledge of secresy, the fact that Emily was living in Philadelphia, under his protection, supported by his money.
He stated that he had furnished rooms at the brothel called Monk-hall. With this fact resting on my mind, I had
hurried to Philadelphia. For days my search for Emily Walraven was in vain. One night, when about giving up the
chase as hopeless, I strolled to the Chesnut Street Theatre. Forrest was playing Richelieu—there was a row in
the third tier—a bully had offered violence to one of the ladies of the town. Attracted by the noise, I joined the
throng rushing up stairs, and beheld the girl who had been stricken, standing pale and erect, a small poignard in
her upraised hand, while her eyes flashed with rage as she dared the drunken buffer to strike her again. I stood
thunderstruck as I recognized Emily Walraven in the degraded yet beautiful woman who stood before me.
Springing forward, with one blow I felled the bully to the floor, and in another moment, seizing Emily by the
arm, I hurried down stairs, evaded the constables, who were about to arrest her, and gained the street. It was
yet early in the evening—there were no cabs in the street—so I had to walk home with her.
All this I remembered well, as I sat listening in the lonely room.
I remembered the big tears that started from her eyes when she recognized me, her wild exclamations when I
spoke of her course of life. "Don't talk to me—" she had almost shrieked as we hurried along the street—"it's
too late for me to change now. For God's sake let me be happy in my degradation."
I remembered the warm flush of indignation that reddened over her face, as pointing carelessly to a figure which
I observed through the fog, some distance ahead, I exclaimed—"Is not that Paul Western yonder?" Her voice
was very deep and not at all natural in its tone as she replied, with assumed unconcern—"I know nothing about
the man." At last, after threading a labyrinth of streets, compared to which the puzzling-garden was a mere frolic,
we had gained Monk-hall, the place celebrated by the wonderful stories of my friend Western. Egad! As we
neared the door I could have sworn that I beheld Western himself disappear in the door but this doubtless, I
reasoned, had been a mere fancy.
Silence still prevailed in the room, still I heard but the sound of Emily breathing in her sleep, and yet my mind
grew more and more heavy, with some unknown feeling of awe. I remembered with painful distinctness the hang-
dog aspect of the door-keeper who had let us in, and the cut-throat visages of his two attendants seemed staring
me visibly in the face. I grew quite nervous. Dark ideas of murder and the devil knows what, began to chill my
very soul. I bitterly remembered that I had no arms. The only thing I carried with me was a slight cane, which
had been lent me by the Landlord of the —— Hotel. It was a mere switch of a thing.
As these things came stealing over me, the strange connexion between the fate of Western and that of the
beautiful woman who lay beside me, the sudden disappearance of the former, the mysterious character of Monk-
hall, the startling sounds which had aroused me, the lonely appearance of the room, fitfully lighted by the glare on
the hearth, all combined, deepened the impression of awe, which had gradually gained possession of my
faculties. I feared to stir. You may have felt this feeling—this strange and incomprehensible feeling but if you
have not, just imagine a man seized with the night-mare when wide awake.
I was sitting upright in bed, chilled to the very heart, afraid to move an inch, almost afraid to breathe, when, far,
far down through the chambers of the old mansion, I heard a faint hushed sound, like a man endeavouring to cry
out when attacked by night-mare, and then—great God how distinct!—I heard the cry of 'Murder, murder,
murder!' far, far, far below me.
The cry aroused Emily from her sleep. She started up in the bed and whispered, in a voice without tremor—
"What is the matter Boyd—"
"Listen—" I cried with chattering teeth, and again, up from the depths of the mansion welled that awful sound,
Murder! MURDER! MURDER ! growing louder every time. Then far, far, far down I could hear a gurgling
sound. It grew fainter every moment. Fainter, fainter, fainter. All was still as death.
"What does this mean?" I whispered almost fiercely, turning to Emily by my side—"What does this mean?" And
a dark suspicion flashed over my mind.
The flame shot upward in the fireplace, and revealed every line of her intellectual countenance.
Her dark eyes looked firmly in my face as she answered, "In God's name I know not!"
The manner of the answer satisfied me as to her firmness, if it did not convince me of her innocence. I sat silent
and sullen, conjuring over the incidents of the night.
"Come, Boyd—" she cried, as she arose from the bed—"You must leave the house. I never entertain visitors
after this hour. It is my custom. I thank you for your protection at the theatre, but you must go home—"
Her manner was calm and self-possessed. I turned to her in perfect amazement.
"I will not leave the house—" I said, as a dim vision of being attacked by assassins on the stairway, arose to my
"There is Devil-Bug and his cut-throat negroes—" thought I—"nothing so easy as to give me a 'cliff' with a knife
from some dark corner; nothing so secret as my burial-place in some dark hole in the cellar—"
"I won't go home—" said I, aloud.
Emily looked at me in perfect wonder. It may have been affected, and it may have been real.
"Well then, I must go down stairs to get something to eat—" she said, in the most natural manner in the world—
"I usually eat something about this hour—"
"You may eat old Devil-Bug and his niggers, if you like—" I replied laughing—"But out of this house my father's
son don't stir till broad daylight."
With a careless laugh, she wound her night gown around her, opened the door, and disappeared in the dark.
Down, down, down, I could hear her go, her footsteps echoing along the stairway of the old mansion, down,
down, down. In a few moments all was still.
Here I was, in a pretty fix. In a lonely room at midnight, ignorant of the passages of the wizard's den, without
arms, and with the pleasant prospect of the young lady coming back with Devil-Bug and his niggers to despatch
me. I had heard the cry of 'Murder'—so ran my reasoning—they, that is the murderers would suspect that I was
a witness to their guilt, and, of course, would send me down some d——d trap-door on an
especial message to the devil.
This was decidedly a bad case. I began to look around the room for some chance of escape, some arms to
defend myself, or, perhaps from a motive of laudible curiosity, to know something more about the place where
my death was to happen.
One moment, regular as the ticking of a clock, the room would be illuminated by a flash of red light from the fire-
place, the next it would be dark as a grave. Seizing the opportunity afforded by the flash, I observed some of the
details of the room. On the right side of the fire-place there was a closet: the door fastened to the post by a very
singular button, shaped like a diamond; about as long as your little finger and twice as thick. On the other side of
the fire-place, near the ceiling, was a small oblong window, about as large as two half sheets of writing paper,
pasted together at the ends. Here let me explain the use of this window. The back part of Monk-hall is utterly
destitute of windows. Light, faint and dim you may be sure, is admitted from the front by small windows, placed
in the wall of each room. How many rooms there are on a floor, I know not, but, be they five or ten, or twenty,
they are all lighted in this way.
Well, as I looked at this window, I perceived one corner of the curtain on the other side was turned up. This
gave me very unpleasant ideas. I almost fancied I beheld a human face pressed against the glass, looking at me.
Then the flash on the hearth died away, and all was dark. I heard a faint creaking noise—the light from the
hearth again lighted the place—could I believe my eyes—the button on the closet-door turned slowly round!
Slowly—slowly—slowly it turned, making a slight grating noise. This circumstance, slight as it may appear to
you, filled me with horror. What could turn the button, but a human hand? Slowly, slowly it turned, and the door
sprung open with a whizzing sound. All was dark again. The cold sweat stood out on my forehead. Was my
armed murderer waiting to spring at my throat? I passed a moment of intense horror. At last, springing hastily
forward, I swung the door shut, and fastened the button. I can swear that I fastened it as tight as ever button
was fastened. Regaining the bed I silently awaited the result. Another flash of light—Great God!—I could swear
there was a face pressed against the oblong window! Another moment and it is darkness—creak, creak,
creak—is that the sound of the button again? It was light again, and there, before my very eyes, the button
moved slowly round! Slowly, slowly, slowly!
The door flew open again. I sat still as a statue. I felt it difficult to breathe. Was my enemy playing with me, like
the cat ere she destroys her game!
I absently extended my hand. It touched the small black stick given me by the Landlord of the —— Hotel in the
beginning of the evening. I drew it to me, like a friend. Grasping it with both hands, I calculated the amount of
service it might do me. And as I grasped it, the top seemed parting from the lower portion of the cane. Great
God ! It was a sword cane! Ha-ha! I could at least strike one blow! My murderers should not despatch me
without an effort of resistance. You see my arm is none of the puniest in the world; I may say hat there are
worse men than Boyd Merivale for a fight.
Clutching the sword-cane, I rushed forward, and standing on the threshold of the opened door, I made a lunge
with all my strength through the darkness of the recess. Though I extended my arm to its full length, and the
sword was not less than eighteen inches long, yet to my utter astonishment, I struck but the empty air! Another
lunge and the same result !
Things began to grow rather queer. I was decidedly beat out as they say. I shut the closet door again, retreated
to the bed, sword in hand, and awaited the result. I heard a sound, but it was the footstep of poor Emily, who
that moment returned with a bed-lamp in one hand, and a small waiter, supplied with a boiled chicken and a
bottle of wine in the other. There was nothing remarkable in her look, her face was calm, and her boiled chicken
and bottle of wine, decidedly common place.
"Great God—" she cried as she gazed in my countenance—"What is the matter with you? Your face is quite
livid—and your eyes are fairly starting from their sockets—"
"Good reason—" said I, as I felt that my lips were clammy and white—"That d——d button has been going
round ever since you left, and that d——d door has been springing open every time it was shut—"
"Ha-ha-ha—" she laughed—"Would it have sprung open if you had not shut it?"
This was a very clear question and easy to answer; but—
"Mark you, my lady—" said I—"Here am I in a lonely house, under peculiar circumstances. I am waked up by
the cry of 'Murder'—a door springs open without a hand being visible—a face peers at me through a window.
As a matter of course I suspect there has been foul work done here to-night. And through every room of this
house, Emily you must lead the way, while I follow, this good sword in hand. If the light goes out, or if you blow
it out, you are to be pitied, for in either case, I swear by Living God, I will run you through with this sword—"
"Ha-ha-ha—" she fairly screamed with laughter as she sprung to the closet door—"Behold the mystery—"
And with her fair fingers she pointed to the socket of the button, and to the centre of the door. The door had
been 'sprung,' as it is termed, by the weather. That is, the centre bulged inward, leaving the edge toward the
door-post to press the contrary direction. The socket of the button, by continual wear, had been increased to
twice its original size. Whenever the door was first buttoned, the head of the screw pressed against one of the
edges of the socket. In a moment the pressure of the edge of the door, which you will remember was directed
outward, dislodged the head of the screw and it sank, well-nigh half an inch into the worn socket of the button.
Then the button, removed farther from the door than at first, would slowly turn, and the door spring open. All
this was plain enough, and I smiled at my recent fright.
"Very good, Emily—" I laughed—"But the mystery of this sword—what of that? I made a lunge in the closet
and it touched nothing—"
"You are suspicious, Boyd—" she answered with a laugh—"But the fact is, the closet is rather a deep
"Rather—" said I—"and so are you, my dear—"
There may have been something very meaning in my manner, but certainly, although her full black eyes looked
fixedly on me, yet I thought her face grew a shade paler as I spoke.
"And my dear—" I continued—"What do you make of the face peeping through the window:—"
"All fancy—all fancy—" she replied, but as she spoke I saw her eye glance hurriedly toward the very window.
Did she too fear that she might behold the face?
"We will search the closet—" I remarked, throwing open the door—"What have we here? Nothing but an old
cloak hanging to a hook—let's try it with my sword!"
Again I made a lunge with my sword: again I thrust at the empty air.
"Emily, there is a room beyond this cloak—you will enter first if you please. Remember my warning about the
light if you please—"
"Oh now that I remember, this closet does open into the next room—" she said gaily, although her cheek—so it
struck me—grew a little paler and her lip trembled slightly—"I had quite forgotten the circumstance—"
"Enter Emily, and don't forget the light—"
She flung the door aside and passed on with the light in her hand. I followed her. We stood in a small room,
lighted like the other by an oblong window. There was no other window, no door, no outlet of any sort. Even a
chimney-place was wanting. In one corner stood a massive bed—the quilt was unruffled. Two or three old
fashioned chairs were scattered round the room, and from the spot where I stood looking over the foot of the
bed, I could see the top of another chair, and nothing more, between the bed and the wall.
A trifling fact in Emily's behaviour may be remarked. The moment the light of the lamp which she held in her
hand flashed round the room, she turned to me with a smile, and leading the way round the corner of the foot of
the bed, asked me in a pleasant voice "Did I see any thing remarkable there?"
She shaded her eyes from the lamp as she spoke, and toyed me playfully under the chin. You will bear in mind
that at this moment, I had turned my face toward the closet by which we had entered. My back was therefore
toward the part of the room most remote from the closet. It was a trifling fact, but I may as well tell you, that the
manner in which Emily held the light, threw that portion of the room, between the foot of the bed and the wall in
complete shadow, while the rest of the chamber was bright as day.
Smilingly Emily toyed me under the chin, and at that moment I thought she looked extremely beautiful.
By Jove! I wish you could have seen her eyes shine, and her cheek—Lord bless you—a full blown rose wasn't
a circumstance to it. She looked so beautiful, in fact, as she came sideling up to me, that I stepped backward in
order to have a full view of her before I pressed a kiss on her pouting lips. I did step back, and did kiss her. It
wasn't singular, perhaps, but her lips were hot as a coal. Again she advanced to me, again chucked me under the
chin. Again I stepped back to look at her, again I wished to taste her lips so pouting, but rather warm, when—
To tell you the truth, stranger, even at this late day the remembrance makes my blood run cold!
——When I heard a sound like the sweeping of a tree-limb against a closed shutter, it was so faint and distant,
and a stream of cold air came rushing up my back.
I turned around carelessly to ascertain the cause. I took but a single glance, and then—by G——d—I sprung
at least ten feet from the place. There, at my very back, between the bed and the wall, opposite its foot, I beheld
a carpeted space some three feet square, sinking slowly down, and separating itself from the floor. I had
stepped my foot upon the spring—made ready for me, to be sure—and the trap-door sank below me.
You may suppose my feelings were somewhat excited. In truth, my heart, for a moment, felt as though it was
turning to a ball of ice. First I looked at the trap-door and then at Emily. Her face was pale as ashes, and she
leaned, trembling, against the bedpost. Advancing, sword in hand, I gazed down the trap-door. Great God! how
dark and gloomy the pit looked! From room to room, from floor to floor, a succession of traps had fallen—far
below—it looked like a mile, although that was but an exaggeration natural to a highly excited mind—far, far
below gleamed a light, and a buzzing murmur came up this hatchway of death.
Stooping slowly down, sword in hand, my eye on the alert for Miss Emily, I disengaged a piece of linen, from a
nail, near the edge of the trap-door. Where the linen—it was a shirt wristband—had been fastened, the carpet
was slightly torn, as though a man in falling had grasped it with his finger ends.
The wristband was, in more correct language, a ruffle for the wrist. It came to my mind, in this moment, that I
had often ridiculed Paul Western for his queer old bachelor ways. Among other odd notions, he had worn ruffles
at his wrist. As I gathered this little piece of linen in my grasp, the trap-door slowly rose. I turned to look for
Miss Emily, she had changed her position, and stood pressing her hand against the opposite wall.
"Now, Miss Emily, my dear—" I cried, advancing toward her—"Give me a plain answer to a plain question and
tell me what in the devil do you think of yourself?"
Perfectly white in the face, she glided across the room and stood at the foot of the bed, in her former position
leaning against the post for support. You will observe that her form concealed the chair, whose top I had only
seen across the bed.
"Step aside, Miss Emily, my dear—"I said, in as quiet a tone as I could command—"Or you see, my lady, I'll
have to use a little necessary force—"
Instead of stepping aside, as a peaceable woman would have done, she sits right down in the chair, fixing those
full black eyes of hers on my face, with a glance that looked very much like madness.
Extending my hand, I raised her from the seat. She rested like a dead weight in my arms. She had fainted.
Wrapped in her night-gown, I laid her on the bed, and then examined the chair in the corner. Something about
this chair attracted my attention. A coat hung over the round—a blue coat with metal buttons. A buff vest hung
under this coat; and a high stock, with a shirt collar.
I knew these things at once. They belonged to my friend, Paul Western.
"And so, my lady—" I cried, forgetting that she had fainted; "Mr. Western came home, from the theatre, to his
rooms, arrived just before us, took off his coat and vest, and stock and collar—maybe was just about to take
off his boots when he stepped on the spring and in a moment was in-in h——ll—"
Taking the light in one hand, I dragged or carried her, into the other room and laid her on the bed. After half an
hour or so, she came to her senses.
"You see—you see—" were her first words uttered, with her eyes flashing like live-coals, and her lips white as
marble—"You see, I could not help it, for my father's curse was upon him!"
She laughed wildly, and lay in my arms a maniac.
Stranger, I'll make a short story of the thing now. How I watched her all night till broad day, how I escaped
from the house—for Mr. Devil-Bug, it seems, didn't suspect I knew anything—how I returned home without any
news of Paul Western, are matters as easy to conceive as tell.
Why didn't I institute a search? Fiddle-faddle! Blazon my name to the world as a visiter to a Bagnio? Sensible
thing, that! And then, although I was sure in my own soul, that the clothes which I had discovered belonged to
Paul Western, it would have been most difficult to establish this fact in Court. One word more and I have done.
Never since that night has Paul Western been heard of by living man. Never since that night has Emily Walraven
been seen in this breathing world. You start. Let me whisper a word in your ear. Suppose Emily joined in
Western's murder from motives of revenge, what then were Devil-Bug's? (He of course was the real murderer.)
Why the money to be sure. Why be troubled with Emily as a witness of his guilt, or a sharer of his money? This
is rather a—a dark house, and it's my opinion, stranger, that he murdered her too!
Ha-ha—why here's all the room to ourselves! All the club have either disappeared, or lie drunk on the floor! I
saw Fitz-Cowles—I know him—sneak off a few moments since—I could tell by his eye that he is after some
devils-trick! The parson has gone, and the judge has gone, the lawyer has fallen among the slain, and so, wishing
you good night, stranger, I'll vanish! Beware of the Monks of Monk-hall!"
Byrnewood was alone.
His head was depressed, his arms were folded, and his eye, gazing vacantly on the table, shone and glistened
with the internal agitation of his brain. He sate there, silent, motionless, awed to the very soul. The story of the
stranger had thrilled him to the heart, had aroused a strange train of thought, and now rested like an oppressive
weight upon his brain.
Byrnewood gazed around. With a sudden effort he shook off the spell of absence which mingled with an
incomprehensible feeling of awe, had enchained his faculties. He looked around the room. He was, indeed,
alone. Above him, the hideous Satyr chandelier, still flared its red light over the table, over the mirror, and along
the gloomy wainscot of the walls. Around the table, grouped in various attitudes of unconscious drunkenness, lay
the members of the drinking party, the merry Monks of Monk-hall. There lay the poet, with his sanguine face
shining redly in the light, while his hand rested on the bare scalp of the wigless editor, there snored some dozen
merchants, all doubled up together, like the slain in battle, and there, a solitary doctor, who had fallen asleep on
his knees, was dozing away with one eye wide open, while his right hand brushed away a solitary fly from his
The scene was not calculated to produce the most serious feelings in the world. There was inebriety—as the
refined phrase it—in every shape, inebriety on its face, inebriety with its mouth wide open, inebriety on its knees
brushing a fly from its nose, inebriety groaning, grunting, or snoring, inebriety doubled up—mingled in a mass of
limbs, heads and bodies, woven together—or flat inebriety simply straightened out on its back with its nose
performing a select overture of snores. To be brief, there, scattered over the floor, lay drunkenness—as the
vulgar will style it—in every shape, moddled after various patterns, and taken by that ingenious artist, the Bottle,
fresh from real life.
Raising his eyes from the prostrate members of the club, Byrnewood started with involuntary surprise as he
beheld, standing at the tables-head, the black-robed figure of the Skeleton-Monk, with his hand of bone flinging
aloft the goblet, while his fleshless brow glared in the light, from the shadow of the falling cowl. As the light
flickered to and fro, it gave the grinning teeth of the Skeleton the appearance of life and animation for a
single moment. Byrnewood thought he beheld the teeth move in a ghastly smile; he even fancied that the orbless
sockets, gleaming beneath the white brow, flashed with the glance of life, and gazed sneeringly in his face.
He started with involuntary horror, and then sate silent as before. And as you can feel cold or heat steal over
you by slow degrees, so he felt that same strange feeling of awe, which he had known that night for the first time
in his life, come slowly over him moving like a shadow over his soul, and stealing like a paralysis through his
every limb. He sate like a man suddenly frozen.
"My God!" he murmured—and the sound of his voice frightened him—"How strange I feel! Can this be the first
attack of some terrible disease—or—is it, but the effect of the horrible story related by the stranger? I have read
in books that a feeling like this steals over a man, just before some terrible calamity breaks over his head—this is
fearful as death itself!"
He was silent again, and then the exclamation broke from his lips—
"Lorrimer—why does he not return? He has been absent full an hour—what does it mean? Can the words of
that—pshaw! that fortune teller have any truth in them? How can Lorrimer injure me—how can I injure him?
Three days hence—Christmas ha, ha—I believe I'm going mad—there's cold sweat on my forehead—"
As he spoke he raised his left hand to his brow, and in the action, the gleam of a plain ring on his finger met his
eye. He kissed it suddenly, and kissed it again and again. Was it the gift of his ladye-love?
"God bless her—God bless her! Wo to the man who shall do her wrong—and yet poor Annie—"
He rose suddenly from his seat and strode towards the door.
"I know not why it is, but I feel as though an invisible hand, was urging me onward through the rooms of this
house! And onward I will go, until I discover Lorrimer or solve the mystery of this den. God knows, I feel—
pshaw! I m only nervous—as though I was walking to my death."
Passing through the narrow door-way, he cautiously ascended the dark staircase, and in a moment stood on the
first floor. The moon was still shining through the distant skylight, down over the windings of the massive
stairway. All was silent as death within the mansion. Not a sound, not even the murmur of a voice or the hushed
tread of a footstep could be heard. Winding his cloak tightly around his limbs, Byrnewood rushed up the
staircase, traversing two steps at a time, and treading softly, for fear of discovery. He reached the second floor.
Still the place was silent and dismal, still the column of moonlight pouring through the skylight, over the windings
of the staircase only rendered the surrounding darkness more gloomy and indistinct. Up the winding staircase he
again resumed his way, and in a moment stood upon the landing or hall of the third floor. This was an oblong
space, with the doors of many rooms fashioned in its walls. Another stairway led upward from the floor, but the
attention of Byrnewood was arrested by a single ray of light, that for a moment flickered along the thick
darkness of the southern end of the hall. Stepping forward hastily, Byrnewood found all progress arrested by the
opposing front of a solid wall. He gazed toward his left—it was so dark, that he could not see his hand before
his eyes. Turning his glance to the right, as his vision became more accustomed to the darkness, he beheld the
dim walls of a long corridor, at whose entrance he stood, and whose farther extreme was illumined by a light,
that to all appearance, flashed from an open door. Without a moment's thought he strode along the thickly
carpeted passage of the corridor; he stood in the full glow of the light flashing from the open door.
Looking through the doorway, he beheld a large chamber furnished in a style of lavish magnificence, and lighted
by a splendid chandelier. It was silent and deserted. From the ceiling to the floor, along the wall opposite the
doorway, hung a curtain of damask silk, trailing in heavy folds, along the gorgeous carpet. Impelled by the
strange impulse, that had urged him thus far, Byrnewood entered the chamber, and without pausing to admire its
gorgeous appointments, strode forward to the damask curtain.
He swung one of its hangings aside, expecting to behold the extreme wall of the chamber. To his entire wonder,
another chamber, as spacious as the one in which he stood, lay open to his gaze. The walls were all one
gorgeous picture, evidently painted by a master-hand. Blue skies, deep green forests, dashing waterfalls and a
cool calm lake, in which fair women were laving their limbs, broke on the eyes of the intruder, as he turned his
gaze from wall to wall. A curtain of azure, sprinkled with a border of golden leaves, hung along the farther
extremity of the room. In one corner stood a massive bed, whose snow-white counterpane, fell smoothly and
unruffled to the very floor, mingling with the long curtains, which pure and stainless as the counterpane, hung
around the couch in graceful festoons, like the wings of a bird guarding its resting place.
"The bridal-bed!" murmured Byrnewood, as he flung the curtains of gold and azure, hurriedly aside.
A murmur of surprise, mingled with admiration, escaped from his lips, as he beheld the small closet, for it could
scarcely be called a room, which the undrawn curtaining threw open to his gaze.
It was indeed a small and elegant room, lined along its four sides with drooping curtains of faint-hued crimson
silk. The ceiling itself was but a continuation of these curtains, or hangings, for they were gathered in the centre,
by a single star of gold. The carpet on the floor was of the same faint-crimson color, and the large sofa, placed
along one side of the apartment, was covered with velvet, that harmonized in hue, with both carpet and hangings.
On the snow-white cloth, of a small table placed in the centre of the room, stood a large wax candle, burning in
a candlestick of silver, and flinging a subdued and mellow light around the plate. There was a neat little couch,
standing in the corner, with a toilette at its foot. The quilt on the couch was ruffled, as though some one had
lately risen from it, and the equipage of the toilette looked as though it had been recently used.
The faint light falling over the hangings, whose hue resembled the first flush of day, the luxurious sofa, the neat
though diminutive couch, the small table in the centre, the carpet whose colors were in elegant harmony with the
hue of the curtains, all combined, gave the place an air of splendid comfort—if we may join these incongruous
words—that indicated the sleeping chamber of a lovely woman.
"This has been the resting place of the bride—" murmured Byrne wood, gazing in admiration around the room—
"It looks elegant it is true, but if she is the innocent thing Lorrimer would have me believe, then better for her, to
have slept in the foulest gutter of the streets, than to have lain for an instant in this woman-trap—"
There was a woman's dress—a frock of plain black silk—flung over one of the rounds of the sofa. Anxious to
gather some idea of the form of the bride—oh foul prostitution of the name!—from the shape of the dress,
Byrnewood raised the frock and examined its details. As he did this, the sound of voices came hushed and
murmuring to his ear from a room, opposite the chamber which he had but a moment left. Half occupied in
listening to these voices, Byrnewood glanced at the dress which he held in his hand, and as he took in its various
details of style and shape, the pupil of his full black eye dilated, and his cheek became colorless as death.
Then the room seemed to swim around him, and he pressed his hand forcibly against his brow, as if to assure
himself, that he was not entangled in the mazes of some hideous dream.
Then, letting his own cloak and the black silk dress fall on the floor at once, he walked with a measured step
toward that side of the room opposite the Painted Chamber.
The voices grew louder in the next room. Byrnewood listened in silence. His face was even paler than before,
and you could see how desperate was the effort which he made to suppress an involuntary cry of horror, that
came rising to his lips. Extending his hand, he pushed the curtain slightly aside, and looked into the next room.
The extended hand fell like a dead weight to his side. Over his entire countenance flashed a mingled expression
of surprise, and horror, and woe, that convulsed every feature with a spasmodic movement, and forced his large
black eyes from their very sockets. For a moment he looked as if about to fall lifeless on the floor, and then it
was evident that he exerted all his energies to control this most fearful agitation. He pressed both hands
nervously against his forehead, as though his brain was tortured by internal flame. Then he reared his form
proudly erect, and stood apparently firm and self possessed, although his countenance looked more like the face
of a corpse than the face of a living man.
And as he stood there, silent and firm, although his very reason tottered to its ruin, there glided to his back, like
an omen of death, pursuing the footsteps of life, the distorted form of the Door-keeper of Monk-hall, his huge
bony arms upraised, his hideous face convulsed in a loathsome grin, while his solitary eye glared out from its
sunken socket, like a flame lighted in a skull, grotesque yet terrible.
In vain was the momentary firmness which Byrnewood had aroused to his aid! In vain was the effort that
suppressed his breath, that clenched his hands, that forced the clammy sweat from his brow! He felt the awful
agony that convulsed his soul rising to his lips—he would have given the world to stifle it—but in vain, in vain
were all his superhuman efforts!
One terrific howl, like the yell of a man flung suddenly over a cataract, broke from his lips. He thrust aside the
curtain, and strode madly through its folds into the next room.
* The reader will
Monk-Hall for no
but hit with the
of discovering the
story, told in
words, is strictly
|Come back next week to hear,
"So, ye have lured the pretty dove into the cage, at last—"
Mother Nancy and Long-Haired Bess