heart when, a few minutes later, he seized her hand in his and said
that he had a great secret to communicate to her. Though he had
seemed the indifferent brother for years, his heart had always been
with his home and his people, and he was going to prove it to her
now; he had made money, and this money was to be hers and
Charity's. He had saved it for them, brought it to them from the
far West; a pile of money all honestly earned, which he hoped would
buy back their old house and make them happy again in the old way.
He said nothing of his nephew. They had not mentioned him, and
possibly he did not even know of his existence. All was to be for
them and the old house, this old house. This was perhaps why he
was content to lie in the midst of its desolation. He foresaw
better days for those he loved, and warmed his heart at his
"But his sister sat aghast. Money! and so little done for his
comfort! That was her first thought. The next, oh, the wonder and
the hope of it! Now the boy could be saved; now he could have his
luxuries. If only it might be enough! Five thousand, ten
thousand. But no, it could not be so much. Her brother was daft
to think she could restore the old home on what he had been able to
save. She said something to show her doubt, at which he laughed;
and, peering slowly and painfully about him, drew her hands toward
his left side. 'Feel,' said he, 'I have it all here. I would
trust nobody. Fifty, thousand dollars.'
"Fifty thousand dollars! Miss Thankful sprang to her feet, then
sat again, overcome by her delight. Placing her hand on the
wallet he held tied about his body, she whispered, 'Here?'
"He nodded and bade her look. She told me she did so; that she
opened the wallet under his eye and took out five bonds each for
ten thousand dollars. She remembers them well; there was no
mistake in the figures. She held fifty thousand dollars in her
hands for the space of half a minute; then he bade her put them
back, with an injunction to watch over him well and not to let that
woman nurse come near him till she had taken away the wallet
immediately after his death. He could not bear to part with it
"She promised. She was in a delirium of joy. In one minute her
life of poverty had changed to one of ecstatic hope. She caressed
her brother. He smiled contentedly, and sank into coma or heavy
sleep. She remained a few minutes watching him. Picture after
picture of future contentment passed before her eyes;
phantasmagoria of joy which held her enthralled till chance drew
her eyes towards the window, and she found herself looking out upon
what for the moment seemed the continuation of her dream. This was
the figure of her nephew, standing in the doorway of the adjoining
house. This entrance into the alley is closed up now, but in those
days it was a constant source of communication between the two
houses, and, being directly opposite the left-hand library window,
would naturally fall under her eye as she looked up from her
brother's bedside. Her nephew! the one person of whom she was
dreaming, for whom she was planning, older by many years than when
she saw him last, but recognizable at once, as the best, the
handsomest - but I will spare you her ravings. She was certainly in
her dotage as concerned this man.
"He was not alone. At his side stood her sister, eagerly pointing
across the alley to herself. It was the appearance of the sister
which presently convinced her that what she saw was reality and no
dream. Charity had risen from her bed to greet the newcomer, and
her hasty toilet was not one which could have been easily imagine,
even by her sister. The long-absent one had returned. He was
there, and he did not know what these last five minutes had done
for them all. The joy of what she had to tell him was too much for
her discretion. Noting how profoundly her brother slept, she
slipped out of the room to the side door and ran across the alley
to her own house. Her nephew was no longer in the doorway where
she had seen him, but he had left the door ajar and she rushed in
to find him. He was in the parlor with Miss Charity, and no sooner
did her eyes fall on them both than her full heart overflowed, and
she blurted out their good fortune. Their wonder was immense and
in the conversation which ensued unnoted minutes passed. Not till
the clock struck did she realize that she had left her brother
alone for a good half-hour: This was not right and she went
hurrying back, the happiest woman in town. But it was a short-
lived happiness. As she reentered the sick-room she realized that
something was amiss. Her brother had moved from where she had left
him, and now lay stretched across the foot of the bed, where he had
evidently fallen from a standing position. He was still breathing,
but in great gasps which shook the bed. When she bent over him in
anxious questioning, he answered her with a ghastly stare, and that
was all. Otherwise, everything looked the same.
"'What has happened? What have you done?' she persisted, trying to
draw him up on the pillow. He made a motion. It was in the
direction of the front door. 'Don't let her in,' he muttered. 'I
don't trust her, I don't trust her. Let me die in peace.' Then,
as Miss Thankful became conscious of a stir at the front door, and
caught the sound of a key turning in the lock, which could only
betoken the return of the nurse, he raised himself a little and she
saw the wallet hanging out of his dressing gown. 'I have hidden
it,' he whispered, with a nervous look toward the door: 'I was
afraid she might come and take it from me, so I put it in - ' He
never said where. His eyes, open and staring straight before him,
took on a look of horror, then slowly glazed under the terrified
glance of Miss Thankful. Death had cut short that vital sentence,
and simultaneously with the entrance of the nurse, whose return he
had so much feared, he uttered his last gasp and sank back lifeless
on his pillow. "With a cry Miss Thankful pounced on the wallet.
It opened out flat in her hand, as empty as her life seemed at that
minute. But she was a brave woman and in another instant her
courage had revived. The money could not be far away; she would
find it at the first search. Turning on the nurse, she looked her
full in the face. The woman was gazing at the empty wallet. 'You
know what was in that?' queried Miss Thankful. A fierce look
answered her. 'A thousand dollars!' announced Miss Thankful. The
nurse's lip curled. 'Oh, you knew that it was five,' was Miss
Thankful's next outburst. Still no answer, but a look which seemed
to devour the empty wallet. This look had its effect. Miss
Thankful dropped her accusatory tone, and attempted cajolery. 'It
was his legacy to us,' she explained. 'He gave it to me just
before he died. You shall be paid out of it. Now will you call my
sister? She's up and with my nephew, who came an hour ago. Call
them both; I am not afraid to remain here for a few moments with my
brother's body.' This appeal, or perhaps the promise, had its
effect. The nurse disappeared, after another careful look at her
patient, and Miss Thankful bounded to her feet and began a hurried
search for the missing bonds. They could not be far away. They
must be in the room, and the room was so nearly empty that it would
take but a moment to penetrate every hiding-place. But alas! the
matter was not so simple as she thought. She looked here, she
looked there; in the bed, in the washstand drawer, under the
cushions of the only chair, even in the grate and up the chimney;
but she found nothing - nothing! She was standing stark and open-
mouthed in the middle of the floor, when the others entered, but
recovered herself at sight of their surprise, and, explaining what
had happened, set them all to search, sister, nephew, even the
nurse, though she was careful to keep close by the latter with a
watchfulness that let no movement escape her. But it was all
fruitless. The bonds were not to be found, either in that room or
in any place near. They ransacked, they rummaged; they went
upstairs, they went down; they searched every likely and every
unlikely place of concealment, but without avail. They failed to
come upon the place where he had hidden them; nor did Miss Thankful
or her sister ever see them again from that day to this."
"Oh!" I exclaimed; "and the nephew? the nurse?"
"Both went away disappointed; he to face his disgrace about which
his aunts were very reticent, and she to seek work which was all
the more necessary to her, since she had lost her pay, with the
disappearance of these bonds, whose value I have no doubt she knew
and calculated on."
"And the aunts, the two poor old creatures who stare all day out of
their upper window at these walls, still believe that money to be
here," I cried.
"Yes, that is their mania. Several tenants have occupied these
premises - tenants who have not stayed long, but who certainly
filled all the rooms, and must have penetrated every secret spot
the house contains, but it has made no difference to them. They
believe the bonds to be still lying in some out-of-the-way place in
these old walls, and are jealous of any one who comes in here.
This you can understand better when I tell you that one feature of
their mania is this: they have lost all sense of time. It is two
years since their brother died, yet to them it is an affair of
yesterday. They showed this when they talked to me. What they
wanted was for me to give up these bonds to them as soon as I found
them. They seemed to think that I might run across them in
settling, and made me promise to wake them day or night if I came
across them unexpectedly."
"How pathetic!" I exclaimed. "Do you suppose they have appealed in
the same way to every one who has come in here?"
"No, or some whisper of this lost money would have become current
in the neighborhood. And it never has. The traditions associated
with the house," here her manner changed a little, "are of quite
another nature. I suppose the old gentleman has walked - looking,
possibly, for his lost bonds."
"That would be only natural," I smiled, for her mood was far from
serious. "But," I quietly pursued, "how much of this old woman's
story do you believe? Can not she have been deceived as to what
she saw? You say she is more or less demented. Perhaps there
never was any old wallet, and possibly never any money."
"I have seen the wallet. They brought it in to show me. Not that
that proves anything; but somehow I do believe in the money, and,
what is more, that it is still in this house. You will think me as
demented as they."
"No, no," I smiled, "for I am inclined to think the same; it lends
such an interest to the place. I wouldn't disbelieve it now for
"Nor I," she cried, taking up her work. "But we shall never find
it. The house was all redecorated when we came in. Not one of the
workmen has become suddenly wealthy."
"I shall no longer begrudge these poor old souls their silent watch
over these walls that hold their treasure," I now remarked.
"Then you have lost your nervousness?"
"So have I," laughed Mrs. Packard, showing me for the first time a
face of complete complacency and contentment.
AT THE STAIR-HEAD
I spent the evening alone. Mrs. Packard went to the theater with
friends and Mayor Packard attended a conference of politicians. I
felt my loneliness, but busied myself trying to sift the
impressions made upon me by the different members of the household.
It consisted, as far as my present observation went, of seven
persons, the three principals and four servants. Of the servants
I had seen three, the old butler, the nurse, and the housemaid,
Ellen. I now liked Ellen; she appeared equally alive and
trustworthy; of the butler I could not say as much. He struck me
as secretive. Also, he had begun to manifest a certain antagonism
to myself. Whence sprang this antagonism? Did it have its source
in my temperament, or in his? A question possibly not worth
answering and yet it very well might be. Who could know?
Pondering this and other subjects, I remained in my cozy little
room up-stairs, till the clock verging on to twelve told me that it
was nearly time for Mrs. Packard's return.
Hardly knowing my duties as yet, or what she might expect of me, I
kept my door open, meaning to speak to her when she came in. The
thought had crossed my mind that she might not return at all, but
remain away with her friends. Some fear of this kind had been in
Mr. Packard's mind and naturally found lodgment in mine. I was
therefore much relieved when, sharp on the stroke of midnight, I
heard the front door-bell ring, followed by the sound of her voice
speaking to the old butler. I thought its tone more cheerful than
before she went out. At all events, her face had a natural look
when, after a few minutes' delay, she came upstairs and stepped
into the nursery - a room on the same floor as mine, but nearer the
From what impulse did I put out my light? I think now, on looking
back, that I hoped to catch a better glimpse of her face when she
came out again, and so be in a position to judge whether her
anxiety or secret distress was in any special way connected with
her child. But I forgot the child and any motive of this kind
which I may have had; for when Mrs. Packard did reappear in the
hall, there rang up from some place below a laugh, so loud and
derisive and of so raucous and threatening a tone that Mrs. Packard
reeled with the shock and I myself was surprised in spite of my
pride and usual impassibility. This, had it been all, would not be
worth the comment. But it was not all. Mrs. Packard did not
recover from the shock as I expected her to. Her fine figure
straightened itself, it is true, but only to sink again lower and
lower, till she clung crouching to the stair-rail at which she had
caught for support, while her eyes, turning slowly in her head,
moved till they met mine with that unseeing and glassy stare which
speaks of a soul-piercing terror - not fear in any ordinary sense,
but terror which lays bare the soul and allows one to see into
depths which -
But here my compassion drove me to action. Advancing quietly, I
caught at her wrap which was falling from her shoulders. She
grasped my hand as I did so.
"Did you hear that laugh?" she panted. "Whose was it? Who is
I thought, "Is this one of the unaccountable occurrences which have
given the house its blighted reputation?" but I said: "Nixon let
you in. I don't know whether any one else is below. Mayor Packard
has not yet come home."
"I know; Nixon told me. Would you - would you mind," - how hard she
strove to show only the indignant curiosity natural to the
situation - "do you object, I mean, to going down and seeing?"
"Not at all," I cheerfully answered, glad enough of this chance to
settle my own doubts. And with a last glance at her face, which
was far too white and drawn to please me, I hastened below.
The lights had not yet been put out in the halls, though I saw none
in the drawing-room or library. Indeed, I ran upon Nixon coming
from the library, where he had evidently been attending to his
final duties of fastening windows and extinguishing lights. Alive
to the advantage of this opportune meeting, I addressed him with as
little aggressiveness as possible.
"Mrs. Packard has sent me down to see who laughed just now so
loudly. Was it you?"
Strong and unmistakable dislike showed in his eyes, but his voice
was restrained and apparently respectful as he replied: "No, Miss.
I didn't laugh. There was nothing to laugh at."
"You heard the laugh? It seemed to come from somewhere here. I
was on the third floor and I heard it plainly."
His face twitched - a habit of his when under excitement, as I have
since learned - as with a shrug of his old shoulders he curtly
"You were listening; I was not. If any one laughed down here I
didn't hear 'em."
Confident that he was lying, I turned quietly away and proceeded
down the hall toward Mayor Packard's study.
"I wish to speak to the mayor," I explained.
"He's not there." The man had eagerly followed me. "He's not come
home yet, Miss."
"But the gas is burning brightly inside and the door ajar. Some
one is there."
"It is Mr. Steele. He came in an hour ago. He often works here
till after midnight."
I had heard what I wanted to know, but, being by this time at the
very threshold, I could not forbear giving the door a slight push,
so as to catch at least a momentary glimpse of the man he spoke of.
He was sitting at his post, and as he neither looked up nor stirred
at my intrusion, I had an excellent opportunity for observing again
the clear-cut profile which had roused my admiration the day
Certainly, seen as I saw it now, in the concentrated glow of a lamp
shaded from every other corner of the room, it was a face well
worth looking at. Seldom, perhaps never, had I beheld one cast in
a more faultless mold. Smooth-shaven, with every harmonious line
open to view, it struck the eye with the force and beauty of a
cameo; masculine strength and feminine grace equally expressed in
the expansive forehead and the perfectly modeled features. Its
effect upon the observer was instantaneous, but the heart was not
warmed nor the imagination awakened by it. In spite of the
perfection of the features, or possibly because of this perfection,
the whole countenance had a cold look, as cold as the sculpture it
suggested; and, though incomparable in pure physical attraction, it
lacked the indefinable something which gives life and meaning to
such faces as Mayor Packard's, for instance. Yet it was not devoid
of expression, nor did it fail to possess a meaning of its own.
Indeed, it was the meaning in it which held my attention.
Abstracted as the man appeared to be, even to the point of not
perceiving my intruding figure in the open doorway, the thoughts
which held him were not common thoughts, nor were they such as
could be easily read, even by an accustomed eye. Having noted
this, I softly withdrew, not finding any excuse for breaking in
upon a man so occupied.
The butler stood awaiting me not three feet from the door. But
taking a lesson from the gentleman I had just left, I ignored his
presence completely, and, tripping lightly up-stairs, found Mrs.
Packard awaiting me at the head of the first flight instead of the
Her fears, or whatever it was which moved her, had not diminished
in my absence. She stood erect, but it was by the help of her
grasp on the balustrade; and though her diamonds shone and her
whole appearance in her sweeping dinner-dress was almost regal,
there was mortal apprehension in her eye and a passion of inquiry
in her whole attitude which I was glad her husband was not there to
I made haste to answer that inquiry by immediately observing:
"I saw Nixon. He was just coming out of the library. He says that
he heard no laugh. The only other person I came upon down-stairs
was Mr. Steele. He was busy over some papers and I did not like to
interrupt him; but he did not look as if a laugh of any sort had
come from him."
The words were hoarsely uttered and the tone unnatural, though she
tried to carry it off with an indifferent gesture and a quick
movement toward her room. I admired her self-control, for it was
self-control, and was contrasting the stateliness of her present
bearing with the cringing attitude of a few minutes before - when,
without warning or any premonitory sound, all that beauty and pride
and splendor collapsed before my eyes, and she fell at my feet,
A MOVING SHADOW
I bent to lift the prostrate form of the unhappy woman who had been
placed in my care. As I did so I heard something like a snarl over
my shoulder, and, turning, saw Nixon stretching eager arms toward
his mistress, whose fall he had doubtless heard.
"Let me! let me!" he cried, his old form trembling almost to the
point of incapacity.
"We will lift her together," I rejoined; and though his eyes
sparkled irefully, he accepted my help and together we carried her
into her own room and laid her on a lounge. I have had some
training as a nurse and, perceiving that Mrs. Packard had simply
fainted, I was not at all alarmed, but simply made an effort to
restore her with a calmness that for some reason greatly irritated
the old man.
"Shall I call Ellen? Shall I call Letty?" he kept crying, shifting
from one foot to another in a frightened and fussy way that
exasperated me almost beyond endurance. "She doesn't breathe; she
is white, white! Oh, what will the mayor say? I will call
But I managed to keep him under control and finally succeeded in
restoring Mrs. Packard - a double task demanding not a little self-
control and discretion. When the flutter of her eyelids showed
that she would soon be conscious, I pointed out these signs of life
to my uneasy companion and hinted very broadly that the fewer
people Mrs. Packard found about her on coming to herself, the
better she would be pleased. His aspect grew quite ferocious at
this, and for a moment I almost feared him; but as I continued to
urge the necessity of avoiding any fresh cause of agitation in one
so weak, he gradually shrank back from my side where he had kept a
jealous watch until now, and reluctantly withdrew into the hall.
Another moment and Mrs. Packard had started to rise; but, on seeing
me and me only standing before her, she fell wearily back, crying
in a subdued way, which nevertheless was very intense:
"Don't, don't let him come in - see me - or know. I must be by
myself; I must be! Don't you see that I am frightened?"
The words came out with such force I was startled. Leaning over
her, with the natural sympathy her condition called for, I asked
quietly but firmly:
"Whom do you mean by him? There is only one person in the hall,
and that is your butler."
"Hasn't Mr. Packard returned?"
"But I thought I saw him looking at me."
Her eyes were wild, her body shaking with irrepressible agitation.
"You were mistaken. Mayor Packard has not yet come home."
At this double assurance, she sank back satisfied, but still
trembling and very white.
"It is Mr. Packard I meant," she whispered presently. "Stay with
me and, when he comes in, tell him what will keep him from looking
in or speaking to me. Promise!" She was growing wild again.
"Promise, if you would be of any use to me."
"I do promise." At which I felt her hand grasp mine with grateful
pressure. "Don't you wish some assistance from me? Your dress - I
tried to loosen it, but failed to find the end of the cord. Shall
I try again?"
"No, no; that is, I will do it myself."
I did not see how she could, for her waist was laced up the back,
but I saw that she was too eager to have me go to remember this,
and recognizing the undesirability of irritating her afresh, I
simply asked if she wished me to remain within call.
But even this was more than she wanted.
"No. I am better now. I shall be better yet when quite alone."
Then suddenly: "Who knows of this - this folly of mine?"
"Only Nixon and myself. The girls have gone to bed."
"Nixon I can trust not to speak of it. Tell him to go. You, I
know, will remember only long enough to do for me what I have just
"Mrs. Packard, you may trust me." The earnest, confiding look,
which for a moment disturbed the melancholy of her large eyes,
touched me closely as I shut the door between us.
"Now what is the meaning of this mystery?" I asked myself after I
had seen Nixon go downstairs, shaking his head and casting every
now and then a suspicious glance behind him. "It is not as trivial
as it appears. That laugh was tragedy to her, not comedy." And
when I paused to recollect its tone I did not wonder at its effect
upon her mind, strained as it undoubtedly was by some secret sorrow
And from whose lips had that laugh sprung? Not from ghostly ones.
Such an explanation I could not accept, and how could Mrs. Packard?
From whose, then? If I could settle this fact I might perhaps
determine to what extent its effect was dependent upon its source.
The butler denied having even heard it. Was this to be believed?
Did not this very denial prove that it was he and no other who