the walls opened, the floor removed - nay, the whole room pulled down.
I observe that it is detached from the body of the house, built over the
small back-yard, and could be removed without injury to the rest of the
"And you think, if I did that - - "
"You would cut off the telegraph wires. Try it. I am so persuaded that I
am right, that I will pay half the expense if you will allow me to
direct the operations."
"Nay, I am well able to afford the cost; for the rest, allow me to write
About ten days afterwards I received a letter from Mr. J - - , telling me
that he had visited the house since I had seen him; that he had found
the two letters I had described replaced in the drawer from which I had
taken them; that he had read them with misgivings like my own; that he
had instituted a cautious inquiry about the woman to whom I rightly
conjectured they had been written. It seemed that thirty-six years ago
(a year before the date of the letters) she had married, against the
wish of her relations, an American of very suspicious character, in
fact, he was generally believed to have been a pirate. She herself was
the daughter of very respectable tradespeople, and had served in the
capacity of nursery governess before her marriage. She had a brother, a
widower, who was considered wealthy, and who had one child of about six
years old. A month after the marriage, the body of this brother was
found in the Thames, near London Bridge; there seemed some marks of
violence about his throat, but they were not deemed sufficient to
warrant the inquest in any other verdict than that of "found drowned."
The American and his wife took charge of the little boy, the deceased
brother having by his will left his sister the guardian of his only
child - and in the event of the child's death, the sister inherited. The
child died about six months afterwards - it was supposed to have been
neglected and ill-treated. The neighbors deposed to have heard it shriek
at night. The surgeon who had examined it after death said that it was
emaciated as if from want of nourishment, and the body was covered with
livid bruises. It seemed that one winter night the child had sought to
escape - crept out into the back-yard - tried to scale the wall - fallen
back exhausted, and been found at morning on the stones in a dying
state. But though there was some evidence of cruelty, there was none of
murder; and the aunt and her husband had sought to palliate cruelty by
alleging the exceeding stubbornness and perversity of the child, who was
declared to be half-witted. Be that is it may, at the orphan's death the
aunt inherited her brother's fortune. Before the first wedded year was
out the American quitted England abruptly, and never returned to it. He
obtained a cruising vessel, which was lost in the Atlantic two years
afterwards. The widow was left in affluence; but reverses of various
kinds had befallen her; a bank broke - an investment failed - she went
into a small business and became insolvent - then she entered into
service, sinking lower and lower, from housekeeper down to maid-of-all
work - never long retaining a place, though nothing decided against her
character was ever alleged. She was considered sober, honest, and
peculiarly quiet in her ways; still nothing prospered with her. And so
she had dropped into the workhouse, from which Mr. J - - had taken her,
to be placed in charge of the very house which she had rented as
mistress in the first year of her wedded life.
Mr. J - - added that he had passed an hour alone in the unfurnished room
which I had urged him to destroy, and that his impressions of dread
while there were so great, though he had neither heard nor seen
anything, that he was eager to have the walls bared and the floors
removed as I had suggested. He had engaged persons for the work, and
would commence any day I would name.
The day was accordingly fixed. I repaired to the haunted house - he went
into the blind dreary room, took up the skirting, and then the floors.
Under the rafters, covered with rubbish, was found a trap-door, quite
large enough to admit a man. It was closely nailed down, with clamps and
rivets of iron. On removing these we descended into a room below, the
existence of which had never been suspected. In this room there had been
a window and a flue, but they had been bricked over, evidently for many
years. By the help of candles we examined this place; it still retained
some mouldering furniture - three chairs, an oak settle, a table - all of
the fashion of about eighty years ago. There was a chest of drawers
against the wall, in which we found, half-rotted away, old-fashioned
articles of a man's dress, such as might have been worn eighty or a
hundred years ago by a gentleman of some rank - costly steel buckles and
buttons, like those yet worn in court-dresses, a handsome court
sword - in a waistcoat which had once been rich with gold-lace, but which
was now blackened and foul with damp, we found five guineas, a few
silver coins, and an ivory ticket, probably for some place of
entertainment long since passed away. But our main discovery was in a
kind of iron safe fixed to the wall, the lock of which it cost us much
trouble to get picked.
In this safe were three shelves, and two small drawers. Ranged on the
shelves were several small bottles of crystal, hermetically stopped.
They contained colorless volatile essences, of the nature of which I
shall only say that they were not poisons - phosphor and ammonia entered
into some of them. There were also some very curious glass tubes, and a
small pointed rod of iron, with a large lump of rock-crystal, and
another of amber - also a loadstone of great power.
In one of the drawers we found a miniature portrait set in gold, and
retaining the freshness of its colors most remarkably, considering the
length of time it had probably been there. The portrait was that of a
man who might be somewhat advanced in middle life, perhaps forty-seven
It was a remarkable face - a most impressive face. If you could fancy
some mighty serpent transformed into a man, preserving in the human
lineaments the old serpent type, you would have a better idea of that
countenance than long descriptions can convey: the width and flatness of
frontal - the tapering elegance of contour disguising the strength of the
deadly jaw - the long, large, terrible eye, glittering and green as the
emerald - and withal a certain ruthless calm, as if from the
consciousness of an immense power.
Mechanically I turned round the miniature to examine the back of it,
and on the back was engraved a pentacle; in the middle of the pentacle a
ladder, and the third step of the ladder was formed by the date 1765.
Examining still more minutely, I detected a spring; this, on being
pressed, opened the back of the miniature as a lid. Withinside the lid
were engraved, "Marianna to thee - be faithful in life and in death
to - - ." Here follows a name that I will not mention, but it was not
unfamiliar to me. I had heard it spoken of by old men in my childhood as
the name borne by a dazzling charlatan who had made a great sensation in
London for a year or so, and had fled the country on the charge of a
double murder within his own house - that of his mistress and his rival.
I said nothing of this to Mr. J - - , to whom reluctantly I resigned the
We had found no difficulty in opening the first drawer within the iron
safe; we found great difficulty in opening the second: it was not
locked, but it resisted all efforts, till we inserted in the clinks the
edge of a chisel. When we had thus drawn it forth we found a very
singular apparatus in the nicest order. Upon a small thin book, or
rather tablet, was placed a saucer of crystal: this saucer was filled
with a clear liquid - on that liquid floated a kind of compass, with a
needle shifting rapidly round; but instead of the usual points of a
compass were seven strange characters, not very unlike those used by
astrologers to denote the planets.
A peculiar, but not strong nor displeasing odor came from this drawer,
which was lined with a wood that we afterwards discovered to be hazel.
Whatever the cause of this odor, it produced a material effect on the
nerves. We all felt it, even the two workmen who were in the room - a
creeping tingling sensation from the tips of the fingers to the roots of
the hair. Impatient to examine the tablet, I removed the saucer. As I
did so the needle of the compass went round and round with exceeding
swiftness, and I felt a shock that ran through my whole frame, so that
I dropped the saucer on the floor. The liquid was spilt - the saucer was
broken - the compass rolled to the end of the room - and at that instant
the walls shook to and fro, as if a giant had swayed and rocked them.
The two workmen were so frightened that they ran up the ladder by which
we had descended from the trap-door; but seeing that nothing more
happened, they were easily induced to return.
Meanwhile I had opened the tablet: it was bound in plain red leather,
with a silver clasp; it contained but one sheet of thick vellum, and on
that sheet were inscribed within a double pentacle, words in old monkish
Latin, which are literally to be translated thus: "On all that it can
reach within these walls - sentient or inanimate, living or dead - as
moves the needle, so work my will! Accursed be the house, and restless
be the dwellers therein."
We found no more. Mr. J - - burnt the tablet and its anathema. He razed
to the foundations the part of the building containing the secret room
with the chamber over it. He had then the courage to inhabit the house
himself for a month, and a quieter, better-conditioned house could not
be found in all London. Subsequently he let it to advantage, and his
tenant has made no complaints.
THE SILENT WOMAN[D]
BY LEOPOLD KOMPERT
The uproarious merriment of a wedding-feast burst forth into the night
from a brilliantly lighted house in the "gasse" (narrow street). It was
one of those nights touched with the warmth of spring, but dark and full
of soft mist. Most fitting it was for a celebration of the union of two
yearning hearts to share the same lot, a lot that may possibly dawn in
sunny brightness, but also become clouded and sullen - for a long, long
time! But how merry and joyous they were over there, those people of the
happy olden times! They, like us, had their troubles and trials, and
when misfortune visited them it came not to them with soft cushions and
tender pressures of the hand. Rough and hard, with clinched fist, it
laid hold upon them. But when they gave vent to their happy feelings and
sought to enjoy themselves, they were like swimmers in cooling waters.
They struck out into the stream with freshness and courage, suffered
themselves to be borne along by the current whithersoever it took its
course. This was the cause of such a jubilee, such a thoughtlessly noisy
outburst of all kinds of soul-possessing gayety from this house of
"And if I had known," the bride's father, the rich Ruben Klattaner, had
just said, "that it would take the last gulden in my pocket, then out it
would have come."
In fact, it did appear as if the last groschen had really taken flight,
and was fluttering about in the form of platters heaped up with geese
and pastry-tarts. Since two o'clock - that is, since the marriage
ceremony had been performed out in the open street - until nearly
midnight, the wedding-feast had been progressing, and even yet the
_sarvers_, or waiters, were hurrying from room to room. It was as if a
twofold blessing had descended upon all this abundance of food and
drink, for, in the first place, they did not seem to diminish; secondly,
they ever found a new place for disposal. To be sure, this appetite was
sharpened by the presence of a little dwarf-like, unimportant-looking
man. He was esteemed, however, none the less highly by every one. They
had specially written to engage the celebrated "Leb Narr," of Prague.
And when was ever a mood so out of sorts, a heart so imbittered as not
to thaw out and laugh if Leb Narr played one of his pranks. Ah, thou art
now dead, good fool! Thy lips, once always ready with a witty reply, are
closed. Thy mouth, then never still, now speaks no more! But when the
hearty peals of laughter once rang forth at thy command, intercessors,
as it were, in thy behalf before the very throne of God, thou hadst
nothing to fear. And the joy of that "other" world was thine, that joy
that has ever belonged to the most pious of country rabbis!
In the mean time the young people had assembled in one of the rooms to
dance. It was strange how the sound of violins and trumpets accorded
with the drolleries of the wit from Prague. In one part the outbursts of
merriment were so boisterous that the very candles on the little table
seemed to flicker with terror; in another an ordinary conversation was
in progress, which now and then only ran over into a loud tittering,
when some old lady slipped into the circle and tried her skill at a
redowa, then altogether unknown to the young people. In the very midst
of the tangle of dancers was to be seen the bride in a heavy silk
wedding-gown. The point of her golden hood hung far down over her face.
She danced continuously. She danced with every one that asked her. Had
one, however, observed the actions of the young woman, they would
certainly have seemed to him hurried, agitated, almost wild. She looked
no one in the eye, not even her own bridegroom. He stood for the most
part in the door-way, and evidently took more pleasure in the witticisms
of the fool than in the dance or the lady dancers. But who ever thought
for a moment why the young woman's hand burned, why her breath was so
hot when one came near to her lips? Who should have noticed so strange
a thing? A low whispering already passed through the company, a stealthy
smile stole across many a lip. A bevy of ladies was seen to enter the
room suddenly. The music dashed off into one of its loudest pieces, and,
as if by enchantment, the newly made bride disappeared behind the
ladies. The bridegroom, with his stupid, smiling mien, was still left
standing on the threshold. But it was not long before he too vanished.
One could hardly say how it happened. But people understand such
skillful movements by experience, and will continue to understand them
as long as there are brides and grooms in the world.
This disappearance of the chief personages, little as it seemed to be
noticed, gave, however, the signal for general leave-taking. The dancing
became drowsy; it stopped all at once, as if by appointment. That noisy
confusion now began which always attends so merry a wedding-party.
Half-drunken voices could be heard still intermingled with a last,
hearty laugh over a joke of the fool from Prague echoing across the
table. Here and there some one, not quite sure of his balance, was
fumbling for the arm of his chair or the edge of the table. This
resulted in his overturning a dish that had been forgotten, or in
spilling a beer-glass. While this, in turn, set up a new hubbub, some
one else, in his eagerness to betake himself from the scene, fell flat
into the very débris. But all this tumult was really hushed the moment
they all pressed to the door, for at that very instant shrieks, cries of
pain, were heard issuing from the entrance below. In an instant the
entire outpouring crowd with all possible force pushed back into the
room, but it was a long time before the stream was pressed back again.
Meanwhile, painful cries were again heard from below, so painful,
indeed, that they restored even the most drunken to a state of
"By the living God!" they cried to each other, "what is the matter down
there? Is the house on fire?"
"She is gone! she is gone!" shrieked a woman's voice from the entry
"Who? who?" groaned the wedding-guests, seized, as it were, with an icy
"Gone! gone!" cried the woman from the entry, and hurrying up the stairs
came Selde Klattaner, the mother of the bride, pale as death, her eyes
dilated with most awful fright, convulsively grasping a candle in her
hand. "For God's sake, what has happened?" was heard on every side of
The sight of so many people about her, and the confusion of voices,
seemed to release the poor woman from a kind of stupor. She glanced
shyly about her then, as if overcome with a sense of shame stronger than
her terror, and said, in a suppressed tone:
"Nothing, nothing, good people. In God's name, I ask, what was there to
Dissimulation, however, was too evident to suffice to deceive them.
"Why, then, did you shriek so, Selde," called out one of the guests to
her, "if nothing happened?"
"Yes, she has gone," Selde now moaned in heart-rending tones, "and she
has certainly done herself some harm!"
The cause of this strange scene was now first discovered. The bride has
disappeared from the wedding-feast. Soon after that she had vanished in
such a mysterious way, the bridegroom went below to the dimly-lighted
room to find her, but in vain. At first thought this seemed to him to be
a sort of bashful jest; but not finding her here, a mysterious
foreboding seized him. He called to the mother of the bride:
"Woe to me! This woman has gone!"
Presently this party, that had so admirably controlled itself, was again
thrown into commotion. "There was nothing to do," was said on all sides,
"but to ransack every nook and corner. Remarkable instances of such
disappearances of brides had been known. Evil spirits were wont to lurk
about such nights and to inflict mankind with all sorts of sorceries."
Strange as this explanation may seem, there were many who believed it at
this very moment, and, most of all, Selde Klattaner herself. But it was
only for a moment, for she at once exclaimed:
"No, no, my good people, she is gone; I know she is gone!"
Now for the first time many of them, especially the mothers, felt
particularly uneasy, and anxiously called their daughters to them. Only
a few showed courage, and urged that they must search and search, even
if they had to turn aside the river Iser a hundred times. They urgently
pressed on, called for torches and lanterns, and started forth. The
cowardly ran after them up and down the stairs. Before any one perceived
it the room was entirely forsaken.
Ruben Klattaner stood in the hall entry below, and let the people hurry
past him without exchanging a word with any. Bitter disappointment and
fear had almost crazed him. One of the last to stay in the room above
with Selde was, strange to say, Leb Narr, of Prague. After all had
departed, he approached the miserable mother, and, in a tone least
becoming his general manner, inquired:
"Tell me, now, Mrs. Selde, did she not wish to have 'him'?"
"Whom? whom?" cried Selde, with renewed alarm, when she found herself
alone with the fool.
"I mean," said Leb, in a most sympathetic manner, approaching still
nearer to Selde, "that maybe you had to make your daughter marry him."
"Make? And have we, then, made her?" moaned Selde, staring at the fool
with a look of uncertainty.
"Then nobody needs to search for her," replied the fool, with a
sympathetic laugh, at the same time retreating. "It's better to leave
her where she is."
Without saying thanks or good-night, he was gone.
Meanwhile the cause of all this disturbance had arrived at the end of
Close by the synagogue was situated the house of the rabbi. It was built
in an angle of a very narrow street, set in a framework of tall
shade-trees. Even by daylight it was dismal enough. At night it was
almost impossible for a timid person to approach it, for people declared
that the low supplications of the dead could be heard in the dingy house
of God when at night they took the rolls of the law from the ark to
summon their members by name.
Through this retired street passed, or rather ran, at this hour a shy
form. Arriving at the dwelling of the rabbi, she glanced backward to see
whether any one was following her. But all was silent and gloomy enough
about her. A pale light issued from one of the windows of the synagogue;
it came from the "eternal lamp" hanging in front of the ark of the
covenant. But at this moment it seemed to her as if a supernatural eye
was gazing upon her. Thoroughly affrighted, she seized the little iron
knocker of the door and struck it gently. But the throb of her beating
heart was even louder, more violent, than this blow. After a pause,
footsteps were heard passing slowly along the hallway.
The rabbi had not occupied this lonely house a long time. His
predecessor, almost a centenarian in years, had been laid to rest a few
months before. The new rabbi had been called, from a distant part of the
country. He was unmarried, and in the prime of life. No one had known
him before his coming. But his personal nobility and the profundity of
his scholarship made up for his deficiency in years. An aged mother had
accompanied him from their distant home, and she took the place of wife
"Who is there?" asked the rabbi, who had been busy at his desk even at
this late hour and thus had not missed hearing the knocker.
"It is I," the figure without responded, almost inaudibly.
"Speak louder, if you wish me to hear you," replied the rabbi.
"It is I, Ruben Klattaner's daughter," she repeated.
The name seemed to sound strange to the rabbi. He as yet knew too few of
his congregation to understand that this very day he performed the
marriage ceremony of the person who had just repeated her name.
Therefore he called out, after a moment's pause, "What do you wish so
late at night?"
"Open the door, rabbi," she answered, pleadingly, "or I shall die at
The bolt was pushed back. Something gleaming, rustling, glided past the
rabbi into the dusky hall. The light of the candle in his hand was not
sufficient to allow him to descry it. Before he had time to address her,
she had vanished past him and had disappeared through the open door
into the room. Shaking his head, the rabbi again bolted the door.
On reëntering the room he saw a woman's form sitting in the chair which
he usually occupied. She had her back turned to him. Her head was bent
low over her breast. Her golden wedding-hood, with its shading lace, was
pulled down over her forehead. Courageous and pious as the rabbi was, he
could not rid himself of a feeling of terror.
"Who are you?" he demanded, in a loud tone, as if its sound alone would
banish the presence of this being that seemed to him at this moment to
be the production of all the enchantments of evil spirits.
She raised herself, and cried in a voice that seemed to come from the
agony of a human being:
"Do you not know me - me, whom you married a few hours since under the
_chuppe_ (marriage-canopy) to a husband?"
On hearing this familiar voice the rabbi stood speechless. He gazed at
the young woman. Now, indeed, he must regard her as one bereft of
reason, rather than as a specter.
"Well, if you are she," he stammered out, after a pause, for it was with
difficulty that he found words to answer, "why are you here and not in
the place where you belong?"
"I know no other place to which I belong more than here where I now am!"
she answered, severely.
These words puzzled the rabbi still more. Is it really an insane woman
before him? He must have thought so, for he now addressed her in a
gentle tone of voice, as we do those suffering from this kind of
sickness, in order not to excite her, and said:
"The place where you belong, my daughter, is in the house of your
parents, and, since you have to-day been made a wife, your place is in
your husband's house."
The young woman muttered something which failed to reach the rabbi's
ear. Yet he only continued to think that he saw before him some poor
unfortunate whose mind was deranged. After a pause, he added, in a still
gentler tone: "What is your name, then, my child?"
"God, god," she moaned, in the greatest anguish, "he does not even yet
know my name!"
"How should I know you," he continued, apologetically, "for I am a
stranger in this place?"
This tender remark seemed to have produced the desired effect upon her
"My name is Veile," she said, quietly, after a pause.
The rabbi quickly perceived that he had adopted the right tone towards
his mysterious guest.
"Veile," he said, approaching nearer her, "what do you wish of me?"
"Rabbi, I have a great sin resting heavily upon my heart," she replied