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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE,
THE FLITCH OF BACON:
THE CUSTOM OF DUNMOW.
A TALE OF ENGLISH HOME.*
BY THE EDITOR.
PART THE SIXTA.
1. THE LAST NIGHT IN THE HAUNTED Room. SIR WALTER, we have said, took no part in the festivities at Monkbury Place.
His spirits were not equal to so great a demand upon them as participation in such rejoicings would have occasioned ; and feeling he should only check the general hilarity by his presence, he announced his intention, early in the day, of returning to Dunmow. The Squire would fain have detained him, but he was not to be turned from his purpose. He had made up his mind, he said, to re-visit the old Priory Church, and to pass another night in the Haunted Room.
Finding opposition useless, the Squire was obliged to yield. “Well, if you must go, you must,” he said. “But I rely on your coming back to-morrow. I shall then have a communication of importance to make to vou-unless I am forestalled in the interim, as may possibly be the case. I am not at liberty to mention the matter now. I need not tell you to consider this house as your own. Use it as you please. Rooms shall be prepared for you, where you will be perfectly undisturbed-quite left to yourself, if you prefer solitude. Bring any one you choose with you, I mean, supposing you should unexpectedly meet with a friend.”
“ Little likelihood of that," Sir Walter replied, with a faint smile.
* T NOTICE.—The Author of this Work reserves the right of translating it. May-VOL. CI. NO. CCCCI.
“My friends were never very numerous, and I am well-nigh forgotten by the few who remain."
“ But it may so happen,” the Squire remarked. “We frequently meet with people we least expect--sometimes, with those we fancy wholly lost to us.”
This was said with a certain significance, which did not escape Fitzwalter at the time, though he afterwards more fully comprehended his friend's meaning.
Equally deaf was the old baronet to the entreaties of Alured and Rose to stay with them, and while he was bidding them farewell, a hasty conversation respecting his movements took place in private between the Squire and Roper; the result of which was the immediate departure of the indefatigable steward on some errand of importance.
Mounted on one of the best hunters in the stables, Roper was soon out of the park, and on the way to Dunmow, where he arrived before Sir Walter had quitted Monkbury Place. Owing to the delay of the postilion, who was making merry in the servants’-hall, and did not like to leave his comfortable quarters--and it may be, also, owing to a hint from the Squire to Mosscrop, the old baronet's post-chaise was not brought round for an hour or more. So the steward got a good start, if he wished to be beforehand with him.
At last, Sir Walter drove off, and pursuing the same road as Roper, in due time reached Little Dunmow. Alighting at the sexton's dwelling, he obtained from him the keys of the Priory Church, and proceeded thither alone.
Once more he stood among the tombs of his ancestors.
His emotions were deep and solemn, but less painful than those he had experienced on a former occasion. Remorse had ceased to goad him. Calmness had succeeded agitation. He could meditate with composure upon death, and life hereafter. His earthly pilgrimage he thought drew towards an end, and he might hope, ere long, to meet again his departed wife.
Some time was passed in such contemplations, and he then entered the arched recess, and knelt before the saintly relics enshrined in the cist within it.
As he concluded a prayer, and bowed his head upon his breast, he heard a slight sound behind him. A footstep! Yet how could that be? He had taken the same precaution as on his former visit to the sacred edifice, and locked the door. No one ought to be within the church. A chill came over him, and he hesitated to look round.
Why should he fear? The church was not illumined by ghostly moonbeams now, but full of garish light; and the sun shone upon the marble tombs and upon the gravestones on the floor. · Were those gravestones yawning to give up their dead? Did his eyes deceive him, or was yon ponderous slab closing slowly like a trap-door ? Delusion!-mere delusion!
One thing was palpable enough a letter. It was lying on the ground, close to the monument of the founder of his line. Not many minutes ago he stood on that precise spot. It must have been placed there since. But how ?-by whom?
Hastening to pick it up, he glanced at the superscription. It was