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gifts—a gloomy and cloudy morning, with mist lying over the Devilswater and the meadow beneath the Hall; the gentlemen were in the fields shooting ; Lady Katharine was, I suppose, in the chapel ; Lady Mary was dozing in her chair; the maids were all at work below and in the kitchens. I, having nothing to do, and a heart troubled but full of joy, began to roam by myself about the great house. First I went into the library, where few ever sat. Sometimes my lord went thither to spend an hour; he was a gentleman of parts, and possessed as much learning as befits a man of his rank. An earl must not be a writer of books or a poet by trade, though he may, as Lord Rochester did, write witty and ingenious verses to be given to his mistress or to please the Court. Frank Radcliffe was often there, and some times Mr. Howard. To-day when I opened the door I saw the good old priest sleeping beside a great wood fire, on his knees a massive volume in calf, with brass clasps no doubt a learned work on theology. So, not to disturb him, I shut the door again quite softly, and went along the passages
among the many old rooms, hung with tapestry, and furnished after an antique style. Some of them were occupied, but for the most part they were empty, and I looked curiously into them, half afraid of the deep shadows, in which ghosts might linger. If I entered these silent chambers, I peeped hurriedly into the mirrors, fearful lest, as has happened to many honest people, I might see a second face in addition to my own, or, which is worse than a whole procession of ghosts, not my own face at all, but quite another one-a strange, a threatening, and an angry face—or the face of a demon. I have often prayed to be protected from this form of visitation, of which I could tell many stories, but refrain, merely saying that it is a sure indication of great disaster thus to see a strange and angry face in the mirror instead of your own.
The house being so silent, the air without so misty, and the rooms so dark, it is not wonderful that I presently fell into that expectant spirit in which nothing seems strange, so that if all my ancestors on the Radcliffe side had with one consent marched up the corridor to greet me, I should have taken it as nothing out of the way or even unexpected. It is a condition of mind into which it is easy to fall when one is in a reverie.
Now, as I walked along the passage, I became aware of a voice: it was a low voice, which I knew very well, but did not remember whose it was (when one's head was full of Lord Derwentwater, could one remember the voice of a servant-maid ?). Without following or seeking after that voice, I walked by accident straight to the room whence it came, and, the door being open, and I not thinking one way or the other whether I ought to look or whether I ought not, I not only looked in at the door, but I walked into the room. Truly I was as one in a dream.
The thing which I saw awakened me from my dream, and I started and was seized with a horror the like of which I never felt before and hope never to feel again; because I saw with my own eyes the bewitching of a man by a woman.
It was a large low room without much furniture, and I think it had once been used for a children's room, for there were little
chairs about, and broken toys. There were only two persons in the room : one of the two was Frank Radcliffe, and the other was none other, if you please, than Jenny, my own maid. That Frank should condescend to hold conversation at all with this blackeyed gipsy girl might have filled me with wonder; yet I was not so young or so innocent (what country girl is ?) as not to know that young gentlemen will often stoop to rustic wenches, to their own shame and the just ruin of the latter. But Frank was not like many of our young bloods, a mere hunting and shooting creature, born to destroy vermin for the farmers and provide game for the table. He was a gentleman of high breeding and polished, nay, delicate manners, no more capable, one would think, of being led out of himself by the flashing eyes of a village beauty than my lord himself; a scholar too, and man of books. Yet here he was; and with him, Jenny. The girl was sitting on a high chair with her back to the door, and therefore saw me not; nor did she hear my footsteps. Before her, like a boy at school before his master, stood the young man. To think that she should sit, and he be standing ! But oh, heavens ! what ailed him ? His eyes were open, and he gazed straight before him, so that he looked into my face, but he seemed to see nothing ; his arms were hanging motionless ; he stood erect, like a soldier with a pike in waiting for the word of command ; his cheek was pale: he seemed as one whose soul had fled while his body waits for its return, or as one entranced, or as one who walks in his sleep. Yet, for the strange feeling upon me, as if anything might happen and nothing was wonderful, I stood where I was and looked on in silence, though what I saw was beyond the power of the mind to conceive.
Were they play-acting ? But in no playacting that ever I heard of does the actor go through his performance with face so motionless. The play-acting was nothing. Jenny lifted her finger, Frank did the same. Jenny folded a paper into a kind of narrow tube and gave it him, muttering something in a low voice. Then he put the tube to his lips and made as if he were smoking a pipe.