"And you traveled alone?"
"There were two of us—Annie
Foster and I."
"You found no difficulty?"
"Not a bit," she replied laughing.
"But you had adventures: I see it in
"Who would travel without adventures?"
and she made an expressive
"Hm!—tant soit peu."
"I am all attention: begin."
"You promise not to tell?"
"Not for the world: torture could not
induce me to divulge a single word."
"Well, the way it came about was this:
Annie and I had been sent from England
to a small French town on the
coast, for the benefit of the warm sea-water
baths. It was a quaint little port;
all the houses reminded you of ships in
their fitting up; the beds were set into
the wall like berths; closets were stowed
away in all sorts of impossible places;
the floors were uncarpeted and white as
a main deck; and articles from distant
countries hung about the walls or stood
in the corners—East Indian sugar-cane,
cotton from America, Chinese crockery
and piles of sea-shells. The great sea
by which we lodged was represented
everywhere. Our food was fish, shrimps
and water-fowl—our acquaintance, fishermen,
shrimpers and sailors. The leading
event of the day was the coming in
and going out of the tide, and ducks
and geese were the chief domestic animals.
On one side was a prospect of
wind-tossed waves and the sails of ships,
on the other wind-beaten fields and the
sails of mills: the few cabins that had
rashly ventured beyond the protection
of the village shortly lost courage, and,
with their thatched roofs not a yard from
the earth, seemed crouching low to avoid
the continuous blasts. The church alone
on the high sea-wall raised itself fearlessly
against the tyrant, and though his
baffled voice still howled without, within
the pious prayed securely before a faith-inspiring
altarpiece of Christ stilling the
"In a few weeks, after we had exhausted
every amusement that the dull town
afforded, become intimate with all the
old gossips, tired of listening to the
yarns of the pilot-tars off duty, driven
the donkeys over the country until they
instinctively avoided us whenever we appeared,
sailed in the bay and suffered
periodic attacks of sea-sickness therefrom,
finished the circulating library,
and half learned some barbarous sentences
of Norman patois, we sat down
disconsolate one afternoon to devise
some means of employing the remainder
of our time. It was then that the bright
idea struck Annie, and she exclaimed,
'Let us go to the Paris Exposition!'
"'Just the thing!' I answered with
enthusiasm. 'I wonder when the next
"'I'll go and inquire: you begin and
pack the trunks. If we can get off to-day,
by to-morrow morning we can begin
seeing it;' and she left the room in great
"The result was, that by seven o'clock
that evening we had made our hasty
preparations, and were ready to set out.
It was raining terribly when the only
hack of the village (which, by the by,
was an omnibus) called for us at the
door. The dripping fluid oozed and
sparkled over the blinking lamps, the
ribbed sides of the antiquated machine
were varnished with moisture, and the
horses looked as if each hair was a
water-spout to drain the sky. Noah's
patriarchal mansion might have presented
a similar appearance during the first
days of that celebrated wet season.
"The motherly woman with whom we
had been boarding turned dismally from
the weather to her invalids and tried to
dissuade us from leaving that night, little
understanding that we considered it 'fun.'
As a parting advice she told us to call
each other madame: it would procure
us more consideration. 'For you know,
young ladies,' she remonstrated mildly,
'it is not quite proper for you to travel
alone.' After this prudent counsel and
many warm adieus we sallied forth.
"The omnibus was crowded, and I
had perforce to sit on Annie's knees.
This, with the jolting, the queer effect
of the half-light in the rickety interior,
together with the expression of the good
people, who evidently could see no fun
in rain, excited my risibility so strongly
that I indulged in a smothered laugh,
tempered to fit the publicity of the occasion.
"'You must not laugh in France,'
whispered Nan, pulling my dress.
"'I thought the French admired gayety,'
I answered in the same tone.
"'Be quiet: it isn't proper.'
"The rest of the way was accomplished
in silence. We soon arrived at the
station and bought our tickets. Of course
we had half a dozen bundles: in gathering
them up a most gentlemanly person
accosted us and asked, 'Avez vous perdu
quelque chose, mademoiselle?'
"Annie replied in the negative with
great dignity, and so cut off any chance
of adventure in that quarter.
"On came the train. In France there
is fortunately a provision made for women
traveling without an escort. In
your country they have, I believe,
smoking-cars especially for the gentlemen:
in that blessed land there is a compartment
for 'ladies alone,' or Dames
Seules, as it is called. A good American
once read this inscription with much
commiseration, D—— souls, and returning
told his friends that the 'wicked'
French allowed His Satanic Majesty the
right of running a special car on their
roads for his greater accommodation.
"As we were hastening to this most
desired refuge I noticed two very student-looking
young men walking near us, and
caught a bit of their conversation.
"'They won't: a bottle of wine on it
we go up in the same car with them.'
"'I told you so!'
"As we found our car and entered the
students passed on, not daring to ignore
the magic words on the door; so Adventure
No. 2 was nipped in the bud.
"Nan and I were the only lady-passengers,
and we sank back into the soft
cushions with the pleasant sense that no
further effort would be needed during
the journey. We had been told that the
train would arrive in Paris about midnight,
but the lateness of the hour caused
us no uneasiness, as we had been there
before and remembered the city pretty
well; and, besides, we thoroughly believed
in our ability to take care of ourselves.
"In an interval of wakefulness we
discussed our plans, and concluded to
spend the night at some hotel near the
station, the next morning looking up our
friends (several of whom we knew to be
in town) and consulting them about our
future proceedings, feeling that a midnight
visit from us would scarcely be
welcome to any one. Annie recalled a
fine-looking hotel just opposite the terminus,
and, having made our selection
in its favor, we dozed off again very
"I think we had been on the way
some four hours when the welcome
lights began to appear—first in the sky
above the city, as if the earth in this favored
spot threw out rays like the sun;
next through the darkness over the country
below; and then we plunged tunnel-wise
into the earth under the busy streets
and fortifications, to emerge at the end
of our route.
"We gathered up our bundles in haste,
thanking the stars that we had accomplished
our ride so safely, and were
walking off to the hotel when we suddenly
thought of the trunks. Another consultation
was held, and we decided to
leave them in the baggage-room until
"'But we must go and see that they
are safe,' suggested Annie.
"'Where is the baggage-room?' I
asked of a porter.
"'This way, mademoiselle.'
"'Madame!' I ventured to correct in
a weak voice.
"'Vos clefs, s'il vous plait,' said a polite
official as we entered the door, and another
laid hands on the satchels we carried,
to examine them.
"We had entirely forgotten the octroi
officers. 'Oh my! this affair may keep
us another half hour,' thought I, 'and I
am so sleepy!' I have often found (I
confide this to you as an inviolable secret)
that to be unreasonable is a woman's
strongest weakness: it is a shield
against which man's sharpest logic is invariably
turned aside. The next thing
to there not being a necessity, is not seeing
a necessity, and this I prepared in
the most innocent manner to do.
"'Gracious me!' I exclaimed—or its
French equivalent, which I suppose is
'Mon Dieu'—'you don't mean to detain
us here opening those bags, and we so
tired, and they packed so full that we
could scarcely shut them; and if you do
open them, we cannot get all the things
into them again, and shall have no end
of trouble!' Then I looked as injured
as if they had been thieves or highway-men.
"Had a man made this speech they
would have mistrusted him, but as women
have a reputation for shallowness,
such talk is never thought suspicious in
"'What do they contain?' asked the
"'I don't know what all: we have
been at the sea-side, and they are full
of trash. There are some shells and an
old hat in mine, and—and things.'
"He tried to conceal a smile, and
looked toward the other, who nodded,
and we saw the welcome 'O' put on in
chalk, upon which the bags were given
back to us.
"'Now the trunks,' said the first who
had spoken, holding out his hand for
"'Oh, we are going to leave them
here till to-morrow: they are all right—you
can mark them too;' and without
further ceremony we moved toward the
door. One of the men stepped after us.
I thought it was to make us return, but
it was only to ask if he should get us a
"We thanked him and replied that
we were going to the hotel opposite, and
did not need one: he then turned to a
person who seemed to be the porter of
the establishment, and told him to carry
our satchels for us. Now we felt our
journey was well at an end, for the windows
of our welcome asylum were blazing
not more than a hundred feet off.
"We crossed the street, rang at the
ladies' entrance and asked for rooms.
After a few moments the servant returned,
and, much to our chagrin, said that
there were none to be had, every corner
"'Do let us see the clerk. We must
have a room: you can surely find us
"The man shook his head.
"'Please go and try,' we insisted: 'we
shall be satisfied with anything for the
night. Won't you go and ask again?'
"'It is of no use,' he answered obstinately,
à cause de l'Exposition;' and
he opposed a shrug of his shoulders to
every other effort at persuasion that we
"Just then a chambermaid passed.
'Do come here,' I called. 'Can't you
find us a room? I will pay you;' and I
put my hand significantly in my pocket.
"'Very sorry, ladies, but it is impossible,'
"This was a contingency we had not
provided for: we looked at each other
blankly, and, though loath to do so, we
both came to the conclusion that they
were telling the truth.
"'What shall we do?' asked Annie,
speaking to me in English.
"'I suppose we shall have to take a
carriage and go down town, after all,'
"'They may be full there too,' she
said in a rueful tone.
"Just then the porter with our satchels
spoke: 'There is another hotel near,
ladies, and if you will come I will show
you to it,'
"I consulted Annie with a look, and
she assented. Any prospect was better
than a midnight drive of several miles,
with no certainty as to our lot at the end
of it. So we turned from the inhospitable
door and followed our guide.
"The latter walked quickly for perhaps
a square, stopped before a neat-looking
house and rang. Our courage
rose as the door opened and revealed
a clean-looking court surrounded by
orange trees in boxes, with small coffee-tables
under them for the convenience
of the guests.
"'Rooms for two ladies!' demanded
our attendant with the voice of a herald.
"The trim but sleepy servant looked
at us a moment, as if not comprehending
the situation, then slowly pronounced
our sentence in two words, 'No rooms!'
and as if to emphasize them threw up
the palms of his hands, shook his head
and added 'Full!' after which he closed
the door with a hasty click and returned
to his nap.
"Our night-errant was visibly disappointed
with this reception—not more so
than we were—but without allowing us
time to speak he said in his most reassuring
voice, 'Never mind, ladies: there
are plenty of hotels about here, and we
shall soon find lodgings for you.' Having
undertaken the task, he seemed to think
it his duty to comfort and provide for us.
"Alas! this was not soon accomplished.
Two other hotels were successively
tried in vain, and still our indefatigable
guide went on. It appeared as if we
had walked a considerable distance, but
the streets cut each other at odd angles,
and we had been turning so often that I
confess I had but little idea where we
were, or how far we had come, when
we entered a quarter where the ways
became narrower, passed into a dingy
alley, thence plunged through a still
darker court, from that to another alley,
and the next moment our porter was
ringing at the door of a tall, sombre
house. I truly hoped that we should not
find rooms here, and was turning to
Annie to advise a cab and an attempt in
a more civilized-looking locality, when
the bell was answered and the old question
"To my surprise and dismay the servant
said they could accommodate us.
Should we stay? I knew that in the
older parts of Paris the best of houses
are sometimes found in the poorer streets,
and that in no city is a person less able to
judge of the interior comfort of a building
by its external aspect. We were very
tired, and should we turn away from this
open door where should we find another
open for us? The porter, however good-natured,
could not continue to run about
with us all night, and our faith in ourselves
was considerably diluted since
we left the cars: even a cab might be
difficult to get at this hour of the night.
Annie did not object: indeed, she looked
too worn out to have an opinion in
the matter, and as I could think of nothing
better to do, I began to make the
usual inquiries: 'Have you two adjoining
"I remembered the advice that had
been given us on starting: here surely
was a place to use it, so I said to the
servant in a marked tone, 'Take madame's
bag and show us to our chambers.'
"'This way, mesdemoiselles,' he answered
with the most provoking coolness.
"I dismissed our faithful porter with
regret, and followed the other up stairs.
While ascending I racked my brain to
determine what peculiarity of manner
we could adopt that would give us a
more matronly air while traveling, but I
could think of nothing. I may as well
tell you now that we never for an instant
deceived any one on this subject during
our stay, and we soon ceased trying to
"Our rooms were much better than I
had expected to find them, but even this
caused in me a feeling of doubt. They
had a hypocritical air, a grasping after
appearances that I believe always accompanies
deceit and imposition—a sleek
shabbiness that I detest. I knew by instinct
that if I examined I should find
the carpets worn out under the mats,
and the chairs faded beneath their smart
chintz covers. There was not a candid-looking
piece of furniture in the apartment:
the table was an impostor with
one short leg; the drawers of the bureau
would not open; the glasses were all
askew, and twisted your face to such a
degree that it frightened you to catch a
glimpse of yourself in passing. But this
was not the worst: from the moment I
entered the rooms I felt that they had
been waiting for us.
"I did not venture to mention my
suspicions to Annie, and tried to keep
up a cheery sort of conversation while
we undressed, but I could see that she
too began to be uneasy. We carefully
inspected our doors, and found the locks
were good, then looked to see that there
was no one lurking under the beds. It
would be difficult to tell you exactly
what I feared, but somehow everything
impressed me as mysterious—the quiet
of the streets through which we had
come, and the quiet of the house. It
was such a lonely, eerie kind of place:
our feet echoed on the stairways as if
human feet seldom ascended them; the
shadows appeared especially dark; our
candles' small light made little impression
on the gloom; the very air seemed
harder to breathe than ordinary; and on
recalling the face of the impertinent servant
I thought that it had a sinister look.
"I tried to recall whether we were in
a good or bad faubourg, but could not;
and then I remembered that Paris was
now divided into arrondissements, which
had a much less ill-omened sound. I
went to the window to reconnoitre the
locality, but, though the rain had ceased,
darkness covered all so thickly that I
could see nothing. As I stood there the
clock on the station struck, first the quarters,
and then one, in a doleful, muffled
tone. It told me one thing I was glad
to know—namely, that we could not
have wandered very far during our walk;
but there was little comfort in that, after
all, since the walk had terminated here.
"Stories that I had read of strange
adventures and accidents to midnight
guests now trooped into my head. I
thought of one in particular, in which
the tester of the bed slowly descended
to smother the sleeping inmate for purposes
of robbery; whereupon I minutely
examined mine, and found to my
satisfaction that it was scarcely able to
discharge the single duty of holding up
the curtains, and looked most innocent
of further intentions. Finding myself
again peering into corners I had already
searched, and feeling this general unrest
to be growing upon me, I began to think
I must be nervous from over-exertion,
and determined to get rid of my silly
fancies in sleep. Then, as if to take
myself by surprise, I suddenly blew out
the light, sprang under the covers and
shut my eyes tight, afraid that something
hateful might glare upon me in the dark.
"Just then Annie came to the communicating
doorway, and with an effort
to speak in her natural voice she said,
'Jane, I am going to sleep here.' And
as if this endeavor had consumed her
last bit of resistance, she closed and
locked the door quickly, ran to my bed
and threw herself shivering beside me.
"'What is the matter?' I whispered,
feeling my presentiment of evil confirmed.
"She put her lips to my ear and answered,
'I found a door in my room behind
the bed-curtains, and it leads I don't
"'Did you open it?'
"'No indeed! I would not open it for
the world. There might be something
horrible in it;' and she shuddered.
"'You have left your light burning.'
"'I don't care. I won't go back: no
indeed, I could not.' There was silence
for a few minutes: neither of us moved,
when Nan again whispered, 'Do you
think this room quite safe?'
"'I looked all around before I blew
out the light.'
"'Did you look behind your curtains?'
"'No!' I answered with an uncomfortable
"'You are next the wall: feel along
it,' in her most persuasive voice.
"The very idea made me creep. Put
my hand behind those curtains and touch—what?
Even the cold wall would be
sufficient to terrify me. For reply I remarked
suggestively, 'If we had the light
we could see.'
"'Yes, that would be just the thing.
Go bring it—do!'
"I felt that something must be done,
and soon, or I should be in no state to
accomplish it. If Nan would not go, I
must: when we had the light half our
trouble would be over, and, after all, she
might have been mistaken.
"'Did the door move?' I ventured to
"'No, it didn't do anything—at least I
don't think it did—but it looked so awful
that it frightened me.'
"'That light in there may set something
on fire,' I remarked.
"'Go fetch it: it will only take you a
minute. Do go!'
"'You are sure the door didn't open?'
I asked, far from liking my task.
"'I will go with you half-way,' she
volunteered, 'and stand there while you
run in quick. Come on, and don't let
us talk any more about it: we shall only
get more and more frightened.' You
will see that Annie's gifts lay more in
persuasion than in action.
"Thus adjured, I went with her to the
communicating door, cautiously listened,
then looked through the keyhole. The
silence within was oppressive, but the
flickering bougie warned me that I must
make an effort, and without allowing
myself time to think I hastily turned the
key and opened the door.
"At that moment it seemed to me that
I heard distant footsteps. I rushed for
the light and turned to go back, when I
ran against some one: the candle was
extinguished by being jerked from the
holder to the floor, and a hand which I
vainly tried to shake off clasped my
arm. My blood grew thick and still
with sudden terror. I tried to speak, but
could not. What increased my dread
was that I could not tell whether the
Thing by my side was a reality or a
spectre. I had caught a glimpse of
something white as the light disappeared,
and I believe that a pistol at my head
would have caused me less alarm than
this horrible idea of the supernatural.
I began to feel that I could endure it no
longer, that I should stifle, should die,
when Annie's voice spoke in the darkness
quite near, and I found it was she
who had grasped my arm.
"'I could not stay in that room alone,'
she whispered. 'Don't you hear?—footsteps!
They are coming.'
"'You have half frightened me to
death,' I murmured trembling: 'I thought
you were something.'
"'No, I ain't anything, but something
is coming. Don't you hear?'
"It was true enough. Through the
quiet of the house came stealthy footsteps.
Nearer, nearer. They were ascending
the stairs, at times delaying an
instant, as if groping for the way, then
"'Come into your room,' said Annie
convulsively: 'come, and we can lock
ourselves in. Oh, where is your door?
I cannot find it, and they are coming.
What shall we do? what shall we do?'
"We were in total darkness: not a
ray of light came from the window, and
in our confusion we had lost our bearings.
Neither of us had the least idea
in what direction the other room lay.
"'Let us creep along the floor, perhaps
we may find it. Do try,' said I.
"'No, no, I cannot move. I wish we
had never come. I am dying.' She
was shaking with fright, and would not
leave my arm for an instant.
"Just then, from somewhere near us,
we could not tell from what side, came
a long low whistle, so mournful and unearthly,
with such a summons in its tone,
that I shivered: then a faint movement
followed from the same place.
"'It is a signal for the other,' gasped
Annie: 'it is in that door: they are
coming, they are here. Shall I scream
murder? shall I?' giving my arm an
"'No, no, wait: it will do no good.'
"She groaned, slipped down on her
knees, with one arm still round me, her
face pressed against my side, holding
her other hand over the unprotected ear,
so that she should hear no more; and
in this position she began to repeat
'Now I lay me down to sleep' just as
fast as she could gabble it.
"I was no less frightened, and would
willingly have crouched down also, but
she held me so tight that I could not
without a struggle, and above all things
I did not want to make a noise.
"It was thus we awaited the crisis.
The steps were certainly coming to our
room, but whether by the door we had
entered or by the one Annie had seen
behind the bed, I could not tell. I was
too bewildered to locate the sound, nor
did I know whether the bed was at my
right or left hand. I had a slight hope
that the steps might pass on.
"It was for that I waited.
"They came—near, nearer. For a
time my heart ceased beating. Annie
slipped lower, until she lay on the floor,
and I could no longer hear her breathe.
My whole being was merged in listening
to that step. I could feel that now it
was on a level with our room—was there
almost beside us. Lightly though distinctly
a hand passed over the door, as
if fumbling for the latch. This was the
intense moment. Had the person paused
or hesitated an instant, I think it would
have killed us both. But no, he did not
falter. Steadily on, the step, guided by
the hand, went as it had come, and as I
stood, not daring to move, I heard it receding
in the distance of the great house.
Then all was silence.
"When sensation returned to me I
felt as if I had awakened from a nightmare,
and found myself shaking from
the nervous reaction and the cold. I
stooped to find poor Nan on the floor,
and said through my chattering teeth,
'It must have been only a late boarder.
Don't be afraid. It is all over: come,
"'Can't you get a light?' she begged.
'I cannot move until you have a light.
I am still afraid.'
"I now remembered that the bureau
must be behind me, for I had merely
turned when I encountered Annie and
dropped the candle. There were probably
matches upon it: yes, there they
were. I struck one and easily found the
candle: then Annie rose with the meekest
air possible, and, without looking
at the obnoxious corner where the bed
stood, we walked into the other room
and locked the door.
"It was not until the gray morning
light crept into the window that we felt
quite safe. Every crack in the floor or
nibbling mouse caused us to start, and
at each quarter the clock of the station
would strike as if to warn us to be on
the alert. But the bed was not bad, and
the house remained quiet; and as soon
as the dawn made our candle useless,
we began to think we had been very
foolish, and the result was a sound sleep.
"When we awoke it was ten o'clock:
the morning was bright and clear, and
the terrors of the night had all departed
during our refreshing rest. The room
certainly looked shabby, but if that were
a crime, half the houses in the world
would be sent to prison. There was
nothing in the least mysterious about it.
Our courage rose with the day, and we
teased and joked each other about our
fright. Then, anticipating the glories of
the Exposition, we congratulated ourselves
that we had come.
"'We won't breakfast here,' said Annie
as she was dressing: 'we will go
down town to a nice restaurant, and sit
at a window and see the people go by.
Afterward we will look up our friends
and find a good hotel or boarding-house;
and we must go to the Exposition this
very day. We shall have a famous time.
We can make up parties to drive out,
and go monument-hunting and sight-seeing,
and to the theatre. Ain't you
glad you came?'
"'The first thing we do must be to go
back to the station and leave these bags
with our trunks until we find lodgings,'
"Nan went into the next room to get
some of the clothing she had left there.
When she returned, lowering her voice
she said, 'Jane, there is a door behind
"'Very well, let it alone: I suppose
it is a closet.'
"'No such thing: it don't look like a
closet; and why would they hide a closet,
I should like to know? Come in and
"She walked back, and as I followed
drew the curtain aside, and there in fact
"'I am going to open it before I leave
the room,' she said in a determined
tone: 'there is something not right about
"'I wouldn't,' I remonstrated: 'some
one may be in there.'
"'I am going to see: I must look into
it. It is daylight, you know, and we
sha'n't be much frightened. Help me to
push away the bed.'
"'I won't do anything so absurd.
This is a hotel, Annie, and there must
be plenty of adjoining rooms in it. Suppose
that room is now occupied by a
"'If it is occupied they will lock the
door on the other side, and I will try the
latch softly to see; but I know it is not.
Don't you see that the only entrance
must be from here? There is the entry.
opposite, and here is the court: now,
how could any one get into it but through
this room? It must be a small place,
too, for here is the corner of the house,
and it has been evidently planned to be
"'No matter: we have no right to any
rooms but these we are in. Come away,
and let well enough alone.'
"'It is not "well enough," as you call
it. I am going to see into it, and why
they hide it. I declare,' and she examined
the door critically, 'it looks like the
entrance to Bluebeard's chamber. Look
at these queer marks, these dents and
stains, as if there had been a struggle.
It is our duty to investigate;' and her
voice grew impressive. 'Perhaps we
have been brought here for that very
purpose, and, Jane, if there is a dead
body in there, I shall inform the police.'
Annie was very brave in daylight.
"'Fiddle-de-dee!' I replied to this fine
speech. 'What you call duty, I call
curiosity. I am ravenously hungry, and
I wish you would finish dressing and let
us get to breakfast.'
"'I will just tell you this,' she answered
indignantly, and yet with a quiver in
her voice, 'I never in my life felt as I
did last night when I saw that door. It
was quite like what people write of a
mysterious influence, or the presence of
some one unseen; and that whistle or
voice or moan, as if a soul was calling,
came from here; and you must help me
to find out what it really was, for I can't
go away without knowing.'
"I saw it was useless to try longer to
dissuade her. The bed moved easily:
she took my hand and led me behind it;
then warily tried the latch. It rose, but
she was obliged to lean all her weight
against the door before it would give
way, and finally it opened so unexpectedly
that she almost fell forward.
"What did I see? At the first glimpse
a faint light from a cobwebbed window,
a narrow room and a floor—red. Was
it blood? A sickening mouldy smell
came forth, but as I forced myself to
look again I saw that it was only red
tiles that had startled me. There was
an upright brick range in a corner, an
old water-tank, some shelves and a cupboard.
A missing pane of glass left a
space through which the air had entered
and moaned up the broad-mouthed flue
that opened above the range. This was
the ominous 'signal' we had heard in
answer to the footsteps. The dust was
thick over everything, and the only signs
of life were the rat-tracks on the floor.
We stood still for a few moments, overwhelmed
at this solution of the occult
'influence' that had so subtly acted on
Annie's nerves, and filled me with no
"The house had been built for a hôtel
garni; that is, a house with furnished
rooms or apartments, something like a
tenement-house in your country. This
was the kitchen of the suite, and belonged
to the two rooms we had taken.
Being unused for its proper object, and
too small for a bed-chamber, it had been
closed, and appeared as if it had been
unentered for years. I turned to Annie
to see how she would bear this prosaic
explanation of our alarm, but with the
air of one who had expected nothing
but this from the beginning, she remarked,
'Now you see how much better it
is to look into such things. This room
would have furnished me with bad
dreams for the remainder of my life,
and here I find it is only a commonplace
kitchen. Think how ludicrous to have
the horrors over a kitchen! Sha'n't I
tell of your fright when we get home—how
you didn't want to open the door,
and wanted to 'let well enough alone'?
The place might be haunted by the
ghost of a chicken or a rabbit, but, my
dear, you should not allow that to terrify
"'Perhaps it was the ghost of a chicken
that you feared last night, and that
caused your presentiments this morning.
I hope you will inform the police of what
you have discovered here,' I remarked
"'A truce, a truce, good Jane! I will
say no more. We were both boobies.
But wouldn't it be 'cute to live here, you
and me, and make our own breakfast?
Look at the hole for charcoal, and the
little cupboard, the nails for the pots
and pans to hang on: everything is
complete. That room could be for
dining, the other a parlor, and—'
"'The only drawback would be that,
except at the North Pole, the night comes
once in twenty-four hours.'
"'Don't be mean, Jane! Do come in
here a minute: it's a dear little place.'
"'You will certainly make a housekeeper
if a kitchen gives you such ecstasy.
Come out, I am so hungry. Put
on your bonnet and leave this elysium:
I have had enough of it.'
"'You come in for a second: it will
shake the terror off and you won't dream
of it. That is a cure my old nurse once
gave me for laying ghosts.'
"'It may be a good plan to shake off
the terror, but the dust on you will not
be shaken off so easily.'
"'Suppose,' and she stamped her foot—'suppose
that the floor should be hollow,
and that this were only a pretended
kitchen after all, or that there was a
trap-door painted to resemble tiles, or a
sliding panel.' Here she felt over the
surface of the wall. 'Why should I feel
so queer last night if this was really nothing
but a kitchen?'
"'Because you are a goose,' I answered
impatiently, 'and if you don't come
I will leave you. If you like, you can
engage boarding here for a week, and
raise the tiles one by one with a knife
and fork. As for me, I am going to
"'But don't you think it really has an
uncanny look?' she asked, giving a last
glance over her shoulder as she came
"'If you call dirt uncanny, there is
plenty of that. Shut the door, and I
will push back the bed.'
"'Jane,' she again remarked as she
was trying on her bonnet before the
crooked glass, 'if ever I tell of this
night, I think I will say that there was
a trap-door in the kitchen: you know
there might be one and we not see it.'
"'Oh yes,' I answered as patiently as
I could, 'I suppose a fib more or less
will make but little difference in your
lifetime. While you are at it, however,
you may as well make a few more additions.'
"'Now you are unkind.'
"'A person is not accountable for
temper when famishing. Take up your
"We found the house a most every-day-looking
house, seen by sunlight;
but there had lain the difficulty. The
clerk in the office did not particularly
resemble a cutthroat, or even a cutpurse,
and, strange to say, did not overcharge
us: in fact, he behaved very civilly.
We found we were not far from the
station, and depositing our bags there,
we walked down the beautiful Rue La Fayette.
"'It is a great deal pleasanter to travel
alone in this way,' said Nan gayly, her
spirits rising in the delightful air. 'When
I was here before with all the family, it
was not near so jolly; and I think we
manage well, don't you? Oh, there is
an omnibus not complet: let us get in.
I am too hungry to walk.'
"After we were seated she continued:
'I wonder what will happen to us to-night.
Suppose we find every place full,
and have to sleep in a garden or on the
steps of a church, or something? Isn't it
delightful not to know in the least what is
going to happen next?—just as in fairy-land.
Don't you hope we may have an
adventure every night?'
"'I should not call last night an adventure:
it seems to me it was more like a
panic,' I said drily.
"'You will never let anything be agreeable,'
in a hurt tone: then recovering
her good temper, she went on: 'Well,
call it a panic if you like. Now, suppose
we had one every night, and we stayed
here two weeks, there would be fourteen
panics before we go home. Wouldn't
that be glorious?'
"'You did not appear to enjoy it so
much last night.'
"'At the time I did not,' she admitted
frankly. 'Weren't we frightened? But
then, you know, how nice it will be to
talk of it afterward!'
"We arrived at a restaurant in the
Palais Royal, and found a seat by the
window, and a breakfast. We had already
finished the latter, and were playing
with our fruit, when a party entered
who attracted our attention by speaking
"'One of them is Miss Rodgers,' Annie
whispered excitedly. 'I know her
well: hadn't we better run away? What
will she think of our being here alone?'
"'Nonsense! You had better ask her
where she is staying. Remember, we
are houseless as yet.'
"'I don't like to ask her.'
"'Introduce me: I will ask.' The
idea of spending the night in a garden
or on a church-step did not possess the
same charms for me as for Nan. Thus
prompted, she walked forward and spoke
to her friend, afterward presenting me.
We chatted a few minutes, when Miss
Rodgers asked Annie where she was
staying, and how her mamma was.
"'Mamma is not with us,' was Nan's
"I went to her rescue, and diverted
the questions by asking some myself:
'Miss Rodgers, where are you staying?
We do not like our hotel and want to
"'There is not a room in our house
that is unoccupied, and you won't find
good accommodation anywhere. You
had better not change if you have a
place to lay your head. Paris is so
crowded that everything has been taken
up long ago. You can ask at a dozen
hotels or boarding-houses and not find
a garret to let. You have no idea of the
"Yes, we had an idea, and believed
every word she said: in fact, we would
rather have felt less convinced on the
subject. Even Annie seemed to think
that traveling alone might present some
disagreeable features, and looked quite
unhappy, notwithstanding her love of
adventure. But before our mental anguish
had time to become unbearable
a young girl, a niece of Miss Rodgers,
spoke: 'Auntie, if the young ladies
would like, I know of just the place that
would suit them.' Then turning to us,
she continued: 'I am at school a few
miles out of the city, and madame told
me that if I knew of any one, she had
room for a few parlor-boarders. It is a
lovely spot, and no end of trains coming
and going all day; so that it would be
just as convenient as living here, and
you would have excellent accommodation.
Then, too, I could speak English
to you sometimes. I am so tired of
talking for ever without half knowing
what I am saying.'
"I could have embraced the chatterbox
on the spot for this opportune proposal,
but controlled my feelings and
looked at Nan to see if she approved.
She was consenting with every one of
her expressive features, and did not appear
at all anxious to enjoy one of her
fourteen delightful panics this evening
if it could be avoided. Being spokesman,
I said, 'I would willingly try the
school on your recommendation, Miss
Ada, if you think madame could be
ready for us this evening.'
"'Of course she could: come out with
me now and see her. I must go at one,
and can show you the way. Will you
meet me at the station? or shall we call
for you at your hotel?'
"'We will meet at the station,' I replied,
glad to settle it so quickly, 'if
you are quite sure that your madame
will like our unceremonious arrival.'
"'That will be all right, I know. She
has several empty rooms, and will be
happy to have them filled. You can
leave your trunks until to-morrow if you
don't like to come bag and baggage.'
"We needed no further pressing.
Here was deliverance and safety, and
we bade good-morning to the party with
"We found the school all that Miss
Ada had promised, and thus ended the
nearest approach to an adventure that
we had during the two weeks that we
"And now tell me about the Exposition."
"Well, we saw it."
"Describe it to me."
"Certainly. In the first place, it was
very big, and everybody was there, so it
was crowded; and you met your friends
and you talked; and—and you got fearfully
tired; and it was wonderful; and
there were ever so many restaurants,
and a soda-water fountain, and queer
things that you never expected to see
there, like the Mexican techcatl and
Russian horses; and everything was
real—real lace and cashmeres and diamonds,
and nothing but what was very
nice. But, after all, I think you had
better get a file of old newspapers and
read about it, for I really have no talent
for description—or, better still, go and
see the one in Vienna this summer."