'Currants for a Christmas pudding, most likely! -- Ah, poor lady! the pudding and not the Christmas was her care; not the delight of the children over it, but the beggarly pence which it cost. And she cannot get it out of her head, although her brain was 'powdered all as thin as flour' ages ago in the mortar of Death. 'Alas, poor ghost!' It needs no treasured hoard left behind, no floor stained with the blood of the murdered child, no wickedly hidden parchment of landed rights! An old account-book is enough for the hell of the house-keeping gentlewoman!
'She never lifted her face, or seemed to know that I stood behind her. I left her, and went into the bow window, where I could see her face. I was right. It was the same old lady I had met in Russell Square, walking in front of James Hetheridge. Her withered lips went moving as if they would have uttered words had the breath been commissioned thither; her brow was contracted over her thin nose; and once and again her shining forefinger went up to her temple as if she were pondering some deep problem of humanity. How long I stood gazing at her I do not know, but at last I withdrew to my bed, and left her struggling to solve that which she could never solve thus. It was the symbolic problem of her own life, and she had failed to read it. I remember nothing more. She may be sitting there still, solving at the insolvable.
'I should have felt no inclination, with the broad sun of the squire's face, the keen eyes of James, and the beauty of L?titia before me at the breakfast table, to say a word about what I had seen, even if I had not been afraid of the doubt concerning my sanity which the story would certainly awaken. What with the memories of the night and the want of my spectacles, I passed a very dreary day, dreading the return of the night, for, cool as I had been in her presence, I could not regard the possible reappearance of the ghost with equanimity. But when the night did come, I slept soundly till the morning.
'The next day, not being able to read with comfort, I went wandering about the place, and at length began to fit the outside and inside of the house together. It was a large and rambling edifice, parts of it very old, parts comparatively modern. I first found my own window, which looked out of the back. Below this window, on one side, there was a door. I wondered whither it led, but found it locked. At the moment James approached from the stables. 'Where does this door lead?' I asked him. 'I will get the key,' he answered. 'It is rather a queer old place. We used to like it when we were children.' 'There's a stair, you see,' he said, as he threw the door open. 'It leads up over the kitchen.' I followed him up the stair. 'There's a door into your room,' he said, 'but it's always locked now. -- And here's Grannie's room, as they call it, though why, I have not the least idea,' he added, as he pushed open the door of an old-fashioned parlour, smelling very musty. A few old books lay on a side table. A china bowl stood beside them, with some shrivelled, scentless rose-leaves in the bottom of it. The cloth that covered the table was riddled by moths, and the spider-legged chairs were covered with dust.
'A conviction seized me that the old bureau must have belonged to this room, and I soon found the place where I judged it must have stood. But the same moment I caught sight of a portrait on the wall above the spot I had fixed upon. 'By Jove!' I cried, involuntarily, 'that's the very old lady I met in Russell Square!'
' 'Nonsense!' said James. 'Old-fashioned ladies are like babies -- they all look the same. That's a very old portrait.'
' 'So I see,' I answered. 'It is like a Zucchero.'
' 'I don't know whose it is,' he answered hurriedly, and I thought he looked a little queer.
' 'Is she one of the family?' I asked.
' 'They say so; but who or what she was, I don't know. You must ask Letty,' he answered.
' 'The more I look at it,' I said, 'the more I am convinced it is the same old lady.'
' 'Well,' he returned with a laugh, 'my old nurse used to say she was rather restless. But it's all nonsense.'
' 'That bureau in my room looks about the same date as this furniture,' I remarked.
' 'It used to stand just there,' he answered, pointing to the space under the picture. 'Well I remember with what awe we used to regard it; for they said the old lady kept her accounts at it still. We never dared touch the bundles of yellow papers in the pigeon-holes. I remember thinking Letty a very heroine once when she touched one of them with the tip of her forefinger. She had got yet more courageous by the time she had it moved into her own room.'
' 'Then that is your sister's room I am occupying?' I said.
' ' Yes.'
' 'I am ashamed of keeping her out of it.'
' 'Oh! she'll do well enough.'
' 'If I were she though,' I added, 'I would send that bureau back to its own place.'
' 'What do you mean, Heywood? Do you believe every old wife's tale that ever was told?'
' 'She may get a fright some day -- that's all!' I replied.
'He smiled with such an evident mixture of pity and contempt that for the moment I almost disliked him; and feeling certain that L?titia would receive any such hint in a somewhat similar manner, I did not feel inclined to offer her any advice with regard to the bureau.