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fifth. You see now how necessary it is I
should marry early.''

"On account of a foolish distich!"  I
replied. His superstition almost amounted
to an insanity; and I never would give
in to it, though I confess that I have known
more curious cases of such prophecies being
fulfilled than any sceptical Englishman
would believe. However, that has nothing
to say to the matter in hand. Dunblane
repeatedly referred to this prediction, which
had evidently taken a hold upon his mind,
not to be shaken by any words of mine.
He would brood for hours over this and
similar subjects. And among them, I have
little doubt was one to which he never
referred at that time, seeing that I treated
his superstitions with unbecoming levity
a subject of which I had no knowledge for
many years afterwards, but which was
destined to have a fatal influence on his life.

In '96 I left college, and was sent out to
our branch house in Calcutta. I heard the
following year of Dunblane's marriage to a
Miss Cameron, an orphan of good family,
though not noble, said to possess both
wealth and beauty; and I heard no more.
He never wrote to me, nor did I expect it.
Our lines of life were now quite different,
and though I knew that he would always
retain a friendly recollection of me,
correspondence was another matter. I was a
man of business, and engrossed in affairs
in which he could take no interest; while
I, on the other hand, knew nothing of the
persons and the circumstances by which
he was surrounded. I shall always regret
that he did not write to me during those
years; though probably no written words
of mine could have been of any avail in
arresting him: but I have occasionally
found, in life, that the truth, though
discarded at the time, will come back at some
unexpected moment and give the devil the
lie. Now the devil had it all his own way
with Dunblane for years. His father, to
whom I think he was really attached, was
dead; his uncle, whom he disliked and
feared, would not die. The uncle, I am
told, proposed this marriage to him, and
though Dunblane was indifferentor more
than indifferentto the lady, he consented
to marry her. This was the fatal error
which nothing could retrieve. It was the
first step down-hill, after which the descent
became more and more rapid every year.

In 1803 Lord Dunblane did, at last, die,
and, a few months later, my own father's
death recalled me to Aberdeen, where I
took his place as head of the house. One
day, about a year after my return, George
Pilson (you remember Pilson and Pilson,
the attorneys? very respectable firm) was
in my office, and chanced to speak of
Dunblane Castle, where he had lately been.
His father, I found out, was Lord
Dunblane's man of business; and I questioned
George as to his lordship's present condition
and mode of life. His answer was far
from satisfactory.

"His lordship's strangeness, and his
violent ebullitions of temper have increased
very much upon him of late," he said. "It
is supposed that this is greatly owing to
the fact that after nearly eight years of
marriage there is no heir to the title. Then
his wife is a person singularly unsuited to
him in all ways. Her ladyship is handsome,
but wanting in common-sense, garrulous
in the extreme, laughing immoderately in
and out of season, and, if I may be allowed
to express an opinion on such a point,
deficient in the dignity befitting her station.
These things are perpetual blisters, I fancy,
to his lordship. Her ladyship, in a word,
is what may be called a 'provoking woman,'
and as his lordship is not the most patient
of men you may guess the consequences."

I replied that I was more sorry than
surprised: from what I knew of Lord
Dunblane I never expected that such a marriage
one purely of interestcould turn out
well. "And yet," I added, "if he had
fallen into other hands, I think he might
have become a very different man. There
were germs of good in him."

At this George Pilson remained silent
for a few moments, a silence which I thought
most eloquent. He then proceeded to
speak of the castle, which he described as
one of the finest monuments of the fifteenth
century remaining in the country.

"His lordship is very justly proud of it,"
he said, "though with his pride is mingled
a certain superstitious awe, as, no doubt,
you know? I dare say he has often spoken
to you of the secret room in the castle?"

"No," I replied, "I do not remember
that he ever did. What is there special
about this room?"

He replied, "No one knows exactly
where it is except the owner, the heir, and
one other person; who happens, at
present, to be my father. The family superstition
concerning this room is very strong,
and I believe they shrink from speaking
of it."

"But what does it arise from?" I

He said, "The legend runs that some