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THE hands on the hall-clock pointed to half-
past six in the morning. The house was a
country residence in West Somersetshire, called
Combe-Raven. The day was the fourth of
March; and the year was eighteen hundred and

No sounds but the steady ticking of the clock,
and the lumpish snoring of a large dog stretched
on a mat outside the dining-room door, disturbed
the mysterious morning stillness of hall and staircase.
Who were the sleepers hidden in the
upper regions? Let the house reveal its own
secrets; and, one by one, as they descend the
stairs from their beds, let the sleepers disclose

As the clock pointed to a quarter to seven, the
dog woke and shook himself. After waiting in
vain for the footman, who was accustomed to let
him out, the animal wandered restlessly from one
closed door to another on the ground floor; and,
returning to his mat in great perplexity, appealed
to the sleeping family, with a long and melancholy

Before the last notes of the dog's remonstrance
had died away, the oaken stairs in the higher
regions of the house creaked under slowly-descending
footsteps. In a minute more, the first of the
female servants made her appearance, with a
dingy woollen shawl over her shouldersfor the
March morning was bleak; and rheumatism and
the cook were old acquaintances.

Receiving the dog's first cordial advances with
the worst possible grace, the cook slowly opened
the hall door, and let the animal out. It was a
wild morning. Over a spacious lawn, and behind
a black plantation of firs, the rising sun rent its
way upward through piles of ragged grey cloud;
heavy drops of rain fell few and far between;
the March wind shuddered round the corners of
the house, and the wet trees swayed wearily.

Seven o'clock struck; and the signs of
domestic life began to show themselves in more
rapid succession.

The housemaid came downtall and slim, with
the state of the spring temperature written redly
on her nose. The lady's-maid followedyoung,
smart, plump, and sleepy. The kitchen-maid
came nextafflicted with the face-ache, and
making no secret of her sufferings. Last of all,
the footman appeared, yawning disconsolately;
the living picture of a man who felt that he had
been defrauded of his fair night's rest.

The conversation of the servants, when they
assembled before the slowly-lighting kitchen fire,
referred to a recent family event, and turned at
starting on this question: Had Thomas, the
footman, seen anything of the concert at Clifton
at which his master and the two young ladies had
been present on the previous night?  Yes;
Thomas had heard the concert; he had been
paid for to go in at the back; it was a loud
concert; it was a hot concert; it was described at
the top of the bills as Grand; whether it was
worth travelling sixteen miles to hear by railway,
with the additional hardship of going back
nineteen miles by road, at half-past one in the
morningwas a question which he would leave
his master and the young ladies to decide; his
own opinion, in the mean time, being
unhesitatingly, No. Further inquiries, on the part of
all the female servants in succession, elicited no
additional information of any sort. Thomas
could hum none of the songs, and could describe
none of the ladies' dresses. His audience accordingly
gave him up in despair; and the kitchen
small-talk flowed back into its ordinary channels,
until the clock struck eight, and startled the
assembled servants into separating for their
morning's work.

A quarter-past eight, and nothing happened.
Half-pastand more signs of life appeared from
the bedroom regions. The next member of the
family who came down stairs was Mr. Andrew
Vanstone, the master of the house.

Tall, stout, and uprightwith bright blue
eyes, and healthy florid complexionhis brown
plush shooting-jacket carelessly buttoned awry;
his vixenish little Scotch terrier barking
unrebuked at his heels; one hand thrust into his
waistcoat pocket, and the other smacking the
banisters cheerfully as he came down stairs
humming a tuneMr. Vanstone showed his character
on the surface of him freely to all men.
An easy, hearty, handsome, good-humoured
gentleman, who walked on the sunny side of the way