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A STRANGE STORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF "MY NOVEL," " RIENZI," &c.

CHAPTER XL.

THE dead man's manuscript was gone. But
how? A phantom might delude my eye, a
human will, though exerted at a distance, might,
if the tales of mesmerism be true, deprive me of
movement and of consciousness; but neither
phantom nor mesmeric will could surely remove
from the table before me the material substance
of the book that had vanished! Was I to seek
explanation in the arts of sorcery ascribed to
Louis Grayle in the narrative?—I would not
pursue that conjecture. Against it my reason rose
up half alarmed, half disdainful. Some one must
have entered the roomsome one have removed
the manuscript. I looked round. The windows
were closed, the curtains partially drawn over
the shutters, as they were before my consciousness
had left me: all seemed undisturbed.
Snatching up one of the candles, fast dying out,
I went into the adjoining library, the desolate
state-rooms, into the entrance-hall and examined
the outer door. Barred and locked! The robber
had left no vestige of his stealthy presence.

I resolved to go at once to Strahan's room,
and tell him of the loss sustained. A deposit
had been confided to me, and I felt as if there
were a slur on my honour every moment in which
I kept its abstraction concealed from him to
whom I was responsible for the trust. I hastily
ascended the great staircase, grim with faded
portraits, and found myself in a long corridor
opening on my own bedroom; no doubt also on
Strahan's. Which was his? I knew not. I
opened rapidly door after door, peered into empty
chambers, went blundering on, when, to the
right, down a narrow passage, I recognised the
signs of my host's whereaboutsigns familiarly
common-place and vulgar, signs by which the
inmate of any chamber in lodging-house or inn
makes himself knowna chair before a doorway,
clothes negligently thrown on it, beside it a pair
of shoes. And so ludicrous did such testimony
of common every-day life, of the habits which
Strahan would necessarily have contracted in his
desultory unluxurious bachelor's existenceso
ludicrous, I say, did these homely details seem
to me, so grotesquely at variance with the
wonders of which I had been reading, with the
wonders yet more incredible of which I myself had
been witness and victim, that as I turned down
the passage, I heard my own unconscious half-
hysterical laugh; and, startled by the sound
of that laugh as if it came from some one else,
I paused, my hand on the door, and asked
myself: "Do I dream? Am I awake? And if
awake, what am I to say to the common-place
mortal I am about to rouse? Speak to him of a
phantom! Speak to him of some weird spell over
this strong frame! Speak to him of a mystic
trance in which has been stolen what he
confided to me, without my knowledge! What will
he say? What should I have said a week since
to any man who told such a tale to me?" I did
not wait to resolve these questions. I entered
the room. There was Strahan sound asleep on
his bed. I shook him roughly. He started up,
rubbed his eyes—"You, Allenyou! What the
deuce?—what's the matter?"

"Strahan, I have been robbed!—robbed of
the manuscript you lent me. I could not rest
till I had told you."

"Robbed, robbed! Are you serious!"

By this time Strahan had thrown off the bed-
clothes, and sat upright, staring at me.

And then those questions which my mind had
suggested while I was standing at his door
repeated themselves with double force. Tell
this man, this unimaginative, hard-headed, raw-
boned, sandy-haired, North-countrymantell
this man a story which the most credulous school-
girl would have rejected as a fable! Impossible.

"I fell asleep," said I, colouring and stammering,
for the slightest deviation from truth was
painful to me, "andandwhen I woke the
manuscript was gone. Some one must have
entered, and committed the theft-"

"Some one entered the house at this hour of
the night, and then only steal a manuscript
which could be of no value to him! Absurd!
If thieves have come in, it must be for other
objectsfor plate, for money. I will dress;
we will see!"

Strahan hurried on his clothes, muttering to
himself, and avoiding my eye. He was
embarrassed. He did not like to say to an old friend
what was on his mind, but I saw at once that he
suspected I had resolved to deprive him of the
manuscript, and invented a wild tale in order to
conceal my own dishonesty.

Nevertheless, he proceeded to search the
house. I followed him in silence, oppressed with
my own thoughts, and longing for solitude in my

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