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A STRANGE STORY.

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

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE house I occupied at L——- was a quaint,
old-fashioned buildinga corner houseone side,
in which was the front entrance, looked upon a
street which, as there were no shops in it, and
it was no direct thoroughfare to the busy centres
of the town, was always quiet, and at some hours
of the day almost deserted. The other side of
the house fronted a lane; opposite to it was the
long and high wall of the garden to a Young
Ladies' Boarding-School. My stables adjoined the
house, abutting on a row of smaller buildings, with
little gardens before them, chiefly occupied by
mercantile clerks and retired tradesmen. By the lane
there was short and ready access both to the high
turnpike road and to some pleasant walks through
green meadows and along the banks of a river.

This house I had inhabited since my arrival at
L——-, and it had to me so many attractions,
in a situation sufficiently central to be
convenient for patients, and yet free from noise,
and favourable to ready outlet into the country
for such foot or horse exercise as my professional
avocations would allow me to carve for
myself out of what the Latin poet calls the "solid
mass of the day," that I had refused to change it
for one better suited to my increased income;
but it was not a house which Mrs. Ashleigh
would have liked for Lilian. The main objection
to it, in the eyes of the 'genteel' was, that it had
formerly belonged to a member of the healing
profession, who united the shop of an apothecary
to the diploma of a surgeon; but that
shop had given the house a special attraction
to me; for it had been built out on
the side of the house which fronted the lane,
occupying the greater portion of a small gravel
court, fenced from the road by a low iron
palisade, and separated from the body of the house
itself by a short and narrow corridor that
communicated with the entrance-hall. This shop I
turned into a rude study for scientific experiments,
in which I generally spent some early hours of
the morning, before my visiting patients began to
arrive. I enjoyed the stillness of its separation
from the rest of the house; I enjoyed the glimpse
of the great chesnut-trees which overtopped the
wall of the school garden; I enjoyed the ease
with which, by opening the glazed sash-door, I
could get out, if disposed for a short walk, into
the pleasant fields; and so completely had I made
this sanctuary my own, that not only my
man-servant knew that I was never to be disturbed
when in it, except by the summons of a patient,
but even the housemaid was forbidden to enter it
with broom or duster, except upon special invitation.
The last thing at night, before retiring to
rest, it was the man-servant's business to see that
the sash-window was closed and the gate to the
iron palisade locked, but during the daytime I
so often went out of the house by that private
way that the gate was then very seldom locked,
nor the sash-door bolted from within. In the
town of L——- there was very little apprehension
of house-robberiesespecially in the daylight
and certainly in this room, cut off from the main
building, there was nothing to attract a vulgar
cupidity. A few of the apothecary's shelves and
cases still remained on the walls, with, here and
there, a bottle of some chemical preparation for
experiment. Two or three wormeaten, wooden chairs;
two or three shabby old tables; an old walnut-
tree bureau, without a lock, into which odds and
ends were confusedly thrust, and sundry ugly-
looking inventions of mechanical science, were,
assuredly, not the articles which a timid proprietor
would guard with jealous care from the chances
of robbery. It will be seen later why I have been
thus prolix in description. The morning after I
had met the young stranger, by whom I had
been so favourably impressed, I was up, as usual,
a little before the sun, and long before any of my
servants were astir. I went first into the room I
have mentioned, and which I shall henceforth
designate as my study, opened the window,
unlocked the gate, and sauntered for some minutes
up and down the silent lane skirting the opposite
wall, and overhung by the chesnut-trees rich in
the garniture of a glorious summer; then, refreshed
for work, I re-entered my study and was soon
absorbed in the examination of that now well-
known machine, which was then, to me at least,
a novelty; invented, if I remember right, by
Monsieur Dubois-Reymond, so distinguished by
his researches into the mysteries of organic
electricity. It is a wooden cylinder fixed against the
edge of a table; on the table two vessels filled
with salt and water are so placed that, as you close

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