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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XVI. On The Stairs

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"They are not fancies," said Aunt Jane. "Things do happen in houses! Did I not look under the bed for a thief during fifteen years, and find one at last? Why should I not be allowed to hear something now?"

"But, dear Aunt Jane," said Kate, "you never told me this before."

"No," said she. "I was beginning to tell you the other day, but Ruth was just bringing in my handkerchiefs, and she had used so much bluing, they looked as if they had been washed in heaven, so that it was too outrageous, and I forgot everything else."

"But do you really hear anything?"

"Yes," said her aunt. "Ruth declares she hears noises in those closets that I had nailed up, you know; but that is nothing; of course she does. Rats. What I hear at night is the creaking of stairs, when I know that nobody ought to be stirring. If you observe, you will hear it too. At least, I should think you would, only that somehow everything always seems to stop, when it is necessary to prove that I am foolish."

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The girls had no especial engagement that evening, and so got into a great excitement on the stairway over Aunt Jane's solicitudes. They convinced themselves that they heard all sorts of things,--footfalls on successive steps, the creak of a plank, the brushing of an arm against a wall, the jar of some suspended object that was stirred in passing. Once they heard something fall on the floor, and roll from step to step; and yet they themselves stood on the stairway, and nothing passed. Then for some time there was silence, but they would have persisted in their observations, had not Philip come in from Mrs. Meredith's in the midst of it, so that the whole thing turned into a frolic, and they sat on the stairs and told ghost stories half the night.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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