Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/170

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to visit the friends of her youth; all gone from their home, long since and for ever, unless their ghosts still haunted it—fit company for the 'Old Maid in the Winding-Sheet.' An elderly man approached the steps, and reverently uncovering his gray locks, essayed to explain the matter.

'None, Madam,' said he, 'have dwelt in this house these fifteen years agone—no, not since the death of old Colonel Fenwicke, whose funeral you may remember to have followed. His heirs, being ill agreed among themselves, have let the mansion-house go to ruin.'

The Old Maid looked slowly round, with a slight gesture of one hand, and a finger of the other upon her lip, appearing more shadow-like than ever, in the obscurity of the porch. But again she lifted the hammer, and gave, this time, a single rap. Could it be, that a footstep was now heard, coming down the staircase of the old mansion, which all conceived to have been so long untenanted? Slowly, feebly, yet heavily, like the pace of an aged and infirm person, the step approached, more distinct on every downward stair, till it reached the portal. The bar fell on the inside; the door was opened. One upward glance, towards the church-spire, whence the sunshine had just faded, was the last that the people saw of the 'Old Maid in the Winding-Sheet.'

'Who undid the door?' asked many.

This question, owing to the depth of shadow beneath the porch, no one could satisfactorily answer. Two or three aged men, while protesting against an inference, which might be drawn, affirmed that the