End of the lady’s story
Of the present naught is bright,
But in the coming years I see
A brilliant and a cheerful light,
Which burns before thee constantly.
At the appointed hour the next morning
Traverse Rocke repaired to the cell of his mysterious
He was pleased to find her up, dressed
with more than usual care and taste and looking, upon
the whole, much better in health and spirits than
upon the preceding day.
“Ah, my young hero, it is you;
you see that I am ready for you,” she said,
holding out her hand.
“You are looking very well this
morning,” said Traverse, smiling.
“Yes, hope is a fine tonic, Doctor Rocke.”
She was seated by the same window
at which Traverse had first seen her, and she now
beckoned the young doctor to come and take a seat near
“My story is almost as melodramatic
as a modern romance, Doctor Rocke,” she said.
Traverse bowed gravely and waited.
“My father was a French patriot,
who suffered death in the cause of liberty when I,
his only child, was but fourteen years of age.
My mother, broken-hearted by his loss, followed him
within a few months. I was left an orphan and
penniless, for our estate was confiscated.”
“Ah, your sorrows came early
and heavily indeed,” said Traverse.
“Yes; well, a former servant
of my father held an humble situation of porter on
the ground floor of a house, the several floors of
which were let out to different lodgers. This
poor man and his wife gave me a temporary home with
themselves. Among the lodgers of the house there
was a young Virginian gentleman of fortune, traveling
for pleasure and improvement; his name was Mr. Eugene
“Le Noir!” cried Traverse, with a violent
“Yes what is the matter?”
“It is a familiar Virginia name, Madam, that
is all; pray go on.”
“Mr. Le Noir was as good and
kind as he was wise and cultivated. He used to
stop to gossip with old Cliquot every time he stopped
at the porter’s room to take or to leave his
key. There he heard of the poor little orphan
of the guillotine, who had no friend in the world but
her father’s old servant. He pitied me,
and after many consultations with Father and Mother
Cliquot, he assumed the position of guardian to me,
and placed me at one of the best schools in Paris.
He lingered in the city and came to see me very often;
but always saw me in the presence of Madame, the directress.
I clung to him with affection as to a father or an
elder brother, and I knew he loved me with the tender,
protecting affection that he would have given a younger
sister, had he possessed one. Ah! Doctor
Rocke, tell me, besides yourself, are there many other
men in your State like him?”
“I knew but one such; but go on, dear Madam.”
“When I had been to school some
months he came to me one day scarcely able to conceal
his woe. He told me that his father was ill and
that he should have to sail in the first packet from
Havre, and that, in fact, he had then come to take
leave of me. I was wild with grief, not only
upon his account but upon my own, at the prospect of
losing him, my only friend. I was but a child,
and a French child to boot. I knew nothing of
the world; I regarded this noble gentleman, who was
so much my superior in years as in everything else,
as a father, guardian or elder brother; so in an agony
of grief I threw myself into his arms, sobbing and
weeping bitterly and imploring him not to break my
heart by leaving me. It was in vain Madame the
Directress exclaimed and expostulated at these improprieties.
I am sure I did not hear a word until he spoke.
Putting me out of his arms, he said:
“‘I must go, my child; duty calls me.’
“’Then take me with you;
take your poor little one with you, and do not pull
her out of your warm, good heart, or she will wither
and die like a flower torn up by the roots!’
I cried, between my sobs and tears.
“He drew me back to his bosom and whispered:
“There is but one way in which
I can take you with me, my child. Will you be
my wife, little Capitolie?”
“Capitola!” cried Traverse, with another
“Yes! Why? What is the matter now?”
“Why, it is such an odd name, that is all!
Pray proceed, Madam.”
“We were married the same day,
and sailed the third morning thereafter from Havre
for the United States, where we arrived, alas! only
to find the noble gentleman, my Eugene’s father,
laid in his grave. After Mr. Le Noir’s
natural grief was over we settled down peaceably to
our country life at the Hidden House ”
“The Hidden House!” again exclaimed Traverse
“Yes! that is another odd name,
isn’t it? Well, I was very happy. At
first when I understood my real position, I had been
afraid that my husband had married me only from compassion;
but he soon proved to me that his love was as high,
as pure and as noble as himself. I was very happy.
But one day, in the midst of my exultant joy, a thunderbolt
fell and shattered my peace to destruction forever!
Oh, Doctor Rocke, my husband was murdered by some
unknown hand in his own woods, in open day! I
cannot talk of this!” cried the widow, breaking
down, overwhelmed with the rush of terrible recollections.
Traverse poured out a glass of water and handed it
She drank it, made an effort at self-control, and
“Thus, scarcely sixteen years
of age, I was a widow, helpless, penniless and entirely
dependent upon my brother-in-law, Colonel Gabriel
Le Noir, for by the terms of their father’s will,
if Eugene died without issue the whole property descended
to his younger brother, Gabriel. To speak the
truth, Colonel Le Noir was exceedingly kind to me
after my awful bereavement, until a circumstance was
discovered that changed all our relations. It
was two months after my husband’s death that
I discovered, with mingled emotions of joy and sorrow,
that heaven had certainly destined me to become a
mother! I kept my cherished secret to myself
as long as it was possible, but it could not indeed
be long concealed from the household. I believe
that my brother-in-law was the first to suspect it.
He called me into his study one day, and I obeyed
like a child. And there he rudely questioned me
upon the subject of my sacred mother-mystery.
He learned the truth more from my silence than from
my replies, for I could not answer him.”
“The brute! the miserable hound!” ejaculated
“Oh, Doctor Rocke, I could not
tell you the avalanche of abuse, insult and invective
that he hurled upon my defenseless head. He accused
me of more crimes than I had ever heard talk of.
He told me that my condition was an impossible one
unless I had been false to the memory of his brother;
that I had dishonored his name, disgraced his house
and brought myself to shame; that I should leave the
roof, leave the neighborhood and die as I deserved
to die, in a ditch! I made no reply. I was
crushed into silence under the weight of his reproaches.”
“The caitiff! The poltroon!
Ah, poor stranger, why did you not leave the house
at once and throw yourself upon the protection of the
minister of your parish or some other kind neighbor?”
“Alas! I was a child, a
widow and a foreigner all in one! I did not know
your land or your laws or your people. I was not
hopeful or confident; I had suffered so cruelly and
I was overwhelmed by his abuse.”
“But did you not know, dear
lady, that all his rage was aroused only by the fact
that the birth of your child would disinherit him?”
“Ah, no! I was not aware,
at that time, that Gabriel Le Noir was a villain.
I thought his anger honest, though unjust, and I was
as ignorant as a child. I had no mother nor matronly
friend to instruct me. I knew that I had broken
no command of God or man; that I had been a faithful
wife, but when Gabriel Le Noir accused me with such
bitter earnestness I feared that some strange departure
from the usual course of nature had occurred for my
destruction. And I was overwhelmed by mortification,
terror and despair!”
“Ah, the villain!” exclaimed Traverse,
between his teeth.
“He told me at last that to
save the memory of his dead brother he would hide
my dishonor, and he ordered me to seclude myself from
the sight of all persons. I obeyed him like a
slave, grateful even for the shelter of his roof.”
“A roof that was your own, as
he very well knew. And he knew, also, the caitiff!
that if the circumstance became known the whole State
would have protected you in your rights, and ejected
him like a cur.”
“Nay, even in that case no harm
should have reached him on my account. He was
my husband’s brother.”
“And worst enemy! But proceed, dear lady.”
“Well, I secluded myself as
he commanded. For four months I never left the
attic to which he had ordered me to retreat. At
the end of that time I became the mother of twins a
boy and a girl. The boy only opened his eyes
on this world to close them again directly. The
girl was living and healthy. The old nurse who
attended me had an honest and compassionate face;
I persuaded her to secrete and save the living child,
and to present the dead babe to Colonel Le Noir as
the only one, for the suspicions that had never been
awakened for myself were alarmed for my child.
I instinctively felt that he would have destroyed it.”
“The mother’s instinct
is like inspiration,” said Traverse.
“It may be so. Well, the
old woman pitied me and did as I desired. She
took the dead child to Colonel Le Noir, who carried
it off, and afterward buried it as the sole heir of
his elder brother. The old woman carried off
my living child and my wedding ring, concealed under
her ample shawl. Anxiety for the fate of my child
caused me to do what nothing else on earth would have
tempted me to do to creep about the halls
and passages on tiptoe and under cover of the night
and listen at keyholes,” said the lady, blushing
deeply at the recollection.
“You you were perfectly
right, Mrs. Le Noir! In a den of robbers, where
your life and honor were always at stake, you could
have done no otherwise!” exclaimed Traverse,
“I learned by this means that
my poor old nurse had paid with her liberty for her
kindness to me. She had been abducted and forced
from her native country together with a child found
in her possession, which they evidently suspected,
and I knew, to be mine. Oh, heaven! the agony
then of thinking of what might be her unknown fate,
worse than death, perhaps! I felt that I had
only succeeded in saving her life doubtful
Here Mrs. Le Noir paused in thought
for a few moments and then resumed.
“It is the memory of a long,
dreary and hopeless imprisonment, my recollection
of my residence in that house! In the same manner
in which I gained all my information, I learned that
it was reported in the neighborhood that I had gone
mad with grief for the loss of my husband and that
I was an inmate of a madhouse in the North! It
was altogether false; I never left the Hidden House
in all those years until about two years ago.
My life there was dreary beyond all conception.
I was forbidden to go out or to appear at a window.
I had the whole attic, containing some eight or ten
rooms, to rove over, but I was forbidden to descend.
An ill-looking woman called Dorcas Knight, between
whom and the elder Le Noir there seemed to have been
some sinful bond was engaged ostensibly as my attendant,
but really as my jailer. Nevertheless, when the
sense of confinement grew intolerable I sometimes
eluded her vigilance and wandered about the house at
“Thence, no doubt,” said
Traverse, “giving rise to the report that the
house was haunted.”
Mrs. Le Noir smiled, saying:
“I believe the Le Noirs secretly
encouraged that report. I’ll tell you why.
They gave me a chamber lamp inclosed in an intense
blue shade, that cast a strange, unearthly light around.
Their ostensible reason was to insure my safety from
fire. Their real reason was that this light might
be seen from without in what was reputed to be an
uninhabited portion of the house, and give color to
its bad reputation among the ignorant of being haunted.”
“So much for the origin of one
authenticated ghost story,” said Traverse.
“Yes, and there was still more
circumstantial evidence to support this ghostly reputation
of the house. As the years passed I had, even
in my confined state, gathered knowledge in one way
and another picking up stray books and
hearing stray conversation; and so, in the end I learned
how gross a deception and how great a wrong had been
practised upon me. I was not wise or cunning.
I betrayed constantly to my attendant my knowledge
of these things. In consequence of which my confinement
became still more restricted.”
“Yes, they were afraid of you,
and fear is always the mother of cruelty,” said
“Well, from the time that I
became enlightened as to my real position, all my
faculties were upon the alert to find means of escaping
and making my condition known to the authorities.
One night they had a guest, Colonel Eglen, of the
army, Old Dorcas had her hands full, and forgot her
prisoner. My door was left unlocked. So,
long after Colonel Eglen had retired to rest, and
when all the household were buried in repose, I left
my attic and crept down to the chamber of the guest,
with no other purpose than to make known my wrongs
and appeal to his compassion. I entered his chamber,
approached his bed to speak to him, when this hero
of a hundred fields started up in a panic, and at the
sight of the pale woman who drew his curtains in the
dead of the night, he shrieked, violently rang his
bell and fainted prone away.”
“Ha! ha! ha! he could brave
an army or march into a cannon’s mouth easier
than meet a supposed denizen of another world!
Well, Doctor Johnson believed in ghosts,” laughed
“It remained for me to retreat
as fast as possible to my room to avoid the Le Noirs,
who were hurrying with headlong speed to the guest-chamber.
They knew of course, that I was the ghost, although
they affected to treat their visitor’s story
as a dream. After that my confinement was so
strict that for years I had no opportunity of leaving
my attic. At last the strict espionage was relaxed.
Sometimes my door would be left unlocked. Upon
one such occasion, in creeping about in the dark,
I learned, by overhearing a conversation between Le
Noir and his housekeeper, that my long lost daughter,
Capitola, had been found and was living at Hurricane
Hall! This was enough to comfort me for years.
About three years ago the surveillance over me was
so modified that I was left again to roam about the
upper rooms of the house at will, until I learned
that they had a new inmate, young Clara Day, a ward
of Le Noir! Oh, how I longed to warn that child
to fly! But I could not; alas, again I was restricted
to my own room, lest I should be seen by her.
But again, upon one occasion, old Dorcas forgot to
lock my door at night. I stole forth from my
room and learned that a young girl, caught out in
the storm, was to stay all night at the Hidden House.
Young girls were not plentiful in that neighborhood,
I knew. Besides, some secret instinct told me
that this was my daughter: I knew that she would
sleep in the chamber under mine, because that was the
only habitable guest-room in the whole house.
In the dead of night I left my room and went below
and entered the chamber of the young girl. I
went first to the toilet table to see if among her
little girlish ornaments, I could find any clue to
her identity. I found it in a plain, gold ring the
same that I had intrusted to the old nurse. Some
strange impulse caused me to slip the ring upon my
finger. Then I went to the bed and threw aside
the curtains to gaze upon the sleeper. My girl my
own girl! With what strange sensations I first
looked upon her face! Her eyes were open and
fixed upon mine in a panic of terror. I stooped
to press my lips to her’s and she closed her
eyes in mortal fear, I carried nothing but terror
with me! I withdrew from the room and went back,
sobbing, to my chamber. My poor girl next morning
unconsciously betrayed her mother. It had nearly
cost me my life.”
“When the Le Noirs came home,
the first night of their arrival they entered my room,
seized me in my bed and dragged me shrieking from it!”
“Good heaven! What punishment
is sufficient for such wretches!” exclaimed
Traverse, starting up and pacing the narrow limits
of the cell.
“Listen! They soon stopped
both my shrieks and my breath at once. I lost
consciousness for a time, and when I awoke I found
myself in a close carriage, rattling over a mountain
road, through the night. Late the next morning
we reached an uninhabited country house, where I was
again imprisoned, in charge of an old dumb woman, whom
Le Noir called Mrs. Raven. This I afterwards
understood to be Willow Heights, the property of the
orphan heiress, Clara Day. And here, also, for
the term of my stay, the presence of the unknown inmate
got the house the reputation of being haunted.
“The old dumb woman was a shade
kinder to me than Dorcas Knight had been, but I did
not stay in her charge very long. One night the
Le Noirs came in hot haste. The young heiress
had been delivered from their charge by a degree of
the Orphans’ Court, and they had to give up
her house. I was drugged and hurried away.
Some narcotic sedative must have been insinuated into
all my food, for I was in a state of semi-sensibility
and mild delirium during the whole course of a long
journey by land and sea, which passed to me like a
dream, and at the end of which I found myself here.
No doubt, from the excessive use of narcotics, there
was some thing wild and stupid in my manner and appearance
that justified the charge of madness. And when
I found that I was a prisoner in a lunatic asylum,
far, far away from the neighborhood where at least
I had once been known I gave way to the wilder grief
that further confirmed the story of my madness.
I have been here two years, occasionally giving way
to outbursts of wild despair, that the doctor calls
frenzy. I was sinking into an apathy, when one
day I opened the little Bible that lay upon the table
of my cell. I fixed upon the last chapters in
the gospel of John. That narrative of meek patience
and divine love. It did for me what no power
under that of God could have done. It saved me!
It saved me from madness! It saved me from despair!
There is a time for the second birth of every soul;
that time had come for me. From that hour, this
book has been my constant companion and comfort.
I have learned from its pages how little it matters
how or where this fleeting, mortal life is passed,
so that it answers its purpose of preparing the soul
for another. I have learned patience with sinners,
forgiveness of enemies, and confidence in God.
In a word, I trust I have learned the way of salvation,
and in that have learned everything. Your coming
and your words, young friend, have stirred within
my heart the desire to be free, to mingle again on
equal terms with my fellow beings, and above all,
to find and to embrace my child. But not wildly
anxious am I even for these earthly blessings.
These, as well as all things else, I desire to leave
to the Lord, praying that His will may be mine.
Young friend, my story is told.”
“Madam,” said Traverse,
after a thoughtful pause, “our fates have been
more nearly connected than you could have imagined.
Those Le Noirs have been my enemies as they are yours.
That young orphan heiress, who appealed from their
cruelty to the Orphans’ Court, was my own betrothed.
Willow Heights was her patrimony and is now her quiet
home where she lives with my mother, and where in
their names I invited you to come. And take this
comfort also; your enemy no longer lives: months
ago I left him ill with a mortal wound. This morning
the papers announce his death. There remains,
therefore, but little for me to do, but to take legal
measures to free you from this place, and restore you
to your home. Within an hour I shall set out for
New Orleans, for the purpose of taking the initiatory
steps. Until my return then, dear lady,”
said Traverse, respectfully taking her hand “farewell,
and be of good cheer!”