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and on," said poor old Charley, and with a harmless innocence added, "they call it the Count's Folly."

"But what are you going to do?" said I, briskly, anxious to let him catch the fever of my bustle and energy. "Are you going to stay

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"Well, I congratulate you with all my heart," said I. "You ought to have been married long ago, for I am sure you are quite incapable of taking care of yourself. When is it to be ?"

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"Then I suppose you will abandon the tower ?”

"Well, not just yet. Lily, who lives in the neighbourhood, wishes, after a short honeymoon, to come back and spend Christmas at the tower; and she gave me special instructions to bring down what friends I liked, in order to try, if possible, to make up a jolly party. Will you be one?"

The idea of a jolly Christmas party of old friends at the Count's Folly rather tickled my fancy, and seeing that all my own folks happened to be abroad, and intended remaining there over Christmas, I readily accepted the Count's invitation.

It is but fair to add with reference to a surmise of mine apropos of the future Countess, that Charley told me how for some months he had been a serious invalid, and that the aforesaid Lily had most disinterestedly nursed him through a dangerous illness.

"I never took my meals regularly," he said, "and consequently my digestive organs got altogether out of order. I have now to be most careful what I eat, and if Miss Lily heard of the old days and the conventional beef-steak pudding at the dear old Cheese,' I think she would faint. I can never thank her sufficiently for what she has done for me."

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So it was that Lily nursed the Count, the Count fell in love with Lily, and I got my invitation to spend Christmas at the Count's Folly.

Snow! snow! snow! nothing but cheerless and everlasting snow! Snow on the pavements-soft, slushy, disagreeable, penetrating into boots and suggestive of chilblains and bronchitis! Snow in the roads.

when cabs have three or four horses apiece, and howling, hulking men sing dirges for coppers, pretending that they have all had work, and are fair subjects for charity. Snow on the housetops, choking up gutters and waterspouts, spoiling whitewashed ceilings, and giving a huge amount of annoyance to fathers of families, and a huge amount of work to the inevitable plumber. Snow on the railroads, stopping the mails and endangering the safety of the public. Everywhere snow, nothing but tedious, disagreeable snow!

I shuddered as I thought of the Count's castle on the top of the deserted Gloucestershire hill, and bitterly repented me of my promise to spend Christmas at the Count's Folly. However, there was no getting out of it now. The Count had arranged his party, of which I had faithfully promised to be one, and I was not the one on such an occasion to break faith with the Count.

If the trains could run, I could go; and as the snow continued and the trains did run, I prepared myself for my melancholy journey.

It was necessary, so the Count told me, to get to the nearest station to his castle while daylight lasted, as I should have to trudge it from the little village at the foot of the hill, there being no means of getting any vehicle within a good mile of his extraordinary residence.

I obeyed his injunctions, but the train was of course late. It was dark when I got to the station, and I was landed in a snow-drift, which came up to my knees; it was darker still when I got to the little village at the foot of the hill. It was blowing hard and snowing bitterly, and no one seemed inclined to guide me to my friend's hospitable mansion. There was nothing for it but to sleep at the little village. The weather might be more propitious in the morning Christmas-day

My surmises did not turn out to be correct. dawned, and the weather was as wretched as ever. Anything was preferable to eating my roast beef and plum-pudding in the miserable little inn in which I had passed the night, so, shouldering my traps, I trudged forward up a winding-path-or rather what should have been a winding-path-to the castle on the hill-top.

The Count gave me a warm and sincere welcome, and his wifenot a bad-looking woman, but a woman with a worn uneasy-looking face, and a cold and unsympathetic pair of eyes-applauded my pluck in defying the clements and keeping my promise. I soon saw that I was the only one of the Count's friends who had kept faith with him, and that I was destined to eat my Christmas dinner alone with my host and his newly-married wife.

There was evidently something the matter. I had never before seen my old friend look so utterly wretched and depressed.

Perhaps, like many another married couple, they did not get on well together, and now within a few weeks of their marriage, but unfortunately just a few weeks too late, they had mutually discovered that they had made a great mistake. Perhaps they had been left too much together, and, already weary of one another's society, they were pining over it. Perhaps the wretched loneliness of the interior of the Count's Folly, and the desolate dreariness of the scene outside it, had depressed them both. A very likely conjecture this, for it was the most miserable place I had ever entered. It was all very well for a summer retreat, I dare say, but for the winter-bah! the very recollection of the place makes me shudder as I write.

My speculations as to the settled melancholy which had taken possession of my excellent friend, soon changed from lively to severe. It was not long before my suspicions began to be seriously aroused.

I could not help noticing that the Count's wife never left us alone for an instant. I should have liked to have had a word or two with my old friend, but all my efforts to do so, before dinner, failed signally.

After some hours of dreary and desultory conversation, dinner-time approached. Charley's wife prepared to leave us to dress for dinner. Now, I thought, was my time for a word or two with Charley. But no, she was too clever for us, and took Charley off with her. I went up to my own little turret more than ever amazed at their extraordinary conduct. We soon met again, and dinner was in due time announced. She happened to precede us downstairs, as the staircase was too narrow and winding to allow of my offering her my arm. Charley followed last. When we had got half way down, I felt my shoulder clutched, and Charley whispered excitedly in my ear:

"Don't turn round or talk to me now. For heaven's sake remember one thing, don't touch the made dishes!"

Don't touch the made dishes! What an awful warning. I naturally thought that the cook of the Count's Folly was not to be trusted, and that Charley, in his good nature, dreaded that I should be poisoned with her rustic attempts at an imitation of French kickshaws One look at Charley's face, however, when we had got into the refectoryand that is just what the dining-room looked like-persuaded me that again my surmises were incorrect. The mystery was getting deeper and deeper.

It suddenly struck me as strange that on Christmas-day there

should be any made dishes at all. On this dies dierum one generally goes in for solid stolid, British food-roast beef, turkey, chine, goose, anything but made dishes. And why made dishes at the Count's Folly, on the top of a deserted Gloucestershire hill, the very place of all others where one would least have expected to find them. The turkey and the roast beef were there sure enough, but so were the made dishes, or rather the made dish, cutlets with tomato-sauce! Huge, fat, rustic looking cutlets, with dirty looking, unhealthy, sauce, and plenty of it, smeared in an uncouth inartistic way all over the chops-I sternly refuse to call them cutlets any more.

Our faces during dinner would have made an excellent study for a physiognomist, if there is such a creature in existence. It was a dinner of winks. The chops played a very pretty part in the little domestic drama. All dinner time Mrs. Peebles was persuading her husband to try a cutlet, and Charley, during the intervals of persuasion, was winking at me in a ghastly manner, and Mrs. Peebles winking in a "don't-take-any-notice" sort of manner. But when I asserted my determination to try a cutlet, the tables were altogether changed. Charley gave then a horrified wink, and Mrs. Peebles a deprecating one. Mrs. Peebles gained the day, for Charley did try a cutlet, but I noticed that he scraped off every atom of sauce, and contented himself with eating the heart of the chop, leaving all the outside, which had come into contact with the evidently obnoxious sauce.

When the Count had performed his feat in gastronomy, and the dinner and cutlets had disappeared, his wife cheered up. The cold grey eyes softened, the nervous expression in her thin lips left them, and she became quite lively. But the Count was dull, hopelessly dull.

In spite of the change in Mrs. Peebles' manner, I could not help feeling there was a mystery to be fathomed, and an explanation to be made. I was right. We were left alone at last. Charley's wife retired, and did not drag her husband away with her this time. It was up in the little smoking-room, on the same floor as Charley's bedroom, that he opened his heart to me, and begged my advice.

"It is an awful thing to say," he began, "but I am in daily, almost hourly, fear of losing my life. My wife is either a demon or a monomaniac, and she is meditating, nay, day by day preparing, my destruction."

"Good heavens, what do you mean?" I said.

There was a wild, scared look in the Count's face, as he continued"Those cutlets we had for dinner to-day were poisoned! Not one

day since I have been married have I sat down to dinner with the unhappy creature I call my wife, that I have not had placed before me some poisoned dish. I made the discovery the day after I was married, and I have never had one happy moment since. A confidential servant who had lived with me here before I was married first opened my eyes to this matter. Imagine my horror to be suddenly awakened to the fact that I was a victim to the horrors of slow poisoning. The confidential servant-an old housekeeper-did not remain here long. But you shall see and judge for yourself. This is just about her time."

I stared at the Count in astonishment, and began to think that the insane proclivities were as strong in him as they were in his wife. It was getting late now, and the wind whistled through the deserted corridors of the turret, howling and moaning as it went, screaming down the wide chimneys, and creeping through the cracks and crevices in the ill-fitting doors.

The Count motioned to me to keep silent, and, rising from his chair, listened attentively at the door.

"Twelve o'clock," he said. "She knows that I shall be coming to bed in about a quarter of an hour. She should be here by now." Suddenly we heard the quiet creak of a door gently opened, and almost immediately afterwards the rustle of drapery outside.


"There she is! Now is your time." I stood in mute astonish"Off with your boots, man. There is not a minute to be lost." It did not take me long to throw off my light boots. The Count noiselessly and suddenly opened the door, and pointed :-"There ! there!"

Then through the dim corridors, as quictly as a cat, I pursued a figure in white, holding a lighted candle, and disappearing down the stone staircase. Stealthily and on tiptoe-luckily without looking behind her she crept downstairs. Cautiously, and holding my breath as I went, I followed her.

We reached the basement floor, but she never halted there. Down we went lower and lower still. These were unknown regions to me, but still I felt bound to follow the light and my mysterious guide.

A faint smell of cooking, or rather the remains of cooking, reached my nostrils, and I guessed that we had penetrated into the mysteries of the kitchen. I was right. My guide turned sharp round to the left. Luckily the door was open, and the white lady would have no occasion to turn.

It was the kitchen. I did not follow her quite into the room, but

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