“What is in it?” asked Edgar sharply.
“That I do not know. Moreover, it is a peculiar trunk, without any visible means of opening.”
“Is there no lock?”
“I suppose so, sir; but I do not know. There is no keyhole.”
“Send it here; and then come to me yourself.”
The trunk, a heavy one with steel bands round it, but no lock or keyhole, was carried in by two men. Shortly afterwards old Simon attended his master. When he came into the room, Mr. Caswall himself went and closed the door; then he asked:
“How do you open it?”
“I do not know, sir.”
“Do you mean to say that you never opened it?”
“Most certainly I say so, your honour. How could I? It was entrusted to me with the other things by my master. To open it would have been a breach of trust.”
“Quite remarkable! Leave it with me. Close the door behind you. Stay—did no one ever tell you about it—say anything regarding it—make any remark?”
Old Simon turned pale, and put his trembling hands together.
“Oh, sir, I entreat you not to touch it. That trunk probably contains secrets which Dr. Mesmer told my master. Told them to his ruin!”
“How do you mean? What ruin?”
“Sir, he it was who, men said, sold his soul to the Evil One; I had thought that that time and the evil of it had all passed away.”
“That will do. Go away; but remain in your own room, or within call. I may want you.”
The old man bowed deeply and went out trembling, but without speaking a word.
CHAPTER XII—THE CHEST OPENED
Left alone in the turret-room, Edgar Caswall carefully locked the door and hung a handkerchief over the keyhole. Next, he inspected the windows, and saw that they were not overlooked from any angle of the main building. Then he carefully examined the trunk, going over it with a magnifying glass. He found it intact: the steel bands were flawless; the whole trunk was compact. After sitting opposite to it for some time, and the shades of evening beginning to melt into darkness, he gave up the task and went to his bedroom, after locking the door of the turret-room behind him and taking away the key.
He woke in the morning at daylight, and resumed his patient but unavailing study of the metal trunk. This he continued during the whole day with the same result—humiliating disappointment, which overwrought his nerves and made his head ache. The result of the long strain was seen later in the afternoon, when he sat locked within the turret-room before the still baffling trunk, distrait, listless and yet agitated, sunk in a settled gloom. As the dusk was falling he told the steward to send him two men, strong ones. These he ordered to take the trunk to his bedroom. In that room he then sat on into the night, without pausing even to take any food. His mind was in a whirl, a fever of excitement. The result was that when, late in the night, he locked himself in his room his brain was full of odd fancies; he was on the high road to mental disturbance. He lay down on his bed in the dark, still brooding over the mystery of the closed trunk.