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THE BEGGAR WOMAN OF LOCARNO.
At the foot of the Alps, near Locarno, was an old castle, belonging to a marquess, the ruins of which are still visible to the traveller, as he comes from St. Gothard—a castle with lofty and roomy apartments, high towers, and narrow windows. In one of these rooms, an old sick woman was deposited upon some straw, which had been shaken down for her by the housekeeper of the marquess, who had found her begging before the gate. The marquess, who was accustomed to go into this room on his return from hunting, to lay aside his gun, ordered the poor wretch to get up immediately out of her corner, and begone.
The creature arose, but slipping with her crutch upon the smooth floor, she fell, and injured her back so much, that it was with great difficulty she got up, and, moving across the room as she had been desired, groaning and crying sadly, sank down behind the chimney. Several years afterwards, when the circumstances of the marquess had been much reduced by war and the failure of his crops, a Florentine gentleman visited the castle, with the intention of purchasing it, in consequence of the beauty of the situation. The marquess, who was very anxious to have the bargain concluded, gave his wife directions to lodge the stranger in the same upper room in which the old woman had died, it having, in the meantime, been very handsomely fitted up; but, to their consternation, in the middle of the night, the stranger entered their room, pale and agitated, protesting loudly that the chamber was haunted by some invisible being; for that he had heard something rise up in the corner, as if it had been lying among straw, move over the chamber with slow and tottering steps, and sink down, groaning and crying, near the chimney.
The marquess, terrified, though he scarcely knew why, endeavoured to put a fair face upon the matter, and to laugh off the fears of his visiter, telling him he would rise himself, and spend the rest of the night with him in his room; but the stranger begged that he would rather allow him to occupy a couch in the adjoining room; and as soon as morning broke, he saddled his horse, took his leave, and departed. This occurrence, which occasioned much notice, made so unpleasant an impression upon intending purchasers, that not another inquiry was made; and at last, even the servants in the house becoming possessed with the notion that there was something dreadful in the room, the marquess, with the view of setting the report to rest, determined to investigate the matter himself next night. Accordingly, in the twilight, he caused his bed to be brought to the apartment, and waited, without sleeping, the approach of midnight. But what was his consternation, when, on the stroke