thoroughly gone over, but without any result.
It was evident that, for that night at any rate, Virginia
was lost to them; and it was in a state of the deepest
depression that Mr. Otis and the boys walked up to
the house, the groom following behind with the two
horses and the pony. In the hall they found a
group of frightened servants, and lying on a sofa in
the library was poor Mrs. Otis, almost out of her
mind with terror and anxiety, and having her forehead
bathed with eau de cologne by the old housekeeper.
Mr. Otis at once insisted on her having something to
eat, and ordered up supper for the whole party.
It was a melancholy meal, as hardly any one spoke,
and even the twins were awestruck and subdued, as they
were very fond of their sister. When they had
finished, Mr. Otis, in spite of the entreaties of
the little Duke, ordered them all to bed, saying that
nothing more could be done that night, and that he
would telegraph in the morning to Scotland Yard for
some detectives to be sent down immediately.
Just as they were passing out of the dining-room, midnight
began to boom from the clock tower, and when the last
stroke sounded they heard a crash and a sudden shrill
cry; a dreadful peal of thunder shook the house, a
strain of unearthly music floated through the air,
a panel at the top of the staircase flew back with
a loud noise, and out on the landing, looking very
pale and white, with a little casket in her hand,
stepped Virginia. In a moment they had all rushed
up to her. Mrs. Otis clasped her passionately
in her arms, the Duke smothered her with violent kisses,
and the twins executed a wild war-dance round the group.
[Illustration: “Out on the
landing stepped Virginia”]
“Good heavens! child, where have you been?”
said Mr. Otis, rather angrily, thinking that she had
been playing some foolish trick on them. “Cecil
and I have been riding all over the country looking
for you, and your mother has been frightened to death.
You must never play these practical jokes any more.”
“Except on the Ghost! except on the Ghost!”
shrieked the twins, as they capered about.
“My own darling, thank God you are found; you
must never leave my side again,” murmured Mrs.
Otis, as she kissed the trembling child, and smoothed
the tangled gold of her hair.
“Papa,” said Virginia, quietly, “I
have been with the Ghost. He is dead, and you
must come and see him. He had been very wicked,
but he was really sorry for all that he had done,
and he gave me this box of beautiful jewels before
The whole family gazed at her in mute amazement, but
she was quite grave and serious; and, turning round,
she led them through the opening in the wainscoting
down a narrow secret corridor, Washington following
with a lighted candle, which he had caught up from
the table. Finally, they came to a great oak
door, studded with rusty nails. When Virginia
touched it, it swung back on its heavy hinges, and