“Yes, that is their mania. Several tenants have occupied these premises—tenants who have not stayed long, but who certainly filled all the rooms, and must have penetrated every secret spot the house contains, but it has made no difference to them. They believe the bonds to be still lying in some out-of-the-way place in these old walls, and are jealous of any one who comes in here. This you can understand better when I tell you that one feature of their mania is this: they have lost all sense of time. It is two years since their brother died, yet to them it is an affair of yesterday. They showed this when they talked to me. What they wanted was for me to give up these bonds to them as soon as I found them. They seemed to think that I might run across them in settling, and made me promise to wake them day or night if I came across them unexpectedly.”
“How pathetic!” I exclaimed. “Do you suppose they have appealed in the same way to every one who has come in here?”
“No, or some whisper of this lost money would have become current in the neighborhood. And it never has. The traditions associated with the house,” here her manner changed a little, “are of quite another nature. I suppose the old gentleman has walked—looking, possibly, for his lost bonds.”
“That would be only natural,” I smiled, for her mood was far from serious. “But,” I quietly pursued, “how much of this old woman’s story do you believe? Can not she have been deceived as to what she saw? You say she is more or less demented. Perhaps there never was any old wallet, and possibly never any money.”
“I have seen the wallet. They brought it in to show me. Not that that proves anything; but somehow I do believe in the money, and, what is more, that it is still in this house. You will think me as demented as they.”
“No, no,” I smiled, “for I am inclined to think the same; it lends such an interest to the place. I wouldn’t disbelieve it now for anything.”
“Nor I,” she cried, taking up her work. “But we shall never find it. The house was all redecorated when we came in. Not one of the workmen has become suddenly wealthy.”
“I shall no longer begrudge these poor old souls their silent watch over these walls that hold their treasure,” I now remarked.
“Then you have lost your nervousness?”
“So have I,” laughed Mrs. Packard, showing me for the first time a face of complete complacency and contentment.
AT THE STAIR-HEAD
I spent the evening alone. Mrs. Packard went to the theater with friends and Mayor Packard attended a conference of politicians. I felt my loneliness, but busied myself trying to sift the impressions made upon me by the different members of the household.