I had a suspicion, but held my peace and let her rhapsodize.
“No one in all my life has ever shown me so much kindness! Are you sure you won’t be tempted to tell any one what you mean to do?”
“And will go down into the cellar and get this box for me, all by yourself?”
“Yes, if you demand it.”
“I do; you will see why some day.”
“Very well, you can trust me. Now tell me where I am to find the brick you designate.”
“It’s in the cellar wall, about half-way down on the right-hand side. You will see nothing but stone for a foot or two above the floor, but after that comes the brick wall. On one of these bricks you will detect a cross scratched. That’s the one. It will look as well cemented as the rest, but if you throw water against it, you will find that in a little while you will be able to pry it out. Take something to do this with, a knife or a pair of scissors. When the brick falls out, feel behind with your hand and you will find the box.”
“A questionable task. What if I should be seen at it?”
“The ghost will protect you!”
Again that smile of mingled sarcasm and innuendo. It was no common servant girl’s smile, any more than her language was that of the ignorant domestic.
“I believe the ghost fails to walk since the present tenants came into the house,” I remarked.
“But its reputation remains; you’ll not be disturbed.”
“Possibly not; a good reason why you might safely undertake the business yourself. I can find some way of letting you in.”
“No, no. I shall never again cross that threshold!” Her whole attitude showed revolt and bitter determination.
“Yet you have never been frightened by anything there?”
“I know; but I have suffered; that is, for one who has no feelings. The box will have to remain in its place undisturbed if you won’t get it for me.”
“Yes, Miss; nothing would induce me even to cross the street. But I want the box.”
“You shall have it,” said I.
I seemed bound to be the prey of a divided duty. As I crossed the street, I asked myself which of the two experiments I had in mind should occupy my attention first. Should I proceed at once with that close study and detailed examination of the house, which I contemplated in my eagerness to establish my theory of a secret passage between it and the one now inhabited by the Misses Quinlan, or should I wait to do this until I had recovered the box, which might hold still greater secrets?
I could not decide, so I resolved to be guided by circumstances. If Mrs. Packard were still out, I did not think I could sit down till I had a complete plan of the house as a start in the inquiry which interested me most.