Northanger Abbey. Part 59

Northanger Abbey. Uncovering

Northanger Abbey 59g


She looked round the room. The window curtains seemed

in motion. It could be nothing but the violence of the wind

penetrating through the divisions of the shutters; and she

stepped boldly forward, carelessly humming a tune, to as-

sure herself of its being so, peeped courageously behind each

curtain, saw nothing on either low window seat to scare her,

and on placing a hand against the shutter, felt the strongest

conviction of the wind’s force. A glance at the old chest, as

she turned away from this examination, was not without

its use; she scorned the causeless fears of an idle fancy, and

began with a most happy indifference to prepare herself for

bed.
Northanger Abbey 59a


 

‘She should take her time; she should not hurry herself;

she did not care if she were the last person up in the house.

But she would not make up her fire; that would seem cow-

ardly, as if she wished for the protection of light after she

were in bed.’ The fire therefore died away, and Catherine,

having spent the best part of an hour in her arrangements,

was beginning to think of stepping into bed, when, on

giving a parting glance round the room, she was struck

by the appearance of a high, old-fashioned cabinet,

which, though in a situation conspicuous enough, had nev-

er caught her notice before.
Northanger Abbey 59b


 

She applied herself to the key, and after moving it in every possible way for some instants with the determined celerity of hope’s last effort, the door suddenly yielded to her hand: her heart leaped with exultation at such a victory, and having thrown open each folding door, the second being secured only by bolts of less wonderful construction than the lock, though in that her eye could not discern anything unusual, a double range of small drawers appeared in view, with some larger drawers above and below them; and in the centre, a small door, closed also with a lock and key, secured in all probability a cavity of importance.
Northanger Abbey 59c


 

Catherine’s heart beat quick, but her courage did not fail

her. With a cheek flushed by hope, and an eye straining with

curiosity, her fingers grasped the handle of a drawer and

drew it forth. It was entirely empty. With less alarm and

greater eagerness she seized a second, a third, a fourth; each

was equally empty. Not one was left unsearched, and in not

one was anything found.
Northanger Abbey 59d


 

The place in the middle alone remained now

unexplored; and though she had ‘never from the first had

the smallest idea of finding anything in any part of the cabi-

net, and was not in the least disappointed at her ill success

thus far, it would be foolish not to examine it thoroughly

while she was about it.’ It was some time however before

she could unfasten the door, the same difficulty occurring

in the management of this inner lock as of the outer; but at

length it did open; and not vain, as hitherto, was her search;

her quick eyes directly fell on a roll of paper pushed back

into the further part of the cavity, apparently for conceal-

ment, and her feelings at that moment were indescribable.
Northanger Abbey 59e


 

The dimness of the light her candle emitted made her

turn to it with alarm; but there was no danger of its sud-

den extinction; it had yet some hours to burn; and that she

might not have any greater difficulty in distinguishing the

writing than what its ancient date might occasion, she hasti-

ly snuffed it. Alas! It was snuffed and extinguished in one. A

lamp could not have expired with more awful effect. Cathe-

rine, for a few moments, was motionless with horror.
Northanger Abbey 59f


 

In the pause which succeeded, a sound like receding footsteps and the closing of a distant door struck on her affrighted ear. Human nature could support no more. A cold sweat stood on her forehead, the manuscript fell from her hand, and groping her way to the bed, she jumped hastily in, and sought some suspension of agony by creeping far underneath the clothes.
Northanger Abbey 59g


 

The manuscript so wonderfully found, so wonderfully accomplishing the morning’s prediction, how was it to be accounted for?

What could it contain? To whom could it relate? By what

means could it have been so long concealed? And how sin-

gularly strange that it should fall to her lot to discover it! Till

she had made herself mistress of its contents, however, she

could have neither repose nor comfort; and with the sun’s

first rays she was determined to peruse it.
Northanger Abbey 59h


 

Hour after hour passed away, and the wearied Catherine had heard three proclaimed by all the clocks in the house before the tempest subsided or she unknowingly fell fast asleep.
Northanger Abbey 59i (1)Northanger Abbey 59i (2)


 

To be continued

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