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The Ghost of the Black Friar
Page 2 of 2
The room was not opened until a late hour, when the monk who had served him while at supper, entered to inform him that a post-chaise had deposited at the gate four gentlemen, who had come expressly to inquire if a traveller answering the description of Mr. Hawthorne had stopped at the Abbey that night. When Hawthorne met them in the strangers' apartment, what was his joy on discovering that one of the four was the British Consul. Fearful of some foul play, Mr. Hawthorne's brother had requested that official to accompany him and his friends, when they left Turin. Hawthorne determined at once to have the matter of the unearthly vision which had disturbed his slumbers probed to the bottom. The Consul declared that he would take a judicial account of all the evidence. The Abbot was summoned, at Mr. Hawthorne's request, and as the Consul represented that the presence of all the residents of the Institution would lead to a speedier solution of the mystery, the whole community was assembled in the Convent Refectory. The circumstances of the visit of either a ghost or an assassin, were repeated with nervous accuracy by Hawthorne, who was now roused to a high pitch of excitement and eager desire of revenge.
When he had finished, the Abbot turned a searching look upon all the bystanders, and charged any one present who knew of this dreadful occurrence, to speak out, in virtue of holy obedience. The Prior of the Convent was the only one who spoke, though what he said gave little satisfaction; in fact, rather rendered the explanation more difficult. He remarked that there was a door which led to the room where Mr. Hawthorne had slept, from the corridor of the Infirmary. A silence ensued, when Hawthorne was observed to grow pale and stagger back.
An old monk, who had a partial charge of the Infirmary, stepped slowly from the ranks of his brethren and walked towards the Abbot. Hawthorne had recognised at once the thin, pale features, upon which the nocturnal lamp had glared. The old man bared his silvery head, and bowed tremblingly at his superior's feet. A dead silence ensued as he began, in a husky voice: "Most Reverend Father Abbot, I confess that I know something of this last night's occurrence. I myself was the cause of the Englishman's alarm. I know that Brother Francis is a young and giddy lad, and after beads, on my way to bed, I stepped into his room to see if Brother Francis had remembered to put water in the pitcher!! When I got up to the corner where the wash-stand is, I saw the Englishman turn around, and for fear of waking him up, I ran again out of the room."
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