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Chapter 21

A moment's glance was enough to satisfy Catherine that her apartment was very unlike the one which Henry had endeavoured to alarm her by the description of. It was by no means unreasonably large, and contained neither tapestry nor velvet. The walls were papered, the floor was carpeted; the windows were neither less perfect nor more dim than those of the drawing-room below; the furniture, though not of the latest fashion, was handsome and comfortable, and the air of the room altogether far from uncheerful. Her heart instantaneously at ease on this point, she resolved to lose no time in particular examination of anything, as she greatly dreaded disobliging the general by any delay. Her habit therefore was thrown off with all possible haste, and she was preparing to unpin the linen package, which the chaise-seat had conveyed for her immediate accommodation, when her eye suddenly fell on a large high chest, standing back in a deep recess on one side of the fireplace. The sight of it made her start; and, forgetting everything else, she stood gazing on it in motionless wonder, while these thoughts crossed her:

"This is strange indeed! I did not expect such a sight as this! An immense heavy chest! What can it hold? Why should it be placed here? Pushed back too, as if meant to be out of sight! I will look into it -- cost me what it may, I will look into it -- and directly too -- by daylight. If I stay till evening my candle may go out." She advanced and examined it closely: it was of cedar, curiously inlaid with some darker wood, and raised, about a foot from the ground, on a carved stand of the same. The lock was silver, though tarnished from age; at each end were the imperfect remains of handles also of silver, broken perhaps prematurely by some strange violence; and, on the centre of the lid, was a mysterious cipher, in the same metal. Catherine bent over it intently, but without being able to distinguish anything with certainty. She could not, in whatever direction she took it, believe the last letter to be a T; and yet that it should be anything else in that house was a circumstance to raise no common degree of astonishment. If not originally theirs, by what strange events could it have fallen into the Tilney family?

Her fearful curiosity was every moment growing greater; and seizing, with trembling hands, the hasp of the lock, she resolved at all hazards to satisfy herself at least as to its contents. With difficulty, for something seemed to resist her efforts, she raised the lid a few inches; but at that moment a sudden knocking at the door of the room made her, starting, quit her hold, and the lid closed with alarming violence. This ill-timed intruder was Miss Tilney's maid, sent by her mistress to be of use to Miss Morland; and though Catherine immediately dismissed her, it recalled her to the sense of what she ought to be doing, and forced her, in spite of her anxious desire to penetrate this mystery, to proceed in her dressing without further delay. Her progress was not quick, for her thoughts and her eyes were still bent on the object so well calculated to interest and alarm; and though she dared not waste a moment upon a second attempt, she could not remain many paces from the chest. At length, however, having slipped one arm into her gown, her toilette seemed so nearly finished that the impatience of her curiosity might safely be indulged. One moment surely might be spared; and, so desperate should be the exertion of her strength, that, unless secured by supernatural means, the lid in one moment should be thrown back. With this spirit she sprang forward, and her confidence did not deceive her. Her resolute effort threw back the lid, and gave to her astonished eyes the view of a white cotton counterpane, properly folded, reposing at one end of the chest in undisputed possession!

She was gazing on it with the first blush of surprise when Miss Tilney, anxious for her friend's being ready, entered the room, and to the rising shame of having harboured for some minutes an absurd expectation, was then added the shame of being caught in so idle a search. "That is a curious old chest, is not it?" said Miss Tilney, as Catherine hastily closed it and turned away to the glass. "It is impossible to say how many generations it has been here. How it came to be first put in this room I know not, but I have not had it moved, because I thought it might sometimes be of use in holding hats and bonnets. The worst of it is that its weight makes it difficult to open. In that corner, however, it is at least out of the way."

Catherine had no leisure for speech, being at once blushing, tying her gown, and forming wise resolutions with the most violent dispatch. Miss Tilney gently hinted her fear of being late; and in half a minute they ran downstairs together, in an alarm not wholly unfounded, for General Tilney was pacing the drawing-room, his watch in his hand, and having, on the very instant of their entering, pulled the bell with violence, ordered "Dinner to be on table directly!"

Catherine trembled at the emphasis with which he spoke, and sat pale and breathless, in a most humble mood, concerned for his children, and detesting old chests; and the general, recovering his politeness as he looked at her, spent the rest of his time in scolding his daughter for so foolishly hurrying her fair friend, who was absolutely out of breath from haste, when there was not the least occasion for hurry in the world: but Catherine could not at all get over the double distress of having involved her friend in a lecture and been a great simpleton herself, till they were happily seated at the dinner-table, when the general's complacent smiles, and a good appetite of her own, restored her to peace. The dining-parlour was a noble room, suitable in its dimensions to a much larger drawing-room than the one in common use, and fitted up in a style of luxury and expense which was almost lost on the unpractised eye of Catherine, who saw little more than its spaciousness and the number of their attendants. Of the former, she spoke aloud her admiration; and the general, with a very gracious countenance, acknowledged that it was by no means an ill-sized room, and further confessed that, though as careless on such subjects as most people, he did look upon a tolerably large eating-room as one of the necessaries of life; he supposed, however, "that she must have been used to much better-sized apartments at Mr. Allen's?"

"No, indeed," was Catherine's honest assurance; "Mr. Allen's dining-parlour was not more than half as large," and she had never seen so large a room as this in her life. The general's good humour increased. Why, as he had such rooms, he thought it would be simple not to make use of them; but, upon his honour, he believed there might be more comfort in rooms of only half their size. Mr. Allen's house, he was sure, must be exactly of the true size for rational happiness.

The evening passed without any further disturbance, and, in the occasional absence of General Tilney, with much positive cheerfulness. It was only in his presence that Catherine felt the smallest fatigue from her journey; and even then, even in moments of languor or restraint, a sense of general happiness preponderated, and she could think of her friends in Bath without one wish of being with them.

The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and, when she heard it rage round a corner of the ancient building and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an abbey. Yes, these were characteristic sounds; they brought to her recollection a countless variety of dreadful situations and horrid scenes, which such buildings had witnessed, and such storms ushered in; and most heartily did she rejoice in the happier circumstances attending her entrance within walls so solemn! She had nothing to dread from midnight assassins or drunken gallants. Henry had certainly been only in jest in what he had told her that morning. In a house so furnished, and so guarded, she could have nothing to explore or to suffer, and might go to her bedroom as securely as if it had been her own chamber at Fullerton. Thus wisely fortifying her mind, as she proceeded upstairs, she was enabled, especially on perceiving that Miss Tilney slept only two doors from her, to enter her room with a tolerably stout heart; and her spirits were immediately assisted by the cheerful blaze of a wood fire. "How much better is this," said she, as she walked to the fender -- "how much better to find a fire ready lit, than to have to wait shivering in the cold till all the family are in bed, as so many poor girls have been obliged to do, and then to have a faithful old servant frightening one by coming in with a faggot! How glad I am that Northanger is what it is! If it had been like some other places, I do not know that, in such a night as this, I could have answered for my courage: but now, to be sure, there is nothing to alarm one."

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 assure 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. "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 cowardly, 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 black cabinet, which, though in a situation conspicuous enough, had never caught her notice before. Henry's words, his description of the ebony cabinet which was to escape her observation at first, immediately rushed across her; and though there could be nothing really in it, there was something whimsical, it was certainly a very remarkable coincidence! She took her candle and looked closely at the cabinet. It was not absolutely ebony and gold; but it was japan, black and yellow japan of the handsomest kind; and as she held her candle, the yellow had very much the effect of gold. The key was in the door, and she had a strange fancy to look into it; not, however, with the smallest expectation of finding anything, but it was so very odd, after what Henry had said. In short, she could not sleep till she had examined it. So, placing the candle with great caution on a chair, she seized the key with a very tremulous hand and tried to turn it; but it resisted her utmost strength. Alarmed, but not discouraged, she tried it another way; a bolt flew, and she believed herself successful; but how strangely mysterious! The door was still immovable. She paused a moment in breathless wonder. The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows, and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation. To retire to bed, however, unsatisfied on such a point, would be vain, since sleep must be impossible with the consciousness of a cabinet so mysteriously closed in her immediate vicinity. Again, therefore, 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.

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. Well read in the art of concealing a treasure, the possibility of false linings to the drawers did not escape her, and she felt round each with anxious acuteness in vain. 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 cabinet, 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 concealment, and her feelings at that moment were indescribable. Her heart fluttered, her knees trembled, and her cheeks grew pale. She seized, with an unsteady hand, the precious manuscript, for half a glance sufficed to ascertain written characters; and while she acknowledged with awful sensations this striking exemplification of what Henry had foretold, resolved instantly to peruse every line before she attempted to rest.

The dimness of the light her candle emitted made her turn to it with alarm; but there was no danger of its sudden 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 hastily snuffed it. Alas! It was snuffed and extinguished in one. A lamp could not have expired with more awful effect. Catherine, for a few moments, was motionless with horror. It was done completely; not a remnant of light in the wick could give hope to the rekindling breath. Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room. A violent gust of wind, rising with sudden fury, added fresh horror to the moment. Catherine trembled from head to foot. 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. To close her eyes in sleep that night, she felt must be entirely out of the question. With a curiosity so justly awakened, and feelings in every way so agitated, repose must be absolutely impossible. The storm too abroad so dreadful! She had not been used to feel alarm from wind, but now every blast seemed fraught with awful intelligence. 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 singularly 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. But many were the tedious hours which must yet intervene. She shuddered, tossed about in her bed, and envied every quiet sleeper. The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear. The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans. 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.

凯瑟琳只扫视了一眼便发现,她的房间与亨利试图吓唬她而描绘的那个房间截然不同。它决非大得出奇,既没有挂毯,也没有丝绒被褥。墙上糊着纸,地板上铺着地毯,窗户和楼下客厅里的一样完备,一样光亮。家具虽则不是最新的式样,却也美观,舒适,整个房间的气氛一点也不阴森。她在这一点上放心以后,便决定不再耽误时间去细看什么东西,因为她唯恐拖拖拉拉会惹得将军不高兴。于是,她急急忙忙脱掉衣服,准备打开包衣服的包裹,为了随身应用,她把这个包裹放在马车座位上带来了。恰在这时,她突然发现一只又高又大的箱子,立在壁炉旁的一个深凹处,一见到这只箱子,她心里不由得一震。她忘记了别的一切,惊奇得一动不动地凝视着箱子,心里这样想道:

“真奇怪呀!没料想会见到这样一个东西!一只笨重的大箱子!里面可能装着什么呢?怎么会放在这里呢?放在这个偏僻处,像是不想让人看见!我要打开看看。不管付出多大代价,我也要打开看看,而且马上就干——趁着天亮。要是等到晚上,蜡烛会燃光的。”她走过去仔细端详了一阵。这是只杉木箱,上面十分古怪地镶着一些深色木头,放在一只用同样木料做成的雕花架子上,离地约有一英尺。锁是银质的,但是年深月久已经失去了光泽。箱子两端有两个残缺不全的把手,也是银质的,兴许很早就被一种奇怪的暴力破坏了。箱子盖中央有个神秘的银质花押。凯瑟琳低着头仔细查看,但是辨不出到底是什么字。她无论从哪边看,也无法相信最后一个字母是“T”。然而, 在他们家里出现别的字母,倒会激起非同一般的惊讶。假如这箱子当初不是他们的,那会因为什么奇怪的缘故,才落到蒂尔尼家的手里呢?

她那惶惶不安的好奇心无时无刻不在增长。她用颤抖的双手抓住锁扣,决心冒着一切风险,至少查清里面装着什么。她似乎遇到了一种抗拒力,好不容易才把箱盖揭起了几英寸。不想恰在这时,一阵突如其来的叩门声把她吓了一跳,她一撒手, 箱盖砰的一声关上了,令人胆战心惊。这位不速之客是蒂尔尼小姐的女仆,受主人差遣,前来给莫兰小姐帮忙。凯瑟琳立即把她打发走了,不过这提醒她想起了她应该做的事,迫使她撇开自己想要揭开这个秘密的急切愿望,马上继续穿衣服。她的进展并不迅速,因为她的心思和目光仍然集注在那件想必有趣而又可怕的物体上。她虽说不敢耽误工夫再试一次,但她的脚步又离不开箱子多远。最后,她终于把一只胳膊伸进了袖子,梳妆似乎也快结束,她可以放心大胆地满足一下她那迫不及待的好奇心了。一会儿工夫无疑是抽得出来的,她要拼命使尽浑身的力气,箱盖只要不是用妖术锁上的,她瞬间就能把它打开。她带着这种气概跃向前去,她的信心没有白费。她果断地一使劲,把箱盖揭开了,两眼惊奇地见到一条白布床单,叠得整整齐齐的,放在箱子的一端,除此之外,箱里别无他物!

凯瑟琳呆呆地望着床单,惊奇之中脸上刚绽出点红晕,没想到蒂尔尼小姐急于让朋友作好准备,冷不防走进屋来。凯瑟琳本来正为自己的一阵荒唐期待感到羞愧,现在又被人撞见在如此无聊地翻箱倒柜,越发感到羞愧满面。“这是一只很古怪的旧箱子,是吧?”当凯瑟琳急忙关上箱子,转身对着镜子时,蒂尔尼小姐说道。“它放在这里说不上有多少代了。不知道它起初是怎么给放到这间屋子里来的,不过我一直没让他们把它搬走,因为我觉得它有时兴许有点用处,装装帽子之类的。最糟糕的是、它太沉了不好开。不过放在那个角上,起码不碍事。”

凯瑟琳顾不得说话。她红着个脸,一边系衣服,一边迅疾地痛下决心,以后再不做这种傻事。蒂尔尼小姐委婉地暗示说,她担心要迟到。半分钟工夫.两人便惶惶地跑下楼去。她们的惊恐并非完全没有道理,因为蒂尔尼将军正拿着表在客厅里踱来踱去,一见她们进门,便用力拉了拉铃,命令道:“马上开饭!”

凯瑟琳听到将军加重语气说话,不由得颤抖起来。她怯生生地坐在那里,面色苍白,呼吸急促,一面为他的孩子担心,一面憎恨旧箱子。将军望了望她,重又变得客气起来,余下的时间就用来责骂女儿,说是本来一点用不着匆忙的事情,她却愚蠢地去催促她的漂亮朋友,逼得她上气不接下气。凯瑟琳害得她的朋友挨骂,而她自己又是这么个大傻瓜,她根本无法消除这双重的痛苦。直到大家高高兴兴地围着餐桌坐下,将军露出一副得意的笑脸,她自己又来了胃口,心里才恢复了平静。。这间餐厅是个华丽的大房间,从大小来看,要有一间比共用客厅大得多的客厅才相称。而且,它装饰得也十分奢华,可惜凯瑟琳是个外行。对此几乎浑然不觉,她只见到屋子宽敞,侍者众多。她高声赞赏屋子宽敞,将军和颜悦色地承认,这间屋子的确不算小。他还进一步承认,他虽说在这种事情上像多数人一样马马虎虎,但他却把一间比较大的餐厅视为生活上的一项需要。不过他料想,凯瑟琳在艾伦先生府上一定习惯于比这大得多的房间。

“不,的确不是这样,”凯瑟琳老老实实地说道;,“艾伦先生的餐厅还没有这一半大。”她从未见过这么大的屋子。将军听了越发高兴。噢,既然他有这样的屋子,要是不加以利用可就太傻了。不过说实话,他相信比这小一半的屋子可能更舒适。他敢说,艾伦先生的住宅一定是大小适中,住在里面十分舒适愉快。

当晚没有出现别的风波,蒂尔尼将军偶尔不在时,大家还觉得十分愉快。只有将军在场的时候,凯瑟琳才稍许感到旅途的疲乏。即便这时.即便在疲惫或者拘谨的当儿,她仍然有一种事事如意的感觉。她想到巴思的朋友时,一点也不希望和他们在一起。

夜里,暴风雨大作。整个下午,都在断断续续地起着风,到席终人散时,掀起了狂风暴雨。凯瑟琳一边穿过大厅,一边带着畏惧的感觉倾听着暴风雨。当她听见狂风凶猛地卷过古寺的一角,猛然哐的一声把远处的一扇门刮上时。心里第一次感到她的确来到了寺院。是的,这是寺院里特有的声音,使她想起了这种建筑所目睹的、这种风暴所带来的种类繁多的可怕情景,可怖场面。使她深感欣喜的是,她来到如此森严的建筑物里,处境总算比较幸运!她用不着惧怕午夜的刺客或是醉醺醺的色徒。亨利那天早晨对她说的,无疑又是闹着玩的。在如此陈设、如此森严的一幢房子里,她既探索不到什么,也不会遭到什么不测,她可以万无一失地去她的卧房,就像在富勒顿去她自己的房间一样。她一面上楼,一面如此机智地坚定自己的信心,特别当她感到蒂尔尼小姐的卧房离她只有两门之隔时,她相当大胆地走进房里。一看炉火熊熊烧得正旺,情绪觉得更加高涨。“真棒多了,”她说着朝炉围子走去。“回来见到炉子生得现成的,这比要在寒气里哆哆嗦嗦地干等强得多。就像许多可怜的姑娘那样,无可奈何地非要等到全家人都上了床,这时才有位忠实的老仆人抱着一捆柴火走进来,把你吓一跳!诺桑觉寺能这样,真是好极了!假如它像别的地方那样,遇到这样的夜晚,我不知道会吓成什么样子。不过,现在实在没有什么好害怕的。”

她环顾了一下房内。窗帘似乎在动。这没什么、只不过是狂风从百叶窗的缝隙里钻进来了。她勇敢地走上前去,满不在乎地哼着曲子,看看是不是这么回事。她大胆地往每个窗帘后头探视了一眼、在矮矮的窗台上没有发现可怕的东西。接着,一把手贴近百叶窗,便对这风的力量确信无疑了。她探查完之后,转身望了望那只旧箱子,这也是不无裨益的。她蔑视那种凭空臆想的恐惧,泰然自若地准备上床。“我应该从从容容的,不要急急忙忙。即使我最后一个上床,我也不在乎。可是我不能给炉子添柴,那样会显得太胆怯了,好像睡在床上还需要亮光壮胆。”于是,炉子渐渐熄灭了,凯瑟琳打点了大半个钟头,眼下正想上床,不料临了扫视一下房间时,猛然发现一只老式的黑色大立柜。这只柜子虽说处在很显眼的位置,但是以前从未引起她的注意。转瞬间,她立刻想起了亨利的话,说她起初注意不到那只乌木柜。虽说这话不会真有什么意思,但是却有些稀奇古怪,当然是个十分惊人的巧合!她拿起蜡烛,仔细端详了一下木柜。木柜并不真是乌木镶金的,而是上的日本漆,最漂亮的黑黄色的日本漆。她举着蜡烛看去,那黄色很像镀金。

钥匙就在柜门上,她有一种奇怪的念头想打开看看,不过丝毫也不指望会发现任何东西,只是听了亨利的话后,觉得太怪诞了。总之,她要打开看看才能睡觉。于是,她小心翼翼地把蜡烛放在椅子上,一只手抖簌簌地抓住了钥匙,用力转动,不想竭尽全力也拧不动。她感到惊恐,但是没有泄气,便换个方向再拧。突然,锁簧腾的一下,她以为成功了,但是多么奇怪,多么不可思议!柜门依然一动不动。她屏着气,愕然歇了片刻。狂风在烟囱里怒吼着。倾盆大雨打在窗户上,似乎一切都说明了她的处境之可怕。但是,不弄清这桩事,上床也是枉然,因为心里惦记着眼前有只柜子神秘地锁着,她是睡不着觉的。因此,她又搬弄钥匙。她怀着最后一线希望,果断利索地朝各个方向拧了一阵之后,柜门猛然打开了。这一胜利使她欣喜若狂,她把两扇折门拉开,那第二扇门只别着几个插销,没有锁来得复杂。不过她看不出那锁有什么异常的地方。两扇折门开了以后,露出两排小抽屉,小抽屉的上下都是些大抽屉,中间有扇小门,也上着锁,插着钥匙,里面很可能是个存放重要物品的秘橱。

凯瑟琳心跳急剧,但她并没失去勇气。心里的希望使她脸上涨得通红,眼睛好奇地瞪得溜圆,手指抓住了一个抽屉的把柄,把它拉开了。里面空空如也。她不像刚才那么惊恐,但是更加急切地拉开第二个、第三个、第四个——个个都是同样空空如也。她把每个抽屉都搜了一遍,可是没有一个有东西。她在书上看过很多隐藏珍宝的诀窍,并未忘掉抽屉里可能设有假衬,急切而敏捷地把每个抽屉周围都摸了摸,结果还是什么也没发现。现在只剩下中间没搜过。虽然她从一开始就丝毫不曾想到会在柜子的任何部位发现什么东西,而且迄今为止对自己的徒劳无益丝毫也不感到灰心,但她不趁便彻底搜查一番,那未免太愚蠢了。不过,她开门就折腾了好半天,因为这把内锁像外锁一样难开。可最后还是打开了,而且搜寻的结果不像先前那样空劳一场,她那迅疾的目光当即落到一卷纸上,这卷纸给推到秘橱里边去了,显然是想把它隐藏起来。此刻,她的心绪真是无法形容。她的心在扑腾,膝盖在颤抖,面颊变得煞白。她用抖索索的手抓住了这卷珍贵的手稿,因为她眼睛稍微一瞥,就能辨明上面有笔迹。她带着敬畏的感觉承认,这事惊人地应验了亨利的预言,便当下打定主意,要在睡觉前逐字逐句地看了一遍。

蜡烛发出幽暗的亮光,她转向这微亮时,不觉心里紧张起来。不过,倒没有立即熄灭的危险,还可以再燃几个钟头。要辨认那些字迹,除了年代久远会带来些麻烦之外,恐怕不会再有任何别的困难了,于是她赶紧剪了剪烛花。天哪!她这一剪,竟然把蜡烛剪灭了。一只灯笼灭了也决不会产生比这更可怕的结果了。半晌,凯瑟琳给吓得一动不动。蜡烛全灭了,烛心上一丝亮光也没有,把它再吹着的希望也破灭了。房里一团漆黑,一点动静都没有。骤然,一阵狂风呼啸而起,顿时增添了新的恐怖。凯瑟琳浑身上下抖作一团。接着,当风势暂停的时候,那受了惊吓的耳朵听到一个声音,像是渐渐消逝的脚步声和远处的关门声。人的天性再也支撑不住了。她的额头冒出一层冷汗,手稿从手里撒落下来。她摸到床边,急忙跳了上去,拼命钻到被窝里,借以消除几分惊恐。她觉得,这天夜里是不可能合眼睡觉了。好奇心被正当地激发起来,情绪也整个给激励起来,睡觉是绝对不可能的。外面的风暴又是那样可怕!她以前并不怕风,可是现在,似乎每一阵狂风都带来了可怖的信息。她如此奇异地发现了手稿,如此奇异地证实了早晨的预言,还要作何解释呢?手稿里写着什么?可能与谁相关?用什么办法隐藏了这么久?事情有多奇怪,居然注定要她来发现!不过,她不搞清其中的内容,心里既不会平静,也不会舒坦。她决定借助第一缕晨随来读手稿。可这中间还要熬过多少沉闷的钟头。她打着哆嗦,在床上辗转反侧,羡慕每一个酣睡的人。风暴仍在逞凶,她那受惊的耳朵不时听到种种声响,甚至觉得比风还要可怖。时而她的床幔似乎在摇晃,时而她的房锁在搅动,仿佛有人企图破门而入。走廊里似乎响起沉沉的咕叹声,好几次,远处的呻吟简直把她的血都凝住了。时间一个钟头一个钟头地过去了,困乏不堪的凯瑟琳听见房子里各处的钟打了三点,随后风暴平息了,也许是她不知不觉地睡熟了。



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