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PAGE 3

The "Haunted House" In Royal Street
by [?]

The attic is cut up into little closets. Lying in one of them close up under the roof maybe you will still find, as I did, all the big iron keys of those big iron locks down-stairs. The day I stepped up into this belvedere it was shaking visibly in a squall of wind. An electric storm was coming out of the north and west. Yet overhead the sun still shone vehemently through the rolling white clouds. It was grand to watch these. They were sailing majestically hither and thither southward across the blue, leaning now this way and now that like a fleet of great ships of the line manoeuvring for position against the dark northern enemy’s already flashing and thundering onset. I was much above any neighboring roof. Far to the south and south-west the newer New Orleans spread away over the flat land. North-eastward, but near at hand, were the masts of ships and steamers, with glimpses here and there of the water, and farther away the open breadth of the great yellow river sweeping around Slaughterhouse Point under an air heavy with the falling black smoke and white steam of hurrying tugs. Closer by, there was a strange confusion of roofs, trees, walls, vines, tiled roofs, brown and pink, and stuccoed walls, pink, white, yellow, red, and every sort of gray. The old convent of the Ursulines stood in the midst, and against it the old chapel of St. Mary with a great sycamore on one side and a willow on the other. Almost under me I noticed some of the semicircular arches of rotten red brick that were once a part of the Spanish barracks. In the north the “Old Third” (third city district) lay, as though I looked down upon it from a cliff–a tempestuous gray sea of slate roofs dotted with tossing green tree-tops. Beyond it, not far away, the deep green, ragged line of cypress swamp half encircled it and gleamed weirdly under a sky packed with dark clouds that flashed and growled and boomed and growled again. You could see rain falling from one cloud over Lake Pontchartrain; the strong gale brought the sweet smell of it. Westward, yonder, you may still descry the old calaboose just peeping over the tops of some lofty trees; and that bunch a little at the left is Congo Square; but the old, old calaboose–the one to which this house was once strangely related–is hiding behind the cathedral here on the south. The street that crosses Royal here and makes the corner on which the house stands is Hospital street; and yonder, westward, where it bends a little to the right and runs away so bright, clean, and empty between two long lines of groves and flower gardens, it is the old Bayou Road to the lake. It was down that road that the mistress of this house fled in her carriage from its door with the howling mob at her heels. Before you descend from the belvedere turn and note how the roof drops away in eight different slopes; and think–from whichever one of these slopes it was–of the little fluttering, befrocked lump of terrified childhood that leaped from there and fell clean to the paved yard below. A last word while we are still here: there are other reasons–one, at least, besides tragedy and crime–that make people believe this place is haunted. This particular spot is hardly one where a person would prefer to see a ghost, even if one knew it was but an optical illusion; but one evening, some years ago, when a bright moon was mounting high and swinging well around to the south, a young girl who lived near by and who had a proper skepticism for the marvels of the gossips passed this house. She was approaching it from an opposite sidewalk, when, glancing up at this belvedere outlined so loftily on the night sky, she saw with startling clearness, although pale and misty in the deep shadow of the cupola,–“It made me shudder,” she says, “until I reasoned the matter out,”–a single, silent, motionless object; the figure of a woman leaning against its lattice. By careful scrutiny she made it out to be only a sorcery of moonbeams that fell aslant from the farther side through the skylight of the belvedere’s roof and sifted through the lattice. Would that there were no more reality to the story before us.