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CHAPTER IX.

A Lonely Christmas.

Jo determined never to go to bed until after the hour that the little lady had appeared. She was duly rewarded, for night after night regularly as the clock struck 12, she heard the tap-tap of the high-heeled shoes on the polished floor and the rustle of the brown taffeta, followed by the appearance of Dorothy. She never spoke, but always gave the same wistful, longing look, as though entreating help. Once Jo spoke, but she passed away more quickly than usual, and through the room there breathed a deep, long-drawn sigh.

Christmas eve came, and found Jo sad and lonely. She had never been away from home at Christmas time before

and she felt sorely inclined to throw up the whole thing and go home.

The oil in the lamp was almost exhausted, and the fitful flicker of the

was

a

dying flame depressed her strangely. It

cold boisterous night, and the howling wind must have drowned the now familiar sounds, for without warning of any sort Jo suddenly became aware of the little brown lady standing by her. With a look of wild entreaty she stretched out both hands in piteous appeal. She was so near that Jo instinctively tried to grasp the outstretched hands-but to her horror felt only empty air!

A great shudder went through herthe wind howled more dismally—and the lamp went out. Then in the uncertain light of the flickering fire, Jo fancied she saw the gleam of rubies, where but a moment before she had seen the blood-red gash. She stood rooted to the spot, quite unable to move, and could only gaze into those beautiful eyes with their haunting sadness and despair. Suddenly the fire sank down, and as the last glimmer died away, Jo was alone in the dark.

For the first time since she had come murmur as of distant voices came to her senses, while she distinctly heard the armour in the hall rattle, and would not have been surprised to see an armour-clad warrior walk into the room. She stood uneasy and anxious, not knowing rightly what to do. With an effort she pulled herself together, remembering that she must not give way, and comforting herself with the thought that the month of probation was already far advanced, she lighted her candle and went off to bed.

came

to this eerie old house, she felt really unnerved and frightened. A vague feeling

over her that she was no longer alone. Though she could see nothing, she felt that the whole house was peopled with beings from another world. A

After that night it seemed to Jo that the house must be full of Christmas

guests. Even in the daytime she felt that she was not alone, and at night the air seemed to vibrate with sound. Distant laughter—the frou-frou of silk dresses, the confused hum of many voices—and sometimes hopeless sighs! The Little Brown Lady seldom came alone now. Philip was generally with her, leaning over her, his arm encircling her waist; he seemed to be pouring out all his soul in passionate love-words. As she listened, her beautiful eyes would glow and sparkle with newlyawakened feeling, she would nestle closer to him, forgetting all else in the happiness and peace of the moment. Suddenly the calm would be disturbed, as with a look of terror and despair she seemed to realise what she was doing, and tearing herself from the loving arms which held her, she would turn to Jo, with a more than ever heart-rending and appealing look. A look which told the story of a ruined life, and a mistaken and hopeless love. Jo detested Philip, and yet she felt fascinated by him. He was truly her ideal of the devil-so

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