The Chair That Smiled can be found in Magazine Entry



"THIS room," said the housekeeper, "is never shown."

The tourist whom she had been conducting through the long upper gallery of Selward House stood obstinately in front of the low oaken door to which she referred.

"It is not a private apartment?" he insinuated. "I should particularly like to see it." He held out a sovereign as inducement.

Mrs. Green turned her back upon the golden temptation and said haughtily: "It is not in my power, sir. The room has not been opened since I can remember."

She turned to move on, but the visitor remained standing with his feet wide apart and his hands in his pockets. His boots, his clothes and his chin proclaimed him a successful American.

"Indeed?" he said. "That is odd. But I suppose there is always a way to do these things. Is Sir Charles at home?"

She was obliged to come back to him: "No, sir, he has gone to the meet."

"And you are sure you have no key that would unlock the door?"

"I know my own keys, sir."

He shifted his ground: "Well, is there no other member of the family——?" He absently played with several gold coins in one palm.

"There's only Miss Elizabeth, sir; she's in the garden. But I couldn't trouble her——"

The American's face suddenly twinkled: "See here, my good woman, if you'll kindly get the young lady to step up here, I'll bet you fifty dollars—that's ten pounds—she'll find a way to let me into that room! And if she doesn't, you shall have the fifty anyway. So you stand to win in either case."

If Mrs. Green thought she was dealing with a madman, the two notes that he held out to her vouched for a degree of sanity. Besides, she reflected, she ran no risk except of Miss Elizabeth's anger. The young lady knew no more than herself where the key of the room was kept—if indeed it had not been lost before any of them was born.

She pressed a button in the wall, and to the footman who appeared gave the brief direction that he should look for Miss Elizabeth in the garden and ask her whether she would be so kind as to come to the house a moment.

She then conducted the persistent intruder back to the entrance-hall, and with him awaited her lady's pleasure.

He was especially interested in a full-length portrait that hung over the chimney-piece.

"That was the first Sir Charles," she told him, "who founded the fortune of the family and built the house in the days of Queen Elizabeth."

"Is it allowable to ask how he obtained the money?" asked the American, with a curious, dry smile.

"In the wars against Spain," she answered curtly.

"Indeed? And the present Sir Charles—any resemblance?"

"Sir Charles is clean-shaven." Only the promise of the two five-pound notes kept her civil.

He moved to the next portrait: "And the red-haired young lady dipped in pearls is the founder's daughter?"

"His wife," began the housekeeper, but was interrupted by a fresh voice, asking haughtily: "Did you wish to see me?" He turned to face a pretty girl in white linen, not so unlike the portrait he had been studying.


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