While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a
region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh; distinct,
formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it
began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low. It
passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every
lonely chamber; though it originated but in one, and I could have pointed
out the door whence the accents issued.
"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her descending the great
stairs. "Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?"
"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace Poole."
"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.
"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.
Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."
The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated in an
"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.