I had the very slightest acquaintance with the basement of the Benton house. I knew it
was dry and orderly, and with that my interest: in it ceased. It was not cemented, but its
hard clay floor was almost as solid as macadam. In one end was built a high potato-bin.
In another corner two or three old pews from the church, evidently long discarded and
showing weather-stains, as though they had once served as garden benches, were up-
ended against the whitewashed wall. The fruit-closet, built in of lumber, occupied one
entire end, and was virtually a room, with a door and no windows.
Maggie had, she said, found it locked and had had an itinerant locksmith fit a key to it.
"It's all scrubbed and ready," she said. "I found that preserved melon-rind you had for
lunch in a corner. 'Twouldn't of kept much longer, so I took it up and opened it. She's
probably got all sorts of stuff spoiling in the locked part. Some folks're like that."
Most of the shelves were open, but now, holding the lamp high, I saw that a closet with a
door occupied one end. The door was padlocked. At the time I was interested, but I was,
as I remember, much more occupied with Maggie's sense of meum and tuum, which I
considered deficient, and of a small lecture on other people's melon rinds, which I
delivered as she sullenly put away the jelly.
But that night, after I had gone to bed, the memory of that padlock became strangely
insistent. There was nothing psychic about the feeling I had. It was perfectly obvious and
simple. The house held, or had held, a secret. Yet it was, above stairs, as open as the day.
There was no corner into which I might not peer, except - Why was that portion of the
At two o'clock, finding myself unable to sleep, I got up and put on my dressing-gown and
slippers. I had refused to repeat the experiment of being locked in. Then, with a candle
and a box of matches, I went downstairs. I had, as I have said, no longer any terror of the
lower floor. The cat lay as usual on the table in the back hall. I saw his eyes watching me
with their curious unblinking stare, as intelligent as two brass buttons. He rose as my
light approached, and I made a bed for him of a cushion from a chair, failing my Paisley
It was after that that I had the curious sense of being led. It was as though I knew that
something awaited my discovery, and that my sole volition was whether I should make
that discovery or not. It was there, waiting.
I have no explanation for this. And it is quite possible that I might have had it, to find at
the end nothing more significant than root-beer, for instance, or bulbs for the winter