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Initially, the solitude at this stony palace caused me much uneasiness; I used to feel as if a heavy burden on my chest was bearing me down. I, therefore, tried to remain away from the place as much as possible, working late and returning only in the night to sleep.

But after a week, I developed an overwhelming attraction for the palace. It is very difficult to describe my condition, and people would have found it unbelievable anyway. It was as if the whole house, like some living matter, was slowly enticing me in its embrace.

Perhaps the process had started from the very moment I had stepped into the house, but I clearly remember the day when I consciously experienced this allurement.

It was the beginning of summer, and the market was dull; I had not much work to do. A little before sunset, I settled comfortably on an easy chair on the lowest step of the river stairway. Shusta River, then, was almost dry; the sandy bank on the other side appeared painted in colours due to the changing hues of the setting sun. On my side I could see the pebbles glistening under the clear and shallow waters. There was no breeze. The still sky was laden with the sweet scent of basil and mint wafting from nearby woods.

The sun dipped behind the mountains, and a shadow fell over the day. I felt an urge to go around the countryside on horseback, and I was about to rise to put my plan into action when I heard sounds of footsteps on the stairs. I turned back but saw nobody.

I dismissed the sounds as a truant played by my ears and returned to my musings. But immediately I heard sounds of a number of footsteps now as if quite a few people were hurrying down the steps. I experienced a thrill mixed with fear. Although I could see no one in person, yet I felt as if a group of women had come to bathe in the Shusta River on this summer evening. In spite of the Shusta banks being engulfed in silence and not a sound emanating from the desolate palace, I could still distinctly hear the light-hearted banter of the maidens as they rushed past me without even noticing my presence. I was invisible to them just as they were invisible to me. The Shusta waters were still as before, yet I heard the sound of agitated waters as if flapped by several hands; I could hear the maidens laughing and playfully tossing water at one another, and sprays of water shot up to the sky.

A shudder ran through my whole body; I cannot say whether it was due to fear or excitement. I felt a deep urge to see, but there was nothing to see; I thought if I listened carefully I would be able to hear their conversation clearly, but all I could hear were the sounds from the woods. It was as if a black veil hung before my eyes, separating me from 250 years into the past. If I picked up enough courage to lift a corner of the veil, all I saw was impenetrable darkness.

A sudden gust of breeze stirred up the Shusta waters, and the whole forest land, silhouetted against a twilight sky, seemed to wake up all at once from a bad dream murmuring in unison. Call it what you may, a dream or a reality, but the 250-year-old past which had appeared before me faded instantly.

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