The Oblong Box

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The narrator begins with booking passage on a ship to travel from Charleston, S.C. to New York. He soon finds that an artist friend, Mr. Cornelius Wyatt, along with Wyatt's wife and two sisters, will be on the same ship. Our narrator reports that there are three rooms booked for this party, and he wonders what the explanation can be. Of course, it must be a servant! But he sees that the word servant had been on the passenger list, but had been crossed out. We also learn at this point that the narrator knows Mr. Wyatt's sisters, but has never met the wife.

When the ship is being loaded for the trip, Mr. Wyatt has with him a large oblong box, which is placed in the artist's own room - not the extra stateroom. The narrator suggests to the reader that this may be a painting in which both men have an interest. Of course, most readers instantly think of a coffin, but this possibility is not mentioned. The box is addressed to Mrs. Wyatt's mother in New York.