The Filigree Ball
2. I Enter
Though past seventy, Uncle David was a brisk walker, and on this night in particular he
sped along so fast that he was half-way down H Street by the time I had turned the corner
at New Hampshire Avenue.
His gaunt but not ungraceful figure, merged in that of the dog trotting closely at his heels,
was the only moving object in the dreary vista of this the most desolate block in
Washington. As I neared the building, I was so impressed by the surrounding stillness
that I was ready to vow that the shadows were denser here than elsewhere and that the
few gas lamps, which flickered at intervals down the street, shone with a more feeble ray
than in any other equal length of street in Washington.
Meanwhile, the shadow of Uncle David had vanished from the pavement. He had paused
beside a fence which, hung with vines, surrounded and nearly hid from sight the little
cottage he had mentioned as the only house on the block with the exception of the great
Moore place; in other words, his own home.
As I came abreast of him I heard him muttering, not to his dog as was his custom, but to
himself. In fact, the dog was not to be seen, and this desertion on the part of his constant
companion seemed to add to his disturbance and affect him beyond all reason. I could
distinguish these words amongst the many he directed toward the unseen animal:
"You're a knowing one, too knowing! You see that loosened shutter over the way as
plainly as I do; but you're a coward to slink away from it. I don't. I face the thing, and
what's more, I'll show you yet what I think of a dog that can't stand his ground and help
his old master out with some show of courage. Creaks, does it? Well, let it creak! I don't
mind its creaking, glad as I should be to know whose hand - Halloo! You've come, have
you?" This to me. I had just stepped up to him.
"Yes, I've come. Now what is the matter with the Moore house?"
He must have expected the question, yet his answer was a long time coming. His voice,
too, sounded strained, and was pitched quite too high to be natural. But he evidently did
not expect me to show surprise at his manner.
"Look at that window over there!" he cried at last. "That one with the slightly open
shutter! Watch and you will see that shutter move. There! it creaked; didn't you hear it?"
A growl - it was more like a moan - came from the porch behind us. Instantly the old
gentleman turned and with a gesture as fierce as it was instinctive, shouted out:
"Be still there! If you haven't the courage to face a blowing shutter, keep your jaws shut
and don't let every fellow who happens along know what a fool you are. I declare," he
maundered on, half to himself and half to me, "that dog is getting old. He can't be trusted