The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain
CHAPTER III - The Gift Reversed
NIGHT was still heavy in the sky. On open plains, from hill-tops, and from the decks of
solitary ships at sea, a distant low-lying line, that promised by-and-by to change to light,
was visible in the dim horizon; but its promise was remote and doubtful, and the moon
was striving with the night-clouds busily.
The shadows upon Redlaw's mind succeeded thick and fast to one another, and obscured
its light as the night-clouds hovered between the moon and earth, and kept the latter
veiled in darkness. Fitful and uncertain as the shadows which the night-clouds cast, were
their concealments from him, and imperfect revelations to him; and, like the night-clouds
still, if the clear light broke forth for a moment, it was only that they might sweep over it,
and make the darkness deeper than before.
Without, there was a profound and solemn hush upon the ancient pile of building, and its
buttresses and angles made dark shapes of mystery upon the ground, which now seemed
to retire into the smooth white snow and now seemed to come out of it, as the moon's
path was more or less beset. Within, the Chemist's room was indistinct and murky, by the
light of the expiring lamp; a ghostly silence had succeeded to the knocking and the voice
outside; nothing was audible but, now and then, a low sound among the whitened ashes
of the fire, as of its yielding up its last breath. Before it on the ground the boy lay fast
asleep. In his chair, the Chemist sat, as he had sat there since the calling at his door had
ceased - like a man turned to stone.
At such a time, the Christmas music he had heard before, began to play. He listened to it
at first, as he had listened in the church-yard; but presently - it playing still, and being
borne towards him on the night air, in a low, sweet, melancholy strain - he rose, and
stood stretching his hands about him, as if there were some friend approaching within his
reach, on whom his desolate touch might rest, yet do no harm. As he did this, his face
became less fixed and wondering; a gentle trembling came upon him; and at last his eyes
filled with tears, and he put his hands before them, and bowed down his head.
His memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble, had not come back to him; he knew that it
was not restored; he had no passing belief or hope that it was. But some dumb stir within
him made him capable, again, of being moved by what was hidden, afar off, in the music.
If it were only that it told him sorrowfully the value of what he had lost, he thanked
Heaven for it with a fervent gratitude.
As the last chord died upon his ear, he raised his head to listen to its lingering vibration.
Beyond the boy, so that his sleeping figure lay at its feet, the Phantom stood, immovable
and silent, with its eyes upon him.