The House on the Borderland
11. The Searching Of The Gardens
"HOW SLOWLY the time went; and never a thing to indicate that any of the brutes still
infested the gardens. "It was on the ninth day that, finally, I decided to run the risk, if any
there were, and sally out. With this purpose in view, I loaded one of the shot-guns,
carefully--choosing it, as being more deadly than a rifle, at close quarters; and then, after
a final scrutiny of the grounds, from the tower, I called Pepper to follow me, and made
my way down to the basement.
"At the door, I must confess to hesitating a moment. The thought of what might be
awaiting me among the dark shrubberies, was by no means calculated to encourage my
resolution. It was but a second, though, and then I had drawn the bolts, and was standing
on the path outside the door.
"Pepper followed, stopping at the doorstep to sniff, suspiciously; and carrying his nose up
and down the jambs, as though following a scent. Then, suddenly, he turned, sharply, and
started to run here and there, in semicircles and circles, all around the door; finally
returning to the threshold. Here, he began again to nose about.
"Hitherto, I had stood, watching the dog; yet, all the time, with half my gaze on the wild
tangle of gardens, stretching round me. Now, I went towards him, and, bending down,
examined the surface of the door, where he was smelling. I found that the wood was
covered with a network of scratches, crossing and recrossing one another, in inextricable
confusion. In addition to this, I noticed that the door-posts, themselves, were gnawed in
places. Beyond these, I could find nothing; and so, standing up, I began to make the tour
of the house wall.
"Pepper, as soon as I walked away, left the door, and ran ahead, still nosing and sniffing
as he went along. At times, he stopped to investigate. Here, it would be a bullet-hole in
the pathway, or, perhaps, a powder stained wad. Anon, it might be a piece of torn sod, or
a disturbed patch of weedy path; but, save for such trifles, he found nothing. I observed
him, critically, as he went along, and could discover nothing of uneasiness, in his
demeanour, to indicate that he felt the nearness of any of the creatures, By this, I was
assured that the gardens were empty, at least for the present, of those hateful Things.
Pepper could not be easily deceived, and it was a relief to feel that he would know, and
give me timely warning, if there were any danger.
"Reaching the place where I had shot that first creature, I stopped, and made a careful
scrutiny; but could see nothing. From there, I went on to where the great coping-stone
had fallen. It lay on its side, apparently just as it had been left when I shot the brute that
was moving it. A couple of feet to the right of the nearer end, was a great dent in the
ground; showing where it had struck. The other end was still within the indentation--half
in, and half out. Going nearer, I looked at the stone, more closely. What a huge piece of
masonry it was! And that creature had moved it, single-handed, in its attempt to reach
what lay below.