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The House on the Borderland

24. The Footsteps In The Garden
"PEPPER IS DEAD! Even now, at times, I seem scarcely able to realise that this is so. It
is many weeks, since I came back from that strange and terrible journey through space
and time. Sometimes, in my sleep, I dream about it, and go through, in imagination, the
whole of that fearsome happening. When I wake, my thoughts dwell upon it. That Sun--
those Suns, were they indeed the great Central Suns, round which the whole universe, of
the unknown heavens, revolves? Who shall say? And the bright globules, floating forever
in the light of the Green Sun! And the Sea of Sleep on which they float! How
unbelievable it all is. If it were not for Pepper, I should, even after the many
extraordinary things that I have witnessed, be inclined to imagine that it was but a
gigantic dream. Then, there is that dreadful, dark nebula (with its multitudes of red
spheres) moving always within the shadow of the Dark Sun, sweeping along on its
stupendous orbit, wrapped eternally in gloom. And the faces that peered out at me! God,
do they, and does such a thing really exist? . . . . . . There is still that little heap of grey
ash, on my study floor. I will not have it touched. "At times, when I am calmer, I have
wondered what became of the outer planets of the Solar System. It has occurred to me,
that they may have broken loose from the sun's attraction, and whirled away into space.
This is, of course, only a surmise. There are so many things, about which I wonder.
"Now that I am writing, let me record that I am certain, there is something horrible about
to happen. Last night, a thing occurred, which has filled me with an even greater terror,
than did the Pit fear. I will write it down now, and, if anything more happens, endeavour
to make a note of it, at once. I have a feeling, that there is more in this last affair, than in
all those others. I am shaky and nervous, even now, as I write. Somehow, I think death is
not very far away. Not that I fear death--as death is understood. Yet, there is that in the
air, which bids me fear--an intangible, cold horror. I felt it last night. It was thus:--
"Last night, I was sitting here in my study, writing. The door, leading into the garden,
was half open. At times, the metallic rattle of a dog's chain, sounded faintly. It belongs to
the dog I have bought, since Pepper's death. I will not have him in the house--not after
Pepper. Still, I have felt it better to have a dog about the place. They are wonderful
creatures.
"I was much engrossed in my work, and the time passed, quickly. Suddenly, I heard a
soft noise on the path, outside in the garden--pad, pad, pad, it went, with a stealthy,
curious sound. I sat upright, with a quick movement, and looked out through the opened
door. Again the noise came--pad, pad, pad. It appeared to be approaching. With a slight
feeling of nervousness, I stared into the gardens; but the night hid everything.
"Then the dog gave a long howl, and I started. For a minute, perhaps, I peered, intently;
but could hear nothing. After a little, I picked up the pen, which I had laid down, and
recommenced my work. The nervous feeling had gone; for I imagined that the sound I
had heard, was nothing more than the dog walking round his kennel, at the length of his
chain.
 
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