Dark Hollow HTML version

9. The Shadow
Bela was to be buried at four. As Judge Ostrander prepared to lock his gate
behind the simple cortege which was destined to grow into a vast crowd before it
reached the cemetery, he was stopped by the sergeant who whispered in his ear:
"I thought your honour might like to know that the woman--you know the one I
mean without my naming her--has been amusing herself this morning in a very
peculiar manner. She broke down some branches in the ravine,--small ones, of
course,--and would give no account of herself when one of my men asked her
what she was up to. It may mean nothing, but I thought you would like to know."
"Have you found out who she is?"
"No, sir. The man couldn't very well ask her to lift her veil, and at the tavern they
have nothing to say about her."
"It's a small matter. I will see her myself today and find out what she wants of me.
Meanwhile, remember that I leave this house and grounds absolutely to your
protection for the next three hours. I shall be known to be absent, so that a more
careful watch than ever is necessary. Not a man, boy or child is to climb the
fence. I may rely on you?"
"You may, judge."
"On my return you can all go. I will guard my own property after to-day. You
understand me, sergeant?"
"Perfectly, your honour."
This ended the colloquy.
Spencer's Folly, as the old ruin on the bluff was called in memory of the vanished
magnificence which was once the talk of the county, presented a very different
appearance to the eye in broad daylight from what it did at night with a low moon
sending its mellow rays through the great gap made in its walls by that ancient
stroke of lightning. Even the enkindling beams of the westering sun striking level
through the forest failed to adorn its broken walls and battered foundations. To
the judge, approaching it from the highway, it was as ugly a sight as the world
contained. He hated its arid desolation and all the litter of blackened bricks
blocking up the site of former feastings and reckless merriment, and, above all,
the incongruous aspect of the one gable still standing undemolished, with the
zigzag marks of vanished staircases outlined upon its mildewed walls. But, most
of all, he shrank from a sight of the one corner still intact where the ghosts of
dead memories lingered, making the whole place horrible to his eye and one to
be shunned by all men. How long it had been shunned by him he realised when
he noticed the increased decay of the walls and the growth of the verdure
encompassing the abominable place!
The cemetery from which he had come looked less lonesome to his eyes and far
less ominous; and, for a passing instant, as he contemplated the scene hideous
with old memories and threatening new sorrows, he envied Bela his narrow bed
and honourable rest.
A tall figure and an impressive presence are not without their disadvantages.
This he felt as he left the highway and proceeded up the path which had once led