The Schoolmaster and Other Stories HTML version

A Bad Business
"WHO goes there?"
No answer. The watchman sees nothing, but through the roar of the wind and the trees
distinctly hears someone walking along the avenue ahead of him. A March night, cloudy
and foggy, envelopes the earth, and it seems to the watchman that the earth, the sky, and
he himself with his thoughts are all merged together into something vast and
impenetrably black. He can only grope his way.
"Who goes there?" the watchman repeats, and he begins to fancy that he hears whispering
and smothered laughter. "Who's there?"
"It's I, friend . . ." answers an old man's voice.
"But who are you?"
"I . . . a traveller."
"What sort of traveller?" the watchman cries angrily, trying to disguise his terror by
shouting. "What the devil do you want here? You go prowling about the graveyard at
night, you ruffian!"
"You don't say it's a graveyard here?"
"Why, what else? Of course it's the graveyard! Don't you see it is?"
"O-o-oh . . . Queen of Heaven!" there is a sound of an old man sighing. "I see nothing,
my good soul, nothing. Oh the darkness, the darkness! You can't see your hand before
your face, it is dark, friend. O-o-oh. . ."
"But who are you?"
"I am a pilgrim, friend, a wandering man."
"The devils, the nightbirds. . . . Nice sort of pilgrims! They are drunkards . . ." mutters the
watchman, reassured by the tone and sighs of the stranger. "One's tempted to sin by you.
They drink the day away and prowl about at night. But I fancy I heard you were not
alone; it sounded like two or three of you."
"I am alone, friend, alone. Quite alone. O-o-oh our sins. . . ."
The watchman stumbles up against the man and stops.
"How did you get here?" he asks.