The fifth summer was passing since we came down Paradise Road
- the dog, Uncle Eb and I. Times innumerable I had heard my good
old friend tell the story of our coming west until its every incident
was familiar to me as the alphabet. Else I fear my youthful
memory would have served me poorly for a chronicle of my
childhood so exact and so extended as this I have written. Uncle
Eb's hair was white now and the voices of the swift and the panther
had grown mild and tremulous and unsatisfactory and even absurd.
Time had tamed the monsters of that imaginary wilderness and I
had begun to lose my respect for them. But one fear had remained
with me as I grew older - the fear of the night man. Every boy and
girl in the valley trembled at the mention of him. Many a time I
had held awake in the late evening to hear the men talk of him
before they went asleep - Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor. I remember a
night when Tip said, in a low awesome tone, that he was a ghost.
The word carried into my soul the first thought of its great and
'Years and years ago,' said he, 'there was a boy by the name of
Nehemiah Brower. An' he killed another boy, once, by accident an'
run away an' was drownded.'
'Drownded!' said Uncle Eb. 'How?'
'In the ocean,' the first answered gaping. 'Went away off 'round the
world an' they got a letter that said he was drownded on his way to
Van Dieman's Land.'
'To Van Dieman's Land!'
'Yes, an some say the night man is the ghost o' the one he killed.'
I remember waking that night and hearing excited whispers at the
window near my bed. It was very dark in the room and at first I
could not tell who was there.
'Don't you see him?' Tip whispered.
'Where?' I heard Uncle Be ask
'Under the pine trees - see him move.'
At that I was up at the window myself and could plainly see the
dark figure of a man standing under the little pine below us.
'The night man, I guess,' said Uncle Be, 'but he won't do no harm.
Let him alone; he's going' away now.'
We saw him disappear behind the trees and then we got back into
our beds again. I covered my head with the bedclothes and said a
small prayer for the poor night man.
And in this atmosphere of mystery and adventure, among the plain
folk of Faraway, whose care of me when I was in great need, and
whose love of me always, I count among the priceless treasures of
God's providence, my childhood passed. And the day came near
when I was to begin to play my poor part in the world.
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