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Chapter 32

I took a walk in the long twilight of that evening. As it began to
grow dark I passed the Fuller house and looked up at its windows.
Standing under a tree on the opposite side of the avenue I saw a
man come out of the door and walk away hurriedly with long
strides. I met him at the next corner.

'Good-evening!' he said.

I recognised then the voice and figure of John Trumbull. 'Been to
Fuller's,' said he.

'How is Hope?' I asked.

'Better,' said he. 'Walk with me?

'With pleasure,' said I, and then he quickened his pace.

We walked awhile in silence, going so fast! had hardly time to
speak, and the darkness deepened into night. We hurried along
through streets and alleys that were but dimly lighted, coming out
at length on a wide avenue passing through open fields in the
upper part of the city. Lights in cabin windows glowed on the hills
around us. I made some remark about them but he did not hear me.
He slackened pace in a moment and began whispering to himself'
I could not hear what he said. I thought of bidding him good-night
and returning but where were we and how could I find my way?
We heard a horse coming presently at a gallop. At the first loud
whack of the hoofs he turned suddenly and laying hold of my arm
began to run. I followed him into the darkness of the open field. It
gave me a spell of rare excitement for I thought at once of
highwaymen - having read so much of them in the Tribune. He
stopped suddenly and stooped low his hands touching the grass
and neither spoke until the horse had gone well beyond us. Then
he rose, stealthily, and looked about him in silence, even turning
his face to the dark sky where only a few stars were visible.

'Well!' said he with a sort of grunt. 'Beats the devil! I thought it was
A wonderful thing was happening in the sky. A great double moon
seemed to be flying over the city hooded in purple haze. A little
spray of silver light broke out of it, as we looked, and shot
backward and then floated after the two shining disks that were
falling eastward in a long curve. They seemed to be so near I
thought they were coming down upon the city. It occurred to me
they must have some connection with the odd experience I had
gone through. In a moment they had passed out of sight. We were
not aware that we had witnessed a spectacle the like of which had
not been seen in centuries, if ever, since God made the heavens'
the great meteor of 1860.

'Let's go back,' said Trumbull. 'We came too far. I forgot myself.'

'Dangerous here?' I enquired.

'Not at all,' said he, 'but a long way out of town - tired?

'Rather,' I said, grateful for his evident desire to quiet my alarm.

'Come!' said he as we came back to the pavement, his hand upon
my shoulder. 'Talk to me. Tell me - what are you going to do?

We walked slowly down the deserted avenue, I, meanwhile,
talking of my pians.

'You love. Hope,' he said presently. 'You will marry her?

'If she will have me,' said I.

'You must wait,' he said, 'time enough!

He quickened his pace again as we came in sight of the scattering
shops and houses of the upper city and no other word was spoken.
On the corners we saw men looking into the sky and talking of the
fallen moon. It was late bedtime when we turned into Gramercy
Park.

'Come in,' said he as he opened an iron gate.

I followed him up a marble stairway and a doddering old English
butler opened the door for us. We entered a fine hall, its floor of
beautiful parquetry muffled with silken rugs. High and spacious
rooms were all aglow with light.

He conducted me to a large smoking-room, its floor and walls
covered with trophies of the hunt - antlers and the skins of
carnivora. Here he threw off his coat and bade me be at home as
he lay down upon a wicker divan covered with the tawny skin of
some wild animal. He stroked the fur fondly with his hand.

'Hello Jock!' he said, a greeting that mystified me.

'Tried to eat me,' he added, turning to me.

Then he bared his great hairy arm and showed me a lot of ugly
scars, I besought him to tell the story.

'Killed him,' he answered. 'With a gun?

'No - with my hands,' and that was all he would say of it.

He lay facing a black curtain that covered a corner. Now and then I
heard a singular sound in the room - like some faint, far, night cry
such as I have heard often in the deep woods. It was so weird I felt
some wonder of it. Presently I could tell it came from behind the
curtain where, also, I heard an odd rustle like that of wings.

I sat in a reverie, looking at the silent man before me, and in the
midst of it he pulled a cord that hung near him and a bell rang.

'Luncheon!' he said to the old butler who entered immediately.

Then he rose and showed me odd things, carved out of wood, by
his own hand as he told me, and with a delicate art. He looked at
one tiny thing and laid it aside quickly.

'Can't bear to look at it now,' he said.

'Gibbet?' I enquired.

'Gibbet,' he answered.

It was a little figure bound hand and foot and hanging from the
gallows tree.

'Burn it!' he said, turning to the old servant and putting it in his
hands. Luncheon had been set between us, the while, and as we
were eating it the butler opened a big couch and threw snowy
sheets of linen over it and silken covers that rustled as they fell.

'You will sleep there,' said my host as his servant laid the pillows,
'and well I hope.

I thought I had better go to my own lodgings.

'Too late - too late,' said he, and I, leg-weary and half-asleep,
accepted his proffer of hospitality. Then, having eaten, he left me
and I got into bed after turning the lights out Something woke me
in the dark of the night. There was a rustling sound in the room. I
raised my head a bit and listened. It was the black curtain that
hung in the corner. I imagined somebody striking it violently. I saw
a white figure standing near me in the darkness. It moved away as
I looked at it. A cold wind was blowing upon my face. I lay a long
time listening and by and by I could hear the deep voice of
Trumbull as if he were groaning and muttering in his sleep. When
it began to come light I saw the breeze from an open window was
stirring the curtain of silk in the corner. I got out of bed and,
peering behind the curtain, saw only a great white owl, caged and
staring out of wide eyes that gleamed fiery in the dim light. I went
to bed again, sleeping until my host woke me in the late morning.

After breakfasting I went to the chalet. The postman had been
there but he had brought no letter from Hope. I waited about home,
expecting to hear from her, all that day, only to see it end in bitter
disappointment.

Irving Bacheller